Monday, February 27, 2017

Getting Home/Life at Home

Hey there, its just me again. This whole 3 part post thing is a bust, and I probably could have told you that when I told you I would be doing it. I was going to do one each Sunday but then last Sunday I was lazy and decided not to write because, well... I didn't feel like it. But, I decided I would give it a go today. (I wrote this intro exactly two months ago.... turns out I didn't give it a full go. But here I go again trying to make this thing happen.)

I was going to write a whole post about flying home, but because the 3 part post is now a 2 part post I will just write briefly about it. I had always looked forward to the moments that I would have way up in the sky flying home after my service had ended. I looked forward to the hours of pondering and reflecting what in the world had just happened. I assumed that the experience would truly be once in a lifetime. Well, it was once in a lifetime, because, well… I definitely won’t be making a plane ride home after two years as a proselyting missionary ever again. However, it wasn’t quite what I thought it would be like. I guess I need to stop expecting certain events to be a certain way, but it just wasn’t quite like I thought it would be. I thought I would be extremely sentimental and in a deep stupor of thought for the entire thing. However, I hardly cried. Once I went through security in Lubbock I seemed to be in this odd inbetweener stage if emotion. I was so so sad to leave, but yet I was ready to just get home. So my sentimentality was numbed by my readiness to get home, and my readiness to get home was numbed by my sentimentality of leaving Texas. I did, however, really enjoy flying over the north part of my mission (which I never served in) and thinking about the great land that was part of the Texas Lubbock Mission. At first sight West Texas is just about the ugliest piece of land you could find, but over the course of time I started to find great beauty in it. I literally can’t get enough of looking out over the Caprock that Lubbock sits on and look at the sky expanding over the horizon. Ugh, so amazing. You’d have to see it to understand. Anyway, I don’t mean to make anyone jealous because they’ve never been to West Texas so I will go back to my plane ride. My ride from Denver to Boise hit me in the feels a little more than Lubbock to Denver. As I walked through the gate to get to the airplane I nearly broke down in tears, it hit me out of nowhere. I guess I realized that I was boarding my flight that would take me to my final destination. It was apparently very overwhelming for me. Once on the plane I met a few people behind me that were ministers…… I guess some things weren’t getting left behind in Texas. Ahhh, just like old times. I was well trained for this interaction after serving in the buckle of the Bible Belt. Tore it up. All you gotta do is be overly nice to them and thank them for their service and you’ve just won. Not that it’s a competition, but being a Mormon missionary automatically gets you put into a position to get “observed” real easily. Not like an unrighteous observation, but I always wanted to make super positive impressions on ecclesiastical leaders of other denomination because they noticed us and what we did more than others. If I could give them a positive impression of myself, they would have a positive impression on the church that I represented on my nametag, and we’d be one step closer to religious unity among the 7,000,000 different denominations among the people I served. Large task, but I think I did my part in trying to spread common appreciation and love. Anyway, that has nothing to do with my plane ride. There was another lady on our row that we talked to a little bit (we meaning another missionary and myself). She was very nice and she would make comments about how excited our families must be and how crazy our lives were about to get. None of the people around us were members of the church, and they didn’t know too much about us missionaries. So they were all very surprised to hear about the fact that we hadn’t seen our families for two years. So they all had an eye on us and our emotions knowing the circumstances. I felt a lot of love from them! Before I knew it we were in the Treasure Valley and making our descent. I noticed a nice large neighborhood and thought that it was a part of east Boise. As I looked closer I notices a couple landmarks that looked familiar, and then right as it went past my window I realized that it was Kuna!!!! Sure enough, we started making the turn to set ourselves up to land! Seeing Kuna got me freaking a bit. But then I got an aerial view of Boise…. HOLY COW. I hadn’t seen anything like that in years (literally)! I saw a city of trees (some of which were changing colors) and get this….. MOUNTAINS!!!!!! I honestly didn’t think they were real for like, the first week home. No way. Not real. Must be some sort of illusion or something. Bull. But sure enough, they are still there today so I must have been wrong. We landed and everyone around me was just basically staring at me, or so I felt. I walked off the plane and walking through the gate got everything going. Here I was, just minutes away from the big arrival. I was trying to hold back tears as long as possible. I decided to sit down on a bench and take minute to think and to pray. I remember sitting there with some tears in my eyes looking at everyone walking by. One of the ladies that I had talked to on the plane walked by and we made eye contact for a few seconds. She gave me a little smile and kept walking. I don’t think I will ever forget that moment. I don’t know why, but that moment is still sharp in my mind. It’s one of those things that I will remember forever and cherish. I have a few of those small moments right there in my mind. Sometimes small simple interactions with people have the most lasting impression. Anyway, I said a little prayer and started my walk through the terminal to go see my family. Crazy stuff, man. I will leave that moment to your imagination. I won’t even try to talk about the reunion. I don’t know how to put that all into words. It was nice. Weird, but quite lovely.

I remember a moment on the drive home that will last with me forever as well. We were driving down Meridian Road after exiting the freeway, and I was looking over at the Kendall car dealership on the corner of Meridian and Overland and realizing that I was home and that I was ACTUALLY home. Up until then it was just like another transfer in my head. A very very different kind of transfer, but a transfer nonetheless. But I remember in that moment realizing that there would be no zone conference the next week, no morning sports the next morning, no knocking on doors that night, nothing. It was OVER. DONE. It hurt. Hurt real bad. But I just went on and was happy to be home, I guess. I remember driving through Kuna and feeling like I never left. I thought it would be weird to drive through my hometown, but it seemed just… regular, I guess. We stopped at Enrique’s Mexican Restaurant in Kuna for some grub on the way home, and we got our food and I remembered that it was weird to pray over your food in Idaho! In Texas you’d go out to eat and see people all over bowing their head and praying together before they ate. But guess what? You ain’t in Texas no more, Elder Ericson! Lame. I had the same experience getting home that I did driving through Kuna. I walked through the door into my house, and it felt like I had been their just a day or two previous. I was a little taken back. It all just makes me realize that my mission was really just a life of itself. It was two years long (which is quite some time for a 20 year old) yet it’s weird to think that it all happened. It was there and now it’s not. Sometimes I wonder if it even happened. I am a different person because of it and my life is much different now, but it’s like it never happened.

Probably the most emotional part of my day was later in the evening when I got released. I cried answering some questions from the stake presidency and as he released me, but the heavy hitter was the drive home. I cried for like 15 minutes straight after leaving that place. I just sat in the back seat of the car looking out the window with tears flowing. I was devastated to not be a missionary anymore. You don’t realize what it means to be a missionary when you first get called and set-apart, and then over the course of your mission you gain a gradual understanding of what it means. But since the growth of your understanding is directly parallel to your time spent as a missionary, you don’t really realize that you understand because it’s just normal life for you. But with my understanding, having the mantel taken away made me realize just how much I knew about what being a missionary was and how much I loved it. It was the worst. I didn’t want life to go on for a moment. I knew that life had so much in store for me and I was excited for that, but for a moment I wanted nothing more than to go back to my life of being a missionary. I still feel that way sometimes. When I think about what I could do as a missionary if I could go back and the life that I miss so much I sometimes wish life wouldn’t have moved on. But, I am thankful for the life I have now and all that I learned as a missionary that is helping me live a wonderful and amazing life now and for years to come!

So, I just took a two month break from this blog post. I guess I finally decided to finish what I started. What really has gotten me lately is when I hear about people keeping journals and I think to how awesome it is to go back and read my mission journals, but then thinking that I have no documentation of what life was like after my mission. So this in essence is my excuse for not writing in my journal. I would really love to be a good journal writer, but it just is so hard to do it, am I right? You know the struggle, I’m sure.

