Elder Peper

My Mission Experience

Loving My Mission

We received a letter from Elder Peper in the mail yesterday.  It was written on the same day as the email to his Dad that I posted under “My Best Week Yet.”  The family letter shares much of the same information, particularly about the meeting with Elder Bednar, which obviously filled him spiritually and fanned the flames of excitement for the work he is doing.  His letter begins with “I’m absolutely loving being on my mission.”

His new companion is a hard worker with a great attitude and is a good missionary.  Riley shares that after his arrival, “the area just took off.  We went from about 4 investigators to over 12 in just a few weeks.  We have some really good investigators.” He continues, “The only problem with the people here are that most of the people who live here have a religion already, and they’re pretty set in their ways.  For example, we are teaching this family that are Seventh Day Adventist, but they listen to us.  We asked them if they’ve read and prayed about the Book of Mormon.  They said they have.  The Dad said that he didn’t get an answer.  But then he was telling us how it was a beautifully written book and stuff.  He couldn’t come up with anything negative except, ‘I want to stay with my own Bible.’  Elder Jackson told me that he had a witness from the Holy Ghost that the Dad knows it’s true.  His daughter admitted in a roundabout way that she knows it’s true.  So, now they have to be willing to act on their knowledge.  They did invite us to their church the next Saturday, so we went.  That was an interesting experience that really strengthened my testimony.

The meeting we had yesterday with Elder Bednar was awesome.  He is such an awesome guy.  Never again in my life will I be with an Apostle in a group that small.  There were only about 140 people there; not even enough to have to open the overflow.  He shook all of our hands at the end.  It was really awesome.  I learned a lot of cool stuff from that meeting.

It snowed last night, but it melted quickly this morning.  I guess Dallas is only two inches away from breaking their all-time record.  The weather here is crazy.  It’s 20’s one week, 60’s the next, then 30’s the next.  And there are snowstorms and house-shaking thunderstorms tossed in the mix.

Things are going really well here.  I absoutely love being out here.  I couldn’t ever grow as much spiritually anywhere else.

Thanks for being a great family!  I love and miss you.

Love, Elder Peper

February 28, 2010 Posted by | Letters from Elder Peper, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

My Best Week Yet

Bob received an email from Riley dated Tuesday, February 23, 2010.  Here are some excerpts:

Hey, I got you’re email! Thanks for that. I haven’t been getting emails for the past couple of weeks because they moved myldsmail over to a gmail server. It didn’t force me to move over, but I guess all my emails were going there. So, I just got a bunch today.


Yesterday was really awesome
[regarding conference with Elder Bednar]. We ended up having to use almost 300 miles to get to Moore, but it was well worth it. I noticed a few things while listening to Elder Bednar yesterday. I noticed how much of a normal guy he is, and I also received a witness that he is an apostle of the Lord. It was such a blessing to be in a meeting that small with an apostle. There were only about 140 people there. They didn’t even have an overflow open. It wasn’t really a talk, like I thought it was going to be. It was more of a 3 hour discussion. He also let us ask him questions for about an hour, which was really awesome. I didn’t have anything good to ask him, so I didn’t, but I learned a lot. The coolest part was when he asked, “Raise your hand if you came to this meeting with a question, and we didn’t talk about your question, and no one else asked your question, but you have received an answer to that question in the 3 hours we spent together.” Every person raised their hand. It was awesome. Then he shook everyone’s hand. It was a really cool day.

Last week was the best week that I’ve had on my mission. We tracted into 5 new investegators. It was awesome. My companion is really cool, and he’s a good example. I like him a lot.

I’m having a really good time on my mission, and am growing more spiritually than I ever could have, or would have, at home. Thanks so much for support and keeping in touch. Thanks for being a good example to me and being strong in the church. I don’t know where I would be without the gospel. I love you! Be sure to keep in touch.

Love,
Elder Riley Peper

February 26, 2010 Posted by | Letters from Elder Peper, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Mission Conference

I received a little bit of information from Riley today.  As usual, he is in very good spirits and said that things are going very well.  He was quite pleased to share that they have 5 new investigators found through tracting the area last week.  He also shared that he is getting along very well with his new companion and likes him very much.  I am hoping they will be able to remain together for a few months, but one never knows about these things.

