Elder Peper

My Mission Experience

The Big Storm

Dear Parents,

You may have seen that we are in the midst of yet another winter storm.  We have been in contact with district leaders and zone leaders and as near as we can tell everyone is doing okay.  The cities of Altus, Duncan, Lawton, and Purcell are without power and we are monitoring that situation.  When roads get icy we have the missionaries park their cars and either walk, get rides from members, or stay in their apartments.  The storm should end today and conditions will be back to normal in a couple of days.

We appreciate the faithful service of your sons and daughters.  They are worthy representatives of the Lord.  They consider adverse weather conditions as opportunities to show their faith in the Lord.  Thank you for all you do to support them.

Sincerely,

James Gee, President

Oklahoma Oklahoma City Mission

January 29, 2010 Posted by | Letters from Mission President/Wife, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Is There Anything I Can Do For You?

We received the following letter from Sister Gee (the Mission President’s Wife) dated January 25, 2010:

Dear Families and Friends,

It has been a whole month now since our memorable white Christmas storm and the shortest day of the year.  President Gee reminded me today that we have added 25 minutes of daylight since then.  It is far easier to do effective missionary work when it is light outside so we appreciate not only the light but also some more moderate temperatures.  Life is good.

One of the questions that becomes second nature to the missionaries says, “Is there anything I can do for you?”  They ask it all of the time.  There are two dreaded responses and one good one.  The dreaded ones are “No, I don’t need any help from you,” and “Yes, you can help me___________ (fill in the blank) with some disgusting and unpleasant job.”  Cleaning out barns comes to mind.  Sometimes cleaning out houses is almost as bad.  The response the missionaries like is a smile and a willingness to let them do something pleasant to help.  They do all kinds of projects.  Some work in libraries or nursing homes.  Sometimes they can work at a soup kitchen.  The favorite was working at the Family Fun Zone sponsored by the Norman Stake just before OU football games.  They helped with free hotdogs, etc.  Today some missionaries helped with a roof.  They are always helping people move or paint or rake leaves or move debris.  Service is a great friendship builder and it helps fill in time when there aren’t many people available to listen to the gospel.  Over the time we have been here I sometimes get a first hand look at what these missionaries are willing to do.  There will certainly be extra blessings in heaven for some of the projects!

An interesting side effect from some of these projects is wear and tear on missionary clothes.  They are instructed to wear proselyting clothes whenever possible.  They wear their nametags and often just wear old white shirts and worn slacks.  Jeans and t-shirts with the nametag are worn if the job is especially hard.  I have volunteered to do mending jobs for the missionaries.  You would laugh, as I do, at some of the projects they bring to me.  They truly believe in miraclels.  Sometimes they are shredded from bicycle chains.  Often the middle seam is split from the waist all the way down because they lift with their legs spread.  Well, I love a challenge but sometimes I just have to admit defeat.

We are still experiencing miracles.  Some of our missionaries are so “on fire” that we feel like doing a few cartwheels ourselves.  Sometimes they just have to call President Gee and share the news of what a great day they had.  That enthusiasm is contagious.  These little bursts of fire are popping up in many places in the mission.  We start to hear stories like a grandmother suddenly wanting her grandchildren to be taught and baptized or people returning to church after ten years of being less-active.  We love these missionaries and their willingness to do this work.  Don’t get me wrong.  This still is not an easy task by any means.  Everyone gets a turn at having “terrible, horrible, very bad days.”  However, they learn to cope and to not take it personally.  They get so they can take rejection in stride and then love it when people will respond favorably.  The ward mission leaders and other leaders are starting to get the picture of working with the missionaries.  We are making progress.  We are having a good month for baptisms.  Please keep praying for the mission as a whole along with prayers for your own son or daughter.  This is the Lord’s work.  The power is real.  The fulness of the gospel has been restored!  Brigham Young once said that there was a time he would have crawled halfway around the world to find the truth.  We are so blessed to be able to share that truth.  As all our Christian friends would say, “Have a blessed week.”

Love, Sister Gee   (and President Gee)

January 27, 2010 Posted by | Letters from Mission President/Wife, Photos, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

A Week of Firsts

This has been a week of firsts for Riley.  He performed his first baptism this past Saturday.  He baptized a 10-year-old boy named  Scott.  The mother and sister were also baptized on Saturday.  In Riley’s words, “The baptism was awesome!”

