Saturday, March 26, 2011

03.26.2011 Week 5 in Michigan (posted by Rebecca, Trevor's mom)

Dear Everyone,

This week wasn't too bad of a week. Unfortunately, the weather has gotten a lot colder here from last week. The first half of the week wasn't much fun at all. The weather dropped back down to the 30's and 40's and it rained and drizzled for about two days straight, which isn't much fun for missionary work. The icy wind wasn't much fun either. But since then, the weather has improved. The last two days have been much better, and today its nice enough again to go out without a coat, so I'm pretty happy about that. Hopefully it stays nice this time. I can already tell that Spring here is going to be really pretty.

This morning was a little tiring; we spent about 4 hours helping a family in the ward here move. We had a moving van, which was nice, but it was still a pretty time-consuming project, and we weren't able to stay through until the end. Because they were moving from somewhere farther out by the ward boundaries down into Holland, we had to not only load but then also drive over and unload. Luckily a decent number of ward members showed up to help too, so we didn't feel too bad about leaving. I'm a little sore from moving boxes, but I guess that's a good thing.

Which reminds me, the last two Tuesdays, we've also been doing volunteer work in the mornings from 8 to 12 for Habitat for Humanity, which is a really cool program. From what we've learned, they take either refurbish old or damaged houses or they just build a house from the ground up on an empty lot. They find a family that needs help and could benefit from the house, and then when the house is finished they sell the (pretty decent) house to the family for a severely discounted rate, and a low interest rate. Habitat has some employees, but they also rely a lot on volunteer work. In addition, they also require the family who will be living in the home to put in 250 hours of work during construction, which I think is a great idea. I think Habitat relies on donations to operate, and they also sell a lot of usable materials they'll salvage from the refurbished houses at their resale store. So the last two Tuesdays, we've been going and helping out with construction. Last week we helped lay flooring and destroy and remove and ancient brick chimney in an old house they're refurbishing. This week we were sent to help with the new house they were putting up, and we helped sheet trusses (I now know what that means) and put up siding (The main framework of the house was up and this was the next step). It was a lot of fun, and I look forward to helping again next week. 

Things have been going pretty well overall this week. It's had it's ups and downs, but it's been interesting at least. We had trade-offs (or splits) this week with some other missionaries in my district, so I spend Wednesday working with Elder Jessop. He's an interesting guy. Transfers are coming up in about a week and a half too, which means that next Friday and Saturday is when Transfer Calls will be taking place. When that happens, I'll know if Elder Merrell or I will be staying or going. Elder Merrell said that his prediction is that he will get moved somewhere else and replaced by a Spanish-speaking Elder. We'll have to see what happens.

Missionary work itself is going well, although there hasn't been a lot of progress this week with our investigators. Its been difficult to meet with people; everyone seems to be sick or busy. Still, I'm very hopeful for a few people that we're teaching, and I'm looking forward to seeing most of them later this coming week. We're working pretty hard, but there is always room for improvement. The work is very rewarding though, and I've had so many spiritual experiences since I've entered the MTC. I've never felt closer to my Father in Heaven, or had a better understanding of the Gospel as a whole. More powerful though than my increased understanding of the Gospel is my increased testimony of it, especially the Book of Mormon. I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, and I know it by the power of the Holy Ghost.

Yesterday we door knocked into a man that is pretty strong in the Penacostal Church, of which there are several here in Holland. We ended up talking to him for a while, and in the end he agreed that we could come back and share a message with him next week, but he also said that he was going to invite his Pastor over too if he could come. He didn't seem to open to learning anything new, and I hope that he doesn't just want to argue about doctrine or try to "convert" us when we come next week, but we'll see what happens. I may not be a very experienced missionary, but I take comfort in knowing that if I my companion and I have the Spirit with us, we will not be confounded by false doctrine and have nothing to fear. Of course, we aren't going to contend with them or argue about doctine the whole time. That is not our purpose as missionaries, and "the spirit of contention is of the devil", as it says in 3 Nephi 11 (I think), and it drives the Spirit away. It is impossible to teach truths of the Gospel through contention and without the Spirit. So if they just want to argue, we'll probably end up just politely leaving.

Thanks for your email, its fun hearing about everything and everyone. Sorry I don't have time to reply right now. But I want to know, what's going on with Japan right now? How are Lisa's relatives? And how are Heather and Megan doing right now in general? It sounds like Stephen is pretty happy. Are you still reading from the Book of Mormon every day?  I love you Mom, let me know if there is anything that I can do for you or anyone. I pray for our family every day. Have a great week!

