Monday, September 29, 2014

Another great week in the Great California Ventura Mission

Hello everyone!

Like I said, it's been another great week.  I don't mean to sound like a broken record, but every week is great as a missionary.  With 7 missionaries now serving in the Lompoc Ward, there has been a really big emphasis placed on missionary work in the ward.  Several members have approached us and told us that they have friends that they are going to finally, boldly invite to hear the missionary discussions.  

You have no idea how great that makes us feel.

We hope all goes well with them and that we may start teaching new investigators from their efforts.  We have been sharing the talk by S. Gifford Nielsen from the October 2013 General Conference called, "Hastening the Lord's Game Plan" with all the members for our dinner message, and it seems to be catching on.

Time has REALLY been running short today (these computers are obnoxiously slow), but I ran into some of my favorite members from Santa Maria at transfer meeting, the McAlister family.  Her dad is actually a member of the ward I'm serving in too, so that's a huge coincidence!  I also ran into Elder Gaylor, the stud. :)

We've been trying to do some service for Nancy and her family, but it's been unsuccessful so far.  Hopefully we can find an in later on.  We've also been doing volunteer service at the Lompoc Library.  Kind of random, but I discovered that I love libraries.  Something about them just feels welcoming, I don't know.  

Tomorrow we are all going to go to Santa Barbara as a zone to have President's interviews.  We, as missionaries, are not allowed to see the movie "Meet the Mormons" in theatres when it comes out, so President Felix is going to be showing us that movie in the chapel tomorrow.  It sounds really cool!

So I was told yesterday about a terrorist group called Isis?  Someone climbed over the white house fence and was shot?  Can someone tell me details?  I'm just curious...and about all of the wildfires, we've been hearing a lot of sirens around town, but I don't believe there's been any wildfires nearby.  California NEEDS moisture.  You'd think that we'd get lots of rain, being next to the ocean and all, but I've only seen rain 2 or 3 times on my whole mission.  I miss rain!

Even though today's letter was short, I want all of you to know that I know that this work is the Lord's work, and it will press onward regardless of what Satan tries to do to halt it.  There's a reason that there are more missionaries serving now more than ever.  It's because the Lord is softening more hearts now than ever before.  I love you all, and I hope you all enjoy General Conference this Saturday and Sunday! 

Elder Harper

Monday, September 22, 2014

Some crazy stuff happening in Lompoc!

Hello everybody!

Wow it's been quite a crazy couple of days...last night, we had to drive Elder Cavazos, (my Spanish missionary friend) down to the Santa Barbara Airport to get him home because there was an urgent family emergency.  We watched his plane take off and we hope that all goes well.  He is scheduled to come back to the mission field next Sunday.  So we have been in a "tripanionship" with his companion.

SO!  Transfer news.  Elder Kingrey and I will both be staying here in Lompoc for another 6 weeks together.  (Next transfers end November 2nd).  Our ward is being split as well and we are splitting it with sister missionaries!  The other missionaries are taking our car, so we are going to a full bike area (haven't been in one of those ever since Simi Valley.)  We are going to be working with them and finding a good way to split the ward.  There will be a whopping FIFTEEN missionaries in my district, 9 elders, 6 sisters.

Don't have a lot of time this week Elder and Sister Malm of the Seventy did a mission tour of our mission and we had another Zone Conference.  They also put on an investigator fireside down in Ventura and us, Bishop Riley, and Nancy drove there and it was pretty cool!  There were close to 100 people there, investigators, less-actives, members and missionaries.  Elder Malm spoke about how he went on the internet and saw a webpage about the LDS religion and how it said that people shouldn't trust the feelings of their hearts after they have read and prayed about the Book of Mormon.  He talked about how that was a ridiculous thing for someone to say, and that these people CAN trust the feelings of their heart.  Nancy enjoyed it and she is getting a stronger and stronger testimony of the truthfulness of this church.

