Thursday, December 26, 2013

69th Epistle From Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Patchogue, Long Island

Christmas Adventures            written December 23, 2013

The musical whirlwind that is Christmas has begun! And it's only about
halfway over. The big event this week was the Christmas concert back
in Midwood. We also had our branch Christmas party this week where I
got to play the piano too. More on those later.

So I have always had this dream of coming to the island to serve.
Because I have always wanted to put this genius idea into action. It's
called Explore Your Area Day. Essentially, you set out a chunk of time
to explore your area and get to know it better. But there are some
other things involved too. Namely, start out with a map and mark out
specific areas you'd like to check out. Highlight potential
neighborhoods that would be good to knock and try to find small
communities that might have potential. Then, once you've mapped out
your path, go get a big drink and start exploring, while taking notes
about the areas and neighborhoods you drive through. The big drink is
crucial here. Arguably the most important part of the whole event.
This is what we did last Tuesday. It was awesome. We didn't quite find
hte communities we were hoping to find, but we found a pretty decent
area to start knocking in. We also admired a lot of really nice
looking houses along the way. Like dang. All in all, I'd say that
Explore Your Area Day was a huge success.

We taught English classes twice again this week. In all of my other
areas, we've always spread the days out a bit, but here we teach them
Tuesday and Wednesday, right in a row. It's nice to fill up those two
evenings like that, but they're over with so quickly, it always
surprises me. Those are going well though. Our investigator, Luis,
finally came back to the classes, (he hadn't come in two weeks) but he
was too busy, so we couldn't teach him. Hopefully we can get in touch
with him this week and talk with him. I tried to talk with another one
of the students to have him come early to meet with us, but he wasn't
able to make it. Shame, but there's always next week.

Thursday we got to knock some more doors with the English district. I
really like that activity. We split up so that every Spanish
missionary is temporary companions with an English missionary, then we
go knock doors. It's nice because when you talk to English people, you
don't have to explain that you are Spanish missionaries so some other
guys are going to come back. That always confuses people. And it's fun
to work with other missionaries to see what their approaches are and
to hear their thoughts on life. That night we also went out caroling
with some of the leaders in our branch. They picked out specific names
of less actives and others they wanted to visit. Then we all went out
and sang with them. It was a lot of fun. And it was nice to see the
leaders working hand in hand with the missionaries.

Friday was the big day of the concert. We had to leave early because
of traffic. It took us two hours to drive back to Midwood. We got
there and started setting things up. We didn't really have any
decorations, so we had to improvise a few things. We scoured the
church building to find any and all decorations laying about, then we
scattered them in the chapel to make things look festive. The concert
was scheduled to start at 7, but we knew nobody would be there in
time. So we mentally planned to start at 7:30 to allow time for people
to arrive. I had the all the musical numbers and performers ready by
7. The next task was getting the narration readers together. I had 8
parts to be read. I had already talked to the 8 people and had printed
out and numbered all the scripts for them. I just needed people to
show up. By 7:30, I had 6 of my 8 people there. But we couldn't keep
pushing the start back, so I just asked two different people to help
out. Thankfully, people were very willing to help, so it went well in
the end. Then we had refreshments afterwards for everyone. It went
really well. I was so happy for the turnout and for how the songs
went. It was a really nice event. We had two investigators there and
two non-members and a bunch of the ward members. Everybody seemed to
enjoy it. I don't know that any huge miracles will come from it. But I
got a text afterward from one of the members, Sister Viera. And she
told me that it was a beautiful concert and it helped her find the
spirit of Christmas. And that was a success to me. All of the
frustration and stress was worth it. It was my final goodbye to

I don't know if you guys remember an investigator in Midwood that I
helped teach on occasion. His name is Alberto and the other
missionaries were teaching him. I taught him three or so times on
exchanges. He was wavering on his decision to get baptized and things
were looking like he wasn't going to. But when I was there, I asked
how he was doing and Elder Fine told me that he has a solid baptismal
date for the 11th of January. That made me so happy. I didn't have all
that much to do in teaching him. But we found him through the English
classes. And if Alberto is the only thing that comes from those
classes, then I would say that they were a roaring success. He is so
great, I'm so happy that he's finally making this decision.

