Monday, March 31, 2014

Another week in the Great California Ventura Mission

Hello everybody!!!

Wow, what can I say?  Another fantastic week here in Santa Maria.  We witnessed so many miracles this week, and we have been working really hard to be exactly obedient and getting out right at 10:00 in the morning, and we are being blessed for our efforts.  Let me tell you about some great stuff!

OK first off, on Saturday, we stopped by an older lady named Sis. Ewen who can't go to church just because of her condition.  There were 2 other ladies there and they asked us for blessings.  We each gave them a blessing and they thanked us for the priesthood we bear.  One lady was struggling really badly with pain, and she said the next day she woke up and she didn't need to take a pain pill.  It was so cool!

We also went by and saw Benito and Griselda this week, and they told us that ever since they have received the Holy Ghost, they said they have had much clearer minds and that everything just makes more sense.  They said that there is no confusion in their minds about any subject.  Ahh another cool thing!

But wait, there's more!  Jamie, the single mom with three kids, said she couldn't fall asleep one night and she read 5 different chapters out of the Book of Mormon that we assigned to her, including Alma 32, Ether 12, Moroni 10, 3 Nephi 11, etc.  She said that she was watching on the History Channel and they said that they found stone tablets with the Hebrew language in Central America, and she thought to herself, "Heh, kinda like the Book of Mormon..."  We stopped by and talked about it, and we asked her if she has had the chance to pray about the BoM, and she said no.  When we asked why, she said, "Because I know that I am going to get an answer..."  Then I asked, "And you're afraid of what that answer may be, huh?"  and she said "Yep."  :D  She is gaining an understanding of the truthfulness of this church!  

"Are you done yet" you ask?  Nope!  We went tracting down a street called Earl Ln. and we talked with a lady from South Africa named Aroma.  She said that her son is a senior in high school and that he had plans to go to the University of Utah in SLC.  We talked about the SL temple and we showed her a picture, and she got so excited!  She said that it looked like Cinderella's castle.  She said that her husband left her and that she had lost everything.  We then started to talk about how Jesus Christ gave up everything that He had for us, and he asks that we do the same.  As we were telling her this, she started to cry.  The Spirit was so strong, and we got her address and phone number.  Unfortunately, she lives in the other ward, but we will be giving her to the sister missionaries, and they will do great!  Miracle for sure!

Not done yet!  It was raining really hard on Wednesday, and we were sort of discouraged and didn't want to go outside, but we said "OK let's do it" and we said a little "power prayer" and we got out.  First we knocked on a really nice Jewish lady who wasn't interested, but gave us water bottles.  The next house we knocked on, a girl came out.  She's a senior in a nearby H.S. and we taught her the Restoration on her doorstep.  She accepted a copy of the Book of Mormon and told us to come back sometime.  Soooo awesome!

I love being a missionary.  It is so great!  The Lord is working miracles through us in this area.  Being a missionary is not always easy.  Being with a companion 24/7 is not always easy, But, the Lord is always there.  Always.  I'm super excited for General Conference, and I hope all of you are too!  Go with questions, and you will get answers!  Love you all a TON.

Elder Harper

Monday, March 24, 2014

Santa Maria is on fire! (Spiritually:))

Hello everybody again!

Wow, what a week.  As always, they're just blowing by, it's so weird.  This week we had our Zone Conference in San Luis Obispo, and it was a really good day.  The whole focus of the meeting was emphasizing the Book of Mormon and how we need to use it in our every day missionary work.  We did lots of role-plays and learning exercises, and it was just good.  

Awesome news!  RUSSEL M. NELSON is coming to the mission on April 19th and 20th, and we will be having a missionwide conference in Ventura!  He's also going to be speaking those same days at a special stake conference here in Santa Maria.  I really hope I stay here another transfer, for that, and for so many other reasons.  Mario's baptism for one, possibly. If he gets off parole.  Mike and Gayle, the couple I wrote about last week, with the church tour, are also progressing.  Let me tell you!

So we went to their house on Thursday night and we taught him about the Law of Chastity and the Word of Wisdom.  After we finished, he said, "Amen.  That is 1000% FACT."  We committed him to live those laws, and we felt prompted to talk about the Plan of Salvation with him.  Mike is a pretty eccentric guy, and he told us of a dream that he had many years ago.  He said that he saw a star in the sky that was close to heaven, and that in another place he said that there were people there for "continuing education". I pulled out a little homemade diagram I made, and he LOVED it.  We talked about Spirit world with him, and he said, "YES!  That's IT!"  And, get this:  We don't EVER do this because it's sooooo out there...but we even talked about Kolob, the star closest to heaven.  He copied down the name and he wants to read in Abraham 3 where it talks about it.  He's super funny...

