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