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