Yesterday, a half hour before church, the 2nd counselor in the bishopric told me that they didn't get a youth speaker that day, and so he asked if I could share a 5 minute talk about a missionary moment.  After I gulped, I told him OK.  My mind immediately went back to the story where Elder Agle and I felt prompted to comfort the lady in Santa Maria.  Before the meeting, a young couple who were also speaking that day bribed me and said that they would bake me cupcakes if I could make my talk go longer.  They're so of my favorite member families in the ward.  Anyway, I went up to the podium with nothing but scriptures.  I tied that story into the Christlike attribute of charity and how the Lord allowed me to express that that day.  I was impressed because I spoke for 20 minutes about it and I bore my testimony.  It was completely an impromptu speech...I'm thankful for the Holy Ghost.

I'm just so thankful for the missionary opportunities that come from day-to-day.  I've been pondering a lot lately how we as missionaries have the best job in the world.  We have the privilege of seeing somebody who is suffering, bear a heartfelt testimony to them of God's love for them, share with them restored spiritual truths about the nature of God and His Gospel, and invite them to be cleansed through the power of the Atonement.  How lucky are we?!  I just can't feel enough love for this Gospel. 

Thank you all for your strong examples of righteousness.  I couldn't be who I am today without each and every one of you.

With love,
Elder Harper

Monday, September 15, 2014

With every valley, there's a mountain.

Hello everybody!

Man how I love you all so much!  I am so happy to be able to sit down every week and write an email to all of you.  I love being a missionary so much, and being able to email this week is just a joy that comes along with that.

So I would like to tell you a little bit about a relatively new investigator named Ken.  We received a call the very first night I was here from the Ward Mission Leader in the other ward informing us about a guy named Ken who investigated the church a little bit 3 years ago.  The member gave him a copy of the Book of Mormon and Ken wanted to meet with the missionaries again.  We went by a couple of days later.  The house was chaotic.  He's a single father with 2 rambunctious boys and he was going crazy.  We did our best to talk about the Book of Mormon and how it could help him with his crazy situation.  Luckily, we got his phone number from him as well. 

We stopped by a few times in the subsequent weeks, but we never caught him home.  We left notes with our phone number and stuff, but we never got a call back.  Then one day, we stopped by and he, his kids, and all of his things were gone.  We gave him a call and he told us that he moved somewhere else in Lompoc.  We stopped by his new place and things were a lot more peaceful.  His kids were gone, so it was good to be able to have some two-on-one time with him.  He had been going through some rough times with his ex-wife.  He briefly told us a little of the story, and he explained how he wanted to retaliate, but something inside of him wouldn't let him.  He said that he would like to ask for spiritual guidance on what he should do. 

It really caught me off guard because I have never been asked something like that before.  ​It sort of felt like I was a bishop or a psychologist at that moment.  All I could think of was just to give him Jesus Christ as an example.  He forgave everyone that wronged him.  He forgave those that crucified them.  Inspired, Elder Kingrey read Alma 48:5-18 and told him that Captain Moroni only fought for a defense and not offensively.  Using this scripture from the Book of Mormon, and using the example of Jesus Christ, he was enlightened.  We invited him to baptized if he found out our message was true, and he said yes.

The next day, we were sitting at a table in his same apartment complex taking a little break, when all of the sudden he came out and sat next to us.  He asked us to say a prayer with him and wish him good luck with a real estate exam he was taking.  We shared some scriptures and said a prayer and he was really thankful.  It's really good that we are establising a relationship of trust with him.  We hope to get meeting with him soon to begin the actual lessons.

Stake Conference was this weekend as well, and Nancy came to both the Saturday evening and Sunday morning sessions!  Woohoo!

We went to Solvang this past Monday and it was fun!  We are going to have to come back to Solvang when we do a mission tour.  There's some really cool shops!  We also went to an ostrich farm in Buellton.  Oh, the fun things you do on p-days... :)

I love you all so much!  Thanks for your love and examples.  I can't believe that this week is the last one of the transfer...

Love you all!
Elder Harper

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Power of Testimony is Real

Hey everybody!

SO, this week, as usual, was a very good week.  I went on exchanges with my District Leader, Elder Cavazos on Tuesday.  He's the missionary with me in the car.  (Brittany!  Doesn't he look like Cody Brown? He acts a lot like him too and he always walks up to me and says "Cody Brown, Cody Brown.")  Anyway, me and him are really good friends.  He's from Austin, TX and he's a convert to the church of a couple years.  We totally decided that we are going to hang out after the mission and he's going to take me to all the cool places in Texas.  

