Sunday, December 23, 2012

week 33-My last letter home...or some would say

Well, this is it! The last letter I'm going to send home! The World ends Friday, so I guess this is it. I hope everyone is prepared!
My heart is breaking this week... the Hobbit came out... :( haha
Also, Rebecca, keep an eye out for a girl with the last name "Gustavson" at HEFY Fiji. Elder Gustafson is serving out here and came out with Elder Cannon! They're from Canada.
So, this week it seemed like nobody was home. It was crazy. Somehow, the Lord guided us to things to do though, so no complaints :) Actually, there's much to be grateful for.
The big event of the week is the Christmas Party. It started with Elder D and I trying to practice for him singing "O Holy Night." He was nervous because he was one of three singing it, and we needed to practice, but every piano was in use, or getting tuned. The only one left was the one in the locked chapel. So, I got a spatula, slid the bolt and went in. As we were leaving, President saw us. "How did you get in there?" He asked. Thinking honesty was the best policy, I told him I had picked the lock with a spatula. "Thank you so much Elder Hodgson! You are the man!" Apparently he was looking for a key to the chapel and couldn't get in. haha.
So, the program started and we had a talent show. Elder D nailed O Holy Night! It was amazing. Everyone was great though. We had a bunch of fun acts. We had piano, guitar, banjo, the Senior missionaries did a bell choir. Some sister missionaries went all "hip-hop" on "Far Far Away on Judea's Plains." It was hysterical.
Afterwards, we went into the chapel to have a testimony meeting about Christ. President called on about 8 missionaries to bear testimony. We also went over the "dos" and "don'ts" of Christmas day. That was pretty fun/funny. President Riggs is awesome. He's much younger than most I've seen so he still has a lot of lifeblood in him. He spoke in our stake conference a few weeks ago and started his talk with: "My name is Matt Riggs. My parents gave me a name that rhymes with "Fat Pigs." How cruel is that?" One guy in our ward commented with a little disdain "Well, he's not your father's mission president." "No," I replied proudly, "He's mine." He's an amazing man.
After the testimony meeting, we went back into the cultural hall and had lunch/socializing for the next two hours, which missionaries rarely get. It was great to see everyone again. We got a picture of our whole MTC district for the first time since return and report. It was great to see them all again. To see old companions and missionaries we used to work with. It was a great day.
That night, we had our ward Christmas party. Guess what was sung there? O Holy Night! haha. It's okay though, it's a great song. :)
So, the end of the world! It's happening this week. Anything that anyone would have done differently? I hope not. Everyone please, if you get a chance, read President Uchtdorf's talk from last conference. It's an amazing look on what our priorities need to be in this hectic world we live in. "Let us not wait until we die before we learn to live."
Now, lets get one thing straight. I don't think this is the end of the world. I expect to see my family on skype next Tuesday, four days after the world ends. But I think this is definitely a good opportunity to look at what's important to us in our lives. I've noticed on my mission that I miss a lot of things from my former life, but they aren't always the things I expected to miss. It's been a great reminder of the things that really are important to me, and it fills me with little regrets of things I wish I'd done differently, different emphasis' that I'd had, and it fills me with big resolutions to do better with those things when I'm home. It's a great reminder and I hope we can all take a little inventory to help get the right perspective.
Until next week. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Week 32- week of work

