Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Memories of a Lifetime

January 25, 2016
Well hello my good friends and family! What a week last week was! We had a lot of wonderful/interesting things happen!

I'm just going to start towards the beginning of the week and unfold it all unto you. It all started on Wednesday with a world-wide missionary broadcast. They wanted to make an emphasis on teaching repentance and baptizing converts. It was a pretty good broadcast. A couple of the speakers/instructions were real good and some others were literally just quoting Preach My Gospel in different words. Overall though it got me pumped to go do some work. I love the emphasis on teaching repentance! It has been sweet to see the impact that emphasizing teaching that principle has! So that was a cool event. They said that there hadn't been one for 20 years or something like that. So they don't happen every day!

On Thursday we were out doing our thing on the bikes when a fire rescue truck came tearing around the corner and went shooting down the street the opposite way that we were headed. I looked back and saw some smoke rising, so naturally we followed the truck down the road to the flames! Turns out, two houses caught fire and were in the process of getting scorched. They were two small houses on a street that all the houses are like 8 feet away from each other. The inside half of the houses were getting burned real bad, however the outside halves were terribly scorched. It was pretty crazy though. They had like the entire fire department there and a number of police cars and everything. We observed for quite some time. I think it was a good 45 minutes before we left. Tons of people from around the neighborhood were out watching the action as well so I talked to a few neighbors and others about the situation. It was crazy watching the home-owners show up. Holy cow. Only one of the home's owners showed up however. He rolled up and parked on the side of the perpendicular street and came running into the area. It is an interesting experience to witness watching a home-owner get a glimpse of his house in flames. His wife showed up a few minutes later and her reaction was the same. However they did pretty dang good. They were only really worried about the dog and he got out and was fine. They said that everything else is replaceable. They were two cool cats though! They were a young couple in their mid-20's and were total champs about the whole thing. I was standing there probably 40 feet of so from the dude and something went crashing hard from the ceiling to the ground in the garage and we just looked at each other and he said, with a smile and a laugh, "That can't be good!". Dang, they would make such dang good members of the church. I couldn't stop thinking about them all day! They seemed so cool! But yeah, that was intense.

We did some wicked service on Saturday morning! We started off with helping an old lady move out of her assisted living apartment with members of the Elder's Quorum. We made quick work of it. Somehow she had tons of stuff in that apartment! We filled and entire medium sized uhaul truck full of her stuff! and then after that we went out with four other sets of missionaries and helped clean up around the house of this family who some members know! We thought that we were going to show up with tons of us and not have much work to do, but all 10 missionaries, and also 6 other members worked worked worked for two straight hours and definitely did some dang good work, but there is still plenty to be done! It was some good service though. The man I believe had a stroke a couple years back and so the once beautiful home and yard is just totally trash now because he just can't keep up with it. So sad. But hopefully our service can be a start to get it back to its original state!

And then the crowning even of the week was Mac's baptism! Holy cow! I don't even know where to start with all this. I guess I will start off by saying that the entire chapel was filled with people! I will probably never see anything like that ever again in my life! Mac showed up and looked wonderful and beaming although he admitted that he felt "a little nervous" with a laugh along with the phrase. But he was a champ! We acted as the witnesses and that was super stressful. It didn't look like the crown of his head was going to get under, but then right at the last second a ripple of water went right over the top and slicked his hair. I asked the people looking in the mirror what they thought and they said to do it again. So we had them doing it again just to make sure. No biggy. Sis McMunn got a good laugh out of him doing it twice! I don't even know how everyone got into the relief society room to see it..... they were packed in there! I was doing pretty well emotionally the whole time. Watching Mac walk into the water almost got me but the huge crowd of people mobbing in kind of ruined the moment. And then after hugging Sis McMunn walking back into the chapel I nearly lost it. I had a few tears coming out walking through the chapel back to my seat. And then the rest of the service was an emotional one just pondering the significance of the event and being humbled that the Lord used me as his vessel to help Mac get to that day. I keep on saying that we did nothing as missionaries. However, what the Lord did through us was of much significance. Everything that took Mac from where he was when I got here to Saturday was 100% the Lord. And it was an incredibly humbling experience to ponder over that and wonder why the Lord used me to do it. There are better missionaries out there, missionaries more qualified than me to take on Mac, but for some reason the Lord used me. Crazy. My experience with Mac will be one to never forget. I am sure that experience will link me (and other missionaries) to him and his family for eternity! At least that's what Sis McMunn says.

