Sunday, August 28, 2011

08.27.2011 "Middle of the Third Transfer in Allegan" (posted by rebecca)

Dear Everyone,

This is going to be an extra short letter today because I'm going to send a few other emails that I've been needing to send for weeks. Things are going well here in Allegan though. This week has been pretty intense for bike riding. We made a 25-mile round trip to Plainwell on Tuesday, gave the car up on Wednesday to the St Joseph Elders, biked about a 28-mile round trip to Gobles + 7 more miles around town on Thursday, and made a 12-mile one-way trip to Plainwell again yesterday (we got a ride home). All in all, we're pretty sore from biking around up and down hills so much these last few days.

The work is moving along here, although a little slowly right now. We've been able to visit a couple less-active families this week that invited us to come back again each week, which is exciting. We pray that we'll be able to help them to remember and strenghthen their testimonies and that they'll want to become more active in the church. We've also been able to do quite a bit of service this week, which took up a lot of time. It's really great being able to help people out.  

This work is the Lord's work, and I've seen his hand in it even when things are difficult. I know that sometimes he allows us to struggle and stretch, because He knows that that is what will help us to grow. I know that Heavenly Father is ever watchful of us as His children, and that the Lord is guiding His work on the earth and his servants with particular care. He will keep all the promises He makes and is always there to guide us all in whatever circumstances we are in.

I hope that everyone has a great week and that it isn't too hot at home!

Elder Trevor Casper

Saturday, August 20, 2011

08.20.2011 "First Full Week With Elder Griffiths" (posted by Rebecca)

Hello Everyone!

This week has been pretty busy, and things are going well. As I am pretty short on computer time today, like always.  So I decided to include a part of the this week's weekly email that I send to President Hess.

"This week has been interesting. The work here is definitely continuing to progress, but we weren't able to teach quite as many lessons this week as we had hoped. Around 3/4 or so of the appointments that we had this week eneded up falling through or canceling on us. Most of our progressing investigators were either sick this week or busy for one reason or another, and it's been difficult to meet with them lately.
Still, we can see the blessings of the Lord in all of this. One instance on Thursday particularly sticks out to me. We had had eight appointments scheduled that day, and one by one, every single one of them fell through. We were disapointed, but we still kept working throughout the day and had a little time to go finding later in the evening before we headed home for the night. We decided on a street to door knock and began working our way down the road. For some reason it seeemed like very few people were home, and we weren't having much success. As we got to the corner of an intersecting road, we knocked on the door of a family who was in the middle of dinner. The father of the family told us, not too politely, to come back later. As we rounded the corner and walked past the other side of the house, suddenly a door opened on the lower level and a man walked out and called out to us, "Hey, are you Mormons? Do you have any pamphlets?" We started talking to him and found out that he had many relatives who were LDS, including a cousin on a mission and another relative who was a high priest. He told us that he had been "blessed a Mormon, but raised Pentacostal" by his mother. We gave him a few pamphets and he told us he would read them. We then asked him if we could come by sometime next week and teach him some more about what those pamphlets taught. He enthusiasticly agreed and then told us that he might even throw a couple steaks on the grill too. He wasn't sure exactly when would work, but he gave us his number before we left and asked us to give him a call this Sunday so we could work something out. He was very friendly and seems genuinely very interested in learning more about the gospel, and we're very excited to meet with him again. It was an amazing blessing right at the end of a hard day. I don't think that anyone else on that whole street talked to us that night, but I know that the Lord blessed us and lead us to door knock that particular street on the 18th. It turns out that the lower level of that house is a different apartment altogether. It isn't very apparent though, and there is nothing to make it look like that door wasn't just part of the rest of the house. We never would have knocked that door if he hadn't seen us walking down the street and came out to meet us. There are many miracles in this work."

It is truly a great blessing to be in the full time service of the Lord. I testify, as I have before, that this is His work, and He is in it. I know He always keeps his promises and fufills in full measure everything he tells us. I also have faith that as He uses me as a tool to bless the lives of others here and to help them come closer to Him, he also helps me to learn and to grow and become more the man that he wants me to be for the remainder of my life. I believe the experiences I go through help to prepare me for callings I will have later.

