Sunday, August 30, 2015

The MTC

Connor entered the MTC on Wednesday, July 29, 2015. He was only there for 12 days before he flew out to the mission field. We didn't really hear from him the first few days, which I had sort of expected. The first thing we heard was actually from one of our ward members. Sister Marilyn Whiting called me to say that her grandson was Connor's teacher and that Connor was doing great. Then I got this picture from her in a text.



Elder Hopkin with Brother Whiting, one of his MTC teachers


A couple of days later we received this first letter from him.

Hi Mom!!! They're letting us send a quick message this morning to let our mommies know that everything is ok!! I'm alive and well! My first day was emotionally stressful, my second day was emotionally better but mentally stressful, and today I'm kinda getting the hang of things.... I think :) My companion is Elder Elliot, he's kinda quiet but super cool! He's so normal....I was so relieved! We didn't necessarily click, but we get along well!

A couple items of business :)  1) I don't know much about it, but they mentioned Dearelder.com, it's supposed to be really good for sending things to missionaries. Katy sent me a letter through it, so if you don't know about it you might want to look at it? I don't know :) 2) I got allllll of the letters last night! They were perfect and comforting and I loved them! I read yours, and my siblings' and Katy's, and I'm saving the rest for later, cause there's not lots of time at night. I was wondering, if you send any more letters, if you could date them? I kinda want to keep track of them chronologically (you know me) :) So that would be fantastic! 3) I don't think they really like us wearing tanktops to workout in, so I might send all of them home when I can and I was wondering if at some time you could send me a few other workout shirts that I could wear with my garments. Whenever it's convenient! 4) I need my line of authority, so if Dad could send that soon, that would be great! 5) If you could just make sure I have a good amount of money in my checking account, that would be helpful!

That's all! I hope that wasn't too much to ask for. I'm doing pretty good overall. I miss you all, and those letters were seriously sooo perfect! I know that Christ will help me through all of this! Thank you for all of your work helping me prepare for all of this, and all of the support and love! I love you so much!! I think my P Day is Tuesday, so I'll send a more thorough email then! And let me know if you want real letters, or if emails suffice :)

Love, Elder Connor Hopkin :)





The following Tuesday we got a longer letter. I will share parts of it here:





Hi Mom!!!! So, I just need to start out saying...I feel like there's soooo much to say and I know I'll forget about half of it! Just so you know :) I got your letter a few days ago and the package yesterday. Thank you so much!!! Those shirts were perfect, the snacks are incredible, and that letter meant so much to me. Thank you for always supporting and loving me and doing so much for me! I love you so much :)

So the days are starting to blend together, and it feels like I've been here for at least 3 weeks....but it's great! It's honestly kinda been an emotional rollercoaster. Every day there are times when I get homesick or worried or feel inadequate but always within a few hours I'm feeling better! I did get to go to the temple today, and it was incredible! I always felt like I had a clear perspective of my mission when I was at the temple, so I was so excited to go today! On Sunday we did a couple temple walks so we were able to get out of the MTC and walk around for a bit!

I'm still trying to get used to living away from home - in such a cramped area - but I'm getting there! My companion is awesome! His name is Elder Elliott, he's from Farmington, he's a year out of school (he worked for a year), and he's great! Like I said earlier, I was so relieved at how normal he was :) He's kinda quiet, especially when we're preparing lessons, so I worry that we're only using my ideas, but he says that he agrees with everything. My teachers are Brother Whiting and Sister Wrubell, and Sister Stegelmeier subs sometimes. I think Bro Whiting sent a picture of us to his parents and Bryn said you guys saw it. The teachers are great! I learn soooo much every day! My brain is usually fried by the end of our study times. The worst thing is that they'll never answer a question directly, they just refer to the scriptures or tell us to pray about it...ugh :) I've had a lot of incredible experiences though. Yesterday I was feeling kinda bad about a lesson that didn't go too well, and then we were practicing teaching from a chapter in the scriptures; I was teaching a Sister in my district from 1 Nephi 1, and after a bit she left for a while and cried in the hall...so that didn't make me feel better. But later I asked and she said that she had received some really important answers during it...so then I did fell lots better :) 

