Monday, November 24, 2014

Service and BAPTISMS!

Hey hey hey everybody!

Wow, what can I say? It was a pretty awesome week!  

First things first.  Last Monday I told you all about the lesson we were having with Anthony Hidalgo.  The lesson went pretty well, and I felt the Spirit there, but when we invited him to be baptized on December 7th, he politely said no and that he wanted to choose his own date.  So, we committed him to pray about a date, and we just sorta left it at that.  Elder Snyder told me that it was a lot better than the first time he and the previous missionary invited him.  He flat out said no last time, so this is a step in the right direction.  He did tell us that baptism is his goal.  We just need to be patient with him.

On Tuesday, we had Zone Conference at the Stake Center.  It was great to see President and Sister Felix there, as well as some past missionaries that I have served with and around.  I had the chance to catch up with Elder Gaylor and Elder Haines, and it was a great day.  The theme of the zone conference was about how our desires to be obedient affect our success as a missionary.  It's so true.  I think about in the scriptures, how Alma says that we will be granted according to our desires.  It's where it all starts.  

On Thursday, it was cool because we went with the elders quorum to the homeless shelter and we prepared and served them food.  They were really humble and it was also humbling for us to see how grateful they were to get some food.  We prepared taco salad and cake for them.

When Friday came around, we were doing service with the other elders at a less-active's house, when we got a phone call from our district leader.  He told us that the YSA missionaries came across somebody in our area that needed help moving, and that we should go over there and serve.  Before we got there, it was just a single mom stacking boxes in the Uhaul truck, and her 6 year old daughter bringing them out.  We moved couches, desks, dressers, washers and dryers and a refrigerator for her, and she was so thankful.  What was also cool was that she called some mover guys to help out, and one of them was Mike Daniel, an investigator that I taught in the 3rd ward!  It was neat to catch up with him, although he's pretty much lost interest in the church.  He did call us "Saints" though which was cool. :)

Saturday was also an interesting day for service.  We were called over to a lady's house named Penny, and she is a HOARDER.  Her house was a mess!  She had cockroaches crawling all over the place, and I spent 45 minutes killing cockroaches with a fly swatter, while the other missionaries were sorting through mail and scrubbing cockroach marks off the walls.  It was pretty gross, but at least we left the place better than we found it.

Then, came Sunday.  I was asked to give a talk in church (The FOURTH time on my mission!) about how missionary work is not a self-gratifying service, but a service to others.  Since it was such a specific topic, I didn't really know how well it would go, but the members that talked to me afterwards said that they felt the Spirit and that I did a good job.  I talked about how inviting others to come unto Christ is the biggest service that we have been asked to fulfill.  I also said that there are roughly 15 million members of the church out of 7 billion people in the world, and how that's only 0.21% of the world. That we were so blessed to be a part of that number, and that a much larger percent of the world was seeking after truth and that it is our job to let them know.  I hope it opened up some of the eyes of the members.  And guess what?!   Member dinners are starting to pick up!  I think we're scheduled nearly every day we have the car this week, so that's always a plus.  Hopefully we can get this "missionary ball" rolling.

The best part of Sunday though, was of course, the baptism of Ernesto, Kathy, and Karoline.  The room was packed to the back as you can see, and the Spirit was so strong.  Anthony and Katie were able to go, so hopefully that lit a spark deep inside of him.  It was also neat to see Carlos, Karoline's older brother who was baptized in August, baptize Karoline.  We wrote the words of the baptismal prayer on paper for Carlos, but he didn't need it!  It was awesome!  Elder Snyder and I were the witnesses for their baptisms.  Overall, it was a great week!  I love you all so much!  Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Power of Identifying the Spirit

Hello everybody!

Wow, it's so great to be a missionary serving the Lord.  Things are going not too shabby right now with the work and all.  We are super stoked for the baptisms of Ernesto, Kathy, and Caroline Partida this upcoming Sunday after church!  Last night, we went to Brother Perret's house for dinner and taught the Partida's there.  Brother Perret owns the largest avocado ranch in California, which basically means in the entire world.  He's been a bishop, stake president, and a mission president in Detroit.  He was raised in a very small home, and grew up with basically nothing.  He worked hard, and now he's a multi millionaire.  He has a HUGE house, nice cars, and he's super nice.  The Perret's have been fellowshipping the Partida family, and they told Kathy and Ernesto's kids to call them "grandpa" and "grandma", because they really are grandparents to them.  Anyways, we taught the Word of Wisdom, the Law of Tithing/Fast Offerings/ the law of the fast, the 10 Commandments, and the Law of Chastity to them, and they understood it well and are excited for their baptism.

