I don't even know where to start. It has been a super busy week and it has been non stop working. But things are going a lot better. The stress level has gone down in comparison to what it was. It is not gone ha ha, but I am getting more used to things. Your week sounds like it was awesome! Feel free to tell me anything, I love hearing about what you guys are doing. And really I wish I could respond to everything that you guys wrote! But I would be here for hours ha ha... I guess just know that I am reading it, laughing (really hard) with you, praying for you and wishing you the best in your still crazy and busy lives. First I will answer all of the questions that y'all had for me:
Elder Gentry, the man, and self-proclaimed gangsta:
He is from Nevada and is the oldest of his siblings. He is about 6' 1" and 300 lbs. He has been our for 19 months and he likes to say that he is a relaxed and diligent missionary. Which I would agree with. He loves rap music and always wears his "I love haters" hat at night. He thinks of himself as a gangster and he loves rap music. Normally I don't think we would ever meet, but he is a really good guy. He really loves the Gospel and gets things done. He sees me as his son and he wants to do his best in helping me. As I am working with him I am learning to be patient and humble. I am learning so much from him and from being his companion. It is easy to find people's faults, but so much more helpful to see their strengths.
Things have been going a lot quicker since I last emailed too. The idea that days are like weeks and weeks are like days seems very true already. There is a big difference between being busy, and being busy helping people. When you are busy, that gives you a lot of time to dwell on other things, but when you are busy helping others, you forget about yourself and focus your time and energy on their welfare rather than your own. I have had a few instances where I have had this and it is awesome! Things don't really go quicker, but they are definitely more enjoyable and so it feels faster. I feel like being thrown into the mission field so fast has helped me to grow quicker than I normally would and I am beginning to find out why. First of all, the car situation still scares me, but I am coming to terms that this will be an all mission thing, and like you said dad, I am definitely going to feel more prepared when crazy driving experiences happen to me later in life. Things will seem small in comparison. Also I am learning a lot from experiences, the good and the bad, and that has prepared me for the new investigators we have started teaching. I wouldn't have been as prepared as quickly to help them if I didn't have these hard experiences. I have realized that having faith also means having faith in Heavenly Father's time schedule. Sometimes it is slower than we want it to be and sometimes it is faster. But in all cases he has something in store that he wants you to do. It is super tough haha, but really helpful too.
I have been able to exercise a little. It is hard to get a full 30 minutes in after saying prayers, going to the bathroom and putting my contacts in. But it helps a lot to have a set schedule and I am trying my hardest to work out hard. It has been a good stress reliever for me. Also my bike isn't in storage. Pres. Wall has asked everybody to have a bike day once a week! So every week, or more, we get to ride our bikes and it is awesome! My bike is so cool and rides really good. I know it was expensive, but it really is worth it because Elder Gentry has kind of a junky bike and it has so many problems. He is pretty big, so his bike seat is literally almost bent in half, his rear breaks are broken and his rear rim got busted. That means that we can't ride bikes til he gets it fixed. That's a bit of a bummer, but it will all work out in the end.
Louisiana is pretty different, but it is growing on me. It has been pretty hot lately, although today is pretty cloudy. The roads really are crazy and make no sense sometimes. And Plaquemine, overall, is pretty poor. We really are in "the hood." People all of the time tell us to be careful, and really people avoid us for the most part. People realize we are "church people" and they know we aren't there to cause trouble. I never really feel that scared though. It is sad to see how hard it is to live down here though--people are struggling.
[I've left out the specific names of people below... to respect the privacy of these individuals as they learn about the Gospel and grow with the missionaries--note added by Kerry, Elder Soper's dad]
People are super nice down here. And we have had some really awesome experiences lately. We met with our new investigator again and he was drunk, but he was very attentive while we taught him. He told us that he trusts us and he wants to be baptized by us. We'll have to work with him a little bit ha ha but he has that desire! Another man we're teaching is 64 years old man and he spent the majority of his life doing drugs and it resulted in damaging his memory severely. He talks in circles a lot, but he really wants to come to Christ. We met with him last week and he boils pots of water to keep his apartment humid and I got so sleepy. But we started talking about the Book of Mormon and he told us that he feels good when he reads the Book of Mormon; he says he doesn't understand it all the time, but he feels good. That is the Holy Ghost! It is awesome to see his progression and we are going to go see him tonight again. After we left that meeting a a young guy stopped us before we got to our car. It was about 8 at night so it was dark and most of the time people are asking for money. But this was a different contact. He is 19 years old and he has been working 7 days a week to support his little daughter. He opened up to us and told us that he wants to do better, but it seems impossible with all the "stuff" that he has done. We set up an appointment and came back the next day to teach him. We taught him the Restoration and he was really receptive. He kept saying he wants to do what's right and "make it to Heaven." He has such a strong desire and when we asked him about his relationship with God he just told us that he is everything to him that he is so grateful for the blessings that he has given him, the house over his head, a job, food, his car, the convenience to communicate with others and his family. It is hard to explain how cool of an experience it was. It was one of the most spiritually experiences I have had and it was in a little, dimly lit house in Plaquemine Louisiana. It was so cool! All I wanted to do was let him know how awesome he is. Heavenly Father has prepared him and allowed us to be in the right place at the right time to meet him. Miracles happen everyday. We are going to meet him again tonight and one cool thing is that he works with one of the members of our branch.
I probably need to head out. But I just wanted to thank everyone for the letters they've sent. Things have been going a lot better, but they are still hard. Friday was a really stressful day and I needed something to help me and when we got home some letters were there and they brought me a lot of comfort. They were literally an answer to a prayer. Heavenly Father works through others and I can see now that he used you guys to bring me that comfort. So thank you so much for that and for everything. I try to be like you guys everyday and in everything that I do. I am doing better and everyday learning to rely on Heavenly Father and the Savior more. Let me know anything that you want to know. I want let you know as much as possible! It is just hard sometimes to know what to write. Thank you for the prayers and I love you so much! Good luck with everything and I can't wait to hear from you again!
Love your baby-face,
Elder Devin Soper
PS A couple people thought I was 12 or 13 this week. I am getting younger and younger.
PPS I will try to figure out how to attach some pictures next time.