Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas with the Palm Trees

Hello everybody!

Wow, this week certainly was a great week with Christmas and all.  It was great to be able to talk with my amazing family!

Barb and Dan!  We went over there on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and they were so excited to see us.  They work for a pinball machine company, and they have over 30 pinball machines in their back room.  They let us play for a little while (yes, I played on a Star Trek:  The Next Generation one).  Barb has completely changed her life.  She is starting not to cuss so much, Dan has cut back on his alcohol, and both are genuinely happier than they were before.  That's what the Gospel does.  It changes lives!  We plan on teaching the Restoration lesson this Thursday!  I'll tell you how it goes!  It will be really interesting because Dan has no religious background.  We're going to teach very plainly and simply.

Also, GOOD LUCK SYDNEY this Wednesday!  You'll be a fantastic missionary!  Send me an email/letter would ya???????

Christmas Eve was a real treat.  We went over to the Leonard's house.  They fed us a really great dinner (ham, corn chowder, rolls, green beans) and some really great desserts like cookies, popcorn balls, and fudge.  It really hit the spot..and the scale. ;)  We were honored to participate in their family's Nativity program that they put on.  I was a wise man, and Elder Gruwell was a shepherd.  We then listened to a narration of the Polar Express, and concluded the night with some Christmas hymns.  Truly a night to remember.

On Christmas, we had a few dinners, and I thought that I was going to DIE when I got home--seriously on a sugar high and my stomach couldn't take any more.  We had a hot chocolate bar (with every single hot chocolate condiment you could imagine) with the Furhiman's--a member family from our ward with two sons that are going on missions soon!  We had a great night and a great Christmas season.  

Today we are going to have a great day with Anthony and Katie.  They are taking us to Boomer's!  Basically like Trafalga.  We're going to play miniature golf and swing at the batting cages.  I'll take pictures!  It's gonna be a fun day.  

I love you all, and hope you all had a MERRY CHRISTMAS, and I hope you have a HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Elder Corey Harper

Monday, December 22, 2014

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow...Please?

Hello, Hello, Hello Everybody!

Wow, what an amazing week behind, and what an amazing week up ahead!  Monday was kind of a rough day, but about halfway through the day I got a phone call from President Felix and he just wanted to check and see how I was doing (with Grandpa's death and all) and it was a call that was much appreciated.  He said that he got an email from Dad and just wanted to check up on me.  He's a great mission president.  Thanks for all the love and support, family!

Tuesday was also another great day.  My new companion's name is Elder Gruwell.  He's from, believe it or not, Orem!  He went to Canyon View Jr. High and Orem High.  He lives just south of the cemetery, can you believe it?!  We get along really well and we have a very similar sense of humor and so we laugh at just about's been great!

Tomorrow is our Mission Christmas Conference, and so half the mission will be meeting in Goleta tomorrow.  It should be a really neat day.

It feels so weird that Christmas is this week!  It sounds like they'll be some pretty good stuff happening.  We have member and nonmember dinner plans out the wazoo.  We'll be covered that's for sure, so it will be nice for us to spend Christmas with some nice people.  We have a district meeting on Christmas morning, so I plan to call home between 2 and 3 in the afternoon (your time) family!  It's so great to celebrate Christmas!  I love that people are generally more open this time of year and friendlier.  If only that could carry throughout all the year!

Not much more to say, since I'll be CALLING home on Christmas!  I hope everyone has a great week!  I love you all!


Monday, December 15, 2014

I'll be spending Christmas in Santa Maria

Hello everybody!  

This week has been another great one!  We have been sharing the "He is the Gift" video with a lot of people.  We have special pass-along cards that we are handing out (the same ones that are in the back of the Ensign) and we've seen some great success with it so far.

We got our transfer calls, and I'll be staying here in the Santa Maria 1st Ward (transfers end January 25th).  Elder Snyder is leaving, and the other two missionaries that we are sharing the ward with are going too.  Get this:  My new companion is on his 2nd transfer, so I'll be follow-up training him.  The other two missionaries are new too.  One of them just finished being trained, and he's training a brand new missionary.  Yeah....I'm going to seem like a dinosaur compared to all of them.  It will be interesting to see how everything plays out!

We had a great experience this week with Chris!  A member family invited us over for dinner and they invited Chris too!  We had a really good dinner (filet mignons, mashed potatoes, veggies, etc.) and then we had some carrot cake for dessert.  We watched "He is the Gift" with Chris, and almost INSTANTLY the Spirit was thick enough to cut it with a knife.  Then afterwards we each bore our testimonies, and then the member family each bore their testimonies to Chris.  We saw Chris get a little teary-eyed after that.  It was a great night!  Lots of fellowship for Chris!

Also!  Going back to Lompoc for Rachel's baptism was AMAZING!  I saw Sam Rosales and his family right before, and man, what a reunion!  I was excited to go to Lompoc ALL DAY LONG.  Then when I saw Rachel in the font that night, it really just put the icing on the cake.  Rachel has come so far since Elder Kingrey and I first started to teach her, and what a privilege it was to be there for her baptism!  I have been really fortunate in my mission to be able to witness so many baptisms of those that I have taught.  I know that Heavenly Father is preparing more and more people's hearts all around the world, and it's a great time to be a missionary and to witness that!

Now, as for Christmas:  since it's Thursday, that's district meeting day.  I don't know if it will be later in the day because of phone calls, or if we'll call home after district meeting.  I'll find out more details next week.  If before, I'd imagine I'd call home around 10:30 or so.  But if after, It would be probably closer to 1 or 2.  Just keep that in mind, family. :)  and sorry, no skype. :(

It's so great to be a missionary.  I know that there is nothing better or more productive that I could be doing with my life right now than this.  I'm thankful for the birth of Christ, and that we can celebrate that this time of year.  I know that He did come to earth, live and die for us, and then was resurrected so that we might live too.  I know that the Plan of Salvation is true, and that families can be together forever!

I hope everybody has a great week!

Elder Harper

Monday, December 8, 2014

A Week to Remember

Hello everybody!

Wow!  Just like I said, this week is a week that I will remember for a long time!  To start off on a funny note, I will tell you something that happened to us.

On Tuesday, we woke up to a pretty good sized rainstorm happening outside.  As we finished our studies, the rain was continuing to pour outside.  It was the other elder's car day, so we were stuck on foot.  We walked up and down the streets, splashing in puddles and such, but not a lot of people were outside and willing to talk to us.  (I wonder why..?)