His mission was privileged to have their first ever all-mission conference yesterday in Moore, OK with Elder Bednar.  For those who may not know who Elder Bednar is, he is a member of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles.  Riley said it was an awesome conference and promised to write more about it later this week.  I will share what Riley has to say when I receive that letter.  In the meantime, please enjoy Sister Gee’s letter to the Missionaries’ families regarding that conference:

Dear Parents and Families,

We had a wonderful day today as we had our first ever all-mission conference with each missionary in attendance at the same meeting.  So here is what happened:  President Gee and I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast with Elder Bednar.  We visited about how things are progressing in the world with the spread of the gospel.  It is more than exciting to get the big picture from one who travels all over the world.  It is assuring to know that the leaders are confident that as long as we keep the commandments things will turn out all right.  While we were chatting missionaries were traveling from all over the mission to be ready and in their seats when Elder Bednar arrived.  Some of them had a very early start on this cloudy and cold day.  (At least there was no snow or ice.)

When we arrived there was complete order.  Elder Olsen was playing the prelude music.  Everyone was quietly studying.  They were dressed perfectly, down to their dark conservative ties.  The sisters are always appropriate.  I walked into the chapel with a big smile on my face and saw all the missionaries look up, but without big smiles.  I think they were too uptight to smile, but they were excited, nonetheless.  Most of the Stake Presidents and their wives were in attendance.  Elder Searle conducted with dignity. After the a rousing rendition of “Called to Serve” and an invocation Elder Bednar began to speak.  It took a few minutes for him to get the missionaries loosened up.  He told a little story or two and then got down to business.  Today was going to be a participating day.  He would invite their responses and questions.  The principle he wanted them to learn is that they are better off if they learn to use their agency to act, meaning participate, rather than to be acted upon, meaning sit and listen to him talk.  He explained what makes a good question to ask an apostle and what kind would be a waste of time.  With the rules set, we were off for three hours of interaction.  He started with asking them what stood out to them as they read the talks which were assigned.  (You had the chance to print them off last week.)  Hands popped up everywhere.  There were no empty minutes in this day.  One after another they shared things they learned about more meaningful prayer and more powerful faith.  Gradually it shifted to evaluation of this format for learning.  How could they incorporate this kind of interaction as they teach investigators?  Then he opened it up to ask any question they wanted.  We ended with his testimony and a blessing for the missionaries.

I know what it means when the scriptures say “it cannot be written the things that were said.”  It is because the Holy Ghost was the teacher and it is hard to capture that on an e-mail.  However a few of the ideas that were discussed are:  connecting the dots between being strictly obedient to seemingly trivial rules such as getting up at 6:30 and becoming a covenant people prepared to live Celestial Law; action precedes the power, not power and answers first and then action; listen to the investigators and address their needs, rather than just talking at them; listening carefully for the Holy Ghost to teach them things that were neither asked nor talked about today.  (Several testified that their questions had been answered privately while the discussion was going on.)  Elder Bednar also taught what it means to be a prophet, a seer, and a revelator.  He explained the calling of being a “special witness of Christ to the world.”  During all this I believe most of us had a renewed confirmation of the authority of an apostle of the Lord.  What an unforgettable opportunity we had today to be gathered all in one body to be taught by a prophet, seer, and revelator.

After the meeting ended we took zone pictures with Elder Bednar and then had lunch.  Now the missionaries are safely back in their areas and hopefully have a renewed understanding of what it takes to exercise faith and to be guided in this missionary work.  I hope you get some details from your missionary when he/she e-mails you today.  I hope you will get a few of their personal insights.  Have a great week.          Love,  Sister Gee (and President Gee)

February 23, 2010 Posted by | Letters from Mission President/Wife, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Counting Our Blessings

Dear Parents and Families,

Greetings from cold and windy Oklahoma!  The snow has melted and we even had one beautiful day but it is still winter here. It shouldn’t be long before we get that feeling that spring is around the corner.

