Sunday, March 11, 2018

Week 81 - Living Up to Our Privileges

I’m happy to be writing. I continue to feel like I’m at the peak of my learning. And that is why I have been so happy. I know the language, I know the lessons, I love the people and I am completely accustomed to the culture. Every day I feel like God puts a new life lesson in my path to refine and shape me into the person He wants me to become.
On Wednesday night, we met with a man from Syria. He immigrated to Ecuador because of the religious persecution that he was facing in his home. Various times in the mission, I’ve met with people and had conversations with them, both of us talking in Spanish, a language that we are both learning that is not our natural first one. What I’m saying is that talking to a Syrian, in Spanish, feels kind of funny to me! Well, I guess even when we all gather on Saturday for P-day, we are a group of Americans + 1 Paraguayan and we all speak Spanish even when the Paraguayan isn’t listening.
Going back to the story, Hussein explained that he would have been killed if he had continued living where he is from. He told us that he loves Ecuador but that he feels that in Brazil he could have even more sustained success with his work, pay, and social atmosphere. He kept smiling and expressing that it was such a pleasure to meet us. I loved that so much and expressed back that I considered it the same to meet him. Not to mention, he also had an awesome beard. I also loved what he said about Brazil. Talking with him, I realized something that I had already known, but really stuck out to me this time: some people really live below their privileges. It was clear that the man we met was really living up to his. I felt so clearly the excitement he had to go out and seize every opportunity he can see for himself.
Sometimes living up to our privileges means recognizing that our surroundings are a privilege in the first place (a change of attitude). The privilege of leaving the house in the early morning during the week for whatever reason, to go outside and find beauty and people all around us…the privilege of going to work and progress toward a common goal with other people…the privilege of grocery shopping and being surrounded by an abundance of food and food choices that exists in the US…the privilege of knowing people that need our support, mentally and physically…the privilege of going to school to learn and grow…the privilege to smile. Every one of us has the privilege of meeting new people and trying to brighten their day. I’d consider this the privilege to be ‘pure in heart’. One thing that I now accept and honor as a privilege is the time I have dedicated to talking with everyone I see.
Something that many don’t think about the mission is that we don’t have any down time; there’s no time to relax. We wake up, work out, prepare for the day, and then leave the house knowing that we won’t be back until 9/9:30pm. During the day, we attempt to line up appointments with the people we’re teaching, but many times we have big gaps in our schedule when we “go out and work.” We talk with people in the street, we knock doors, we visit church members, and we strike up conversations all around town about God and His plan for us. It’s the same thing almost every day. I’ve been asked if the mission is boring or repetitive and, in the beginning, it did feel stressful. However, now I couldn’t possibly enjoy each day more than I do because I’ve learned to see our work as a privilege.
I felt that in a particularly strong way on Thursday. We went to the office, finished all our tasks early, and immediately returned to our sector to be normal missionaries. We looked down at the agenda and realized that we had about 3 hours to fill between 5-8pm when we had our next appointment. I looked at Elder Ross, smiled, and said: “let’s get to work.” We called references, we went out in the street for a bit, we met another family that needed to see us, and we eventually arrived at the appointment with just enough time to realize that they weren’t home to receive us. Right there, right then, in that precise moment, we had to decide if we were going to live up to our privilege. We sat for a moment to decide how best to use the last hour of our day, and then went immediately to the house of Mateo, another person we’re teaching to share a short lesson. I came home that night knowing that we had done all we could to make it a great productive day, and I felt so full. I love days like that.
I love you all family. Thank you for reading and supporting me. I can’t wait to hear from you.
Elder Ericksen

