Monday, June 1, 2015

The Best Two Years

Dear family, friends and loved ones,

First of all, I give my love and appreciation for Elder L. Tom Perry.  What a great apostle and man.

Well, what can I say?  The title says it all.  These past two years have been the best ​for my life.  My mission has taught me so many life skills and habits that will bless me all throughout my life.  I truly feel that I have come to know the Lord on a deeper, more personal level.

I want to thank all of you for the love and support that you have each given me.  Missions are tough, but thanks to the Lord and all of you, I have been able to endure through my trials and challenges.  I have seen the Lord's hand working through many kind and wonderful people on my mission, and it is my hope that I have been able to reciprocate that love to those that I have contacted.  I have learned how to love people of all sorts.  I have learned how to appreciate and respect people and cultures that are different than mine.  I feel that I have become a different person through the Atonement of Christ.  I can't wait to "meet" all of you all over again.

To conclude, I just want to bear off of you my testimony that I KNOW that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God unto salvation.  That life-giving Gospel has been restored, and ANYONE can find peace, comfort and true, lasting joy when they apply the Gospel in their life.  The Book of Mormon is God's word, and it was written for us in our day.  Joseph Smith did in fact see God the Father and Jesus Christ in that grove of trees.  I know that he was chosen before the foundations of this earth to be that prophet, seer, and revelator.  President Thomas S. Monson is that same revelator right now, and he holds all of the keys, powers and rights to his office of senior Apostle. 

I urge all of you to know the Lord more.  To really get to KNOW the Lord.  He wants to know you, and he wants your heart and whole self to be aligned to His will.  May we all resist that urge to fight back, to resist, or as Paul would say, "to kick against the pricks".  The Lord's way is the only way.  I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Now, I'll see you all in two days!

With Love,
Elder Corey David Harper
California Ventura Mission





Monday, May 25, 2015

"...He cannot walk in crooked paths..."

Hello my amazing family and friends!

This week has been quite a week of learning.  The work was a little bit slower, but we did have some cool experiences.

First of all, with Laura, we still weren't able to meet with her this week, but we have been keeping in contact with her through the phone.  She is still recovering, and she has also been able to listen to the Book of Mormon in the car wherever she goes.  She told us that she's been loving it, and that "the Book of Mormon is captivating!"  We were so happy to hear that she's going well, she's planning to meet with us this week, and that she's still reading the Book of Mormon, even though it's been crazy for her this last little while.

So this week, President and Sister Felix put on a zone conference/activity that we were all able to go to.  We went on a hike and learned more about the Spirit and unity in our companionships.  We each took turns being blindfolded, and our companions were there to guide us along the way.  Our companions acted as the Holy Ghost and we were to follow the "promptings" that we received, having complete faith and trust in what they were saying was right.  The theme for the whole day was Alma 7:19-20.

19 For I perceive that ye are in the paths of righteousness; I perceive that ye are in the path which leads to the kingdom of God; yea, I perceive that ye are making his paths straight.
20 I perceive that it has been made known unto you, by the testimony of his word, that he cannot walk in crooked paths; neither doth he vary from that which he hath said; neither hath he a shadow of turning from the right to the left, or from that which is right to that which is wrong; therefore, his course is one eternal round.

It was a great hike and activity, and I learned a lot.  The only bad thing about it was when they handed us popsicles that had been stored in dry ice.  I opened it right up and started to lick it, but it was too cold and my cheek and tongue froze to the popsicle!  Everybody started laughing...it hurt.  Eventually they poured water on it and I was able to break free.  Just a fun memory to have. :)

Well, this next week will be my last full week as a full-time missionary.  I have high hopes and I hope that I'll have many opportunities to bear my testimony like we did this week with random people.  A testimony is a very special, precious thing; and what an opportunity it is to share that with others.  I have learned so much from my mission.  I will forever be changed because of my mission.

I love you all and I'll write you one last time next week!

Elder Harper




Monday, May 18, 2015

Hello!

Hello my amazing family and friends!

This week went pretty well!  It was a great week and we got a lot of good work done. 

So here is the update on Laura:  We got a voicemail from Laura on Wednesday and she told us that she's been through a lot and she was in the hospital.  We were super confused and we didn't get ahold of her until Thursday.  So last week, on Tuesday or so, Laura went to the doctor's office to get a checkup/physical done.  The doctor's noticed this abnormal "lump" by her collarbone, examined it, and told Laura that she needed to get to the emergency room immediately.  She had to get an emergency surgical procedure done to get the cyst or something removed.  I guess that when she went to the ER, the doctors told her that it was a lot worse than they anticipated, and that she was in danger of a heart attack because it infected one of her lymph nodes and got into her bloodstream.  She was put onto antibiotics, but then had to switch to other ones because the bacteria was immune.  Yeah, pretty scary...

But right now, she said that she's recovering well and she's glad that everything went OK.  In all honesty, it doesn't look to optimistic about the baptism on the 30th as of right now, but that's the least of my worries.  She'll get there. :)

We had quite an influx of new investigators this week as well.  One of the members of our ward brought his co-worker/friend to church named Elisabeth, and she loved it.  She's an active Catholic, and said that she liked how we applied the teachings from the scriptures to our day, rather than just studying the history of the scriptures.  We're working hard and I want to work hard to the very end!  I have learned so much on my mission, and I am anxious to apply these things to my life outside the mission field.

From my personal studies this morning  (3 Nephi 9:14,21)
14 "Yeah, verily I say unto you, if ye will come unto me ye shall have eternal life.  Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive; and blessed are those who come unto me."
21 "Behold, I have come unto the world to bring redemption unto the world, to save the world from sin."