I suppose your missionary has told you of our greatly anticipated visit from Elder Bednar next Monday.  We feel that this is like the windows of heaven opening for us.  Elder Bednar is attending a Stake Conference in Texas next weekend and graciously arranged to visit our mission as well.  We are  excited to have him come.  Elder Bednar is the one who set President Gee apart to become a mission president.  He has a special place in our lives and we look forward to having the missionaries get to be taught by him in person.  I thought you might like to share a little of this experience with us.  All of the missionaries have been asked to study two talks that Elder Bednar has given so we can be ready to discuss and learn about faith and prayer.  President Gee will attach those two talks to this message so that if you desire, you can study them as well and then have a great communication with your missionary next week.  I will give you a review of the day in my message next week.

We had a great month for baptisms in January but it looks like we are now feeling the effects of the winter storms and the holidays.  Our baptisms are down to almost nothing.  However, there are serveral people with a baptismal date so we have hope that we will get our momentum back soon.  One of the things we have appreciated during this past year is the faith and prayers of all of you parents and families.  We know that it makes a difference.  We can feel it.  Will you please especially pray for the mission as a whole and your missionary in particular that we can be blessed with renewed enthusiasm and energy to do this work?  Any encouragement you can give as you communicate will be very helpful.  When we were called to this mission I used to be concerned because the number of baptisms is rather low.  I used to think often about how difficult it is to do missionary work here.  As time has passed my outlook has changed.  We are thrilled with the miracles that do happen.  We learn to love those people who can accept the message of the gospel.  We appreciate the blessings we do get and we love the work.  We just want to do the best that we can.  I used to wonder how missionaries could love their mission so deeply when it was so hard to baptize.  Now I know it is because we are doing the Lord’s work and feeling his spirit.

What happens in the hearts of the missionaries is the great blessing of serving.  Getting to teach people is a  blessing in and of itself.

We hope all is well with your families.  President Gee and I pray for you every day.  Have a good week.

Love, Sister Gee (and President Gee)

February 16, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Normal Missionary Day

Elder Peper sent a letter dated February 8, 2010, that was received today.  Below are some excerpts:

Hey All!

It’s been 40s and raining here all week, as well.  Too bad you can’t get any snow.  It’s a bummer.  I hope 49N isn’t suffering too much.  I love the pictures of Madi skiing.  I can’t wait to see how good she is getting.  It sounds like she is loving it.

Not too much has been going on here.  I guess I can tell you about some investigators, though I don’t want to bore you too much.  Let’s see.  [The new family we just baptized] are doing really good in the church.  [The mom] got up and bore her testimony.  She said that it was really hard for her to do that, which I could tell because I saw her attempt to get up a few times.  Finally, she did it and it was wonderful.  She has such a strong testimony.  I don’t see her ever going inactive.

. . .

My new Companion’s name is Elder Jackson.  He is 6’5″ and is from Manti, Utah.  He plays basketball and football.  He is a really good missionary.  We’ve been getting along really well so far.  This transfer should go just fine.  FYI, transfer date is March 17, 2010.

. . .

We’re getting fed most every night, which is nice.  I’ve yet to get spaghetti as a meal, but I’ve got plenty of time.  The most common meals here are enchiladas and ordered pizza.  There is a family in the ward that smokes really good BBQ.

Oh, Mom asked about a normal missionary day:  We get up at 6:30 and get ready for the day.  At 8 we have personal study (I’m reading The Book of Mormon and the Bible, and I’m in 3 Nephi and Exodus).  At 9, we have companion study.  We go over lessons plans and practice teach.  At 10, we’re supposed to leave.  Depending on the morning, they can be slow here.  We have appointments and tract the rest of the day.  We usually get home about 9.  We go to bed at 10:30.  That’s about it.

Thanks for writing me and supporting me!  I love you! – Elder Riley Peper

February 11, 2010 Posted by | Letters from Elder Peper, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

All These Things Give Experience

Dear Families and Friends,

Last Tuesday we welcomed five smiling but shy new missionaries at the airport.  We could tell they were shy because they said they weren’t hungry.  By 3 o’clock one of our assistants quietly asked if I could at least give them a cracker.  They seemed happy to get a little nourishment to get them through until dinner.  I guess they will have to learn to be more bold.   They were up by about 2 o’clock in the morning.  We had a pleasant day, and they were out doing missionary work right after dinner.  We loved their smiles and enthusiasm.  The “Greenie Fire” really helps keep the mission fire burning.