We were walking up Broadway, (one of the busiest streets in the area) and came across a McDonald's, so we decided to go in and try out the new White Hot Chocolate that they're advertising.  We ordered the drinks and sat down.  They called our numbers so we got the drinks, and as we opened them, it sort of had a brownish tint to the drink, but we thought that was normal.  I took several sips, but something didn't taste right about it.  THEY PUT COFFEE IN OUR HOT CHOCOLATE!  Yep, the guy put a few shots of espresso in it...I thought I saw a few of them smiling behind the counter..."Let's give some coffee to the Mormons." ;)  it was kinda funny, but mean at the same time.  Coffee's gross.

Anyways, on Friday we went to the temple with Katie and Anthony Hidalgo.  It was awesome!  We got there right when a session was starting, so we had some time to kill.  We went to the distribution center, and Anthony picked virtually every single video they had to offer and bought them all.  We went for a walk around the temple and took some pictures together.  Then we parted ways.  Elder Snyder and I went inside to do a session, and Katie and Anthony went to the Visitor's Center.  The session was great!  At the end, when we were sitting in the Celestial Room, a temple worker approached us and asked if we could be witnesses for some proxy sealings.  It was great!  It was the first time I had ever seen a sealing in my life, and the Spirit was so strong in that room.  I know that God sent me a tender mercy, because as I watched, I couldn't help but think that Brittany and Josh were doing the same think just a week before.  The sealer told Elder Snyder and I that THIS is how we endure to the end.  By getting sealed in the temple for time and eternity.  We went back into the Celestial Room afterwards and as I read my patriarchal blessing again, the part about being sealed in the temple caught my eye.  It made me excited for when that special day of mine would come.

Afterwards, we went through the Visitor's Center a little bit more with Anthony and Katie, and they said that they loved it there.  Anthony teared up a little bit when he and Katie were there, Katie says, but if you asked him, he'd deny it. :)  They were going to take us to a restaurant in LA, but they got a little lost.  So we drove up along the coast through Malibu and then into Oxnard and ate at BJ's Restaurant, the same place where Anthony proposed to Katie.  It was pretty cool to go there.  We listened to John Bytheway and some good country music on the way back, and it was a great day!

We were super blessed to be able to see Chris again this week. Our ward had the annual Christmas party, and Chris was able to come along. So many great members from our ward introduced themselves to him, and Chris told us almost as soon as we were beginning to eat that he felt comfortable there. After the dinner and the Nativity program, we gave Chris a Church tour. We went into the Primary room, and there were a few kids that were running around and being a little loud. But as we showed Chris the pictures that were on the wall, he began to cry. The main picture we focused on was of Christ coming the the Americas and blessing the children there. As he cried, we asked him how he was feeling. He told us that he was feeling great, but he had no idea why. We paused and told him that what he was feeling was the Spirit that was confirming truth to him. We told him to strive to feel these types of feelings in his life. I thought it was amazing how even though the children were being loud, the Spirit still subtly touched his heart, and ours. It was a great church tour, and a great night for him and for us.  Unfortunately, Chris didn't attend church the next day.  We offered him to get a ride from a member, but he said that his mom could take him.  We'll keep working on him!

Another awesome thing will be happening this Friday!  I just got permission from the mission president to go to a baptism in Lompoc!  Yep, Rachel is getting baptized, and she wanted me to be there!  I'm so happy and excited that I'll be able to go and to see all my old pals in Lompoc!  I'll take pictures!

I love you all!  Have a great week!

Elder Harper

Monday, December 1, 2014

I cannot believe it...18 months.

Hello everybody!

WOW what a week!  I just want to start by saying that "IT'S AWESOME BEING A MISSIONARY!"  I love waking up each and every day knowing that I am going to give somebody else an opportunity to be happy in their life.

Where do I start?  Well​, yesterday we had the fabulous opportunity to be a part of Ernesto, Katty and Karoline's confirmations!  It felt so good to witness three more souls beginning the process of returning to Heavenly Father.  They're doing great, and they have quite a few friends in the ward already.

Thanksgiving was great!  We went over to a member's house and we had a good ol' classic Thanksgiving meal.  Turkey, mashed potatoes, rolls, cranberry sauce, JELLO SALAD (Love jello salad), pumpkin pie, etc.  Not gonna lie...when we walked inside, the Cowboys and Eagles game was on, and Elder Snyder and I couldn't help but to watch a little.  (It wasn't that much, I promise!)  Overall, a great Thanksgiving!

I don't have much time (on a library computer again...), but I want to tell you about an experience we had.  While we were tracting, we knocked on a door but nobody was home. As we preceded to leave his house, the man walked up behind us and said that he came home because he forgot his bus pass. We told him we were missionaries and offered him a card, but instead he looked at us and said, "Well can't you come back?" We enthusiastically answered yes and we told him that we share a message about Jesus Christ. He then said, "That's exactly what I need right now!" We taught him (Chris) the Restoration lesson a couple of days later and he told us it was an answer to his prayers. I learned that by "small and simple things are great things brought to pass." Simply him forgetting his bus pass and being there at the precise moment we were there was small, but it answered his prayers so much, and that was a great thing for him.  As we taught him the lesson, we could really just see the cogs moving in his brain.  It was making sense to him a lot.  We left him with a Book of Mormon and a Restoration pamphlet.  He wasn't able to make it to church, but we talked to him the other day and he said that he read the pamphlet and was starting on the Introduction to the Book of Mormon and he has questions for us for tomorrow's lesson!  The Lord definitely guided both his and our paths that day.

I'm also super excited too for this week because it's Elder Snyder's birthday on the 10th, and so we are going to the Los Angeles Temple on Friday!  I've been so blessed on my mission to go so much.  This is my 5th time going on my mission.  I'm so fortunate to have a temple nearby.  I love the temple!  I'll be thinking about all of you when I go through!  I hope you all have a great week, as you begin to enjoy the Christmas season!  Let's all remember the true meaning of Christmas!

Love you all!
Elder Harper

P.S. Thanks for the chocolate countdown, grandma! :)

Monday, November 24, 2014

Service and BAPTISMS!

Hey hey hey everybody!

Wow, what can I say? It was a pretty awesome week!  

First things first.  Last Monday I told you all about the lesson we were having with Anthony Hidalgo.  The lesson went pretty well, and I felt the Spirit there, but when we invited him to be baptized on December 7th, he politely said no and that he wanted to choose his own date.  So, we committed him to pray about a date, and we just sorta left it at that.  Elder Snyder told me that it was a lot better than the first time he and the previous missionary invited him.  He flat out said no last time, so this is a step in the right direction.  He did tell us that baptism is his goal.  We just need to be patient with him.

