Saturday, October 24, 2015

Week 10--A Great Letter And A Couple Of Pics (We're Finally In Double Digits)

So, this week our family went on a trip to Disneyland and Southern California. We didn't tell Connor that we were going--we didn't want him being distracted by it and thinking about it while we were there without him. So, we told him after the fact...which I think he appreciated. Anyway, just as we were packing to leave, I got these two pictures from a member in the ward that he and Elder Jones are serving in. I always love getting random pictures of him. They are taken and sent right in that moment, so it's not just hearing about it afterward, but it's in the present. Somehow that makes me feel a little bit closer to him--to see him at that very time and know what he's doing right then. And, I can always send a little message to him through  the person on the phone. Usually it's a short "Tell him I love him" or "Send him my love". We sure missed him on our family vacation--it's just not the same without Connor there. I thought about him quite a bit, seeing that we were in the same state as he and just a few hours south of his mission. Despite that, we did have fun, and I told him we'd try to make sure he got to Disneyland when he gets back. 

Here are the pics. Someone took them for wings. I never realized how much I would appreciate the kindness that members and others would show to my missionary son where he is serving. Makes me want to be more generous with the missionaries in our area, or any that I come across, and do nice, random things for them. And, then send the pics to their Moms and families. It is really appreciated by this Mom and I'm sure would always be by other Moms and families just as much, as well.

 Elder Hopkin and Elder Jones October 13, 2015

Here is Connor's letter from this week:

Hey Mom!!!

You guys went to Disneyland?! And the beach? What!? :) That's super fun but I'm so jealous! And I really really want to see the San Diego Temple! Dang :) That's crazy that we were in the same state! That kinda weirds me out. Sounds like you guys had a super exciting week, I'm so glad!

Our week was decent! We've had a little of a hard time with some of our investigators. The one that we met after responding to Elder Jones' prompting is pretty interested, but she's been out of town for the last few days, and that was kinda sad for us. Amelia, the little girl we've been teaching is still super interested and we keep teaching her as much as possible. But we basically contact her through her mom, and she is super hard to get a hold of and doesn't keep appointments ever. She told us she was going to bring Amelia to church yesterday, but that morning texted us and said that she actually couldn't. So we asked if a member could come get her (there's a family that is SOOO cool and has offered to give Amelia a ride) but that didn't work either, cause she's protective and doesn't want her going alone. So that was pretty frustrating for us. Amelia is totally ready to be baptized after just a couple more visits, but she HAS to come to church! Ugh. So we're just trying to figure out how we can get her there. There's a guy that we met on the street that's super interesting! His grandma was a member, so he's interested in learning more and we're visiting him later this week. He was in the Navy Seals and has some really crazy stories that we've heard plenty of :) There are a couple others that might be interested, so we'll just see. For now, we're just teaching the few we've found and trying our best to find more! We are starting to get to know our members pretty well! I think they really like and trust us, and they're all soooooo nice and helpful. Those wings on Tuesday were dang good, and they burned me pretty good! I figured I needed to make you guys proud though :)

So, fun story! We were at a recent convert's house, sharing a message, and we came out and saw this guy riding away on his bike. And, he had a lot of lights in his hands. We got back to our bikes and our lights were GONE! We hopped on our bikes and tried to chase after him but he was long gone. So I got to spend 50 bucks on new lights! :) Better than having a bike stolen, but still annoying. I don't know if there's anything CTR will do for that, but I figured I'd go ahead and buy some more. It was a good reminder though, to always be locking our bikes up, just in case. And now I make sure I take my lights off my bike every time too :)

Question for you: It's starting to get a little chilly at night, and I don't have a coat :) So, where are the best places to get something? Would it be best to get a coat, or like a sweater, or a cardigan? What do you think? I never realized how little I know about that stuff :)

I love what you said about the Spirit! I've realized lately just how essential it is to everything! Without it, we can't do anything. I love how when we teach people about baptism, it's like the little extra motivation, a little extra prize they get. It's like, "Ok, baptism is cool right? But after, you get one of God's greatest gifts - the Holy Ghost! Now, you want that right? Here's what you do to get it" :) I've definitely been trying my hardest to learn how to listen to the Spirit, but it's so hard sometimes. I still can never tell if it's my own thoughts or the Spirit :) But sometimes it's just so unmistakable. It's definitely something that we all need to learn how to do, because it will lead us and help us do so much good in our lives.

