Monday, September 29, 2014

Week 98 - 6 Weeks to go --- Lovin' Bushwick!

Late last week we taught a part-member family who has a lot of potential to come back to church. However, this time when I walked into the house there was a different feel to it. While we were trying to teach I could tell something was wrong and I couldn't teach. I sat praying, asking God what it is I am feeling, and what came to mind was one of the individuals has drank too much alcohol. I told them that the spirit is not here and we need to figure out why. She did tell us that she had a margarita, but just a small one, so I figured it was nothing. There were some other things causing some contention too. The impression that alcohol was the reason the Holy Ghost was gone continued to stay in the front of my mind. Not much happened. After the lesson she fed us some dinner and she pulled out her big margarita Bud Light mix from the freezer. It was a mega size! I was disappointed of her actions. I was grateful that Heavenly Father gave me the Gift of Discernment to understand that something was wrong in their household.

(Ok, I have to stop right here! My companion wanted his haircut and we are not in our normal neighborhood right now, so we walked into a Chinese barbershop. It was empty and decently priced. We go in and he sits down and all the Chinese people start speaking in Chinese at the same time really loudly and it got pretty overwhelming. My companion talks over them and says to me in a look of panic "should we go somewhere else where they speak English"? The barber says, "it's ok, we speak English." I just died laughing!)

So, I just love sacrament meeting here in Bushwick. The members are very inspirational. The majority of the members are well educated, have good jobs, raise families in NY, but still struggle. Their testimonies are simple and powerful. I had the opportunity to bear my testimony and it was nice to feel the spirit. It is awesome to feel strengthened by sharing your testimony to the congregation.

So there are just under 800 names on our roles here in the branch I am serving in. 700 of them are people who are not active who we know nothing about. We have been going through that list and been working hard and walking a lot looking up all these people. It has been paying off! Many members still live there and got lost in the branch split 2 years ago. We are continuing to find new families every day! One family in particular has 3 kids that were prepared to be baptized, but they weren't super active and didn't go through with it. We are teaching them again and they still want to be baptized. Hopefully this time they will be able to be baptized. We are helping the Elder's Quorum members with their home-teaching, and we are also getting excited about a family history class we are holding, as well as the "Meet the Mormons" movie showing soon in Brooklyn.

I failed to write in my journal this week so all the details are kind of a blur. I will be sure to write in my journal this week though!


Elder Hooper

#LDSconf this weekend!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Week 97 - 7 weeks to go, ---Miracles----

On Monday at our zone activity I was schooling some other missionaries at basketball until I went to jump for a block and then I came down wrong and sprained my ankle! I'll give it a 6 out of 10. Nothing too crazy. It sure did hurt like crazy though. It took me 30min to walk a 10min walk to the train from the park. It was sad haha! Because of the pain I was in, we went to the church to finish out our night by doing some google drive updating and making phone calls. Elder Goodson made phone calls for 1.5 hours straight. He just went through the phone and started dialing numbers in our contacts. He set up 3 appointments and 2 for today while on his exchange! It was great. I was so proud of him. I think The Lord caused this ankle sprain so he could have that chance. Our plans were definitely not to be calling people that night or to hang on the church. I am walking 90% normal now. The swelling is going down and it is still a little bruised.Elder Heywood and I taught an awesome lesson with a Spanish family At first we were just teaching about prophets and it wasn't clicking with them. After this kind of ended I just felt impressed to just crank down and say "we are not here to drag you to come to church and force you to do these things. We are here because we know who you can become. We see the potential in you to be better than who you are now. What is keeping you from participating in church?" They opened up after that. The wife said that she was worried about people judging her since she hasn't come for a while. She was worried about talking with the branch president and repenting. She also had some questions. The husband said that he has been seeking other truths outside of the gospel and feels that he is being held back by going to church currently. He is trying to find answers that fit both atheists and believers. The mom said she just has hard feelings towards some of the members. Elder Heywood (who I was on exchanges with) said something very profound- "we did not make covenants with sister soandso. We didn't make covenants with the elders quorum president, and we didn't make covenants with the branch president. We made covenants with God and we shouldn't let others' actions keep us from keeping our covenants and severing our relationship with God.

A miracle happened Sunday night. At 8:06pm, Elder Goodson and I had no plans. We went to a Stake Priesthood meeting that we thought was going to take the test of our night. I told Elder Goodson that we should pray and ask God for direction for the next 45 minutes. When my companion closed the prayer, I sat and pondered for a moment. The idea came to go visit a house of multiple people we met a few weeks ago who said we could come back. As we walked to the street, we saw our neighbor Carlos, who was a potential investigator. We had a really good talk with him and prayed with him. We gave him a commitment and set up a temporary appointment. Now we got on the street with the family I was originally thinking of and I heard someone playing the violin. It was a Bach concerto that I had heard before and it is a very challenging piece. Whoever was playing it was good. My companion gave me some courage to go and knock on the door. To my surprise it was a younger man, probably in his late 20s. I was expecting a woman! There aren't many men violinist in NY that I have met. I told him that he sounded really good on this difficult concerto. We talked about our different music backgrounds and I got his phone number to jam out sometime. We finally get to the door of that one family and they weren't even home! We walked back to our apartment and sat down and made a phone call until a man with a beautiful dog walked past. I asked him what kind of dog it was and then he told us that his dad came to our church before. It is amazing to see how God works! He used the memory I had of a certain family and the route we always take to get there to put me on that path where he knew that only I could touch those individuals' lives. God heard my prayer of faith that night. He seems to do that often- putting people in my mind to visit, but really intending me to reach someone else along the way.