The Book of Mormon is true!  Anyone who reads, ponders, and sincerely prays about the truthfulness of this sacred record will gain a knowledge of the truths contained therein.  Scriptures such as this from the Book of Mormon give me comfort and peace knowing that God's hand is over all things.

I love you all, and I hope your week goes great!

Love,
Elder Harper

P.S.  Here's a picture of me and my rabbit fascinations... :D
And also here's a picture of my district.





Monday, May 11, 2015

Miracles through Dreams!

Hello everybody!

First of all, it was so great to be able to talk to my family yesterday on Mother's Day.  Happy Mother's Day again, Mommy!  Love you!

Well, I don't have too much more to add, but I will tell the story about Laura.  We had a lesson with Laura this week, and she told us of a really cool experience that happened to her.  Laura had a dream that she got baptized.  She relayed to us every detail about it.  Laura said that for some reason, she was wearing white and she didn't know why.  She told us that the members of the YSA Ward were there and they were really happy for her.  She told us that she got baptized and she felt so happy.  She also told us that she felt in her dream that her baptism felt like a re-birth and a fresh start.  Laura was baptized into a non-denominational Christian church when she was 12 or 13, but she didn't feel anything special about it, but in the dream it was different.

After she was done, we told her about how we wear white when we are baptized, and she was blown away.  We then asked her directly whether or not this dream was an answer to her question about baptism.  She said yes to that.  We then asked her if she wanted to get baptized.  She paused for a moment and said, "Yeah, I guess I do...--no--take off the 'I guess I do'.  Yes."  We told her that we would be holding a service on May 30th, and she told us that she felt that it was pretty soon, but that she would think and pray about it.

Laura has been reading from the Book of Mormon and she's almost through The Book of Jacob.  We read 2 Nephi 31 with her one more time and she absolutely loves the Spirit that the Book of Mormon gives.  She knows the church is true, now she just needs to move forward!  Please pray that she can have confidence with the answer that she has received and to move forward.  She is more ready than she realizes she is.  We hope that she can gain that confidence.

I love you all!  The days are just counting down, and it feels so weird to think about that.  I am going to do my best to put my all on the table and to go and do.  I hope you all have a great week!

Love,
Elder Corey David Harper

P.S. Here's a picture of Elder Rasband and I.


Monday, May 4, 2015

Christian Arreolo--The Miracle Former

Hey everyone!

Yep, it's me again.  I'm still alive and still teaching this glorious Gospel.

So as far a the week went, it was OK.  There were a few ups and downs for me personally, but it looks like it's smooth sailing from this point on.  It's been really beneficial for me to learn how to manage my stress levels as a missionary.  Most times it goes amazingly well, but every now and then it just needs more attention.  I guess the main thing that got me through it all this week was prayer, fasting and a good ol' study about the Atonement.  I've definitely gained a much deeper testimony about all of these, by the way. :)

SO!  Unfortunately we were unable to meet with Laura this week--she had a fever and it made it pretty difficult.  Hopefully we will be able to meet with her this week!

We did have a pretty sweet miracle.  This week, while we were planning for our next day, we were looking through some former investigators, and we felt prompted to pick one of them named Christian (go figure).  When we went by the next day, and he opened up the door and we started talking to each other.  Supposedly he had a dream about a month ago where God appeared to him and told him that he needed to spend his time more wisely and stop playing as much video games.  Ever since then, he has gained a deeper love for reading, although he mostly was reading conspiracy theory books...yeah.  He said he wasn't enjoying it much, and he wanted to read something more uplifting.  Boy did we have the book for him!  (Do I even need to mention it?)

We walked into his house, read a bit from the introduction, watched #BecauseHeLives, said a prayer, gave each other "bro hugs", set up a return appointment, and left.  We went back a few days later, read from 1 Nephi 1, and when the chapter ended, he just started reading the next chapter.  After we finished the 2nd chapter, he said that he wanted to read the 3rd chapter before we came back again.  It was pretty cool!  We didn't even have to commit him to do it!

I guess that his main concern before was that he was more converted to the missionaries, rather than the Gospel.  He didn't necessarily feel the Spirit from the Book of Mormon the first time around.  He said he still didn't quite feel it yet, but that it was a lot better than before.  We invited him to church and activities, but he said he wasn't quite ready yet.  Fellowship is going to be the key to get him to church!

So that's our miracle of the week!  We're still trying to find new investigators in any way that we can.  We've been trying our best to follow-up with the members--we're being patient with them. :)

The CES Devotional by Elder Lynn G. Robbins was really good yesterday!  If you didn't see it, I encourage all of you to watch it!

I love you all!  Have a fantastic week!
Love,
Elder Harper




Monday, April 27, 2015

Weekend O' Service!

Hello my amazing, wonderful, awesome (Insert positive adjective here) family and friends!

​This week has been pretty good!  To start, Elder Rasband and I have been doing great!  He's from Draper, but his family moved to Virginia while he's been out, so he'll be going home there.  He's pretty soft-spoken, but he has a spirit of calmness and meekness about him, and I like that a lot about Elder Rasband.  He's a great last companion for me on my mission.

As far as the investigators and the teaching pool is going, we are still trying to get more.  We have been putting a much greater emphasis on working with the members.  We had five member lessons this week, and we have been asking them about who they're "working" with to share the Gospel.  We will not let those members forget their duty!

Stake conference was this weekend, and Elder Call of the Seventy came.  He held a meeting before the Sunday session, and all investigators, less-actives and recent converts were invited.  A couple of recent converts from our ward came, and it was great!  After the session, I had the opportunity to stand in the circle of to confer the Melchizedek Priesthood upon a fairly recent convert.  It was a great experience!  Definitely a first for me; I've given the Aaronic, but not the Melchizedek until now.

