Wednesday, June 26, 2013

This has been a pretty great week...

Dear Family,
Me and Elder Stratford are staying together another transfer and that will be really good. We both got really excited and motivated after the broadcast on Sunday and we are ready to work hard with our ward and do our best! That broadcast really was so awesome and made me so excited to be a missionary and even more excited to be a member of Christ's church. How cool is it that we all get to be so involved in sharing this message to the entire world?! It sounds like a lot of the things that they are implementing have been experimented with and have gone through tests in other missions and they are ready to extend it to everyone. Technology is going to really push the work forward and it is pretty cool because we got a little taste of that yesterday. We have an investigator and she has been staying with her dad in Texas for the last month and yesterday we taught her a lesson at a member's house over skype. Never thought that would happen on my mission haha. The Lord really is hastening his work and it is exciting! And yeah that was fun to see Hayden in the Choir. He is going to the Mexico Verhillimosa mission or something like that. It is the southern most tip of Mexico I am pretty sure. I got so excited to see him, because it just made me realize we are all on our missions now serving the Lord! 

And Mom, I think the best thing to do and the thing that I have seen work on my mission is being friends with them. I loved what Elder Nelson said in the broadcast " Act by inspiration and be motivated by love." When you are motivated by love you will be open to the spirits guidance and you will do not what you think is best, but what Heavenly Father knows is best. I know that you have the genuine charity towards others and you are in tune and sensitive to the Lord's guidance. That goes for all of you, Mom, Dad, Taylor, Emma, Haley, Homeboy and Olive. I know that we can all be missionaries at the same time and in Orem it might be mostly bringing back those who are lost and in Oregon it will be sharing the gospel by example and conversation. But each of them work the exact same way. In the broadcast they really emphasized that the Lord's gospel is simple and it blesses those who follow it. The Book of Mormon, sharing testimony and being their friend is the best way to share the gospel with anyone, member or non-member. One great way to do that is invite people over for dinner, people love food and it is a non-threatening enviroment to create relationships. I am so excited to hear about your guys missionary experiences!
This has been a pretty great week. This last monday we were at Sis. White's house and she grows these little red peppers. I decided it would be fun to try one and I asked her if I could. She told me, "They are really hot." And I was like "Cool!" Mistake? Probably. The first thing I noticed was there were lots of seeds and the next thing I noticed is that it was really hot and the next thing I noticed was I was crying a lot and the next thing I noticed is that I was really thirsty. Haha it was crazy, but it was an experience that I wouldn't trade. We actually got some more peppers and Elder Stratfor and I had a competition. We ate two each and I took a video. Man those things are hot going in and hot coming out haha. Maybe you could take that last part out...
We have been biking a ton this week because our miles are running out since it is the end of the month. It has been really fun to ride around Thibodaux and just have time to think and appreciate what is around you. But at the same time it is really hot riding your bike in the summer in Louisiana. Especially when it is 96 degrees with the humidity at 70 to 80 percent. Oh man!! We make sure to drink lots of water because I have never sweat so much in my enitre life. It is a lot of fun. I also made red beans and rice from scratch this week.
We have had a couple cool miracles as we rode our bikes this week. We went to one families house and they weren't there so we felt like we should ride a couple minutes to a less-actives place. Along the way this guy waved and said hi to us so naturally we stopped haha. We gave him a book of mormon and got hid number. A couple days later we went to  that same family as before and felt like we needed to go to that same less-actives house. Along the way Bro. B. was walking towards us looking a little distressed, his dog had gotten away and he didn't know where it went. We rode our bikes, we found the dog and we were able to work together with Bro. B. to coral the dog. That really increased our trust and friendship with him. And both times we weren't really able to get into that less-actives house. The Lord prompted us to go there becasue he needed us somewhere along the way. Pretty cool. We had another cool miracle happen. We were supposed to go see a member, Sis. L, but our miles wouldn't allow us to make the trip and survive the rest of the month. A member, Hayden ( a young football player at Nicholls who went on his mission to Italy) took us out to see her. Sis. Blakeney's husband works off shore and we wouldn't have been able to go in without Hayden and she needed us there. Also she has a really fat fat fat fat cat with a bad bad hat! It was so funny to see and she was joking with us about it.
I love this area. The ward, the people, the challenges everything. It really feels like home, it feels comfortable and I am making some really great life- long friends. Yesterday we had dinner at the Tarr's. They are a less active family and the husband is a non-member. We picked tomatoes with them, sat outside and talked, grilled up some really good steaks and all had dinner around the table. It reminded me of home. They are a family I want to come back and see. I really admire and look up to their family values, because they are just like ours. I also love the stocks, the voisins and the Barrilleaux's. They are all solid families that we are becoming really good friends with. I am excited to take you guys here to Thibodaux someday. Maybe Tommy Barrilleaux will take us on a bayou fishing trip, actually he definitely will haha.
I love you guys so much and I think abou that often. I am so grateful for your great example and whenever I have a hard day I think of you guys. I love you.
Prayers and thoughts always
Elder Debunhams

