Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Haul

I hope y'all had an awesome Christmas. I sure did! First off, missionary work.

"This past week has been pretty crazy. We prepped Ronni and Hunter for their baptismal interviews, which they both passed. It was truly awesome to have 2 baptisms on my last Sunday here. I love both of their families. One of our investigators had quite an ordeal this week. We've been teaching a man, Eric, who has been having some family problems. He stayed at home to move their possessions from their old house to their new one, and his wife and stepson took off to Georgia for Christmas to supposedly see her relatives. On Christmas Eve he got a call from a woman in Georgia whose husband was having an affair with Regina. He took it very hard. He should have known, she's cheated on him a couple of times before and she has refused to let him see her cell phone, but I still feel sorry for the poor guy. He seems to be mentally unstable, which explains some of his actions and his delusions that everything was OK. We saw him a lot over this week, we even helped him move all their stuff from the old house to the new one. He finally committed to come to church because it was my last Sunday here (for some reason he's very fond of me). We came out of PEC and he was right there in his normal street clothes. He told us he couldn't come to church because she was coming back (possibly with her new boyfriend), and it looked like he was going to get his stuff, go check into the hospital, and after that just take off and start a new life. I hope he can get the help he needs and experiences the healing power of the Atonement."

Poor guy. Like I said, he's a little unstable. But he has a good heart. I hope everything turns out OK for him and he finds the church wherever he ends up.

Getting off of that sad subject, the ward here is great!. The members of the ward love us and do so much for us. I do believe that what I will miss most about Harker's Island is not the ocean or the heritage (although those are pretty neat), but the members of the ward. We got a ton of Christmas presents from the members. I was pretty amazed. I don't ever recall buying the missionaries Christmas presents. We were definitely taken care of. I loved talking to you guys on the phone. It was definitely hard to get off on time, but it was worth it. It would have been easy to stay on for another 15 - 30 minutes. I still don't think I have an accent, ha ha. I'm not sure I would believe you if I hadn't heard all of you laugh at the same time. It was probably my best Christmas ever.

So guess what? I got to try raw oysters a couple days after I talked to y'all on the phone. They actually were pretty good, they tasted almost the same. The only difference was the texture was a little more gross. Yum.

Well, I've got a lot of thoughts running through my mind. I'm actually a little nervous to leave here, I know I'll miss the members. I'm just very glad I got to serve here. Dad, Sister N told me she's your friend on Facebook, ha ha. That's cool, she's an awesome lady and her husband (Bishop N) is the man.

I don't really know what else to say. I am looking forward to finding out what my new area is tomorrow. We have a transfer meeting in Raleigh (4 hours away, I am pretty much as out in the middle of nowhere as you can get) tomorrow at 1:30, where I will find out where I'm going. If you're lucky, you'll find out my next area before next Monday. If not, I'll tell you all about it next week. I love you all, and I'll talk to you then.

Elder Casper

Christmas oysters

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Looks like it will be a green Christmas!

Hello everybody,

Holy smokes it is officially December! Dang! Time is flying by. I can't believe that this transfer is already half over. I have been in Harker's Island for a right good while now. Everyone seems surprised that I've been here this long, but I'm not. I knew I would be here for at least 6 months. President Cotterell said he received inspiration that most missionaries will stay in their areas for 6 months or more, and not move around too much. It's definitely a good thing, it gives us a chance to learn our areas and know the members. I've definitely enjoyed my stay in Harker's Island and am looking forward to finishing at the very least the rest of this transfer strong.

Missionary work: "The work here is doing wonderful. This past week Alex was baptized. It's been great to be able to teach her. I think our visits have had a good influence on their whole family, especially her dad and her stepmom. We're going to do the best we can to help Danielle accept the restored gospel.

We are also teaching another young girl in that same family. Ronnie is Alex's first cousin, once removed. She is 12 years old, and she wants to get baptized. Her nonmember father wouldn't let her get baptized when she was 8, he told her that she needed to wait until she was 12. So now we are teaching her. She's a smart little girl, she understood the Restoration pretty well when we taught it to her.

I was disappointed that Hunter, Evan and Crystal weren't at church this week. I guess Almeta, Crystal's mom, wasn't feeling good so they ended up not making it. We will continue to help them strengthen their testimonies and make sure they can receive the blessings of the gospel into their lives.

Last of all, Tiffaney. Tiffaney is a really cool girl. She is 23 and is married to a recently activated member. I've talked about her a little before. She came up with a date to be baptized - Feb 13. We would certainly like her to be baptized sooner than that, but I'm relieved that she has a goal in mind. In any case, that day will be the latest that she will get baptized."

I also had a cool experience yesterday in Church. Susie called us up during the week and asked if we could give Mike the Aaronic Priesthood. We said yes, of course. So I performed that ordinance for the first time yesterday. Giving blessings to people is kind of nerve-wracking, but I feel blessed to be able to do it. I had the opportunity to give some blessings to some members in Havelock that I didn't know. They were actually recent converts, which I didn't know either. I gave the mom a blessing, and she was crying. I had no idea what her needs were, but the Spirit worked through me to help her. It was a cool experience.

Congratulations, Michael. You are very blessed to be able to have that experience of winning a state championship. You have seen the results of setting a worthy goal and working towards it. Now channel that same passion into things that bring more joy and are more lasting, like your family and your future service as a full-time mission. You will never regret it!

It sounds like you all are doing pretty well. Dad, I have probably gained about 20 lbs. It's stayed there for about the last 12 weeks. I'm definitely going to lose weight when I go to my next area. It really is difficult to avoid gaining weight here. The South is definitely not known for eating healthy, and this area is very Southern. We study for 2 hours every day, 1 for personal and 1 for companionship. We don't do a whole lot of tracting. We do some, but there isn't a whole lot to be done here. The weather has got fairly cold over the last couple days, in the 40s. Before that it was really warm, in the 60s.

Well, I hope you all are enjoying this Christmas season. Enjoy the snow. I would love it if we got snow, but it looks like we will probably have a green Christmas. Mom, thanks for forwarding Kyle and Andrew's letters. I love hearing about their missions and what's going on with them.

How are things going at home? How is the financial situation? Speaking of financial situation, I have been in some turmoil over the last week. Last Saturday my wallet turned up missing. It had my driver's license, my debit card, my missionary support card, my temple recommend, and a couple other things in it. I prayed and prayed, searched through some members' couches, asked the bishop if he had seen it, then finally found it this morning. It fell behind my bed. I'm really glad it has been found. How is your missionary work going?

How are the missionaries? Do they live in Connell and occasionally make it out to Basin City, or how does it work? I want you to do some sweet missionary work. Nothing would brighten my week more.

Thanks for all the support and encouragement you give me. I'm lucky to have grown up in such a good family. God is good! I love you all and look forward to hearing from you.

Elder Casper

Monday, November 30, 2009

I'm glad you had an awesome Thanksgiving. Sounds like you got to see a lot of people! I also had an enjoyable Thanksgiving. That oyster stuffing was pretty good, actually. We had a good time with the Almeta G family. It was definitely different - I'm guessing that it was maybe about 70 degrees outside. But it was a good experience.

Here are some of the experiences we had this week: "Things are going great here on the Island. This week was kind of a difficult week. Elder Robertson was sick for a couple days and I wasn't feeling too hot myself. There are still a lot of good things going on, though. Mike was baptized on Saturday night by his father-in-law, Garlon. It was awesome. A lot of the members are surprised and happy. He is definitely set on going to the temple and getting sealed to his family.

Alex is scheduled to be baptized on Thursday night. Our visits have helped out her family. Her dad Jamie, who is a less-active member, says he knows he needs to get back to church and wants to quit smoking. There are some other part-member families that we are excited to hopefully start teaching soon - namely Allen N and Chuck W. And, Crystal, Hunter, Evan, and their sister Nana were all at church on Sunday. It's really good to see that whole family there. We have seen Tiffaney once since last week. She was planning on getting baptized in January, we are going to see if we can't get her to bump that up a few days to sometime in this transfer. That would be awesome!"

