October 17, 2016
Hello hello my wonderful friends and familia. Thank you for all of your prayers on my behalf lately. I know that there are many things in this world that y'all need to pray for that are far more important than me, but I definitely feel uplifted and strengthened by the Divine as he has reached out and blessed me as a result of your faithful prayers. So, thank you.
This past week was mostly just wonderful. I got frustrated a few times here and there about a couple things, but overall the Lord has been blessing me.
To start off, the highlight of my week was Mission Tour with Elder Keetch. The Lord surely answered some prayers with that. We had to go to the mission office to do something for a missionary that was going to be at the special mission leadership meeting with Elder Keetch on Sunday afternoon, so we decided to self-invite ourselves to the meeting as well. We had to leave after about an hour and a half, but that was plenty of time to be uplifted by the Spirit and have some prayers answered.
To start off the meeting President Heap just threw down on walking with the Lord and doing things his way. He taught out of Moses chapter 6 about Enoch. I honestly don't exaggerate when I say that President Heap is probably one of the most amazing gospel teachers in the world. I am honestly not exaggerating. I haven't talked to a single person that has been taught by him that would contradict that statement. Everything he teaches is just so powerful, clear, and just runs right into your spirit and heart and inspires you so much. So that was sweet. I don't really remember what Elder Keetch started off with but I remember something that really hit me in the feels. He said that Satan works so hard pushing you back from the front trying to keep you from being who you want/need to be, and then he will realize that you are making good progress and then he will flip around and start pushing you from the back and give you an unrealistic expectation of perfection that then pushes you way way too far forward. I just sat there and said quietly, "TRUE". Other than that I don't remember too much from that meeting.
We had to leave after about 30 mins of Elder Keetch to go to an appointment for our zone leaders. That was dramatic as well. But nothing worth noting. Just a very religious middle aged black lady ripping off questions about the church and our doctrine. I think I had too much fun. Anyway, we had our north half of the mission meeting on Tuesday. Tuesday was quite frankly one of the greatest days of my mission. Just a very special day. The meeting was so darn good. President Heap went off again about the missionary handbook and how it is a book full of life principles and promised tons of blessings for our life if we learn them. It was so intense. Once again, he just knows how to teach. It was an inspiration for me to keep up with living the Lord's principles when I get home that I have learned as a missionary. It’s interesting how the spirit teaches you to your needs. That instruction from him I'm sure taught many different things to every individual person. Elder Keetch was super awesome as well! I really really liked him!!! He is just a good guy and he said things that were clearly inspired because they were direct answers to prayers. Just a good guy.
He talked about some missionary work stuff, but then after lunch he just talked about how we are good and successful missionaries even when we don't think that we are. He shared the story of a man that he taught and baptized on his mission in Germany that was the only person that he baptized during his two years. He shared how he had stayed in touch with them for just a little bit but eventually lost contact and by the time he went home didn't even know if the man and his member wife were even active still. He said that his whole life that he sometimes questioned if his mission was successful or if he failed because of just one person getting in the water, but was strengthened by knowing that he did his very best. He said that it was hard for him to get emails from his son who served in Africa with huge groups of people getting baptized all the time. In fact, he said that one of his replies to his sons email one week was the simple 4 words, "Tyler, I hate you." But then he said his entire perspective changed during general conference last year. Elder Anderson gave a talk and talked about some people in Africa that were the beginners of the church in the Ivory Coast. They moved back to the Ivory Coast and started a Sunday School there, and now there are 8 stakes and 27,000 members in the country. The man who was a native to the country that moved back to start the church there..... of course was the man that he had baptized in Germany over the course of his mission. He said that he couldn't believe his ears when he heard Elder Anderson say their names. Elder Keetch said that he didn't even know if they were still active or not, yet they had started such a remarkable growth and the man is actually now serving as a temple president. It was dang good.
Anyway, I was doing good just enjoying mission tour, and then the closing hymn came along. I got wrecked. We sang "Press Forward, Saints" and that is one of my favorite hymns. Well, we started singing and I was all in until we got a couple lines in and the tears started coming. I stopped singing to get my emotions under control, but then all I heard was well over 100 missionaries singing so powerfully as I sat their quietly. I was just thinking about how great of a blessing it has been to be a missionary and to have the special association with so many amazing young people that I have grown to love so much through the service of the Lord. Well, that got me worse than singing. So I had to take an extra moment to get that part under control. I eventually started singing again softly, but once again my emotions prevailed. I had to stop and listen and go through the same process. Then I started singing again, and when I was defeated once again by my emotions once again there were only a few lines left, so I just listened. Oh man, I got wrecked. Those were my first tears.
