Sunday, July 31, 2011

07.31.2011 "Blessings in Allegan" (posted by Rebecca)

Dear Everyone,

The weeks continue to get busier, which is great! We've had a great week for missionary work here in the Allegan area. The Lord continues to bless us as we keep going out, working hard, and forgetting ourselves in the work. We've been able to teach many people, and we've also found many other new people to teach. We've been trying hard to be obedient and be doing all that we need to do to be instruments in the Lord's hands, and we know that as we've done this he's been able to use us to help to further His work here. We've been greatly blessed.

The weather here seems to be erratic, as always. We've had hot, sunny, humid days, hot, cloudy humid days, and cool, pouring-rain, humid days. We had the car this week, but miles are running short at the end of the month and we needed to do our weekly "car fast", where we don't use the car for one day of the week other than P-day (it was instituted to help conserve miles so we didn't go over our monthly allowance). Because we couldn't fast the car last week, we had to do it twice this week. So Thursday we made a 13 mile trip to Gobles, and Friday we made an 11 mile trip to Plainwell again. Luckily, we were able to get a ride home both times. They were nice bike rides, but the humidity was a little uncomfortable, and we were both drenched in sweat by the time we got to our destinations. We also had  a couple lightning storms at night these last couple weeks, which are always fun to watch. One night, there was so much lightning higher up in the sky that there was a flash at least every 3 seconds, and it looked like the sky was one giant, flickering light bulb. Luckily, we haven't had any weather that was too severe, and we've only been caught out once in a downpour so far.

I thought I would talk about a few our our progressing investigators that we're teaching in my limited remaining time for email.

Chiquita is one investigator that we've been teaching. We love her. She is older and in her 50's. She is divorced, and her sons are grown up and out of the house. She is very nice to us, and loves us and the Spauldings (an older couple in the branch here) coming over to teach her each week. She's starting to gain a testimony of the truth of the Restoration and the things that we've taught, but she's still has some concerns and she's praying for answers. We talked to her about how it would help her to pray specifically for specific answers instead of generally praying for help to help her know that what we're teaching is true. She sincerely wants to know if it is true though, and she's reading and praying and coming to church when she can. We continue to pray for her to be able to recieve the answers she is looking for through the Holy Ghost and to know that Joseph Smith is a prophet and that the Book of Mormon is true.

Louie is another investigator that we've started teaching recently. He is in his 80's and his wife died a while back. He fought in WWII and feels like the Lord was watching over him and protected him from harm and death numerous times. He is a very sweet old man and is always very kind to us. He admires us for what we are doing. We taught him about the Restoration and Jospeh Smith and watched the Restoration movie with him. He's been studying and praying and he told us that he knows that Jospeh Smith was a prophet. He's been reading in the Book of Mormon as well, and is already through 1 Nephi. He told us a couple days ago when we talked with him that he knows that the Book of Mormon is true as well, and that it's from God. He is so prepared to recieve the gospel and the message of the Restoration! We're thrilled about how open he is and how easily the Holy Ghost is able to teach him that these things are true. My companion and I were talking the other day, and we feel like one of the reasons why the Lord has allowed him to leave throught so many near-death experiences, both in the war and in recent years, is so that he would have the chance to be able to learn and accept the gospel in this life. He is planning on coming to church this next Sunday hopefully, and next time we go over we're going to teach him about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the third lesson in Preach My Gospel, and covers the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel (Faith, Repentance, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins, the Laying on of hands for the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and Enduring to the End) . He's continuing to read from the Book of Mormon and gain a testimony of these things.

Darwin is an investigator that we've just met with for the first time this week. He's in his early thirties or so, and he is married and has a young son. He was being taught by the missionaries last fall in nearby Kalamazoo. Unfortunatly, due to a sudden move to a nearby apartment they he lost contact with them. He looked for them for a while but was unable to find them again. This Spring he moved to Otsego (right next to Plainwell). He got onto a few weeks ago and there found that he was able to request a missionary visit. We got a text on our phone with his number and address, gave him a call, and were able to meet him this last Monday. He is very enthusiastic about the Church and the Book of Mormon, and is definately open and prepared to recieve the gospel. He even tried to order a quad (set of scriptures) online last fall when he met with the missionaries (one of those missionaries, coincidently, is now my district leader, Elder Wood. He was thrilled when we told him that we had gotten in contact with Darwin). He had been taught by the missionaries several times, but since it was last fall we'll have to go over those things again to refresh his memory a little bit. The Restoration makes so much sense to him, and he really want's to be able to know in his heart that it is true, so we're working to help him with that as he reads from the Book of Mormon and prays. We're also going to invite him to church tomorrow, if he can make it.

