Thursday, August 30, 2012

Week 17 - TGIM

You know you're a missionary when your'e looking forward to Mondays... haha. Such a great opportunity to step back, take a breather, and prepare for the next week!

I'm glad Megan and Rachel are settled in. Good lock to both of them!! And everyone else starting school for that matter...
Ah! I'm so bummed I'm missing Shawn's talk... I'll have to make it for his  homecoming..........
Prices are moving into our ward? Sweet! That'll be so much fun!
I had heard that Michael got his call to Tacoma, but I didn't hear october. That's so sweet!
Training is exciting and trying, but definitely so worth it. Greenies when they come in are so gung ho and number crunching that they often get hard on themselves (I know I did) when they don't get the "numbers" that they were expecting. Once I understood the incredible work I was doing with PEOPLE, things got put into perspective, and I became much more content. The thing about it is just setting an example and giving compliments whenever possible, which isn't hard with Elder Cannon.
Mom asked what happened to N. He went on vacation the first two weeks of August, so we didn't get to see him for a bit, and when he got back it was two days before his baptism, and we just didn't have the time to prepare him sufficiently. We're still meeting with him, and things are going very well. He ended up not going to Richmond for school, so he's staying here to hang with us :D haha. I totally love the guy. I've known him for how long? and he's one of my dearest friends. It's incredible how the gospel just brings people together. It's like that between missionaries too. There's just an immediate comraderie. It's amazing. So, we're still meeting with N, still helping grow his testimony, and we're all hoping to meet his mom soon and set another date. The other day, apparently, he was having a rough day, and just opened the book of mormon!! There aren't many thigns to hear as a missionary better than that, that he went there for comfort and solace.
 D is soaking everything up. We love meeting with her and love seeing her grow.
We met a couple new people this week too! Namely: S - who we met riding along. We stopped at a crosswalk, got off and walked our bikes next to him for a bit. We talked to him, exchanged numbers and left. He called back yesterday!! Just to talk, but Elder Cannon set up a day to meet with him, and we're excited to get to know him more. He lives in a different area, so we're going to  introduce him to the Leesburg elders, but he's an awesome guy. Then there's Lewis - He showed up at church yesterday with his brother. We've been meeting with the priest's quorum periodically, helping them go through PMG, and Lewis was there. we told him what PMG was, how it's a guide for missionaries, and he goes: "Sweet! I gotta get to know this! I want to serve a mission someday! I just need to get baptized first..."
Saturday, we had planned to do a few hours of tracting, and just as we were heading out, it started sprinkling. It was supposed to rain pretty hard, but this was hours early, and we didn't have our rain gear. So, we went to the church to get trash bags to put our stuff in our backpacks in to waterproof it, and when we got there, the church was packed!! We weren't sure why until we saw the hearst... we went inside, planning to slip in, go unnoticed, not disturb anything, and get waterproofed as we had planned, but when we walked in the ward, we saw many people from the Belmont Ridge ward. After talking to Bishop Lewis and Brother Cahoon, we found that it was one of the ward member's wife who had died. She had never been a member of the church, but came often and had many friends. Apparently a blood clot lodged in her brain and she just went. The doctor said she was probably gone before she hit the floor. It was so sudden. We were invited to stay and help, so we did, feeling like it was the right thing to do. After the service, we helped serve a meal for family and friends, many of which had little to no knowledge of the church. We tried to be friendly and supportive, and many people there began asking questions, to us and to other members there. It turned into a huge missionary opportunity! One woman even said she was going home to go look up our church because she wanted to know more! It's amazing. The BEST missionary work we can do, we don't even need to be missionaries to do! Just be YOU. Leading and teaching by example is the best way to do it. Nate even said that the other day. He said: "You know, you guys probably worry sometimes that I'm just doing this because of Sarah, but i was actually seriously considering it before I even met her. I just had some LDS friends, and I wanted what they had. They seemed so happy." Another thing to remember is sometimes it's our part to reap, and sometimes it's our part to sow. I may never find out what happens to the people we served, but I'm grateful for the opportunity to meet them and leave an impact. Btw, heads up to my friend T. Clark! The lady who's looking up the church? Yeah, she's a Nu Yawker!
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I just got a text from D. Something just came up, and she's leaving town for 3 weeks.... Bummer :( She said she can teleconference though, so I'll write President Riggs and ask him about that....
Now for my missionary thought for the day. I've had many opportunities this week to play the piano for investigators, members and others. It's been a huge blessing to me because I love it, but I started to notice a pattern. As I play,  when I turn around after playing  I  see wet eyes. It got me wondering: am I really that bad? haha. no, not really, but I started wondering why  music has that effect on people. Then I figured it out. Looking down memory lane, I remember many times playing the piano and finding one of my parents sitting or standing behind me when I finish in similar condition - wet eyes. My parents typically have wet eyes when they're really happy or feeling the spirit. That's when it hit me. Music is one of the strongest conduits for the spirit. I remember playing the piano for N, then being able to set him on date later that evening. I remember hearing music penetrate messages more strongly to me than words could countless times during "the Savior of the World." Music truly drives the spirit home. That's why i love playing the piano so much: I feel the spirit when I play. What a wonderful blessing to be able to share that with others!
Have a great week! Enjoy school (I don't have any) haha.
-Elder Hodgson

