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Monday, December 31, 2012

Week #11 - No Longer in Colorado...

I've got some GOOD news, and I've got some "bad" news:

I guess you have NOT heard by now my current situation, seeing as I haven't received any emails mentioning it. As you can tell by the subject line (if you noticed it), I am no longer in Greeley, Colorado.

On Wednesday, very shortly after I emailed you, we listened to a voice-mail from President Toombs. To sum it all up, I found out I was leaving Greeley the next day. Elder M. was going to be re-paired-up with Elder N., his trainer for 12 weeks, just prior to being my companion. He had expected to keep us for at least a transfer (until about January 28th), but they called and said they were ready for us. He did not know at the time that if he had put his foot down, as it were, he could have kept us. The thing that matters, is that he did not do that, so here I am, no longer in Colorado.

We drove to the Greeley Stake Center, where I dropped Elder M. off with the Zone Leaders, and drove with two of the Mission Office staff members. That was a bit after 7:30 (about 7:40 or so...). We drove to the Mission Offices about 45 or so minutes away, and were there for a little bit, before driving to the Denver Airport to catch our plane flight for 11:38. Our plane was delayed for a bit, but we go onto it. On the way over I got to sit next to a woman named Maya, and we talked about the Church. I gave her a mormon.org pass-along card. MAYBE she'll look up the missionaries in the future. It was a good opportunity. Actually, I got coffee spilled on me - twice. The stewardess was trying to hand Maya her coffee, when she spilled a bit on me. Then, when Maya grabbed it, she spilled a bit on me too. It was alright though, no like burns or anything like that. So, yeah.

Arriving at the Salt Lake City Airport (this time as a returning missionary, sort of) we got our bags, and joined a group of other "visa waiters." One of these was Elder B., who had come from Las Vegas to receive his visa too. We rounded up the Elders, and then drove to the Mexican Consulate. While there I got my picture taken, signed for my visa, and then we waited. We learned that a few Elders would leave the next morning for Mexico, a few went back to the field (Elder B. included), and some were going back to the MTC. I found myself in that last group. We got food after a while, then waiting for some other missionaries, then we drove back to the MTC. Sometime after 9:00 we arrived at the MTC - again.

I was assigned a temporary companion (Elder J. K. A.), and roommates (Elder O. and Elder S.). The three of them had temporarily served in the Nevada Reno Mission, I believe. The next day (Friday) we learned our traveling arrangements, and Elder A. reported to the Travel Office to leave on Saturday morning at... 4:00 AM. Elder O. and Elder S. reported the same day at 11:30. This left me without roommates, or a temporary companion. I've been with a District in my old Branch (Zone). They had an open bed, and I've stayed with them since - need to go to Scheduling to find out official arrangements sometime today. The Elders in this District are pretty cool, I enjoy this group. Elder L. and Elder Macf. (who went to Timpanogos and is close friends with Elder M.), Elder S. and Elder W., Elder D. and Elder L., and Elder S. and Elder S. and Elder S. (the Zone Leaders). So, those are the Elders I've been going to class with, and spending time with. I've played a "member" in a few of their lessons too, it's been pretty good.

So, here I am with some extra time to prepare for my real mission. Oh, yeah. I leave on Thursday. I will be reporting to the Travel Office by 3:00 AM I believe. Yeah, that early. I will be flying from Utah to Texas, and while I'm in Texas I'll have a few hours (almost three) until my flight to Mexico. So, I'll call sometime between 8:45 and 12:30 or so (Utah time). Something in that window. So, yeah. You will get to hear from me sooner than we thought.

So, the "bad" news is that I'm not in Colorado, and therefore, I did not receive your mail (I got the first joint letter you mentioned). I also did not receive either package. Hopefully they can send it back home to Utah without much fuss. Sorry about that! Sorry you didn't find out earlier, before you sent that package. I was thinking I would leave for Mexico on Thursday and would call home, but I never did call home, and I came here to the MTC. Hopefully it doesn't cause you too much trouble. Thank you for the thought anyway, of sending me my jacket, and whatever else you sent.

I hope that you are all doing well, and enjoying life. Enjoy the end of the year, and be ready to have a great 2013. Next time you receive an email from me, it'll be international. I'm getting off now, but I am sending some pictures too.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Week #10 Merry Christmas!

My First Mission Christmas was as follows:

So, we got to talk to each other on the phone. Our original plan was to have breakfast at a member's home, but they called and canceled on us, so that did not happen. We continued to do studies, and whatever I think until we headed over to grab lunch at the home of some members. When we got there I had rice, tamales, some bread, and some juice and milk. There was a member already over visiting, and then more people came over to visit. After that Elder M and I drove to an area where we were going to drop by some potential investigators, to visit them or whatever. People either did not answer, or were like, "Oh, we're about to leave" or something along those lines. In that same place, there was a family of investigators who we dropped by to visit. We started off singing a Christmas hymn to them, when we were invited in to eat. So, we got to eat another meal.

