Tuesday, July 24, 2012

07.23.2012 "Hot Weeks in Harrison"

Hello Everyone,

I haven't had much time to send emails these last few weeks, but this week I have a little more time, so I wanted to try to catch everyone up on a few things that have been going on lately.

Elder Piena and I just finished the second week of the transfer here. It's already going by fast! It's been pretty hot here lately, and I'm glad to have an air conditioner in the apartment, even if it's just one of those window ones. It's made for a window that slides up and down though, and we have one that slides sideways, so we had to kind of jerry-rig it into the window. But with a $12 piece of plexiglass, a stick, a bunch of clear tape, and a few old socks, we managed to get it sealed off pretty well.

Elder Piena had a bit of a shock last Monday after emails. He got an email telling him that his grandma who lived in Hawaii had died. It wasn't much fun, and seemed pretty down for a couple days, although he's doing better now. I guess it was kind of a sudden thing and wasn't expected. He seems to be doing pretty well though. It's good having a knowledge of the Gospel and knowing what happens after we do die, and also knowing the mercy of Heavenly Father and the plan that he has for our families.

We've moved cattle a couple more times over the last few weeks, but nothing too crazy. We also helped Brother Hileman put up an electric fence around a six or seven acre field. That was fun too, and it was a pretty good experience. Now I know a little more about putting up temporary fences (it's called a temporary fence, but it can last up to 20 years). We helped with some parts of it, and then he finished it up and got it hooked up to the charger, or the solar-powered power box that electrifies the fence, so I never had to worry about being zapped.

A couple weeks ago I had two dogs pee on my backpack, as it sat on the floor, in the same week! I had to scrub the whole thing down and spray it with this pet odor killing spray. It was not fun.

We've also had some fun with the bikes lately. My bike has been having some trouble for the last little while, and it's been needing some repairs. However, Sunday night we were visiting someone on the other side of town, and just before we got to their house my back tire suddenly seized up and wouldn't turn. We went in for the appointment, and after the lesson came out and started walking the bikes home. I found out it's really tiring to try to lift the back tire off the ground and walk with the bike. We walked about half a mile with me awkwardly carrying it sideways, and then I gave up and threw the bike over my shoulders, and walked the last mile or so home with it. I was pretty sore by the time I got home, and we got back late.

There was a member last Monday named Sister Rogers who offered to take us shopping at the grocery store here in Harrison. We met here there an she told us to go fill up our basket with food that we wanted and that we didn't get very often, and she would pay for it. It was really nice of her. By the time we were done, we had about $150 worth of groceries between the two of us. I felt kind of bad about it, even though she didn't mind at all, and we thanked her several times. Then we were talking to another member the next day, and we found out that that's something that she has done a lot in the past for the missionaries, every now and then. And we also found out that most of those missionaries would get about $200 to $250 worth of food. Hearing that made me feel a little better, but it also kind of made me feel like I should have gotten a few more frozen pizzas and maybe some ice cream! Sister Rogers used to have the missionaries over for dinner often though, until she stopped being able to because of a medical condition she had. So she decided to just take them out shopping every now and then. It was pretty nice!

Oh, and before I forget, it's always fun to embarrass people publicly by singing Happy Birthday, so... Happy Birthday to you! Happy birthday to you. Happy Birthday Dear Heather! Happy Birthday to You! Cha cha cha...  That's great that you're turning 12!

We had a pretty good lesson a couple weeks ago that I liked and thought I might tell about on here. We were talking with an investigator named Nicole about the Word of Wisdom a little bit. She had heard a little about it before, and she likes coffee and some tea so she wasn't sure why those things would be part of a health commandment. She started off by telling us about how she felt like science and religion were mean to work together. We agreed, and talking about that lead perfectly into why we keep the Word of Wisdom. I've heard people give lots of different specific explanations before about why certain things are prohibited in the Word of Wisdom. But the real reason why we keep the Word of Wisdom is not for scientific reasons. It is because it is a commandment of God. We talked about how we're all trying to learn truth, and about the world around us. One way that we can learn is from God, the source of all truth, the creator of Heaven and Earth. Another source we use to learn and find truth is through our own experimentation, through "science". Now, we know that the current scientific theories are always changing. Just a few hundred years ago, the best scientists of the time still taught that the world was flat, and that the universe revolved around the earth. Today the different scientific theories are still being debated and changed. Why should we think that suddenly we've already figured everything out on our own and know everything?

However, we have another source of truth that we have access to- a loving Father in Heaven. He wants us to understand our purpose here, and what we need to do here. And so he's taught those things to us, through the prophets and through the scriptures. We also know that what God teaches us is always true and never changes- See Mormon 9:10. So when scientific knowledge and the commandments and teachings of God seem to conflict, which is it that we should give heed to? The commandments of God always supersede what scientific evidence happen to tell us at the time. So why do we keep the Word of Wisdom? Because it is a commandment of God through his prophets. One we'll learn more about the reasoning why that commandment was given, but for now we can be content to trust in the Lord and keep his commandment.

When we talked about this, it really helped her understand it better. I felt that the Spirit was there and was helping me to know how to explain it to her in a way that would help her the most. It is always fun being able to teach by the Spirit and see it really help someone. It's a good feeling to have the Spirit speak through you. I love how simple the gospel really is, no matter how hard we try to complicate it. I know that keeping the commandments allows the Lord to bless us, and that we can keep the commandments because we love the Lord and trust Him, even when we don't know all the reasons for the commandment in the first place.

The Lord has blessed me quite a bit over these last few weeks. I feel like I understand the gospel much better, and I'm excited to teach it to other people. I love studying in the mornings, and the Lord is teaching me so much. I know that the Lord blesses us for working hard to magnify, or faithfully fulfill, our callings.

I hope that you all have a good week, and I'll hopefully get to email more of you back this next week. Love you all!

Elder Trevor Casper

07.16.2012 "Reply to Mom's Email"

I'm short on time.

I have no time to send an email out to everyone. Will you please apologize for me? I have stuff I want to talk about, but I always seem to run out of time. Tell everyone that I'll email them back next week, and maybe send a few pictures too. Things are going well here though. This last week was a busy and good week, the busiest in a long while. Can you pass that along also? And that I'm continuing to see the blessings of the Lord. I know the Gospel is true, and that God is there, and that the scriptures are His word.

Love you Mom, Bye!!

Elder Trevor Casper

07.09.2012 "New Transfer in Harrison"

Hello Everyone,

I have time for a quick letter this week. Hopefully everyone had a good Fourth of July! Ours wasn't too bad. We had fun watching the fireworks this year. It was about a 20 minute show, which isn't too bad for a town the size of Harrison. There's probably only a few thousand people here.

There's been a lot going on these last few weeks. And last week was Hot! And not only hot, but very humid. Everyone kept asking us why we were out in the heat dressed "like that". We actually were biking around too for the first part of the week, until Thursday when we got the car. Once I got used to just being drenched after a minute or two of being outside, the heat wasn't really all that bad though. I think the Lord blessed us for still going out in the heat, because we met a few promising people we're hoping to visit again this week. It wasn't a bad week at all.

The time is just flying by, which I'm not sure I'm happy about. I'm nearly at a year and a half now, which is strange. Oh, and transfer calls were this last Friday, and I found out that we're both staying here for another transfer! That makes Elder Piena my fourth two-transfer companion in a row. He's a pretty good guy, although he's a little quiet sometimes. I don't now how much I've said about him in the past. He's from Nevada and was born there, but his parents are from Hawaii (his dad is in the military).

Ummm... I'll have to tell you more about him in the future. Our Branch President has just showed up in the library. He's having us over for dinner tonight and it looks like I'll have to get going.

Oh yeah, and here's a quick picture of me holding some swords that one of our investigators has, and also a picture of Elder Piena and I outside an Amish store a few miles west of Clare (in our area)

Love you all! Talk to you next week, hopefully I have more time then,

Elder Trevor Casper

07.02.2012 "Sorry, Out of Time"

Friends and Family,

Sorry, no time to email this week, but I will talk to everyone next week! Transfer calls are this Friday, so I'll be letting everyone know this next week what happens. Love you all, talk to you next week! I'll try to send a picture or two also.