Elder a Goodson and I had a pretty good week. We have been finding new Less-Active member families and we are helping this branch grow. At a stake priesthood meeting I was able to see all of my Staten Island friends. That was a good boost for me. It brought back a lot of good memories!

I love you all, have a great week.

#LDSconf in 12 days

Elder Hooper

 Playing in the subways!
Taking some fun pictures at the Brooklyn Bridge Park! 
 This is what I did on Monday after I stopped emailing. Still hurts, but I can walk on it. I was playing basketball- while schooling some kids, I jumped to block a shot and came down on my ankle wrong!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Week 96 - 8 weeks to go ---22 Months!---

I am so grateful to God for all the experiences He has given me here on this Earth, especially on my mission. I am not going to lie, the past couple of weeks have been some of the most difficult weeks I have had. I am so grateful for them. I am sure by now that those who have been reading my blog and letters I send home know that I struggle with some emotional challenges, namely Anxiety and OCD. Of course I am not the most severe of cases, but it was severe enough for me to make me almost dysfunctional on my mission. The first few months, beginning in the MTC and in the field were incredibly difficult. I was having many physical symptoms from stress, I couldn't process my thoughts, I had these overwhelming fears of various things, and disturbing thoughts that I could not get rid of. All in all, I was just going crazy inside due to the fact that all the escape routes that I knew to relieve stress like music, sports, TV, etc, were all gone.

I spoke with my mission president about the things I was feeling and he lead me to see an LDS Psychologist . This is where my life changed. This was an answer to my prayers. (A couple of years before my mission at home, I received multiple impressions from the Holy Ghost that I needed to seek help for this challenge. At the time I knew nothing about depression or other emotional obstacles and did not understand what these impressions meant. I was scared about the thought anyway. I remember getting on a train in Brooklyn now on my mission and I had the exact same impression- that I needed to seek professional help. Still I didn't know how to even pursue this impression. Then President Calderwood

mentioned the option for me to see a psychologist and it all clicked. I knew that this was an answer to my prayers.) The Psychologist taught me how to channel my thoughts properly and how to handle to disturbing thoughts and fears that I had. Over the course of these two years I have made tremendous growth! I still struggle with it here and there, but I now know how to handle it. I understand how the human mind operates a lot more (this is why I am now pursuing and education in Psychology when I go home).

The first year of my mission I learned what my challenges were and God gave me the right areas, the right companions, and the right obstacles to learn what this was all about. The middle of my mission was a time for me to see how much I have learned and be a leader in the mission and grow a ton! A year and half I had some new challenges that came that taught me how to overcome more anxiety, and now having exactly 2 months left God gave me the ultimate challenge. That challenge was doubting my testimony. I understand now that I was having a lot of anxiety and the OCD in my mind was interpreting these feelings and making me think that I was doubting my testimony. For weeks I battled this feeling that I was losing conviction in the gospel. I couldn't stop thinking about "what if this" and "what if that" and I felt distanced from God. In the past, whenever I had these feelings of anxiety, I always turned to the Atonement to make them ease and handle them well, but since I wasn't sure if I believed that this was real, I was all on my own. I desperately pleaded, fasted, and studied to have a stronger conviction, but nothing came.

I knew that the feelings I was having were not rational and I could not stop thinking about this whole "I am a missionary who is going home soon and am not sure if this is true anymore" feeling. It brought a lot of fears. However, I knew the Gospel was true and didn't understand why I kept thinking it wasn't true.

In a meeting with all the trainers and trainees last week, President Calderwood spoke on Enduring to the End. I knew that I needed to simply endure well. I told God with all the faith I could muster that I was going to endure and never doubt him because I knew that this was true and that He indeed was there. I studied about enduring and learned that "enduring well" was just "learning well". Because of this challenge I learned some valuable lessons of enduring. When you think all hope is lost, that is when you need to put all your "reserve tank" or "72 hour supply" of strength and faith to hang on just a little longer. When the fuel gauge light comes on reading empty, you push it a little farther. However, most of the time you can go a few extra miles longer when you feel you are empty, but you are simply scared to try it (trust me I have done this many times in my Chevelle haha! But that is besides the point I am trying to make!) Push harder. When you can't go anymore, gather in all the strength you got, pray for angels, endure, and push that much harder!

