Wednesday, February 26, 2014

We have had a lot of cool finding miracles this week ...

Hey Eddabody,

Thanks for sending your ward conference talk Dad. It was down to earth and easy to understand which is something that people appreciate. It reminded me of a Conference talk in which they elaborate or a single scripture and help us to understand the deeper meaning behind the text by using personal stories and real life application.I also thought that was perfect how you added the repentance step in the conversion process. Hear, Remember, Understand, Repent, Act, Become. It was really cool how you talked about how becoming is not an end goal but a continuing process. I just like how the word becoming implies that it is a process, that it is something that you must work for and towards. I thought it was a great talk. 

I have definitely felt the same thing with guitar that you have felt with painting. I have noticed that the times that it happens too seem to be very overwhelming and stressful times in my life. That sense of flow and satisfaction in a hobby or skill I think allows your mind to unwind and let go of a lot of unnecessary worrying (which I am prone to). There were times at BYU that the only thing I could think about and wanted to do was sit down on the guitar and just pluck out some tunes for a couple hours. There have also been times on my mission that I have wanted to do that too haha, and I have played my guitar during breaks and sometimes that is when I receive some good revelation. My mind seems to open up. I am very grateful that I have been able to play it on my mission.  I think it is normal and that desire is pretty essential and increasing our ability in our talents. I guess the challenge is just not to be consumed haha. 

I have been getting pretty sore lately with playing basketball in the hood, riding bikes on exchanges and doing a lot of service. I actually just rode the Elder's bike that was there. It worked really well. And on P-days we usually go to the Library, email for awhile and then get together with all of the missionaries in Lafayette and go play dodgeball, basketball and volleyball at the church in Lafayette. There are about 5 sets of missionaries so 20 of us and then sometimes New Iberia comes up. We have a lot of fun. We are really lucky cause we live right by a target and so when we need something we just go during one of our breaks and pick it up. This is a fun zone because it is a lot smaller and you get to know everybody.

We haven't met with that Spanish family again yet, they had to cancel this week, but they want us to come back. Sister Freebairn is actually from Mexico and so it is really helpful to have her there cause she can speak Spanish when we can't. Elder Bracken took Spanish through high school and he likes to joke that the only thing he remembers how to say is "Can I please go to the bathroom?" Pretty funny. 

We have had a lot of cool finding miracles this week and they keep happening. Elder Jones and I went on an exchange and one night we wrote down about 25 names of former investigators and potential investigators...the next day we were blessed with two media referrals exactly where we were planning on working. We were able to contact both of them , C. and L.,  and we got return appointments with both. C. has two really cute little girls.  We were also able to talk to 3 or 4 more people in one of the neighborhoods and pass out some Book of Mormons and Bibles. When I got back with Elder Bracken we made a goal to make 1 new friend everyday. The next day we made 5. We talked to a traveling fire performer named Billy from Massachusetts who had a couple Mormon friends and he gladly accepted a Book of Mormon. We walked around Opelousas and we met S., J. and K. (who stopped us cause they thought we were "two pretty cute white boys), they all want us to come back and teach them more about the Book of Mormon.They actually met with missionaries before and have a couple pamphlets.  We then went to a little wing shack and we started talking to the owner named Mario. We got to know him and he actually gave us extra food for free. He got these homemade hot terriyaki wings and they were super good.  We gave him a Book of Mormon and he told us to come back. We are definitely blessed when we simply open our mouth. We had another miracle this morning. Before we came off to email we stopped by the apartment office and the woman, V. , that works there started asking us a question and then she said "never mind." We told her she could ask us and then she said "well the more I read the Bible I am realizing to truly be saved we need to be baptized and I was wondering if you guys could help me." I think we had to stop ourselves from laughing because we just couldn't believe it. We set up an appointment and we are going to come talk to her at the office on Wednesday. We are being blessed!! And we even made a new friend today already.

We also had a really good lesson with T. about the Book of Mormon this week and he committed to reading it and praying about it. He is a good guy and he just has a natural desire to come closer to God. The transfer is coming to a close and I just hope that Elder Bracken and I can stay together for one more. We are becoming great friends and we are seeing a lot of miracles. I love being a district leader too because you get to talk to the other missionaries, get to know them and get strength and revelation from them. The missionaries in our district are doing really well right now and we are just all happy. It is so much fun.