Monday, August 20, 2012

WEEK 16- I shouldn't be here

I shouldn't be here.
There is no reason I should be here.
I should still be in chemotherapy.
At least, that's what the doctor told me a year ago yesterday.
But the Lord wanted me to be here. And I wanted me to be here.
So here I am. Still in Ashburn, healthy as a horse, and training.
It was a year ago today when I started filling out my medical work for my mission papers. Everything was going really well. I passed the physical, the TB test and the urine test all with flying colors. I was just waiting for my blood test to come back. It finally came back, indicating that I was very mildly anemic, but that it was nothing serious. My papers were signed, I was sent to another blood test, and I went home.
The next day, I received a phone call summoning me back to the doctor's office. I was instructed to bring my papers. It sounded urgent. I arrived just as my test results were being pulled up on the display. This test was much more specific, and the results were much worse. After a third blood test, I was back in the same place, papers folded and hidden in my back pocket, my heart pounding ferociously as my doctor explained the situation. I was severely and unexplainably anemic. My iron was completely depleted and my ferretin was at 1/15 what it was supposed to be. And we had no explanation why. I was told that I should have spent a month bedridden already. I shouldn't even have been standing.
The timing was particularly bad, because I was leaving in four days for my freshman year of college. I didn't have time to go through some huge medical investigation. So, we made time. I suppose it could be a blessing in disguise. I got to spend lots of time in waiting rooms with my mom... haha.
Finally, I was called in for another checkup. Upon close examination, a large, chain of swollen lymph nodes was discovered lining the inside of my right thigh. The doctor instructed me to follow his hand down my thigh as he examined it, and it felt like a small toy train set had been surgically implanted in my leg. The color drained from the doctors face and he told me that for that many lymphs to be that swollen, we probably weren't talking good news.
Thus, I was sent to six more blood tests as my mom called my dad to let him know what was happening. I sat waiting for my name to be called with the suggested diagnosis prancing around my mind: Stage 4 Leukemia. The doctor said he couldn't think of anything else it could be. That meant no school and no mission. At least not for two or three years until I was in remission.
After getting my blood drawn I went outside to meet up with my mom, praying for courage to help her stay strong. As I walked there, the word "leukemia" was completely flushed from my mind. Instead, it was filled with other words; words from my patriarchal blessing. Words that spoke of my mission, my future wife, family, even some details of my future life in general. Then came words that were not from my blessing. They came as distinctively as they could without being audible: "Matthew. I hear you. I am aware of you, and I will fulfill my promises to you. You have much more to do in this life."
That afternoon, my parents and I were found at the Hilton home receiving a blessing. As my father prepared to seal the anointing, he prepared in his mind things he thought he felt the spirit whispering to him: blessings of competent doctors, and quick cures to this serious illness I had. Instead, the moment he laid his hands on my head, he said other words. These words I recognized, for they were the same words I had heard that afternoon. Almost word for word, my earthly father relayed the same message from my heavenly father: that He was aware of me, that He would fulfil His promises to me, and that I had more to do here on earth.
I went home and continued packing my room.
Monday I was scheduled for a biopsy, to go in and have part of a lymph removed for closer examination.
Sunday, we sang "Where Can I Turn For Peace" in church. The Hodgson family must have been a sorry sight...
As I went in for the biopsy, the surgeon examined the lymphs to become more familiar with the situation prior. Their size had gone down significantly, and he told me to go home and not worry because it was likely something else. Later that afternoon, it was identified as a parasite, and three months later when I was home for Christmas break, I had more blood tests done, all indicating perfect levels of iron.
What happened? I don't know exactly, but I testify that the Priesthood and the Hand of God both preserved me so I could be here. Now, a year later, I'm here, three and a half months into a mission where I love the people and they show the respect to help with the work here.
Last Thursday was transfers, and Tuesday night, a few of us were gathered together after prossing as we eagerly awaited the transfer calls. Suddenly the phone rang, and Elder R grabbed it, expecting the Zone Leaders. It was President Riggs. It took us a moment to realize that he wasn't the one who gave transfer calls. After Elder R answered it, Pres asked to speak with me. "Oh, crap." I thought. "Who died?"
He asked me to grab my scriptures, which made me worry more (and wonder which verses of consolation he would select). Then I turned to alma 37:14&47. I read as Alma entrusted his son Helaman with the plates, which he referred to as "sacred things," with a charge to keep them sacred. He then asked me if I would train an incoming missionary.
So, here I am, just finished training and now turning around to train again. It's very humbling, but Elder C is great, and he learns fast, then turns around and teaches me a lot in exchange!
President Riggs also implemented a new finding plan. We went to our bishops last week and asked them to prayerfully select 10 families for us to visit on a weekly basis. We visit them for about 15 minutes, and ask them if they have received any revelation regarding missionary work. We don't ask for referrals, we don't stay long, we just ask for revelation. President Riggs promised blessings for faithfulness, but said they likely wouldn't come for the first 3 weeks or so. But we're already seeing them.
The work is great. No unhallowed hand can stop it, and I doubt any hallowed hands will want to.
I love it out here and hope you all are well.
-Elder Matt

