Elder Peper

My Mission Experience

Too Many Excuses

Hey Mom,

Things seem to be going pretty well with you for the most part. Work sounds like it’s still good, and everyone in the family seems to be doing fine. I got an email and letters from Chelsey today, so that was good. I haven’t heard from her in a couple of months. I haven’t had time to read them yet, though. I also got a letter from Jackson today. He was telling me how excited he was to get his mission call and how awesome snowboarding was last year (I wish he wouldn’t have told me that.) He said that he was able to get the 360 down, which is what I was working on before I left. I also got a postcard from G & G Peper (I believe. I’m actually not positive who that’s from…I haven’t read it yet either.) Things are going good so far in Shawnee. I’ve already been here for 4 weeks, and the ward seems to be getting a lot friendlier towards us. I heard about the old bishop in the ward and was thinking that it could’ve had a lot to do with the inactivity rate here. It was ward conference last week, so in PEC we heard some stats from the stake presidency. They said Shawnee has about 550 members and about 98 active, so about an 18% activity rate. That would almost make them a branch I believe. Anyway, there was a man who was in a stake presidency, then became a temple president of the Oklahoma City temple. After that he was the bishop in the Shawnee ward. During that time he wrote a 70 page letter to church Headquarters stating things that he felt were wrong with the church. I understand that a lot of it had to do with changes that had been made in the temple. What ended up happening is that he left the church and then Shawnee got a new bishop, who is the current bishop. I’m not sure if the activity rates are related to that or not, but it’s interesting anyway.

The ward is alright here. There certainly are members that are more involved than others. People seem to have too many excuses. The people who are devoted are awesome, but there are a lot of people who have horrible excuses for not coming to church. We can’t force them, but we can be pretty bold with them. We can tell that those people feel guilty for not coming to church, and it seems to work fairly frequently to get them coming to church. The logic is this…if you are bold with them, what are they going to do, not come to church? We’ve been making lists of Less-actives in the ward and we have been trying to visit them. We are working with a few part member families at the moment, and should be making good progress with them.

Elder Stokes is a really good guy. We get along well, but he’s definitly ready for home. He goes home in two months, and you can tell. When we work, we work, but it’s hard to get him to work as hard as Elder Jackson and I did in Burkburnett. I have learned a lot of things from him though, and I can see improvement when I talk to people; especially, while tracting. He is a REALLY smart person, but he seems to rely solely on his knowledge of the gospel while he teaches rather than the spirit, but we all do that at times.

May is tornado month here, and we had a couple of close calls, but the only major one was the one that did damage in Tecumseh. That is a town where the other missionaries in are district are. We went on exchanges and we saw the destruction there from a 1.5 mile wide F-5 tornado. Crazy stuff. People seem to be getting back on their feet, but cleanup, I’m told, is always quite the process. It seems to be coming along.

Not too much else to report. I’m not sure what else you wanted to know, but that’s what’s going in in Shawnee. Thanks for the letters and everything, I appreciate them. Hope you are well. Tell everyone hi. I love you.

Love,

Elder Peper

By the way…a little nugget of information. Brad Pitt is from Shawnee, OK.

May 25, 2010 Posted by | Letters from Elder Peper, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Clock is Ticking

Dear Parents and Families,

It has been a great week here in the Oklahoma City Mission.  The weather is on the verge of being hot, roofers are everywhere in the city repairing hail damage from the last two weeks, flowers are blooming profusely, and the grain is starting to turn to amber.  The missionaries are enjoying the favorable weather and the long days.  We have reached the point that they pretty much have daylight for all of their work.  Life is good.

We had Zone Conferences for the Stillwater, Oklahoma City, and Oklahoma City South Zones this week.  Everyone loved going to the temple.  There is peace that heals the soul.  It is good to see a room full of missionaries in the Celestial Room.  I feel like I am surrounded by angels when we are there.  There wasn’t a lot of time to do other things but there was time for President Gee and me to begin to say our good-byes.  I tried for the first two Zone Conferences and finally decided it is just too hard.  I couldn’t say much so I just gave up and told President Gee he has to do it for me at the rest of the Zone Conferences.  President Gee talked with them about the natural releases that come with every calling.  He expressed appreciation for the support they have given us and encouraged them to get ready to immediately shift their loyalties to President and Sister Taylor.  He also explained we will be going home to party with the returned missionaries and all those we are leaving behind are invited to the parties when they get their work done.  President and Sister Taylor will be their new “mother and father” but we would like to be their “grandpa and grandma.”  This will be the message for the Norman and Lawton zones during this coming week.  We look forward to meeting with them on Tuesday and Wednesday.  We are in the process of the last round of interviews this week also.