Saturday night was our branch party here in Patchogue. It was a sweet
event. They had a small musical program, dinner, and music and dancing
afterward. I was going to take this as a chance to go around and meet
all the members. But I met a non-member guy named Leonardo from
Columbia and we got to talking and I lost track of time. He was a way
cool guy. He had learned English really well and so we talked about
the difficulties of learning language and the different facets of
speaking Spanish and English. Then we moved on to talk about school.
He was going back to school to become a mechanical engineer and so we
chatted about that and physics and debated what I should do with my
life. He was super cool. I mean to move the discussion toward the
Gospel, but when we got up to get dessert, he disappeared. Shame, but
at least I made a new friend. I also met a less active named George.
Nice dude, 23 years old. He was just messing around on the piano, so I
went over and we talked music for a while. His mom is a really strong
member, but if guess he fell into a rough path. I'm hoping to start
working with him more to bring him back. It sounds like he could use
some support.

And that brings us to Sunday. Elder Mason woke up really sick, so we
ended up staying home from church. He had a sore throat and just
didn't feel well all day. So we pretty much just chilled at home. We
got out to do some more caroling in the evening. It was nice to get
out. People always love carolers, so it's my favorite activity. It's
just a shame we can't do it to much longer.

So I just have one more concert left for the Christmas season. We have
a Christmas mission conference tomorrow and I'm signed up to play some
7 songs at he event. It should be an adventure. Merry Christmas

Elder Erickson

68th Epistle From Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Patchogue, New York

Merry Christmas from Long Island written Dec 16, 2013

After 7 1/2 months of serving in Midwood, I have finally been
transferred. I'm now serving in a place called Patchogue way out on
Long Island. It is so different from the city. Things are so much
calmer here. You don't see nearly as many pedestrians. Groceries are
way cheaper. And fast food restaurants offer free refills on drinks. I
haven't seen that in a long while. I really like it here. We drive a
car now, so we get around like it ain't no thang. I'm used to having
to plan out half hour long travel times to get to appointments. Now
you just hop in the car and you're practically there. Walking for so
long really makes you appreciate a car. Though I will certainly miss
walking. I had grown to love walking around the city in my time there.

Picture from Summer of 2013   Midwood, Brooklyn

So out here in Patchogue, we have a Spanish branch. It is very small,
only 6 active priesthood holders and maybe 40 active members total.
But they are all good people. The branch president is brand new, he's
been in for about three weeks. I asked him what he wants us to focus
on and he told me that we should focus everything on finding new
members. He said people have been trying with the few less actives
they have and it's not worth it. It's time to move on and find new
members. He said to let the members worry about the less actives and
the missionaries should focus on teaching new people. I'm excited. I
love it. Let's get to work.

We don't have much right now, but that will change soon. We are
teaching English classes here too. They are doing decently well. Ten
or so people at each class. We're teaching one guy from it already and
there are a couple of other people I'd like to talk to as well.
Hopefully those work out.

In other news, we are going to be doing a lot of door knocking here.
It should be good. We're planning to map out specific neighborhoods
where there might be Spanish people so we can pull off some solid
knocking blitzes. What we have been doing in the evenings is gathering
the Spanish and English districts and we go Christmas caroling from
door to door. It's a lot of fun. When people answer the door, they're
always kind of annoyed at first, then they hear the singing and they
always cheer up. People love it. Hopefully we can keep that going
until Christmas. It's a good way to utilize that awkward time from 8
to 9 PM.

The English ward had their Christmas party last Saturday. We went
because they did a reenactment of the nativity story, so we went to
play shepherds and wise man. I also got to play the piano while people
were eating. I was asked to play non-hymn book Christmas songs, but I
didn't have any music. So I decided to channel some of my father's
ability to play by ear. I have gotten a lot better since last year
when I tried. I need Dad to teach me some variations I can play with
the bass hand. I've still got our Christmas party next week, so I'll
give it another shot then.

Church was fun with the small branch. It's kind of nice because it's
easy to get to know everyone. I got to play the piano for sacrament
meeting and I went and played for primary too. The people are all very
nice. And our ward mission leader is amazing. His name is Julio. He
takes his calling seriously and he does a wonderful job with it. He
knows what's going on and he runs things well. It's very much a
blessing in my life.

