Monday, July 27, 2015

Let the Final Countdown Begin

I have been trying to figure out how to accurately describe the flood of emotions I have been experiencing since the close of my missionary service last night. While I still have several hours here left in Washington until my arrival home tomorrow afternoon, it will be filled with various events related to my departure. It has been a very humbling experience to think back and reflect upon the past 2 years here in Central Washington. I had never imagined how much my life would be impacted by my service to others. It is an interesting phenomenon. It is a mixture of deep and immense appreciation for everything that I have learned from others and from the hand of God but also a tinge of sadness as I leave a people and culture I have come to love so dearly. It is then topped with a sense of excitement and drive to begin this new chapter in my life and watch it all unfold before me.

As I reflect upon the events of the previous two years I am brought back to many fun and entertaining memories, like learning how to do drywall and even some masonry work, I have seen the process go from start to finish with apples/cherries/etc. (fun fact, apples get picked in late summer/early fall, and so the apple you eat in the middle of the winter has actually been literally put to sleep and has been chilling out in a storage room somewhere). I have learned how menudo is made (still don't think it would be appropriate for human stomach to eat cow stomach, it seems to me like a sick form of cannibalism). I discovered that washing a car when its 24 degrees outside is not a good idea. The water freezes before it falls off the car. I learned that outside of Southern California there’s this thing called "winterizing" that one has to do for their house. It never occurred to me that when it’s below freezing outside, your pipes can freeze. That’s usually a problem if that happens, in case you are wondering. I also have been to the Les Schwab tire center in every single one of my areas. I also picked up Spanish along the way. That was pretty cool.

Aside from the temporal, I have learned several things for myself that, although not dependent on serving a mission, were definitely facilitated by the experience. First of all I have learned that your circumstances don't have to dictate happiness. Despite setbacks and trials in life, there is always joy to be found in something on a daily basis. If not, you're not looking hard enough. Part of that comes with also recognizing that sometimes you can't do anything to change things, so there is no use in fretting over it. Getting worked up or anxious or sad over something you have no control over doesn't do anyone any good, so choose to be happy instead. Along with that gospel living also helps to avoid a lot of those things that so often trouble and plague others. When we choose to live in the guidelines Christ has given us through prophets and scripture, we can achieve a fullness to life and enduring happiness that won't be found in any other place. I have also decided that there is no problem that enough humility or charity can't make better. Someone is being difficult, show some charity and it gets easier. If life is being difficult, be humble and trust God and everything gets easier to endure.

Most importantly though, through my personal experience and seeing it work in the lives of others, I now know that Jesus Christ lives and that through revelation given to modern day prophets with Priesthood Authority He guides His church, and that through His atoning sacrifice He can change lives, if we let Him. In conjunction with that, I know that Christ and our Heavenly Father appeared to the boy Joseph Smith in 1820 to call him to be another prophet in these last days to prepare us for when Christ shall come again. Shortly thereafter, Joseph Smith was led to ancient records containing communication between God and ancient prophets on this side of the world which got translated into English and came to be known as the Book of Mormon, and that anyone, if they are willing to sincerely ask, will found out for themselves too that the Book of Mormon contains the word of God and that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Christ's church, once again established on the earth.

To close, I know it may seem kind of cliché but the words of Paul at the end of his ministry seem fitting for my situation and what I feel right now. In chapter 4 of his second letter to Timothy [verses 6 and 7] he declares:

"I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith."

It has truly been a once in a lifetime experience serving the Lord's sheep here in Central Washington. I hope you all have been able to learn something over the course of my journeys and enjoy something along the way. Tomorrow I'll be back in California, but the work still goes on.

Signing off for the last time,

Elder Matthew Kupferer

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

I’m Tired of Coming Up with a Creative Title

Another great week goes by up here in Moses Lake, Washington. We started the week off right with interviews with our new Mission President. It wasn't anything too terribly remarkable but it was nice to be able to sit down and talk with the Mission President 1 on 1. It was a lot of him getting to know the missionaries so lots of talking about ourselves and where we come from and things like that. He really does seem like a wonderful mission president and I'm sad that my time with him is quickly coming to a close.

