Tuesday, July 30, 2013

"Nearer my God to thee..."

YOLA everyone,

So this is the last week of this transfer and once again I won't know what will happen until next monday. So it will be one of those weird weeks where I will be emailing you guys on tuesday. Oh yeah, I think I forgot to tell you what song that I played. I played "Nearer my God to thee" and there is a cool story behind that. So when I got the guitar from that one missionary there were some papers stuffed at the top of the case. I pulled them out and they were super crinkled, but as I looked closer they were the guitar music for "Nearer my God to thee" and Come thou fount." Pretty cool huh? And since then I found a bunch of guitar music just sitting in our apartment of various hymns. That has been a lot of fun to play those and learn new things. Keeps me fresh. Also another cool development with guitar is that Elder Stratford wrote another song and I was able to write the music for it. I definitely had some divine help becuause this is the first song that I have helped write that is pretty good haha. We have been able to share it with a lot of people and actually one of the members in our ward had this digital recorder and they recorded me playing this new song and the Phoenix one. I am going to get them on a USB and try to share them with you sometime. Sidenote: We are at the Library in Thibodaux and the guy sitting next to me looks exactly like Jamie Foxx, literally twins haha Holy Cow. Sorry I thought you might enjoy that. 

View of Elder Soper's apartment in Thibodaux

While we've been sorting out my debit card situation, Elder Stratford has treated me to a lot of chinese buffets (he likes to go a lot haha) and so this week I treated him with my card. It is pretty good and has that yummy mongolian BBQ. Yeah I am still deciding if I should get a fishing lisence or not. The trouble is that when you buy a day pass, you have to say what day it will be, so it makes it tough to schedule. I'm sure we will figure something out though. But with all this trying to go fishing stuff I have gained a really strong desire to go fly fishing again haha. I miss the mountains, the streams and the cool air that you can enjoy when you are out fly fishing. So needless to say I got really excited when you said we could get me a rod and waders when I get home. That is something that I am looking forward to, being outdoors, camping and fishing. Haha I have also had a longing for another thing this week...bionicles. I know that sounds weird haha but we helped a member clean his lego collection ( when I say collection, I mean COLLECTION) he has got a lot of stuff and it reminded me of when Taylor and I would play with Legos and make bionicles. It has been a week of nostalgia. Elder Stratford played with bionicles as well and so we have had some fun conversations about that this week. I might see what kindof knock off Bionicle things they have now and try it out,  just to see if it brings a little satisfaction haha.

About your reunion in Idaho: That walking ultimate frisbee sounds like it was so much fun haha. I had fun imagining you guys having determined looks and being tense as you walk as hard as you could to catch the frisbee haha. It sounds like you guys have had a lot of fun up there so far. I can't believe that was a year ago that we were up there last. I can still remember doing the dinosaur stomp on the piano haha. Man time really flies. That is so cool hat Stan and Gwens barn is being put up! When will it be done? And tell everybody that I am really grateful for all of their prayers and their support. I can feel it day to day and it brings me strength and happiness as I go.

I have been doing a lot better anxiety wise. I have actually been using those breathing exercises a lot and it has really helped. It is funny how you just focus so much energy on imagining and breathing deeply and methodically that once you are done you forget what you were worried about or you realize it was a silly thing to be worried about. That has helped me out a lot and helped me to be more patient with those around me and myself. It has been nice to just take those quite moments to meditate, breath and recognize the blessings, beauty and good all around me. It is there, sometimes I just forget to appreciate it. Thank you for sending me that advice, I am a lot happier since then.  It is funny too, the scriptures that you shared are exactly the ones that I went to these last two weeks when I needed comfort. It made me so happy to see those in the letter because I instantly knew that ou followed a spiritual prompting to share those with me. The song Elder Stratford wrote as well has a little to do with those scriptures. I love verse 7-9 and especially 9:

"Thy afriends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again with warm hearts and friendly hands."