I am glad that things are going well at home and it is good to hear what everyone is up to. I promise that soon I will find the time to write back to everyone, and I'm sorry that it's taken so long.  I love you all!

Elder Trevor Casper

Sunday, August 14, 2011

08.13.2011 "Rain and Thunder in Allegan (posted by Rebecca)

Hello Everyone!

I hope that you're all having a great weekend. And I hear there is a wedding today! That's pretty exciting. I got an invitation about a week ago. Needless to say I didn't RSVP, I figured it would go without saying. It's still funny to think of the cousin I've known so long as married now, but I wish him and Michella great happiness and blessings. I will definitely have to visit when I get home and get to know her a little better as I've only seen her a few times.

It's been raining on and off all morning today, along with some pretty impressive thunderstorms during our companion study this morning. We could literally feel some of the thunder as it shook our apartment, and the lights flickered a few times as well. This week was transfer week, and Elder Ralphs is now back home in Spanish Fork, Utah, which is weird to think about. He will be missed by many here in Allegan. You actually get pretty close to your companions after spending 3 months with them 24/7. I'm going to have to keep in touch with him and I'll definitely have to visit when I get home in a year and a half.

Elder Griffiths is my new companion. He's from Preston, Idaho. He's a little more quiet, but he's a really great guy and pretty funny sometimes. It'll be a good transfer working with him here in Allegan :) .

This week has been a little crazy with transfers. Members invited us over for lunch and dinner Sunday and Monday before Elder Ralphs went home, and we also stopped by many of our investigators to say goodbye. When Elder Griffiths and I got back from the drop-off/pick-up location at the stake center in Kalamazoo, we did just the opposite and spent a good part of the next day visiting people and saying hi. Many of our investigators have had a lot going on lately and it's been difficult to meet with them, but this has given us more time this week to go door knocking and find new people to teach. A number of people have invited us to come back sometime next week, and this should help this area to continue to grow. I know that there is going to be a lot happening here and I'm really excited for this next transfer.

I know that the Lord put Elder Griffiths and me together for a reason because I know that He guides this work and it is His. I look forward to the great things that I know can happen this transfer because I know that He has promised great things that will happen in this area, and that He will "prosper us" according to our faith and diligence in doing that which we have been commanded to do, just as He did for the peoples in the Book of Mormon. I have faith that as we continue to look forward and have faith in the Lord that He will be able to bring about these miracles that He has planned for here. He has told us that there are many people here who have been prepared to recieve the gospel, and this has been verified over the last two transfers. Though I don't always know how the Lord will bring his promises to pass, I have faith as Nephi did that the Lord will prepare a way for us to do those things that He has commanded us to do. I will continue to go forward and do those things, even if, as Nephi, "I [am] led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do."

I love you all and I hope you have a great weekend. Say hi to Jason and Michella for me!


Elder Trevor Casper

Saturday, August 6, 2011

08.06.2011 "Six Months ... Already?" (posted by Rebecca)

Hello Everyone,

Tuesday this week was my six month "birthday" in the mission field. That seems really odd to me. It doesn't really feel like I've been out here any longer than it did when I was only at 3 months. Time almost seems to flow differently out here in the mission field. I know that the end of my mission is going to sneak up on me before I know it. It's still a long ways off, and I take comfort in that. Still, I'm not going to waste any of the time that I have out here.

This week was another seemingly typical week of a mixture of thunderstorms (I love watching the lightning at night) and hot, humid days. I'm getting a lot more used to it, however. And I've found that the more I forget myself in this work and dedicate myself to it, the less and less I care about whatever the weather might be that day. I have seen many blessings personally as I have worked to serve with all my heart, might, mind, and strength, and I know that doing so also enables me to be a better tool in the Lord's hands that he can use to bless the people here and help them to come to a knowledge of the fullness of the gospel.

This week has been a more difficult week for missionary work. For one reason or another, many of our investigators have been difficult to meet with this week. Still, we've been trying to work hard, especially since this is Elder Ralphs' last week and he is on his way back to Spanish Fork, Utah next Wednesday. However, though we go through more difficult weeks at times, there is always something that we can learn from our experiences. Throughout the week I've seen different things that I do that I can improve on and do better with, and I'm going to work on those so that I can be a better missionary in the future. One thing  that I've committed to do is to write in a journal, having at least a short entry for each day.

