Monday, November 26, 2012

WEEK 30- Thanksgving

 I've officially survived my first thanksgiving out in the field! I've decided that holidays are very weird as a missionary. All the other holidays so far haven't been too bad, but we were told not to tract or find on Thursday, but it was also made clear that it wasn't a day off. The solution? Service. It was hard to find though. Half the people are out of town, and the other half were preparing for family to arrive. It made for a day of riding bikes around and asking if we could help. In total, we helped one guy rake leaves.
That night, for dinner, we went to the T's house. J T was a missionary who served in D.C. South, and actually served here in Vienna for two weeks before his family moved in, and they banished him to Woodbridge for the rest of his mission. So, he's home now, and Sister T thought we'd all love it if we went there for dinner. It was way fun talking about missions and sharing with him and his family as they told stories from his time in the field. It was great, and there was a lot to be thankful for.
           J has been great, too, for missionary work. We took him on an exchange with us the other day, and when plans A, B, and C all fell through, he started throwing out ideas of things to do as Elder M and I were making new plans! That HARDLY ever happens with members !! haha. It was great to have a member who totally knew what work was like in this area and already knew who was here in the area.
            Mom, thanks for the package. I love the sweaters! And we're looking forward to Eggs Benedict this week. I was just thinking the other day that I wanted some, and then I suddenly had hollandaise sauce!!! haha. It was great :) Thanks. So, that package that I was supposed to send last week? I got it packaged, but we never made it to the post office. It's out of our area, so we need a ride to get there, and we didn't have one this week that had any time to spare for a post-office stop. So, I'll be sending that today :) btw, there are some "apostate" things I found at thrift stores (a couple books and a cd) all very cheap, etc. I did not partake of the apostateness, just in case worries arise...
          So, I've decided we have a doppleganger ward. We have guys in our ward who look exactly like Mitt Romney, Jeffrey R. Holland, and Zac Effron! It's pretty crazy. Our district leader was having fun with it the other day: "Man, it's a bummer Romney wasn't elected, that would have been so great! Go visit D.C. with the look-alike dude, walking around, four of us in a square around him all in suits and shades. We get phone cords and hang them over our ears just for good measure and go trompin up and down capitol hill. We would have so much fun! Walk into McDonalds, be all like: 'hey, get me a cheeseburger and make it free, I'm with Mitt!" haha. It was funny.
          So, big news of the week: I'm getting old! Tuesday, I was sent in to the eye doctor because my long-distance vision is failing. Apparently, I've grown near-sighted! haha. So, in order to keep my driving privileges, I need some glasses. I think it's some conspiracy about me not acting mature enough, so they thought glasses would help make me look mature at least... something like that... Who knows? Anyways, Tuesday I had an appointment, then I went Shopping around at a few different stores for glasses Wednesday with Elder Olson, one of our Senior missionaries, then ordered them that evening, and I go pick them up tomorrow! Sounds like fun, huh? Well, should be exciting at least, I'll be able to see road signs before I'm AT them :P
     The work in Vienna is hopping! Elder M and I are so excited!!! Neither of us has ever seen a teaching pool this big or this promising! So many people are open to the gospel right now, it's great! We're getting to teach almost as many lessons per day that I'm used to per week! It's absolutely amazing, and I feel so blessed to be a part of it :)
Vienna itself, I have found is VERY diverse. In my time here, I've seen some of the smallest homes I've ever seen, and I've seen some of the biggest buildings that can still be called homes (and some too big for that title, though they serve as a home for SOMEONE). It's crazy! Just a short bike ride is the only thing that makes a difference between the two.
So, two cute stories real quick. First one: There's this great family in the ward who signed up to have us for dinner twice this last week. The first night though, they had to cancel because their little daughter, Ellie was sick. Ellie is a very sweet girl who looks up to the missionaries a lot. My first Sunday here, I ended up handing out programs with her, and found a good friend in her (I always feel comfortable among children, go figure... more my maturity level...haha). Anyways, she wasn't feeling well, so when we were riding around on Thanksgiving, we stopped by to see how she was doing. They were off with family, so we left a note on the door that we wrote on a card. Her mom told us yesterday that she's been  carrying that note around since. Sure enough, last night when we were there for dinner, there it was on the dinner table at her spot, not a little worn from being carried around for a few days. I always love making people's day like that. :)
Story the second: We were visiting a member family to ask them the revelation question. One little girl asked me: "Do you have any kids?" After a little laugh, I explained to her that I didn't. I asked her how she would feel if her husband were to go on a mission leaving her and her kids, and she said that "he better not." haha. I told her that I didn't want to do that to my wife, and so I didn't get married before I came out on my mission so I wouldn't make her sad. She then thinks for a second, and says: "Well, when you get home, you should have ten kids! You'll be a great dad." I laughed again and told her that ten is a lot, and that I'd have to talk to my wife, too. She just said: "Nope. Ten. Kids."
Well, that's about it for the week. This week looks like it'll be crazy busy! Lots of stuff planned. Please keep us in your prayers.
-Elder Matt

