Wednesday, December 28, 2011

December 26,2011

Dear Family,

I have had a lot of spiritual experiences on my mission, but I'll try to give you a couple...  I don't have a whole lot of time.  My companion's name is Elder Vilorio.  He is from Honduras.

About 4 weeks into my mission I was still writing Chelsey, Ana, and Caitlin and I realized that it was honestly distracting me from the work.  I would write them and then I would think about what I wrote for a couple of days after and then a couple of days before Preparation Day, I would think about what I was going to write...  It was just distracting me.  One day during companionship study, we read the part of our call letter that says to "leave all personal affairs behind" so after a lot of prayer and thought, I decided that I should probably stop writing them, so I did about a week later.  The day that I wrote those three letters, I was so sad and just didn't want to send them, but then I did.  Later that day we were driving in the car and somebody called us that we had never heard of in our lives.  He told us that he had been talking to the missionaries somewhere else and that he wanted to get baptized.  We taught him for a while and I think he was baptized later, but I left before I could  figure that out.  That night I had kind of a vision in my mind of where we could find our next investigator, so we went to that place and the lady I pictured in my mind answered the door.  The next morning we went tracting in the flea market and the very last lady that i talked to was baptized 3 weeks later.  It really is true that "sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven."

I have always known that the church is true, but not until I was in the MTC had I realized that the Book of Mormon tells us to read and pray to know if it is true, which is all that I tell people now.  It has always made so much sense to me that Joseph Smith was a prophet, but I hadn't ever actually prayed to ask Heavenly Father if it was true.  I was just about to finish the Book of Mormon and I still wasn't 100% sure without a doubt that all of it was true, so while I was in the MTC I prayed harder and probably more sincere than I ever had up to that point in my life.  About a week later, I was reading in the Joseph Smith History and I can't even begin to tell you about the wave of emotion that came over me as I read verse 12.  Some Elders in my district started to watch the Restoration and I felt that same feeling again during that movie and that night we talked about the prophet in District Meeting and the movie that we watched in the auditorium was Prophet of the Restoration.  Every one of those things that happened all in one day on top of the huge amount of the spirit that I felt was enough to know that was an answer from God.  Ever since I have come to know that the Book of Mormon is true, I have grown more spiritually than in the rest of my life put together.  It is a part of my testimony that I have of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and it is one of my slivers of perfect faith.  

When i found out that I had Chron's Disease I was told that I needed to go into a follow-up appointment a week later so I did and when I was there the Doctor asked me where I wanted to go on my mission when I had already been told I was almost assuredly going stateside.  I told him Mexico, obviously, and he said, "Then let's send you off to Mexico."  I was so happy and excited I couldn't contain myself when he left the room.  I then got this horrible pit in my stomach and realized that it might not be what the Lord has in mind for me to go to Cuernavaca and I just felt like it wasn't where I was going and then when I was pretty much humbled by the Spirit, I felt the biggest sense of peace in knowing that I was probably going to the States anyway.  I know that I am supposed to be in Jacksonville, even though my whole district is in Mexico.  

I really do have a lot of spiritual experiences that have happened on my mission, but I am seriously just drawing a blank it feels.  I hope that those are good enough and that you can change up the wording or something so that it will sound better than I put it.  I love you a lot and it really was great talking to you yesterday.  

Elder Eric Austin Moore
507 NW 39th Rd. Apt. 216
Gainesville, FL 32607



Saturday, December 24, 2011

December 19, 2011

Dear Family,

This week was wonderful.  I can't even begin to describe to you how great the mission conference was.  It was still so nice to see all of those missionaries in one place.  I just think it's something to do with the fact that we all have the same purpose in doing nothing but helping others that makes us all get along so well.  The entire mission came to Orange Park on Thursday and we had dinner, a talent show, and a Christmas devotional.  The talent show ended before we got up to perform "Mary, Did You Know?" and it made us really ad, but then we ended up doing it as a part of the devotional, which was even better.  We sang a couple of songs and listened to the Nativity and then heard the testimonies of the departing Elders and some other people and then President and Sister Barry got up and did a little skit about Mary and Joseph...  Holy SMOKES I could not believe how powerful the spirit was when we left.  They did a part from this play that the church put out of a "recreation" of what might have been said between Mary and Joseph as a betrothed couple when the angel visited Mary and told her that she would give birth to the creator of the universe...  could you even imagine the person effect it had on them?  Crazy...

So anyway, I'm going to play an organ solo at the next zone conference, but guess what? 


It feels like I just got here, and it's kind of sad that it has to be just a few days before Christmas, but I got a call on Saturday night that I am getting sent away from Orange Park this Wednesday!  It's always right when you feel that you are getting the hang of things that they switch you out of your calling, or your area, or whatever other thing.  I guess the reason why we are here though is to progress...  Elder Jones and I have been working a lot on our unity as a companionship and I have felt a lot more love for the people we teach lately because of it.  Adriana still needs to find a new job, but I know that she understands why baptism is so important and why she should be out looking for another job.  We set a baptismal date with a young man named Omar last night, after a long time of teaching him...  He we will baptized on the 1st of January.  I can't even believe that is happening, right when I leave!  We read him all of the baptismal interview questions and he saw it as a checklist of things he is going to be living 100% within the next few weeks.  We found 5 new investigators and they are all wonderful.  I think that the Christmas season is really getting me excited to just talk to every single person in the entire world about the great message we have to share with them!  

I am so proud of Dad and of our ward.  I am confident that you will see baptisms as you just keep pushing through the trails of your faith.  Something interesting that President Barry told me to try to do this week is to pray to know that there are people out there waiting for the gospel that I am going to talk to today or this month.  When you receive an answer that there are, imagine how much more you are going to want to find that person or those people!  Just have the faith to find and you will find people to help out.  If you didn't know, 80% of the people that talk to missionaries on and are referred to the real-life missionaries are baptized.  EIGHTY.  Just share that website with the world!  Watch the videos and show them to people.  They might spark some interest!