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Week 80 - Let's Have Hope

Dearest Friends and Family,
This week I’m impressed at how pleasant it has become to let things come and go from my life. Some variables don’t change like the need to breathe, eat, and drink. I would also never deny the importance of being constant in our work, diligent, and responsible. However, recently my surroundings have been changing and evolving at an ever-increasing rate.
Observing the mission transfer cycle is a beautiful exchange that occurs here every six weeks. Although it is sad sending away the missionaries who have finished their service on Monday of week one, Tuesday morning offers me the task of mentoring and feeding the energetic, recently arrived missionaries, which immediately boosts my excitement and joy.
Other recent changes have brought different kinds of ups and downs. Elder Castagno (who I’ve been serving with since February 2017) finished his 6-month assignment in the office and was just transferred to Otavalo as a zone leader. And our awesome mission nurse, Hermana Alvarenga, finished her mission and headed back to her home in Canada. That was a big change for me because the financiero (finance clerk) works closely with the mission nurse to make sure mission medical expenses are paid. Our new mission nurse is Elder Jones from Sandy, Utah, and he worked for years as a physician’s assistant before being called to our mission with his wife. I am assigned to be a district leader again, this time over the assistants, secretaries, and another group of Hermanas. We are teaching lots of new people. I’m studying new things in the scriptures. We are doing different, more relaxed things on P-day. I have a new companion, Elder Ross, who I am training to be the new finance clerk in the office. I’m waiting for college acceptance letters from the UCs and BYU. I’m sure that there are many new and different things in my home with my family and friends, and don’t even get me started with the new music that must be all over the radio! There is lots of new.
Remember how I mentioned that it has been pleasant? Well, it’s because I have loved all of it. I’ve loved meeting new people, planning for new events, and smiling all around town, accomplishing duty after duty with hope. If I could suggest one thing that pushes me forward more than anything else, it is hope.
One of the people we are teaching, Jonathon, understands hope. He has changed many things in an effort to improve his quality of life. He informed us that he was known to frequent the fosh, which is a part of Quito where clothing stores and restaurants become lesser-lit bars and clubs. Now, he tells his friends he is busy in order to be able to spend time with us, learning and seeking greater understanding about the purpose and potential of his life. Why? Because he hopes, correctly, that there is something more out there specifically for him. He is the second doctor I’ve been able to teach in the mission (Yolanda, from my last sector, was the 1st) and it is incredible feeling how true it is – what we missionaries do – when we are in the midst of deep conversations with him that sheds light on his questions - questions that every one of us has.
I don’t know what will come my way in the remaining 6 months that I have here in my mission. I don’t know who my next companion will be. I don’t know where I will next be assigned to serve. I don’t know what other people I will meet and begin to love in Ecuador. I love the people here so much. I don’t know what other experiences will yet come my way, experiences that will change my life. I don’t know where I will go to college. I really don’t even know what it will be like to get back home and to see what is there waiting for me. But what I do know is that everything is going to be exactly how it is supposed to be. It will all be perfect. That is my hope. I have faith that fills my heart almost to bursting.
I love you all lots. Let’s all do everything we can to have lots of hope this week. If you hunt, I promise there is something that you can do to find more reasons to smile and more ways to lift.
Elder Ericksen
"This is Presidente Tello, my branch president from the coast. I saw him in the bus terminal!!! It was so crazy for me and brought back tons of feelings and memories. He says the branch is a ward now and he is 1st counselor."

It's like mustard...(my guess)