I think that my time here is dwindling down. This past week we had our interviews with the President, up in New Bern. I must say, I am awed by how closely President Cotterell lives by the Spirit. If I can learn to be half as spiritual as he is, I will be well off! Anyways, we had a good interview. I can't really go into detail about it, but I do enjoy having the opportunity to talk with President Cotterell one-on-one every six weeks. Happy birthday to you on Friday, Meg. And happy half birthday to me! 19 years and 6 months. Crazy.

Oh, I forgot to mention New Moon in my letter last week. People have gone CRAZY over it, it's ridiculous! It makes me laugh. I heard they have another one coming out in June. It's amazing how stuff like this just comes out of nowhere, catches fire, then dies back down. For sure that is what will happen with the Twilight saga.

I'm glad the whole family is enjoying Michael's football season. I hope they can finally pull through. Who are they playing? You'll have to let me know what happens. Michael you are a knothead! Ha ha ha. Thanks for the account of the game. I'm guessing that Michael was the one spoke that description.

I am going to ask the New Bern missionaries if they know anything about Judy K. I'll see if I can't get her address or phone number or something for Brother E.

This morning I was studying a talk by a former mission president who's now in the first quorum of the Seventy, Lawrence E. Corbridge. It explains the difference between being a missionary who conforms (i.e. obedience and sacrifice) and a missionary who changes his nature. Elder Stewart gave me that talk when I first came out, and it has taught me a lot. In order to be changed by our service, we need to have charity. We need to desire to do good in our hearts, and not just show it in our actions. It is so true. I was impressed with how important it is to think about the doctrines of the gospel as we go throughout our days and to use that as the criteria for our choices. I know that as we do that, we are happy. And this morning I felt the impression that I didn't need any more pictures than I've already got. Thanks for watching out for me!

Well, I hope all is well with all of you. I feel very privileged to be able to serve here in the best mission in the world. I love you all!

Elder Casper

PreThanksgiving Letter

Hey everyone,
Well, thanks for the letters! I actually got more than one letter this week, that's gotta be a personal record. That was an awesome package, thanks a bunch! I hope y'all are doing good. And yes, I am positive that I will be in Harkers Island for another 5 weeks. This transfer period ends on Dec 27th. I imagine that I will get transferred then, I'll have been here for 4 transfers (6 months!), if the Lord wills it.
Here is an excerpt from my LTP. Mom, I'll answer the questions you had in just a sec.

"Well, the missionary work is going great. We are excited, a lot of the plans we've made are coming to fruition. Elder Robertson and I set a companionship goal to have 6 baptisms this transfer. It's a tall order, and we're really going to have to stretch to make it, but we're going to try our hardest. We have seen a lot of miracles happen. We had an amazing Sunday yesterday. First off, it was the Harker's Island ward conference, so we got amazing talks by Bishop Nelson and the stake presidency. The G family - Crystal, Hunter, and Evan - all came. Hunter has a baptismal date set for Dec 26th, we are working with Crystal to help her get rebaptized, and this is the first time we've seen Evan at church (he is a less active member).

Mike was there. He is getting baptized next Saturday, the 28th. He has made so much progress. He is more of a shy, quiet person, he was a little nervous about his baptism being announced in sacrament meeting and a bunch of people showing up to it. But he told us that when Bishop announced it, a wave of calm and peace just swept over him. I'm so excited that he's getting baptized!

And then last of all we had another miracle. Tiffaney has been ready to get baptized, but wanted to wait for her husband, Michael, to baptize her. Michael has been less-active for a while and strayed off the beaten path a little bit, so we were worried that it would take too long for it to happen. But Tiffaney had a change of heart on Saturday night, and then at ward conference President Hancock spoke specifically to her. He said that ordinances are more important than experiences. It was an answer to our prayers and a confirmation to her decision. We haven't set a date with her yet but it should be sometime in December. So right now we have four solid commitments to be baptized. If we can make two more happen we'll reach our goal. It will certainly be a challenge and we might not reach it, but we're going to do our best!"

So Mike is still on schedule. He and his wife have been married for maybe 13 years. Susie is from the Island, and Mike is from Williston (Williston is part of Down East but not the Island). Crystal (Hunter's mom) is still doing good. We haven't talked to her again about being rebaptized, but since we've been teaching Hunter she has definitely had more light come into her life. She does want to come back.

We are still helping out at the library, once a week. Would you believe it, it's even smaller than the good ol' Basin City library. We enjoy helping out there. In my study over the last few weeks I've been reading the Book of Mormon (in Mosiah right now) and writing a talk about faith. I didn't know it would take me so long to just write a talk about faith, but there's a lot to it. There's a good reason that it's the first principle of the gospel. …

Anyways, things are going good. We are having Thanksgiving dinner with Almeta. She is Crystal's Mom and Hunter's grandma, so their whole family will be there. It should be pretty fun and delicious. I haven't tried oysters yet, but I probably will soon. The locals here love them, and I guess a lot of dit-dotters don't take them very well. We'll see.

Well, thanks for the news from home. It's so awesome that Daniel's serving a mission. I never saw that one coming. I'm happy for him. Thanks again for the package. It was awesome!… Could you forward Alex, Dan, Andrew, and Kyle's e-mails to me every week? That would be sweet. It sounds like Kyle and Andrew are doing well.

Whew, this seems like it has been a pretty long letter. Thanks again for everything. I do know that this gospel is true and that the Book of Mormon was translated by Joseph Smith. I guess y'all can think about all the blessings that are in our lives due to those truths. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Till next week!

Elder Casper

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Rainy in NC

Hello everyone,
Well, it looks as though I'm in Harker's Island for another six weeks. I'm glad. It feels like Elder Robertson and I have some unfinished business here, and six weeks left to finish it. I am looking forward to finishing this transfer here. Here is what I wrote this week to Pres. Cotterell:

"Well, this week has been really good for us. We loved being able to go to the temple. We have a baptism scheduled in two weeks, Mike. Mike is an awesome guy. He's very low key, kind of shy, and really loves his family. Elder Stewart and I gave the talk about the gift of the Holy Ghost at his daughter Kathryn's baptism. Then a few days later I had the impression that we needed to call them and start teaching Mike, even though we had never met him (he wasn't coming to church at the time). So I called Susie and asked if we could teach him. I reminded her of the blessings that come from having a priesthood holder in the home and told her that I thought that it might be time for him to accept the gospel. So we went over there that night and invited Mike to hear the lessons. He said that when he had been taught before he had believed everything the missionaries said, he just hadn't been ready, but he felt like he was closer to being ready. So we have been teaching him and his baptism is scheduled for the 28th of November. He has definitely changed as we've taught him, he even prayed yesterday in front of us and his family (which is a big step for him). We are super excited. We've got a lot of other good things going on too. Life is good!"

I have a little funny connection back to Eastern Washington that I just found this past week. There is a woman in our ward named Ashley (her maiden name is B) who served in the Spokane Washington mission about 5 or so years ago. She didn't serve in the areas that are closest to us (i.e. Othello, Royal, Moses Lake), so we couldn't find a connection. Last Friday we had dinner with her and her husband, and somehow we got on the topic of how I haven't met very many black people. Part of the Harker's Island culture is that everyone who lives there is white, supposedly there used to be a sign warning black people to be off before sundown. I also made reference to the fact that there aren't many black people in those small towns in Eastern Washington, Sis. S agreed with me there. She said the only black family she remembers was where the dad was white and the mom was black, and that was in Cheney. We talked about it some more and yes, the family was the Bryce S family. I thought that was pretty sweet.

Well, things are going pretty well out here on the coast. I'm looking forward to enjoying this holiday season. We need to get a tree and decorate it. Christmas here is definitely going to be different. You wouldn't believe how warm it is. There's a cold day here and there, but overall it's pretty nice weather. It's really weird, I'm pretty sure we aren't going to be having a white Christmas!

I'm jealous that I wasn't there for that stake conference. It sounds like it was a truly incredible experience. I did have the opportunity of hearing Elder Holland both at BYU and at the MTC, so I guess I should be thankful for that.