Monday, June 17, 2013

I am so grateful to be here in Thibodaux, a satisfying challenge...

Hey Family,

Man, it sounds like it has been a pretty fun week for ya'll! That food sounds really good haha, I am a wee jealous, but I know that after my mission we can go to those places again. Also I am learning about some pretty good places down here as well that I will be able to take you to. Thibodaux definitely has a better selection of restaurants that Plaquemine; there is actually a pretty good mexican one down here which was a nice change of pace. But I am talking to the members a little bit learning about some of the good places down here (a few of them watch diners, drive-ins and dives). But the best food down here, is the home cooked food. People down here really know how to cook...well some of them haha. Oh yeah, have you used that seasoning again? Sorry I forgot to tell you that it is pretty strong and you don't have to use to much for it to really season it. Food is so good! And I am trying to pick up some recipes to that I will be able to make for you guys. But lateley, we haven't had too many out of this world experiences with food, but they are usually pretty solid. SIs. Voisin made this really good gumbo the other day with shredded chicken and sausage. And I haven't gotten your postcards yet, but I am sure that they are coming in the mail. And you don't need to worry if it makes me homesick or not. Somedays I am a little, most days I'm not. I think that is pretty normal. I just always remind myself that I will be able to see you guys again and I only have another year and a half for my mission. The time I have here is limited and so I better make the most of it!

Here is my Presidents letter:
"Well, the transfer is winding down and that is kinda scary. I can't believe how fast it has gone by and now looking back, I can't believe how much has happened in that time and how much I learned. I am so grateful to be here in Thibodaux, a satisfying challenge, and I am very grateful to have a companion that I can rely on. We have been trying our best to work in unity, plan, be diligent and be open-minded to the spirit. Because of that the Lord has really sent blessings our way. There have been those days that just all of our plans fall through, but somehow through refferals, service and working hard our day is full and productive. One day almost all of the people we planned to see fell through, but we were still able to teach 5 or 6 lessons that day--tender mercy! I am really learning to do things and make sacrifices for others and Heavenly Father, not myself. That makes it a lot easier. I am learning a lot, which is code for I am bending and being stretched which is good in the long run. It is hard to imagine doing anything other than missionary work right now, it is a good thing that I enjoy it hah.
This week in the Book of Mormon I have just been amazed at the sacrifices that Nephi has made. He was commanded to kill Laban, retrieve the plates, deal with his brothers, be a leader for his family, provide food, build a boat etc. etc. And all of those things the Lord commanded Nephi to do were pretty hard, but I think Nephi was able to do them because he wasn't doing it for himself. Nephi was committed to the Lord and his family and he was doing it for them. I feel like I can relate to Nephi as I am learning how to do that more and it is helping me to see how he dealt with the challenges. It is funny, because I thought about a lot of this stuff while I was not studying or reading for myself. I guess that shows the priniciple in action. It works! But thank you President and by the way, good talk yesterday, I will remember to keep some M&M's in my backpack for you."

