Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Week 4-Virginia is for Lovers...of the Lord

Hello world!

Yes, the rumors are true. I am here in Virginia!!!

It was great to talk to mom and Rebecca on Wednesday, even though it was so short... Sorry I didn't get much time. I guess that's what you get when you guard the bags first. It's okay though, some of the other missionaries needed to talk to home much more than I did.

My plane landed in the early afternoon on the 23rd, and we've been running since! We went to the mission home for dinner, orientation, mission president interviews, and a testimony meeting. President and Sister Albright are amazing! I'm bummed I only have them for one transfer (and not even a full one), but I can't wait to meet President Riggs too!

The morning of the 24th, we went "street contacting" at Mount Vernon, which was WAY cool! Ok, we were being tourists, but we contacted a couple people... President Albright says not to tell too many people about it because he could likely lose his job for that ;)

That afternoon, we all went to our first transfer meeting! My trainer is Elder L, who leaves for home in just over four weeks. So, I only have him for one transfer before I get another trainer, but it's all good! He's a very strong missionary that is very good at just being himself; something I feel I need to work on. So often we get in these ruts of "I need to be this type of missionary." What I often forget is, yes, I need to be A missionary, and I need to be a BETTER me, but what's important is that I'm still ME. The Lord has called ME to this work, and I will be what the spirit can work through as I teach the gospel.

Our mission currently stands as the highest baptizing mission in the northeast quarter of the U.S., which is remarkable because two of the eight stakes we cover are ranked 1 and 2 for the wealthiest stakes in the nation.

Speaking of which, those two stakes are McLean and Ashburn. Guess where I'm assigned! Ashburn!!! So, I'm here in the hot, hot humidity, dripping in sweat on a bike in the wealthiest stake in America! Pretty sweet, eh? It's hard to push aside the stereotypes of prosperity and just have faith that work CAN be done here.
My first transfer is only five weeks because of when the presidents switch, so my second transfer is going to feel LONG! Everyone says the second feels the longest anyway, so now that it's seven weeks long, I'll have to stay busy!!!

My area covers two wards, the Ashburn ward and the Belmont Ridge ward. I'm about 35 miles west of D.C. towards Leesburg. Very wealthy area with LOTS of apartments and LOTS of trees and bike trails! Gotta love it!

My p-days are usually Monday, but because of Memorial Day, they switched it to Wednesday to allow for work. Monday wasn't hugely successful though because everyone was out of town! haha.

The work is long, slow and arduous. If I didn't have a strong belief that I'm here for a specific purpose, I'd be a little down. I knelt down and prayed, asking God for a confirmation that THIS is where he wants me. I got a very strong "yes! Keep working! You're on the right track, it's just not going to come easy" sort of answer. I know that there is SOMEONE here for me to find and serve, I just need to find them.

As I work here in Ashburn, I'm reminded of the poem of the stone cutter. He sits, day after day, hammer and chisel in hand, pounding away. For the first ten, hundred, maybe even a thousand swings, no progress becomes visible. Then, suddenly, CRACK! The rock splits. I feel like this is what the work in Ashburn is like. I'm doing SOMETHING, we just won't see any results until the timing is right, the preparation has been made, the time has been put in, then CRACK! We will find somebody who needs this message. I just need to remember that EVERY swing does SOMETHING, even if it's imperceptible to me.

Our mornings seem long sometimes. We have the normal hour each of personal study and companion study, then we have an hour of training for me since I'm new, then Elder Lafeen has an hour of language study (He's an ASL missionary). By then it's lunch time! So we don't even get out proselyting until after we eat lunch, which is a little crazy, but I'm getting a TON of studying done and learning a LOT!

We have two investigators. One is deaf, so I can't do a lot in those lessons. The other I haven't met yet because of scheduling issues.

We were going through the area book Friday night and found a STACK of teaching records that just end. We are no longer in contact with these investigators, and the records show no explanation for dropping them. So we've spent a couple days trying to track them all down and meet them. Again, everybody is out of town, so we haven't met hardly any of them yet, but we feel strongly like AT LEAST one of them was never really dropped, but that the area got white washed and they got forgotten. We have an appointment today with one of them. I'm excited! She's the first we've really gotten a hold of!!