I still have a lot to work on, but I found a cool scripture that brings me a lot of comfort. D & C 123 :17 says

 Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.

It reminds me of that quote you sent me a long time ago Dad. We just have to do our best, even if it is imperfect and we can be happy, with "the utmost assurance" in knowing that Heavenly Father will take care of the rest. I know that is true. I also love how it says we should do it "cheerfully." Being happy is way better than sad, worried or stressed and Heavenly Father wants us to be happy in this life more than anything. We are pretty happy. 

I love you guys so much and thank you for your support.

Prayers and Thoughts always


Elder Devin Soper

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


Our special Valentines Day photo for you...

Me and T.

Dear Family,

So we are writing at the Lafayette Church building today so we bypassed all of the closed libraries since it is a holiday. It seems like a lot of National Holidays are on Mondays...the same day as P-day. That is okay though, everything works out in the end.
Oh and thank you so much for the Valentines package!!! That was so awesome and Elder Bracken wants me to say thanks for him. And I can also say thanks from me! HAPPY VALENTINES!!!

We had a pretty good week this week. I went on an exchange this week with some Elder's down in New Iberia and man do I have respect for missionaries in a biking area. There area is pretty big and they have no other option than to bike or walk. I knew that I could bike, but I was not ready for biking that much. Missions can really be tiring physically, emotionally and spiritually. But you push through it all because it is something that you really love doing. I was on exchange with Elder Hall and he is a really good missionary. He has just been a devoted member his whole life and the spirit influences every decision and action that he makes. We got talking and we found out that his Dad also went to the Geneva Switzerland mission in around 1989ish. You might have missed each other, but maybe you had the same mission president? For district meeting we made cookies and valentines for the members in our Branch. It was a lot of fun and I think that it really brought us closer together.
We went to a lesson this week and the whole thing was in Spanish...guess what neither of us speak Spanish. But we did have a translator. We were at the Freebairns and Sister Freebairns friends, F. and M.,  came over and we were able to teach them a little spiritual thought. And this last Thursday we had dinner appointment with them and they made us Tamales...they were really good! We began to talk about God and M. told us the story about how she lost faith in God and then had an answer to a prayer and has been faithful ever since. We based our lesson around the love that God has for us and that one way we can know of his love is through the Book of Mormon. Even though we could not understand them completely and we had a translator we could all definitely understand and feel the spirit.
On Saturday we went up to Opelousas and we met with a 12 year old boy named T. Elder Bracken had been meeting with him before and then he moved to Texas so he could have better chances with scholarships. He is really good at basketball and even though he is in 6th grade he plays on the 8th grade team. For a couple of years he has been going to different churches on his own so he can find the right one and Elder Bracken said that when they taught him the Restoration he started crying because he knew that it was true. We were able to teach him the Plan of Salvation and he is very mature for his age. He was asking good questions and was sincerely interested. I will send you a picture.
Well I better get going. Thank you so much for the emails and thank you again for the package I will end with a little excerpt from my presidents letter.

This week I have been studying Christ appearance to the Americas. There is one verse that I really love that I think describes what we are doing as missionaries in this world today. 3 Nephi 16: 20

The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of God.

The Lords arms are always open and they are always there, but sometimes we don't recognize that they are there. Sometimes we need somebody to help us to see them and how they are influence our lives. That is part of our job as missionaries, we help people to understand that they have a loving Heavenly Father. You said in my interview that the most important thing that we know is that we have a Father in Heaven that loves us, we have the special privilege to give two years of our life to share the most important knowledge that we have. He makes" bare his holy arms" through us, his servants. What an awesome thing to be a part of.

Prayers and thoughts Always


Elder Devin Soper

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The weather has taken a turn for the better...

Dear Family,

The weather has taken a turn for the better and it is getting a little warmer. It is funny that when I was preparing to come on my mission I didn't even think I needed to bring a coat. Oh boy was I wrong haha I have been wearing that big one almost everyday and I am very grateful to Mom for it. That is crazy that Portland has shut down from the snowpocalypse and I know how you feel Haley from feeling cooped up. It is a little stanky. But life keeps moving forward.