Five investigators came to church on Sunday!  Mario, Rachel, Mike, Gayle, and a lady named Elena that we've been teaching.  Ahh soo many people to talk about.  I spoke in sacrament meeting about preparing for general conference, and I felt the Spirit testify through me.  A lot of people thanked me afterwards, and I felt great.  Gayle just lost her job, and they think that they are going to lose their house.  We REALLY don't want to lose them, but, even in their poor state, they paid some tithing to the church.  They are super awesome.  We hope that all works for them.  

Last night, there was a fireside called "Why I Believe".  It was a YSA fireside about people that converted to the church, and they told their stories.  The spirit was super strong, it was awesome.

I KNOW that this church is true.  If there's one thing that I do know, it's that.  What else can I say?  I love you ALL.

Elder Harper

Monday, March 17, 2014

This Week I Experienced True Joy

Hello family, friends, and loved ones!

This week was absolutely amazing.  We had the fabulous opportunity and privilege to witness the baptisms of Benito and Griselda Carreon.  It has been so nice to be a part of their conversion.  I have seen them grow so much in the time that I have been here, and now they have officially made those covenants with God that will give them eternal life and salvation.  They are truly my favorite people that I have had the opportunity to teach the Gospel to on my mission.  The Spirit was really strong at their baptismal service, and many people thanked us for the talks that we gave.  In my talk, I showed my pillow that I received at my baptism and read the scripture, Alma 37:37, that was on it.  As I looked over at all of the people as I was speaking, especially at Benito, Griselda, and little Julietta, I could feel, in a smaller measure, God's love for them and how happy He was that they have chosen to follow Jesus Christ and that they chose to return to live in His presence.  Afterwards, a member from the stake high council gave them the famous picture of Jesus coming in the Millennium.

Last night, we had the chance to visit them and give them a present that the stake provided for them, and the picture of Jesus was hanging prominently over their fireplace!  We talked about the temple and how they will be able to go there in a year.  There's a part of me that wants them to go in exactly a year, right away, but there's another part of me that wants them to wait until after I get home so we could all go there and see.  Either way, I'm so happy that they are going to go.  When we were about to leave, we all said a kneeling prayer and Benito said it.  He said the most heartfelt prayer I have ever heard, and he thanked Heavenly Father for sending him and his family the missionaries so that they could know the truth.  Little Julietta kept looking up at us and smiling, and I just kept visualizing all of them in the Celestial Room.  Needless to say, it was a great night.

On a different note, Elder Gaylor hit a parked car on his bike on Wednesday and flew on top of the roof.  He was adjusting his pedal and he didn't look up in time.  His bike dented pretty badly, and there were a few nicks and scratches on the car, but we got it all figured out and the church is taking care of it.  

Also, Elder Sebaske got transferred to Oxnard and we had to wake up at 5 in the morning to clean everything and move to the other apartment.  I saw Elder Navarrete there, and he was telling me how everything changed up in Atascadero.  Carolann I guess now has a baptismal date, and Jr., the old man, has been going to church and is working his way to the temple.  Sister Robaschotty, the lady I did service for and got reactivated, bore her testimony at church and she was saying how she "Knows the church is true" and she told everyone to give the missionaries referrals!  I'm super glad I was able to hear about that, and it makes me feel that all the work I did up there was not forgotten.  It has really been a great week and I've felt a lot of joy.

Also!  On Thursday we had a church tour with Mike and Gayle, two investigators that called a bishop in the other ward and self-referred the missionaries to come over...(pictured) and the spirit was so strong.  We all knelt in the chapel after it was done, and we committed them to be baptized on April 26th.  We were going to say April 12th, but he said no because that was the day the Titanic sunk.  ;)  He's a pretty funny guy.  They are a work in progress, they went to another church yesterday, but we'll work with them.  I'll keep you posted.  

I love you all so much!  Thanks for all you do for me.  Thanks for the prayers, the loves, and the letters.  I'll talk to you next week!  Happy St. Patrick's Day!  (I'm wearing a green tie by the way)

Elder Harper

Monday, March 10, 2014

One of the most successful weeks on my mission. Period.

Hello again everyone!

Wow, it continues to amaze me how these weeks just come and go.  I can't believe it's already been 9 months...where has the time gone?