I have been writing in my journal actually! I haven't missed a day! I made a goal in the MTC to right in it every single day, and I've met it so far! Some days are definitely better entries than others, but I've gotten at least a sentence in :) Most of it will probably be nonsense but I'm hoping that I get some good stuff in there!

Thank you for your advice! I've been realizing lately that I worry a lot! I always knew that about myself, but I just worry so much about weird things, like if I'm focused enough, and then the worry just causes more problems. So I've been trying to worry less. My companion and I were telling each other things that we liked and didn't like about each other (all in good fun :) ) and one of the things he said is I'm kinda boring :) I didn't mind though, cause it's kinda true nowadays, and I know I'm not really all that boring. But I do have a hard time sometimes, just letting loose and not worrying so much. So I need to learn how to do that, while still balancing it with reverence and such :) And, better to be too boring than too annoying right? :) I'll try not to be too hard on myself though.

That ponderizing scripture is really good! I'm gonna study that one more! Mine this week was 2 Nephi 4:34-35. Another Nephi one. Isn't he the BEST? :) It's actually kinda similar to the family's! It's all about trusting God. I need to trust God more...He knows everything but still I won't give things up sometimes. Ugh :) Lots to work on :)

I don't have any pictures this week. Sorry! I'll definitely try to get some soon! You need to know just who I'm dealing with in my apartment and district :) Thank you for everything! I loved your email as always, thank you so much! I LOVE you!!!!! I'll be excited to email next week! Thanks for being the best Mom ever :)

Elder Connor Hopkin

Week 9--Some Good Experiences and Nothing Too New

 Week nine finds Connor doing well. He and Elder Jones continue to work hard to find people to teach. His letter this week is below.

Hi Mom!!

How's it going!? I loved your email as always!! :) I feel like there were so many things that you said that I just loved but don't really know how to respond to....:) I hope your heel is ok! That's fun though that we both get to bike a ton though :)

Things with Amelia are going well, but kinda slowly. She's pretty busy and a little hard to get a hold of, so we only got to visit her once this week. It was a really good visit though! We are having a lesson with her tonight at a member's house, and that's always a really good step! I hope things can continue to progress and go well. She's still our only investigator that's really progressing, but we have a couple new ones that we're hopeful about! We actually had a really cool experience the other day! We had gone over to Amelia's for a visit but she wasn't there and we were pretty bummed. So we started to bike away, but about a minute down the road, my companion had a super strong prompting to go back. So we did. Amelia has this neighbor who supposedly has been pretty antagonistic to missionaries - she has a sign outside her door that says something like "Keep away Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses. Do not leave any literature on my door!" :) But as we were riding by, she stopped us and started asking questions. She had seen us over at Amelia's a lot, and had asked Amelia's mom about us and was told to just ask us. So she was super curious and asked a couple questions about what we believe, and we told her, gave her a Book of Mormon, and scheduled a visit for tomorrow! And she took her sign off her door! We're really excited about it! She's kinda interesting, but seems reasonably interested! And, after we talked to her, we saw that Amelia had gotten home, so we went over and had our lesson with her! It was an amazing experience!

I had another cool experience last Monday. There was a funeral in the Spanish ward that the other Elders in our apartment cover, and they set me up to play the piano for the funeral. So I said yes, thinking that I would play a couple hymns and it would be all good. But on the funeral day, a couple hours before it, I found out that I needed to accompany a singer. She gave me the music and it was just the right hand, and I was relieved. But all of a sudden, she said "So, are you gonna play the left hand?" And I looked at it and said "Uh....there isn't a left hand...." :) But I tried to draw on the music training I've had, and in a matter of about 15 minutes, I had basically figured out the chords based on the right hand and had improvised a left hand for it that sounded pretty good. And it went super well when it came time to actually perform! The thing is, I have no idea how I improvised it so quickly...I definitely know that it was completely the Spirit drawing on the years of piano lessons and jazz piano training I had taken, and helping me to play well so that I could serve someone. It was incredible, and I'm so grateful that Heavenly Father helped me be able to do that!