On Tuesday, we had Zone Conference at the Stake Center.  It was great to see President and Sister Felix there, as well as some past missionaries that I have served with and around.  I had the chance to catch up with Elder Gaylor and Elder Haines, and it was a great day.  The theme of the zone conference was about how our desires to be obedient affect our success as a missionary.  It's so true.  I think about in the scriptures, how Alma says that we will be granted according to our desires.  It's where it all starts.  

On Thursday, it was cool because we went with the elders quorum to the homeless shelter and we prepared and served them food.  They were really humble and it was also humbling for us to see how grateful they were to get some food.  We prepared taco salad and cake for them.

When Friday came around, we were doing service with the other elders at a less-active's house, when we got a phone call from our district leader.  He told us that the YSA missionaries came across somebody in our area that needed help moving, and that we should go over there and serve.  Before we got there, it was just a single mom stacking boxes in the Uhaul truck, and her 6 year old daughter bringing them out.  We moved couches, desks, dressers, washers and dryers and a refrigerator for her, and she was so thankful.  What was also cool was that she called some mover guys to help out, and one of them was Mike Daniel, an investigator that I taught in the 3rd ward!  It was neat to catch up with him, although he's pretty much lost interest in the church.  He did call us "Saints" though which was cool. :)

Saturday was also an interesting day for service.  We were called over to a lady's house named Penny, and she is a HOARDER.  Her house was a mess!  She had cockroaches crawling all over the place, and I spent 45 minutes killing cockroaches with a fly swatter, while the other missionaries were sorting through mail and scrubbing cockroach marks off the walls.  It was pretty gross, but at least we left the place better than we found it.

Then, came Sunday.  I was asked to give a talk in church (The FOURTH time on my mission!) about how missionary work is not a self-gratifying service, but a service to others.  Since it was such a specific topic, I didn't really know how well it would go, but the members that talked to me afterwards said that they felt the Spirit and that I did a good job.  I talked about how inviting others to come unto Christ is the biggest service that we have been asked to fulfill.  I also said that there are roughly 15 million members of the church out of 7 billion people in the world, and how that's only 0.21% of the world. That we were so blessed to be a part of that number, and that a much larger percent of the world was seeking after truth and that it is our job to let them know.  I hope it opened up some of the eyes of the members.  And guess what?!   Member dinners are starting to pick up!  I think we're scheduled nearly every day we have the car this week, so that's always a plus.  Hopefully we can get this "missionary ball" rolling.

The best part of Sunday though, was of course, the baptism of Ernesto, Kathy, and Karoline.  The room was packed to the back as you can see, and the Spirit was so strong.  Anthony and Katie were able to go, so hopefully that lit a spark deep inside of him.  It was also neat to see Carlos, Karoline's older brother who was baptized in August, baptize Karoline.  We wrote the words of the baptismal prayer on paper for Carlos, but he didn't need it!  It was awesome!  Elder Snyder and I were the witnesses for their baptisms.  Overall, it was a great week!  I love you all so much!  Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Power of Identifying the Spirit

Hello everybody!

Wow, it's so great to be a missionary serving the Lord.  Things are going not too shabby right now with the work and all.  We are super stoked for the baptisms of Ernesto, Kathy, and Caroline Partida this upcoming Sunday after church!  Last night, we went to Brother Perret's house for dinner and taught the Partida's there.  Brother Perret owns the largest avocado ranch in California, which basically means in the entire world.  He's been a bishop, stake president, and a mission president in Detroit.  He was raised in a very small home, and grew up with basically nothing.  He worked hard, and now he's a multi millionaire.  He has a HUGE house, nice cars, and he's super nice.  The Perret's have been fellowshipping the Partida family, and they told Kathy and Ernesto's kids to call them "grandpa" and "grandma", because they really are grandparents to them.  Anyways, we taught the Word of Wisdom, the Law of Tithing/Fast Offerings/ the law of the fast, the 10 Commandments, and the Law of Chastity to them, and they understood it well and are excited for their baptism.

Something really cool happened last Monday.  We were teaching a lesson to Anthony Hidalgo again, and there was one point in the lesson where we shared personal experiences about how the church has blessed us and those we love, and Brittany and Josh, I shared your experience about being able to be sealed in the temple this month.  Katie started to cry, and Anthony was in a trance.  I paused, and I knew that we all felt the spirit so strongly.  I felt the impression to pause the lesson and identify the Spirit.  I said something along the lines of, "Do you feel this right now?  This is the Holy Ghost manifesting to us at this very moment.  This is what the Holy Ghost feels like.  This is what we strive for, and what what we want to feel in our lives.  His role is to testify to us of truth, and he is doing that right now."  As soon as we did this, I felt my heart skip a beat almost, and I started to get goosebumps really bad.  It was awesome!  Identifying the spirit in the lessons really makes the Spirit magnify itself even more.  It was one of the most powerful experiences I've had.  We said a prayer, walked out, and we said a prayer of thanks in the car after that for feeling the spirit so strongly. 

With that being said, Anthony KNOWS what the Spirit feels like.  Elder Snyder and I are currently fasting right now, and we have asked Heavenly Father if December 7th is a good date for Anthony to be baptized.  We are hoping we get a "yes" because when we teach him tonight, we are going to ask him to ask God if that's a good date.  We are positive that if we get a yes from God, he will get a yes from Him too.  Anthony needs to make the commitment!

Sam Rosales and his new bride Jennifer (from Lompoc) got married this past Saturday.  I thought about you all day long and how happy they must be.  Congratulations, you two!  

Overall, I just can't shake how happy I am being a missionary for the church.  I love serving and helping and teaching.  When we truly look outwards and become more like Christ, we truly find that happiness and joy that comes when we are disciples of Him.  I know that this IS the church that He established while he was on the earth, and that it was restored though the Prophet Joseph Smith.

I love you all!

Elder Harper

P.S. Elder Snyder is a Ute fan...this is what we wore to sports this past Monday.  It's a miracle that we've both survived this long....
P.S.S. A beautiful sunset in Santa Maria
P.S.S.S. And here's me sitting in Brother Perret's 2014 Ferrari...holy cow.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Back in Santa Maria!

Hello everybody!  

It sure has been an interesting/Deja vu week this week, being back in Santa Maria and all.  It feels pretty good to be back though.

On Monday, Elder Kingrey and I were saying goodbyes to people all day long it seemed.  It was so hard to leave, but I know that good things are happening there, and the Lord will take care of all of them.

