Sunday, April 24, 2011

04.26.11 Harrison is Awesome (Posted by Trevor's Mom, Rebecca)

Hello Everyone,

How are things going for everyone? Things have calmed down a bit here, which is good. This last week has been great, things are really starting to pick up. It's cool to see the blessings that come from working hard and being obedient, even in the small things. The Harrison area is really doing well, I think. It's also been an interesting week: we've done service at a branch member's farm; it snowed a couple of inches and then warmed up to 60 degrees; and we were offered drugs by someone while we were out door knocking.  It's also been great getting to know the members; there are a lot of really good people here. Some of the members are so generous. One couple gave us each $40 in gift cards to McDonalds and Subway! I always love Subway and it's been fun getting to go a couple times this week.

We've been doing a lot of walking this week, as our miles have been cut back for this month. We only have about 20 or 30 left for the rest of the month! We're trying to make it stretch though, which means that we are walking to the areas that we work in, which are several miles away. It takes about an hour to walk there, so at least we're getting a little exercise and fresh air. It's also a good chance to talk, which is really nice. It's been kind of a tough week, but I've enjoyed all the work a lot. Being obedient and working hard doesn't mean that the work will get easier, but we're always happier when we do and we are blessed to find more people who are interested in listening to us.

Elder Poulsen and I are actually getting along really well and we're pretty good friends. He's a really cool guy, and we're planning on hanging out sometime after we both get home. He's been out here about eight months or so now, so he's six ahead of me. Its a lot of fun to talk with him though about everything. We also do random stupid things sometimes when we get home for the night or on P-days. Last Saturday we played a missionary-themed board game for an hour and a half, and also played a bit with a bottle of diet coke and mentos, which was actually really fun. But things are going great and we're working well together, which makes missionary work a lot better. We also teach well together too, and Elder Poulsen also wants to work hard, which helps a lot because I want to do the same. The only way to really be happy as a missionary is by working hard, that really is the key. I've definitely seen the connection between obedience and blessings more strongly since I've been out here than I ever have before. It's a great privilege to be out here serving the Lord.

We're teaching several people right now, and its a great blessing to be able to see them progress and gain a testimony for themselves about the truthfulness of the Gospel and the message of the Restoration. This truly is the Church of Jesus Christ, and people who are sincerely looking for the truth can recognize that. I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, just like Moses, Elijah, and Noah. I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, and is what it claims to be. I can tell you that I know this because the Holy Ghost has confirmed that knowledge to me. I know that God loves his children and wants them to succeed, and that he will guide them to the truth.

I don't have much time left, so I need to go. But have a fun Easter everyone, whatever you end up doing! Keep the people that we teach in your prayers too, if you can. Oh, and by the way, my new address here is- 801 Westlawn #6, Harrison, MI, 48625. I'll be here until at least the 14th of May, but if you're ever not sure if something you sent will get here in time, you can always send it to the mission office and they'll forward it on (to make forwarding easier, it helps a lot if you can sent it through Priority Mail. If not, then it may take several weeks or a month to get to me). Thanks everyone!

Elder Trevor Casper

Monday, April 18, 2011

04.18.11 Crazy Week (posted by Trevor's Mom, Rebecca)

Hello Everyone :)

A lot has happened in the last week. There have been a lot of changes, and now I'm actually in a totally new area with a new companion. I only have a few minutes to type this out, so I'm going to have to be brief.

Basically, as of last Saturday things were going great in Sault Ste. Marie. I was starting to get used to the area. I had introduced myself to the branch on Sunday and got to know them a lot better. But Monday, everything went crazy. Elder M. had been having some health problems, so Monday morning after studying we drove down to a doctor in a nearby city to get him checked out. Eventually, it was decided that he needed to be referred to a specialist.

At the same time in a completely different area called Harrison, Elder Poulsen was training a brand new missionary named Elder P. who had just gotten here to Michigan last week. Unfortunately, Elder P. found out that he was going to be sent home, he had some things that he needed to clear up there. So after hundreds of phone calls by Elder M., President Jones, Sister Jones, and the Mission Doctor, it was determined that we would return back to our apartment, pack, say goodbye, and be down in Harrison by that night, which was several hours away. So that's what we did, and it's called an emergency transfer. All four of us spend the night there. The following morning, Elder M. ended up being sent down to Grand Rapids to get better medical care by the specialists there, and Elder P. was also picked up by President Jones to be taken to the airport to head home. So, here I am, a few days later, in Harrison for the rest of the transfer, with Elder Poulsen as my companion. So things have been pretty crazy!

