Tuesday, May 20, 2014

89th Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Patchogue, New York

Tales from the Week written May 19, 2014

We had a few really cool events this week. The first cool event of the week was a lesson with Taylor again. Last Sunday, there was a lesson on the Word of Wisdom that was kind of poorly done. Taylor was there and there were lots of questions from various people about all of it and few of the questions got very good answers. So we decided to do a recap of the lesson with him when we went over. I had all sorts of examples and stories ready to give to him. We started chatting about it and he seemed fine with everything. I asked him if he even had issues with any of the things we're not supposed to drink. He told me no, that he's fine with it all. Oh. Well I guess we don't need all of these stories and examples then. We still had some time left, and he told us that he wanted to read from the Book of Mormon about the part when Christ comes to the Americas.

So we flip on over to 3 Nephi and we took turns reading. We got through the whole thing and he said that it was a cool story. Then we discussed the things taught and the lessons learned from the chapter. Of course, we brought up baptism again and asked him if he had prayed about the Book of Mormon. He told us that he had and that he got an answer. He told us that he was sure the Book of Mormon is true because he had prayed about it multiple times and gotten the same answer every time. That was an incredible moment. That has happened so rarely on my mission that whenever it does happen, it is truly a miracle. We asked him about baptism and he said that he does want to be baptized, he just has some concerns. He's unsure about a support system in the church. Which is awesome that he's thinking about this because usually the missionaries are the ones most concerned about it. His concerns are definitely legitimate. There isn't anybody his age in our branch, except for his girlfriend, who is going to leave for a mission soon. He doesn't have any family support or support from his friends. It's a tough situation all around. But the important thing is that he knows the Book of Mormon is true and he wants to be baptized. It may not be here and it may not be for a while, but at least he's got an answer from prayer.

The next cool event was on Saturday. We had another all day service day. We started in the morning, raking leaves again for a less active family. We raked for some three hours, then we moved over to the church. It was our turn to clean the chapel, so we helped the branch mission leader and one other member to clean up the chapel. Then they made us lunch, that was sweet. To finish up the day, we headed over to the Ventura's house. They were having a birthday party for their three year old son. It was a big family event, so we went over early to help out. And we scored some carne asada and hot dogs. Totally worth it.

And the final story happened on Sunday. We didn't have anything to fill our evening and were dreading three hours of looking up people and knocking doors. Then, I got a Facebook message from a missionary in the ward next to us. He told me that a woman had showed up to their ward who lives in our area and she wants to go back to church and wants the missionaries to visit her. Sweet. We got her number from him and gave her a call. She was free that night, so we had something to fill up some time. We went over and she was very excited to have missionaries come visit. She was baptized in El Salvador, but since coming to the United States, had stopped going to church. She told us that she had felt something and knew that she needed to go back to church. And she had a friend living in the house who was interested in learning more about God as well. Awesome. She had a question about what is a testimony, so we threw together a lesson on testimony and she and her friend both loved it. They both agreed to come to church next week and to meet with us again to learn more. And to top it off, they gave us some pupusas to eat for dinner. Best lesson ever.

So things are moving along over here. Slowly but steadily, people are progressing. And I think as long as the slope is positive, then we're all good.

Love you guys!
Elder Erickson

88th Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Patchogue, New York

Short Update written May 4, 2014

Since I talked with you yesterday and told you most of the tales, this will be a short email. And this week wasn't very busy anyway.

We're still struggling to try to meet with John. Every time we have something set up with him, he's not there when we show up. We wait and chat with his parents for 30 to 45 minutes, then he still hasn't shown up, so we tell them that we'll have to come back another day. He's done it three times now, so we're going to have to figure something out with him.