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

WEEK 29 - Forgiveness

Wait, wasn't this just P-Day
Well, this week has been really fast! We've been going like crazy! We're still on bikes, now a little more bundled up than we used to be (the wind chill is the worst), but it's all good! We love being out and about, and being that cold is always a good way to know you're alive. I'm somewhat reminded of when we jumped into lake Tahoe in February after walking through three feet of snow to get there. ( my partners in crime know who they are )  It's not that cold here, and we don't have snow, but man does being chilled let you know you're alive!!! Haha

This week, our ward has a group of priesthood holders going up to New York to help with cleanup... I wish I could go!!!! I want to help with that so bad.... It really has impressed me though. This group is leaving Thursday evening, cutting their thanksgiving short, then they're spending all weekend sleeping in chapels and cleaning up debris. Work, vacation, all of that is being set aside so they can go help. I'm way impressed.
The Oakton stake has been remarkable in it's response to the storm. Last week, they sent up 35,000 lbs of clothes filling over 165 feet worth of moving trucks. They also gathered $45,000 worth of gift cards for the missionaries who are working so hard so they can have some good meals to support their good service! You should see the members out here, they're going door to door, visiting complete strangers, getting their whole neighborhoods, even their whole schools involved to help collect stuff to send. It's amazing to see.

Let's see... big news this week.... There's a lot of small news... we've met with multiple of our former investigators, and things are going very well there. My planner looks completely thrashed... haha plans change so much, it's crazy! It's hard keeping up with it all, it seems like something always falls through. But each time, the Lord gives another opportunity so we have something worthwhile to do and we keep Busy serving each day.

People are home during the day more here than in Ashburn, so we're getting to do a little more tracting and daytime stuff. Many of those people who are home during the day though are home because they have no job and have used most of the money they have on drugs... It's very sad, but it's great seeing what the gospel can do for people. Elder M and I sometimes play a little game we like to call "guess what drug they're on" after the door gets closed on us. haha. Some people are really nice on drugs though! We just wonder and hope they're as receptive when they're clean and sober. We had one guy who was high as a kite: "no drugs? done. No alcohol? that's easy! No sex? man, I can totally do this!" haha. He did show an honest interest in the gospel though, so we're hoping to catch him again earlier in the day, before all of that... It was really neat. He was so gone, and so incognizant, yet the spirit was able to be so strong. We were talking about it after, and came to find that both of us the whole lesson were just imagining him with his hair cut short, his heroine marks gone and dressed in white. It's amazing how strong the spirit can be when we just see people as who they can become; as who they were meant to be.