Those were kinda the two highlights of my week. We have another couple of people that have seemed interested that we can hopefully visit soon, and we've had a couple of really good experiences with a less active/inactive member, and a recent convert. Other than that, not a whole lot going on. We're just trying to work hard and have faith and hope that we'll be able to find the people we're meant to! I've had a couple of kinda hard days, where I just feel like I'm not accomplishing much and wonder if I can do what I need to. But God has helped me through them :) I just hope that I'm doing enough, that I'm doing what I need to so I can have the Spirit and be able to use it to bless others.

I loved how you said that the disappointments we face when people don't accept the Gospel gives us an idea of how Christ feels. I've realized and thought about that a bit during the week actually! Here we are as missionaries, just trying to help others and bring them happiness, and they just dismiss it, sometimes very unkindly. And we're just like "Hey! We just want to help! Don't be mad at US!" you know? But I realized that we have weaknesses that make it less likely for people to accept us; but Jesus is perfect and has made a perfect Atonement! You'd think everyone would accept it! There are no flaws! Yet people completely dismiss and reject it, often very unkindly! And I imagine He's kind of like "Hey! I'm just here to help! I love you so much! I'm right here and I've made it perfectly possible for you! Don't be mad at ME!" Kinda sad but interesting to think about, and it made me realize that I need to always be accepting of Christ, because He's just there to help and love me.

Thanks again for the updates! Bryn's birthday party sounded like a success! I'm glad everyone got to be together! I'm super excited for all those missionaries! It's so scary but good :) As far as things I need, I'm pretty good. Those snacks you sent a while ago are basically out, so a few more would be kinda nice, but I'm a lot better off with food this transfer than last. Having 4 missionaries around and a lot of money from the ward has helped a ton! But snacks and candy are always appreciated :) Clothing-wise, I'm good! Thanks for taking such good care of me!!!

I hope this email was alright. Ugh I ALWAYS worry! I felt a little weird about emailing today too for some reason....I just worry that I'm missing something :):) But yah, pretty good week! I love you so much!! Let me know if there's anything I can do! I pray for you all the time! Thanks for all the prayers and fasts, in my behalf and my companion's and my area's! Thanks for being so so so supportive! You're the most incredible Mom! I love and miss you!!

Elder Connor Hopkin

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Week 8--Carrying On And A Two-Month Milestone

Here is Connor's letter from week 8--hitting the milestone of two full months in the mission field on September 29th. 

Hi Mom! :)

I had a pretty good week! Elder Jones and I are continuing to get along really well. We've started to notice some of our differences...but we're both pretty good about being patient with each other, and we enjoy each other too :) The work is still pretty slow. I've felt like we hardly get anything accomplished because we have to bike so much, and people are never home, etc. Probably a pretty typical missionary experience, right? We still have very few people to teach...but we have found a couple! And we talked to a couple people on the street that might end up being interested! Our little ray of sunshine this week was Amelia. She was a former investigator that we decided to stop by and meet, and she was so excited to meet us and start being taught again! She's 10 years old, and she is SO cool! Her sister was baptized a few months ago but hasn't been to church since, and her mom is not interested but totally supportive. So she's planning on being baptized in a few weeks! It's totally brightened the week for us, and we're super excited to keep teaching her :) We've had a couple good visits with some less active members...and that's about it. We're just continuing to try to find people and work hard! We're both really working on being more diligent...with our apartment being a 10 minute bike ride from our area, it's easy to make excuses and stay at the apartment. But I've seen so many times, that the adversary is so good at convincing us to just be lazy and make excuses, but as soon as we put in a little faith and just start doing things, just start working, the Spirit immediately makes you happier and excited to work. It's super cool :)