We had stake conference this week and that was fun. A lot of driving back and forth from New Orleans, but it was good to ride with the members and get to know them a little better. We have a really cool young couple in our ward, Hayden and Natalia Cardiff. He plays football at Nicholls and she plays tennis (she used to play professionally in Brazil I think he said). They are really energetic and just super happy. We got a ride home with them on friday and since conference got out at 8, we were probably going to get home late. We stopped by at one of Hayden's friends houses in Metarie (right next to New Orelans) she is a less active member and is part of the Thibodaux ward. She bounces back and forth for work. We talked with her for awhile, got to know her a little bit, addressed some concerns and were at her house until 9:40. That is a little past curfew haha but that is what we needed to do. We were there to support her and that is what she needed. So even though we were out late, we were being obedient to what the Lord needed us to do at that moment. I know that sounds a little like I am justifying it, but we really were trying hard to listen to the spirit and we both felt like what we did was the right thing. We talked with Hayden and his wife about it later and we compared it to Nephi slaying Laban. He had the commandment not to kill, but he was also commanded of the Lord to slay Laban. First and foremost we are obedient to the Lord. That was a good lesson for me to learn in just being open-minded to the spirit. Also that was a miracle in itself, becasue we can now support another less-active member that really needs support. Miracles happen, woot woot. And Hayden bought us beneigts too which are really good.

This week was pretty good, lots of people were gone for early summer vacations, but we still tried our best to see as many people as we could. We taught a FHE at the dikets and we made the Armor of God out of cardboard which was a lot of fun. Oh and mom, Sis. Voisin is the Relief society pres. Sorry I just remembered I wanted to answer your question and my brain is kindof weird haha but you already knew that. We taught an investigator over skype which was pretty cool, shaina. She is at her dad's in Texas for the month, but they pulled her up on skype and we had a quick lesson. Pretty good use of technology I would say. We helped a less-active member put these cabnets together that may have had the worst instructions in the world haha. They made absolutely no sense, the pieces weren't labeled and it was all around hard. But we got to know him better, so it was worth it and it was kind of a fun change of pace. I am a real-worker guy! That is true because we helped out at salvation army somemore this week and we helped a member move this week. 

I can definitely relate to you this week dad with your crazy fall. Which I will admit I kind of chuckled at becuase it reminded me of what I did this week. So we were riding our bikes this week and we had just come out of a members house to fill our water bottles. We were riding down the road and the phone started rining. So in my mind I thought, "I will look at the phone, see who it is and pull over to the side." Well I did the first two pretty good, but the second one not so much. I wasn't going very fast at all, but I only hit the front brakes as I tried to get to the side, becasue the phone was in the other hand. So oddly enough, the bike started folding in on itself and I was going down with it haha. As I was falling I though "oh no, I am going to miss the call." As I hit the ground, I flipped open the phone... but I had already missed the call. And immediately I started laughing, just becasue I could believe what I had just done. Well I was definitely blessed, because my bike really came out with out a scratch, my clothes didn't get dirty or ripped or even look like they touched the ground and really the only thing that happened was I got a scrape on my elbow that is almost healed. I do feel pretty satisfyed though, that I had my first mission bike crash, but I won't do it again. I am fine and I have learned from my mistake.
We met a less-active member this week named B. and he is the epitome of a sweet old man. He is 77, has lung cancer,COPD and emphazema, but right off the bat he was teasing us, joking with us and just being friendly. We got to play chess with him, his favorite game, and give him a blessing. He is really patient with his bitter wife and he loved playing chess. You could tell how much he enjoyed it and it made us feel so good. One funny thing while Elder Stratford was playing, he made a move and B. under his breath muttered the S word. It was just funny to see a sweet old man swear over chess haha.
Last thing I will share is this cool miracle. We were looking for another Less-active member and we were struggling to find her. We had gone to the first address and she wasn't there, they gave us another and she wasn't there. But we asked for directions from this man and we got to talking with him. He had met with Elders a long time ago and he said we could come over again. We went the next day and taught him the restoration and his foundation from the other missionaries made it really simple and easy to help him. He understood and accpeted everything. We also asked him to be baptized and he said yes. We are going to be working with him a lot. I will let you know more details as time goes on, but it has been a really cool miracle so far.
I am glad that you guys are having so much fun and I have loved hearing about your trip. I am looking forward to getting your postcards! I will try too to have a good balance of responding to your stories and telling you the ones that happen here. I love you guys so much!
Prayers and thoughts always
Elder Devin Soper

Sunday, June 16, 2013

We had another busy week, that was really exhausting, but rewarding...

