Thursday, July 29, 2010

A great (and hot) week

This week's been great, just like always!

"We got two new investigators this week, which hasn't happened for me in a little while. We taught both Z and C this week finally. Z's a pretty smart kid. His family wants him to be baptized, but also wants it to be his decision. His mother is inactive and grandma is semi-active at best, so that's an obstacle. We have a baptismal date set with him for August. We taught C, and he's a really good kid. He's turned out pretty well so far considering the circumstances he's been raised in. His grandparents and mother aren't interested in the gospel, but they're nice and they are supportive of him becoming a part of the church. He also has a baptismal date set in August. They both disappointed us by not coming to church though! We'll keep working with them and see what kept them from coming.

We had two nonmembers come to church that we were super excited to have there yesterday. The first was Sis. M. Sis. M is a really nice girl from Romania who's married to a returned missionary. She's been to church a few times but has never been taught the lessons. They only came to Gospel Principles class, but it was great to have her there. Later on we were in Elder's Quorum and Sis. Beck, our ward mission leader's wife, told us she needed us. A man had just came into the building and asked for some information about the church. My thoughts immediately turned to a similar situation that happened last week, when we ended up talking to a homeless man who wanted us to vouch for him to get money from another church. So we went and talked to this man, and fortunately it was a different person. This man knew a Mormon in Raleigh and wanted to learn about the church. We told him that another service started in an hour, and he actually went home, changed, came back, and went to sacrament meeting and Gospel Principles with us! I was blown away, something like this has never happened to me. I talked to S a little bit and got some of his background. He's of Jewish descent and used to be active in that religion, but he thinks that the Jewish religion today doesn't really go along with the Old Testament. He also said that the Jews await the coming of the Messiah to create the nation of Israel, but it already exists! He is golden. We have an appointment with him on Tuesday and I'm really excited!

We had two recent convert/less-active lessons this week. One was with Bro. W. We were able to get him a large-print triple combination so that he can start reading on his own. He's such a good man. We also taught Sis. N, a less-active member. She's been trying to quite smoking and come back to church. We had a good lesson with her about daily scripture reading and gave her a Book of Mormon to read. She made us some little desserts to eat after the lesson, which I thought was a nice little gesture. I could tell that she did that out of a spirit of service and love. I hope she continues to do well, she's had a very good spirit about her recently."

So to answer your question, the potentials we got up with were C and Z. And I'm really excited to teach Sam. And yes, it does feel like there's a lot of potential here. We did find out where the S's live and we're planning on going to see them this week. I'll report on what happens next week.

This past week has been ridiculously hot. Temperatures into the 100s, and the humidity makes it worse. But I do prefer the heat to biking around in the cold. Last winter was awful! I really don't sweat that much compared to a lot of other guys, so I'm ok with the heat.

There were a lot of things that happened this week. All of my weeks recently have been jam-packed. One of the members, Bro. Tew, took us out to lunch. It was very enjoyable, he's studied a lot on the Second Coming and I've learned a lot from him about it. I'll have to tell you more about later. On the 24th the two wards had a potluck dinner at the church, followed by a little program about the pioneers. It was pretty good, the pioneers in the Willie and Martin handcart companies sure went through a lot.

I got a nice e-mail from David. He told me that his MTC date has been moved up to August. He's going to be gone soon! Crazy! I finally wrote Andrew last week. Hopefully he can find the time to write me back, Elder Stewart told me that when he was an AP he rarely got a Preparation Day.

On Sundays, we are at church by 8 AM and don't leave until 4 PM. We don't have time for a lunch break, and we study and eat dinner right when we get home. Then we go do some work for a couple of hours, and that's our day. Super busy. Today, we are going to shoot some hoops for a little bit, shop, relax, wash the car, and do some deep cleaning. We have to get the apartment spic and span because we will be moving soon. And write a letter or two. It's just a nice day to relax and take it easy. Unfortunately, we don't meet with very many members here at all. We are very rarely invited to a home for dinner, and that's really the way that we get to know the members. We get 1 or 2 exchanges a week. Most of our time is spent doing finding through our own efforts. It hinders the work but we just try to do all that we can do and serve the ward.

Elder Tibbitts' diabetes doesn't really hinder him much. He has to check his blood all the time but it's become an art for him. He has a little pump with a catheter so that he can give himself insulin when he needs it. So it's all good.

It was really great to get that update. Good to see the pictures of baby Jett and hear about Easton and Everett. Easton sounds like a funny kid. If I was to give you any advice about sharing the gospel I would just say seek the guidance of the Spirit to tell you what to do. Bear testimony of the gospel when he asks questions, show him, and if you feel prompted invite him to your home to meet with the missionaries. I agree that it can be a tricky business sharing the gospel with someone that you really want to accept it. Ultimately we just have to have faith and do all that we can do. "Boldness, but not overbearance", as the Book of Mormon says.

