Friday, December 20, 2013

This week I have learned a valuable lesson about listening...

Good Day Family

Man, it seems like it is getting closer and closer to Christmas each day, and guess what? IT IS!! Months seem to go a lot faster on your mission and before you know it, they are over. It sounds like you guys had a really good week and are just enjoying the season. I guess they are some tough things too with Dad's foot and Emma's surgery coming up. But I will keep you guys in my prayers. I also know that Heavenly Father doesn't give us anything that we can't handle and won't make us better. So Emma, you must be a much stronger person than me, because Heavenly Father knows that you can do it. Good luck and I will be praying for you!!! I hope that everything is alright with your foot too, Dad.

Wow, that program really sounds like it came together in a fun and satisfying way. Christmas really is a great time of year and everybody seems to be happy. "The best way to spread Christmas cheer is to sing loud for all to hear." Elf quote of the day. So you guys did that! Music brings such a wonderful spirit and especially Christmas music focused on Christ. Sister Wall asked me on Saturday if I would play "O Come All Ye Faithful" on the guitar for the NOLA zone Christmas devotional. I am putting a little Jack Johnson spin on it, so hopefully it goes over well haha. Wish me luck.

It is hard to believe that I have been out for a year. I have learned a lot of good lessons, but I shared one with President Wall, that I would like yo share with you guys as well.

This week I have learned a valuable lesson about listening. I came into my mission with a little motto: Love and Listen. I tried to gather as much information about being a good missionary before I left for my mission and I boiled everything down into those two words. But I have been on my mission for a year now and I am looking back and thinking of the lessons that I have learned. I came out pretty shy and over the past year I have really come out of my shell. I have gained more confidence, because now I know where my confidence lies and that is in my Savior. I have learned how to create conversations about the gospel from everyday experiences and really how to effectively talk to people. (A valuable skill that I lacked previously) I am learning how to better teach the gospel in simple terms and teach to not only to help others understand, but teach them so they can't misunderstand. But with all of this I found my self bothered because I was talking too much and when I wasn't talking I had the urge to talk, just to get a word in. It wasn't because I was prompted to do so or it was some profound revelation, but I was being impatient as I was listening. This has been going on for probably the last 6 or 7 months in subtle ways, but really manifested itself in the past 2 or 3. I remembered what you told me in a previous interview about the importance of discerning and how the first step to discerning is observing or listening. How could I discern from the spirit if I wasn't listening the person talking or the spirit? It doesn't work. I am not sure when the change began, but in a lesson this week I found myself focusing on the speaker, pushing all other thoughts out of my mind and as soon as I recognized that I pushed that thought out of my mind so I could continue listening. As I did so I wasn't worried, I wasn't anxious to speak, I was calm and happy. Elder Bennett was doing a great job teaching and he was inspired to begin teaching a Part member/Less-active family the Restoration. As we began, the message wasn't getting through, we could tell. So we stopped, pondered and listened. Without actually saying it directly they told us what they needed and the spirit prompted us as well. We decided to switch roles with them. We gave them our clip on tags and gave them our scriptures. We told them that we wanted them to teach us how they knew God existed and loved them. They began testifying of the importance of prayer, scripture study and church attendance. You could see that they began to think about what they were saying and they were teaching themselves. It was a fun atmosphere, but it was full of the spirit. Elder Bennett and I thought, "Man that went great! We should do that again." So before we left we gave them the Restoration pamphlet, told them to study it and said that they were going to teach us next time too. I know that if we simply listen to those we teach because we love them, that if we listen to the spirit, we will be led to do what we need to. Is it easy? No. But is it worth it? Absolutely. I have found after that experience as well that I love to listen, that it is something that I am trying to do every time we meet somebody. So I am re-adopting my motto: Love and Listen and adding it to the mission vision. Love, Listen, Serve and Teach. I hope you don't mind, but I will probably do it anyway haha.

This morning I had a similar experience in the Book of Mormon as I began to read Alma 34. I had a really hard time focusing because something was weighing on my mind and stressing me out. I couldn't shake it and it was interfering with my study. So I said a little prayer asking for help and I received an answer, it said "Read your Scriptures." At first I thought to myself "I am trying." But I did my best to focus in and the spirit helped me to understand. I began reading about how we need to humble ourselves and pray to our Father in Heaven. We can pray about anything that we need and if we feel like it is important, than so does Heavenly Father. I also read about how we need to be "patient in our afflictions." I prayed about this situation and I don't really have an answer yet, but I did receive something and that was assurance. Heavenly Father will always make a way and we don't have to worry if we are listening.

I remember before my mission I was pretty shy and didn't talk much in social situations, but my mission has really helped me come out of my shell. I still get really nervous speaking in public, but I feel I can open up in smaller venues more now. But I think Heavenly Father allowed me to go past what my comfort zone and begin talking a little too much, so I could then learn the value and importance of listening. I hope that with His help I can find a healthy balance.

Another lesson that I have learned on my mission is that creating friendships is essential. Part of that too is being yourself. I am not going to lie and say that Elder Bennett and I are very strict, somber, serious or stern all the time. In fact we are hardly ever that way haha. We are both pretty goofy and silly and we include that in our missionary work. For example in that previous story when we pretended to be the investigators, we put some hats on backwards, loosened our ties and were a little silly. But we transitioned that into a spiritual experience. I think there is a time and a place for everything and I know that there are some situations where we need to be serious and disciplined. But it is also important to be yourself and that makes all of the difference. We have created some really great relationships with members down here and it is beginning to show in an increase in work. We had a great dinner with the Bybee's on Wednesday and we started teaching and drawing the Plan of Salvation with them. We are planning on going back this next Wednesday for dinner with L., C. and K. We think that is going to do leaps and bounds for their progression in the gospel. It is also showing with B. and D. They want us to come back after each time that we leave. We are becoming great friends with them and their desire to learn more about the gospel is increasing. It also showed in a cool miracle that we had this week. So on Thursday a lot of our plans fell through so we were going to ride by this store to see the times that we could come volunteer. As we rode their a former investigator, M., stopped us and asked us to come by her house. She was really good friends with the previous missionaries and that relationship with them created a rock solid foundation for us to begin teaching her again. The next step is to help them become friends with the members, then they won't want to leave.

I will share a few more cool things that happened this week. We volunteered at this other store kind of like the Salvation Army, but bigger and less-organized. They had us re-decorate the Christmas section for service haha. I guess Elder Bennett and I have the touch. We had dinner with a man in our ward named Bro . S. He is a pretty quiet guy and we hadn't really gotten to know him very good. He invited us over for dinner last night and it turns out he is the Jack of all trades. He made us this really good chicken that reminded me of the half chicken lunch at El Gallo Hiro. It was really good. He is in his 70's and was born and raised in Finland. He does construction jobs and he designed and built his own house by hand. He loves Jazz and folk music and he plays the trumpet. He is a really cool guy and I am looking forward to going back soon. Then to finish off last night, we went by the Stocks to celebrate Brady Bybee graduating with his Masters. Before dinner they had us share a lesson and we all went around the room and said why we love Christmas. It was simple, but invited the spirit. It was fun to have all of the families over, a little chaotic with so many people, but I enjoyed that chaos a little bit. It was really fun and it was a realization of how much I have come to love these people. It was really cool. I look up to Brother Bybee a lot and I think he is a great Dad, Husband and missionary. I am grateful to be serving here.

I love you guys a lot and I will keep you in my prayers this week. Good luck Emma, I love you!!


Elder Soper

PS This is a stir fry Elder Bennett and I made this week. It is the most interesting picture I took this week haha.

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