Earlier that day we had a little bit of a different start. There is an investigator we have who was painting some rooms inside his house and when he promised carne asada it didn't take much more to convince us. It was only 2 rooms and then the end of a hallway but it was a nice break from the routine and allowed us to get into a pair of jeans again. I personally wouldn't have gone with the bright pink of his daughter's room but hey, it’s her room and he wanted to surprise her so whatever works. The carne asada afterward more than made up for it all. I don't think I have had that much meat at any one time in a long time. It felt like I gained about 5 pounds from that alone. But for grilled cheese and jalapeno stuffed sausage, it is totally worth it.

In the random field this week, we were walking back to our car doing our missionary thing when we hear faint pop music going on, straight from the stake dance song selections. We laugh as we remember the song and when we look to identify the source of the nostalgia, we almost burst out laughing at an 8 year old kid dancing on the street corner to his heart's content. When we get back to the car and drive by a few minutes later, he was still going strong. Glad to know there are some people out there who just don't care what the world thinks, they are just happy doing their own thing.

On Friday we had an excellent ward barbeque. I think that in and of itself is one of the best things about serving in Spanish units, is that very regularly there is something related to food going on, and more often than not, it is very good food. The branch kept it simple with just hamburgers and hot dogs this time around but it was a great chance to get to know some members and fellowship investigators. It was spiced up a little bit by a hay fire that had started earlier that morning and lasted all day but thankfully it didn't interrupt the proceedings of the evening. It just had a giant cloud of smoke that hung around all day.

The quote from the week comes from a talk in general conference that was mentioned yesterday during sacrament meeting, who in turn was quoting Nelson Mandela. The full talk and background can be found here (Latter-day Saints Keep on Trying) so I'll just keep it simple and share the line that has stuck with me since yesterday.

"A saint is a sinner who keeps on trying."

Too often we find ourselves thinking of "saints" as people that are perfect in everything but since none of us is actually perfect, it is reassuring to me that I can still be considered a saint (a fancy way of saying a follower of Jesus Christ) despite my repeated imperfections.

And with that, I wish you all a week of continued trying.

Until next week,

Elder Kupferer

Monday, July 13, 2015

A Visit from Noah

Not literally, but pretty close. The temperature this week was finally taking a dip. We knew we had a problem when we were celebrating it being 'only 100' which is still too hot but it beats 108, amazingly enough. I thought it was all the same. But we also got visited with some brief rain showers during the nights, and even got a special visit from Noah. If you're confused by now (which you probably are), let me explain. Once a month we have a branch Family Home Evening at the church to invite investigators to and also to strengthen the ward, and the 1st counselor of the branch presidency and his wife was in charge. She worked in the Primary so obviously it was geared towards the Primary-age children, but years ago she had a lesson on prophets, complete with an Ark and a get up for Noah, so she pulled it out again for the FHE. Thus Monday night Noah made a return to explain to us the purpose of prophets.

Something I forgot to include last week was a service project we and the other elders in the branch did for our President. For 7 years he had been planning on re-landscaping his yard and with a Fourth of July party looming ahead of him, he decided there was no better time than the present, so he gave the missionaries a call and went to town on his yard, taking out half the grass to replace it with pavers and borders. We were only there for the part where we lugged roll after roll of cut up turf in the 102 degree weather but it was still a fun service. It is always great to get out of the shirt and tie and move some dirt around for 3 hours.

In the random department this week, we were walking around some apartments and across the fence we heard Mexican karaoke music going on. I got bit again by another dog in retaliation. I found out afterwards that the fence gate I opened had a spring attached to it so it swung open rather forcefully into the 10 pound dog's face. Thankfully the hit must have disoriented it or something because he tried to bite my shin longways up down instead of the normal short way side to side. It was nowhere near effective. We also this week in our escapades found a converted hospital that was now a housing complex. It was pretty interesting. Definitely wouldn't be on the top of the list of places to live in my book, but I'm sure it would make a great place for some epic nerf fights.

On Saturday, we got a call asking us to help out on Sunday and give some talks since nobody had been assigned yet. Thankfully, since we spend hours in the scriptures on a daily basis it wasn't too hard to pull something together last minute to help out. Overall it was a great experience for me being able to once again see my efforts magnified by the Holy Ghost.

