Monday, November 28, 2011

11.28.2011 "Thanksgiving" (posted by Rebecca)

Dear Everyone,

I hope that everyone had a great Thanksgiving! It sounds like there was quite a lot going on at home. Hopefully everything went well. Thank you everyone for the updates, its nice to know how everyone is doing at home. 
Things have been going fairly well here. Thanksgiving was great, I had a really nice time. The Smith family invited us over. They live right up on the northern edge of our branch and area boundaries, on a big piece of land. They have a decent sized house set back away from the road. They also invited a few other families from our branch who were younger with small children and didn't have any other family in the area to visit. Apparently they do that each year, and I think that's really nice of them. We were over there for several hours, and enjoyed playing games and eating an amazing dinner, followed by more games and talking and then dessert. We had such a good time with everyone and the little kids. It was a real treat and a great way to wind down a little bit. 
We shared a thought afterwards about gratitude and we went around the room with each person talking about one thing they were thankful for. I said that that day I was particularly thankful to be able to be there with all of them and get to know them better. Getting to know all the members and people here is just one of my favorite parts of this work. After that we read a few scriptures. I read Moroni 10:3 and D&C 78:17-19. They seemed particularly fitting for that occasion. I felt the spirit strongly, and it was a great ending to our afternoon there. 
The work is continuing to move along here as well. We're following the counsel of Elder Nash of the Seventy from last week and we're working together more closely with the branch. This last Wednesday I had a trade-off with Elder Collins and got to spend the day with him (He's our district leader). That was fun because we came out together and I was with him in the MTC, and it was great to get to catch up and talk. We talked a lot about what we could do to help the work in the St. Johns area, and he had a lot of good ideas. This next Wednesday I'll be going on a trade off to Lansing. It'll be my second time on a trade-off there, so that should be fun. There is a lot of work going on there and a lot of people they're teaching, so it'll be pretty busy. 
Here's a quote from last General Conference that I've found meaningful over the last few weeks: 
“To give the priesthood service the Lord expects of us will take more and more self-discipline every day of our lives. We can be prepared for that test by building faith through service as we go.

"The Lord has given us the opportunity to prepare by something He has called “the oath and covenant [of] the priesthood.” It is a covenant we make with God to keep all His commandments and give service as He would give it if He were personally present. Living up to that standard as best we can builds the strength we will need to endure to the end.

"Great priesthood trainers have shown me how to build that strength: it is to form a habit of pushing on through the fatigue and fear that might make you think of quitting. The Lord’s great mentors have shown me that spiritual staying power comes from working past the point when others would have taken a rest.”

-President Henry B. Eyring “Preparation in the Priesthood: ‘I Need Your Help’”. October 2011 General Conference

Being out here doing this work and serving the Lord is the most strenuous thing I've ever done. It definitely isn't easy. Joseph Smith once said something about how his life was like a rough stone rolling down the hill of adversity that polished him and helped him become a man of God. I do feel like a rock in a rock tumbler some days, but I know that the process is polishing me. I know that the Lord is teaching me and shaping me and helping me become the man he wants me to be. And though it is difficult, I'm thankful for it. I'm richly blessed, and I know that the Lord loves me so much that he wouldn't put me through anything that hurts me unless he knew it would help me. 

I hope you all enjoy the beginning of the Christmas season and get all your shopping done soon! Speaking of which... in case anyone wants to know, I would love EFY or Mormon Tabernacle Choir CD's. And I've also come to the conclusion that a Garmin GPS would be very helpful out here. 

Love you all, have a great week!

Elder Trevor Casper

Monday, November 21, 2011

11.21.2011 "Thanksgiving Week in St. Johns" (posted by rebecca)

Hello Everyone,

Well, I have a couple minutes this week at least. How are things going for everyone? 

