Well, it's another week here in Virginia! And probably one of the most beautiful ones so far! Elder C and I have seriously spent mornings with our door wide open staring out at the scenery as we eat our meals. It's just gorgeous! I've NEVER seen autumn like this before! The leaves are all changing colors, and pretty much in Rocklin the green leaves fall in a total of a day and a half... haha Some of the bike trails are seriously covered in leaves, so it feels like we're just riding through the forest! It makes me feel like Luke Skywalker speeding through Endor on a speeder bike... except, he didn't have a message as good as the one I bring ;) haha
Quick note to sister Rachel. Mom was talking a bit about your thinking of serving a mission.... She said one of the reasons you you had for “not” was that you didn't want to do "what everybody else was doing." I don't want this to make your decision in any way, but my recommendation is you cross that reason out. Years from now, IF you decide to serve, you won't look back and say: "Wow, I did what everybody else did." Your perspective will have changed a lot. Your comment will be: "Wow, I was part of a historic group in a critical movement of the last days when I responded to our Savior's call"
So, my first testimony meeting in the field, this guy got up and bore his testimony of the miracle he witnessed to see his wife pregnant after many complications. They brought their baby to church this week.... I feel old.... in the area... haha
Yesterday in church, a woman came and introduced herself to me, asking where I was from. "California" I responded. "Where in Cali?" My typical response: "Sacramento area." (since nobody knows what/where/who Rocklin is). "No, where in Cali?" She says, then continues. "I'm from Rocklin." haha. Anybody know a Sister Hass from 4th ward? She was totally in Belmont Ridge yesterday!!! Haha
Two random, and seemingly inconsequential tidbits....
One, I found out that they have officially split the Hobbit into three parts, with the final part coming out.... ready?. .. .July 2014! Whew! barely made that one! haha,
Two.... well, this one isn't really as inconsequential... You ready for this?.... I'm in physical therapy!!! So, we were doing service for this guy, and as I'm on my back under a treadmill I'm trying to assemble, he says: "man, I really wish I could pay you all back for this somehow. I mean, you've done so much for me, and I'm just a physical therapist..." Then Elder Coates, the Elder who organized the service project pauses..... "Well, that's actually exactly what Hodgson needs!" I tried to dismiss it, insisting I was fine, I was getting better, etc. but he really wanted to help. So, next thing I know I'm still on my back getting some muscle tests done and telling my story.... Here's what we now think happened:
So, it started back on March 17th. We were home for Blake Magda's mission farewell, and I decided to go for a run that beautiful Saturday morning. Brother Keller's best guess is that I pulled my hamstring very very very minorly on that run, like enough to not notice, nbd, etc. The next day found us spending 4-5 hours with chains on as we snailed our way through Blue Canyon and Donner pass on the way back to school. I was driving during that time, and because of conditions, I couldn't use cruise control. Long story short, I spent about 4-5 hours with constant and varying tension in my leg trying to make sure we came out safe. Jump to Monday morning. I decide to go for another run, and my leg starts screaming. Thus begins the extravaganza. If I remember right, I even pretended to smack my face on a road sign just so I could get a break from my leg without telling anyone that I was hurting. haha. So, the hamstring apparently (and this is the part I'll probably butcher) connects to the hip three times in one central place. I'm told that my muscle tests indicate I tore my hamstring right at that junction. Now, it's been healing, but then I'll do something stupid and tear it again, then it'll heal, then I'll do something stupid again. Bro. Keller says I probably have a chronic tear now. What that means is that scar tissue is now building up trying to solve the problem. So, I now have a heating pad and a series of exercises I'm supposed to do 3x a week to build the muscle back up over the scar tissue that's there. Six weeks from now, I'm supposed to be all set! Provided I don't do anything stupid.... So, this means I'll probably be writing letters today during ultimate frizbe... :( oh well, I'd rather spend some time down now than a lot later. He said that if I continue to tear it, it will probably get to the point that sometime after my mission, I'll have to get surgery to get the scar tissue removed, then have to do 3 months of physical therapy.... My decision: 6 weeks worth now :P haha.So, I've done my routine twice, and it's already improved exponentially. I'm on the mend!