Anyway, I guess I’ll pick back up with this pup where I left off. I don’t really know where to start. It’s literally been two months since I last worked on this. So here we go…..

Life as a non-missionary has been great so far. The first few weeks after returning home were super wonderful. It is so wonderful to see people for the first time in seemingly forever and feeling their love and appreciation for your service. Every day seemingly I would see people and be greeted with a big hug and have such vibes of happiness sent my way. It very much so made me feel like a successful missionary. However, one problem was that I had the EXACT SAME conversation with every single person for like three weeks. “Oh my gosh!!! Reed (which was weird to be called Reed)!!!! So good to see you! How was your mission?”

“Oh man! It was the greatest thing ever!”

“How was Texas?”

“Oh man! It was the greatest thing ever!”

“How’s being home?

“Oh man! Its super weird and I hate the fact that I’m home half the time, but it truly is good to be home!”

--Awkward Silence--

“Well, it’s good to see ya, Reed! Welcome home!”

Aaaaaannnnddddd after three weeks of nothing but that exact same conversation I lost all ability to talk to people. I spent two years learning to be a phenom at talking to people and it was gone just like that. Seriously, after I got over the period of having that conversation I literally had no idea how to talk to people like a normal person. Lol it was the worst! Talk about a punch to the gut going hero to zero (yes, I know that is the opposite of the saying). But after a while of extreme application of the Atonement, I learned how to talk to people again… at least I think I did. I guess time will tell. On a side note, I talked on the phone the other day to a couple old fellas that I visited a ton in one of my areas, and I felt like I was tearing that conversation up and being the best former missionary ever. For some reason I can’t do that with normal people, but with people that I met as a missionary I can still chat it up like nobodies business. I’ll get there… one day.

Another fun thing about those early days of being home was trying to apply the principles I learned as a missionary to normal life. I am extremely thankful for a mission president who taught us about missionary conduct in a way that helped us realize that we weren’t following rules, but we were implementing principles that could be applied to any life setting. While discussing the topic of mission rules/principles at a meeting once we talked about how we in the Texas Lubbock Mission didn’t follow any “mission rules” but rather we apply principles. A missionary said something that I have written on the front page of my missionary handbook, “Mission rules end when you go home. Principles never end.” So as I returned home from my mission, I wasn’t expected to live the same standard of the principles I was as a missionary, so I had to learn how to apply the same principles in a different way. It was a very interesting process, and one that I still go through day by day and often struggle with because, well, life is tough! It was very tough having no restrictions to anything and not having a companion to keep me accountable. At first it was somewhat easy, if there was something that wasn’t inviting of the Spirit, I didn’t do it. I was still very receptive, responsive, and sensitive to the Spirit so it was easy to make strong in the moment decision without hesitation. Plus, I didn’t really have any interest in a lot of the things that distract from the spirit. I hardly watched any television or really meddle with any media for a number of weeks. I just didn’t care to partake. TV shows and movies just didn’t have any appeal to me. Plus, all music seemed foreign to me so I didn’t really care to listen since I had no clue what any of the words were or who was singing. So, I just listened to the Christian stations! But over time I started getting accustomed to those things again. However, I had to practice applying the principles to these things. Sometimes I messed up. I wouldn’t make the right decision, so I would have to promise myself to do better the next time and learn from the decision. Now, I ain’t saying I was listening to some hood rat stuff or watching some sort of trash, but I was trying to do the best I could to stay close to the spirit so some decision that may seem to be perfectly fine were a little not so good for me. And as I am sitting here typing this I am realizing I need to repent! LOL I ain’t being a bad boy or anything but dang I could do better. Couldn’t we all!!!

I think one interesting thing that I learned in the soon months after getting home was what it meant to continually build my testimony. On my mission, everyday was seemingly a testimony building day. Even the days when I felt like I didn’t do much (which was all the time) I still felt satisfied knowing that I went out and did the work of the Lord all day and didn’t quit when it was 100 degrees outside on my bike and I was completely worn out physically, mentally, and didn’t have much spiritual drive because of the exhaustion. I’ll tell you what, those days when absolutely nothing happened for me and my companion except for putting 20 more miles on our bikes' odometers were some of the best days I ever had. If you want to feel like you are pleasing the Lord, go out and work your butt off on foot and bike all day and have nothing to report but zeros. That my friends always had me going to bed knowing that the Lord was pleased with me. I can still to this day very vividly remember carrying my bike up the stairs to my apartment completely and utterly cleaned out of energy and just having enough energy to put forward one more step to the next stair, and then one more, and then one more, all the way to the top when I would just collapse in my apartment, and then starting planning and marking down zeros down the line for the day. It’s the days like those that make my memory of my mission so amazing. Sure, the amazing experiences were nice, the people were incredible, everything was amazing, but those days are what make me think back and realize I was successful. Anyway, what was I talking about. Totally got off track there. So yeah, the whole testimony thing. When I got home all of a sudden each and every day wasn’t a testimony builder. And all of a sudden I was exposed to things that posed questions to my testimony. Not that anything ever derailed it in the slightest, but it posed question to it. I remember one time specifically that prophets and apostles were questioned. I went to the temple the next day and asked the Lord to please confirm to me that what I knew to be true was indeed correct. Sure enough, the big man upstairs pulled through and I walked out of the temple that day with as much confidence that the prophets and apostles on the earth today are men called of God and when they work as leaders of the church they are inspired in all they do. Their council is correct, their decisions on behalf of the church are the will of the Lord in the time they are made, and they will not lead me in any direction but towards God the Father and Jesus Christ. The temple was huge for me when I got home. I made it a goal of going every week until I went to school, and I definitely fell short of that goal, but I definitely surely went a lot. It was such a rock for me. It kept me strong and kept my new life in perspective with my eternal goals and was a big influence on helping me remember who I have the potential to become in this life and in the life to come, which helped me have strength day by day to do good and stay close to the principles that changed me on my mission. I am so incredibly thankful for the temple and the blessings that it has brought me! I have been greatly blessed by the knowledge it has brought me and the man it has helped me become!

Another thing was helped me a ton was the Sabbath day! My goodness, I never knew how great the Sabbath was until it was a completely different day than the other six! I realized that on my mission everyday was basically the Sabbath in a real world sense. Sundays were good and all, but when I got home the other six days weren’t spend studying and teaching the gospel and weren’t spent doing nothing but the work of the Lord. All of a sudden I had six days that were testing me and trying me, and by the time Sunday rolled around I was definitely in need of an influx of the Holy Spirit! I just loved being able to go to church, take the sacrament and have a different experience with the sacrament than I had as a missionary, sit and listen to the lessons and take in the good word, and then walk out of the church doors feeling refreshed and ready to take the week head on. And then I had the rest of the day of course, and by the end of the day I would be locked and loaded and ready to go! I definitely grew a much strengthened testimony of the Sabbath in the months soon after I got home. On my mission I had more of a doctrinal/logical testimony, but it was able to be turned into a much more experience based testimony!

My oh my, I don’t know what to talk about next. I have a few other things I think I could talk about but I ain’t sure if they belong here.

