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