So, you're probably wondering why I said this week has been so great, huh?  Well, it just so happens that we taught 16 lessons total this week!  With three of us now, it makes it so much easier for us to teach, because we can go into anyone's house, even if there's not another male home.  I really like being in a "tripanionship", it eliminates those "awkward moments" when teaching, and I feel like we all have something to input and we can build off of each other's ideas.  Plus, we know cover the entire ward, instead of just the northern half, so there's a lot more people we can see and things to do.  And on top of that, Elder Sebaske's birthday is in April, so we have it scheduled to go to the Los Angeles temple on April 1st!  No joke.  This transfer, we have had a great stake conference, we have a zone conference, a general conference, two baptisms, and a temple trip coming coming up. It's been all-around awesome. 

There is a potential investigator in the other area named Jason Florey that we had the chance to go see.  After we got to know him, we taught him the Restoration, gave him the pamphlet, and he read the whole thing!  

Benito and Griselda had their baptismal interview on Friday night, and they both passed!  We had Domino's pizza at their house afterwards with their fellowshippers, and it was great.  We are all super excited for their baptism this Saturday!  I'll take some pictures, so you will see them next week! 

SO many things to talk about in so little time...

On Saturday and Sunday, we did something a little different.  Our zone has a goal to invite 595 people to be baptized this transfer, and also declare to 1,460 people, 20 a week each companionship for 6 weeks.  We decided to try an experiment.  We went to the store and bought a sign, some oreos, and some starbursts.  We wrote on the sign "Cookie or Starburst?  All you need to do is answer a few short questions"  We asked them a few of the baptismal interview questions and said, "We learn from the scriptures that God has always called prophets to give us His word.  We claim to have a prophet on the Earth today.  If you came to a knowledge of these things by study and prayer, and you felt that these things were true, would you be baptized into that church?"  We invited 30 people to be baptized, and declared to 20 people.  Surprisingly, almost all of the people we talked to said yes, but none of them were interested in learning more about the Church.  Kind of frustrating right?  However, we feel good because we extended that invitation, and their use of agency is up to them.  Very successful week I'd say.

As I progress further and further into my mission, I gain a better love, understanding, and testimony that I KNOW that this Church is true, and that I will never waver from that knowledge and truth.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ is really the only way to find true, long-lasting happiness.  We are SO lucky to have found this truth to ourselves, and what an opportunity and blessing it is for us to share that with others.  

Love you all!  I hope you have a great week!

Love, Elder Harper

Monday, March 3, 2014

Drumroll Please...

Hello everybody!  

As always, this week has yet again, been pretty good.  Yes, we had LOTS of rain!  Rainy days on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and a cloudy day on Sunday.  It truly has been an answer to the prayers of the Saints on the central coast.  Some people have told us that 90% of it has been running into the ocean though, so that's kind of weird.  I'm not exactly sure what's going on there...

This week we had the opportunity to teach Jamie again!  We went by and taught her a textbook Plan of  Salvation lesson.  I made a little makeshift Plan of Salvation diagram out of paper, and I drew and colored all of the parts and laminated it with shipping tape.  Gotta say, it looks pretty cool.  She thought it was cute, so that's good.  :)  Jamie read nine whole chapters out of the Book of Mormon; she read from 3 Nephi 11 to 3 Nephi 19, and she said that she loved it, but wanted something a little more specific to the Book of Mormon.  So, naturally, we gave her Moroni 10 to read and promised her again that God would answer her prayers.  At the end of the lesson, we invited her to be baptized.  She said "no" for right now, because she has been attending this Presbyterian church ever since she was 3 years old.  We told her we knew it was a big thing to ask, and as we were talking about it a little bit more, her kids came home from school.  What a coincidence!  It's funny how it always happens like that.  Jamie did promise to pray about the Book of Mormon, and we set up a regular meeting schedule to meet with her every Thursday at 2:00.  Miracles CAN come from tracting!

Also, this week was also our stake conference.  Benito and Griselda attended the adult session on Saturday night, and them and Mario came to the Sunday session.  It was great!  President and Sister Castro spoke at both sessions, and on Sunday, President and Sister Huff, the Los Angeles temple president, spoke.  There are 26 missionaries serving in our zone, and we all stood up when President Castro spoke.  It was pretty cool.

Benito and Griselda are solid for March 15th!  They asked me to give the talk on Baptism, and Elder Gaylor for the Holy Ghost, can't wait!

So, there are two sets of missionaries serving in our ward.  One of them hasn't been able to go out and do work for a long time because of bad migraines, and this morning, he was sent home to get better.  So, for this week at the minimum, we will be in a "tripanionship" with the other elder.  Hope it goes great!  We have high hopes.

Love you all!  Hope you have a great week!

Elder Harper