I think of you guys when I read that scripture, because even though you aint here with me, I know that you stand by me. But like you said Dad, I really do feel like this is preparing for me to be married haha. It is weird since I am with a companion, but I think this is Heavenly Fathers way of helping us iron out the wrinkles befoe we are married. You are right that it is easier to be patient and understanding when you are rested and happy, but when you are a little stressed it is another story. But I have found when I really make an effort even when I am tense, it makes me feel happier. Funny how that works. Thank you for our advice, it has helped me out a ton. Haha I can relae with you dad with having your heads in the clouds with things like paper work. Mine is phone calls and text. I don't know if I just have poor etiquette or I just really don't know what I am doing sometimes. But I make some errors and forget things, but I have learned to just laugh it off, becasue in the end it is pretty comical haha. Like trying to leave a message, not having all the information you need and so you whisper to your companion for help and forget that you are leaving a message rather than talking to someone. Haha I am not sure how that happened, but I just did some alien breathing and laughed it off.

But this week was pretty good. I mean there were still some stressful parts and a couple new challenes that come up that prompted some growth. We were able to have dinner with this guy named B.T. and he is hilarious. I don't know why her cracks me up so bad, but everything he says and the way he laughs just makes me laugh. He made us some good steaks and grilled some sausage, it was yummy to this missionaries tummy. He has met with missionaries for over 13 years and he knows every lds or missionary reference which is pretty funny considering he works with a member that just moved in. He says things like "Let's just sing called to serve." When there was a little disagreement during a meeting and nobody knew what he was talking about but Bro. D. We helped out a lot at salvation army again this week and that has been good to put in some physical labor and some service. It was hard to get a hold of E. and B. this week since both or their phones went out. But this sunday we were just hoping that they would make it. Church had started and about 10 minutes in they hadn't showed up, but a little while later they walked in with H. I couldn't help but to do a tiny fist pump and a grunt of triumph to myself. We were able to have a lesson with them after church and they are doing better than ever. We have also had a young man named Bryar help us teach them as well and that has been good to get him involved. Things are still a little bit slow, but we are excited to have a new week and work hard.

Thank you again for doing all this stuff for me, I really appreciate it. Thank you too for giving me such detailed updates on the happenings back home, that is really fun and like you said it makes me feel a part of things. I am pretty happy right now and grateful for the challenges that have pushed me to grow. I love you guys so much and I hope you have a great time up at the cabin!

Prayers and thoughts always,

Elder Debuns

Friday, July 26, 2013

This week was pretty crazy...

Hey eddabody,

First, some pictures:

That is so cool about Ben's mission! Yeah that is where Jordan went and that is where tons of the Elder's and Sisters in my MTC district went. I know a lot of missionaries there right now. Elder Manufakai, Elder Zachilli, Elder Black (my companion) Sis ward, and a couple others. He's going to love it there and I already know that he is going to help out a lot of people there. That is cool about his mom too. And Dad all that information sounds right to me. That is what I gathered from the broadcast as well and we heard our mission will get that stuff, we just don't know when. That is cool that you are getting your own set of Elder's there. That will help so much with activating Less-active members and even strengthening the members of individual wards. Taylor could go out with them as well, because he will be able to relate well with teenagers his age and do a lot of good. Although I look about 15, I still can't connect with a teenager as well as one of their peers.

We had a musical fireside last night and I always enjoy those. There were some really good ones...and there were some that were pretty off haha. Needless to say I enjoyed those ones even a little bit more. I was able to preform as well and it went okay. I didn't practice as much as I should have and I ended up changing the way that I play it at the last minute to adjust to the way the microphone situation was. I played it too fast, but I don't care too much haha. I try not to take myself very seriously and it makes moments like that much easier to handle. Just joke about it and realize we all make mistakes. It was a good learning experience.

So like I said this week was pretty crazy. I don't know if it is just summer or what, but our lessons have gone way down. I feel like we are working just as hard, but the results are very different. That bothered me really bad at first, becasue I felt like I was doing something wrong. I had some deep self-evaluation and I felt at peace with my efforts. I can always be doing better and doing more, but for what I did I felt good. That quote you sent me at the start of my mission dad has really helped "My consistent but imperfect efforts are enough; I am happy and at peace with my limitations since the Lord will gradually make me stronger and in the meantime, He'll make up the difference." That is very true and I am really trying to have that attitude. It has been tough, but it is helping my faith to grow and I guess in the end, that is what it is all about.