Well, this week was crazy busy! Sorry this is coming on Tuesday, but we had a half-mission conference with Elder Packer of the Seventy, so our p-day is today! More on that later though.
Last week, we decided it was our week to WORK because this week, we had the conference yesterday, pday today, and another misison Christmas Conference on Friday. then it's transfer week! :P so, this was our week to work! and work we did!... as much as we could... there's a bug going around... haha
We were very busy, and set a lofty goal for lessons, and only fell short by 1!!!! We were soooo close!!!! We also found a new investigator for us, and a new investigator for another mission. Funny story about the guy for the other mission. We were going through our area book, and were visiting this brother/sister combo we had as former investigators. No answer for the first few times we stopped by. Then, one day, we get the peephole (where someone looks through the eye hole, then walks away), then Mauricio comes out. We're pretty sure from what we heard going on inside that he was sent out to "get rid of the mormons." So, he got rid of us, and went back inside with a Book of Mormon and two pamphlets!!! We've met him a couple other times and found out he lives out of our mission, so we texted him one day asking for his address and for permission to send local missionaries to him, and he texted back. "I already found them. I'm going to church on Sunday!!!!" It was such a huge blessing to us to see the fruits of a finding effort we had that we might never have known about. It makes me wonder how many seeds we've planted that we won't find out about out here. It was awesome though. Elder M and I now have a reputation for being the Elders in the middle of the mission who do out-of-mission poaching (we've also given two referrals to the Richmond mission and one to the Baltimore mission).
This week also took us to new heights and depths. Heights meaning on top of people's roofs putting up Christmas lights and depths meaning.... I dont' know, we prayed a lot I guess, so on our knees is low.  Though there is that one quote: "a man is never standing taller than when he is on his knees."
Funny story. We were knocking on doors the other day, and in between doors, we began quoting movies back and forth and laughing at ourselves. Elder M was throwing out a quote as I knocked on the door, and the quote included the word "girlfriend." He stopped midway through as the door opened, and I guess I wasn't ready. The first thing I said to the guy who answered was: "Hey, how's your girlfriend?" yeah.... haha. I recovered, and we got inside and taught a lesson, but it was a weird moment. Moral of the story: don't quote movies while tracting.
We helped another lady set up Christmas lights. She invited us to help her daughter, who was coming from Richmond, and we showed up, and she made it very clear that she did not work with people and didn't want our help. So, we helped her anyway! She told us she hated us because we ruined her carefully constructed paradigm that there were no good people on the earth anymore, and invited us to Christmas dinner before the night was over! haha. It's funny to see what a little love and service can do for someone.
The big event was yesterday's conference. Elder Packer (President Packer's son) and his wife came to visit and tour the mission and gave us our conference yesterday. The other half of the mission has their conference today. It was great! I wish I could just copy my notes and memories onto here, but I can't. Elder M , one of our Assistants spoke first. He talked a lot about becoming the best missionaries we can be. Two of my favorite quotes: "How can we expect to have progressing investigators if we are not progressing missionaries?" and "If you focus on results, you will never change, but if you focus on change, you will get results." Next, Sister Riggs spoke about charity, how important it is, and how to obtain it. It was really good, and helped me understand a lot about charity. Elder W, our other Assistant went next. He's going home this transfer, so he really wanted to share his favorite pieces of wisdom with us. He shared how we need something to help us keep our eyes on the bigger picture. He showed a picture of a Virginia road - beautiful and covered in trees, though looking exactly like every other road in Virginia. He then showed us a road in Utah - with a mountain rising high in the background that was visible from anywhere. He talked about how we need to build a "mountain" of testimony so that wherever we are in life, we can see the mountain and know where we are and which direction we're traveling. President Riggs followed and expounded a bit on how to use Moroni's promise in teaching and we did some practice teaching, and I really feel like I understand how to testify and let the spirit teach more about that promise so investigators will understand and exercise that promise. Next was sister Packer, who talked about the Spirit and the little things we can do to help keep it with us. She is a very good public speaker and I learned a lot from her. Elder Packer Finished us off before lunch and took the after lunch portion too, and just really broke everything down as to what our purpose is, how we use that purpose, how we teach and testify better, and just did it all. It was amazing. He answered a lot of questions, too. Both questions that were asked by missionaries and questions we had in our hearts. It was great.
Our Sister Missionaries were given a warning yesterday, too. They were told that EVERY ONE of them needs to be ready to train by next week, because we're expecting our first "fleet" of sisters to arrive this transfer (what was that about objectification of women? haha :P disclaimer: fleet was not my word ).
Five of the Seven Missionaries from my MTC district were at that conference, so it was fun to see all of them, along with the other missionary friends I've made since then. Everyone was giving me double-takes too, since they aren't used to me in glasses. One Elder, Elder S who reported the same day as me, though not to the same district, has declared himself my bully, saying it is irresistible to not harass someone with glasses. haha He's hysterical. Sister E caught up with me too, and the first thing she said was "you look different. I hardly recognized you!" I responded with the usual "haha, must be the glasses." And she immediately shut that idea down. "No," she said, "You just look older. More mature. It's like you're growing up right before our eyes out here." That probably made my day. So much as missionaries, we try to improve the work that we do and the people that we are, but we don't see that change in ourselves because it happens over time. It was very comforting to hear from someone I've known since day one in the MTC that I'm growing into the man I want to be. Slowly... haha I still have a long way to go, for anyone that knew just how mature I was before I left :P
Cool thought for this week. We were talking the other day, and Elder M and I noticed something. We may not always be entitled to receive visions of God the Father, or of Jesus Christ, but there is something spectacular that we can have. In fact, we are promised it if we will just live worthily. We can have the constant companionship of one of the Godhead. The Holy Ghost is a member of the Godhead. So are The Father and The Son. What a privilege it is to have the companionship of one of the three members of the governing body of the universe! Think about that for a bit. It blew my mind when I did. It's incredible.
Well, it seems that every day I wake up more tired and more grateful to be here.  I love my mission!
Love you all! Merry Christmas!
-Elder Hodgosn