Later on I was in the office waiting it out. I said goodbye to a few people most likely for the last time, but it wasn't bad at all. But I knew that I was going to have to give me last goodbye to my son, Elder Despain. Oh man, I was done for before the time even came. He eventually was ready to leave and we were in the office. So I just told him to come with me and we went to the relief society. We got in the room, the door shut, and we embraced each other. I started to cry a bit but just barely, but then he said in a sincere tone that I've never heard come out of his mouth, "I love you." That got me for good right there and then we had some private exchanging of words and just stood there for a bit hugging each other. We eventually un-embraced and looked at each other with teary eyes and said our final words before I walked out the door in front of him and forced myself to not look back. I walked through a group of people, mostly sisters to get right back into the office which was filled with a bunch of sister missionaries........ and I remind you that I still have tears streaming down my face. I got a few "Awwww!" and some other female reactions. I didn't know where to go so I walked into my vehicle office which had a bunch of elders in it. So I stood there in the corner for a second before feeling too weird and walked back to the doorway of that room. As I stood there I was still obviously recovering, and some sister asked "Awww! Did you just say goodbye to a companion?" So I just shook my head and said "yeah" as they all looked at me all sentimentally. It was weird, but I kinda liked it. Not gonna lie. Later some sisters brought it up again and said that they actually were walking outside with Elder Despain right after we said goodbye and they asked what was going on and he told them, and the sisters told me what he had said about me and I would have been a goner again but I kept my cool this time. Man, I love that kid. It’s been incredible to see how far he's come. I love him just as if he was my real son. Ok, that's probably a lie, but I have no clue what having a child is like so I have nothing to compare to. Anyway, some other good stuff happened but I have already said enough.
The office life kinda blew this week. It has been weird handing everything off to someone else. I don't have too much to say. Nevermind, I do. Mission Tour was super good for me to recognize how much I have actually enjoyed that assignment. I was able to meet a number of people that I had talked to a number of times on the phone but never actually met. That was really fun. It was fun to just see how much I have actually done in service through my assignment. I gained a different perspective on it. It was just fun to see all the small relationships that I was able to gain because of everything. I don't know how else to describe it all. There is more to say but I don't know how to say it. It was good.
Anyway, the other days on the office were different. The Cayton's were here all week so we've been getting them up to speed. It has been difficult to give up everything that I have worked on. It’s hard knowing that many things I did are now in the hands of someone else. Plus, I basically chime in and show Elder Cayton things here and there and just dink around the rest of the time. I go and talk to Sister Byington (secretary) or Elder Byington (finance) and just have a chat with them. I occasionally sit out in the main office lobby type deal in a chair and read something before being interrupted by someone. I even moved it to the floor for a couple of naps when things got slow. Its been fun. Elder Hawes has been working all day with Sister Cayton, but I haven't had to work as much with Elder Cayton. But I have to be there because Elder Hawes has to be there. But I have certainly enjoyed the Byington's company the last week. They are some of the funniest people ever! You would never guess it, but they are crack ups! They live in Logan and they said that they want to have me and others over for dinner on Sundays! I'm totally down.
Last Saturday we went out to The Shack BBQ. Holy cow, that place is packed on Saturdays. But as we were rolling through the parking lot I saw some people getting into a car with an Idaho license plate, so I rolled down the window and asked where they were from. They are from Twin Falls and turns out they were in town so that one of their kids could get baptized with their cousin who lived here in Lubbock! We talked to them for a minute, went and parked the car, and then on our way in there was the whole crew there waiting to talk to us and take our picture. I was kinda weirded out. Yo, I'm a missionary, not a celebrity. Anyway, they were all super nice and friendly and we talked to them for a few minutes before I shewed them off and we went inside. I was kind of ticked that they didn't pay for us to eat, what kind of a member of the church are you? You take pictures of the missionaries outside the place and treat them like celebs but you don't pay for their meal????????!!!!!!!!!! COME ON!!!! Totally kidding, but for reals I was a little confused about that. But as I stepped up to the counter to order my meat some random dude walked up from his table, slapped his card on the counter, and said "these guys are on me" and then walked off back to his table. He cleaned up his table, came and signed the receipt, shook our hands, and peaced out the door. Didn't get his name or nothing. God bless that man! Anyway, I know you are more concerned about how the meat was. I got pork ribs, fatty brisket, and jalapeno cheese sausage. I was a little disappointing this time around. I guess I just have a very high standard of barbecue these days. People say that The Shack is the best place in town. But I've had better at Blackland Smokehouse. The Shack has very very very tender meat, but I just didn't get the same explosion of flavor in my mouth like I do with Blackland Smokehouse. Oh well, life is rough.
Wow, I feel like I've been typing forever. I should probably get done here soon. We worked on Saturday in the afternoon. It was the first time I've done missionary work before like 6:00pm in like 2 months. It was pretty sweet. We should get out this coming week a bunch, so I should be able to finish off tearing the streets of Lubbock up! Let's go!!!! I love knocking so much these days, so we will probably just be knocking when we aren't doing service or anything. Heck yeah. One funny story that I won't tell in detail, I threw down on a guy that pretended to not speak much English, and told us that in his perfect English. I said it very nicely, but I basically called him out on it and told him that I knew that he spoke English. He seemed to take it well. I ain't taking people's terrible excuses anymore. Oh man, I decided to finally go for it, and I think it went well.
Well everyone, I really need to close this unit up. I love y'all and thank you for everything! I absolutely love the Lord and his gospel and am so thankful to be called to serve in the Texas Lubbock Mission! May God bless us as we press forward in this world of commotion! Press Forward, Saints!!!
God bless ya!
Elder Reed Fuller Ericson