Wednesday, March 26, 2014

What a week, what a week...

Dear Family of mine,

What a week, what a week. Heavenly Father does a really good job of putting us in places and situations that help us grow. It is not easy, it usually never is, but it is worth it. But sometimes it can also be pretty funny haha. 

We went on a couple exchanges this week and that was really cool. The first one was with Elder Jacildo, a brand new missionary from the Phillipines. He is a convert and is so enthusiastic about doing the Lords work. It made me motivated to see him motivated! We had a couple cool experiences, but the coolest one was with Roxanne. We went to go look for a media referral, and she ended up not being there, but her friend was. Her friends name is Roxanne and she knew exactly who we were. She then explained to us that she used to meet with the missionaries, feed them dinner and that she still has her Book of Mormon and reads it from time to time...MIRACLE! She said that she is pretty busy but she gave us her number and her address and told us that we could come over sometime. We are going to try to get in touch with her this week. We also met with Russel, a potential investigator that we have and he and Elder Jacildo hit it off pretty quick. I will send you a picture of him. I also got to go on an exchange with one of the Assistants, Elder Asuao and I loved that. Elder Asuao was in my first district on my mission and we got to know each other pretty good. It was fun to catch up and just talk to him. 

We got to go to the temple with Patrick on Saturday and that was a special experience. Patrick was so prepared and I know that it was cool for Elder Bracken because it isn't too often that missionaries get to go through the temple with someone that they helped to baptize.  I am so happy for Patrick that he gets to enjoy the blessings of the temple. 

Well we better get going. I will send a few pictures quick and end with a little something from my Presidents letter:

I know that this thought isn't from the Book of Mormon, but I still wanted to share it. I was reading in the Topical Guide today looking for something that would help our District grow close together like a family. I found a scripture that answered my question and answered a lot of other questions that I have had as well. The scripture is in 1 John 5:2 and it says:

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.

The way we will grow closer as a district or as a companionship which in essence is learning to love each other, is increasing our love for our Heavenly Father. When we love God, we love his children. And it goes the other way as well, when we learn to love his children we begin to love Him more too. And also if we focus on being obedient to God and his spirit that is another way we show our love for him which will in turn increase our love for those around us. Pretty Cool.

I love you guys. Thank you for everything!


Elder Devin Soper

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

It has been hard and been kind of a slow roll...

Hola mi Familia,

Mom I have to thank you for sending all that information about how Mrs. Long (or Allen now) does her personal scripture studies. You were definitely inspired in sending that because I have been looking for a more effective way of studying and learning. I have started to use some of her ideas and I have seen a difference in how much more meaningful and focused  my studies are. I look forward to it even more each morning. It is really cool. So thank you! 

Yes I am wearing a green tie today so I cannot be pinched. Can't wear my green underwear anymore so I can't be quite as tricky. .. And I just have to say that I just enjoy hearing about your guys life, it is a lot of fun. Things always change but our lives kind of continue in a similar fashion and so a lot of the events and things going on remind me of the things that went on last year. Student council stuff, soccer for Taylor and Emma and other things. It is hard to believe that was a year ago. It is also hard to believe how fast time is going . I hit my 15 month mark in two days and so I really only have about 9 months left on my mission. We get to call each other for the last time in about 2 months. We are on the downhill of this whole experience. It is exciting but a little sad too. I am so grateful for the things that I have learned so far and all of the experiences that I have had. If anything I have grown closer to my Heavenly Father and my love for this gospel has increased. It has been good.

This has been a good week. It has been hard and been kind of a slow roll, but I am already really grateful for it. Man has it been stressful haha, There have been days where I just feel completely overwhelmed and burnt out, but those days compel you to get on your knees, they push you to study a little harder and they make it essential to have a prayer in your heart. I do like being a district leader. There are parts of it that kind of feel like a chore, paper work and preparing for weekly meetings. But you really get to know the missionaries on a more personal level because you get to work with them, you hear about the miracles they are experiences, you hear about the struggles that they go through and then if you are lucky you get to hear about the off the wall crazy things that happen haha. It is hard and tiring, but rewarding. It makes realize how hard it must be to be a Bishop haha. It also makes me realize how much I enjoyed being a regular missionary... that sounds bad haha but it is kinda true. Your mission changes a lot and I think your life changes a lot depending on the responsibility that you receive. We are just really lucky to have a loving Heavenly Father that helps us through it all. I really do like it though, it is something that I needed. 