Because we had to leave so soon, the Sault Ste. Marie area actually won't have full-time Elders there for the next four weeks of the transfer. The local district leaders, who live down in a place called Cheboygan (I probably spelled that wrong) will be taking over that area part time, and will mostly just be visiting less active members and making sure things are ok up in Sault Ste. Marie. Luckily, there weren't too many investigators there anyways, so they should be able to handle that.

I'm actually really excited to be here in Harrison though. There are hills! That is so different than Holland. It's actually pretty small town, and we have several other small towns in our area. It's more rural here, maybe about the size of Rigby, ID. Around the town are farms and houses on large plots of land that are spaced pretty far apart. There are also a lot of lakes in this area. It's not very open though, the whole area is surrounded by a forest. It's such a pretty place though. I really love this area. Seeing wildlife like wild deer and turkeys is pretty common, and on a warm day its really nice to walk down some of the country roads and enjoy the fresh air. This is actually Elder Poulsen's favorite area so far too. The members here are great; even just in these few days I've already met some of my favorite people here is Michigan so far. It'll be fun meeting more of the members of the Branch tomorrow. It's a bigger branch than at Sault Ste. Marie, there should be 50 or 60 people there. Harrison is a pretty quiet town, where a lot of people know each other, but it and the surrounding towns are going to be great for missionary work.

Elder Poulsen is a great guy, and I'm really looking forward to working with him.  We're getting along really well and we're already great friends. Also, he definitely wants to work hard, and I do too, so that makes a big difference as well. We just click pretty well, and he's easy to talk to and fun to work with. So this is going to be good, and I really think that this emergency transfer is a blessing in disguise for me. I'll have to tell you more about Elder Poulsen later, because I'm about out of time.

Things are going great, and thanks for all the support! I pray for you and I know that you'll be blessed by me working hard and trying my best to be a good missionary. I'll do what I can to email back everyone, but it'll be a bit tougher now that I don't have as much time on the computers. Still, I should be able to get back to you in a couple weeks. If you send me a letter, I can read that anytime, but that also might take a while to respond to because my time when I can write back is pretty limited every day. Although Saturdays I usually have more time. But have a great week everyone, and enjoy the spring wherever you are!

Elder Trevor Casper

Saturday, April 9, 2011

04.09.11 First Week in Sault Ste. Marie. (Posted by Rebecca, Trevor's Mom)

Hello Everyone,

This has been my first week in the Sault Ste. Marie (pronounced "Soo/Sioux St. Maire") area! It's pretty interesting up here. Where to begin, hmmm... Well, to start off with, our area covers the entire eastern 1/3 of the Upper Peninsula. Our miles are pretty limited though, and because we have to spend most of them driving to and from meetings down in areas south of the bridge in the main part of Michigan. Sault Ste. Marie is right up in the top right corner, right next to Canada. Because of that, the missionaries here rarely go to visit other parts of the area other than Sault Ste. Marie and St. Ignace, which is a town south of here and right next to the bridge. The bridge connects the main part of Michigan to the Upper Peninsula, and it's actually a really big bridge. It's almost 5 miles long! The land itself is pretty different here. The trees are a lot thicker, and there are many more pine trees here. There are also hills! Most of Michigan is pretty flat. Holland was really flat, I don't think there was a hill in that town bigger than the one on Bellin Rd. between 17th and Broadway. But here, there are tons of hills. Spring has come here just like in Holland. There aren't many tulips, but the last few days have been really nice actually. I was wondering if there would be lots up snow up here, but apparently it's really nice this time of year.

