Monday, April 22, 2013

...the most exciting and successful week so far on my mission.

Dear Fambly,

Well I think I might start by including my Presidents letter again this week. Do you guys like reading them? Well haha I will include it anyway:

"This was probably the most exciting and successful week so far on my mission. First of all, we went on exchanges with the South Elders and I really enjoyed being with Elder Navitikula. I want to share a really cool experience that I had with him. We were going to see an investigator who already has quite a bit of trouble understand things in general. We have to be very simple and concise with him or he gets very confused really fast. Elder Navitikula speaks English, but  very well for learning it in high school, but he definitely sometimes has a hard time getting his point across, or letting people really know what is on his mind. I will admit I was a little worried how this session with L. would go, because I wanted to include Elder Navitikula as much as I could and still help L. learn a lot. Well I found out a really good lesson while we were with him. We were teaching Leonce about inviting Christ into out lives. Elder Navitikula started explaining it to him and L. just focused in on his words, you could tell he was completely engaged. Once Elder Navi finished speaking, L. said "You bring up a really good point..." and went on to say exactly how he could invite Christ more fully into his life. I learned from this that Elder Navitikula may not speak English as well as he would like, but he speaks the language of the spirit fluently. It was really cool to see and I am grateful that I was able to be there to feel that spirit.

" But we were able to meet the mission goal of teaching 20 lessons this week and we actually surpassed it by 2 lessons. We have learned that the way to do it is to be consistent, you have to try hard and take small steps each day to get to it. We have seen that by being consistent we are able to meet with people more often and help them and us come closer to Christ as we learn to love each other. We have become good friends with many of the members and investigators and I look forward to going over to their places to talk about the Gospel with them. We were also able to pick up 2 new investigators this week and they came to church this Sunday as well. It was pretty cool cause we got to hear the familiar sound of a baby crying during sacrament meeting, reminds me a little of home. But we met with this family and they are very interested and agreed to a date for baptism. I really just love seeing missionary work unfold and see how the Lord puts people in our way that through him, we can help. This really is the Lords work and I am happy and honored to be a part of it. "

Elder Gentry and I are kinda of getting into the groove of things now. It has taken a little while and we both had to learn pretty quick how to adapt and deal with the new situation. And it is hard being the "new guy" and sometimes you feel like you have dropped a couple slots on the totem pole. But I have also learned that the totem pole won't stand unless each slot is filled. So recognition, I am learning, is not something you get on your mission, but I am learning to enjoy just being a support. Something that I have learned from soccer is that the mid-fielders don't get a whole lot of praise from the masses all of the time. They are there to support and create runs for the forwards. But without them, things really wouldn't get done. I really feel like you and me are going through and went through very similar experiences on our missions dad. It is pretty cool to think of you doing these same things.

It has taken a little while to really be able to connect with people on a personal level. Their back grounds and up-bringing was completely different from ours and sometimes it is hard to find that common ground. But a couple things that it has done for me is realize the blessings that I had growing up and the common problems that everyone in the world faces. Everybody has to poop and everybody has problems haha It is through those common problems and through the gospel that I feel I am able to connect with people better. It is tough, but I really do love some of the people down here. Christ knows all of us personally and he can fill the gap in the bridge between people.

I want to tell you a little story that happened to me yesterday. So this last week we picked up a little family and they came to church and we started teaching them. They are somewhat illiterate and for lack of a better word, pretty uneducated. Elder Gentry taught me early on that when teaching the gospel you have to be very simple in your explanations.Oh yeah this is the family that I talked about in my presidents letter (side note that baby crying in the chapel really was a familiar sound and Elder Gentry and I joked that the sound of a mormon church is babies crying and Elderly people snoring). But we were teaching them about priesthood authority and I had an explanation in my head that made pretty good sense. As I began telling them it, my words began to be jumbled, confusing and really incoherent. As I continued speaking I was actually kind of amazed at the non sense that was coming out of my mouth. They looked really confused--as did Elder Gentry and sadly as did I-- and I finished by saying "That didn't make any sense did it?" They looked at me and just shook their heads. I felt pretty discouraged for the rest of the lesson and was embarrassed that I messed up so bad. Afterwards I was thinking about it and just thought, you know I was trying and Heavenly Father respects when you at least try, no matter what. I was able to just laugh at myself with Elder Gentry and was actually able to use that example in a lesson later last night. I guess the trick to life is to not take life too seriously.

