Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Christmas Week!

December 28, 2015

Hello my good friends and family! Well, I successfully made it through the week without dying. Which is a real concern for the people of West Texas right now! As you know, we had transfer calls on Saturday and I will be staying in San Angelo but will be receiving a new companion named Elder Andrus! However, West Texas is basically shut down right now. Apparently Amarillo got something like 4 feet of snow and Lubbock got something like 3 feet of snow. Don't know how legit that is, but I guess you could Google it. They say that New Mexico is in a "State of Emergency" and Lubbock is in a "State of Disaster". Or vise a versa. Whatever way around it is. However, I am down here in San Angelo where we got some gnarly weather yesterday that has left us with a little bit of slush and wet roads, which has shut the city down basically. hahaha Texans crack me up. We have sacrament meeting last for our ward and they sent us home after the sacrament was passed yesterday! Gotta love it! So while the rest of the mission is shut down this week we will continue on with our missionary work in our "old" companionships down here in San Angelo. Maybe one of these days we will get everyone shipped to where they belong. Its kind of a bummer though. Everyone else is getting sweet mission stories right now of being shut in by a blizzard in West Texas and the only story I get is doing missionary work with wet ground. Oh well, at least we get to work this week unlike everyone else! We at least have something to do! We shall see how the weather plays out for us in the coming days!

We had a sweet Christmas week! On Tuesday we took the trek over to Midland for the second annual Jingle Jam!!!!! It was a grand time! Holy cow! So much fun!!!!! The Jingle Jam is in three sections: Talent show, lunch, and then chapel talent/movie. The second I walked into the gym I was swarmed by people asking me to do something for the talent show. Elder Stringham came up to me and asked me to do a dance or something because not too many people were on the program and apparently the north half of the mission had a pretty boring talent show. So, I didn't have anything to do and couldn't come up with anything so I sat there content with not doing anything and was planning on just enjoying the show. Well, about halfway through the talent show they threw together a beat-boxing competition to get the energy level up since it was kind of dying out. Elder Stringham took over as the emcee because the normal emcee was in the competition. We got down to the final two beat-boxers and they told Elder Stringham that he needed to dance to the beats. So I yelled "DO IT ELDER STRINGHAM!!!!! DO IT!!!" and he responded by summoning me into a dance battle against him! Hahaha so after gathering a crew for myself and Elder Stringham gathering his crew we went at it! It was your typical father/son dance battle in front of 100 missionaries! In the end, after busting a few moves, Elder Stringham basically won because my name tag had flown off and he did a ceremonial "drop the tag" in front of me to end the battle. So, I think I lost...... but its hard to say. They never declared a winner. So we'll say it was a tie! Lunch time was beast! The Odessa 2nd Ward Relief Society always comes up big! I sat with all my Odessa peeps and some others and it was a good time. I miss my Odessa boys! They were a lot of fun to serve with and it was good to be reunited with them! Once we went to the chapel the performances started. Little did we know, the San Angelo zone had been signed up to sing "Angels We Have Heard On High". So we all found out that we were doing so when they announced it.... so it was a fail. We didn't practice at all, but taking that into consideration we didn't do too bad, I guess! And then after all the music we watched "Its A Wonderful Life". It was interesting at first and we were all severely confused, but we got it all straight and it ended up being a wonderful movie to feel the Christmas spirit! After the movie, President Heap blew my mind with some Christmas facts/information and then we had a good long mingle session before we all departed to our different areas! It was such a good time though! I'm going to miss the Jingle Jam next year!

