Monday, January 23, 2012

01.16.2012 "Mid January 2012--Last Week of My 8th Transfer in Michigan"

Dear Everyone,

Hopefully you're all having a good January. From what I've heard, it sounds like there's no snow in Idaho Falls. Up until this last week, there wasn't really any here either! In fact, we had a couple days that were up in the upper 40's. We didn't even wear coats those days as we walked around. But then the weather took a turn and dropped 20 degrees and about five inches of snow on us. So maybe you'll get some soon as well.

Things have been going pretty well here this last week. We were able to teach a lot of people and also meet a few less-active members that we can strengthen and help. It was a pretty busy week for missionary work. 

I don't have long, but I did have an interesting experience door knocking yesterday that I wanted to write about. As we were going through an apartment complex talking to people, we knocked on one door and were invited right in. Inside was a small Iraqi family. There were three children, and each of them were physically or mentally handicapped. The children spoke english understandably, but the parents spoke very little. They invited us right in and asked us to sit. It turned out that they had been eating when we knocked on the door, and they very generously offered us some food. We weren't hungry but didn't want to be rude, so we accepted. It was pretty good. We spoke with them for a minute, using the kids to translate. We told them who we were and got to know them a little better. Communication was difficult, but we got the gist of what each other was saying. It turned out that they were from Baghdad originally, and that there the father had been beaten and attacked somehow. They ended up here in America, and now the father is looking for work while the kids attend a special education program at the schools. 

We were only there for a few minutes, and these people weren't interested in learning more from us about the Gospel. But there was something good about seeing these people and how kind and hospitable they were towards us. Repeatedly as we talked, the father thanked God to be able to be here in America, and for the police, and for the FBI that keep us safe. We are pretty blessed to be here, more than we realize most of the time. We could feel how the Lord was still mindful of that family and loved them. We were very thankful for their kindness to us.

One other thought before I go.

It's definitely a great blessing to be here. Even though some times are turbulent and stressful, and I feel like I'm often being refined in the furnace of affliction, I know that the Lord is behind it all. I've pondered lately about this and realized more than ever before that this is part of the plan. This is part of the reason why we go through this life. No one escapes it. Nephi didn't, Moses didn't, Joseph Smith didn't, not even Jesus Christ did. Though these things the Lord tempers us and strengthens us. He prepares us for what lies ahead of us. I think of the talk "Preparation in the Priesthood" in last General Conference. We grow in wisdom and experience, and become a greater and more useful tool in the hand of the Lord to accomplish whatever he needs us to do. We not only learn from our experiences, but also our association with others who our devoted followers of Jesus Christ doing their best to fulfill their callings. I've learned much from the leaders that I've served under and also the Branch leaders that I've had the privilege to work with. I'm confident that my mission will be a great blessing to the rest of my life, and help prepare me for future callings I will have in the church, and as a husband and father.  As I've studied 1 Nephi over the last few weeks, I've seen how his experiences helped him to become the powerful prophet and leader that became the father of a great nation. The experiences that we go through in life are inseparably connected with the spiritual, eternal nature of things and with our divine destiny and potential.

Have a great week everyone!

Elder Trevor Casper

PS. This Friday is transfer calls! I'll let everyone know next week what happens.

Monday, January 9, 2012

01.09.2012 "Second Week in January--Still Can't Believe I'm 20!" (posted by rebecca)

Hello Everyone!

This last week has been pretty fun, although really busy. My birthday was fun too, and I'll have to tell you more about it next week. We had interviews with the Mission President this week, which were really good.  [Since I am out of time,] I'll include excrpts from my letter to President Hess this week about how things have been going here in the St. Johns area:

"Things here in St. Johns have been going fairly well. We didn't have the car for most of the week, but we were still able to get around to everywhere we needed to be. One thing that we've been trying to work on since leadership training is working more effectively with Brother Moore and the Branch Council. In our last two correlations with Brother Moore we've started having our branch missionary, Brother McKay, attend as well. We were able to go out Brother McKay this last week and visit some less-active members, which was very helpful. We look forward to working with him more in the future. We also are going to try to keep Brother Moore updated on everything that's going on several times a week. 

