Monday, June 24, 2013

I'm in Cali!

Date: June 25, 2013
Area: Simi Valley
Companion: Elder Hall

Wow, where do I start...being on a mission is the best thing that has ever happened to me in my life. I'm really sorry about the limited amount of time I have on the computer and that I can't email you all personally...ahh I hate it. I read all of your emails, I love the pictures, and I'm grateful to have such great family and friends.  I know I've already told most people already, but I've been thinking that it's nicer and more efficient to get physical, handwritten letters whenever you'd like to write to me. I understand that you do not know the address yet so everything's ok. But just for future reference, the address that you will be mailing to throughout the duration of my mission is the mission home address. From there, the office staff will forward the letters and packages to my specific apartment, just so things are a little easier. For those of you that don't know, the address you will be mailing to is:

Elder Corey David Harper
3301 West Gonzales Road
Oxnard, CA 93036

Letters:  When the mission home receives a letter, they will forward that letter to me the same day it is received.

Packages: In order for the mission home to forward a package the same day it is received, it must be mailed with either a Priority or First Class label.  Otherwise, I will not receive the package until a Zone Leader or someone else retrieves it, and that's kind of rare.  


Thank you for your letters!

This week has been absolutely incredible. I took off from the Salt Lake City Airport on June 17. My flight was delayed, but it was ok.  We arrived in Denver, and from Denver we flew out to Santa Barbara.  We arrived in Santa Barbara and we met the Mission President and his wife, and they are amazing. The Assistants drove all of us back to the Ventura Stake Center (the one that I put a picture on Facebook) and we had a welcome to the mission devotional.  We dropped off our luggage in the gym. It's beautiful there in Ventura!  The assistants took us to Panda Express (never been there.  Heavenly.) and came back to the stake center.  President Castro said a few more words along with his wife, and we had some cookies and refreshments.  Some members were nice enough to let us spend our first night in the mission field in their homes.  I slept well...really well.  We had a nice breakfast and they drove us back to the stake center for our transfer meeting.

Cameron, what you were saying was correct.  The mission boundaries aren't changing until July 1st, so whatever area we were put in first would determine the mission I would be serving in.  We were all really nervous that we wouldn't be continuing to serve in the Ventura mission.  We all had that mindset that we would go wherever the Lord wants us to go, but we still didn't want to go to Bakersfield.  Luckily for me, I was fortunate to STAY in the Ventura Mission! 

My first area is Simi Valley, California.  It's a little warmer here, because it's slightly more inland, but it's beautiful!  I love it here!  My companion's name is Elder Hall, and he's from West Point, UT.  He's 22 and he's a great first companion and trainer.  We're the oddest companionship, because he's one of the oldest in the mission, and I believe that I'm the youngest in the mission right now.  It's crazy.  I feel like a baby... ;) I'll tell you a little more about Elder Hall in future emails, but I really like him and he's a great example.

We were what the missionaries say, "whitewashed" into the area, meaning that neither of us served in the area before.  The first night we went trackting, I was really nervous.  We basically live in the ghettos of Simi Valley, and it was awesome to be able to confidently walk down the street, wearing nice white shirts, slacks, fancy shoes, and carrying wallets, to know that the Lord was watching over us and we had nothing to fear.  I've not been scared once.  Don't worry though, mom, there are much nicer areas outside of where we live and in the ward boundaries.  

Wow, so much to say...We have ran into so many great people out here, and I had my very first door slam the very first day!  YES!  It feels great.  There have been many more since...oh well.  Their loss.  There's many different people and investigators/less-active people that we've ran into, but I'd like to tell you a little bit about a guy named Chuck Houck. He's in his 50s, has been in and out of prison many times, has been in gangs, and has had a less-than-ideal life.  He has been searching for truth his entire life, and has been into many different religions.  

He was baptized last December, and he's one of the greatest guys I've ever met.  He has such a big heart, and he's completely changed his life around.  It's amazing to hear his conversion story and to see his conversion in the Gospel, because he actually worshiped Satan when he was a kid and teenager.  He is absolutely incredible.  He has a burning passion for the Gospel, for the scriptures, and for serving others.  More later...running out of time!

We had our very first baptism!  Emily Miller is ten years old; her father's less active, her mother's not a member, and her brother's not a member.  She was taught by the previous missionaries, and she was actually introduced to the Gospel by her friend.  A child converted her.  