I am so happy that everyone is going to be there to talk to, but I was told in the president's letter this week that I can only talk for 40 minutes!  That seems really short, but I guess it's what the Lord wants...  Thank you for sending all of those pictures.  I cannot believe how adorable all of my nieces are.  Let them know how much I love them and miss them so I'm not some stranger when I come back!  

I'm pretty sure that I'll be able to set everything up with you before I call, so don't worry too much about that.  I need to get a buzz-cut...  :)  I am still planning on going to BYU, even though I feel like it is going to take a 4.0 GPA from now on to get into any sort of graduate school.  Oh well I don't have to worry about that for another year and a half!  You are right by the way...  Time really is flying.  Let Hannah know that if she doesn't get into the music program at BYU that she can always just go there and keep getting better until she does make it in.  I think she is sitting pretty with a 30 and a 3.7 though!  I didn't realize how well she did on the ACT!  I don't remember telling Todd I was thinking about going to Utah State, but I might have.  I just really think that I have come to realize that I'm a COUGAR!  :D  

I'm so excited to talk to you and not sure if I answered all of your questions, but I will have more time to do so on Sunday!  I love you all SOO much and I hope that you have a wonderful time with the family this Christmas.  Let them all know how much I love them too.  I'll send pictures soon and I will send you my new address as soon as I can.



Saturday, December 17, 2011

December 12, 2011

Dear Family,

This week was wonderful!  Adriana is progressing so much and it is so wonderful to see someone completely understand what we are saying and accept the fact that our church is not just a place of worship, but a lifestyle set by the example of Christ.  We taught her a little bit about obedience and the Sabbath Day and she told us that she would come to church, but her boss is not going to let her get work off, even for a little bit on Sundays.  She works in unloading at Sam's and tells us all the time how much she doesn't like it and how awful her hours are...  We are just praying that she gets her dream job working in a school so she can have the same hours as her daughter and have a normal family life again.  She is so great and really just the perfect example of hard working and how having a positive attitude always makes things so much better.  She is from Colombia and is really funny and outgoing and has this little almost squeaky high voice.  She loves having us over as far as I can tell, and she completely believes in everything we tell her.  Pray for her to get a better job with Sundays free!

We spoke with a Guatemalan named Mateo about 4 weeks ago and he really knows his Bible verses.  He didn't seem very interested in coming to church or anything, so we just gave him some stuff to read and told him to call if he was interested.  Just a few days ago we went back to see someone else that lives in the same house and he answered the door and talked with us for a little bit and ended up inviting him to church.  He told us that he would do it, almost out of spite it seems, but he ended up coming is the important thing!  He got so much fellowshipping and love from every Hispanic member in church it was crazy!  We have been working and working this week to try to get at least one person to church, and we were so happy to see how well that worked out.  We will be visiting him again this week, so pray that he was impressed by the spirit he FOR SURE felt there.

There's an Elder in my Zone named Elder Bishop from American Fork and he knows Aaron Ingersoll.  I was talking to him about him the other week and he told me that he didn't think that Aaron was going, but that is such great news to hear!  I just wish that every new missionary could see a little preview of what they will learn and just have a little comprehension of how much they will grow in such a short amount of time.  Wish Jordan luck for me.  That's terrible that he has to go back to the MTC.  It was great, but I couldn't do it twice.  You remember my MTC experience... It was full of a lot of Drama, but you're right, in the end I still loved it.

This week we have a Christmas Devotional and Talent Show on Thursday.  I have been trying to learn this Organ piece called "O Divine Redeemer," but I don't think I'll have it ready by Thursday, so I probably won't be playing.  I am accompanying the Sisters in "Mary Did You Know" and singing "Away in a Manger" and "Who is He in Yonder Stall," so my talents aren't going to waste.  It should be great.  I think that the piano and the organ are wonderful, but I really only get time to play them on Monday and sometimes at meetings, so I'm still pretty excited to go on a practice spree when I get home.  

Please send me a CD with Hannah singing on it.  That would be the best thing ever.  I LOVED the package you sent.  It's strange because last week in my e-mail I was thinking about asking you for ideas on what I could do special for Christmas.  I'm excited to go caroling and make cookies to take to people in the next couple weeks.  Let Sister Bartlett know shes great.  And so are YOU.

It sounds like always you are staying busy and having a great time.  Keep up the good work and I'll talk to you in a week :)



Orange Park Pictures

Elder Moore and Elder Jones made this driveway!  

Sunday, December 4, 2011

December 5, 2011

Dear Mom,

Thank you so much for that wonderful e-mail!  I love reading about everything that's going on, and I'm becoming a pretty quick reader, so no worries about making them TOO LONG!  

I don't know if you remember, but Elder Jones is from the Savannah Zone...  He knows all about that area and he said that where he was  there was a lot of Ghetto and kinda freaky things, but actual Savannah is beautiful.  He told me about how he used to go around on P-day and look at all of the sights and go into shops and everything I'm sure you were doing.  It still just weirds me out to think that if you had seen missionaries in Savannah that they would have been missionaries from my mission...  And that you were only like 2 hours away from where I am right now.  

The Orange Park 2nd ward is still trying to get over this change in bishopric, but what can you do.  I think that some things only come with time, but we did get out to see a couple of people this week with some of the English members, actually...  It was interesting going over to teach Adriana with her English neighbor that served his mission in Portugal, but really successful.  She is great!  She is from Colombia and used to live in OK and attend church over there, but with time let work take over her Sunday mornings...  Her husband is a less-active member that changed his "look" after he stopped going to church, so he claims that's the reason why he doesn't want to come back, but once we get him feeling good about coming, Adriana will be baptized.  We set up a date for her to be baptized this weekend on Monday, but when we said it we didn't realize how soon December was, so we'll probably push it back so she can come to church a few times before.  

