Monday, June 30, 2014

Hello Ventura!

Hello everybody!

Well, unfortunately the internet keeps crashing on my computer, so I have VERY little time, so here I go!

I love Ventura!  It's the closest place to the ocean that I have been to, so it's really humid here, and I'm not used to it, but other than that, it's great!  So, you know how I was whitewashed into the area here with Elder Tufts?  Well, it turns out, my whole district was white washed into Ventura, so everybody in the district was just trying to figure things out this week.  We're getting it down. :)  It's so much fun whitewashing, and it provides an opportunity for the area to be refreshed and started again on a clean slate.  It happens occasionally.  Elder Tufts and I get well.  He's from Bountiful, and Elder Nelson is from his home ward!  He's been out 2 transfers less than me.  Elder Hall is also in my district, so it's been fun to be around him again.  Elder Navarrette is also in my district, and he's Elder Hall's companion.  So yeah!  Two of my former companions are now companions!  (We all get along well)

The ward here is really small, and it's another one of those, what I like to call, "California wards".  Basically the bulk of the ward is composed of 5 or 6 large families that live in the same ward that have relatives that live together in the same boundaries.  Bro. Packard is our Ward Mission Leader, and he is on top of it!  He's a lot better than Brother "Pile" in Atascadero haha.  This whole week in the evenings we went together with the other elders that we share the ward with, and have met people on the ward council so we can build trust.  The 4 of us sang "Let Zion in Her Beauty Rise", in the combined 3rd hour, and we sounded great!

So, I have another story to tell.  We were walking to our area, and we saw a homeless lady on the side of the road, and we waved hi to her.  She started to talk to her, and she just gave us dirty looks and basically ignored us.  We awkwardly walked away, and we realized we forgot something, so we said hi on the way back and she actually started to talk to us.  She asked us if we wanted a snack, and we said sure, expecting a granola bar or some crackers.  She pulls out an expired can of peas and told us that we had to sit down and eat it there in front of her.  She gave Elder Tufts a plastic knife and me a plastic fork and we had to scoop out the peas and painfully eat them.  She started talking to us about bugs and trees, and we tried to change the topic, but it didn't work so well.  Elder Tufts ate mostly the stuff at the top of the can, and then he handed me the green mush at the bottom.  I didn't want to be rude, because it was some of her food that she kindly gave to us, I had to eat expired peas mush in front of her without making any faces.  We offered her a Book of Mormon, but she said no, so we shared a scripture about the Atonement and we said a prayer with her.

Let's just say that things didn't end well later on...Another mission story.  Check.

Anyway, President and Sister Castro have left the mission as of last Saturday, and President and Sister Felix have arrived.  We haven't seen him in person yet, but we probably will soon. 

We have an investigator named Lily that is super interested in the Gospel.  The sisters started teaching her shortly before we got here, and she's been to church the past two weeks.  Her boyfriend is also a less-active member, so we have an instant in there.  There's a couple of other people, but other than that, it's back to the finding!  Fun stuff.  

The computer keeps crashing every time I try and upload a picture...better luck next week.

I love you all!  Talk to you later!

Elder Harper

Monday, June 23, 2014

I'm heading out of Santa Maria

Hello everybody!

Man, how I love writing home each week.  It's so fun. :)

Well, judging by the subject line, you can probably guess that I'm being transferred.  We got the calls this morning, and I'm heading off to Ventura!  The Ventura 4th Ward, to be exact.  I don't know the address to my new apartment or anything, so I'll send that off next week.  My new companion's name is Elder Tufts.  We are going to be "white-washing", meaning that none of us were in the ward before, and we are both going in not knowing anything or anyone.  Fun stuff!  It's going to be interesting... President and Sister Castro are leaving the mission on Friday, and President and Sister Felix are coming into the mission that day.  With me being in Ventura, I assume that I will be seeing the mission president quite often, because the mission home is in Ventura as well.

We had a zone conference this week, and President and Sister Castro and their children all talked to us and bore their testimonies.  President Castro was telling us that the best thing that we could do for the new mission president is to be as good as we can, and that we need to show him that we are an obedient mission.  