My companion and I have... 2 and a half... investigators. Our first is Dreazo. He's someone that Bro Whiting knows, so Bro Whiting role-plays as him...but they take the role playing so seriously! Maybe you know this, but they take it as kinda a sacred responsibility, and it's incredible how good they are at it. All of a sudden they turn into the world's best actor - they seem like completely different people! It's amazing! Anyways, we had a lesson with Dreazo (that didn't go great) and we were gonna have another on Monday but he was sick. So we got to prepare a lesson in 15 minutes for Liz, who's being role played by Sis Stegelmeier. That didn't go too well either. It's so hard to be concise and still answer questions but not confuse them! I hope it comes with practice. However, we did have a TRC investigator, Jenny, who might be a member or an investigator...we have no idea! Her story is that she moved here from Korea and is going to BYU and is getting married to a member in a couple weeks. She really wants to be LDS so she can go to church with him, but she doesn't want to change her lifestyle. So I felt prompted to turn to Alma 32, and we taught her how to build a testimony from a small desire. We invited her to read the Book of Mormon and pray, and told her that if she builds that faith then it'll be easier for her to want to change her life. It went really well, and we were really pleased with it :)

Ummm....what else? Gym time is pretty good, I played basketball on Friday, ran on Saturday, and lifted weights yesterday! Oh! On Sunday we watched a video of a talk from Elder Bednar called "The Character of Christ" that's only shown in the MTC! It was so incredible - probably the best talk I've ever heard. He talked about how Jesus's character was to turn outward whenever the natural man would turn inward, like during trials. And he talked about the importance of being converted and not just having a testimony. It was so inspiring! The food here is decent...maybe I should just drive home for meals! :)

Anyways, I'm sorry that was kinda long. Tell Makaeli congrats! I hope Bryn has an awesome time at EFY! Thanks again for all the things you sent me. The family letters, your letters, the package....it really made me feel loved and I really really appreciated it.  I don't really have any requests for stuff, I think I have everything I need. Thanks for helping me be so prepared!! :) I really wish I could email everyday, it seems like there's just too much to say after a whole week! But at least we get one a week :) I miss you so much!!!! And I love you so much!!! Thanks for everything you do and have done for me! I'm pretty I sure I leave for the mission field around 7 or 8 on Monday, just so you know :) So I won't get another email in before that :/ Let me know if you want any written letters! That would be quicker contact than email for most of the week! So just send me a letter if you want one or need any info or anything! I love you so much! I'll talk to you later :)

Love,
Connor :)


We also got a couple of pictures of him with his companion and his district at the Provo Temple.







And, that was about it from the MTC. He let us know that he would be leaving on Monday, August 10 for the mission field. A couple of days later I got a written letter in the mail from him. Here are exerts from that letter:


Dear Mom and Everyone Else :) ,

Thank you so much for the package!! I loved it! I love your letters so much! And, all the food! I keep getting packages from you, and Katy has sent me a ton, so everyone hates me. :) And I've got way too much food! I don't think I can finish it before I leave! I might try to pack a bit of it. I'm worried about my luggage being overweight though, hopefully it'll work out. Sorry, I'm just ranting about my travel worries. :) So, I leave early Monday morning! I leave the MTC around 4am and I think my flight leaves around 9-ish. I bought a calling card. I'm planning on calling unless I find out it's not allowed. So maybe be expecting it but don't worry if it doesn't happen. :)
The MTC has continued to be crazy busy and up and down everywhere but I'm getting used to it. I've learned some dang cool things! Brother Whiting (our teacher that is the Whiting's grandson) taught us some stuff today that blew our mind! He said that EVERYTHING in Preach My Gospel lessons can be categorized by either: 1) The Atonement, 2) the Gospel of Christ, which is how we access the Atonement, or 3) Blessings from the Atonement, particularly eternal life, which is the goal of everything. Maybe that is obvious, but it blew our minds! We're all convinced he's gonna be a General Authority. :)  Anyway, we've learned a ton and I feel like my teaching abilities are really improving. I'm learning how to tailor the lessons to the needs of the investigators. I still have a ton of room to improve but I'm getting it. :)
Thank you for the blessing notes and all the motivation, advice, and love! I can't imagine a more supporting family! You're all so amazing! I keep realizing how much I miss you all! You're such INCREDIBLE examples to me! Thank you for all your letters and testimonies. I'm guessing everyone is getting along better with me gone. :) Oh! So, don't tell Bryn this...I didn't think about Misty for about 4 days until a Sister mentioned her dog! It thought it was so funny!
My companion and I are really getting along well! We're learning to plan and teach together better! My district is awesome! Our Branch 1st Counselor said we're one of the best districts he knows, and he doesn't say that much! Everyone's pretty impressed with the scripture references I've memorized...that's kinda nice. :) Anyway, I hope this letter was ok. Tell all the extended family family hi and I love them! Oh, by the way, my new 3rd favorite scripture is Mosiah 24;12-15. Just thought I'd let you know. :) I love and miss you all so much! Hopefully I can call on Monday! I love you! Thanks for everything!
Love, Elder Connor ;)


All in all, I think he had a good experience at the MTC, which I am so glad for. He did get to call from the airport on that Monday morning and we talked for about 1/2 an hour. It was so good to hear his voice. He was in good spirits...a little nervous, but excited, about the next steps ahead. 



This video is a bit long, but if you are curious about what missionaries do at the MTC it is informative and interesting:

http://www.ksl.com/?sid=14959815


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

THE Day Has Arrived

The night before Connor entered the MTC we took him for a final family dinner out. We let him choose the place--Brick Oven. 







After dinner Connor was set apart as a missionary for The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-Day Saints. It was Tuesday evening, July 28, 2015. He was set apart by President Paul Warnick of the Orem, Utah Stake. We were all there as a family. He received a lot of great promises and blessings and was given the power and authority to serve as a representative of Jesus Christ and His Church. Shon stood in the circle with President Warnick and President Burgener, as did his cousin Cooper, who will be serving soon as a missionary himself. That was an added bonus--to have Cooper be able to participate in the setting-apart. From that time forward Connor was to wear his suit and tie, be with a companion at all times, and obey all the mission rules and standards. He was officially Elder Hopkin.




 These two boys are only 2 months apart in age. Hard to believe that they are both old enough to serve missions. Cooper will leave just shy of two months after Connor does to serve in the Nicaragua, Managua mission. I love both of these handsome guys so much!





Just after Connor was set apart.


Connor entered the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah on Wednesday, July 29, 2015. He was to report at 1:00 pm. We spent the morning finishing packing up his room, packing his actual mission suitcases and spending time as a family. I made him his favorite breakfast--Kneaders french toast--homemade style. It was hard watching the minutes and hours tick away, knowing that we would soon be saying goodbye for two years. Right before we left the house Shon gave him a final Father's blessing. He was promised some amazing things as he served the Lord faithfully for the next two years. It really was a beautiful blessing. After his blessing I had Connor give me a blessing as well. What a neat experience to have my son do that for me. I felt so grateful to receive that blessing from him. Moms need peace and comfort too as they are about to send their babies away for two years.


Here are a few pictures of right before we left the house.







Connor is going to miss this truck! It has been one of his best friends for the past two years since he's been driving. He wasn't too happy to be turning it over to Makaeli while he's gone, especially since she's threatened to paint it blue.



Here are some pictures we took up near the Provo, Utah Temple just before we dropped him off at the MTC. This is the designated spot for families to say goodbye to their missionaries. There were a lot of people just like us there--taking pictures, hugging each other and shedding a few tears....sorta dreading the next few minutes ahead. I have to say it was very surreal. Hard to believe it was our family and our son doing what we had seen so many others do before. Connor was pretty nervous at this point. Who can blame him, really?!