The mail was pozole, with tamales and some soda. The night just before we had eaten some different pozole(soup with some meat, and large corn [hominy?]), with tamales. I did not have any tamales at that home, and the pozole was a different kind - not as spicy. Oh, and apparently it had some menudo meat in it. It was fine to me, I just ate it with the rest of the food. Didn't even know until later. So, it wasn't like REAL menudo, but I did have some. We visited with them, talked a bit about Christmas and stuff (the wife's brother and his family were there visiting, so we got to eat and visit with them too. After we wrapped up at their house, we left to go to the car.

I think we tried to visit some other people maybe? I'm not sure. Later, we arrived at another member home to have food. The two sister missionaries in our Branch, Sister E and Sister F, were talking with their families when we arrived. We were in that room with them while they talked, and then we had dinner. It was... Pozole, and I think there were (MAYBE?) tamales there too. Also, the same type of soda from the meal before. So, we had some of that, and bread, and it was pretty good. I liked it. That meal I added some avocado to my pozole, and it tasted pretty good. I also ate a big chunk of onion, for fun, for a good story type of deal. So, yeah.

After that we went caroling to a house of a friend of the member who fed us (with some of her family?) and sang a bit. Later, the four of us missionaries went and caroled a bit more - one house that invited us in had tamales on the table, and the same soda. Maybe it's a Mexican, Christmas tradition, these specific foods and drinks. So yeah, it was a pretty good Christmas overall.

Hopefully you had a good Christmas back at home with Grandma, and were all safe and happy.

Also, I'm going to talk a bit about my companion Elder M:
Elder M's family is originally from Peru, but they are converts to the Church. He joined when he was about 10 years old. He actually went to the same High School as me, graduating two years ahead. We actually listened to or at least know some of the same bands from back before our missions. He's a pretty nice Elder. So, yeah.

Alright, I'm going to finish this week's email. Have a great week, enjoy the rest of the year, have a Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Week #9 Welcome to Denver

I'm doing pretty well over here in the Colorado Denver North Mission. So, I'm emailing tonight, since I did not get to yesterday. My P-day is still on Mondays, although next week I will not (probably) get to email, since it's Christmas Eve and the library we are at right now will be closed on that day. However, it should be okay, since I get to call you on the next day.

Before I forget, here is the address of the Mission Offices (that you send stuff to me with) -

Elder Izak Erekson
Colorado Denver North Mission
1250 Main St.
Broomfield, CO 80020

The offices will forward mail to me about a day or so after they get it. As far as packages go, they need to be US mail I think, (maybe First-class?) they're the only ones who let them forward it - otherwise I'll only get them when I'm there. Whichever you want. Thank you for all of your love and care over these past two months family! I was a spoiled Elder at the MTC - so many goodies.

So, my plane flight went pretty well. I ended up meeting those two other Elders who were on my flight, visited with them a bit and this fellow from Australia originally who was traveling on business. He was a pretty nice person. On the actual flight I sat next to this woman from Hungary, who had been spending time in the US to visit her family. She had seen the missionaries, and visited Temple Square, but did not know a lot of things about the Church. We talked about the Church over the hour (not constantly) and I gave her a pass-along "Mormon.org" card which was one of a few which I received from another Elder. It was pretty good, she was pretty kind. One thing that she said, if I understood her right, was that she was supposed to leave the day before but had car issues (both cars which had been working would not start) so she flew yesterday. And sat right beside me. I don't know if it will change anything in the long run for her, but I hope I at least answered some of her questions, cleared some things up, and who knows - maybe she will talk to the Missionaries and feel something? I don't know. We'll have to wait until the end to know what happened. However, maybe something did happen, and will affect her. Her story was unique, placing her in those exact circumstances. The Lord guides us in all that we do in life.

Okay. So, something which I have not yet talked about is my new companion. His name is Elder S.M. He is a "native" Spanish speaker, but it's not exactly what I was thinking. I was kind of thinking he might be from a foreign country, and that it would have some difficulties. However, he has lived in the United States for quite a while now. In fact, he went to the same High School as me, but he didn't graduate the same year. I was grateful we at least had something in common. So far he seems pretty nice. A pretty happy or whatever Elder. President T said that he has "Greeny Fire" or whatever, still wanting to work or whatever. We'll see what I can do to help us out, and push us in the right direction. We haven't worked yet, like, really, but we have eaten with members, and did some service too for a couple of hours or so today. We're going to go get some dinner after this mailing session. Time is approaching its end. We usually eat our own lunch, I guess, and have dinner with members, but today was an exception to that. We might get some teaching done tonight, after English Class. Day Two in Greeley, Colorado (I think that's how it's spelled).