Riley also gave his first talk in church since leaving home. And he gave his first Priesthood blessing.  Here is an excerpt from Riley’s most recent letter dated Jan. 23, 2010:

Well, I have a baptism today for that family of 3.  I get to baptize the boy, Scott. I’m really excited for that.  I have to give a talk tomorrow at the Air Force Base on gratitude.  It’s not too big of a deal.  Last Sunday, we had an investigator come to church. She was going into surgery the next day and wanted a Priesthood blessing.  I was asked to give her the blessing, which I have never done before, so I was a little freaked out about that.  I decided that I would just give her a blessing of comfort and not say that her surgery would be successful or anything.  While I was giving the blessing, I ended up telling her that her surgery would be successful and that she would be fine.  The Spirit told me to say that, and she’s home now recovering from her surgery.  That ended up being quite the cool experience.

Riley also got a new companion this week, Elder Bassett.  This is his first companion change.  It looks like Elder Bassett’s 2 years is up on February 3, however, and he will be going home.  That means Riley will be getting another new companion next week.  It is possible Riley could be transferred to a new area at that time, as well, but he didn’t feel that was a likely scenario.

He mentioned today that the ordained minister they have been teaching has stated that she would like to be baptized.  She has been struggling because she was torn between losing her ministrey and moving forward with what she believes to be true.  They aren’t rushing into anything, but will be taking her to church and continuing to visit with and teach her for the next few weeks before setting a baptism date.  I am sure he will keep us posted.

January 26, 2010 Posted by | Letters from Elder Peper, Photos, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Elder Peper’s First Zone Conference

Elder Peper is keeping busy in Texas. He attended his first Zone Conference last week. The Mission President’s wife, Sister Gee, sent a letter and explained the Zone Conference as follows:

“We have five zones in the mission that correlate with the five stakes in the mission. Each zone is made up of around four districts. There are usually about 24 missionaries in a zone. The conference goes from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. with an hour for lunch which is prepared by some Relief Society sisters. The missionaries always sing “Armies of Helaman” to thank them for the food and the sisters often wipe a few tears away. The ones who have a son or daughter serving a mission are the ones with the most tears.

“The day is spent with teaching from President Gee, practices led by the assistants and the zone leaders, some health training by myself, messages from the Stake President or counselor, and discussion of a Christ-like attribute. Even though I have been through this so many times, I am still in awe of these missionaries when I watch them practice. This time we had some training on asking meaningful questions. They split into districts and compiled a list of good questions. Then, when they re-assembled, random companionships demonstrated how to do it. In case you wonder, that is hard to do, but they are good sports and they do well. On the spot, without rehearsing, they show how to do the questions and trade off amazingly well. Sometimes the new missionaries are called on. There is no mercy! It sounds like ammunition for a heart attack and maybe it is. It is one of the stressful things of being a missionary but oh how they grow.”

Riley reported that the Zone Conference was good but, still being fairly fresh out in the field, he prefers the daily activities to these long meetings—although he admits he learned a lot. His next Zone Conference will be in 6 weeks.

Elders Peper and Harless have a baptism date scheduled for this Saturday for a woman and her two children (pictured above). They are all very excited about the big day and I expect Riley will have more information and pictures to share next week regarding the baptism. He is also scheduled to speak in church on the Air Force Base Sunday. This is his first church speaking assignment in the field—the first of what will probably be many.

He received his U of U t-shirts in the mail today and is looking forward to wearing one for the weekly basketball game the missionaries hold on their Prep Day. He also let me know that the church members out there are very nice and he and Elder Harless are invited to someone’s home for dinner almost every night. They LOVE and appreciate it. He says he has been busy and hasn’t had much time to write letters this past week, but promised to send a letter out to our family tomorrow. Of course, I’ll post any news as it is received. Until then, thank you all for remembering him in your prayers and for all you do for him.

January 19, 2010 Posted by | Letters from Elder Peper, Photos, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Letter for Each Sister

Riley with his Sisters

Riley with his Sisters

This week’s communication from Riley came in two separate letters—one to each of his sisters.  He included pictures in his youngest sister’s letter, which she was very excited about.  His letter to Laney contained a couple of interesting anecdotes.

One of the stories was about a young family that lives across the parking lot from them within the same apartment complex.  The family consists of a husband, wife and two small children.

It seems the wife had gone to work one morning and left the husband and the children at home asleep.  While they were sleeping, there was a knock at the door, which none of them heard. They were eventually awakened when their apartment door burst open and a number of policemen entered the home with their guns drawn.  I don’t know a lot of the details, but the officers handcuffed the husband and were preparing to take him to jail for trespassing.  They were also going to contact CPS to remove the children, since they would be left unattended.  Apparently, the family had been evicted from the apartment they were living in, but had broken in and had been continuing to live there for the past couple of months.