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Week 15- its planting season....or moving?

Sorry this is a day late. President Riggs lets us email on Tuesday if we can't on P-Day. We had a crazy busy week!
( a bunch of family babble and answering questions was here)
Anyways... Time for the weekly update.... though there isn't too much to report.
You see, This is early August, and school starts soon. That means three things: 1) people are on vacation 2) people are moving out 3) people are moving in.
We spent most of the week moving, which meant we weren't in shirts and ties, but it also meant a lot of work in a lot of heat. Quite the adventure!!!
Wednesday was our first moving day. We went to go move one lady in the ward, but it turns out she wasn't there, so the missionaries we brought to help drove us back to our apartment to drop us off just in time for us to get a phone call about a family moving in that needed help. Apparently, they drove here from San Diego and had no time to coordinate much help, so it was the family, two friends in the area, and us. It was quite the crazyness.
The next day, we were again moving. this time we were moving the lady who we were originally going to help. That took the last three days. She and her daughter were moving to Utah. Her house was simple enough, though somewhat of a maze of stairs. It was the daughter that was tough. They lived on the fourth floor of their apartment complex... and filled two moving trucks... So we got quite the workout over the next few days!! haha.
So, yeah. Remember how my leg was doing great and was almost better? Well, three days on four floors going up and down all day kind of backtracked my progress a bit. It's still not interfering with the missionary work, but it's hurting more. I set some alarms on the phone and I'm stretching it more consistently, but this Saturday is the six month mark since it started hurting, and every doctor I've seen says it really should be better by now... If there's no progress by this Saturday, I'll probably go in to see someone again.
In church this week, we were asked to teach the Laurel class... haha. We said we would be willing, but would need another priesthood holder in the room, so our Ward Mission Leader came and helped us. That was pretty exciting... My first time sitting in on a laurel class and I'm a missionary... There's a good story.
I gave three haircuts to other Elders this week too, and only had to apologize to one of them! haha.... yeah.... oh well... he was a good sport... "Nothing a week or so won't fix."...
This week, our zone got a visa waiter from India. He's with the Zone leaders, and he's a great guy. Visas to India are apparently only for one year, so they often come to the D.C. South mission to wait three weeks for the update. It's kind of funny for him, coming from there to here. Apparently, in his mission, if you're not baptizing every week, you're "slacking" as a missionary. Here, if our entire zone does that, we're exceeding expectations. haha.
President Riggs has started implementing more changes, and it's cool to see it happening. He really is getting revelation for us, it's incredible. One of his huge things he's pushing is keyholders. He pointed out the other day that he does not have priesthood keys for missionary work here. He was given keys for US, for the missionaries in the mission. Guess who has the keys for the missionary WORK.... The Bishops and the Stake Presidents. So, we're challenged to visit them at LEAST once a week and ask them what revelation they have received as the key holder. We're told not to stay for more than 15 minutes, but to stop by and do that. It really is kicking things into gear. It's incredible too. One of our wards, the bishop is there more when we visit than the other. Not to say the other is slacking, but we just choose the wrong times to visit. Even something so small and seemingly inconsequential is showing a difference between the two areas. It's amazing.
Anyways, we're running short on time, but just wanted to let you know I'm alive... Also, would you be willing to send me some more journal pages? Thanks.
Oh, another thing... If you saw me on gmail this week, don't freak out. haha. The Office Elders were trying to send me something that wouldn't allow, so we got permission to have it sent to my gmail. It took a bit to get through, so I was online a couple of times for a couple of seconds.... I'm playing the piano to accompany one of the office elders (Elder D) and Sister G at transfers. Wish me luck! I accompanied Elder D a couple weeks ago at a baptism, and he has an amazing voice, and Sister G had the desk next to me in the MTC, so I know she does too. Hopefully I can pull it together and not be the weak link in the number :P I'm excited to hear the two of them together though... Also, I'm excited to see how Riggs runs transfers!!! (We get a new AP this transfer too... rumors are abounding haha)
Love you all, and I'll talk to you next week!!! (Perhaps from a new area.... [I'll know tonight, you'll know next week, how's that for fair?])
The Church is true. I can tell just from helping people move. There's a spirit here in this gospel that makes a difference, and though this wasn't a week of teaching, we got to share that spirit with others, and I could tell they noticed.
I want to testify to each of you that you all have that same spirit. Just smile and let it out. Students at the BYU Jerusalem Center aren't allowed to proselyte, but the Israeli's constantly worry: "But what are we ever going to do about that light in their eyes?" You each have that. Let it out and let the whole world feel it.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