Elder Casper

Monday, July 2, 2012

06.25.2012 "My Third Transfer in Harrison is Flying By"

Hello Everyone,

This last week, things have been going pretty well here in Harrison. I've been having a good time, and we've been working hard here. I've definitely been blessed, and I've felt the guidance of the Spirit in this work. That's something that's been a great blessing to me since I've come out here. Before my mission, I didn't really understand how to recognize and understand the promptings of the Spirit. The Lord has blessed me immensely by helping me learn more on my mission about how to do that. If we're not listening for them, they can be difficult to recognize. We also have to be keeping the commandments so that we can be in tune with the Spirit. It works quite a bit like tuning a radio to avoid the static and get the right signal, actually. I see time and time again how the Lord really does care about us and is always ready to help us. Sometimes we go through difficult experiences, and that's part of this life and we need to be patient. But I know, because I've experienced it myself, that when we really humble ourselves, when we are become submissive to Heavenly Father and are really willing to put aside what we think or think we want, and we listen to know what it is that Heavenly Father want's us to do, he blesses us with that guidance. He wants us to come back to live with him again, and He's going to help us however we can to get back there. How comforting is that? I love the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a million ways and I am so grateful to have a knowledge of it. I know that it is true.

We helped out Brother Hileman a little more this last week with his cattle. Here's a quick picture of his big bull, one that we worked with a couple weeks ago. He weighs somewhere around 2300 or 2500 lbs. We don't want to mess with him! At least he has no horns. We loaded him onto a trailer with a few other cows.

We got a lot of rain this last week, but luckily we had the car. Because we had it, we were also able to make it out to Gladwin this week, which is about 20 miles from Harrison, and visit some of the people there. We were able to teach a good number of people this last week, and we also are going to be seeing a couple referrals this next week that seem really promising and interested in learning about what we have to teach.

I made a key lime pie this week for the first time in a while. I think we're planning on eating a couple pieces, and then we're going to give a few to some of the other people we teach. We're thinking of giving a few of the pieces to other people we teach, and leaving a note on the plate and the plate on the porch and doorbell ditching their houses. The only problem is, the days are long and it's still bright outside at 9:30 when we need to be home. The people we're thinking of have big front yards too. So it'll be interesting to see how it works out.

I found a couple scriptures this morning I liked. It was 2 Nephi 26:12-13. I've been thinking about that the last few days. I love how Jesus Christ doesn't want to leave us in the dark, and how He has promised that He will reveal Himself unto us by the Holy Ghost, and won't just leave us guessing at the truth. I love being able to promise the people that we teach that they really can know that God is there, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that the things that we teach them are true. They can really know it. They can know it through the Holy Ghost.

I'm out of time but I love you all! Have a great week everyone.

Elder Trevor Casper

06.18.2012 "Sad News"

Note:  Trevor did not send a general letter this week.  As mom, I pulled rank and asked him to write to the Anderson family instead.  They are our friends and the mom, Karla, passed away in early June.  I felt they needed to get a comforting message.

06.12.2012 "Busy Day in Harrison"

Hello Everyone,

I'm a little worn out today. This is going to have to be a short letter. Yesterday was a busy day here. It was our P-day, but we went to go do some service for Brother Hileman at his farm moving some cattle because he needed our help. It was only supposed to take a few hours, but in the end it took most of the day. He picked us up at 8:00 in the morning, and we were dropped back off at around 5:00.

We spent most of the time moving some cattle around to different places in his farm, and then moving a few into pens, and then into a trailer, because he was taking them to graze for a while at someone else's farm. It was actually a lot of fun, and we had a good time. Next time we go over to help, I'll have to take some pictures. There were a few problems that we had, which is partly why we took so much longer than we expected, but all in all we got done what we needed to. Something else that took a little longer is that we found a cow in the morning that was very close to delivering a calf. We decided to leave her alone for a little while to rest and check back on her in an hour or two. But when we came back later on, it was not going well. It was the cow's first time delivering a calf, and the calf was really big (about 110 pounds he said, which is apparently pretty big for that kind of cow). We brought her into the barn, then went in for lunch. Brother Hileman left halfway through lunch to go help the cow with the calf. he helped pull the calf out with some chains. We met up with him after we finished eating, and unfortunately, the calf hadn't make it. It had been gone since before we first found the mother that morning. So had to take it back to the back of the property (Brother Hileman has about 70 or 80 acres). It was pretty sad.

All in all it was a pretty busy and unusual day. It was fun getting the experience of herding cattle though, I really enjoyed it.

One thing that I've thought about this last week has been the importance of love in all aspects of the work of the Lord. In a Leadership Training Meeting, President Hess talked about John 15, which is a really good chapter that describes the relationship between us and the Lord when we are in his service. Keeping the commandments and love unfeigned are both critical to everything our Heavenly does, and everything that we do in his service. It gave me a lot to think about. I love how I am always learning and the Lord continues to teach me.

I love you all, and hope you have a good week. Did everyone see Megan's Graduation Announcement? The pictures turned out really good! It looks nice.

Bye everyone!

Elder Trevor Casper

06.05.2012 "Interesting First Week With Elder Piena"

Hello Everyone,

This last week was a decent week here in Harrison with Elder Piena. It's been a little interesting though. It's our week off from having the car, and so we've been biking around quite a bit. Last weekend was also pretty rainy, meaning that we got soaked on Friday and Saturday. Best of all... well, remember I mentioned that Elder Porter and I went fishing last week? Well, I didn't have time to mention that we were walking through a particularly swampy part of the lake shore to get to another side of the lake to fish. There were a couple times when I stepped onto unsolid ground and sunk in up to my knees, and almost lost my shoes. Elder Porter, however, tried to jump to a patch of what he though was grass, but turned out to be just some floating moss. He sunk in down to his waist, and unfortunately had both his camera and the phone in his pocket at the time. His camera seemed okay, but the phone was having problems. Later on that day we stuck it in rice and tried other things to dry it out, and by the next morning, is somehow started working again.

Well, Saturday night it stopped working again, and this time it looks like it's for good. So we've been phone-less for a couple days now, and we're working on trying to get another one sent to us, but it may take another day or two. We have almost no way to get ahold of people now, so it'll be interesting!

Elder Piena is a nice guy though. He's from Henderson, Nevada, which sounds like a suburb of Las Vegas. He's always lived in Nevada, but his family is Hawaiian, and they all have Hawaiian names. Elder Piena's name is Kaola (like Crayola without the "r"). He's a little quiet, but it should be good serving with him.

I got to go fishing for a few minutes yesterday in a lake behind the house of a member we were doing some service for. I was lucky enough to catch a 16 inch bass, which was a decent sized fish and the biggest I've caught yet! I'll include a picture with this email, hopefully it goes through. I filleted it myself (I learned how from Elder Porter) and I'm going to eat it soon.

I'm also including a picture of a baby squirrel that walked up to us when we were in the yard of a member's house at a dinner appointment. It was really cute, and wasn't afraid of us at all, even when we tried to scare it! I had never seen anything like it before. We all took turns holding it, and we fed it crackers and played with it a little bit.

One thing that I love about a mission is getting to help people and see them grow spiritually and see the blessings from living the gospel of Jesus Christ and keeping the commandments. I am also so blessed to be able to keep learning more and more about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and what His work is, as long as I've been out here. Something my mission president told me and that I've thought about a lot lately is about how all we have to do in this life is be obedient and follow what the Lord commands us to do (
Abraham 3:25). It's really comforting knowing that. We don't have to be perfect, and the Lord knows that we won't be, but we can repent and move forward and keep becoming more like Jesus Christ. I love the Gospel, and the more I learn about it the more it amazes me, and the more I realize how much the Lord really has done for us to help us. I know that it's true, and that by following it we can enter into the "rest of the Lord" (read Alma 13:12-13, 28-29), which is to find the peace and purpose in this life that Heavenly Father wants for us (D&C 59:23 and John 14:27). There is a really good article in February Ensign about that called "Enter into the Rest of the Lord". Read it when you get the chance!

Love you all, and have a great week!

Elder Trevor Casper

05.29.2012 "Another Transfer in Harrison"

Hello Everyone!

Just a short letter again. Transfer calls came! I'm staying here in Harrison, and Elder Porter is getting transferred east to the "thumb" area of Michigan, which is Caro, and the other area he and his new companion will be covering also, called Bad Axe. My new companion is named Elder Piena. He's from Las Vegas, and he seems like a pretty nice guy, so it'll be good to get to know him better.

There has been a lot going on this past week! It seems like it's lasted forever. Elder Porter and I did a lot of fishing on Monday. We also visited a lot of people over the weekend so he could say goodbye to them. Monday we also went to a beach with the Cassidy family, and though we aren't allowed to swim we waded in a little, which was pretty nice. It was a beautiful Memorial day, even though that night and the day before were all thunderstorms.