On Saturday, there was a "Mormon Helping Hands" project that we and the stake attended.  There were several groups doing different projects, but the YSA Ward went along a riverbed and picked up trash.  It was surprisingly pretty fun!  There was some pretty cool graffiti along the underside of the bridge too, so that was sweet.

Today has been a pretty good day so far.  I'll be honest.  Mom, I took your gift card that you gave me and spent it on clothing that I could take home.  We live right next to some outlet malls, and I just couldn't resist.  Two years ago, I never thought I would voluntarily go to a mall on P-day, but now I love it!  (That was probably just very dangerous of me to say...)

I love you all, and I want to say "Happy 2nd Birthday to Lincoln this week!"  I'll talk to you soon!

Love,
Elder Harper


There's a street in Oxnard called "Elder Street".  It's a famous missionary landmark, and I couldn't resist.



Here's also me right next to the beach.  Probably the closest I will ever get as a missionary.  One of the members lives right along next to it.

Monday, April 20, 2015

'Twas Glorious

​Hello my wonderful family and friends!

Wow, this week, especially Sunday, was fantastic!  First of all, for transfers, I will be staying here and finishing my mission in the Camarillo YSA Ward.  Elder Gerber is leaving to go home in 2 days, and my new companion's name is Elder Rasband.  I've talked to him a couple of times, but I've never served around him before.  From what I've heard, he's a great missionary and other people say that we have similar personalities.  Should go well then!  I'll keep you posted.

SO.  Sunday was amazing.  Laura came to church for the first time!  She absolutely loved it.  She is definitely progressing in the Gospel.  It's kind of a slow progression, but it's a progression nonetheless.  Personally, this is what I believe.  She knows that the Book of Mormon is true and that the church is true, but she's afraid to act on that belief.  She knows baptism is necessary and essential, but she seems to lack the faith to pray for whether or not she should be baptized.  She will keep moving along I'm sure, and I really want to help her with that. 

I think I mentioned it, but she has been bringing her friend Jennifer to the lessons too and we've been teaching her.  She's pretty shy and doesn't speak much unless we ask her a question, but she has been liking the lessons so far too.  They both have great fellowship as well.  I love the YSA Ward because people are just awesome fellowshippers!

So this lady in the picture I sent is Karen Crawford:  the second person that I have been privileged to interview for baptism!  The other missionaries we live with taught her, and Karen is a great lady.  She has a strong desire to serve others, and after a lifelong search for God and Christ, she feels that she has found Them with this church, despite her husband's lack of interest and some less-than-supportive friends.

The best part of the week happened last night though.  All the missionaries in the mission met in Ventura for a meeting, but it was a mystery who was going to be there.  We gathered and waited, and to our surprise, David Archuleta walked into the chapel.  Apparently he was going to be in Los Angeles that weekend, and he wanted to speak to the missionaries on the way down.  We were the lucky ones (being the mission right above LA).  He talked to us for a good 2 hours and sang great hymns such as "Come Come Ye Saints", "Be Still My Soul", "Amazing Grace", "I Believe in Christ", and "Glorious"--a 2012 EFY song.  He shared stories with us about his mission and he also talked a lot about grace, and the experiences that he had on American Idol.  He said that even though he never got a lot of sleep while he was on the show, he always made the time to read the scriptures, and it made all the difference in the world for him.  He has a great voice!  He doesn't need any computer touch-up programs.  He is legit!

I'll be honest, he was a lot more humble, genuine and spiritual than I thought.  He really is a great person and he chose to speak to us out of the goodness of his heart.  I really gained a lot more respect for David Archuleta yesterday.  We got pictures with him as zones, and I'll send those next week or whenever President Felix sends them to us.  It was great!

Well, that's about it for me.  I hope that everybody has a great week, and I will talk to you soon!

Love,
Elder Harper


Monday, April 13, 2015

Paperwork....

There's not ever enough time!  ​Hello everybody! 

This week was pretty good, we did a lot of paperwork though.  We had to collect a lot of information for the monthly stake report and then an evaluation for all the members of the zone.  It took up a lot of our time this week, but we were still able to do some missionary work!

This week, we met with Laura again.  We had a lesson about prophets and their role.  Just as with just every other YSA/teenager that I have taught on my mission, Laura's parents are pretty against her meeting with us also.  It's kinda unfortunate, but we know that she can pull through it.  Other than a few lessons a week, we have spent some of our time at Cal. St. University Channel Islands doing a few tabling events to "advertise" the Institute of Religion that is there.  There are very few members, and so we have been going there trying to invite others to join.  By campus rules, we need to have another student with us there also, but it hasn't really worked out very well that way.  We are trying to coordinate better with the students/teachers, but it's still in the blueprints.  Hopefully it will come around soon!

I DO love that we have various activities throughout the week that we go to.  On Monday nights, we go to our ward's FHE, and on Tuesday, a few of us get together and play soccer and then go to Institute afterwards at the church building.  (I have gotten much better at soccer, even though I don't like it as much as other sports... :) )

There's really not enough time to email...pretty much ever.  But I love you all and I hope you are doing great!

Elder Harper

P.S.  Here's a picture of the FHE bonfire and the Hungry Hungry Hippos activity!  I have a video of it too but it's too big to send home...



Monday, April 6, 2015

My last General Conference as a Missionary. :(

​Hello my amazing family and friends!

Wow what a fantastic week it has been!  There have been quite a few awesome things that have happened!  Let me tell you!