I think that this week our investigators were avoiding us a bit, but I think it's because it was Thanksgiving break and they wanted to be with their families or WHATEVER haha...  So we didn't get to see a lot of the people we are usually teaching, but they are still there.  Jose told us to call him this week, and as far as we know he is still reading in his Book of Mormon.  He told us the last time we went over there that he believes the church is true, so that's good.  Haha!  Jazmely and Patricio, a couple from New York, went back up to New York on Friday to pick up their son and bring him back here.  They told us to call them tonight to come over and visit and it's gonna be great!  Elder Garnica and I actually started teaching them and they both told us that they need to get baptized, but didn't want to do it until they were settled in and had their baby with them, so now that they are on their way back with him, they have NO EXCUSES!  They are so wonderful...  We went over and taught them about the Law of Chastity and the next week they were out looking for rings.  I think that there is a great miracle coming up in regards to them :)

The camping trip was fantastic!  We didn't do any missionary work that day, sadly, but it was still so much fun!  We drove out there with a member, Elizabeth, and then played games for a while, took some pictures, and then ate the BEST food ever.  They made turkey and ham in a smoker overnight and it was so delicious.  There were so many different foods from so many different cultures and the Willis family even made Elder Jones and my favorite berry pie!  We closed off the night by playing some games around the campfire and talking about what we were grateful for and then Sister LaFontaine (a Navajo Indian!) told us all about these spooky things called "skin walkers" that are like the native-american equivalent of a werewolf.  They are people that turn into animals and night and come to your house to collect your fingernails and hair to put a hew on you.  Sister LaFontaine was telling us about how when she was driving one night on the reservation, her sister told her not to look and she looked and saw a wolf running on its two back legs (kind of a funny picture to me...) next to their car going about 60 mph!  Honestly, if it were anywhere other than an Native American reservation, I probably wouldn't believe it!  Creepy!  Isn't that fun though?  Who would think to go camping on Thanksgiving as a ward?!  All of the talk about tradition and things that everyone is grateful for reminded me of back home though, and I got a little reminiscent.  You're GREAT!  Just know that I'm being provided for out here...  This ward really is so wonderful.  

We are going to have a Christmas Devotional sometime soon and I'm getting really excited because of that!  Apparently this is a great time of year to go out and find people to teach as well!  Maybe we'll give some people the best Christmas present they could ever receive this year...  I'm almost 100% positive that we are allowed to Skype.  That will be great, but it just makes me a little woozy thinking about actually seeing my family!  What if I shave my head and you yell at me??  I've been trying to get a haircut for the past little while actually because I don't want to shave it again, but no such luck.  It's funny how when my hair is long it's TOO LONG and when it's short it's TOO SHORT.  I guess I'll just try to be a bit more of a square or something...  

That is so wonderful that Jordan is going out to Japan!  Is he going back to the MTC or just going straight there?  Either way I'm sure he is stressing out about learning that language!  That is so great for him and for Russell as well!  I can't wait to see where he goes. 

I love you so much and I hope that you saved some leftovers for me!  I am so happy Heavenly Father chose you to be my Momma and I couldn't ask for anything else than all that you do for me.  Your prayers help me every day to remember why I'm out here!  



Monday, November 28, 2011

November 21, 2011

Dear Family,

This week is that ward camping trip and it's on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, so I don't really need an invitation for dinner because I'm told that we're going to go somewhere with a smoker and make ham and turkey and all the trimmings.  I feel like really this week is going to be completely wonderful!  I'll send you pictures next week.

From what I hear from President Barry we are in the middle of a "Mormon Moment" with all of this publicity from the Broadway play and the presidential candidates and all of the campaigning.  It's such a wonderful time for everyone to go and talk to everyone about their beliefs.  It's crazy how easy it was to connect with people this week in relation to the gospel.  You talk to them like just any other person on the earth and just like it says in Preach My Gospel...  Something that they say will ALWAYS relate to a fundamental of the gospel.  It is so wonderful.  We talked to the brother of one of the members yesterday that's visiting from Puerto Rico and just a couple of the things he told us were about how there were people in the bible that spoke with God face to face and that it's really rare that you hear about that today and about how he doesn't understand why God would expect His children to all be placed under different beliefs in Him when in heaven we're all going to be part of the same belief.  

Rosalio was offended by something that his daughter said Saturday night and woke up his wife and left for Texas yesterday morning.  I still kind of can't believe that I'll probably never see them again, but we're going to call them today to ask them their address to send the missionaries over there in Texas.  I honestly think that Emilia would have been baptized 3 months ago if it weren't for Rosalio, and even Rosalio would already be baptized if he just humbled himself and didn't always play devils advocate with us.  As missionaries literally all that we do is invite people to ask God if this gospel is true or not.  If they understand that God and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith and instructed him to construct the church of Jesus Christ again on the earth and then just pray to know if it is true, they will get an answer.  It is so incredibly simple and yet it seems the second we go back to ask them how their reading went, they never answer the door again or something ridiculous happens.  We just have to press forward and continue to look for the elect because I know that they hear the voice of the spirit and harden not their hearts.

The sister missionaries in our ward taught a 19 year-old named Jeremiah that was baptized yesterday and he was just so ready to act and so ready to hear what they had to say.  It really was just so spiritually-boosting to be there and see someone take that step, and he truly wanted it.  He is so excited to get out and share the gospel...  He has already invited something like 4 friends to church and the ward is just becoming more and more open to missionary work because of all of these great people that come.  The Spanish members are still feeling a little bit kicked to the side, but we are still working to help them to come together with their English-speaking brothers and sisters.  

I'm eating great.  I'm not really skinny and the thing is that I eat a ridiculous amount of food.  I think that fat people usually get skinny on their missions and skinny people usually get fat, so my body's just confused what to do because I'm not really either.

 I was told by some of my BYU friends (Lexi, Lindsey, and Emalie) "Happy Birthday" through one of the members of the ward here in Orange Park.  It was a great birthday and I absolutely LOVED all of those letters from everyone.  It sounds like everyone is just so happy and doing great and I am so glad to be a part of such a fantastic family!  Thank you for the letters and your prayers and support in me being a missionary!  I haven't made the brownies yet, but I will and I'll take pictures of my balloon-filled room and my delicious brownie-cake.

I love you SO MUCH and I hope that you keep on having a great vacation in my mission boundaries!