WEEK 14- Misionaryness

This week was another week! Of course it was, but this one was another week of missionary work!! I look forward to every week, and it saddens me that they're slipping by so quickly. I hit my 3-month mark this week, which means that - to everyone else in the mission - I'm officially not a greenie. :)
District meetings were good this week, and it seemed we were busy with something every day, but we don't have much to show for it. A lot of doors that never opened. Oh, well, that happens the last few weeks of summer. There will be more people home soon. ;)
Since I don't have much to report in way of missionary work, I guess I'll take the chance this week to talk about some missionary life.
Tuesday was the last day of the month, which means we all get our monthly allotments of money. That means that a bunch of boys who were broke, aren't anymore! So, we take some time out of P-Day, shift it to Tuesday, so then we can do shopping with money that we actually have. Long story short, District Meetings end Tuesday, and the entire Zone swarms the Walmart trying to get all the things they've been going without. It's quite the sight.
Work happens most of the week, with some small transition times in our apartment as we wait for rides, meals, etc. These are usually spent without shoes, shirt or tie to air out the sweat and heat, but we have t-shirts right next to us for when the door needs to be answered, so we don't go parading around in naught but our covenants.
N left out of town this week, so we're not really sure what to do. He's on vacation, but his baptism is scheduled for two days after he gets back... We're not sure how much to bug him. We want him to be ready, but we don't want him to feel pressured.... Must... Find... Balance...
Thursday was a busy day. We spent the entire thing doing service again. In the morning, we went and helped J's grandma do some stuff in her apartment, then that night we helped move someone in the ward. We tried to visit a few people between, but nobody answered and the time just snuck up on us. Next thing we know we're rushing to make it to the next appointment (rushing is a common thing, particularly in a bike area). This move we did in the ward amazed me. Yesterday in church, a priesthood leader described it as "ten pounds of dirt in a five pound bag." I honestly don't know how it all fit, or will fit into the new place (she's down-sizing). Nevertheless, we did as we were told and moved it all quickly and efficiently and didn't break anything we know of.
Friday, Brother P, the A ward mission leader took us to the D.C. Temple ! We get to go once every three months, so we took it. I missed the temple, so it was great to go again. I got some pictures (from the outside obviously), but it's even more beautiful on the inside, and I wish I could just stay forever. BUT, there's work to be done outside the temple too, so we headed back home.
Saturday is kind of a funny story. Some guy with Utah license plates offered us a ride. He was pretty built and was wearing a Redskins t-shirt.... Turns out, he plays for the Redskins! He served his mission in Toronto, attends the ward our zone leaders serve in, and his wife just had a baby. Sound like a good mormonad? I think so! It was pretty sweet to meet him, get a ride from him, and everything. Afterwards, Elder Ravia was just freaking out. "We just met Bryan Kehl!!!" It was pretty funny.
Sunday was another busy Sunday. Most of Sundays is church, especially when we cover two wards. It's kind of a bummer because Sundays are great days to contact, but meetings, meals and services take most of the day....
Today, we went to a BBQ at the mission home.  It looks slightly different due to the new owners, and we were fed pretty well. It was fun to get to know the New mission President and his wife  a little bit better, particularly in a less formal place. We played volleyball, talked, ping pong, all sorts of stuff!! It was a blast. It's really funny, their youngest daughter  (9) seems to love the idea of having an extra 250 big brothers. She was hanging around with us like she'd grown up with us! It was really funny. No shyness, reservations, anything. I was pretty impressed by a 9 year old who was that welcoming to a change like that.
Other fun facts from this week in missionary work:
-The police department has not called us back yet.
-I cut my own hair with a haircut set I bought.
-President Riggs is pretty good at Ping Pong.
-I ran two miles without my leg siezing up.
-We had dinner with a British family (I love the accents).
-I LOVE my mission.
Today, during the BBQ, President R finished up the day with a spiritual thought. He started out by asking us which kingdom of glory we want to end up in. Which one we REALLY want to end up in. We talked about valiance and what we have to become here in our lives. He talked about how what we say we want and what we really want can be different things, and that we need to live our lives in such a way that they are one and the same. If we are ready to live our lives in a Celestial way, then that's when we really want to be celestial. We may want to be the best sports player there ever was, but if we aren't willing to practice, do we really want it? Not really. If we REALLY WANT it, we will do everything we need to to get it. He shared some great scriptures too, and many more insights, but I loved that little bit.
It's really interesting to see the balance between the two mission presidents. President A was more of a "number-pushing" guy, but President R is very "becoming" sort of guy. Everything is about who we become as missionaries and who our investigators become because of our work with them. It's really cool to see the changes and the balances. One thing I know though: I love President R. He's an amazing man and I'm excited to have many more months to serve with him. :)
Love you all. Keep praying for people to hear the truth.
-Elder Hodgson

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

week 13- a daily does of the unusual

WEEK 13- A daily dose of the unusual

Mom mentioned my apartment looking nice... It's actually one of the lesser ones in the mission... They budget out an amount of money that each apartment is allowed to have payments for, and they spend that much in each area... So, the areas that are more expensive to live in,get the cheaper apartments, whereas in the poorer places, where the same amount of money goes further, get palaces practically. You should see some of the other places missionaries are staying.

