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