So, I'm going to start wrapping up this email. I'm doing pretty well so far, I should be here for at least a transfer, but we shall see what happens. The Mission is real now, real people. Not "investigators" but people, investigators, members, etc.

Before I left the MTC I got to briefly talk with Elder C, and I saw him shortly after that. Hopefully things go well for everyone on their own missions. I've only got about two minutes left on my mailing time now.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Travel Update

We just heard today that Izak is being temporarily reassigned to the Colorado Denver North Mission, while awaiting his visa to Mexico. (The rest of his district is also being temporarily reassigned--one we know of is going to Ohio Cleveland, another to Nevada Las Vegas somewhere) Izak flies out Monday, December 17th in the morning. We'll be getting him a few warm sweaters, as he was packed for a mission in a very warm climate. Interesting note: Laramie, Wyoming is in that mission. (Izak's dad used to live in Laramie--went to junior high there) We'll find out next week what area he will get to serve in. He will be speaking Spanish.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Week #8

Alright. So, today I received some news as to my traveling arrangements. Last week we received our "Travel Plans" and we were all (except Elder Ch) set to leave on the 17th of December to Mexico. However, VERY recently - less than an hour ago - Elder H and I learned that there were problems. We went to the Travel Office and learned new information. Everyone is staying at the MTC as of now to wait, except for Elder B and ME, who will be reassigned temporarily this week. They said that "Thursday evening" or so, I should know where I'm going. I may or may not still be leaving on Monday. We shall have to wait and see.

Just like Dad about 22 years ago, I am going to be reassigned (probably) before making it to my final, permanent Mission. So, that's going on. This means that any family packages, since everything is up in the air, should be sent to make it here before the weekend. Next time I get the opportunity to write home, I will let everybody know what's going on with my new plans. Whatever happens, the Lord's hand is directing it. The Lord is shaping us, guiding our course, and in charge of everything. So, that's the traveling news. If I had written anyone an hour ago, I would have said I was going to Mexico on Monday, but, now we all know better.

Now, as for this week, it has been hard - with good moments too. However, as I have had these challenges this week, praying for more charity, patience, and help, the Lord has blessed me. The struggles which I have had this week have helped bring me closer to the Lord. Sometimes we forget to rely on Him as much as we should. This Sunday I had good experiences: Elder H and I were one of the companionships which was to give a lesson this week. The topic was "Faith in the Atonement." The Atonement is more than Christ suffering for our sins, and our infirmities, and our sicknesses, and so on; the Savior's Atonement is a gift which gives us the help of the Lord's GRACE. "His Grace is sufficient for all things" I feel might be somewhere in the scriptures, but I don't know where. However, the point is that His GRACE, and the ATONEMENT are there to always help us, lift us, and enable us to do things which we cannot do. I've shared this week multiple times about Corrie Ten Boom's experience with forgiveness - it was talked about recently in conference, and I read the book about her (written by her?) also. I also talked about the Pioneer woman quoted and spoken of by Sister Linda K. Burton in the Relief Society meeting. When I was reading from her talk, I got emotional. Another thing I talked about, I learned about in my Priest's Quorum from Brother Gilliam I believe. The Savior and Our Father do not love us because of what we do, although sometimes He and Heavenly Father are pleased with our actions, but they love us DESPITE what we do. They love us perfectly.

We are NEVER, EVER alone, if we rely on Him. I was having some moments of sort of self-pity or self-righteousness, or whatever, this week (yesterday too). And some worries. However, everything is fine. I am here, experiencing these things. Another instance of His love showing itself to me, was when I had a song about His love in my head a bit, and the thought for the meal was something along the lines of, "Remember that the Savior loves you." After seeing that I walked into the cafeteria, heard my name, backtracked and saw Elder C [good friend from home] briefly. It was a blessing from the Lord. Really, we need to recognize His care for us in all that we do. For our Sunday Devotional, BYU Men's Chorus came and sang to us, and some of the members spoke of personal experiences. One shared about a family that walked two miles in the freezing cold (coldest day of the year, about 15(?) below 0 in New York) to come to Church, in relation to having an Eternal Family. This story, other things said, and some of the songs had me blubbering a bit - tears, etc. I was blessed to have a tissue (which I decided not to throw away earlier) to help me take care of myself. The Lord has truly blessed me. He loves me. He is there to help and care and comfort me. He is my Lord, my Savior, my Christ. Heavenly Father and the Savior are there for me. Although this week has been hard, I have felt gratitude for the Lord. He has blessed me. Sometimes we have struggles, so that we can turn to the Lord, learn, and grow.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Week #7

