Monday, December 30, 2013

Week 87- Christmas in Virginia

Whew!! What a crazy week!! We have been SUPER busy!! We were doing the parking at the temple for the last time Monday, so we moved our preparation day to Tuesday, which for us was shopping and a much-needed nap. :P

Christmas eve we went caroling with our district, which was way fun. Not gonna lie, we sounded pretty good for a group of 19-21 year olds ! haha It was a blast though just bringing some Christmas cheer around.

 Christmas morning we went to Bishop Leonard's home where they had a wonderful breakfast for us and let us skype home which was awesome as usual. Elder Riggs and I were a little fried after when we realized that the next time we see our family won't be over skype, but hey, life goes on :) 

After breakfast we went to a retirement community and played pokeno and sang Christmas carols! I really miss doing that more frequently with TNT, so I really loved doing that again. It was amazing.

Then, in the evening, we threw a Christmas party!!! There was a group of missionaries who didn't have anywhere to go on Christmas, so we (with permission) threw a party for all of them!! We watched the Emperor’s new groove and had a white elephant gift exchange. It was super fun!! Elder Riggs and I realized we kind of miss throwing parties! They're a total blast! I forgot all about that!! haha

The rest of the week, we've just been working super hard!! We've been talking a lot about establishing the mission culture that we want in the mission, and one culture we want to improve on is a culture of talking to everyone. So, that starts with us! Elder Riggs and I are trying to be the trend setters and, well, we haven't found any young single adults thus far, but we're becoming known for dishing out referrals like crazy!! Just putting forth that little bit of extra effort is so rewarding! You get to meet so many amazing people out here and too often we just let them walk by!

The people here in Virginia are just amazing as always. It's such a transient area, and there are people from EVERYWHERE!!! Most of the people we have the privilege of teaching are immigrants from around the world, and it's always just incredible to get to know other cultures and nationalities. I love it!

We took the new "official picture"...Elder Riggs and I are loving working together again!

So, one more funny story, then I'll sign out, but I have to share, especially for all the computer nerds in the family...

So, last night, we suddenly start getting all these phone calls from EVERYONE in the mission saying "We want to drive the truck!!" It didn't take long to smell a prank. Someone had sent out a text to the WHOLE mission saying the first person to call me would get to drive our truck for a week. So, I went into sleuthing mode. We use an assistant's gmail account to send out mission texts, so I first went to the outbox there. Nothing... So I went to the trash box and there it is!! Sent to everyone in the mission except Elder Riggs and I, and President Riggs. So I investigate further. By opening up the message properties, I managed to pull from the programming in the email the IP address for the computer that sent the email. After plugging in the IP address to an IP lookup I got the coordinates of that computer! The source? Salt Lake City, Utah!! right then is when President walked in, so we grabbed him and had him make a phone call. We called the Cluff home. And what did we find? Elder Yates, Elder Litchfield and Elder Cluff (3 of President's old assistants) hanging out at the Cluffs!! We totally busted them!! Within 30 minutes of them sending the email, we had President on the phone with them harassing them!! It was so great!

So, that's my funny story for the week. You can run, but you can't hide. When asked how he knew it was them, President responded: "Guys. I'm the President!.... Oh, and we have Elder Hodgson working on it  and he hacked in and found this all out and now we have the latitude and longitude of your computer."  Gotta love it!!

Love you all!!

-Elder Hodgson

Thursday, December 26, 2013

WEEK 86- this mission has been "Rigged" !~ SKYPE TIME

Hey all!!! I just wanted to send a quick note... We're running out to do temple parking again, so wonderful with the snow and the lights and the Christmas spirit.

First, my new companion!! It's Elder Riggs!!!! My MTC Companion!!! It's been a blast this past week!! We always joked about how cool it would be to be comps again, and here we are, not only companions, but assistants to President Riggs! Which brings me to the title of this email... this past week, Elder Riggs was assigned as an assistant, and Elder and Sister Riggs, and senior couple were reassigned as an office couple! that's 5 Riggs serving in some capacity of the office!!! pretty funny...

I wanted to just let you all know I'm well, happy and working hard. Elder Riggs and I really want to get out and get our area going, and we are!!! We've seen miracles already. I'll hopefully provide a couple more details tomorrow when we aren't running off to the temple, but until then, know I love you and Merry Christmas!!!

