Monday, February 24, 2014

We will soon be able to see some more fruits of our labors!

Hello everybody!

First off, this week was the last week of the transfer.  We got our transfer calls this morning, and both Elder Gaylor and I will be staying in the Santa Maria 3rd Ward!  (Next transfers end April 6th). This is super cool because we will now be able to witness the baptism of Benito and Griselda!  Since last week, they have moved up their baptismal date to March 15th!  They are SO anxious to be baptized!  We cannot wait!

It's unbelievable how fast these weeks, months, and transfers are going.  Time is moving too fast!  

So!  Yesterday, 4 of our investigators attended church!  Mario came, Benito & Griselda went to another ward to witness a baby blessing, and Rachel came too!  It was such a great day for that because it was our ward's fast Sunday.  Next Sunday is our Stake Conference, and President Castro will be speaking.  It's going to be super awesome!  

I would like to tell all of you about a little miracle that happened this week.  We, currently in the "finding stage", have tracted each day for about 2 hours every day this transfer.  I know, that's probably nothing compared to others, but it certainly is draining.  Anyways, we went to an apartment complex and found a lady named Jamie.  She's a single mom with four young daughters, and she goes to a local Presbyterian church.  When we stopped by for the 2nd time, she said,  "I'm guessing you two can't come in here alone, right?"  We told her about the third male rule, and so she said "Hold on" and she went and got two folding chairs and gave them to us!  We all sat down on her porch and we taught her the Restoration lesson.  She was really intrigued, and we gave her a Book of Mormon, explained a little bit about it, and encouraged her to read and pray.  When we came by again, she had read all of the Introduction, Title page, and the Testimonies of the 3 and 8 witnesses, and had read most of 1 Nephi 1.  She then said, "I kind of feel like this is like the Bible.  Sometimes the beginning isn't always the best place to start.  Is there a particular place that you would like me to read?"  We only asked her to read the Introduction the time before, and so we cheerfully invited her to read 3 Nephi 11-27 about the coming of Christ to the Nephites.  We encouraged her to compare side-by-side with the Bible, for her to see that Jesus is preaching the same Gospel.  We then set up a return appointment for this Thursday, and a member is planning on going with us!  I am so thankful for the Lord's answer to our prayers for putting her in our path.  She may or may not get baptized in the near future, but regardless of that, we are planting seeds!  It is such a fulfilling feeling.

Last night, we showed "Special Witnesses of Christ" to Benito and Griselda.  It was such a spiritual experience to feel the Holy Ghost coming from the Apostle's testimonies.  They definitely felt it too.  We also gave them a copy of "The Living Christ" for them to put next to their "Family:  Proclamation to the World".

Wow.  So much to say in so little time.  I am sending off a few pictures of me with the people I am teaching.  You can now have a little clearer idea of who I'm seeing.  

Still no updated word on the iPads.  I hope they come soon!  With all of the new incoming missionaries, our mission is creating 2 new zones JUST for Spanish speaking missionaries.  The Lord is hastening His work!  It is so crazy how the entire Church is turning to a more missionary-minded focus.  Thank you all so much for everything!  I love you all!  Talk to you next week!

Elder Harper

                                                     Benito, Griselda, and Julietta

Verge Collings and Marlon Smith, less actives

                                                            Spears's Family

Patricia and Robert, Investigators 

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Lords hands are in His work

Hello all!

This week was pretty good.  The Lord's hands are continuing to push this work along.   Let me tell you all about it!

So, I've told you before about Benito and Griselda, but just to get everything cleared up, they are a young couple in their 30's.  Benito is a school psychologist, and Griselda is in her last year of graduate school to become a lawyer.  They have a 2 year old daughter named Julietta.  They are so cool!  This week, we sent by and saw them, and Griselda officially gave up coffee!  Their original baptismal date was set for April 19th, but they decided that they wanted to move it up to March 22nd, and Benito wants to move it up even more!  They are super accepting of everything and this week we are going to read The Living Christ with them and watch "Special Witnesses of Christ", a video of the testimonies of all the Apostles released in 2000.  They went to a baptism at the beginning of this transfer, and that was the reason that they wanted to move it up even closer; because they saw how special it was.  Benito is probably the most solid person I have ever taught on my mission, and I hope to be here to be at his baptism.  His testimony is so strong.

