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!

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 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.


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