We had zone conference this week and they put a huge emphasis on member missionary work and managing stress. I found I am in the yellow zone right now (moderate) and that that is okay. It is the process of adapting from yellow (moderate) to green (normal) that strengthens you and prepares you for the challenges ahead. I think I have a little bit of that anxiety problem that you were talking about mom. It isn't terrible, but I find myself getting stressed or worried about things easier than most people. I am pretty sure I have been like this my entire life, it has just taking learning and recognizing it for me to really notice it. But like Ether 12:27 says When you recognize your weaknesses the Lord can turn them into strengths. I am learning and I can feel Heavenly Father help me.

Things are going really good with B. and E. We ran into some complications with TJ and T's parents so we will have to take a step back. B. and E. both went to Youth conference in New Orleans this week and they loved it. (S. went as well). They are both so prepared and have a deep desire to learn more and come closer to their Savior. Brad has been reading the Book of Mormon and not only that on his own he decided to mark the verses that stuck out to him. How cool is that! E. has been an open-minded learner and is not afraid to ask us questions so he can learn more. I feel like I am becoming really good friends with those two and I am so grateful that I get to be a part of their lives. Yesterday after sacrament both B. and E. came up to talk to us just to joke around and talk about youth conference. Also we were able to get a ride home with H. and those two yesterday and we just all feel like good friends. I am really happy and feel blessed for those two.

Thank you so much for your support and I love you guys more than anything in the world. I tell people about you guys all the time and use you in my missionary work. I love to look up to you for your Christ-like example. I love you guys.



PS I think we are going to get fishing liscenses today so that will be fun. I will be sure to take pictures.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Small and Simple Things...

Dear Fambly,
Well hello once again. I really appreciated your letters and emails this week, I really needed the encouragement and a good laugh haha. This week has been crazy, different and pretty exciting. It has been a lot like a roller coaster...up and down, up and down. I heard somewhere that that is good, because from a medical standpoint when your life flat lines that means your dead... morbid but pretty true haha. But I am learning a lot and it's tough and its uncomfotable, but in the end it is for the best.
I like what you said about having to work slowly with people, or how the small gestures seem to mean more than the big efforts. I think that is very true and something that I love and have really come to understand is how it is the small and simple things that matter most. It is like baby steps off of What about Bob. "baby steps to helping people come back to church." Baby steps to taking the sacrament." Baby steps to becoming more Christlike." And then soon you will become a sailor...AHOY!! Just kidding. But it will make things much easier. It reminds me to just be a little better each day and that the Lord will help me as I strive to be more like him. That is why I love this scripture, Alma 37: 6-7
 Now ye may suppose that this is afoolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that bybsmall and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise. 
 And the Lord God doth work by ameans to bring about his great and eternal purposes; and by very bsmall means the Lord doth cconfound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls.
The small and simple things that we do everyday will directly effect our happiness and like it says in the scriptures our salvation. That is pretty awesome! If I would have to choose a theme to my entire mission it would be "The Small and Simple Things." Doesn't look quite cool enough maybe...ELDER SOPER AND THE SMALL AND SIMPLE THINGS. Kind of like a Harry Potter book. Haha that was really stupid, but I hope that was at least a little bit funny. I am really learning how important a sense of humor is as well and how you really can't take yourself too seriously. Since I have read your letters( heard about some of the things you are doing as bishop with those insane stories) and seen the things that I have on my mission so far, I have seen how crazy and how disturbing this world really is. Being able to laugh really keeps you sane and can make light of situations that would otherwise really take a toll on your spirits. I hope that I am becoming better with my sense of humor and my overall personality that I will be able to react respectfully and understandly to others situations like you guys are.
This week was pretty unexpected. We have been working alot with a member named Hayden Cardiff, he is a young guy and was married about a year ago. He is still super gung ho about missionary work and he has been awesome to work with.  There is a young returning member family (T. wife B.) in our ward and they started to bring their niece and nephew to church with them. They wanted to learn more about the gospel and so it is our job to teach it to them. We went over there tuesday night and B's 18 year old brother, Br., was there hanging out, so we invited him to sit in on the lesson. We had an awesome discussion about the restoration and they were willing to learn. The spirit was really strong in that lesson and they all agreed to be baptized. We gave them august 3 as a goal to shoot for and I think by that time they will be ready to participate in that ordinance. We went back a few days later and had an awesome experience where we all read 1Nephi 1 together and talked about how it can apply to us in our day. Those guys are ready and they are excited to take this next step, I am very grateful to be able to be a part of this. By the way TJ is 13, Tr. is 15 and Brad is 18. This last sunday or yesterdya I guess, Hayden brought another young man to Church. His name is E. and he is 16 years old. He is this big black kid and he has his head shaved expect for a really short (almost buzzed) bleached mohawk. We were able to meet with him after and have a good discussion on the Restoration as well. The spirit was there guiding and directing that lesson for sure becasue it went so smooth. It wasn't even like a lesson because we were all participating and all learning as we were going. E is really smart, very spiritually in tune and just prepared to hear the gospel and help out his fellow man. After the lesson we asked him how he felt and he said it was like an "epiphany." He said it was like he knew it all along and as we talked about it, it just felt familiar to him. What What?! How cool is that. That is one of those stories that you hear about in missionary lore, but there really are those people out there that are prepared to hear it. He also agreed to be baptized and once again I am so grateful to have met him and be a part of his journey. I have loved how open and receptive the youth have been in this area. They seem to be much more open-minded and have the desire the learn more and come closer to Christ. I have loved hearing about Taylor and Emma as well as they have become such great discples and represantatives of Christ in their lives. That made me so excited to hear about how Taylor loves his scriptures. He is already so much better prepared and on track than I ever was.
I probably need to get going, we are hanging out with some other Elders today and we have a couple fun things planned. I promise I am going to send pictures next week haha. I have one of me with the guitar, a couple more from the area and a couple of me making red beans and rice from scratch while doing funny chef poses. So you have a lot to look forward too haha. I love you guys so much and thank you for all the support that you give to me. I love you!
Prayers and Thoughts always
Elder Devin Soper

