Monday, August 19, 2013

Made it through another week...


I have to say I really enjoyed hearing about Taylor's soccer tournament this week and although I haven't received your hard copy letter yet dad, I am looking forward to hearing a little more about that game. That is cool that they got second place and it was fun to see the picture of his team and how each of them has changed. How tall is Taylor now? Yeah that will be good to start school again and have some more routine and schedule in daily life. That is weird to think that Taylor is a Junior and Emma is in 7th grade... Fun to hear about, but strange to imagine haha. I am glad that Emma has a cool new room as well. Emma will ou take a picture of it and send it to me so I can see it? Weird to think how long I have been out too... I think today is my 8 month mark. Getting pretty close to a year and I am sure that from that time it is just all down hill time wise. But I hope that school goes well for Emma and Taylor and I am excited to hear about how they are doing and everythang.

That package was awesome! I have really loved that book (The Power of Everyday Missionaries) a lot and is helping me understand more of the kind of missionary and member of the Church that I want to be. I loved his insight on how some people don't want to hear about how they need the church, but they feel accepted when they realize that the church needs them. I think that both are true, we need the church and the church needs us. I think that is why this church works! Essentially we all need Christ in our lives, he is the only way back to the Father, but at the same time the organization and Heavenly Father needs all of us and our individual and unique talents to build up his kingdom and bless his children. Pretty cool. I love that book and I am probably near half wa done just reading during breaks and stuff. I realy enjoy it a lot.

(This is part of m presidents letter and it just makes it easier to copy and paste what happened:) "Made it through another week and despite the stress (good stress) and general chaos, there were a lot of miracles and things fell right into place. Brad's baptism was this week and it took a lot of of time energy and resources to make sure that everything was lined up. Like normal I neglected a few things accidentally; treats, towels etc... but Heavenly Father definitely stepped in and we had everything that we needed at the baptism and it went very smoothly. I had to remind myself that all the nitty gritty details were unimportant compared to the outstanding fact that Brad was getting baptized. I had the spirit comfort me in knowing that all that matters is that Brad was taking to steps to come closer to Christ and like it says in Moroni: "[being] perfected in Him." It taught me a good lesson on the plain and simple truths of the gospel that Brad has such a good testimony of. In the grand scheme of things coming closer to Christ is our goal. I am really happy for Brad and am looking forward to continue working with him as a new member of our ward." But his baptism really was a great experience and he was so excited and you could physically see it because after he was baptized he was kinda bouncing up and down with enthusiasm. A young man in the ward, Steven Harker, a priest, is one of Brad's good friends at school and Brad asked him to baptize him. It was really cool to see to young men take those steps to come closer to our Savior, one through righteously using his priesthood and the other through participating in an essential ordinance. Brad asked me to give a talk on Baptism and also to do a musical number haha. But he asked me to play that nigtmare song and I shared the words of the Primary song "When I am Baptized." I really love that song and more and more I am learning to love the plain and simple truths of the Gospel and what says it better than a primary song. "I know when I am baptized my wrongs are washed away, And I can be forgiven and improve myself each day....I want my life to be as clean as earth right after rain. I want to be the best I can and live with God again."

Brad also was confirmed yesterday during Sacrament meeting and was given the Aaronic priesthood and ordained to the office of Priest after church. It has been a really cool experience to be a part of and I am just really happy for Brad. Also his mom was able to come and it looks like she is going to start taking the missionary lessons from the sisters down in Houma. How cool would it be if Brad was able to baptize his mom?! The answer...pretty cool. Haha. Also E. was able to come to church this week and we got to talk to him for awhile. His mom is letting him come to church, but won't let him get baptized. We set up and appointment for this wednesday and we will be going over to see him and his brothers again.