I really like that idea about comparing the worldly apps that appeal to the impulsive part of our brain to the gospel apps that will develop and strengthen our ability to think and ponder. I have noticed that on my mission when we create shorter lessons that our fun and interesting, the spirit is stronger and the rate of retention and understanding goes up. You also have to visit more frequently. I think a lot of people are really used to instant gratification and sometimes it gets in the way of us focusing in on the spirit, so you have to try your best to make it short enough to keep their attention and long enough to exercise their brain and invite the Holy Ghost. It is a lot of trial and error. Satan knows what he is doing, our attention spans are being lowered by the media and probably one of the biggest things that effects is reading for extended periods of time. You said in one of your previous letters hat the best source of spiritual protection is reading your scriptures. That is true. If we are diligent in reading our scriptures each day we will grow spiritually  and we will grow closer to our Heavenly Father. Little by little our focus is being lowered and it makes it difficult for us to study and ponder the scriptures. Sneaky. I saw that this week. We were so busy with meetings, funerals and travel that our time to read the scriptures was pushed away. I noticed that I had a more difficult time recognizing the spirit and it was easier to make small justifications. We weren't doing anything bad, but we didn't do as much good as we could have. It is scary how that works. I am really looking forward to having a more solid schedule this week and building up spiritually again.

I really like your idea about forgetfulness for your talk Dad. You are definitely right to say that if we aren't actively engaged in the gospel it is easy to revert to the ways of the world. To be doers of the word means that we are engaged in the conversion process. Being converted really is a process and it means to become something, to become something or someone better than we were. That can happen everyday.  I heard once that the conversion process goes like this. Hear, remember, understand, act, become. Those who simply hear the word never internalize it and get the chance to truly understand its meaning. If you never understand why, you will have a hard time acting or being a doer of the word. It is cool that the scripture talks about forgetting because one of the steps is actually remember or rembering or remebering. That seems to be something that comes up in the Book of Mormon pretty often. There are so many times in the scriptures that prophets tell the people to remember, to remember our Savior, to remember their ancestors, to remember the scriptures etc.. It's even in the sacrament prayers. We must always remember Him. The man in the scripture passively heard the word and forgot it and eventually forgot who he was. If you never remember what is said, it will be really hard to do it.  You could even use some lyrics from Michael Jacksons Man in the Mirror 

I'm Starting With The Man In The Mirror
I'm Asking Him To Change His Ways
And No Message Could Have Been Any Clearer
If You Wanna Make The World A Better Place
Take A Look At Yourself, And then Make A Change
Hoo! Hoo! Hoo! Hoo! Hoo!
Na Na Na, Na Na Na, Na Na, Na Nah
You've Got To Move! Come On! Come On!
You Got To . . .Stand Up! Stand Up! Stand Up!
Make That Change.

You could even sing a little bit of it if you wanted haha. I think probably the most relevant part is the Hoo Hoo Na Na Na Na Na. Haha but I really do think that it has a good message that we do have to stand up and do something about it, we have to be anxiously engaged in a good cause. To be a doer of the word is to make a change (have a change of heart). 

I am glad you guys asked me some good questions to think about because it is making the email longer haha. This week has been really busy with meetings and we haven't had much time to go out and work. But we still did have some good experiences. This last Monday we had dinner with a part member family, the Ds, and it was a lot of fun. We went with the Sisters and they made us one of my favorite dishes, Crawfish Etouffee. It is deliciouso and I am going to learn how to make it. We spent the time just talking and getting to know them. You could definitely feel the spirit and we all grew closer together to each other and our Savior. It was a cool experience. Speaking of food, we went to this hole in the wall shack in Lafayette called Steven's Chicken and man is it good. I spent 5 dollars and I got 3 chicken "fingers" with fried rice. Well this chicken fingers must have been the size of goliaths fingers cause they were huge. I could hardly finish it. We will have to got there when we come to visit. We have also been with the Freebairns a lot since he is the Branch Mission Leader. They are such a good family and I always feel loved and strengthened when I go to their house. We had a cool experience with a recent convert this week. His name is Eurick and he struggles with homosexual feelings. It is a situation that I have never dealt with before, but it builds my testimony to see the Atonement work in his life. Eurick more than anything wants to be doing the right thing and it is cool to see him strive to become better and make those changes in his life that will bring him closer to his Father in Heaven.