Monday, July 8, 2013

This week has been a pretty crazy with the 4th of July...

Good Morning,

So this week has been a pretty crazy with the 4th of July, Elder Stratford's Birthday, an exchange and another meeting in New Orleans. They say that holidays are a great day to proselyte because families are home and together...wrong, haha. Nobody wants to see missionaries on holidays like 4th of July except for members of the ward. I definitely understand though because holidays are times that you get to spend time with family and see people you normally would not. I really don't mind; I just think it is funny how they put such a big emphasis on it. And anyways we were able to spend most of our day with the Dikets and I think those are the pictures that you saw. We celebrated Elder Stratford's birthday (which is the 4th of July) with cake, homemade mint chocolate chip ice cream and cheesy presents. We had a big water balloon fight and even though I got soaking wet in my missionary clothes, it felt pretty normal...which is gross because that is a lot like how you feel after being outside for awhile haha. But we then watched the church movie: The Testaments, the one about Book of Mormon times and had a big BBQ. It was pretty nice to just hang out in a family setting and relax. And it sounds like you guys had a really good 4th as well. Man, I didn't realize that Taylor would be gone at EFY; that must have been pretty different with not very many people there. Our family has kinda shrunk... haha. But even so, it sounds like it was a great time and that you were able to continue in the tradition of "Cul-de-sac of Fire!" The best fire work show short of the real one!  Just think about it though, I have been out for almost 7 months now and by next 4th of July I will be winding down. That is a weird thought.

I am glad that Taylor had so much fun at EFY. I remember the week that I went, and I am glad that Taylor has made a tradition of going every year.  That will help grow his testimony and the easier it is talk to girls...the easier it is to talk to anybody haha. That is a skill that will come in handy on your mission. I went on an exchange with Elder Robles this week, a Spanish Elder in Houma and that was an interesting experience. First of all, I ate this really really good burrito at an authentic taco stand. Excluding Cafe Rio, it was maybe one of the best burritos I have had. And they made this spicy thicker green salsa that was...mmm... Sadly it really took a toll on my insides, but it was worth it haha. While I was there, we met with one of their investigators named W. and we taught him (or I should say Elder Robles taught him) about the Word of Wisdom. He accepted a baptismal date and he will be getting baptized later this month. I also got to help a couple guys from Nicaragua learn some English phrases. One wanted to know what to say if somebody was talking "garbage" or just jabbering on about nothing and you wanted to stop talking to them. They wanted to know the "educated" way or the polite way to say it. One of them jokingly said "You could tell them shut up." I ended up saying something to the effect of "I would love to keep talking to you, but I don't have time or I need to go."  They all got really excited and gave me a bunch of fist bumps and praise haha.  That experience really pushed me to want to learn Spanish, not just to know a language, but I could tell that these people really want to be a part of our culture and I would be able to help a lot of people by doing it. I have always wanted to learn French and people told me I would use it on my mission and I have been able to a little bit with some Cajun French people just for fun. But I have also been able to understand the people who speak Spanish a little bit as well and that has helped out a lot. I think that might be one of the ways that I am able to use French or knowing a little bit of that language on my mission. Pretty cool how Heavenly Father works!