We are also very excited about the Reed family. The Brother and Sister Reed are in their late thirties, we think. They have four sons- Anthony (14), Austin (13), Josh (11), and Joe (10) . They have been to almost every church in Allegan, which is quite a few, but they always felt like there was something there there that wasn't right, or something that was missing. We've taught them a couple times, and they were finally able to make it to sacrament meeting this last Sunday, which we were thrilled about. He said that there was a really good feeling there, and that he would definately be back. He told us that he feels like the truth is out there, and he's really hoping that this church is the right one. He wants to know if it is true. Last time we went over we watched the Restoration DVD with them, and they really seemed to enjoy it and be interested in it. Brother Reed said that he could really relate to Jospeh and how he visited all the other churches trying to find the truth. We know that as he and his family read and pray about the Book of Mormon that the Holy Ghost will tell them that it is true, and they will know it beyond a shadow of a doubt. Moroni 10: 3-5 is such a powerful scripture. We also know that by the same power, they will be able to know that they have found the true and living Church of Jesus Christ, once again restored to the earth.

It's amazing to see how the Lord guides and directs His work, that we have been able to find this great family that is so prepared to hear the gospel. He has told us that there are many people in this area who have been prepared, and we have seen so many blessings pour out upon us as we've tried to live our calling as best as we could and serve with all our heart, might, mind, and strength. I know that everyone at home is being blessed as well as I work out here. I have had that confirmed to me many times. There is so much joy in this work, in being able to teach the gospel to people and help them to come closer to Christ and His church. I know that this work is the Lord's. I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, and it never ceases to amaze me as I study it each day. I love it so much. I know that Joseph Smith is a prophet called by God, and that we have a living prophet on the earth today- Thomas S. Monson. My testimony has been strengthened so much since I've been out here, and I've seen how much it has blessed me and how much it blesses these people that we teach. The Lord has blessed me immeasurably, even in just this short time that I've been out here. I know, beyond any doubt, more than I know anything else, that these things are true, because the Holy Ghost has testified to me of their truth.

It looks like I'm out of time. Please pray for these people and the others that we teach, that they may be blessed and protected, be able to gain testimonies for themselves of the truth of these things from the Holy Ghost, and that they will be able to make it to church.

Have a great week everyone! Hope you're all enjoying the summer still. I'll try to write when I can, sorry things have been so busy lately. But thank you for all your support. I love you all, bye!

Elder Trevor Casper

Monday, July 25, 2011

07/25/2011 Another Great Week in Allegan, MI" (posted by rebecca)

Hello Again Everyone,

This is going to be a kind of short letter, I think. I got permission to send an email today, but I don't have a ton of time to type out a longer one. But I just wanted to let everyone know how things were going, and also try to answer some of the questions that people are asking me. This last week has been a pretty good week though. However, it's been HOT! The temperatures were up in the high nineties for much of the week, and along with that we had humidity up somewhere in the 80's for a lot of the time as well. It wasn't the best week not to have a car. Luckily, we were able to get the car back on Wednesday, which helped quite a bit. Before then, though, we just had to deal with it, but things turned out ok. We gave the bikes that we had before to nearby PawPaw, so now we're on two slightly older and smaller bikes. We managed to get around pretty well though. Unfortunately, these bikes have no suspension. Suspension is pretty nice if you're riding off-road... or in Michigan's case, on-road, haha. Still, we've been having a lot of success lately, which is very encouraging.