On Wednesday they met their new trainers and were off.  Transfers are held in the parking lot at the closest Stake Center.  Each Zone has an area where they park their vehicles and the loading and unloading of luggage takes place.  The missionaries spend about a half hour visiting and getting caught up on the news and then they are off.  Today I would like to make a few comments on concerns missionaries have as they are transferred.

For those missionaries who love change, transfers aren’t a big deal.  They just go with the flow.  However, it takes experience and practice at adapting to grow into that attitude.  For many of them the word “transfer” creates anxiety.  They worry about whether they will have to move, who the new companion may be, whether the new companion is clean and orderly or sloppy, will they get along, will they like each other, will there be unrighteous dominion on the part of the senior companion, will they treat each other with respect, how will the ward or branch members receive them, will there be enough to keep them busy, and will the investigators that they almost baptized be okay when they leave?  Will the new companion want to be obedient to the mission rules, will they have companion study, will they have a good ward mission leader,and on and on?

Each time a missionary goes through this process he/she becomes a little stronger socially and emotionally.  To quote President Hinckley, they learn to face the stiff winds of opportunity so they get used to change and adapting.  This helps them for the rest of their lives.  At the end of their missions they write a letter to President Gee and tell what they learned from their companions.  There is always something positive learned from each experience, even the ones that were difficult.  Most of the time the companions adjust pretty quickly to each other.  Often they become great friends.  Sometimes they will end up being friends for life.  They get so they love each other and learn to work with each other.  I still marvel at how well they learn to teach in unity.  A subtle pause and the other picks up and carries the teaching for a few minutes and then the other one takes a turn again.  It is part of the miracle.  The weeks pass quickly.  It isn’t long until we are announcing transfers again and there often is the real hope that they can just stay where they are.  Then the process starts over again.  Mission Presidents are counseled to leave missionaries in an area for a few months.  That isn’t always possible but that is the ideal.  Already one week of this transfer is gone.  It goes so fast.

If our information is correct you should be able to look in the Church News on February 13th and find Nolan and Rhonda Taylor from North Salt Lake.  They will be taking over the Oklahoma City Mission this summer.

We are now trying to get our momentum back from the storms we have been experiencing.  Not being able to use the cars and having church meetings cancelled is showing up in our investigators with a baptism date.  We hope we can get back in full action.  Please continue your prayers in our behalf.  We are still having winter weather.  This is not typical Oklahoma winter weather.  The missionaries are taking it in stride.  Have a good week.

Love, Sister Gee and President Gee

February 8, 2010 Posted by | Letters from Mission President/Wife, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“Missionary Life”

Although the Mission President and his wife sent three letters to our family this week, due mostly to the severe weather received in Oklahoma, Riley informed me today that there were no weather issues in his area.  The roads were and are clear and dry.

As mentioned in earlier posts, Riley is getting a new Companion on Wednesday, February 3.  That makes three companions in six weeks.  Apparently, the missionaries play some type of “Missionary Life” game based upon their missions.  The first area in which a missionary serves is considered his birth place.  Riley was “born” in Burke.  When a missionary goes home, they call it “dying.”  Any companion to a missionary that is going home, is said to have “killed” his companion.  I learned this tidbit of information when Riley informed me today that he had “killed” two missionaries, and he hated it.  Silly boys.

I received a couple of photos from Riley via email today.  One is posted at the beginning of this entry.  The other photo is posted under “A Week of Firsts.”  It is a photo of the Elders with the family they recently baptized.

Riley is doing very well (his words were “awesome” and “excellent”) and is excited about the work in his area.  They have several new investigators and are getting close to setting a baptism date for the minister.  She attended church this past Sunday and Riley said she liked it very much.  He will be meeting his new companion, Elder Jackson, tomorrow.  It will probably be at least a week before I find out more.  I will continue to post updates as I receive them.  In the meantime, prayers and letters are appreciated.