Well its time for me to close for the day. I love y'all and hope that the good Lord continues to bless us all in this wonderful life we get to live! God bless ya!

Elder Reed Ericson

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Theme for the week: I'm Tired

January 19, 2016

Hello my good friends! A little bit of a change of scenery this week emailing on Tuesday instead of Monday. It seems like this country loves to have national holidays on Mondays. That's just one of many interesting things we do here in America. That along with the use of inches, feet, yards, miles, pounds, fahrenheit..... just to name a few. I am still confused to this day why we do all that dumb stuff. But, its the world we live in and their ain't no changing it. Maybe the gospel can change it. Idk, we shall see what the Millennium has in store for us. Fingers crossed that we use the metric system.

Anyway, this week was just a big week of Elder Ericson being tired. Holy cannolie. I don't really know what happened. I didn't feel top notch for a few days and that really seemed to throw my sleep patterns off quite a bit. I didn't even really get super sick or anything. I just had a little bit of a stuffy nose, and it wasn't even that bad. But it sure threw me for a loop. I have been really working on having good preparation in the mornings and that didn't happen at all this past week and personal study was me sitting there dozing off for a good 45 minutes. And then comp study consisted of reading 3 pages from the white handbook and then eventually me going to lay down for a little nap in my bed. But, I survived. I call Elder Stringham every Monday to account for my efforts on my visions/goals/plans and last night I got to tell him all about failing every day for the past week. But, we got each other pumped up to straight kill it every single day this coming week and even have a mid-week accounting on Thursday. And so far I am 1/1 for the week! I went to work this morning and did real good.... until the last 15 minutes of personal study... but I'll get through it by the end of the week! And when we both go 7/7, "We're making waffles!" (in Donkey's voice from Shrek). But since we don't have waffle makers we are just going to make pancakes and let each other know how it goes with them. So, stay tuned to hear about my pancakes next week!

We had a pretty sweet Zone Conference on Thursday in Abilene. The leaders of the church realize that the reason why most people go inactive after they are baptized is because they weren't fully repented before they were baptized. And they realize that Preach My Gospel has little to nothing about teaching repentance, so we are having a world-wide missionary broadcast tomorrow to hear about that. And in preparation for that we had a killer zone conference about repentance! Elder Stringham instructed about the "culture of the mission" and how we are going to change our mission culture to "teaching repentance". Good stuff there. I don't think he was planning on using his "culture of the mission" instruction to put an emphasis on teaching repentance, but he made it work. And then usually President Heap has a little more than an hour for his instructions and sometimes an hour and a half, and he said that he had an hour and a half worth of material... but he went over two hours I believe with a killer instruction about repentance! His style of teaching us isn't to teach us how we need to teach repentance to other people or whatever the topic may be. What he does is he teaches us the doctrine and principles of the topic to increase our knowledge of it and help us apply it ourselves, and then in turn have us be better able to teach it to others. So he gave a killer big long instruction about repentance to help us understand it better for ourselves and become more converted to the process of repentance, and then as we continue to study it and learn repentance more fully for ourselves we will be better be able to help others repent. I think his style is genius. I think a lot of leaders would teach us how we need to teach repentance to others and how we can incorporate it into our teaching, but all he did was help us have a better understanding for ourselves. Ultimately I think it is a much better approach because "faking it until you make it" doesn't work effectively. He has done it time and time again with the Book of Mormon, the sacrament, and other topics. And I have greatly improved my ability to teach those topics to others because of I have gained stronger testimony for myself through his instructions and then applying what he teaches us. Good man he is!

Mac is all ready to be baptized on Saturday! We were able to have a sweet visit with him on Saturday and we continued our reading and also were able to talk about the sacrament, repentance, and the baptismal covenant. Sis McMunn told us that he seemed to greatly appreciate learning more about the sacrament and apparently he is excited to be able to take it with his baptismal covenant! And we were able to teach him some sweet stuff about the sacrament because of good ol' President Heap and applying to ourselves the things he taught us about the sacrament! Perfect example. Anyway, Mac had his interview on Sunday and is good to go with that. Sis McMunn texted us last night and said that she thinks that he is getting excited, and so I responded "He would never admit it... but he is!" in which I got the response, "You have gotten to know my man so well"! hahaha Mac seems to not have any emotions about his baptism, but its so there underneath his stubbornness!

