Monday, July 29, 2013

I can't believe the transfer is already over...

Date: July 29, 2013
Area: Simi Valley
Companion: Elder Hall

Familia y Amigos!

Wow.  Six weeks in Simi Valley has
already come.  My first transfer is complete.  It's incredible how fast
the mission passes.  But, good news!  Elder Hall and I are staying in
Simi Valley, so therefore, my address is the same for the next six weeks
(Transfer ends September 8th).

In all honesty, this week was kind of a difficult
one.  Five of our investigators basically dropped us, including Eddy and
Doug & Dawn.  The Lord really tried our faith this week.  We
knocked on Eddy's door on Tuesday,
and his brother answered the door and he told us that Eddy told him he
didn't want us to see him anymore.  We kindly told him that we wanted to
hear it from Eddy himself, but we still haven't received a call from
him yet.  We'll stop by this week.  We had an appointment set with
another family, the Carter's this week. The morning of the appointment,
they gave us a call and told us that we inspired them to have religion
in their home, and that they wanted to raise their kids with belief
systems in their home, but they then said that the LDS religion wasn't
the right one.  Our jaws dropped to the floor, but we told them to keep
the Book of Mormon we left with their family.  They'll come around
another time.  Lastly, we had multiple appointments with Doug & Dawn
this week that we have been bringing a member to.  We stopped by on Thursday or Friday,
and they got real with us.  They didn't know why we were there helping
them.  Bro. Hale, the member we have been bringing, told them that it
was because the Gospel brings us so much joy and the goal of the Gospel
is to be like Christ.  They told us that they wanted us to lay off of
them for a little bit, but he doesn't want us to give up on him.  It's
tough because we know this Gospel will help them, but they have to
choose to accept it.

Laurel, Michael's wife, is going to come with us to the Family History Center this week.  She is really interested in Family History and Genealogy (coincidence?  I think not.)  She thought it was cool that it was free.  They are really progressing.  Michael has been asking us a lot about random topics of the church, including baptisms
for the dead, seminary, and the Doctrine & Covenants.  He wants to have a quad to read, and he's fascinated about reading the Doctrine & Covenants.  As much as we want him to read the Book of Mormon first, he insists on reading D&C.  We love Michael.  In honor of finishing his "prayer shelter" this week, he gave Elder Hall and I each a Leatherman.  I shed a few tears. :)

Although it is discouraging to have these investigators standby, I
know that the Lord will work mighty miracles in their behalf.  I'm not
going to let it bring me down.  They are in good hands with this ward.
 The Gospel is true.  The Lord loves us, we will see him again, and
everyone will have an equal chance to accept it.

I love you all.  Thank you for your love and support.

Elder Harper

Monday, July 22, 2013

Paintin' wood and workin' hard

Date: July 23, 2013
Area: Simi Valley
Companion: Elder Hall

Dear Family and Friends!
Thank you for all your letters and emails!  It's so great to hear from all of you and to get the support that keeps us rolling.  This week was pretty good.  We've been continuing to work with Michael, and the most amazing experience happened.  When we went over there on Saturday, he came outside and his beard was completely shaved off!  He said that he wanted to get a haircut soon too!  I discovered that when people hear about good things, it makes them want to look better too.  He even jokingly suggested that!  We talked about it before when he was in the house, and he came outside and brought that up!  I know that the Holy Ghost is working inside of him, even though he wants to start his own church.  You know what his slogan is?  "Love everybody, Judge nobody, Sandals, and Rock On!"    Michael's not a real "suit and tie" kind of person, and he thinks that the Church is "corporate Americanized".  We have been explaining to him that our church has everything that he wants already there.  He explained to us that "sandals" meant to dress your best.  And so, naturally, we explained to him that we show the Lord respect each week by dressing our nicest, whatever that may be.  Michael's cleaning up.  He said that he wants to start looking for a decent job, because right now his wife is bringing in the bacon.  I think that us helping him is really working miracles in his life, and it's incredible.

I don't know if I have told you about Doug and Dawn Smith yet...the very first week I was here, on June 20th we ran into them by tracting.  A funny story that goes with that...That day we were going from potential investigator, to former investigator, to potential and so on...and we weren't getting inside ANYONE's house.  As we were riding our bikes up the street, I said to Elder Hall, "I thought missionary work would come with a 'yes' every now and then" or something to that effect.  Lone behold, their house was the very next house we knocked on, and they let us in!  We taught them the Restoration, and the Spirit was so strong!  Dawn had a stroke in 2010 and has a very hard time communicating.  Doug lost his job a couple of months ago because he went into work a little intoxicated, and his son is in jail.  Basically, they are having a rough time.  After the lesson, we invited them to come to church.  She seemed a little bit hesitant, but they agreed.  They still have not come to church in all these weeks, but they are progressing so much.  We went over there on Thursday afternoon and we shared with them portions of Alma 32, the chapter about faith.  I remember that after we read verse 13, the spirit really started to manifest.  He said right there that he has so much hope and that he can change his life around.  We invited them to read the Book of Mormon together, and Doug said that he would.  He then looked to his wife and said, "Or she could just sing it..."  Then, suddenly, Dawn started singing "When the Saints Go Marching In" out of nowhere.  Her voice was so beautiful, you would never have guessed she had a stroke.  We sat there and we didn't say a word, and we let the Spirit work on him.  Doug BURST into tears.  He said that we had no idea how much that meant to him hearing his wife sing.  God works miracles.