I guess I will leave y’all with just one more experience I’ve had recently. It all starts in San Angelo, TX in November 2015. I received a heartbreaking transfer assignment to leave Odessa, TX and go to San Angelo. I was definitely excited to go to San Angelo as I had heard lots of great things about it. But Odessa was just so great and there were a few things that I was just really heartbroken to leave. However, I saddled up and rode on down to San Angelo. On the drive down to San Angelo I was told that there was a man in my area with quite the story. He had been married to a member of the church for 50+ years but had never gotten baptized. However, just recently before I got there he had accepted his first baptismal date EVER. So I was pretty excited. Well, turns out this man was just flat out difficult. He just couldn’t feel the spirit for the life of him. Nothing worked for this guy. I read the longest teaching record I ever saw on my mission for this man that was filled with highly spiritual experiences for all the people involves except for him! I soon found the same thing happening. My goodness. In the words of his wife, “HE’S A MULE!!! And you know what other word I could have used in place of ‘mule’!” Well, his baptism date was approaching and we sure as heck knew it wasn’t happening then. So we bumped that unit back to the 19th of December. That date just naturally turned into the 26th of December since his family was planning on being there for Christmas. You know, gotta take the two for one when you can, right? Well, that came and went. NOTHING. For a long time we spent our time over there trying to help him get his “answer”. Let me tell ya, that route had us all running in circles for years. It wasn’t ever going to happen! So basically we just tried to pressure him into getting baptized so that he could receive a witness that what he did was good after receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. Not gonna lie, the whole “pressure him” thing kinda worked. And in our defense we didn’t intentionally pressure him, it just kinda happened one day! It was all backed by scripture so it’s all good. After getting him all nice and pressured we were one day sitting there and were talking to Mac about what we should do going forward to help him since he sure as heck wasn’t getting any answers anytime soon. We were talking about The Book of Mormon and how that was going for him. He was reading it every day but wasn’t getting tons out of it. So, I had the idea to just come over and read with him and not worry about anything else besides just helping his understand what he was reading and apply it. So, we went that route. I remember sitting there and discussing his baptismal date with him as well one day and thinking, “man, he needs to do this himself”. So, I told ol’ Mac that he should choose his own baptismal date this time around. He had his mind made up two days later that it would be January 23rd. Fair enough. About two weeks prior to the 23rd we were having our chat with Mac about the whole ordeal, and I remember exactly him saying, “Well, I guess I need to get baptized…”. And just to say this, that wasn’t a brain blower for us. Mac said garbage like that all the time and then just say, “but I need answers.” So here we are, Elder Andrus, Mac’s wife Carolyn, and myself just chillin’ waiting for his follow up line. But after a few seconds Mac was still just sitting there looking at his iPad. So now we were starting to get a little anxious. A few more seconds. Nothin’. A few more seconds go by and by now I don’t think there was a heartbeat in the room minus Mac’s. I don’t know how long of a time went by before Mac looks up at us all and goes, “I guess…..”. It’s safe to say that there was definitely a few minutes of clarifying work done after his famous, “I guess….”. Hahaha typical Mac! Well, January 23rd rolled around and Mac was indeed baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints with a while chapel packed with people there to witness the grand event. Well, a year went by and it was the time for Mac and Carolyn to be sealed for eternity in the Lord’s house. I had the profound opportunity and pleasure to attend the ceremonies for Mac receiving his endowment and the two of them getting sealed in the Lubbock, Texas temple. It was kinda funny keeping an eye on Mac during the endowment ceremony because I knew just how confused the man was at the whole thing, just as we all are our first time! It definitely kept a smile on my face. When I walked into the Celestial Room ol’ Mac was standing right there and came right up to me and thanked me for helping him get there. I asked him how he felt, and he said that he felt good before we had a little laugh about him being rather confused at that point in time. Anyway, we then all made our way to the sealing room. My goodness, being a witness to Mac and Carolyn being sealed was incredible. Just incredible. It was definitely a bit different of an experience than most sealings, as the two of them have been married for over 50 years. It was really cool because the whole focus of the ceremony was specifically on the sealing, and nothing to do with their civil marriage. I guess that was the first sealing I've been to, so I have nothing to compare it to, but I assume it had a different feel than sealings usually do. After the ceremony they stood at the head of the room and we all walked by and hugged them and whatnot on the way out. Being able to look into Mac’s eyes and have him thank me sincerely for helping him be there that day was one of the greatest moments of my life. There was an 82 year old man (give or take a year) standing there after having just been FINALLY sealed to his wife of 50+ years, making Carolyn’s 50+ year dream come true. Knowing that I had a part in that process was extremely humbling as a missionary, and then once again extremely humbling when the whole sheebang was capped off that day with their sealing. I told Mac that all two years of extremely hard work were worth it if the only thing I got out of it was to be there with them that day. I know that there will be something tying us together closely in the eternities. They aren’t just a family that I had the pleasure of helping, they are eternally connected to me and will be part of my eternal family forever.

Well, I’ll wrap it up there. If you’re still reading, props to you. I probably would’ve peaced out a few pages ago. But here you are, wasting your life away reading my make-up journal entry minus the tear splatters.

I just want to share my still growing testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ and his work here on the earth. I don’t get to share it nearly as much as I used to and I want to take any opportunity I get. I know that you and I have heavenly parents who have an incomprehensible love for us. Although it is hard to see, our Father’s plan is perfect and he is actively engaged with every second of our lives making his plan come to pass. “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” (1 Cor 13:12) I know that our perfect Father’s perfect plan is all centered on and is in action because of his perfect son Jesus Christ and that our elder brother knows us perfectly because of his individual suffering for you and I. “Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.” (Isaiah 49:16) I know that he lives and will be our advocate with Father to overcome the demands of justice to allow us our promised eternal blessings. I know that the Lord has restored the fulness of his gospel on the earth today through a prophet. The restored gospel allows us freedom and gives us strength against the powers of the adversary. It cleanses you and me from sin, and it sheds light on the sometimes difficult to find truths in our world that we live in. I know that the Lord has worked through a continual line of prophets since the Prophet Joseph and continues working today through President Monson. Although imperfect in their day to day lives, the prophets and apostles are all men called of God and work under the Lord’s revelation to guide his children in these, the last days. Through my studies I have grown a profound love for the word, aka the scriptures. I love them, I love them, I love them. I know that The Book of Mormon is the key to coming to know the Lord better than by any other source. The teachings are profoundly correct and powerful, the stories are brought to life by the Spirit, and my soul is filled with light as I read the words on each page. I love the rest of the scriptures as well! I have found such truth and understanding throughout each book of scripture that the Lord has given us. I love the Lord, I love his gospel, I love his word, and I love his church!

God bless ya!

Btw... I don’t really have a plan for continued blog posts. I know I talked more about it at the beginning of this unit. I have some stuff I may get around to sharing at a later date. Not much more relating to my mission, but just life stuff.

I'M HOME!!!!!

Lubbock Temple with the McMunn's

Boise Temple after a rad sesh
I got to see Pres & Sis Heap in Lubbock!!!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Return Part 1

This will be part 1 of a 3 part series (most likely) in which I talk about my experience returning home from my mission! This blog post will basically be a "weekly email" for my last couple days after I sent home my last email. The next part will most likely cover my plane rides and my arrival home, with the last part covering what it has been like as a recently returned missionary and all the ups and downs that come along with that. Enjoy! 
Btw... I haven't proofread this or anything.... I just threw it down and posted it. So, forgive me for any mistakes or lack of creativity.

Well, here I am again, one last time (I guess part 1/3 of "last time). I have been thinking recently about, well…… life….. and thought that I would write one last blog post about coming home and what life has been like as a fresh as could be RM. I hope that you will enjoy this as much as my previous 105 weeks worth of emails. If you thought that all of them suckers were long, then get comfy because I highly doubt that I will even be able to finish up this unit tonight. We shall see. Also, I feel as if I have lost some of my missionary flair so my entertainment as far as some things go may be lacking. I am trying to pump “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” into my ears on repeat to get that special spirit back. But, for some reason the tears ain’t flowing like they did back in the day driving around with Elder Brighton Lund (shoutout to Elder Lund). Still love this song. “Let thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wondering heart to thee.” Ugh. Yes. Preach it MoTab. Aaaannnndddd just restarted it for round 2. Anyway, I’ll move on.

