Friday, November 29, 2013

65th Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Brooklyn, New York

Getting Colder     written  November 25, 2013

This weather is not for me. The wind is just so killer! At least I'm not right on the beach like I was last year. That was some cold weather. It's still cold, but I think it would be worse on the beach.

So it was a nice week again, here in Midwood, aside from the cold. Last Wednesday we got to visit with the Luna family. It's been a while since we have been to the Luna's house. After they were kind of solid in coming back to church, we switched with the sister missionaries to have them visit the Lunas for a while. They have two daughters ages 15 and 17, so the sisters go over to try to help the girls out. But I missed visiting the Lunas, so we went to visit them this week. And it was so much fun to be back there. Sister Luna made us this delicious Dominican dish called Asopao. It's nothing too complex, mostly just rice, beans, chicken, various vegetables, and sauces all mixed together in a big pot. And it is delicious. Served with avocado and some tostones on the side? You really can't go wrong. We chatted with them about Thanksgiving and about giving thanks for our blessings. It was a nice lesson and Brother Luna even came to church on Sunday. We haven't seen him in church with the rest of his family for a couple of months, so that was nice to see. Somehow the topic of cartoons came up and Brother Luna was so excited to show us a video on Youtube of a cartoon he used to watch when he was a kid. It's called "Sam el Rey de Judo!" Which translates to Sam, the King of Judo. It was this oldschool cartoon about this kid who was trying to avenge his father, who was murdered by a one-eyed man. This show was golden. I only wish we could have seen more than five minutes. Spanish cartoons are just too good.

Anyways, our English classes have been dwindling recently, so we had a big district advertizing blitz. It essentially entails everybody meeting and grabbing a bunch of flyers, then canvassing the whole neighborhood. We did that on Friday, so hopefully it brings some new faces to our class tomorrow evening.

Friday we got to visit with my old friend Gabriel Osorio. He has been struggling recently because the place he worked at got shut down. We worked with him for three months trying to get Sundays off and two weeks after he gets Sundays off, his work shuts down. Poor dude just can't win. He's pretty concerned about it, so we went with a message of hope for him to try to boost his spirits. The dude is a champ. You can tell how worried he is, but he is determined to stay strong in the Gospel, regardless of what happens. We gave him a blessing before we left. I made Elder Spencer do it, even though he didn't want to. It was his first blessing ever in Spanish. And he did an excellent job. I have never heard him speak Spanish so well, as he did during that blessing. It was a really cool moment. I hope that it helps Gabriel too.

Saturday we got to visit with another less active named Jose Membreno. He's an interesting dude because he's solid in the church, but he just doesn't come sometimes. It's like every two or three weeks he comes. But he likes everything. He's in the temple prep class working to get his temple recommend again. He tells us that he loves the church and that he has a good testimony. But then he doesn't come, I don't get it. He likes to visit with missionaries, so we go over there when we can. He decided that he wanted to give us a special treat so he cooked us up some meat and rice. That was a nice surprise from him. It was pretty tasty too. We had a great lesson with him and he told us that he was going to come to church for sure on Sunday. He didn't come, so apparently we need to get back over there and try again.

Sunday was a fun day because it was the primary program. Those are always the best days in sacrament meeting. I got to play the piano for the kids. It was so much fun. The rest of church was pretty uneventful, but we did have the most successful ward council I have even been to after church. It was incredible. It was only 40 minutes and we actually accomplished things without arguing. A miracle as far as I'm concerned.

And that's about it for the moment. Thanksgiving week should be a party. We have a number of dinners lined up, so we're excited to dine and chat with people this week. It will be a fun week and a great opportunity to give thanks to our Heavenly Father for all the wonderful blessings he gives us.

Elder Erickson

Editor:  Kaleb is now active on Facebook and has posted some interesting pictures there.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

64th Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Brooklyn, New York

The Adventures Continue written November 18, 2013

The adventures never end out here in Midwood. There's not as much to report because I emailed so late last week, but there are always tales to tell.

The afternoons are very interesting now since we're supposed to spend our afternoons inputting teaching record information into our iPads and trying to teach people on Facebook. You show up at the church at about 2 and you'll find 6 to 10 other missionaries there too, all using the wifi to do things on their iPads. It's hilarious. Never thought I'd see this day.

