Sunday, December 23, 2012

week 33-My last letter home...or some would say

Well, this is it! The last letter I'm going to send home! The World ends Friday, so I guess this is it. I hope everyone is prepared!
My heart is breaking this week... the Hobbit came out... :( haha
Also, Rebecca, keep an eye out for a girl with the last name "Gustavson" at HEFY Fiji. Elder Gustafson is serving out here and came out with Elder Cannon! They're from Canada.
So, this week it seemed like nobody was home. It was crazy. Somehow, the Lord guided us to things to do though, so no complaints :) Actually, there's much to be grateful for.
The big event of the week is the Christmas Party. It started with Elder D and I trying to practice for him singing "O Holy Night." He was nervous because he was one of three singing it, and we needed to practice, but every piano was in use, or getting tuned. The only one left was the one in the locked chapel. So, I got a spatula, slid the bolt and went in. As we were leaving, President saw us. "How did you get in there?" He asked. Thinking honesty was the best policy, I told him I had picked the lock with a spatula. "Thank you so much Elder Hodgson! You are the man!" Apparently he was looking for a key to the chapel and couldn't get in. haha.
So, the program started and we had a talent show. Elder D nailed O Holy Night! It was amazing. Everyone was great though. We had a bunch of fun acts. We had piano, guitar, banjo, the Senior missionaries did a bell choir. Some sister missionaries went all "hip-hop" on "Far Far Away on Judea's Plains." It was hysterical.
Afterwards, we went into the chapel to have a testimony meeting about Christ. President called on about 8 missionaries to bear testimony. We also went over the "dos" and "don'ts" of Christmas day. That was pretty fun/funny. President Riggs is awesome. He's much younger than most I've seen so he still has a lot of lifeblood in him. He spoke in our stake conference a few weeks ago and started his talk with: "My name is Matt Riggs. My parents gave me a name that rhymes with "Fat Pigs." How cruel is that?" One guy in our ward commented with a little disdain "Well, he's not your father's mission president." "No," I replied proudly, "He's mine." He's an amazing man.
After the testimony meeting, we went back into the cultural hall and had lunch/socializing for the next two hours, which missionaries rarely get. It was great to see everyone again. We got a picture of our whole MTC district for the first time since return and report. It was great to see them all again. To see old companions and missionaries we used to work with. It was a great day.
That night, we had our ward Christmas party. Guess what was sung there? O Holy Night! haha. It's okay though, it's a great song. :)
So, the end of the world! It's happening this week. Anything that anyone would have done differently? I hope not. Everyone please, if you get a chance, read President Uchtdorf's talk from last conference. It's an amazing look on what our priorities need to be in this hectic world we live in. "Let us not wait until we die before we learn to live."
Now, lets get one thing straight. I don't think this is the end of the world. I expect to see my family on skype next Tuesday, four days after the world ends. But I think this is definitely a good opportunity to look at what's important to us in our lives. I've noticed on my mission that I miss a lot of things from my former life, but they aren't always the things I expected to miss. It's been a great reminder of the things that really are important to me, and it fills me with little regrets of things I wish I'd done differently, different emphasis' that I'd had, and it fills me with big resolutions to do better with those things when I'm home. It's a great reminder and I hope we can all take a little inventory to help get the right perspective.
Until next week. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Week 32- week of work

