Wednesday, August 27, 2014

I went back to college and am serving on LSU campus haha...

Good Morning!

Photo that one of Natalie Soper's friends took of Devin at the LSU institute

So I never thought I would be serving in this area, but I am excited. I went back to college and am serving on LSU campus haha. It is definitely different than any other area that I have served in first because the proselyting rules are different and then second, everybody is our same age. It has been a huge transition because Elder White and I got doubled in to open the area for Elders, so we didn't have much to go off to get our head above water. But that has been kind of fun starting from scratch and just working hard. But you are right, becuase I have a good companion the whole experience will be positive no matter what happens. There are a pair of LSU sister that know what is going on though, so that has been a tender mercy to work with them. And we work withe YSA ward really closely and they definitely have it figured out in terms of fellowshipping and being examples of Christ.  But so far we have done a lot of walking, sweating and talking to anyone that we can. 

Elder White is a good guy. He has been out on his mission for about 17 months and he is from Thatcher Arizona. He has a funny sense of humor and is a hard worker. I lucked out again with companions and I think we are going to see a lot of cool miracles this transfer. We kinda feel like we are re-learning how to do missionary work. It has required us to be creative in the ways that we contact and especially gets us out of our comfort zone. And this has only been in the first few days! School just barely started today and so there are tons of people walking around Campus, I'll let you know how that goes and keep a count of how many weird looks that we get. The second day we got here we were waiting for some of the YSA's  on the big fields by the student building and we saw this guy doing a bunch of back flips and karate kid moves. Well lucky for us Elder White did some gymnastics/hardcore parkour back home and so we decided to go talk to him. He taught Elder White a few new things and they just talked about how to do some of the tricks. So for the next 30 minutes he and Jared (the guy) were doing tricks out in the field. We got his info and he said that we could come back to hang out with him. Right before we left to he asked what we were doing (those are the magic words, because if somebody asks what we are doing we are aloud to share.) So we just told him a little bit about what we do as missionaries and quickly bore our testimonies. It was a cool experience. 

Yeah it feels weird, but has been a blessing to be a district leader again. My personal studies have been a lot more focused and I remembered how much I love being able to be more involved with missionaries on a personal level. If you ever have any fun ideas that I could use for meetings that would be awesome. I just want everybody to be able to look back on this transfer and remember that they were happy and loved their missions. Hey could y'all send me some funny cheesy jokes to use haha? A little somthin somthin to break the ice. 

Yeah I hope that everything continues to run smoothly transitioning from the summer to the full school, soccer, work schedule. I am going to make a predicition...Taylor will be voted class clown. Now we will wait haha. Dad do you remember a Kristina Gibby? She graduated from the humanities program at BYU and she is here at LSU doing her PhD in Comparative Literature. She came up to us yesterday and was talking about how she knew you and she also knows Auntie Kare. Haha small world huh? Little tender mercy right there. 

Well I am going to share two more cool stories. So Elder White and I got here on the first day and we had no idea what we should do. The sisters called us and said that the Ward was having a temple trip that night and we were invited. So we were able to go do an endowment session and that in it self was a blessing to be able to start the transfer off with that. I love the temple and the feeling of peace that it brings. It is a break from the stresses of the world and it is a reminder of what is really important in this life. After the temple we were driving home with some of the members, Zach and Stefan or "Zefan" for short and we asked if we could stop by Walmart to pick up a few things. Oh I forgot to tell you that my other dream came true, we are in a bike area! We get to walk, bike and ride the bus everywhere we go. I have wanted to be in an area like that my entire mission and I got all three in one. But zefan took us to walmart and we put the essentials in the cart, frosted mini-wheats, milk, eggs, toilet paper etc. When we got to the check out Stefan started taking the stuff out of our cart and said "Well we aren't too good about feeding yall here in the singles ward, but we can buy you cereal!" He bought our groceries for us. That was a miracle mostly because of just knowing that we already had a friend in the ward. 

The next day we were walking to Walmart to get a few more things and as we were walking back a guy stopped us in the parking lot and told us that he knew we had limited funds and asked if he could buy us lunch. He gave us a ride back to our apartment and then took us out to get a burrito. His name was Adam and he is a PhD student here at LSU. He isn't a member but he said that he really respects that we sacrifice to share what we believe. He isn't a religious guy, but he just asked all about our missions. That was a sweet miracle that we weren't expecting. It just grew my testimony in the fact that Heavenly Father knows the details of our lives. He loves us so much and he sends people to answer our prayers.