So, this week was pretty exciting. Something unusual seemed to happen every day, which made missionary work difficult, but it was a great week nonetheless, and we had some amazing appointments, lessons and miracles (just like every week).
Tuesday, we had zone conferences, which were pretty normal, until we were on exchanges that night. Elder N and I  were walking from the church where we parked our bikes to a less-active's home. We were walking along, and he stops: "Did somebody leave a baby kitten there or something?" I follow his eyes, and there's a small, black shoebox in a storm drain, which is tied shut with bright green athletic pre-wrap. I improvised a tool to fish it out, and he pulled the box out. "I hope it's money." he says jokingly, then pops the lid. I can't see inside of it, but he looks a little shocked, before turning the box upside-down and dumping out a .38 semi with a full clip beside it. We called 411, got the Loudon County police non-emergency number, and had to wait there a while for them to send someone. Then we had to give them all our info, wait for them to file the report, etc. It was pretty exciting. We were very careful not to touch the gun, so no fingerprints ;)
Wednesday was our first interviews with President Riggs. Elder R went first, so I sat outside and talked to Sister Riggs for a bit. She's an avid reader, so we had some fun talking about various books for a bit. Then it was my turn with pres, and I went in. First thing he said: "I'm going to start off by making you feel a little uncomfortable maybe. I want you to pretend you're your parents..." Immediately, I start stressing. I assumed he was going to have me evaluate myself as a missionary from my parents standpoint. Not what I expected though. "Brag about your son Elder Matthew Hodgson for a moment." That was almost worse :P The interview went really well though, and we had a great time. He gave some great advice that's really helping the work, too. He said to keep the work in the same hands as the keys. Pretty much, he wants us visiting our bishops OFTEN, but never for more than 15 minutes. Just to help keep a focus on missionary work. As we've been trying to do that, things have been picking up already!
Wednesday night, we also got to attend an Eagle Scout Court of Honor. That was really fun for me to reminisce a bit on my days as I was working towards that goal, and to realize all the ways that scouting, and the experiences I had there, has shaped me.
Thursday was pretty sweet: I got my first death threat! It was pretty funny. We were on our way to go visit N at work . We go to ride our bikes over to there, and after going over the overpass (which REALLY needs to put up taller guard rails), we were at an intersection waiting for the light. Some girl in a car two lanes from us just started screaming. It really was rather interesting, almost entertaining, but at the same time very sad. Her confidence seemed like it was dependent upon the frequency of her use of the f-word, and she told us very clearly that she was going to kill us. The light turned green, and she drove away, then Elder Ravia pauses for a second: "dude, she was like 5' 2". That would almost be entertaining to see her take on a black belt and a fijian rugby league player."
I also found out that Lorena Bobbit lives in the area! Apparently, she's a cosmetologist who works at the outlet mall in Leesburg. Some people find entertainment out of saying that they've "been cut by Lorena Bobbit." They just neglect to say it was a haircut...
Saturday we were up at the crack of dawn. (not unusual, but we're usually inside). We drove out to Purceville to participate in a project for Habitat for Humanity. We drove for a while through one of the most incredible areas I've ever seen. They say that the Hamilton/Catoctin/Purceville area is where the majority of Loudon county's money comes from, and they weren't kidding!! I've never seen anything like it! There's behemoth mansions EVERYWHERE!!! And it's in one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen, too!!! Imagine for a second, Hobbitton. Yes, Hobbiton, as in the Shire, as in the Lord of the Rings. Beautiful, green, grassy, rolling hills. Now add some extra trees. Now take away the hobbit-holes, and replace those with "holy snap!" status mansions. That's pretty much the area.