(BTW: Hint. This means I don't get to participate in zone sports for the next six weeks.... Which means I'll be writing letters that whole time... Which means an influx of letters would not be frowned upon ;) ....
So, we all talk about how some days we reap, and some days we sow, right? Well, this week was one of those "reaping" weeks. If you remember, last week I talked about D, the first door I knocked on as a missionary. We met with her again this week and came to know what an amazing woman she is. She began talking about getting baptized, asked if she was still young enough to serve a mission, and even told us that she had been going around showing "The Restoration" video to family members! She has set the date to be baptized on November 14th, and is changing her availability to not work on Sundays, which is a huge leap of faith to keep the Sabbath day holy.
Then there's T. Does anyone remember The family that owns the piano store? They hired a help at the store named T and he's been living with them. All it took was his first Sunday at church And he's so excited about the gospel !! . He's been a searcher of the truth his entire life, and feels like he's finally found it. He and the P family have been doing daily scripture study and discussions, and he's been coming to church every week. He even watched conference! The only thing is scheduling. …we are all soo busy. We were at their house for dinner, and As always, Sister P sent me straight to the piano. Best "time out" I've ever been on haha. Next thing I know, T is behind me listening (he's a very accomplished musician), and he asks me at the end of one song if I would play it at his baptism!!! Well, after dinner, we finally had the discussion, which went stellar. He shared with us all the little miracles to get him where he is today here, in Virginia, in the home of the P family, investigating the church. When we invited him to be baptized, his response was: "Why else am I here? Absolutely." So this Sunday is his baptismal interview, and the 4th is the baptism! Holy Cow! Miracles are happening everywhere! it has been such a blessing to know these people and watch the change in their lives . It's purely a blessing to witness.
To be honest, this has come at a providential time. Everyone says that missions get really hard right around this time, and they weren't kidding! I've been “growing” a lot. This may be a little out of place, but I wanted to share something I wrote. When I'm riding my bike and thinking, then I use writing as an outlet, anything can happen, right? haha:
THIS IS A LONG EXPERT FROM HIS PERSONAL WRITINGS : ( Matthew fans I know will choose to read it , but others may know that he just has been struggling a bit and is feeling stronger now)
"In the MTC, having the spirit is a wonderful blessing we all enjoy. It is just one of those things that is always there. Like a parachute strapped to my back as I descend from the plane. It gives me guidance and lift, preparing me for my eventual impact in the field. I know that my mission is not merely to make it down into the jungle beneath, but to thrive there. There are people in that jungle who need help. Whether because they are caught in the thicket or because they are lost and without direction, they need my help. I finally make it to the field, pumped and ready to proceed but, as is the case so often in life, the world I find myself exposed to is far different from the one I thought I saw during my approach. Rather than landing in a nice clearing, I find myself on an island, surrounded by a coursing river that flows past me relentlessly. I am so grateful to be in the field finally that I do not immediately realize the need for adjustment in my course of action. It doesn't take long to realize that I need to adapt though. Suddenly, I am yanked from my feet and dragged across this small island I am on. My parachute has caught in the flow of water, which is attempting to throw me from my purpose here. Digging my feet in and praying for strength, I catch my footing, and suddenly I am set. With a sure grip on the cords here, and strong rocks to secure my feet on, I have nothing to fear. My chute is still caught, but I am fighting the pull of it well. This is where the field begins to be more difficult. What was secured to my back as a gift to me - something I almost took for granted - is now something I must fight to keep. As the many gallons of water around me seeks to rip it from my grasp, I must fight harder and harder to keep it with me. Eventually it starts to wear. My body begins to get tired, and my resolve starts to shake. I hear movement along the shore. Digging deeper, I find a way to cling for just a few more moments. Raising my eyes to the surrounding banks of the river, I hope to see help coming. To my despair, I only see enemies. In this jungle are members of both factions. To throw in a twist real quick, there have been an estimated 110 Billion people who have lived on this earth. If the world were to end right now (which it's not), we could calculate that the third part cast from heaven to our earth is about 55 Billion souls. With 7 Billion people alive today, that means that to each soul alive, there are 8 of followers of darkness. Then eliminate anyone under