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