I am doing pretty well here. I'm enjoying the work very much, I've really learned a lot over the last couple of months. I've made a concerted effort to stay focused on the gospel, no matter what I'm doing. It's really paid off a lot and helped me out in a big way. You know how much I love the music that I listened to. It's been tough for me to give that up and not think about it or sing it to myself. But as I've pushed that out, things have been a lot better for me.

Well, I believe that's about all I've got. I love you all, and look forward to hearing from you next week.

Elder Casper

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Catching Up

June 21—

It's always good to hear from you. I'm excited for this letter this week.

"This week has been fun. We've been pretty busy. On Monday we taught M. He's a really good guy, but I'm not sure if he's going to progress. I don't believe the desire for him is there. We made Sis. M a reading chart and gave it to her. She started keeping that commitment yesterday. I hope that she will faithfully keep the commitment to read every day. If she does then I believe she will get baptized. Bro. W is as solid as ever. I'm worried for him though, because he doesn't have a friendshipper. He's a lot different than everyone else, and we have no idea who would be good for him. He hasn't read yet because of vision problems, but we blew up 3 Nephi 11 and have a large-print Book of Mormon on the way for him. His prayers have improved dramatically and he is always so glad when we come over and teach him. We moved his baptismal date back a couple of weeks to July 10 so that he can gain a testimony of the Book of Mormon. We've also got a couple of really solid referrals that we're excited about. One of the kids in the N family has a friend named C. He's come to church with them a few times (I think, I've seen him there once for sure). He's 11, and he wants to take the lessons from us. He lives with his grandparents, hopefully they will be receptive to us too. Unfortunately the N’s are moving away, which takes away his friendshipper. We're excited to teach him. We also got a call from the assistants, who got us on the phone with Elder North. Elder North told us that there's a member in his branch/ward who has a referral named E for us. M, the member, is going to drive from Raleigh to be at the lesson with us. I talked with M on the phone, he told me she is really interested and wants to go to church. So we're really excited to teach her too. Definitely plenty to do here in Goldsboro 1st/2nd."

We had a zone conference this past week that was very good. Each mission has an AMA, the Area Medical Advisor, which is more or less the mission doctor… Our AMA is Dr. Liljenquist, who covers multiple missions. He has been home from his mission in Switzerland, German-speaking for I believe exactly 50 years. Isn't that where Grandpa served his mission? … He told us a few good things. He told us that Elder Scott talked about three types of people in the church: 1. people who have a testimony and are converted; 2. people who have a testimony but are not converted; 3. people who don't have a testimony and aren't converted. #1 people are the Elders Quorum president, Relief Society president, etc. #3 people aren't active. #2 people are the ones who present a problem for the church. They are active, married in the temple, have 2 to 3 kids, are poor home teachers, either don't accept or don't magnify callings, don't study, etc. Because they aren't converted and aren't obedient, they are vulnerable to the temptations of Satan. Most missionaries enter as a #2, and the mission field is the perfect place to become converted. He also told us that we go on our missions to suffer. Sounds kind of weird, but it's true and gives you some perspective. If you're working hard, there is going to be some degree of suffering involved. The natural man doesn't like to study, eat healthy, go to bed early and wake up early, exercise, and so on because there is some degree of suffering involved. If you can "suffer well", then you can do what the Lord wants you to. Zone conference was also great. We practiced listening to people and letting the Spirit direct what we say. A lot of times when we talk to/teach people, we come up with what our response is going to be while they're talking instead of truly listening to what they say. We need to stop that! So I'm working on that.

Happy Father's day, Dad! Wow, I can't believe that it's been a whole year since last Father's Day, when I spoke on faithful fathers. That was definitely a day filled with highs and lows. I can't say that I was too excited to leave on my mission at the time, but I knew what my duty was and if I wanted my life to go the way I wanted it to then it was something I had to do. I believe that this past year has been the most difficult year of my life, but it's been 100% worth it. If sacrifice is giving up something good for something better, then this past year has been my greatest sacrifice…

It seems that there are a multitude of people here that know Brandon Mackay. There's Bro. Howard of course. I told you about him before, his greenie area on his mission covered the Burbank, Columbia Basin, Connell, and Basin City wards (In about 1984, I believe). Last night we had dinner with the Storms family. Apparently Bro. Storms was his commanding officer when he first entered into the ROTC at BYU or something like that. The Storms are a great family, Bro. Storms is the second counselor in the bishopric (in the 2nd ward). I was tempted to tell them about the newspaper clippings prank (which I heard from Lance), but I decided it probably wasn't appropriate.