Time is short, but I'll hurry. This week we had a big treat. Elder Nash of the Seventy toured our mission this week, and Friday and Saturday there were two half-mission zone conferences. My zone attended the Saturday one, so on Saturday we were up at 5 and by about 8:00 we were up in Mt. Pleasant to hear from President and Sister Hess and Elder and Sister Nash. Their counsel was amazing. As he talked, I realized that Elder Nash's presence there was a direct answer to our prayers for guidance and direction in our areas of stewardship. They counseled us on a number of things that we're going to work on and do better at to help the people here the most. One of them is working with the members more effectively. Another is gaining a greater understanding and appreciation for the Atonement. It was inspiring, and the words spoken prompted soul-searching. I am committed to doing my best to follow that counsel, and I know that the Lord bless us as promised as I do.

Thanksgiving here should be nice. There is a slightly older couple who invited us over for dinner. They live in a decent sized house out in the country and they're really nice, so we're looking forward to that. We also have a couple other appointments to visit other families that day, so that's great. No proselyting on that day unless invited, so we spend most of the day with members. We're going to be so stuffed by the end! We're also visiting the Andersons, who are awesome! We're really looking forward to that too. 

Well, I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving and that Megan and Stephen and Heather and my aunts enjoy the time off of school!

Love you all,

Elder Trevor Casper

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

11.14.2011 "A Good Week in St. Johns" (posted by rebecca)

Dear Everyone,

I'm sorry about the last few weeks, thanks for being patient with me. This week, I actually have a few minutes to send an email, which is nice. I'll try to catch up a little bit on what's been going on here lately, and then add a few random tidbits if I have time, just for fun.

We've sort of seen snow in the air once or twice now, so winter is on its way. It's taking it's time in coming though, usually we get some real snow by now. But as I missionary, I'm ok with that. It's supposed to be a hard winter here, so good thing I have my coat and boots. A few months ago I actually bought some boots from Elder Wood, my district leader for my second transfer in Allegan, just before he finished his mission and went home.

The work around here has been going fairly well. There have been good things happening and we've seen many blessings. Unfortunately, so far this transfer and last we've had a number of sick days where we were stuck at the apartment. Did I mention in a past letter that we found out that Elder Sheppard was allergic to gluten? That seems to have been the source of a lot of his not feeling good. We found that out a couple weeks ago, and since then he's been trying to cut down on anything with flour in it. He can have a little bit and it won't really affect him much, but a lot will make him feel sick.

Unfortunately, just a couple weeks after figuring this out, this last week he got the flu and we were stuck in the apartment for about three days. There isn't a ton to do in missionary apartments, but it did give us time to do a few things.

Since Elder Sheppard slept about two-thirds of the day, one of the days I decided to watch a few of the DVD's we use as missionaries and refresh my memory of them since I hadn't seen them in a while. So I watched the Restoration and Finding Faith in Christ, which are both great movies and very well done. I would definitely recommend those to anyone. After those two, I watched the movie The Testaments again. Its a little cheesy in a way, but I love it. When watched with spiritual eyes, that movie can be very refreshing and is great way to invite the Spirit. It is a story that takes place in the America's just prior to Christ's coming, and also depicts events from Christ's life and ministry in Jerusalem. While many of the characters are fictional, this movie is true to the Book of Mormon account and is endorsed by the Church. I would also recommend this movie to everyone.

We also put together a thousand piece puzzle in our spare time. It took forever! Actually, it only turned out to be 994 pieces. I hate it when that happens! I'll try to include a picture.