Now for a fun story about the people of the world and how ridiculous they are. On the way to the McMunn's on Thursday we stopped to talk to this man. He is a Vietnam vet and a retired psychologist. Long story short, for about 15 minutes of conversation I wasn't able to get through any of my thoughts and explain things like I wanted to because this man kept cutting me off. And then, right at the end, we both started talking at the same time but I decided I was finally going to get my word in so I just kept talking and got my word in. And of course, this dude responds, "Well see now you're just pissing me off! You need to learn to listen to people and not cut people off. The most important person is who you are talking to, and you seem to be more worried about what you have to say that what I have to say." Ok sir. You are right. I apologize for politely letting you cut me off for the last 15 minutes and asking you questions that were all about you and nothing about me and letting you talk and talk and talk only to get told that I need to not cut you off and spend more time listening to you. I apologize from the deepest vessel of my heart. I truly do. Because that was just wrong of me. It truly was. Hmmmm.... people these days. But in all reality I got a good laugh out of it!

Well my good friends. It is time for me to bade you farewell! I love y'all and thank you for all the love, support, and prayers on my behalf! Hold to the iron rod! The fruit of the tree of life is too delicious to not partake of!

Much Love,
Elder Reed Ericson

Monday, January 11, 2016

Is This Really Happening?!!!!!

January 11, 2016

Hello my good friends and family! What a CRAZY week this past week was! And it was really only made CRAZY by one thing... but that one thing is worth a lot of CRAZYNESS!!!!!!

MAC MCMUNN IS GETTING BAPTIZED ON THE 23RD OF JANUARY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I kid you not!!! Now, y'all probably don't have a clue how big of a deal this is, but let me allow you to understand a little more. So, lets go back to basics and cover the Mac story. Mac is 81 years old. He married his wife, who is a member, when he was 29 years old. If you do the math, that technically makes Mac a 52 year investigator! He went to church off and on with his wife throughout the years, including paying tithing and all that fun stuff for many of those years. But, he would never get baptized. About two years ago a very bold sister missionary decided she was going to get on Mac's case in accordance to the plan Mac's wife gave her. So at dinner one night the sister asked, "What's your problem, Mac?" in a very bold, confrontational way (from what I've heard). Well, Mac met with the sisters for quite a while but never would get baptized no matter how close the sisters claimed he was on the teaching records. Well, they put elders in the area and Mac stopped meeting with the missionaries for a time. Three months before I got here two elders white-washed into the area and started to visit with Mac and try to get him moving along. In the last two months since I've been here we have made some serious progress with Mac. And by "we" I mean the Lord. After a couple BOLD lessons in which we really threw at him the principle of being baptized with faith that it "could be true", he felt pressured by us and his wife. It was a good thing, because it really made his think seriously about it all. But we decided that we needed to back off a little bit and let him breath.
So for the last couple weeks we have just been reading the Book of Mormon with him and help him understand everything and learn principles from what we read. Last Thursday we had a typical visit with him in which we read and he was still on his, "I guess I'll be baptized........ but I need answers before I do it!" type of comment making. Typical Mac. Teasing us with excitement, and then crushing our souls down to the floor. We returned on Saturday for another visit and something happened between Thursday afternoon and Saturday afternoon! He said that he didn't receive the answer that he's been looking for for all these years, and he didn't say why or what changed his mind. But he said that after all these years he might as well just do it! So I sat there waiting for his typical follow-up comment that crushes my soul. But he just sat there for like 10 seconds staring at his wife while not a single heart was beating in the room, and then he just said, "I guess". Holy cow!!!!!!!! I never thought that I would be so insanely excited and surprised to hear the two words "I guess" in my life! So he told us that we can go ahead and start planning everything for his service and get an interview scheduled for him! HOLY COW!!!!! I STILL CAN'T BELIEVE WHAT IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW!!!!! They say that the chapel could legitimately be completely filled with people for his service. I am literally basically shaking right now typing this because I think its finally hitting me that its happening. Oh my gosh. I am so incredibly jacked about life right now!

