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!

Elder Corey Harper

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

Monday, January 19, 2015's the last week of another transfer.

Well hello everybody!

I took way longer than expected replying to all my amazing friends and family, so this letter might be short.

SO, I'll cut right to the point!  Chris is doing AMAZING!  How amazing, you ask?  Well, let me tell you all about it.  We went over to his house on Tuesday with a member, but he was tired from a long day of work and said that he couldn't meet right then.  We went back on Friday night, with just us, and he had a look of relief on his face when he answered the door.  After we went inside and sat down for a little bit, he told us that he felt really bad for sending us away on Tuesday.  We told him it was alright, and he felt a lot better.  He didn't want to give the impression that he was no longer interested--he said that he was going to plan on walking to church that Sunday and just meet us there just so we would know.  Basically, he's awesome.  And, HE even said the opening prayer and sounded like a natural.

He's been reading the Book of Mormon a lot lately, and he asked us some questions from Mormon 9.  After we answered them, he seemed really happy.  We felt inspired to invite him to be baptized, and he said, "Yeah, I was wondering!  I wasn't sure if I was supposed to ask you or not..." 

We were, let's just say, speechless.

A member that he really connected with last Sunday volunteered to give him rides to church, so it was good to have him available.  Unfortunately, because of Chris's work, he gets called into work at random times and places and so he wasn't able to go because he was in Paso Robles.  We'll plan on going there tonight and throughout the week more with members.

But yeah, he's doing so great.  He's been talked about in PEC and Ward Council too, so the ward knows about him a ton.  Attached is a picture of me and him.

Other than that, we're continuing to work with the members.  Other missionaries introduced this thing to us called a "Power Hour".  It's where we go to a member's house, and share a short message with them to get them excited about missionary work.  We then ask them if there's anybody that they know that we could work with in the area, and they give us some ideas if they have any.  After that, we ask them to keep us in their minds and hearts and to be praying for us throughout the hour as we go around their neighborhood.  After an hour, we return to the member and report the miracles that happened during that hour.  As a result, it gets them a lot more excited about doing missionary work and everything, and it provides key fellowship ideas for the future.  We did that once this week and we met a guy named John who's really into history.  We gave him a Book of Mormon and explained that it is a history record, but also tesitifies of Christ.  He seemed to love it!  We're going to continue with these "power hour's"!

Other than that, I love you all!  The mission continues to move by so quickly, and it's a bitter-sweet feeling to think that I'll be home so soon...Don't worry!  I'm trying my best to work my butt off!  I love you all!

Elder Corey Harper

Monday, January 12, 2015

A week of GREATNESS!

Hello my amazing family, friends and loved ones...

WOW.  What a great week, especially yesterday...This week, we were told about some changes that are happening in our mission.  (No, not iPads).. (President Felix had a meeting with all of the zone leaders, assistants and sister training leaders, and then our zone leaders brought back all of the information back to us.)  But anyways, we were told that from now on, we will put more of an emphasis on working with members.  Last year in 2014, 72% of the baptisms this mission had came from referrals from members/part-member families, etc. and 28% came from people that missionaries found.  That 72% came from us when we weren't even really trying extra hard to work with members.  We had a meeting as a zone all about the benefits of working better with members.  When the members refer somebody over to the missionaries, they have an instant friend, an extra witness and testimony, and other stuff like that.

So, we've been charged to meet with the members and ask for more referrals!  This week, Elder Gruwell and I did that, and we've actually received a couple!  We've had no luck contacting them yet, but we're still optimistic!

On Thursday, Barb and Dan invited us over to their house for dinner, and some of Barb's loud, rambunctious family was over there.  They would always laugh over the smallest of things, and it made Elder Gruwell and I laugh too.  Barb and Dan have a friend named Bud that has cancer in his esophagus or trachea and has been in a lot of pain.  The doctors found it about a month ago and he's still not gone through chemotherapy.  But anyways, he lives alone and has been needing a lot of cheering up.  We met him initially on Christmas Eve and we've seen him a few more times since then at their house.  For the past couple of times, he's been texting Barb and Dan and asking if we'd be over there; he's been so happy when he's seen us, and we're happy when we see him too.  I think it's been a great experience with us going over there with Barb and Dan and when they've had their family over.  Not much teaching can happen when everybody's loud and stuff, but it's been good to show them that missionaries are real people, not robots that walk down the street.  We've really been able to be ourselves around there, and they appreciate that a lot; they've all warmed up to us so much.  We've been sending Barb a "Scripture of the Day" for a few days now, and she's loving it.  They even invited us over for dinner tomorrow too.  It's so great to know them...