Well I better get going pretty soon. But I wanted to say how cool I think that your new scripture study chart is. I think that will really help everybody out. One of my favorite quotes is by Elder Packer and it says "The study of the gospel will change behavior quicker than the study of behavior will change behavior." Studying the Gospel really does help us become better people.

I want to end by saying how grateful I am for growing up in a home with awesome family values. We meet sometimes with the R. family and they are very unusual for people down here. They are based on really solid family values and they aren't members, but they must have read the Family proclomation or something, because they are awesome! I love going over there, because it reminds me of our house. They always have family dinner, they work on homework together and they hang out as a family every night. They are a really cute family. As a missionary you think a lot about how you want your family to be... or at least I have haha. But I want mine to be just like ours. Maybe you and Dad and Haley and Jordan can teach me a class when I get home about having a good family.

I love you guys so much and am looking forward to hearing from you.

Prayers and thoughts always

Elder Devin Soper

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Family really is everything...

Dear Family,

I think I will start with including my letter to President Wall this week:

"It was really nice this week to get back in the swing of things. We didn't have many meetings and we were able to devote a lot of our time to  the people in our area. We have a few investigators that are progressing really well in the gospel (L., LC., R.). They are all progressing at their own speeds and I am learning that we just need to be patient and enjoy the journey with him. This week we were talking to Roberto about the Book of Mormon and he began talking to us about Apologetics, or the proof of why a religion is true. He said that the only proof he could find for the Mormons was that story about the crickets and the seagulls during the times of the early church. We showed him the Mormon message "Testimony of the Book of Mormon" and that really turned his attitude around. The proof that the church is true isn't in historical facts, but in the testimony of the millions of members, that is pretty cool! I am just grateful that we are able to use the media that the church has put forth, because Elder Holland can talk about the Book of Mormon quite a bit better than we can.

"Elder Gentry and I also both learned that your testimony can really be strengthened through the bearing of it. Elder Gentry had a cool experience on Tuesday when he was able to quench the start of confrontation by bearing his testimony of what he knows is true. And yesterday we were following up on a potential investigator named H., who last month we gave a blessing to his mother with cancer. 3 days ago his mother passed away and he is in a pretty bad place. He said he is searching for that peace and you can tell that he may be ready to receive the peace that the gospel brings. I felt like I could honestly bear testimony to him of the divinity of the Book of Mormon and how much it could help him right now come closer to Christ. It was a really cool experience."

We really have been able to get back into a somewhat normal routine, which has been really nice. And we were able to ride our bikes twice this week, which was awesome! Especially because the weather has been really good. It has been pretty clear somedays and not too hot or humid. I have heard though that pretty soon it is going to be unbearable. Haha I am excited to see. There have also been some crazy rain and thunderstorms too. On Saturday night Elder Gentry and I woke up at about 2 because lightning was lighting up the entire room and the thunder was shaking the building, it was crazy.

I have to say also that I am really grateful for the Gospel in my life and how much happiness and peace that it brings. I think I take that for granted sometimes, because it just seems so much a part of everyday life. But it really is a blessing and I just feel like we are lucky to know that we have a Heavenly Father that loves us, that our Savior loves us and that we can be with our families forever. J. this week told us that the three most important things in this world are: God or the Godhead, our families and our homes. That is so true, because everything we do in the church revolves around those three things. One of the temple's biggest purposes is to seal families together and bring them closer to the Lord. That is pretty cool. Thank you for being such an awesome family and I can't wait to hang out with you guys for eternity!