Monday, November 14, 2011

November 14, 2011

Dear Family,

It sounds like it was a wonderful week!  I can't believe that Les Miserables is already down and overwith!  It just came and went.  I remember vividly when we first found out that Hannah got the part as Cosette.  Gosh I am so proud of her and am so sad that I missed it.  You had better save a copy of the DVD when she gets it so I can watch it when I get back.

My 6 month mark was this week!  One-fourth of the way done with my mission...  Do you even realize how crazy that is?!  All I can say is that it has changed me in regards to the gospel and purpose in this life just about 100%.  Did you know that Savannah is in my mission??  Did you say you're going there this week?  Is that even allowed?  Haha that is just ridiculous to think that you're going to be only 2 hours away from where I am right now.  

I have a couple of neat things to share this week!  Ali's Dad (Brother Lindberg) is in the District videos!  I remember Ali saying something like that before, but it hadn't really clicked until I was watching Ali's mom and dad teach an investigator in their house in San Antonio!  I know a celebrity!  I think he was the Ward Mission Leader in one of the wards that the district was filmed in at the time that it was being filmed.

Since we don't get to proselyte on holidays, the mission president told us that we could go up with the ward to Georgia this weekend to go to their camping activity for the day. (We won't obviously be camping.)  I am really excited for that and I really just think that the holidays are going to be a lot of fun with, of course, a lot of food!!  

This week was really exciting because we started talking to an old investigator again.  It just seemed like he needed some time to cool off, but now we have been going over and teaching him again pretty frequently.  We don't have anyone with a set baptismal date right now, but a couple of investigators have been taking big steps to progress...  We taught the word of wisdom to Rosalio and Emilia this week and expected them to be a little bit reluctant, especially because Rosalio is always drinking a beer when we're over there, but they were so prepared to be taught about that commandment it was ridiculous.  We also cut their dog's hair.  I'll try to send some pictures to you in another e-mail, but I don't know if I can from these library computers...  

One other investigator that I want to tell you about is Jose.  His wife is a member of the church and he told us last week that he had gotten an answer to his prayer and read in the book of mormon.  I might have already told you that, but I am still so excited for the next time we go over to see them.  He is a truck driver and has been out of town for about 2 weeks because of trouble with his truck, but he told us he would call us today!  I'll let you know how that goes.

Just keep praying for some more wonderful miracles and some baptisms in Orange Park!  We are working hard to find them, but we can always use the power of prayer on our side.

 I am doing great and I'm excited to be a missionary!  I love you a lot and hope you continue to enjoy everything there in Colorado.  By the way Hannah and Will look so small it is hilarious!  



November 7, 2011

Dear Family,

I have been studying the Book of Mormon a lot lately and trying to apply it more to my teaching, even in just street contacts, and it truly is powerful.  It's just like Elder Holland says that you can't have a full vision of the gospel until you embrace the divinity of the Book of Mormon, and of Jesus Christ, of whom it testifies.  I have been using it a lot lately whenever I am in any sort of spiritual slump because it is the best way to bring hope back into your life.  It really seems that the Lord speaks to us individually when we read the Book of Mormon with the companionship of the Holy Ghost and ask for the understanding.

This week we didn't get to see Jose because he was out of town all week in Texas.  He drives a truck all around the United States, but gets three days a week off, so it's not like the terrible lives the people in that play we watched live.  When he told us that he was out of town we asked him if he had been reading and he said yes.  And then we asked him if he prayed to know if it was true or not and he said yes.  And then we asked him what he thought and he told us that he would talk to us about it the next time we see him!  It was so wonderful.  I know that if he actually read and actually prayed that the answer he says he received is that it is 100% true because it's what God promises.  Just keep praying for him that he will know that this truly is the Church of Jesus Christ!!

On Halloween we went to go to talk to one of our new investigators, Sergio, and he told us that he had nephews that would like to come to church with him as well.  We went inside his apartment and sat down with the three of them and taught about the Restoration and one of the nephews was listening so intently and so interested.  I even asked him "If you had to explain what the most important part of this message is in one sentence, what would it be," and he answered, "Well, that we need to find out if it is true or not."  It just doesn't seem like that much, but when he said it he was just being so sincere and honest and the look on his face when we gave him a Book of Mormon just said, "What is this thing I am holding in my hands?"  It was powerful!  

I got a little bit sick this week and I think it caused a little bit of a flare-up in my stomach, but it's nothing to worry about.  I just called the doctor and the nurse told me to up the dose for about a week and call her back if I was still having problems, but it's pretty settled.  It was really the first time that I had felt pain.  I'm doing well now though.

I got your package and Kendi's as well.  Thank you both so much!  It was so wonderful.  I especially loved all of the ties!  I loved the black and orange one.  Everyone comments on it and I think it looks rather dashing.

I would love nothing more than to have a book of spiritually-uplifting piano arrangements for my birthday.  Also there is a piano arrangement for "This is the Christ" that I would love to have as well that you can probably find on Deseret Book's website.

My shirts are all ENORMOUS.  I only wear three of them or four of them because those are literally the only ones that fit.  There is someone that tailors in the ward, but the shirts are just made for enormous people.  I'll go into Dillard's to see if they can do anything, but if not I don't really know what to do.  

This past six months has flown by and I can't believe it is literally almost Christmas.  I still feel like a little baby missionary, but I feel that the person I am now and the person I was six months ago is completely different in regards to my own relationship with Christ and the significance of the gospel in my life.  You are great parents and I look up to you and am so glad that you raised me the way you did.  I hope that you keep on having a great time over there in L-town, Colorado and bring honor to the family name :D

Tell Hannah to break a leg!  I really wish I could be there to see her as Cosette.  I know she will be spectacular.  I will probably be sending a box of things I shouldn't have brought on my mission home soon, so don't get too excited if you get a package sometime this week from me.  One of those things is, sadly enough, the Les Mis CD.  It's just so full of romance and violence, I just feel it's probably not what I should be listening to as a missionary.  

