Monday, July 28, 2014

Chuggin' along

Hello everybody!

It's crazy to think that this transfer is almost through...why do missions go by so quickly?  This past week my friend Carolyn went into the MTC to go to Taiwan, and it was weird to know that because I knew before I left that she couldn't go until I was over a year.  And then it came!'s crazy.

It's also funny how all the days just seem to blend together being a missionary, because I do the same thing practically every day, we just talk with different people throughout the day.  I think that's why the day-to-day activities seem to go by really slowly, but the weeks and months go by quickly.  It's pretty weird how it all works out.

SO, this week, we were able to meet with Lily twice.  The first time, we finished teaching her the Restoration, as well as a few Commandments, such as the Word of Wisdom, the Law of Chastity, and keeping the Sabbath day holy.  She told us that she doesn't smoke, use drugs, drink alcohol or coffee, but she does drink tea.  We talked about how certain teas were fine, such as herbal tea, and she told us that that was mostly what she had, but she drank other teas too.  We committed her to live the Word of Wisdom and she said she would.  Lily also has a copy of Preach My Gospel that she has been reading, and we assigned her to read the lesson about the Plan of Salvation.  The second time we met with her, we asked about how the Word of Wisdom was going, and she said that she hasn't drunk a tea ever since, and she doesn't even have a desire to.  We were super happy for her, and she said she was much happier too.  That's what happens when we follow the Lord's commandments!  She read the Plan of Salvation lesson, and she explained the whole Plan of Salvation to us!  We saw little need to actually teach the lesson, but we did, however, because it's a requirement. :)  She had a few "what if" questions about her family and what would happen if they don't accept the Gospel in their lifetimes.  We answered those questions for her, and she felt comforted.  Her mom is completely OK with her meeting with us, but Lily apparently told her about her desire to serve a mission, and her mom isn't very happy with that.  She doesn't want Lily to go, and we kinda laughed on the inside, because we just need to focus on baptism first!  Her mom took her somewhere else yesterday, so she wasn't able to go to church, so we are trying to get in contact with her...everything should be fine.  She is super happy for August 10th.

As for finding, nothing too solid has happened.  Finding is one of my least favorite things to do as a missionary.  I'm a much more solid and comfortable teacher.  However, nothing happens in missionary work until we find somebody to teach.  That's the hard part, at least in California.  We continue to have little "one and only" finding miracles, but when we offer to come back, they say no.  We were walking down the street a few weeks ago and we met a man named Joshua.  He talked to us about how the world is so crazy and he feels overwhelmed with everything.  We talked about how God was in control of everything and that there was no need to fear.  I bore solemn testimony to him about how God has helped me in my life through the scriptures, and he started to cry!  When we asked if we could come back, he said no, and that everybody needs to have their own path to God.  We explained that we are just guides along that path, but he said that we was still OK.  

This past Tuesday, we were riding our bikes back to our apartment because it was late, and we ran into a lady named Fanolupe, and she told us that she was a member, but wasn't active in the church anymore.  She talked about how her sister just went through chemotherapy and that she only has 2 more months to live.  We bore testimony about how families can be together forever, and that trials in our lives bring families closer together, and closer to God.  We said a prayer for her, her sister, and the rest of her family, and she started to cry too!  Again, when we asked if we could see her sometime, she said she would be fine.  

All we can do as missionaries is to invite.  Seed planting is a lot of what we do on a regular basis.  The Lord is preparing people's hearts to receive the Gospel, but they need to act on those feelings and accept the invitation.  I still feel good at the end of the day knowing that I made somebody's day better.  My favorite thing about being a missionary is to see someone express a need or a concern that they are having in their lives, such as these, and then to be able to bear my testimony from the heart, and to see the Spirit influence them.  No matter the outcome, the Spirit was present, and that's all that matters.

I love you all!  Thanks for the love and kindness.  I love being a missionary!  As hard as it is, it's the best calling in the church.  Well, maybe besides an Apostle...but still!  Love you all!

Elder Harper

Monday, July 21, 2014

Lily has a date!

Hello everybody!

Wow, this week has been a pretty good week!  As the heading suggests, we were able to meet with Lily and Fernando this week.  They REALLY enjoyed Youth Conference.  There was a speaker there that told all about his conversion story, and it really struck Fernando and Lily. Fernando told Lily that he knows the church is true.  He told us that he prayed a few times during and after youth conference, and that he kept crying.  This was a complete SHOCK to us, because Fernando puts on the "tough guy" persona when he's at church.  He really only opens up to Lily and us.  Lily also said that the speaker inspired her to be more active in the church and to "eventually get baptized".  We immediately told her that we will be holding a baptismal service on August 10th for anyone that would be ready, and she said yes!  Fernando and Lily are both considering going on missions too!  They are super cool.   

After that experience, I gained a stronger testimony that the Gospel really is universal.  It doesn't matter who you are or what your circumstance is, the Gospel always improves lives.  