One final thought before I go. This week members took us out to dinner at two Chinese places and I got two fortune cookies. One said something to the effect of "Now is a good time to enhance your skills and knowledge". The second said "You have an ability to sense and know higher truths". I thought both were pretty appropriate for a new missionary :)

I hope everyone has a good week and that the weather gets nicer for you guys. It's good to hear from you. Talk to you next week.

Love, Elder Trevor Casper

Monday, March 21, 2011

03.19.2011 Note to Mom (Posted by Rebecca, Trevor's mom)

Hi Mom!

Sorry that I didn't really have time to email you back last week. I did get those pictures though, but they took a while to load because of the slowish internet here at the library. It was fun to see them though, although I think I look kind of strange in that one picture, haha. I wish I could have been there to eat that pineapple, that sounds really good. And that's great that Stephen and Heather both did so well at piano festival.

Thanks again for that box that you sent me. It's always fun to get letters and packages, and those Thin Mints are really good. I've been saving the Mexican candy, but I think I might have one tonight. That was thoughtful of you to send all that stuff :) .

The busses are nice, but they're also a little time consuming. It does give us another chance to talk to people, but so far no one that we've had conversations with on the bus has been interested. Overall, I think a car is better because it allows us to spend more time knocking on doors and finding contacts rather than just sitting on a bus for hours every day going to and from appointments. Still, its working out very well and the bus system is nice to have. We're still able to get everything done that we need to.

I'm going to try to reply to a few other emails really fast so I should probably go. Bye Mom!  Love you, and thanks for everything you do for me.

Love, Elder Trevor Casper

Saturday, March 12, 2011

03.12.2011 First Week of March (Posted by Rebecca, Trevor's Mom)

Dear.... Everyone,

Hey everyone, its been a pretty crazy week this week. Tuesday through Friday there were Leadership Training meetings in Lansing every day that my companion and I went to. My companion is my district's District Leader, so he was invited to go, and since I'm his companion it just worked out easier for me to go too, which I'm grateful for. Its about an hour and forty-five minute drive from Holland to Lansing because we also picked up another missionary on the way. The meetings started at 9 and went until 3 or 4 with an hour break for lunch, so that meant we left by 7:00 or so every day. So instead of waking up at 6:30, we were getting up at 5:30 or 6:00 so we would have time to exercise a bit, shower, and eat breakfast before we left. Needless to say, by the end of each day my companion and I were pretty exhausted.

The leadership meetings were great though. I was a little sad because the morning meetings meant forgoing our personal study each day, which is something that I really look forward to. The meetings more than made up for that though, I think. I called them leadership meetings, but they weren't so much about leadership as just training for the leaders. But what we learned about is 8 important points of teaching that they've come out with fairly recently that they're starting to use to teach the missionaries. When I was in the MTC, this curriculum was a pilot program there, but at some point it is going to become the main curriculum taught there. Those meetings this week with those experienced missionaries and President and Sister Jones are definitely some of the best meetings I have ever been to though. The Spirit was strong, and I learned a lot and took many notes. We were definitely taught by the Spirit as we discussed the principles of the Gospel and of teaching by the Spirit. The role-playing practices that we did afterward were also a very valuable teaching experience as we applied the principles and teaching methods we had just talked about to our own teaching. I am definitely not a perfect missionary, but I am trying hard to do better and to be the missionary that my Heavenly Father wants me to be. The mission field is an incredible place, and a blessing in every way to all who are involved with missionary work. There was a phrase in an article in the Temple edition of the Ensign a few months ago where someone talked about the "philosophical completeness" of the endowment. In a same way, its amazing to see the "philosophical completeness" of missionary work, and how it blesses the missionaries, their families, those whom the missionaries teach, the wards they serve in, and so on. This truly is the work of the Lord in every sense. It is worthy of Him. It is also incredible to see the blessings that come from trying to be obedient as much as I can. I have definitely progressed immensely from when I first entered the MTC, but I definitely am not perfect and need to be more obedient and diligent. Still, I have to exercise patience as I try to improve. But I know kind of a missionary the Lord wants and needs me to be, and I know that I can be that missionary, and that is who I am going to be. I know that if I exercise faith to be obedient, then I will be blessed with more faith. Miracles come by faith, and I want to have the faith to see the miracles in the work that the Lord intended to be there. This is the work of the Lord, and it is done by His power. I'm privileged to be a part of it. The Lord truly will fufil all his promises in the words of his prophets and in the scriptures.