Saturday night there was a HUGE summer kickoff with carnival games, food and fireworks! What an opportunity! I think we got in touch with more of our potentials there than anywhere else! And we may have picked up another investigator! A girl named S in the B R ward has a nonmember boyfriend named N who is TOTALLY interested! He has a book of mormon, has considered taking the discussions forever, but has always been a little scared of the idea of missionaries. Well, when we ran into them at the fair, he suddenly wasn't scared anymore! He talked to us for quite some time, came to church the next day, and says he just needs a bit more time but would love to take the discussions! Wow!

It's crazy here! The work goes SO much better than I expected! We just need people to open the doors! We have one lady who LONGS to be baptized, but needs to come to church and take just a couple more discussions. She's never home... One kid who had a date and just needs parental consent... never home... There are people READY for the joy the gospel can bring, they're just a bit scattered for the Memorial Day Weekend. Hopefully things will pick up soon!

The ward mission leader in the Ashburn ward is preparing us for some good work as well! Their ward is just finishing a 40-day fast (one person from the ward fasting per day for 40 days) for missionary work, and in sunday school people are writing their testimonies in copies of the Book of Mormon. The goal is, starting next Monday to pass out 20 copies per week for six weeks (total of 120 copies) with member's testimonies in them! How perfect!

Another fun fact! The Belmont Ridge ward is apparently the ward the Wheelers lived in!

Btw, I'm pretty convinced "Hodgson" is an east coast name. People can actually pronounce it here...

Until next time! Farewell from Virginia!!!

-Elder Matthew Hodgson

P.S. - This place is absolutely gorgeous!!! Did I say that earlier? If not, shame on me. I understand now why Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and James Madison all spoke it so much and so highly.

P.P.S. - Turns out with the beauty comes the trials. There are lots of ticks here! I found one crawling on me yesterday already! It's kinda funny, we have to shower morning and night and perform thorough tick checks. It is a serious thing though. We have an Elder in the zone who will likely go home at the end of this transfer because of Lyme Disease, so pray for me that I dont' get that because I kinda want to stay here...

P.P.S. - The weather is so fun!!! 90 and humid yesterday, then suddenly we're on our bikes in a thunderstorm and a torrential downpour!!! We took shelter at the nearest house, who turned out to be a member, who turned out to be Rose Dall!!! How fun is that!!!

P.P.P.S. - if you want to see one of my wards, go on youtube and look up "Forget you mormon parody." It's a music video the youth made about for the strength of youth. Elder L is actually in it! He's the short blonde missionary who gets annoyed at his distracted companion: D

Have a great five days until you hear from me again!!!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Week 3 - Becoming a Missionary

Hey everyone!
Week three has been sooo crazy!!! It's hard to believe that in about 45 minutes, I'll be in my residence packing for the field!!! Elder R described time out here perfectly: "The days go soo slowly because so much happens it seems like multiple days. But then you blink and the weeks have just flown!" It's so true. Long days, short weeks. Time has almost no reckoning here...
Tuesday night, we had an MTC devotional by L. Tom Perry who talked about the priesthood. Tuesday was the 183rd anniversary of the restoration of the priesthood, so it was a fitting topic. Wow. He is soo good! I've noticed too, apostles and other speakers feel okay saying things they wouldn't normally say in conference... it's pretty awesome.

For reference, here in the MTC we don't teach real investigators... at least, not that they let us know. We are to treat all of them as real. Our teachers Brother W is an investigator named Joe, Brother B is Keon, then we have had Alexandre, Melvin, Sherry, Betty, Maria and Amy in the TRC (Teaching Resource Center) and I've taught Charlie, Colton and Corbin as investigators among our zone.
Thank you all who have prayed for  Sister E. Last week she asked me for a blessing. Dad, thank you for writing her. Your letter arrived within two hours of her finding out her aunt and uncle died on Mothers Day. To everybody, please keep her in your prayers. The reason for her blessing is because she was given permission to call home, where she found out that her mother had checked into the hospital, likely for the last time due to her advancing lung cancer. So, the Elders of our district circled around her, and the Lord gave her a blessing that I was honored to be the mouthpiece for.

That night, we had our last lesson with "Keon." He has committed to baptism, but is still living with his girlfriend. So, we taught him the law of chastity, but never used the word "chastity." Sister Clark, one of our teachers really gave a new perspective for us as far as preparing lessons goes. It made things much more about Keon, and much less about chastity. Hence the interesting take on the lesson. The entire thing was about eternal families and the importance of marriage. After, we usually say goodbye in character, then get notes later, but he shut the door, told us to wait, then with tears in his eyes told us that was the best lesson that he has been taught by missionaries since he began working at the MTC. The spirit was sooo strong, and just has a way of communicating that none of us can. I mean, we're 19 year old boys, what do we know about marriage?