We were able to meet with a man named Louie for the first time on Tuesday. He's a very nice old man in his 80's. He actually fought in WWII, and he's told us about some of his stories about that, and how he felt like God was looking out for him during that time. He is very open to the gospel and enjoys meeting with us. He read the pamplet that we have that talks about the Restoration, and he wanted a copy of the Book of Mormon. He said that he really feels like Jospeh Smith was a prophet. We talked about the Restoration a bit on Tuesday, and then we also met with him again on Thursday and watched the Restoration DVD with him, which is about 20 minutes long. You can find the same movie at by clicking on Restoration of the Gospel, going to the second page of videos, and clicking on the 20 minute one. We watched it with him and then asked him how he felt about it. He told us that it was very powerful, and he wondered if the people who made it knew how powerful an effect it would have on the people who watched it. He said that it was very soul-searching, and also told us that everyone needed to see that. We testified to him about how we know that it is true, and that Jospeh Smith is a prophet called by God. We also testified that we know that the Book of Mormon is true, and that he could come to know that it is true for himself by reading and praying about it, through the Holy Ghost. After we finished, he told us, "Well, I guess I had better get reading". The Spirit was so strong throughout the time we were there. We love Louie. He is such a nice man, and it is such a joy to see him exercising the faith to find out if these things are true. We're meeting with him again later this week, and we're excited to get to talk to him and to see how far he has made it into the Book of Mormon by then.

We also were able to teach the Reed family for the second time, which went really well. They have been to many churches but felt like something was wrong or missing from all of them. They are very nice as well, and we enjoy going over there. The mom and dad have four sons, ages 10, 11, 13, and 14. They are definately prepared to hear the message of the restoration of the gospel. They've been trying to make it to church the last couple weeks, but something keeps coming up. So we were really excited when they finally were able to make it yesterday! They really enjoyed it as well, and we're excited to continue to teach them. We also met another new investigator. Her name is Lori. She's a very kind lady, but she's had a lot of really rough things happen lately and she is having a hard time. One of her friends is a member, and she asked us to stop by Lori and drop something off for her, and also to share a comforting message about God's love for us with her. We did that, and we had a nice conversation with Lori. She felt the Spirit, and she seemed to feel happier after we left. It's such a blessing to be able to serve the Lord as a missionary.

One last thing before I go, we also had a fun Branch event on Saturday for Pioneer Day. Many people dressed up in Pioneer clothes, and there were different activities and games as well. There was a pretty good turnout, and lots and lots of food. We were also excited that our investigator Chiquita was able to make it as well. Everyone seemed to have a good time there, and we are so happy to see Chiquita developing relationships and friendships with the members of the branch here. She is someone else who has really been prepared to hear and accept this message. We have a baptismal date set with her, but we're going to have to move it back a bit because we still have a bit more that we need to teach her first (Lesson 3 in Preach My Gospel, the Commandments). But she really understands everything as we teach her, and she's continuing to gain a testimony for herself from the Holy Ghost. There are a lot of people that we're starting to find here. The week before last week was kind of a rough week, but I knew that the Lord had much in store still, and that as we continued to work hard, He would bless us and things would start working out. We have definately seen that this last week, and so far this week is going great as well. Often, it seems like things get hardest right before something good happens. The Lord truly guides his work here, and I know that as we continue to work hard we will be able to be tools in the Lord's hands to bless and bring the gospel to many people. I really feel like the difficult weeks that we went through refined us, and strengthened us individually and as a companionship. We are working together better now than ever before. I know that this is the work of the Lord, and that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is His kingdom on the earth, that Jospeh Smith was his prophet, and that the Book of Mormon is true. I've found so much strength, and so many answers in that book. I know that it is true, and that the message it contains about Jesus Christ is true as well.

I'm out of time, and I've typed out a much longer email than I meant to anyways. Have a great week everyone! I'll try to answer questions next week if I can. In the meantime, pray for the Reed family, for Louis, for Chiquita, and for a man named Darwin that we met today that has met with missionaries before and is really interested in learning more (I'll talk about him next week). Bye everyone!

Elder Trevor Casper

Saturday, July 23, 2011

07.23.2011 "Sorry" (posted by Rebecca)

Dear Everyone,

I'm out of computer time and don't have time to send an email today, unfortunately. However, I'm going to see if I can get permission to send one on Monday. If I can, then I'll talk to you then, and if not, then It'll have to be next week. I'm sorry everyone. But hopefully I'll get to email soon.

