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.
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.