Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Week 91- Exclamation point!!

Well, these were just an exclamation point two weeks! I apologize for not writing last week, but we had a situation come up with the cars, and we lost a couple hours of our preparation day... ah, well... Life goes on!

To start off, we had a baptism a couple weeks ago! Everyone is stoked about that, because we're the first assistants to do that since President came to the mission. The best part is that probably won't be the last time either! We're really excited. Kwabena was a young man from Ghana who wanted to learn more about the church, so requested a visit on Mormon.org and has just been a blessing to teach! His faith is so great and it's been an incredible journey for him.

We got to work with some translation equipment, too, because President invited a whole bunch of French-speaking people to his sons mission farewell, which was the 19th! It was awesome!

We were very busy with the work too, and had just a fantastic week with many spiritual lessons!

We had a couple of exchanges, too, one of which I was back in Manassas with Elder Gustafson!! Sound familiar? haha it was a total blast being back in the same place with the same guy, and we taught some of the same people too!! It was just awesome.

The night we had Kwabena's baptism, we were actually on an exchange, but we both made it. The next day, we got a third companion for a couple of days. It was an emotional couple of days, because this Elder was going home temporarily for some health reasons and we were waiting for his flight to go through. Because of a couple snow days, it was postponed from Tuesday to Thursday, which just prolonged the roller coaster.

This past week has just been a logistical ride, too. Last Saturday, we got a phone call from Elder S. Gifford "exclamation point" Nielsen, who said he would be in town and wanted to have a whole mission conference with us! So, we started getting ready for a conference! Some newly purchased equipment, a couple emergency transfers for exterior reasons, some trips to the airport, and a whole lot of paper and car work later; we finally had the mission conference! It was all just a huge blur, but we had a blast and are slowly catching up on lost sleep.

It was very validating for us to have that third elder with us, too. He was just blown away with the schedule we keep: "You guys do just as much missionary work as everyone else, and then a ton more! I'm not even the one doing the office work and I'm exhausted! I don't know why anyone would ever aspire to this!" haha

Elder Nielsen's conference was incredible. He spoke a lot about our role as helping others to make and keep covenants and what each of those covenants does for each of us and the spiritual power the Lord gives us as we keep them.

Elder Riggs and I have been studying compassion a lot, and it's been fantastic. One of the temple presidency  here in D.C. shared with us a talk about how the culture of the Celestial kingdom is compassion, and we've been learning so much about it. This morning, we read through Moses chapter 7 and just had an incredible revelatory experience watching the Lord as He teaches Enoch compassion.

Today, we're off to have lunch with a set of zone leaders, and as transfers approach, life is about to start blurring. We've been working a lot on planning so we can remain busy with missionary work during all the office work we're going to have to do. We're excited though. Elder Riggs and I are just loving life and work together. It's great :)

Love you all!

-Elder Hodgson

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Week 90- no time for a letter but just a little chatter..........

So, I'm kind of combining this week's questions...

My feelings on Christmas were explained in the keystone entitled "Christmas Humbling." Not just the humbling part, but hte part about good, better, best, getting, giving, receiving. That's pretty much my feelings this year.

Hardest thing on my mission: being satisfied with myself. Neal A Maxwell spoke of discerning between divine discontent and the devil's dissonance. I guess just figuring out which is which and plotting a course from there. The adversary always wants us to feel inadequate, and the Lord always wants us improving. That can lead us to be too hard on ourselves if we're not careful.

Sundays just changed a bit. We have 1:45 church now. So, yesterday looked like this: Arise, prepare for the day, studies, then we met with Bishop right after. In the hour in between, we planned for lunch, but then realized we were fasting, so we hopped in the truck and prayed to know what to do. We did that until church, then the ward had a break-the-fast, followed by more missionary work. Then at 9, we came to the office to collect key indicators and finish up the keystone!

Best advice I got before I headed out. The first one that stands out to me is what Grandpa said to me the night I was set apart: "I'm going to leave you with the same words you left for me when your grandmother and I left for South Africa: Return with honor." A simple statement with a high expectation. One I loved from my mom was that it's ok to change out here, in face, I shouldn't come home the same person I left as. One of the most poignant though came from my dad. As I was hugging him goodbye at the airport, he simply said: "you're going to be a great missionary." Not really even advice, but it's an expectation. Preach My Gospel has EVERYTHING we need to be great missionaries, all I needed was a reason, and a righteous Father's expectation has a way of doing that like little else can.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Week 89- Gettin our Trunkies

This week was another crazy one!! 3 exchanges, and we almost DIED!!! haha

Saturday night we were driving along, and a car going the other direction came flying accross the median, which was just a bunch of grass. We were both going about 60, and basically, it was freaky!!! haha We made it though! Just swerved out of the way. I felt like James Bond pretty much... :D

Last Monday, we played some board games with some Elders and just had a good time! Tuesday we had our first exchange, which was way fun, and Wednesday we just went from one exchange to another! haha Wednesday I was in Arlington, which was way fun!! Arlington is the city right accross the potomac from D.C. so we were just downtown! It was a very new feel to a mission, but a total blast!