At this point, the husband called Riley and his companion for help.  The Elders were not at home but returned to the apartment complex as soon as they received the call.  After speaking with the police (at least five officers were still remaining on the scene when the missionaries arrived), the husband was released and Riley and his companion were allowed to transport him and his children to the home of another family in the church.  Those church members paid for a motel room for this young family for the following two nights.  They wife was due to receive her paycheck after that time and would have enough money for a month’s rent then.  Although the details are a bit sketchy, it seems to have been quite an exciting event for Riley, who has never really been involved in a situation that included a lot of police officers and guns.

Riley’s letter to Madi was shorter and suited perfectly for her. He asked all about kindergarten and ski camp and told her about all of the snow they received on Christmas in Texas. He thanked her for her prayers and let her know that he was praying for her, also. She was delighted to have her own personal letter and photos to keep in her room.

Tomorrow is Riley’s Prep. Day and he usually sends an email on that day.  I’ll post an update at that time, if he has anything new to share.

January 11, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Christmas Packages Finally Received

Here's where I'm going!

We received a lengthy hand-written letter from Riley yesterday.  It was dated January 1. He reported that he had not yet received our Christmas package as of that time.  However, in his email today, he noted that the package arrived on January 2.  He also received the packages sent by both sets of Grandparents and was very appreciative–noting that Grandma Peper made and sent her delicious cookies.  It seems he and his companion have received a lot of cookies.  Riley advises that they have a bench press in the apartment and are using that, so I needn’t worry about him gaining weight.  Hmmmmm.

We received several photographs today in Riley’s email.  I am unfamiliar with this blog site and all of its inner-workings, but will attempt to upload/post a few of the photos here.  For those of you on facebook, there are a large number of photos posted on Riley’s profile.  It is really fun to see him in his new surroundings.  He looks good and always notes in his letters and emails that he is doing “excellent” and/or “awesome.”

He says the weather forecast in Wichita Falls is calling for more snow (oh, those poor Southern folks), but that the forecast changes constantly so they just never really know. He and his companion are traveling to Oklahoma City tomorrow for meetings with the Mission President. He was bemoaning the trip, as it would cost them 300 of their precious allotted 1100 monthly miles.

He notes that they have 4 baptisms slated for January, and he’s very excited about that.  One of the women that they are working with is an ordained minister and is torn between what she believes to be true and losing her ministry.  She’s a very strong woman, but this is quite a difficult choice for her at this time. She wants to continue meeting with the Elders and working through this challenge, though, at least for now.

He closes his letter with the usual statement, “I love hearing from everyone, so be sure and write often!”

January 5, 2010 Posted by | Photos, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

A Letter from the Mission President’s Wife

President and Sister Gee

It seems, perhaps, that periodically the Mission President’s Wife, Sister Gee, sends a letter to the parents of all the missionaries in their area.  We received her lovely letter today.  I’d like to share some of her letter with you:

One thing we learned last Sunday [as church services were canceled due to the snow storm] was how much it means to have church meetings to attend.  There was a lost look in the eyes of missionaries who were facing a sabbath without church.  Yesterday President Gee and I were excited to attend our regular ward.  As Sacrament Meeting began the bishop announced we were only having Sacrament Meeting because there was ice damage to the Stake Center where we meet.  It seems that during the blizzard last week the wind blew snow into the “attic” of the church and there is now a ton, literally, of ice that somehow has to be removed.  A chunk broke off and fell through the ceiling of one of the classrooms.  Part of the church is barricaded so we can’t use it.  We looked at each other and whispered that we would find another ward to attend.  One hour of church just doesn’t cut it.  It was Fast Sunday yesterday.  In our meeting the Elders gave the prayers.  One of them bore a gentle but powerful testimony.  He talked about the responsibility of wearing the nametag with Christ’s name on it.  He said, “I have never felt completely adequate since the moment I put this nametag on in the MTC.”  His humble reverence for what he is doing touched my heart.  I have to admit I have had the same feelings.  We did attend another ward later in the day.  Two very tall Elders were at one of the chapel doors, being so friendly to the members who came into the chapel.  At the other door were four beautiful Sisters.  (Two were just there for a few minutes.)  They were greeting members as well.  When it was time for testimonies suddenly all four missionaries were coming forward to bear their testimonies.  I am sure I was glowing like the proud parent that I am.  I was edified by the power of their testimonies.  Two of them have only been in the mission field for a week and a half.  You would love to see those Elders.  They are both about six feet, six inches tall.  I laughed when they were paired up.  I said, “Either nobody will answer their doors because they are afraid or they will just open the doors and do exactly what you tell them to do.”

