Tuesday, July 22, 2014

98th Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Patchogue, New York

Birthday Week Written July 21, 2014

It was a week full of birthdays. Elder Van Mondfrans' birthday was last Monday. So we celebrated with him by playing handball for a few hours. Then a family in the branch decided to throw a barbecue for him. They had just bought a new grill and were looking for an excuse to put it to good use. When they found out there was a birthday to celebrate, they invited us all over. It was a solid event. They cooked all sorts of hot dogs, hamburgers, sausages, chicken; it was awesome. They had a bunch of cupcakes that they made into the shape of a 21 and when they found out my birthday was coming up too, they decided to sing to both of us. So we both got the birthday celebration and it was a very nice event.

The next day we got to do splits with members again in the evening. Tuesday is the day that we are in charge of English classes. And I love teaching them. So our new tradition is to split up with Julio every Tuesday. I stay with Julio to teach the classes and Elder Van Mondfrans and Morrell go out to try to find people. It's a solid team. I really enjoy it. The trio isn't bad, but it's nice to have a break from being around two people all the time.

We taught a lot of people this week, but nothing was really too exceptional. There were just a few stories to mention. I mentioned them last week, we are teaching a husband and wife named Danny and Francisca. They're very nice people and willing to listen and ask questions about what we teach. It's fun to teach them because they really try to understand what we're talking about. And they're funny people too. They have the sweetest one year old daughter. She is always smiling and laughing while we're teaching. They are a great family.

On Thursday night, we did splits with Julio again. This time, I went with Elder Morrell and Julio went with Elder Van Mondfrans. Elder Morrell and I headed over to teach the Fajardo family. We are teaching them English in their home and then we share a lesson with them afterward. They are a really funny family too. We weren't sure how interested they are, so our original plan was just to introduce the Book of Mormon and ask them to read a few pages in it. But when we introduced it, they had all sorts of questions. So we ended up teaching the entire lesson on the restoration. It wasn't the most coherent thing we've ever taught, but it got the main points across. They are from Ecuador, so I asked them about a food called cui. It's a food that they eat mostly in the inland, mountainous regions of Ecuador. Cui is pretty much guinea pig. I've always wanted to try cui. I've heard lots of good and bad things about it. When I meet people from Ecuador, I always bring it up, hoping to try to score some cui. They all raved about how great it is. Elder Morrell says that it's nasty, so everybody laughed about that. I made a joke about how the cui are "bien cuidados" and it brought down the house. By the end of the night, they told us they were going to make cui for the next time we come back. Heck yeah.

Cui cooking on the Stove
We went back on Sunday evening. We taught them English, shared the short movie on the story of Joseph Smith with them, then it was time for cui. The mother had cooked up a big pan of it with some potatoes and corn and rice. Elder Van Mondfrans had never tried it either, he was excited too. Elder Morrell was pretty nervous, but agreed to have some as well. It was actually pretty good. No regrets. Not the best meat I've ever had, but it was still pretty good. Lots of bones and the skin was not the tastiest. But it was pretty decent. Check that off the bucket list.

Serving with 3 in the Companionship... after the Cui Meal
Friday was the big 21st for me. It turned out to be a really nice day. I made the whole district go to McDonald's for lunch with me and I made everybody stay for an hour to talk and enjoy free refills. It was a lot of fun. Later that night, we had two lessons. One was with a part member couple named Carla and Jose. Jose isn't a member and he is not super keen on reading in the Book of Mormon. We read Alma 32 with him about the seed of faith. I kind of took over the lesson and made some sweet comparisons about trying new things and how we will never know if something is good until we try it. He seemed to really understand it and by the end of the lesson, was willing to give the book a shot. It was pretty cool. The other lesson was with the Araujo family. They have been on and off with the missionaries for some 5 years now. They just aren't willing to keep many commitments. They have been to church twice in the 8 months I've been here. We taught them about the importance of faith and works and how you need both to make it in life. It was a good lesson. I didn't think they would actually come to church, but by some miracle, they were there on Sunday. The parents and three kids all came to sacrament meeting. I guess they weren't really planning on it, but the mother felt like they should go. And there they were. It was really cool.

We had seven investigators at church yesterday. That's insane. I've never seen that before. It was a miracle. Danny and Francesca came, so did Carla and Jose, and the whole Araujo family. It was an awesome day at church.

So things are still chugging along out here. We have a plan to go on triple splits tomorrow. I'm going to teach English with Julio and the other two are each going to go teaching with a member. It should be fun. We also have a free carwash coming up this Saturday. That one will be interesting too. We'll see how it goes.

