Monday, August 31, 2015

Second Son

August 31, 2015

Well hello my good friends and family! It’s been a crazy week down here in Odessa for Elder Ericson! But it’s been a good week nonetheless!

The week started off by driving up to Lubbock with Elder Bench and Elder Wrathall on Tuesday. We had a pretty fun drive! We went hard singing along to some missionary tunes and had a good time. We got to the transfer site in Lubbock and I was just in heaven. Good golly. It was a massive reunion! I felt like a celebrity! I saw so many people there that I hadn't seen in a whole 6 weeks and then some people that I haven't seen in even longer than that! They were mainly people who were serving in Lubbock that I knew from my time there and then some others that happened to be going through the Lubbock transfer site. It was a good time. Anyway, I had to go searching for my new trainee and I found him inside the mission office. So we went and got all his stuff gathered and taken out to the car and eventually after a while of this and that we left on our way back to Odessa along with another Elder who was going down to Fort Stockton. We had a nice car ride back down to Odessa, it actually flew by! Holy cow! It’s about a 2 hour drive but it felt really short! I guess good conversation will do that.

Elder Despain has been doing well. Its always crazy those first couple days in the field. But he managed well. Luckily for him I am the type of trainee to look out for signs of exhaustion and whatnot. So our first full day I noticed that he was just about to die right before dinner so we took a long dinner to give him more time to rest and recuperate before we went back out to work. We've really hit the role plays hard this past week. Role play, role play, role play. We have what is called the "12 Week Training Program" but I have felt the need to focus more on role plays this first week because I didn't find the training for week 1 very applicable so we've just been practicing the restoration, plan of salvation, and street contacts like crazy. So this coming week we will get into the training program more. I feel like I am a much better trainer this time around. I am able to apply the training much better and help him learn and develop better skills much better than the first time. Unfortunately, its rough to come down to the TLM and start to experience what real missionary work is like. The MTC makes it seem like you will be teaching people all day and helping people learn and grow, when in reality you will come down here and not teach a lesson for weeks. We didn't really have any lessons this past week for us to practice. It is difficult for a new missionary to be thrown into a situation that is completely opposite of what they thought it was going to be. Instead of teaching people all day you go try by people who don't answer their door, go to appointments and have them punch on you, have people reject you on the street, etc. It can be tough for a new missionary to be thrown into that type of situation. So its important that we role play as much as we can to make up for the lack of teaching we have! I forgot what it was like to have a trainee too, it’s a rough transition from having two companions who can just do the work to having a companion that has no clue what’s going on that you basically have to teach how to do everything in missionary work! But he's learning fast and making big strides already!

Elder Despain is from northern Wyoming from a small town with only like 600 people. He went to a 1A school, so pretty typical Wyoming. Fun stuff. He played football, basketball, and ran track too in high school so we are able to talk about sports and stuff as we go out and work. Solid guy. I will probs tell you more about him later. But for how that's about it!

On top of starting to train a new missionary I had to whip together Aiyannah's baptism, which wasn't easy. I struck out a number of times and had a hard time filling in the program. But I did it! And it was a wonderful service! Aiyannah's father is a member and lives here in our ward, and her mother is no longer a member and she lives up in Andrews. But her whole family came and she even had some aunts and grandma who came also who I don't believe are members! We had some good talks and good words shared! I had the opportunity to baptize her, and we had to do it twice. Apparently her hand didn't get fully under, and the witnesses didn't catch it, so luckily Bishop Coombs came in and told us as Aiyannah was already out of the font. So we did it again and I DUNKED her good! There was no way I was letting any part of her not get under! But it was a good service and Aiyannah was super happy and excited!

And on top of getting a trainee, and having to throw a baptism together, I have to get all my district leader stuff organized (there was no prior organization) and start prepping for district meeting tomorrow. So that was fun! President Heap and the assistants are making their way through the entire mission having what they call "District Conferences". So both of the Odessa districts met together with them for a 2.5 hour meeting on Thursday. Pres Heap apparently has felt like we need to help people understand The Fall of Adam and Eve better and that it will help the people we work with feel a greater need to adhere to the gospel we bring them and look for the Savior more. Straight inspiration on Pres Heap's part. So he gave a sick instruction on The Fall and the Atonement. It was mind blowing. Apparently our numbers mission wide have been on a downward trend. Of course we don't care about numbers here in the TLM, but what we do care about is people and each number represents a person. So we had instructions on our vision as missionaries, strict obedience, accountability, and then an instruction about the results of applying all those things. It got me fired up to go out and kill it! Holy cow, I have been on one ever since Thursday! And I am excited to keep moving forward and just kill it and help my district kill it as well. I've already had some fantastic calls with them and we have some good goals and sites set for the coming weeks and transfer! I am excited to keep on working with them!