Then the day after the Jingle Jam was pretty sweet too, kind of. After a regular day of work I embarked on an intense journey of 4 consecutive baptismal interviews! They were for Sarah (1st South's investigator) and her three kids. Sarah's interview was LEGIT! She is so fantastic! So prepared by the Lord and the gospel has had such a profound influence on her life! It was such a blessing to be the one to conduct her interview and hear her testimony and share with her a few words as well! Holy cow! What a blessing! Then her three kids were definitely interesting. The first one was her 10 year old daughter. That was regular. Besides the fact that I had to basically teach her all of the commandments. Then I interviewed the 11 year old son. That was actually an awesome interview. I got to see how big of an impact this has had on an 11 year old boy who is crazy and wild. But during the interview I had a couple pretty tender moments with the kid. He has been impacted so largely and positively by being taught by us missionaries! However, I had to teach him all the commandments just like his sister. And then after him I interviewed the 9 year old daughter who has ADHD. So, after 3 interviews I was getting pretty wiped out and then I had to interview another young girl with ADHD..... holy smokes. That was a patience tester. Plus, I had to, once again, teach her all the commandments basically. So, after well over an hour of interviews I was exhausted!!! But it was worth it! It was such a pleasure to be a part of their road to baptism and I am thankful to have been able to sit down with all of them and converse with them about it all! They were baptized a few days later on the 26th of December and it was a wonderful service! They had so many people there for the service and many many more wanted to come but were out of town for the holidays! Elder Cooper and Mangum did a dang good job with getting them involved with the ward and so many people are friends with them already! And then yesterday they were all confirmed in Sacrament Meeting (before they sent us home) and that was an amazing thing to be a part of as well as Sarah asked me and my companion to stand in for that! Once again, just like 4 interviews in a row, 4 confirmations was quite the feat as well. Brother Malit from the ward confirmed all 4 of them and I can't imagine what a blessing that was for him! Overall, it was an amazing experience to be a part of everything for Sara, Jonathan, Kathleen, and Julia!

Christmas was pretty good too! On Christmas Eve we were with Elder Mangum and Cooper playing Risk at about 9:00 when we decided we were just going to have a Christmas sleepover! So we went to our place and picked up all the stuff we needed and our Christmas packages and went and finished our game of Risk and went to bed. Then on Christmas morning we all woke up and placed the tiny little Christmas tree in the middle of the room and placed our presents under it and went to town opening them! It was so fun! We all felt like little children again! I am glad we did it with Cooper and Mangum too! That made it all that much better. They are the best! For Christmas breakfast we went to the Lunkley's for some crepes and then skyped at their place as well! Always a good time seeing the fam! However, after we skyped we were stuck at their place for another few hours because the other missionaries were here and there so we just sat and waited for them and then finally had Bro Lunkley take us home after 6 hours at their place. We are only supposed to be in a home for 3 hours, but they wanted us there more than they wanted us out so it worked out! Kind of frustrating though because we just had some miscommunication with the other elders. Then we went to dinner with the Crespo family. That was nice. Interesting, but nice. We left there by about 6:30 and then went and I laid on my bed and turned on some tunes and jammed out for like an hour and looked at some pictures and basically almost fell asleep. It was quite nice!

Other than Christmas festivities we actually were able to get some decent work in! We have been meeting with this old guy named Sam for a couple weeks and he is just your typical old lonely man who can't really grasp things real well. However he's coming along slowly. We've also been working with a couple others but nobody is coming along super well at the moment. Mac didn't get baptized this week obviously. He still has a ways to go. But his wife said that he is willing to set another date to work towards so he is just keeping the faith! The work this week should be interesting with it supposed to be transfer week but transfers not happening. So we shall see how it all plays out and see what work we can get done! But me and Elder Schroeder will be able to tear it up together for another few days! Also, funny note, Elder Schroeder is getting transferred all the way over the San Angelo 2nd South! Haha he is still going to be in my district so I will be able to bring him over for exchanges and tear it up with him in 1st North again!

Anyway, I hope y'all had an enjoyable Christmas week! I sure did! May the Lord continue to bless y'all in your many endeavors! God bless y'all!

With much love,

Elder Reed Ericson

Friday, December 25, 2015

Birthday Week!

Birthday Week!

December 21, 2015

Hello my friends! I know, I know... last week I said that I wasn't going to have p-day until Tuesday this week, but that was just a big miscommunication between the leadership so here I am on regular p-day! Boy oh boy, this past week was something else, I'll tell ya that much. Definitely had its ups and downs! And more specifically, started with ups and ended with downs.


