Wednesday, October 23, 2013

This has just been a funny week...


So Dad those fries on that picture by the way were really good. They had this butter garlic sauce on them with what I think was a little bit of oregano. Anyways it was good haha. I also took your advice about the french bread pizza sandwich and Elder Bennett and I have been experimenting with it all week. We have had some pretty good ones so far, but still a work in progress. I think this week to I am going to try to make Jambalaya from scratch. I got the basic things and I am just going to go for it.

Hey Taylor I have a challenge for ya. Get one of those 2 dollar book of mormons, read it and just mark that thing up, write notes in it and use it to death. I have started doing that, I am looking for instances where people are strengthened by the Atonement and since I can always get another book I can use that one specifically to study that one subject. That way I can mark it up, write in it and use all that space to really learn. All of you can do that too, it is actually a lot of fun.

I feel pretty cool that Emma shared all about me in beehives. I really love being a missionary and doing service is one of the best parts about it.Emma if you ever need any stories, just let me know and I will be happy to share them.

More than anything this has just been a funny week. Maybe I will start with a few funny stories and end on a more spiritual note haha.

So this week we helped an investigator, who is 15, get ready for his homecoming date. His family is struggling a little bit financially and so me and Elder Bennett temporarily donated a belt, shirt and tie and helped him get prepared for the date. We showed him a couple dance moves too, it turns out Elder Bennett and I have a similar love for dancing haha. But it felt good to help him out and I am happy that he had so much fun.

So this next story I have to let you know that this lady is awesome she has some mental disabilities and she is super enthusiastic about the gospel and loves everything about it. But it was also a very funny and memorable experience. So as we were coming back from an investigators house we got a call from the office saying that a lady visiting Thibodaux really wants a blessing. She told us her name and I knew who it was cause she had called us before with refferals. So we called her and we told her that we were the missionaries she then exclaimed "MISSIONARIES, MISSIONARIES, MY HIP JUST WENT OUT AND I AM IN A LOT OF PAIN. I NEED A BLESSING, OKAY SEE YA, BYE." Luckily I knew where we were going. When we got there she was really excited to see us and immediately she wanted to sing some songs. So we practiced "I am trying to be like Jesus" and other hymns. We finally were able to give her the blessing and she went to get her husband. She stood up and with this amazed look on her face said "John, I can walk...John, I can RUN!!" As she hobbled through the hallway. I really admire her faith and she definitely acts on it. Also that day we went to the next door neighbors and she conducted both Elder Bennett and I in "I am trying to be like Jesus" in a very dramatic and powerful way. We are going back today to bring some cookies to the lady that we sang to. But that finished that day. This Saturday thought the sisters called us to let us know that R. had spent the whole day with them and they needed help finding her house. So we had them follow us to her house. When we got there the Sisters got out of the car and R. said " Look how beautiful they are Elders." and then immediately she said "Stop looking you are missionaries for goodness sake!" When went into the house, sang some songs to her Sister in law and then she asked me to give her sister in law a blessing and this was an awkward experience created by Elder Soper. Her Sister in law has a lot of knick-knacks and a lot of toys. So she was laying down in the bed and there was a pile of stuffed animals on the side so I couldn't really reach her head. So I tried to straddle the pile of toys and she said frantically "Don't step on my baby" it was a stuffed baby doll. So it was this awkward 30 seconds as I was struggling to position myself and not step on anything haha The sister missionaries were just laughing and I was starting to chuckle myself. So I ended up just stretching my arms and body over it all and so during the whole blessing she was just breathing right into my face. I know I am kind of joking about the whole situation, but I am not trying to make light of the blessing, but my own mistakes. We then went outside to say good bye and R. wanted to take pictures with us. She then proceeded to put her arms around us ( I forgot to mention she is in her late 50's or early 60's) and we said "R. you know that we are missionaries." Implying that she shouldn't do that and she replied "Don't you think I know that?! Shut up." haha and during the picture she started to tickle us.....eek! The sisters have a picture of it and Elder Bennett and I are just crying laughing. The last thing as we were leaving I was standing by the car and R. said "You remind me of Elder something, always finding a pose and looking dead sexy." She then exclaimed "Ahh oops! Get thee hence Satan!" Haha I know I went pretty into detail with this story but I thought you guys would appreciate it and get a good laugh. But I did learn a valuable lesson from her. She is so uninhibited when sharing the gospel because she knows how important it is. She has no fear and nothing holding her back to let people know what she really believes. I found myself after meeting her talking to more people and being more bold in sharing the gospel. So I am really thankful for that. But I hope you guys enjoy that and I will try to get that picture.