This week we have also had the opportunity to share the gospel casually with people, which I love. In Houma we were volunteering at a food bank and this 19 year old kid came up to us and started asking us questions. He has been volunteering there for his Catholic school and now he just does it because he likes it. The last time I went on exchanges there I saw him, but never really talked to him. I think he has noticed the missionaries for awhile and he decided to come talk to us this time. Through his questions we were essentially able to teach him about the Restoration, the Word of Wisdom and the Law of Chastity. It was a pretty long conversation haha. He said something interesting too: "I don't know why, but I just feel like I need to ask you guys questions." That was the Spirit prompting him, and it was a pretty amazing experience. Before we left, we gave him a Book of Mormon and the restoration DVD. If anything, a seed was planted. Another time it happened this week was we were coming in from meeting someone earlier in the morning on Saturday and our neighbor was making a garden. It was getting hot outside but we decided to go talk to them. We have met our neighbor a couple times and she is super nice and pretty close to our age, early 20's. She had her boyfriend there with her and we just struck up a conversation with them. They asked us tons of questions and we just joked around with them, made fun of ourselves a little bit, and helped them make their garden. It was an awesome opportunity to share the Gospel and make friends. Also, we were able to meet S.'s mom and that went pretty well. We were at their house for awhile just getting to know her and talk to her. That was a big step considering that her mom has been fairly opposed to missionaries and the church in general. It was a step in the right direction.

That was a really cool story that you shared Mom and it really shows the importance of being an example and being a member missionary. I think that will be a story that I can share with members to motivate them. And dad, you don't know how happy that made me when you said you were having your entire ward council read that book. That is exactly what the church is moving towards and exactly what they want and need their leaders to do and you are doing it! It all starts with the leaders and the auxillaries and it trickles down into the rest of the ward. The Lord wants his members to be missionaries either to non-members or less active ones or even active ones.  That makes me so happy that you and Mom are already in that mindset of helping this ward become a missionary ward and looking back on it you have been doing it all your lives through all of your callings. I can think of numerous times in the youth program that you and mom were able to help, to strengthen and to rescue members of our ward. I know that it was through your humble example that many people came to really know their Savior. And I would love a copy of that book.   Sorry I was going to tell you last week but I forgot. Also I might need to request a couple more things as well. They just changed the missionary dress code stuff and they no longer allow missionaries to have back packs. So I guess I will need a shoulder bag, or a messenger bag, a satchel or a murse whatever you want to call it instead haha. If you go to lds.org, resources, missionary, dress and grooming they have some examples of some shoulder bags. I think just a nice medium sized one that is cool and easy to carry around and bike with will be perfect. I am not too picky haha, but I guess I want to look good and professional as well. I can look for one as well, but I think that you guys will have more luck. I think other than that I am doing pretty good and I am going to go buy some parts for the guitar today as well. And poop... I forgot my backpack in the car. I had my camera and the cord to send some pictures haha shoot. Well I have some I want to send and one of me with the guitar, sorry about that. Next week I promise and I will keep taking pictures.

Well I love you guys so much and I am so grateful that I have such a supportive family. Your letters and emails really mean a lot to me and I look forward to them for the funny stories, spiritual insights and encouragement. I love you guys!

Prayers and thoughts Always :)

Elder Devin Soper

Friday, July 5, 2013

It keeps getting hotter and hotter, ha ha...