We had in field orientation Friday. We literally spent all day learning how to contact, keep records, work with ward leaders, etc. It was sooo cool!!! We almost just went home and packed that night, we were so excited.
Scary thing happened yesterday. Our branch president, President W had a bout of low blood pressure yesterday and, when he stood up on the stand, just fell over! It was really scary. We got him back up and made sure he was okay, then about two minutes later his wife walked in late. I could see him begging his counselors not to tell her, but Brother G did, and he went home for a couple hours to recuperate. He's doing well now though.
We had our two new cebuano districts come in Wednesday, and one of the new missionaries was Elder C from my BYU ward! What a coinkidink! They're all great, and it was a busy week getting them settled.  One of them in particular we became particularly close to. Elder S had a need to contact President Whetten his first night here, so we were at the front desk with him until about midnight. He's a great kid and he's worked really hard to get here. Then two days later he pulled his ACL, and he went home Saturday. It was really sad. We went to go see him off, and as we were waiting for his dad to show up, an MTC office guy walked in. "Can I help you?" we responded "Oh yeah. We're his zone leaders. We just came to see him off." And he replied "ok, you've seen him. Say goodbye and leave. Go back to class." So we had to say goodbye as we were getting rushed out. It hurt having to say goodbye so hurriedly and so humiliated. I expect people to treat us like we're still boys, but at the MTC they're always talking about how since we've been called of God, we're so much more than just boys and we should treat each other differently because of that. Then to have some guy who works for the MTC turn around and still treat us like boys just made us feel really small.
Blake and I auditioned for our song last Thursday. They said they loved it, but it was too long and they didn't have time to fit us in before I left... So, no dice, but it was fun seeing Blake and preparing it with him.
Last night, our fireside was the Provo temple president. wow.... That's it. He gave us such great stuff!!! We started a fast last night, then went to the temple this morning with his words in mind, and I don't think I've learned that much in one session since my own back in February. Holy Cow!
Dad, in answer to your other question, we don't HAVE to memorize any scriptures. Our guidelines are: "memorize many scriptures, but master many more."
Also, mom, we are allowed to make phone calls at the airport, so I'll likely be calling Wednesday morning. Our shuttle is supposed to leave around 6, so I'd expect to get there, get settled, and call by around 8, so 7 your time.... maybe... just stick near a phone. I won't have long, but I'll definitely call.
Well, I'm off to pack. Love you all!!! Let me know if there is anything you need. I can't do much, but I can write words of encouragement and I can pray, for there is one who can always help us.
-Elder Matther Hodgson

We fly out Wednesday AM so please send letters to:
Elder Matthew Hodgson
Washington DC South Mission
5242 Lyngate ct.
Burke VA


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Week 2 - Be a Tool!

"You're all tools!" Brother B Yelled at us during a classroom session, before grinning and adding: "In the hands of the Lord." Ever since then, that's been our goal. Be tools.

It's been a BUSY week here at the MTC. I can hardly begin to describe everything that's happened. I guess I have to start somewhere though... so, here goes...

Tuesday, I spent my first day in the MTC choir. And guess who I sat next to in the choir? Magda Elder!!! It's been great catching up with him for a bit. I'm guaranteed to see him every Tuesday and Sunday now, plus we have the same meal times, so I usually see him then, but he's usually on SYL (speak your language) then, so communication is difficult. As I sang in the choir my first day, I was watching the monitor they were projecting, and I saw myself in the choir. That was when it first really hit me: "I'm a missionary!" Nametag, suit and all, there I was as part of the missionary choir. Holy Cow, that was weird. But amazing.

Thursday, the Branch Pesident pulled my companions and I aside, released me as District Leader, and put the three of us in as Zone Leaders! Wow! Two weeks, two callings. I can hardly keep up.

We stay VERY busy here teaching. I've been talking to other people. One Elder that was mandarin speaking has been here for five weeks and has one investigator. Blake has been here seven and has two. Well, here in the english speaking department, they don't spend time teaching us language, so they figure: "Hey! Let's make them teach more!" We just picked up our sixth investigator Saturday.