Wednesday the Subacz family had us over for dinner again for Elder Ralphs before he goes home. Elder Ralphs actually served in Allegan last spring, near the beginning of his mission. During his three months in Allegan then and the three additional months he's served here with me a year later, he's gotten pretty close to that family. I love them as well, and we both always enjoy going over to their house for meals or to help them with things. Wednesday we helped him with some work he's been needing to do, and then we had a really nice dinner with them by a campfire in their backyard. Later on I burned a tie over the campfire because it is somewhat of a tradition among missionaries apparently to burn something every six months. I probably wouldn't have burned anything, but Christina sent me a pretty ugly tie for burning that she had left over from the tie skirt that she was working on. Thanks Christina! It was a great night though.

Something else that was fun that we did just yesterday was go out and pick blueberries. Brother Fry took Elder Ralphs and me out at 8:00 in the morning to a blueberry farm owned by the Heintzmans (Sister Heintzman is a member of the branch). They're open this time of year for anyone to come in and pick their own blueberries, and then pay a $1.25 per pound of whatever they pick, which is pretty cheap. For the next three hours the three of us picked as many blueberries as we could. Apparently there are three types of blueberries that they grow there- Nelson, Jersey, and Bluecrop. The Nelsons are supposed to be the sweetest, but they tasted a little bland to me personally. Bluecrop are supposed to be the tartest, and Jersey are supposed to be somewhere in the middle. I got about an even number of each. We each ended up with about two buckets (Not including the ones we ate out in the field. Don't worry, they said it was ok!). When we weighed it all in, we found that we had picked 35 pounds between the three of us! Brother Fry generously paid for them all and then took his third, leaving us with 25 lbs. of blueberries to take home! We bagged them all and now have most of them sitting in our freezer. This next transfer we'll probably give a few pounds to each of the three other areas in our district. But we'll be eating blueberries for the next little while! I'm ok with that though, I love blueberries.

Transfer calls came Friday morning while we were out picking blueberries. It turns out that I'm staying here, which I was hoping for and I'm happy about. My new companion will be Elder Griffiths. I don't know much about him, so I'll just have to see him at transfers. I know things will work out though, and I'm really excited for this area and all the people here next transfer. There are going to be miracles here and great things happening.  

Another investigator that we're teaching that is getting somewhat close to baptism. Her name is Margie. She is a close friend of a somewhat less-active member, Sister Wright. We've been meeting with them for a while, and they've been at church the last few weeks. Margie knows a little about the church, and really enjoys coming. She feels very welcome there. She also really enjoys reading the Book of Mormon and all the scriptures and pamphlets, and feels good as she reads them. She seems to have a little trouble retaining or understanding everything that she reads, however, so we're going to have to teach her the lessons carefully to make sure that she understands them. She has a testimony of the church, and of Jospeh Smith and the Book of Mormon, so we talked to her last time we saw her about setting a baptismal date with her several weeks away that she can work towards. She didn't feel quite ready just yet, she seems to be concerned a little about what other people will think about that. We're going to continue working with her and teaching her though, and helping her to better understand what baptism is and why it is so important. We're excited for her and confident that she'll want to be baptized sometime in the near future. Sister Wright is encouraging her and supporting her all the way, and we know that's helping Margie a lot.

I've found so much meaning as I've read from the Book of Mormon over the last six months. I have found so much guidance and so many answers to prayers in that book. I know that it is true, and it is an incredible blessing to be able to know that, and to be able to study from the Book of Mormon each day. I know that this is the Lord's work and his hand is in it, and I am greatly blessed and privileged to be able to be a part of it. I know that the Lord loves me and is helping me to grow spiritually and gain experience that I can use in this work and throughout my life. I love everyone back at home, and I know that the Lord is watching over you and blessing you too as I'm out here doing all that I can. I hope that you all have a great week this next week, and enjoy a little bit more of the summer!

Elder Trevor Casper