"We're still working on coming to Branch Council each week. I think that President Draut is probably just fine with it, but it seems like Brother Moore still doesn't really see the point in him coming to council if we are there. We're having dinner with President Draut tonight, so we'll probably ask him about what the best thing to do would be. Other than that, Brother Moore is very helpful with everything else. He really wants to be a good Branch Mission Leader and is trying to find out what more he can do. I told him that we would study it more and get back to him about how we can work together to do more. I am thinking about possibly bringing the DVD for The District 1 over to his house the next time we correlate so we can watch the segments about working with the Branch Council and Mission Leader. I think that will help both of us to be able to see what things we can improve on and what new ideas we can try.

"We attended Branch Council this last Sunday and that went great. We had copies of the Progress Record for everyone and we went down the list and talked about each of the people. President Draut and the Branch Council really want to be involved and to meet the people we are working with. We discussed having members of the branch come visit our investigators periodically, which I think would be really helpful if the investigators are receptive to it. We also talked about how we could help several less-active members. President Draut suggested that we (and their home teachers) offer to teach some of them the lessons again, or possibly ask them if we could practice teaching the lessons to them. We were also asked to visit one of the families that several branch members are working with to prepare to be taught. We'll probably stop by once a week or two to check in on them and be friendly. Overall, the St. Johns branch seems to be well engaged in missionary work, which is exciting. 

"We also found a new investigator this week. His name is Mark, and he's someone we met when we were out visiting former investigators. He actually lives in downtown Dewitt, above the salon right next to Sweetie-licious. He's in his early 50's and seems to not have family nearby. He told us that he has had many missionaries in his house before over the years, but there is no teaching record for him in the area book. He's a very interesting guy, and I'm not quite sure what to make of him just yet. He seems a little crazy, but at the same time very smart. It's almost like he talks in riddles, in a way. I'll have to let you know more about him when we understand him better. But he seems very willing to meet with us. We should be able to see him again this Wednesday.

"While we were out with our Branch Missionary Brother McKay, we stopped by a less-active lady living in Bath named Sister Reich. She told us that her husband was Pentecostal and very against the church, and that she had gone to another church several times, but that right now she felt lost and was looking for direction from God about what He wants her to do. We only got to talk to her for a few minutes, but we talked about the Book of Mormon and the power it has in our lives, and then we gave her a copy (She told us her husband had found her old copy). We're going to try to work with her home teachers and visiting teacher to see what we can do to help her. 

"I really appreciated the things that you said, and after the interview I took a few minutes to write down the things we had talked about so I could remember them later. One thing that's been pressing on my mind often since then was what you said about being doers of the word, and not hearers only. I liked the examples of Brigham Young, Joseph Smith, and Jesus Christ that you mentioned as we talked. I feel like as I have prayed for guidance and understanding the Lord has shown me a lot of things that I can do and work on. Now I need to act on them, and hesitate or delay doing them for some reason. I'm thankful that Heavenly Father was able to help me so much throughout our interview. I know that this is His work and I'm so grateful to be a part of it. I've come to appreciate it a lot more as I've come to understand better what it means to be a servant of the Lord and what our place as missionaries is in this great work of the latter days. Thanks for all the help you gave me. I'm thankful to be lead by a priesthood leader inspired by God."

Elder Trevor Casper

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

01.03.2012 "First Week in January- Turning 20!"

Dear Everyone,

Well, I think I have a few minutes tonight to tell you a little about how things have been going lately. They've been pretty crazy with the holidays, and we've been pretty busy lately too as things have been picking up a bit here, so that's good news. Christmas was great, getting to call home and talk to everyone. On both Christmas and New Year's we were able to visit several different families, which was nice.