The week started off well with a pretty rad district meeting on Tuesday. I pretty much just did tons of role plays/practice throughout. We I have a really young district and I realized that one skill that they need to learn early to benefit the rest of their mission is finding and more specifically just normal street contacting. I felt like the skill level in that aspect was a little low so I raked them over the coals with role plays and practice! It was a good time. I compared finding people to building a fire. Super cheesy, I know. But it worked. To build a fire you need some good logs (approach), some kindling (thought-provoking question), and then a spark (teaching/testifying) to ignite a raging fire! It isn't the best analogy, but it was the best I could think of. After district meeting we went on exchanges and so I went and tore up our area with Elder Mangum! Elder Mangum is the BEST!!!! He is such a beast missionary and such a good time! At the beginning of the exchange as we were biking away from our apartment he asked, "What do you want to work on today?" and I just replied "I just want to go to work!". And that is precisely what we did! We met some wonderfully pleasant people and ended up spending the entire afternoon in one area talking to so many people and having good conversations! Elder Mangum is the master at finding and just has a way of using the spirit of discernment to know what to say to people and what questions to ask. I don't know how he does it, but every person he talks to actually listens to us to a certain degree, which is insane. It was a good time. Lots of killer work to help our area out quite a bit! And then on Wednesday morning at 8:30 we went and raked and bagged 21 bags of leaves for someone! Holy cow, that was quite the chore for the two of us! It took us a good 2-2.5 hours to get done but we conquered! My hamstrings were shot however after our bagging all those leaves with our super effective bagging technique. Super effective, but not the most comfortable. Super solid exchange though. Probs one of the best I've been on!

With that exchange and all, we were tearing it up early in the week through Thursday. Lots of stuff going for us. Meeting lots of people, having some good lessons, making some good progress in our area, BUT THEN......... it hit. Everybody was dropping like flies. I woke up Friday morning and between the hours of 7am-9am I went from feeling fantastic to throwing-up. Turns out, Elder Mangum got hit as well at about 6am so me and Elder Mangum spent another day together wallowing in despair while our companions spent another day together. By early afternoon I had yacked three times and had it coming from both ends. And along with that my legs were super achy, my back hurt from lying in bed, my head hurt, and I was just super super fatigued. Elder Mangum was just as bad but wasn't yacking anymore. He got all his done with before he came over to hang with me. It was difficult to sleep because of the pain and chills and so I just basically laid there super uncomfortably all day long. I found out that the couch has more back support than my bed so I decided to sleep on the couch (don't worry, its a straight shot from my comps bed outside the door) and figured that along with taking some Nyquil would do the trick for me to have a good night. Well, by 1am the effects of the Nyquil were long gone so I woke up and was super uncomfortable, so eventually I got up to go to the bathroom and threw up again while sitting on the toilet. And then I had a repeat situation at about 5am. After that I took some more Nyquil and moved to my bed where I slept peacefully until about 10am minus waking up to the 6:30 alarm. I felt a little better on Saturday, which happened to be my birthday, but was still super tired and nauseous so we spent another day inside. I probably would have been able to make some visits if it wouldn't have been for having to either walk or bike to get places. So that pretty much put us in for the day. I was able to get some good sleep and rest however. I was able to make it out to our dinner appointment though, and that was legit. I didn't eat very much, but they understood. However, Elder Mangum tried to be a champ and power it down and it cost him big time as he was about to lose it for the next hour or so! Hahaha he was dying! He didn't mention it until we left but I could see it on his face! I felt bad, but I also thought it was funny!
We had dinner with the Peterson's and they are super legit! They are a young couple and he is a white boy from Idaho and she is from Sri Lanka! No joke! I have never met a Sri Lankan before until the other night! She is the funniest thing ever though! They had a Sri Lankan wedding in Vegas when they got married and they showed us the photo album of their wedding and it looked like the coolest thing EVER! Anyway, back to my sickness, I thought I felt good to go on Sunday, but then the longer church went on the more I had to second guess myself. Right before sacrament meeting (we have it last) I told Elder Schroeder that I didn't think I was going to be able to make it a go. So I stayed in again Sunday afternoon and got some more rest and felt better last night, but we had to get some weekly planning done since we didn't get it done on Friday. So that made three days in a row without going out to work. Which made our super awesome week into an ok week. Dang. I feel pretty good today though. Not 100% but pretty good. I told myself that I was never going to miss a full day of work unless I was super super sick, but then Friday did me in and then I just didn't feel up to biking/walking a round trip of probably 5 miles to make just a visit or two.