I have another miracle to report!  Tuesday night we had the car, and so we decided to drive to the opposite end of our area to do our miracle walk, because we have only been walking on one side.  We parked the car, and started out.  We went down a busy street and turned onto sort of a run-down, more ghetto part of town.  As we were walking, we saw a man smoking a cigarette walking his dog.  We started to talk with him, introduced ourselves, and he said his name was Monolito.  He told us that he was studying with the sister missionaries near San Bernardino.  He told us that he was visiting his mom, and she just got out of the hospital due to kidney stones.  We shared with him Ether 3:5, and talked about how God works miracles through our faith.  We talked about how we were doing a "miracle walk" and how it was a miracle that we ran into him.  He said, "Alright, well, let's do some miracles and lay on some hands!"  We eagerly followed him inside to his mother's apartment and gave her a blessing.  Elder Agle anointed and I sealed the oil.  I blessed her to know that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ love her, and that they know exactly what she is experiencing, and that as she continues to meet with God's servants, (us) that she will come to a greater understanding of that love.  The Spirit was super strong, and she said thank you.  We went back downstairs with Monolito, and we sat down and talked for a little while.  He explained to us that he loves to watch the Mormon Messages on YouTube, and that he feels a special spirit from those.  I asked him how he felt as we were giving his mom a blessing, and he said peaceful and good.  We explained that this was the Spirit testifying to him that what we were doing, and the authority that we were performing that blessing, was true.  He said without a doubt, he believed.  He told us that when he sees missionaries and how clean they are, it makes him want to be better and that he wants to be like us.  We talked about baptism, and he really wants to get baptized, but the smoking addiction is holding him back.  We asked if he ever received a blessing before, and he said no.  It was late, and we had to leave, but he's going to come back this week and give the other elders a call.  He said a prayer with us, and he thanked Heavenly Father so much for allowing our paths to cross, and we gave him hug as we left.  The Spirit was so strong, that I just felt speechless on our walk back to the car.  God did direct our path, and I truly felt like a disciple of Christ, doing something that he would do.  We got in the car and said a prayer of gratitude, and I just kept thinking that night how grateful I am to have the priesthood to bless the lives of others.

So yeah!  Great things are happening here in California.  I hope all goes well with Rachel and Mario, and that Mario will get off parole soon so that he will be baptized.  I also hope that Rachel will have time to meet with the missionaries, and that the Spirit will testify to her that the things that we are teaching ARE true, and that she will get baptized.  It's going to happen. 

I love you all so much!  The Gospel's true!  Talk to ya next week.  From Ventura!

Love, Elder Harper

Monday, June 16, 2014

I love service!

Hello Everyone!

This week has been a pretty good one.  We were able to do a lot of service.  We helped a nonmember family named the Oakes's, move into the ward.  They were super grateful for our help, and I've grown to love doing service for people on my mission.  (Yes, Dad, I WILL help you with yard work! :) )  I also lifted a heavy 1954 Volkswagen bug onto some vehicle dollies.  That thing was heavy!  Along with service, I've also gained a fascination with cars, and I want to study up a little bit more how they run and stuff like that.

This week, as every week does, had some ups and downs.  We had a potential investigator named Daniel that we talked to for a little bit, and we talked about the Restoration and gave him a Book of Mormon, and he seemed really interested and wanted us to come back.  When we came back, we found the Book of Mormon outside in a trash can.  It was pretty disheartening, but we picked it up, dusted it off, and put it back by his doorstep to give him one more chance.  Oh well, seed planted...

My FAVORITE thing that we did this week, and perhaps my favorite miracle/memory here in Santa Maria happened this week as well.  We were running really late for our dinner appointment on Wednesday, and we had to ride our bikes.  We turned onto a street, and we passed by a lady and said hi to her and asked how she was doing as we passed by.  She sort of "half smiled" and gave the impression of "so-so".  We kept riding for a second, and Elder Agle and I stopped at the stop light, looked at each other, and the Spirit was just prompting and prompting us to go back. I said, "We need to go back and talk with her."  We turned around and rode as fast as we could.  We caught her about 2 seconds before she was going to go inside.  We called out for her and asked "Why so-so?"  She walked toward us and told us that her best friend was suffering and dying from ovarian cancer, and she felt so depressed and lonely.  She walked over to a little stone wall and sat on it and began to cry.  We took off our helmets, planted our bikes and sat next to her.  We comforted her, and shared John 14:27 with her, and we told her that she was never alone.  Jesus Christ is always there for her, and for all of us.  We talked about how he knows what we are going through, and he always has his arms stretched out for us to come unto Him and find peace.  I had a picture book in my bag, and I showed her one of my favorite pictures of Jesus.  (It was the one of Jesus holding the lamb).  We told her how Jesus always leaves the 99 to go to the 1 that's lost and struggling.  We bore our testimonies of the Plan of Salvation, and we said a prayer with her and asked that her friend be blessed.  She cried again and said that she was so thankful that we came back and talked with her, and that she felt so much better.  

I thought of the scriptures, and how Jesus stopped to comfort the lady who reached out and touched his clothes.  I encourage all of you to read that.  It seemed like we talked with her for a long time, but miraculously we weren't that late to dinner.  I am grateful that we were able to cross paths with that lady and comfort her.  It's little day-to-day experiences like this that make me super grateful to be a missionary.  I love you all so much! I love this Gospel, and I love my Savior.  I'll talk to you all next week!