So this week is more of trying to get to know the area and starting to
find people. I also have the Christmas concert in Midwood this Friday,
so hopefully that goes well. If people will come to it, it will be
good. We just need people to come. I'm sure they will, it will be
great. I'm just loving life out here. Patchogue is the best. Love you
guys! Until next week!

Elder Erickson

Monday, December 9, 2013

67th Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Brooklyn, New York

Movin' On       written  December 9, 2013

Well this is it. After 7 1/2 months of Midwood, I'm finally moving on. Transfers are on Tuesday and I will be sent to a brand new area to start anew. It will be fun. I'm looking forward to taking the things I've learned and applying them in my new area.

In the meantime, I had one last week in Midwood. Monday evening we were called by our ward mission leader. He told us about a family in the ward who had a sick daughter and he asked if we would go give her a blessing. So we headed on over. He met us there and we went in to give the blessing. Apparently the little girl had been sick for some 4 days and wasn't getting any better. So we gave her a blessing. She's only 2, but she sat still for the whole thing. I was most impressed. Then the mother asked if we were hungry and wanted some dinner. Hispanics love it when you eat their food, so I told her we would love to have something to eat, but nothing too big because we were going to go visit people with the ward mission leader as soon as we were done. She said okay, then comes back with two bowls of soup. It looked like chicken soup with large chunks. I was excited about it. I scooped up a large spoonful of chicken and vegetables, only to discover that it was not chicken at all. It was fish. With all of the bones still in it. I asked what kind of fish it was, she told me she didn't know the name in English, but in Spanish it's called Sierra. Which as far as I understand is a mountain range. I've looked it up. I still have no idea what kind of fish we ate. But there was a lot of picking out bones. Ugh. I do not like fish. But I was proud of myself, I ate the whole bowl of soup. She also pulled out some chicken alfredo concoction too. It was an interesting meal. Regardless, we finished and finally got out the door with the ward mission leader. At which point we looked up several people to no avail. It was disappointing. But at least we had the fish soup. And we found out a few days later that the little girl had recovered almost completely by the next morning. So that was pretty cool. I love giving blessings to people.

Wednesday I had my last day of service in Prospect Park. It has been fun serving there every Wednesday. I love that park. This week was a cool experience. We got to go rake leaves in a Quaker cemetery in the park. It's normally closed off to the public, but we got to go in to rake leaves. It was a beautiful area. Apparently it even outdates the park itself. There were definitely some old graves there, so that doesn't surprise me too much. Later that evening, we headed over to visit the Luna family. I'm pretty sure I have talked about them before. I love that family so much. They are awesome. We went over for one more visit before I left. She cooked us the usual rice and meat and we had a hilarious discussion about the movie The Road to El Dorado. Then we started talking about conquistadors and how they took over so much of South and Central America. I'm still not entirely sure how we ended up on that topic, but I'm not even mad about it. We taught a nice lesson with them about enduring to the end and how we can't become complacent in this life. We have to keep trying to improve and keep trying it better ourselves every day. And even if we only make a tiny bit of progress every day, it will add up over time and be large progress. I really hope that Brother Luna starts coming back to church so they can get sealed in the temple. That will be such a great day.

In the meantime, Thursday was my last day to teach English classes. And I had a fun last day of it. We had some new people there, which is always fun. We broke into smaller groups and I worked with these two sisters who both have been in the United States for roughly a month. And for only being here a month, they actually speak pretty good English. At he end of the class, I taught other spiritual thought and invited everyone to stake conference. One guy was actually interested in it. I talked with him after class and he wasn't super keen on getting to this place in downtown Brooklyn (he doesn't have a metro card), but he could make it to church in our regular building. So I set up an appointment with him (he said he wanted to learn more about our church) and he said he wanted to come to church next week. Awesome, I love it. I'm sorry I won't be here for it, but I really hope things work out with him.

Friday we went to do more last visits for me. We went one more time to see the Castro family. I love them too. Rosie and Eddie are both recent converts and are struggling to make it through. Eddie still has work every Sunday and Rosie has been struggling with some other issues lately. But they're both trying. And I love visiting with them. It was a nice last lesson with them. Their son, Jeremiah, came out of his room afterwards. He has been working through some issues recently too. He asked me if I would give him a blessing to help him with learning to control his anger. This kid is only 10, but he is probably the most mature 10 year old I have ever met. It's ridiculous. So we gave him a blessing. He thanked me and told me that he already felt a little better from it. He's a good kid, I hope he turns out alright. Before we left, Eddie hooked us up with some bagels and cream cheese. He shared some of his favorite chive cream cheese. He layered it pretty heavily on there. I wasn't quite prepared for the amount of breath-altering foods I was about to consume. I think I can still taste some chive in my mouth every once and a while.