So, to make this long story short, I know God lives. He is my Father, and because He is such a good one, He knows just what challenges to throw my way to make me happy. "He is the gardener here, and knows what He wants me to become. He cuts me down so I can re-grow stronger." Jesus is the Christ. There truly is a Prophet of God on Earth. God loves me and He loves you!

Elder Hooper

Monday, September 8, 2014

Week 95 - 9 weeks to go, Humidity is a killer!

We had a great lesson with a part-member family this week. After
praying about what we should share, we felt impressed to do the jar
analogy of putting The Lord first in our life. We put all the
materials on the table and then asked if the husband of the member
wanted to join us. We used the cool analogy that we felt prompted to
bring as an excuse to have him come in. We started asking him
questions to see where he was spiritually. Hearing this question from
my mission president yesterday at our zone conference, I asked, "are
there any questions you have that religion hasn't been able to
answer"? He responded with "why does God allow evil to happen to good
people?" We had a really good conversation about this topic and talked
to him about our next visit- teaching him the tools to use to receive
his own answers to these questions. We didn't even use the analogy,
but we had a good lesson!

We had an interesting street sweep a few days ago! I was saying it
would be cool to do some family history finding by setting up a
Christmas tree with pictures of our family on the tree, thus becoming
our family tree. I said it would be intriguing. Elder Goodson then
says jokingly, "very punny". I didn't have any idea what he was
talking about, until he explained "In'tree'guing" haha! The activity
went ok. We had a few signs up and made our family tree using a
Christmas tree from the church! I talked to a man who is agnostic, but
really just in denial. It would take God Himself to come down to this
man to get him to believe. We used the free wifi from Dunkin Donuts to
show the FamilySearch website on our iPads.

This week is a big week for any NY- 9/11. Whenever I saw the 9/11
memorial specials on tv I would always think, get over it, it was was
10 years ago. Living here, I understand why it means so much to the
people here in New York. Not only did it cause so much destruction and
kill many people, New Yorkers are very sentimental and have tender
feelings towards their individual towns. All their history of their
families are in these cities. They either risked everything they had
to come to NY and began a new life here, or were born here with
countless generations that go back to NY. It is pretty cool.

So, all is well out here in Brooklyn. The work is going very well
right now! We are finding lots of Less Active families and helping
them make the steps to go to the temple and bring back the feelings of
safety, peace, and courage the gospel brings.


Elder Hooper

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Week 94 - 10 weeks to go, Thankful for the Savior.

Last Saturday, we left a little earlier to go play sports with people
in the park. It is a fun way to fulfill our missionary purpose. I
taught some handball to the newer missionaries and one guy asked if he
could jump in and play doubles. He quickly got bored and said, "ok
let's cap at 15 and then Elder Hooper and I will play each other". I
thought that was kind of funny. This man I was playing with was
awesome. He was a big guy with some cool tattoos and has had a really
rough life. After our first game, in which he beat me 15-10, we took a
breather and talked for a few minutes. He expressed to me during the
game that he was released from jail 6 months ago. Now while we sat I
asked him to tell me more. He was a heavy drug addict, but has been
clean now for 3 months. He just moved out into the area to get a fresh
start and was playing handball to keep his mind occupied. He has
multiple degrees and worked in pharmaceuticals. I told him about the
Savior's Atonement and the cleansing power He has extended towards us.
We played another game and I beat him 15-13. We talked some more and
had a tie breaker game- he got me good 15-7. He is such a good man. I
pray that he can continue to stay clean and be strong. It was near to
feel the the love the Savior had for him.

Elder Goodson and I went up into Williamsburg and Greenpoint to look
for some less active members. It is evil out there, but we had some
fun. While we were waiting for a bus to come, there were these guys
(who were mostly drunk) playing frisbee outside the bar across a busy
street. It was funny to watch them to right over the tops of these
cars. They said hey it's the Jehovah Witnesses. I quickly said nope,
we are Mormon. They threw the frisbee to us and my companion grabs it
and makes a novice throw back to the man across the street. He throws
it to me, I throw it back, and I just bombed the throw back twice!
After a while I grabbed the frisbee again to redeem myself (I mean
seriously, I have played ultimate frisbee a ton, I can throw a
frisbee!). I gave him a perfect toss back. He threw it back to me and
I just make a "no big deal" catch and send it right back. The drunk
guys were going crazy haha! I made a few other leaping catches and
nice throws back. I said "ha, I was just husslin' you guys". They were
all shocked (so was I). I think they liked us after that.

So I did a bad job at keeps up with my journal so I can't remember all
the details of this week, but this is do want to add. This is the
Elder Hooper tip of the day haha: There is power in simply thinking
about the Savior! One thing that I have felt my entire mission is the
importance of remembering the Savior. In addition to the importance of
this as part of our covenants, thinking about the Savior throughout
the day gives us unimaginable strength. Simply picturing Him in your
mind, memorizing a scripture about His Atonement, or watching a Bible
Video on brings peace and guidance! Try it throughout your day
today and see what you think. If you like it, keep doing it!

Sorry it is short this week!


Elder Hooper

30 Day Challenge Starts today.