Love, Elder Erickson

97th Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Patchogue, New York

All About Threes Written July 14, 2014

It has been a whirlwind of a week. Three is a lot of people to hang out all the time. It's always a party with us. And we're always on the move. I already dubbed us with nicknames from Top Gun. So you know it's good.

It was a melancholy start to the week. Last Monday was Elder Mendez's last day here. We played handball in the afternoon and visited a few people in the evening. We hooked it up with Subway for dinner with Hermano Ibarra and we ended the night visiting our dear friend Julio. We were kicking it with Julio when we got a call from the sister missionaries. Apparently there was a mistake in the transfer calls and Hermana Vasquez was being transferred on the next day. She didn't find out until late Monday night. She had no time to say goodbye to anybody. She was very sad to hear that news. Elder Mendez and I knew she needed some comfort food, so we ran to 7-Eleven and got her some of her favorite chocolates and took them over on our way home. She was very appreciative that we would do that for her. She was doing okay by the time we got there, but everyone was still sad to see her go.

Tuesday morning was a very sad day. It was hard to say goodbye to Elder Mendez. I've been his companion for so long, it was really weird to think that he wouldn't be there the next day. So we lost three people from our district, Elder Coca, Elder Mendez, and Sister Vasquez. We lost all of our Hispanics. Elder Coca is half Bolivian, Elder Mendez's parents are Mexican, and Sister Vasquez is Peruvian. Now we're all pure gringo.

Patchogue District Celebrate 7/11 Day - Free Slurpies
Transfer meeting was pretty uneventful. Not too much happened. Elder Van Mondfrans and I were placed in a trio with Elder Morrell. He is a way cool guy. I remember when he came in the mission, he was in my zone. He has been out for 19 months, so he has some solid experience under his belt. He is our district leader here and Van Mondfrans and I are just the lowly helpers. It's a pretty good balance. The new sister who came in is Sister Shreeve. I don't know her as well, but she was trained by Sister Franklin, who I served with in Midwood. Sister Shreeve is pretty cool so far, I think she's a good addition to the Patchogue family.

So the first night, Elder Van Mondfrans stayed in the mission home with all of the departing missionaries. He is going home four weeks into the transfer, so he went to the departing missionary testimony meeting there. This meant it was just me and Elder Morrell for the first night. We had a sweet drive home and got back just in time to help the sisters teach English class. The next morning we drove out to pick up Elder Van Mondfrans and really start the trio adventure. We visited a number of people throughout the day. Both of our teaching pools are combined now, so we have a lot of people to choose from. There's nobody really progressing very fast, but there are lots of nice and interesting people that we met with. One notable family was Jose and Carla. Carla is from El Salvador and Jose is from Puerto Rico. Which means we can't understand anything he says. I'm not entirely convinced he was speaking Spanish the whole time. They are very nice people though. She is member and he is not. He's not super convinced about the Book of Mormon, but he's willing to listen and ask lots of questions. And he came to church, so that's always good.

That first night was fun because we realized how easily we can go on splits with members now. Elder Van Mondfrans had some appointments that night, but we also had to teach English classes. So we called up our main man Julio. He stayed with me to teach English and the other two went off to the appointments. It was a sweet deal. I'm looking forward to three more weeks of that.

This week was mostly getting to know people. It seems like we'll probably do some more of that this coming week too. There weren't too many really notable events. We met with a really cool family on Saturday, the parents are named Danny and Francesca. They are both Catholic, but listened pretty intently to our lesson. They even asked a number of questions too. They said they couldn't make it to church this wen but would be there for sure the next week. The other event of note was that we met up with a less active named Luis Florez who took us out to eat pupusas. It was glorious.

Church was good yesterday too. We didn't have a ton of people, but I got called up to translate for a speaker from the stake high counsel. That is always an adventure. He had a copy of his talk that he gave to me so I was able to look at some of it ahead of time. But he also liked to deviate from the script and tell personal stories. Great for an interesting talk, bad for your translator struggling to translate your English idioms into Spanish. It was fine though, people in the audience helped me out. In other news from the day, Germany won the World Cup. It was so disappointing. Not as disappointing as Brazil losing 1-7 to Germany, but I was still sad that Argentina lost. The other disappointing thing is that now we have one less conversation topic with people. If only there was always a World Cup playing. It would make conversation starters so much easier.