After the Castro's, we went to visit my dear friend Gabriel. He's the less active guy we found back in July, courtesy of a referral from his daughter in Mexico. I have visited him almost every week since then. This guy has gone through some trials recently too. But he always kept his faith. He always kept trying to get Sundays off and do everything he could to make it to church. And it seems like he's doing a lot better now. I saw him at stake conference, he was an usher, it welcome people in. And he had he biggest smile on his face. It was great. His daughter recently had to have surgery on something, so she had to go home from her mission for a stint. She's going to return as soon as she has recovered. But right now, she's just chilling at home. So Gabriel decided to call her because he wanted her to talk with one of the missionaries that found him. He put her on the phone with me. We chatted for a moment, and she thanked me for being a good missionary and for doing so much for her dad. I told her that I really didn't do that much except for visit him every week. She told me that it still meant a lot to her and she really appreciated it all. It was really nice to be hear that. To know that I had done some good here. That I had helped out this girl by helping her dad make it back to church every Sunday. That was really cool.

Saturday was a very busy day. I had been asked to play at another concert in Jamaica, Queens. It was a Christmas concert this time. I was going to play again for Elder Goates and Sister Franklin. I played two songs for Elder Goates and one for Sister Franklin. The concert started some 45 minutes late, but we still got through it all and it was really a lot of fun. People were loving it. There's nothing like some fun Christmas songs to get people excited about life. Elder Goates got recordings of all of our songs, so hopefully he puts those up on Facebook soon. After the concert, we headed over to downtown Brooklyn for the adult session of Stake Conference. It was all focused on hastening the work of salvation and working better as wards and with missionaries to bring people to a knowledge of the Gospel.

Sunday was the main session of Stake Conference and it was held in the Marriot Hotel in Brooklyn. My goodness. What a fancy building. It was something else. There was a solid turnout; all of the wards and branches in Brooklyn and Staten Island, translated into three languages. That was a cool meeting. Not too much to report there. Afterward, I was asked to help a Chinese branch with their choir practice. They have a choir that is going to sing on the Sunday before Christmas, but they don't have a piano player. They'd like me to play for the concert, but since we don't know where I'll be, they were willing to settle with just practice for now. So I get there, and they tell me that there's only one song. Okay, fair enough. Then they showed me the song. It's an epic, 31 page Christmas Cantada. My goodness. Complete with piano interludes and intermittent narration too. In Cantonese, nonetheless. Incredible. So I sightread this 31 page party, and I had so much fun. It was awesome. And I was surprised, the Chinos actually sang pretty well. The song gives an estimated running time of 24 minutes. When I played it, we managed to get through it in 20 minutes. I guess I play a little fast. Not the first time I've heard that. It was still a lot of fun though. The rest of the day was spent visiting members and saying goodbye.

So that's about it for Midwood. I've got some more people to say goodbye to this evening. It has been a good run here. I've learned a lot of things and now it's time to take all of those things and move on to a new place. And there will be more lessons to learn and more good things to do. It will be fun.

Love,     Elder Erickson

Monday, December 2, 2013

66th Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Brookly, New York

Happy Thanksgiving!        Thanksgiving Parties -  written December 2, 2013

I had another fun exchange with Elder Durkin last week. We didn't get to go party out in Belle Harbor, but we certainly had a party in Midwood. We couldn't do too much in the afternoon, but we got to distribute a bunch of English class flyers and we taught English classes together in the evening. It's fun because Elder Durkin started out as a Spanish missionary with us, but after 9 months working all English in Belle Harbor, he has since been switched to an English missionary. So he thinks it's fun to get chance to practice Spanish again. We taught a sweet English class and we had a number of new faces, so it was a good night.