On the bright side, I think I lost some weight. The pants that I am wearing today usually have a nice snug fit to them and the second notch on the belt us usually perfect for a nice snug fit as well. But they are a little looser today than usual. And I think I may have lost a bit of chub from my face. So that's perfect timing because we have the Jingle Jam tomorrow and then a wonderful video chat with the fam on Christmas! So I will look slim and trim hopefully! Now I just have to keep it off!

Hmmmm, well, I'm 20 years old now. So that's cool. My birthday was a little uneventful so that blows but it could have been worse. I feel the exact same as I did when I was 19 so that's whatever. Maybe 21 will bring a new feeling of age and maturity. We shall see.

We may or may not have a baptism on Saturday. Its very largely up in the air. Mac is still going but its a long story. We are hopeful, but you never know with that situation. Also, Chase and Melody, who came to church my first week here, should be back in town today, so hopefully we can pick up where we left off with them. They were pretty solid. And then we have a number of other people who are pretty sweet who we've only taught maybe once so hopefully we can have the opportunity to teach them during this busy week!

Y'all are wonderful! Thank you for all the birthday and Christmas love you have sent my way! Keep the faith and fight the good fight!

With all my love,
Elder Reed Ericson

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Christmas Spirit is Kicking In!

December 14, 2015

Well hello my good friends! What a week its been down here in San Angelo, Texas! Its truly a wonderful experience to be alive during this Christmas season, isn't it!

Our week was pretty busy! To start off, we had interviews with good ol' President Heap on Wednesday morning! When we got there we sat down and I had a nice chat with Elder Stringham and Elder Young (you don't know him) about the one and only Sweetwater! All three of us served there for no less than 3 transfers so we all knew the place pretty well and knew lots of people. It was a fun chat being able to ponder the early days of my missionary service in possibly the most dear area to my heart! Man, nothing beats that place! Both me and Elder Stringham would love to go back there because we would do things so much differently now! We had no clue what we were doing but dang did we work hard day in and day out! And then Elder Cardon and myself obviously didn't have a clue what we were doing because we started off with a total of 3 months of experience between us. Anyway, my interview was alright. Nothing too special. We talked about the struggle to find people (which I feel is pretty typical for us state-side missionaries) and also about how God knows exactly what we are doing so there is no need to worry why the work isn't booming when you feel like you are putting forth effort to work hard and improve. It was a good chat. Nothing beats a nice conversation with Pres.

We actually did quite a bit of teaching this week! We shared a sweet Christmas message with a media referral named Gloria who ended up wanting a Book of Mormon, so that looks promising moving forward. We taught our good friend Hector a couple times. We were also able to teach the 3 baptism age children of Sarah who is being taught by the other set of elders and they will all be baptized on the 26th! That was a fun lesson teaching 3 kids.... hahaha we made it through! We taught the Plan of Salvation to them, and by we I mean I mostly did. Teaching 3 talkative kids is pretty difficult to try to manage with two different people trying to teach. So, I took that one and holy smokes, I had to pull out all the teaching skills and working with kids skills. Wow. We had some good laughs though. We had a couple members who are the primary teachers for them there with us teaching them and we'd make eye contact trying not to die laughing like every 2 minutes! Oh man, I love kiddos. They are such a hoot! We taught 3 lessons the day we taught the kids! I hadn't taught that many lessons in one day in MONTHS! It was actually pretty dang exhausting! I went to bed pooped out that night! 

 But, the most intense teaching for the week was with good ol' Mac! Holy cow!!!! Our lesson on Thursday was intense! Let me tell you a little more about Mac. He has been going to church for about 50 years now. He has made a lot of progress lately in actually diligently and sincerely looking for an answer. But, he just doesn't know how to feel the spirit. Yes, for most of you you'd think this would be easy to help him with. But you have never met Mac. But everything lately has been leading everyone to the knowledge that he needs to get baptized off of faith that things are going to work out for him and that he'll "receive his answer" after he is baptized. Everything is pointing towards it needing to happen like that. EVERYTHING. So, we read some sweet scripture with him on Thursday and had like a 2 hour lesson with his wife there finally. And after all that, apparently he said some pretty interesting/good things in his prayer that night that we were told privately, so I cannot tell you. His wife, who has been having stress and anxiety about him getting baptized for years said that she has felt at peace after that lesson about everything. But then, on Saturday we went over again, and it seemed like it had all died off. Ugh. The missionary life. It is just full of ups and downs. Apparently when Mac gets baptized his service will be held with a full chapel filled up with people! I feel pretty hopeful that it'll happen soon though. There are so many other things that are just pointing towards a fairytale story unfolding in front of us soon! I just keep praying hard for it to happen!