Oh and by the way, my companion is Elder Trent Tibbitts from Panaca, NV. I knew him for six weeks before he became my companion. It was a shock to find out we were together (he was in my district), but it's been great. He has Type I diabetes!…

And finally, it has been extremely hot and humid this past couple of weeks. I believe we're supposed to get into the 100s this week, which is going to be bad considering the humidity. It's a good thing I enjoy suffering now!

Whew, well this is the longest e-mail I have written in a long time. Don't expect too many more of these to be this long! I love you all and look forward to hearing from you next week.

June 28--

Another week gone by. Thursday was the 24th, marking one year since I entered the MTC. Holy cow, I can't believe it's been that long. That's just nuts!

I've got a pretty long excerpt from my LTP this time, and it should answer some of your questions you had, Mom.

"We didn't teach a lot of lessons this week, but we had a lot happen. First, the bad things. M is no longer an investigator, he's just not willing to read and progress in the gospel right now even though he knows he needs to. We had an amazing miracle turn into a letdown with J. I was on exchange in Smithfield, and Elder Tibbitts and Elder Weichers stopped by her house. She'd committed to come to church last Sunday but didn't show, which was a disappointment. As it turns out, she was in Winston-Salem last Sunday and she went to an LDS church there for 5 hours. She loved it, she said everyone was wonderful and told her about how they used to be a Baptist/Presbyterian/etc. but had found the true church. We had a return appointment for the next day. Then she called during study and told us she couldn't see us anymore. She called her preacher last night and he told her that if she associated with the church anymore she would be kicked out of her church and wouldn't be a Sunday school teacher there anymore. It was really depressing for Elder Tibbitts (I never have actually met her). I still think there's a good chance that she'll come around though, I guess only time will tell. Sis. M is having her faith tested right now. We'll see if she's willing to make the gospel a priority in her life by doing the small things. I pray that she will exercise her agency in a righteous way. The next week or two will let us know. We should have had two new investigators this week that we weren't able to teach. We called S a couple of times to confirm the appointment with her and she never bothered to call us back. We'll stop by again and try to set up another appointment though. Then the appointment with E had to be cancelled. M, her friend who lives in Raleigh, called us and told us something had happened to her mother (I think he said that she was in the hospital or something). So the lesson with her is going to be delayed a couple of weeks. We're going to give M a call at the beginning of next week and try to set something up again.

Now, some of the good things. For whatever reason, we've been getting more referrals than I've ever got my whole mission. And they seem like they're pretty solid, too. We're going to give C a call next week so that we can start teaching him (that's when he gets back from Maryland). We've had some decent missionary work lessons with members, where we've invited them to take part in the "Faith to Invite Plan" and focus on praying for missionary opportunities. Bishop Rouse gave us a call yesterday with another great referral. The grandmother of an unbaptized 12 year old named Z wants us to teach him the lessons and get him involved with the young men. We have a dinner/lesson appointment with them tonight, we're excited to meet him and teach him. Bro. W is just doing great. He has a really hard time reading because he has something wrong with his eye and because he's not the greatest reader in the first place, but when we explain the gospel to him in a way he understands he loves it. He's always so grateful for us to come over and teach him. He wants to share the gospel with his whole family. In fact, he brought his brother I to church yesterday, and we're going to start teaching him too. Yes! I believe the 2nd ward is going to start getting more involved with the missionary work. The leaders attended the stake missionary correlation meeting and came back with some things to work on. Smithfield is the only ward in the stake that has been doing the ward mission process, and they have had 8 convert baptisms this year (6 English and 2 Spanish). As it turns out, the leadership doesn't really understand what it is, so we're going to work with them to explain it and help them get it going. We're trying to get the exchange calendar back on track, and Bro. Beck (our WML) is working on getting a new teaching coordinator. We've also requested to have at least one exchange a week from somebody who's a member of the Air Force. I haven't been on base once during the two months I've been here, there's a bunch of less-active/part-member families that might just be needing the invitation back to church. So yeah, it's been a pretty good week and we're looking forward to an even better one this week."

So, some background on Sis. M and Bro. W. Sis. M is a black, single mom, maybe in her late 30's or early 40's (you can never tell with black people, they seem to age differently). She's been taught by missionaries a bunch and I think she believes the gospel is true, but she's never truly made the gospel a priority in her life. Bro. W is a black, older man, maybe in his late 50's or early 60's. He's one of the most humble men I have ever met. The missionaries knocked on his door 3 or 4 months ago, and that's how he was introduced to the gospel. He's not an educated man, he doesn't read very well and only went to high school, but he's a really good man. It's been amazing to watch him become a better person, his prayers are so different now than when they first started.