Dear Y'all,

Thank you so much for your letters and for the emails. I think we are both kind of getting into a groove with our everyday life and things are going pretty smoothly. That sounds like a crazy fishing trip; it feels like those things never quite live up to the potential that we think they will have. Maybe we can both look forward to when we can come back here and go on some fun fishing trips on the bayous to catch some good bass. I know quite a few people that would be more than willing to take us around on their boats. Haha there are some hard core fisherman down here: Bro. Simmons (who fishes in tournaments sometimes and has a sweet handlebar moustache), Bro Barrilleaux, Joe Stock etc. But other than that it sounds like it has been a good couple of calm and lazy summer days. That is awesome.

It keeps getting hotter and hotter haha, but my body is so used to it that 60 degrees feels pretty cold now. This week wasn't too eventful, we got a lot done, but it just kind of mozied along until it ended. S. has come back and so we have been able to teach her and the Dikets a couple more lessons. She is ready to be baptized, she is prepared and willing. But her parents still won't let her. I don't know if she will be baptized while I am still around here or even until she is 18. But that is okay, because she is still living the gospel prinicples and she will be ready to be baptized when she is old enough. So we're not worried. Heavenly Father definitely has a plan and we just have to keep working hard and following the spirit so he can guide us to carry out that plan.

I will tell you a little bit more about the Tarrs. And yeah if you ever want to know more about something just let me know. Sometimes details get lost as I am looking through what happened during my week. Bro Tarr and sis Tarr are probably in their 40's and they have three kids. 2 of them are moved out and in their 20"s and they have an 8 year old daughter who loves to act and sing. He is from Utah, Pleasant Grove actually and they moved down here so he could be an off-shore diver.  His work schedule is crazy with working off shore. Sometimes it is 7 on and 7 off. The longest he has worked is 120 days straight. That would be hard. They are both really down to earth and easy going. They are a really solid family and are a great example fo the blessings that can come from having great family values.

We had dinner with the Bybee's this week (part of the Stock family) and Sis Bybee gave us a refferal of one of her best friends, M. We went to see M. and P. that night and when they first opened the door they didn't look to excited to see us. They said they couldn't talk and it wasn't a good time. We told them that it was alright and that Rachel Bybee sent us over. As soon as they heard that they changed completely and came outside to talk to us. We ended up having this 1 and a half long conversation about religion and we were able to share that song with them. It may have been because phillip reminded me of Uncle Dan Luster, but the whole time I just had this feeling that I knew them, that they were like my family and that I really loved them. They really are our family in the grand scheme of things and I think Heavenly Father allowed me to feel that Christ like love. I was just happy and felt so comfortable. They told us to come back anytime and we created a really good friendship with them. It was a pretty amazing experience.

Another miracle that happened this week. Elder Franke, my zone leader in Baton Rouge, went home this week and he gave me a call before I left. He asked me if I had found a guitar and said that he wanted to give me his to use on my mission! I was so grateful and I am going to pass it down when I leave too. It is a little beater classical guitar that will be easy to take around with me and more importantly it works and it sounds good. It needs a little TLC and a couple new tuning knobs, but I love it already.
Last thing I will write about is a blessing that I was able to give this week. I am going to withhold names, because I was asked to. But somebody was having a pretty tough time that day because they struggle with depression. It was eating at them and just making it hard for them to function that day. They asked if I could give them a blessing. I didn't really know too much about their condition and so I really tried to take my time and listen to the spirit and to what Heavenly Father wanted me to say. I felt very close to God while I was giving that blessing and I couldn't remember a word that I said afterwards. But this person told me that what I said is exaclty what they were struggling with that day. That was a powerful moment. I am so grateful that I was worthy to have the Spirit work through me  and it was an experience that really strengthened my testimony of the power of blessings and the priesthood. It really is amazing that Heavenly Father has given us the authority to act in his name and to bless his children in such a sacred way.
Sorry I didn't have to much to report on this week, and I will try to get some pictures with the people that we are working with. I need to make a goal of that, take a couple pictures each day. Well hopefully soon I will have some of those pictures to send your way. ( I do have some I could send you haha I am just slacking and I don't have my camera with me.) I love you guys so much and thank you for all the support that you give me day to day. You are the best family an Elder Soper could ask for.
Prayers and thoughts always :)
Elder Soper