I love you guys so much and I hope you have a great week. 

Prayers and Thoughts always,

Elder Soper

Sunday, August 24, 2014

So I am getting transferred...

Dear Y'all,

I can't believe how fast everything is moving, school has already started, soccer is in full swing and BYU starting up again. That was really fun to get the updates on how the Adidas tournament went. It sounds like they were pretty exciting games. I am looking forward to hearing about how the season goes. I bet both teams wil thrive this year. (Maybe it will take Emma's until next season just because of the injuries, but it'll work out.) I read this story in the Ensign or New era or something about a high school Hockey player. He said that in their very first game he shattered his arm and there was nope hope for him to play that season. He said that at first he was really bitter and kind of frustrated that his plans were messed up. A couple weeks later his coach brought him into his office and said something like this."You know it would be great to have you on the ice this season, we could really use you. But Heavenly Father needs you to do and learn something else this season." After that he chose to make the most of that year and he said he learned how to be more like Christ. Cool story.

So I am getting transferred this go around. It is kind of sad that I will be leaving all of these people that I have come to love and to leave a great companion. But I know that is what I need to continue to move forward. I am not sure where I am going to be going, but I am going to be a District Leader. Haha to be honest at first my pride was a little hurt cause I was thinking "Shoot, maybe I messed up at being a zone leader." But then as I was praying I realized that wasn't right and Heavenly Father was very proud of all that I did here in Opelousas and with the other missionaries. Haha maybe that sounds prideful too, but I just am happy to know that I was able to do his will. In reality the people here and the missionaries helped shape into who I am, so I received much more than I gave for sure. I know that this is what I need to move forward and become better. So it will be cool to see what happens and the challenges and experiences that are coming up. 

Elder King and I really had an awesome transfer. There were some hard times, but there were so many more good, funny and happy times. I am grateful for all of them, becuase they made Elder King and I really good friends. It is cool how even the trials in our life are a blessing if we want them to be. That is hard though haha, but it is possible. This last Sunday was pretty amazing. We had invited R. to come to church earlier in the week and was super excited to join us. We got everything set up for a ride and R. got to come to Church this week. It was a huge blessing to have him there and everyone in the ward felt that as well. Everyone was coming up to him introducing themselves and saying positive things to him. I got to give a talk to and so it was cool to have R. to be there. What a cool thing to have for my last Sunday there and he loved it! He wants to come back this next week with D., so there are some really good things happening right now. I love those guys a lot. It has grown my testimony so much to see how the Gospel changes peoples lives. There are spiritual as well as physical, mental and emotional effects (improvements really) that come when the spirit is in your life. I think it is because when we read the Book of Mormon, pray and come to Church we become more like our Savior and that improves us in every way. 

We had another cool and slightly bizarre experience this week. So we were pretty sure that I was leaving this week and so we started saying goodbye to people. We went by Earnest and Anna's to get a picture, share a message and say bye. While we were sitting there Earnest said, "This just came to me, but would yall be alright if I lay hands on you?" So we said sure. He came up and put one hand on each of our heads and said essentially a prayer of protection. We got a little taste of what it is like when we offer blessings to people who have never experienced them before haha. It was really cool though, he didn't claim any priesthood and it was just a sincere and very heartfelt prayer to Heavenly Father to watch over us. It was genuine and the spirit was still there. It was a memorable experience and I will always respect Earnest for offering that to us. It is interesting to see that people aren't that far off from what we believe and I have a feeling that they will become members some day. They are some of the nicest people I have ever met and they said that they want to meet you guys too.

I am grateful to be a missionary. It has changed my life. Being able to share the most important message in the world  everyday is pretty cool! When we share the Gospel, we don't just invite people to learn about Christ, but we walk with them closer to Him. That is a huge blessing. I know that this is the Lord's work and we are all a part of it. He is really proud of us. 

I better get going, but I am going to send some pictures, maybe even some real life photos too! I love you guys so much.