I'll have to tell everyone about a few more things this next week, I only have seconds left. Sorry everyone! Hope everyone had a great weekend, and I'll talk to you later and fill you in! Things are going well here.

Elder Casper

Monday, May 21, 2012

05.21.2012 Another Busy Week in Harrison

Hello Everyone,

This last week was a busy one for us!

On Wednesday, the zone leaders in Mt. Pleasant (about 40 minutes south of Harrison) came up and "blitzed" our area with us, meaning that they came up and worked here with us for part of the day so we could get twice as much work done. It was pretty fun! It made for a busy day though.

On Friday we had something called Half Mission P-day. About half the mission went up to Petosky that morning, which is right up on either Lake Michigan or Lake Superior, I can't remember which. It's on the north end of mainland Michigan. It was about a two hour drive from Harrison. We actually got a ride up with President and Sister Hess, along with a few other missionaries. They all left from Lansing, which is another hour and a half south of Harrison, so they had to leave around 5 in the morning to get up to Petosky in time! Luckily we didn't have to get up that early.

We had a lot of fun. There were probably about fifty or so missionaries there, and we had different games that we played with points assigned to the winning districts. There was a three-legged race, a water balloon toss, a relay thing where we had to fill a make ourselves dizzy and then carry cups of water to fill a bucket, and a "jello snarfing" contest (it was fun to watch). Overall, the six missionaries in my district tied for second place, which was fun. We also had some time to just throw frisbees or footballs and just relax. I spend a little time fishing with Elder Porter and a few other missionaries. It was a great time to just relax and visit each other and talk to everyone. It ended around two oclock and we all went back to our own areas. A busy day, but it was fun!

On Sunday we had Stake Conference here in the Midland Stake. It was a great Stake Conference. Elder Haleck of the Seventy, who spoke in last General Conference, was there, and he spoke for about half an hour at the end. Along with him, the Stake President and his wife, President Hess and his wife, and the Detroit Temple President and his wife all spoke. There were a lot of really good talks. One thing that I remember in particular is a talk about the parable of the wheat and the tares. The speaker talked about three lessons he learned from that parable: 1) We can't tell yet whether people are wheat or weeds yet. We don't know how they'll turn out yet, so we really can't judge. 2) The Lord treated all the plants, both the wheat and weeds, as wheat, so they could grow to maturity. We should treat everyone else around us as wheat too. We all do some pretty weed-y things and we make mistakes. But the Lord still treats us as wheat, and He wants us to do that same to each other. 3) The Lord will sort everything out fairly in the end. I really appreciated those comments. I feel like I could treat people more like wheat sometimes, even if they seem to be acting pretty weedy to me. It's not my place to judge people. One of my favorite scriptures, D&C 64:9-11 teaches this pretty well.

I'm out of time, so I'll have to go. I hope you all have a great week! Hopefully its not too hot there. It's been a little warm here. Talk to you next week!

Oh yeah, and transfer calls are this Friday. We'll see what happens!


Elder Trevor Casper

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

05.14.2012 "Fishing in Harrison"

Hey Everyone!

Sorry this is going to be a shortish email. We went fishing today before email and I'm a little limited on time. Sorry! But at least I got to talk to a lot of you yesterday on Mother's Day. That's always really nice.

Fishing was fun today! We got up at five thirty and went in a little bit early to do some morning fishing. All in all, today we caught probably around 20 or so decent sized fish. Most of them are rock bass. Here are a couple pictures. One is a big rock bass that I caught (They're not the biggest fish, so this is a decent sized one. They're still fun to catch though!). I also caught a real bass, a largemouth bass. Unfortunately, the bass aren't in "catch-and-keep" season yet, so I had to release it, but I still got a picture! It was about 15 inches, so if it had been in season, I would have been able to keep it and eat it! (The minimum is 14 inches to keep it). I think I got a bit of a sunburn, which is rare for me and means that I'll probably have a pretty good tan in a couple days. We had a good time.

Since I don't have time to send a separate email, thank you Mom and Dad for sending me pictures. It's always fun to see the cool things that people are doing at home. Keep me updated on your ankle, Heather!

Here's a random tidbit, a thought that I expressed to President Hess in my weekly letter:

Sometimes I get frustrated when I feel like I know what should be done, but I can't for the life of me figure out the best way to do it, and then actually do it that way. I know the importance of doing. But as I type this, I think of the story of Nephi going back to get the plates. He didn't really know what he was doing either that third time, but the Lord showed him the way. Still, the Lord allowed him and his brothers to try on their own twice before he stepped in and guided Nephi and showed him what to do. I know that he often lets us make our own choices and try to figure out our own solutions to problems first, like the Brother of Jared when he needed light. It's something that takes faith. It really comes down to that faith.

One thing that I know really builds that faith in us, that foundation of faith that President Eyring talked about in General Conference (Read that talk, it's great!!) is studying the scriptures each morning. Even if you just start out with baby steps, just reading a few verses a day, it builds a habit that you can then improve on and work on. I've found so much strength, both before my mission and during it, in reading the scriptures each day. I really have a testimony of the power that it brings us during the day. It gives us greater strength to stay on the straight and narrow path, and to understand and endure well through the trials and hardships that come in our lives. I hope all of you try it so that you can see the blessings that come from it.

Love you all! Have a great week and last couple weeks of school!

Elder Trevor Casper

05.07.2012 "Monday Morning"

Hello Everyone!

This is going to be a short letter this week. Things are good here. We have a Zone Conference tomorrow, and that'll be fun. Who knew that I would look forward to six hours worth of meetings in the first half of a day? But Zone Conferences I always look forward to. The Spirit is strong there and I always learn things that I need to know.

We're going fishing again! Wish us luck...

Lately here we've been working with a lot of recent converts. Most of them seem to be doing pretty well, and that is really, really good to see. To see someone baptized and staying active in the church is even better to me than just seeing them baptized. So we're working with the branch to try to help them to build a firm foundation and work toward going to the temple to do baptisms for the dead, and then, later on, going to receive their endowments and get sealed together as families. Missionary work is fun!

I think that going through trial including things that we don't understand are all part of the refining process where our faith is tested. I'm sure that Joseph Smith had a difficult time sitting in liberty jail, after everything he had gone through in New York and then especially in Kirtland and Missouri. He had proved himself to be faithful up to that point. He didn't deserve the situation that he was in. His friends and family didn't deserve the hardships that they went through. Yet, they remained faithful, and that is how they endured well and became even greater saints and leaders in the Church later on. I'm sure that the armies of the Nephites under the command of Helaman, Gid, and Teomner in Alma 58 felt the same way. They had been faithful but had still been heavily battered and discouraged by the war. Yet, they remained faithful, and relied on the Lord for strength, and they found that He had never deserted them. Even on the cross, Jesus Christ cried out "Why hast thou forsaken me?". Yet he was never really alone.

Have a great week, love you all!

Elder Trevr Casper

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

04.30.2012 "Great Weekend"

Hello Everyone!

Just a short letter today; I'm very short on time. This week wasn't too bad! Today is a pretty rainy, but we're going to go fishing anyway. I actually just bought my own tackle box and I'm starting to get a few of some of the basics so I don't have to depend of my companion for them. I've always wanted to learn more about fishing and it's fun to finally be able to.

This last weekend was Sister Winter's baptism and confirmation! It was really cool to see. It's the fourth convert baptism that I've been to on my mission, and the third in my own area. It took a lot of planning, but everything went off great and there weren't really any problems that happened, which was nice. There was a great turnout too, which we were excited about because it showed a lot of support for the Winters family. They're really a nice family, and we like them a lot. Elder Poulsen came down for the baptism and baptized Sister Winters, which was cool. It was good to see him again. His companion is actually Elder Gilson right now, who was one of my companions in the MTC along with Elder Blackhurst. Two other missionaries came, so there were six of us total, and we all had a good experience. Sister Winters was excited for everything too and seemed to have her own special glow all weekend. It was good to be there for her baptism and confirmation. I know that she's on the right track and I am thrilled to think of the blessings that will come as they continue to move forward as a family and work towards going to the temple in a year. Here are a few pictures for everyone.

Love you all, have a good week, and Happy Birthday again, Megan!

Elder Trevor Casper 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

04.23.2012 "Spring is Coming to Harrison"

Hello Everyone,

Things are going pretty well here in Harrison. This last week without the car has been a little rough to get some places, but it's still been fun. It should be  good serving here with Elder Porter for another 6 weeks.