The missionaries are still working hard.  We are pleased with the things that are happening in the mission.  We love to share the excitement when they find a new investigator or set a baptismal date.  We love them for their diligence even if the longed for results aren’t happening at the moment.  They are admirable disciples of Christ.  We try to remind them that we do our part and leave the results to the Lord.

We pray for you families every day as well as the missionaries.  We know your love, support, e-mails, letters and packages keep them going.

Love, Sister Gee (and President Gee)

May 24, 2010 Posted by | Letters from Mission President/Wife, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Random Thoughts from Sister Gee

Elder Stokes helping in the tornado clean up effort

Dear Parents and Families,

I guess this will be news headlines from the Oklahoma City Mission.  First about the weather.  Last week there were somewhere between thirteen and sixty tornados.  I did say a lot was happening at once!  There was some bad damage but it was in limited areas.  Several of the missionaries have been doing service this week to help with the clean-up.  The worst damage was in the Norman, Seminole, and Chocktaw areas.  On Sunday we had a pretty intense hail storm in the north of Oklahoma City.  One house had all the windows blown out.  However, most of us never see any of this action.

We are looking forward to our Zone Conferences this week and next week.  Each Zone will be traveling to the church by the temple for their own meetings and also to attend a temple session together.  We know this helps us all be unified and gives us more power in the missionary work.  This will be the last series of Zone Conferences for the Gees.  It feels strange to realize that this mission life we have become so used to is going to end.  However, there are still a few weeks left so we will keep enjoying them and count our blessings.

Next I would like to repeat a little tidbit that I mentioned several months ago, because there have been so many new missionaries come since then.  We think it is very important that the communication between the missionaries and their families be regular and dependable.  Your support means everything to them.  The one thing I figured out since being here that I didn’t know when our own children were serving is the reason why this communication has strict bounds to follow.  The real reason it is controlled is because this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to build heavenly communication lines.  They need to learn to depend on Heavenly Father.  Our job as mortals is to allow this to happen and not interfere with unauthorized communication from home that would distract them.  Miracles happen.  I promise you.  It is worth the sacrifice!  Once in a while missionaries still try to communicate with friends or families by breaking the rules.  If your missionary ever does this please help them by telling them you want them to be obedient.  Facebook is against the rules.  No exceptions!

Last I will share one more little miracle from Elders DeWitt and Crawford.  They were getting ready to retire for the night.  At about 10:20 they received a call from a distraught member.  Her grandson, Adrian, had been at her house and had fallen from a second story balcony.  He was at the little hospital in critical condition.  Would they go to the hospital and give him a blessing?  When they arrived they were told only one could go in at a time.  They didn’t know if he would live through the night.  They were waiting for a life-flight to take him to Norman.  Finally someone allowed them to enter his room.  They gave him a Priesthood Blessing and left.  The next day they checked with the grandmother.  Adrian was fine.  Tests showed there was nothing wrong with him.  (A miracle indeed.)

We love being around these wonderful missionaries.  We hope you have a good week.

Love, Sister Gee (and President Gee)

May 19, 2010 Posted by | Letters from Mission President/Wife, Photos, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Cleaning Up

May 14, 2010

Howdy!

Well, Shawnee didn’t get hit by any tornadoes too hard, but a town just bordering Shawnee did.  We had dinner in that town, Tecumseh.  While we were down there, we saw that there was actually a lot of damage done.  We tried to get close to it so we could get some pictures, but cops were blocking the area with damage.  We decided it would be a good idea to to go down there the next day to help out.  We went to Tecumseh and found out that we needed a work pass so that we could get beyond road blocks.  We did that.  We started out by clearing the limbs and broken trees, but later we found a family whose house was literally half gone with the roof completely missing.  We helped them clean up a lot of their mess.  Their garage was literally a pile on a foundation.  The only time I’ve ever seen anything like it is on the news.  It’s totally different when you see the destruction in person.  I’m just glad that the death toll wasn’t very high.