One nasty story, so on Saturday our apartment started to smell rank, and this isn't the first time its happened. The first time we just opened up the doors and cleaned the crap out of our apartment and it got better that day even without finding the source, and then it happened again on Saturday and we found out that it was from the nasty air filter on the intake for our air conditioning! That thing was NASTY! So, we made an emergency trip to Wal-Mart to get a new one since the apartment complex office was closed and we couldn't get one from them. Ugh, it smelt horrible. Like rotten eggs. Luckily with the new air filter that shouldn't happen again!

Well that will be all for me this week! I love y'all and hope y'all have a good week and KEEP THE FAITH!

Elder Reed Ericson

Monday, August 24, 2015

Destruction of the Trio

August 24, 2015

Good day to you all! Well, as you see, the trio is about to be destroyed. Sad day. We all knew it was coming, in fact we don't think it was even supposed to happen in the first place. We have heard that there was a lot of shuffling around last minute last transfer because of a number of missionaries leaving the MTC and also because there were supposed to be a few visa waiters coming to our mission who were able to go straight out to their missions instead of coming to the TLM. Plus, they usually only leave trios as trios for one transfer. It was a super fun transfer, and will probably go down as the most fantastic transfer I will ever have, but we were all ready for a change. I was only with one companion a number of times towards the end of the transfer because of a few different exchanges filling in for sick missionaries and such and I realized that it will be good to be in a regular companionship again. It’s just easier to do missionary work. I loved living the trio life but it’s a one transfer at a time type of fun. Anyway, so Elder Bench is going up to Slaton (about 20 miles outside of Lubbock) and is whitewashing into the area with a trainee. Elder Wrathall is going up to Borger in the panhandle to be in another trio, and I will be staying in Brodessa 2nd Beast and will be receiving Elder Despain straight from the MTC and will serve as district leader. I am a lot more excited to train this time than my first time. I did a respectable job the first time, but at the same time I had only been out for 3 months when I began training the first time so I really had no clue what I was doing. I was able to do everything well but I didn't know how to help and teach a new missionary as well as I can now. We're gonna shred it up down here in Odessa. I am pumped to teach young Elder Despain the ways of champion missionary work!

So earlier this week I went on exchanges with Elder Jewett in my district. I don't have too much to say about it besides the 2 and a half hours before we went to bed. He has what he calls his "timeline". He has this long strip of papers taped together with his entire life in a timeline format. So, he starts from birth and works his way all the way up to his mission and tells the story of his life and many stories that he has mastered telling. But the amazing part is, he has a huge stack of pictures that he uses throughout the timeline to tell his story. He has pictures of all his houses, schools, friends, cities, etc. It was absolutely amazing. He has had a pretty crazy life full of ups and downs and he has an amazing presentation of it all. I had a feeling I was going to get bored and fall asleep at some point, but I was engaged the entire time! We got in a 9:00 and he basically already had their next day planned so he started right into his timeline presentation and we had to stay up a little late to finish it, but it was worth it. It was actually a pretty amazing presentation and I feel like I know him so well now! He has come a long way!

Other fun news, my father, Elder Stringham, was called to be an assistant. Our family is growing. Stringham is assistant, my son is training, and my son is getting a brother tomorrow and my grandson will have an uncle! Holler.

So yesterday we had a sick storm. After church we left Elder Bench at the church with a missionary who had a sick companion, and me and Wrathall went out to work. After their meetings we had to go back to the church to pick them up and take them home, and it started to DUMP. Remember, West Texas dumping is way crazier then Idaho dumping. We're talking about vision of 50 yards or so and roads that are just rivers. So, as we are about to turn into the church, the telephone pole on the NE corner of the church lot shot out a big blue ball of electricity, and then it shot out a bunch of sparks, and then another big ball of blue electricity, and then some more sparks! I had to check my pants after that one. I was driving and was in the turning lane, and I just sat in the turning lane for a few seconds just frozen. Oh man, that was crazy. And you add lighting everywhere in the background and thunder and you have a crazy situation. Sheesh. I had fun mobbing around Odessa in the Jeep though. You can take that thing anywhere. Definitely a step up from the Corolla! It rained all day and it dumped off and on so it was just swamped all day and into the night!

