Sunday, January 31, 2016

Week 24--No Transfers, New Responsibilities, And A Laundry Adventure

Here is Connor's letter for the week of January 18-24th. Sounds like he's having all kinds of adventures--which is a pretty good description of what a mission is--an adventure. It certainly gives a few good stories to tell for years to come. I love seeing the growth and progress he is making in responding to change and unexpected experiences. I am proud of him for it!

Hi Mom!!!!! :):)

So! It was a pretty good/crazy week! :) I was actually going to just copy my journal entry for Monday and email it to you, cause it was such a unique day...but I forgot my journal :/ Anyways, the summary is this: After emailing, we went to dinner, then had an awesome lesson with this couple that basically asked us what they need to do to be baptized!! We had a couple of other really good contacts that day, and then! We do our laundry at this laundromat in our apartment complex, and we had to leave our clothes in the dryer to come email, then we went straight to dinner and our lesson, and so our clothes were there for hours. So we went to get them....and they were gone!! Yay!! There were clothes in the dryer we had been using, so we waited there until that person came to get his clothes. He arrived, and we started to ask him if he knew anything...and he was deaf! So we had an interesting time communicating with him and realized he didn't know anything about it. We prayed, and then searched around. Finally, we saw one of our socks outside the laundromat. Then we found another one about 20 feet away. I connected a line between the two, and it pointed....straight to the dumpster!! :) So we went dumpster diving at 10 pm getting our juicy clothes so we could wash them in the morning! It was actually super exciting! :)

So that was my Monday! :) We had a really good work week, and that was super nice! We found those two investigators that I mentioned already, and had a good lesson with Mary, and found several other investigators! It's so interesting how they're all from different walks of life, but they ALL need the gospel! It's been exciting trying to teach them the way they need though - we have a couple investigators that are just SUPER smart and know the Bible in and out and teaching them is so fun but exhausting! Without our members and the Spirit, they would have eaten us alive :) They're all actually interested though, it's not like they're trying to Bible-bash or anything. And then we have the investigators that don't work, do drugs, and are so humble and teachable. It's so interesting!

So, a pretty good week! I'm sure I'm missing something important, but I can't think of it right now :( We had transfer calls last night! I'm staying with Elder Ashcraft (thank goodness!) and I was called as a District Leader. I'm super nervous but really excited for the learning opportunity! I just KNOW I'm going to have some really embarrassing and humbling experiences....but oh well right? It's good for me! :) I'm so glad I'm still with Elder Ashcraft - he's fantastic, and it would have been sad for one of us to leave the area with the progress happening right now. It's all pretty overwhelming but I'm happy about it :)

Dang! 6 months this's crazy! It seems so fast...but there's so much left! I don't know what to think about it. It's crazy that I'll end up being in this area for nearly 6 months! Unless I stay even longer after this transfer! Hahaha I love you calling it the Sister Missionary Mark! That's so weird that the Sisters coming in tomorrow will be going home the same time as me!

I'm sure you had a fantastic time being a single parent for a week! :) That really is cool that he got to travel there and represent the Church in that way - and I really do agree that you're a huge part of that by taking care of things at home and supporting him with that! He wouldn't be able to do anything that he does without your love and support and work! I'm glad that Makaeli and Bryn and Ethan are having fun with everything! That dating sounds intense! She better be careful! ;) That's fun about the Stake Presidency! President Vaughn will do an amazing job! That's interesting that Elder Runia talked about distractions - that's been a theme that President Palmer has emphasized a lot lately - getting rid of distractions that keep us from fulfilling our purpose! That's really cool! And holy cow isn't the Book of Mormon just so good?? I've really come to love and appreciate it even more on my mission - if there's ever a doubt that I have, I just remember how true the Book of Mormon is, and that helps me hold on until more understanding comes. That's why it's such a keystone for us!

That's super cool that they got to have the morningside with Elder Holland! Luckies!! :) It is cool how missionary work is progressing so much in these latter days! I remember an EFY lesson I had, where the teacher pointed out that all of the previous dispensations had their duties and responsibilities, and they have provided such a foundation for us through the scriptures and such. And it's our responsibility in this dispensation to gather Israel and do missionary work and especially do temple work so all can have the chance to receive salvation. That's what we're here for!