We had an exchange with the zone leaders this week. Normally, the zone leaders only exchange with the district leaders and with brand new missionaries on their first transfer. Elder Mendez and I are neither of those things. But we're also the only companionship in the zone that isn't one of those things. And they thought that it would be fun to do an exchange with us anyway. It was kind of annoying because neither of the zone leaders are Spanish missionaries or know any Spanish. So it basically meant that I was a solo missionary all day with this dude following behind me and asking me what people were saying. It wasn't bad, just kind of annoying. Not to mention the whole had to teach English class all by myself. Whatever, life goes on. Hopefully we don't have to exchange with the zone leaders anymore after this.

We also had an exchange with Elder Coca and Elder Ozuna. That was the day of a big zone training meeting that lasted like six hours. After that, Elder Ozuna and I got go to have dinner with the Elder's Quorum President and his wife. Then we taught a guy named Jose Ruiz who the other elders have been working with. He is a very nice guy from El Salvador. His girlfriend is a member in Texas and he became interested in the church because of her. He'd like to get baptized, he just struggles to get work off on Sundays. He's already had all of the lessons, so we just went and read out of the Book of Mormon with him. And he shared a glass of mango juice with us. Sounds like a great trade to me.

The only other big event of note (other than calling mom, of course) was the Mother's Day party that the branch held on Saturday evening. We were in charge of an hour of entertainment and games for after dinner. A half hour before the event, I was asked to be the emcee for it all. I thought the branch president was joking, but apparently he was not. I was handed the microphone and asked to introduce the first game before dinner. Well okay then. So I told a quick story about my mom to introduce the game, then we played the game. It was like pin the tail on the donkey, but instead we played pin the baby on the mother. Then we had dinner, followed by more stories and more games. I ended by playing the piano (per request by a member multiple times). It turned out to be a really nice evening and everybody really enjoyed it.

And that's pretty much the tale for this week. Hope you had a great Mother's Day, Mom! I love you!

Elder Erickson

Sunday, May 4, 2014

87th Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Patchogue, New York

Family Home Evening in Patchogue           written April 28, 2014

It's always nice to start off the week with a family home evening. It's great because you get to interact with a fun family and it fills up your Monday evening. There's nothing better than that. We got to have dinner with the Cortez family again and then we shared a lesson and some ice cream with them. Sister Cortez made these baller tacos for dinner. They were awesome. Elder Mendez and I went to town on those because for whatever reason the kids were uninterested in tacos. How could you not be interested in steak tacos? Whatever. I got to use a lesson that Tina sent me in the mail. It involves a bunch of pictures of animals on popsicle sticks and you show them to the kids and ask what sound that animal makes. They all love making the animal sounds, so they all get involved. Then the last one is a picture of a dove and is labeled as the Holy Ghost. Then we discuss what sounds the Holy Ghost makes and how it whispers to us and tells us to do good things like helping our mom and being nice to our little sister. That was a clutch lesson by Tina. She is a champion. It went over like gang busters, everybody loved it. Even the mother told us that was a really good lesson. So all credit goes to Tina for that one.

Tuesday was back to the normal grind of trying to look people up in the afternoon and finding nobody home, then returning to the church at 7 to teach English classes. We also managed to score dinner from a member at 6. She made us the classic chicken and rice, but threw in a curveball with some mashed potatoes. Didn't see that one coming at all. It was all tasty though, so no regrets. Nothing particularly new at English classes. Although we have some new people randomly showing up, so if we're lucky they might be interested in meeting with us. We'll find out this week.

Wednesday was tough because I started coming down with a nasty sore throat, cold, fever combo. I'm not exactly sure what it was. But it wasn't a good time. I slept most of the afternoon and managed to make it out for dinner with our branch president at 6. He made us the classic chicken and rice combo as well. His son-in-law is the elder's quorum president, so we had dinner with the two of them. It's always nice to chat with them together and hear what they want to accomplish so we can help them out. The elder's quorum president is brand new, he was just called last week. I think a new person is much needed here because we only have like four people in the elder's quorum, so new faces are always welcome.

