Monday, June 23, 2014

94th Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Patchogue, New York

World Cup Adventures     written June 23, 2014

There's really not too much to report on this week. We had very little going on. Notable lessons were that we got to meet with our friend Stalin Lenin again. He seems to be doing well. He gave us a thorough update on the World Cup and how that's progressing. It's always interesting to talk with people about it because they know so much about it and they always have opinions on all of the big teams. It's funny because all the people here root for their home country and for the United States. Gotta cover all of your bases, I guess. It was a sad tie against Portugal last night. I thought we had it for sure. We happened to be at a member's house for the last bit of the game and saw the goal in the last thirty seconds. It was heartbreaking. I don't even care that much about soccer and I was disappointed. I've been hanging out with too many Hispanics lately, I think.

Aside from the World Cup, we also read with him in the Book of Mormon. He always has lots of questions, I love talking with him. He's not meeting with us out of obligation, he actually wants to learn these things. He asked a lot about Adam and Eve and about Cain and Abel and about evolution and science. Then we got into questions about the afterlife. We gave him a brief rundown of the Plan of Salvation, but we had very little time, so we're going to redo the entire thing this week. He was loving it though, he wants to know more.

We also met with our friends Nancy and Augustin again. They had a friend over when we showed up, so we all chatted about the World Cup. Good times there. Then we shared a message with them all about service. They're interesting because they enjoy listening to us, but aren't very excited about actually doing anything we ask them to. We'll have to keep working with them.

We looked up lots of people and knocked a number of doors, but to no avail. Saturday was the summer solstice, so I organized a trip to 7-Eleven to buy Slurpees to celebrate the start of summer. We got four other missionaries to come, so I consider that a successful summer solstice party.

The main event of the week was on Sunday when Taylor received the gift of the Holy Ghost. We couldn't meet with him during the week, so we met with him before church and taught him about the difference between the presence of the Holy Ghost and the gift of the Holy Ghost. Then, in sacrament meeting, Presidente Mejia confirmed him a member of the church. It was a sweet moment. The rest of church was largely uneventful, though we did get sucked into teaching primary again. We were told to teach about the children of Israel receiving mana and dew every morning. We were supposed to fill 45 minutes. I managed to draw that out for 20 by some miracle, then Elder Mendez just played hangman with them for the rest of the time. It worked out. Then, after church,
our branch mission leader, Julio, threw a barbecue at his house for the missionaries. Julio is so great, he made us a bunch of burgers and hotdogs.

And now we're back to searching for more people to teach. The weather has finally calmed down a bit. Now it's just humid and hot all the time, wonderful. Better than the bitter cold and snow though, I can't complain.

Elder Erickson

Monday, June 16, 2014

93rd Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Patchogue, New York

Taylor was Baptized!!    written June 16, 2014

There were two big events this week. The first one was on Wednesday. A member of the seventy, Elder Nielson, came to visit our mission this last week. So we had a big multi-zone conference on Wednesday with him and his wife. It was an all day event, we left at 8 and didn't get home until 7. Granted, that included stopping at Taco Bell for dinner on the way home. A nice end to a sweet meeting.

He talked about a lot of different things. He had stuff prepared, but apparently he just went off the cuff on a lot of things. He gave us a talk, his wife gave a talk, President and Sister Calderwood both talked, then we had lunch, then returned for like a group workshop by all four of them. It was all really good, I really enjoyed it. There were two musical numbers and I accompanied for both of them. Sister Franklin sang If You Could Hie to Kolob and Elder Hooper played a cool arrangement of Redeemer of Israel on the violin. Both turned out really well.

That night we taught English classes. After the classes were over, Sister Usma, from our branch, came and talked with us. We had a Father's Day party coming up on Friday and she wanted us involved in some of the activities. She wanted us to perform a Father's Day monologue. She showed us a video of these two people in a classroom and one of them is pretending to be a father and he is lip-syncing to a Spanish monologue. We thought it was going to be a comedy of some sort, but it was really depressing about how the father always has to play the bad guy and enforce all the punishments and how he's so sad about it. It was terrible. So we told her we'd do it, but we want a different monologue. We said we'd go look for one on our own.