Something really cool happened last Monday.  We were teaching a lesson to Anthony Hidalgo again, and there was one point in the lesson where we shared personal experiences about how the church has blessed us and those we love, and Brittany and Josh, I shared your experience about being able to be sealed in the temple this month.  Katie started to cry, and Anthony was in a trance.  I paused, and I knew that we all felt the spirit so strongly.  I felt the impression to pause the lesson and identify the Spirit.  I said something along the lines of, "Do you feel this right now?  This is the Holy Ghost manifesting to us at this very moment.  This is what the Holy Ghost feels like.  This is what we strive for, and what what we want to feel in our lives.  His role is to testify to us of truth, and he is doing that right now."  As soon as we did this, I felt my heart skip a beat almost, and I started to get goosebumps really bad.  It was awesome!  Identifying the spirit in the lessons really makes the Spirit magnify itself even more.  It was one of the most powerful experiences I've had.  We said a prayer, walked out, and we said a prayer of thanks in the car after that for feeling the spirit so strongly. 

With that being said, Anthony KNOWS what the Spirit feels like.  Elder Snyder and I are currently fasting right now, and we have asked Heavenly Father if December 7th is a good date for Anthony to be baptized.  We are hoping we get a "yes" because when we teach him tonight, we are going to ask him to ask God if that's a good date.  We are positive that if we get a yes from God, he will get a yes from Him too.  Anthony needs to make the commitment!

Sam Rosales and his new bride Jennifer (from Lompoc) got married this past Saturday.  I thought about you all day long and how happy they must be.  Congratulations, you two!  

Overall, I just can't shake how happy I am being a missionary for the church.  I love serving and helping and teaching.  When we truly look outwards and become more like Christ, we truly find that happiness and joy that comes when we are disciples of Him.  I know that this IS the church that He established while he was on the earth, and that it was restored though the Prophet Joseph Smith.

I love you all!

Elder Harper

P.S. Elder Snyder is a Ute fan...this is what we wore to sports this past Monday.  It's a miracle that we've both survived this long....
P.S.S. A beautiful sunset in Santa Maria
P.S.S.S. And here's me sitting in Brother Perret's 2014 Ferrari...holy cow.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Back in Santa Maria!

Hello everybody!  

It sure has been an interesting/Deja vu week this week, being back in Santa Maria and all.  It feels pretty good to be back though.

On Monday, Elder Kingrey and I were saying goodbyes to people all day long it seemed.  It was so hard to leave, but I know that good things are happening there, and the Lord will take care of all of them.

When we got to Ventura the next day, I found Elder Snyder, and the member took us to Chick Fil'A before we headed back up.  Elder Snyder is from Milad, Idaho, and he's a good missionary.  He's 18 and fresh out of high school.  He's diligent, hard-working, and obedient.  He's a bit more somber and serious when it comes time to teaching lessons and talking to people on the street, and it's been a bit of an adjustment for both of us because I'm pretty casual and funny and I like to joke around with people a lot, and when it's time to be serious, I am.  So we've been smoothing out the edges, but I think that we've got a pretty good rhythm down now.  The joys of missionary life... :)

Area-wise, it's been going pretty well.  There's not as many investigators in our teaching pool as much as we'd like, but the ones that we do have are pretty solid for the most part.  In August, the missionaries here were teaching a 17-year old kid named Carlos, and he was baptized at the end of August.  His parents and siblings attended his baptism and started going to church after that, and since then, they've expressed a desire to join the church!  His dad's name is Ernesto and his mom's name is Kathy, and he has 2 siblings, with the older one, Caroline, being 11 years old.  They have a baptismal date for the 23rd this month, but they need to learn quite a bit more material, and not all of them are on the same page--before they can be baptized.  We usually see them on the weekends, and I will be having my first teaching appointment with them tonight.  They did come to church yesterday though, which was nice.