When we got to Ventura the next day, I found Elder Snyder, and the member took us to Chick Fil'A before we headed back up.  Elder Snyder is from Milad, Idaho, and he's a good missionary.  He's 18 and fresh out of high school.  He's diligent, hard-working, and obedient.  He's a bit more somber and serious when it comes time to teaching lessons and talking to people on the street, and it's been a bit of an adjustment for both of us because I'm pretty casual and funny and I like to joke around with people a lot, and when it's time to be serious, I am.  So we've been smoothing out the edges, but I think that we've got a pretty good rhythm down now.  The joys of missionary life... :)

Area-wise, it's been going pretty well.  There's not as many investigators in our teaching pool as much as we'd like, but the ones that we do have are pretty solid for the most part.  In August, the missionaries here were teaching a 17-year old kid named Carlos, and he was baptized at the end of August.  His parents and siblings attended his baptism and started going to church after that, and since then, they've expressed a desire to join the church!  His dad's name is Ernesto and his mom's name is Kathy, and he has 2 siblings, with the older one, Caroline, being 11 years old.  They have a baptismal date for the 23rd this month, but they need to learn quite a bit more material, and not all of them are on the same page--before they can be baptized.  We usually see them on the weekends, and I will be having my first teaching appointment with them tonight.  They did come to church yesterday though, which was nice.

There's another part-member couple named Katie and Anthony.  Katie is a member and Anthony is not.  Anthony has been studying with the missionaries for quite some time now, but he hasn't really committed yet to baptism.  He's a really nice guy, but he just needs to look for the Spirit more and make that commitment.  Tonight, we have planned to teach them a lesson all about the armor of God, and how the Lamanites were scared of the Nephites because of their armor, and we will tie it back to the fact that it wasn't as much their physical armor as much as their spiritual armor.  Wish us luck!

As for the ward, they seem pretty nice, but not very much so for missionary work and having the missionaries over for dinner.  There's a few nice people here and there, but we didn't have any dinners with members this past week.  Blessing and a curse...good opportunity to lose excess weight!  But little to no member interaction....pick your poison.

It's getting difficult to do missionary work now anytime after 5 o'clock.  It's getting dark so early!  We are not allowed to ride bikes at night, so on days that we don't have the car, we find ourselves walking around town and when it's time, ask the other elders to pick us up.  So when we are invited in by an investigator or a less-active, it is much appreciated!  There's been a fog that comes from the west the past couple of nights too, so that's been fun to drive in. :)

I was pondering a lot this week about how much I love missionary life.  It certainly has its downs, but I just love how simple it really is.  Solely looking outwards and trying to help others is a happy way to live.  

I love this Gospel so much!  What else can I say?  It's TRUE!  Talk to you all next week!

Love, Elder Harper

P.S. I found a Harper St.!, and also, here is my district (my companion is the one with the orange tie)

Monday, November 3, 2014

I don't want to leave Lompoc! :(

Hello everybody!

Man, what a fantastic, but yet sad week it has been.  President Felix announced last week that the Zone Leaders were going to give transfer calls on Saturday morning rather than Monday morning, so we had a little bit more time to say goodbye and pack and stuff.  We got the call on Saturday afternoon, and guess what?  Elder Kingrey and I are both leaving, and I'm going to Santa Maria AGAIN!  Except this time I will be in the other ward, on the other side of town.  (Probably the most ghetto area in the entire mission in my opinion...well, I guess Oxnard is pretty bad too. But you know what I mean!)  I'm super stoked to go back to Santa Maria, but I really don't want to leave Lompoc.  In my past areas, I've been able to handle leaving fine, but yesterday at church, I bore my final testimony and I was on the brink of tears as I said goodbye!  I don't want to go!

But anyways, my new companion's name is Elder Snyder.  He's pretty new in the mission; he came out in August, so I'll be having a pretty green companion.  I can't wait!  (By the way Elder Lomeli, how does it feel to be taller than your 23-year old trainer! haha)

On Saturday, there were 5 baptisms.  Four of them were taught by the Spanish elders, and the last one was an eight-year old boy named Brian Cano.  Elder Kingrey and I started teaching him the lessons, but when the sisters came, we gave him to them.  (Aren't we so nice? :) )  Anyways his mom was less-active until now, and he has a 15 year old brother that has been passing the sacrament, and they all have been coming to church together.  

Sam Rosales blessed the sacrament yesterday, and he is continuing to progress in his Priesthood responsibilities.  I am so sad to leave him and miss his wedding on the 15th! We are stopping by his place sometime today to say our goodbyes to him.  He wish him the best of luck.

Oh!  Last week, we received a text from Nancy, and she told us that she had some questions for us.  Not questions from her, but from her DAD!  We met with her this week, and she asked us some of the questions that her dad asked her, and we were able to sufficiently answer them.  She asked why we believe the Book of Mormon, why Joseph Smith is so important, and other questions that she had from the Articles of Faith.  We are going to give her a restoration pamphlet in Spanish, and that should help her dad learn more.  Isn't that AWESOME?

Halloween was really good.  There was a great turnout.  Our ward did a "trunk-or-treat" activity and so many less-actives and non-members were there.  We were running around like chickens with our heads chopped off!  It was great because members invited their friends and they were able to interact with us and other members.  

It also RAINED here in Lompoc!  This has only been the 3rd time I've had a rainstorm on my mission.  It hurts me so much to hear about all the rain back home, and it never rains here!  But it was great to be able to have rain.  It rained on Halloween, and some trick-or-treaters were crying because they got rained out.  Elder Kingrey and I wore our short sleeve shirts and shorts and we ran out and jumped in puddles and did rain angels!  I love rain!

I love you all so much, I hope you have a great week!

Elder Haper

Monday, October 27, 2014

A Fantastic Week at the Temple + My Birthday!

Hello all!

Wow, like I said, it's been another GREAT week here in Lompoc!  I had a FANTASTIC Birthday!  Thank you everyone for your birthday wishes!  Thank you grandma and Kristine for the McDonald's and Dominos gift cards.  I guess that means that I'm just going to get even more fat. ;)  Thank you, really. :)  Thank you also Mom, Dad, Aubree, Cam, Lex, and Lincoln for the packages and letters!  I am STOCKED on candy and sweets.  Don't really need to shop today. ;)

Thursday was great!  After district meeting, the sisters walked out of the room.  Elder Griffin, my district leader, said that one of the Sisters needed a blessing in the cultural hall.  We all followed behind, and when I walked in the gym, there they all were, with a birthday cake, balloons and a card and they yelled, "SURPRISE!"  I'm in the process of getting pictures for this event.  My camera's battery was dead.  Just so everyone knows, I had 3 birthday cakes, and 2 sittings of cupcakes this week.  Holy. Cow.