Friday was a really fun day. I had an exchange with Elder Fine. He's from the island of Tonga and grew up in Watts, Los Angeles. He has an incredible story. That guy is a hero. He is set to take over as district leader once I leave this area. We discussed it so that we can work together and try to make the leader transition a fluid one. It should go over well. A lot of our day was taken up because we had to travel to a different area in our zone for a big zone meeting. It was a good meeting though, they had some iPad training and talks by the zone leaders. I quite enjoyed it. After that, we headed back to Midwood and had a lesson with Elder Fine's investigator Alberto. I've taught him before, on my exchange last transfer with Elder Hellewell. He had a baptismal date at one point, but was unsure about it all, so our goal in this lesson was to help solidify a date. We met at a member's house and the member made us a wonderful dinner of rice, chicken, and beans. It was great. We all ate and discussed life, then we had a lesson on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It went pretty well, though Alberto is still pretty hesitant. He likes everything, he's just afraid of committing too soon. I think he will get baptized eventually, it will just take some time. I'm not too worried. I asked him if he had ever prayed about baptism like I asked him to. He told me that he still hadn't. So I told him that maybe this was what he needed to do before he would know if he should get baptized. Then I told him about how I got my answer about the church. He liked it and told me that he was willing to do it this time. He is a good guy, I really like Alberto. I hope things work out for him.

Saturday was another really fun day. Elder Durkin is one of my zone leaders here now. He was in the MTC with me, then he was my district leader for one transfer in Far Rockaway, and now he is my zone leader here. But he needed to go back to Far Rockaway to help advertize for some activity they are doing out there. And his companion had something that they needed to do in Midwood, so he asked if I wanted to come back with him to Far Rock and help out. Of course I was down. So we headed out there on Saturday afternoon. We dropped by the chapel out there, which was fun to see. The weird thing was to find 10 missionaries there, all on their iPads. Odd. But we headed out to Belle Harbor pretty quickly after that. Elder Durkin had a list of some eight families that he wanted to get to that evening. Apparently these were the main families that he worked with in his time there. We didn't have a car or anything, so we just walked around and visited with these people. They are all very nice people. I had met some of them before and saw some people around that I knew from my time there. It was a lot of fun to see some old friends again and meet some new people.

The person that he was most excited for me to meet was a man named Steve Plunket. He was a very interesting person. When I first met him, I didn't know anything about him. And he was just a big, excited, fun loving dude. He gave me a nickname within two minutes of meeting me. He called me Big-E. I thought that was pretty cool. We went into his house to chat for a moment and he told us that he was going to be early tonight so he was headed out for steak right now and invited us to come. It was only like 5:30 at the time, so we agreed to go with him. He took us to the Belle Harbor Steak House. My goodness. We had driven by it before, but never considered stopping there because of prices. Steve knows the owner, so he was able to get us right in without a problem. Then we sat down and he told us not to even look at the numbers on the page, just get whatever we want. I wasn't quite sure what to do. He told me that I should get a good, New York steak. So I told him that I'd get whatever he recommended. Boy howdy. I ended up with a $36 t-bone steak in front of me with Portobello mushrooms to the side and steamed vegetables as well. Wow. It was arguably the most incredible thing I've eaten all year. Steve was loud and talkative the whole time. But you could tell that it was a strained thing. We had a good time and he took us back to his house afterwards and we said thanks and goodbye. Durkin later explains to me all of Steve's struggles in life. And he has quite a few. Then all his behavior made sense. He seemed so sad the whole time, even though he was doing his best to make it a good time for us all. I just feel so bad for this man. If ever there was someone who needed the Gospel in his life to bring him some joy, it is Steve Plunket. I really hope things work out for him. He deserves it.

