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 :)