We did some sweet service this week. On Monday we helped out in the microburst neighborhood and cleaned up two houses. Our service was much appreciated and the ward got a good turnout! There was something like 40+ people out there! Unfortunately that was all we could do out there because people would rather pay people to come and do it for them than accept free service. Oh well, their loss! On Wednesday me and Elder Bench went to the Art Museum with Elder Benson to do service. We left Wrathall behind with Elder Jewett because he was sick and it was their scheduled service so Benson had to go. Well, our service involved us sitting at the front desk for 4 hours. We only had people enter the museum 3 times so we each had a chance to welcome someone. So, we got 4 hours of service by sitting behind a desk. So that was interesting. That place isn't very hoppin' with visitors. Then on Thursday we got to go help at the Presidential Archives and that was sweet! We mainly went through the JFK artifacts (they have TONS of JFK stuff) and got those into boxes and helped put away one of the exhibits. We spent about 4 hours there as well and it was fun service! So we met the goal of 10 hours of community service this week!

We didn't have too much success with teaching this week. We had a bunch of appointments punch throughout the week. Yesterday we had appointments every hour starting at 2:00 and the last at 7:00. The only ones that went through were our dinner appointment and our lesson with Michael. However, on Wednesday when I was on exchanges they taught a family in our area that we talked to and visited the week before. Apparently they are the most prepared people that had no clue they were prepared that any of the three missionaries that were there had ever met. Apparently they have both had Book of Mormons and the father of the family ready it like 3 times when he was in high school and in his younger days. And they have two kids that are baptism age, so that’s exciting. So we will teach them again this week! I am excited for that! We also have a baptism this Saturday. Her name is Aiyannah and she is 12 years old. Her dad is active and lives in our ward and she stays with him on the weekends but she spends her weekdays in Andrews (just north of us) and she is no longer a member. So she was taught almost everything before I got here and I have only taught her once. But she will be baptized this weekend!
That will be all for me this week! I love y'all and hope y'all have a good week! Keep the faith!

Elder Reed Ericson

Monday, August 17, 2015

Deep in the Heart of Texas

August 17, 2015

Ha. Totally stole that subject from Kevin. Gotta love the heart of Texas. I think it is super funny how different the landscapes of our missions are. His is full of trees and humidity. And I am serving in a baron wasteland with short mesquite trees (they are actually considered weeds). It was funny, yesterday we were on the 7th floor of the hospital and we looked out the big glass windows and you could just see for miles and miles and miles and miles and miles and miles. We will probably be back there soon to make another visit so I will make sure I have my camera to capture the pure beauty. Gotta love West Texas!

Anyway, this week went pretty dang well! First off, we had Michael's baptism on Saturday. It was a small service with not too many people, but it was an amazing baptismal service. The two talks given on baptism and the Holy Ghost were just perfect and the other missionaries said that they are the best talks they've ever heard at a baptism! They were powerful messages and they really enhanced the actual baptism. Michael showed up a little quiet and not too excited (which I have found is usually the case because Satan is working in overdrive) but he was beaming after his baptism! And luckily for me, I am pretty dang positive he hadn't been baptized into the church yet.... unlike last time. Gotta love Larry. People always die laughing at that story. I am always going to be known as the missionary who baptized someone who has already been baptized. At least I'll be known for something and not nothing. But funny story about Michael's baptism. There was actually a wedding reception all set up in the gym which is where the baptismal font is! So we had to move a bunch of tables and crap out of the way to make room for some chairs in from of the baptismal font! So we had some nice decorations for the baptism. Luckily, they had a big "A&M" on the wall for the couple so we just pretended that the "M" stood for Michael. Haha. And then I had to chance to confirm Michael in sacrament meeting in front of like a gajillion people. Holy cow. That chapel was packed with people. The groom from the wedding is a Vore, and the Vore family makes up like half of Odessa. The stake president is a Vore and his father is the temple president. So there are just tons of Vore's and people related to them here. So, one of the Vore relatives is in our bishopric and he blessed his baby in sacrament meeting so the entire Vore clan that was here for the wedding was there. So I confirmed Michael in front of a packed chapel. Killed it. I love confirming people! It is always a powerful experience!