Things are going well with Elder Allred. We are becoming better friends little by little and we have made the decision to just take our missions day by day. Sometimes that is just what you have to do, take baby steps. It is tricky to explain your feelings and it might just be impossible to let you know everything.  I am going to do my best to let you guys know how I am feeling, but I just want to let you know that I can feel your support and your prayers. 

This has been a good week though. We are trying to really build a foundation in this area for future missionaries. This is more of a long term goal and so much of the fruit that will come from it will be down the road. I definitely know that we are going to see miracles along the way, we already do everyday. We visited P. a couple of times and he is doing great. He is the one with Polio and is a recent member. He actually got permission straight from the First Presidency to go to the Temple and so we get to go with him this Saturday. That is going to be so awesome! A bunch of people from the branch are coming and then Elder Bracken is coming down as well. I will send you some pictures next week. We got a request to go give someone a blessing in a Behavioral Correction facility (Mental Hospital) and that ended up being a good story. These places have pretty heavy security and you are very limited on what you can bring in and so that already makes things kind of different from a regular missionary day. We went looking for a man named P. C. and we even had his Patient Number...well there was no P. C.. There was one guy with the same first name though and so they let us in to go see him. They used the Metal detector on us and then we went to go see P. M.. Well this wasn't the right P., but he still wanted to say a prayer with us and we actually got to teach a lesson to him and his nurse. And so in the end it had a really positive outcome. The interesting thing is that still nobody knows who this P. C. is...Twilight Zone? Other than that this week we have just really been working closely with the members and creating a more solid relationship with the Branch. I will send you a picture of one of the members, Bro. Morris who is actually leaving this week to Ohio. It was a successful week in my book. We did go to the Baudoin's last night and that is always good. They BBQ'd some steaks, chicken and sausage. There are those days in Louisiana where a missionary can be a little spoiled. I can't wait for you guys to meet them!

To end I will share a little exerpt from my Presidents Letter: 

I have been studying a lot for this District meeting coming up and I have felt prompted to focus on our purpose. I was going really in depth in our purpose until my ideas just stopped and I couldn't move forward. I remembered that although I would love help missionaries gain confidence, that it is through experiencing the Atonement where we will gain that confidence and increased urgency in our purpose. We then experience the Atonement by living the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Sometimes I think it has to be more complicated that, but I am always reminded that the Gospel is plain, simple and precious. I read something in Ether today that confirmed that to me. In Ether 1 Jared asks his Brother to inquire of the Lord on what they should do and where they should go. He then says in verse 38 : "And who knoweth but the Lord will carry us forth into a land which is choice above all the earth? And if it so be, let us be faithful unto the Lord, that we may receive it for our inheritance." The key word is "faithfulness." He isn't sure the blessings that they Lord has in store, he isn't sure of the experiences that lie ahead, but he knows that for any of it to happen they need to be faithful, they need to live the gospel of Jesus Christ. Pretty cool. And as missionaries we don't always know what lies ahead of us, we don't know if we will be transferred or who our companion will be, but we can do one thing and that is stay faithful and obedient to the Lord. We can always do our part and the Lord promises he will help.

I love you guy!

Prayers and thoughts always,

Elder Devin Soper

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

This week has been a big learning curve...

Good Morning eddabody,

We did survive daylight savings and although we were pretty tired yesterday we made it through. So Elder Bracken got transferred to Pineville and he and everybody here wwew pretty sad that he had to leave. He got really close to everyone here (including me) and he made a big impact on all of their lives. He is doing well and though and he seems to like his new area.