We hit up the library the next day. There's nothing. At least that we could find. No Father's Day monologues, we couldn't even find a Father's Day skit. So I decided that I'd just write my own. How hard could it be? I started writing some ideas and jokes down and I thought I had a pretty could skit. That night, we visited a less active, Janet, and I read her my script to see what she thought. She was brutally honest and told me that it really wasn't very good. I was a little offended, but I took her ideas. That night, I looked over it again and I realized that she was right. It just wasn't put together very well. So I went back to the drawing board with her ideas in mind. And it actually turned out really well. It involved a brother and a sister debating what they should do for their dad for Father's Day. They can't think of anything and their mother tells them that their dad will be here soon, so they better keep thinking. Then the dad comes in and they admit that they can't think of anything to do for him. He helps them come up with some ideas, but they still can't settle on anything. In the end he tells them that the best Father's Day gift is having them as his kids and they all go off to play soccer in the park. I asked the sister missionaries to help us out and Elder Mendez and I played the other two parts. It turned out really well, people loved it. We got a recording of it, but it missed the first two minutes or so. I'll send it when I get a chance.

The last big event for the week was Taylor's baptism on Sunday. He was baptized after church and the whole branch was there for it. There are a bunch of college kids who have moved to New York for the summer to sell pest control. Taylor managed to get a job selling it with them, so he knows a bunch of them. Some 15 of these guys he works with showed up for his baptism. It was so cool to see all these people come out to support him. Most of the program was in English so that he could understand it. His Spanish is getting a lot better, but the English was nice because it was all meant for him. Afterwards, we had nachos and fruit salad for refreshments. That's my kind of refreshments. I've never had nachos after a baptism before, but that needs to be a more common thing.

And that's the tale for the week. It was a good week. The next step is getting Taylor confirmed with the gift of the Holy Ghost next week and then to get him to the temple to do baptisms for the dead. Here's to another good week of adventures!

Love,    Elder Erickson

92nd Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Patchogue, New York

Big Decisions      written June 9, 2014

We had our exchange with the zone leaders to start off the week. Normally, the zone leaders only exchange with the district leaders and the elders who are training new missionaries. But since there are only three other companionships of elders in our zone, they decided to do an exchange with us as well. It was kind of frustrating because we had a bunch of stuff set up for Monday evening and Tuesday morning, but I exchanged over into their area and Mendez stayed here to take care of things. So I was with Elder Morse in an area called Terryville. It's funny because they are an English area and have no Spanish unit in their building. Our area, Patchoge, actually covers all of their area as well. We just don't go up there too often because it's so far away from our chapel. So I never really left my area. We had dinner on Monday night with their ward mission leader and his family. He and his wife are both involved in the nuclear power business, so obviously I asked them all about it. It was fascinating. We had a lesson on the Plan of Salvation with them. But the three year old needed entertaining, so I took care of that while Elder Morse taught the lesson. The classic missionary tag team.

The next day was largely uneventful. We tried to visit some less actives all afternoon, but nobody was home or interested in talking with us. It happens. We exchanged back at about 6 in the evening. We then headed over to visit with our friends Nancy and Augustine again. We had dinner with them and tried to have a lesson on how to feel the spirit. It went alright, but somehow we ended up getting off track a lot. It's difficult to keep a single topic when you have three separate adults involved, all with their own ideas, thoughts, concepts. We left them with some goals and we're going to check up on them this week.

Wednesday we had a training session all day in Rego Park. It was to give us guidelines for how best to use Facebook as a proselyting tool. It was an alright meeting. It took up most of our day and we got home just in time to teach English classes. Those are still going well. We need new people to come, but since the weather is warming up, everybody is working.

On Thursday we had a sweet lesson with Taylor. We couldn't meet with him for very long, but we went over in the morning before he had to leave for work. Things were a little rough for him on last Sunday, but that morning, he was happy as a clam. There are a number of return missionaries who have moved into our branch for the summer while they work as salesmen. They talked with Taylor last Sunday and hooked him up with the same job. And apparently he has just taken off and is working magic. He's no longer worried about covering rent and he told us that he's been thinking a lot about things. And he's decided that he wants to serve a mission after he gets baptized. He know that he has to wait a while, but he feels like this is what he needs to do with his life while he still can. We're really excited for him. This Sunday is the big day. Jesus has since made other decisions, so it will be just Taylor this Sunday. But hopefully we can work with Jesus too.