Michael, congrats on the 26. That's only slightly below the average at BYU, I would be surprised if you don't get in with that. Good job! And try not to kill yourself, you still gotta serve a mission!

Mom, thanks for getting that album together. I'm sure that I will really enjoy looking at it. And I guess that the library will take softcovers too. I'm fairly sure that they would be willing to put anything that I give them into the library, they do have a copy of the Book of Mormon in there already. Of course hardcovers will last longer, but we'll take what we can get. And you can send whatever you think would be good for someone who went in there to gain another perspective on what Mormons believe.

Well, thanks for everything. One last thing, thanks for finding out Bro. E's areas for me. New Bern is in my district, I've been there 3 or 4 times. It's the birthplace of Pepsi! Elder O (that baseball player) is actually one of the missionaries serving there right now. He and Elder S are two amazing missionaries. Let me know if there's anyone he'd like to have them look up for him. Elder R actually served in both Zebulon and Jacksonville. Jacksonville is the highest baptizing area in the mission! If I'm lucky I'll get to serve in one or two of the same areas as Bro. Edmonds, that would be really cool to be able to know some of the same people he did and be able to connect with the people he knew and taught.

Well, thanks for everything. I hope you all have a good week! I really do love the Gospel and all of you. Until next time!

Elder Casper

Monday, November 9, 2009


Hey everyone,
I hope things are going well for y'all. I am doing fantastic. I really have been blessed much more than I have ever deserved. My heart is full as I read the letters and e-mails I've received, and the blessings that are my friends and family. The Lord blesses all of us much more than we deserve!

Well, here is this week's update on the missionary work.
"We've had another good week. Destinee was baptized yesterday. We taught her all 4 lessons in 2 visits, but Elder H told us she had a super understanding of the gospel (he interviewed her for baptism). She's a 9 year old who was adopted into a member family, and apparently her parents didn't feel comfortable with her getting baptized, so it didn't happen when she was 8. Doesn't make sense to me, they are really good parents and they have taught her well. But Bishop N talked to them about it, and now she's baptized. We had an appointment with Mike yesterday. He is rock solid. He committed to be baptized on Nov 28th. He understands that there are many, many good things that come from baptism. He's a little scared, but he wants to be sealed to his family. We're pretty excited. I think the ward will be shocked in a good way. Hunter's still on track to be baptized December 26th. It was definitely an inspired action to open this area back up for missionary work! A lot of good things are on the way."

Thanks for all the details, Mom. I really do enjoy hearing about what's going on at home and with other missionaries. I will try to be more descriptive about my life out here. Here's one story that I think you will find interesting. When Elder S and I were still together, we called the Down East Library, located in Smyrna, and asked if there was any way we could help. A lady took our number and said she would call us back, but she never did. So last week we were shopping at Dollar General and a lady stopped us and asked us if we had been the ones who had called to volunteer. We told her yes. She asked if we would be willing to come help out on Friday morning, and we said absolutely. So we went on Friday, and we'll get to help out there for about 3 hours every week. Believe it or not, it's even smaller than the Basin City library (where, of course, I worked). We're excited to go there every week, we even got the opportunity to invite the pastor of the Methodist church in Marshallburg to read the Book of Mormon! Ha ha. We're going to try and hunt down some nice hardback copies of good LDS literature like "Our search for happiness" or "Jesus the Christ". If you happen to have anything like that, send it to me! So that was pretty cool…

I can't believe it's November! I've been out for 4.5 months now, can you believe that? It's hard for me to believe that it's almost 2010. It's crazy how time flies. I know that the Gospel is true! At our last zone conference, Pres. Cotterell talked about how "true doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior". If you need to change something in your life and you aren't sure how you can muster up the courage or strength or willpower to do it, try studying some doctrine (i.e. reading the Book of Mormon!). There is power in it! Thanks again for everything, I look forward to hearing from you next week.

Elder Casper

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A couple of yo-yos

A Good Connection

Hey everyone,
How are y'all doing? I am doing great. The weather has cooled down quite a bit here, too. I like it. I was getting pretty sick of the hot summer days. I am really enjoying my missionary service here. My companion is Elder Brady Alan R, and he is so cool. I'm so glad to be his companion, we connect pretty well. He's from Oroville CA and he just came from being a zone leader in Wilmington. We're doing great things together, and honestly I just enjoy being around him and talking to him. I love the ward here, too.

Something funny happened just recently. When I was with Elder S he knew I had been on Jeopardy, but he didn't tell anyone in the ward about it so nobody knew (obviously I wasn't going to say anything!). Well, Elder R heard that I'd been on Jeopardy from the AP, Elder C, and he and Mike S asked me about it. They found out that was true, and then Elder R told Kyle D, the first Counselor, when we were having dinner with his family. He in turn told his brother in law, the bishop, who announced it in priesthood meeting. So everyone finally knows and asks me about it now, it was pretty funny when it got announced. So now people know! Ha ha.

Well, here is the missionary report from this week. "There are 5 people that we think will get baptized before the end of the year. They are Tiffaney, Mike P, Hunter, Brian, and Alex. We had some really good news with Tiffaney this week. She and Michael got married last weekend! So she is now pretty much good to go for baptism. She wants Michael to do the baptism ... Mike P is getting closer and closer to baptism, after we taught him about the Restoration he asked us about what he needs to do to get ready to be baptized. We're just waiting on December for Hunter to get baptized, we're pretty excited for him. We're going to see what we can do to get his Mom focused on getting herself rebaptized, there's no reason that she shouldn't do it soon. We taught Brian the message of the Restoration, and he understood it very well. He said that if he did find out it was true, he would get baptized (because you would have to if you did know that). He mentioned that he wants to give up smoking and that he was willing to give up tea. We taught Alex, who is turning 9 in just a little while. Her stepmother Danielle sat in on the lesson, and we committed her to read 3 Nephi 11 and pray to know if it's true. So we've got a lot of good things going on, there are 2 or 3 more other part-member families we are making efforts to start working with."

So things are going great here. I'm glad to hear about all the exciting things that are going on at home. Todd, you were right. Back home seems like a dream and that it doesn't/shouldn't really change while I'm away, but it definitely does. I'm glad that the time in St. George was good. I can't believe Grandpa's 80 years old! I assume that he's still pretty spry if he's playing in a band. That's pretty sweet. Derek, it’s good that you put on that ACT seminar. I remember Dad suggested to me that I do that same thing, but I didn't capitalize on the opportunity. Coulda, shoulda, woulda. Dad, I definitely should have taken your advice more often. I'm pretty jealous that y'all will get to hear Elder Holland speak. By the way Mother, we didn't get to listen to apostles speak ALL the time! Ha ha, we got to hear only about 2 or 3!

Oh, and I never did respond to your question. President C's all about being led by the Spirit, while President W was more old-school, everyone reports to the people at the top. President C's emphasis is getting the mission to do things according to Preach My Gospel and the Missionary Handbook and allowing us more discretion so that we can be guided by the Spirit. This means that some of President W's traditions are being done away with, such as the assistants and the zone leaders going on exchanges all the time. The assistants only go on exchanges with the zone leaders, and the zone leaders only go on exchanges with the district leaders (as described by the Missionary Handbook). There are also a lot more younger missionaries being called to leadership positions. Those are 2 of the examples of changes that have ruffled the feathers of some of the old-timers, I think he's a very inspired man, though, and there shouldn't be murmuring. There's not a whole lot, but my first couple transfers a couple of the missionaries that I served around complained about it a lot. But anyways, that's that. And as much as I would like you to send Bro. Bott's book to me, you probably shouldn't. We're still restricted to the missionary library. And I did read Jesus the Christ a couple months ago, it was amazing. Talmage certainly was a smart man.