Anyways, we went over to visit a less-active member named Kevin Miller.  A little background story: last week me and Elder Kingrey were riding our bikes past his house and he was on the back porch.  He waved to us and we waved back, but we were in a hurry so we couldn't stop and talk to him.  I had no idea that he was even a member, and we felt prompted to choose his name on the list of Prospective Elders.  When we went to visit him, I immediately recognized him as the guy that waved to us, and he let us in.  Kevin's been a DJ for over 30 years and he showed us all of his stuff.  Unlike other DJ's though, he likes to have the music videos playing as well while he's DJ'ing. (Yes, that is now a new verb)  We talked a little bit about his job, and he asked us if we wanted to see it.  We said sure, but what we didn't expect was for him to play songs from the 80's (Michael Jackson, Rod Stewart, Eddie Murphy) for a straight HOUR while we sat on the couch and watched.  The music was so loud there was no point trying to talk over it and tell him to stop, so we hopelessly sat there and watched on the couch.  When our ears were done ringing, we talked with him about how he joined the church and everything.  He told us that he had visited the doctor a little while ago and the doctor said that there was problems with his blood, and he was a little nervous about it.  Instantly, the story of Jesus healing the woman with the issue of blood popped into my mind.  I turned to Mark 6 and read the scriptures to him, and it seemed to help a lot.  It was a great visit, and he felt more comforted when we left.  (By the way, I don't feel music deprived ANYMORE.)

We also gave 4 blessings to a family that day too.  We gave 3 school year blessings, and a blessing of healing to the grandma who has been going through a lot of stuff.  She said that as we were giving her the blessing, and while she was closing her eyes, she saw Jesus looking right back at her, and it made her feel really good.

Oh!  Just to answer more questions, about the whole service thing, we log onto the website and volunteer for service projects in the area, and we are allowed to have up to 10 hours of planned service a week.  The mission president doesn't need to approve anything.  It just has to be within our zone boundaries.

Out of all the things that happened this week, the highlight was definitely yesterday at church.  We met with Nancy on Friday and went over a talk by Elder Bednar entitled "Ask in Faith".  When Sunday came around, we were happy to see her at church, especially for the fast and testimony meeting.  Elder Kingrey and I both bore our testimonies, and at the very end right before the Bishop was going to close the meeting, she got up.  Elder Kingrey and I looked at each other in shock as she bore her testimony about how she now KNOWS that the Church is the only true Church upon the earth, and she can't wait to get baptized next August (when she turns 18).  She expressed her gratitude to us and the ward for all we have done for her, and I couldn't help but grin from ear to ear.  By this time, the Spirit had immersed the entire congregation.  As she was sitting down, I looked over at her and she was crying tears of joy.  After sacrament meeting, I walked up to her and shook her hand and told her how happy I was for her.  She said that she couldn't resist the urge to go up to the podium when she heard Elder Kingrey and I bear our testimonies.  I hope she continues to stay strong in Gospel over the next 11 months until she gets baptized.  When I get back from my mission, I hope to keep in contact with her and I hope to attend her baptismal service next August if everything works out.  Family, friends, that is why I say that "The power of testimony is real".  Bearing testimony to another person is the fastest, most effective way for them to feel the Spirit.  I've had 16 fast Sundays as a missionary.  All but a couple of them I've born my testimony.  I encourage all of you to bear your testimony next fast Sunday, because when you do, you really gain more out of the meeting than if you don't.  Read Doctrine and Covenants 100 around verses 4-8 (I think) and you can see how powerful it can be.

I love you all so much!  I know that this work is true!  I've never felt so much joy!
Elder Harper

P.S. Elder Kingrey and I like to slick our hair back on occasion.  Don't worry!  We don't go out in public like this! :)

Monday, September 1, 2014

I cannot believe it's already September!

Hello everybody!