Thursday was a really cool day. There's a girl in our branch named Estefenia. She's 19 and she recently started dating a guy named Taylor and he has been coming to church with her for a few months now. Taylor doesn't speak too much Spanish, but Estefenia's mother only speaks Spanish, so he has been picking it up so that he can talk with her. And he comes to the Spanish branch every week, so he's kind of surrounded by it. He's Christian and always willing to listen to spiritual thoughts and whatnot, but never wanted to sit down and take lessons from the missionaries. I have asked him before and he told me that he was content to just listen in church and at family home evenings and such. Fair enough, you do your thing bro. But then last Sunday, Estefenia came to me and told me that he wanted to meet with missionaries on Thursday at 12:30 and gave me his phone number. Awesome. We called him up and got his address and headed over. He lives with one roommate in this way nice apartment in the middle of a golf course. His place is all decked out too, with fancy artwork and various other trinkets. I guess his roommate is an aspiring artist, so they have a whole art station and his paintings were all over the place. Taylor made us some peanut butter pancakes for breakfast as we chatted and got to know him a little better. Then we sat down to chat. We had interviews with President Calderwood that day, so we had to set an hour time limit on our visit. I thought that was a little extreme, there was no way we were going to fill up an hour. Boy was I wrong. He told us that he had some questions for us, so I asked him what they were. It turns out his question was that he wanted a rundown of what we believe. Well cool. That's what I do best. So I commenced arguably one of the greatest explanations of the Restoration that I've ever given in my life. It was so much fun. Elder Mendez and I went to town. I haven't taught a lesson in English in almost a year, so this was great. I'm pretty good at Spanish, but I can't express myself the same way I can in English. I was able to give all sorts of examples, details, stories, comparisons, it was awesome. It all went really well. He ate it all up too. It was cool because I didn't have to wonder if he was comprehending all of the things I threw at him. He's comfortable enough with us to tell us if he doesn't understand something. The part he enjoyed most was when we discussed how the Book of Mormon can answer things that are unclear in the Bible. He wanted examples, so Elder Mendez and I took off. We gave him five or six different vague scriptures in the Bible and the answers in the Book of Mormon. He was really interested in that. It's a good thing we set the hour time limit or we would have been there all day. He committed to start reading the Book of Mormon and to pray to find out if it was true. And he came to church on Sunday. We're going to meet with him again this Thursday, so hopefully that one goes as well as the first.

Friday was another slow day because sickness struck again. I was feeling well enough to make it to one appointment in the evening with the Ventura family. It's always an adventure over there. There's so many kids running around that it's hard to get anyone to listen to anything we say to them. And every time we invite them to church they just say they're going to come and then they don't come. Hopefully we'll be able to figure out something with them soon.

Saturday we got to do some more service. There was a family in the English ward that needed a trench dug out around their above ground pool. So we got all the missionaries there and we made short work of that trench. We finished in about an hour and they ordered us pizza to thank us. We finished up the night with an appointment with another member in our branch, Brother Ibarra. We were supposed to have dinner with him and his family, but apparently his wife and daughter were at some stake Relief Society thing. So he just took us to Subway. Can't go wrong with Subway.

And the week and my sickness finished up on Sunday. Church was nothing new. I got roped into teaching primary again somehow. We learned about temples this week and we all drew a picture of the Salt Lake City temple. That lasted about fifteen minutes. The rest of class was spent playing tic tac toe and hangman. Whatever keeps these 4 five-year-olds entertained for forty five minutes. We made it to one appointment that night, but I was just not feeling it, so I went back home and chilled with Elder Coca while Elder Mendez went out with Elder Ozuna. He had been sitting around with me while I was sick for so long that Coca took the hit and let Mendez go out. It was kind of him.

So here we are, finally healthy again. Ready for another week of good times and the branch talent show this weekend. We're involved in like four numbers, so it should be a party.

Love you guys!
Elder Erickson