I have felt the Spirit so strong this week.  I know that this Church is the only true church on the Earth today.  My testimony has grown so much in the Gospel as I've been out here, and I truly know that this work is the most important work on the planet.  Having the opportunity to share something that has brought me so much joy in my life and seeing the miracles that it brings into others lives is truly a blessing.  Missionary work is miraculous.  And that is why my favorite scripture of all time is Alma 29:9-10:

"9 I know that which the Lord hath commanded me, and I glory in it.  I do not glory of myself, but I glory in that which the Lord hath commanded me; yeah, and this is my glory, that perhaps I may be an instrument in the hands of God to bring some soul to repentance; and this is my joy.
"10 And behold, when I see many of my brethren truly penitent, and coming to the Lord their God, then is my soul filled with joy; then do I remember what the Lord has done for me, yea, even that he hath heard my prayer; yea, then do I remember his merciful arm which he extended towards me."
This Gospel is true and everlasting.  Thank you for your examples and love.


Elder Harper

Michael and his wife Laurel

Michael BEFORE he shaved his Beard

Monday, July 15, 2013

A week of miracles in Southern Cali.

Date: July 15, 2013
Area: Simi Valley
Companion: Elder Hall

Wow. This week was amazing. A few weeks ago, we met a guy named Michael. He's about 6'3", about 250 lbs., played college football for Cal. State Northridge and he has hair to his shoulders and has a big scraggly beard. Just by looking at him, he looks really intimidating, but once you get to know him, he's really just a little kid at heart. He actually reminds me a lot of dad. (Love you Dad). :D We've been getting to know him little by little as we've met with him. Last week, we tried to formally sit down and give him a lesson, but Michael's not that kind of guy. We had a really humbling lesson with him, and he said that "Jesus was out there serving". He said that the best way to get to him was to serve and to let him ask the questions. :P So, my companion and I did just that. We helped him redo his bathrom wall. We took out some sheetrock, put a new slab in, and mudded, sanded, and painted his new wall for him. He really appreciated our help, but it didn't stop there...

We've been dedicating some time every day this week to help him build a patio cover. He was explaining to us that he likes to make some money by buying a house for really cheap, fixing it up and making it look nice, and then selling it for more. We got four 4x4 posts, anchored them into the ground, and added some beams for support and put rafters on the top to give him some shade. We're still not quite done, and it's been a lot of work, but I've learned a lot about construction in the process and I'm glad I'm helping this man as Christ would.

One day, we went to Subway to get some lunch, and another bishop from our stake recognized us (of course..) and talked with Michael. Bishop Page was wearing a hula shirt, khaki's and some flip flops, and he and Michael really connected and Bishop Page matched him joke for joke. It was also really cool because Bishop Page invited Michael to go mountain biking with him sometime. After Bishop Page left, Michael said, "How did you guys set THAT one up???" We all laughed and we said that we didn't! It was so cool.

In the past, we've been trying to get him to commit to come to church, but he never has. After a long, hard day at work on Saturday, we sat him down and we taught him a little bit about tithing, and we shared a spiritual thought in Malachi 3 and bore testimony about how tithing blesses our lives. Essentially, we "spirit slapped" him, and we asked if he would come to church, and he accepted!

Yesterday, he came! It just so happened that the subject of sacrament meeting was members sharing their conversion stories. He really enjoyed the messages, and left after sacrament meeting. He's going to come next week to 2nd hour only, and then 3rd hour the week after, and the following week he said, "I'll come to all three or I'll stay at home and meditate that day." We LOVE Michael. He said his first prayer with us this week, and he asked God to bless us and to help us continue being his "spiritual weapons".

We went over to another investigator's house to help him with his wall, and Michael really wanted to help too so we borrowed some of his sheetrock. Michael dropped us off and picked us up, and when he sent us home, we wanted us to text him once we got there to make sure we were safe and home. Michael's so awesome. It's people like him that I want to serve a mission for.

Wow, there are other investigators that I want to talk to you about too, but I just don't have enough time! I'll tell you about Tom next week.

I just want all of you to know, that I love this Gospel so much, and my testimony has gotten so strong out here. I love the Lord with all my soul, and I want to do everything I can to always be worthy to be an instrument in His hands.

God be with you til we chat again,

Elder Harper

P.S. I'll send some pictures soon of Michael and us working on the patio cover.

Monday, July 8, 2013

It's already been a month?!

Date: July 08, 2013
Area: Simi Valley
Companion: Elder Hall

Hello Family and Friends!