It has yet again been another great week.  So, to start off, I heard about that 6.0 earthquake in Napa that happened a little while ago.  I think there was another one that happened in LA or somewhere around there when I was in Santa Maria too.  I never felt anything from either of those earthquakes.  I do think it would be cool to experience one a little bit, because I've never been in one my whole life.  Oh yeah, I didn't hear that Robin Williams committed suicide until last week.  I guess that's what happens when you're a missionary.... ;)

So, just to answer basic questions about my time here, we have 12 missionaries in our district.  There are 8 elders serving here in Lompoc, and 4 sisters serving in Solvang.  We only all meet together on p-days and district meetings.  There are 2 wards in Lompoc.  There's a little Spanish group that meets on Sundays at our church building, separate from the english ward.  We share the ward with 2 spanish elders that are over that group.  The other 4 elders share the other ward.

This last Tuesday, like I mentioned, we had our zone conference in Ventura.  It was amazing!  It was good to listen to President and Sister Felix speak to us.  We had spiritual talks, trainings, and dress code reminders.  Speaking of that, we are now allowed to wear khaki pants in the mission!  I'm guessing that the khaki pants I had back home are too small for me, so I think I'll just buy some at a thrift store for a few dollars.  I can't wait to wear khakis.  It's a lot cooler than wearing black slacks all the time...but, I digress.  Zone Conference was a good experience and we came out feeling very spiritually uplifted.  We were trained about, and we will now be doing that.  It's still in its beginning stages, but it will pick up soon I hope.  Nothing was said about iPads at that time, but President Felix has promised us that we will get them before the year is over.

I haven't heard anything about Lily, but I hope that she's doing well and her mom is warming up to her meeting with the missionaries there.  Nancy (17), the investigator that has the same issue here, is doing well also.  We had a lesson with her on Friday, and her sister Vanessa (15) joined in on the lesson too.  Vanessa was also against Nancy getting baptized because she doesn't think it's right to be baptized into two different churches.  We explained to her about authority and how Jesus Christ walked nearly 60 miles to John the Baptist so He could be baptized.  After explaining it, I showed her my line of authority and how it traced back to Jesus Christ.  She understood things a little better after that, and let's just say we have a NEW INVESTIGATOR!  Woohoo!  Trav, you will probably get 2-3 every day when you're in Ecuador, but here in California it's a lot more difficult in that way, and we do a victory dance when we get one. :D  Nancy, until then, was praying about the Book of Mormon to find out it was true, but still had not received an answer.  Nancy was trying to help Vanessa understand things we were teaching, and I don't know exactly what happened, but something clicked in her brain and she said, "I got my answer!  I know the Book of Mormon is true!"  She was so happy and when she said the closing prayer, she expressed her thanks to Heavenly Father for answering her prayer.  

About their parents:  Nancy's parents are obviously against her getting baptized before she's 18.  Her mom is meeting with the Spanish missionaries, but isn't progressing as much as Nancy is.  Wouldn't it be cool for their whole family to get baptized at the same time?  We have been suggesting to Nancy to fast and pray for her parents hearts to be softened, and she's been open to the idea.

Nancy is the one that's progressing the most out of our investigators.  We have a few potential investigators that we go to here and there, and we are always doing less-active work.  

There's a less-active member named Mike LaRieva that we have been working with.  On Friday, we went over to his house and brought the Restoration DVD.  After clarifying what the Restoration was, we watched the 20 min. DVD about it.  During the portion of the movie when Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith, the clouds moved off of the sun and the sun reflected off of the adjacent white apartment building into the room, just as gradually as the light rested upon him..  It was really powerful, and I felt the Spirit really strong at that time and it gave me the goosebumps sensation. At the end of the video, we bore testimony that the Restoration really did happen and then he said the closing prayer.  As he finished, we said goodbye and I gave him a hug, and then we immediately LEFT.  We left while the Spirit was there so he could see the difference between when the Spirit is there and when it's not.  He came to sacrament meeting yesterday too.  The Spirit is working on him!

I am thankful to be a missionary.  We have good experiences, and we have bad experiences.  We have build-ups, and we have let-downs.  But no matter what happens, I can feel the presence of the Lord in this work.  This work is His work.  "When we are on the Lord's errand, we are entitled to His help."  I know the Gospel is true, and that this mission that I am serving will positively impact my service as a student, as a future husband, father, and priesthood holder.  I love you all so much, and I'll talk to you again next week!

With love, 
Elder Harper
P.S. I hope your farewell went great, Trav!