By far our most difficult investigator is Alexandre Paul. His character is a Haitian diplomat serving as a consul to Nasau. In doing some reading he found our church, called Salt Lake, and wants to know how we get people to pay tithing. He's tough though. He was raised Catholic, and since has lost his testimony of Christ. He sees Him as a prophet whose job it was to brush aside the Law of Moses and all things serving as barriers between us and God so we could communicate more directly with Him. Then he says that the Christians put Christ back in between us and God as a barrier to seperate the masses from the relationship they could have with God. He also says that we blaspheme Christ by saying the greatest thing He did was die. It's tough. Tomorrow when we teach him, we're not bringing a lesson. We're bringing the spirit and trying to dig deep and find out what he has against Christ. When we pray, he gets mad because we pray in Christ's name, and he won't let us testify of Him. He flat out interrupts us. "No, I don't want your opinion, I don't want you to impress me. I want to know." He says. We can't figure it out. Thursday, we taught him the first vision and it was going really well, then I recited Joseph Smith's account of the vision. The spirit was SOOO STRONG, and all he had to say was: "It only says personages. There is no proof that it was God and Jesus, and even if it was them, it's not true because that shows favoritism as God favors one prophet oveer another." Holy SCHMOKES!!! ( putting your beliefs and feelings into words can be hard!)
D. Todd Christofferson gave our devotional on Tuesday, and it was phenomenal. He spoke of the doctrine of Christ and what role each member of the Godhead plays in it. I loved it. Speaking of the Doctrine of Christ, I'm putting a collection of scriptures that include it. If anyone finds scriptures that mentions faith, repentance, baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end, send it my way! There's your challenge for the week!

Another challenge. Does anyone know what Abinadi is talking about in Mosiah 15:1-5? We couldn't figure it out...

One phenomenal thing is how the spirit will guide you if you are open to it. I cannot tell you how many times I have not known what to say, but He has. Feeling the Lord literally speak through me is undescribable. A few days ago, we were teaching, and I had an impression come to my mind of something to say, but I thought to myself: "That doesn't fit in with what we're talking about AT ALL. Why would I say that?" But I couldn't push it aside, and after my companions had said their part, what the spirit wanted me to say was exactly what needed to be said next. He is the one they want to hear.

The other day, we were talking about the temple complex that Joseph Smith wanted to build in Independence. He planned 24 temples that would all have different purposes. Temples like we know and have, temples of education, temples of the prophets. That's almost come true here in Provo. We have one temple operating, a second that just had its ground breaking, a temple of education (BYU) and a temple of the prophets here at the MTC. A prophet is described as anyone with a testimony of Christ, so we're all prophets with a lower-case P! :)

It's busy here. We're all learning and growing so much. Some of the sisters are struggling, so please pray for them. There are some with low confidence, some with homesickness, and one who, as a recent convert, has sacrificed everything to come here. She is the first convert from Detroit in four years, and nobody else from her family is a member. Her mother is fighting cancer, and here she is, working hard to serve a mission, getting NO mail, and fighting to stay afloat. The devices of the adversary are strong. She, as a convert has something none of us have, but she doesn't see it. PLEASE keep her in your prayers.

We said goodbye to the first member of our zone this morning as Sister B left for Canada. The rest of her district leaves either tomorrow or Wednesday. They will be missed as they were our "big brothers and sisters" here. We have new younger siblings already though, and we have two districts of cebuano speaking missionaries arriving Wednesday, so we won't be lonely or bored!

Please keep the people in my mission in your prayers as well. We fly the 9:40 non stop to Reagn on the 23rd!!

Also, thanks to the Hilton family for the Cinco de Mayo package, and to everyone for the letters. They are worth more value than money, or even ties here at the MTC. Thank you for the support. Until next time, Be a tool!!!

Lots of love,
Elder Matthew Hodgson.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Week 1 - A Day In The Life . . . Or, Rather, Five Days

Well, I'm here! Absolutely LOVING missionary life so far!!! For those who were wondering, yes, Monday is Preparation day, so (until I hit the field on the 23rd) this is when I'll be emailing.
For those awaiting replys to letters, I'm only allowed to write on Mondays as well, so you should be hearing back soon.
 Well, the journey started bright and early Wednesday morning. I hopped on the 6:25 flight 2274 from Sacramento, CA to Salt Lake City, UT. I felt sick of saying goodbyes, and felt ready to go! Often people would ask if I was ready for my mission, and my response was "I'm ready to find out." After arriving, I was sitting in the airport watching the homecoming of two missionaries and, farewells fresh in my mind, I started wondering "why can't that be me? I HATE saying goodbye to friends, family, loved ones, etc. I'm ready to say hello again." But after thinking, I realized that when I'm in their shoes, I will probably wish I were just starting again. And these past few days in the MTC has only confirmed that for me. Just like it's their time to come home, it's my time to begin my mission and for some in the D.C. South mission, it's their time to hear the gospel through me.