Going to the temple on Friday was an absolute treat!  Bishop Riley drove us down at 6 in the morning.  We arrived just 2 minutes before the session started, so we did Initiatories for about 45 minutes and then we caught the next session.  I LOVED being able to do a family name!  There was such a palpable difference.  Dad, I thought about YOU the whole time as I did the session.  I saw the newest video that the church released, so I've seen all 3 videos now.  Yay!  I'm not behind anymore!  After that we went to a sea food restaurant called Andrea's in Ventura on the way home.  (Yes mom, SEA FOOD!)  I had clam chowder and ate fried shrimp and halibut as well.  It was good!

The Lompoc Ward is EXPLODING!  Between us and the sisters, yesterday there were 8 investigators that attended church!  EIGHT!  Rachel, after the Gospel Principles lesson, turned to me and said, "I understood ALL of that!"  We had taught her the Plan of Salvation lesson and about Agency, and the lesson in Sunday School was about agency.  Nancy and Sis. Cannon, a member's wife came too.  We have been meeting with the Cannon's, and Sister Cannon and Bro Cannon have been reading the scriptures together and praying to know about the church.  Unfortunately, they have not yet begun reading the Book of Mormon yet, and so we told them that she won't really get that full answer until they begin to do so.  We were a little nervous when they began the lesson and they talked about Kolob and other all went well though. :)

I love you all so much!  One hour is not enough time to do everything I need to do!   The computer automatically logs me off afterwards, but I do put the most important stuff in the letter.  I love you all, and I hope you have a great week!  Have a great week!

Elder Harper

Why yes, I DO love ferrets

Monday, October 20, 2014

Hey hey hey!

Hey everybody!

It sure has been another great week in good ol' Lompoc!  

Lemme just get right into the good stuff!  Yesterday at church there were so many investigators and less-actives that came to church between us and the sisters.  The chapel was actually pretty full!  

One of those that came was a man named Sam Rosales.  (He and his son Joey are the ones that are in the picture).  Sam and his 2 boys were baptized in Bakersfield a year or two ago, but they sorta fell away when Sam was having troubles with his now ex-wife.  We have been meeting with them a lot ever since I got here, and he recently found somebody in the ward who he has fallen in love with and they have discussed marriage.  (She's a single mom).  Sam has a new sense of commitment, and so he has been wanting us to come over and re-teach all the lessons and help him back on the path.  He has a heart of gold.  He told us that he wants to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood, get a partriarchal blessing, and receive his temple ordinances and be sealed to his boys and his girlfriend for time and all eternity.  He is so passionate about it all (Who can blame him?  A potential wife is some good motivation to get worthy and be sealed...) :D  He works at a gas station, and recently was able to get all Sundays off from work, and he's come to church the past 2 weeks.  He's received some home teaching assignments, and he's making more friends in the ward.

We are REALLY excited to go to the Los Angeles temple this Friday.  What better birthday present could there be?  We will be going down with the Bishop.  

Something else cool.  We had a dinner with a less-active member and his nonmember wife that live on Vandenburg base.  Initially the wife was pretty closed.  We saw in the records that past missionaries had been a little bit too bold with her and it closed her off.  We decided that we would have a nice, light dinner and not force the church on her and stuff, and by the end of the dinner she was asking us questions about what we do and stuff.  She referred to the church as "the Church".  Not "your church", but as "the Church".  It was pretty cool!  I love having dinners on the base.  To see the valiance of those in the military and to hear their testimonies is such a blessing.  

I love you all so much!  I hope each one of you have a great week!  I'll talk with you soon!

Love, Elder Harper

Monday, October 13, 2014

"Charity Suffereth Long, And is Kind"

Hello everybody!

Wow, I don't know how many times I have said this, but the weeks do just really whiz by.  It's bitter-sweet to think that I am 2/3 done with my mission.  Bitter, because I know that it will be ending soon, but sweet about the fact that I will be able to see all of you again.  The most important thing that I CAN do is just to enjoy every moment that is given to me to serve, and when the times comes, it comes, and I shouldn't be worried or sad about returning home as long as I served an honorable mission...but enough of that talk!

This week really has been a mighty good one!  On Wednesday, we had quite a morning!  A mission rule that we have is to try our best not to ride our bicycles at night.  With winter approaching, the days are getting shorter and shorter, and so that rule is getting harder and harder to follow.  As a result, Elder Kingrey and I have been moving our morning studies to the evening, finishing our day with personal and companionship study.  But anyways, back to Wednesday.  We rode down to a less-active's house and I had the privilege of giving her a blessing of comfort and counsel.  She is obese, and was considering going through an extensive weight-loss surgery, which would change her lifestyle completely, and she wanted to receive a blessing to help.  I gave her the blessing, telling her that her body was a temple that the Lord had given to her, and what she chose to do with her body was her choice, but to remember the consequences of her actions.  A few days later, she decided not to go through with the surgery.

After the blessing, we helped another man in the ward named Bro. Edwards move from his motel room to a permanent apartment.  We spent 3 hours that morning loading his SUV with items from his place and moving them to the apartment.  While doing that, I was able to really talk to him about how he was feeling and just doing my best to show love to him.  I noticed that his shoes were really worn out, and I felt bad for him.  I thought of a pair of shoes that I could give up, and to be honest, I was initially hesitant to give them away, because they were one of my favorite pairs of shoes that I had.  Then I remembered Elder Uchtdorf's talk about President Monson wearing slippers on the plane because he had given the shoes he had on his feet to someone in need.  If the Prophet gave up his shoes, I should too.  So, yesterday at church, I gave him a pair of Sunday shoes that I had acquired from a thrift store, and he was really appreciative.  I'm thankful for my mission experience for placing me in situations where I can show God's love to those who are in need.  I know that I felt much better after giving him the shoes than I would have by keeping the shoes.  I know, it's a small, petty story, but I learned so much from it.

5 and a half minutes remaining....ahh!  Not much time!  To finish, I want to tell you another story.  A less-active lady gave us a call on Saturday night telling us that her boss was in the hospital and she wanted us to give her boss a blessing.  On Sunday afternoon right after church, we rode our bikes over to the hospital in our suits to see this man.  When we walked into his room, he was resting, and I was about to say his name and then he woke up.  He looked quite startled to say the least to see us there.  We told him who had sent us, and he had no idea who we were talking about.  Eventually he found out, but in the mean time it was kind of awkward that we were just there.  When we told him we were there to give him a blessing, he got really emotional and felt so thankful to God for sending us.  His name was Ning Wong and that he was born in China shortly before WWII.  He told us that he had been Christian for much of his life, and he told us that Jesus Christ has always been there to help him.  We gave him a blessing and gave him a Book of Mormon and he cried when he saw the Book of Mormon.  He wanted to send money to the church, but we told him it was a free gift.  He was so thankful for all that we did, and as we left the room, he was cradling the book in his arms.