Sometimes missionaries are a bit overwhelmed by the things they have to do which go against their natures.  Just because they have put on a suit or a skirt doesn’t mean it is suddenly easy to talk to perfect strangers about such a sensitive subject as religion.  One Elder said to me, “I like to talk to people but I just can’t go up and knock on doors.”  I smiled and said, “You can do it for the Lord.”  He nodded his head and agreed he would do it for the Lord, but the strength comes from knocking over and over again.  Eventually they overcome their hesitancy and become strong messengers.  There are many things we will do for the Lord that we would never do for any other reason.

Some other challenging things are rolling out of bed before the sun gets up, exercising to stay flexible and toned, approaching study time with enthusiasm and desire, and putting on the suit and tie.  Yet the consistent obedience to the outlined schedule produces a disiplined and prepared missionary.  These next days are going to be challenging because it is going to be bitterly cold.  They will know what it means to “suffer” for the Lord.  We will, however, give them advice to be sensible and careful in what they do.  Here’s hoping they have good hats and neckscarves.  We will take good care of them.  I just have to remember that many of them would be happy to be out on the ski slopes in sub-zero weather and they are pretty tough.

There was a lot of shoveling snow and doing service during this last week.  Our neighbors almost got emotional for the help the assistants and President Gee gave them in cleaning off their driveway.  Oklahomans were kind of stunned at the magnitude of the job to remove the snow.  Perhaps these small acts of service will open some doors.

Well, I guess that is enough for now.  To the parents of the new missionaries I will just say they are doing fine.  On Wednesday we will spend the day with them and their trainers.  It is always a fun and rewarding day.  The funny thing is that the trainers almost learn more than the new missionaries do.  We appreciate all the good that these missionaries are doing.  We hope they can feel our love and approval.  Sometimes they have to be prodded a little.  That is President Gee’s job.  Mission Presidents have to follow the Lord’s example when he said, “Those whom I love I chastize.”  When the missionaries are teachable they experience remarkable growth.  Your encouragment is vital to their happiness and diligence.  Have a good week.

Love, President and Sister Gee

January 5, 2010 Posted by | Letters from Mission President/Wife, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Christmas Day

15" of Snow in Wichita Falls, TX

Riley was able to call home on Christmas Day–one of the two annual days on which the missionaries are allowed to telephone their families.  Mother’s Day is the other allowed day for a telephone call home.

After having spent just under three weeks in the MTC (Missionary Training Center), Riley flew into Oklahoma City on Monday, December 21, spent the night in the Mission Home, and then moved into an apartment with his trainer in Wichita Falls, TX.  This is Riley’s third time living in Texas, but first time as a missionary.  He is currently serving in a small town in Texas called Burkburnett.  It is our understanding that he is also serving the Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, which is within walking distance of his apartment.

Riley’s trainer is a young man from Henderson, NV (Las Vegas area).  His name is Elder Joe Harless.  When speaking with Riley over the phone, he mentioned to us that he really liked Elder Harless.  Although they had only been together 3 or 4 days at the time we spoke, missionary companions are basically required to remain together at all times.  Therefore, Riley would have quickly discovered any glaring challenges he might have with his new companion and I expect he would have shared his concerns on the call.  It’s a relief to know that he is getting off to a good start with his first companion.

It seems that the boys’ ability to get a good start to their work, however, was slowed by a massive snow storm on Christmas Eve day.  Wichita Falls and the surrounding areas received 15 inches of snow–a first in 24 years.  The city doesn’t own a snow plow and the citizens have no experience removing it or driving in it.  The two missionaries spent Christmas Eve Day in suit pants and inappropriate footwear digging stranded motorists out of their unfortunate predicaments.  Missionaries are not allowed to drive their cars in the snow or ice and were also unable to ride their bikes.  Therefore, they were unable to make their Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinner appointments, but were taken in and fed by a couple of nice investigators and member families nearby on those days.  How grateful I am as a parent for the kind and giving people out in the world who are caring for and feeding my boy.

Due to the bad weather, mail was also not making it to Riley and his companion.  According to an email we received from Riley on Tuesday, December 29, their mail truck was stranded on Thursday, Christmas Eve, and did not get out of the snow until Monday, December 28.  That truck contained only the mail it was carrying when it became stranded and no new mail had arrived as of Tuesday.  I know Riley was expecting several Christmas packages and am hopeful he has received them by now.

In any event, Riley sounds excited to be where he is and very enthusiastic about the work.  He is in good spirits and did not sound homesick in the least.  He mentioned again how much he loves receiving mail and he seems to be pretty good at writing letters in return.  We are expecting to get some photographs from Riley in the near future and will post them as they are received.

January 4, 2010 Posted by | Photos, Uncategorized | Leave a comment