I had the chance to go to this mission leadership meeting in Baton Rouge this week with all of the Zone Leaders, District Leaders and Sister Training Leaders in the Mission. We talked a lot about the why of mission work and it all boils down to our purpose to invite others to receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and his atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. I also love what President Wall put at the start of our purpose, the words "Have fun." Our missions are supposed to be an enjoyable experience and we can have a lot of fun and be happy while we are inviting others to come closer to Christ. It was a good meeting. We also had the Funeral this week for Brother Prescott. It is always tough to say goodbye to someone, but it is comforting to know that they are happy. We also had Stake conference this week and that was good. It was pretty far away, but it was worth it.

Elder Bracken is a really good missionary. One thing that makes him a good missionary is that he loves the people. He has a big heart and accepts people for who they are. It is a very Christlike and childlike charity. His mission has been really good for him so far and you can tell that he has learned so much about himself and his testimony is growing rapidly everyday. He understands relationships with people really well, but the logistics and protocol of life are still pretty new to him. I love being his companion though because it has been good for me to focus more on the why we do what we do rather than how we do it. In the end the important thing isn't what we do but why we do it. He loves to have fun and sometimes both he and I will go a little too far, but we are learning to find a good balance. He is growing in his maturity and his mission will help him learn how to be a leader. 

We had interviews with President Wall this week and I am just grateful to have him as a mission president. He definitely knows the language of the spirit and I think that is because he loves his missionaries so much. I am looking forward to learning more this transfer and coming closer to our Savior.

I love you guys so much. Have a great week!

Prayers and Thougts Always


Elder Soper

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Our mission had a snow day this week!

Dear Familia,

Well the title of the email is surprisingly true. Our mission had a snow day this week! Can you believe it? The roads completely iced over, there was snow/ice on the ground and the weather was below freezing. In fact the conditions were so bad, that we weren't allowed to drive. I guess this kind of weather hasn't happened in years... my prayers were answered ( I was missing snow and I think I prayed for a white winter. oops haha). Despite the weather conditions we still saw some miracles. On Tuesday Elder Bracken and I really felt like getting out and walking to the Baudoin's house since we couldn't drive. On the way we had a little bit of an adventure but we came across a woman who was having difficulty defrosting her car. Her heater was broken and her car was full of groceries. So Elder Bracken and I found another use for missionary tags...they turn out to be pretty good ice scrapers. So for the next half hour we helped her get her car in driving condition and she was asking us questions about what we did. She told us that we were literally "God sent". In a way we were, the spirit led us there because Heavenly Father knew that she needed help. Doesn't that show how much that he really loves her and us? We had the opportunity to share the Book of Mormon with her and we bore our testimony. She took the book and she said "This is exactly what I need right now." Pretty cool! We are going to get back with her this week. We made it the Boudoin's after walking through a field, jumping over a canal and having a blast on the way there. They made us some herbal tea and they had made homemade chicken noodle soup. It was a good day. 

This area is definitely different in terms of geography and culture, but we are going to be able to use all of the resources that we have been given. We are planning on someday where we can ride our bikes to save a few miles. (That is something that our branch president wants us to do.) And I have been able to listen to some Zydeco music yesterday. It is pretty cool and has an old timey feel with acordians, banjo's, guitar and raw singing. We are good friends with a lot of local rappers as well and they do a lot of gospel rap too haha. It is actually pretty good and they have really good messages. Their rap names are, Father Lo "The Coach", CRG, Mouthpiece and Gorilla Boy. CRG's real name is A. and he is a member. He is probably one of the nicest, most genuine and personable people that I have ever met. His circumstances aren't great, but he is happy and working hard to provide a good life for his girlfriend, K.,  and new baby.