I only have 30 seconds, so here I go.  I am thankful for this Gospel.  Jesus Christ lives and loves us.  God always answers prayers.  I love you!

Monday, October 6, 2014

What a Great Weekend!

Hello everybody!

Wow, the title completely speaks for itself.  It certainly was a great General Conference weekend.  It is always invigorating to listen to the words of the prophets and apostles.  What great counsel they gave to us!

This week has been yet another great week in the California Ventura Mission.  On Tuesday, we all drove to Santa Barbara to have our Mission President's interviews, as well as to watch the "Meet the Mormons" movie.  I think I mentioned this before, but as missionaries, we will not be allowed to be near the movie theater vicinity when it comes out in a few days, so President Felix allowed us to come to the stake center and view it.  On the way down, Elder Kingrey and I grabbed some food at McDonalds, and as we were driving, I spilled some of my vanilla shake ALL OVER my suit, shirt, and tie.  Yes, RIGHT before President Interviews!  I ran into the bathroom to try and clean things up, and in the end, I looked OK by the time the movie was over.

But anyways, the movie was AWESOME!!!!  I hope y'all have tickets to watch it!  President Felix said that they showed the movie to a group of non-members in SLC, and 75% of them said that they would recommend the movie to one of their friends.  My favorite one was about the "Candy Bomber", a 92-year old WWII Veteran that dropped candy on children near the Berlin Wall.  I won't spoil it, or any other part of the movie, but be sure to see it!

On Wednesday, we had our exchanges, and I went to the Spanish Elder's area and did Spanish work for the day.  The last lesson we had for the day was with a lady named Reyna.  They were teaching the Plan of Salvation lesson to them, and Elder Cavazos said that the "Terrestrial kingdom is a place where people who were not baptized go."  All of the sudden, the little 9-year old girl.  Looked up at us, and then her mother.  Her countenance was completely sunk.  She looked at her mom and then the mom said "Don't give me that look" and then she completely broke down.  I understood very little of what was going on and what was said that I nudged him and asked what was going on.  The mom told us that the girl had not yet been baptized and that she had been asking her mom to get her baptized for quite some time.  I whispered as firmly as I could to Elder Cavazos, "Set them with a date!!!"  He invited them to be baptized, but unfortunately the mom said that it was not time yet to do that.  I felt the Spirit so strongly that night, and I actually understood quite a bit of what they said!  Talk about the faith of that girl though...what other 9 year olds are concerned that strongly about baptism!?

Nancy came to General Conference and watched a session.  We haven't talked to her about it yet because she had to leave early, but we hoped she liked it.

We've been doing a lot of service lately.  (See Mormon Helping Hands vests)  We've been coming to this Library and doing basic custodial work.  It's really fun and relaxing.  It's nice to have a change in the routine as well.

We're emailing at the Library today and the rest of the transfer, and we have exactly a one hour session.  Don't have much time left, so I just want to say that I love you all so much and I know that this Gospel is true!  I loved Elder Bednar's talk about sharing the Gospel.  I loved the story that he shared and I hope that we can all be better beacons of light in this dark world.

I love you!  I'll talk to you next week!

Elder Harper

P.S. Mom I found some khaki's at a thrift store for really cheap and they fit wonderfully.  Thank you for your love and support everyone!  Here's also a picture of my district right after General Conference.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Another great week in the Great California Ventura Mission

Hello everyone!

Like I said, it's been another great week.  I don't mean to sound like a broken record, but every week is great as a missionary.  With 7 missionaries now serving in the Lompoc Ward, there has been a really big emphasis placed on missionary work in the ward.  Several members have approached us and told us that they have friends that they are going to finally, boldly invite to hear the missionary discussions.  

You have no idea how great that makes us feel.

We hope all goes well with them and that we may start teaching new investigators from their efforts.  We have been sharing the talk by S. Gifford Nielsen from the October 2013 General Conference called, "Hastening the Lord's Game Plan" with all the members for our dinner message, and it seems to be catching on.

Time has REALLY been running short today (these computers are obnoxiously slow), but I ran into some of my favorite members from Santa Maria at transfer meeting, the McAlister family.  Her dad is actually a member of the ward I'm serving in too, so that's a huge coincidence!  I also ran into Elder Gaylor, the stud. :)

We've been trying to do some service for Nancy and her family, but it's been unsuccessful so far.  Hopefully we can find an in later on.  We've also been doing volunteer service at the Lompoc Library.  Kind of random, but I discovered that I love libraries.  Something about them just feels welcoming, I don't know.  

Tomorrow we are all going to go to Santa Barbara as a zone to have President's interviews.  We, as missionaries, are not allowed to see the movie "Meet the Mormons" in theatres when it comes out, so President Felix is going to be showing us that movie in the chapel tomorrow.  It sounds really cool!

So I was told yesterday about a terrorist group called Isis?  Someone climbed over the white house fence and was shot?  Can someone tell me details?  I'm just curious...and about all of the wildfires, we've been hearing a lot of sirens around town, but I don't believe there's been any wildfires nearby.  California NEEDS moisture.  You'd think that we'd get lots of rain, being next to the ocean and all, but I've only seen rain 2 or 3 times on my whole mission.  I miss rain!

Even though today's letter was short, I want all of you to know that I know that this work is the Lord's work, and it will press onward regardless of what Satan tries to do to halt it.  There's a reason that there are more missionaries serving now more than ever.  It's because the Lord is softening more hearts now than ever before.  I love you all, and I hope you all enjoy General Conference this Saturday and Sunday! 

Elder Harper

Monday, September 22, 2014

Some crazy stuff happening in Lompoc!

Hello everybody!

Wow it's been quite a crazy couple of days...last night, we had to drive Elder Cavazos, (my Spanish missionary friend) down to the Santa Barbara Airport to get him home because there was an urgent family emergency.  We watched his plane take off and we hope that all goes well.  He is scheduled to come back to the mission field next Sunday.  So we have been in a "tripanionship" with his companion.

SO!  Transfer news.  Elder Kingrey and I will both be staying here in Lompoc for another 6 weeks together.  (Next transfers end November 2nd).  Our ward is being split as well and we are splitting it with sister missionaries!  The other missionaries are taking our car, so we are going to a full bike area (haven't been in one of those ever since Simi Valley.)  We are going to be working with them and finding a good way to split the ward.  There will be a whopping FIFTEEN missionaries in my district, 9 elders, 6 sisters.