Love, Elder Erickson

Sunday, July 13, 2014

96th Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Patchogue, New York

World Cup Disappointments    written July 7, 2014

This was my last week with Elder Mendez. We got word that he's going to be transferred tomorrow. I'll be staying here for my last six weeks. The first four of those weeks, I'll be in a trio with the other missionary here, Elder Van Mondfrans. He goes home after four weeks, then it will be me and the third missionary for the last two weeks. It should be an adventure. I'm sad to see Elder Mendez go. We've had a lot of good times together. He's helped me out and taught me a lot over the last four and a half months. But I guess he's needed somewhere else now. Both of the sister missionaries here are staying as well. 

Elder Kaleb Erickson and Elder Mendez in Patchogue, NY
So now, it will be the trio and the two sister missionaries. That's our whole district. Kind of weird. One of the sister missionaries, Sister Keele, has been here with me since I got to Patchogue. She and I were both sent to Patchogue at the same time, but she was just starting and I was coming up on 18 months. After this transfer, she'll be the missionary that I've served with the longest, for nine months straight. Crazy.

This was a heartbreaking week for the World Cup. Every team I rooted for lost this week. It was horrible. Worst of all was the US vs Belgium game. We had dinner at Burger King that day so that we could catch the end of the game. It was so close. I thought we had it for sure. We had to teach English classes right after that. I was wearing my American flag tie to represent my country. The lesson for the day was talking about your feelings, so it was perfect to talk about my devastation. We all laughed together and I made everybody say in English that Belgium was a terrible country. They all thought that was hilarious. It was a fun class.

On Wednesday we scored the best lunch ever with a member in the branch. We ate with the Cortez family and she decided that since it was really hot outside, we should eat cold cut sandwiches. I thought it was a great plan. She had all the fixings. Delicious bread, ham, roast beef, turkey, four kinds of cheese, lettuce, bell peppers, it was incredible. I had three of them. I was in heaven. Later that day, we went over to visit our friends Nancy and Agustin. They were both happy to visit with us for a bit. We taught them about keeping the Sabbath day holy and they said that they were willing to come to church in two weeks. So that was pretty exciting. Then they ordered pizza for us for dinner. That was great too. You can't be mad at free pizza.

Our fourth of July was a pretty fun event too. We didn't have much going on in the afternoon. We had correlation with the branch mission leader and he decided to make us hotdogs to celebrate. Then we headed over to visit the Cortez family again and they had a big party going on. They made a bunch of food; rice, veggies, hotdogs, steak, tortillas, guacamole, pies, it was all incredible. We pigged out, then watched as all the kids lit off little fireworks. There was a lot going on. It was a huge family event, so there were a lot of people there. We just watched and ate and chatted with people, it was nice. It was a good fourth of July.

Saturday was fun because we had a bunch of service to do again. We helped a woman in the English ward with a move. She needed help packing a bunch of stuff into a storage box. It was an intense game of Tetris, but we made it all happen. Then we went over to visit a sweet Argentinian woman who comes to live in Patchogue every summer. She is an older lady and can't do too much work, so we raked all the leaves in her yard for her. She made us chicken and rice to repay us. It was very kind of her. We worked there for about three hours, it was a solid event. The rest of the night we were supposed to go to a firework show with Julio, but he ended up not going, so we went to visit him and his son at his house. Julio is our branch mission leader, by the way. He's a really cool guy.

Sunday involved Mendez going around to visit with people one last time. It's always sad to say goodbye. Even though I'm still staying, it's sad to see people sad that Mendez is leaving. They're going to miss him here. We had a baptism for an 8 year old girl in the branch yesterday too. It was a nice event. Sister Keele and I put together a special song for her, I played and she sang Where Love Is. It turned out really nice. It's nice when baptisms go smoothly.

So the new adventure will begin tomorrow. It is going to be a big change. Three is a lot of people. It should be good though. I'll keep you posted.

Love,  Elder Erickson

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

95th Epistle from Elder Kaleb Erickson serving in Patchogue, NY

The World Cup Brings People Together   written June 30, 2014

This last week started off pretty slow, but things started happening as the week went on. Not every day can be a big adventure. Tuesday and Wednesday were pretty uneventful, mostly just teaching English classes in the evening. We've got a few new people coming and it's fun to bring up the world cup during the classes because everybody always has an opinion on who's good and who's not and who's going to win. I'm loving it all.

Thursday was a fun day. Elder Mendez had a trip to the temple and so did one of the zone leaders, so I went on an exchange all day with the other zone leader, Elder Broadbent. We had some fun adventures together. We started off by meeting with Taylor at Starbucks again. It's always funny to meet there because people look at us weird. We taught him about the priesthood to prep him for receiving it soon. He seems pretty excited about it. He's still killing his new job as a salesmen. He recently tied a record for the third most sales in one day. And he did it two days in a row. Solid. Guy is a champ.