To answer your questions: I am getting used to the biking. I'm pretty excited for how strong my legs are gonna be by the end of this transfer ;) It's pretty exhausting though. I'm starting to feel like a professional biker now...if nothing else good comes from this transfer, at least I've learned to ride with no hands! I feel pretty cool :) We're getting used to the area, and I've found that I'm pretty good at finding my way around with a map! I was always pretty decent, like when Dad and I would run around cities on vacations, and I've gotten to use that random talent this transfer! :) We are close to restaurants and stores, and we've been able to find rides when we have to go somewhere pretty far away. The city is pretty similar to an Orem/Provo feel. My last area was a little more rural than I was used to, so it's nice to be in a bigger city. I think the population is around 115,000? We only cover a section of it though. The people seem pretty well off....we've seen some dang cool cars :) I'm still loving our roommates and everything! It's been super good :)

Conference was so goooood!!! I had a hard time during some of the sessions, cause it's so much to take in! I feel like I need to remember everything that was said, and that there's so much for me to improve on and be better at, but I don't know how to, and I just got kinda stressed at times. There were so many good talks though! President Uchtdorf's was exactly what I needed! Just simplify the gospel, focus on what's important, and start where you are. God loves and completely accepts us and will help us improve. It was super comforting. And there were a few talks on the Atonement that were so inspiring and so amazing! And!! Elder Holland's talk on Mothers! I hope you paid dang good attention to that! I loved every word! He expressed everything I feel about you. Thank you so much for everything you've done for me! You seriously are the biggest example of Christ-like love that I can imagine! I hope you see yourself how I do, and how my siblings and Dad, and Heavenly Father, do. I love you so much!

That's so crazy that Bryn is turning 15! Dang! Good luck with the driving! I'm sure it'll go alright :) I'm glad the ward asks about me and I hope I'm setting an ok example. That's given me a lot of motivation when I'm discouraged - I try to think about how it affects my siblings and others, and that motivates me to keep going and work hard.

Thank you so much for all of the prayers! They make such a huge difference! My companion appreciates it too! It's so helpful! How Firm a Foundation has become one of my favorite hymns too over the last couple months! Those two's exactly what I need when I'm feeling lost and down. I've struggled a bit over the last few days cause I feel like I'm missing something - like, there's something that I need to be doing better but I can't exactly figure it out. I feel like there's so many things I need to do better and learn and improve on but I just don't know how or where to start or which one to focus on. But your email and everything helped a ton! It's nice to remember that I'm already doing what the Lord has asked. And we can always give more, improve more, but it made me feel like I'm doing an ok job. So thanks :)

I noticed during Conference that there were a few main trends. One was the importance of the Sabbath Day, and I think it's really interesting that the prophets are hitting so hard on that. I've never thought about that as an essential commandment (obviously one to really follow and be obedient to, but not like the Word of Wisdom or the Law of Chastity and such). But the prophets have promised that so much good will come as we are obedient to that law! The prophets tell us exactly what we need at this time in the world, and obviously we need to make sure we make the Sabbath a delight. The other main topics I noticed were faith and obedience, and they all tie in to each other so perfectly! It takes a ton of faith to be completely obedient, but it's the key to everything! The way we show the Lord that we love and accept Him, the way we repent and accept the Atonement, is to have faith in Jesus Christ and obey His commandments. I think that obedience is the application of faith. People always talk about how faith isn't just a passive belief, that it's acting. So we act by being obedient. I've definitely found that obedience on my mission is so critical. It bring the Spirit so much, and I definitely need the Spirit :) I'm sure you already knew these things, but I just thought those were some cool focus points in conference :)

Dang, well, I think this email is sufficiently long, don't you? :) Sorry for all the words! I love you so much and I really really look up to you. You're my hero. You're such a good example to me! I want to be the male version of you someday, mixed with a bit of Dad in there :) I miss you a lot! Thanks for everything you've done for me, and still do! It's done more for me than you, or even I, can understand :) Thanks for all the advice and love and motivation you always give in your emails. They always help me feel better! I'll be looking forward to writing you next week! I love you!!!!!

Elder Hopkin

For those of you who are following but do not receive his group emails, below is the one he wrote this week, as well. If any of you want to be added to this email list, contact me and I will get you added.