So there is a man in our ward named Bro. Holloway and he is probably the most humble and meek person that I know. He loves this gospel, he knows that it is true and he shares it through his gentle and ever present example. I really look up to him and he shared this cool example with us. It says in the scriptures that God is the same yesterday, today and forever, and if that is how God is, we should strive to be the same. I never thought of it that way. God is always the same, no matter what and so we should be the same in every situation that we are in. We should be ourselves wherever we are and as we live the gospel, that will become who we are. I thought that was pretty cool.

Maybe to end I will share an expert from my Presidents letter:

I am going through the Book of Mormon again but this time taking Elder Bednar's challenge. I don't think I have any specific passage, but I really noticed the phrase this week "they humbled themselves before the Lord." Humility is an essential Christ-like attribute to become an instrument in the hands of the Lord. But every time they used that phrase it was after a tough or trying experience. I realized that humility cannot be pulled out of thin air, I guess you could say some are blessed with more humility, but we still all have pride. Also in each of those trying experiences they relied on the Lord in someway to help them through. So the Lord helped them to become humble. This goes with any of the Christ-like attributes, the Lord will help us and we must be strengthened by the atonement to develop them. It reminds me of the talk by Elder Bednar where he says in effect, "Sometimes we feel that we need to make the journey to "become a saint" [or developing Christ-like attributes] by gritting our teeth and doing it alone." Christ's grace gets us through it all. Experience alone makes it possible for us to become more like our Savior, but his grace, relying on the atonement, will get us though the experience and will push us even farther. We need Him at all times, in all places, in everything that we do.

I love being a missionary, and I am grateful that I have such a good companion. Thank you for everything and I hope you have a good week.

Prayers and thoughts always

Elder Devin Soper

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

You all helped to make this a really great birthday...

Dear Family,

Thank you everyone for sending such thoughtful emails, letters and packages this week. I am really grateful for all of you love and support. Also thank you to Grandma and Grandpa and Papa and Ama for your fun cards and your generosity, I really loved them. You all helped to make this a really great birthday, one that I will always remember.

I really loved the birthday package that you sent as well. I have loved reading those books, showing the little poster off to the other missionaries, wearing that awesome tie (I have gotten a lot of compliments on it and it is my new favorite), and using my new scripture case. We are actually planning on using that little book mark to teach an investigator about the Plan of Salvation soon too! It was a really good birthday and gave me an added boost of motivation to be a better missionary. Tank you Tank you!

The Dikets had us over for dinner on my birthday and they made some good Mexican food, Tacos. They also had this death by chocolate cake...a 4 layers dark chocolate cake that like its name is to die for. They also gave me a bunch of fun, wacky presents and I really did feel loved. After that Elder Bennett and I had our own little birthday party at our apartment, where we had the little cake bites, sang happy birthday to me and took weird pictures and a funny video to document it all, I will have to find a way to send it to you sometime haha. It was a really good birthday, so thank you again everybody for making it special! It is hard to express how awesome it really was.