The people here are pretty interesting too. They have a bit of a reputation throughout the rest of the state for being a little redneck-ish. And it turns out, that's actually pretty true for a lot of people up here. They're called "Yoopers" (I think something to do with U.P.-ers, upper peninsula), and in turn call the people in the main part of Michigan "Trolls", because they live under the bridge, haha. Of course the people vary depending on where you go, and Sault Ste. Marie is a more populated area, but in a lot of other places farther west of here the people do get a little more interesting. A lot of the people who live here just spend their entire lives up here it seems like. So even if they aren't redneck-ish, they still have their own identity. It seems like they're pretty nice though, I've met some of them that are investigators or less-active members that the missionaries have been visiting. Yesterday when we were visiting and investigator and less-active member they showed us a couple songs that had to do with the Upper Peninsula. One was a song called "Ballad of the Edmund-Fitzgerald", by (something) Lightfoot, and it was about a big cargo ship that actually sank up here in the Great Lakes a number of years ago, killing the 29 crew members on board. It's a pretty crazy story, apparently the storms can get pretty bad out there at times. The other song was by a group that sounds like kind of a redneck comedy group. I think they were called "Die Yoopers" or something like that. But the song was a long one, and it was called "The 30 Point Buck". It was funny because apparently there are actually people up here like the ones the song describes.

We're actually situated right on the channel between Lake Superior and Lake Huron, which is a pretty important spot. The locks that connect these lakes are actually right in town, and Steve, the Ward (Branch?) Mission Leader took us out yesterday to see them. Our house is a mile or two from the channel, but throughout the day and night we occasionally hear a deep horn off in the distance. In other places I would assume it was a train, but here it is the freighters that travel up and down the channel to different ports and factories. Lake Superior is actually about 20 feet higher than Lake Huron, so in order to get these massive 600, 700, and even 1000 foot freighters up to the lake, they have to use these Locks. Basically, there are two gates with a long stretch of channel in-between. When the ship is inside, they close the first gates, secure the ship, and funnel water down from the upper lake into the lock until the ship is at the same water level. Once it's raised all the way up, they open the second gates and the ship sails on through. When a ship is coming downstream, they just do the same thing in reverse. It's amazing that they can raise those enormous ships like that, especially considering they use only 5 hp motors to do it! All they really have to do is open and close the gates and the water valves, which doesn't really require that much energy. And all the energy they need, they just produce with a small turbine generator that they have inside the lock. So it was a lot of fun to go visit it and see this huge ship get lifted and then power away upstream. It's a pretty long process, it takes around 10 minutes or so to actually go up or down that 20 feet, but it was cool to get to see it. That's always something that I've wanted to be able to see.

Elder McMurtie is my new companion, and he's a pretty cool guy. He's been out for about a year, and has been in lots of different places around Michigan. He's actually from Idaho too, down in Gooding, wherever that is. I had to ask him, and it sounds like it's down by Twin Falls somewhere. He has a reputation for being a cowboy, and he did rodeo through Junior High and High School. Hopefully things will go ok with him. We're still kind of getting to know each other and getting used to each other, but it should work out. The missionaries actually dont' live in an apartment here, we have a house. It's a really small house, and it's old, but everything works ok and we don't have to worry about people making noise above and below us. Today is actually a deep-cleaning day, which happens twice a year apparently. So today, after we finish everything we need to do and get home later this afternoon, we're going to spend a few hours cleaning the entire house. That should be fun. We already did a good bit of cleaning earlier this week, because when I first got here it was actually pretty bad and a little scary. But overall, it seems like a pretty nice place to live.

The Church here is a little different. There aren't many people here that are LDS, so it's actually just a branch that we have instead of a ward. There are a lot of inactive members, and only about 30 to 40 people show up regularly. That isn't quite enough to justify a building, so they actually have a series of connected rooms rented in an office building as the church. That was something new to me, but it actually works out pretty well for them and it makes a good church. It'll be interesting tomorrow to get to meet most of the members here for the first time.