On Friday, we had another exchange. This time I was with Elder VanMondfranz. He was my first friend in the MTC and now he's here as Elder Coca's companion. It was so fun to work with him all day. Back in the MTC, we had a tradition of getting nachos every Saturday night to celebrate making it through another week. So, of course, we ended the night with nachos at Taco Bell. It was great. We didn't accomplish anything spectacular during the day. Mostly lookups that weren't home or interested. But we had a good time anyways.

Saturday was a classic service day. We helped a guy remove a bunch of dry wall from his house and then helped him empty it all at the dump. It took a while and he bought us McDonald's afterward, so that was totally worth it. Later that day, we had a birthday party for Jesus. Maria invited us all and they had a barbecue and a cake. The whole family was there and the missionaries, it was a really fun time. And Elder Mendez got to barbecue, so he was happy.

And that's about it for the week. It was a good week. The big news is Taylor's new decision to serve a mission. I think he will be a great missionary. The next step is this Sunday. Hope you guys have a great week!

Love,   Elder Erickson

91st Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Patchogue, New York

So many Cancellations Written June 2, 2014

This was a week of cancelled appointments. I don't know how it happened. It was like everybody got together and set up a club to cancel on Erickson and Mendez. We managed to make some things happen, but it was ridiculous.

We had to start the week off with some sad goodbyes. It was Elder Ozuna's last p-day in the mission. We didn't do too much that day, we mostly just hung out with him. His two years were up and he was headed back to the Dominican Republic. We met up again on Tuesday morning to say one final goodbye and take last pictures with him. It was sad to see him go. He was crazy, but we'll miss him.

We met up with Janet and Ruth again, the less active and her friend. When we got there, she had questions about how we can know that our church is true. Which worked out well because we were planning to discuss the rest of the Restoration with them. First though, they made us dinner. Which happened to be fried tilapia. Elder Mendez and I aren't the biggest fans of fish, but we did what we had to and we picked those bones clean. That's the worst part of eating fish like that is trying to avoid all of the bones. They're so darn sharp. Anyway, after the fish, we taught the lesson and it all went really well. Ruth seems less interested, she has to work on Sundays and isn't interested in trying to get them off. But Janet loved it all and is ready to pray and get an answer about the Book of Mormon. Always exciting when people are ready to act on what we teach.

Thursday was the day when everything fell through. We had four appointments set up and by 9 in the morning, all of them had cancelled. We wandered around, trying to find someone to meet with, but nothing was working out. We only managed to talk to one family, and that wasn't until like 8:30 at night, so all we had time to do was set up another appointment for next week. Still good to make that happen though.

Friday didn't have much going on either. More things fell through. The upside is that dinner didn't fall through. We met up with a family in our branch at a Hispanic restaurant and they bought us pupusas for dinner. That was really nice. They were good pupusas too. They got us flan for dessert. I'm not the biggest fan of flan, but it wasn't too bad. For not liking it very much, it was good flan.

The biggest event of Friday was that we purchased our epic turkey. Elder Mendez and I decided that we should have an epic week of turkey. There was one on sale for a dollar a pound at the store, so I bought a 20 pound turkey. It seemed like a great deal to me. On Saturday, we put it in a big pot full of orange juice to let it soak for 24 hours. Then we cooked it up on Sunday morning so it would be ready for dinner when we came home from church. It was glorious. And this week we don't need to do any shopping because we have turkey to eat all week. It's the best plan ever.

Saturday we finally had a lesson come through. It also involved dinner, which is a nice bonus. We had dinner with Maria and her younger brother Jesus again. She made a delicious rice and sausage combo for us, it was way good. Jesus wasn't super keen on having a lesson, so we had to kind of sneak it up on him. He kept waiting for us to say okay we're going to start the lesson now, but we never did. We just kind of started talking about things. The lesson was all about forgiveness. He was not happy about it at first, but once we got going, he got way into it. He and Maria both were loving it. It went well in the end and Jesus agreed to come to church the next day as well. He had been before, but it was nice to have him back again. He had a baptismal date at one point, but it fell through because he stopped coming to church. He has since decided that he'd like to get baptized again. There's still more to teach him though and we need to make sure this isn't just a whim decision. I think he's more sincere this time though, so we'll see how things go in the next few weeks.