This week was pretty crazy, we had two meetings in New Orleans that took up most of our day, Zone Conference and Zone Training Meeting. President wall in Zone conference talked a lot about hope. As Missionaries and also as members we are messengers of hope. President Wall, years ago, was really afraid of elevators and getting stuck in one and so his solution was to carry a heavy duty crowbar with him in his suitcase everywhere that he went. He could use this crowbar to pry open the door, unlock the hatch at the top, or even chop through the wall if he needed to haha. But this crowbar was a symbol of hope for him, something that he could cling to, something that brought him peace of mind even though he never had to use it. Our duty is to bring hope into others life through inviting them closer to Christ. Hope can come in a variety of ways, maybe cookies, or a smile or mowing somebodies lawn, or a spiritual message just for them. Anyways we can help people have hope in a world that seems to be void of it. Pretty cool! He also talked about struggles that we all have, he related it to a story about a butterfly. Once there was a scientist that was observing a butterfly making its way out of its cocoon. The butterfly was struggling to pull itself out and seemed to be on the verge of giving up, so the man decided to help it and cut it out. The butterfly then fell to the ground with a fat body and shriveled up wings and ended up dying. For butterflies to fully develop they have to struggle their way out of their cocoon on their own. The struggles and challenges is what gives them their wings and helps them become what they are meant to become. President Wall said that is just like all of us. Our struggles and challenges help us to become who we need to be, help us to develop spiritual wings. He then gave us all butterflies (or eagles) to tape on the back of our name tags, so that whenever we are having a hard day, we can pull it off and remember that we are being challenged to become more like our Savior.

Recently I have felt like I have been a little static in my progression. Just sort of treading water, sitting in my cocoon and not really going anywhere. I have noticed that I have a lot of work to do to be stripped of my pride and become like a little child, humble, gentle and meek. Sometimes I wish I was still quiet and shy always quick to listen rather than quick to speak. But... I am so grateful for the opportunity to change and to become better through the grace of Christ. I know I have a lot to work on, but that is what the refiners fire is all about right? haha it is good to have Elder Bennett too because it helps me to stay on my toes and try to be a good example.

This week we also played beach volleyball with the district which was a lot of fun, went out to lunch to this really good hamburger place in New Orleans as a district for my birthday on Friday, had some members put some music on my ipod and I have been listening to Phil Collins for the last couple of days. I especially love the Brother Bear soundtrack because the song look through my eyes is essentially a song about the gospel and Brother Bear is my nickname. hehe. Also Dad and Haley and Mom and anybody else who wants to haha you guys should look up this band called the Lower Lights, they are a mormon folk band that signs hymns like folk or bluegrass songs, it is really cool. I sent you one of their songs on that CD, the banjo rendition of Hie to Kolob. It is a lot of fun. And I loved how you listened to the Avett Brothers and Tallest man for my birthday, you lucked out haha.

Maybe to end I will share to cool miracles that we saw this week...both at walmart, who could have guessed?!

So last P-day we were walking through walmart and the assistant manager walked past us and just asked us how our day was going like we were already best friends. We got pretty excited haha because we love getting warm hellos. She then said, "Hey, I need you guys to bring me that book."  So we talked to her a little bit and told her that we would come back the next day with the book. We came back tuesday night looking for her and she wasn't there, she had already gotten off work. We were in line just buying a little snack and the lady in front of us started talking to us. She said, "You guys must be Mormon missionaries. I can tell by your little costume." We got to talking to her and it turns out that she is head of admissions at Nicholls university and she knows President Stock, Charlie Stubbs and loves Donny Osmond. She said she had met with missionaries in the past and she would like us to stop by her office this week and said that if we need anything to give her a call. We gave her a Book of Mormon and thanked her and are really looking forward to meeting with her this week. That was a miracle and a tender mercy but we still needed to bring the other person we met there a Book of Mormon. The next morning we went to Walmart and ran into Lisa right away, we gave her the Book and she started telling us how years ago she worked for a Mormon dentist, he gave her a hardcover Book of Mormon with his testimony and she had kept it with her for 20 years. Recently she moved and she misplaced it in the move and was really sad. When she saw us in Walmart, she decided to ask us if we had one and she was really excited that we could bring her one. As soon as we handed it to her, she pulled it in and said " I love this Book." We gave her our number and told her to call us anytime. People really are prepared to hear the gospel and it is so cool to see how Heavenly Father is putting them in our path. Being a missionary is really fun!

I love you guys so much and thank you for all of your prayers, I know that they are helping these miracles to happen. lub you.

Prayers and Thoughts always

Elder Brother Bear

Ps I did get your email and I am glad you guys are having such a fun fall break!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Tank you, tank you, everyone for the many Birthday wishes...