This week, the quote comes from a phone call I had last night with my zone leaders who also had to give a talk yesterday in church and one of the lines that they shared was the following:

"Christ is the fruit of God's love for us."

I had never really thought about it like that before but it definitely puts it all into perspective. Because of God's incomprehensibly large love for us he needed a way to enable us to come back, and that way was Jesus Christ. It makes me extremely thankful to know that we don't have to be out here doing it on our own, that there really was someone that had gone through all of this before and paved and prepared the way for us to return to our heavenly home.

Until next week,

Elder Kupferer

Monday, July 6, 2015

Coming to you from the new Washington Yakima Mission

This has been an eventful week up here in Moses Lake. We started the week off on Tuesday by heading out to Quincy to have one final meeting with our mission president before the mission split the next day. It was for all the leadership in the north half of the mission and overall it was a great meeting. Both sets of APs (one for the WKM, one for the new Yakima Mission) gave a training along with President Ware, touching on various leadership subjects. I guess the A/C was out or something though because we all about boiled to death inside the chapel but despite the heat we were able to have a great revelatory experience with our mission president before the split the next day. It was also a great chance to see so many friends I had made in the mission one last time since we had all gathered together for the meeting. Definitely was a great way to end my experience in the Washington Kennewick Mission.

After the hour drive back we head straight to dinner with a family and when we came in the news was on and talked about an explosion that happened in Moses Lake, which definitely piqued our interest. We inquire of the family we were eating with more and apparently someone had been making homemade fireworks that went off unexpectedly and got the bomb squad from Spokane (about 2 hours away) to come down and investigate. It was interesting because it happened right in the middle of our area, so as we leave we see the actual location of the pictures they had broadcasted. Thankfully, no lives were lost and no serious damage happened to any of the homes.

Wednesday morning we woke up and about the only thing that happened to celebrate the new mission was a text from our former branch mission leader saying he wanted to be the first to officially welcome us to the new mission. No parties or celebrations happened really, until Saturday. I guess the message took a while to get out but Saturday the whole city seemed to be celebrating for us....

Friday though we were blessed to meet our new mission president and wife. He comes to us from Orem, Utah and had up until his call been working in external relations at BYU. He is a very articulate man that you can tell just by seeing him has a burning testimony of the Savior and of the Gospel. I am sad that I won't have a long time to learn from him because his knowledge of the gospel and his way of teaching seems like it would provide a lot of great insights into the mysteries of the kingdom. As with most life changing events he seemed a little overwhelmed with everything that was going on but he was ready and willing to tackle the obstacles that lay ahead of him.

Saturday was pretty uneventful for us. We had a meeting that morning with our zone (this was a regularly scheduled meeting; the other two just added to the plethora of meetings this week) but then afterwards went to work for a few hours until 6 PM when we were required to be inside. Can't have missionaries going crazy partying now can we? Thankfully we live with another set of elders so we were able to keep ourselves mildly entertained and were able to see some cool fireworks from the top floor of our apartment building, but the majority of the evening was occupied with throwing pop-its and confetti things at each other, coupled with lots of food. We made sure to prepare ourselves and stock up with only the importants, namely cheescake, root beer floats, and apple cider.

The only other thing to note that was different was I got bit by a dog this week on the ankle. Not enough to draw blood but enough to be mildly painful for a bit. Oh the experiences of a mission. The quote for this week comes from the zone meeting we had Saturday morning and was given to us by our marvelous zone leaders. We had an excellent training on finding joy in missionary work (if you want some cool scriptures, check out Luke 6:22-23 and Romans 14:17) but the quote that really stuck out was the following:

"Joy is the key indicator of living the Doctrine of Christ."

If we are doing what we are supposed to and living the way that we should, namely exercising faith, repenting, making and renewing covenants (like baptism), and keep following the guidance of the Holy Ghost and endure faithfully in that way, then the only natural result will be a true joy that only Christ can provide. Already between now and then I have been able to look for and find that joy in our service as missionaries, despite the rejections and not so nice people that we see on a daily basis.

May you all have a joyful start to the month of July!