Well, this week was crazy busy! Sorry this is coming on Tuesday, but we had a half-mission conference with Elder Packer of the Seventy, so our p-day is today! More on that later though.
Last week, we decided it was our week to WORK because this week, we had the conference yesterday, pday today, and another misison Christmas Conference on Friday. then it's transfer week! :P so, this was our week to work! and work we did!... as much as we could... there's a bug going around... haha
We were very busy, and set a lofty goal for lessons, and only fell short by 1!!!! We were soooo close!!!! We also found a new investigator for us, and a new investigator for another mission. Funny story about the guy for the other mission. We were going through our area book, and were visiting this brother/sister combo we had as former investigators. No answer for the first few times we stopped by. Then, one day, we get the peephole (where someone looks through the eye hole, then walks away), then Mauricio comes out. We're pretty sure from what we heard going on inside that he was sent out to "get rid of the mormons." So, he got rid of us, and went back inside with a Book of Mormon and two pamphlets!!! We've met him a couple other times and found out he lives out of our mission, so we texted him one day asking for his address and for permission to send local missionaries to him, and he texted back. "I already found them. I'm going to church on Sunday!!!!" It was such a huge blessing to us to see the fruits of a finding effort we had that we might never have known about. It makes me wonder how many seeds we've planted that we won't find out about out here. It was awesome though. Elder M and I now have a reputation for being the Elders in the middle of the mission who do out-of-mission poaching (we've also given two referrals to the Richmond mission and one to the Baltimore mission).
This week also took us to new heights and depths. Heights meaning on top of people's roofs putting up Christmas lights and depths meaning.... I dont' know, we prayed a lot I guess, so on our knees is low.  Though there is that one quote: "a man is never standing taller than when he is on his knees."
Funny story. We were knocking on doors the other day, and in between doors, we began quoting movies back and forth and laughing at ourselves. Elder M was throwing out a quote as I knocked on the door, and the quote included the word "girlfriend." He stopped midway through as the door opened, and I guess I wasn't ready. The first thing I said to the guy who answered was: "Hey, how's your girlfriend?" yeah.... haha. I recovered, and we got inside and taught a lesson, but it was a weird moment. Moral of the story: don't quote movies while tracting.
We helped another lady set up Christmas lights. She invited us to help her daughter, who was coming from Richmond, and we showed up, and she made it very clear that she did not work with people and didn't want our help. So, we helped her anyway! She told us she hated us because we ruined her carefully constructed paradigm that there were no good people on the earth anymore, and invited us to Christmas dinner before the night was over! haha. It's funny to see what a little love and service can do for someone.
The big event was yesterday's conference. Elder Packer (President Packer's son) and his wife came to visit and tour the mission and gave us our conference yesterday. The other half of the mission has their conference today. It was great! I wish I could just copy my notes and memories onto here, but I can't. Elder M , one of our Assistants spoke first. He talked a lot about becoming the best missionaries we can be. Two of my favorite quotes: "How can we expect to have progressing investigators if we are not progressing missionaries?" and "If you focus on results, you will never change, but if you focus on change, you will get results." Next, Sister Riggs spoke about charity, how important it is, and how to obtain it. It was really good, and helped me understand a lot about charity. Elder W, our other Assistant went next. He's going home this transfer, so he really wanted to share his favorite pieces of wisdom with us. He shared how we need something to help us keep our eyes on the bigger picture. He showed a picture of a Virginia road - beautiful and covered in trees, though looking exactly like every other road in Virginia. He then showed us a road in Utah - with a mountain rising high in the background that was visible from anywhere. He talked about how we need to build a "mountain" of testimony so that wherever we are in life, we can see the mountain and know where we are and which direction we're traveling. President Riggs followed and expounded a bit on how to use Moroni's promise in teaching and we did some practice teaching, and I really feel like I understand how to testify and let the spirit teach more about that promise so investigators will understand and exercise that promise. Next was sister Packer, who talked about the Spirit and the little things we can do to help keep it with us. She is a very good public speaker and I learned a lot from her. Elder Packer Finished us off before lunch and took the after lunch portion too, and just really broke everything down as to what our purpose is, how we use that purpose, how we teach and testify better, and just did it all. It was amazing. He answered a lot of questions, too. Both questions that were asked by missionaries and questions we had in our hearts. It was great.
Our Sister Missionaries were given a warning yesterday, too. They were told that EVERY ONE of them needs to be ready to train by next week, because we're expecting our first "fleet" of sisters to arrive this transfer (what was that about objectification of women? haha :P disclaimer: fleet was not my word ).
Five of the Seven Missionaries from my MTC district were at that conference, so it was fun to see all of them, along with the other missionary friends I've made since then. Everyone was giving me double-takes too, since they aren't used to me in glasses. One Elder, Elder S who reported the same day as me, though not to the same district, has declared himself my bully, saying it is irresistible to not harass someone with glasses. haha He's hysterical. Sister E caught up with me too, and the first thing she said was "you look different. I hardly recognized you!" I responded with the usual "haha, must be the glasses." And she immediately shut that idea down. "No," she said, "You just look older. More mature. It's like you're growing up right before our eyes out here." That probably made my day. So much as missionaries, we try to improve the work that we do and the people that we are, but we don't see that change in ourselves because it happens over time. It was very comforting to hear from someone I've known since day one in the MTC that I'm growing into the man I want to be. Slowly... haha I still have a long way to go, for anyone that knew just how mature I was before I left :P
Cool thought for this week. We were talking the other day, and Elder M and I noticed something. We may not always be entitled to receive visions of God the Father, or of Jesus Christ, but there is something spectacular that we can have. In fact, we are promised it if we will just live worthily. We can have the constant companionship of one of the Godhead. The Holy Ghost is a member of the Godhead. So are The Father and The Son. What a privilege it is to have the companionship of one of the three members of the governing body of the universe! Think about that for a bit. It blew my mind when I did. It's incredible.
Well, it seems that every day I wake up more tired and more grateful to be here.  I love my mission!
Love you all! Merry Christmas!
-Elder Hodgosn

