TJ was called to the Portland, Oregon mission, but last July with all the reorganizing of missions he was transferred and now serves in the Vancouver Washington Mission, Spanish speaking.
He is currently serving in The Dalles, Oregon
He will be home either in April or June of this year.
T.J. speaks often of those interested in the gospel
He speaks of the conversion process …many, many times in reference to his own conversion process during his time serving.
Of course we we talked to him a few weeks ago, (during our greatly anticipated Christmas call.) He is the same quirky TJ with the same sense of humor; I am happy to report he is not real homesick and is very focused.
TJ is one of the missionaries who has the opportunity to be Facebook. He has never really been the social media type with updates and such, but as a missionary on facebook, he will often post poems, and Mormon Messages. He often comments on new members’ posts and those back home he hopes to help along the path of the gospel.
TJ has always had a testimony, though now that testimony has been greatly magnified.
He loves working with the Hispanic people.
He has stories that include he and his companions singing at baptisms, giving talks, teaching gospel doctrine, arranging district meetings, interviewing for baptisms, and even baking a new member a carrot cake, her favorite – for her birthday.
Not too long ago Elder Heap and his companion took a new approach in sharing the gospel and tried a little street preaching in the city of Gresham. This proved to be a success.
The area they began in was an area where many Cuban people resided.
Cuba today is one of the world’s remaining socialist states with a Communist government. The people who come here are looking for a better life.
In general the Cuban people are grateful to be in America enjoying the freedoms we are blessed with and are working hard to get their families here.
They strive to learn the language and proudly fly the american flag. These are the kind of immigrants you find with the Cuban people.
Regarding street preaching and a golden contact, TJ recorded the following in a various letters home:
“Most of our investigators are Cubans so their Spanish is hard to understand because they don’t pronounce the ‘s’ sound, but they are also much more receptive to the gospel than most Hispanics.
In the new mission there is a big emphasis on talking to everyone so Elder Carpenter and I have been spending time walking the streets and talking to everyone we see,
which is how exactly how we found our Cubans.
It is actually really fun.
We park the car and go out talking. You get all sorts of people.”
He then went on to talk about one of his recent contacts, ‘G’.
“This past week has been a crazy one.
So we had another lesson with G. We taught all about keeping the sabbath day holy. That was a very good lesson. The spirit was strong.
We knew that this commandment was going to be a trial of his faith.
We told him that in order to keep the sabbath day holy he would not be able to work on Sundays.
The lesson before he was telling us about how hard life was in Cuba and how he is working and sending as much money as he can to help his family out and eventually get them here to America.
We asked if he would keep the Sabbath day holy. He sat there, took a deep breath and nodded his head.
We could tell that it was hard but he said he would keep the this commandment given by God.
We promised that by so doing he would receive protection from the temptations of Satan and that the fullness of the earth would be his. (DC59.)
Elder Carpenter added a special blessing and said that if he would keep this commandment his family would be able to come over more quickly.
I was amazed at the faith G showed.
The next lesson we taught tithing and fasting. He accepted those commandments as well and we, of course, pointed out the promises of the windows of heaven pouring out blessings!
He accepted this commandment and promised to live it.
He was ready for baptism. He was truly converted.
I have since said many prayers for my friend G and for his family.
This is a good man and I want these blessings for him. He is exercising so much faith.”
“Friday was the scheduled baptism interview date.
Friday came and we could never get a hold of him. This caused me to get worried. All of Saturday we couldn’t get a hold of him either. We came by and no one would answer.
Sunday morning came and we came around 10 to try to see if he was coming to church and no one answered.
What happened? What is going on? I was really confused and worried.
Did he get antied?
Did he decide it was to hard not to work on Sundays. What was happening?
He received a spiritual manifestation that the Book of Mormon was true. I know he did.
I had many thoughts going through my head, and in all honesty , it was getting hard to stay positive, but I tried.
We continued teaching others, and as we taught I was able to focus on what was going on right then in front of me, which was helpful, but I was worried.
Last night we came by and his roommates answered the door and let us in. We talked for a bit then I asked where G was. They said he was calling his family in Cuba. Then G came out of the room. He looked like he was doing alright.
We talked and this is what happened.
To save money he cut his phone off until he could switch to a cheaper service, he was using his roommate’s phone to call Cuba. So his phone was shut off.
The day of his interview he & his roommate were both given a job opportunity that he had to take because it did not require him to work on Sundays.
So he took the new job but didn’t have a way to get a hold of us and tell us of his new schedule. He then worked all of Saturday.
Sunday came and he was waiting for us, then he went to the store real quickly, (We forgot to teach him that he shouldn’t buy things on Sunday :)) it was while he was at the store that we came by around 10:00, just missing him!
But he didn’t work at all on Sunday and was waiting for us to go to church!
So that is what happened.
I was very relieved to hear that. I know that he was telling the truth. So that was crazy.
I am very thankful for life lessons. I wish I would have been a little more faithful in that uneasy time…..
I’m out of time but the church is true. The Book of Mormon is true!”
“G was baptized and it was awesome. A little crazy but spiritual.
Next week he will receive the priesthood. Happy day!”
In November I asked Elder Heap to list for me, 3 things he is thankful for. The following is an excerpt of the thing he listed:
At least 3 things I am grateful for:
Well, one is that I can serve a mission. I will forever be grateful that I was given the opportunity to serve a mission. It has humbled me. Many of my former desires have changed. Though it took a long time for me to be willing to change, it did happen and I will forever be thankful for that…….
I am thankful for my family. That is a standard answer, but it is probably the thing I thank Heavenly Father for most. I love you guys. I do feel your prayers. I am strengthened by your letters…….
I am thankful for my friends. I don’t have any brothers but I really do think of my close friends as brothers. I have been blessed with a good group of friends. I hope we stay in contact. I have stayed in contact with most of them since I have been out in the mission. Most of them I have been friends with since I was little, which has been cool. I don’t think that is so common, based on many people I have talked to. A lot of the activities that I now enjoy I might not have gotten into if it were not for my friends, mountain biking, swimming, ice caving, rock climbing, boating, pool. I am very thankful for the people in my life.
“I am very thankful that I am serving a mission. It kicked off my conversion process. I have a little less than 6 months left as a missionary. During this short time left, I plan to do all that God wants me to do.”
TJ’s experiences are very similar to what many 18-21 year olds all over the world are experiencing—yet each experience and place is unique and customized for them.
It’s a wonderful thing, this gospel of Jesus Christ.
A wonderful blessing, for which I will forever be grateful.
‘You know, brethren, that a very large ship is benefited very much by a very small helm in the time of a storm, by being kept workways with the wind and the waves. Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.” Doctrine and Covenants 123:16-17.