Mario is the 450 pound Native American guy.  He's on parole right now, and his date is for April 19th right now.  He was interviewed by President Castro, and he felt that Mario should wait until he was off parole.  Mario goes to church every week.  Every week.  He has been going for a year and a half, and he's only missed it once.  He's practically more active than the bishop.  He's doing great!  We're just helping him along the way and reading the Book of Mormon to him.

Yesterday was ward conference and we had the chance to hear the stake president speak, it was really cool.  The bishop also talked and he related it to an escalator.  He said that when we are going up a downward moving escalator we always have to make sure we are moving up faster than the world is moving down if we want to make it back to live with God.  It was a really insightful talk.  The first week of March we have stake conference and President Castro is going to be speaking, it will be awesome!

Elder Gaylor and I are going to finish this transfer

strong.  It's been tough, but our faith is stronger than our doubts and fears.  We will continue to press the Lord's work forward!

Thank you all for everything you do.  I can feel your prayers of love and strength; Please keep sending them my way. :)  It makes all the difference.

Love, Elder Harper

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Lord's work will move forward REGARDLESS of what the world wants

Hello all!  

Another great week here in Santa Maria.  Little miracles happen every day that just make a mission spectacular.  

So to start off, you know about Mario.  Well, on Friday when we were teaching him, he told us about a lady that lives just under him named Jamie that he was talking to about the Church.  She went to a Valentine's Day church activity down in Lompoc and she loved it.  We knocked on her door, and we just started talking to her a little bit.  We asked her if she was interested in learning more about the church, and she said yes!  We asked her if she would be baptized if she came to understand if it was true and she said yes again!  She said that she would go to church yesterday but she didn't, so we'll be stopping by her place soon.  Mario is a stud!

On Thursday, it poured rain all day long.  We were on exchanges that day and we used the rain to our advantage.  We were walking around in our rain jackets, and it was raining so hard that some rain seeped through and we still got wet.  When we knocked on people's doors, they said, "You're still going around in this rain??" and we always responded, "Yeah!  We know that this message is important!"  There was a street called Harper Ct. and we went tracting down that and we ran into a golden couple that asked us to pray for their health and for their cousin who had cancer.  They told us that they had an uncle who recently passed away from cancer as well.  We bore a simple but powerful testimony about the Plan of Salvation, and they set up a return appointment with the other elders tonight at 7:30.  I know that going down Harper Ct. was inspired, it was great.

That same day, Elder Gaylor and the other missionary had a church tour with Rachel, another one of our investigators.  They said that the Spirit was really strong.  What was cool as well is she came to sacrament meeting yesterday and she said that she will have a few more questions for us the next time we visit.  We love questions! :)

After church yesterday we had the opportunity to go with a newly ordained priest to administer the sacrament to a few elderly members from our ward.  He was able to bless the sacrament, and we helped him along the way.  After we gave the sacrament to an older lady, she asked us for a blessing, and I was able to bless her.  The spirit was so strong, and she cried afterwards.  Elder Gaylor and I were talking afterward and we were just saying that doing that was one of the most fulfilling acts of service ever: administering the sacrament and giving someone a blessing.  The Priesthood is such an amazing thing to have to bless others' lives.  I got a confirmation that we were there doing exactly what Christ would have us do.  It was a very good day.

This week we also had an opportunity to have our interviews with President Castro, which was nice.  It was a pretty short interview, but I could definitely feel the Spirit of love that he has for all of the missionaries.  He was talking to us as a group and he was saying that the Lord doesn't need us, and the only reason that we are here is for us to experience the joy that Heavenly Father wants us to feel.  The Lord can do His work with or without us.  He is simply giving us the opportunity to feel joy in doing His work.  