I'm glad you think it's a good thing that I'm not too stressed! :) I had a couple moments this last week where I did, but overall it really has been so much better. I think I see a few potentially stressful situations in my future, but I'll take it as it comes I guess! :) Thank you for all your prayers! And the reminder to rely on the Lord! I just always hope I can do enough myself to qualify for His help, you know? But He helps me do even that! It's so unfair - we're so blessed :) I'm just so grateful for the Atonement and the strength and power that comes from it. I'm so grateful to Him for His sacrifice for me and all of us, and I KNOW that because of Him, we can receive forgiveness for our sins. We can live with our Heavenly Father again, because His plan is perfect!

I love you so so so much!! Thank you for your email and just EVERYTHING!! I'm so blessed to be your son! I love your emails every week - I always always look forward to them! And they're always perfect! I always pray for you! There's an amazing section in Preach My Gospel called "No Effort Is Wasted" - and I think it's so applicable to motherhood! I know you get discouraged or sad every once in a while cause I can't even imagine how hard it is to be a mother! But everything you do means so much, and it doesn't miss its mark. You're such an amazing Mom and I love you and miss you so much!!

Elder Connor Hopkin

Monday, January 18, 2016

Week 23

We got a couple of pictures this week from members in the area where Connor is serving. They came in on different days, from different people. I sure am grateful for those who send us these pictures. It makes me feel more connected somehow. I have added quotes from the texts also--I love what they members there have to say about Elder Hopkin and Elder Ashcraft.

 Elder Ashcraft, Elder Hopkin, Sister Baker
Tuesday, January 12, 2016

"We love taking care of them here in Tracy. They are both very dedicated and love the Lord and the people here."

Elder Hopkin and Elder Ashcraft
Wednesday, January 13, 2016

"Hello Mothers. Had your sons here for dinner. Sounds like they are having lots of success and are working very diligently. Your Elders are great young men."

Here is Connor's letter this week:

Hi Mom!!!! :):):)

Week 24! Dang! That's crazy! Yesterday, I was in ward council, and before the meeting started it came up that I had been in this area for 4 months - it was nuts to think about! And, with my training assignment, I'm guessing that I'll stay here with Elder Ashcraft for another transfer to total about 5 and a half months. That's a long time! It's been such a perfect ward to be in for so long though; it's been such a blessing! And, I've gotten to the point where I tell people I've been out 6 months - what?! It's insane :) I can already see how I'll look back on my mission with gratitude and fondness; even though it's hard sometimes, I'm learning so much that I know is really going to bless my life - and already has!

That sounds like a good week! Dad emailed saying you've had a couple crazy days - is everything all good? Anything specific I can pray for? That's super exciting for Dad going to Singapore! That for some reason reminds me of how you let me go to Israel instead of going yourself...I don't think I ever really thanked you enough for that, but I've realized just how incredible that was and how much I should be grateful for that opportunity. So thank you....about 2 years late :) Anyways, that was random... :) And that's super cool about Makaeli!! I think I mentioned, there's a girl in our ward that plays the organ, and I was so jealous cause she's really good - then I talked to her about it yesterday and she doesn't use the tell Makaeli that's something to be proud of! It's not an easy thing!

Thank you for praying for me and my investigators!! And putting us on the prayer role!! That's so helpful! I've felt pretty...not-so-stressed lately. Of course, plenty of obvious stress that comes with a mission. But I've felt pretty good about things lately. I don't know if that means I'm not being hard enough on myself, or if it's just a big blessing! Probably a little of both? I hope I'm being hard enough on myself... :) But I've definitely seen and felt the blessings from your prayers! And I'm so jealous that you get to go to the temple!! Ahhhh! A mission is like, the time that you most need the temple, and when you're just starting to appreciate how beautiful it is and...we can't go!! It's ok though :)

So this week! We found a few new investigators! One of them, we had found about a month and a half ago, and one of them about 3 and a half months ago - and we finally got lessons with them!! They're all super cool and really great! One of them keeps telling me she wants to set me up with her daughters.... I don't know how to respond to it, but I don't mind the compliment :) One of the guys is suuuper cool! We got in, and asked to start the lesson with a prayer, and he was like "Can I say it??" and we were like "uh....ok!" and he said our opening prayer! That made me a little nervous, but he ended up being sincerely interested! We asked him if he would get baptized when he finds that the Book of Mormon is true and he said "Well, yah! I wouldn't be genuine if I didn't! I really just want to follow Christ, and if this is it, then of course!" Basically the perfect answer :) So we're excited about that! So thanks for the prayers because we all really need them! :) Mission President is so inspired!! We had a Zone Conference recently, and just the things that he's doing with our mission are so incredible! He's really teaching a higher law. He does a lot of things that make us receive personal revelation and figure things out ourselves line upon line by relying on the Lord (namely, having missionaries train after their first transfer :) ). It's been so good for me, cause I'm so reliant on people telling me what to do sometimes. He also has emphasized the importance of counselling together. Instead of him getting up and teaching us, he has everybody participate and add in their two cents that they've been taught by the Spirit, and it's powerful! He really understands how the Lord wants us to learn and grown and decide things, and it's rubbing off to a lot of our leaders, and then to us. So that's kinda what I've learned recently, if that makes any sense :)

