Monday, April 11, 2011

Leaving Wilson (with Elders Taylor and Brady)

Working hard in Durham

Hello everybody,

Holy smokes this week has been a crazy week! That transfer just snuck up on me, I had no idea that was coming! I was transferred to the (drumroll please).... Durham 2nd ward! This area is so much different from all of my other areas! I'm actually in the city now. My area covers North Durham, and our ward has about 250 active members in it. Lots of Duke medical students with little kids. It's pretty crazy, it was really loud in sacrament meeting because of all the kids! The ward is really good, it's just loaded with all sorts of awesome members. I'm really excited to be here. My new companion is Elder Koplin, from West Jordan, UT. He's been out for about 5 months now, and he was actually in my last district (he was in Smithfield). He strongly reminds me of Lee Crowther in his personality. It's going to be a good next 2 transfers!

OK, now from my LTP:

"Elder Koplin and I are really trying to get things going here in Durham 2nd. When we got here, the first thing we did was organize the apartment. There was a lot of "legacy" items/ junk in the apartment, and we just couldn't live with it. It was left clean though, which was good. We set goals to contact at least 10 people every day this transfer, and to help 5 members a week commit to do something to share the gospel and set a date that we can follow-up with them. We figure that if we stick with those goals, the Lord will lead us to the elect and bless us with people to teach. There were a few investigators that the sisters were teaching that we've been trying to get up with, we want to see if they are willing to progress. The ward here is amazing. They seem to be really excited to have elders back in the ward. We've been able to talk to some really good people in the few days we've been here, and we're sure the Lord will bless us with people to teach. We are striving to be exactly obedient. The more obedient we are, the more blessings we receive. It will probably translate into more baptisms in this area, and even if it doesn't, we will receive many other blessings. I truly believe that.

We did find two new investigators this week, K and K. They live together but are not married. We left them with copies of the Book of Mormon to read. They have an opportunity to find out for themselves if it is true. If they do want to continue their investigation, we will teach them the law of chastity and invite them to act on it. If they don't repent, we won't teach them anymore. They're good people, and they liked how they could read and pray to find out if it's true. So we'll see what happens.

We also taught an investigator named M that the sisters were teaching. He's 18 and a nice kid, but he hasn't acted on the message at all. We tried to read from the Book of Mormon with him but he kept getting off onto random subjects. He doesn't seem to have too much real intent. We'll see what happens though."

There are a few things I've learned about prayer on my mission. I've learned that the Spirit is given by the prayer of faith. So, praying with real intent and full purpose of heart will help us to feel the Spirit. Prayer is something you need to work at. Our answers to our prayers always come through the power of the Holy Ghost. Sometimes you receive a small prompting while you are still on your knees, sometimes you'll be going along and later you'll have a deja vu moment, and sometimes miraculous events will happen where after witnessing the event the Spirit will hit you like a ton of bricks. In every case, it is the Holy Ghost telling truth to your heart.

This week I was at district meeting with a bunch of the other missionaries serving in Durham. I noticed one of the elders was Elder Calaway. I said, "Elder, where are you from?" He said, "Washington state." I said, "I'm from Basin City!" He said, "Jessica Casper is my cousin!" I said, "She's my cousin!" Ha ha ha, it was crazy. His name is Kellen Calaway, and he's from Richland (although his family lives in St. George now). His dad is Bret Calaway. He knows Brad and Sanette's family real well, and he's even been up to the cabin with them. He's a pretty funny and crazy guy. He was on his mission for about a year in Puerto Rico, had to get sent home for a year to have knee surgery, then was reassigned to this mission about 3 months ago. Small world!...

I had a question for all returned missionaries in the family. What were some questions that you would ask people while you were contacting them when you served? I'm just looking for suggestions so that I can better improve in that aspect...

Derek, and any self-proclaimed/uncertified legal experts in the family - is it legal to ban religious solicitations in the United States (seeing as we are non-profit)? Have there been any court cases about it? Does NC have any state laws regarding it? That's a question that I've wondered about my whole mission.

I'm glad Michael is doing well in Brazil. Tell Bishop Nielson thanks for the e-mails. I would reply myself, but out of a desire to be obedient I'm not. When does Lee get back from his mission? What's going on with Ashley? Somebody please tell that girl to write me a letter.

I couldn't help but laugh when I read about Mom, "the bird killer". Ha ha, that was funny. And what do you mean, we've never had a problem with birds striking the windows? Don't you remember the quail incident? And by the way, those little metal square foot gardening things are pretty neat!

Well, I gotta go now. I hope you all take care and have a good week!

Elder Casper

Friday, April 8, 2011

Transfering Again!

Hey everybody,

Wow, I am just so happy right now. I love being a missionary. Conference was awesome!

"This week was a pretty crazy week. We've been frantically trying to get the car repaired, the carpet shampooed, the apartment ready for transfers, cover English and Spanish investigators, and watching General Conference. It's been really good though.

Thank you so much for sending me to Wilson. This transfer has helped me out a lot. It hasn't been an easy transfer, but it's helped me to realign some of my priorities and expand my vision. Elder Brady has helped me out a lot, and hopefully I've helped him out some too. Elder Taylor has helped me out a lot also. Wilson is a great ward, and they will do well.