This week has been a week full of miracles and ups and downs. I fell like my testimony has grown a lot and I feel more converted to our Savior. We worked really hard this week and we were able to get our lessons back up. Heavenly Father definitely can see your efforts and he blesses you for trying, even if you do think ou fail. Like it says in that book, we succed as we invite, or we succeed when we try. The secret to missionary work really is work! We went to the L's this week and for some reason I really felt like we should finish the lesson at 2, that would give us about 20 minutes. Mrs. Lafont is a really sweet lady but she talks a lot a lot haha and so we really had to work hard to keep it short. We were able to have a really good lesson on the Book of Mormon and we were able to finish right about 2. Right as we walked outside S., their next door neighbor the one who owns that little Bakery walked outside too. She said hi to us and we were able to go over, catch up with her and share the song with her. That was a miracle because we were able to mend a broken relationship and I think that Heavenly Father put us in the right place at the right time, 2 oclock. It worked out perfectly. That same day we were able to see a less active member that Brother Bybee actually baptized on his mission while he was here. Her name is L. and she has two kids, C. who is 14 and another daughter who is 11. Both of the kids aren't members. We had a really good visit with them and we were able to set up a ride so they could come to church this last sunday. And they came! That was really cool to see them there. Lets see, haha one funny thing that happened this week is that we went to visit Bro Polkey and as we were leaving we remembered we had some treats that we were going to give him. So I ran back up to the door and knocked. I guess he was expecting his wife because he said through the door "Coming baby..." As he opened the door he realized that I wasn't his wife and we both kindof awkwardly pretended nothing happened and exchanged the treats. haha it was pretty funny.

We helped a single sister move this last weekend and that was a nice change of pace. Good to get out and do some physical labor. Like most moves it took longer than expected, but I still really enjoyed it. We also had dinner with this new family in the ward and they are really cool. The Smith's, the wife is actually one of the Stocks and they moved down here for the Bro Smith's work. They are just easy going and down to earth and it was fun to see how much fun they had as parents. I was able to imagine a little bit that their family is what ours was like years ago.

I have loved doing the 60 day challenge for the Book of Mormon and I love the fact that I know that so many more are doing it with me. I made a goal this week to focus on the basics and fundamentals of the gospel that are found in the Book of Mormon and Preach My Gospel and reading the Book of Mormon more quickly is helping me to see and recognize he simplicity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is true that the gospel at its core is having Faith in Christ, changing our hearts and our actions through repentance, being baptized and partaking of the Sacrament each week, following and understanding the language of the Holy Ghost and Enduring to the End. The Gospel just makes a lot of sense.

Well I better get going, but I love you guys a lot. I am really happy to be out on my mission sharing something that has blessed my life so much. Thank you for being such great missionaries to us your kids and I hope we can do the same for ours someday. Lub ya.

Elder Debun Soper


1: Me, Brad and Elder Stratford

2: Elder Stratford, me, Steven, Brad, his Mom, Hayden

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Man, so this has been one crazy week...

Dear Everyone,

Man, so this has been one crazy week and Heavenly Father has definitely helped me to stay calm and not overwhelmed. But first of all I did get all of those pictures and those were really fun to look at. It is interesting to see how everybody has grown since I left. It still feels like I have only been gone for a couple months, but it is a lot longer now. And that is okay that it hasn't been the normal friday letters, last week was so crazy and I wasn't able to get my letter to you until wednesday, so no big deal. But I am glad that you guys had so much fun at the reunion and also at girls camp this last week. Haha when you said that it was the highlight, or lowlight, I was almost expecting something to have gone wrong. When you said you started doing the worm, in my mind I was anticipating for something terrible to happen, like you kicking one of the young woman right in the face (a lot like dwight does at pam and jim's wedding coming dancing down the rows). But I am really glad that everything went well and I really enjoyed picturing that whole scene in my mind. I kinda of envy the way that you were able to just able to go for it, holding nothing back. I have a really hard time not being somewhat reserved in those situations haha. For example, Elder Stratford is district leader now and he loves to do these elaborate things. This last district meeting he had me help him set up the chairs in the cultural hall like a giant fortress and then he dressed up in cardboard armor. He wanted me to run into the other room to grab the district and yell "Hey there is this crazy guy from new york, we need to attack him and grab a hymn book!!!!) But it ended up being a half-hearted suggestion of saying (Hey, there is this guy and we need to go get him...) I felt bad that I couldn't put my whole heart into, so it was fun to hear your story dad about girls camp. Also that was fun to hear about that place you went fishing. I am really looking forward to when we can spend some days going out to fish and just enjoy nature. I really miss the mountains and streams and stuff. Bayou's and seeing for miles is fun, but it is not quite home.

