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

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