 Some other amazing news.... BLUE BELL IS BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So yeah, Blue Bell is back! Blue Bell, for those of you who don't know, is like the best ice cream on the planet that is only sold in selected places in the United States. It took forever to get over here to West Texas because they got it into all the bigger cities first, and the entire Western half of Texas has like 10 people in it so it took forever. So naturally I bought a 1/2 gallon tub of Cookies n' Cream today! They don't have all their flavors rolled out yet though so flavors were limited to maybe 6 or so flavors. Which is nothing compared to their normal array of flavors. Blue Bell is like a religion down here. Heck, I have pondered practicing Blue Bellism. Its one of those things where you can practice both Mormonism and Blue Bellism because all Blue Bellism requires of you is to eat a lot of Blue Bell ice cream. Which, that is kind of contrary to the word of wisdom so I'm not sure if I could practice Mormonism fully because I would be not following the principle of the word of wisdom to the "T".... but I'll figure it out.

Speaking of food, I had fried catfish last week. Dang good stuff. I ain't one to enjoy fish but I totally dug that stuff.

Also, one last note, which I'm sure the fam will be made aware of soon... but p-day won't be until Tuesday next week because we will be having the SECOND ANNUAL JINGLE JAM on Monday!!!!!!!!! I LOVE THE JINGLE JAM! I am so pumped! So yeah, I'll fill you in about that next week!

Well I hope y'all have an amazing week full of the spirit of Christmas this week! Its weird to thing that I will be 20 years old by the end of the week! Life is just flying by! God bless y'all!!!

 With much love,
Elder Reed Ericson

Monday, December 7, 2015

Feelin' The Christmas Spirit

December 7, 2015

Why hello my friends! Another week down here in San Angelo, TX! The weeks keep on flying by and the months are flying by too! It felt like the couple months before my year mark went a little slow but its true that once you get over the hump you just go cruising right down a hill! Its kind of freaking me out a little bit.

Anyway, it was an alright week down here. Nothing too special going on. Just the regular stuff. But I have thought about a few things this week that were pretty sweet. So, let me begin. As we were out doing our thing on Thursday-ish morning I started to think about the true joy of missionary work. And I realized that it is just being a light. I have found that the true joy of this work is being able to talk to people and bring a feeling of joy to them. I love when I have an opportunity to visit with someone and just talk to them about who knows what when you know that they need someone to just talk to. For example, this past week we had two examples of such service. Earlier in the week we stopped by Grandma Cats house. She let us in and we spent about 15 minutes of our day talking to her about her holidays and her family, and then also her cats. She took us on a tour through her very cluttery house and showed us all the hundreds of hundreds of cats she had decorating her house. This is a lady who has lived by herself for nearly 20 years now and I could feel a sense of joy coming from her just because of the fact that two young men visited her and put a smile on her face. Did we teach her or share anything with her? No. But those were 15 minutes of our 8 hours of proselyting that were more than well used to be a light in someone's day. Another example was from Saturday. On Thursday evening we went and visited a man named Hector and, well.... he was super drunk but we taught him anyway. Super hilarious visit. We were having a good time with him! Anyway, we went back Saturday afternoon and he hadn't started drinking yet and was sober. Right from the get-go you could tell that he was just down in the dumps and it was pretty evident that that is his whole life. He lives alone, and his mother and him just fight every day. So, we sat there and talked to him for about an hour about this and that, made him laugh a few times, and were his friend and a light in his life. After about an hour we shared the Restoration with him and he definitely understood it a lot more than the previous time a couple night earlier. So that was good. But, a lot of missionaries would consider that a waste of time to sit and talk to this man for an hour before teaching him. But, I felt much satisfaction and knew I did my part as a disciple of Jesus Christ by taking some extra time to be a light in his life. I see a lot of missionaries that are too focused on the work that forget to stop and take a minute to think about what this is all about. Its a ministry, not a business. And I know that my mission has been the amazing experience it has been because I've focused on being a light in people's life. So, that is what I have had on my mind this week and realized that is the reason for this experience being so wonderful!