the age of 8. The Savior's atonement covers them. Add more for being one of the 15 Million in the Lord's church. Add more for being a missionary. Effectively, we're facing 1to15- or 1o to 20 odds. Looks grim, right? Only if you're one on the dark side!. As I stand here, trapped on this island, straining to maintain my grip on this parachute of the spirit, my enemies gather around me. They stand on the shore stringing their bows with malice glistening in their eyes and cruelty brimming from their demeanor. They long for my failure. They hunger for my destruction. That much is clear. Suddenly, I am accompanied by someone. This person steps up and grabs a hold of the chords I so desperately cling to. As they pull, I feel my burden lessen, and I look up to see my Savior pulling on His load. Suddenly, I find new life. Remembering whose side I'm on, I continue pulling with renewed vigor. As we pull, I call to Him that we are outnumbered. He smiles and repeats the words of one of His chosen prophets: "They who are with us are more than they that are against us." Suddenly, I look up to see one of the canibalistic devils knock an arrow and fire it at me. I close my eyes and turn my head, bracing for the piercing pain of the arrow. It never comes. I only hear a clanging sound. Opening my eyes, I see another man - the one who deflected the blow - standing beside me with a shield. I call my thanks to him, and he casually responds: "Don't thank me. Your mother prayed for that one." Now, looking around, I see more men with shields. They stand there blocking the darts sent by my foes; the foes of all righteousness. Looking back, I see a multitude of angelic guardians - more than fifty in number - pulling on ropes they have fastened to the line which my feble arms are wrapped around. I realize I am merely a part of a team in this fight. I am not alone. And thus I am today. When my focus slips, and I look through the wall of shields around me, the number and animosity of my enemies on the far shore frightens me. But, keeping my focus firmly fixed on He whom we rely on keeps fear from my mind, and keeps me intently watching the things I am meant to be doing. Now, I stand, pulling on this parachute, trying to keep the spirit with me. The river does not pull any less, but my allies and I pull more. When we look behind us, we are reminded of all those who support and encourage us. We are reminded of the powers of heaven which are forever at our backs, filling our sails and taking us forward. As Brad Wilcox put it: "The task ahead of [us] is never as great as the power behind [us]." When we keep things in the right perspective, we realize the honor it is to be standing here, aligned with the great men and women who have gone before, and who are here right now. When we keep things in the right perspective, we gain the strength we need to continue in this difficult endeavor. More than anything, when we keep things in the right perspective, we realize that, with Christ, it is never about what we can and can not do; it is about what we will or will not do. For with Him, all things are possible."
It's been a struggle. Sometimes the spirit almost feels like it's fleeing from you, we have to fight for it so hard. I've never experienced this much growth in this little time. I loved the MTC, but if I feel like there's one thing I resent about it, it's that when I came to the field, I had been trained to think I was God's gift to the mission. Then, I get here and I realize that my mission is God's gift to me, and that I am God's gift to a few people here, just like some people are more of God's gifts to me. Long story short, I'm not "the one" out here who tries to help and save people. I'm part of a team; part of an army. It has been very humbling….
And boy has being in Ashburn helped me to realize that. In the MTC, I WANTED a rich area, because I was determined I wanted to go in and turn it around. I was going to prove that I was capable of thriving among the wealthy, even they needed to be served. Then I had to learn patience. I had to learn faith. I had to spend weeks writing down zeros in my planner after crashing into my bed every single night. Waking up the next morning, we'd hit the ground, KNOWING that "today is the day!" we could change a life. Then we'd come back home after a full day of work and draw more circles in the books. It wasn't until I had finally admitted that I had to rely on faith and that I honestly was okay with JUST HARD work …then, things started happening. Now that I've started to base my success off of my satisfaction in myself, in my growth I'd had, and in my closeness to the Spirit and to the Lord, the Lord is blessing me by giving me the desire of my heart: the opportunity to show people that with enough faith comes miracles, even in Ashburn. I just needed to grow that faith first.
I'm not trying to say in any way that I've made it or that the hard times are over, but just that after the two hardest months of my life, where I've literally spent weeks saying to myself: "just make it through today," The Lord is saying in His way that He hears my prayers and that it is possible to get work done here as long as we truly rely on Him.
I love you all, and I look forward to talking to you soon.