Wednesday we were supposed to meet with the Quispe family, but when we showed up, he told us that he was just on his way out to work. At 7:30 at night? Fair enough Julio, we'll come back next week. Luckily, we were able to head over to a member's house nearby and we hooked it up with a nice dinner there. It's the one white guy in our ward, Brother Barton. He served his mission in Ecuador and he married a woman from Ecuador, so they come to the Spanish ward. He is from Pismo, so his area code is 805 too; it made us instant friends. But anyway, it was the first time I had ever been to there house. It was fun to have dinner and talk in English for a change. They also gave us some tips on this Christmas concert that we're putting together. Always nice to have the point of view of a Hispanic when you're planning a concert in Spanish.

Thursday was the big day. Pretty much the whole mission went out to Flushing, Queens in the morning for the annual Turkey Bowl. Our zone has been prepping for this for weeks now. They were convinced that we were the greatest team ever and that we would be unstoppable. We quickly came to find out that we were, contrary to popular belief, fallible, and lost our first two games. Elder Goates and I got bored after a while and hosted a trip to the local Burger King for any and all not interested in football. It was my favorite part of the adventure. We headed home afterwards and made it home in time to shower and head out to the Castro's house.

They had quite the party ready for Thanksgiving. All sorta of family and friends were there. I shared a scripture and a prayer before we got started. It was a very nice event. They had all the fixings you could ever want at a thanksgiving dinner. I got to chat with one of the Castro sisters who isn't a member. A very nice woman who lives out in Queens, but came to Brooklyn for the party. I asked her what she was thankful for this year and we inevitably got on the topic of God and the Bible. We chatted for a while and she told me that she puts a lot of faith in her dreams. And one time she had a dream that really impacted her about somebody making her a cheese sandwich. I was hooked. She went on to tell me that they made her this cheese sandwich, but they cut the center of the cheese out and only gave her the corners of the cheese. Hmm. Interesting. She said she's still trying to figure out what it means, but she gave me her theory. She thinks that the cheese sandwich is representative of her faith in God. And that the cheese is religion. She told me that all the religions she had looked at felt like they were missing a very important thing. But she can't figure out what it is. And in the dream, she's mad that they won't give her the middle of the cheese, so she won't eat the sandwich. Because of this, she keeps trying to find out what's missing through prayer and the Bible.

I couldn't ask for a better transition. I told her that I had a present for her and I pulled out a Book of Mormon. She told me that she once had promised somebody she would read this book, but lost her copy. I told her that she could have this one if she promised again to read it. She told me she would. I then gave her a quick rundown of the restoration of the Gospel and how I believe that the missing center of the cheese is the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. She liked that answer and told me that she would read the book to find out if it was true. She also gave me her address so I could send missionaries to her home and help her learn more about the missing cheese. The food was good that night, but my conversation with Marjorie about the missing cheese was probably my favorite part of the night. It was just too good. The cheese sandwich dream. I really hope she finds the missing cheese she is looking for.

Well anyway, Saturday was our ward Thanksgiving party. That was also a good time. We helped set up for it and I'd say it was a successful event. I'm only sorry we didn't get to stay for the dancing. They decided to have plates of food delivered to people instead of a potluck event. So I got to deliver plates of food and fill up cups for half the night. It was actually really fun to go around and talk to everybody as I delivered food and whatnot. About five minutes before we left, the bishop came to me and asks if the missionaries would sing some hymns of Thanksgiving. Yeah alright. It was so unorganized, it was baller. We just got up and sang the two Thanksgiving hymns in the hymn book. Not much to it. I played the piano and the other five missionaries sang. Then the turned around and pumped the music so everybody could dance. I love Hispanic parties.

And yesterday was my last fast Sunday in Midwood. Next week is stake conference, so I made sure to get up and share one last testimony in the Midwood chapel. After church, this sweet older woman from Guatemala came up to talk to me. She's talked to me before, usually to tell me how she loves the way I play the piano and she hopes that I never leave this area. She was devastated at this news that I was leaving soon. She told me that I have to get married to a Hispanic woman so I can come back to this ward and play the piano. Then she apologized profusely that she didn't have any daughters or granddaughters to offer me. I told her it was okay and that I would do my best to make it back here to play again someday. It was a hilarious interaction. Hispanics are the best.

So there's only one week left in Midwood. I've got a number of things set up for the week that I'm excited about. I'd like to make a few last things happen before I leave. It should be a good week.

Elder Erickson