So, Saturday was not my day.... Did anybody feel a particular need to curse my name by any chance? Because it worked! haha I've gone my whole mission on bike just fine, then suddenly I wipe out twice in 20 minutes!!!! haha. The first one, we're cruising down this stretch of road and I hit this rough patch of asphalt. Nothing too unusual, but I'm watching the road pretty closely because it's dark. Next thing I know, I look up and Elder M is turning left in front of me! haha I had no time to react, my front tire hit his back tire and I went flying. I must have looked like superman! I was up there!!!! It was crazy. I rolled out of it okay, and was back on my feet before he came to a stop, but it was freaky! Then, not 15-20 minutes later, we're riding again and we hit this spot where there's a curb you hop, then a seep downhill with road signs at the bottom. Usually it's not bad, just hop the curb, ride down and shoot the gap. Only this time, I didn't hop the curb. I kind of just rode straight into it, and next thing I know, I'm just getting rocked as my bike throws me from the saddle! Now I'm up in the air again, getting pretty comfortable up here now with all my frequent flier time, and the first thing I think is that I'm about to get impaled on a road sign! Fortunately there was an abandoned telephone pole, and somehow I managed to grab the pole with my arms and my bike with my legs! Suddenly, I find myself clinging to this pole about 8 feet above the bottom of this drop holding myself and my bike up in the air!!! It was pretty crazy.

So, this week, I've been thinking a lot about forgiveness, particularly about forgiving ourselves. I have found that oftentimes the hardest person to forgive is me. I feel like I can forgive others pretty well, but for some reason, I have so much trouble letting go of things I've done or thought, and just forgiving myself. Even when I do "forgive" myself, I can't let it go. When I forgive other people, that's usually the end of it for me. As you often hear, forgiving others seems to free you from a burden. I truly do feel free, closer to the spirit,  better when I forgive others. But, when I forgive myself, I still just can't feel that way. I don't know what it is! Even when the thing I'm forgiving myself for is past and gone, It still just digs deep. It seems to be one of the darkest ironies in life that the things which no longer threaten us often do us the greatest harm. And it's all because we just can't let it go! We've repented of those misdeeds, we've taken care of them, they no longer threaten us, yet they still just destroy us. I just don't get it. Anyways, my challenge to us all  this week - a challenge I am also taking upon myself - is to find something you haven't forgiven yourself of. Then forgive yourself! Let it go! We can't change the past, so lets use it to our advantage! Let's learn from it! Let's stop wasting our futures by vainly attempting to change the past, and lets employ our knowledge of the past to help shape our future. I know that as we do so, we will find more joy in our lives, and those things which we forgive oursleves of will stop pestering us and allow us to grow closer to our Savior Jesus Christ.

As Michael McClean put it in a song of his:
"Letting go seems to break your heart
Though it will heal it feels slow to start...
There’s so much of life that can’t be lived
If you’re holding on to hate and anger deep inside
Let it go
All that is worth saving
Is love
Love will hold you tight
Love lifts the burden
And love shines the light
Only love
Nourishes our soul
If it’s not love
Simply let it go"
I promise you that our Savior Jesus Christ offers you love. Love is what's worth saving, so drop all that extra baggage, and just love. Feel the love coming from our Savior and offer it to those around you, and when you can, learn to love yourself despite the things you've done. I testify that by doing so, we will find the capacity to forgive ourselves for those things which fester and burden us.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Enjoy watching White Christmas Friday night !
-Elder Hodgson

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

WEEk 28- Vienna

Well, another week has come and gone, and I have officially left my Greenie area!!!
Yes, you heard that right, I actually left....
Like, I'm not there anymore....
That's so weird! That's been my whole mission so far!
It was really sad saying goodbye to the people I've come to love, but it was also very exciting that I have the opportunity to be somewhere new. My first couple days in the new area seemed like an exchange, but I'm all settled in now and working hard!
My new companion is Elder M from Riverside (specifically Perris), California. He's been out one transfer so far, so I'm finishing his training process. So, I'm still a trainer! I love training, it's so awesome :) We're serving in the Oakton stake/zone in the Vienna ward. I thought I was getting transferred to Austria at first haha.
Funny story .... Elder C ( my last companion)  totally knows Shawn’s MTC companion!!