The work is progressing a little slowly right now in Holland, but I know that it will pick up. Not spending half the week in Lansing will definately give us more time to find people this next week (finding new people to teach). Right now we only have a small pool of investigators that we are teaching, around 5 or 6 people, and a few less-active members we visit and teach too. But each of them is an a great and interesting Child of God, and I sincerely hope that we will be able to help them to come unto Christ through His Gospel, which is Faith, Repentence, Baptism, and the Gift of the Holy Ghost.

My Purpose as a Missionary (Page 1 in Preach My Gospel)- To invite others to come unto Christ by helping them recieve the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, recieving the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.

The Lord's work and glory is to "bring about the immortality and the Eternal Life of man". As a missionary and servant of the Lord, I assist in this work through my purpose.

I know that our Savior lives. He guides and watches over His church and this work. He loves us more than we can imagine. I know that he completed the Atonement for us, and did all things expedient for us. I know that he and the Father appeared to Joseph Smith in the sacred grove, and that Joseph Smith and all the prophets since are His chosen servants that hold all the keys of the Priesthood, and they direct and guide this church today exactly as the Jesus Christ would. I know that the Book of Mormon truly is the word of God and the "words of life", and is they keystone of this church in these Latter Days. No other book will bring the reader closer to Christ or will invite the Spirit more into their lives. I know that my Heavenly Father loves me and blesses me for my obedience and diligence. I know these things by the power of the Holy Ghost, and they have sunk deeply into my heart. I know they are true. And I say them in the name of Jesus Christ. And in the words of Nephi "And thus it is. Amen"

I love you all,

Elder Trevor Casper

Sunday, March 6, 2011

03.05.2011 One Month and Two Days ... (posted by Rebecca, Trevor's Mom)

Hey everyone, how is everything going? It’s been my first full week here in the Holland area, so I'm finally starting to get used to everything and get into the rhythm of missionary work. It’s been a pretty busy week though!

It’s still a little cold here. Some days are worse than others, but in general it’s been getting steadily warmer in the last week or so that I've been here. There's still a bit of snow, but it’s starting to melt now. If I'm here for the spring, people tell me that it's really pretty, especially here in Holland. Because of the Dutch influence, they have a Tulip Festival, and apparently there are thousands of tulips everywhere and there is a pretty big celebration every year. So that'll be interesting, if I'm here for that I will definitely have to say more about it. Right now though, we're just hoping for slightly warmer weather. I'm not too fond of all the slush.

The people here are interesting and pretty varied. Most people are white, but there are also quite a few Hispanics and good number of blacks (African Americans? If I'm white then they can be black) . Actually, between the members we've met and eaten dinner with and the people we've door-knocked into, I've met people from all over the country and the world. Earlier this week we ate at the house of some members who were originally Cambodian. It was a little difficult to understand the parents, but luckily their kids could speak English very well. We've come across all kinds of people door knocking too, including a few who couldn't speak English at all. There were even a couple people from India. With this mix of people comes all kinds of religions too. There are a lot of churches here of all kinds of denominations. I think I've probably counted at least 10 or 15 in this area alone so far, and I'm sure that there are more. Most are Christian, but we've also come across Atheists, Agnostics, Buddhists, and Hindu...ists. And a few Muslims. Apparently no Jews so far though. Other than that, that's about every major religion that I can think of.

We have a car full time, which is really nice. On the downside, we have limited miles that we can travel. Our allotment for this area is 1050 miles per month, which seems like a lot, but it really isn't. Especially when many of our investigators or the less-active members that we go visit live from several miles away to 20. It adds up really fast. To make things worse, Elder Merrell is the district leader, which means that we have to drive the car to do regular trade-offs every week. All in all, we only have an average of 22 miles to drive each day this month. Since one of our investigators who is progressing the most lives about 18 miles away, this is a problem. So we bought bus passes and we've started using those this week. They actually work really well for getting us around to most parts of the city. They're really time consuming to use, but it’s a lot better than walking everywhere. We're also working on getting rides from the members for some of our more distant visits.

The work is coming along. We're working hard, and hopefully things will start picking up now that we have a better grasp of the area and what's going on. Thanks to everyone who sent me letters and emails, I wish I could reply to them all right now but I have to run (we have an appointment in a few minutes), so I'll do it later. I'll keep everyone updated though. Let me know what's happening with you. Have a good week!

Love you all,

Elder Trevor Casper