Thank you so much for the package.  Ask Kendi if they ever got the letter I sent to them in the MTC and make sure that you let them know that I got the package they sent me!  



Saturday, November 5, 2011

October 31, 2011

Dear Family,

It is so weird seeing other missionaries in the house.  I love the ward here, but it seems like nobody really invites the missionaries over to do anything, ever...  We always have to be the ones to set up our own dinner appointments, but I just feel at times like our family might just be the only family in the world like that.  Haha I'm really jealous that I couldn't be there doing all of that fun stuff for that Halloween party!  Did I ever tell you that all of the Missionaries in the Jacksonville Mission have to wear a part in their hair?  What are the Elders names and where are they from?  Those pictures are all so fun!  i laughed so hard at the one of Molly just being Molly with her little shirt on!  Haha tell Hannah to put some pants on her!  ;)

This week was full of trade-offs, doctor appointments, and meetings.  I don't think we had a single normal morning, but we really met some great new people and found some new investigators.  One of them is the son in-law of a member of the bishopric, Jose.  He knows a lot about the bible because he used to go to the Jehovah's witness church, but didn't believe it was right.  We taught him about Joseph Smith and the Restoration and then we invited him to be baptized.  He told us that after he got an answer to his prayer, he would be baptized, so pray hard that he does his part!  It's the best as a missionary when somebody actually listens and understands and decides on their own to see if what we say is true or not.  

This week in sacrament meeting, I sang "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" with the Sisters and a member accompanied us.  It was great being able to do that again and it makes me wish I had done it more often back home.  I was a little bit iffy at first because I thought it was weird that the missionaries were going to sing in sacrament, but we got so many compliments and so many people told us how much it touched them to hear that song, especially the verse we sang in Spanish.  I thought you would like to hear that, especially considering how you were just telling me about your lesson on hymns.  

On Saturday night we went to go see someone in an apartment complex and ran into probably the most drunk person I have ever seen in my life.  He apparently was having trouble with his girlfriend and was making a bunch of accusations, so we just ended up giving him our phone number and telling him to call us when he was feeling better.  We said a prayer and left and then we got a call from him the next day, telling us to go over to his house and talk to him.  He was a little bit drunk, but much better and ended up telling us that he almost killed himself the night before and did coke and all of this stuff, but I honestly think that our visit was a factor in his decision not to do it.  I talked to his girlfriend on the phone for whatever reason, and it was all just so dramatic!  We took his cigarettes away and were going to throw them away, but they weren't his to give away so we ended up giving them to his friend, but I just couldn't believe how absolutely ridiculous the whole situation was.  He's an investigator now.  Haha

I just really have so much to say, but the days just blend together I can't even really remember what was this week and what was last week.  The Mayo Clinic was the most amazing place I have ever been to in my entire life.  They just baby you and it is so incredible.  They give you this page called your "itinerary" and it has everywhere you need to be and at what time and it's honestly just like a perfect society inside the borders of that clinic.  The doctor was the smartest person ever and just knew every little thing about everything is what it seemed.  He told me that he thinks that I have something called Ulcerative Colitis, but he also told me that it doesn't really matter what the name of what I have i because it is so different for every individual person.  Regardless of what it is, I have IBD and he said I might have to take this medicine every day for the rest of my life.  The news wasn't too upsetting, but I mean it's just so nice knowing exactly what everything is and what I need to do and look out for.  In the end I feel like really I just have something that has the potential to become harmful if I'm an idiot.  We caught it early and he sounded confident that I would live to see another day.  (Normal life expectancy)  I think of it how everyone probably has signs of the start of some horrible disease in their body, but it's just a matter of not letting it get out of control.  It's manageable and it is nothing to worry about in this point in time.  They are not rushed to do any other diagnostics or anything and they said I'll probably get another colonoscopy only in the case that my body starts acting up.  The symptoms are hiding, so apparently I appear completely healthy.

I am doing great, you are doing great, the world is just so great.  I didn't get any picture of any mummies, but the rest of them were so much fun!  I haven't gotten a package yet, but I probably will today so nothing to worry about.  I probably shouldn't listen to Les Mis I just realized, but thanks for sending it anyway.  I don't really know what I want for my birthday, but I'll try to think real hard this week.  I would love nothing more than to have my shirts tailored, but that's not really something you can do...  Is that expensive?  No worries.  I'll go into Dillard's and ask them.  Thank you for caring so much about your little almost 20 YEAR OLD boy.  

I'm glad you're not worried about the shooting.  It just seemed like a bunch of dumb kids or something, but honestly so many people have started moving in and hanging out outside ever since then, just a week ago!  It's like it attracted some people.  We'll let President know if it happens again :)

I love you so much and don't want you to worry about me.  I am really adjusted to this life and feel like this is going to be me forever, I even have been dreaming about doing missionary work lately, so we can officially say that my mind is on the work!  6 months in 12 days...



Wednesday, October 26, 2011

October 24, 2011

Dear Family,

On Saturday night, somebody in our neighborhood got shot.  Somebody got SHOT!  What the heck?  We were praying, getting ready to plan and then we heard this "BANG BANG BANG BANG" and we both immediately thought it was gunshots, but decided it was something else so we finished praying and then looked out the window and saw these two guys running away and we were both just saying, "no way..."  We heard sirens off in the distance and one of them said, "Here they come."  We waited a little bit and then the police showed up and we went outside to talk to our neighbors and apparently someone about 6 apartments down got shot and was just sitting in his lawn bleeding all over the place!  The EMT's wheeled the victim into the ambulance and we were standing about 10 feet from it!  Talk about drama going down in Orange Park!  We are hoping this doesn't spark any sort of other violence, but don't worry about us, I'm pretty sure nobody's going to shoot us...  But isn't that crazy?!

Before getting home that night, a member took us over to my last area in Jacksonville East and we went to a Multicultural Festival!  It was a lot of fun.  There were a lot of members there and there were just people performing acts up on the stage and we just got to have a really fun night there!  I got to see a lot of the old members in San Jose and Elder McArthur and it just was a really fun night.  The members would get up on the stage and dance to their country's music and in that style and everything was just so beautiful and elegant and well done.  It was great watching all of the little Hispanic kids do their cultural dances and whatever else.