Well, we arrived, and we were building a house, so we got straight to work and had a blast. They had us digging holes for some footings going into to begin with, and the ground was really hard and filled with rocks. Everyone was impressed with how I seemed to know how to deal  with rocky soil... That's when people finally started believing me that "Rocklin" is a descriptive title. After that, we prepped for roofing, and put up borders and weather stripping all around the roof. One guy working on the project fell off a ladder and asked for a blessing. It was another reminder to me of why we always carry oil with us. You really never know when you'll need it. I was grateful for my dad's example. Because of it, I was prepared. We finished the day by building a staircase, and went home to do some visits the rest of the day.
Sunday was church again.  some lady showed up in gospel essentials with her LDS fiance from San Diego. She said that she recently became catholic, but didn't feel right about it, and she wants what he has. We're looking forward to hopefully begin teaching her this week. That about made my day as far as missionary work goes. Sister S, the bishop's wife, just about made my day. She says to Elder R and I: "Well, all the good missionaries come back to visit, so you better not let us down! You need to come quick after you're home!" Though, we're not allowed to come back too quickly... Apparently, I need to bring a wife, or she won't let me come back... :p
I was invited into the priest's quorum to teach a lesson on Preach My Gospel. Elder R and I went on exchanges so he could be with that visiting lady, and I went to teach them. Opening exercises went long, and I only got as far as mentioning the format of how to learn to teach the lessons when suddenly: "There's a 3 minute lesson plan in here!" One priest says. "Can you really do the whole thing that quickly?" I explained how in the MTC, they often made us do it even faster. "Ok," says the YM pres, "we have three minutes left in class. Go." so, I gave the first discussion.... 2:58 :) 16-year-old guys are hard to impress, but I think I was close... maybe next time, right? haha. It made me extremely grateful for the wonderful MTC teachers I had though. I've used the 30-second and 1-minute first discussion a few times, and I'm so grateful that they prepared us for that sort of thing, because it happens! It's incredible. I NEVER thought I would be able to do that, but with great teachers, and the Lord's spirit, I can.
Just a heads up thing. When I was talking to Sister Riggs last Wednesday, she asked how our area was doing. I told her that it had recently picked up, and she asked what I thought was making the difference. I couldn't figure it out. I told her too, that I couldn't figure it out. We're doing the same things we were before. We're working as hard, we're praying as much, we have as much faith that the Lord will guide us, but something changed. Then I figured it out. Recently, our zone began doing "zone prayers." Every day at 5:00 our time, our entire zone has alarms go off on their phones. We drop to our knees wherever we are and pray for the work in our area, and in our mission. Ever since then, things have been flying. THAT's where the increase is coming from. It's coming from our unity as we exercise our faith and focus it entirely on the Lord as a group. I invite you all to join. 5:00 EST, we will be on our knees working miracles. I would love if you could join us.
Thank you for your faith and your prayers. Know I send it your way as well.
-Elder Hodgson

