Monday, January 27, 2014

The Lord answers our prayers

Hello again!

Man, this is crazy.  Every week it just seems like it goes by in a heartbeat.  The weeks are just becoming meshed together and everything is going by so fast.  My time out here has really been the fastest time in my life.  I was pondering to myself the other day, and in about a week, I will have been out for 8 whole months.  That is just so weird to me.  I'm really starting to feel "missionary old" when I talk about some missionaries I've been around in the past and some people don't even know who they are.  It's just so weird.  Time certainly flies when you are in the service of the Lord.

Wow, where do I even begin for this week?  Well, every Monday we do our usual stuff.  This last week we played basketball, dodgeball and football in the Church's carpeted gym.  We all decided that we don't like carpeted gyms that much, so we are going to go to the other gym today and then play ultimate frisbee outside.  P-days certainly are a blessing, just to have a change in routine and to be able to let my mind rest for a little bit.

Haha so this week 1 of our 4 total investigators moved, so now we are down to 3 that we each only see once a week because their schedules can't really allow it.  All of them have baptismal dates in April.  There's a guy named Mario and he's super cool.  He's been meeting with the missionaries for a long time now and he's just solid.  He's about 450 pounds and Native American.  He's really funny and the Church really means a lot to him.  He has many friends in the ward, and he goes to church every week without fail, and he's been doing that for a year now.  Why isn't he baptized you ask?  Well, he is currently on parole and won't be free until April.  He's super excited.  His daughter was baptized a year ago and she's preparing to go on a mission, it's pretty cool.

The other 2 investigators we have are Benito and Griselda.  They have a 2 year old daughter named Julietta and she's adorable.  They are both progressing really well, also.  Benito is totally ready to be baptized today, but Griselda wants to wait until the Saturday before Easter Sunday to do it because she feels it will be more special.  We've explained to them that it's all the same, but she insists.  They are trying to find a way for them to afford paying tithing and everything, and there's only so much that we can do.  

There is a man named Jason McGuire who just got baptized on Saturday.  He is super solid and he inspires me to be a better missionary.  Anyways, Benito and Griselda were able to go to his baptism and they really liked it.

So, as we were tracting we had door slam after door slam after door slam.  We prayed on a lady's driveway that the Lord would humble the people and give us someone to talk to.  We knocked a couple more houses and then we found a guy named Jesse.  We talked with him for 45 minutes on his doorstep and we bore our testimonies to him and invited him to read and pray about the Book of Mormon.  He seemed a little hesitant to, but we are going to stop by again.  The Lord really does answer our prayers when we pray in faith.

Well, my time is just about up.  I love Santa Maria, I love the ward, and I love my family and friends.  Until next week!

Elder Harper

Monday, January 20, 2014

My first week in Santa Maria!

Hello everyone!  It's great to be here to email all of you once again.  This week has been a trying week, but also a week full of miracles!  First things first, to clear things up, I'm follow-up training Elder Gaylor.  It's been kind of like a "white wash" though because he's only been here one transfer and we're still both figuring things out.  Elder Gaylor is a convert of 15 months!  He told me his story.  He's the only member in his family, his friend invited him to EFY and he felt the Spirit, and the missionaries came over and taught him and he got baptized!  Member missionary work, it's the greatest.  He said that he could just picture himself doing the same thing as the missionaries were doing, and so here he is!  He's freshly 18 years old, and he's really cool!

So, to describe Santa Maria, it's pretty cool.  There's an LDS, Lutheran, Baptist, Catholic, and Non-denominational Christian church on one street.  It's super crazy..As far as the actual missionary work goes, the people here are really prideful.  They think that they are well enough off and most of the time they don't hear us out, except for the miracles that I'm going to describe soon!  To be honest, I've never had as much rejection in one week than I've had this week, but that's OK!  I really can feel all of your prayers for strength and it's helping me a ton.  I'm learning not to get discouraged over it.  People have their agency, and it's just our job to invite them to learn more, to testify, and to help and serve them.  

It's really nice here in Santa Maria.  On Saturday it was 85 degrees outside, it's super weird!  I'm not used to this!  The members here are AWESOME.  So much love and support for us.  There's 4 missionaries in this ward, and we have the northern half of the ward.

So, miracle report time!  So this week, we had 3 AWESOME miracles!  My 2nd day here, we were going tracting, and I told Elder Gaylor to pict a street he wanted to tract. 

We were tracting down a street, and Elder Gaylor remembered a former investigator that lived at a certain house. We knocked on the door, and we had a 20 minute lesson with them on the doorstep. It had been about 4 months since they've been last seen, and the lady said that she wanted us to come by and keep studying with her, but it took a visit from us for her to realize it. It was a really cool experience, and they committed to come to church this upcoming week.

The next was when we were in the park contacting people, when we met a lady named Teresa. She talked about how there are so many distractions in the world today, and that she wanted to read the Bible, even though it was really hard. We explained to her that we could help her with that, and we talked with her about the Plan of Salvation. We gave her a pamphlet, and as I was bearing my testimony of it to her, tears streamed down her face. We got her address and phone number, and the other elders had a nice referral. Miracle for sure.