We have been dealing with a lot of the side effects that come with the changing of the Bishopric.  Almost all of the Spanish members are recent converts of 2-3 years, so they're not used to change.  I explained to one family the other night about the dramatic change when President Hinckley died, and it was really powerful.  Do you remember how sad that was?  It almost felt like the church was going to completely change and things would never be the same, but here we are...  Still going forward.  

Something I have been thinking about lately is how literally the work that the missionaries should do in the streets and out tracting should be minimal.  At least in our mission it just seems like we are here to strengthen the members and help them to convert their friends because going out and finding people that have little or no association to the church and asking them to be baptized is really asking a lot for someone with no friends in the church.  I have really been focusing more on trying to find those that are really truly and honestly interested in listening and learning, and the majority of those people come from referrals from the members.  So I guess what I am saying in the end is that the members play an ENORMOUS role in missionary work and they should be the ones doing most of the finding.  When people already have a background in the church, it makes that step of baptism and confirmation seem like so much less of a sacrifice.

That is so great that you got chosen to speak at YW in Excellence, Mom!  I knew that all of those kids would end up loving you.  I bet a big part that has to do with it is the great way you teach that class of yours!  

Can you believe that I am just a couple of weeks away from being a fourth of the way done with my mission?!?  That is the most insane thing I have ever heard.  Even though it seems like this has been my life forever and this is the way it always will be...  It's only my third transfer!  

I love you so much and I really am so proud of you as well!  You sound like the busiest people ever, but not too busy to forget about all of the important things, like MOI.  :)  Just always remember how blessed you are to have this gospel and the savior in your lives.  Could you imagine where you would be without them?  Think about all of the wonderful blessings we have and just everything, all because of the life of Jesus Christ!  It's crazy.  

Have another spectacular week!  The next time I write it will be HALLOWEEN.  Spoooooooooky.  



October 17, 2011

Dear Fam,

This week was wonderful as usual.  Really I'll just try to go over a couple of the highlights of what happened.  

On Saturday we helped to set up for one of the members (Janette's) daughter's quincenera and then we got to go to it that night and it was so much fun and so great!  We obviously couldn't do a whole lot of dancing or really anything, but it was just so nice to see everybody so happy and having so much fun.  It was a lot like a wedding, but just for a 15 year-old that doesn't have a boyfriend.  Elder Johnson came back to visit the mission with his parents and he came to the quincenera and it was really weird...  I saw him in his regular clothes, hugging girls and using a cell phone.  He just went home something like 3 weeks ago!  What the heck...  At least I'm still a ways off!  It was great to see him though!  (He's one of my trainers if you don't recognize his name.)

This week we had a really exciting thing happen!  Janette's parents, Rosalio and Emilia, were apparently talking to each other about baptism the other day and Rosalio was saying how he thinks he's almost ready.  He is a little bit worried because he likes to "socially drink" but other than that I think that there might be a baptism sometime soon!  We talked to him the other day and apparently he has a hard time grasping really any belief about anything other than God.  I don't even know if he really believes in the Bible or any sort of church needing to have a "leader."  He just realizes though that God is the reason, and I think that all it takes is a little bit of sincere reading and a little bit of sincere prayer and testimony follows.  I'll let you know how it goes!

We met a Puerto Rican less-active member named Milly this weekend and she looks like she could be your sister.  She looks just like a mix between you and Aunt Nancy and just the way that she acts and everything is just so similar...  So she has been a member for a long time apparently because of some huge miracle that happened in her life, but now she doesn't go to church because she doesn't feel comfortable around some of the people.  She adopted her granddaughter and she is 8, so she is looking to get baptized, but the whole situation just amazes me that she is inactive.  Her daughter was telling us a story about how she met Thomas S. Monson when she was 9 or 10 and he told her that everything would be ok and that her broken ankle would be completely healed and the next day she went into the hospital and it was like nothing had ever happened!  They both have really strong testimonies, it's just sad that people have to feel so uncomfortable to the point of not being able to continue going to church because of something someone did.  It would just be nice though if people could just understand that the reason we go to church is because it is a commandment and we want to show of love for God by doing his will.  If only everyone could understand His plan for us, they would understand the reason why we do anything in this life!  

Things have been a little bit hard with the Spanish members in the ward lately.  They took out the Spanish group and are really trying to just dissolve the whole ward back into one, so it's easy to understand why they might be offended, but then you have to think about the Stake President's reasoning.  As the Spanish Elders, I'm always kind of confused about what we are supposed to do with the English members, but really this whole situation is just opening my eyes to the fact that it's all just one big whole in heaven.  There are not going to be Spanish people here and English people there, so I think that what the President wants is for us to just be one ward like we are supposed to be.  It's just so hard to explain the concept of sustaining your leader's decisions to the members though, so that is probably the biggest dilemma right night, but the wonderful thing is that all we need to know is that if we just keep pressing forward and giving the will of the Lord a chance, everything will turn out in the end.  Even if the gates of hell shall gape open before us, it will all be for our benefit and experience.  

I can't find your profiles.  I made one a few weeks ago and here's my link  Give me your's!  Or make one if you haven't already!

I don't have a lot of time left, but I still love you and I'm so happy to hear from you every week!  I'm glad that you are living your own dream right now.  Everything sounds so perfect and I get a little bit sad that I have to be missing all of it, but know that I am still doing great.  I absolutely love being on a mission and I feel like I am on the right track in my life.  It's a wonderful life!

Don't worry about rushing sending me packages or anything...  I will live!  If you want you can send the soundtrack to Les Mis though... Just throwing that out there.  :)



Sunday, October 16, 2011

October 10, 2011

Dear Family,

It was a fantastic week.  We've really just been focusing on finding new people lately because a lot of the people that we have been teaching just seem like they're never gonna go anywhere until we let them discover that we're telling the truth on their own.  That's the thing...  It seems like nothing gets done unless you do it yourself, but you can't do everything yourself when it comes to missionary work.  