One more thing before I go. The first day I got here, Elder McMurtie and Steve played a little prank on me. Elder McMurtie and I drove over to his apartment, and my companion was telling me that Steve was an investigator that they had met with a couple times, but that he had a lot of hard questions. So that's what I was expecting when we came up and knocked on his door. When he opened the door, we shook his hand and we came inside. But Steve seemed really strange. He seemed pretty agitated. First he told us exactly where he wanted each of us to sit. Then he started saying that he wanted to learn more about what our religion thought about prophets. He told us that in his own religion, whose name he could not disclose, he was considered a "minor prophet". He then got even more agitated and told us that he shouldn't even be meeting with us, and if his church leaders or his gods found out they would be angry with him. Before we could start talking he excused himself, and went into the bathroom. We heard a sound of thunder and lightning that sounded like it was coming from a small toy, and then we heard a pounding on the walls and Steve shouting some made-up words, something like "Babbala Hassabah Cootoo!" or something like that several times. He then stepped out of the bathroom, looked at us and asked "What's so funny?" I was pretty weirded-out by then, but managed to keep a smile off my face and say, "Nothing, everything's fine". Steve then walked into his bedroom and did the same thing as before, except with other words. Elder McMurtie turned to me and was laughing a little bit, and told me that Steve had never done anything like that before in the other times that they had visited him, and said in a kind of worried voice that maybe we should get out of there. Then Steve came back out of the bedroom and sat down again. He was about to start talking, but then just burst out laughing and said that he count keep it up anymore. Then Elder McMurdie introduced us to each other and told me that he was the Ward Mission Leader. It was pretty funny, and we all laughed a bit after that. Steve actually did a really good job acting, and it was totally believable the way he did it, so I believed it right up until he started laughing.

The whole thing was hilarious and I still laugh a little when I think about it. Especially because Steve is actually such a nice guy. He's really friendly and he and Elder McMurdie get along really well, even though teases him and bugs him about everything imaginable. But that's just his personality, and Steve does it right back. It's actually pretty funny to watch them. It'll be good getting to work with them though. They actually have taught me how to play cribbage already too, and we've played a few games. It's actually a pretty fun game. The work here is moving kind of slowly, there isn't much going on. Hopefully we can find some new investigators and people to teach in the next few weeks. I think things will get better though.

Conference was amazing by the way. There were so many good talks, I dont' want to wait for the Ensign to come next month. I'm actually going to print off about 10 or 15 of my favorite talks before I leave the library, there are some that I can't wait to read again. I hope that everyone got a chance to really listen to the speakers and the messages they shared. They were very powerful, and I learned a lot.I probably took about 7 or 8 pages of notes too during conference. Priesthood Session was particularly good, I hope that Stephen gets a chance to see it. But all of the talks by the Apostles were especially powerful. I really felt the Spirit and felt edified listening to them speak. It's truly a great blessing to have these amazing men and women here today. There hadn't been Apostles and Prophets on the earth for over a thousand years before Joseph Smith, but we have them here today and we get to hear all of them speak twice a year. As I've been studying more from the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and New Testament, I've understood more and more how amazing and necessary that really is. We're incredibly blessed to be able to be part of this Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And I'm blessed to be serving a mission here for the Lord.

I need to go, we've been here at the Library for a while now and have to go to a wedding soon. We're actually going to a wedding for one of our investigators here. She's getting married in the church here today, and then next weekend she will get baptized and confirmed! That'll be a really neat experience. So I'll talk to you next week; thanks for all the emails and letters you've sent, and I'll respond to them soon. I know I'm taking a while to respond but I promise I'll get back to you! I hope everyone has a great week and can find a way to apply something that they learned listening to conference!

Elder Trevor Casper

Sunday, April 3, 2011

04.02.2011 Wk 6: Last Week of My First Transfer (posted by Rebecca, Trevor's Mom)

Hello again everyone,

This last week was the last week of my first transfer. Transfers are six-week periods in which you work in an area with your companion. At the end of each transfer, transfer calls come, and you find out if you will be staying or leaving to go to another area for the next transfer, and also if your companion will stay or leave. It's pretty common to get moved around frequently, most missionaries are moved to a different area every transfer or two, but occasionally they'll stay in the same area for three or even four transfers, which is a pretty long time. Getting transferred doesn't necessarily have to do with if you're doing a good job or not in your area, but just depends on the judgement of the Mission President and the will of the Lord in where you are needed most.