BUT, out of everything that has happened this week, the highlight was on Friday and Sunday.  Remember Chris?  The guy that we tracted into around Thanksgiving time?  After a solid dinner at a member's home in mid-December, we weren't able to contact him for about a month.  He had no cell phone, and everytime we went by, he wasn't there.  We knew he had such great potential, so we always kept going by again--and on Friday it paid off.  Chris answered the door and immediately let us in!  He told us that he had had shingles (an adult version of the chicken pox) and that's why he hadn't been able to meet with us.  Not only had he recognized that this was a way that the adversary was trying to stop him from meeting with us, but also, HE HAD BEEN READING THE BOOK OF MORMON THE ENTIRE TIME!  We reviewed with him the Restoration lesson one more time, and also tied in with it a lesson about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Chris absolutely loved it!  He gave us his new cell phone number, and we've been sending him the "Scripture of the Day" too.  At the end of the lesson, he committed to go to Church!  And yesterday, HE CAME!  Chris stayed all three hours of church!  He told us that he had worked the night before, and had not gotten off of work until 7AM--and church was at 10!  He came regardless!  Not only that, but Chris is so outgoing that he's already talked to so many members and been able to ask them, as well as us, questions about the Church and our lives.

But WAIT, there's MORE!  Chris is absolutely spiritually in-tune.  He's teared up so many times in the past that we've had lessons, and he did so at church.  He was focused the entire time at church too.  When we found out he had just gotten off church at 7 in the morning, I asked him if he was tired, and he said, "Nope, I feel great and really energized here."  :D :D :D :D :D AHH!  It's so great to be able to teach somebody like Chris, so humble, and ready for the Gospel.  He was anxious to meet up with us again as soon as possible, and when we said we hoped he came next week to church, he said, "Of course I will, you know it!"

Overall, an amazing week!  This Gospel is true.  Jesus is the Christ.  Thomas S. Monson is the prophet today, and when we listen to the teachings found in the scriptures and by living prophets, they bring us happiness.


Elder Harper

P.S. I found this written on the sidewalk. :)

Monday, January 5, 2015

Happy New Year! 2015!

Hello everyone!  

Happy New Year everybody!  Man these weeks continue to whiz by...everything is going great!  I'm loving California, and I'm loving being a missionary!   New Year's Eve was pretty quiet...until midnight struck.  Then a HUGE firework explosion woke us up.  Santa Maria's been quite crazy lately.  We hear gunshots practically on a weekly basis after we're inside, and a couple of people have been killed.  It's probably on the news somewhere.  This world needs the Gospel!

As far as missionary work is going, the past couple of weeks have been slower than usual, with it being the holidays and everything, but I have a feeling that things are going to pick up this week.  But what HAS been happening are a bunch of new people that we've met.  We have been blessed with some referrals lately (some from members and others from missionaries).  There's been some good experiences as we've contacted them too.  The Hermanas ran into somebody named Benji and told us that he has a lot of questions.  We were on exchanges so I wasn't able to go, but Elder Gruwell said that they had a nice sit-down lesson with him.  We also ran into a guy named Caesar and he said that we could come back.  Plan on doing that tonight!

The exchanges were really great.  I got to go back to 3rd ward and see some of the people that I used to teach!  We said hi to Elena Thomas (a recent convert that I taught) and she's doing well.  It was great to hear that she is recognizing answers to prayers and searching the scriptures.  Hearing things like that brings me absolute joy.

But yeah, basically this week was a lot of finding, because our investigators weren't really available.  

I love you all!  Happy New Year!

Elder Harper