Dear my homies,

I really loved conference this weekend. I thought it was so cool what President Monson said before his talk, that this conference is one of the most spiritual and inspiring that he has ever attended, which is amazing considering he has gone to about 100 over his period as an apostle! I think that is so true and all of the talks were inspired . I really loved Elder Uchtdorf's talks both on Saturday and Priesthood session and both had to deal with people making mistakes. I loved how he said that the God is perfect, his church is perfect, the doctrine is pure, but the people he works with are imperfect and imperfect people make mistakes. I love that, I feel that it was such a wise, humble, and inviting explanation of what our church is. We don't claim to be perfect, but we do claim that what we believe will bring you absolute happiness. I also liked how he talked about learning from our mistakes and not dwelling in them, rising up and becoming men of God. It reminds me of a quote that I really like from Batman," Bruce why do we fall down? So we can learn to pick ourselves up." I think I live by that quote haha because I fall down a lot literally and figuratively. Pres. Uchtdorf said something to that effect like" We aren't defined by the amount of times that we stumble, but by the amount of times that we rise up again, dust ourselves off and continue on." As we are on this earth it is a 100% probability that we will fail at some point haha kind of a depressing statistic without the knowledge of this gospel, that it is a gospel of change and redemption. We can always change, turn our hearts towards God and become better and learn from our mistakes. His talks were probably my favorite (as you can tell haha) But I also really liked Elder Oaks (about families), Elder Hollands (increased my desire to go into Psychiatry when he talked about how the best treatment is both from God and the amazing developments of medicine and therapy) and Elder Dubes (the guy from Africa). Haha his talk was just so engaging and full of energy, I couldn't help but be excited and full of he spirit. I am looking forward to getting the Conference issue of the Ensign, I am going to buy this issue and study it galore. I loved the feeling and thoughts that came to my mind as I was watching it about how you guys were watching it at the exact same time,s singing the exact same songs and feeling the exact same spirit. That was really cool. It was a fun weekend, we watched at our ward building and we were there all day both days, eating lunch, playing games and talking in between sessions. 

Man I am excited o have some good homemade pizza one day. I have really gotten out of the habit of cooking good food. I haven't stooped to the level of frozen food, but it ends up being pretty simple and quick things like sandwiches and pasta. We just don't have the time to do it, but I am picking up some tricks little by little and I think I could throw together some mean southern dishes in the future haha with a little help from

Tank you tank you everyone for the many Birthday wishes. I am grateful everyday for your prayers and love you a lot!!!!!!!!!

This has been a pretty crazy week though. Haha a really crazy week actually. So on monday we were riding our bikes back from the Pattens and as we were turning left down the street to get to our appartment, a guy ran the stop sign, didn't see Elder Bennett and hit him. Elder Bennett was fine, no scratches, his bike wasn't damaged, just a little bit of dirt on his bum. The guys (his name was columbus) car though had a big scratch and dent in it. I am so so so so so so  grateful  that he is okay and since Elder Bennett has such a positive and happy attitude, he has just been laughing about it all week. We are definitely protected and I know angels were there protecting us from major harm. A lot of things fell through this week and not a ton happened. We saw people like Bro Polkey, Phillip and Magge, who are awesome, the Smiths, who are also awesome and the Voisins. Sis Voisin is actually coming to Utah this week to try out for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, her son lives in American Fork....maybe I could get her to come visit you guys. Haha we will see. 

I am extremely grateful for Elder Bennett though, because he really does follow the counsel of Elder Wirthlin when he says, "Come what may and love it." No matter what comes our way, we have been able to look at the positive and enjoy our journey every step of the way. But this weekend was interesting. I don't know if you guys heard about Tropical Storm Karen, but it was supposed to be headed straight for us. The mission sent all of the Houma Elders up to our apartment for the weekend since Houma was in the red zone. It was different, but a lot of fun to house 6 missionaries in one apartment. Needless to say it smelled like a lot of sweaty young men, but we had a lot of fun. We  played guitar, talked, studied together and played the awkward family photos game haha. We were never on lock down and he storm actually died down before it ever got to us, but it was fun to get to know the elders better. Elder Sun, the one Auntie Kare translated for, is super funny and is just really down to earth. We are going to go play sand volley ball with everyone today. I am glad to get back in to the regular missionary routine though, it is nice to have routine. 