Anyway, another thing that has been prevalent to me this week is very simply the New Testament and how it just shows that the church is true! Good heavens! I feel like every day during personal study I read scripture after scripture in the New Testament that are just right on! My goodness. The Epistles of Paul just preach to the truthfulness of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints! Having a knowledge of the restored gospel also is a big part in being able to understand what is being taught by Paul. There are doctrines that he teaches that are clear to me because of what I have been taught about them previously and so those scriptures only confirm what I have been taught! Ugh, its so dang good. I have a cow every day during companionship study going on about what I read concerning the Epistles of Paul! Its a good time.

We were able to attend the San Angelo 1st Ward Christmas Party on Saturday morning! It seems like most of the wards down here are going to morning breakfast parties instead of the evening ham dinners. Both Odessa wards were doing that and it seems like that is the trend in San Angelo as well! It was pretty awesome because it was something different than the same old same old ward Christmas party that we've all been to a million times! I definitely wish I could have been at the Odessa 2nd Ward Christmas party this year because this ward is just so dang big that we were just kind of there. In Odessa we would have been a part of the party! But I can't complain. It was an hour and a half on a Saturday morning and I got free breakfast that was actually pretty dang good. But that's something to think about for anyone who is a part of a ward council for the coming years... a morning ward Christmas party with breakfast and pajamas!

Also, another random note. I realized that my legs were getting big again this week. I have been having a little bit more difficult time with my slim fit suit pants and also I realized that I can power up hills like a champ again like I did in Sweetwater. Biking in Odessa wasn't quite the same leg building exercise because it doesn't take much effort to bike on extremely flat terrain. So, that's both a plus and a negative. A plus because I am getting stronger legs but a negative because my suit pants are getting a more restricting in the quads when I sit down or tie my shoe or lift my leg up for anything. We'll see what the future holds for my legs and my pants.

We were able to teach a few lessons this week. We continue to visit with our eternigator Mac. He is pretty much just on his own timing now. There really isn't much we can do to help him out besides be there to help answer his questions from what he read in the Book of Mormon and discuss things. His teaching record is like, way too long. Like, it shouldn't even be allowed for one person to be taught as much as he has. We also were able to teach Hector, who I mentioned earlier. Our first lesson he was super drunk so it was just a hoot and a half talking with him and joking around with him. And he obviously didn't recall anything or understand anything so we just taught him the same thing a couple days later and it was actually a pretty good simple lesson. Hopefully we can keep catching him at sober times and that he'll actually have the ability to comprehend things. He is a super nice fella and he needs some hope! We also went over to take the sacrament to this old guy in the ward that hasn't been to church in a while because of some health stuff. I think he is forgotten about by the ward so we took the initiative to get it approved by the bishop to take the sacrament to him after he mentioned that it would be nice earlier in the week to us. Also, this dude is a convert of about 10 years after a long time visiting with the missionaries. So, we walk into his house and he had a dang cigarette in his hand! So, no sacrament for you Brother Bobby! But we just talked to him and shared a scripture with him that led to another scripture that then let to yet another scripture and so on. Then after like 6 scriptures I put them all together for one super simple powerful message! And right after this he had a few friends/family show up and he let them in and said, "Sit down. These boys are warm!" and told us to continue! Not wanting to add even more scriptures to this already long line of scriptures we pretty much just reviewed everything and then left. The message really seemed to hit him hard though and help him out! He mentioned how powerful it was and how it really got him thinking about things! So that was sweet!

Well, I best be closing this puppy up! But I love y'all and hope y'all have a wonderful week as we get hot and heavy into this Christmas season! And if you haven't seen it already check out the secondary Christmas video! I'm sure everyone and their dog have seen the "A Savior is Born" but go to christmas.mormon.org and scroll down and watch "A World Without a Savior"! I think that it is way better than the other one and more powerful! Definitely gets you thinking! That has been the video that we've been sharing with people over the main video and have had a lot of good discussions with people about the topic!

 With all my love,
Elder Reed Ericson