Dear Family,

So you guys are taking a road trip up the coast of California to Portland with some camping stops on the way? That sounds like a blast. I can't wait to hear about how the trip went and how much fun you guys are having. Here I will start out with the Pres. letter:

"We had another busy week, that was really exhausting, but rewarding. It is funny how every night we get in and talk about how tired we are, but we also talk about how much we enjoy each day and how happy we are. Heavenly Father really strengthens us throughout the day to give us the energy to keep going. We have seen so many miracles that have come from just being in the right place at the right time. An MTC teacher told us that we just have to prepare the nets to catch the fish, we have to put ourselves in the right place to meet and teach the people Heavenly Father wants us to. I think this has come from trying harder to follow the spirit and praying more often for the spirits guidance. We are also trying to be more effective at nightly planning, because we know that will increase the tender mercies even more. I think this whole experience is making Elder Stratford and I grow closer together and I really feel like he is my friend rather than just my companion. That makes sharing the gospel that much more enjoyable and effective. But that doesn't mean that it is easy at all...the challenges are helping to unify us the most. But I am grateful for those. We are trying to work hard with the ward and with Heavenly Father and it is working.

This week I really buckled down and studied the tree of life story for a talk that I was giving on Sunday. I think it is so cool how the dream really focuses on three things: prayer, listening to the spirit and reading from the scriptures. I have loved the concept of not only being on the right path, but being pointed in the right direction and those three things will do that. It related very well to this month's First Presidency message where Pres Uchtdorf talks about how without spiritual landmarks, we tend to wander. That is true, and prayer, the spirit and the scriptures are some of those landmarks to point us in the right direction. These primary answers really are so true, and focusing on these little things will bring you so much happiness day to day and in eternity."

Man, so much happened this week I am trying to figure out how I can get everything down haha. Here we go... We met with this family, the T.s, on Tuesday. Actually on Tuesday we just met with him and we had a really good visit, we played the song and got to know him a little better. He is an off-shore diver and is from Pleasant Grove, Ut. He is super nice and really personable. We went back on Sunday to meet with his family and it was a lot of fun. We hung out, ate some hamburgers and just got to know them a lot better. We also found out that Bro. T. is not a member, but his wife is. We had no idea, becsaue both of their names are on the roster and he is from Utah, so we just assumed haha. It is just cool to see that even though he is not a member of how open he is to have the missionaries come over. That is a really cool situation and we are becoming better friends with them.

We have still been doing a lot of service at the salvation Army and this last week was nuts. We came in on Tuesday and there was about a 30 foot long stretch with garbage bags filled about shoulder high on the wall... it was really overwhelming to say the least haha. But they brought in a box truck so we could fill it all up and then there was a domestic dispute because the truck was parked in a ladies parking spot. The police had to come and it was just crazy haha. Me and Elder Stratford didn't get involved at all, we just stayed in the the other room eating donuts, so it was okay haha. But we finally got back to work and we filled that entire box truck by hand in hot humid weather. Our backs got so tired from chucking those bags around and I got so sweaty and stinky. Trash and sweat is not a good combination. But afterwards we went to this little drive-in burger place and got some pretty good shakes. I got this really yummy fresh strawberry shake, that brought me back to the good times at purple turtle after Cammy's. Ahh... That same day, we had just come back from institute at a members house and we were going to take a quick break and we got a call from the stake Pres. asking us to come to the hospital. He actually runs the hospital and a member in our ward had had a heart attack earlier that day and we got called over to give him a blessing. That was a pretty scary blessing to give, because it is different when a life threatening event has happened. He asked Elder Stratford to do the anointing and me to give the blessing. I really had to focus on the spirit to guide me what to say. But it was an awesome experience.  The priesthood really is such a blessing and I feel so grateful that I am worthy enough to bear it and use it to bless the lives of others. He had surgery and they put a few stints in and I think that he is doing a lot better.