Don't have a lot of time this week Elder and Sister Malm of the Seventy did a mission tour of our mission and we had another Zone Conference.  They also put on an investigator fireside down in Ventura and us, Bishop Riley, and Nancy drove there and it was pretty cool!  There were close to 100 people there, investigators, less-actives, members and missionaries.  Elder Malm spoke about how he went on the internet and saw a webpage about the LDS religion and how it said that people shouldn't trust the feelings of their hearts after they have read and prayed about the Book of Mormon.  He talked about how that was a ridiculous thing for someone to say, and that these people CAN trust the feelings of their heart.  Nancy enjoyed it and she is getting a stronger and stronger testimony of the truthfulness of this church.

Yesterday, a half hour before church, the 2nd counselor in the bishopric told me that they didn't get a youth speaker that day, and so he asked if I could share a 5 minute talk about a missionary moment.  After I gulped, I told him OK.  My mind immediately went back to the story where Elder Agle and I felt prompted to comfort the lady in Santa Maria.  Before the meeting, a young couple who were also speaking that day bribed me and said that they would bake me cupcakes if I could make my talk go longer.  They're so of my favorite member families in the ward.  Anyway, I went up to the podium with nothing but scriptures.  I tied that story into the Christlike attribute of charity and how the Lord allowed me to express that that day.  I was impressed because I spoke for 20 minutes about it and I bore my testimony.  It was completely an impromptu speech...I'm thankful for the Holy Ghost.

I'm just so thankful for the missionary opportunities that come from day-to-day.  I've been pondering a lot lately how we as missionaries have the best job in the world.  We have the privilege of seeing somebody who is suffering, bear a heartfelt testimony to them of God's love for them, share with them restored spiritual truths about the nature of God and His Gospel, and invite them to be cleansed through the power of the Atonement.  How lucky are we?!  I just can't feel enough love for this Gospel. 

Thank you all for your strong examples of righteousness.  I couldn't be who I am today without each and every one of you.

With love,
Elder Harper

Monday, September 15, 2014

With every valley, there's a mountain.

Hello everybody!

Man how I love you all so much!  I am so happy to be able to sit down every week and write an email to all of you.  I love being a missionary so much, and being able to email this week is just a joy that comes along with that.

So I would like to tell you a little bit about a relatively new investigator named Ken.  We received a call the very first night I was here from the Ward Mission Leader in the other ward informing us about a guy named Ken who investigated the church a little bit 3 years ago.  The member gave him a copy of the Book of Mormon and Ken wanted to meet with the missionaries again.  We went by a couple of days later.  The house was chaotic.  He's a single father with 2 rambunctious boys and he was going crazy.  We did our best to talk about the Book of Mormon and how it could help him with his crazy situation.  Luckily, we got his phone number from him as well. 

We stopped by a few times in the subsequent weeks, but we never caught him home.  We left notes with our phone number and stuff, but we never got a call back.  Then one day, we stopped by and he, his kids, and all of his things were gone.  We gave him a call and he told us that he moved somewhere else in Lompoc.  We stopped by his new place and things were a lot more peaceful.  His kids were gone, so it was good to be able to have some two-on-one time with him.  He had been going through some rough times with his ex-wife.  He briefly told us a little of the story, and he explained how he wanted to retaliate, but something inside of him wouldn't let him.  He said that he would like to ask for spiritual guidance on what he should do. 

It really caught me off guard because I have never been asked something like that before.  ​It sort of felt like I was a bishop or a psychologist at that moment.  All I could think of was just to give him Jesus Christ as an example.  He forgave everyone that wronged him.  He forgave those that crucified them.  Inspired, Elder Kingrey read Alma 48:5-18 and told him that Captain Moroni only fought for a defense and not offensively.  Using this scripture from the Book of Mormon, and using the example of Jesus Christ, he was enlightened.  We invited him to baptized if he found out our message was true, and he said yes.

The next day, we were sitting at a table in his same apartment complex taking a little break, when all of the sudden he came out and sat next to us.  He asked us to say a prayer with him and wish him good luck with a real estate exam he was taking.  We shared some scriptures and said a prayer and he was really thankful.  It's really good that we are establising a relationship of trust with him.  We hope to get meeting with him soon to begin the actual lessons.

Stake Conference was this weekend as well, and Nancy came to both the Saturday evening and Sunday morning sessions!  Woohoo!

We went to Solvang this past Monday and it was fun!  We are going to have to come back to Solvang when we do a mission tour.  There's some really cool shops!  We also went to an ostrich farm in Buellton.  Oh, the fun things you do on p-days... :)

I love you all so much!  Thanks for your love and examples.  I can't believe that this week is the last one of the transfer...

Love you all!
Elder Harper

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Power of Testimony is Real

Hey everybody!

SO, this week, as usual, was a very good week.  I went on exchanges with my District Leader, Elder Cavazos on Tuesday.  He's the missionary with me in the car.  (Brittany!  Doesn't he look like Cody Brown? He acts a lot like him too and he always walks up to me and says "Cody Brown, Cody Brown.")  Anyway, me and him are really good friends.  He's from Austin, TX and he's a convert to the church of a couple years.  We totally decided that we are going to hang out after the mission and he's going to take me to all the cool places in Texas.  

Anyways, we went over to visit a less-active member named Kevin Miller.  A little background story: last week me and Elder Kingrey were riding our bikes past his house and he was on the back porch.  He waved to us and we waved back, but we were in a hurry so we couldn't stop and talk to him.  I had no idea that he was even a member, and we felt prompted to choose his name on the list of Prospective Elders.  When we went to visit him, I immediately recognized him as the guy that waved to us, and he let us in.  Kevin's been a DJ for over 30 years and he showed us all of his stuff.  Unlike other DJ's though, he likes to have the music videos playing as well while he's DJ'ing. (Yes, that is now a new verb)  We talked a little bit about his job, and he asked us if we wanted to see it.  We said sure, but what we didn't expect was for him to play songs from the 80's (Michael Jackson, Rod Stewart, Eddie Murphy) for a straight HOUR while we sat on the couch and watched.  The music was so loud there was no point trying to talk over it and tell him to stop, so we hopelessly sat there and watched on the couch.  When our ears were done ringing, we talked with him about how he joined the church and everything.  He told us that he had visited the doctor a little while ago and the doctor said that there was problems with his blood, and he was a little nervous about it.  Instantly, the story of Jesus healing the woman with the issue of blood popped into my mind.  I turned to Mark 6 and read the scriptures to him, and it seemed to help a lot.  It was a great visit, and he felt more comforted when we left.  (By the way, I don't feel music deprived ANYMORE.)

We also gave 4 blessings to a family that day too.  We gave 3 school year blessings, and a blessing of healing to the grandma who has been going through a lot of stuff.  She said that as we were giving her the blessing, and while she was closing her eyes, she saw Jesus looking right back at her, and it made her feel really good.