Monday, December 3, 2012

WEEK 31- its beginning to look a lot like Christmas

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!! We're starting to say that now, and I LOVE it!!!!! :D is up and hopping, and it's AWESOME!!! Go use it! They have ads all over New York City. Busses, cabs, billboards on Times Square, it's awesome!!!
You'll never guess what I found out here the other day. We were riding around out of zone (lots can happen on bikes when you're new to an area) and we found a HUGE Target!!!! It was ginormous!!! Like 5 stories tall! and I'm pretty sure there are roads inside of it, because I saw a car driving on the 4th floor!!! It was pretty amazing....
Thanks for the package! We got pictures with the Santa hats for ya. haha. Somebody was just talking to us the other day, and asked if we had Christmas decorations, and I told them: "knowing my mom, they're in the mail." Then we got this 6 foot Christmas tree!!!! haha it was hysterical. (For those who are shocked, it was a huge tapestry, it was awesome) Thanks so much!
So, this week, we took a family we're working with to the Temple Visitors Center to see the lights and a Sandra Turley Concert, and lo and behold, Elder Kyle Fletcher is there!!! haha. It was awesome to see him. He's very smiley and high in spirits; it seems like he's doing fantastic. The concert was great too. Sandra Turley is about 8 months pregnant, so she made some good jokes about songs about Mary and method acting. She also had her kids sing a number, which was hysterical when her 4 year old son made a "child noise" in the microphone, and her 6 and 3 year old daughters started smacking him. She also showed a home video of her siblings and parents singing together one Christmas, and in the video she totally picked her nose and ate it. I can now say I've seen Sandra Turley do that...
Some news from this week is interviews. I went first with President, and he at first asked how my testimony was doing, what I was doing to keep it growing, and what 3 things I KNOW about the gospel. He then shared why: We NEED to know those. He said to imagine how Satan must be feeling now. For the first time in history, the Lord's prophet is no longer praying for more time. Rather, he is hastening the work. He is calling for more laborers. Satan must be irate! Our testimonies are suddenly becoming even more dear to us, as his strategies will soon become more pointed. He also committed me to scripture study every morning of my life, with emphasis on post-mission life. He then looked me in the eye and shared with me how much he trusted me, and how valuable that trust is to him. After interviews, we went to get my glasses, which turned out pretty schnazzy.
The other day, I heard a song from White Christmas (very likely the best Christmas movie of all time) and I thought I'd try something from it. "When I'm worried and I can't sleep, I count my blessings instead of sheep. I fall asleep counting my blessings." I tried it that night, because I had a lot on my mind. (mission life can be stressful. Lots of things up in the air, and all these worries of things you want people to do, yet they still have agency, etc.) So, I fell asleep counting my blessings, and not only was I able to fall asleep before I hit the end of the list (not hard), I found myself waking up with the best nights rest I'd had in weeks. It was a great reminder to me of the blessings that come from gratitude. Just stop for a moment and think of everything that's going RIGHT rather than what's going wrong, and all will be well.
Last night. We had just a little time left in the day, but not enough to really do anything. So, we followed President’s advice from interviews. We knelt and prayed, then went where we were directed. We rode to A's house. We tracted into Ana last week .  As we rode up her driveway, she walked outside. "Hi Ana!" we said. "We just got up off our knees from praying, and God has brought us here to your home. Do you know why He would send us here?"   “…because my husband is sick?"  We didn't take much time, but explained that maybe God had led us here so we knew to pray for her husband and that we would do that for her. In talking to her, she'd also read a page of the BofM and was looking forward to meeting with us. When we left, she said that we were "very special boys" and that the world would be better. We told her that that's why we share our message, and she said she'd love to hear it :) It was so cool to see that inspiration from President Riggs :)
Have fun decking the Halls,
Elder Matthew Hodgson