So yah! I think that's it for now! That situation with the money is SUPER COOL!!! Thank you for sharing that with me! Sometimes, I don't have as much faith in my prayers as I should, cause I almost just assume that what I'm asking for isn't God's will. But a lot of times, it is! That's a really cool experience!!

Thank you so much for everything! I love you so much and just THANK YOU for all you do! Thanks for your email and your love and your thoughts and you! :) I'm excited for next Monday already :) I love you!!

Elder Connor Hopkin

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Week 22

Hello Mom!!!!! :):):)

It's Monday again huh?! :) It's so good to hear from you! Dang I love you :)

Well, things were pretty good this week! I don't think I've had a perfect week, nor a perfectly bad week, so things are normal I guess :) Lots of things that made our schedule unexpectedly weird, but nothing that was too crazy! On Wednesday, we had a great day of proselyting planned, then our Zone Leader needed someone to help him drive 2 cars down to Modesto (about a 30 minute drive), then he had to take care of some things on the way back up, and we got to proselyte not nearly as much as we had hoped. And just other things like that that ruined our plans...but nothing bad! :) It's super weird and funny, cause in situations like that, I absolutely love a break, you know? I love being lazy sometimes...but I just get this pit in my stomach that disappears the second I'm able to get out and work. I appreciated that situation on Wednesday cause it reminded me how good it feels to work :) I had a lot of really good learning opportunities this week that I really appreciated! On Tuesday, we had a meeting specifically for trainers and their companions. On Thursday, we had an awesome District Meeting; I also went on an exchange with my Zone Leader Elder Moreno, and he imparted a lot of wisdom to me :) And on Saturday and Sunday, we had a wonderful Stake Conference with an Area Seventy - Elder Pimentel - where we learned about prayer and other things. If you don't mind me sharing a few highlights from Stake Conference: 1) Elder Pimentel talked about how there are two types of prayer. He said we can pray to know things, and we can pray to change things. He talked about how when we pray to change things, we either receive the blessing according to the Lord's will, or we have to pray for strength to be patient if His will isn't the same as our request. He also said that an amazing thing of prayer is that we can "pray to change things" for others. It was really cool! 2) There is a returning less active man that is in my ward that spoke. He talked about little "dots on his spiritual road map" that led him back to the church. He has been back for a little over 2 years, and about 6 weeks ago, he received his endowments, and a couple weeks later was sealed in the temple. He's such an incredible example to me of how the gospel can change lives. He carries the Spirit with him and just seems so happy. His main point was that Satan wants to tell us that we can't get where we want from where we are right now. But because of Jesus Christ, we can get anywhere (specifically Salvation) from where we are. 3) Elder Pimentel also gave his "Pimentel Theory" that you less likely to fall off the cliff if you're not standing close to the edge. He talked about building fences that keep us from breaking commandments and receiving the consequences. Anyways....that was a lot of words! I hope those were a little of worth....sorry :)

There was a man that we met several weeks ago and taught a little, and he said we could teach him more. He's been super busy, but we were finally able to meet with him on Saturday! We taught him and his girlfriend, and they were very receptive! We could have improved a lot in our teaching, but I think it went well. We're super excited about them; I think they're truly prepared - especially him. I'll keep you updated :) Mary is back on the radar! We're hoping to meet with her soon and help her start progressing again. Circumstances are better now, and she's still interested in being baptized, so we're excited for that too! And that's the update! :)

I'm glad it was a good week! That's so crazy about Makaeli! It's so weird to think that she's gonna graduate before I even get home! Ahhh!! That's super exciting though! It's cool that she's growing so much :) And that's awesome about Bryn's and Ethan's plays! Thanks for keeping me updated! :) So, his name is actually Elder Moreno...just so you know :) And thank you SO MUCH for working on that! I haven't told him that I asked you, so it'll be a nice surprise! :) He's the shorter one from the pictures. I'd guess he'd be a large for a shirt. For snacks....I'm not sure :) Dang it! Thanks again for doing that, that'll be such a blessing for him!