Thank you again for all that you do, I really love you guys and I will be looking out for the mysterious package. I will be thinking of you on my 20th birthday and guess what I found a hair on my chest... I am growing up!! haha Just kidding I already have like 15 haha I love you guys a lot and am so grateful that you guys are my best friends.

Prayers and Thoughts always,


Elder Devin Soper

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

I don't think I have laughed this much since I have been home with you guys...

Hey everyone,

Thank you again for your fun letters, I really enjoyed them and look forward to them every week. And Emma, thank you for your letter! It kinda blew me away how much older you sounded. Haha it kinda freaked me out actually. But to answer your questions: The food is really good, I love it and I am excited to make you guys some genuine cajun food when I get home. There are a couple of girls your age in our ward, a few of them are in that picture of us and the Tabors that I sent a few weeks ago. We are teaching quite a few people right now as well as a bunch of Less-Active members and also Active ones, so we stay pretty busy. My favorite hymn to play on the guitar is probably Nearer my God to thee, because that is the only one that I can play very well on the guitar haha. Thanks again emma and I hope you had a great Birthday.

I have really gained an appreciation for the positive aspects of technology that Heavenly Father utilizes. Like the missionaries in our ward back home, you said that they are using Facebook now? Smartphones/iphones, can be a distraction, but when used correctly and wisely they can be an invaluable tool to increase communication with friends and family and inevitably share the gospel while doing so. I think it would be fun for you guys. Also I know you guys were talking about switching over to roku or apple Tv and I say you should do it. It is just a good way to monitor media and you can still watch netflix and hulu and really get the shows you normally watch. The Pattens do that and I think it is a good idea. Sorry maybe I'm soundind too churchy...but I just am glad that when we were growing up that we didn't have too much influence from the TV, but we used the shows we like to build family relationships by spending time together and playing questions at dinner (about spongebob, the office, Avatar ect...). And I think that is so cool how you guys are doing no media days. Technology can be so good, but at the same time when not used in can be pretty bad haha.  Thanks for listening to my little media rant. And I really enjoyed your explanation about instagram and "liking' things dad haha. That is really cool though that those missionaries are using Facebook. It is such a good way to spread the gospel and be a positive influence to a wide spread audience. As a mission we haven't been able to use Facebook yet, but while I was with Elder Stratford, Pres. Wall was using us as the guinea pigs to explore and experiment the uses. Except I could never figure out my password haha so I just helped Elder Stratford. But Facebook was crucial as we were helping B. prepare to be baptized and I don't know if we would have been able to pull it off as smoothly without it. I hope that we will be able to use it soon.

I feel really blessed to be companions with Elder Bennett. I don't think I have laughed this much since I have been home with you guys. He has a good sense of humor and we are able to laugh off the little things that go wrong and enjoy the things more fully that go right it. It has been a really fun experience, but I am still looking for a good balance in all that I do. I have noticed at pattern with all the companions that I have had, first of all they are all completely different haha, but when we are first together, I seem to subconsciously try to match their level of enthusiasm or their personality, I guess I am trying to make the transition smoother. But I end up feeling out of sorts and not completely myself. It is not that I am not my self, but one part of my personality will be pulled out of balance and some of it will be suppressed. I feel like I am almost walking the line between (like you said) false modesty and genuine humility and also between sincerity and looking to please.  Maybe and probably I am over thinking it haha, but I will keep praying about it and I think the biggest thing will be time.I just always hope that I am aware if I do anything weird or over the top, I am always a little worried that I could be oblivious to some strangeness and insensitivity (that I don't already know about). Thanks for listening, but more than anything I am enjoying the change of pace and having a companion that I am able to joke with and quickly become friends with.