Ok, so I have a couple requests for you Mom. My bank account is low, I've made some purchases with it. Basically we aren't allowed to buy personal items (including clothes) with mission money, so we have to use our own money. It would be nice if I could get maybe a couple hundred in there, there are some personal things I like to buy every once in a while (for example last week I bought a scale and a jump rope so that I can try and lose some weight; they stuff me every night and I've gained about 20 pounds!!! Yikes!). So that would be nice. Yes, I did get your package, thank you very much. I forgot to mention it last week, it definitely is nice to get something from home! I don't get very much mail at all (maybe a letter every couple of weeks), so every little bit is great. And I had a request for an early Christmas present. I really don't have any pictures of my life before I came out here, so I would really, really, really appreciate a photo album that has some pictures of my life throughout high school and college. You can get college pictures off of my Facebook account or there's a bunch on my computer, maybe you can get Chris or Derek to help you. But I would really enjoy that, if you could spare the time/energy/effort. Thanks for everything, I know that the church is true! I've been reading from the teachings of Joseph Smith, and I know that he truly must have been a prophet. I hope y'all have a great week and are enjoying life. Until next time.

Elder Casper

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

"Lizard Hanging"

New Companion, Elder Robertson

How is everything going? I hope that it's going well. Things are going great for me. I am really loving the work. My trainer Elder S just went home. He was a good guy and I learned a lot from him. My new companion is named Elder R. He is such a cool guy! I am definitely looking forward to working with him, we are going to get so much done together. He is an amazingly happy, optimistic person and an awesome missionary. He's from Northern California, a town called Oroville, and he's been out for 20 months. He was just a zone leader in Wilmington, so that might tell you a little bit about the kind of missionary he is. I'm glad to have him as my companion.

Well, I'm getting sick of writing two different accounts of the work every week, so I've decided to start including a portion of my letter to the mission president.
"Well, there have been a lot of good things going on. Elder R had a good conversation with Michael S on the way back from Raleigh. We are teaching his girlfriend, Tiffany; they are both really awesome people. They aren't living the law of chastity, they were in Vegas this weekend, though, and they may have got married. I do not know. If they aren't married, we are planning on working with them to set goals and determine whether they will get married or get separate apartments. She wants Michael to baptize her, which may take a while. We will see, but it will probably be best if somebody else baptizes her and they work together to get worthy to go to the temple.

We also taught Mike P. He's a really cool guy in a part-member family. When Elder S and I had last been there we had left him with a commitment to read 3 Nephi 11 with his family. He didn't do it, which was pretty disappointing. We did end up reading the chapter with them, though, and the Spirit was definitely there. He committed to read 2 Nephi 32, I'm pretty sure he will actually do it this time though. We also committed his family to start studying scriptures together as a family, which will of course be good for all of them.

We also saw Hunter this week. It looks as though he is going to be baptized in December, so we're going to continue working with him so that he will be ready and excited for it. We would also love to see his excommunicated mom get back into it, since we've been coming over and teaching him she's had a little bit more light enter into her life. We also committed them to start doing family prayer.

Then last but not least, we had a really good visit with Brian & Caitlin last night. Caitlin is a less-active member and they are not married, but they have two kids. Brian's been having trouble finding work, but it looks like he might get hired on as a prison guard. He would have good benefits and it will eliminate the excuse of financial insecurity as a reason that they aren't married. Anyways, we talked with him about running 3 mornings a week, and we got onto the subject of him smoking. We talked about the stop-smoking program, and also about how the gospel can bless his life. We invited him to take the lessons, and he accepted! We're pretty excited to work with him, and he's already been getting some great fellowship from the ward."

So that's pretty much what has been going on with the work...I love being a missionary out here and there are great rewards that come from being bold and consistent in missionary work. I also know that the gospel will bless our lives if we don't harden our hearts against it. I can testify of that, I've seen many amazing changes in my life over the last 10 months. Prayer is a powerful tool if we allow it to be, and I'm grateful for it and the other blessings that I have received.
Well, keep me posted on anything interesting that's happened at home. I love you all!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Loving being a missionary

Hey everyone,
This last week has been really awesome! I think I've turned a corner, I genuinely love being a missionary now. I have been doing all of our planning over the last 3 weeks so that I will be ready to take over the area when Elder S leaves (in 1 week!). Planning can be kind of hard, especially in this area. There aren't very many people here, this is definitely one of the smallest areas in the mission population-wise. But we have started working with the members and getting referrals, and I'm super excited to continue in the direction we've been going. I thought I was going to get sick of this area because it's so small and there isn't a whole lot to do, but as we work with the members we are able to get a lot accomplished. If every member gave some concerted effort towards missionary work, we'd have more to do than we could handle. I'm excited! We are working with Hunter and he might get baptized this week before Elder S goes home. We also invited a couple part member families to hear the lessons, and they accepted. We've been getting about triple the referrals we've previously received, and I think the members are getting excited again. They were pretty excited for us to come back, but now they are more excited to do missionary work.

So yeah, this has been a great week. Something that really helped me was we had a visit from Elder Richard J. Maynes of the First Quorum of the Seventy. The information I gained from that has been invaluable to me, and I'm looking forward to continuing to apply the counsel I received and seeing the results. He taught us about connecting our purpose to our work, and that our purpose can be summarized in 3 words: find, teach, baptize. Since we have a new mission president, a lot of changes have been taking place. President C has been taking the mission in the direction described in the Missionary Handbook and Preach My Gospel, which has ruffled a few feathers of some of the old-timer missionaries. But I was amazed at how much what Elder Maynes taught corroborated what President C has been teaching. They are two truly inspired men... I'm still trying to learn as much as I can and be the best I can be.

Dad, thanks for the letter. To answer some of your questions, the leaves haven't changed yet. I don't know how much of the fall colors I'm going to see, this area has a LOT of pine trees. Elder S said it was greener up in Raleigh, so we'll see. I'll be sure to send whatever pictures I get of it. And it is still pretty warm, there hasn't been a frost yet. When it hits is when all the collards start getting popular because it sweetens them up. I'm sure most of you have no idea what collards are, it's a leafy plant kind of like spinach. They are a very Southern thing. I think they're ok but a lot of people don't like them. Thanks for sending me the list of missionaries! That's really sweet to hear about Jordan, Daniel, Jacob, Taylor, Colton and Levi. I actually saw Brennan when I was in the MTC and his cousin (Tray I think? The redhead). Tell Jacob to keep an eye out for an Elder Gundersen, he was my neighbor at college and he is in Tahiti right now. Which Phillipines mission is Colton going to? I have a couple friends from college who are there right now...

Royal lost to Zillah? That's pretty surprising. Tell Michael that I'm going to be sorely disappointed if they don't win the state championship.

This area is a very interesting area. It's different than a lot of the rest of North Carolina because the people are pretty uneducated for the most part. We haven't really Bible bashed much, it's much more common for us to hear, "You believe your way and I believe my way". They listen to their preacher, but haven't really studied the Bible that much themselves. They hold to the traditions of their fathers, for no good reason other than that's what they grew up hearing.

As for time management, it's really just important to break things down. You shouldn't measure performance on time spent (unless it's studying the scriptures), but on tasks accomplished. Otherwise it can be pretty easy to spend a lot of time on something that isn't worth it. I know for me it has helped big time carrying a planner with me everywhere I go, because when I remember something that I need to do I'm able to write it down and get it accomplished. Just think about what your purpose is, and whether a particular activity is helping you to accomplish your purpose. So yeah, that's my time management advice to everyone, most especially Dad (cause he asked for it!).

Oh, and you wouldn't believe how many times people have told me that they think Obama is the antichrist. I'm not a fan of Obama by any means, but that seems like a bit of a stretch. I did hear that he wanted to cut all U.S. ties with Israel though. Any details? If that is true, then that could play a pretty key factor in the Second Coming. Or at least I think so...

Well, in closing, I'm grateful to be out here. Not just because I know that it is my duty to be out here (which it is), but because I know that the gospel is true and that sharing it brings profound joy. Tell me a little bit about the missionaries currently in our ward. Are they up to snuff? If they are, you should definitely think of someone that you can share the gospel with and do your best to get the missionaries involved. I love you all! Until next week!