February 2, 2010 Posted by | Photos, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Lemonade from Lemons

It is amazing to me how diligent the Mission President and his wife are in communicating with the families of the missionaries in their area.  Riley has only been in the OK OKC mission for about 5 weeks, and we have received at least 5 letters from either President Gee or Sister Gee, maybe even more than 5.  I haven’t posted all of them, but I would like to post an excerpt from a letter we received from Sister Gee tonight.  There is a letter within her letter and also a newspaper article.  Sister Gee begins:

With permission I want to share a letter that Elder Palmer sent to President Gee this week.  It shows that lemonade can come from lemons:

Dear President Gee,

I have a story to tell you.  The story started about a month ago.  Elder Empey and I were having a bad day.  People were not receptive and things weren’t going to plan.  So we decided we could walk 3 miles home for lunch or eat downtown.  We chose to stay in town and eat.  We went to the place called Happy Days Cafe and both ordered a big hamburger.  It took a long time to make it and when we got them the manager wasn’t too nice.  So I eat my burger after saying a prayer.  The cook was standing a few feet away from me and he said, “You don’t know that I spit in your burger, do you!”

We stopped eating our burgers and I was trying not to explode.  We got up and left.  We continued our day by going to the next members house on our schedule.  I told him how bad our day had gone.  It so happens that he is a cop.  His son, who is a marine, was there and they went to talk to the manager.  The manager said, “I will give them free burgers if they come back.”  (Right, like that’s going to happen.)  So the member got mad and eventually his brother, who is the deputy fire chief found out and he got mad and wrote this news article to the editor, which eventually made it to the newspaper.  After that everyone was talking to us.  The next day the manager of the apartments came up to us and gave us free donuts and a copy of the news article.  She said I just want you to know that I don’t feel that way towards you.  She was very nice.  Then throughout the day everyone was waving at us.  Pretty neat.  the Lord works in mysterious ways.  I think that good came from it.  People actually are starting to respect us, even in our ward.  I still love Ponca City.  No matter how hard people try to stop us or put us down, this train ain’t slowin’.  The church is true and there’s nothing that anyone can do or say that’s going to stop that.  I love this gospel and am thankful to serve my mission in Oklahoma.

Here is the article (published in The Ponca City Newspaper):

Everyone in our community knows who they are.  They are two young men in suits seen riding bicycles, or walking door to door, trying to explain to anyone who is willing to listen, of their message of Jesus Christ.

Another goal is to try to dispel any misconceptions of their beliefs, due to those in the media who have erroneously depicted them and their message in a bad light by using false and misleading facts to distort those beliefs.  They are not religious zealots or extremists.

They are two young men, 19-20 years of age, sacrificing two years of their lives away from their loving families to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ, as they believe it in their hearts to be true, to those having a desire to listen.

They are doing this at a time when most young men this age are going to college to sow their oats and to party until their parent’s money runs out.

So why would someone in this community, who is a cook at a well-known restaurant, be so despicable and full of hate, have the gall to show their disdain to these young men by spitting on their food then brag to them after they had eaten several bites, stating, “You didn’t even notice that I spit on your burgers, did you?”
How many of us would have had the courage to leave without causing a scene as did these two young men?  My question is this…was this person taught to hate Mormons by his parents as he was growing up?  Was this preached in the church he attended?  What really motivated him to act in such a despicable way?

I love this community I live in and appreciate the many different faiths available to us all.

Maybe we all somehow had a small part to play in this horrible incident if we looked deep into our hearts.

May we all try to be more vigilant and refrain from speaking despairingly of other faiths in hopes of discouraging this type of hatred in the future.

My prayer is that we all try to be more compassionate to our neighbors, no matter what their faith, and treat your fellow man as you would want to be treated.

Remember these words:  People will forget what you said.  People will forget what you did, but people will NEVER forget how you made them feel! (author unknown).  (End of article.)

Well, there is a little taste of life in the mission field.  You can tell we have great missionaries.  Keep praying for us.  We had a good week for baptisms in spite of the storm. Have a great week!

Love,  President and Sister Gee

February 1, 2010 Posted by | Letters from Mission President/Wife, Uncategorized | 1 Comment