It was a grand night. And it was fun to talk with Elder Durkin. He is a good friend of mine. And that brings us to Sunday. In the evening, we went to go look up a less active name that I've been seeing for some seven months now. Miguel Isidro Villalobos. I've looked him up before a number of times and never gotten in. I decided we should give it one more shot last night. It was interesting even getting in the apartment building, then we knocked on the door and nobody answered. But we could hear people inside, so we knocked again. After a bit, a frustrated woman came to the door and told us to leave because she wasn't interested. I told her that was fine because we were just looking Miguel. She did not see that coming. She apologized and went and got him for us. And out walks this tall white dude who spoke English. What? Where did this come from? That was him. Our man Miguel. From Costa Rica. He just happens to look white and speak perfect English and Spanish. Fair enough. He asked who sent us, we told him we had just seen his name and wanted to get to know him. He figured that was okay, but he was busy right now. So we set up an appointment for Tuesday to come back. He told us a bit about himself, he actually served a mission in Honduras and Guatemala. He said that he had only been to church about 4 times when he moved to Midwood and it has been about 4 years since then. I am really excited to start working with him. I want to find out his story and I want to see what he decides to do from here. Whether he will come back or decide to stay where he is. We will surely find out.

Life is grand here with Thanksgiving and Christmas coming up. It is hopefully going to be a busy and fun holiday season. The church is true, I love you guys!

Elder Erickson

Thursday, November 14, 2013

63rd Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Brooklyn, New York

Changes in the World              written Nov 13, 2013 (pday delayed for I-pod training)

Oh my goodness. The world is changing around me so quickly, I don't even know what to do. First an age change, then Facebook, and now I have a mini iPad. What? I don't know what happened. And we're supposed to get iPhones in a few weeks. What is the world coming to?

Well so anyways. Life continues more or less the same in Midwood. We finally made contact again with an old less-active friend of ours, Julio Quispe. We had met with him and his wife before, but nothing really consistent. They told us that they were for sure coming to church one week and we told them we were going to come by and walk with them. They were all cool with that. Then when we came by, they weren't home and their phone was suddenly disconnected. So that was awesome. But we have since found Julio back at home, albeit without his wife.

We sat down with him and chatted for a bit. He is from Peru and he speaks so fast. It's crazy. I get most of it, but sometimes I'm pretty sure he's just muttering. I don't think he's actually speaking words. We had a small lesson prepared, so I asked him if he would give us the opening prayer. He told me that he wasn't really sure how to pray so it would be better if I said the prayer. I told him that I would be more than happy to teach him how to pray because I'm sure that Heavenly Father would love to hear him say a prayer. He thought that would be okay. So we taught Julio how to say a prayer. He was willing to say the prayer after that. Granted, he was very nervous about it and he mumbled most of it under his breath. But from what I heard, he said a fine prayer. After that, I decided that we should switch up the focus of our lesson here. We were originally going to discuss the Restoration, but I called an audible and we discussed prayer instead. I asked Julio if he prays very often. He told me that he prays every day. I kind of didn't believe him based on the response when I first asked him to pray. But whatever. We talked about why prayer is important and how prayer can help us. He was eating it up the whole time. He loved it. This is the most involved I've ever seen him in a lesson. At the end, I committed him to pray every night with his wife and that we were going to come back next Monday to make sure that he did it. He seemed very genuine about it, it was cool.

Following up with him the next week, he didn't quite make it to church, or to pray every night, but he told me that he and his wife did pray a number of times that week. We're going back next week to hold a family home evening with them. I'm very excited about it.

In other news, English classes continue with success. One of the people that is being taught from the classes is still progressing with the other elders. It looks like he is set to be baptized within the next three weeks or so. So that is very exciting as well. We also had some newcomers last week. I love when new people come. We met a very nice man from Venezuela who spoke really good English and a 19 year old girl from Mexico who had only been here for one week. Needless to say, she still has a long way to go in learning this language, but I'd say she's already better than some of the guys in there who have been in New York for like 10 years. I'm talking about you, Jose. You got a looong way to go buddy.

This wasn't a lesson or anything, but just a nice experience I had last Saturday. We had traveled out to a neighboring area in our zone to help out with a singing street sweep. It was a cold night and we were out there from 7 until 8. An odd choice, in my opinion, because it's dark and cold and people aren't exactly keen on stopping to chat in this weather, but hey, I'm not in charge. But we were out there singing and this woman stopped and looked at us. Nobody else moved, so I went over to chat with her. She was so impressed with so many young people all dressed up so nicely. I thanked her and asked her name. Her name is Karina. She told me that she was just on her way to a sober party and apologized for sounding boring. I told her that wasn't boring at all and that a sober party sounds like my kind of party. I explained a bit about our standards and she was very impressed. She told me that there needs to be more young people like us in the world. I asked where she was from and she told me that she used to live in Queens in a very Irish-Catholic area and moved to Brooklyn after Hurricane Sandy and that she couldn't be happier. I guessed that she lived in Belle Harbor and she told me I was correct. We had a nice little connection to the Rockaways there. She thanked us for all the service we did out there. We chatted for a bit more about religion and then she said goodbye and headed out to her party. Nothing may come of it, but at least I made a new friend.