Elder Trevor Casper

Saturday, July 16, 2011

07.16.2011 "Lots of Bike Riding" (posted by Rebecca)

Dear Everyone,

This week has been a busy week really, but there wasn't a ton that happened that was very eventful. Still, there were some good things that happened this week. Monday night, we were invited to go to the "empty nesters" FHE that some of the couples in this branch here created. It was actually pretty fun. For dinner we had a table covered with different meats and vegatables, which we used to make tin foil dinners for everyone! It was a lot like a mongolian grill really. We all piled food onto sheets of aluminum foil, then wrapped them up, took them outside, put them on the coals of a couple fires that had been built just outside the church. They were all done in about 15 minutes... except mine. I added so much meat to mine and made it so big, that it took about twice as long as everyone else's to cook all the way through. After dinner, some of the members told a couple ghost/mystery stories, such as "The Monkey's Paw", if you've ever read it. It was a lot of fun, and everyone had a good time.

On Thursday, we were able to meet with Chiquita again, which was great. We all really enjoy our lessons with her. She is going very well, and is continuing to progress towards the baptismal date that we set with her. Her testimony is starting to grow and she is feeling like the Spirit is telling her that these things are true. We've been trying to help her to come to church over the last several weeks, and on Thursday she committed that she would be there on Sunday, which we're really excited about. We know that it will help her to be happier and feel the Spirit more, and come to know that this Church really is true, and also that the Book of Mormon is true and that Joseph Smith really was a prophet.

Thursday and Friday were pretty busy days as well. We had many appointments both days, but unfortunately for one reason or another, all of them fell through. Days like that happen as a missionary. One investigator, Jeff, actually had to go to the hospital Friday morning. He had a really bad nosebleed that wouldn't stop. He seems to be doing much better now though. As soon as we found out yesterday, we rode our bikes over to the hospital here and visited with him. We also gave him a blessing. We were so glad that we could do that for him, and he said that he felt much better afterwards. He's been going though a really rough time, but we care about him and we're trying to do all that we can to help him out.

We gave up the car on Wednesday this last week, and we won't have it back again until next Wednesday, so we've been on our bikes for the last few days. Both Thursday and Friday we rode our bikes out to Plainwell, which is about 13 or so miles away and has a good number of hills in-between. All in all, yesterday alone we probably rode 30-40 miles. We were pretty tired and sore afterwards! But it's nice that today is P-day because we have a little bit of time to rest and relax. I don't think we'll go fishing today; we both have some other things that we want to catch up on and we want to rest a little.

I know that we go through experiences for a reason. Some days or weeks as a missionary, things just don't quite work out how you hope. But I know that the Lord has a purpose for what we go through. Nephi and his family traveled for 8 years in the wilderness, going through many afflictions. That's quite a long time. Joseph Smith had to wait 4 years before he was allowed to remove the plates. Ammon and his brethren worked as missionaries among the Lamanites for 14 years.  The Lord requires our patience and diligence in following Him, and it is in those times that we can really grow. Our Father in Heaven loves us and knows what is best for us, and we can trust in His time table for us, as the people of Alma did in Mosiah 24:12-15, especially in the last two lines. Also in Mosiah 3:19. I know that the Book of Mormon is true, and I know that this is the work of the Lord. Read the Book of Mormon every day, and you will feel the difference in your life as President Benson promised in his November 1986 General Conference talk "The Book of Mormon- Keystone of Our Religion". He said:

"It is not just that the Book of Mormon teaches us truth, though it indeed does that. It is not just that the Book of Mormon bears testimony of Christ, though it indeed does that, too. But there is something more. There is a power in the book which will begin to flow into your lives the moment you begin a serious study of the book. You will find greater power to resist temptation. You will find the power to avoid deception. You will find the power to stay on the strait and narrow path. The scriptures are called “the words of life” (D&C 84:85), and nowhere is that more true than it is of the Book of Mormon. When you begin to hunger and thirst after those words, you will find life in greater and greater abundance."

I know this to be true.

In the next couple weeks I'll tell a little bit more about some of our other investigators that we have. For now, please pray for Jeff, and Chiquita, and also the Reed family as well. I hope everyone is having a great summer and that it isn't too hot there. It's definitely pretty warm some days here. Have a great week everyone!