I still like Shawnee a lot.  People are really nice here.  We’re working on getting more people to teach the Gospel. . . .  I’m doing well.  The members of the ward here are really nice.  I like the people a lot.  It’s beginning to shape into a good area.  I’ve also included some pictures of the tornado destruction in here.  I love you!

Love, Elder Peper



May 17, 2010 Posted by | Letters from Elder Peper, Photos, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Rotations Galore

May 10, 2010

Dear Parents and Families,

Just this morning I wondered out loud what I could tell you that would be exciting.  It turns out the Oklahoma weather answered the question.  In fact, we probably will make the national news on Tuesday.  Late this afternoon storms started moving through most of our mission.  It gets the heart rate up when the weather people are showing “rotations” on the television.  President Gee was true to form with his remote in one hand and the cell phone in the other.  There were at least four tornados but probably many more.  It was hard to keep track of them because there was so much happening at once.  President Gee and I stood in our garage and watched the golf-sized hail popping all over our yard.  What you really want to hear is that we did a mission-wide check and all the missionaries are safe and sound.  Two of them actually got to see a tornado but they were wise enough to head for shelter.You may see clips on the news.  There was a lot of damage and at least one person was killed.  However, remember they show the worst and most of us are far from the danger and the damage to homes and businesses is small in comparison to those that are untouched.  However, it does make those scriptures about whirlwinds seem more real.

Ecc. 1:6

The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits.

We don’t want to worry you but if you watch the news you will see it anyway so we might as well tell you we are all okay.

We almost had another catastrophe.  When I started this e-mail half of the distribution list had disappeared.  Fortunately President Gee found it hidden somewhere in the black hole of the computer.  He gets the credit for this one.

This isn’t a very inspiring message tonight but it is a grateful one.  Once again prayers for the safety of the missionaries were answered yes.  I am sure you are grateful as well.  We hope you enjoyed your calls yesterday.  Have a great week.  They certainly fly by quickly.

Love, President and Sister Gee

Via email today, Riley advised that it was an exciting storm, but he didn’t see an actual tornado.  He is just a few miles from where there was a tornado that touched down.  He says the hail they experienced was about quarter sized.  He also told me that everyone around there was running outside to check it out.  (That sounds safe !  <sarc>)

May 11, 2010 Posted by | Letters from Mission President/Wife, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Elder Peper Phones Home

So, yesterday was Mother’s Day, which is a big deal for missionaries and their families because they get to speak on the telephone.  Riley had arranged with us to call after 5 pm, so we planned our dinner early in order to be free to focus on the call when it came in.  We were not sure what time after 5 he would call, as his companion also would need to call his family, but the call came in right on time at 5 pm.

Speaking on the phone after 4 1/2 months was interesting.  Riley has been very good about communicating via letters and email, but the telephone call allows for questions and details about things that don’t necessarily come up in the letters.  We learned a bit more about how things work with regard to Districts, Zones, District Meetings, etc.

We found out that, as of last Thursday, Riley has another new companion.  This makes his fifth companion in five months!  He and Elder Whitaker were together for only one week when Elder Whitaker ended up going home.  His new companion is Elder Stokes.  I have forgotten where Elder Stokes is from, but Riley says they are getting along fine.  It’s interesting to me that Riley rarely says anything negative about his current companions.  It seems he’s able to find the positive in all of his companions while they are working together and I admire that. I am sure it benefits him greatly in staying positive and accomplishing the work.  He’s had a couple of companions that he has been particularly fond of and who I am sure  have added greatly to the positive experiences Elder Peper is having in the mission field.

His last district in Texas had 10 missionaries.  His new district has only 4 missionaries, and the other pair of Elders in this district is situated about 25 minutes away from Riley and his companion.  They still meet every Friday for District Meetings, but they do not get together on P-Days (their day off).  Riley loved P-Days in Texas because there were so many guys to play basketball with our go biking with.  He’s pretty sure his P-Days in this new area will be fairly boring, since there will only be the two of them.