Thursday was our only day to do office stuff, so we did office stuff!! Just hammered down on that, and it was good!

Friday, we had another exchange, and saturday, Randall, President Riggs' son came out with us! He leaves on his mission in about 2 weeks, so that was a blast, too! We had a great lesson with a young man who is deciding whether or not to serve a mission. What a blessing to have an almost missionary there! :)

Sunday was busy as ever, but we got a lot done, and had a baptismal interview for an investigator of ours who is getting baptized this week!!

The big, horrifying event of the week though was getting our trunkies... 16 weeks prior to departure, the mission office sends you a letter asking for your flight preferences, etc for your return trip. They include a letter from President Riggs that talks about setting goals for the rest of your mission, but it's hard to look past the first sentence, which starts with "your return flight..." haha it was harsh. I was glad Elder Riggs was getting his, too...

That's.... pretty much it that I can say... There's a lot else going on, but It's sensitive. That's where a lot of our time has been... I'm taking good journal notes though so I can share more someday!

Love you all!!

Monday, January 13, 2014

88.5- Keynote of Hastening the work

 Elder Hodgson and his companion write "keynotes" that are sent out to the missionary leadership. They are then shared and discussed and studied in small groups.

“Hearken, O ye house of Israel, and hear the words of . . .  a prophet of the Lord. For behold, thus saith the Lord, I will liken thee, O house of Israel, like unto a tame olive-tree, which a man took and nourished in his vineyard.” (Jacob 5:2-3)
                The prophet Zenos’ allegory of the olive tree begins with those words, and the words which follow teach us of the scattering and gathering of the house of Israel. That very same gathering we at this very moment are involved in.
                For centuries, the Lord has nurtured and cared for the house of Israel. Just think of all He has done for us. He has covenanted with us, He has blessed us, He has sent His Son to atone for us. Now in these last days, He has restored  “the Lord’s kingdom once again established on the earth, preparatory to the second coming of the Messiah.” (Intro to the Book of Mormon) Throughout this preparation process, the Prophet of the Lord has prayed “unto the Lord of the vineyard, [saying]: Spare it a little longer.” (Jacob 5:50) The Lord has answered this prayer, and spared the vineyard, however, He has left us this promise: “Behold, I will hasten my work in its time.” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:73)
                “The Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth . . . gave commandments to [us], that [we] should proclaim these things unto the world:” But doing this alone is no longer enough. In Jeremiah, we read: “Behold, I will send for many fishers, saith the Lord, and they shall fish them; and after will I send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain, and from every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks.” (Jeremiah 16:16) Notice the differentiation between the fishers, and then the hunters being sent. The fishers fish, sitting comfortably upon the bank of the stream, waiting patiently for a hungry fish to approach the hook and take a bite. Then, when the Lord knew the time was ready, He called for hunters who would hunt, exerting their all, traversing rough and difficult terrain so they could be sure to find every last creature, even in the holes of the rocks.
                Elders and Sisters, the time is past to be fishers. We need to be hunters for the Lord! He is no longer sparing the vineyard. In our day, He has declared: “Let us go and labor with our might this last time, for behold the end draweth nigh, and this is for the last time that I shall prune my vineyard.” (Jacob 5:62) “And the servant went and did as the Lord had commanded him, and brought other servants.” (Jacob 5:70) At which point - only this last October - those words came from the mouthpiece of the Lord what would forever change many of our lives: “I am pleased to announce that effective immediately all worthy and able young men . . . will have the option of being recommended for missionary service beginning at the age of 18 . . . I am [also] pleased to announce that able, worthy women . . . may be recommended . . . beginning at age 19.” (Thomas S. Monson, Welcome to Conference. October 2012)
                I do not believe that the import of these events has fully set upon all of us - myself included. But this I do know, that the prophet Jacob, commenting on the words of Zenos, clarified that “the day that he shall set his hand again the second time to recover his people, is the day, yea, even the last time, that the servants of the Lord shall go forth in his power, to nourish and prune his vineyard; and after that the end soon cometh.” (Jacob 6:2) For centuries, the hastening of the work has been prophesied. Time and again, the prophets and apostles have advocated and emphasized the importance of missionary work, but when have they ever declared in the name of the Lord that that hastening is occurring? They have declared it now.
  Elders and Sisters, this is it! This is our time to share the gospel with the world, and after that, “the end soon cometh.” (Jacob 6:2) Let us be hunters! Let us proceed with the sense of urgency that this historic and sacred time requires. We have been called and foreordained to assist the Lord as He prunes his vineyard for the LAST TIME, but we will never do it alone. For “it came to pass that the servants did go and labor with their mights; and the Lord of the vineyard labored also with them.” (Jacob 5:72)
                I promise that as we labor with our might, we will see miracles happen. In the allegory of the olive tree, we see the whole of that miracle as the house of Israel - scattered, wild, and corrupt - is brought back together into one tree that brings forth sweet and natural fruit. The prophets, ancient and modern, have testified of this hastening and of the victory of the Lord as He presides over it. Let us move forward to victory. Let us labor with our might in the vineyard of the Lord.
Let us be Hunters.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Monday, January 6, 2014