Monday, November 26, 2012

WEEK 30- Thanksgving

 I've officially survived my first thanksgiving out in the field! I've decided that holidays are very weird as a missionary. All the other holidays so far haven't been too bad, but we were told not to tract or find on Thursday, but it was also made clear that it wasn't a day off. The solution? Service. It was hard to find though. Half the people are out of town, and the other half were preparing for family to arrive. It made for a day of riding bikes around and asking if we could help. In total, we helped one guy rake leaves.
That night, for dinner, we went to the T's house. J T was a missionary who served in D.C. South, and actually served here in Vienna for two weeks before his family moved in, and they banished him to Woodbridge for the rest of his mission. So, he's home now, and Sister T thought we'd all love it if we went there for dinner. It was way fun talking about missions and sharing with him and his family as they told stories from his time in the field. It was great, and there was a lot to be thankful for.
           J has been great, too, for missionary work. We took him on an exchange with us the other day, and when plans A, B, and C all fell through, he started throwing out ideas of things to do as Elder M and I were making new plans! That HARDLY ever happens with members !! haha. It was great to have a member who totally knew what work was like in this area and already knew who was here in the area.
            Mom, thanks for the package. I love the sweaters! And we're looking forward to Eggs Benedict this week. I was just thinking the other day that I wanted some, and then I suddenly had hollandaise sauce!!! haha. It was great :) Thanks. So, that package that I was supposed to send last week? I got it packaged, but we never made it to the post office. It's out of our area, so we need a ride to get there, and we didn't have one this week that had any time to spare for a post-office stop. So, I'll be sending that today :) btw, there are some "apostate" things I found at thrift stores (a couple books and a cd) all very cheap, etc. I did not partake of the apostateness, just in case worries arise...
          So, I've decided we have a doppleganger ward. We have guys in our ward who look exactly like Mitt Romney, Jeffrey R. Holland, and Zac Effron! It's pretty crazy. Our district leader was having fun with it the other day: "Man, it's a bummer Romney wasn't elected, that would have been so great! Go visit D.C. with the look-alike dude, walking around, four of us in a square around him all in suits and shades. We get phone cords and hang them over our ears just for good measure and go trompin up and down capitol hill. We would have so much fun! Walk into McDonalds, be all like: 'hey, get me a cheeseburger and make it free, I'm with Mitt!" haha. It was funny.
          So, big news of the week: I'm getting old! Tuesday, I was sent in to the eye doctor because my long-distance vision is failing. Apparently, I've grown near-sighted! haha. So, in order to keep my driving privileges, I need some glasses. I think it's some conspiracy about me not acting mature enough, so they thought glasses would help make me look mature at least... something like that... Who knows? Anyways, Tuesday I had an appointment, then I went Shopping around at a few different stores for glasses Wednesday with Elder Olson, one of our Senior missionaries, then ordered them that evening, and I go pick them up tomorrow! Sounds like fun, huh? Well, should be exciting at least, I'll be able to see road signs before I'm AT them :P
     The work in Vienna is hopping! Elder M and I are so excited!!! Neither of us has ever seen a teaching pool this big or this promising! So many people are open to the gospel right now, it's great! We're getting to teach almost as many lessons per day that I'm used to per week! It's absolutely amazing, and I feel so blessed to be a part of it :)
Vienna itself, I have found is VERY diverse. In my time here, I've seen some of the smallest homes I've ever seen, and I've seen some of the biggest buildings that can still be called homes (and some too big for that title, though they serve as a home for SOMEONE). It's crazy! Just a short bike ride is the only thing that makes a difference between the two.
So, two cute stories real quick. First one: There's this great family in the ward who signed up to have us for dinner twice this last week. The first night though, they had to cancel because their little daughter, Ellie was sick. Ellie is a very sweet girl who looks up to the missionaries a lot. My first Sunday here, I ended up handing out programs with her, and found a good friend in her (I always feel comfortable among children, go figure... more my maturity level...haha). Anyways, she wasn't feeling well, so when we were riding around on Thanksgiving, we stopped by to see how she was doing. They were off with family, so we left a note on the door that we wrote on a card. Her mom told us yesterday that she's been  carrying that note around since. Sure enough, last night when we were there for dinner, there it was on the dinner table at her spot, not a little worn from being carried around for a few days. I always love making people's day like that. :)
Story the second: We were visiting a member family to ask them the revelation question. One little girl asked me: "Do you have any kids?" After a little laugh, I explained to her that I didn't. I asked her how she would feel if her husband were to go on a mission leaving her and her kids, and she said that "he better not." haha. I told her that I didn't want to do that to my wife, and so I didn't get married before I came out on my mission so I wouldn't make her sad. She then thinks for a second, and says: "Well, when you get home, you should have ten kids! You'll be a great dad." I laughed again and told her that ten is a lot, and that I'd have to talk to my wife, too. She just said: "Nope. Ten. Kids."
Well, that's about it for the week. This week looks like it'll be crazy busy! Lots of stuff planned. Please keep us in your prayers.
-Elder Matt