Elder Kupferer

Monday, June 29, 2015

Somehow, I Wound Up in Arizona

We come out of a lesson Thursday evening and started our car as we wipe the sweat off our forehead and check the temperature gauge in our car and find that it reads 121. Thankfully it started dropping when the car got moving again but seemed to stop around 106. And then stayed like that until Sunday night. I don't know why, but for some reason Moses Lake was exceedingly hot this weekend. You step outside at 11 in the morning and it’s already 104 and then you get home at 9 and its still 104. You walk around and talk to people all day long and it’s still 108 with the sun beating you in the back, then walk up to a door and the sun gets bounced back off the door, doubling the effect. On the bright side, I'm pretty sure I lost 5 pounds this weekend. Also brought back a lot of memories of summer trips to Arizona. Thankfully this next week should be better. A nice, mild 101.

This past week we had probably the saddest specialized training with our Mission President. Once every other transfer the Assistants and the Mission President tour the mission and have trainings prepared for individual zones since it allows for a more personal teaching environment. This week our President crammed half the mission into a week of trainings with usually 2 or 3 of these 2 hour meetings a day to see the North half of the mission one last time before the mission split this week. Once the split happens, we will be under a new mission president and so our current president won't see or hear from us anymore. It was a sad day of goodbyes all the way around on both ends. It was particularly sad for a lot of us veterans because we have been with him since he started. As I was hugging him goodbye he was kind enough to remind me that it will only be a couple of weeks until we see him again at the airport. It was sad to say goodbye but I'm excited for the new mission because it means the work is going forward. The Lord is truly hastening the work in central Washington and I'm excited to see the miracles that will come.

For us this week was definitely filled with miracles. God must have felt sorry for us sweating our brains out so he blessed with a lot of lessons and guided us to so many people that were willing to listen. Unfortunately most of the lessons were either doorstep or outside lessons because there weren't other males present or the air conditioning wasn't working / didn't exist so the houses were ovens (had a lesson in one of those as well) so we were getting roasted most of the evenings and afternoons but inside we felt good because we knew we were doing the best thing we could. And it’s a lot more fulfilling teaching than getting doors slammed in your face. We met a lot of people that had cool stories and backgrounds, like a lady that is up from Mexico for the picking season that had met with missionaries 3 years ago and still remembers most of what they taught and wants to get baptized; a guy who found a Book of Mormon in the trash and decided to pick it up and works on the dairy farm of a member; and someone who just plain wanted answers, to name a few.

Overall this week was extremely rewarding despite the unrelenting heat. I'm excited to see what happens this upcoming week when we meet with all these people again. As we go forward facing another hot week the quote that keeps coming to mind comes from a shirt our branch mission leader wore to a correlation meeting a few weeks ago that says simply enough:

"Man up and just do it."

No magic pill, no amount of complaining, nor any program will substitute or alleviate the heat (or any of the challenges we face, mission life or regular for that matter) so that quote, albeit from Nike, has really helped me keep going these past few weeks.

May you all have a cooler week than mine and a wonderful Fourth of July weekend!

Elder Kupferer

A Little Bit of Everything

[This post was originally written on 6/22/15 but was not posted until 6/29/15.]

This week was a good change of pace. Had a little bit of everything all tossed together which made for a rather entertaining and fulfilling week. The week started off a little rough because my companion was getting transferred and so he had to make the rounds and say goodbye to some investigators and members in his first area in the mission field so there were some pretty touching moments but it was sad to see him go. You could tell he had had an impact on the people and vice versa. But all good things must come to an end and so Wednesday he headed off the other end of the mission, and I spent the large majority of the day with another set of elders. It was a little tough to be gone from the area all day but the steak for dinner definitely made up for it.

My new companion and I actually share a bit of a special relationship because we were in the same district for 6 months when he came out about a year ago and so it has been a blast reminiscing on the old times we had together back in Othello and Warden. His first day here in Moses Lake was a little unconventional though when we ended up getting asked to help move 2 separate pianos in two different places across the city. Toss that in with some food bank and a random trip to the hospital to help someone definitely started the week off with a bang for him. This weekend didn't help either. We were privileged to have Elder [Mark W.] Bassett from the Fifth Quorum of the Seventy come to the Moses Lake Stake Conference and speak to us on varying subjects. His ability to open the scriptures and be able to somehow tie all these seemingly different verses and ideas together into a coherent point was inspiring. One of the scriptures that he shared that really stood out to me was one he shared just in passing but makes a reference to Matthew 26:40 where he chastises the apostles for falling asleep when he was in the Garden after only an hour but then offers that Christ asks the same of us during church where we turn away from everything else for just an hour and focus on him. Overall it was a great conference and a great tribute to fathers everywhere as well.