Also!  I think iPads will be coming to this mission very soon!  Rumor has it that in March they will be here.  Personally, I think it won't be until July when President Felix comes in, but we can't wait!  Hopefully it IS March!  It will be interesting to see how doing missionary work over the internet will impact people.  It makes so much sense.  Although the face-to-face interaction can never be replaced, a lot more people are comfortable going on their computers than answering a door and talking to strangers.  The Lord is adapting His work to fit His people.

We still haven't had any luck finding new people to teach, but I'm very happy with the work that we are doing.  Little acts of Christlike service each day, a kind word, even a smile can make someone's day and makes anybody a missionary.  I'm really grateful that we all have this Gospel in our lives and that we can enjoy the blessings that come from living the commandments.  

Thank you so much for your letters.  They make my day every time.  It's really weird how my pre-mission life is becoming blurry and it seems like it was forever ago.  The letters and the communication clear that up.  It was weird going into an investigators house and seeing the Olympics opening ceremony in Russia on the TV.  Yes, Elder Harper, there IS a world outside of the mission boundaries....mission life is great. :)

This work is true.  The Gospel is spreading throughout the Earth like the stone cut out of the mountain without hands.  It will fill every corner of the Earth and every person will have had a chance to hear about the Church.  How amazing that will be!  I love you all!   Have a fantastic week!  Until the next!  Happy Valentine's day!

Elder Harper

Monday, February 3, 2014

Fasting works miracles

Hello everyone!

This week has been pretty good!  As usual, we did a lot more tracting and finding.  We went on a blitz with the Zone Leaders and they helped us find some more potential investigators.  Tracting is interesting; you don't really know who's going to answer the door, you don't know what's going on inside the house, and you don't know what their reaction is going to be; it's really weird, but fun at the same time!  We knocked on one guys door, and all he said was, "Holy sh** get off my property" and he slammed the door.  It was kind of funny.  Interestingly enough, the next door we knocked on, we found a 19 year old guy named Will.  He was raised in a Catholic family, and he had a lot of questions that he couldn't find answers to.  We talked to him on his porch for an hour.  We taught him about the Book of Mormon, the Restoration, the Plan of Salvation, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and even a few of the Commandments.  He wanted to know it all!  Before we left, he told us his mom sent him a text message and she said, "God has an answer for you."  We knocked on his door later that same day!  He told us he didn't know what his parents' reaction would be with us coming by, but he gave us his phone number.  We sent him a text and he didn't respond, and we tried knocking on his door again but nobody answered.  If nothing else happens, at least we can feel peace that we taught him about the Gospel and we planted seeds.

Elder Gaylor and I are doing a lot of good work here.  We have pretty different personalities, but it all balances out and we do good.  We both got 37 declarations this week, and the average is around 20.  It's awesome.  He's super funny and we always talk in this strange Mexican Nacho Libre accent to each other, and I don't even know how we started.

So, if you're wondering about the subject line, I'll explain it to you now.  So for January and February, we've been having a dual stake fast for rain.  It's been the worst drought since the 70's, and the water levels are around 30%.  I guess the governor has announced a "state of emergency" for all of California because we aren't getting enough rain.  Well, yesterday, Sunday morning, it started to rain RIGHT as fasting testimony meeting started.  It was so cool, the Spirit was so strong in the entire congregation.  

With yesterday being Superbowl Sunday, we rode our bikes after church to the park and there was absolutely nobody there.  We didn't feel right about going around an knocking on people's doors, so it was just an interesting day.  Cam, thanks for telling us the score, we were wondering. :)

I know I say this every week, but I love you all.  I am so blessed to have such a great family and great friends.  I am thankful for this Church, and all that it means to all of us.  Being a missionary is hard, but the blessing are endless.  I love all of the little miracles we receive on a daily basis; tender mercies from heaven.  God loves us all so much, and He is anxious to help us and is concerned about our welfare and salvation.  I love you!  Til next week!  

Elder Harper