Later on Saturday we received a call from a guy in our ward and he told us that there was a tornado that hit a neighborhood in our ward the previous night and there was quite a bit of damage. So we went up there with him and his family and we went door to door offering service and future service and offered different equipment and such to use when we come back. Well turns out it wasn't a tornado, it was a microburst. Never heard of it? Yeah, me neither. Turns out these things are pretty crazy. I would Google it if I were you. There were huge uprooted trees, cement walls destroyed, camping trailers flipped, birds that got shot to the ground and were just splattered on the ground. It was nuts. I felt bad about taking roadkill pictures of the birds though, that just wasn't fair. But it looked just like tornado damage though because one side of the street was all torn up and the other side was hardly damaged. It was weird. But only a couple houses has more than just some minor damage so it wasn't devastating damage, although people were without power (which means no AC) and it was 100+ outside. So people were suffering from the heat, but everyone we talked to seemed happy and upbeat about the situation. We weren't able to do any service though at the time because EVERYONE was waiting for the insurance people to come out on Monday (today). So we ended up just taking down some names, addresses, and phone numbers and we are headed back up there tonight with some ward members to start getting some stuff cleaned up. I have a few pictures I may send as well of some of the stuff we saw. Crazy stuff. The storm didn't hit us very hard at all. It hit the northern part of our area pretty hard and then northwest of us real good. All we got was some nice lightning to watch. Which is awesome. We got the lightning in the distance but not the storm!

We had an awesome visit with a less-active lady this week. We went over and visited her a couple weeks ago and she decided she was going to read the Book of Mormon. She was pretty self-motivated so we just had to solidify it by officially inviting her to do it. So we showed up a week later for our next appointment, and in the two days prior she had read almost 80 pages of the Book of Mormon and was just going crazy over how amazing of a book it is and how she just knows it a true book. She learned so much and is just pumped to read the rest of it! She wanted us to set a day for her to finish it by so that she can be held accountable, but we told her to just do what she can because she has plans to finish it in just a matter of weeks. Haha she is a funny lady! And now she is super excited to start going to church again, but wants to finish the Book of Mormon first, which we just had to agree to because of who she is and the situation she's in and she appreciated it a lot when I told her "that’s fair" about her wanting to finish it before she comes to church and understanding what she's thinking. She'll get there though. She's a go getter!

Other than that we had a difficult time having appointments go through and catching people at home this week. We have a lot of solid potential but it was a bad week for turning that potential into success. So hopefully we can have some good success in week 6 of the transfer to get this place fired up and ready to go next transfer. We don't know how long we'll have the car for, and a lot of our potential is up north which is an hour long bike ride down highway type roads. So, we shall see how that goes. I'm banking on it all working out!

Oh boy, I have some good stuff for my first food update in a long time! So, on Friday we went to Texas Roadhouse with the other elders in our district and a couple of their recent converts that paid for us. Well, I had the 10 oz Fort Worth Ribeye and it was the best steak I have ever sunken my teeth into! Holy cow, perfectly cooked to medium-rare, wonderful flavor, wonderful marbling and just the right amount of fat on the outside. So good! And then last night we ate with the Stock clan. Sis Stock is the one who usually provided all the killer meals for Zone Conferences and was the one who put together the meal for the Jingle Jam during Christmas time that I raged about in my email that week. Well, they made some dang good brisket, some amazing cheesy garlic french bread, and then some corn on the cob that had some crazy good seasoning on it, and then some killer apple crisp for dessert. Wow, probs one of the best meals I've had on my mission. I hope I stay here next transfer because we have dinner with them again next Wednesday. That's all I wish for.... dinner at the Stock's next Wednesday. Good company too. This ward is loaded with awesomeness! I have been blessed with probably the two best wards in the mission as my last two areas as far as strictly awesomeness goes. Odessa 2nd East is considered widely as one of the best wards and I think it may not even match up to Frenship Mesa. So I've hit gold in that department. Anyway, that's it for food. I had a couple of good grilled cheese sandwiches, but that’s just because I'm a dang good grilled cheese maker.j

Well that’s all for me this week! I am looking forward to a killer week 6 here in Brodessa 2nd Beast (that’s our area's nickname, it’s all elders in the city of Odessa... hence the "bro"). I hope y'all have a wonderful week filled with lots of fun and excitement! Hoorah for Israel!