Along with this all. I have had many feelings of inadequacy the last couple days. I question why God allows me to be a part of such amazing profound experiences in the lives of others. I have been thinking back to my time teaching Mark in Odessa and the experience that we all had witnessing his once in a lifetime baptism. And now my experience with Mac. I don't know why God allows ME, an average 20 year old boy from Kuna, Idaho, to be a part of something so spectacular and eternally significant. I don't know why he sent me to Odessa when he did. And I don't know why he sent me to San Angelo when I did. He very easily could have sent someone else more qualified to teach these people and be a witness of their first step of covenant making. But for some reason that I know I will be eternally thankful for, he sent me, Elder Ericson. Maybe I will learn one day why it was me, but for now I am content with being thankful for the unknown!

On top of all this, I have been getting to be a softy the last week or two. I have had multiple times that I have been reading something in the Book of Mormon and almost started crying after reading something that didn't even seem to be significant at all. Its been weird. I've just been getting hit with these walls of spiritual emotion. Even writing in my journal has become more difficult to make it through while trying to stay manly. I don't know what's going on. But I like it! Hahaha I am saying that in my head quoting Elder Nebeker.... which you obviously weren't there for so I am probably the only one laughing right now. Oh golly, I totally just ruined this whole paragraph by adding in what is going on in my world at this very moment. Oh well. All in all, I think its all just a result of a rapidly growing testimony. I don't know how it just keeps on growing and growing, and then after over 14 months of steady constant growth it just has a huge splurge of growth. Doesn't make sense. "But I like it!"

Other than good ol' Mac..... we had a sick week all lined up but we had some cancelled appointments with some solid people, so some things that would have made this past week even better fell through. But, the whole "Mac is getting baptized for real" thing was enough for me to just be amped about life.

Other than that fun bunch of information I don't have much else for y'all. Oh yeah, I totally do. I have added very nicely to my road-kill picture collection. I added another possum, my first raccoon, and my first three deer! Yes, you heard that right! My first THREE deer!!!!! All in the span of about 5 minutes! There was a stretch of road with just fields to the side on the edge of the city that was a total goldmine for dead deer!

Now that I've ended this on an extremely disgusting note, I will discontinue telling y'all about my road kill excitement and leave y'all with a few nice words! I LOVE YOU! It truly is a wonderful life that we have the opportunity to enjoy and I hope and pray that y'all will have a particularly wonderful week!

With much love,
Elder Reed Ericson

Monday, January 4, 2016

Beast Week!

January 4, 2016
Hola mi familia y amigos! I have been on an espanol tear the last few days so bear with me. I may throw in some good ol' Tex-Mex into this email to spice things up a little!

So, as you probably don't remember from last week, this week was just a waiting game. Transfers were supposed to be on Tuesday but because of the storm the said that they were hoping to get them done by Friday. Then they changed it to Tuesday (tomorrow), and then changed it to Saturday. It seemed like every day we were getting a text telling us a new plan. So they ACTUALLY happened on Saturday! We basically had our 7 week transfer last transfer however last week was considered Week 1 of this current transfer which will be the 7 week transfer. So we are a week in already even though we spent week 1 with our old companions/areas and still have another 6 weeks ahead of us. So that's the situation down here. Anyway, while a lot of the mission didn't get out of their apartments until Thursday or Friday we went out and worked in pleasant weather all week! It was a little chilly at times but I went out without a sweater a time or two! Rock on, San Angelo! And kid you not, I taught more lessons this past week than any other week of my mission! Ok, that's a lie. I've taught the same amount of lessons twice before. Once in Odessa and once in Sweetwater. And if you're wondering what this staggering number is, don't get some crazy number in your head. A lot of missionaries would consider it a bad week for them, but it was dynamite for West Texas! We taught 10 lessons!!!!!!! Holy cow! It was the craziest thing ever! This was literally the third time in over 14 months of serving and laboring here in West Texas that I have taught double digit lessons! One thing that not being a high numbers mission does for you is that it really teaches you that it is NOT about the numbers. Like, I don't give a hoot what my numbers look like. I care about the service that I put into trying to help others! So, 10 lessons really isn't a big deal.... but still. Heck yeah. It was interesting though, because I was pretty checked out for most of the week, not gonna lie. When the transfer is supposed to be over and a new one is supposed to start, but it basically hasn't, you just kinda start checking out. So, the week in all reality was kind of a struggle, but we did some good work.

