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