This has probably been one of the tougher weeks of my mission. I am going to be pretty honest haha. I am exhausted and feel a little overwhelmed at everything that is going on. But at the same time I am feeling optimistic that everything is going to work out. My new companions name is Elder Allred. He has been on his mission for about 10 months and he is from Rock springs Wyoming. This is his 6th area and I am his 7th companion.  Elder Allred is also very genuine and his personality is not hidden by anything. Which is something that I really appreciate because when you are open it is easy to create a friendship. He also has a great testimony of the gospel and it shows in his devotion to this work. He is pretty laid back for the most part and he is open minded to different ideas. He will let you know what he is thinking and so we are able to work together in pushing the work forward. So I think in the end this will be a really good transfer for the both of us.

We also have a brand new District with two new trainees, Elder Jacildo and Sister Dixon. Elder Jacildo is most recently from California but originally from the Phillipines and he is just super exctied to be a missionary. It is really cool to see that. Sister Dixon is from Draper and she seems pretty calm and collected and ready to do her best. They have good trainers (Elder Beach and Sister Betts) that will really help them out in everything that they need to do. Sister Faulk is still here but she got a new companion from Temple Square that is from Thailand. Her name is Sister Tan. It is actually a lot longer than that, but I don't know how to spell it. We also got the Zone leaders in our District as well so we are pretty full. It will be fun to get to know them better as the transfer progresses. 

This week has been a big learning curve and it has gone by a little more slowly than previous ones. We are working hard to build up relationships with the members and it seems to be going well. We are taking baby steps that are really going to pay off in the end. The area and the people here need a lot of support and so we are going to work hard to give it to them. We met with the Beadles, The Longoria's, Sister Prescott, Brother Morris, Eurick and then did some service for Bro Richard. Bro. Richard is super big into hunting and he actually fed us some deer and wild hog meat afterwards. Pretty cool! 

Sorry this letter isn't quite as newsy, I definitely know that in the upcoming weeks there will be some good stories coming your way haha. I am also glad to hear that everything is going so well with everybody.  I really loved your thoughts on the Atonement Mom.That is an awesome talk from Elder Bednar and there is a  quote from that written in my White Hand Book. It says, "The enabling power of the Atonement strengthens us to do and be good and to serve beyond our own individual desire and natural capacity." That is powerful. Heavenly Father and our Savior will help us reach our potential and help us do things that we can't do on our own. We are so blessed to have a loving Father in Heaven. That actually brings me to a quote that I wanted to end with. It is from the talk Mountains to Climb by President Eyring and it says, "If we have faith in Jesus Christ, the hardest as well as the easiest times in life can be a blessing." I know that it is true. I love you guys so much and I want to let you know how much I appreciate your prayers and your support. It helps me so much! I love you!

Prayers and thoughts always,


Elder Debun Soper

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Tomorrow is Mardi Gras...

Dear Family,

Yeah its transfer week this week and it seems like time just keeps flying by. P-day is tomorrow, but we got permission to email today or wednesday since tomorrow is Mardi Gras and everything will get shut down. Crazy stuff!! I think a lot of the missionaries are planning on going to some parades tomorrow, so that should be fun. Haha most parades are family friendly, not too much of the worldly carnivalesque stuff from New Orleans. So we should come out of it without too many disturbing images burned into our brains. ( I already have many of those stored away in my brain from over my mission haha) But it is crazy that this transfer is already coming to a close. Haley reminded me that have just a little over 9 months left. That is not very much at all! I call you guys in May and then the next time I talk to you I will be at  home and you can witness for yourself the 17 new facial hairs that I grew. Haha funny side note. A little girl asked me the other day how old I was and I told her that I was 20 and she accepted that and then she asked, with much curiosity, "So when are you going to start growing hair on your face then?" I had to laugh and say "I don't know, maybe when I grow up." But it is crazy to think that time just keeps ticking. And it seems to be going faster every single day. This has been the fastest transfer yet. And we don't know if we will be transferred yet, we will find out later today, but I do have a feeling that we will get to stay together for one more. I will probably send you a quick note later in the week to let you know what is going on.

The church has produced a new manual (came out about 6 months ago) on how to cope with stress during missionary life. It is really good and has a lot of great ideas for physical, emotion, social and spiritual stresses. It is called "Adjusting to missionary life" They did a really good job with it. I also really appreciated your insights from that Elder Cook talk about bondage. I think sometimes that is the reason that we are or we get stressed out. When we feel unbalanced or we are neglecting important parts of our life, it can be stressful. It is important to always have the spirit with us and rely on the Lord because he will help us and he will comfort us.