Elder Casper

Friday, September 18, 2009

First Baptism!

The work is going great. We did have a baptism yesterday. Margaret L knows pretty much everyone in the ward because she taught English for years. Bishop Nelson was one of her favorite students. So anyways, the service was held right after church. I definitely felt the Spirit there. I had some sweet feelings of peace and happiness. Later in the day we were going around visiting people and I pondered over it a little bit, “Did I really just have my first baptism today? Today doesn’t feel any different than any other day.” It was crazy, I guess I don’t really know what I was expecting but it did feel just like a normal day.

We are also teaching a few other people. One of them is Hunter. He is the funniest, sweetest 8-year old. His mother was a strong member and is now excommunicated, but she has taught Hunter the gospel pretty well and is starting to make her way back. Hunter really wants to get baptized, we haven’t set a date yet but it’ll happen.

We had dinner with Raisa this week. She fed us some good Russian food, including some mushrooms that she picked. We had a really good lesson with her after. She now understands that this is the only true church. She was brought up in the Orthodox religion and has a strong faith in that, but she is going to continue reading the Book of Mormon and pray to know if the church is true. She has told us about many good experiences she has had with prayer, so I have faith that if she sincerely prays then she will get an answer.

A couple of weeks ago a new part-member family moved into the ward. The member’s name is Mike S, which brings up an interesting experience. When I was at school in May, I ran into two missionaries in my apartment building. I talked with them a bit and told them that I had got my mission call to North Carolina. As it turns out, one of them was from the North Carolina Raleigh mission. His name was Elder S. I found out that Michael is Adam’s (the Elder’s) cousin. Small world. Anyways, his girlfriend is living with him and she is golden. She has already had the lessons and wants to get married and be baptized. So we are excited to teach them.

Then there is Jerry. Ezra Taft Benson said, “Every man eventually is backed up to the wall of faith, and there he must make his stand.” That is pretty much where we are at with Jerry, either he’s going to make the decision to change and start living the Word of Wisdom or he’s not. That simple.

The weather has cooled down a lot. It’s felt really good. We haven’t had the car over the past week, so we have biked a lot. I’m getting pretty sore from all of it. I’ll tell you what-- I got pretty lucky to be here for the summer. It got hot for a couple weeks during August, but even then it was at least 5 degrees cooler than the rest of the state (which makes a huge difference in this humidity). The ocean cools down this area and provides a nice little breeze. It’s very beautiful out here. It’s where the woods and the ocean meet, which makes for some pretty good sunsets.

Anyway, thanks for the news on the 4 cousins. It’s really cool to hear about the challenges they face and are working to overcome. I’m especially proud of Dan and Al, I’m so glad that they decided to serve missions. I’m so lucky to be from such a great family! I hope Kyle and Andrew continue to do well and enjoy their missions, they’ve always been good examples to me.

Wow, this has been a nice long letter! Thanks for the news on everything. Now that Michael has been bribed with peach pie into writing me a letter, I have received at least one letter from each sibling! I feel honored!… I can now ride my bike with no handlebars, ha ha! Only took me 1.5 transfers. Just thought you should know.

Well, thanks for everything. I appreciate the support I’ve gotten from you all. I know that the Church is true and that it brings peace to people. I have definitely seen that! I love you all, and I will write again next week!

Love, Elder Casper

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

End of the summer already!

Wow, I cannot believe that it is the end of the summer already. It's also hard for me to comprehend that 2/3 of this summer has been spent as a missionary. Time is going pretty quickly. Elder S only has 5 weeks left of his mission, and then I will have a new companion and will pretty much be in charge of continuing the work here. It's kinda scary, I feel like I really don't know what all I'm supposed to do yet. But that will work out when I get there.

So this week has been a pretty good week. We taught Margaret 3 times, and she is an amazing woman. She reads the Book of Mormon and has an incredible understanding of it. She will be a good member when she gets baptized on Sept. 18th. We also taught Jerry. He believes a lot of the church but has not gained a testimony of the Word of Wisdom. He loves his coffee, and he told us he's prayed to know if that is a commandment but hasn't received an answer. We read John 7:17, and explained to him that the way to know if something is a commandment or not is to have faith and live the commandment. We want him to live it for two weeks and then pray about it. He hasn't agreed to it but he's definitely considering it…

I gave a talk last Sunday. It turned out ok, it was about faith. Later on in the week Brother Tommy H (who is the stake president's brother) told us to give him our home phone numbers so that he could call our parents and tell them we were doing a good job. He's a good guy, I'm sure you really appreciated that phone call,Mom. He has a pretty good Harker's Island accent.

So the work is going pretty good out here in North Carolina. It's been humid and hot, and we haven't had the car this week. So we've biked at least 10-15 miles each day, which has been just fantastic. I actually do like the biking, it's the hot and humid part that isn't the funnest. Missionary work is a good thing though. I've definitely seen a lot of blessings come into my life from it. The thing with missionary work is that you have to consecrate yourself to it, or else it doesn't do any good (for you) and you aren't very happy. At least that's my experience.

Anyways, sounds like you guys are doing great. You're pretty lucky to have Derek, Brianne, and Easton living with you. Mike, congrats on the accomplishment of the Eagle. It's definitely a relief to have it done, and something that you will be grateful for. I can't believe it's been three years since Max was born. I heard about it just before I went out to the bus stop for the first day of school my junior year. It's crazy to think about how much has happened and how much I have changed since then. Miraculous, actually. I like that likening of the scriptures to buried treasure, that is definitely true. We can learn so much from the scriptures if we study them and look for the things that apply to us…

Thanks for the things you've sent me. I did like that picture of Max, he's going to be so different when I get back. So guess what? Elder O [BYU basball player] is serving in New Bern, which means I see him every week at district meetings. He's definitely very green (even more so than me!), but he's going to be a great missionary. He's a cool guy.

There was a pretty good storm this last week. The thunder was shaking our trailer and woke me up in the middle of the night, you know how deep of a sleeper I am. It was crazy.

I have a request from Bro. Bott's book. I would like you to send me the section that talks about the records of your mission, the LTPs, the letters to your family, and the journal. I really want to make sure that I am keeping a good record. On a side note, I was reading in the book of Mosiah and I noticed something interesting. Zeniff's account of going into the land of Nephi is written in first hand, while the record of Noah's reign is not. It leads me to believe that Noah didn't keep a journal. Just something that I thought was interesting. And thanks for the extra talks, if ever you see a talk that you think is good or that could apply to me then please send it. I love modern day revelation.
So things are going great here. Whenever you feel like it, surprise me with something (that is a solicitation to send me stuff). I love it out here and hope everything's going well. Keep me informed! I love you all.

Elder Casper

Monday, August 24, 2009

Raleigh Temple

Hey everybody,
How is it going? I am doing pretty good out here in North Carolina. Today is the first day of my second transfer and two months since I entered into the MTC. It's pretty crazy, the time has flown fast.
Well, the work out here on the Island is still going well. There is a good number of part-member families that we are looking forward to being able to work with. One of them, Chuck and Nannie W, accepted our invitation to hear the lessons. Chuck is a great guy and we're excited to be able to teach him. As for our current investigators, Margaret is still progressing. We taught her the Word of Wisdom and she shouldn't have a problem with it, she only drinks tea every once in a while. She's a real nice lady who's had a lot of hard times. She taught English for about 20 years, so many of the ward members have had her as a teacher. Supposedly she was one of those strict crazy teachers then, but she has definitely been mellowed out. She went through a divorce and her son, who still lives with her, has been in and out of jail and has caused her a lot of stress. It's good to be able to teach her, it's bringing her the peace that she needs. Bob has been out of town, so we will meet up with him and see how things have gone for him. Raisa is a good, smart lady, but she's kind of difficult to meet up with. Jerry is progressing slowly but surely. He still doesn't want to give up his coffee, but he listens to what we teach him.
This last week we were fortunate enough to go to the Raleigh temple in Apex, about 4 hours away. It was nice to feel the spiritual peace and comfort that comes from it. We also got to play some basketball with the ward, which is the first time I've been able to do that in 2 months. I loved it. As far as the weather has been, it's been pretty hot. We have a car half of the time, but we bike a lot.
So Mom, you ordered Strengthened By the Storm? I am pretty jealous, I don't have it and wish I was able to read it. There's a lot of history around here that I would like to learn about...So Dad's the new activities committee chairman huh?...Are there any full-time missionaries in the ward? You're pretty lucky to be able to have Derek and Brianne and Easton staying with you, I'm not gonna lie. Thanks for the items from Bro. Bott's book, I love getting those and reading his amazing advice.
Now I have a couple requests. First, for some reason I threw away that article about Elder Oslund, the baseball player. Could you send it to me again? It's possible that he might be in my district, I know for a fact that Elder Stanfield in New Bern is training one of the six (I think) incoming missionaries. Second, I would appreciate it if you would send me a talk by Bruce R. McConkie called "What think ye of salvation by grace?", Elder S told me it was an awesome talk. Lastly, my study desk is pretty bare, so if you would send me something to adorn it (i.e. a spiritual picture) that would be swell. That last request is the least important, I would really appreciate it if I got the first two. So that's the end of my wish list. Keep me informed on the interesting things that are going on, I love you all.