-Elder Hodgson

I enclosed his December 6th KEYNOTE just for those who remember this or want to read it :

Elders and Sisters, I would like to preface today’s keystone by telling you that the experience I am sharing with you today is one I hold very close to me. I feel to share it in order to validate my testimony that the Lord will keep His promises to you. Until today, I had intended to go my whole mission with the greater part of you never knowing about any of this experience. The Spirit, it seems, had other plans.
                You see, I should not be here.
                I have no reason to be here.
                I should still be in chemotherapy.
                At least that is what my doctor told me.
When I close my eyes, I can still feel the familiar prick of the needle in my arm. Blood tests had become commonplace now and my mind could run free on the events of the last day or two. Just prior to my departure for my freshman year of college, I decided to get my medical done for my mission papers. Everything passed with flying colors except one thing: my blood test. Upon viewing my test results, it appeared I was mildly anemic. I let them take more blood for further tests and went on with life, thinking nothing of it.
The next day, my doctor called sounding disturbed. He insisted I come in and bring my medical form with me. I arrived in the examination room just as my results were being pulled up. After a brief look at the screen, my doctor’s face drained of color and he commanded me to sit. Once I was situated, he turned the screen around. The iron levels in my blood were represented by a zero and my ferretin (which serves as a backup reservoir for iron) was 1/15 what it should have been. He announced that with results like that, I should have been bedridden for a month already, and should have been incapable of standing.
More tests were run to determine the cause of the state of my blood, and it was not long before the source was found. I had, in my leg, a chain of swollen lymph nodes - 5 or 6 of them - that descended down my leg very reminiscent of a toy train that had been surgically implanted in my thigh. And after minutes of typing into a computer and a very grim announcement, I was sent for yet more blood tests.
That brings us to the familiar sting of a needle in my arm. I sat, watching 6 or 7 vials being taken with the suggested diagnosis prancing around my mind: Stage 4 Lymphoma. The doctor said he couldn't think of anything else it could be. He had instructed me to go home and tear up the medical form he had signed. I was not to leave for school, and I would not be going on a mission - at least for three years or so until I was in remission.
After getting my blood drawn I went outside to meet up with my mom. As I went, I prayed for courage to help her keep her strength. As I walked outside, the word "Lymphoma" was completely flushed from my mind. Instead, my thoughts were 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 are not done here. You have much more to do in this life."
That afternoon, my parents and I were found at the home of some dear friends so I could receive 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 fulfill His promises to me, and that I had more to do here on earth.
                Two days later, I arrived for a biopsy, so a lymph node could be removed for closer examination. As I waited for the biopsy, the surgeon examined the lymphs in my leg to become familiar with the situation as the operation room was prepared for my arrival. In what seemed to be a dream, the surgeon told me that the swollen lymphs had decreased in size, and I was to go home and not worry because it was likely something else. Soon, it was identified as a simple 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 during those short days I do not know, but I testify that the Priesthood and the Hand of God both preserved me so I could be here. And with these events fresh in my mind as if they were yesterday, I declare boldly that the Lord knows the promises He makes to us, and He intends to keep them.
                Think for a moment of the powerful promise given to us by the Lord that “whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you to bear you up.” (Doctrine & Covenants 84:88) Those are not just words, Elders and Sisters, those are promises given to us by a God. He will fulfill those promises as we do our part in His great work.
                “No unhallowed hand can stop this work from progressing” we are promised on another occasion. “The truth of God shall go forth nobly, boldly and independent until . . . Jehovah shall say the work is done.” We cannot fail. We will not fail. As long as the Lord is with us, then who else even stands a chance?
                Elders and Sisters I know the Lord keeps His promises. He told me so Himself, first through His Spirit, then through the mouth of a righteous priesthood holder. Long before the situation was resolved, I knew I would be okay. I did not know what stood between me and wellness, but I knew wellness would come. I was ready to proceed through whatever form of hell the adversary could throw my way, because I knew the Lord would not forsake me. I knew the day for my mission would come and that I would be called to declare His word. And now as long as that day is here I will declare it.
                In the course of my mission, I have made memories with many of you. You have seen me in moments of victory and defeat. You have seen me make mistakes and you have seen me strengthened by the power of God. Of all these memories, I ask only to be remembered by one. That is my testimony that the Lord’s promises are sure. I know it.
                I invite each of you to consider the promises the Lord has made to you, and then to uphold your end of those promises so you may pursue the blessings that follow. But as you do, remember this: You cannot fail. With Christ, the question is not what you can or cannot do, but what you will or will not do.
                This I know, for He has promised it.
                In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
                Elder Matthew Hodgson

Monday, December 16, 2013

WEEK 85- Preparation for a Hectic life

Hey all!! Holy cow, what a crazy week!!! I've decided that my current assignment is one that brings a lot of preparation for a hectic life. We  try to do everything that normal missionaries do, and then have to do a whole bunch of office stuff!!! It's really making me step up and learn how to plan as effectively as possible. It's stressful, but it's a blast, juggling all these different things!