I'll tell you about two of the investigators that we have right now.  They are the parents of an active member and just moved here from Texas, actually!  They're Mexican, but have lived in Texas for something like 30 years I think.  They don't speak English, but they are the most wonderful people.  Every time we go over there to teach, Emilia wants to cook for us and we never decline her!  It's just so weird though...  This week I was thinking about how I couldn't imagine having a completely 100% reverent, distraction-free lesson with them because they live in a house with 7 kids or something and 5 adults...  There's literally always something going on.  But anyway, we are thinking about making a huge sacrifice and not having that delicious food just so that we can meet up in the church and feel the spirit strongly.  I'll let you know how that goes, but goodness gracious!  I seriously love the food she makes.

There are a lot of really good cooks in this ward, I don't think I told you that before...  I don't think you realize how much of a blessing it is to have them because I LOVE food if you don't know.  Arroz con pollo, flautas, tamales, ribs, tortas, pollo frito, carne asada, mole, SPICY!!  Goodness gracious I love eating on my mission.  I asked Emilia if she would teach me how to make salsa because she always has a different flavor every time we go over and they're all so good and she said she would, so I might just be a mexican when I come home!  

Elder Jones and I get along really well and he is a great missionary.  It's nice being with another little more "seasoned" missionary again.  He's been out for about a year.  I don't really know how to explain what we do..  We just do what our leaders and the spirit tell us to do and it's different things most of the time.  We have a lot of investigators, but nobody ever understands the concept of baptism and how it's not the end of the line.  We have really just been focusing on finding new people though because I know that there are literally people just waiting out there ready to hear the word.  

Being in Orange Park is especially great now because everyone is becoming more and more loving every single week.  We are working a lot with the members and inviting them to go out and talk to people on their own about the gospel.  I have been really focusing on "becoming Preach my Gospel" lately because that is just the way the prophets want us to do this work.  

Something really interesting that I learned this week is that the spirit does not come unless you ask for him to.  He won't tarry with you if you are on the edge of sin and righteousness.  So we have to first of all live worthily to have the Holy Ghost with us, and then we ask for his assistance to know what we need to do or what we need to say.  The great part is that when you have the Holy Ghost with you, living worthily is a walk in the park!  Just pick your side and remember that you already decided in the past life that you wanted to follow the Savior.  The end of the battle is pre-determined!  Satan will lose no matter which side has more spirits, but he wants us to think that's not true.

I'm sure that you are having an absolutely wonderful time in San Antonio.  I wish I could see little Sadie crawling around being a baby and stuff.  Say hi to everyone for me!  (obviously.)  Let them know I still love them.

That is crazy that Tara Bartlett is getting married.  I guess I haven't really talked to her in years, but it still just seems like yesterday that they moved into our neighborhood and she was just a Sophomore!  Congratulate her for me!  That's wonderful!  I hope that her and her fiancee are thrilled!

I made the Monte Cristo's and they were perfect.  Everything I remember they were!  I didn't realize how simple they were to make.  They're like a mix between dessert and breakfast.  They are so magical.

This week a person that we were talking to taught us the Mexican version of Eenie-Meenie-Miney-Moe and it goes like this:

Tin Marin de Don Pingue
Tatu la Macara que ella fue
Yo no fui, fue tete
Pegale, pegale
que [el merito] fue
[you can replace -el merito- with el or ella]

Estamos disfrutando nuestro tiempo aca en la mision y espero que ustedes hacen lo mismo.  Les amo!  Sepa que yo estoy bien contento como siempre.

Ah!  Have Ryan translate...  Recuerdo que yo tengo una historia que yo escuche ayer.  Supuestamente hubo una hermana misionera en Mexico hace tiempo que estaba dando un discurso durante la iglesia y ella era nueva en la mision, entonces tuvo miedo y estaba hablando como una americana que no supiera espanol.  Entonces ella queria decir, "Estoy avergonzado" por causa de su discurso pero dijo, "Estoy embarazada!" (because that's what you would think embarrassed would be) y despues ella le senalo al obispo y dijo, "y la culpa es suya!"  Hahaha fue bien chistoso, si es verdad o no!

Hasta la proxima semana!  

Con amor,


Sunday, October 9, 2011

October 3, 2011

Dear Family,

That was absolutely the most ridiculously fast weekend of my entire life.  I remember in the Saturday Afternoon session looking down at my watch and realizing, "Wow!  This is already the last talk!"  It was like the Superbowl for missionaries.  We didn't really get the chance to go and do a ton of work because of conference and the transfer, but nonetheless it was still such an incredible week!

It is very nice having a new companion.  It's just so great being able to learn new and different tricks from other Elders and using them in your own way!  I know that every single thing that has to do with the mission in just the way that the Lord wants us to learn and grow...  And it's always going to be the best way at that time!  It was so wonderful to hear from one of the speakers about how the Lord knows exactly where we should be and who we should be with and I'm a witness of the truth of that.  I love Elder Garnica and it was great being with him, but now it's time to move on and keep doing the will of our Father in Heaven!  

My new companion's name is Elder Jones and he, like Elder Garnica and Elder Jenkins, is also from Mesa, AZ.  He says it really is just like another Utah to the south.  I just know that we share a lot of weird similar interests like our dream cars (ha ha probably not the best thing to be talking about as missionaries) and some of our favorite music and a lot of our ideas on the way things work in the gospel.  I think that we are going to probably baptize the entire city of Jacksonville in the next 6 weeks!  

I don't think I've told you this, but our mission just got combined with part of another right when I got here.  Part of the Maycomb, Georgia mission is now a part of the Jacksonville, FL mission and it's called the "Savannah Zone."  Well anyway, that's where my companion is from.  It's incredible how you can tell the difference from the missionaries from here and from there.  Different leadership calls for different types of missionary work and missionaries, so we are all trying to become integrated into one.  