We went fishing last Monday, even though it was windy and rainy and cold. We still managed to catch a few sunfish though, which was nice. We're going to give fishing another shot again today, so that should be fun. I don't think I mentioned that our fishing licenses expired at the end of March, did I? Well the Winters family has been very kind to us. Brother Winters actually renewed our fishing licenses for us. Not only that, but they also gave us a couch that they were going to put out on the curb (they got a new one and had no place to put the old one). And if that weren't enough, a few weeks ago they actually gave us an almost brand new bike because one of ours wasn't working at all (Brother Winters had bought the bike, rode it once, and then let it sit in his shed for the last four years). And Sister Winters is getting baptized this Saturday, and Elder Poulsen is coming down from Traverse City to perform that baptism! That should be pretty fun.

For the sake of time, I'm going to quote some parts of my letter to President Hess this week.

We're continuing to work here with a number of recent converts, which is nice. We're still working on getting with their home teachers to teach them the new member lessons, but they're doing well. We also have a few investigators that we're teaching that are doing pretty well. The Andrews family is the family that lives in the half of the house above the Cassidy family, who are recent converts (except Bro. Cassidy, he has been a member for years). We've been seeing them for the last couple months, and they have said that they would like to be baptized. We're going to keep working with them on that and try to set a date with them. Unfortunately, there has been a lot of colds going through those two families lately and they've been sick the last two weeks and haven't been able to make it to church. We should be able to teach them again this week though.

We spent a lot of time this last week doing service. On Friday we helped a group of members prepare a camp called Camp Neyati for a branch activity that was taking place on Saturday. They work ended up being a lot more than they had thought, and all in all by the time we got home it had taken up most of the day. The work was fun, however, and we were able to help out a lot. The event on Saturday went pretty well, too. There were a few less-active members there, as well as the Cassidy family, which was fun. We're hoping to start teaching their daughter Shyla, who is the only one living in the home who hasn't been baptized yet. She's opening up more and coming to more events though, so we're hopeful to start teaching her soon.
As for the investigators we've been teaching that have a date, Sister Winters is going to be baptized this Saturday at 7:00 pm, which we're excited about. There shouldn't be anything that comes up now that will change that. We're also planning on David Broniman being baptized on May 5, the following Saturday. We're going to keep working with him on that and hopefully he'll be able to make that date.
We also met with a less-active member this last week named Clifton Farnsworth. He was referred to us by the Elder's Quorum President, and he has been living in our area under the radar for years until recently when the branch received his records. He is a friendly guy, and lives in a senior apartment. We decided to teach him the missionary lessons, since he doesn't know much about the church. He has been inactive in church for most of his life. We found out that his father is a very active member out in Nevada, and it sounds like he has set a good example for his son that has made his son interested in being active in the church again. We're getting him a large-print Book of Mormon and we're trying to work with the branch to find a way to help him come to church, since he has no legs and gets around on a very heavy motorized scooter. We're looking forward to continuing to work with him.

Yesterday Elder Porter and I watched the movies "Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration" and "Legacy" with some recent converts, the Lanes. I really enjoyed watching them, more than I have before I think. It wasn't so easy for Joseph Smith and the Saints to do everything that they did. I can see parallels between those events that happened and the experiences I've had in my own life and my mission. I wrote in my journal:

"They traveled from place to place, worked hard to obey the Lord (and were blessed for it), and endured many trials, hardships, and what seemed to be setbacks. Yet the whole time, the Lord was teaching them, refining them, and moving them forward. Though at times it would have been easy for them to have been frustrated and discouraged, when it seemed as if the Lord had not kept the promises that He had made, or when it seemed as if the Lord's work itself was being frustrated, they exercised great faith in pressing forward. The Lord did not leave them comfortless. He did not forsake them. He strengthened them, and taught them and endowed them with power from on high. For the work of God cannot be frustrated by men, and as I exercise faith in Him, He will fulfill the promises that He has made unto me."
I was just talking to a missionary serving in another area (It was Elder Griffiths, the one I served in Allegan with after Elder Ralphs) and I told him a story about something that happened in the North Muskeegon area my first transfer in the mission. I don't know if I mentioned this story or not. I thought it was funny so I wanted to mention that here too.

"It was when Elder Holt and Elder Carr were serving there together. Elder Carr went on a trade-off with Elder Merrill in Holland, and I spent the day with Elder Holt. Everything went pretty well until that night. While we were sleeping, we heard an alarm go off. Elder Holt looked at the clock and turned the alarm off. We both groaned and got up. Morning always comes way too early on a mission (especially since it was my first transfer). It was still dark, and we both got up and started stumbling around and getting ready. Elder Holt went to the bathroom, and I walked into the kitchen. I looked up, blinked a few times, and read the time on the microwave- 3:30. "What?? This is stupid!" I went back to bed.

In the meantime, Elder Holt took a shower, got dressed, and ate breakfast. He looked in the bedroom a few times to see if I was up yet, but I slept right through it all. I guess he thought I wasn't the most obedient missionary and that I was just going to sleep in. It wasn't until he was all done with everything that he looked at the clock and saw that it was... only 5:30. He was ticked, but tired enough that he didn't really care. So he went and curled up on a recliner in the corner of the living room and went to sleep.

An hour later, my alarm went off, and I got up. I looked over at the bed next to me and it was empty. I blinked and looked around. The apartment was dark. The bathroom was empty, the kitchen was empty, the study room was empty, I didn't see Elder Holt anywhere. "Oh great", I thought. I was still half asleep, but I thought hard about what to do next. I had never expected to have my companion completely ditch me. I was just on my way out the door to go look outside the building for him when I glanced over and saw Elder Holt, fully dressed in shoes and a white shirt and tie, sleeping on the recliner. It was a really weird morning.

It turned out that Elder Carr had decided to mess with us on the trade-off (he was always pranking Elder Holt anyway). He just set the alarm as a casual thing. At best he thought that it would just wake us up in the night and annoy us a bit. He had no idea it would turn out like it did. He got a pretty good kick out of it. We all had a good laugh when we traded back the next day."

Have a great week everyone!

Elder Trevor Casper

04.16.2012 "Harrison Transfer #3"

Dear Everyone,
I hope you're all doing well still. It's been rainy here the last few days, but luckily we have the car right now. We're going to try to go fishing again this P-Day, and I guess we'll see what happens with the weather. Fish seem to be so unpredictable. We went fishing last Monday, and three of the Cassidy kids came with us. Apparently the fish were only biting in one spot in that whole area we were fishing in. One of the three Cassidy kids caught a fish, and I caught one, and Elder Porter found the one spot where the fish were, so he caught about 20. We ended up with about 13 or 14 sunfish that we took home, along with a couple crayfish that the Cassidys caught. The sunfish have a little bit of meat on them, so we're going to eat those. The crayfish we ended up giving to the Cassidys, because Trinity wanted to keep them as pets. Crayfish are kind of cool, they just look like mini lobsters really. They're fun to play with.
The Cassidy family was the family that was baptized when I first got here. The Dad was already a member, and his wife and three of his kids were the ones who were baptized. Their kids are Shyla (15 or so), Charles (13), Brandon (12), and Trinity (11 or so). They also have an older daughter, but she's already moved out and we've never met her before. They're a pretty fun family, and we've seen them a lot lately. We usually go over there Monday nights, and we've also been coming over once or twice a week lately to help them with a couple projects that they're working on at their house. We helped them destroy a brick chimney with hammers a few weeks ago, which was fun. Right now we're helping them build a dog pen outside. We're also working with Shyla too, since she was the one who wasn't baptized and hasn't been too interested yet. We're hoping to be able to teach her so that she can be baptized too and join her family when they go to the temple to be sealed next June. Still, we're trying not to pressure her though, it has to be her own choice.
I don't have a ton of time today on the computer, but here is something I was thinking about as I typed out my weekly email to President Hess-
Some days are tougher than others. Sometimes it almost seems like I'm on a roller coaster as I go throughout the week. Some days I feel like I'm being taxed to my very limits. I don't think that is all my fault. I feel like the Lord knows exactly where to put me where I'll be stretched to my limits mentally, spiritually, and physically, so that I can grow. I suppose it's like physically stretching, you have to go to your limits in order to become more flexible. Somewhere in all the confusion on some of those crazy days, there's a divine pattern at work.
As I prepared to go on a mission, I realized that the trials that I went through before my mission had made me stronger and prepared me for my mission. I knew that my mission wouldn't be easy, but I thought that the preparation I had gone though would have been sufficient to help me get through my mission. Now as I've been on my mission, the future isn't quite as breezy as I had thought it might be. With my mission has come its own set of trials and stretching, which are sometimes pretty strenuous. Though it would be nice to think that the future after I return home on my mission will be easy compared to the experiences I had on and before my mission, I have learned that that will not be the case. President Eyring's words in the last few General Conferences have really helped me understand that, as he has talked about preparation in the priesthood, spiritual staying power, and enduring trials in life. I have learned that I cannot endure well, without the Lords help, the trials that He wants to give me for my growth. I believe that the experiences I go through on my mission will help prepare me for the blessings and trials that will come ahead in my life. These experiences in my life, will, in turn, prepare me for after this life, and for the eternities. After all, exalted perfection is a long process. Again, there is a divine pattern in all of this in which I can see the hand of the Lord. If this life is to go through experiences that will help us to become more like Him, than He must not want me to waste any of my time here! I don't think I would want Him to let me waste it either.
Well, since I'm short on time I'll also just quote what I wrote about Sister Winters and David Broniman too, in case anyone was wondering-
Here in Harrison, we are continuing to work with our two investigators with a baptismal date. Sister Winters was interviewed this last week, and everything went well, but because of the complications with Brother Winter's priesthood we all discussed it and ended up moving the baptism back to April 28th. She should be all set for that date, and she is looking forward to it. Brother Winters (his records of priesthood ordination were lost) was re-ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood, and we're hoping that he might be able to be re-ordained to the Melchizedek by the 29th, but we're not sure if that will be possible. If he is, then he will confirm Sister Winters. Elder Poulsen will be coming down from Traverse City to perform the baptism on the 28th.  
David is doing okay too. We talked with him and decided to move his baptismal date back to May 5th, since it's been difficult to meet with him and he has a lot going on in his life right now. We have a few commandments left to teach him about.
Keep them in your prayers!
Have a great week everyone.
Elder Trevor Casper