I also had plenty of time to study. Lately I've been feeling like I needed to study D&C 121:34-46 again, and this was a perfect opportunity to do that. I ended up spending three hours studying, pondering, and praying about those verses. That is one of my favorite passages in all of the Standard Works. The whole time, I wrote down my thoughts and impressions in my study notebook. I felt so blessed, and I received answers to prayers and a greatly increased understanding of the priesthood and of righteous leadership. I even was taught things by the Spirit as I studied that didn't necessarily have to do with the scripture I was reading at all.  Those verses are powerful, and like all inspired scripture there is so much depth to them. The scriptures invite the Holy Ghost and are aids to revelation, and I definitely saw that as I studied. It was a great blessing to have that revelatory experience, which felt like the process that Elder Bednar would call seeing the sun rise on a clear morning (See Elder Bednar- "The Spirit of Revelation" April 2011 General Conference). The Lord is in this work and he does answer prayers. Now I need to study those things I wrote more and apply those things that the Lord wants me to do.

Recently the brand new Lansing Stake President, President Cochley, spoke at the Branch Conference here. He told us that he doesn't really believe in coincidences anymore. I feel the same. As I see this work and the experiences that I go through, I know that the Lord is behind everything. Of course things aren't going to be easy, but the experiences that we go through shape us and help us to grow, as we respond to them with faith and "submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord" (Mosiah 24:15). Our Heavenly Father loves us, and that is a message the scriptures, hymns, and teachings of living prophets make very plain.

We have a few investigators that are doing well. We're still meeting with Gale. I mentioned her before, she is 64 and works at a place called Sweetie-licious (more on that place later). She is doing great, and right now we're helping her to understand the reality and importance of priesthood authority. She is Lutheran, is very nice, and loves the Bible. She's reading and praying about the Book of Mormon and knows that the Lord will answer her prayers.

Another investigator we're meeting with is Brother Robinson. He's a nice guy, and he and Sister Robinson are probably in their early 30's. She is a member, but has been less-active for a number of years. The missionaries have been meeting with them on and off for probably the last eight months or so. Brother Robinson is wanting to be baptized in a few weeks, which is great. Unfortunately we're having a hard time meeting with them. They have busy schedules, and when we set an appointment with them things keep coming up. So right now we're just doing our best to get to see them.

We have a few other investigators, but those are the main ones right now who are progressing. Yesterday we were also able to meet with Sister Anderson, who is a recent convert from about four or five months ago. Her husband was already a member, and they have three kids who are 4, 3, and about eight months old. They're doing great right and they're a lot of fun, we love going over and getting to see them.  Lately, Sister Anderson has been having a hard time with drinking coffee. She quit for a while after she was baptized, but then started again. We've been trying to meet with them for a while to help her with that, and we were finally able to yesterday. We reviewed the word of wisdom and talked with them about the blessings that the Lord promises for keeping that commandment. Sister Anderson said that she feels like she understands the principles behind it better now. She told us she feels like quitting drinking coffee is the next step in her spiritual progression right now and is what God wants her to do.  We felt the Spirit during the lesson, even though the kids were running around like crazy the whole time. At the end of the lesson she agreed to get rid of all her coffee drinking paraphernalia, and before we left she put it all in a big trash bag and we took it home with us and threw it in the dumpster. It was a good feeling. We also gave her a blessing before we left. The Andersons are great, I have no doubt that she will be able to quit drinking coffee.

Ok, time for those random tidbits I mentioned:

1. Just to clear up any confusion, I did not get transferred! I will be here in St. Johns with Elder Sheppard until December 10th. After that, there is a decent chance one of us might end up being transferred out. But we'll see.

2. I mentioned the northern lights last time. They were beautiful! I'll try to send a few of the pictures I took that don't do it justice at all. They were eight second long shots to compensate for the dark, so I had to hold really still and they're a little blurry. But they give you a hint of the majesty of what they looked like, even though they were a little faint being so far south.

3. I have learned that many new cars apparently still don't have automatic lights as basic feature, which is weird to me. If the car can beep at you to tell you when to turn them on and off, can't it just do it for you?

4. I think I mentioned before that Brother and Sister Owens sent me a huge box of candy. And it was candy I really liked, which is just making it worse! I love all the things that everyone sends me, but as we get closer to the holiday seasons, I also love getting things that are a little healthier too!