Riley mentioned that the last couple of missionaries serving in the Shawnee Ward were not really working or adhering to the mission rules, etc.  It seems they burned some bridges with the ward and some of the members are very unhappy with the missionaries.  Riley says that he and Elder Stokes are going to have to work hard to get the members’ love and trust back.  A member in the ward told Riley on Sunday that he was glad the new Elders were here.  The member stated that he and his wife had stopped having the missionaries over for dinner, but they might start doing that again now.  Riley tells us  that he is not fed nearly as often in this ward as he was in the last ward, but that the ward is really nice and caring.

One evening, the boys were at a restaurant eating dinner and a woman walked by and set a $20 bill on their table.  Another day, someone in the ward handed them a $20.  Riley told the man that they are not supposed to accept money from members, but the guy said that it was for a meal, so the boys went out for a nice big breakfast the next morning.

Riley has developed a philosophy on his mission that whenever anyone offers him something, as long as it is appropriate, he will accept it.  He mentioned that many people offer them drinks of water or things like that and he always accepts, even if he doesn’t want it.  He feels that accepting service is as important as giving service and that it makes people happy when you accept their service.  He told us that one time a woman in the parking lot of Wal-Mart was filling her cooler with ice and didn’t use the entire bag.  She saw the missionaries walking by and asked them if they wanted her leftover ice.  Riley said, ‘Sure,” and put it in his freezer at home.  I am betting it makes him happy to open the freezer and see that half-used bag of ice.  That story warmed my heart and taught me a little about loving your fellow man.

I could go on and on with little stories that were shared over the telephone yesterday.  It was a lovely conversation.  Madi was thrilled to talk with Riley, and Delaney also spent some time on the phone with him.  What was most enjoyable to me was hearing in his voice and his words how he truly knows that he is doing the Lord’s work and that it is important.  He knows what it takes to be a successful missionary. And he knows beyond any doubt that he is exactly where the Lord wants him to be, and striving to do exactly what the Lord wants him to do.  He is truly happy in his work.

May 10, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Meeting Our New Neighbor

Quatchi (No, this isn't the new neighbor.)

We received a package yesterday from Riley.  The package contained a letter for each of his sisters.  It also contained a couple of items he has bought or received and didn’t want to pack around for the next 18 months, as well as a very odd little stuffed animal that he found in his old apartment and thought Madi would like.  After Googling this strange little creature, I realized I must be rather out of touch, as it appears to be a mascot for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics named Quatchi.  In any event, Madi was delighted with her new pal and cannot wait to take it to school next week for Show and Tell.

In his letter to Delaney, Riley shared a story about a new investigator:

Korean Taco

Saturday, we got a knock at the door.  It was a short Asian lady who took a pass-along card that was hanging on our door.  She said she just moved in and wanted to know where our church was and what time it started.  The next day, she was there!  We were impressed.  Anyway, yesterday, we pulled up to our apartment just as she did (she lives next door).  She asked us for help, so we helped her and found out that she is from South Korea.  She invited us over for dinner for some Korean food.  It was really good.  She cooked us a Korean Taco, I guess you could say.  You take a square of seaweed, put some rice in it, then a slice of cucumber, egg, avocado, and pickled radish.  Then you add soy sauce, wrap it and eat it.  It was actually really good.  Then, we taught her the first lesson.  Her English is okay, but not perfect.  At times it’s hard to communicate with her, but that’s what the Spirit is for.

Just two  more days until Elder Peper gets to call home and speak with the family.  We are all very excited!  He’s got a new address that I will be happy to share with anyone who asks.  The address listed here in the blog also works, but may delay mail by a day or so.  However, slow mail is better than no mail!

May 7, 2010 Posted by | Letters from Elder Peper, Missionary Recipes, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Sweet Sounds

May 3, 2010

Dear Parents and Families,

At last the long awaited Sunday is just around the corner when you can hear the sweet sound of your missionary’s voice.  Now you can ask about the details you wish they would give when they e-mail.  I hope you have fun making a list of the things you want to talk about.  . . .