I have a testimony of the principle that, "when one door closes, another door opens".  Sadly, this week, we lost Cole, one of our investigators, and to make it even worse, one of the recent converts that was baptized in February said that he didn't need religion in his life... o.O
BUT!  I say that this week was fantastic because we were blessed with a new investigator named Laura!  She was found by the other missionaries that we share the ward with, but lives on our side.  She has been meeting with them for about 4-5 weeks now, and loves it.   The YSA's broadcasted general conference from the Institute building, and we went there and saw it.  Laura came and saw the last bit of the Saturday morning session and watched the whole Saturday afternoon session, and she loved it!  She even brought a friend along that we have also been keeping in contact with. 

Laura is super friendly and has made a lot of friends with members from our ward.  (Pretty much all of the guys in the ward have been hitting on her...NOT US!)  She really enjoyed conference, and we are going to be having a lesson with her on Tuesday.  It should be great!  I'll let you know how that goes.

General conference!  I REALLY enjoyed it.  I was really surprised when somebody opposed the sustaining vote, but other than that, I thought it was pure revelation from God.  Specifically Elder M. Russell Ballard's talk.  Holy cow!   I can't wait to study those talks more thoroughly.  It was amazing the difference I felt as I went into conference with a specific question in mind versus when I have just gone to "enjoy the show".  I really feel like I have been better able to understand and discern the feelings of the Spirit on my mission.  Granted, I'm not a master yet, but being able to feel promptings and knowing that it's from the Holy Ghost has made quite the difference.  For all of us that watched conference, there really not a better thing we could have done at that time.  It's great to hear and understand the words of modern-day prophets.

Today, our zone is going to be playing life-sized Hungry Hungry Hippos.  I'll send pictures!

I love you all!  I hope your week is great!

Elder Harper

Monday, March 30, 2015

Revelation! (With Another Broken Toe)

​Hello my wonderful family and friends!  This week has been pretty good, especially Friday. 


As far as the missionary work is going, it's almost run into a dead halt unfortunately.  We have "investigators", most of which are people that I haven't met yet.  It's definitely time for finding.  Elder Gerber and I are working super hard and putting a lot of effort in, but unfortunately the area isn't really responding; we counted, and we've had 20 cancelled appointments within the last 3 weeks.  But we're doing our best!

Anyways, I want to talk about the best part of the week:  Elder Brent H. Nielsen!  As I mentioned last week, we were able to have a special Mission Leadership Council with him, and it was great!  Before he came, he asked each of us to study two talks about the Atonement by Elder David A. Bednar.  A big portion of the meeting was focused on the Atonement, and we especially learned about the enabling power; how it strengthens us and allows us to move forward.  He talked about trials and how they are opportunities for us to change.  Instead of praying for the trial or challenge to go away, we need to instead pray for the strength to adapt to and learn from the challenge or trial.  It was super revelatory, and I literally walked out of the meeting with the mindset that trials are blessings (knock on wood). :)  I took about 5 pages of notes throughout the whole thing.  P.S. Elder Nielsen will be speaking in General Conference on Sunday morning right before Elder Holland--he said, "Yep, I'm the warm-up act for Elder Holland!"  It was funny.  We then had a question/answer session and he talked about the 8 quorums of seventy, how GA's are supported, polygamy, and how we can invite the Spirit into our studies.  It was definitely the highlight of the week.

In case you're wondering, on Saturday, I was getting ready for the day, and I spun in my spinny chair too fast and hit my toe against my desk and broke it.  Same toe, opposite foot!  That's 2 broken toes on mission!  What the heck!  It's not even really hurting anymore; I hope it will just heal on its own.

I'm SO excited for General Conference this weekend!  It will be a great opportunity to gain some revelation for the area and for my life.  I challenge all of you to bring a question to GC and look for an answer!  Love you all!

Elder Harper



Monday, March 23, 2015

Hello Everyone!

Good afternoon everybody!

Wow, it's been a good week.  First of all, I don't have much time today, but here I go! 

We have a few awesome investigators here.  One of them is Cole Knapp.  He's 28, and just moved from the Bakersfield area.  When he was there, he took all the missionary discussions, but never was baptized.  He was even interviewed!  So, right now, we are continuing to teach him.  He struggles with the Word of Wisdom also, but he's coming along.  Yesterday, he came to church.  We are continuing to invite him to activities and other fun things. :)  He's a real sincere guy, and he desires to follow God.

Also, another one is Natalia.  She's 20 years old, and Natalia was born in Hawaii.  She is currently living with her mom, after her dad became really violent due to his alcoholism.  Natalia feels really good when she helps others and serves.  We talked with her mom on Saturday as well, and she burst into tears as she began to talk with us.  Her mom has relationship issues with her current boyfriend as well, and she told us all about it.  As missionaries, sometimes we feel like therapists, but I think it just shows that they trust us(?) ;P

The last one is Conner.  Conner is originally from Washington, but he moved to Oxnard after meeting a girl through online gaming.  He moved in with her, and her parents just kicked him out of the house (thank goodness!)  He lived there for about a year, and he works at Target and met Guadalupe, a recent convert, and that's how he came in contact with the church.  He's really sincere, and desires to know if the Book of Mormon is true.  Unfortunately, with his eviction, he's going to be moving back to Washington at the beginning of April.  He is fine with meeting with missionaries once he gets back up there though.

So, that's our investigators.  We are doing our best to find.  (Oh yes, the finding stage, how I missed you.)  To do this, we meet with members, and are doing our best to establish relations with Oxnard College and Cal. St. University of Channel Islands.  Again, our area is big.  We cover Oxnard and Camarillo, but the ward extends to Ventura, Ojai, Fillmore and Santa Paula.  It's the biggest YSA ward in the mission.  I absolutely LOVE it here.  Camarillo is perhaps the most beautiful city that I have ever been into.  Oxnard has it's good parts too, but for the most part, Oxnard is just as beautiful as the name sounds.  Camarillo has about 62,000 people, and Oxnard has about 180,000 people.  It's pretty urbanized, with a few fields and agriculture here and there.  But yes, Mom, I'm safe!