5. My new backpack... is awesome. And it has a lifetime warranty so I don't have to worry about it falling apart. Since it's my third backpack I've gone through on my mission so far (The first was really cheap, the second was pretty worn, but still), that is a really nice thing to have. Thanks Mom! I even had some waterproofing spray and waterproofed the outside in case it rains while we're out.

6. I've gotten the things that everyone has sent me. Mother sent some dehydrated apples and ginger snaps, which are greatly appreciated. I mentioned the box from the Owens, and I also got some zuchinni bread, candy, and pumpkin cookies from my family, which are excellent and not smushed. Thank you everyone! Quick funny story: This is what we're like when we have free time. Elder Sheppard and I opened the bag of giant twizzlers that are almost two feet long. The first thing that happened is Elder Sheppard put on a ski mask his mom sent him and he ate a twizzler through one of the holes that you breathe through. Next we started tying them in big knots, and making chains. Third, we just started swinging them around and whacking each other with them. It was pretty fun!

7. Ok, I have an extra minute or two, so I'll tell everyone about Sweetie-licious. It is a bakery here in the old Downtown of Dewitt, which is pretty small, and just down the street from our apartment. It is owned by Linda, who has won a number of national awards for her pies. She makes amazing cookies, brownies, cupcakes, and muffins. They also have other foods like quiche, soups, salads, and bread for lunch. We usually just get one of the desserts though, because that's what they specialize in and are known for. The shop is mostly pink and white, and just has a really nice and friendly atmosphere with Linda and the workers and the people who come in. The missionaries have been coming by weekly for a while now, and so everyone there knows who we are and we talk to them for a bit (That is actually how the missionaries met Gale in the first place). Sometimes we help them out with something small like moving boxes or putting labels on pie boxes or something. She also sometimes gives us a free cookie when we come in. It's a fun place to visit. Right now they're working overtime to get ready for the eight hundred or so pies that have been ordered from them for thanksgiving, which is crazy for a shop that size.  Sweetie-licious is pretty well known around here. If you want, you can check out their website at I've never been there so I don't know what it's like.

Hope you all have a good week! I'll talk to you next Monday. Bye!

Elder Trevor Casper

PS. Trouble sending pictures. Will send rest next week. Bye!

Monday, November 7, 2011

11.07.2011 "Short on Time Again" (posted by rebecca)

Dear Everyone,

I'm sorry. I'm going to catch up on answering all the questions and other emails I have received as soon as I can. I have about four minutes left on the clock right now. This week has been pretty good. I have seen many blessings, and I have seen myself grow tremendously in my time here in St. Johns so far.

We were able to teach a lot of lessons this week and that was a good experience. Katharina Vetticatt, a nine year-old girl we started teaching eight days ago was baptized yesterday by her father. That was a very good experience, and I'm so grateful to have able to have been a part of it. I'll have to tell you more about that next week (and the dozen other things I want to talk about also.

There was a quote that I read this week as I studied that really stood out to me and was a direct answer to my prayers:
“In many of the uncertainties and challenges we encounter in our lives, God requires us to do our best, to act and not be acted upon (see 2 Nephi 2:26), and to trust in Him. We may not see angels, hear heavenly voices, or receive overwhelming spiritual impressions. We frequently may press forward hoping and praying—but without absolute assurance—that we are acting in accordance with God’s will. But as we honor our covenants and keep the commandments, as we strive ever more consistently to do good and to become better, we can walk with the confidence that God will guide our steps. And we can speak with the assurance that God will inspire our utterances. This is in part the meaning of the scripture that declares, “Then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God” (D&C 121:45).”  -Elder David A. Bednar “The Spirit of Revelation”. October 2011 General Conference
I know that this is true, that the Lord does hear and answer our prayers, and that as we press forward, keep the commandments, and strive to be better, the Lord will guide our steps. I love you all, and I hope that you have a good week.

Elder Trevor Casper