Elder Harper

Monday, June 9, 2014

It's been a year! WHAT!?

Hello Everybody!

This week marks one year since I entered the MTC, and it was a pretty good one. In my personal studies one day, I read in Preach My Gospel that "you can feel certain that the Lord is pleased with you and your efforts when you can feel the Spirit testify to people through you." After reading that, I closed my personal studies by asking Heavenly Father to help me experience that feeling that day. Many miracles happened that day. We picked up a new pretty solid potential investigator named Doug, and a lady tried to bash with us that day. I tried to move the conversation to our similarities; that we all believe in Jesus Christ. She wouldn't take it. She continued to bash with us, and Elder Agle and I bore the strongest testimonies I've ever born on my mission. We bore our testimonies about the Book of Mormon, and how the Holy Ghost has spoken to us through its words, how God has restored the Priesthood upon the earth once more, and that there is a living prophet on the earth today.  

I said, "The purest form a revelation is through the Holy Ghost.  I have read the Book of Mormon many times, and prayed to know if it was true, and I have received that witness through the Holy Ghost that I know it's true.  I know God has restored Priesthood authority and has called a prophet on the earth today, with apostles, seventies, deacons, teachers, priests, elders, and so forth.  I am certain of this, and no power of earth, heaven or hell will convince me otherwise!"  After we were finished bearing testimony, she was speechless. She basically told us she was done and she went inside. We walked away from that experience feeling like the Lord DID speak through us on that occasion. After getting back in the car, I remembered what I prayed for that morning, and immediately recognized that God answered my prayers, and I knew that He was pleased with me and what I was doing on my mission. It brought so much peace and joy into my heart, and I knew that as long as He was pleased with me, nothing else mattered.

 I am so thankful that God answers prayers for His children. Some answers come quickly, others come gradually over time. To be worthy to "bear the vessels of the Lord" is a solemn privilege and blessing, and as I continue to consecrate my efforts to the Lord 100%, I am experiencing peace and growth and comfort beyond all description.

I have been learning so much about Faith lately.  Faith is a true principle.  As I have exercised faith this week, I have seen the Lord's hand work on people, and there's nothing more powerful than that.

I love you all!  Thanks for your love, prayers, and letters!

Elder Harper

Monday, June 2, 2014

Paradigm shift!

Hello hello my amazing family and friends!

This week has been a very monumental week in my mission.  I was feeling kind of down in the dumps early on this week about not being able to find anyone, and nothing seemed to be going very well.  I went on a companion exchange on Wednesday, and we made it a goal to talk with everyone we saw that day.  For that morning's personal study, I read about faith and miracles in the Bible Dictionary.  It said that miracles shouldn't be viewed as a deviation from the ordinary pattern of things, but rather as an indication that God is highly aware and involved in what we are doing.  We decided to show the Lord true faith as we went about to do missionary work.  We saw so many miracles that day, and everyone we talked to was in some way or another, prepared by the Lord to hear the message of the Restoration.  It really strengthened my testimony about talking with EVERYONE, and how that is how you show the Lord true diligence, faith, and consecration.  

Since then, we have been literally going out of our way to talk with people on the street or to knock on random doors.  I felt my confidence level shoot through the roof as I felt the Holy Ghost's calming assurance that what I was doing was right and good in the eyes of God.  We were tracting a street and we talked with a lady from the Philippines named Dorothy for 45 minutes about the Restoration and families.  We gave her a Book of Mormon, A Family:  Proclamation to the World, and set up an appointment to meet with her on Wednesday!  Usually we would get 15-20 declarations with 5-6 lessons in a week, but this week we had 30 declarations with 12 lessons!  To say the least, my faith has been rekindled, my fire has been re-stoked, and my testimony has been strengthened tremendously.  I am going to apply the principles and qualities that I learned this week into the rest of my mission and throughout the rest of my life.  

In Sunday School we had a lesson on faith as well, and we were talking about how you should never deny or be afraid of a prompting to do good.  The Holy Ghost whispers quietly, and sometimes he may give you a prompting, but nothing will come from it.  However, this is God testing you to see if you will follow promptings or not.  If we do follow these promptings, God will trust us more in the future to give us more promptings.  Listening to the Holy Ghost needs to be a large priority in our lives, because it's direct revelation from God!  I love this Gospel so much.  Hope you all have a great week!  I love you all!

Elder Harper
P.S.  When I saw these two streets intersecting I just HAD to get a picture....yep.  That's mission Life. :)