We had our Mission Leadership Council this week, and we have ANOTHER one on Friday, except this one is special.  Elder Brent H. Nielson of the 1st Quorum of Seventy is coming, and he will be presiding at our MLC.  No pressure.  Other than that, it's been a great week!

I love you all!  This church is true, and it brings happiness beyond measure when we live the commandments of God.  Have a great week!

Love,
Elder Harper


Monday, March 16, 2015

Camarillo YSA Ward Rocks!



Hello my amazing family and friends!

First of all, I'm sorry that my last email didn't go through...it says that it sent on my account.  Oh well. I guess y'all get two this week!

First of all, this week has been quite a good one.  We have been running around like chickens with our heads cut off!  I got here on Tuesday, and IMMEDIATELY I was thrown into the strenuous work of zone leadering-ing​. ;)  We had to make sure that everyone arrived safely and stuff like that.  Plus, we had to start thinking about zone goals!  Zone goals are goals, obviously, that each zone comes up with that help the missionaries in the zone become united.  We receive ideas and suggestions from the district leaders in the zone, and we make the final decision about what the goals will be.  Then, tomorrow, in MLC (Mission Leadership Council), we report those goals and they go directly to the mission president.  So that's that in a brief nutshell. (Not enough time to do a good email...)

Next, my companion, Elder Gerber.  He is from West Jordan, is 21, and is on his last transfer.  He's the oldest of 3, and it's kind of sad because his siblings are less-active. :(  He's a great missionary.  Honestly, he's one of the more "straight laced" missionaries that I have had on my mission, but we've been able to laugh and joke around a little bit.  It's been a little bit of an adjustment getting used to it, because that's pretty opposite of me haha.  We have the same goal, just different means of achieving the goal.  It's been great though, because we have been able to mold our different personalities together and balance out.  I think that we have both been out on missions long enough to communicate and compromise our individual personalities to coexist.  <--Wow, that was a lot of pretty big words in one sentence.  Go me! :D

Then, the ward.  Serving in the YSA Ward has been great so far!  I think it is great preparation for me for when I return home.  Everyone has been really nice and friendly, and it's been great to be able to talk to recently returned missionaries and get their advice, as well as to help and encourage those that are almost ready to go.  It's cool because tonight we have dinner with a RM who got home 2 days ago!  We saw her as we walked in the Library today and she is doing her "personal study". :)  I love the overall enthusiasm for sharing the Gospel.  It's great because there are so many people that are ward missionaries, and we can basically call on anyone to help with a lesson  (they're all mostly RM's!)

How it works is this:  We cover all the young single adults in both Camarillo and Oxnard (The Camarillo Stake).  The whole ward is composed of the YSA's in the Ventura Stake too, and the assistants cover that part of the ward (we share the ward and go to church with the assistants.  My church building is the mission office in Oxnard on Gonzales Rd.)  There is over 1,000 YSA aged people in the 2 stakes, and our goal as a ward is to fill the chapel up so much that we will have to split the ward. 

There are so many more things that I could talk about, but my time is running short.  I'll be sure to explain things more next week too, and send pictures!  I love you all!

Elder Harper

Here's a picture of me and Elder Gerber.





Transferred!


Hello my amazing and wonderful family and friends!

Well, I guess first things first.  I'm getting transferred (Transfers end April 19th).  I'm going down south to the Camarillo Young Single Adult Ward, so I will be covering both the Camarillo and the Oxnard areas.  My guess is that I will be there the rest of my mission.  I have loved being here in Santa Maria and being a district leader.  Elder Gruwell and I have had quite a blast together, and it sure has been a pleasure working with him.  I've learned so much, and I'm anxious to take those skills and techniques that I have learned here into the future.  Oh yeah, I got a call from President Felix on Friday night, and he informed me that he would like me to serve down there as a zone leader.    It's also great that I will be serving with Elder Gerber.  I served around him before and now he will be my companion.  This next transfer will be his last transfer, and my second-to-last.  So it's safe to say that we have some experience under our belts. :)  It will be interesting serving in a YSA ward.  Never done it before, never attended one before the mission.  I think it will be a great transition to what I'll be looking forward to when I return home.

So there's the transfer news.  It has been quite difficult to say "goodbye" to the people that I love here.  But I'm very confident that it's not as much of a "goodbye" as it is a "see you later".  Blessings of serving stateside!!!  I love the people here.  They're so open-hearted, warm, friendly and kind.  I especially say that about Barb, Dan, Diamond, Bud, Anthony, Katie, and so many other wonderful members and investigators that we have taught.  Barb fed us a really nice dinner for my last night over.  She fed us salmon, filet mignon, loaded potatoes, Dan's special garlic bread, and a fruit tart for dessert.  I look forward to my return, except this time with my family. :D

But anyways, Santa Maria really has been good.  A few really cool miracles have happened this week, and a few new people have been added to the investigator pool here.  Someone called us up before church and said that they wanted to come, and they brought their friend too.  They loved church, and they will be meeting with Elder Gruwell and his new companion.  I wish them good luck!

That's basically all that I need to say!  I cherish the past, and I'm optimistic for the future.

Undoubtedly, this church is true. If it wasn't for this church and this Gospel, I seriously don't know where I'd be in my life right now. The restored Gospel of Jesus Christ has given me so much meaning and purpose in my life. The knowledge that this Gospel gives me strengthens my faith in the Savior, and a "hope for a better world" as Moroni puts it. Because of the Gospel, I know that my favorite quotes is absolutely true: "Everything will be alright in the end; if it's not alright, then it's not the end." I love the scriptures, and I know that they bring answers to prayer. I know these things to be true.