I loved the Worldwide Leadership Broadcast, and it was cool to watch it from California in the church.  It's weird to think that I sang in that choir just last week.  I'm not sure the details of how things will be implemented.  

I'm on a bike!  I'll send you a picture next week.

I love you all.  I have so much more to say but so little time.  Thank you for your prayers and examples.  Talk to you next week!

Elder Harper

Elder Harper with his favorite things: Powerade, Spaghettio's, and Cheese.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

My first week at the MTC! :D

Date: June 13, 2013

Family!  Friends!  Loved ones!

Myfirst week at the MTC was amazing!  I'm not going to lie, the first couple of days were really hard, adjusting to the environment and everything.  I felt a little homesick at first, but the spirit has blessed me so much, more each day.  My companion's name is Elder Kingrey
(pronounced King-Ray) and he's from Anchorage, Alaska.  He's a fun-loving, really funny, really social butterfly.  We're total opposites in that regard.  He talks to everyone he sees, and I mean EVERYONE.  He's great. The other other Elders in my room are great too.
Elder Atkin is from St. George and he's really into economics and ballet/theatre.  He has an amazing singing voice, and he's a really spiritual guy.  His companion, the other elder, is Elder Welker.  He's from Star Valley, Wyoming and he's really into thinking deeply about everything.  While Elder Kingrey is out talking with everyone in the entire residence hall, the rest of us always get into spiritual discussions.  Elder Welker has this calm persona about him, and he's really been a great example to me.  I love them all to death.

I was called on my 2nd day in the MTC to be the District Leader!  In my district we have 6 sisters and 4 elders.  The other sisters are so strong in the Gospel, and all of my district supports me in everything we do.  I feel that all of us are very focused and dedicated to the Gospel, and there's a real urgency to the work which we have been given since we only have 12 days total in the MTC. 

Wow, this is my only P-day in the MTC.

Whoa, so many things to say in so little time.  I'm nearly half finished with my time...I only have 30 minutes for emailing.  I want to thank EVERYONE for the packages and mail, and thank you mom for the powerade and CHEESE!  I ate 5 slices as soon as I opened the roommates thought I was a little weird...oh well. 

As you heard, June 5th had record breaking numbers, with 917 missionaries arriving.  It's craaaaazy crouded here.  I've run into quite a few friends, Jon Wagstaff, Cade Parker, and I even saw Reid yesterday when he arrived.  I love the "Band of Brothers" that are here everywhere in the MTC.  I've been teaching a few investigators while I've been here.  I've been teaching an investigator named Fred who was a former Lutheran.  Yes, I said former.  We committed him to baptism!  I know it's not real, just actors, but it still feels good!  I've also been teaching another investigator, Alexandre.   He's supposed to be a political and governmental leader in the Bahamas, representing his people from Haiti, and guess what?  We committed him to baptism too!  It feels so great!   I love being a missionary.  On our first day we arrived in the MTC, we tried to teach investigators as a group.  It didn't go so well...We were so off-topic and not effective at all, and it was a really big eye-opener for all of us to see how horrible we really were at teaching and how much we need to learn.  It was a really humbling experience.  But, after being in the MTC a week, I have learned SOOO much about teaching others and focusing on the needs of the investigator. I believe these teaching skills were the difference maker in teaching our investigators. 

We had a couple of devotionals this week, and Elder Mervyn B. Arnold spoke to us in the Marriott Center, the first time in MTC history that we went there to have a devotional.  The spirit was so strong.

I'm sorry that I didn't have enough time to write to you personally.  I hope you got the letters I sent to a few of you.  I love the picture of my plaque!  It's amazing!  We went to the temple this morning as a district and I ran into Uncle Taylor!  It was cool to see him there.

I love you all.  The mail that I have received from all of you has been a real blessing.  I'll send out some letters throughout the week.  Question for you mom:  How much money do I have in my debit account?  I'm not sure how much I can really spend and I'm running out of cash.  Thank you for your love and support.  My 30 minutes are nearly up; NOT enough time to write an email...It's great to be a missionary.  Putting that name tag on in the morning is a huge blessing, but also a solemn responsibility.  Have a great week everyone!  

I love you all! 

Elder Harper

Elder Kingrey and Elder Harper

Elder Kingrey, Elder Welker, Elder Atkin, Elder Harper