I will start with where I left off from my last email in the mission field. I think I emailed Monday morningish so we can pick up there. Emails were a wreck. I walked into the library and a sister that came home with me was already balling. I knew I was in for a rough one. I survived, but not without a few tears along with my final words as a full-time missionary. It was really hard to put into words all that I wanted to. As you are preparing to go home you are filled with so many different feelings and emotions and it’s impossible to put it into expressed terms. But I did the best I could despite my inability to say what I wanted to share. Anyway, moving on. Oh yes, my last p-day sports will be next up on the docket. HO-LY cow. So frustrating. I couldn’t hit a dang shot. No joke, it was probably the most frustrating activity that I have participated in for a long time. What a way to head out, huh? But then, right at my moment of despair, I went off like LeBron in the 2016 NBA Finals. I hit 3 threes and a few other sick shots on consecutive trips down the floor. My team went from worst to first just like that. I went nuts, my team went nuts, and pretty much the entire gym felt like an NBA arena for a bit. I got the party started and kept it going with some serious celebration antics. Pretty sure I had Sister Muir in tears at one point laughing so hard (shoutout to Sister Muir). I just couldn’t contain myself from letting all of my frustration go in the form of celebration (does that make sense?). So all in all, still left pretty frustrated, but the frustration was relieved after going off like an All-NBA 1st teamer for a few short minutes. Nobody cares about the rest of p-day.

Tuesday was crazy as well. Last full day as a missionary. My wonderful mission son, Elder Cardon (shoutout to Elder Cardon), who is serving as an assistant to the president, called me Monday night at about 9:00 and asked if I could help with transfers the next morning by driving some missionaries down to a town two hours away and then drive back. SURE DUDE, whatever you need me to do. In all honesty I was happy to do it, however it did make my day quite a bit more exhausting. (After listening to a variety of MoTab songs I now have “Amazing Grace” by BYU Noteworthy pumping far too loud into my ears… I am surely feeling the Holy Spirit now… good times, huh, Elder Lund?) (Shoutout to Elder Brighton Lund, again) (not sure if I am using these parentheses in the proper phonetic way, but whatevs) Before I began my drive down to Snyder I had to say goodbye to my last companion, Elder Hawes. I love Elder Hawes so so so much. Its hard to put a “favorite companion” title on any one companion, but he can be in the group of companions that all get that title. He was such good companion as a departing missionary. He was supportive of my end of mission sorrows without even purposely doing so, kept me laughing and enjoying life, and was just a great great friend to have over the course of my last couple months. He received the assignment to be taken away from his labors out in the streets and sit in the office for me. That’s it. The Lord needed him to be with me so he pulled him in with me. Also, I had the privilege to teach and mentor an increasingly motivated missionary at a critical time of his mission and had the privilege of seeing that young man grow and develop into a great missionary. He makes me proud. So that was a sucky goodbye (shoutout to Elder Hawes). Anyway, my drive down to Snyder and back was nice despite the added craziness. I had a wonderful opportunity to drive down some good young men and was able to converse with them about their new areas (old areas of mine) and about life. On the way home I had the opportunity to drive with just Elder Olmos with me. Elder Olmos is such a remarkable young man. He hasn’t been out in the field for too long yet I felt like he had been out for a year and a half. We were able to talk about some of the challenges in our missionary assignments and a lot about being good companions and how to help missionaries in our stewardship. Throughout the trip I couldn’t help but think about the fact that I was going to no longer have such precious times like these with my fellow servants. There is something special about the relationships you build as a missionary, both with your fellow missionaries and with the “normal” people you serve. Your relationships are built up from a foundation of righteousness and a common focus of love and service. There is nothing like it. And I recognized that my couple hours with this incredible young man were going to be my last one on one time I would have with a full-time missionary. God bless him and his current and future endeavors in the service of the Lord.

Once I returned to Lubbock I had crazy this and crazy that for a bit, but you don’t care enough about it to read about it. Eventually we made our way to the mission home for games, dinner, and a secret activity that I do not know how much I will be able to say about, just for the sake of secrecy. From the get-go it was just surreal to be in the mission home as a departing missionary. I don’t really know how to describe the setting that evening. There was a very exciting reverence and peace despite the fun and laughs that occupied our ears throughout our time there. There was just something special about being in the mission home with all of the wonderful elders and sisters that you have served with for 2 years/18 months. You had 15 young people in one room that were filled with the special spiritual light that had taken so so long to develop. I felt like we were a spiritual family sitting their together. Oh how I dearly love my fellow servants in the Texas Lubbock Mission. Oh how I love them. At one point after eating President and Sister Heap gathered us all together and sat at the head of the room for our “secret activity” that has truly been kept a secret. To protect the secret, I won’t say too much, however I will say that it was some of the most powerful couple hours of my mission. President and Sister Heap counseled us on a number of things, and the whole time you could just sense the powerful love that they had developed for each and every single one of us. The love that I felt was so emotionally draining and the counsel that they gave us was engrained into my mind because of the immense love that it was shared with. Everything they said was accompanied by their love (obviously, I know, I already said that) but also a powerful spirit. The Holy Ghost was no doubt working on overdrive to help me receive yet another witness that what I had been taught as a full-time missionary was going to change my life. I have to credit President and Sister Heap for teaching me much of what I learned. They were truly sent to me by God. I will never be able to repay them for the impact that they have left on my life as a disciple of Jesus Christ. President Heap will sit as a Savior on Mount Zion for me and many other people that have been honored to be under his priesthood stewardship. I could not even imagine anyone ever coming close to fulfilling their calling as MY mission president better than he did. He and Sister Heap are the most amazing examples of disciples of Christ that I have met, and I will forever remember them for their love and care. God bless you, President and Sister Heap!

Tuesday night was my last night in Lubbock. It was pretty crazy. I didn’t think I was going to be able to sleep. But luckily I slept alright. I think I was able to sleep because my entire being needed to shut down for a bit to recover from the twisting and stretching that had been done to it over the previous day. It felt like I was awake for most of the night, but I remember dreaming a lot throughout the night and all of a sudden Elder Moschetti came out to wake us up (shoutout to Elder Moschetti). So I don’t really know what happened that night. It’s still a little confusing. I had heard a number of mentions about your last prayer as a missionary in the previous years, however you have to experience it to really know what its like. I had to wait a little bit to let everything settle down and get quiet and for the lights to get shut off before I kneeled down at the couch to let ‘er rip. I’m not even going to try to describe what it was like. There were a lot of tears, and a lot of deep emotional pouring out and thanks given.

Wednesday morning started out as a disaster!!! I woke up and was the first one to hop into the shower, because I know that I have to go first because it takes me FOR-EVER to get ready, just ask one of my companions. Anyway, I was fixin’ to hop in the shower when I found that I didn’t pack my flippin’ razor in my night bag!!!!!!! So here I am, about to hop on plane to go home, aaaaannnnnnddddd I can’t shave. Using someone else’s razor was out of the question because that is like, terrible for your skin. So I was left razorless. I ran out to the family room area and expressed my dilemma to the boys. Nobody seemed to have the resources to help me. I was done. I wasn’t getting on a plane until I was clean shaven!!! And then…… Elder Evans (bless his heart… shoutout to Elder Evans) came strutting out of his bedroom for sure at least 87.4% still asleep and went into the bottom drawer (I had already checked the cupboard and such) and pulled out a bag of disposable razors with 1 blade…………… sooooooooooooo, do I just take the risky route and not shave, or do I take the risk of using a single bladed disposable razor???????? Well, I seemingly had no other choice, I was going to hitchhike down to the nearest Walgreens and buy me a new razor. Kidding. Totally kidding. I used the single blade razor. It took me about twice as long because I had to rinse the razor after ever ¼ inch of skin/whiskers, but I made it through. I bet nobody even noticed. Hah. Or, everybody noticed and didn’t say anything to me about my terrible shave job. Thanks for having my back, elders…. NOT!