Alrighty, so I'm in Vienna now. It was pretty cool, I showed up just in time for a baptism they had scheduled. It was wonderful to meet this new convert and be a part of her process, even if it was just a small part. We're still on bikes here. It was a car area until I got here, haha. apparently, the sister missionaries needed a car.  It's a small area, so it's all good, it's just a little more treacherous for cyclists... busier roads, we live next to the freeway, sketchier sidewalks that provide a nice massage, etc. haha Vienna reminds me a lot of Carmichael in look and feel, except, imagine a lot more trees that are a lot bigger. (they don't call it Oak-ton zone for nothing! It's even earned the nickname O-Zone, likely because of the amount of oxygen it contributes.... or because missionaries took the first letter of the word "Oakton" and put "zone" behind it since it's a zone in the mission.... I've yet to figure it out...)
So, funny story, My first sacrament meeting here, the bishop asks me to stand up so people can get to know my face. He asks everyone to give a welcome to the new Elder Hodgson, and this lady in the back just starts waving at me like crazy with this huge smile on her face... Whaaatt theee.... THAT'S JANNA HARGADON!!! haha. The Hargadons were totally in Vienna ward last Sunday! We also have an elder here who just went home. He was serving in Vienna ward, when President got a call from his family: "We need you to transfer our son. We'll be going to a different building this Sunday, but we're moving into the Vienna ward." So, he just finished his mission, and he's home here in Vienna now, and he's a HUGE asset to work here. He served here, so he knows a lot of people we've worked with, and he's a great missionary and willing to help with anything.
The work is going sooooo well out here! Sister Riggs asked us to open up our area books and go through our former investigators. She felt very inspired that many people in that group are now ready .   She was totally right. Since I got here, we've pretty much been doing that like crazy, and we already have three new investigators who are very interesting in hearing our message. Elder M has the area organized so well in the paper trail he's created, so it's a pretty solid ship we're running right now. I've been way impressed. I'm pretty sure he came pre-trained :) He's hysterical, too. He wrote in the area book for a lesson we taught the other day: "[name omitted] may or may not have been, but definitely was, high during our lesson." haha. It was great.
Our apartment is right next to the Metro Station here in Vienna, so we're hoping for a trip or two into D.C. :) Funny story: last week when we were on our way home from that same station, we were about 100 yards down the road. We're stuck in a parking lot that's supposed to be a freeway (yes, traffic was that bad), and this guy in the van next to us looks at us, sees we're missionaries, sets a handgun on the dash in front of him and starts drumming it with his fingers!!! haha Pretty sketchy situation to be in when the traffic flow is completely stopped... :)
We're way excited too, because we're taking one of our investigators to the temple visitors center on Thursday. It's my first time taking an investigator there, so I'm excited to see how it is!      We're very excited for our investigator to feel the spirit though and to have him be a part of the fantastic experience at the visitors center.
Man, I love my mission. It's so exciting waking up every day to something new that we get to be a part of! We're literally fulfilling prophecies in the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Book of Mormon by our service here, and it's an awesome thing to be a part of. I absolutely love it. The spirit is just so strong, and the experiences and friends we make will last a lifetime. I just don't want this to ever end. When my two years are up, I think I'll just stay.
Until next week from Vienna!
-Elder Hodgson

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

WEEK 27 - The Lord Prepares his servants

Well, it's been busy lately! We get our transfer calls tonight, so I'll find out whether I'm staying or going.... but, you'll have to all wait a bit longer!!! bwahahaha!
Yeah, so we're all taking guesses and stuff, it's pretty fun. Everyone seems to agree on the fact that I'm leaving, so it's probably a pretty safe bet.... I've been here 6 months, I'm finishing training and they'll want elder Cannon to lead an area, etc. Of course, now that I've said that, I'll end up staying, haha.

Mom, your voice is officially in my head.... haha Remember how you always said it would be one day? It seems I always hear you reminding to brush my teeth and stuff.... haha don't worry, you tell me you love me sometimes, too ;)
So, we went to Washington D.C. yesterday for P-Day, which was way fun! It was two of our group of four's first time, so I wasn't the only wide-eyed kid in the group :) It was cool seeing interviews going on all up and down the mall the day before the election. We were even asked to participate in one! But we had to say no because we're missionaries... it was a bummer, haha.
Well, I hit my six month mark this last week, which was kind of.... weird.... I don't feel like I am.  I have so much to learn still!!! What's really weird, is that some magical thing happens at six months... people think I know what I'm doing now... haha All of a sudden, I'm no longer "new" by definitions out here.... and it all happened in like a day! haha some things about mission life are very odd....