Last night to top the week off with a little culture we were walking back to our car and walked past a member who was outside tending to his garden and so we stopped and talked with him for a minute and inquired about the various plants he had growing and he responded that it was a normal garden with tomatoes and corn and onion and chiles, and then he expounded on the chiles and told us about how good they were and how flavorful they were. Now a side note before I continue: in Spanish (or at least in this part of the Spanish-speaking world), they don't really refer to chiles by different names to distinguish between them, they just say chile and then if it’s spicy or not. So it could be something small or the hottest pepper in the world and it would still just be referred to as a chile. Well he tells me about how good it was and how it makes such a good salsa and all that and asks me if I want to try one. He says it’s pretty spicy and assuming a false sense of confidence after so much time eating spicy food and looking at the size - it was about as big as the top of a pinky from the last knuckle to the tip and half as wide - I thought it couldn't possibly be that bad. Well I'm here to tell you that I was quite wrong. Come to find out after the fact it was a tiny little Asian Thai Pepper that packed a huge punch in a tiny size. It didn't produce any tears but it burned everything all the way down and stuck for at least 10 minutes. It was a good kick to end off the week.

The quote to end this week comes from the stake conference this weekend. A member of the stake presidency shared a story about a man speaking at a funeral who had lost a daughter after much prayer and fasting by family members and friends and made the following comment in his talk:

"My faith is not based on outcomes. My faith is based on Jesus Christ."

Not much more can be said than that. Sometimes in life our Father in Heaven has something different in store for us than what we had hoped but the test of faith lies not in changing His will, but in accepting it and learning from the example of His son.

And with that I wish you all a belated Father's day and the start to a wonderful summer.

Elder Kupferer

Monday, June 15, 2015

It's the Final Countdown

*instrumental break*

Random one-hit-wonders aside, my thoughts and feelings are in a mix of emotions right now as my last transfer in Central Washington officially begins. It’s a very sobering thought to think that after so long, Kupferer in Kennewick will only have 6 more posts. *sniffs* Well, I guess the blog isn't that bad, but it is a weird thought to think that after so long, of the same routine day in and day out, so many experiences, so many people, my time is finally starting to wind down. But hey, that’s still 6 weeks away, so no need to be thinking about that. It’s the final stretch, time to start sprinting. I think I have finally figured what the heck I am doing so now’s a good time to buckle down and take advantage of the opportunity to apply the past 20-some odd months of experience.

In between now then, we actually will be experiencing a mission split. That’s the latest buzz in the mission. This past Saturday we received our transfer calls that sealed our fates as to our future mission. The missionary work here in Central Washington has exploded and created a need for another mission to be able to support the amount of missionaries needed to support the work. On July 1st, anyone in the north half of the mission will be part of the Washington Yakima Mission, so for the last month of my mission I will no longer be Kupferer in Kennewick but rather Kupferer in Yakima, which unfortunately doesn't have quite the same ring to it but alas, it'll have to do.

The only thing outside of the norm this week was probably a few days ago when the sulfur content in the water decided to spike. Now, instead of having nice, flavorless water it smells and tastes of slightly rotten eggs. Not a very pleasant taste to brush your teeth to or to drink or to even just have running. Thankfully the heat has subsided to a reasonable temperature so we won't be going through as much water as we were in weeks past so hopefully the pounds and pounds of cherries we have gotten from various people this past week will give us the water we need to survive.

The quote for this week comes from one of my former mission companions who happened to be standing right beside me as I was typing this email that pretty much describes the best way to do anything:

"Get up and go to work."

Straightforward, simple, and to the point. If there’s anything I have learned thus far, it would be that. Nothing beats just going and working. No excuses. No complaining. Just do it.

Until next week!

Elder Kupferer