Well, it was then time to head off to the airport for our final departure. Man, I was doing rather well. We got there, pulled all of our luggage out of the trailer (oh yeah… I had an issue with my luggage weight while weighing them at the mission office… luckily the other elder flying into Boise had plenty of extra weight for me to stash some stuff in his bags), and headed on inside. We eventually all got our tickets and bags checked, and were off to the security line. Random note, who thought that there would be a good amount of people at 6:30am in the Lubbock airport? Not me! I thought that place would be empty besides us. Anyway, the last wrenching goodbye then took place as we reached our last switchback in the security line. I didn’t want it to come. I wanted them to have a mess up with their security system that caused us to get stuck in line for a long time or something crazy like that. But surely I reached the switchback in the blink of an eye, and President and Sister Heap were right there in front of me. I was about to say goodbye to the two people who changed my life. I hugged President Heap, I had too much to say to him that nothing came out of my mouth. Just silence. He expressed his love for me (in more ways than just his words, you could feel it in his soul) and released his embrace. Then came the Sister Heap handshake. Love ya, Sister Heap. Btw, if you happen to read this, why don’t we get to hug you at the airport? I really wanted to hug you! That wasn’t the end though, I still had my boy Elder Cardon and one of my dear former companions, Elder Moschetti, left to hug. Elder Cardon hadn’t cried yet, I surprisingly hadn’t cried yet (somehow my tears were all blocked up for the Heaps), but as I made eye contact with Elder Cardon the twinkles came to both of our eyes. Elder Cardon was my companion for my 3rd and 4th transfers of my mission and he was fresh out of the MTC for those transfers, so we had some nice growing pains together. However, we went on a long hiatus from serving around each other for a long time until I worked in the office my last two months all while he was serving as an assistant to the president. So we hadn’t grown super close together because of such a long time apart, however there is a special sort of love that grows between a trainer and a trainee regardless of if you recognize it or not. Back to the story, we embraced, and once again my words were blocked, just tears this time. Elder Cardon finally got a, “Thanks for training me” out of his mouth amongst the tears, and I just told him I loved him. As we released our embrace I looked at him and told him that I was proud of him and who he has become. Love that man. He is one of my heroes. Then on to Elder Moschetti. I don’t think he was crying either… but he didn’t last. I was already crying so the tears just kept on coming. I think my time with Elder Moschetti was amongst the best 6 weeks of my mission. I learned a ton in those 6 weeks and I love that man for all that he did that taught me how to be a better missionary and companion. So, that was a kicker as well.

Well, we all made it through security and gathered together on the other side to give one last cheer to our beloved friends on the other side of the security business. Once we all got our stuff back together we all gathered in a group, and waited for the leading 1, 2, 3, and gave one last “HURRAH FOR ISRAEL!” shout (quietly-ish of course) and went on our way down to our gates with nothing left to do but to hop onto a couple of flights before arriving back at home.

I don’t know if I ever gave a shoutout to President and Sister Heap. SHOUTOUT TO PRESIDENT AND SISTER HEAP!!!

Elder Hawes and I

The party van of departing missionaries!
Traditional TLM start/end at the temple pic!
(photo cred: Sister Heap)
Fixin' to eat some grub
(photo cred: Sister Heap)
Eatin' some grub
(photo cred: Sister Heap)

Waiting at the airport

Just busted through security

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Experience of a Lifetime

October 24, 2016

Hello my wonderful friends and family! I have included many many more people on this email than usual as I have added basically everyone I saw on my email list including my family and friends, companions, MTC teachers, etc. As some of you may know I board a plane on Wednesday morning here in Lubbock, TX and will arrive in Boise, ID later that afternoon. Very bittersweet for me to know that my time is up and my life is moving on. However, I am very excited to start my life anew and be a greater disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ after learning and progressing as a full-time missionary for 2 years in the wonderful Texas Lubbock Mission!


It has been a whirlwind this past week. Surprisingly I have been doing very well emotionally. Like, super well. Every once in a while I get a bit sentimental while praying or something, however I have been happy and level headed nearly every day. The one time I did break down was during my departing interview with President Heap when he thanked me for my service in the TLM. That got me pretty good, but I hung in there. But man, its just crazy. I remember walking onto the MTC campus and sitting through class everyday with Elder May and having lessons that I look back at now and laugh at. I remember it was so incredible to be out on a mission and I thought it would never conclude because two years seemed like such a long time. I remember walking around Sweetwater with Elder Stringham being so overwhelmed and not knowing how I was going to be a good missionary because it was so difficult to learn how to talk to people about the gospel and teach them effectively. That literally seems like a whole lifetime ago. Its gone by so fast, but it seems like it was so long ago because of how far I've come and the different life that I have now then I had then.


As I have been reflecting a bit the past little while I have come to realize that the Lord has blessed me with the absolutely perfect mission. Sure, it was never a walk in the park as I faced many trials and hard times, however, in retrospect, it was perfect. I am so thankful for every area I've served in, every companion I've had, every person I taught, every person I even talked to, every moment of joy, frustration, and spirit, and every single struggle along the way accompanied by the joy and growth that followed. To all of my companions... thank you! You are the ones that I spent every one of those moments with and whether you know it or not YOU have had a remarkable impact on my life in some way. I love you from the bottom of my heart and thank you for serving with me and serving the Lord WITH me. You will forever have a special spot in my heart. I love you! Never forget that! To all of those others that added to the joy and wonder of my missionary service, thank you as well! I will never forget all those that I have met and worked with over the past two years!


I remember opening up my mission call on July 17th, 2014 to the Texas Lubbock Mission. I remember being very disappointed in the fact that I went to the last place I wanted to go. I always told people that I would be good with going to a state-side mission as long as it wasn't Texas. Sure enough, got called to Texas. And on top of that I was going to the absolute worst place in Texas. Not Dallas, not Houston, not San Antonio...... but LUBBOCK!!!!! Looking on the internet and map made it even worse. If you've ever looked at the United States on satellite view you will see a large flat brown area that covers the West part of Texas and the East part of New Mexico. The area is exactly the outline of the Texas Lubbock Mission.... basically. I remember getting to Lubbock and it was just as bad as I thought looking out the window of the plane and seeing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Then I got sent to a dinky dumpy little town called Sweetwater. I was praying for a one and done in Sweetwater my first couple weeks. But then, something happened. I started growing a love for that dumpy town called Sweetwater. After 6 months of serving in that place I was torn apart leaving it. I LOVE Sweetwater! The Lord then sent me to Lubbock, then Odessa, then San Angelo, then Abilene, then Hobbs, and then back to Lubbock. In every single place I grew the exact same love for it as I grew for Sweetwater. Every. Single. Place. I have no more love for any place than I do for the land in the Texas Lubbock Mission. The places that I served will always be where I learned the most important truths in life and will forever be home for me. Sure, home is in Kuna as that is where the family is at and where I grew up. But HOME is in West Texas. I left home to come out on a mission, and now I am leaving home to go back after my mission. I thank the good Lord every day for sending me here to The Lord's Mission! 


As I have thought about what I have accomplished on my mission, I remember mentioning something in my farewell address before I left that set the course for my mission. I said that I knew that I couldn't convert or baptize every person that I talked to or taught, but that I could share love with everybody. As I reflect, I think that is the greatest success I've had. I know that I have succeeded in showing love to all others that I have met and worked with. I pray that even those that closed the door in my face felt my love as I always tried to say "Have a good day!" to every person in a way that shared love and light. I believe that every one that I talked to and taught was left with a positive impression of us missionaries and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I pray that even through those small and simple means that some person will be brought to the restored gospel, when the time is right, because of the positive impression I left. I don't care if I ever find out about it, but I want others to come unto the gospel and I did what I could to make my interactions positive despite their hardened hearts.