On Saturday I had the privilege of making the trek up to Abilene so that I could be the designated driver for Elder Christensen (who doesn't have a TiWi card) and Elder Ramos (from the Dominican Republic and has no drivers liscence). That was a sweet trip! That drive between San Angelo and Abilene is probably the best looking drive between two cities in the entire mission! You drive through lots of rolling hills and there are lots of trees along the road that quite honestly make me extremely claustrophobic after getting used to driving through barren land. There are more trees in San Angelo than anywhere I've had before, but its not like its a lush forest. Most of the main roads and the loop have no trees along them. Its mostly just the neighborhoods. So, taking a long drive through rolling hills with trees on both sides of you really throws you for a loop! But I enjoy it every time! We were waiting in Abilene for like 45 minutes at the church and they had a couple baptisms going on one right after the other. But, this wasn't your normal baptism. The baptismal font looked like it was filled with coffee. Like, it was straight brown. So gross. Apparently there was some flooding that messed up the water system or whatever it was and it caused the water that filled the baptismal font to be legit brown. You couldn't even see the bottom of the tank it was so dark. Ewwwwwww YUCKY. Anyway, the trip was fun all in all. I got to chill with Elder Christensen for like 6 hours in total. He's a funny guy. And its quite funny because his Spanish still stinks and his new comp doesn't speak very good English so its just a jolly good time with them! And then after being with them all day my new comp, Elder Andrus, arrived. Pretty sweet day. Oh yeah, when I was with Christensen and Ramos killing time until my comp got here we stopped by my good friend Hector's house to visit him. Holy cow, he was drunk alright and I was dying laughing for 15 minutes. And when he's drunk and we talk to him about anything spiritual he gets hit by the spirit insanely hard. Whether its actually the spirit or not is questionable. Highly questionable at that. But he just stomps his feet and grabs the table and says "Whoa! That's beautiful! Just beautiful!" Hahahaha its a good time! And then as I said the closing prayer I heard him move so I looked up and he was leaned forward and threw his hands in the air and had his eyes closed with the funniest look on his face! Oh my goodness.... he is a nutcase! So funny! But he is definitely one that you have to visit before lunch time or he is too drunk to even have a productive visit with. But then again, he'll give you a good time if he is drunk. So you win some and you lose some either way.

We picked up a LEGIT new investigator this week! He has been taught a few times before and was nearly baptized but things just happen each time. His name is Andrew. He is 24 years old a just a straight homie. He called us up on Friday morning and said that he had a really bad (sinful) night the night before, which was New Years Eve, and that he was ready to change his life and go the whole way this time. Having visited with him a couple times now he has really had a lot of experience with learning and growing through experiences through the Atonement. He is just straight legit. And he remembers almost everything from being taught before so after teaching him the restoration last night, he asked if we could teach the Law of Chastity the next time we came! Hahaha so I am pretty hyped to teach the Law of Chastity for like the second or third time on my mission to my good friend Andrew! Mac is still getting along. He set the date himself of January 23rd to be baptized. So we're just hoping and praying that the Lord gives him what he's looking for by then. Our good and old friend Sam has been interesting lately. We've had some pretty interesting visits to his place. But he really wants help understanding repentance and also he wants to quit smoking so we are planning to help him with that. So all in all, we've got some sweet people and some interesting people right now. We shall see how it all plays out!

We had some bomb food this past week as well. On Monday we had some bomb beef stroganoff! Holy cow! Usually that stuff is "eh" but this stuff was divine! Not your typical beef stroganoff! And then on Thursday we had some bomb roasted ham & cheese sliders on King Hawaiian rolls doused with butter. Holy camolie. I think I was on the verge of heart attack but I ain't even mad about it and don't regret it one bit!

Also, one last note. Thank you to all of you that sent me birthday/Christmas cards! It was much appreciated and I felt so much love during the Christmas season from friends and family! I don't have the time to thank everyone individually, but this is my mass thank you note to all!

I love y'all and hope y'alls new year starts off with a bang! Hold strong to the iron rod and press forward with steadfastness in Christ and let his grace change you this year!

Lots of Love,
Elder Reed Ericson