Oh!  Just to answer more questions, about the whole service thing, we log onto the website and volunteer for service projects in the area, and we are allowed to have up to 10 hours of planned service a week.  The mission president doesn't need to approve anything.  It just has to be within our zone boundaries.

Out of all the things that happened this week, the highlight was definitely yesterday at church.  We met with Nancy on Friday and went over a talk by Elder Bednar entitled "Ask in Faith".  When Sunday came around, we were happy to see her at church, especially for the fast and testimony meeting.  Elder Kingrey and I both bore our testimonies, and at the very end right before the Bishop was going to close the meeting, she got up.  Elder Kingrey and I looked at each other in shock as she bore her testimony about how she now KNOWS that the Church is the only true Church upon the earth, and she can't wait to get baptized next August (when she turns 18).  She expressed her gratitude to us and the ward for all we have done for her, and I couldn't help but grin from ear to ear.  By this time, the Spirit had immersed the entire congregation.  As she was sitting down, I looked over at her and she was crying tears of joy.  After sacrament meeting, I walked up to her and shook her hand and told her how happy I was for her.  She said that she couldn't resist the urge to go up to the podium when she heard Elder Kingrey and I bear our testimonies.  I hope she continues to stay strong in Gospel over the next 11 months until she gets baptized.  When I get back from my mission, I hope to keep in contact with her and I hope to attend her baptismal service next August if everything works out.  Family, friends, that is why I say that "The power of testimony is real".  Bearing testimony to another person is the fastest, most effective way for them to feel the Spirit.  I've had 16 fast Sundays as a missionary.  All but a couple of them I've born my testimony.  I encourage all of you to bear your testimony next fast Sunday, because when you do, you really gain more out of the meeting than if you don't.  Read Doctrine and Covenants 100 around verses 4-8 (I think) and you can see how powerful it can be.

I love you all so much!  I know that this work is true!  I've never felt so much joy!
Elder Harper

P.S. Elder Kingrey and I like to slick our hair back on occasion.  Don't worry!  We don't go out in public like this! :)

Monday, September 1, 2014

I cannot believe it's already September!

Hello everybody!

It has yet again been another great week.  So, to start off, I heard about that 6.0 earthquake in Napa that happened a little while ago.  I think there was another one that happened in LA or somewhere around there when I was in Santa Maria too.  I never felt anything from either of those earthquakes.  I do think it would be cool to experience one a little bit, because I've never been in one my whole life.  Oh yeah, I didn't hear that Robin Williams committed suicide until last week.  I guess that's what happens when you're a missionary.... ;)

So, just to answer basic questions about my time here, we have 12 missionaries in our district.  There are 8 elders serving here in Lompoc, and 4 sisters serving in Solvang.  We only all meet together on p-days and district meetings.  There are 2 wards in Lompoc.  There's a little Spanish group that meets on Sundays at our church building, separate from the english ward.  We share the ward with 2 spanish elders that are over that group.  The other 4 elders share the other ward.

This last Tuesday, like I mentioned, we had our zone conference in Ventura.  It was amazing!  It was good to listen to President and Sister Felix speak to us.  We had spiritual talks, trainings, and dress code reminders.  Speaking of that, we are now allowed to wear khaki pants in the mission!  I'm guessing that the khaki pants I had back home are too small for me, so I think I'll just buy some at a thrift store for a few dollars.  I can't wait to wear khakis.  It's a lot cooler than wearing black slacks all the time...but, I digress.  Zone Conference was a good experience and we came out feeling very spiritually uplifted.  We were trained about, and we will now be doing that.  It's still in its beginning stages, but it will pick up soon I hope.  Nothing was said about iPads at that time, but President Felix has promised us that we will get them before the year is over.

I haven't heard anything about Lily, but I hope that she's doing well and her mom is warming up to her meeting with the missionaries there.  Nancy (17), the investigator that has the same issue here, is doing well also.  We had a lesson with her on Friday, and her sister Vanessa (15) joined in on the lesson too.  Vanessa was also against Nancy getting baptized because she doesn't think it's right to be baptized into two different churches.  We explained to her about authority and how Jesus Christ walked nearly 60 miles to John the Baptist so He could be baptized.  After explaining it, I showed her my line of authority and how it traced back to Jesus Christ.  She understood things a little better after that, and let's just say we have a NEW INVESTIGATOR!  Woohoo!  Trav, you will probably get 2-3 every day when you're in Ecuador, but here in California it's a lot more difficult in that way, and we do a victory dance when we get one. :D  Nancy, until then, was praying about the Book of Mormon to find out it was true, but still had not received an answer.  Nancy was trying to help Vanessa understand things we were teaching, and I don't know exactly what happened, but something clicked in her brain and she said, "I got my answer!  I know the Book of Mormon is true!"  She was so happy and when she said the closing prayer, she expressed her thanks to Heavenly Father for answering her prayer.  

About their parents:  Nancy's parents are obviously against her getting baptized before she's 18.  Her mom is meeting with the Spanish missionaries, but isn't progressing as much as Nancy is.  Wouldn't it be cool for their whole family to get baptized at the same time?  We have been suggesting to Nancy to fast and pray for her parents hearts to be softened, and she's been open to the idea.

Nancy is the one that's progressing the most out of our investigators.  We have a few potential investigators that we go to here and there, and we are always doing less-active work.  

There's a less-active member named Mike LaRieva that we have been working with.  On Friday, we went over to his house and brought the Restoration DVD.  After clarifying what the Restoration was, we watched the 20 min. DVD about it.  During the portion of the movie when Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith, the clouds moved off of the sun and the sun reflected off of the adjacent white apartment building into the room, just as gradually as the light rested upon him..  It was really powerful, and I felt the Spirit really strong at that time and it gave me the goosebumps sensation. At the end of the video, we bore testimony that the Restoration really did happen and then he said the closing prayer.  As he finished, we said goodbye and I gave him a hug, and then we immediately LEFT.  We left while the Spirit was there so he could see the difference between when the Spirit is there and when it's not.  He came to sacrament meeting yesterday too.  The Spirit is working on him!

I am thankful to be a missionary.  We have good experiences, and we have bad experiences.  We have build-ups, and we have let-downs.  But no matter what happens, I can feel the presence of the Lord in this work.  This work is His work.  "When we are on the Lord's errand, we are entitled to His help."  I know the Gospel is true, and that this mission that I am serving will positively impact my service as a student, as a future husband, father, and priesthood holder.  I love you all so much, and I'll talk to you again next week!

With love, 
Elder Harper
P.S. I hope your farewell went great, Trav!