04.11.2012 "Another Transfer in Harrison #3"

Hello Everyone,

This last week hasn't been too bad here. First off though, I'm writing on Wednesday because the internet has been down in the Harrison library this week, and this is the first day we've been out of town. I'm actually in Clare right now; it's another town on the southern part of my area. Luckily, we can use the library here, and we got permission to email today.

The weather has been nicer here this last week. It seems like Spring has finally actually hit, not just the warm spell where we got up to 80 for a week a month ago.

Interestingly, we actually got transfer calls today. Normally they would be this Friday, but the Mission President is going to be out of town this Friday so he called us a little early. It looks like I'll be staying here with Elder Porter then for this next transfer. It should be good, Elder Porter's not a bad guy and it's often fun serving with him.

We also had interviews this last week with the Mission President. Those went pretty well. They were held in a city called Midland, which is about an hour away from Harrison. We had to get a ride from a member, Brother Winters, on his way to work. The problem was that he needed to be in work by 6:45. So we got up at 5:00, and made it to the church in Midland by 6:30. No one else would be there until 9:00, so we just wandered around for a little while, took a nap on the foyer couches (they were comfortable, but it was too cold to sleep. Next time, we're bringing a pillow and blanket), and then shot baskets in the gym until everyone got there.

We were able to dye Easter Eggs with the Cassidy family, the family that was baptized the first week that I was here, which was fun. We usually see them at least once or twice a week. They're a pretty fun family.

Saturday mornings here we do something called Branch Workout, I'm not sure if I've mentioned it before. For two hours we, the two Cassidy boys (12 and 13), President Lee (the Branch President), and anyone else who wants to come, meet at the church and warm up and then play basketball and dodge-ball, and a dodge-ball variation called spud-ball. It's pretty fun. We have a good time with it every week.

One place in the scriptures that I've studied recently is in 2 Nephi 9. There are a lot of powerful teachings in that chapter. A few days ago I was studying verses 10-15, which talk about the Final Judgment. It was interesting to compare what that would be like for the righteous (Alma 5:14; 2 Nephi 9:14; D&C 121:45; Moroni 7:48) to what it will be like for the unrighteous (Alma 11:13-15; Mormon 9:3-5). I've read 2 Nephi 9 a number of times before but I've never realized what a great chapter it is. I love how we always learn new things as we continue to study the scriptures. I know Heavenly Father teaches us through them often.

Hope you all have a great week!


Elder Trevor Casper

Friday, April 6, 2012

04.03.2012 "A Busy Week in Harrison"

Hi Everyone,

Sorry about the late email this week. It is Spring Break here and the computers were really busy yesterday, so we have just a couple minutes today to send a quick email to President Hess and a quick one home.

Things are going well here. Last week was a crazy week, partly because we traded off the car on Wednesday and don't get it back until next Wednesday. So of course, while the weather over the last few weeks was nice and record-breakingly warm, it rains and snows this week! It was still a good week though.

I'll talk about one quick thing before I go.

Yesterday for Preparation day was pretty fun. There was a family in our Branch, the Hamiltons, that took us down to a different part of our area to an area where a lot of Amish people live. We went and visited a couple stores and looked around. It was interesting to see everything. They had some things in the Amish stores that you don't usually find in other places. There was a lot of crafts, puzzles, Amish clothes, trapping and hunting gear, and tools and other construction supplies. It was interesting to see some of the Amish people too; I had driven past an occasional horse and black buggy on the road but had never seen many Amish at once. Something new that I found out was that they speak English very well, but they also speak a kind of Dutch-German mix among themselves sometimes. We had a good time looking at everything.

Also yesterday, we went over to the house of some members and also some people that we've been teaching. They raise rabbits, but were getting too many and wanted to butcher some. Elder Porter was good at that, and I got to learn a little bit about it and help out. I might even get a rabbit fur out of it, we'll see.

I am really grateful for General Conference. I had been looking forward to it for a long time. As I listened to what they said, my testimony of living prophets and apostles was strengthened, and I was taught by the Spirit. I know that the Apostles who spoke were called by God, and that President Monson is a the living prophet today. I am excited to share that with people! I had been praying with some questions and praying for guidance, and until the last session of conference on Sunday I didn't feel like I had really found the answer.  Then as I listened to some of those last few talks, I found, either in their words or what the Spirit taught me as a listened, some things that were just what I needed to hear. It was a great experience. I see time after time how the Lord really does hear and answer our prayers, if we are really sincere and humble and listen for the answer. 

Have a great week everyone, and Happy Easter!

Elder Trevor Casper

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

03.26.2012 "Third Week Back in Harrison"

Hello Everyone!

This last week has been a pretty good week. I really enjoy being back here in Harrison. It's been good getting to meet more of the people in the Branch here and getting to know them better. Things aren't always easy, but the Lord has been helping me to grow here and I've been learning a lot. I've learned a lot about exercising faith to push through discouragement, and I'm learning how to rely on the Lord. I know I can't do all of this on my own. I'm gaining a deeper understanding of the "whys" of the gospel and why I make the choices I do. Some days are more discouraging that others, and some days I feel depressed, but I keep going. The Lord is continuing to teach me through all of this, and though I'm not perfect, I feel greatly blessed. It's good to be out here on a mission.

The missionary work is going well here. We have two people - Sister Winters and David Broniman - who are going to be baptized on the 14th, and the 7th of April, respectively. They are doing great. It is such a great blessing to be able to be here to teach them and be a part of it. Sister Winters is doing great. The Winters are probably in their 40's, and have two young girls that are two and four (I think), Ashlynn and Alivia. They are a very likable family. Brother Winters also has a 22 year-old daughter from a previous marriage who lives there too. All we have left to teach Sister Winters before she is baptized is the Law of Tithing and the Law of the Fast.

David is doing really well too! He's going to be baptized the weekend after General Conference. We're going to have to meet with him a few times during this next week to be able to teach all the commandments, but he should be fine. He really enjoys coming to church, which is so great to see. It's a highlight of his week, and he is being well accepted there. This last Sunday was Fast and Testimony Meeting, and he went up and talked about what a blessing the church is in his life and how he loves coming and appreciates everything we've done for him. He is a really good guy. I'm excited for his baptism.