With love,
Elder Ericson

                                                 Camping trailer got flipped upside down!

                                     "A huge tree that got uprooted and fell on someone's house!
                                  I could have gotten a better angle to get the full effect but I didn't."

Monday, August 10, 2015

Doin' Werk

August 10, 2015

Well hello my good friends and family! Another week down here in Odessa, Texas!

First off. We killed it this week. We got 3 new investigators, some sweet potentials, and just did some solid work. We are improving a lot in our teaching and other assorted things as well which is making a difference in us finding success! It is sometimes difficult to teach with a trio. Usually with two missionaries, if you feel prompted to add anything to the lesson, you get to talk when you companion is done so its no biggy. But with a trio, you may have just taught, and then the person right after you may be teaching when you something comes to your mind to add to that particular spot in the lesson. Well, there is still another missionary between the person currently teaching and your next turn so you have to jump in and throw off the order of the lesson and then keep it smoothin' and groovin' after you just threw off the flow. So, sometimes it can be difficult with situations like that and other things. But we are really starting to figure it out more and having better lessons because of it. We have spent a little more time role playing lessons as well to help our transitions go smoother and such. We had a lot of little pauses in our lessons in between us teaching that were deficits to the whole feel of our lessons. I worked on having smooth transitions a lot in training with Elder Stringham and its been something that I have been able to help almost all my companions with up to this point. Its the little things that make a lesson go from good to great, and they take practice. So that has been something that has been a little difficult in a trio but that we are working on and getting much better at and its been a great benefit to us.

So I mentioned that we picked up 3 new peeps this week. One is a man named Ron. His house is pretty chaotic. They are always having some sort of party (like, real parties). So that makes things interesting. We were never able to meet with him my entire time here until this week so we finally got in and taught him like champs. We'll see how it goes with him. There are a lot of things that are potential hold-backs with him but he has a good quality of humbleness and openness in him that we can definitely work with if we are able to continue to meet with him. We taught a younger man named Kingsley yesterday afternoon. He is 27 years old and from Nigeria. He came over to the US three years ago for a better life and have more opportunities to provide a decent life for himself. He seemed fairly interested and is a humble young man. He works crazy oil field hours (we're talking 80+ hours a week) but he knows when he'll be working and won't be working so we should be able to keep in contact with him and continue to teach him. Solid potential to progress. And then last, but not least, we taught my cat Roy last night. He's sick. He's this awesome, nice, buff brother. He's the man we talked to right before we talked to crazy man last week. We taught the crap out of him last night. He's a way good listener, but also a way good talker. So it works out nicely. We just let him talk as little as possible and he still felt it because he is a dang good listener. It worked perfectly. He definitely felt the spirit last night and has specific plans for his Book of Mormon reading while on vacation this week. We won't be able to meet with him for two weeks though so thats a kicker. But he's sick. I'm stoked about him!

Michael is still ready to be baptized this week! He came to stake conference this weekend and loved it. He is just solid as can be. He is a funny dude. He is going to be a solid member! Also, Dustin is now in jail, so his girlfriend Rose is by herself for a time being. This isn't the first time this has happened. Its like the third time its happened since Elder Bench got here in March. So that is an interesting situation with some of our solid investigators. So we have a decent teaching pool now with our 3 new investigators and then Michael and Rose.

Our ward mission leader moved this week. His name is Bro Kaio and he is a famous mission leader throughout the TLM. If you've ever served in Odessa, you know Arnie Kaio! Him and his family basically take us missionaries in as part of their family and make us feel so loved and just like family. We helped them pack up the truck on Friday and then went over and saw them before they left on Saturday. They are moving up to Utah and were super excited to start life up there. It will be sad to not have them around but they have a lot in store for them in Utah! Also, Bro Kaio has quite the rap career behind him so we got some CD's with his jams on it to listen to when we get home. I've heard some of his jams at his house before so I am excited to see what other stuff he has when I get home. He's also excited to get back in the rap game when he gets up to Utah haha. He is so legit!