We have done some pretty fun stuff for P-days though. Yeah we went to that swamp on a P-day with a bunch of other missionaries and usually whenever we go to Baton Rouge for p-day we play sports (basketball, volleyball, sometimes touch rugby haha) at the stake center. But a usual p-day consists of our regular studies, then we come email woot woot and then go to the store, do laundry and clean the apartment. That is usually what every p-day consists of...chores haha But I enjoy it because it breaks up the monotony. Especially because everyday feels the same and time is just starting to fly by. Some days I feel like I wake up and then I am going to sleep.

Hey dad you know how you were talking about your back getting hurt from soccer? I know what you mean when you just kink your back and makes you virtually immobile. Thankfully that hasn't happened to me out here and I am glad that you are feeling better, but that member in our branch J. has problems with the last disc in his spine. He got in a really bad car accident about 9 months ago and really put a number on his back. He has been in constant pain for the last nine months and he said it feels exactly like that achy feeling of being it in the groin. Wouldn't that stink. He said that pain has been there always and sometimes it is even worse. But they finally found out what was wrong with him this week and it took nine months. I am just happy that they can finally go ahead with surgery. Sorry that was a long explanation, but I thought it was cool how you can really empathize with how Jack feels.

That is cool that Christian went into the MTC today and it sounds like it has gotten absolutely crazy. I am grateful for how everything worked out for us with my mission. But I am so happy for Christian and I can just imagine him soaking up the culture and learning the language. Did you know when you learn a language in the MTC now that you have to teach a full lesson in that language on your third day? Good thing I was learning english. But Christian is going to do awesome and is going to be an amazing missionary and loving leader. The Gospel  is just a part of who he is and I really look up to him for that.

That is cool to that you are dedicating one lesson a month the missionary work. I have heard from a couple apostles that the new MTC is in the home and at Church. You are a MTC teacher now mom! I am learning that missionary work is all about love and applying the doctrine of Christ to help others partake of the Atonement. That is why every member is a missionary. I can say that you guys in all of your callings are doing a lot of missionary work. And on you can sign in with your account and have your journal and notes and mark your scriptures all on there, it is pretty cool and if you ever get an iphone I am pretty sure you can transfer it all over.

I am pretty sure that butter and spices are now beginning to run through my veins haha I am just kidding. The food is good down here though and I have found this smoked spicy sausage that is awesome in Jambalaya and in Red beans and rice. Mmm...mmm...

Family really is everything though and those relationships are the things that we will be able to take with us in the next life. We will become perfect as we we become unified as a family. I am so happy that everybody is around though and that extended family home evening sounded like it was awesome. That is so cool about grandpa's mom and speaking of music, we see this guy named D. sometimes and he is a devout Christian man who loves the missionaries, I think I have told you about him. But he let me play his guitar a little bit and it was so awesome. He then played for us a song that he wrote called "One flush away from Hell." He is a pretty funny guy and I felt like I could connect with him through the guitar.

Life as a missionary is a lot like normal life, but you are always going and sometimes I wish I could just go on walk with you guys in a park and play some soccer. So things get hard sometimes and I will say that in the past couple weeks I have felt pretty useless, because Elder Gentry as district leader has jobs and responsibilities that I can't help him with. I wish I could help him, but it is not my place. I have been really humbled so far in this transfer and am learning that it is important to just be a stable and supportive companion. I feel like it is making me more of who the Lord wants me to be and I have come to terms with and am pretty happy in the situation I am in now.

I will end with a cool little story. So last week on P-day Elder Gentry and I just stayed around the apartment and relaxed. We were doing our laundry out back in our regular clothes, t shirts and shorts. And this guy came up to us and asked us what we do all day in our shirts and ties. So we told him a little about what we do and how we go around inviting people to come closer to the savior. He was so baffled when we told him that we don't watch TV or date girls for two years haha So he asked why we decided to come out here. We told him that it was because of the Book of Mormon and the peace and comfort that it brings and that we wanted to share that with others. Simple testimony of the Book of Mormon. He then said "Man, I gotta read this book!" It turns out he is our next door neighbor, his name is Carl and he said he would like to meet with us sometime. Also his friend thought I was about 12 years old haha. I wonder how low I can go? But it was a really cool experience and it just shows me how prayers are answered and that people are praying for missionaries all around the world. Sometimes it is hard, but it is worth it.