I mentioned last time about the balloon we sent up with a pass along card on it. We wrote a message on the card and our names and numbers and everything. The balloon was a little low on helium, and so it didn't float upwards very fast, but it could still carry the weight of the card we tied to it. It was a little breezy when we took it outside, and as soon as we let go, it instantly blew straight over into a nearby tree. Undaunted, Elder Porter started climbing, and about 15 feet up the tree he was able to shake the branch enough to free the balloon. It then blew a different direction, just barely grazing the tops of a few nearby trees and started to float away. We thought we were all set until the wind changed, blew it back down, and lodged in the very top of the highest tree next to our apartment. Elder Porter (because he was lighter, we decided [I had eaten too much Sweetie-licious last transfer]) spent the next 15 minutes climbing about 35 feet up the tree to a place where he was finally able to shake the balloon loose. It blew away, and we hope that someone will find it and visit
mormon.org. If someone get's baptized because of that, that would probably be one of the highlights of my mission. I don't think that's how the Lord works though. But it would still be pretty cool, wouldn't it?

Update on the squirrel pelt in our living room- Elder Porter finished treating it and softening it, and even shampooed it. We then gave it to one of our investigators, who lives in house that sort of has a log cabin look on the inside. She and her husband have a few other furs as decoration, so we thought it would be perfect. She thought it was hilarious that we brought her a native squirrel pelt that was actually from Harrison, Michigan. She thought it was really nice and got a kick out of it, so it worked out well.

By the way, in case anyone was wondering, that squirrel was killed as humanely as possible, I saw it. And the squirrel will be eaten too; it is sitting in the freezer right now. It'll be interesting to try squirrel. At least I'll get to say I tried some interesting food on my mission! And to anyone (you know who) who thinks that the fact that  Elder Porter killed the squirrel is a sign that he is emotionally unbalanced and is an early serial killer.... Hunting and fishing is something that's right up his alley and that he's done for years and years. We're actually going to go fishing later today, hopefully that goes well.

I'm really looking forward to General Conference this weekend. The more I read the scriptures and teach people about the scriptures and prophets, the more exciting the idea becomes of getting to hear living scripture, the words from living prophets for right now! What a blessing that is.

I found something interesting in my personal study this morning. I was reading 2 Nephi 8:9, which is in one of the Isaiah chapters in 2 Nephi:

"Awake, awake! Put on strength, O arm of the Lord; awake as in the ancient days. Art thou not he that hath cut Rahab, and wounded the dragon?"

I didn't understand it very well at first, especially the parts about Rahab and the dragon. One thing that I've really come to appreciate on my mission though is the footnotes and the Bible Dictionary and Topical Guide. After researching Rahab in the Bible Dictionary; Hebrews 11:31; and Joshua 2:1,3; 6:17, 23, 25; I determined that the reference to Rahab is probably a reference to Israel's victory over Jericho. After reading Ezekiel 29:3, I realized that "dragon" was probably a reference to Egypt, and perhaps Israel's miraculous deliverance from bondage there. So another way to write that verse might be "Art thou not he that hath caused the walls of the great city Jericho to crumble, and delivered Israel from the bondage of her powerful captor Egypt? This Isaiah scripture took on such a powerful and new meaning when I took the time to look study it and look deeper. What has the Lord done for us in our day?  We know that he has delivered this nation from the hands of all other nations (1 Nephi 13:19). We also know that he has brought forth truth from the earth (Moses 7:62) in the form of the Book of Mormon, and has done a marvelous work and a wonder in restoring the fullness of the gospel (2 Nephi 27:26) (which has been prophesied of and looked forward to since the beginning of the world), led His people over a thousand miles across the plains, and endowed the members of His church with power from on high (D&C 38:32). How great is our God! I think this is the message that Isaiah wanted to convey. Why should we sin or fear man when we know of the great promises the Lord has made us, the great things he has done for us, and the great things that he has in store for us if we are faithful. What a powerful chapter for Nephi to quote in 2 Nephi 8!

I shared this because I hope that it helps everyone back home to be a little more excited about Isaiah, and know how to glean gems of truth and light from it's rich veins. It's something that I'm working on myself. I know that through prayer and study, the scriptures can become a gold mine of light to us. I love the scriptures, and know they are true. I know that the Book of Mormon is true. The Lord has shown me time and time again that it is.

2 Nephi 17:1-14 is also a powerful section of the Isaiah chapters that I love. Perhaps you all could read it when you get the chance, and use the footnotes, Bible Dictionary, and maps to get an understanding of all the people and places.

I love you all, have a great week,

Elder Trevor Casper

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

03.19.2012 "Harrison"

Hello Everyone!

Phew, there is a lot to talk about. And so little time! I'll try to hit the highlights.

I love being back here! There are a lot a lot of good people here, and I like serving with Elder Porter. He's a good guy. He's from Queen Creek, AZ, and came out the transfer after me so we have about the same experience. He just hit his year mark last Friday.

We have two people here that are going to be baptized in the next month. Sister Winters has been taught since the last time I was here (Elder Poulsen and I were the ones who started teaching her a year ago). And now she is getting baptized on April 14th! We are really excited for her. I can see a difference in her since the last time I was here. As she's learned about the gospel, she's changed. Their family is pretty nice.

The other person who is going to be baptized is David Broniman. He will be baptized on April 7th. He has really been prepared by the Lord to accept the gospel. He's had a lot of experiences that have brought him to the point where he is at now, and he knows that the needs the restored gospel in his life. He loves the Plan of Salvation, and he loves coming to church.

I'll have to explain more about the people we're teaching later.

A few fun things that Elder Porter and I have done lately-

Elder Porter killed a squirrel, and he is currently working on the pelt and the treatment process involved in preserving it. He wants to get into taxidermy a little as a hobby. He's going to get me a squirrel pelt sometime, which I think is pretty cool. right now the pelt is spread out over a piece of cardboard in our living room with salt all over it to help it dry out.

We had a balloon left over from a relief society dinner last friday, and we tied a note to it on a pass along card and threw it up into the sky. We called it a "finding activity". It was way fun. I'll have to tell the whole story later.

Have a great week, everyone!


Elder Trevor Casper

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

03.12.2012 "Back in Harrison"

Hello Everyone,

So I'm back in Harrison. I was pretty surprised when I got transfer calls and found out I was coming back here. That doesn't happen too often where missionaries get sent back to an area they have served in before. We usually serve in 5-8 areas or so, and there are probably 40 or so areas in the mission. It's great to be back here again though. I really like it here.

Our address is:
801 Westlawn Apt. #6
Harrison, MI 48625

Well, I only have a few minutes so I'll try to explain all I can. I'm a little behind too because of a computer problem at the St. Johns Library last week and me not getting to send out this email to everyone. First of all, I'll talk about what happened in St. Johns before I left.

Remember that I mentioned that there was a baptism last Sunday in St. Johns? That didn't end up working out. He got into the water, and then panicked a little and had a problem being submerged. We had to postpone the baptism for a week. That should have taken place yesterday, I hope it went well. Brother Fifield is a good guy.

Before I left, one of our investigators bought a huge pizza and we all had some for lunch. He's a really interesting guy, and actually pretty cool when he's sober, we recently realized. It was sad leaving everyone there that I was teaching behind, but at least I know they're in good hands.

Out of time,but I'll finish the updates later. Have a good week everyone!


Elder Trevor Casper

Monday, February 27, 2012

02.27.2012 "Last Week of Transfers -- We'll See what Happens."

Dear Everyone,

This week has been a busy week, and there has been a lot going on. It's been a good week here though. Winter is continuing it's pattern of melting a couple days after we finally get some snow. We got probably six or seven inches of snow last week, but this Thursday is apparently going to be 50 degrees. Oh well. At least it makes it so that we can bike around instead of just walking. Not that it stopped us today anyway; we rode our bikes to the library. As long as the roads are clear, we always prefer biking to walking. It's about four times as fast and saves a ton of time during the day. Saturday we walked a total of about two and a half hours. It would have been about four or five, but we managed to get rides from a few different members here. Even a ride just two or three miles across Dewitt saves us a lot of time. It was really nice of them. Also Saturday, we had dinner at a member's house and her husband made us jerk chicken. My mouth was burning afterwards and I couldn't taste anything for a little while, but I loved it. That was some of the best chicken I've had in a long time. 

Well, transfers have come up really fast again. Transfer calls come this Friday. It's looking more likely at this point that I'll be leaving, since I've been here for about six months now and Elder Ballard's only been here for three. But, we'll see what happens. If I do get transferred, I have no idea where I'm going to go. However, if anyone ever wants to send me anything but they're not sure where I'll be, they can always count on the mission office address below:

Elder Trevor Casper
Michigan Lansing Mission
1400 Abbott Rd. Suite #310
East Lansing, MI 48823

Any letters will automatically be forwarded to wherever I currently am. However, unless packages are shipped through priority mail, the mission office cannot forward the packages to me, and I will not be able to get them until transfers or zone conferences, which could mean a delay of a month or two. If you're shipping packages, the best bet is to ship either directly to my current apartment address or use priority mail (perhaps flat rate) shipping to either the office or to my current address. Normally my current address is fine, because priority mail only takes 3-5 days.