Monday, March 2, 2015

My First Baptismal Interview!

Hey everybody!

Wow, what an amazing week...full of great adventures and awesome experiences.

So, to start, we had dinner with Barb, Dan, Dan's parents, Diamond (Barb's daughter), and Bud this week.  (Bud's the one in the picture).  Elder Gruwell's birthday was on Tuesday, and she invited us over.  We ate tri-tip (famous here in Santa Maria) sandwiches, homemade chili, and fruit salad!  It was delicious!  Barb, Dan, and Diamond were so nice, they each gave us a couple of ties and a new journal to write all our amazing adventures in.  They're truly one in a million (well, I guess 3 in a million ;) )

Something else cool happened this week too!  We got a new investigator! 

We had dinner with a member family a few weeks ago, and they told us to stop by their niece and nephew.  The niece, Stella, is a less-active member of the church, and her brother, Ruben, is not a member.  Ruben has been in and out of jail, and the jail time has humbled him well.  We stopped by the next day after dinner, and gave Stella a blessing and talked with Ruben briefly.  We dropped by there again this week, and taught them the Restoration, and Ruben loved it!  We talked about all the key bullet points:  The Great Apostasy, Priesthood authority, The Fist Vision, the Book of Mormon, and praying to know if it was true.  We read from the Bible about the fruits of the Spirit, and in Matthew 7 about false prophets and how "by their fruits ye shall know them".  He grasped it all really well!  Feeling bold, and desiring to exercise more faith, we invited him to be baptized if he found that these things were true, and he said yes!  

We had planned to go with the member that sent us, but he cancelled at the last moment.  He wants to go this week though!

But, I'd have to say that the highlight of the week would be my first baptismal interview!  I had the chance to interview Ryan Rocha, a 17-year old who the other missionaries in the ward were teaching.  I was super nervous to interview him, because it was my first one, but I said a quick prayer before he came in.  I asked the Lord to bless me with peace and with discernment, and the Lord definitely did so.  It strengthened my testimony of God answering prayers (I don't think we can have enough of those...;))  He calmed my anxious heart, and blessed me with discernment.  I was guided to say the right thing in the right way at the right time.  Plus, Ryan really opened up to me and shared his true feelings about his desire to be baptized.  It was a great day, and a great week!  

I know the Lord loves us all individually.  I'm thankful for the opportunity that I have each day while I'm out here right now to wake up, study, and do my best every day to bring souls back into the Lord's fold.  To consecrate myself for a better cause has brought great strength and contentment to my soul.  It makes me feel like I'm doing a good thing. :)

Love you all!
Elder Harper




Monday, February 23, 2015

A Spiritual Recharge

Hello everyone!

It still baffles me how fast these weeks fly by...I swear I'm breaking mission rules because it seems like I'm on the computer emailing every day!  

This week went pretty well!  Elder Gruwell and I went on exchanges with a couple of other missionaries in the district, and it was awesome!  I went with Elder Campbell to his area.  He's from Rexburg, ID and he's an absolute fireball. ;)  He's been out for just about 3 months now, and I was an am impressed with his amazing "greenie fire".  As we talked after we turned out the lights, it was great to be able to ask him about his family, his goals, how his mission is going, and just overall getting to know him and showing love for him.  We taught a guy named Juan Gomez who basically believes in everything that we do.  He talked about a "restoration of the primitive church" and "authority needed to baptize".  Hopefully they have success with him!

On Friday, President Felix held a zone conference here in Santa Maria.  We first went over a few updates/reminders, and discussed a few rules.  We heard that temple trips that take longer than 2 and a half hours to travel there will not be approved...so basically anyone can go except for the people in Santa Maria. :(  Missionaries in the northern part of the mission can now go to the Fresno Temple, but it's still too far away for people here to go there.  So, unfortunately we will not be going to the temple next week...Oh well.

It was great as we were able to read and learn more about "The Living Christ" document that the church has produced.  We read and listened to stories of Apostles who have received a witness of Christ--including Boyd K. Packer of this last General Conference.  We then each individually had the chance to bear testimony and to tell what we learned from that zone conference.  We finished the meeting by singing "I Believe in Christ", and I felt the Spirit radiate through my body like electricity.  So powerful.

But here's the funny part of the story:  While we have our zone conferences, our vehicles get examined by the office staff.  So before we go in, we leave our set of keys on the driver's seat and roll the window down.  When they're done, they leave the keys on the seat and lock the doors (because we have 2 sets).  Well, Elder Gruwell forgot his set of keys at the apartment, so we had to get a ride and drive all the way there and back to grab them (luckily it was held here in town...)  When we got back, I found out that I or somebody left our lights on, so the battery was dead.  The missionaries who drove us back also jumped our car for us too...true life savers. ;)

On Sunday, it was the Santa Maria Stake Conference.  President and Sister Felix spoke, and while President talked, he asked all the missionaries to stand up and recite with him, "Our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ, by helping them receive the restored Gospel, through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end."  It was really powerful, and many people were in tears.

Not much new happening with the investigators..but Barb and her daughter Diamond went on a church tour with us this week!  I was on exchanges with Elder Campbell when they did it, but I heard that it was a big success!  A member came with them too, so that's good.

In conclusion, I am so thankful for the influence of the Holy Ghost.  I have been able to feel his promptings many times this week, and I am so thankful that I have learned how to better recognize that on my mission.  These feelings cannot be felt in any other way, so that just means to me that I know undoubtedly that this church is true.  "Everything that inviteth and enticeth to do good is inspired of God".  I love you all!

Love,
Elder Harper

P.S. Here I am looking like "Eezma" from "Emperor's New Groove"


Monday, February 16, 2015

Let's get the ball rolling!