Things are good out here. I am happy and trying to adjust to all this new technology. Hope you guys are doing well. Love you!

Elder Erickson

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

62nd Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Brooklyn, New York

Another Transfer in Midwood written November 4, 2013

Well this was the first week of another transfer here in Midwood. As with most first weeks of the transfer, it was a pretty slow week. After the transfer meeting on Tuesday, we barely had enough time to get back to Midwood to teach English classes. We had a pretty solid turnout though and it was a fun time. My favorite thing to do with English class is to teach them slang words or to explain English idioms. Recently I explained "It's raining cats and dogs" and "I'm happy as a clam." I love it, English class is the best.

Wednesday we had our weekly service as Prospect Park in the morning. Then in the evening we had our first Wednesday evening without a Brazilian elder in a while. Unfortunately, it ended up being a really uneventful night. We had an appointment with a new investigator and we had some other names. The first guy juked us and nobody else was home. On the upside, we did some good walking and we had some nice conversation. And we tried McDonald's new dollar menu on the way home. I'll be honest, I'm kind of unimpressed with it. Though I think I would like the Buffalo McChicken more if I had it again. We'll find out. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday was Halloween! We were supposed to be in our apartments by 6 PM to keep us safe from whatever shenanigans might happen on Halloween in New York. People start trick or treating around here at like 3 in the afternoon and they mostly only go to stores instead of houses. It's funny how things are different here. We weren't able to accomplish too much in the afternoon and we had to cancel English classes because of the 6 PM rule. So Elder Spencer and I got ready to throw a party by ourselves in our apartment. And it sure was a good time. We bought some Dr Pepper and we got Little Caesar's pizza for dinner. Then we ate and we played chess while we listened to the soundtrack for O Brother Where Art Thou for three hours. There were other soundtracks involved, but our Halloween mostly consisted of eating pizza, drinking Dr Pepper, and playing chess. We're getting pretty good by now.

Friday was largely uneventful except for our visit to our old friend Gabriel. He is still struggling to try to get Sundays off so he can come to church. He finally had them off at one point, then his work closed so he had to do a bunch of stuff and try to find a new job. Now he's back working again, but he doesn't have Sundays off yet. So we're back to the usual struggle. It's tough when you have to work ridiculous hours to just barely scrape by. He's a good guy and if he could, he would come to church. So we're just going to keep on visiting him so he can know that we care about him and keep trying to get Sundays off.

Saturday we had a bunch of sports activities. There's a group of members and missionaries that go play Ultimate Frisbee on Saturday mornings. We decided to go check it out and see if it's any good so we can start inviting members from our ward to come play. It was a lot of fun, we just need to start working on inviting members to come play with us too. Later in the afternoon, we played soccer again with members and investigators. We've got some people that have been coming and there's a group of Hatians that are always there when we go. It's fun to see the Hispanics to play with the Hatians. They are all so dang good at soccer. I just try to stay out of their way. It seems to work out pretty well. After that, we had an awesome meeting with the bishop. We went over the ward list with him and we picked out all the people that neither of us knew. He asked us to make a list and start working with all of these people. So Elder Spencer and I are going to hit up the library tomorrow and compile it so we can start working on it. I think this is going to be really helpful for us here.

Sunday was a largely quiet day. The best part was that a member invited us to have burritos at her house for dinner. And she doesn't mess around when it comes to burrito. They were incredible. Best burritos I have had in a long while. Better than Chipotle, I would argue. And didn't cost me $10 a burrito. That's always a plus. We finished out the day by helping a woman in our ward who is trying to pass the GED. She struggles with the math part, so I go and help her out every once and a while. I miss doing math, so it is a lot of fun to help her.

And that's about it for now. We've got some stuff lined up for this week, so hopefully we can make some new things happen. It will be a fun time. Only five more weeks in Midwood, so I better make the most of it. Love you guys!

Elder Erickson