Hi everyone!! It's been a while since my last email so I thought I'd just send out a quick one to give a few updates!

So I'm in a new area! After just one transfer (6 weeks) in my last area, I got moved. New companion and everything! It was super interesting because I've heard of a lot of missionaries spending a lot of time in their first areas, so I was expecting to stay a while in Ione and Jackson, but I got moved really quick. So I'm in the Tracy Ward now. My companion and I were both new to the area, so neither of us knew where anything was or who anyone was. Luckily, we live in an apartment with my District Leader and his companion that has been in the area for a long time, so they were able to give us a lot of help and direction. The ward is so helpful and incredible, they've taken such good care of us already! My new companion is amazing! We have a lot in common, and we get along super well. We're both a little discouraged at times because the work is going kind of slow. When we arrived, there weren't any investigators or really anything much to work off of, so our whole time has been spent trying to find someone that's interested. We haven't had a whole lot of success yet, but we have been teaching a 10-year old girl that is hoping to be baptized within the month. She's so cool, and she's given us a lot of hope and motivation.

I just want to share a couple things I got out of General Conference! I noticed a big trend about faith and obedience. I think those are the two stepping stones that guide us in living the Gospel. By having faith in and trusting Heavenly Father, we decide to be obedient because we know it will make us happy. I know that obedience takes a lot of faith, that sometimes it doesn't make sense why the Lord would ask us to do something. We can't see the eternal perspective. But He does, and He loves us enough to give us those guidelines that will make us happy. By being obedient, we qualify ourselves for the Spirit, which is one of the greatest gifts God can give us. One of my favorite scriptures that I've found on my mission is Mosiah 2:41. By keeping the commandments and being faithful, we can dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. And that's our whole goal! Never-ending happiness sounds pretty good to me :) I know that as we exercise faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ and do our best to follow Him, He will bless us so much! He loves every single one of us, perfectly and completely. He wants to help us. By having faith in him and doing what He asks, we can allow Him to help.

I'll try to continue to give updates when things change around! I just hate group emails, I get all worried that I sound weird :) Thanks for everything that you all do and have done for me! It's made such a difference for me! Your support helps me more than you know! I know Jesus is our Savior and that He loves us. As we turn to Him and remember Him, He will give us strength, comfort, and help.

Elder Hopkin

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Week 7--Change Is Good!!

Well, we were pretty anxious to get Connor's letter this week. We wanted to know who is new companion was, where he was serving, and how things were going for him. Shon and I, individually, and all of us as a family, had been saying extra prayers in his behalf- that all would be going well. I was so happy to receive this letter from him on Monday.

Alright! Hi! :) I feel like there's lots to write about but not at the same time :)  So! I'll give you a little recap of the week!

So things have gone lots better than I was fearing they would! Pretty typical I think :) Thank you so much for the prayers in my behalf and everything you have done! They've helped a ton! So I was so nervous my last few days in my last area, but there were times that the Spirit just completely told me that everything would be ok and I felt so comforted. And then other times I was about ready to have a mental breakdown :) So on Tuesday, I drove down to Modesto for the little fireside thing they do for the trainers and new missionaries. Three other missionaries that came in with me are training too! The two Sisters, and our MTC District Leader. They're all super incredible missionaries. But that comforted me a bit, that I wasn't alone in this. So we got our companions! My new trainee is Elder Jones. We got to know each other and almost all my fear left. He's so great! He's basically pre-trained :) So I basically told him that I was almost as new as he is, and that I'd teach him what I know, and we'd learn together! So that's what we're doing! We get along super well, and we're super similar in a lot of ways! He is so dang lucky because he has absolutely no all. So unfair! And he's just excited to get out here and work and he's super good with people and he's already better than me at some things. Our new area is the Tracy Ward, in Tracy. The last missionaries were...well, we didn't have a lot to go off of when we got in. So we're focusing right now on just finding investigators. The first few days, I basically had no idea what to do, but we're just trying to work hard and have faith. I've found so many times that if I just go and talk to someone, or just go knock the door, the Spirit helps me. I've really seen it "fill my mouth" so many times! Now that I don't have a trainer to lean on, it's kind of up to me to take the lead in a lot of situations, so that's been such a huge blessing! We haven't found any investigators yet and that's super frustrating (all of our numbers that we reported were straight 0's... kind of embarrassing) but our ward is incredible and is working super hard to have referrals for us. So we're just going to exercise as much faith as we can muster and rely on the Spirit, and Heavenly Father will provide according to His will! We live in an apartment with my District Leader and his companion and they're absolutely incredible! That's taken a lot of stress off too, cause I've been able to ask them questions and they're super helpful. All four of us get along super well! We are biking though :/ It's taking some time getting used to but I kinda like it cause it gives us more opportunities to talk to people along the way. Our District Leader has a car, and he's been so kind and helpful in driving us when we need. Our district is so cool! All of the missionaries are just good and nice and we all get along and we all have a desire to work hard and be obedient. It's a power group :) So all in all, everything is going super well! Dang, sorry, that was a lot of info! But there was a lot of change, so there's all the background information :)