So, yesterday morning President Jones called and informed me that I was going to be transferred up north, way north. As of Tuesday I will officially be serving in the Sault Ste Marie Area (I think pronounced Sue St. Marie. Go figure, I think it's French or something), which covers the entire Upper Penninsula in the Michigan Lansing Mission, which is about the eastern half. The area is named after a city there which is up by border of Canada, I think, and that's where our apartment is and where I'll be living. My new companion will be Elder McMurty, I think. Hopefully I spelled that right, but I'll get it for sure next week. I sure hope there is a place that we can email up there. I don't know much about the area at all, or my new companion, but I will definately know more by next Saturday. It sounds like a pretty interesting place, and I'm looking forward to serving there. I'll be leaving on Monday, spending the night in Lansing, and then driving for a good portion of the day up to the Upper Penninsula. I won't actually be driving because I don't have driving privileges yet. Usually those come during the second transfer, so I'll probably get to do some driving later this month.

Elder Merrell is actually staying here in Holland. It'll be his last transfer before he goes home, it's kind of strange. I really like Elder Merrell, we've become friends these last six weeks. It's definitely been a blessing to serve with him and be trained by him, he set a good example for me. But he is actually getting a Spanish-speaking Elder, Elder Garcia, as his new companion. Things should be pretty good for them here in Holland this next six weeks. We've made a lot of progress this last six weeks here. There weren't too many investigators when we got here, but we've worked hard and we've been blessed to be able to find a few more that we've started teaching. Things are going well here, and I'm going to miss the people that we've gotten to know and been helping to learn about the gospel and build on the truths that they already know. I don't mean it to sound like we've done so well and found all these investigators ourselves, because we haven't. But we have worked hard, and tried our best to do the things that we know we should. Because of that, the Lord has blessed us to be able to find these people. Many of them we came across seemingly by accident or coincidence, or when we ended up somewhere that we hadn't intended to be and found them there. But I know that it was not coincidental, and that the Lord is guiding this work. Finding by the Spirit is as important as teaching by the Spirit, as it says in Preach My Gospel. And Doctrine and Covenants teaches that in missionary work "If you recieve not the Spirit, ye shall not teach". This truly is a faith based work, and I have seen many blessings come from it. I think that Elder Merrell and Elder Garcia will be able to do a lot of good this next six weeks, and I am excited to hear about their progress with these people we'be been teaching. I'm going to miss them a lot. There's something really special about missionary work, it's a time in your life when you get to dedicate yourself to serving the Lord, and for a time share in his purpose "To bring about the... eternal life of man." As missionaries, we do this by "Inviting 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." I am privileged to be a part of it.

This week I actually participated in two trade-offs, one with Elder Hickman and the other with Elder Carr. I spent Tuesday in Grand Rapids with Elder Hickman. He and his companion are Zone Leaders, which is a pretty big responsibility. Each zone covers the same area as a stake out here, and the stakes here are pretty large. Part of being a Zone Leader is that you do trade-offs with the District Leaders in each district in your zone each transfer. Elder Merrell is the District Leader for the 6 missionaries in our district, so that included him. Elder Hickman was a really good guy. He is very encouraging and positive, and I learned a lot from working that one day with him, especially about the importance of following the Spirit in finding and teaching. The next day Elder Merrell  conducted a trade-off with the North Muskegon area which is in our district (District Leaders are supposed to do trade-offs with each of the missionaries in the areas in the district)(Each "area" covers the same area as a ward or branch). Elder Carr and I worked here in Holland for  Wednesday, and that was interesting too. It's good to see how other people work and to learn from them. I hope that all made sense and wasn't too confusing.

I'm really looking forward to General Conference in a few hours. It starts at noon here, which means that I'll be watching conference today from Noon-2:00, 4:00-6:00, and 8:00-10:00. We still wanted to be able to email today, so we came a bit earlier. But I am really excited to hear from the Prophet, Apostles, Seventies, and other General Authorities. We've encouraged some of our investigators to watch it for themselves, and I really hope that they get a chance to so that they can feel the power of their words. Every time conference comes around now, I get more and more excited for it to come. It really is an incredible blessing that we have today to hear from all of these men and women twice each year. I know that this is the Lord's Church, the true Church of Jesus Christ, and I look forward to hearing from his authorized servants.

I'm glad things are going ok at home too. Thats fun that you got a new cat! You'll have to tell me more about it and take pictures. I wish everyone the best, and hope that you recognize answers to your prayers as you watch conference these next two days.

Love, Elder Trevor Casper