On Sunday we got to see a baptism in our branch. The other elders have been working with a guy named Jose Ruiz who finally took the leap and got baptized. He is a good guy who started looking into the church because his girlfriend in Texas is a member. He wanted her to come see his baptism, but she couldn't make it. It was still a nice event though. It was right after church, so we had most of the branch there. That was pretty cool. The rest of the day involved enjoying our epic turkey and going to visit our old friends Nancy and Augustine. They live with a less active family in our branch. We visited with them for a while and tried to teach a lesson on the importance of scripture study. It kind of fell apart because everybody started arguing about hypocrisy in church. But I think we managed to pull it back in the end. I'm not sure. We're going back over there on Tuesday for dinner, so we'll have another shot.

Lots of things are happening here, regardless of the cancelled appointments. The sisters have a baptism coming up and we have potentially these two with Taylor and Jesus. June is a big month for the Patchogue Branch. Now we just need this beautiful spring weather to hold off on summer for a bit. That would be nice.

Love,     Elder Erickson

Sunday, June 1, 2014

90th Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Patchogue, New York

Traveling by Foot and Cadillac written May 26, 2014

We had a hilarious adventure to start off the week. Elder Coca managed
to lock his keys in his car. The only spare was in the mission office.
His companion had a trip to the temple the next day, so he was going
to pick up the spare when he was there the next day. In the meantime,
Elder Coca is going to be on exchanges with another missionary who has
a bad knee, so he can't walk very far. He wasn't sure what he was
going to do all day without a car, so we volunteered our car to them.
We only had one appointment in the afternoon and English classes in
the evening, plenty of time to get around by foot.

So at about noon, we gave them our car and we got started walking.
Luckily, it was a beautiful day. We walked for about an hour and a
half to get to the appointment. It went well, we met with that less
active woman and her nonmember friend from last week. We taught them
part of the restoration and they fed us a baller dinner of rice and
chicken. Then we got started walking back to the church. We got there
just in time to teach the classes. We checked out our route afterwards
and we clocked just over ten miles in total that day. It was so much
fun. I miss walking in the city all the time. It was a nice throwback
to last summer in Brooklyn.

The next exciting event was our lesson with Taylor on Friday. He
didn't want to bother his roommate, so we met him at a Starbucks
nearby. We taught him about the Plan of Salvation and he really liked
it. I began to discuss potential options to find him a better ward or
branch to attend where he might have more support. I listed a number
of options and even suggested that maybe he wait a bit until he's in a
better situation. He responded by asking me when he could get
baptized. He's been to church enough, he could technically get
baptized tomorrow if he wanted. He told us that he's decided that he
really needs to do this and so he's going to get baptized. He said
he's prayed about it and it feels like the right thing to do. So we
looked at a calendar and set a baptismal date for the 8th of June.
We're all very excited. We decided to celebrate by going to Checker's
for lunch. He drove us there in his '93 Cadillac. That was such a
sweet ride.

Saturday was a cool day as well. One of the Sister missionaries here,
Sister Vasquez, has an aunt who lives in the area right next to us.
Her aunt's brother in law is in the hospital for some problem with his
legs. Sister Vasquez's mom called the aunt and asked if she wanted the
missionaries to come give the brother in law a blessing. So the
sisters called us and we went with them to the hospital to give this
guy a blessing. He didn't have much going on, and Sister Vasquez asked
if he wanted to hear about our message. He said sure, so we started an
epic, four missionary lesson. It's just so many missionaries teaching,
it gets a little crazy sometimes. It went pretty well though. He said
he would read the Book of Mormon and was willing to come to church
when he got out of the hospital. The aunt showed up by the end and
also said that the sisters could come by and share their message with
her. It was a cool experience, especially for Sister Vasquez.

Lasted that day, we met with our old friend Stalin Lenin. We haven't
been able to meet with him in a while, but we finally got back over
there. We shared the restoration with him and he ate it all up. It's
so great to teach people who are actually interested and who ask
questions to try to understand better. Stalin had no shortage of
questions, it was a really fun lesson. He was busy this Sunday, but
said he could come the next week. I think he'll actually read the Book
of Mormon too, he seemed sincere about it.

And those are the adventures for the week. Transfer calls came in,
Elder Mendez and I are staying here for another six weeks at least.
Only twelve more weeks of adventure, so I better make the most of it
while I can!

Elder Erickson