A “ PS”   From last week
forgot the single biggest event of last week!!! How could I!!! We had our first Zone Conference with President Riggs! Wow! I was totally floored. He is just amazing.
President Riggs is sort of running an "absolute" campaign. It involves looking at the scriptures and searching for "absolutes" such as "all," "every," "shall," etc. those are absolutes and you can put absolute trust in them, because they're absolutely true. Keep an eye out for that this week ;)
He had us look at a number of experiences from the Savior's ministry and find similarities. Every story was about the savior healing someone, but in each one, it said "he had compassion on them" or something like that. We're here to "heal" people spiritually, but we can't do that until we have compassion on them; until we love them.
One of my favorite part was when the APs spoke. They stood up and talked about the best moments of their mission. Not ONE of them was a baptism. They were all moments. They talked for a bit about how baptisms are almost anticlimactic (not to diminish their importance) because it's just a confirmation, or a outward manifestation of a change that has already taken place. This gospel is a gospel of becoming. and we need to teach it like that. They talked about how conversion is the same thing as being a missionary. You don't become converted in the 30 seconds it takes to be baptized, just like you don't grow from stepping off the plane home. Both are processes. Both involve becoming. Conversion, taking the discussion, reading and praying about the book of Mormon, THAT's what makes the convert. Working hard, persevering, loving those you work with, that's what makes a missionary. They had one elder come up and they held up a mirror in front of him, and asked him: "What do you see?" Then they took off his nametag. They then talked about how the nametag isn't what makes the missionary, but our process of becoming. Then they had the elder turn around and look at a picture of Christ. "Did you see him when you looked in the mirror? Because we did." It was such a neat lesson that they prepared.
Then, President Riggs finished up by talking about how baptisms are great and we're not trying to diminish them, but they're only a means to an end. He talked about the refining process with silver and how a refiner knows the silver has had all of it's dross consumed when he can look into it and see his own face. Very similar to when Christ knows we are growing to become like him. It was sweet.