Monday, December 3, 2012

WEEK 31- its beginning to look a lot like Christmas

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!! We're starting to say that now, and I LOVE it!!!!! :D is up and hopping, and it's AWESOME!!! Go use it! They have ads all over New York City. Busses, cabs, billboards on Times Square, it's awesome!!!
You'll never guess what I found out here the other day. We were riding around out of zone (lots can happen on bikes when you're new to an area) and we found a HUGE Target!!!! It was ginormous!!! Like 5 stories tall! and I'm pretty sure there are roads inside of it, because I saw a car driving on the 4th floor!!! It was pretty amazing....
Thanks for the package! We got pictures with the Santa hats for ya. haha. Somebody was just talking to us the other day, and asked if we had Christmas decorations, and I told them: "knowing my mom, they're in the mail." Then we got this 6 foot Christmas tree!!!! haha it was hysterical. (For those who are shocked, it was a huge tapestry, it was awesome) Thanks so much!
So, this week, we took a family we're working with to the Temple Visitors Center to see the lights and a Sandra Turley Concert, and lo and behold, Elder Kyle Fletcher is there!!! haha. It was awesome to see him. He's very smiley and high in spirits; it seems like he's doing fantastic. The concert was great too. Sandra Turley is about 8 months pregnant, so she made some good jokes about songs about Mary and method acting. She also had her kids sing a number, which was hysterical when her 4 year old son made a "child noise" in the microphone, and her 6 and 3 year old daughters started smacking him. She also showed a home video of her siblings and parents singing together one Christmas, and in the video she totally picked her nose and ate it. I can now say I've seen Sandra Turley do that...
Some news from this week is interviews. I went first with President, and he at first asked how my testimony was doing, what I was doing to keep it growing, and what 3 things I KNOW about the gospel. He then shared why: We NEED to know those. He said to imagine how Satan must be feeling now. For the first time in history, the Lord's prophet is no longer praying for more time. Rather, he is hastening the work. He is calling for more laborers. Satan must be irate! Our testimonies are suddenly becoming even more dear to us, as his strategies will soon become more pointed. He also committed me to scripture study every morning of my life, with emphasis on post-mission life. He then looked me in the eye and shared with me how much he trusted me, and how valuable that trust is to him. After interviews, we went to get my glasses, which turned out pretty schnazzy.
The other day, I heard a song from White Christmas (very likely the best Christmas movie of all time) and I thought I'd try something from it. "When I'm worried and I can't sleep, I count my blessings instead of sheep. I fall asleep counting my blessings." I tried it that night, because I had a lot on my mind. (mission life can be stressful. Lots of things up in the air, and all these worries of things you want people to do, yet they still have agency, etc.) So, I fell asleep counting my blessings, and not only was I able to fall asleep before I hit the end of the list (not hard), I found myself waking up with the best nights rest I'd had in weeks. It was a great reminder to me of the blessings that come from gratitude. Just stop for a moment and think of everything that's going RIGHT rather than what's going wrong, and all will be well.
Last night. We had just a little time left in the day, but not enough to really do anything. So, we followed President’s advice from interviews. We knelt and prayed, then went where we were directed. We rode to A's house. We tracted into Ana last week .  As we rode up her driveway, she walked outside. "Hi Ana!" we said. "We just got up off our knees from praying, and God has brought us here to your home. Do you know why He would send us here?"   “…because my husband is sick?"  We didn't take much time, but explained that maybe God had led us here so we knew to pray for her husband and that we would do that for her. In talking to her, she'd also read a page of the BofM and was looking forward to meeting with us. When we left, she said that we were "very special boys" and that the world would be better. We told her that that's why we share our message, and she said she'd love to hear it :) It was so cool to see that inspiration from President Riggs :)
Have fun decking the Halls,
Elder Matthew Hodgson