I just loved General Conference so much.  That was absolutely ridiculous when the prophet announced another Provo, UT Temple.  His spirit was so optimistic and giddy during that mini-talk I couldn't believe it.  What an example to look up to... Ha ha it really was contagious.  My favorite talks were the one that President Uchtdorf gave on Saturday about our worth in the sight of God and the one that President Packer gave.  It really felt like they wanted to emphasize the importance of being an example and standing up for your beliefs, even if you are alone.  I also loved Sister Dalton's talk.  It seems like the topic she always picks is about virtue and being the "guardians of virtue."  I think that Elder Holland spoke in Priesthood, so I don't really think you "missed" it...  I hope you can still watch it though because he was incredible as ever.  I just feel like every single word from this conference that was spoken was directed exactly at me and I can't even believe how direct the answers to some of the questions I went in with were.  I know that it's probably not that powerful in an e-mail, just reading words rather than hearing them, but I still just want to testify that I am so incredibly blessed to be a part of this church.  

I know that Thomas S. Monson is the living prophet today and that he receives revelation directly from our Heavenly Father.  I have never felt such power from anything he has said than from this conference when he told us that "he is just trying to do the will of God."  He then told us that "he loves us and he prays for each of us" and I could feel the truth of those words through the power of the Holy Ghost.  There was just something about the way he looked straight into the eyes of millions of people all around the world and said, "I love you."  

I know that each of us is able to and responsible to receive our own personal revelation and should be something we seek to do daily.  

I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Kingdom of God on the earth and that it is not just another American philosophy.  It is the same church that Christ is the head of in heaven.  The priesthood is real, restored, and accessible to all those that come unto Christ.  "Whatsoever is bound on earth" by this power "shall also be bound in heaven."  I know that there is nothing better that I could be doing than to be serving a mission at this point in my life and that the only reason I am where I am now is through my faith in Jesus Christ.  I am absolutely nothing.  I will never be anything unless I trust in the redeeming power of the Son of God to lift me up at the last day.

I love you all so much and I am so happy to have the knowledge that we will be together forever.  I don't know what I would do without you.  You really don't know what you have until it's gone and you don't realize how much you have until you see how little others do.  I can thank you enough for all that you have done for me, but I can love you.  And I do!  I love you all so much and pray that you are happy and safe.

I didn't mean to make this letter so long, and I'll probably start cutting back a little bit on the size of my e-mails, but I just felt that you needed to know that I am never going anywhere away from this testimony I have because these are not things that I believe anymore.  They are things I know without a shadow of a doubt.

Thank you so much for all of those pictures!  I can't believe how adorable all of these little girls are and especially how big they are getting...  You have no idea how much I love seeing those little twerps!  

Jacksonville is finally cooling down and the days are starting to feel more like mild, Colorado summer days.  It's absolutely wonderful!  It doesn't even feel that humid.  I'm feeling fantastic as ever and I hope you all have a wonderful week!  As always I feel I left something really important out of this letter, but I try my best...  Have fun in San Antonio and tell everyone I love them so much too.

Always remember to look up! 



Sunday, October 2, 2011

September 26, 2011

September 26, 2011
Dear Family,

This transfer is ending this week and I'm getting another new companion!  Elder Garnica me abandona!  Hay!  That was the fastest 6 weeks of my entire life and I can't believe that it's already over.  So much happened and it feels like we have known each other forever, but it's just absolutely ridiculous that he's already leaving.  I don't know what that is going to mean for me, but I'll let you know who my new companion is in a week.  It's been a good transfer and mostly I have just been learning so much.  It really is wonderful how much this mission has been affecting the way I view the world and the Gospel and the Savior and everything else!  There's no better way to learn something than to go out and teach it!

I'm so excited for conference this next week, except I'm a little bit sad I won't be watching it in English most likely.  I just love to hear the general authorities talk!  It really is incredible that we just listen to the words of the servants of the Lord...  Something interesting that has helped me a lot lately is to go into meetings and classes with questions in mind and expect to receive answers.  Elder Bednar calls meetings "Revelatory Experiences" to try to emphasize that the Holy Ghost will always answer your deepest questions as long as you expect him to.  Even if nobody directly addresses your concern, the spirit always will.  It's kind of an interesting way of seeing it, no?

So this week I am getting a new companion!  I don't even know what to expect because this is the first time I will stay in an area and be the one that knows his way around.  I think that he probably will have been here before, but even if not, he's still going to have been out longer than me.  I was part of the last group of people to go out not being trained on the 12-week Preach My Gospel fundamental guide
program, so all of the other new Spanish Elders are being trained right now for 2 transfers in a row, if that makes any sense...  But anyway I think that Elder Garnica and I were as new and inexperienced of a companionship that I'll ever be a part of, which is pretty comforting in my eyes.  It's BIEN CHISTOSO that you thought Elder Garnica was older than me.  He gets that about 7 times a day, even though he's the same age as me.  One sister in the English congregation thought he was old enough to be her brother, when really he's young enough to be her son!  Haha how sad!

I would grow my hair out longer, but I can't cut it any other way than I do right now.  I just use the clippers all over and try not to ruin it just with that.  

This week I think more than half of our zone is being transferred and I am really sad!  3 missionaries are going home and it just seems like everybody is dying.  When you think about it, when missionaries leave to go to another zone, it really is like they're dying.  One day they're here and happy and working and the next they're gone, and you can't write or call them.  The members in my last area called Elder McArthur a murderer because he sent 3 missionaries home just in the time that he's been there.  It's really just a sad situation, but I know that it's the Lord's will.  

So much stuff happens, but I just don't ever remember anything to tell you it feels.  So I guess I'll just leave by telling you that I love you all so very much and hope you have a wonderful week!  I'm glad you liked the pictures...  Did you see that we have a spirit in our apartment?  In the picture of the place we sleep there's an ORB!!  Haha that reminds me of the time we got that tour of The Stanley Hotel with that hilarious old lady guide.  "Isn't that just so fun?"  Remember when Dad played the piano?  I am doing wonderfully and want you to know that there's nothing to worry about here.  Just keep praying so that I can go out and help other people to have what we are so lucky to already have!

Love you all so much, Eric