 Elder Hopkin and Elder Dixon on the day of transfer: Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Elder Hopkin and Elder Jones 

Thank you so so so much for fasting and praying for me! I know that it helped a whole lot! And it means a lot to me that you do that for me, it shows how much you love and support me. Thank you! I've definitely felt the Savior help and uplift me throughout the week! It's been really good. My last companion was so good and taught me so much, but it's kind of nice to be my own missionary now. He was really hard on me. Being with these other missionaries, it's helping me realize that I can have fun and be myself too! This is obviously such an important work, and I need to do everything in my power to help it along...but I don't need to take myself so seriously all the time. I can enjoy it! As long as I'm still obedient and work hard and do my best. It's been really nice relief. I just hope that without Elder Dixon pushing me so hard, I'll still be able to progress. But I think I can :) But yah, a lot of the stress that I had been feeling for several weeks has diminished a lot. It's really good.

I'm glad Makaeli is having a good time with soccer! And dating :) That's super fun! Thanks for the updates with Cooper! It gives me flashbacks to just a few short weeks ago :) I loved that letter from him :) Thanks for keeping me updated, it's fun to hear what's going on back home!

Thank you for your thoughts on faith and General Conference! I love hearing your testimony in all your emails! It's really good to hear! I've definitely been needing to exercise a lot of faith lately, so I've gained a good testimony of that too :) Like I said, as I just go to open my mouth or just knock on that scary door, it takes a lot of faith, but there are a few scriptures that help a ton! Ether 12:6 reminds me that it's supposed to be scary and hard, but that if we push through the hard times, then we will always receive the witness. And I love 1 Nephi 4:6-7 cause I've had to do that a ton! I just have to leave the apartment, and bike to a random place, and figure out what to do, not knowing exactly what will happen. But nothing will happen if I just stand still. So as I exercise faith and act, THEN the Spirit helps, and THEN the Lord can direct and bless me. It's been a big testimony strengthener. And holy cow, am I excited for General Conference!!! Something about being out here, about plain NEEDING direction and help, makes me so stinking excited to hear the words of the Lord, given just for me. I love your testimony and story about the prophet. Isn't it super cool that we have a direct line to God's advice! I'm so excited :)

Just so you know, this ward is SO incredible and they are already taking such good care of us! They have made SURE that we've had dinner every night. They are so kind to us. Our WML is amazing! And....a woman from the ward just took us out for grocery shopping. I don't even know how to express how kind it was. She spent a lot of money making sure that Elder Jones and I have enough food and everything that we need...we have a pretty limited budget. Oh, I never told you huh? $135 per month. Barely enough! I can't even describe how much of a help that was. So I just want you to know that your son is being taken care of, more than enough! :)

Well, I love you so much! I miss you a lot a lot a lot and I pray for the family every night. I always just realize how much I love and care about you all, and how stinking much you and Dad have done for me. Thank you! I love you!!!!! :)

Elder Hopkin :)

As a testimony of what he said was true about being well taken care of, we received this picture and text message from a member in his new ward on Monday night. 

These are the blessings of missionary work! And, my heart really is happy!