Elder Trevor Casper

Sunday, July 10, 2011

07.09.2011 "Exciting Week" (posted by Rebecca)

Dear Everyone,

This week has been pretty eventful! I'll start at the beginning and see what I can remember.

Sunday was a pretty busy day. It was a fast Sunday, which I've come to appreciate more and more since I've been out here. I'm starting to better understand what fasting really is for and why it's important, which is something I've never completely understood before. The Branch President here invited us over for lunch, and that was really fun with his family. It was almost like a show during and after lunch, just watching his three teenage daugters and one teenage son all tease each other and good-naturedly make fun of each other. It was hilarious! It reminded me of our family a little bit too. They're a really nice family. Later on that day, we also talked to a pastor, which was interesting. We had me him before, but this was the first time that we had been able to actually talk with him. At this point, we're pretty sure that he thinks he's going to try to convert us. But we still have high hopes for him because he's willing to listen to what we say and talk with us, and I know that if he will sincerely read the Book of Mormon and pray about it, that the Holy Ghost will tell him that it is true, that it truly is the word of God. That's the best part about this work. I'm sure he knows the Bible much better than I do, but I know that the Book of Mormon is true and I know that sincere seekers of truth will hearken unto the voice of the Shepherd. The Holy Ghost will testify of truth, and carry it unto the hearts of the hearers (2 Nephi 33:1), and he is the one who does the real converting. The Lord truly does use weak things (us) to bring about that which is great. Later on at night we saw the fireworks in Allegan from our apartment complex. For some reason, they decided to do it on Sunday instead of Monday. But I was glad that we were able to watch from the edge of our apartment complex; I always love seeing the fireworks. Another treat along with the explosive firework show was the natural nightly firework show that has recently begun here- fireflies! I only remember seeing them once before in my life, so it's a real treat to see them again.

Monday was a fun day as well. The Subacz family (just the parents now, the kids have grown up) took us over to South Haven for dinner and to go to the beach and see the lighthouse. When the plans had been made, we were planning on watching the fireworks there, but even though the fireworks were switched to Sunday we decided to just go to South Haven anyways. We ate at a 50's diner, which was great, and the went to the beach and walked out on a pier to a small lighthouse at the end. We stuck out a little bit on the beach in our white shirts and ties, but it was a lot of fun. They actually have a real sandy beach there, belive it or not, and a pretty big one too. It looked like a really fun place to visit; just like an ocean beach really, but with fresh water. We then drove around a little bit and looked at the marina and different parts of the city, and then went home. All in all, it was very relaxing, and a great opportunity to test out the power and features of my new camera, which works great and takes amazing pictures and videos! I'l send some home when I get the chance.

Tuesday was a trade off with the district leader, where we trade companions for the day. Coincidently, that meant that I spent all of Tuesday in South Haven again (my district leader's area), only this time as a missionary and not just a visitor. It was a good day, and it was great talking to my district leader Elder Wood. He was one of the Assistants to the President when I first got out here in Michigan, and this is his last transfer before he goes home in a month. We talked for a while and he gave me some pretty good advice on different things that I had questions about. We got to talk to a lot of people and teach a couple lessons. All in all, a very good day. Oh, and also, before I left Allegan in the morning, Elder Ralphs and I did an hour and a half of volunteer service working at Goodwill, which is a lot like DI. We're going to be volunteering there from 10:30 to noon Monday and Tuesday mornings from now on. It was fun, it was a nice change of pace and I enjoyed the work there.

Wednesday was busy, as normal. We had the opportunity to meet together as a zone down in the Kalamazoo Stake Center and meet our new mission president and his wife. President and Sister Hess are amazing, and I am so excited to get to have my first interview with him on the 26th of this month. I know that I was sent to this mission for a reason, and that part of it was because the Lord meant for me to be here with President Hess for the majority of my mission. I look forward to serving under him for the next year and a half. Later on in the day, we did our service at an assisted living center here in Allegan, which we do each week. We played bingo as usual with senior citizens, and otherwise handicapped people, and then afterwards we helped serve a snack and got to talk for a little bit. It was really nice. We had dinner at a less-active member's home later on and read from the Book of Mormon with them. They're very nice, and doing very well. They're starting to read the Book of Mormon on their own, which they haven't done much before, and they are planning on coming to church this week, which is very exciting. Afterwards we visited Brother Griffon, a very able 80-something year old man with a southern accent who is one of the nicest and most enjoyable people I've met so far on my mission. His wife isn't a member, but he still is very active in the church and loves it. He really appreciates us coming each week and talking with him for a little bit.