Hello everybody!

It's been a pretty decent week this week.  Little miracles have been happening lately, so it's been a nice blessing from heaven.  It makes me feel like the Lord is still aware of us and all the work that we're putting in.

So remember Jason?  He's the drunk less-active member that we saw last week? Friday night he called us and said that he caught the wrong bus and went all the way to Lompoc, and he had to hitchhike back up, but he did.  It was a hard thing for him, but he gave us a call on Saturday and told us that he was successfully de-toxed!  We were so happy for him!  He's pretty transient right now, not quite sure where he's staying, but we're going to keep tabs on him and meet with him this week...while he's sober. ;)

Unfortunately, there's still been no change with Chris, but we still go by every now and then.  We hope he's doing well, and we know that one day maybe it will all 'click' for him.  

Something pretty cool happened this week!  So last transfer, we visited a member, and she gave us a referral.  It was her neighbor named Alicia.  Alicia read the entire "Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple" pamphlet, and was curious about temples.  We stopped by many times after that, but was never able to catch her.  Well, this week, we received a referral from church headquarters, and it was her.  (So somebody requested missionaries through mormon.org or something).  We stopped by her that afternoon, and we had an awesome lesson with her about the temple and she asked some great questions about it, such as "who's on top of the temple?"  "who can go into the temple" and other stuff like that.  We did our best to answer her questions, and we read some scriptures from the Bible to help.  We gave her a Restoration pamphlet, said a prayer, set up a return appointment, and she said "God bless you for your service."  It was really nice.  We stopped by the member and told her, and she was really excited--and she's going to go with us to the next lesson! :D

On Saturday (Happy Valentine's Day!) I went on exchanges with the zone leaders, and we had a pretty good day!  We had lots of lessons with less-actives and other potential investigators.  He complimented me on my skills and attributes as a district leader, and it was great to receive that kind of support from him.  And, we heard that we might be going on a little exchange with one of the assistants soon, so that will be fun. ;)

Overall, it's been a pretty good week.  It's so weird to think that this month is halfway through...the mission is going by way fast.  I really am going to make the most of these last 3 1/2 months.  I know that there's still many wonderful things to do, and I'm thankful for this time that has been set apart in my life to do the Lord's work.

I love you all!  Have a great week!

Elder Corey David Harper


Monday, February 9, 2015

A Contrast of Spirit

Hello everybody!  I hope you're all doing so well.

This week was certainly a good one.  As far as missionary work goes, it's still kind of the same--stagnant and rough.  Getting flipped off, barked at by dogs, the whole shabang.  This week, a guy in his car at an intersection yelled at us all the way accross the street!  Isn't it GREAT being a representative of the Lord???? I sure think so!

We're continuing to work with members, and yes, there's been a slight improvement in the enthusiasm for missionary work.  We've received some referrals from members, and that was a total blessing!  We're getting more and more acquainted one with another, and I feel that they're trust in the missionaries.

I'd like to tell you about an experience I had yesterday, hence the subject line "contrast of spirit".  Before church yesterday, I asked Heavenly Father to allow me to feel an increase of the Spirit as I attended church and paid close attention to the messages that the speakers and teachers would give. Over the course of my mission, I've detected a few ways that I feel the Spirit, and one of those ways is definite inside me, and I know it to be the Spirit.  

Well, a recent convert of about a year spoke yesterday about how he was drafted to play for a major league baseball team, the Baltimore Oreals, before he was a member.  During a practice though, he tore his rotator cuff.  The doctors said that many surgeries would have to be done, and he knew that it was the end of his baseball career right then.  He said that while working out one day in Santa Barbara, he met a girl there and they became quick friends.  This girl was a member of the church here in Santa Maria, and she invited him to go to church with her.  To put it simply, one thing led to another and now he's a member of the church and he's married to this said girl, and they are now preparing to go to the temple. He said that he knows that living a life in major league baseball was not the kind of life that the Lord had in mind for him, and that he felt happy with his new life here with his wife.

Anyways, as he gave this talk, and as we were singing the intermediate hymn afterwards, I felt the Spirit so strongly, a feeling that I didn't want to be anywhere else but that church building right then.  I knew that Heavenly Father had answered my prayer.  It was such a powerful experience.

Now, the contrast.  Last night, we had just finished having dinner with a member, and during dinner we got a call from a less-active member, and he left a voicemail.  When we got into the car, we listened to it, and he said that he wanted a blessing.  This man had come to church that day highly intoxicated.  You could smell the alcohol in his breath.  Bad.  So we drove over to the place that he was renting from, and as soon as I walked in, I knew that there was a different vibe about that place.  We told him it would be best to give him the blessing when he was sober, but he insisted.  So, we gave him a blessing to help him get over the addiction he had.

After the blessing, we told him we were going to get rid of his beer, and after he said OK, we proceeded by dumping his vodka down the sink.  Well, he started to go beligerant...he was really having a mental breakdown.  As we continued to search the house, we had to rip some glasses of alcohol out of his hands as he tried to drink them.  We kept telling him, "this is for your own good..this is for your own good."  When we went into his room, we noticed that alcohol was not his only addiction...he had cigarettes and pornography all over the place.  We got rid of it all, and a member came and picked him up to go to de-tox.  

From this experience, I not only felt bad for him, but I also made a firmer internal resolve to never live my life as I saw this man was.  This man was a slave to so many substances, and I never want to be like that.  I know that the Word of Wisdom and the Law of Chastity are true commandments from the Lord, and, that when followed, bring us true incomprehensible joy.  I'm thankful that I've been taught these commandments from my youth up, and I want to live them fully throughout my days.

That is what I meant when I said, "A contrast of spirit".  