We didn't have a ton going on after that, so we drove around and tried to look up people during the afternoon. The most exciting part was when we found out that the US was moving on into the semi finals of the World Cup. They lost to Germany, but Ronaldo pulled through for us, beating Ghana so we could move on. Thanks Ronaldo, you're the best. We didn't have too much success with finding, but Elder Broadbent wanted to go talk with his landlord about something. They live in the second floor of a house. On the first floor live a retired husband and wife. We stopped by and the husband, Rich, had apparently just bought some new fish for his salt water aquarium. He still had them in bags and was slowly introducing them into the water. I guess there was a high difference in salinity, so he had to slowly introduce them into the tank so that they didn't get sick. I was fascinated. Elder Broadbent talked with his wife about temples and family history and I talked with Rich for the next hour about his salt water aquarium. I had no idea how much care and maintenance went into these things. The fish were really pretty too. They were called yellow tangs. He had one, but he bought three more so that they could have a school. He had thirteen fish total in the tank and there were a bunch of coral in there too. I don't think I'd ever want to own a salt water fish tank, but it was cool to learn about and see the fish.

We left from there to go help a family in their ward with a move. There wasn't a ton to do, but we still got free hotdogs out of it for dinner. After that, we headed over to try a Hispanic guy that they had been teaching. He spoke alright English, but there is no Spanish unit in Elder Broadbent's area. If he wants Spanish services, he has to make a twenty minute drive to our chapel. But Elder Broadbent wanted me to speak Spanish with him to try to explain some things more clearly. We sat down with him, he was from Lima, Peru. He didn't want to speak Spanish with me at first, but I wouldn't speak English, so he eventually moved over to Spanish with me. We discussed the Book of Mormon with him. He insisted that it was just a book. We debated how to know whether it was more than a book or not. We got into some interesting discussion about whether organized religion is good or bad and how to deal with the necessity of tithing and funding in a church. He has had some bad experiences with churches taking money and isn't keen on giving money to any more organized religions. In the end, he agreed that God does answer prayers and was willing to read and pray about the Book of Mormon. It was a cool lesson and I felt good because I taught it all by myself. Elder Broadbent understands a few words here and there, but he doesn't speak Spanish. So I felt like a hero afterwards.

The next great adventure was on Saturday. I had another exchange with the district leader, Elder Coca. We didn't have a whole lot planned on that day either, so we went out to put up flyers for our English classes. We decided to park our car and walk down the street to hit up all the businesses we could. It ended up being really fun. We walked past an Italian ice cream shop and a few members were just pulling up. They stopped us and insisted that they buy us some ice cream. So we stopped and chatted with them for a while. Then, while we were placing flyers, the game of Chile against Brazil was coming to a close. We saw bits and pieces in the difference stores as we walked. Then, we happened to be in a soccer store right as they were starting the penalty kicks. So, of course, we stopped and watched with the workers in the store. We were all rooting for Chile, so it was a disappointing end. But it was fun to be in this store and cheer with these other people. The World Cup, just bringing random people together on a Saturday afternoon. The last fun thing that happened was that as we were getting back to our car, a woman stopped us and told us she was looking for the Mormon church. She had just moved here from Mexico and didn't know where to find the church, but she recognized us as missionaries. We chatted with her a bit and got her phone number to get in touch with her and visit her sometime. She wasn't sure if she could make it to church the next day, but hopefully the next week she'll be able to come.

It was a fun exchange with Elder Coca. It led up to Sunday. There wasn't much happening on Sunday either. The fun event from the day was that we got invited over to have dinner with a family in the branch, the Usma family. There are a bunch of return missionaries living in New York right now, all here for the summer to sell pest control. Some of them have come to our branch because they served Spanish speaking missions. The Usmas invited them over to share dinner with them and they decided to invite us too. So we all chatted and enjoyed some lasagna and salad. It was great. It's interesting that these guys all only have knowledge about one culture from their missions. They were in that one country and learned about that one culture. But I've been exposed to a bunch of difference cultures out here. I don't know any of them very in-depth, but I know a little bit about a bunch of different countries. It's pretty cool.

And that's the tale for the week. It was a good week. This is probably my last week with Elder Mendez. We've been together for a long time and we're probably being split up at the end of the transfer next week. It was a good run though. Hopefully we'll have a good last hurrah this week.

Elder Erickson