This past week has been pretty good. I'm going to highlight some of the best parts of the week for me:

TUESDAY:
I had been having some questions / doubts / worries, and I received Grandma Sandy's letter for me from Thanksgiving. Remember how I mentioned Elder Holland's granddaughter singing "If The Savior Stood Beside Me" last week, and how it affected me? Well, without even knowing about it, Grandma Sandy wrote me about the very same song - they're singing it in her Primary Program. It helped serve as a witness to me - a reminder of the feelings I felt just a few days earlier - of the Savior - and it has helped me. Witnesses help strengthen us. It was a good witness for me. Some people could brush something like this off as coincidence, but (something like this was said during one of our Devotionals) "There are no coincidences with the Gospel." Something like that. And, it's true. The Lord blesses our lives with everything He does for us. This week I have been blessed by His loving hand, His guidance, and have received answers to prayers. Meeting my friends at the Temple was an example of that, how He guides everything for us.

WEDNESDAY:
I got the opportunity to go and be a "New Missionary Host" this week, and it was pretty cool. I was there, waiting, hoping to see Elder Casper, Elder Channell, and Elder Talbert (I had actually prayed to see them) and I was sort of "drafted," so I left with that group. However, as I was leaving I thought I saw the Casper family waving at me (and MAYBE saw Elder Casper through his car window) and I waved back - it was them I found out later when I saw Elder Casper a couple of days I believe later.

When we got there, the staff member started telling us something like, "I know you wanted to help with the new missionaries, but the automatic dishwasher in the cafeteria is broken..." but he was joking - it was actually to help with some "internationals" who had arrived the night before. He asked if there was anyone who was "fluent in Spanish," and I volunteered, I said something like "I'm not fluent, but I'll try." It was a good experience. I got to help host TWO Elders at once actually. Elder A from Spain (who hardly spoke any English, so it was cool to get to be there talking to him - he complimented my Spanish, maybe part of that was being nice, but...) and Elder R from England. It was a good opportunity. If I had not gone when I did (I was on an exchange with Elder Burton for a while that day) then i may not have been pulled out to help in this instance.

After helping those two Elders, I ran back to continue helping with the incoming Elders. The Elder I got to help out next was named Elder R (or something like that). I helped him get his luggage to his room (I didn't do perfect with my assignment, but...) and his stuff, then we headed to his classroom. Lo and behold, when we arrived there I saw his companion, and guess who it was? Elder CHANNELL! It was pretty great, to be able to see him, and in such roundabout circumstances. Everything fell into place for the Lord to answer my prayers, and I was able to very briefly visit with him before running off to help some more (there weren't any other people to help, but that's okay). It was a good experience, and the Lord was kind to me. He watches over us. He helps shape our lives and guide them, in everything which we do.

Just as when Joseph was sold by his brothers into Egypt as a slave resulted in the salvation of the peoples of Israel, and Egypt, the Lord guides our lives. Being called to serve in the Primary, in order to have that connection with Grandma Sandy; and our letters talking about Primary, and songs; all helped me to receive the letter which helped strengthen and comfort me, and helped me to see the Lord's hand in my life. Deciding to shine / clean a bit my shoes, iron my shirt, and when we left resulted in me seeing my friends on Monday. Deciding to "host," serving where I did, being called to where I did, and little circumstances helped me receive an answer to my prayers. The Lord blesses and guides us. We need to have faith in Him, love Him, and serve Him. We need not "doubt" or "fear." We are under His watchful eye. He loves us so much that He sent His Son Jesus Christ to be our Savior.

REST OF THE WEEK:
Some changes have happened:
  • Elder C L (in another District in our Zone) went home because of medical problems - it is part of the Lord's plan, and it was part of His plan that we was here when he was.
  • Elder S received his Visa, and left this morning. We no longer have him with us. He was called to be one of the new Zone Leaders with his companion Elder C, who is now in a "trio" with Elder G and Elder B (Elder G and Elder C are the Zone Leaders).
  • I am the new District Leader - I pray that I can be effective, and a proxy for the Savior with my District - to help lift, edify, and take care of them. To help strengthen them. When President Monson talked about visiting the lonely in his address during the First Presidency Christmas Devotional I had some thoughts / ideas of how to serve them / how I should serve them. I want to be a servant, to help them. I've prayed and will continue to pray for help and guidance with this.