We were able to meet with our next door neighbor and share the song with her as well. We became better friends with her and she told us to come by again and that when we come up with another song we can practice it with her. She also said that she would read from the Book of Mormon and think of some questions for next time. So that is pretty cool. We had a cool FHE with Richard and Christy Stock. He is about 30 and he jut got called to be the first counselor in this new Bishopric a couple of weeks ago. His wife is really nice and down to earth and she made these really good homemade taquitos (however you spell it) with spinach, chicken and cheese. Richard is a really cool guy, he has a really dry sense of humor, but once you get to know him he is really easy to get a long with. He is a bold and driven guy. We got to play the song for them and his brother in law, Brady, who is the one from Orem that actually served his mission down here in Louisiana. Pretty cool.  But that was a lot of fun. We were getting home that night and we got a call from the Bishop that Bro. Barrilleaux wanted a blessing. We have met with his wife a couple times and she is really cool, super nice, easy going and humble. She has been such a big help to us in these past couple weeks, helping us learn the new area. But her husband has been super sick with a sinus infection that he hasn't been able to get over for about a month or two. We went over earlier that day and he was dizzy and throwing up from all the fluid in his ears, it was making him nauseous. We were able to give him a blessing and then have a little lesson with him and his wife. We became instant friends with him and he is a really cool guy. I know I am using a lot of fluffy adjectives haha but the people down here are just really very super cool and easy to get a long with. His biggest passion in life is fishing and after my mission we could come back and he could give us a little fishing tour down here. That would be awesome. But even better, he came to church this sunday! That made my day yesterday. Our talks went well yesterday. Pres Stock was there so that was kind of nerve-racking, but I think they went well. You know how you talked about how we need to put our confidence in Heavenly Father and the spirit rather than ourselves when we give talks or bear our testimony? Well I really had to do that tomorrow. Our week was so busy last week, we didn't have much time to go the library, so we never got to write down our talks. That made me pretty nervous for awhile, but I just decided if I needed to write down my talk, we would have had the time to do so. And so by process of elimination, I decided because of that, Heavenly Father just wanted to use the time and preparation that I had put in during personal studies and go by the spirit. That was scary, but I didn't feel nervous about my talk all week after I prayed abou that. And it went well, not great, but good and that in itself is a miracle haha. I did use your story though and it worked well with the message, so thank you!

Well I bet you guys are having a ton of fun and I can't wait to hear all about it. I love you guys so stinkin much.  Love you guys!

Prayers and thoughts always


Elder Soper

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

This has been a crazy, busy week, but it has also been really awesome and a ton of fun...

Dear Eddabody,

This has been a crazy, busy week, but it has also been really awesome and a ton of fun. But first here is my President's letter:

"I don't want my letters to sound too repetitive, but things are going good here and Elder Stratford and I are getting into a good groove. We are learning more of how we each work as missionaries and finding that common ground that leads to great unity. I think that has come from really focusing on the little things each day. We are trying to find ways that we can be more obedient, more diligent to be ultimately guided by the spirit. It is definitely working, because we have seen miracles everyday. Sometimes we really just have those slow days, but a cool little thing will happen that makes it all worth it. And then other days the work just explodes and we are having a hard time fitting everything into our schedule. Planning has become critical and we are trying to take the time each night to really focus on it. I am loving working in this ward and in this area. I can feel myself growing more and learning to become the missionary that the Lord needs me to be. It is pretty cool.  It has been a stressful couple weeks, but I am always reminded of that line in the poem that you wrote me that says "Bending not breaking is the strengthening goal." I am being bended and Heavenly Father, my family and Elder Stratford are helping me not to break. And so  I am growing.

This week in my Book of Mormon reading I have been getting to know Nephi a little better. I really like the scripture where he talks about he was led by the spirit not knowing beforehand what he should do. It just makes me think of the preparation that he needed to have so he could have such direct guidance of the spirit. He needed to be living his life right. It makes me think of the quote that you told us that as long as you are on the path, you are where you need to be. Nephi was on the right path and that is when the Lord was able to help him get to where he needed to go."