The weather has been strange. It'll snow a little bit one day, and then two days later it'll warm up to 35 or 38 and it'll all melt. Then we'll have slush and ice for the next couple days, and then it'll we'll get a little dusting again, and so on. It just goes back and forth. I'm not very impressed so far with the snow here so far this winter (other than that one 8 inch snowfall at the beginning of December). I guess this is a blessing though, because it allows us to still use our bikes to get around town. We're on a "one week on, one week off" car rotation, and on the weeks when we don't have a car we still do a fair bit of biking. Even when it's 20 degrees outside and there's an ice breeze, I've found that with gloves and earmuffs and my coat I can still stay pretty comfortable as we ride around town. Everyone thinks that we're crazy. 

I wanted to tell you a little more about some of the people we've been teaching, so here are a couple paragraphs from my email to President Hess this week where I described some people we've seen recently:

Brother Beckwith is a less-active member we hadn't seen in a while. We saw him again last week the day Elder Jones was with us. We learned a lot more about him in that visit, and I feel like I really understand much better than before where he is coming from. I really want to help him, and I hope that he'll accept that help. He has no desire to attend church right now, although he says that that doesn't mean he won't in the future. He seems to feel right now that God is angry at him for some reason, which reason he didn't tell us at the time. One thing we talked about a lot is how God still loves him and wants to help him, which he does know deep down. We really feel like we need to help him to pray and to listen to the scriptures. I also feel like we should help teach him the doctrine in the missionary lessons so he can understand why we do certain things and why it is important to make and keep commitments. He was baptized about ten years ago but never got into the scriptures. He hates all forms of reading and has a type of dyslexia that makes it difficult. I feel like if he had found a way to study the scriptures back when he was baptized, he probably would have gained a testimony of his own. He told us that when he was baptized it was because his wife wanted him to. He's a very nice guy and I really hope that he will let us help him.  

Another family that we hope we can help is the Boyntons. We went over to their house for dinner Monday night They are a part-member family in a unique situation. Only the mother is a member, but she brings her three kids to church when they can make it. The older son is 17 and is planning on serving a mission. Unfortunately, the whole family is very busy all they time, and we only get to come over for a little while every few weeks or so. And when we do, Sister Boynton has asked us not to feel like we need to share a spiritual thought or teach a lesson unless we specifically feel prompted to, because every time we try to do something formal, the dad leaves the room, and she would rather that he be there. With the busy environment in the home, it would be difficult to teach a lesson anyway. We're seeking advice from the Branch leadership about how we might be able to help their family, but in the meantime we're planning on occasionally inviting the older son to come out with us. He's busy too, so hopefully we'll catch him at a good time sometime. 

These are just a couple people from the many that we see each week. We have a few investigators, including a new one from a couple weeks ago named Jack Lynch. He's a really nice guy with three daughters age eight and under. He works all over Michigan and he and his family have been gone most of the time over the past couple weeks, but he wants to meet with us again soon so we can talk more. We talked about the Restoration the last time we were with him and he accepted a Book of Mormon and said he would read from it and pray about it. We're looking forward to meeting with him again soon. 

I don't think I've said much about Elder Ballard. He's a nice guy. He's 19 and he's from Riverton, Utah. This is his fourth transfer, so he's been out almost six months now. It's good getting to serve with him. He really wants to work hard and be a good missionary.

I am so that that I am out here. I know I'm going to miss being a missionary and a full-time servant of the Lord so much when I get home. I know that this is the Church of Jesus Christ that has been restored to the earth. I know that the priesthood is real. I have felt it's power so many times, especially in giving and receiving blessings. I love the Book of Mormon and all the scriptures, and I'm so grateful for that gift from our Heavenly Father to us.

Well, I'm out of time. I hope everyone has a great week! My birthday is Friday, which is weird! I can't believe I'm going to be 20. Oh well. Talk to you all later!

Elder Trevor Casper