It's experiences like these that help me truly to learn the Gospel.

I love you all, and I hope you have a GREAT WEEK!

Love,
Elder Harper





Monday, February 2, 2015

Ups and Downs....

Hello, hello, hello my dear family and friends!

It has been an interesting week, one filled with ups and downs...

As for the ups, the first district meeting I planned was a success!  I brought a milk crate to the meeting, and we all took turns "soap boxing" and bearing our testimonies about the Book of Mormon.  I loved it!  I'm excited for future district meeting and such.

Another awesome thing!  This week, there was a mission-wide district leader training!  On Friday, me and the other 2 district leaders in the zone drove down to the mission office in Oxnard and heard from President Felix and the assistants there.  It was a very good, instructive meeting about how we can be better influences on the missionaries we serve.  Plus, there was pumpkin spice cake! :D haha just kidding, but it really was good. 

Unfortunately, not much new has happened with Chris.  We've called him every day this week, but no answer.  We stopped by his mom's house a few times this week too.  The first time, somebody else that is renting from her answered the door, and she asked us if we were there for Chris.  We said yes, and she told us that he was in the shower.  So we figured out that he's living there again.  However, the next few times we went by, nobody answered, and we know that there are people home.  We called Chris again, and his phone was disconnected...so we can't contact him that way anymore...and he didn't come to church either...but we're still trying!  We're not going to give up on him, he's so awesome!

Elder Gruwell and I have been thinking a lot, and we're going to try new methods.  "If you always do what you've always done, then you'll always get what you've always got."  With that being said, we've been going through our cell phone and calling random nonmembers that past missionaries have saved in there.  We've called numbers that are disconnected, and so we've been clearing out the contacts that way.  There's also others that have picked up, and we've set some return appointments that way!  In fact, we've set more return appointments through the phone than by actually going outside and working...kinda sad how that's the way the world is today.  But oh well, we'll see them soon.  The other missionaries did that same thing this past week, and somebody in their phone actually came to church because of it!  Miracle!

I love you all so much!  The scriptures really are the words of life, and we can find help and healing when we read them daily!  I've been going through the Book of Mormon again, and I'm almost done with Mosiah.  The Book of Mormon is awesome!  I love you all!  Have a great week!




New district picture!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Santa Maria is where I'm supposed to be, I guess. ;)

Hello everybody!

Holy cow!  This week has been super crazy with a lot of ups and downs...where do I even start?  First of all, Elder Gruwell and I will be sticking around here for another transfer!  (Transfers end on March 8th)  Only this time there will be a slight change...I've been given the assignment as the district leader.  I'm actually really excited for the opportunity to serve on a larger scale, and I have some really good ideas for district meetings and such.  There couldn't have been a better, more supportive companion for me than Elder Gruwell.  We're so much alike it's insane!  We've gotten to know each other really well.  So yeah!  That's that!

Now, I bet all of you are wondering about Chris.  Well, there's good news and bad news.  The good news is, we met with him on Thursday night, and taught him the Word of Wisdom.  He committed to live it, and we then set him with a baptismal date of February 22nd.

Now, the bad news.  On Friday night, around 10:15, I was watching "The District" and Elder Gruwell was taking a shower.  I was laying on my bed watching it, when I heard the phone rang.  I looked at the caller ID and saw that it was Chris.  I picked up the phone and asked how he was doing.  He said that he's been better.  I asked him what was up, and he told me that he and his mom had just gotten in a huge argument, she pulled a knife on him, and threatened to call the cops.  She kicked him out of the house basically, because he hadn't paid rent on time.  Granted, we don't know the full story.  But anyways, he told us he was a short ways from his house, and he asked us for some money to get a motel room for the night.  I called Elder Gruwell out of the shower and explained it to him.

We're not supposed to give money to anyone as missionaries, so we didn't know what to do.  Plus, it was 10:15 and close to lights out.  So, we called the district leader--no answer.  Called the Zone leaders, and they told us to call President Felix.  We called President Felix at 10:25, and he thougth for a long time about what to do.  Finally, he told us not to give him money, but that we may go and see him and possibly give him a ride somewhere.  We drove out there, talked to him, read him some scriptures from the last part of 3 Nephi 12, and we gave him a ride to a park.  We told him to call one of his member fellowshippers to get more help.  Then, we left.  We got back at 11:15.  We haven't been able to get in contact with him ever since...we plan on stopping by his mom's place soon to see if she's heard from him.

Out of all honesty, we don't really know if this all happened because he started meeting with us or not.  He said that there's always been some contention with his mom, ever since he was a little kid, but that it's just blown up recently.  He's been in our prayers night and day, and we are hoping for a miracle right now.  We wish him the best, and we'll continue to call him.  That's the bad news...

Sorry that was so depressing. :(  But on the bright side, we got a call from Barb and Dan this week, and their friend Bud requested a blessing from us.  We'll be giving that tomorrow and talking about the Priesthood and faith.  We're so happy that we get to go over there. :)

Being a missionary is so amazing!  Even when something traumatic happens to somebody we love, like Chris, we're grateful for the opportunity that we have to bear our testimonies, read scriptures, and do our best to comfort him.  We know with whom our strength and trust lies.  And in essence, that's our calling:  to help other people develop faith, trust and strength in Jesus Christ.  It's an absolute blessing to wear the name of the Lord over my heart each day.  However, the best "tag" that we can have is to have the Lord's name etched into our hearts.  When we do so, peace begins to overwhelm us, and our purpose becomes clear.  I love you all so, so, so much!  I hope you have a great week!

Love,
Elder Corey Harper

P.S.  here's some pictures of me with other missionaries in my district.  (Elders Shields, Campbell, and Ruby)