I just wanted to respond really quickly to your testimony that you gave in church yesterday Dad. I am excited to read it in this upcoming letter, but I thought you would be interested to hear this. The area 70, Elder Bluth (Arrested Development) had a big meeting with all of the Stake Presidencies and missionary leadership through out Louisiana and they came up with goals to be able to coordinate the work. The Zone Leaders told me that one thing that Elder Bluth and the General Authorities want to see in the South is an increase in activity among the African Americans. Either it be through baptisms or reactivation. I remember you asking me if that announcement may have made made an impact and it is happening. Pretty cool.

It is just good to hear that things are going well right now. You guys are having fun with friends, you are enjoying being with family and the stresses of life have seemed to subside just a little bit. I am happy knowing that you are happy.

This has been a good week. We have been with the Freebairn's a lot and that is a good thing! We did service with them this week by helping them clean up their back yard. The guy they bought the house from had just put a cement slab in and left the huge mound of dirt just sitting in the back yard. We helped them shovel it and redistribute it around the yard. That was a lot of fun and we found a lot of cool treasures including: an old coffee thermos full of nasty water, a bungee cord, a lot of worms, a few lizards, 1 live toad, 1 dead toad and a nest of  3 baby moles. Haha I will send you some pictures. I really love that family a lot and we are so grateful to have him as our branch mission leader and Sister Freebairn in the young women's presidency, they do such a good job. We are blessed!

One family in the ward has a little business where they drive people down to the gulf for offshore work and we helped them this week move their office to their home. Their grandson is here and his name is Donny ( he is 19) and he is a funny funny guy. While everybody was at the other office packing stuff up we had the chance to hang out with Donny.  He is "good" at everything and he loves to demonstrate it for people. He can sing, dance, play instruments and does martial arts. He showed Elder Bracken how to do the "figure 4 leg lock" and some  other martial arts move. He also taught us how to do the wave through our body. He is actually a pretty nice guy when you get to know him and Elder Bracken and I enjoy being around him. But imagine how Taylor and I used to dance, that is pretty similar to what Elder Bracken and I were doing with Donny this week haha.

Two of our investigators, T. and H., came to church this week! I am not sure if I have told you about them. They are Eurick's neighbors and they are good friends with Eurick. Both T. and H. are really down to earth and spiritual people. They are very open minded and their faith is strong in Christ. It was so cool to have them at church and see everybody just welcome them right in and accept them into the branch family. They seemed to like it and said they want to come back.

Doing service as missionaries can be a lot of different things. For example it can be manual labor like moving furniture or doing yard work, but sometimes you get to walk peoples dogs and give them baths. Haha we did that this week for Patrick and it was cool to see how much that meant to him. I am not sure if I told you, but he has been put into a nursing home in Lafayette now and it has been hard for him. He is doing well, especially because he got the go ahead from the first presidency to go to the temple before he has been a member for a year. We are so excited for him!

To end I will share one cool story that happened this week. We went to go see C. and sadly that day she wasn't feeling up for meeting with us. I remembered that there was one boy that we met in that neighborhood earlier that said he wanted us to come by to meet his family, but I could not remember where he lived. I thought I remembered which building it was and there was a door that seemed like the one so we went for it. A girl about 15 answered the door and she seemed really excited to see us. We recognized her from the first time that we met with C. Her name is A. and she invited us to come in, she said that "Papa" was home and so that meant we could come in (cause there was a male) it turns out Papa is her cousin that is also 15 haha. We ended up having a really spiritual conversation with them and during the lesson her other brother C. came in who is 17, her Mom, got back from work and her other cousin , D. got home too.  We'll see them again soon.

I know that Heavenly Father loves us, we see it everyday. I know that he is our literal Father and he knows us perfectly. He cares for us so individually and he knows exactly what we need. What an awesome thing to know. He loves us a lot and I am so grateful that we have the opportunity to share that love with these people that we are meeting here in Louisiana. We are happy and things are good.

I love you guys!


Elder Devin Soper