Elder Casper

A Dangerous Creature

"We were biking from Davis to Williston and we saw this turtle on the side of the road. I picked him up to take a nice little picture, and he didn't like that very much. It's an alligator snapping turtle, and they are pretty mean creatures. Someone we were visiting told us they saw one bite a broom handle in half like it was nothing."

Fishers of Men

Hey everyone,

I hope things are going well for you all. It's been a good week for me. On Preparation Day we were able to go fishing (from the shore of course), which is the first time I have been in a long time. We did that with the H boys, John and Chris. We've been on a few exchanges with them, which I really enjoyed. They're both BYU students, John is an RM and Chris is about to go on his mission to Peru. Chris even had the same Book of Mormon teacher that I had at BYU, Brother Bartholomew. He was the coolest (better than Parker, haha) and really had a good influence on both of us. They're good guys. Anyways, so this past week we've worked with Bob on prayer. He doesn't have any confidence in his ability to pray, which seems to be what's really holding him back. So we've taught him some about that, and hopefully he really takes it to heart over the next 10 days. He is going to the motherland! He's from Spokane, so we have the eastern Washington heritage in common.

We also taught Margaret, and I was pretty shocked. When we first met her, Elder S said she was golden, but up to this point we'd only been able to actually teach one lesson. So we went over there to follow up on her Book of Mormon reading and make sure that she was committed to go to church. So we talked to her about it, and she had read Alma 32 and felt peace that she hadn't ever felt before. She told us about how she had been a member of the Episcopalian church, but that when she went through hard times they weren't there for her. When she said that it reminded me of Mosiah 18:8-9, which talks about bearing one another's burdens. So I asked her to turn there, and then remembered what verse 10 said: "Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?" So we read those three verses, and without having planned on it at all, we invited her to be baptized on September 12th, and she accepted! It was crazy. This is definitely something that will bless her, and she recognizes that and wants to be a part of it. So that was a good experience. We've met a few part-member families where there could be a lot of potential. We're going to do our best to be able to teach them and hopefully get people to recognize the blessings that come from being a part of the church. So it was definitely a good week for us.

As far as things temporal, this week has been both pretty warm and pretty wet. I didn't truly understand until now why everyone has a ditch dug in front of their yard, but it rained hard for hours on Wednesday and filled up those ditches to overflowing. So far I haven't had a day that has been both extremely hot and humid, so I count myself very lucky. I actually enjoy the humidity, it keeps things warm at night. Me and Elder S try to run at least 4 times a week for about 15 minutes in the morning to help keep off some of that weight. I must say that there is a great culinary combination here of southern cooking and seafood. We eat well.

So things have been going pretty well, it's crazy to think that my first transfer will be over in a week. The time sure is flying by. We had my first zone conference this last week, and I quite enjoyed it. The various speakers mainly focused on fulfilling our purpose as a missionary, which is "to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end." Sometimes we have hard times that can distract us from our purpose, but as we work hard and stay focused on our goal we are able to grow and to be happy. And if life wasn't hard, then it wouldn't be worth it.

Again, I hope things are going good for all of you. I still think that you stink for being at Priest Lake. Sounds like you've been eating good and having fun. I remember having scones the night before my farewell talk, they were very yummy! And yes, organizing those tournaments on the computer does sound like something I would do. Thanks for the advice, Dad. I appreciate it and am glad to hear that the Benny Bike is up and running (I mean biking ha ha ha...I'm a riot). Thanks for those of you that have sent me letters. The address I have previously given out is the mission office address, and letters take a couple extra days to get to me. So if you want to send me a letter quickly, you can send it to the following address until I get transferred (which I am guessing will be in January or February):

Elder Will Casper
424 Sand Dollar Dr.
Gloucester, NC 28528
I love you all and hope everything is going well. Until next time!

Elder Casper

Monday, August 10, 2009

North Carolina Wildlife Edition

Hey everyone,

Wow, I must say each week seems to fly by really fast. It doesn't seem that long ago since I left the MTC and came here to North Carolina, but it's already been 4 weeks. Todd, you were right, my old life does seem like a dream, and it seems like it was forever ago. But the time is still flying by.

Well, this last week we were able to do a lot more finding, because we didn't have to worry about the whole 'moving into a new trailer' thing. It was nice. It's warmed up a little bit, but we haven't had a bad combination of heat and humidity YET. I've heard that Washington was hit with a pretty bad heat wave. Does that include the east side? Details please!

We've been working on the two stubborn old men. Bob is coming along, he wants his son to baptize him but I'm not sure that his son is going to be able to. He is trying to live the Word of Wisdom and we taught him how to pray. I think that's where his real problem is, he's never really learned to and thus has felt uncomfortable doing it. Jerry is a pretty smart guy who knows a pretty good amount about the church. He doesn't want to give up his coffee. We've been pretty bold with him though, and his heart seems to soften a little more each time we teach him. Margaret was out of town this last week, but she's pretty golden. We'll see what happens.

The really exciting thing that happened was that Raisa came to church! She showed up and realized that she had a lot of friends there. She really felt the Spirit throughout the different meetings, not like the other church she went to where the people were shouting (probably some Pentecostal Holiness church). I was on exchanges in Havelock earlier in the week and was able to get a Ukrainian Book of Mormon, and she started crying when we gave it to her. She fit right in, and I am so excited to keep teaching her. If she doesn't get baptized I am going to be sorely disappointed! Ha ha, she even volunteered for an assignment in Relief Society! She certainly doesn't feel like she doesn't belong there.

The members here are great. We've been fed almost every night since we've been here. We've been working closely with Bishop N and Bro. G, the ward mission leader. They are definitely doing their best to help the work along, and I'm grateful for that. The Bishop definitely trusts us. He gave us a referral for a lady that he worked with who had read Pres. Hancock's book called Strengthened By The Storm and had asked him for a blessing to help with her back (there's a story in there about how a girl was healed by the first missionaries on the Island). We're pretty excited to be able to teach her too, but we don't really know much about her yet.

I am having my first zone conference this week in Kinston, about 2 hours away. District meeting are in Havelock, a good 45 minutes away. Our district leader is Elder H. He's a good missionary. He actually knew Elder S in high school. I go to the church to send my e-mails. Things are still going well with me and Elder S. He hasn't been "trunky", we're still working hard with one transfer left... I am super glad to be out here, and I hope I addressed everything. I am doing well, and thanks for the letters everyone! I love you all.

Elder Casper

Monday, August 3, 2009

The healing waters of the Gospel

Hey everyone,
Well, things are pretty swell here in North Carolina. This last week has been a little annoying, because we weren't able to do much finding. We had a bunch of good teaching appointments and did things that needed to be done, but I'm glad it's over. We finally moved into our new trailer. It is pretty much the missionary mansion. I feel bad - there's a family in our ward that has 4 kids and they live in a smaller trailer than we do. Traditionally missionaries have lived on the Island. This is the first time that missionaries have lived off, so it will be the first time the efforts have been focused there. It's a good thing. There is a lot of work that can be done here.