Throughout my service I have grown an undeniable testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the church that he leads, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Its true. Its all true. President Heap asked me what I was going to take home from my mission that didn't go in my suitcase, and I simply said, "a testimony". The Lord could bring about his purpose and complete his work without 18-20 something year olds. He doesn't need me. However, he took the opportunity to allow me to be broken and ultimately walk away from my mission with a strong conviction of HIS truth. I was HIS investigator! I would gladly die as a martyr in defense of the truth that has been brought forth with the restoration of the gospel. You name it.... the nature of God and Jesus Christ, the Book of Mormon, modern day prophets, eternal families, etc. I could never deny the truths that the Lord himself has taught me. If there is every a doubt that Reed Ericson has a testimony, let me clear that idea up today. I KNOW. Its all true. And I give all the praise to a loving God who was merciful enough to learn things line upon line, precept upon precept. I know that the Lord Jesus Christ suffered, bled, and died for ME and for YOU! I know that he is ready to succor me and you in our infirmities and strengthen us in our weakness. I know that there is a God in heaven who loves us perfectly in a way that we cannot comprehend, and that it is his work and his glory to help us become like him. I know that The Book of Mormon is the word of God. And along with being the word of God it is the most powerful account of his word that we have on the earth today. The book has power. I have seen people's lives completely change because they simply opened up the pages and read! And along with that I have felt such a strong spirit every time I testify of that book. Especially lately, I am basically moved to tears whenever I share the book and testify of it. I know with absolute assuredly that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is the Kingdom of God on earth, and only through it and the ordinances performed by the restored priesthood authority of God can we live WITH God and be LIKE him. I know that the Lord brought his work in these latter days through a young man, Joseph Smith. Though imperfect, this man helped bring forth the marvelous work and a wonder in these latter days. It is true when said that Joseph Smith has done more for the salvation of mankind than anyone save the Savior Jesus Christ. I know that all the keys of the priesthood are on the earth today and are held by President Thomas S. Monson. I know that because of the power that has come into my life as I have received ordinances that can only be done because of priesthood keys that he holds and exercises. All it takes is for me to see a picture of that man for the Holy Ghost to testify to me that he is a prophet of God and the chosen president of the Lord's church. Its all true. 


I also thank the Lord every night for the opportunity that I've had to serve with my amazing mission president, President Heap. If there was any one reason that I was sent to the Texas Lubbock Mission, it was to serve with President Heap. He told me that when I got here and I thought that was kinda weird, but after two years I have seen that claim come true. He has truly helped me and many many others become greater disciples of Jesus Christ. He has taught me so many amazing truths that help me understand and in turn apply the gospel. His perfect love has been a strength and support to every missionary here in his mission. I couldn't ask for a better mission president than him. He has been perfect for me and for the other missionaries in our mission. He will prove to be a savior on Mount Zion for all of his missionaries! I love him and will love him forever!


I thank each one of you for your love and support over the last two years. You are one of the many reasons that I've had such an uplifting experience that will forever prove to be life-changing. No prayer goes unanswered, and I know that the Lord surely reached out and blessed me as a result of your prayers. So from the deep feelings of my soul, thank you. I love you and pray that you may receive many blessings for your love and care for me and for many others! 


Well team, I've said enough. I wish I could better share the feelings in my heart, but I am just a man. I pray that the Lord blesses each of us in the tumultuous world. Our brother, Satan, is having a hay-day out there and only the Savior and his gospel can bring us the protection that we need to truly endure to the end. May we all continue to rely on him and his grace to pull us through the tests present and ahead. HE WILL COME AGAIN!!!! 


GOD BLESS YA!!!!!!!!!

With all my love,

Elder Reed Ericson
SEE Y'ALL ON WEDNESDAY!!!!!!!! WHOOT WHOOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

I wanted to send some good mission closure pictures.... but my SD card reader doesn't work anymore as of a couple weeks ago. So these are from Elder Hawes.
So here is a sweet-o picture of the Lubbock Temple that we took out proselyting (its in our area). And then the other picture is one of our district pictures from our last district meeting. I had the idea of doing an awkward Elder/Sister picture and this was one of the products. Elder Hawes needs to work on his awkward face.... well, so do I. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Press Forward, Saints

October 17, 2016

Hello hello my wonderful friends and familia. Thank you for all of your prayers on my behalf lately. I know that there are many things in this world that y'all need to pray for that are far more important than me, but I definitely feel uplifted and strengthened by the Divine as he has reached out and blessed me as a result of your faithful prayers. So, thank you. 


This past week was mostly just wonderful. I got frustrated a few times here and there about a couple things, but overall the Lord has been blessing me.


To start off, the highlight of my week was Mission Tour with Elder Keetch. The Lord surely answered some prayers with that. We had to go to the mission office to do something for a missionary that was going to be at the special mission leadership meeting with Elder Keetch on Sunday afternoon, so we decided to self-invite ourselves to the meeting as well. We had to leave after about an hour and a half, but that was plenty of time to be uplifted by the Spirit and have some prayers answered.


To start off the meeting President Heap just threw down on walking with the Lord and doing things his way. He taught out of Moses chapter 6 about Enoch. I honestly don't exaggerate when I say that President Heap is probably one of the most amazing gospel teachers in the world. I am honestly not exaggerating. I haven't talked to a single person that has been taught by him that would contradict that statement. Everything he teaches is just so powerful, clear, and just runs right into your spirit and heart and inspires you so much. So that was sweet. I don't really remember what Elder Keetch started off with but I remember something that really hit me in the feels. He said that Satan works so hard pushing you back from the front trying to keep you from being who you want/need to be, and then he will realize that you are making good progress and then he will flip around and start pushing you from the back and give you an unrealistic expectation of perfection that then pushes you way way too far forward. I just sat there and said quietly, "TRUE". Other than that I don't remember too much from that meeting.


We had to leave after about 30 mins of Elder Keetch to go to an appointment for our zone leaders. That was dramatic as well. But nothing worth noting. Just a very religious middle aged black lady ripping off questions about the church and our doctrine. I think I had too much fun. Anyway, we had our north half of the mission meeting on Tuesday. Tuesday was quite frankly one of the greatest days of my mission. Just a very special day. The meeting was so darn good. President Heap went off again about the missionary handbook and how it is a book full of life principles and promised tons of blessings for our life if we learn them. It was so intense. Once again, he just knows how to teach. It was an inspiration for me to keep up with living the Lord's principles when I get home that I have learned as a missionary. It’s interesting how the spirit teaches you to your needs. That instruction from him I'm sure taught many different things to every individual person. Elder Keetch was super awesome as well! I really really liked him!!! He is just a good guy and he said things that were clearly inspired because they were direct answers to prayers. Just a good guy.


He talked about some missionary work stuff, but then after lunch he just talked about how we are good and successful missionaries even when we don't think that we are. He shared the story of a man that he taught and baptized on his mission in Germany that was the only person that he baptized during his two years. He shared how he had stayed in touch with them for just a little bit but eventually lost contact and by the time he went home didn't even know if the man and his member wife were even active still. He said that his whole life that he sometimes questioned if his mission was successful or if he failed because of just one person getting in the water, but was strengthened by knowing that he did his very best. He said that it was hard for him to get emails from his son who served in Africa with huge groups of people getting baptized all the time. In fact, he said that one of his replies to his sons email one week was the simple 4 words, "Tyler, I hate you." But then he said his entire perspective changed during general conference last year. Elder Anderson gave a talk and talked about some people in Africa that were the beginners of the church in the Ivory Coast. They moved back to the Ivory Coast and started a Sunday School there, and now there are 8 stakes and 27,000 members in the country. The man who was a native to the country that moved back to start the church there..... of course was the man that he had baptized in Germany over the course of his mission. He said that he couldn't believe his ears when he heard Elder Anderson say their names.  Elder Keetch said that he didn't even know if they were still active or not, yet they had started such a remarkable growth and the man is actually now serving as a temple president. It was dang good.