After some last minute shopping and lunch with Uncle Jim, I arrived at the MTC and put on my nametag. Honestly, this was one of the greatest moments of my life. Donning a badge that for years has only been something in my minds eye felt wonderful, and my eyes welled with tears as I went through the rest of the check in process.

My district is Amazing. I have two companions, Elder R (first cousin once removed of my future mission president) and Elder C. Elder R is from Arizona and Elder case from SoCal. They're amazing guys, both with very strong testimonies, and though we differ in many ways, we have a lot in common.  We all three have open minds and are soaking up every bit we can get.

So, Elder C isn't actually going to D.C. He and Sister O from our district are going to Minneapolis. Among the rest of our district, we have Sister J, who the Petty's know apparently, Sister E, her companion from Detroit, Sister G, who actually knows Sister O (her companion) from elsewhere, Elder M, who has the best smile I've ever seen, and Elder B from Utah here who is just solid. :)

Classes are fast paced and busy! They rewrote the curriculum in August, and we're part of a new accelerated program. In the 5 days we've been here, we've literally only spent about an hour and a half to two hours talking about doctrine. It's ALL about teaching with the spirit, and loving those we teach.
In fact, part of the new curriculum kind of surprised me. We were told on day 2: "time is running out. We need missionaries who can bring the spirit strongly." On more than one occasion, my companions and I have literally abandoned lesson plans mid-discussion and followed the direction the spirit would have us go. It's powerful, but satisfying.

One thing they talked about right when we got here is not to waste your mission. There is a lot to be done and very little time to do it in, so HURRY! Though you are sacrificing two years of your life, that time is not yours. That's the idea of a sacrifice. If you sacrifice a lamb, that lamb is not yours anymore. This time is now no longer my time. It's the Lord's. Time, Money, resources. It's all mine that I am handing over to the Lord. So why not make it worth it? Bottom line, if I waste my mission, I'm just "disappearing" for two years, and loosing $10,000. I need to make it worth it. By making it all the Lords, I find that possible.

A typical day consists of 3 meals, about 6 hours of classroom time and about 3 hours of study time. It's busy, but WAY worth it. We also have some gym time, but because of my leg, I have been taking it easy. It's doing fantastic, but I need to be careful, so I'm not overworking on it. This means that I'm doing a lot of upper body work and I'm really sore :P

As part of a lesson, they had us write the first discussion in 3 sentences, and I'd like to share that with you because of how simple it makes everything:
  1. God is our loving heavenly Father who, throughout the ages, has revealed His gospel to us, which consists of the doctrine of Christ and blesses families. 
  2. Eventually, this gospel was revealed through Christ himself, who taught and atoned for us, but was rejected and crucified, plunging the world into apostasy like every previous dispensation. 
  3. God, in His infinite love, once again provided us with His gospel through the prophet Joseph Smith, who also translated the Book of Mormon which we can pray about to discover its truth and divinity."
I'd just like to share that I know that this work is the Lord's work, and we are merely His representatives. I have felt His power within me as I teach and learn, and would not wish to be doing anything else in my life right now. I love this, and can't wait to get in the field . . . as soon as my 3 weeks here are done, because I'm not quite ready yet.

Stay close to the Lord. He is the way to true happiness.

-Elder Matthew Hodgson

P.S. - do some studying on the doctrine of Christ, I have an assignment coming up for all those back home ;)

P.P.S. - some good quotes:
  • "Make your mission a WOW mission."
  • "Teaching by the spirit is when your lesson stops and the Lord's lesson begins. And that is when the world trembleth."
  • "There is a place in your life for the spirit, and if you don't fill it with the spirit, the world will be more than happy to fill it with something else."
  • "At 211 degrees water is hot. At 212 degrees water boils. Boiling water provides steam which can power a locomotive. But one degree makes all the difference."
I love you all! Carry Forth the Banner of Liberty!