I have to apologize if my letter is kind of disjointed, I came down with this strange cold and I am feeling a lot better, but I am still half-out of it. So if I say anything strange or things don't make sense that might be why haha. And yeah maybe just one or two of each of those asthma things, that way I can have a reserve just in case. What do you think? It might be nice just to have anyway. Man haha I am really struggling. I am still using that meditation and breathing technique and I can feel for emma, there have been times where I am at the height of stress and you just really don't want to do it haha but once you try it really calms you down. I think that happens for two reasons, one because the breathing and focusing calms your body down and two because you believe it will help you.  I think once you associate that exercise with a sense of calmness, everytime you do it that is what you will start to feel. I could be right, or I could just be loopy right now. Anyways it does help and I would love to have some more techniques. I hope that Emma and Taylor do well with the school starting soon and I did really enjoy mrs. Pierces class. School is starting for all of the kids down here today and it is weird to think that the summer has already gone by. Time really is flying.

Like I said, this week was pretty crazy. Elder Stratford became district leader and he has been pretty overwhelmed. We have been driving a lot, we went on exchanges with the zone leaders, we are trying to help the new missionaries here and he is trying to prepare for district meetings and stuff. He has done a really good job with it, but I can tell that he is pretty stressed out. You asked how our day to day interactions go and I mean they are pretty good. I wouldn't say we are pea's in a pod, but I do think we are both trying are best and we are unified through the Savior. We get on each others' nerves sometimes, but we don't let that interfere with the work or our friendship. It is tough sometimes, but I think that will be with any companionship and unity doesn't come from things being really smooth, but working effectively through the rough patches.. I really enjoy being his companion and I think that is because I have learned a lot from him and learned a lot with him.

We have really focused on trying to get B. and E. ready and prepared for baptism this week. We have devoted a lot of time, energy and resources to help them out, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Just as a premise, neither B. or E. were baptized this last saturday, but B's baptism will be this saturday at 3. We met with both of them about 3 times this last week and that was a miracle within itself, getting them rides and balancing schedules. Heavenly Father definitely had his hand in things, because they just fell into place. We were able to finish teaching them all of the lessons and that was a lot of fun, because that was the first time that I have gone through them all. I was glad teaching them to B. and E., cause they really knew most of it already and we were just kinda brushing up on it, so it was pretty easy. We taught all the commandments: Word of Wisdom, Law of Chastity, Tithing etc...We went to teach the last part of the commandments to them on Thursday and so we went to pick up E. We were there a tad early, so we asked if we could meet his family. It turns out that his mom isn't too happy with E. coming to church (and that is a really complicated situation within itself.) and pulled the plug on his baptism. Although it is sad that his progression has been halted, it might be a blessing in disguise because his mom does want us to continue teaching him and his two younger brothers. So maybe this is the way it is supposed to work out. E. also showed a lot of maturity throughout the whole situation and mention that he might need to wait until he is 18. He is really prepared and that just shows me that he is still committed to his decision to be baptized and he believes strongly enough in it that he will wait. That is pretty cool. Also not only do he and his little brothers know the bible very well, but they also know Hebrew.. We will continue to work with him and just let things settle. But while Elder Stratford and Brother Kennedy, the young men's Pres. who came with us to the lesson, were talking with E's Mom, I got to spend that time talking with B. and getting to know him better. He is a really good kid and he is just trying to do his best. He is super nice and understands really deeply the plain and simple truths of the Gospel. We were able to laugh at a couple similiar things that we have done in our lives and discuss what we learned from them (me throwing a rock through the window haha). I also got to ask him the Baptismal interview questions to prepare him for his interview. That was really cool, because I essentially got to hear him bear his testimony on how he has learned this gospel to be true and how it has influenced his life in a big way. I have tried a couple times to type out the experience and none of the explanations were quite accurate, but simply talking to him and seeing the change in his life that night was one of the strongest times that I have felt the spirit. I am so glad to be a member of this church and so grateful to have the opportunity to devote my time to share this gospel. I know that B. would have accepted the gospel in his life at some point, he was ready to accept it, I am just grateful that Heavenly Father choose me to be one of the people to bring it to him. I am grateful for a lot of things right now haha. B. was interviewed on friday and he is good to go, he prayed about it and he felt strongly that he wanted to postpone it til this saturday so his mom could attend. It is cool to see and hear him talk about how excited he is to be baptized and that he just can't wait to be a member of this church.

That whole experience made me remember my little mission motto I had before I came out: Love and Listen. I realized partly that that is something that I really want to work on and become better at, but also was able to see how the spirit works miracles when you do love and listen.