We had a trade off again last Wednesday, which is always fun. I've especially enjoyed my trade-offs with my current district leader, Elder Collins. I actually was in the MTC with him and we were in the same district and came out together. He's a good guy, and works hard to be a good missionary. It was a pretty good day and a fun trade off. We worked hard and were able to teach a few people. On our way home for the night, we hadn't had dinner yet so we bought a couple pizzas at a place called Hungry Howie's. It's a notch above Little Ceasars, and is pretty inexpensive but actually has pretty good pizza with free flavored crusts. We both ate a ton and were pretty stuffed at the end. We played some card games after planning that night right before we went to bed and got to talk a little about how everyone we know in the mission is doing. It was a nice night.  

Things were a little crazy yesterday after church. Bob Fifield is an investigator we've been teaching who is currently planning on being baptized this next Sunday. However, yesterday he was taken to the hospital and may have suffered a stroke. He was showing one or two positive signs, so we don't know for sure. We're praying for him and are anxiously awaiting any news to hear how he is doing. He seemed like for the most part he was doing okay yesterday morning when he was at sacrament meeting, although he wasn't feeling well. The signs that could indicate a stroke started early that morning, so at least it hadn't been too long before he made it to the hospital. I haven't had too much experience with strokes so I don't know what to expect. Keep him in your prayers as well. He's a good guy, and we've enjoyed teaching him. It's been so great seeing how he's changed even in just the past few weeks as he's been learning more about the Gospel, Plan of Salvation, and the commandments.  

We were also able to meet with Gale again this last week. She is still waiting for her large print triple that she ordered to come in (it is or was on back order), but we managed to find a copy to let her borrow in the meantime. She's been reading more in the Book of Mormon and is at about Alma 40 right now. She asks the best questions I have ever heard an investigator ask in my entire mission. I love it! I enjoy talking to her about the scriptures more and answering her questions than probably just about anyone else I've ever been in a lesson with, member or non-member. We talked in detail about the Spirit World, Resurrection, and Three Degrees of Glory. We can teach these doctrines pretty thoroughly (of course staying scripturally based) with her because she actually understands it and it helps her put everything together in her mind.  She applies the scriptures very well to her own life and situation. Hopefully we'll be able to see her this week as well sometime. 

We were able to teach about 17 lessons this last week, which we're pretty happy about. The Lord is blessing us here and it's been a good week. We feel like we've really been able to help a lot of people come closer to Jesus Christ, and that's part of our purpose.  

Hope you're all having a good end of February. Have a great week! I'll tell you all what  happens with transfers.

Elder Trevor Casper

Saturday, February 25, 2012

02.20.2012 "Great Week and Many Blessings in St. Johns"

Dear Everyone,

Hopefully you've all been having a good week back at home. It's looking like winter is on it's way out. This last week has been really busy for us, but great. On Thursday we had one of the Assistants to the President join us for the day, because he had no where else to be for the day and we were nearby Lansing. His name is Elder Hill, and he's a pretty nice guy and a good missionary. He gave us some helpful ideas about the people we met with that day.

We also had a Zone Conference this last Friday. It was great! It was probably my favorite Zone Conference since I've been out. President Hess talked a lot about Our Purpose as missionaries, which is to "Invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and his Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end" (see Preach My Gospel, pg. 1). He also taught us for a while about faith, and what it really is. Faith truly is a principle of action. Faith, Hope, and Charity has to be the driving force, the motivation, behind anything we do in the Church and in the Lord's service. The increased focus on Our Purpose pointed me in the direction I needed and made clear a lot of things that I didn't fully understood before. I felt like my mind was enlightened and my understanding illuminated. It was a great Zone Conference. 

Another highlight of it that stands out in my mind was at one point when President Hess was teaching about faith he brought up a powerpoint slide with the song "Accentuate the Positive" on it. I had learned that song in music class long ago in elementary school, but I haven't heard it since. I still remembered most of the words and the tune though. President Hess and Sister Fredline, one of the elderly Sister Missionaries who served in the mission office, then sang that song to us, and then everyone sang it together. It was just an improvised thing, but it sounded really great. President Hess is a very kind man and thinks positively. You can feel the love that he has for the Lord when he speaks and also the love he has for each of us missionaries. I am very blessed to have him as a Mission President.

Here's an excerpt from a thought I had earlier as I studied that I mentioned to President Hess in my weekly report.
"I read D&C 122 in my personal study Saturday morning. I love how Joseph Smith stayed true, even in the midst of such terrible adversity. His adversity seemed to be mainly external because the adversary could gain no power over him. He was built upon the rock, the "foundation whereon if men build, the cannot fall" (Helaman 5:12). During lunch I was looking through conference talks and listened to the talk "It Is Better to Look Up". I love that talk. It helped me tremendously. It and the scriptures quoted in it tied in perfectly with what [President Hess] talked about in Zone Conference about faith." 

"Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend." (Mosiah 4:9)

"Then cast about your eyes and begin to believe in the Son of God, that he will come to redeem his people, and that he shall suffer and die to atone for their sins; and that he shall rise again from the dead" (Alma 33:22).

I know that He will help me with my trials and that I don't have to go through them alone. I just need to have faith and be positive!

Bob Fifield is one investigator we've been teaching. I don't know if I've mentioned him before or not. He is 67 and can't hear or see well. He also has a speech impediment that makes him difficult to understand. He's doing really well though! We think that he should be ready by March 4th for his baptism we've scheduled for that day. He really wants to make changes in his life and he is quickly absorbing everything we teach him, even though we may have to explain it a couple times before he understands. As soon as we explained the Word of Wisdom on when we visited him on Sunday and how it is a commandment from the Lord that the Lord will bless him for keeping, he committed to live by it and not drink coffee or tea or alcohol anymore. He's continuing to attend church, also. Our next goal is to get him more involved with the branch and connected with the members there. We're currently working on that with the Branch President and the Branch Mission Leader.

There is another fairly new investigator that we've been teaching named Katie. She is a senior in high school and is friends with Mindy Draut, who is the Branch President's daughter and is in the same grade (Mindy is really great). She has told us that she feels like something has been missing in her life, and she's been reading parts of the Book of Mormon. We've been able to meet with her a few times. Last Thursday when Elder Hill was here, we stopped by and were able to check in with her and talk for a few minutes. We had assigned her to read 3 Nephi 11, which she had. We asked her what she thought about Jesus Christ giving his disciples authority to baptize. We talked for a minute about baptism and she asked a few questions about it of her own. It was a perfect opportunity to invite her to be baptized. We did, and she said she thinks she would be if she finds out that this is true and know's that it is what God wants her to do. She really seems to feel the Spirit when we talk with her. She has a lot of potential and we're excited to meet with her again. She also expressed interest in coming to church soon and also going to seminary sometime swith her friend Mindy Draut. We're going to keep working with her inviting her to come unto Christ. 

I've got to go. Have a great week everyone!

Elder Trevor Casper

02.13.2012 "Mid Transfer Already! I Llove St. Johns"

Dear Everyone,

Hopefully you're all having a good February so far! We finally got a bit of snow here, but it should be gone again by the end of the week. Still, we've been walking around a bit over the last week without the car and I'll probably walk a few more miles tomorrow. Happy Valentines day, everyone!

This week was a pretty good week. As always, it was pretty busy and pretty eventful. Elder Ballard and I spent a lot of time the last few days doing whats called our Weekly Planning. We sit down and basically talk about all our investigators and the different aspects of the work and we plan out who we need to visit and what we'll teach and everything else. It normally just takes a few hours, but we haven't been able to finish the last few weeks so we're behind. Now that we've had some time to catch up, it should help us a lot. Doing that planning each week is pretty important. I feel like I know much better now what's going on and what we need to do next, instead of living in a state of last minute plans and constantly wondering if I'm forgetting something.

We weren't able to visit as many people this last week because a few of our investigators were either busy or out of town. It was still a good week though. This next week we have a Zone Conference, which we only have every three months. That should be pretty good. I'm excited for it. It's always good to hear from President Hess too and see what he has to say. 