 All my kids together for the last time for quite a while.











 This one is my favorite! 

Here is our drive from the temple to the MTC curbside.




video



And, here are the final pictures of us dropping him off. I had heard horror stories of them not giving you time to say goodbye, not letting you hug him for the last time, and making you drive off before you were ready. I had, in my own mind, envisioned us driving to the curb, barely coming to a stop as they ripped Connor's luggage and then him out of the car while we were told to wave goodbye and speed quickly away. I was actually pleasantly surprised. The Elder who was Connor's "escort" helped us unload his luggage out of the car, let us all give him a final hug and even took one last family picture before walking Elder Hopkin into the front doors of the MTC. I turned and watched as they walked away. He had Connor engaged in conversation so that he didn't even see us pull away. We all cried on the drive home. It's a pretty emotional thing to do. I just kept reminding myself that he was now in the Lord's hands. And, there really is no better place for him to be.






 Last complete family photo for now


 My last hug!! So bittersweet!





And, there he goes, folks, walking away from me. Can't wait to see that boy walking toward me in two years!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Open House, Farewell, Family Dinner

I am starting this blog post with some regret. My regret is not getting someone to take pictures for me at the Open House we had for Connor at our home on Saturday, July 25. I really wish I had gotten pictures of him with everyone who came. I fooled myself into thinking that I would do it, but I failed to think about the fact that I would be visiting with people too, and refilling food. So, regrettably there are very few pictures to share--only memories. Connor had so many people  who came to support him on Saturday. Lots of family and lots of friends. Many of them came a good distance to be here. We are grateful to all those who were here to show their love and support to Connor before he left. We love you all! It meant so much to Connor and to us that you were here.

I did get some pictures of the food...hahaha. So, here those are.







Open House July 25, 2015


One picture of friends:


Connor, Katy, Madi, Gavin


The next afternoon, on Sunday July 26, Connor gave a talk in our Sacrament Meeting on how preparing for his mission has blessed his life. He did a really great job on his talk! He sounded like a missionary who had prepared himself to go forward and share the gospel. I was proud of him. Again, lots of people came to support him. It's in times like these that we realize just how many people we have in our lives that love us and are there for us. It gives such a feeling of happiness and joy to see so many loved ones--family and friends--who take time and make efforts to show that love and support. It really does take a village to raise a child, and thank goodness we live in such a great village. I found myself feeling so much gratitude for everyone who have made a difference in Connor's life in one way or another. He was blessed with so many good friends who support each other in doing what is right! And, our family--well, I get emotional just thinking about how much they have influenced Connor and how appreciative I am to them for that. So many kind words and acts, so many good examples, so much love and support...it really does make life so fulfilling! These may be small things, but their effect is not small, and I felt the magnitude of them all on this marvelous weekend. I know Connor did too. If you want to hear Connor's farewell talk you can click on it below.



video



After church we had a final family dinner with my side and Shon's side combined. Ben and Aimee were kind enough to let us use their home and back yard. It was so nice to have everyone there together. This was where Connor had to say his final goodbyes to grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins for two years...not easy to do. There were some tears, a lot of hugs, well wishes, and "see ya in two years'." I was smart enough to get my sister Melissa to take photos on this day.  Below is a whole lot of pictures of family from the dinner...hope you enjoy!





































We are so blessed to have all of this family around us. We are so grateful for all of those who were there. And we are grateful for those who were with us in spirit only. Arden and Lorraine, who are serving in a BYU assignment in Tiberias, Israel, both Chris and Anna and their kids and Chris and Mindy with their family who live in Texas--just a little bit of a drive, Jer, Ali, Kaleb and Alisha who were there on Saturday and for Connor's talk on Sunday but could not stay for dinner. We missed you and don't have pictures of you, but we love you all and know of your love and support as well.