The New Orleans stake has also issued out a challenge to the members to read the Book of Mormon in 60 days. This is in preparation for the Book of Mormon play coming to New Orleans. I started this challenge yesterday and also took the idea of one of the Bishopric members, that while you are reading, to mark all of the times that it mentions Heavenly Father or Jesus Christ. I have read to first 25 pages and my testimony of the Book of Mormon has grown a lot. As we read the Book of Mormon we are promised that we can learn and draw close to Christ. It also says that as we "draw nigh unto God, he will draw nigh unto [us]."  I am experiencing that as I read. I also took a moment to flip through those pages I read and as I saw all the red I was able to reflect on all the blessings that he has given me. I really am blessed and I want to thank you guys for being the biggest blessing in my life. I love you guys a lot and you give me a lot of "strenk" Thank you for your prayers and support, this poor guy needs it. Good luck this week with School, whenever late summer honors is, working on the house in canby and everything else too! Lub you.

Prayers and Thoughts always,

Elder Devin Soper

PS sorry my brain is out of it, I hope it all makes sense...

Picture is of Me and the Tabors (We will visit them when we come down after my mission.)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior...

Dear my Family,

I want to thank everybody (Mom, Dad, Taylor, Emma, Haley, Jordan, Auntie Kare, Ama and Lani) that wrote in those letters to me this last week. It didn't take too long for them to get to me and I enjoyed the many exciting details and experiences that you shared in these last letters and emails. 

Elder Soper, with member Lance Larpenter

This week I am learning that is so much more beneficial if you are patient with yourself and those around you. When things strike a nerve it is best to take a step back and evaluate the situation rather than coming back with a quick comment. It is funny too because when I do take a step back to think about what has upset me, I end up laughing about it and realizing that it was silly in the end. That isn't the case with every situation for sure, but I think watching you guys do the same thing growing up has helped me to understand and apply that principle in my own life. The human mind is a strange thing haha. Also I love this quote by Elder Packer I think it is :

“True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior.”

That is really true. And that shows how doing the fundamental and simple things each day to bring us closer to God,  will make us happier.  I told one Elder that I might want to be a Psychiatrist one day and he said..."How are you going to do that with out saying,"just read the Book of Mormon?" Haha I told him I don't know. But I think those things that Emma's therapist is teaching you are some of those little things that you can do each day to bring us closer to God. I have done "Alien Breathing" almsot everyday and it has been a good way for me to meditate, relax and reflect on the blessings I have in my life. Doing that simple exercise has brought me closer to my Savior and helped me personally understand myself better. So thank you so much for telling me about that. It also shows me how Heavenly Father has influenced every good thing in this world, it all comes together in a really cool way.

Oh yeah about transfers, Elder Stratford and I will be together for another one. He is going to be the district leader here in our area as well. I probably need to start warning my companions that they will be with me for awhile and that they will probably become a district leader while with me. That has happened 100 percent of the time while I have been on my mission. That is a pretty crazy statistic haha. But I am looking forward to this transfer and the challenges and learning experiences that are ahead. I have played the supporting role for a good chunk of my mission, but I am grateful for that, because it has given me an opportunity to support my companions and strengthen myself by doing it. So Thibodaux: Round 3.

Yeah I was thinking about buying a fishing license, but for a season pass it would be 65 dollars... which is a lot of mulah for the amount of time I would be able to spend doing it. So I will think about it some more and decide if it would be worth it. I did buy a bionicle type thing and it was actually a really nostalgic and satisfying experience haha. It was nothing like the old ones, but it still brought back a lot of memories and I had a lot of fun doing it. I will buy some stuff here and there for a little while just to make sure that card stays alright, I promise I won't go crazy or anything. I have loved hearing about your fishing stories though. That was actually a really cool rig that Jordan came up with and I can see the benefit ( and also how it would be difficult to cast) of that technique. It makes me excited to be able to do that with you guys when I get back. It sounds like the reunion was really fun as well. That is a crazy story about how Taylor got lost where the river split and had to do that crazy trek to the other side. I imagine it as this really intense movie scene, where he is running through the forest, pushing little branches out of the way, trees zooming past his face, all while hauling this big tube right above his head. Kinda funny, but pretty impressive as well. I am glad that he is okay though. to be continued...