This general conference was just awesome. I learned so much from it. I can't wait until the conference issue comes out next month. I plan to diligently study and seek to understand it. I've set some goals for the last 2 transfers of my mission that I'm seeking to accomplish. One thing that I've learned here in Wilson is that when it comes to goals, there are 2 important parts: setting inspired, attainable, worthy goals, and being diligent and having perseverance in obtaining those goals. Don't give up on a goal until you've given it its due amount of work and time. Give it some time, and if things don't get better, then adjust your goals.

We taught a lady named C. Her mother was a convert to the Church, and she said she would be a member if she had grown up in it. She said she's not interested in converting, but she wants her great-granddaughter to become a member. So we'll see what happens with that.

We taught Bro. B also. We had a very good, Spirit-filled lesson. He told us that even if he finds out that the Book of Mormon is true, he won't leave his church. It was disappointing, but he was being honest. We were in contact with the M family, but they didn't come to General Conference. The B girls showed up for two talks of general conference, then left. We think they might be looking into the church for the wrong reasons."

So, this is going to shock you all. It really shocked me! To answer your question, we do live with the Spanish elders. Elder Taylor was training a new missionary that came to Wilson at the same time I did. On Wednesday morning, Elder Brady said, "Get a picture with Elder -, he's going home." I didn't believe him, but sadly he was. I'm going to miss him. About 1 minute later President Cotterell showed up at the apartment, and I was just like, "Wow, this is really happening." President pulled Elder Brady and I into our home, and sat us down. He basically said, Elders, you've done a good job here in Wilson this transfer, but the decision has been made to pull the English elders out of Wilson and allow the Spanish elders to cover it. I was shocked, I had no idea that this was in the works. President told me that I will be whitewashing (2 new elders into an area instead of just 1) into an area that is being covered by sister missionaries at the moment. He didn't say I would have a new missionary, but that I would be the senior companion. He also told me that I would be going to a zone that I haven't served in before. So unless something has changed between then and now, that's what I'm expecting tomorrow at transfer meeting. I think I'll end up somewhere in the Triangle Region (Raleigh, Durham, Apex), and I have a couple guesses as to where I might go, but I don't know anything for sure. I guess I'll be able to tell you next Monday! This has been very unexpected. I love Wilson and I'm going to miss it. I'm sure I'm going to enjoy my next area too, though. I'm pretty excited to find out where I go.

So, I wrote this out. It started as a response to the question about feeling the Holy Ghost, but it turned into more of just missionary advice. Please forward this to Michael and David Gledhill.

Keep your priorities straight. Study Chapter 1 of Preach My Gospel over and over again, especially the section "A Successful Missionary". Be diligent and a hard worker, but don't be in a rush to get everywhere (that will interfere with the Spirit). Remember that every blessing we receive in this life comes through obedience. Be exactly obedient, don't rationalize any rule-breaking. Limited obedience will bring limited blessings. You will serve around missionaries who choose to be disobedient on certain things, and you might even have a companion who doesn't strive for exact obedience. Love them enough to refuse to accept their disobedience into your missionary work, and show them what an exactly obedient missionary is. The Missionary Handbook and your mission president will tell you all you need to know about obedience to missionary rules. And by the way, Elder Smith saying that the former assistant said that President said that sleeping until 6:40 is ok does not constitute a directive from the mission president. Don't listen to hearsay, ask your mission president if "rumored rules" really are rules. Resist the temptation to follow other missionaries instead of following the Lord and your mission president. Everyone (missionaries, members, mission president, etc.) will trust you if you are exactly obedient and radiate love for the Lord as your motivation for obedience. A successful missionary enjoys the companionship of the Holy Ghost. By living the doctrine of Christ as found in Chapter 1 of PMG, you will feel his companionship more fully. Helaman 12:1-3 teaches that when people prosper, they harden their hearts and turn to wickedness. Someone with a hard heart does not feel the guidance and comfort of the Holy Ghost. It takes a soft heart to have his companionship. So, if it feels like it's been a while since you felt the Holy Ghost, take it as a wake-up call and a signal that you need to change something in your life! Never weary of doing good (Alma 37:34). And remember that conversion (both your conversion and your investigators' conversion) comes through the heart, not the mind. It is extremely important to have a firm knowledge of the doctrines and principles of the gospel, but your investigators must be converted by the Spirit and not convinced by knowledge (or they will eventually fall away). There are a lot of other things that I would like to say, but that's all I can think of right now.

Mom, I agree with you wholeheartedly. I am so glad that I decided to serve a mission. I feel like my mission has been filled with all sorts of frustration and struggles, but I've grown tremendously. I feel like I know what's important now. I know that I could not have learned the lessons that I have learned at my young age without serving a mission. "Learn wisdom in thy youth; yea, learn to keep the commandments of God" (Alma 37:35). Much better to have the knowledge I've gained at my young age than to learn it incrementally over the next 30 years or so.

I'm sad to hear that Bro. Edmonds was transferred. Do you know when he's going? Hopefully I can meet with him and talk about NC before he takes off.

One funny thing really quick. Before General Conference started, I was doing some pondering about the lessons I would be learning. I figured that many of them would be applicable for my last 3 months as a missionary, and the others would be more applicable for my first 3 months after returning home. Then 3 or 4 different speakers go and tell all the returned missionaries to quit dinkin' around after their missions and find a wife. Ha ha ha, that just made me laugh.

Well, I should have lots of good things for you in my next e-mail! Take care, I love you all so much.

Elder Casper