Anyway, I was doing good just enjoying mission tour, and then the closing hymn came along. I got wrecked. We sang "Press Forward, Saints" and that is one of my favorite hymns. Well, we started singing and I was all in until we got a couple lines in and the tears started coming. I stopped singing to get my emotions under control, but then all I heard was well over 100 missionaries singing so powerfully as I sat their quietly. I was just thinking about how great of a blessing it has been to be a missionary and to have the special association with so many amazing young people that I have grown to love so much through the service of the Lord. Well, that got me worse than singing. So I had to take an extra moment to get that part under control. I eventually started singing again softly, but once again my emotions prevailed. I had to stop and listen and go through the same process. Then I started singing again, and when I was defeated once again by my emotions once again there were only a few lines left, so I just listened. Oh man, I got wrecked. Those were my first tears.


Later on I was in the office waiting it out. I said goodbye to a few people most likely for the last time, but it wasn't bad at all. But I knew that I was going to have to give me last goodbye to my son, Elder Despain. Oh man, I was done for before the time even came. He eventually was ready to leave and we were in the office. So I just told him to come with me and we went to the relief society. We got in the room, the door shut, and we embraced each other. I started to cry a bit but just barely, but then he said in a sincere tone that I've never heard come out of his mouth, "I love you." That got me for good right there and then we had some private exchanging of words and just stood there for a bit hugging each other. We eventually un-embraced and looked at each other with teary eyes and said our final words before I walked out the door in front of him and forced myself to not look back. I walked through a group of people, mostly sisters to get right back into the office which was filled with a bunch of sister missionaries........ and I remind you that I still have tears streaming down my face. I got a few "Awwww!" and some other female reactions. I didn't know where to go so I walked into my vehicle office which had a bunch of elders in it. So I stood there in the corner for a second before feeling too weird and walked back to the doorway of that room. As I stood there I was still obviously recovering, and some sister asked "Awww! Did you just say goodbye to a companion?" So I just shook my head and said "yeah" as they all looked at me all sentimentally. It was weird, but I kinda liked it. Not gonna lie. Later some sisters brought it up again and said that they actually were walking outside with Elder Despain right after we said goodbye and they asked what was going on and he told them, and the sisters told me what he had said about me and I would have been a goner again but I kept my cool this time. Man, I love that kid. It’s been incredible to see how far he's come. I love him just as if he was my real son. Ok, that's probably a lie, but I have no clue what having a child is like so I have nothing to compare to. Anyway, some other good stuff happened but I have already said enough.


The office life kinda blew this week. It has been weird handing everything off to someone else. I don't have too much to say. Nevermind, I do. Mission Tour was super good for me to recognize how much I have actually enjoyed that assignment. I was able to meet a number of people that I had talked to a number of times on the phone but never actually met. That was really fun. It was fun to just see how much I have actually done in service through my assignment. I gained a different perspective on it. It was just fun to see all the small relationships that I was able to gain because of everything. I don't know how else to describe it all. There is more to say but I don't know how to say it. It was good.


Anyway, the other days on the office were different. The Cayton's were here all week so we've been getting them up to speed. It has been difficult to give up everything that I have worked on. It’s hard knowing that many things I did are now in the hands of someone else. Plus, I basically chime in and show Elder Cayton things here and there and just dink around the rest of the time. I go and talk to Sister Byington (secretary) or Elder Byington (finance) and just have a chat with them. I occasionally sit out in the main office lobby type deal in a chair and read something before being interrupted by someone. I even moved it to the floor for a couple of naps when things got slow. Its been fun. Elder Hawes has been working all day with Sister Cayton, but I haven't had to work as much with Elder Cayton. But I have to be there because Elder Hawes has to be there. But I have certainly enjoyed the Byington's company the last week. They are some of the funniest people ever! You would never guess it, but they are crack ups! They live in Logan and they said that they want to have me and others over for dinner on Sundays! I'm totally down.


Last Saturday we went out to The Shack BBQ. Holy cow, that place is packed on Saturdays. But as we were rolling through the parking lot I saw some people getting into a car with an Idaho license plate, so I rolled down the window and asked where they were from. They are from Twin Falls and turns out they were in town so that one of their kids could get baptized with their cousin who lived here in Lubbock! We talked to them for a minute, went and parked the car, and then on our way in there was the whole crew there waiting to talk to us and take our picture. I was kinda weirded out. Yo, I'm a missionary, not a celebrity. Anyway, they were all super nice and friendly and we talked to them for a few minutes before I shewed them off and we went inside. I was kind of ticked that they didn't pay for us to eat, what kind of a member of the church are you? You take pictures of the missionaries outside the place and treat them like celebs but you don't pay for their meal????????!!!!!!!!!! COME ON!!!! Totally kidding, but for reals I was a little confused about that. But as I stepped up to the counter to order my meat some random dude walked up from his table, slapped his card on the counter, and said "these guys are on me" and then walked off back to his table. He cleaned up his table, came and signed the receipt, shook our hands, and peaced out the door. Didn't get his name or nothing. God bless that man! Anyway, I know you are more concerned about how the meat was. I got pork ribs, fatty brisket, and jalapeno cheese sausage. I was a little disappointing this time around. I guess I just have a very high standard of barbecue these days. People say that The Shack is the best place in town. But I've had better at Blackland Smokehouse. The Shack has very very very tender meat, but I just didn't get the same explosion of flavor in my mouth like I do with Blackland Smokehouse. Oh well, life is rough.


Wow, I feel like I've been typing forever. I should probably get done here soon. We worked on Saturday in the afternoon. It was the first time I've done missionary work before like 6:00pm in like 2 months. It was pretty sweet. We should get out this coming week a bunch, so I should be able to finish off tearing the streets of Lubbock up! Let's go!!!! I love knocking so much these days, so we will probably just be knocking when we aren't doing service or anything. Heck yeah. One funny story that I won't tell in detail, I threw down on a guy that pretended to not speak much English, and told us that in his perfect English. I said it very nicely, but I basically called him out on it and told him that I knew that he spoke English. He seemed to take it well. I ain't taking people's terrible excuses anymore. Oh man, I decided to finally go for it, and I think it went well.


Well everyone, I really need to close this unit up. I love y'all and thank you for everything! I absolutely love the Lord and his gospel and am so thankful to be called to serve in the Texas Lubbock Mission! May God bless us as we press forward in this world of commotion! Press Forward, Saints!!!


God bless ya!


Elder Reed Fuller Ericson

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Cotton Fields and Sunsets

October 8, 2016

Hello once again all my wonderful friends. It feel like I was emailing y'all just yesterday! Probably because I was.... basically. I mean, it was like 5 days ago. And by my standards these days, that was yesterday. Anyway, it was a wonderful week. I don't know what made it wonderful, but sometimes things are just wonderful, you know.