Sorry this has been a crazy day haha and my brain is kind of all over the place. It has been a pretty good week. Things have still been a little bit slow, but we got a new Ward mission leader this week and I think with the summer winding down, a little bit of new leadership and new enthusiasm on our part, things will really begin to pick up. Bishop Anderson has been asking us to go down the Bayou for awhile and we haven't had the resources and haven't been able to go out with members. But this last week as a district we had some extra resources so we all got together and went super south so we could hit everybody on the ward roster down there. With it being huricane season the ward has these forms that familes need to fill out just in case one happens. This is because the church want's to know where these people are going to be and if they need any help. So we tried to get as many as we could when we went down there and we came out with...2 haha. But that was extremely successful because we also found out some valuable information about people moving and wrong addresses that will be good to clean up the records. It was funny though because Elder Stratford and I were going to be on bikes in Cut Off, but there was this huge storm so they dropped us off at the bottom of Galliano where it was clear. We ended up walking the entire length of that town trying to see the people on the way. It is pretty crazy when 95 degree weather with 80 percent humidity feels normal haha. It is crazy because when our apartment gets below 65 it is pretty chilly now. My body is adapting and the Hot hot doesn't seem so hot anymore. But I have also heard it only gets worse from here... We went to a meeting in new Orleans this last week and around 2 it was 104 degrees not including the humidity. After that meeting we went to this cheap pizza buffet that was pretty mediocre haha. I really enjoyed the experience because yeah you can be unified through good experiences, but you almost get closer when you go through the bad. They had these breadsticks that looked like buttery little dog poops, I will have to send you a picture. Looking back, we had a lot of experiences with pizza this week. This member bought us s ton of pizza for us to take home and we went to visit this less-active member that Bro Bybee actually baptized while he was on his mission here. Her name is L. and she is a really nice lady, she is a single mom and struggling a little bit financially. I kept getting this prompting that we had extra pizza and so after we asked her if she had dinner and she hadn't so we decided to give her all that we had. I felt really good after we did that and I felt a confirmation that we followed the spirit. Pretty cool and Lance was planning to take us out for pizza that night too so it worked out perfectly. That pizza place that Lance took us to was pretty good too, but a single pizza was........44 dollars!! It was good haha but really really really expensive and yours was better anyways.

Two young ladies were baptized into our ward this last week and that is actually a really cool stroy. The are from El Salvador and both of their parents are members and their Dad really helped and was loved missionary work. He was a really great man and just a few weeks ago he passed away. His daughters watched his example and saw how much the gospel influenced his life for the better. They made the choice to follow his example and also the example of our Savior and their family has really strengthened and unified the ward. It was really cool to be a part of that experience and it will be something that I remember. B. and E. are both progressing really well towards baptism as well. For about 2 weeks we had a really difficult time getting in touch with them, becuase both of their phones broke and we couldn't find them haha but it has all worked out. We had a lesson with E. last night about the Plan of Salvation and it went really well. He is so prepared, has a desire to come closer to the Savior, and is just a good guy. He really gets it and he always describes what we teach him as an "epiphany" or "deja vu." It reminds me that there are people out there that are ready to hear the gospel and the only thing that keeps them from it, is "that they know not where to find it." Missionary work or the work of Salvation is awesome!
This week I have been reading the story of Abinadi and I have learned a lot from him. First of all he just teaches the basic, the plain and simple truths of the gospel. I also really love this scripture: Mosiah 13:3

3 Touch me not, for God shall smite you if ye lay your hands upon me, for I have not delivered the message which the Lord sent me to deliver; neither have I told you that which ye requested that I should tell; therefore, God will not suffer that I shall be destroyed at this time.

The will of God will always be done and we have the choice if we want to be the instrument that he uses to fulfill his will. Abinadi was clean and obdient to the Lord and in doing so he chose to be the vessel that his work may be done through. God will help you and he will protect you if you try your best to be worthy of his help. 

A couple more things that happened this week:
-The Tabor family is awesome and I am really glad to have met them.
-We went looking for a less active member and a group of young black girls jokingly called us the N word.
- We had like a mini thanksgiving at the Voisin's house.
- And although things have been slow, I feel the Holy Ghost in my life and am so happy to be serving a mission.
Thank you guys so much again for all of your support and the fun letters. I love you guys so much!
Prayers and thoughts always,
Elder Devin Soper