This week was pretty exciting It started with a heart surgery as mentioned last week, but it just stayed awesome!!!  As I think I mentioned last Monday, it was starting to snow. We had our first good snow of the year, and it kept coming!! Tuesday was a snow day! We were all asked to not drive (we got special permission, since we have 4 wheel drive) so, we went and spent the day at the office getting ahead on all the paperwork!  it was pretty funny, when we first walked in, one of the senior sisters challenged us to a snowball fight, so we went outside and had a fight! haha

Wednesday we had mission leadership council. Those are always really neat. President Riggs gave us some really good leadership training on some good principles of love, example and leadership. We talked a lot, too about our mission culture - where it is and where we want it to be. It was good!

Thursday was the departing temple trip. It was kind of weird since Elder Cluff was going home. I almost felt like the "lone assistant" since he was with his group. It was an awesome trip to the temple though! It was sweet.

Friday was the Mission Christmas Conference!! That was super fun! We got to the Stake Center to find out that there was no mic or sound equipment.... so, Elder Cluff and I went on the hunt!! We finally got it set up during the opening hymn... haha It was pretty sweet! We had a blast, we had some great talents and great testimonies shared. It was fun. haha One notable moment you would have been proud of. the battery on the microphone died in between talents, and President called for help with his familiar "I need some assistance!" That's our cue, as I've come to learn, so Elder Cluff and I started racing up to the stage yelling "I can assist! I can do it!" It was fun, so of course as I leapt up onto the stage, I had to let my foot catch. Everyone thought I ate it super hard!! It was awesome :)

Saturday, we helped with the parking at the Christmas lights at the temple! It was fun, but COLD!! And wet!!!

Overall, it was a good week! Elder cluff goes home tomorrow, so I  will have a new companion
-Elder Hodgson

Monday, December 9, 2013

WEEK 84- Mini conference and the triple Bypass

WHHHOOOOEEYYYY!!!! What a crazy week! So, I think I mentioned last week, but we went to the National zoo. It was way cool!! A lot of fun too. This week for preparation day, we went to go see a heart surgery! One of Elder C's old bishops is a heart surgeon, and he invited us to watch a quadruple bypass today!! So, we arrived and he brought us to a room with a huge window looking down into the operation room. There were also screens with close-ups of the guys chest. Then, he went down to the operating room and went to town! It was so cool! They took a vein that ran the length of the guy’s leg and used that to create new arteries for around the patient's heart. It was one of the coolest preparation day activities I've ever participated in! Elder M and Elder H came with us, too. They're serving in that ward currently.

Well, Monday, we started off the week with a mini-zone conference. It was really good! Since it was mini, we didn't have to present, so we got to just participate. It was great! We learned so much and got to practice some valuable skills. Our conference was on faith and repentance and how to teach it to others. It was definitely inspired, because we then taught both of those lessons later in the week.

Yeah, you heard that right, we taught this week!!! Since we weren't at zone conferences we got to do work!!! So sweet! haha It was so great to get out and just serve people! It made me think of about a year ago when Elder Westover (then an assistant) told me to enjoy my time serving people because a time would come where I'd be called to serve missionaries. Here I am now. Except, we still serve people too ;) We try really hard.

Next week is transfer week, so the business is setting in for that. This week we have the departing temple trip, so that will be neat. I always love going to the temple. This will be Elder C's departing group though, so it'll be sad to see him go.

This week, we had our first snowstorm of the year!!! Yesterday was pretty exciting as it was coming down, but now it's just beautiful! All the trees are iced over in this perfect encasement. It looks like something from a postcard!! I LOVE Virginia.

Our ward had it's Christmas party this weekend, and it was way fun! I accompanied a few people who sang songs. We had a great night!

That's kind of the rundown. Things are great though!


Normal Pday- leave for the office around 8.  We do office work, writing, dicussions and meetings and then we usually have lunch and activity of the day.

How do you use the TNT principles in the mission?
Honestly, Play Theory is EVERYWHERE!!! It's just like LaRee always said! haha What's weird about it to me is not how much I use it, but how I have to use different "lingo" when talking to others. Teaching, Interacting with other missionaries, talking to President, Working with the Bishop, it all just uses a little here and a little there. "Say yes and" doesn't mean anything out here. I have to use different lingo to explain principles.

That's pretty much it. Love you!

-Elder Hodgson