Tony had his baptism Sunday night, and it was fantastic. The spirit was so strong, I didn't want it to end! And it almost didn't, it went on for two hours! But it all seemed so short! The talks and testimonies were just so wonderful! Tony is definitely a strong convert to the gospel, it's a blessing to be a part of.

We expected to be doing a lot of service this week due to the storm. Nope, haha. There's like NO damage here! One member though was on a cruise during the storm... He showed us some videos, it was insane out there! haha. The ships pool just wouldn't stay in the same place! The water was everywhere! the cruise of 2200 people ended up only being like 550, so I guess he practically had the ship to himself, but EVERYONE was sick, and the waves out on the ocean looked like something from a movie! They were Gigantic! One girl we met in D.C. too showed us a picture of her younger brother in New York New York South. Looks like THEY have some service to do!!! haha. Tyler is definitely busy with that right now I bet....

This week, I wanted to share a bit about how the Lord prepares us for the things he needs us to do. That has always been plain to me, but it's shown up so often this week. It's all in the little things. I've earned a spot as Ashburn's bicycle repairman for the Elders who have bike problems. And, so far, every repair I've done is something I learned either on or in preparation for the tour my priest's quorum did. My dad taught me some things in the weeks prior, my leaders taught me some on the trip, and some I figured out on the side of the road, but because of that bike trip, I've known what to do to fix these bikes that are such a great asset to our work. Then, last Thursday, I ended up fixing a lawn mower... My mind was drawn back to when I was in 8th grade... I signed up for a Saturday morning/afternoon class about lawn mower engines.... and why?!? haha Why would a 13 year old kid spend a large portion of their Saturday learning about the engines in a lawn mower?! Because I thought it would be interesting, I guess.... I remember thinking to myself that day as well: "I might need to know this someday...." And I did. The Lord works in mysterious ways, but He puts us where we need to be when we need to be there so we can do what we need to do.
Another example of that has been with Tony. As we've been working with him and the Purdon family, we've been essentially a gathering of musicians talking about the gospel. Because of my background in music, I can, with the help of the spirit, explain things using musical analogies and other explanations and relate them to Tony in a way that I never could have otherwise. On top of that, the Lord has blessed me with a gift in piano performance that has proved one of my strongest tools here in the mission field. Brother Purdon said it this way: "One of the ways the spirit communicates to us is through music. Missionaries have an added measure of the spirit in all aspects of their life, so when they play music, it's as if the spirit itself were to play it and drive it home straight to our very hearts."   Bishop Smith said at Tony's baptism: "So often musicians strive for perfection in everything they do, like most artists. I have both a daughter and a son-in-law who are majoring in music performance, and I have heard some phenomenal musicians in my day, but I have not heard anything like the music we have heard tonight when beautiful music was accompanied by the Spirit of God." 
The Spirit makes all the difference.
 I have been blessed from a young age with the ability to play the piano, but I have never experienced anything like playing for investigators and for Tony's baptism. The minute I stop playing for me, or for somebody in the audience, and start playing for the Spirit and for the Lord, something happens that I can't quite explain, but is very special. It seems as if - without being perfect - the music just happens. I'm no longer playing something from the music I see in front of me, I'm playing something that I feel inside of me. The piano just seems to become a part of me responding to little things I feel prompted to make it do. It seems I have played the piano forever, but when I have the spirit with me like that, it is something special   The Lord can make it sing. He helps me bring the song of my heart into fruition. It's a beautiful thing to be a part of, and I'm always very sad when a song ends. Long story short, the Lord prepares us. He has given me the opportunities to build the skills I needed to be able to bear my testimony through my music. He has prepared us in all things, and he has prepared people for us to meet and teach that we are especially prepared for. It's a fantastic thing to be a part of.
I love you all and I'll talk to you soon! Maybe from my second area... haha
-Elder Matt