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