Two weeks of the transfer have gone by. I'm going to try and make a special effort this week to do the Lord's will and to make sure that my personal studies are bringing the Spirit into my life and putting off the natural man. It's easy to do good for the first couple of weeks in a transfer cycle, and then let yourself down as things become first comfortable and then casual. Elder Bednar told us that we should absolutely, categorically never be casual about anything that we do as missionaries.

I got an e-mail from David, he told me about his mission call… The New Mexico Farmington Mission is the right place for him, as we learned from Elder Rasband's talk this past general conference the call of a missionary is truly inspired of the Lord…

I'm sorry to hear about Chet Bauermeister. Kind of strange that you should mention that. This morning, for some unknown reason, Josh Isley popped into my head and I just wondered how he was doing. Really weird, I can guarantee that's the first time I've thought of him since I've been on my mission.

Thanks for sending the CD! It's great. And thanks for the pictures too!

So, I was on an exchange in Smithfield this week with Elder Morrell. His companion is Elder Weichers (who was in my district for six weeks when I was in Dunn). He came to Goldsboro. While he was here he looked through my pictures, and recognized a picture of Jessica. As it turns out, when he was at BYU-Idaho he was in Brittney's FHE group and knew Jessica. He told me some funny stories. Tell Brittney that T.J. says hi.

Well, that's about all I've got. I'm looking forward to biking around some more for another hot week. I love you all, and hope that you are all doing well. Until next week!

July 5—

This week has been pretty good. Not quite the week we were hoping for though. We've had some roadblocks with some of our potential investigators. The appointment with Z was cancelled because his grandmother was unexpectedly going out of town. She's going to be out of town for another couple of weeks, we have an appointment for Monday July 19th. We talked to M from Raleigh about his friend E, and he told us that her mother is hesitant for her to meet with us. He's going to call us back if the status on that changes though. We'll be giving C a call today, hopefully we can start teaching him this week. We weren't able to start teaching I either, he was going to be there for our appointment with Bro. W and for some reason he had to go to Raleigh instead. So, hopefully we'll be able to start teaching him soon. We didn't get any new investigators again this week. Not from a lack of effort though.

We also taught Sis. M and Bro. W this week. Those efforts went a little better. Sis. M is at least somewhat trying to read every day. She came to church yesterday, she was late but it was great to see her there. Bro. W was also at church, but he left after sacrament meeting because he had family from Florida in town. Bro. W is set to get baptized on Saturday, I'm excited for him. He's a really good man.

This week has been a little cooler, which is nice. I'm pretty much used to the heat by now anyways. This week is supposed to heat up again, so I'll get back to constantly sweating when we're out working. On Saturday night I got to see a few of the fireworks, they were shooting them off just down the street from where we live. They shot off some fireworks when I was in the MTC last year but I didn't see them (me and my companion decided to just go to bed). I'm glad you enjoyed your 4th of July weekend.

Mom, I really like the idea of you sending me snippets of the notes you took on your mission. I would definitely enjoy and appreciate that. It's good to hear about MIchael going out with the missionaries. I can't believe he starts his mission papers in July, that's so crazy!

Here in Goldsboro, we write our letters at the Family History Center, which doesn't seem to close down for holidays. Hallelujah.

Well, this letter feels kind of lame, not as much stuff in it as I've had over the last couple of weeks! We've spent a lot of time finding and not a whole lot of time teaching. We're always trying to get the ward involved with missionary work but it's a struggle. I'm starting to hopefully enjoy finding a little more. I've been focusing on asking good questions so that we can get into a gospel conversation and so that I'm not a gospel salesman. It takes a little more effort but it's more rewarding. And of course we're always trying to follow the Spirit, no matter what we're doing (planning, teaching, finding, etc.).

I got to go to a pig pickin' again this week. That is some good eating! Eastern Carolina barbecue is a lot different than anything we have back West, it's polled pork with a vingar-based sauce. I didn't care for it much when I first had it but I love it now. North Carolina has definitely grown on me more in the last little while. It was hard at first. I'm still in the United States but it's so different than back West. But I'm growing to appreciate it more and more as time goes on.

I'm looking forward to this Preparation Day. In a few minutes, we're going to go play some frisbee golf (which I've never done before) with the Boneys, a really great family in the First ward. They used to live in Zebulon and remember Elder Robertson pretty well. I love spending time with members.

That's about all I've got. I love you all, keep up the good missionary efforts. Until next week!

Elder Casper