The weeks are whizzing by, and it seems
like only yesterday I was writing last week's email.  It's insane.  I
know it sound cliche by now, but being a missionary is wonderful.  The
first week I was here, we ran into a guy named Eddy Brown.  He's 71 and a
Vietnam War veteran and he lost his wife last year and he's mentally
degrading and he has some Word of Wisdom problems, but we have been
teaching him the Gospel and we taught him about the Restoration and we
committed him to be baptized on August 31st!  God was acting on him.
You could see his eyes light up when we were talking about the Gospel.
He said, "I need something to look forward to!"  Baptism is perfect for
him!  It's been hard to reach him, but we try every day.

Here in Simi Valley, EVERYONE'S heard of the Church or has at some
point talked with the missionaries, and so it's really hard to touch
their hearts and to get us to come back because they already have their
preconceived notions about the church.  Generally, street contacting
doesn't work that well for us, and nobody answers the door when we go
tracting, so we fasted yesterday to be able to work with the members a
little better and we hope to see some results of that soon.  We ate
dinner with the bishop and his family and we shared a spiritual message
about Christ's life and ministry and shared with the a scripture that I
came across the other day: 1 John 4:18.  "There is not fear in love and
perfect love casteth out fear".  Member missionary work is being DRILLED
into all the members of the church, and missionaries cannot do it

We never really have days where we go from appointment to
appointment, so most of our day is dropping by houses of less actives,
former investigators, or potential investigators.  We really want to get
working with the members.

Pray for Eddy!  We need all the help we can get!
It's burning hot here, and I've already got some awesome farmer's tans... :)

Til next week, love,
Elder Harper

P.S.  I can't send pictures through email!  My SD Card reader is broken, need to get a new one.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Missionary work is AMAZING.

Date: July 01, 2013
Area: Simi Valley
Companion: Elder Hall

I love being a missionary.  Thank you everyone for the emails and pictures. OK.  First things first.

Mission Office Address:

Elder Corey David Harper
California Ventura Mission
3301 West Gonzales Road
Oxnard, California 93036

Home Apartment Address (Transfer ends July 30th):

Elder Corey David Harper
1868 Bishop Lane, #3
Simi Valley, California 93063

This week has been fantastic.  My trainer, as I said before, is Elder Hall, he's from West Point, UT and he's 22 years old.  He's really funny and knows a lot about the Gospel.  People think that we really teach well together and some people have asked if we knew each other prior to the mission.  He's been out for 6 months now, and we get along really well.

Simi Valley is a big city, I'm not sure exactly what you would call the exact area we live in, but we cover the Simi Valley Stake, specifically the Santa Susanna 1st Ward (if Alexis knows anything about that).  Google map my address, you'll see exactly where I live.  Simi Valley as a whole is not as wealthy as Ventura.  We actually live in the most ghetto area of town.  The first day I remember so well. We went out tracting in the ghetto of ghettos, and I remember not feeling scared or threatened in any way, and I knew that the Lord was watching out for us.  It's great.  That's true missionary work right there. ;) 

Since I don't watch the news, I guess California officially legalized gay marriage last week or so...we actually ran into a couple of gay guys and they said that they were getting married soon.  We're not very well liked down here, with the whole Proposition 8 thing...they started off really confrontational, but as we started talking to them we explained that although we don't support what they are doing, we don't look down upon them and we still respect them.  Everything worked out OK, it was just a little awkward..

As I said last week, the Ventura mission was split and the Bakersfield mission was formed today.  Like I said, I'm still in Ventura, so phew, all is well.  27 of us came out in my transfer. There's about 250 missionaries in my mission I believe, and 75 were sent from our mission to Bakersfield.  Only one guy who was in my MTC zone was sent there, so I'm grateful I'll still have some friends. My mission president has been out for 2 years, and so I'll have him for a year and the new mission president for a year.  My district has 8 elders in it, and my zone has about 16 elders total I believe.  We don't have any sister missionaries :(  We have bikes!  We ride bikes every day and we usually average about 6-8 miles a day, so it's not too bad.

This week went really well, we committed a guy named Eddy Brown to be baptized on August 31st!  He has some alcohol problems, but we're going to work with him.  He's 71 years old and he served in Vietnam and recently lost his wife.  He's a little crazy, but we love him to death.  We mostly teach white people, but we've ran into a few hispanics.  (They're mostly for the spanish missionaries).  We're working with a lot of less actives in our area too.  Remember Chuck?  He was called to be a ward missionary yesterday.  Awesome.

As far as food goes, I've not had anything too weird.  We eat at a member's house for dinner almost every night, and I think I've gained a few pounds...I'm trying lots of veggies and stuff but nothing too extreme.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed.  I heard something about Indian food tonight and a member's house...dang.

People generally are not very receptive, it breaks my heart to see people that don't listen to the Gospel.

Anyways, time is running short.  Love you!  Til next week!

Elder Harper