There's another part-member couple named Katie and Anthony.  Katie is a member and Anthony is not.  Anthony has been studying with the missionaries for quite some time now, but he hasn't really committed yet to baptism.  He's a really nice guy, but he just needs to look for the Spirit more and make that commitment.  Tonight, we have planned to teach them a lesson all about the armor of God, and how the Lamanites were scared of the Nephites because of their armor, and we will tie it back to the fact that it wasn't as much their physical armor as much as their spiritual armor.  Wish us luck!

As for the ward, they seem pretty nice, but not very much so for missionary work and having the missionaries over for dinner.  There's a few nice people here and there, but we didn't have any dinners with members this past week.  Blessing and a curse...good opportunity to lose excess weight!  But little to no member interaction....pick your poison.

It's getting difficult to do missionary work now anytime after 5 o'clock.  It's getting dark so early!  We are not allowed to ride bikes at night, so on days that we don't have the car, we find ourselves walking around town and when it's time, ask the other elders to pick us up.  So when we are invited in by an investigator or a less-active, it is much appreciated!  There's been a fog that comes from the west the past couple of nights too, so that's been fun to drive in. :)

I was pondering a lot this week about how much I love missionary life.  It certainly has its downs, but I just love how simple it really is.  Solely looking outwards and trying to help others is a happy way to live.  

I love this Gospel so much!  What else can I say?  It's TRUE!  Talk to you all next week!

Love, Elder Harper

P.S. I found a Harper St.!, and also, here is my district (my companion is the one with the orange tie)

Monday, November 3, 2014

I don't want to leave Lompoc! :(

Hello everybody!

Man, what a fantastic, but yet sad week it has been.  President Felix announced last week that the Zone Leaders were going to give transfer calls on Saturday morning rather than Monday morning, so we had a little bit more time to say goodbye and pack and stuff.  We got the call on Saturday afternoon, and guess what?  Elder Kingrey and I are both leaving, and I'm going to Santa Maria AGAIN!  Except this time I will be in the other ward, on the other side of town.  (Probably the most ghetto area in the entire mission in my opinion...well, I guess Oxnard is pretty bad too. But you know what I mean!)  I'm super stoked to go back to Santa Maria, but I really don't want to leave Lompoc.  In my past areas, I've been able to handle leaving fine, but yesterday at church, I bore my final testimony and I was on the brink of tears as I said goodbye!  I don't want to go!

But anyways, my new companion's name is Elder Snyder.  He's pretty new in the mission; he came out in August, so I'll be having a pretty green companion.  I can't wait!  (By the way Elder Lomeli, how does it feel to be taller than your 23-year old trainer! haha)

On Saturday, there were 5 baptisms.  Four of them were taught by the Spanish elders, and the last one was an eight-year old boy named Brian Cano.  Elder Kingrey and I started teaching him the lessons, but when the sisters came, we gave him to them.  (Aren't we so nice? :) )  Anyways his mom was less-active until now, and he has a 15 year old brother that has been passing the sacrament, and they all have been coming to church together.  

Sam Rosales blessed the sacrament yesterday, and he is continuing to progress in his Priesthood responsibilities.  I am so sad to leave him and miss his wedding on the 15th! We are stopping by his place sometime today to say our goodbyes to him.  He wish him the best of luck.

Oh!  Last week, we received a text from Nancy, and she told us that she had some questions for us.  Not questions from her, but from her DAD!  We met with her this week, and she asked us some of the questions that her dad asked her, and we were able to sufficiently answer them.  She asked why we believe the Book of Mormon, why Joseph Smith is so important, and other questions that she had from the Articles of Faith.  We are going to give her a restoration pamphlet in Spanish, and that should help her dad learn more.  Isn't that AWESOME?

Halloween was really good.  There was a great turnout.  Our ward did a "trunk-or-treat" activity and so many less-actives and non-members were there.  We were running around like chickens with our heads chopped off!  It was great because members invited their friends and they were able to interact with us and other members.  

It also RAINED here in Lompoc!  This has only been the 3rd time I've had a rainstorm on my mission.  It hurts me so much to hear about all the rain back home, and it never rains here!  But it was great to be able to have rain.  It rained on Halloween, and some trick-or-treaters were crying because they got rained out.  Elder Kingrey and I wore our short sleeve shirts and shorts and we ran out and jumped in puddles and did rain angels!  I love rain!

I love you all so much, I hope you have a great week!

Elder Haper