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

WEEK 29 - Forgiveness

Wait, wasn't this just P-Day
Well, this week has been really fast! We've been going like crazy! We're still on bikes, now a little more bundled up than we used to be (the wind chill is the worst), but it's all good! We love being out and about, and being that cold is always a good way to know you're alive. I'm somewhat reminded of when we jumped into lake Tahoe in February after walking through three feet of snow to get there. ( my partners in crime know who they are )  It's not that cold here, and we don't have snow, but man does being chilled let you know you're alive!!! Haha

This week, our ward has a group of priesthood holders going up to New York to help with cleanup... I wish I could go!!!! I want to help with that so bad.... It really has impressed me though. This group is leaving Thursday evening, cutting their thanksgiving short, then they're spending all weekend sleeping in chapels and cleaning up debris. Work, vacation, all of that is being set aside so they can go help. I'm way impressed.
The Oakton stake has been remarkable in it's response to the storm. Last week, they sent up 35,000 lbs of clothes filling over 165 feet worth of moving trucks. They also gathered $45,000 worth of gift cards for the missionaries who are working so hard so they can have some good meals to support their good service! You should see the members out here, they're going door to door, visiting complete strangers, getting their whole neighborhoods, even their whole schools involved to help collect stuff to send. It's amazing to see.

Let's see... big news this week.... There's a lot of small news... we've met with multiple of our former investigators, and things are going very well there. My planner looks completely thrashed... haha plans change so much, it's crazy! It's hard keeping up with it all, it seems like something always falls through. But each time, the Lord gives another opportunity so we have something worthwhile to do and we keep Busy serving each day.