So about the second day that we moved into our trailer I saw a mouse ran across the counter and scamper into one of the holes in the burners. So me and Elder Stewart turned all of the burners on high and turned the oven on broil to see if we could teach him a lesson. Ha ha ha, it was really, really hot in there. It didn't do the trick, and then he had the nerve that night to nibble on some of my bread. So the next day we got some mouse traps from Billy's, and rid ourselves of the pest. Besides the renegade mouse, it's a super-nice trailer that will work well for us.

We've been trying to work with the ward as much as we can, and yesterday we put on a fireside. We taught about Preach My Gospel, and how they as members can apply it to their own lives. It turned out to be pretty good, I hope they got a lot out of it! PMG is a great resource for learning how to do missionary work, I must say. I didn't appreciate how good it is until I got out here. I would exhort anyone reading this to make a point of studying out of it (and not just Chapter 3) and trying to apply it to your own life.

I had a unique North Carolina experience this week. We were invited to a "pig pickin's", where a whole pig is barbecued, East Carolina style (which has a vinegar taste to it). It was pretty good. I'm pretty lucky to have it 3 weeks out, some missionaries don't have one their entire mission. I'm sure Dad would have loved it. Basically, these people love their food, and love to feed it to you. I am going to put on a huge amount of weight if I am not more careful.

We didn't do a lot of finding this week, but we did have one really good new investigator. We ran into a lady named Raisa when we were on the Island. She is an immigrant from Ukraine, and has been in the U.S. for about 7 years. She loves reading and has a lot of questions. She is pretty solid, she has recognized God's hand in her life and understands what we teach her. She's supposed to come to church next Sunday, and I am really excited for that. She went to the Orthodox church in Ukraine, and looked for a church to go to when she came here. She was in the LDS church for some activity and said that she felt like she was Mormon inside. So we will see how things go, we are trying to get a Ukrainian Book of Mormon for her.

I was thinking last night before the fireside about the Gospel. We showed a video clip that had a song about the "healing waters" of the Gospel, and it really touched me. That's what the Gospel is. We all have some shortcoming or affliction somewhere in our lives. It might be our fault, or it might not be. But living the Gospel brings healing into our lives, and sharing the Gospel helps others experience that same healing power. I am so grateful for it and for the difference it has made in my life, for the healing that it has brought to me. I know that we can all feel it as we live the Gospel principles and strive to become more like Christ...

I did forget to mention that I played the banjo at the 24th celebration. We were in Ward Council and they said that they wanted someone to play the banjo. They then asked if anyone even knew how to play it anyways, so I was truthful and fessed up. It was kind of fun to play...Dad, hope you feel better. Tough luck with the bike. Can't say I'm too surprised though, you are a magnet for accidents.

I am glad to hear about Andrew, and thanks for sharing Brother Bott's words of wisdom. Keep them coming. It still hasn't been too hot, I will let you know if that changes. It helps that there's a nice little sea breeze. I know that this church is true, and am very grateful to be out here. Keep me updated on what goes on. If there's anything I forgot to tell you about, just remind me and I'll be sure to mention it in my next letter. I love you all!

North Carolina Pig Pickin's

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Grateful to Be Here

...North Carolina is a place that I knew I was going to love and that I am starting to love. We get fed every night by the members, and I think I've gained about 5 pounds since I left the MTC. The cooking here is very good, especially here on the coast. Have you ever heard of hush puppies? It's fried cornbread...they fry anything and everything here.

The church is pretty strong here, especially for being in North Carolina. There is one problem that I've noticed though. It's too comfortable here. The kids grow up and can't leave home, and there parents don't want them to leave. So nobody goes to college, the guys don't go on missions, and the girls marry some local nonmember that might join the church if they get lucky. I am so grateful to have grown up where I did, in a loving atmosphere where I was expected to go to college, go on a mission, and make something of myself. People here set their sights so low, it's disappointing. They are good people, but imagine where they would be if they would just set their sights higher. On a side note, it also explains why Random Person A is related to Random Person B in 3 different ways.

Anyways, back to the missionary work. There are about four older men that know the church is true and have been to church for years but stubbornly refuse to be baptized. We are working on them right now. Our first priority of these people is Bob E. He's actually from Kettle Falls and grew up in Spokane, so there's the Eastern Washington tie. He has been to church here and there but has really started going over the last few months. His wife Ailene, who has been a strong active member for many years, got Alzheimer's a few months ago and is pretty much nonresponsive now. It's been hard for him to deal with, but it's also lit a fire under him as far as church attendance goes. We taught him the Restoration, and he knows that Jospeh Smith was a prophet, that the Book of Mormon is true, and that he needs to be baptized. He stubbornly thinks that he's not ready to be baptized yet though. We asked him why he thinks that, and he told us there's a few habits he has to break. Further inquiry led us to the Word of Wisdom. He told us that something that held him back for a while was smoking, but he quit that about 15 years ago. He told us he still likes to drink a beer. We asked him how often he drank, and he said, "Oh, maybe about one beer every 6 months." Ha ha ha, that's the sure sign of an alcoholic right there! So we're working with him to help him see that he is ready to be baptized.

We also found a real nice lady named Margaret L. She taught at the high school for 20 years, retired, and has been working here at Capt. Henry's Gift Shop for the last 10 or so years. She hasn't been to church in years because none of them have felt right, and she's looking for peace in her life... We have talked with her a few times and are really excited to teach her. This is something that will definitely help her out in her situation.

I am really glad to be out here. I have really felt the Spirit do a lot for me. I'm becoming a better all-around person. I am definitely having to stretch, in studying, teaching, and especially contacting people. I really don't like to talk to random people about it, but I've been working on that. My companion has left me out there in a conversation a few times, which is a good thing for me. The other day I think I had about the worst contact in the history of missionary work though. I did about the worst job of explaining the Restoration you could ever do, and his response was, "I don't think I'm interested." Yikes that was bad. It's coming along though. I'm getting over my fear of talking to people about it more and more everyday.

Ah, Mom, the phone call at the airport. Well, I have an explanation. When you are at the MTC, your branch president is your mission president. The white handbook says that you are allowed to call home twice a year, on Mother's Day and Christmas, unless you get special permission from your mission president to call someone. I was never told by any of my MTC leaders, including the branch president, that I was allowed to do that. A bunch of the other missionaries we flew out with did, but I didn't feel like it was right because we didn't actually have permission to do it. They thought I was stupid, but it just didn't feel right to me...So that is why you got gypped :).

The weather here has been pretty nice. A little humid but not as bad as I thought it would be. Of course I still have the whole month of August ahead of me, but so far it hasn't been too hot. North Carolina is just as green as can be. The trailer we are moving into in a couple of days has a forest in the backyard. My favorite animals to observe here are definitely the cardinals. Never seen them until I got here, and they are the most beautiful red birds I've ever seen. I am definitely going to want to come back and visit after my mission...

I believe you are on to something when you talk about going through hard times. The hard times build your character, teach obedience, teach optimism, and help you appreciate the good times.

We get a car every other week, so we ride bikes half the time. We have been living with President H over the last two weeks, and will move into our new trailer on Wednesday. I am definitely looking forward to not living out of the suitcase, but I will miss Sister H. She was so good to us. Her motherly ways definitely reminded me a lot of you, Mom...

This mission is definitely a good thing. I am so grateful to be out here and have the opportunity to share the gospel with others, and I really appreciate the support I've been given from back home. Be good and the Lord will bless you. Keep being good and the Lord will bless you more. I love you all!

Elder Casper

Monday, July 20, 2009

New missionary on Harker's Island

First letter from Harker's Island

Hey everybody! Wow, it has been a long time since I've been able to send any mail. I missed my last P-Day because that was when we were traveling, so now I finally get to write!