I'm low on time but here is a paragraph from my letter to President Hess about someone that we've been teaching for the last few weeks:

Our top investigator right now is probably Bob Fifield. As I told you in my last email, he's the 67 year-old nephew of a less-active member. He is a nice guy. We had seen him a number of times before at the less-active member's home that he's been staying in, but he always turned down an invitation to participate in the discussion. But if he was in the room he would stay and listen. He doesn't hear or see very well and he has a speech impediment that makes him difficult to understand. He surprised us one week by showing up to church. We talked to him and found out that he's wanting to make some changes in his life. He's been coming to church ever since, except last week when he apparently had a fall on the ice and had to go to the hospital. He is eager to learn, and though we have to teach very simply and slowly he's making progress. We have a baptismal date with him for March 4th, which we confirmed with the branch council yesterday.We found that using the Gospel Art book and the videos is very helpful in helping him understand. We're currently meeting with him about two or three times a week to help him progress towards that date. 

Bob is fine, by the way. He is just a little sore from his fall but is doing about the same as he was before.

I know that the Lord is in this work and that he's helping us to be able to accomplish what we couldn't do on our own. I love the scriptures and, these last few months I've learned so much, I can't even begin to explain it all. I am so thankful for the Atonement of Jesus Christ and his gospel that shows us the way to access the power of it for ourselves. I really know that Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father love us and are always mindful of us.

My mission is just flying by so far! I'm so glad I still have a year left. Talk to you all later!

Elder Trevor Casper

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

02.06.2012 "First Week of February 2012"

Hello Everyone,

Well we're still in the dead of winter and we've been having sunny days in the 30's and 40's with no snow at all. I give up. This is sad. I've only worn my boots two or three times. At this rate, it would'be been better if I hadn't bought any at all! At least when I finish my mission it'll be winter. Maybe I can sell my boots off to another missionary who's just coming in and hasn't bought any yet.

Things have been going pretty well here in St Johns. It's been a busy week here. I spend Wednesday in Lansing on a trade-off, which is always fun. We had an odd experience while we were door knocking. We were talking to a lady at the door, and as soon as we told her we were missionaries she told us "I can't talk right now, I'm in labor!" and shut the door. What? First of all, why would she be home alone if she was in labor. Second, why would she come to the door? Third, she didn't even look pregnant! I've heard a lot of excuses, even someone who said "I'm sick. We're all sick!" SLAM. But I've never heard the labor excuse before. Sometimes you meet funny people on your mission. 

Speaking of funny people, I'll have to tell you all more about an investigator we started teaching a few weeks ago named Mark. He's an interesting guy. He likes to teach us a self defense move after the lesson and before we go. He's a pretty nice guy though. He always smokes the whole time we're there, and we have to open the windows because it makes Elder Ballard feel sick. 

We also met with Gale again this last week. This time we read the "Explanatory Introduction" at the beginning of the Doctrine and Covenants, and also Section 1. The Explanatory Introduction got Gale excited to read the Doctrine and Covenants, and she should be getting the triple combination that she ordered sometime in the next few days. If you've all never read that, you should. I've never read all of D&C, but it helped me understand it a lot better.  At this point, we're thinking we might answer questions when we see her and also read and assign her chapters from the Book of Mormon and D&C that teach more about the Plan of Salvation and maybe some of the commandments we teach about in the fourth missionary lesson.

President Draut, the Branch President here, gave a really good lesson last week in a combined Priesthood and Relief Society about Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy. Instead of making a list on the board of Do's and Don'ts, as most people tend to do, he instead talked about how just making lists wasn't going to help us. Someone will always disagree with what we write on there. Instead, he told us that he wanted to talk about what it means to keep the day Holy. We spent the hour talking about what holiness was, which is actually really interesting. I had never thought about it before that way. But the whole purpose of the Sabbath day is to keep it holy to us. The two most important elements to follow are the inspiration and guidance we receive from the Holy Ghost, and also the guidelines provided by prophets who hold the authority to do so. There is a balance between following the letter of the law and the spirit of the law, and we find that by following the Spirit along with those prophetic insights. 

The part that stuck with me most was about what the Bible Dictionary said about Holiness. Look it up, when you have a minute. "Man of Holiness" is one of the names of God the Father (Moses 7:35) and to be able to become like him we ourselves need to become holy. I love that. Everything in the gospel helps us to become more holy.

I am so grateful to be out here, and I know that this is where the Lord wants me to be right now. I know that our Father in Heaven hears us, and does answer our prayers in his own due time, in  the way that is best for us. I know that because I have seen it, time and time again. There is so much power in sincere, heartfelt prayer. I know that the scriptures are the word of God. I find so much comfort and strength in them daily. I am so grateful for the God in whom I know I can trust and build my foundation on, a foundation on which if men build, then cannot fall (Helaman 5:12). This is the Lord's work and He is in it. It's such a blessing to be a part of it. 

Love you guys. Hope you all have a great week. Don't get too much of a tan out there.

Elder Trevor Casper

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

01.30.2012 "One Year ... And Loving Being in St. Johns"

Hello Everyone,

Hopefully January is going well for everyone back out West. I don't know if you have any more snow yet. Every time we get snow here, it lasts for a few days and then either warms up and melts or it rains and melts. The result is perpetual slush, all the time. I'd rather have just the snow. We have a couple inches of snow on the ground now, but it's supposed to rain tomorrow and today, so it probably won't last much longer. Oh well. 

This last week was a busy week, but a decent one. We were able to teach 17 lessons to people and families this last week, which is pretty good. I only have a few minutes, so I thought I would talk about a couple of our investigators. 

Gale is one investigator that we've been teaching for a few months. She's was a librarian for 30 or so years, and has some kind of a Masters degree in Library Science, or something related, so she's pretty smart. This last week we met with her, and she had a lot of questions about Baptism for the Dead, so we taught her about the subject as best we could and read the middle part of D&C 128 with her to help. She seems to want to start reading the Doctrine and Covenants along with the Book of Mormon. We think that would be great, as long as it doesn't distract her from reading the Book of Mormon as well. We showed her the LDS online distribution store and she's going to order a regular paperback triple combination. We'll be seeing her again this week and probably answering more of her questions. She wanted to know more about what the Doctrine and Covenants were, so we're thinking of reading the Explanatory Introduction at the beginning and also Section 1. Also, last time we saw her we left her Elder Bednar's talk from last conference called "The Hearts of the Children Shall Turn" to watch online. Hopefully that helps answer her questions as well. 

I've never taught anyone quite like her. She is very nice, and we always look forward to going over to see her. I definitely want to keep in contact with her whenever I leave the area. She might be leaving soon too, and moving to Detroit for a while to help a friend of hers who is going through some health struggles right now. If she does, we'll get her in contact with the missionaries down there, and also the ward there to help move her in. I'll let everyone know what ends up happening with Gale.

We were able to teach a new investigator this week named Bob Fifield. He is 67, and is the nephew of an 80-year old less-active member of the branch, Brother Penix. He has moved in with his uncle for the time being. He came to church last Sunday as well as yesterday, and likes it there and want to keep coming. We're going to try to meet with him this week and start teaching him the lessons. He seems like he's pretty normal and understands things we teach fairly well if we teach simply, but he has a speech impediment that makes it difficult to understand what he says. It'll be good to start working with him though. He's a nice guy. His wife passed away a few years ago and he's kind of been wandering around since then. He needs the hope and understanding that comes from the restored gospel and the plan of salvation.

Here's something I've been thinking about lately:

From time to time I feel as though I am being stretched to my limits mentally. I suppose that it could be "growing pains" related to the strenuous spiritual growth and exertion that serving a mission entails. I think of President Eyring's talk from the Priesthood Session of last General Conference when he said:

"[The Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood] 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."

Though I do feel strained and stressed sometimes, I cannot deny that I do see the Lord's hand behind all of this. From time to time I catch glimpses of it, and that reassures and strengthens me. I just need to make sure that I am not allowing discouragement to creep in and weaken my faith. I know the danger of that, and I know the source of it.

Still, I'll keep going and working. I am sure that the Lord has a reason for what he does. Perhaps the experience I gain will help me later in my mission or later in life. 

I know that the our Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ live. They love us, and are aware of our situations. Father in Heaven hears our prayers. Even though it's easy to be impatient sometimes with them and their timing for things, I have faith that everything that He does do is because He loves us and He knows what is best for us. 

Time's up, but I hope you all have a great week. It's weird to think that I've been out here a year now. Luckily, I still have another year, and that's a long time. Still, I know it'll pass quickly. I'm going to use it as wisely as I can! Love you all, and I hope things go well for you as we start the new month!

Elder Trevor Casper