WEEK 88- Sacrafice brings forth the blessings

So, to start, this is Sister Deaver!! She's here from ROCKLIN CALIFORNIA!!! It's fun to see a familiar face from back home! She just got here in November, and it's GREAT to have her. She's serving hard in a busy metropolitan area, and seems to be having a blast! She used to call Elder Cluff "Cluff the Magic Dragon" and he diligently referred to her as "Justin Deaver"... I never figured out who started that...

Holy Schanoles! What a week! I'll try to fit this all in with the time we have...

Last Monday, for Preparation Day, we went to the George Washington Masonic Memorial!! It was crazy sweet!! Tuesday, I spent new years eve creating a new reporting document!!! It's still not finished. Easily the greatest excel endeavor I've ever undergone... I'll likely be sending a blank copy home so dad can appreciate it. Others may not be impressed but I am working hard and learning a lot.

New Years eve, we were busy until 8:00, then President asked us all to be in by then. New Years day was the start-off-the-year-right day!  That evening, we got out and taught! It was awesome!
So, a while ago, Elder Cluff and i were walking through Staples last pday, and lo and behold, a DESK BELL!!! How perfect! so, we got it, made a sign, and voila! President has a way to summon us! haha A few days after we gave it to him, he called us on the phone and just started ringing the bell. Elder Cluff picked up: "hello?.... hello?... oh! He's ringing the bell..." thus we knew assistance was needed.

Thursday is when things started getting  crazy. We met before MLC to finish planning for it, and were doing so until 10 minutes before. Then, after that, we have a new district leader as of this week, and we were asked to go train him, so go and train we did! He and his companion were way out in Warrenton (the nether reaches) and so we took the drive! All four of us worked in their area that evening, then we slept over there while the snow continued to fall. That night as we were planning, Elder Riggs and I were discussing some of the things from MLC, including vision and sacrifice, and I realized I've been asking the wrong question for months! I've been asking: "what can I do better?" But, we realized we should ask: "What more can I sacrifice?" So we asked that, made a vision, set some goals and went to work! And miracles followed! I'm low on time, so I'll just run you through some of the miracles we saw in the remaining days of the week:

-Saturday night, an investigator lay pondering on his bed and felt to read the Book of Mormon. 20 minutes later, after feeling the Spirit, we received a text from him saying he was ready to be baptized!
-Also Saturday night, we stopped by to see another investigator. He was packing his bags for a vacation, so we just took a moment and read a quick scripture. Then the Spirit took over and before you knew it we had one of the most powerful lessons I've had on my mission. An incredible opportunity for the Lord to speak through us.
-Sunday morning, we had some plans fall through, so we prayed to know what to do. We felt strongly to go to the mission office and talk to President. He's usually not there Sunday mornings, but we went and there he was! And there were some things he really needed to talk about with us.
-Our teaching is improving. We realized we really want to work at it  ( study and prayer) and  make it a skill we can improve as we go a long.
-One investigator is leaving for school soon down at Radford/Virginia Tech. In church yesterday, the Ward Mission Leader from the student ward down there showed up, so they get to meet!
-Many, many, small miracles! We just can't count them all, it just all seems to be falling together!

It's really just been an amazing week. My testimony of sacrifice is just thriving right now. Sorry we're short on time. Some things are happening currently President needed us for, so we're getting cut short... Love you though!

Thank you John and Steph and your family too! The nutcracker has us all in hysterics! Love you guys!

Also, mom, thank you for the birthday package! What a great way to celebrate 21!! thank you so much! I love you!

-Elder Hodgson