Elder Devin The Soper

Everything is up in the air...


Elder Herbert and I

Thank you so much for the letters this week, they definitely helped during a time that I needed it. So the next transfer is next week and everything is up in the air. I think there is a good chance that I move, but at the same time I am not really sure. You hit it right on the head. I love being with Elder King and I hope we get one more together. But at the same time I feel like I might need something new just to help me grow some more. It will be interesting to see what happens. Could be my final area coming up...aye aye aye Zordon!

It is hard to believe that life is starting to get back to normal and that school is starting up again so soon. I am looking forward to seeing how Emma and Taylor's soccer seasons go. It is so interesting to observe life progressing forward when life seems to be seemingly static on a mission. It goes really fast, but it feels like it is one eternal round, that it will just never end. Haha that sounds kind of negative, but I just mean to say that I have gotten really used to it. Missionary life is seems so normal now, it is just the way that my life is and I love it. Haha it doesn't make me trunky to get fun stories or pictures, I like seeing those each week. Maybe I am in denial haha but I really don't think that they make it harder. 

So I got a letter from President Hansen today asking me what causes the ups and downs of missionary work and how we can keep the good consistent and try to make the lows less frequent. I think that I am still learning this lesson but I a few days I had an experience that helped me understand just a little deeper on why the things are the way they are. So I was feeling really depressed on Saturday. I just could feel the weight of expectation both from myself, from the ward, from my Leaders and even what I felt from Heavenly Father. I was worried about how the work was going and if I really was doing all that I could. I was even mad at myself for being depressed because I knew that I shouldn't be haha. To be honest it was probably the most discouraged I have been on my mission and it was hard to motivate myself to even get going. It felt like all the bricks and burdens from the past 20 months was bearing me down and there was no way I could find my way out from under them. It is hard to break out of negativity when it is all around you, but I just felt like we needed to get out of the apartment and start working or things wouldn't get any better. So we went and visited a member and that did help a little bit, but the negativity was still there. I had no idea what to do and but as we were driving home, I wasn't sure why, but I turned into a random neighborhood, had a little burst of energy and felt like we just had to start knocking. I never wanted to tell people so badly about the blessing of the gospel than at that time because at the same time I needed to remind myself of them as well. So for about the next 2 hours we just talked to everyone we could in that neighborhood. We asked people about how God has been in there life and how they have felt the Saviors love. We shared our testimonies of how faith and hope can change your life in simple ways that will effect you for eternity. We shared the reality of eternal families and how we can enjoy many of those blessings even in this life. Although nobody let us into their homes, I am confident that the spirit touched peoples hearts  including mine. During that time I made the decision that even though life can be really stinky sometimes, that it is not fun to feel that way too. You don't have to let your circumstances control, we are God's children and we have the ability to control how we respond and how we feel. So the happiness and peace that I felt in contrast to the sadness and discouragement that I could have chose to feel made a big impact on the way that I perceive challenges now. There is a quote that says something to the effect of, "During life there is both an abundance and lack of abundance of happiness that occurs simultaneously, the one that we have in our life is a result of our choice to receive it." I made up about half of that haha but it still sounds pretty good. It is so true though, agency is the greatest gift in the world becuase it gives us the ability to choose who we are, how we feel, what we do and who we will become. We can choose to be a bummed out or in the same situation we can choose to have fun. I want to always choose the latter!  The highs in life come when we find joy in the journey, (in the whole journey which includes the good and the bad) and when we lose ourselves, forget our will and strive to follow God's. The lows in life come when we dwell on the our past or look so far ahead that we forget where we are going, essentially when we bog ourselves down with personal worries. One comes from selflessness and one comes from selfishness. Peace is a result of humility and discouragement is a result of pride. I know that sounds kind of harsh, but I have been letting my pride blind my vision and that is what has made me have a hard time. I am not saying that once we make the choice to be happy that we will never feel down again, but I do think that if we make the choice to be happy the highs in life will be sweeter and the lows will happen less frequently or will be shorter. This week has changed my mission a lot past, present and future. I know now that Heavenly Father is so proud of me for working hard, trying to become better and try to love those that I have been blessed to have come into my life. My mission has changed my life and has begun to shape who I want to become because I have allowed to let God into my life to influence me. I love being a missionary, I love so much that I have had the opportunity to share this Gospel that changes lives, allows families to be together forever and really brings a happiness that cannot be counterfeited. I know that God loves us, I know the Atonement is real and we can change to improve ourselves daily. I know that the Book of Mormon brings the spirit every time you read it.(even when you might not understand it haha) I know that Joseph Smith saw Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. I am so grateful for the sacrifices that he made to help this church because it has blessed me with an awesome family, who are my best friends, good friends that I have made and the knowledge that it can last forever. That is pretty cool! I want yall to know how much I love you and can't wait to see you again. I hope you have an awesome week!