I love you guys so much!

Prayers and thoughts alway :),

Elder Soper

PPS. here is a picture of our good friend Johnell Powers 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Where to start... it has been a crazy crazy week haha...


Where to start... it has been a crazy crazy week haha. Elder Gentry's new responsibility has required us to be in Baton Rouge a lot and we haven't had a whole lot of time in our own area. On Thursday he was in a meeting from 9 to 4 and I was tracting with another missionary for almost the whole time. It was actually really fun and exciting to get some doors slammed in your face. You always hear about it, but it is another thing to experience it. But I will tell you about some of those experiences for sure.

Conference was awesome this weekend and you are right dad, it is a nice break from the usual routine and is a great source for revelation and comfort. Elder Gentry was telling me before conference that it is way better as a missionary; it is practically like the super bowl, or as he said for me...the world cup haha. And it really is! It was so exciting and I was looking forward to it all week. And I didn't fall asleep at all, so that was an accomplishment and more importantly, I got more out of this conference than I have ever before in previous ones.

We watched the first 2 sessions in our little branch building and the priesthood session in Baton Rouge at the Stake center. And then yesterday, we watched both sessions with a part member family, the H's and played conference bingo. G., our one youth, is Emma's age and is a funny kid. That was a lot of fun to be over there and felt really comfortable to just be in a family setting. It is true dad that as a missionary you are more focused and sensitive to the spirit and to the talks that are given. Conference has never gone by so fast. I really liked the talks about how to have a successful marriage and family--there were a couple--but one of them was by L  Whitney Clayton.

I really liked the talks by Pres Monson and Pres Uchtdorf in Priesthood about the formula to prepare for a mission and the titles we as priesthood holders have. I really liked the talk by M. Russell Ballard that talked about the priesthood and how the procreation power and the priesthood power are shared by husband and wife to use them to their full divine potential. But along with that, I really liked all of the Apostles' talks (and all the other ones too, haha), and I was able to get a lot out of them. But man... Elder Holland really is a powerful speaker and I hope that everyone can do that, do no more than want to believe and act on that belief. Conference was awesome and I am excited to get the conference issue of the Ensign. It was also cool because I knew that you guys were watching the same thing as me at the same time, listening to the same people and feeling the same spirit. I really felt close to you guys yesterday and I loved it.

A couple other things that happened this week:

- A man that we see answered the door only in his boxer shorts the other day and that was a scary sight haha. (I'll give you a hint... Ab Rocket)

- Elder Gentry and I are both learning a lot with our new busy schedule and how to juggle a lot of things at once. I am really learning how to be a supportive and positive companion. It makes a big difference when you try not to take life to seriously and be happy.

- We knocked a mans door (when i went tracting with Elder Asuao) and he was bald, had a beer stained moustache, really pale skin, scraggly hair and beard and was wearing an LSU shirt. He told us he was a man of many faiths and that he wished us the best of luck with our missions. It was a different, but encouraging meeting haha but as we were walking away he stuck his head out and said to us " I am sorry gentlemen, but I must get back to drinking my beer and smoking my marijuana!" It was strange, but I loved it and had fun with Elder Asuao. He was telling me about a talk by Elder Holland that says it is always the last house, the house that really tests your faith. We were walking back to the car and he said let's knock that last house and give them a Book of Mormon. We knocked and a young girl in her 20's answered the door. We talked to her for a little and found out that she was from Colorado and had a couple of Mormon friends over there. She was really friendly and took the Book of Mormon (with their number in it).  It was cool to see that happen. It won't happen every time, but Heavenly Father has prepared people and we as members of the church and missionaries just have to try to find them and the Lord will put them in our paths. This really is the Lord's work.

I want to end with a last thing that I heard from conference and it came from President Monson, he said "A mission is a family affair." And that is so true. I am happy that I can be here in Louisiana sharing the same blessings that I have received from my family. I love you guys very very much and am looking forward to hearing from you this week!

