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!!!