This really has been a crazy week though. With the combination of being a new district leader, the weather and one of the members of the branch passing away. We spent a lot of time at the hospital this week because Brother Bob Prescott had a massive stroke and brain hemorrhage. He was on life support and was in a coma. ( He was in his 70's). It was a tough to see his wife sitting at his side holding his hand and comforting him. But it was also a faith promoting thing to see her encouraging him to move on to paradise once they took him off life support, because all she wanted was for him to be happy. There is not a sweeter, cuter or more faithful lady than Sister Prescott. It was hard not to cry, but it was a unique spiritual experience. I know that the Plan of Salvation is real. 

 We had some really cool experiences this week too with teaching and finding. We went with the sisters to have dinner with this family from Nigeria and it was so much fun. They made us traditional Nigerian food and their little boys were hilarious. I want to share a couple things that they said.

 Chimobi asked "Do you speak Nigerian?" our response "No, we don't" pondering he says " it because your not brown?" haha. 

They asked Elder Bracken to flex and then Chimobi started flexing and exclaimed "Hey! Feel my muckles!" 

They were really cute kids haha, I will send some pictures. 

This week we went to Villeplate, where they make Slap Ya Mama's and visited the S. family. They are really cool and fun to be around. We spent most of the day with Bro. S. and his granddaughters. The girls family doesn't have very much stability, except for their grandparents and we feel like we just need to spend time with the whole family and be their friends. That was a really fun day and we were able to go teach a family with Brother S. as well. That in itself was a mini miracle. It was a good day.

Saturday was also a miracle and everything just seemed to fall into place. We were able to see a lot of people and find a couple potential investigators. One thing we did was play basketball.
 Elder Bracken and I have been wanting to go play basketball with some people in a park if we ever see it and we did this last Saturday. I am sure we looked a little odd, but when don't we?  We were the only white guys in the whole park.  They invited us to play and we played 4 on 4 with a couple guys. We really didn't play very well, but during the whole game they were asking questions and teasing us a little bit. They were amazed that we were still virgins haha.  We were able to create a good report with them and were able to laugh with them. After the game we asked them if we could say a prayer and share a scripture with them and a group of them said yes. So we grabbed a couple Book or Mormon's and had a little lesson on our Savior Jesus Christ. They asked a lot of questions on why we do what we do and that gave us an opportunity to bear testimony and promise blessings. It was really cool and a lot of fun. 

Being a district leader is definitely coming with its challenges and it is pushing me a lot. I took your advice to be more like Mary than Martha and care more about the people rather than stress about protocol. I think that has helped a lot and we are coming close together as a district. I don't think this last district meeting was as fun as the last one since it was more straight forward. We still did best worst and weirdest, but for a large portion we brainstormed ideas that we could do to make district meeting a fun time, a productive time and a spiritual time. We came up with some good ideas and I think next week we are going to make valentines cards and cookies for members of the branches that we serve in. It should be fun. I have definitely seen some situations like you described Dad. People seem to have a hard time breaking lifestyles and really it is hard. It is impossible if we try to do it on our own, but it is more than possible if we do it with the help of Christ. I am learning too that you can't please everyone. There is a little misunderstanding between two members of the district right now and I can see where both of them are coming from. They both have valid points, but there are places where they can both compromise as well. It is interesting being the mediator and I can feel for you more as a Bishop now too. You really have to be in tune with the spirit and do what Heavenly Father wants, because that is what is best for everyone involved. You wish that sometimes that everything could just go smoothly and everybody could be happy, but these challenges bring us closer together and strengthen us in the end. I actually kind of enjoy it too in a way haha. The challenge is stressful and hard, but needed. 

Sorry that paragraph was kindof focused on "me." But thank you for listening! I will end with a little blurb from my email to President: 

One thing I am really trying to focus on this transfer is love and happiness (essentially having the spirit in our lives) and I have a little challenge in my mind for the district. In 4 Nephi the Nephites and Lamanites are doing really well in following the counsels of Christ and this is what it has to say about them in verses 15 and 16

15 And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.

16 And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.

They had the love of God in their hearts and they were happy. In fact it says that "there could not be a happier people..." I think that we can reach that same state in our district, in our championships, in our zone and in our mission. Because of the love of God that is in the hearts of the missionaries in the Opelousas District or the Louisiana Baton Rouge Mission, there surely "could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God." We can do it.

I love you guys so much and I am so grateful that you are happy and having fun. I lub ya lots!

Prayers and thoughts always,


Elder Devin Soper