Adam's former companion (Cayambe) and trainee, Elder Cuevas

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Week 79 - A Great Week

Well, I loved this week! Gosh the mission is so awesome.
My new companion and trainee in the office is here! His name is Elder Ross and he is from Spokane, Washington. Interesting fun fact is that the office squad is now 50% from Washington state. Elder Welch (Kent), Elder Millett (Bellevue), and now Elder Ross (Spokane). I’m cool with it…it would be a different story if everyone was from Utah (that's a joke.)
Elder Ross is a great companion and we get along great! I've realized the thing I like most about my best/favorite companions is that I never have to worry that they won't be diligent with me. We are going to be super diligent this change. Elder Ross is young in the mission – he’s been out about 6 months. He finished his training, trained another elder, and now he is here with me. I thought this might be a little setback at first, since we aren't the best at Spanish in the beginning of the mission, but I couldn't have been more wrong. He speaks great, and we teach really well together. I teach differently with North American companions - we have to lean on each other a little more and I like that a lot. No one talks too much or hogs the conversation. I also like, because he doesn’t have too much time in the field, that I can answer all his questions about mission life and our mission in general. He graduated high school in 2016 with me, but decided to do a year at BYU when I was here in the first year of the mission. Destiny is cool like that, huh? It has been interesting getting to hear his input about college. Lesson of the week: everyone either loves BYU or they really hate it. There is no in-between. What is up with that? Still, my main question is: "Why do they care who has a beard?"
Changing subjects... This week came and went pretty smoothly. Something fun is that since it is my last change in the office, I've been super excited to try different things for the meals we provide in meetings. In the orientation meeting with the new missionaries who arrived on Wednesday, I ordered street tacos from this place called "Taco Madre" and it was a big hit. We also changed up our usual chocolate-bread breakfast for quiches from this Argentinian bakery. 
On Tuesday, I dropped off the Hermanas from my group at the airport. They seemed pretty calm and happy to be heading home. It surprised me a little because I couldn't be more excited to still have 6 months left. We did struggle to get one bag wayyyyyy packed down and over-weight, repositioned and organized, hoping to avoid a fee. Misioneras, jajaja. I also dropped off some really close friends, including Elder Miranda, my companion back in Tulcan. I am really going to miss seeing him around the mission. Thinking back on it, we had an amazing 3 months together.
Pday was again super fun today. We played basketball with President Murphy again and Cole came along. We were all playing really well today without explanation. After basketball we got some food and went bowling also with Pres. Murphy and Cole. I really love spending time with them. I bowled the best game of my life, again without explanation. I got 154! In the 10th frame I got two strikes in a row and missed one pin in the last bowl. Some of my favorite memories have been made in the past few weeks, seeing miracles with the best missionaries, and really enjoying P-days with the same best friends. We have a really fun group. It’s also been cool exploring volcanoes and stuff, but that goes without saying. The next 6 weeks are going to go really fast and I’m going to miss them. Oooof.
Dad, please send me a March Madness bracket when it comes out. Also, the new camera works great! I didn’t take too many pictures this week because we were super busy, but it takes really nice photos. I did send some pictures of our house – any sort of mess you see can be explained by and blamed on the missionaries that went home. J
I love you all. Que disfrutemos esta semana, no?

Elder Ericksen

Monday, February 19, 2018

Week 78 - Pululahua

Lots has happened this week and it feels great. I am looking forward to a fresh change and week 1.
Carnaval was pretty boring this year compared to last year. We caught wind that it was crazy in other nearby sectors but in La Luz no pasó nada. In Comite del Pueblo the people were out and there was talk that some army guys were out trying to keep control on everything. But that sounds way different than anything I saw! I did hear a funny phone call that some sister missionaries got blasted with water on the coast. Maybe leave that out for the blog haha.
P-day was epic!!!!! We’ve had some pretty elaborate P-days lately. We went to this place called Pululahua and it turned out being one of the most photogenic places of all planet Earth. Essentially, it is this huge, inactive volcano that is now completely vegetated with thick  shrubbery and inhabited by people that form a small village in the valley. Super, super cool! Google this place. When Elder George and I arrived, there was this dude with a real live donkey all packed down looking. We thought wow that is an awesome picture prop, but then they started their journey going down the hill to go back to their homes because they’re habitants of the volcano pueblo. Super culture.
After the volcano adventure, we got pizza and we all ate too much food. I love Ecuador. I think that is going to be the topic of my next email, I love Ecuador. I love the mission.
I love you all lots. Know that I continue thinking and praying for your benefit. I hope we can all have an amazing week. Mine will be crazy with little sleep as we say goodbye to missionaries leaving and welcome the new ones coming in.

PS - Adam is still without a camera. Here's to hoping the replacement we shipped him arrives this week. :)