First things first, I will give you a glimpse into the cheesy life of a missionary. So we did p-day last Monday right? So that meant that we did p-day with all the other missionaries for the first time in a while. Well, we all went to a park type place to play some stuff because the church was closed for stupid carpet cleaning so we couldn't go and play ball. Anyway, we played some ultimate football for a little while and then just kinda hung around for a bit. At one point, however, a massive game of "pull down the socks" broke out. So basically you had a bunch of elders running around this field trying to pull each other crew socks down to their ankles. Stupid, right? I bet you are thinking that sounds like the stupidest idea of a game you have ever heard. But I am here to testify that your perception of this game is dead wrong. Greatest game I've ever played. I basically just chased Elder Schroeder down (former companion) and we just stood there with our hands on each others shoulders keeping our ankles away from each other until one of us would shoot in for the socks. I wrecked him a couple times. He almost got me, but somehow I whipped out every bit of athleticism I have left in my body to avoid getting "socked". And then at one point I escaped Elder Schroeder with some nimble moves only to be attacked by like two others before I even got up off the ground. I don't remember what I did, but I remember I pulled some super quick move and then was somehow up on my feet running away not even knowing how I got up on my feet so fast. I was very proud of myself and was very pleased with the athleticism I used. Don't know where it came from, but it was super sweet. So anyway, I would love to invite anyone and everyone to a big game of socking when I get home. Its so on.

My vehicle assistant, Elder Dalley, who is a senior service missionary who lives here in Lubbock, took us out to lunch a few days ago. The first place he mentioned that we could go was Longhorn Steakhouse. Before he made any other suggestions I said, "Let's go!" and started walking out the door and he and Elder Hawes followed without argument. Elder Dalley recommended the filet, but I had to go with the 18oz bone-in Outlaw Ribeye. Good choice. I probably would have tried the filet, however you could only get a maximum of 10oz so I wasn't up for that garbage. No way, I need more than that. I love going to eat with people who have money and literally encourage you to get whatever you want. Its wonderful. I think all of our steaks were over $20. Life will be rough when I go to college and people don't spoil me. But hey, life is rough. Anyway, Elder Dalley is quite possibly one of my favorite people. My goodness, I love that man! He is a ton of fun to have around and he is a wonderful man! He has served in just about every calling in the church. You name it. Bishop, Stake Presidency, Temple Presidency, Young Men's President, etc. The only thing he said that he hasn't really had is being called as a primary teacher. But that'll come. Apparently they make jokes in stake meetings about making sure he receives every calling before he dies because he is basically close enough. In fact, the other senior service missionary in the office came in and was telling Elder Dalley that despite his age he's still been praying for him to be the next stake president. Elder Dalley wasn't having anything to do with that. He said he's too old. I guess we'll see. Anyway, that's my good friend Elder Dalley.

Speaking of office senior missionaries, the finance guy is Elder Byington, and him and I have had it out for each other the last week. He always comes in and gives us a hard time, so Elder Ericson decided that he isn't gonna take it and leave it anymore. I get in and talk smack to him every chance I get. I usually try to ruin his day within 5 minutes of me getting to the office. "Elder Ericson! I don't want to hear it! Your just as bad as me these days, and that's BAD!" Hahaha its been a good time. Whenever I have a business question for him I have to say, "Elder Byington, this is a business item and has nothing to do with our personal relationship so please excuse the politeness." The Byington's are so great. Such fun to work with them! Sis Byington is absolutely hilarious. She always says stuff to people out in the main office area and Elder Hawes and I just quietly bust up laughing in our room. They are the greatest!

On Tuesday Elder Hawes and I got to take a sweet road trip down to Snyder and back. I got a call at about 4:00 from the sisters saying that they locked their keys in the car............ yup. And get this, when we got there and got in the car, they were still in the dang ingnition! Oh my. Bless their hearts. It was fun though to take a spur of the moment road trip down to Snyder and back. Its about an hour and a half down there and then an hour and a half back. Then throw in getting through town, waiting for them to call us back to tell us where their car was, getting to their car, driving it to their place, and getting gas (and Cheetos and lemonade for dinner), our trip was lengthy. We left at like 4:15ish or so and got back at about 7:45. Great fun! After serving in West Texas a road trip like that is nothing. Unfortunately, I've made the trip between Snyder and Lubbock a million times so it was nothing new. It is right in the middle of Lubbock and Abilene so it was just another trip. I think I counted and I decided that I had driven from Abilene to Lubbock and Lubbock to Abilene about 18 times. I love that drive, very scenic in my eyes, but it would have been cool to see something new! However, when we got back into Lubbock, we found some killer cotton fields and got your typical "the field is white, all ready to harvest" photos. Classic. It took me 23 months, but I finally got some!

So, we were supposed to have a mission tour with Elder Keetch from the quorum of the 70 this past week. They had an MLC meeting scheduled for Wednesday, south half of the mission in Midland on Thursday, and then north half in Lubbock on Friday. However, we got word on like Tuesday that Elder Keetch got a new assignment from President Nelson to take care of in Salt Lake instead of coming to Lubbock those days. However, he was still scheduled to come down for the Lubbock North Stake Conference on Saturday/Sunday. So ours got cancelled. It was dramatic. AND THEN, we got word on like Thursday that the mission tour was back on for Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday! So I will have my last (and only my second) mission tour with Elder Keetch on Tuesday! I don't even really get all jollied up for members of the quorum of the 70. They are great men and all, but if I am to get instructed by somebody for 3 hours I would much rather have it be President Heap. But, I am still looking forward to having Elder Keetch here and it should be a good time and I should learn some good stuff!

I gave my last district meeting instruction yesterday in replacement of the mission tour. That was kinda sad. I hadn't done a district meeting in a long time so it was fun. I believe I had sisters in one of my district meetings in San Angelo while Elder Ramos was stuck in New York doing Visa stuff, but the rest of my many district meetings were all elder meetings. So, yesterday I had 5 sisters (should have been 6 but one of the sisters was super sick and at a members house) and Elder Hawes. So it was quite the change of scenery. Even in Abilene we only had one set of sisters in our zone so I instructed mostly elders. But it was super fun though! They were being super funny yesterday and I laughed more than I probably ever did with my all elders districts! It was an interesting district meeting to prepare. Right at the end of my last stint as a DL we started to do all of our trainings on fundamentals from the 12 week training program. I only did a couple of those instructions and I had done so many district meetings that I literally spent 5 minutes preparing them and they were pretty bomb. But I was actually struggling putting together something for "We invite, they commit, we follow-up". However, the good Lord pulled through once again as I sat in deep pondering on Thursday night. He told me that I needed to basically just focus on the invitation to read the Book of Mormon. So to start off I posed a series of questions that pertained to the faith that we need to extend commitments, and also the role that the investigators faith plays in receiving invitations. But then I spent the rest of the time focusing on the invitation to read the Book of Mormon. It was pretty good stuff. I think that it was actually super applicable and was something that will be a benefit to them and that they will remember! I always try to make things applicable when I instruct, and I think that I accomplished that task yesterday.

Anyway, I am now probably officially done with instructing, so that is super sad. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I learned a lot through instructing and I hope and pray that my thoughts and words as directed from the spirit and carried to them by the spirit have helped the missionaries that I have had stewardship of over the months. But, time to move on. It surely has been fun. I have learned a lot having a bunch of sisters in my district this transfer. I don't really know how to describe my learnings, but I know that President Heap was inspired in the reorganization of the districts in our zone and in the structure of our district! I believe that it will help me a lot in later times!

Well peeps, I'm fixin' to get out of here and go eat lunch (we were just told to go to one of the church buildings to eat some... the good Lord pulls through again). I am trying to make "fixin'" a part of my vocab before I go home, but it hasn't been going to well. I am really quite sad about that one. Elder Despain uses it like a champ and I am super jealous. Y'all is in the vocab pretty well by now, but there are some others that haven't caught super well. Sad. ANYWAY, I hope y'all have a good week! I love ya!

God bless ya!

Elder Reed Ericson

Elder Reed and companion in a cotton field.

Elder Reed and his companion in the office.