So, we had stake conference this weekend in Midland. Elder Cardon of the first quorum of the seventy was there, along with Pres and Sis Heap. Once again, Pres Heap showed everyone up. The last hour or so was Sis Heap, Pres Heap, the temple president and his wife, and then about 25 minutes of Elder Cardon at the end. So four speakers shared about 25 minutes. Pres Heap spoke right after Sis Heap and just threw down for a few minutes and sat down. I felt bad for everyone following him. Even Elder Cardon was just regular after hearing Pres Heap talk for only 5 minutes or so. That man is something else. I wish you all had the chance to hear him speak or instruct. I still remember vividly when Elder Bednar came and Pres Heap had a chance to talk for a minute. Pres Heap sat down after talking and Elder Bednar just sat there for like 45 seconds before he even moved after Pres Heap was done. He killed it at stake conference too. Every time.

We set up some sweet service this week. We stopped by two museums and set up stuff with them. One of them was a weird art museum but the other is the Presidential Archive museum and it is WAY legit! We should be able to help out there every week or every other week. They have so many cool things there and the lady said that she will have us help her in the back room where all the artifacts are. She took us back there and there are just shelves of awesome presidential artifacts! So I am very excited for that!

Well, I have a couple other things I could talk about but they aren't that exciting. Plus, its about time for me to go. But I will say this... another Elder in my district, Elder Jewett, has seen the office more than I have and can quote it just as good as myself. Can you even believe it?

I hope y'all have a wonderfully fantastic week! I love y'all and pray for you all the time!

Elder Reed Ericson

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Pocket Full of Sunshine

August 3, 2015

Well hello everyone. It is good to be with you this week! Pretty fun week this past week, I'd say. So allow me to unfold it unto you in this email.

Well first things first, the week started off with a fun exchange with our beloved district leader, Elder Benson. What a character. We had much to talk about and I don't think we had silence the entire time. He came over to our area with me and Elder Bench because he loves living the trio life. Which indeed is the best missionary life to live. Nothing beats a trio. Good stuff. But we did like, absolutely nothing on the exchange. After district meeting we went to lunch, and after lunch we changed and rode out bikes over to do some service. The lady we had set up service with wasn't even home so we rode back. By the time we got back and changed we didn't have time to do anything before we got picked up for correlation at our ward mission leaders house up in the north part of our area which is a little bit of a drive. After correlation we didn't have any time to do anything until we got picked up for dinner. And after getting dropped back off at home after dinner we hit the pavement and only had about an hour left of work and so we decided to go try to see someone, but on the way Elder Benson needed to take an emergency bathroom break, so we stopped by the house that the Spanish elders live in which is in our area. By the time we were done with that it was time to walk home.
The next day we went to go see someone who wasn't home and by the time we walked there it was time to walk to Wing Stop for lunch and then the exchange was over. Some days just end up being like that. Btw, we eat free at Wing Stop. A member owns the Wing Stop here in Odessa so we eat there like twice a week usually. It is right by our apartment too! The zone leaders a long time ago tried to make a rule that you could only go once a week but the member that owns it got mad at that rule so they dissolved that rule. So we eat like kings. We also can eat for free at this barbeque place. But it ain't that good. The location closer to us here on the east side only lets you get sandwiches and it has to be after 2pm. The one on the west side of town lets you get whatever you want at any time of day and has better meat. But its too far away. You win some you lose some, right?

Oh yeah, cool story. We now have a vehicle!!! They had the Jeep from Abilene Spanish sitting at the church here in Odessa because it is one of the older cars that the church is taking away. Well, it sat at the church for three weeks just waiting to get picked up by someone, and they finally let us drive it for a few weeks until they take it away! So we no longer have to get rides everywhere and have freedom! And we have a gold mine up north in our area that we haven't been able to get to at all so now we can drive up there to do work! However, I know the danger of letting a car inhibit your work. So, I conducted a good solid chat that night after we got the car about how we need to use it as the tool that its supposed to be. We need to make sure we are out on our bikes and feet as much as possible. Having a car is dangerous. You see a number of missionaries that abuse it and just drive around all day wasting time. So I made it very clear that we are going to use it as a tool and not our mode of transportation. Gotta throw down the hammer sometimes, you know.