Well, it has been quite a week. Last Monday we got up at 4 and flew across the country to Atlanta, then Raleigh. When we got there President C and his wife were there. We were their first set of new missionaries. They are great people. So we stayed at the mission home with them and the assistants, and were all interviewed by the President.

The next day everyone was told first thing in the morning who their trainer would be and what area they were serving in, except for Elder S and I. So after we had an orientation meeting at the mission office, we went back to the mission home to meet our trainers. I had no idea who my trainer was supposed to be, however, so when I went down the stairs I had to ask the assistant. He really surprised me when he told me I would be with Elder S. Elder S has been out 21 months and had been serving as an assistant, and I had talked to him a bunch the previous day, having no idea that he would possibly be my trainer. He is from North Ogden and loves playing baseball. He is very experienced, a hard worker, and all around just a great guy. I am glad to have him as my trainer for the next 3 months before he heads home.

We have been assigned to the Harker's Island area, which really blew me away. Harker's Island is as far east in North Carolina as you can go and has a lot of history to it. It was one of the first areas in North Carolina for the gospel to catch on, and the early members and missionaries had some struggles with the intolerance of the day. The missionaries were run off the island more than once, and it was not uncommon for a brick to come through the window in the middle of church. More recently it has been closed to missionaries serving in it. The last set of full-time missionaries left about a year and a half ago, but some missionaries in Moorhead covered it part-time and felt their was potential there, so President C decided to open it back up. All the other missionaries were jealous, it was pretty funny.

Harker's Island reminds me a lot of Basin City. It is fairly small, larger than Basin City but still small enough that everyone is related. About 80% of the population has the last name of Gillikin, Guthrie, Lawrence, Willis, or Hancock. I have got plenty of southern accent from "off" (the settlements not on the island that make up about half the area), but on the island they speak in an almost English accent! I really have no idea how that came to be, but if you're off the island you call it the "Ahlin", if you're on you call it the "Oilan".

There is some good seafood here, I've already had a clam bake and a shrimp burger. Yum. There definitely is a lot of potential here, more so off the island than on. The island has been pretty well tracted out and the people who live there are generally the same ones who lived there years ago. They go to one of the 8 (I think) churches found on the island and are pretty set in their ways, although there are some part-member families where people are really close to being baptized. There are more new people that live off the island, so that is where we will spend our time trying to find new investigators. We shall see.

As for me, I am doing pretty good. The scenery out here is nothing short of amazing. It has been warm and humid, which is nice. When it gets hot and humid I will change my tune, but until then I love the weather. I've missed some people and felt inadequate at times, so I'm just trying to work as hard as I can. That is when I have felt the best. When I heard that serving a mission wouldn't be easy I don't know if I really believed it. It definitely isn't an easy thing, but I also know that it's worth it. I am glad to be out here, and there is no other place I would rather be. As Elder Holland said, "Salvation wasn't meant to be easy".

We are staying with the stake president, President H. His family has been so good to us. We will be staying with them for a few more days before we move to our trailer in Gloucester, off the island...I love you all and hope to hear from you soon.

Elder Casper

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Elder Casper and trainer, Elder Stewart

Harkers Island, North Carolina

Elder Casper's first area is on Harkers Island in Carteret County. He and his companion, Elder Stewart, are staying in the stake president's home until lodging can be found. There have not been missionaries on the island recently and the ward barely found out they were coming. There is a strong ward there, and they will be working in many of the surrounding places as well.

Will and Michael at MTC

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Leaving MTC soon for North Carolina!

I have really learned an incredible amount while here at the MTC. I have learned about diligence, charity, patience, faith, and many other things. You really learn to appreciate the gospel in here... I have had some good experiences at the Referral Center, trying to get people to see why they need the gospel. It gets me really excited to get out into North Carolina. And I have really gained an appreciation for the scriptures that I never had before. I love reading about Nephi, the son of Helaman. He was such a stud. I love the account in Helaman 5 of his ministry with his brother Lehi. They taught with so much power and authority that they were able to confound and ultimately convert pretty much the whole Lamanite nation. I want to be able to teach with that kind of power, although I know I've got a long way to go. I just want to do the best I can.

The 4th of July was an interesting day. I could hear the fireworks, and I could have gone out by the flags to watch them, but I was just too tired. Earlier the MTC put on this program that payed homage to the people involved in the Reformation, Revolution, and Restoration. It involved recordings of many people dressed up as historical figures from those eras, such as William Tyndale, Martin Luther, George Washington, etc. They tried to make it serious but it came off pretty cheesy. A few of them were pretty funny, even though the actors did not intend it. I almost died watching Benjamin Franklin - he was a chubby, bald man with the girliest wig that I've ever seen. The whole MTC thought it was pretty funny too. I felt bad about laughing, but it was just that funny.

This last Sunday was fast Sunday, and I enjoyed it very much. Because it was fast Sunday, we had a two-hour mission conference, and a branch sacrament meeting. Then we basically have the rest of the day to study. It's very nice…

We got our travel schedules and that is when we are flying out. Very excited about that, but it means that the next batch of mail should probably be sent to the mission office…I did get to go to the temple today for the first and only time, and it was really great. I love playing indoor volleyball in the gym, spiking it on everyone as usual…Being a missionary is great! I love you guys! I would love to write more, but I only have a minute left before it boots me off, so until next time!

Monday, July 6, 2009

First week in MTC

I love it here in the MTC. The Spirit is so strong here. The first day that I was here, I was asked the question "Why did you come on a mission?" many times. It took me a little thinking to really come up with why I am out here. I realized it's because I know how important it is. I left behind so many good things to come on this mission, but I know that doing this service is much more important than anything else I could be doing right now. The Lord needs me here, there are people that need me here, and I need to be here. I've really felt the need to do the best I can out here on the Lord's time. … I am seriously working harder now than I ever have in my whole life.

Life at the MTC is very, very busy. You have next to zero time for yourself. My typical day consists of me getting up at 6, taking a shower, getting ready, and maybe having some time to write in my journal. Then I'll have breakfast in the cafeteria for a half hour. If anyone ever tells you that the MTC has bad food, then they are preaching false doctrine. I can see why so many missionaries gain weight in the MTC, you get to eat as much amazing food as you want. I've been able to limit myself to one serving at each meal in an attempt to avoid getting fat, but it has been no easy task.

So after breakfast I will have class time from 7:30-11:30, lunch, more class time from 12:15-4:30, dinner, even more class time from 5:15-9:00, planning session, get ready for bed from 9:30-10:30, and then lights out. On three or four days I have gym time right after breakfast for an hour before class. Class time is spent being instructed by my awesome teachers (Sister Rogers and Brother Johnston), personal study, companionship study, in the RC talking to people who call the number that's on TV or the pass-along cards, or practicing teaching at the TEC with one of the teachers there. Like I said, it's a lot of work, but I am loving it.

Today of course has been different - I am doing personal and companionship study but I have the rest of the time to write in my journal, write letters, do laundry, shine my shoes, and all that good stuff. It's very relaxing. There is also going to be a devotional tonight, which I've been told are really awesome. There was one last Friday by Elder Holland which was incredible, but that wasn't a regularly scheduled one. Last week was kind of interesting because all the new mission presidents were also here. Elder Hughes (my companion) and I actually saw our mission president and his wife, but we didn't chase him down because it looked like he was in a hurry. Brother Johnston actually did talk to him, and he had an exciting message for us NC elders. He told Bro. Johnston that as soon as he gets into the mission field (about two weeks before us) he is going to interview every elder out there and choose the best six to be our trainers. So hopefully you no longer have to worry about me getting a less than stellar trainer, Dad.

I actually have not been sick, which is good. Swine flu fear is pretty high here, not so much among the missionaries as the people running the MTC. I heard a pretty funny story about my zone leaders (who are great by the way), Starzy [Elder] Stohel and Starzy Lewis. Apparently Starzy Lewis was always making fun of the people who were in quarantine, and not long after that he got swine flu and had to go to quarantine himself for five days... This felt like a really long letter, I can't promise that they will all be this long and detailed :)