The last was just yesterday when we were going to go to an appointment with a member to see an investigator. As we were all walking towards the investigator's house, an older less-active lady and her son came outside. The son said, "Look who we have here!" It turns out the lady requested a blessing from her son, but the son was all by himself, so he was about to leave and go grab someone. We were able to go inside and assist with the blessing at the EXACT moment they came outside. God put us in their path.

There have been so many times this week where I've said, "The Church is true!"  We have been striving really hard to be EXACTLY obedient, and because of that, these three miracles occurred.  What a blessing that is.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Another transfer come and gone...

This week has been pretty good, a great week to end off the transfer:  So remember the lady that we did service for that came to church the next day?  She came yesterday too, and she approached me and said, "I just want to thank you so much.  You brought the Spirit into my home that day.  I have been reading the scriptures, and I stopped smoking!  I have a coffee pot in my house, and I'm slowly giving that up.  Thank you!  You lit my fire!"  Just from that experience, I know why I stuck around here in Atascadero for another transfer, just for her!  It was such a blessing.

Drumroll....However, I'm being transferred!  I'm going to the Santa Maria 3rd Ward.  I don't know anything about there, except that I'm going to be training another missionary by the name of Elder Gaylor.  Great things are awaiting me in Santa Maria, I already know.  Atascadero has been great.  I feel like my testimony of the Gospel and about prayer has been strengthened up here.  I have gained a lot of confidence here, and I will take that with me throughout the rest of my mission and the rest of my life.  I am thankful for the ward here, and I can't wait to meet new people and see new things.  (Transfers end on February 23rd).  

As for Jose, he is taking a break from us.  He told us that he didn't like the way we do things at our church, and he wanted a break.  I know he'll come around, many seeds have been planted.  I have to go now, but I'll be emailing you next week in Santa Maria!

Elder Harper

Monday, January 6, 2014

What a week :p

Hello everyone!  

This week has been pretty good.  I can't believe it's already the last week of the how it goes by fast.

Today I would like to express my gratitude for the letters that I have been receiving.  On Thursday I received the letter that Grandma handwrote to me, and it was such a blessing.  When she said that she was writing it in the front room of the Wayne County house, I visualized the room and pictured myself there, it was really nice and peaceful.  As always, I am thankful for the letters that I got from Mom and Dad.  Mom, thank you for the talk that you sent me.  I LOVE it when I get talks in the mail.  It really helped me out a lot.  I liked the part that Elder Holland said that missionary work isn't easy because salvation never was easy.  It was awesome.  Dad, thank you for your letter as well.  It was awesome to get a letter from Ashley too!  Thank you all so much!

On New Year's Day, we went out to dinner with a member.  We went to a Chinese restaurant.  (Have I ever told you how much I love Chinese???) There must have been something in the food, because Elder Navarrete got really sick that night.  He went to bed really early, which was odd, so I went and watched a DVD.  When I finished, I went and said my prayers and went to bed.  About 15 minutes later, he sat up and stood still for about 15 seconds, and then he bolted for the bathroom.  He threw up ALL OVER HIS BATHROOM.  He was feeling too weak to clean it up that night, so we closed the door and let it sit... :)  The next morning he still wasn't feeling well and slept for the whole day.  We have two bathrooms, but meanwhile, the smell was starting to make me sick, so I asked him if he was well enough to clean it up.  He said he was feeling really weak.

So I cleaned up his puke.  Probably the most charitable thing I'll do on my mission.  *Picture attached.  :D

Yeah, that was an adventure....three cheers for latex gloves.

On a more serious note, we went on companionship exchanges this week as well.  We did some service for a less-active lady in the ward, and she was so grateful that we came to help her.  She started crying as soon as she opened up the door and saw us there.  I can honestly say that I felt the Savior's love for her at that exact moment.  We helped her carry some boxes to her garage, moved a desk, and re-strung some lights in her backyard.  She bought us pizza, and he opened up the scriptures and read her some good verses.  She, again, started crying and told us that she really needed this experience.  She said that she knows that the Church is true, and she said she would go the next day.  Yesterday she came to church!  When she heard the testimonies, I could just tell that everything was sinking in.  I got up to bear my testimony, and again, she started crying!  She asked for a priesthood blessing after sacrament meeting and she cried after it was over.  She personally thanked us for all of the support and encouragement she received.  I can honestly say that that was a time that I felt truly happy.  When I stopped worrying about myself and looked outwards, just to help her, I forgot about myself in the process and felt Christlike love for her.

I'm thankful for testimonies, and for the power that they bring.  There is nothing more powerful than a testimony that is confirmed by the power of the Holy Ghost.  A testimony is really the only thing that we possess that truly defines us.  Never hesitate to share testimonies, because we know of the power they bring.  

This church is true without a doubt.  As a member in our ward says, "If the Church isn't true, then there's no cows in Texas!"  I love you all.  I'm excited for this full calender year of missionary service that is before me.  Thank you so much for all the support and letters!

Elder Harper