Last night we had kind of a sketchy experience. I thought I would have had more sketchy experiences but I have had very little. Only one in Sweetwater that wasn't even that sketchy at all and now only one sketchy one here. Which is surprising, because Odessa is supposed to be sketch. Well last night we went out finding at about 8:15 after a lesson to a nice middle-class "cookie cutter" neighborhood. We saw two people outside right on a corner of two streets that join together. So I waved and asked the dude on the left but he just gave me a little wave and was already kinda walking into his garage. So we went and talked to a sick black dude straight ahead of us. We talked to him for probably 20+ minutes. Solid guy, we are going to see him again next Sunday evening. Anyway, as we were walking away from his house back to the car the first dude that I said high to was sitting near the sidewalk in front of his house. I looked over at him and he waved us over and started talking to us. I got a creepy vibe as we approached him so I made sure that we stopped with a little distance between us and him. He started to ask very specific questions about the Book of Mormon, Jesus Christ, and the "nation of peace" that is supposed to be built in our country when Christ returns. He asked things that people don't really know about our doctrine. I felt uncomfortable the whole time and was paying very close attention for the spirit to tell me that we needed to leave. Something about this guy's eyes and body language was unnerving to me. He also was holding something in his hand up to his mouth the first time I said hello to him, and I think that device was in his pocket when we later talked to him. And he was holding a small yellow legal notepad with some numbers on it when we talked to him the second time. Elder Bench took over answering questions and he said later that his mind was very clear and the words were just flowing from his mouth when answering this man's questions. Finally my heart started beating faster and my breath became a little shortened and I knew that it was time to jump in when I could to get us out of there. He asked another question about what kind of body Christ would come back in when he returns and I jumped in and said that we needed to get going but could come back but he insisted that we answer his question before we leave. So, Bench gave a good answer, and then this man said "well I'll shake your hands before you leave" so we shook his hand (you're never supposed to not shake hands in those situations) and walked off. He seemed a little warmer when we shook hands and gave out departing words, so that’s encouraging. Bench said that he got more of a creepy feel from his house but not so much from him, and I got a creepy feel from him and not so much his house. And Wrathall just felt a little uncomfortable. Bench wanted to drive past his house on his way out but he said that he just couldn't really do it and his hand just turned the wheel down a street before we got to his house and Wrathall soon later mentioned that he had a very clear thought that we shouldn't drive past his house. So, we don't really know what happened last night, but we do need to go back to see his neighbor a few doors down on Sunday so we will ask our friend about his crazy neighbor and play it from there. And our friend is jacked and was in the military and stuff so we have some good physical protection and we have all protection when it comes to evil spirits and what not. We are going to try to not go by that area in the evenings when its a little darker and we will only talk to him if he's outside during the daytime. Its also good to not ignore and turn your back to people like that. You always need to talk to them and act friendly and warm by shaking their hands and stuff. He wasn't too terribly creepy though. Just unnerving. Fun stuff though. Luckily I have served in safe places so far on my mission. A lot of missionaries around the world have those experiences every day.

We have been continuing teaching Michael and also Dustin and Rose. Michael bore his testimony in church yesterday! It was pretty dang good! He'll be baptized on the 15th. Dustin and Rose had kinda a crazy week and we only saw them one time, last night. I also taught this 12 year old girl named Aiyannah for the first time yesterday afternoon. Her parents are members but her mom is inactive and lives in Andrews (just a ways north of Odessa) and her dad lives here in Odessa (and he only has the kids on weekends) but they go to Midland for church because he goes to the mid-singles meetings which meets with one of the family wards in Midland. So, we are teaching her because they live in our ward but she will be baptized in Midland into a Midland ward. She has now been taught everything and is a really smart girl! She remembers everything and understands really well. She was going to be baptized on the 15th as well but because of work schedules and different events she won't be baptized until August 27th... which is after transfers. So we shall see what happens there. But we should have a good week this week! Being able to get up north will be huge for us and we will be able to get more going in our area!

That will be all for me this week. I love y'all and I always feel your prayers and support! If you can be ANYTHING, be KIND!

Lots of love,
Elder Reed Ericson