One more thing: So there is a new development in my maturity. Personality is still the same...but the facial hair is coming! So I have a few more whiskers on my chinny chinny chin chin. But the funniest thing was at MLC this week. President Hansen came up to say goodbye to me and it ended up being a sort of awkward neck hug haha but then he asked me "Elder Soper, are you growing a mustache." At this point I got the feeling that he had been looking at my upper lip all day wondering if I had shaved and in fact I did. But I also had a 5 o'clock shadow only where a mustache would grow. Haha I thoguht that was pretty funny and I thought you might think so too. I love you guys a lot!

Prayers and Thoughts always,

Elder Thebin Soper

Elder King and I laugh about a lot of different things...

Dear Family,

This has been a pretty good week. I was telling Haley that these last couple weeks I have been some of the most discouraged I have ever been, but I also have been the happiest I have ever been on my mission. Bipolar? maybe a tad haha. But I have noticed that miracles always happen after a trial of your faith and so we have had some trials (mostly personal), but there have been some really awesome tender mercies. 

Haha Elder King and I laugh about a lot of different things. We kind of poke fun at little oddities during everyday life and sometimes we just laugh at ourselves. It is a lot like our family, so it makes life a little simpler and just a little bit more funny. 

It sounds like life has been pretty crazy especially with church stuff. Man it seems like there is a camp or an activity every week. Maybe that is just my perception of time or something going on. Haha I hope that things mellow out a little bit. I did get a good inside laugh thinking and visualizing some of the things that you described. Even some of those imaginary images got burned into my memory they were so vivid...nightmares here I come. 

Well I want to share a little story about R. and D. Well we were having a little bit of a down week. And on Thursday night just not a whole lot was working out. So we tried to go see R. and D...but they weren't home. That kinda bummed us out too, but we kept working. So we went to go tract a little bit and one guy even told us we could come back. Cool huh? It was getting late so we went home and we decided to try R. and D. again. Well they opened the door and we saw something really cool. They were all in a circle reading the Book of Mormon as a family. They told us they they have been trying to do it each night we don't come to read it with them. So we were able to read a little bit with them and then we had to go in for the night. R. followed us out the door and he just started thanking us for helping change his life. We were telling him that we really appreciated that and that we don't hear that very often and then he said something directly from the spirit. He told us "You don't need to hear that often, you know that in your heart, God knows it  too and that is all that matters." He is so right. We don't get to see the fruits of our labors very often, but we don't need to to know that we are making a difference. Heavenly Father appreciates our efforts so much. It gets cooler though because the next day during break R. stopped in during our break and so we were able to talk to him for about 30 minutes. We asked if we could come by later that night and he said that we could. That night we stopped in and there was no answer (there is kind of a pattern there...) But it was really late so we just went in to plan. At 9:05 we hear a knock at the door and it was R. So we decided to go read the Book of Mormon with him until 9:30. It was a good study as always and R. was doing awesome reading, he is really improving. Right before we went he asked if we could end with a prayer. We said yeah and then he said "No, not that kind of prayer, but the one like you did for my son where you put your hands on my head. I want you to pray that I can read better." Elder King and I were blown away. He just has so much faith right now and it was a really cool blessing. The spirit was so strong and it is just such a blessing to be a part of their progression. I am pretty sure that Russell and I were friends before this life. I am so excited for you guys to meet him! 

Sorry this email is a little short, we had a late start to the day. But I hope you guys have a great week and I love you a lot. Also thank you for buying that po-boy in my honor. I think I could feel it in my heart, or maybe it was my arteries. I love you!

prayers and thoughts always,

Elder Devin Soper