We are working really hard and we are enjoying ourselves while doing it. I have seen so many blessings as we have tried our best to listen to and discern from the spirit what we should do.
On Monday, Sis. Stubbs baked us a ton of cookies to pass out and that is what we did all evening. It is pretty cool to see how much people appreciate a small gesture like a plate of cookies. It opens up doors and cultivates friendships. Service really can be as simple as a smile and treats. Almost everyone we gave them to told us to come back and we got a lot of appointments that way. That wasn't what we were looking for, but I think that is why it happened. Genuine service doesn't have strings attached, but Heavenly Father does bless those involved.

For example, we brought some cookies to a family and  they were busy putting their kids to bed that day but they told us to stop by later in the week. We decided to stop by on thursday and they invited us right in. They offered us dinner and dessert and we had this great conversation with them. We were able to get to know them better and really become friends with them. This is the family that we met in June that I felt that I knew, he reminds me of Uncle Dan. But both Elder Bennett and I felt the spirit and a good feeling, like they are our family. They want us to come back and they want to make us some real cajun food. We had to leave their house early because Bishop called us over to the Hospital to give Bill Munson a blessing. He has been sick for awhile and things were going down hill. Despite being very ill and weak Bill was still being really witty and friendly. He told us, "The only way they are keeping me on my toes is if they raise the urinals." haha he was a great guy. Bro Patten was his doctor and Bill passed away later the next day. I really admire Bill and his capacity to enjoy life and be postive amongst numerous trials.

We made these really good honduran tacos, called baleadas, with the district this week. Elder Herbert made homemade tortiallas, which I high recommend making, wtih beans, eggs, avocado and cheese. Simple but good. We also had dinner with the Smiths again this week and I always love going over to their house, it makes me really happy. I just love seeing how much fun they have together as a family, you can tell that they love each others company. There are a few families that I have met on my mission that have impacted my life in a big way and they are one of them. We had a really good visit with J. this week where we read the Book of Mormon with him, to help him understand a little better and then we showed the Restoration video. We prayed that we could teach simply and help him feel and understand from the spirit and that prayer was answered. You could see a new light in his eye, you could feel the difference in his house and you could tell that his desire has grown. It is really exciting and he agreed to be baptized. Elder Bennett was so excited that he was doing fist pumps and cheers, haha. And then last night we had another really cool experience. We were biking home and this guy called out to us asking if we had any pamphlets. We stopped and turned around to talk to him. His name is W. and he is probably i nhis 30's. He told us that he has seen us riding around but hasn't wanted to stop us because he thought we were busy. But he said that last night he had a feeling like he should stop us. As soon as he said that I felt the Spirit and I knew that it was the Holy Ghost that prompted him to stop us. We gave him a Book of Mormon and introduced it a little bit. He told us that as soon as he went back inside that he would start reading it. We are planning on going to see him today. We just felt so blessed that Heavenly Father has put these people in our lives to share the gospel with. Elder Bennett and I were talking about it later and we found out that we had both prayed earlier that day that we could find somebody that needed our help, and our prayers were answered . It was a really cool experience, and those are the kinds of miracles you can expect on your mission. They happen every day.

I'll end with a little experpt from my Presidents letter:

Elder Bennett and I had a really cool discussion yesterday about the concept of perfection. I read the scripture in 3 Nephi 12: 48 that says:

Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect.

That seems like a really tall order, to be perfect, but in the footnote it explains that perfection= living God's standard, striving to be an example of Christ, repenting and changing daily and living up to our potential. I like to think of perfection not necessarily as a destination, but as a direction. We then compared it to something that we both know and love, music. When you try to perfect a piece of music, you can't expect to play it with out a mistake on the first try, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try, it just means it will take time and lots of practice. As you progress there may be one piece of the music that you struggle with more than another and there may be one part that you can nail every time, but as you continue to practice you are still on the path to perfection. This is the same with our lives, we need to practice perfection. It will take time and effort but as try we will get better. We also know that we are all unique and so in a way we are all practicing a different piece of music or a different part, maybe even a different "instrument", but God knows what we can do and will give us encouragement and blessings as we strive to practice our way through life.

I love you guys a lot and pray and think of you guys often.

Prayers and thoughts always,

Elder Debunhams Soper

PS General Conference this weekend Ooo Ooo (the chant they do at the mayan palace)

here is a picture we took awhile ago with my and Bill

We made biscuits and gravy