Thursday was a thrilling day for missionary work. We met with one of our investigators, Chiquita, in the morning, and had an amazing lesson about the Gospel of Jesus Christ (which is basically the first principles and ordinances of the gospel, see articles of faith vs. 4).

When we asked her at the beginning what she felt like faith was, she thought really hard about and reasoned it out for a minute or two before she told us that she felt like faith was a belif in things that are not seen, but that are true. Right before she said that, Elder Ralphs and Sister Spaulding (The Spauldings came with us to the lesson) and I all had opend our scriptures to Alma 32. She had almost quoted exactly what Alma had said! As Chiquita said that, we all starting grinning at each other at how amazing that was. Chiquita is doing so well, and we always have very spiritual lessons with her. At the end of the lesson, we set a baptismal date with her for July 30 for her to work towards. She is already gaining a testimony of the truth of these things and of the Restoration, and I know that if she'll keeping reading from the Book of Mormon and praying, and coming to church, that she'll be ready to be baptized by then. Later on in the day, we were finally able to meet with a family that we had door-knocked into about a month ago. We taught them about God, and about prophets, and about the Great Apostasy, and about the Restoration and the Book of Mormon. We know that they have been prepared to hear this message, and that the Lord guided us to be able to find them and to finally be able to teach them. They have been to many churches before, and the father could relate to Joseph Smith's story a lot of wanting to find the right church. They have 4 kids, all boys, ages 11, 12, 13, and 14. They're planning on coming to church this Sunday, and we're meeting with them again next week to teach them again. We're thrilled! We called our district leader and Brother Subacz (ward mission leader) right afterwards to tell them the exciting news. There is truly great joy in missionary work. I really can relate to the joy that Ammon and Aaron feel in the Book of Mormon as they serve and teach among the Lamanites. There is nothing like that joy. Perhaps later in my life the joy from my future family will be able to rival that, but nothing up to this point in my life really can. Later on that day, we also met with another person for the first time who became another new investigator! After that, we stopped by the Branch President's house on the way home to tell him about the great news. He ended up inviting us to stay for dinner, where we were able to talk to them some more and enjoy their company once again before returning home. This was definately one fo the best days on my mission so far, along with the day that the Allred family was baptized.

Friday was a great day as well, but I'm running out of time so I'll have to cut it short. But we were guided by the Spirit and the Lord blessed us to be able to find more people to teach. The Lord has promised us that there would be much work done in this area, and now we see this starting to happen, and we are so grateful and thrilled.

Today isn't too busy of a day, but we may go fishing again later this afternoon if we get the chance. We'll just have to see.

I'll try to include more about the area and what things are like here in my email next week, if I can. I hope everyone has a great week. I love you all. Enjoy your summer!

Elder Trevor Casper

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

07.02.2011 "Oh No" (posted by Rebecca)

Dear Everyone,

I am extremely sorry, but I just spent about the last 45 minutes typing out a long email to everyone, only for it to be accidently deleted. AHHHHH!!!! Oh well, it'll be alright. I'll just have to put it all into future emails. To sum up very briefly in the next two minutes that I have left, things are going well here. It's been kind of a stressful week with lots of adversity, but as we've relied on the Lord we've been able to see how those experiences have been blessings to us. I know that the Lord gives us trials to refine us and to help us to learn and become more like Him. I've seen many blessings this last week as I continue to keep trying to do what I need to do. I've been able to find great joy in forgetting myself in this work, not thinking less OF myself but thinking less ABOUT myself, as Elder Uchtdorf said in his powerful talk in the Priesthood Session of last fall's General Conference, and I'm as happy as I've ever been in my life. We're going to try to go fishing later today, and on the 4th the Subacz are actually taking us to dinner in South Haven. I hope everyone has fun on the 4th seeing the fireworks!!!

Love you all,
Elder Trevor Casper