Right now, Elder Tufts and I are mostly doing less-active work.  Most of them are really nice to us, and they say that we are welcome to visit anytime.  Much better than my last area in that regard.  There is one lady that we have been seeing named Norma Rutledge.  Her life is pretty crazy right now.  Her boyfriend of 11 years just broke up with her, and we've been trying to help her out.  Her 23 year old daughter is not a member and we've been going over there.

Wow...we are in the Family History Center right now, and there's 11 computers, and everyone is emailing.  It's sooooo distracting, sorry about the short emails.  I love you all so much, and I am grateful for your love and prayers.  Talk to you next week!

Elder Harper

Monday, July 14, 2014

Another great week in Ventura!

Hello everybody!

This week has been another good one!  I don't have super long, but I'll try my best!

We met with Lily Gonzales again this week with her less-active boyfriend, Fernando in the park. We were able to answer a lot of questions from both of them, and Lily especially is really open to learn more.  Lily's mom is sort of religious, and Lily's been in and out of religions, and she's really fascinated with religion in general and has found the most peace at our church.  It's great because it's like "converting two birds with one stone"!

You may be wondering what these pictures are all about.  Well, we went over to a member's house for dinner, and he likes to play dress-up with the missionaries.  He looks exactly like Santa Claus, and gets paid to play Father Christmas each year.  He also has a Qui-Gon Jinn and a Gandalf costume.  

I also crashed on my bike this week again (for the 3rd time on my mission).  I was on an exchange for the day, and my companion was pedaling really fast. I stood up on my bike and pedaled, and I put all my weight on the pedal, but my foot slipped.  I fell onto the frame my bike and hit a curb.  I got some pretty bad road rash on my elbow, but it's healing now. The joys of being a missionary!  I swear, all these bike crashes are being recorded in heaven.  

Well, I am now out of time and I have to go, but I love you all!  Talk to you next week!

Elder Harper

Monday, July 7, 2014

Meeting President and Sister Felix

Hello everybody!

Wow....another great week in the Great California Ventura Mission.  It has been a little bit of an adjustment coming down here to Ventura.  It's a lot more humid than anywhere else I've served, and I always have the "clothes sticking to you" feeling, especially riding bikes.  I'm not sure if I mentioned this, but we share a ward and a car here, and it's been pretty good.  We get the car on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sunday, and they get the car on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.  We are together virually all day on Monday, so we share it that day.  We have a really cool 2014 Toyota Corolla and I love the feel of it.  Anyways...enough about the car ;)

I realized a pattern a few days ago and with where I've served.  My first area was the Santa Susana 1st ward.  My second area was the Atascadero 2nd ward.  My third area was the Santa Maria 3rd ward, and my fourth area was the Ventura 4th ward.  Just a cool pattern that I've noticed. :)

Ventura 4th Ward is the eastern side of town, and it's also the most "ghetto" part of town.  We cover a little town called Saticoy, and it's full of interesting people.  We love going out there, especially on bikes.  Some of the people out there are rude and want nothing to do with us, and others are pretty humble and they love to talk with us, so it's always a mystery of what's going to happen.  I love it!  We walked around there yesterday for a good hour, and it was weird because everybody was inside and all the businesses were closed.  It was kinda weird.

Also, this week we met President and Sister Felix for the first time.  They are really cool people.  They shared with us about their lives and how they met and all that stuff.  Here's the cool part:  On May 15th, President Felix went for an early morning bike ride (He LOVES cycling).  When he was riding his bike, he noticed a sharp pain as he was breathing.  He thought it was pretty weird, so he slowed down a bit do recuperate.  He then started feeling a pressure in his shoulders, so he stopped and sat down.  He didn't feel like he could go any longer, so he called Sister Felix and asked her to pick him up.  They went to the InstaCare, but it was closed, so they went to the Emergency Room.  Sister Felix asked if there was any Priesthood holders available to give him a blessing, but they said no.  As we was sitting on the bed, he said, "I feel faint" and he collapsed on the bed.  President Felix had a heart attack.  It was a miracle that he was in the Emergency Room, as we was instantly treated and responded well.  Sister Felix called her sons and they showed up ready in suits and ties to give the blessing.  In the blessing, they told him that he would be OK, that he was going to be able to serve as the mission president, and that there would be no long-term effects.  The doctor walked into the room shortly after and told the family that " he will be OK, and there will be no long-term effects"!  I felt the spirit really strongly as he bore his testimony and told us that the Lord answers prayers, and that the reason that he was standing there was because of the Atonement.  They are more relaxed than President and Sister Castro, and they are exactly what this mission needs.

The other elders met this lady and they gave them a bag of chili peppers, and who did they give them to?  Yeah.  Me.  Let's just say they all took a video of me dying.  I'll see if I can send the video home on a DVD with all the pictures I've taken later.  But yeah...I don't do well with spicy stuff...

Well, I love you all.  Thank you for everything you do.  I know that this church is led by a prophet called from God.  I'm thankful for my mission and all that I've learned.  I'll talk to you next week!

Elder Harper

P.S. The Cadena family is the family I'm with in the picture.  They live in Santa Maria.  He's a recent convert, and _____ is his wife.  (I promised I wouldn't say her name. :) )
Also, there's a picture of fosilized dinosaur dung.  A member here had it.  A gold nugget too!