Thoughts and Prayers always,

Elder Soper

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

We are now Batman and Robin...

Hey eddabody,

Thank you for the package this week.  I loved the Happy Beaster and Elder Gentry thought it was funny too. You gave me really everything I needed and I just happened to be running out of my hair stuff so it worked out perfectly. So thank you for sending that stuff to me berry berry much. I feel so grateful.

[After some nice, personal notes to family members, Elder Soper talks about his week:]

I had my first shrimp Po' Boy yesterday and a Cajun pulled pork sandwich last night that a member bought for us. Man it was so good and I am excited to take you guys to some of these places when we all come here.

It sounds like your Easter Sunday was awesome and it is such a cool holiday. We are able to think about our Savior Jesus Christ and all that he did for us. He loves us so much and he did it for everyone. His Atonement is infinite and divine and all we have to do is accept it and we will begin to become more like him. I am very thankful that I get to share this happy message with the people here and I am very thankful that you were able to share that with me when I was growing up. Haley sent this to me:

Thy sacrifice transcended
The mortal law's demand;
Thy mercy is extended
To ev'ry time and land

That is a line from a Hymn that they sung and I thought that it was a perfect way to bring the message of Easter. Thank you Sister!

This week was pretty great. Oh, first of all Elder Gentry and I are staying together. We were both really surprised that we were, we were almost 80 percent positive he was leaving. But like you said Dad, transfers are never really logical, but they are what the Lord wants to happen. I am excited that we will be able to stay together, because we have become good friends and have really gotten into a groove with missionary work. Elder Gentry is also the district leader this transfer and so things will get a lot crazier with a lot more exchanges, but I think that it will be good for us. We are going to learn a lot this transfer haha and it is going to cause us to grow a lot. A transfer would have been a welcome change, but this way we will get the best of both worlds. We are now Batman and Robin. And that quote that a man is only as good as his wife is true in missionary work. The only sad thing is I am representing the wife... I am probably the closest to a girl in the district though so it is alright haha.  But the name tag says Elder, so I am a man, yes I am.  But I think it is true that a missionary is only as good as his companion and that is why it is so important to be unified as a companionship. So I will do my best to support Elder Gentry in his new responsibility and try to help him become the best district leader that he can be.

We had dinner with Sister J. and her family for easter and it was a lot of fun; it reminded me a lot of the family parties that we would have. And guess what we had... ham.  Bro Thomas was right. She also gave us some Easter baskets and I was very grateful and I felt really loved. I like it here in Plaquemine.

I don't have too much time. It has been a crazy P-day. But remind me to tell you about the exchange I had with Elder Burraston and the youth baptist preacher. Actually I will tell you a short version. We got into a conversation with a baptist preacher and at first we were just talking and he wanted to know a little bit more about our missions. He asked us if we had done our research and said he hoped we weren't blindly following. We were able to share our testimonies with him and it was a cool experience to stick up for what I believe.  Lets see a few more things. Sis Jo. this week got Bells Palsy and the left side of her face is paralyzed (hopefully temporarily) and we were able to give her a blessing. It looks a lot like what Grandma had. We built a BBQ grill and it was an hour of trying to screw on legs and stuff haha. We have still been doing our scripture study class and the Potential Investigator we have gotten out of that came to church this week.  L. has a tatoo on his chest that says JEUSE and we asked him what it meant and he said the guy mispelled Jesus haha. We had a good laugh about that and its the thought that counts right? We taught F. about the redeeming powers of repentance and the spirit was really strong in that lesson. It was short and sweet, but powerful. He recognizes that his drinking is a problem and that he needs to do something about it and the amazing thing is is if he truly repents, it will be as if it never happened in gods eyes. How cool is that? I love F. a lot and I am realizing more and more that missionary work is all about love. Shannon was right when she said the best way to teach is to love.

Well I better get going and remind me also maybe when I train later down the road how you guys were such good parents. It amazes me haha. I love you guys a lot and I am always thinking about you.

Prayers and thoughts always


Elder Soper

Ps  I will send some pictures next week.