People are home during the day more here than in Ashburn, so we're getting to do a little more tracting and daytime stuff. Many of those people who are home during the day though are home because they have no job and have used most of the money they have on drugs... It's very sad, but it's great seeing what the gospel can do for people. Elder M and I sometimes play a little game we like to call "guess what drug they're on" after the door gets closed on us. haha. Some people are really nice on drugs though! We just wonder and hope they're as receptive when they're clean and sober. We had one guy who was high as a kite: "no drugs? done. No alcohol? that's easy! No sex? man, I can totally do this!" haha. He did show an honest interest in the gospel though, so we're hoping to catch him again earlier in the day, before all of that... It was really neat. He was so gone, and so incognizant, yet the spirit was able to be so strong. We were talking about it after, and came to find that both of us the whole lesson were just imagining him with his hair cut short, his heroine marks gone and dressed in white. It's amazing how strong the spirit can be when we just see people as who they can become; as who they were meant to be.

So, Saturday was not my day.... Did anybody feel a particular need to curse my name by any chance? Because it worked! haha I've gone my whole mission on bike just fine, then suddenly I wipe out twice in 20 minutes!!!! haha. The first one, we're cruising down this stretch of road and I hit this rough patch of asphalt. Nothing too unusual, but I'm watching the road pretty closely because it's dark. Next thing I know, I look up and Elder M is turning left in front of me! haha I had no time to react, my front tire hit his back tire and I went flying. I must have looked like superman! I was up there!!!! It was crazy. I rolled out of it okay, and was back on my feet before he came to a stop, but it was freaky! Then, not 15-20 minutes later, we're riding again and we hit this spot where there's a curb you hop, then a seep downhill with road signs at the bottom. Usually it's not bad, just hop the curb, ride down and shoot the gap. Only this time, I didn't hop the curb. I kind of just rode straight into it, and next thing I know, I'm just getting rocked as my bike throws me from the saddle! Now I'm up in the air again, getting pretty comfortable up here now with all my frequent flier time, and the first thing I think is that I'm about to get impaled on a road sign! Fortunately there was an abandoned telephone pole, and somehow I managed to grab the pole with my arms and my bike with my legs! Suddenly, I find myself clinging to this pole about 8 feet above the bottom of this drop holding myself and my bike up in the air!!! It was pretty crazy.

So, this week, I've been thinking a lot about forgiveness, particularly about forgiving ourselves. I have found that oftentimes the hardest person to forgive is me. I feel like I can forgive others pretty well, but for some reason, I have so much trouble letting go of things I've done or thought, and just forgiving myself. Even when I do "forgive" myself, I can't let it go. When I forgive other people, that's usually the end of it for me. As you often hear, forgiving others seems to free you from a burden. I truly do feel free, closer to the spirit,  better when I forgive others. But, when I forgive myself, I still just can't feel that way. I don't know what it is! Even when the thing I'm forgiving myself for is past and gone, It still just digs deep. It seems to be one of the darkest ironies in life that the things which no longer threaten us often do us the greatest harm. And it's all because we just can't let it go! We've repented of those misdeeds, we've taken care of them, they no longer threaten us, yet they still just destroy us. I just don't get it. Anyways, my challenge to us all  this week - a challenge I am also taking upon myself - is to find something you haven't forgiven yourself of. Then forgive yourself! Let it go! We can't change the past, so lets use it to our advantage! Let's learn from it! Let's stop wasting our futures by vainly attempting to change the past, and lets employ our knowledge of the past to help shape our future. I know that as we do so, we will find more joy in our lives, and those things which we forgive oursleves of will stop pestering us and allow us to grow closer to our Savior Jesus Christ.

As Michael McClean put it in a song of his:
"Letting go seems to break your heart
Though it will heal it feels slow to start...
There’s so much of life that can’t be lived
If you’re holding on to hate and anger deep inside
Let it go
All that is worth saving
Is love
Love will hold you tight
Love lifts the burden
And love shines the light
Only love
Nourishes our soul
If it’s not love
Simply let it go"
I promise you that our Savior Jesus Christ offers you love. Love is what's worth saving, so drop all that extra baggage, and just love. Feel the love coming from our Savior and offer it to those around you, and when you can, learn to love yourself despite the things you've done. I testify that by doing so, we will find the capacity to forgive ourselves for those things which fester and burden us.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Enjoy watching White Christmas Friday night !
-Elder Hodgson