I remember how our family looked forward to these calls when our children were serving missions.  Our missionaries all have cell phones and will be able to use their own phones rather than member phones since Mother’s Day calls fall under weekend rates.  It may be helpful to figure out the timing of the call when you are e-mailing this week.  The missionaries are free to find a time that works best for all of you.

Sometimes these calls make the missionaries homesick.  President Gee encourages everyone to be upbeat and positive and give encouragement.  It probably is not helpful for you to tell them how much you miss them.  Rather tell them how happy you are that they are serving the Lord.

Since we are talking about sweet sounds I will share one little experience with you.  Most of the time missionaries fly home so the last word we hear from them is good-bye and a promise they will stay in touch.  Last week we said good-bye to four wonderful missionaries who have each served with complete devotion.  Elder Buys did not fly home because his parents and younger sister came to pick him up.  We heard the doorbell ring and stepped aside so Elder Buys could have those first few minutes alone with his family.  I was smiling with tears in my eyes as I heard the squeals of delight, over and over, as they said hello again after two years.  We usually only imagine the reunion but this was heartwarming indeed.  After a few quiet words there were more squeals and giggles and more hugs and kisses.  They earned this moment.  They waited obediently for two years to have this time to greet a son who had served with all his heart.

The night before there were more sweet sounds.  After dinner was eaten and the interviews were complete, we had a short testimony meeting.  Each of the four missionaries shared an experience that they will always remember and then bore testimony.  These testimonies came from pure hearts.  They know they have been doing the work of the Lord and are grateful for the opportunity to serve and for what has happened inside of them as they have served.  I felt that surely this must be like heaven.  Your missionaries are in the process of earning such an experience.  Thank you for your faith, prayers, and encouragement.  Have a great Mother’s Day.

Love, Sister Gee (and president Gee)

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

In a Mail Drought

A last picture with his Texas District

April 29, 2010

Howdy!

Well, I’m now in my new area: Shawnee, Oklahoma.  It’s going to be a lot different than Burkburnett.  The ward here has between 500 and 600 members, with a 12 or 13% activity rate.  Apparently, only about 70 people are actually at church.  I’m not sure what the deal is, but it makes it so a lot of our focus goes toward less actives.  We only have one investigator right now, but I’m sure that will change if we work hard.

I haven’t been able to do much because I’ve been sick for the past couple of days.  Sister Gee, the Mission President’s wife, takes care of medical stuff, so I gave her a call.  A missionary in my old District has the same thing I have only he had it a day before me, I believe.  He’s feeling better today, so hopefully I’m good to go tomorrow.

Shawnee seems to be a really nice town.  It’s not terribly flat and ugly like you would imagine most of Oklahoma being.  I think I’m going to like it here a lot.  My companion seems really nice.  He’s pretty quiet, though.  He’s from Lava Hot Springs, Idaho.  I don’t know him very well yet, though.  He doesn’t talk much.

I’ve suddenly been in a serious mail drought.  The only people I’ve gotten letters from in the past 3 weeks are you and Grandma Peper.  I’m not quite sure what’s been going on with my friends, but I haven’t gotten anything from any of them for a while.  Oh well.  Life goes on either way.

Let’s see.  I don’t have too terribly much else to say.  I’ve just gotten here and don’t know too many people yet.  I guess I could update you on some happenings in Burk that you haven’t heard yet.

Sister Coffey’s baptism last Saturday went really well.  There were two 8-year-old baptisms in conjunction with it.  Janice (an investigator) came to the baptism, and then she came to church on Sunday.  On Monday, she was already fed up with the persecution she is getting.  . . . Just pray for her.

The Packards bought us pizza because they knew I was leaving.  They both really like us a lot.  . . . I’m staying in contact with the Fraziers (that’s the family we baptized).  I should be able to go through the Temple with her when she gets her endowments out.  New converts have to wait a year before going through the Temple.

That about does it.  I’m just bummed because the storm season has been slow this year.  I’m told that last spring was crazy.  Hopefully, we’ll get some good ones soon.

I’m glad you had a good time in Hawaii.  By the looks of your pictures, it was fun!  Talk to you in a couple of weeks! Tell everyone “Hi” for me.  I love you!

Love, Elder Peper

May 3, 2010 Posted by | Letters from Elder Peper, Photos, Uncategorized | Leave a comment