So this next Sunday, I have to give a talk and I think I have decided that I want to speak on, being on the right path, or being pointed in the right direction. I was pretty confused at what I wanted to speak about this morning, but when I read your testimony dad I was like "woot woot for answers to prayers!" That is something that has been on my mind and what you wrote put it in a better perspective. So thank you for sending that and is it alright if I use a little bit from it in my talk? I really like that concept of being on the right path and that perfection isn't a destination, but it is a direction. Pretty cool how that works.

So to answer a few of your questions from the letters, yeah these last couple weeks have been stressful. It was kind of a lot when you have to get used to a new area, a new companion and then your companion is doing the exact same thing. It results in some interesting dynamics and like you said dad, some confusion of who makes the final decisions. That is really cool how much our missions are lining up. So if I keep going on the same path you did, I will probably be training a lot pretty soon haha. It does make this whole journey feel more manageable, because I know that you went through a lot of the same things and I can draw on the example that you and mom have given me. That gives me a lot of strength. But things are kind of smoothing out and Heavenly Father definitely blesses you for working hard. So even though it has been pretty stressful, I have really loved it. Like that line in the Pres wall Poem "Bending not breaking is the strengthening goal" and I definitely am feeling the growth and I feel like Heavenly Father is making me a better person, I really feel like he is making me more like you guys. And because of that I think I am becoming a happier person. It is crazy because I am trying my best to help all of those around me and in turn I am gaining a lot. I hope it sounds alright in writing haha not like I am focusing too much on myself. But they have told us that the people here ending up blessing you more than you bless them, that is true.

Also mom, with Y. and those guys, Elder Davidson and I invited them earlier that week and they ended up coming on their own. They didn't come yesterday, but Elder Davidson told me that he saw them earlier that week and they told them to come over anytime, they were also curious if the church had any other activities during the week. That is super cool that they are so interested. So this last week we were able to go out with members a lot and that was awesome. I am excited when I get home that I will be able to help the missionaries out. It helps so much and the testimonies that they bring really bring the spirit into peoples lives. They know the area better and they can connect with the people on a really personal level. We went out with Brother Bybee, a guy named L. and R. L. is 23 and a recent convert. He was baptized about a year ago and is preparing to go on a mission. He is super energetic and excited to go on a mission. We took him to a lesson with a less active member who just a week before said she liked smoking too much to quit. We had invited her to pray and read the book of Mormon each day and the next time that we saw her she had made a complete 180. She is living in a trailer, she has COPD, and she hasn't really been doing anything for the last 7 months. When we saw her the other day, she was full of energy, she had started cleaning her trailer, she is going back to work and overall she just looked so much happier. She even told us that she has cut down on cigarettes by about 4 or 5 a day. That is something! She told us she has been taking the time to pray and read to Book of Mormon more and she said that has really motivated her. That is so cool to see the strengthening power that the gospel has.

One thing the Bishop has asked us to do is Fanlee hone eennings [family home evenings] and this last week we did one with his family and then also the rest of his extended family haha. There was about 20 people there and we had 2 members of the bishopric, the elders quorum president and the Stake President all watching. It was crazy, but it went well. We also had specialized training with Pres Wall this week and we got to watch Johnny Appleseed haha the first Disney movie I have seen on my mission. It had some really cool parallels with Missionary Work and planting the seeds of the gospel. I am slowly running out of time on the computer clock... But this last week has been really cool, becasue I have been able to use the guitar in a lot of lessons that we are teaching. So we have an investigator and her name is Shaina, she is 16 years old and is friends with E. a girl in the ward. We have been teaching her at the dikets home and she is super prepared to be baptized, the only thing is her mom won't let her. Another thing is she is leaving to live with her dad for a month and so we decided to come up with a lesson about the spirit and show her how that can help her while she is gone. Elder Stratford had the great idea of borrowing a guitar, and using a song he wrote, play music for people to invite the spirit into their life. So that is what we did! We have been able to play that song at least 20 times in the last few days and has opened a lot of doors from investigators to Less active members. It has been a really cool way to share the gospel and I am so grateful that Heavenly Father is helping me and Elder Stratford use our talents in our missionary work. I have loved it!

Well I better get going, but I love you guys so much. Have a great week and I can't wait to hear from you.

Thoughts and prayers always,

Elder Devin Soper