Thank you for your thoughts - as always! :) It was really cool for me to see a man in our ward whose father died a few weeks ago, and he and his family were just so calm with the whole situation. He explained in a testimony meeting how he finds so much peace in the Plan of Salvation. It really is an incredible truth that we have. Thanks for your ideas on the Book of Mormon and the tree of life! I need to study that chapter! It really is such an amazing story of the love and peace that we can feel as we push through the hard times. Jesus Christ fills us with so much happiness, and we have the opportunity to partake of that. And we need to share it! :)

Elder Moreno talked to me on our exchange about how leaders need to lift up all those that are around them. We as members of the Church are leaders to those around us, and we have a light that comes from the Holy Ghost. That Spirit will help us as we turn outwards to focus on and help others, and I love the feeling that comes when you focus on someone else and help them. That's what we are called to do, and we are given the power to do so. You're an incredible example of this, but it's something that I've been working on over the last few days, so I wanted to share it with you! :)

Everything is well! I'm so glad everything is good back home! Thanks for your emails and all your love!! You're THE BEST!!! I pray for you constantly! Thank you for everything you have always done for me! I LOVE YOU so much!!!!!

Elder Connor Hopkin

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Week 21--Starting 2016--Hit The 5-Month Mark

In the area where Connor is serving, there is a member who keeps in pretty good touch with me by sending random texts of pictures with Connor and his companion at the food court. My guess is that they treat the missionaries with a meal out every month. I received another one of those texts on Saturday, January 2--right around dinner time. I love them every time!

Saturday, January 2, 2016  Tracy, California

I love the glass of chocolate milk and the empty salad plate. Looks like they had a great dinner. 

This week marks 5 months of Connor being on his mission. I came to the realization that it goes very slowly--and the reason why is that I think of him several times every day. I pray for him in the morning, throughout the day, at night, and, as a family, we pray for him at every meal and in our family prayers. But, as I look back, five months is a fairly significant amount of time, and in hindsight has gone pretty quickly. I am anticipating that this is how it will go. Each day will pass slowly, each week a bit faster and the months, maybe a little faster. By the end of January he will be 1/4 of the way through--and that is pretty weird to think about. His letter from this last week follows:

Hi Mom!!!! :)

How's it going?!? I realized on Sunday that you guys had 9:00 church and was super happy for you and felt super bad for the kids :) We just got moved to 1:00, which is actually perfect timing because it lets us get our three hours of study in the morning, then lunch, then we can get to church a little early! And then we don't have to wait too long after for dinner either :) So my week was pretty good! Plenty of ups and downs as usual! We actually got in contact with Ken, that investigator that was going to be baptized! He wasn't trying at all to avoid us, but he had been super busy and had been going back and forth to a place with bad reception. So we met with him again and set him to another date..and lost contact again. So! :) Not a lot of headway there yet, but we do know that he still wants to get baptized! He just has a super crazy life and is having difficulty finding time for other things - namely the church :) There was another investigator that had dropped us over text several weeks ago, but we decided to stop by and see what was up, and she acted like she had never dropped us! She's also really busy and has a hard time meeting with us...but at least there's more hope there than we had thought! We found another guy that's SUPER solid!!....and he's literally about 30 feet out of our the other missionaries got a really good referral :) We've had a lot of people tell us that we could come share our message sometime, so our potential investigators list is filling up - but we have a hard time getting them to answer the door or set up specific appointments. We hopefully have a few lined up for this week though! So that's the report :) Elder Ashcraft is fantastic! I feel like we both really care about not having any conflict, and getting along with each other, so that's been super nice! He puts up with some annoying things of mine, and I'm super grateful for that :)

So for the New Year's, we actually had an incredible Zone Training! We discussed removing distractions from our missionary lives, and the importance of baptism. One Sister tied it all together perfectly by asking "Is this distraction worth someone not receiving the blessings of the Gospel?" It was super cool, and really motivated me to focus a bit more on my purpose. In my immense inadequacy, I do feel like I've improved just a little in being a little more dedicated, and keeping the right perspective on the work I'm doing here. But I've still got too many things distracting me....I hope over the next 19 months I can get rid of those :) Anyways, that really set the tone for the New Years! To answer your question about my goals for the new year: yes and no :) I've never been super good about setting specific goals, but I have decided to focus on one specific Christlike attribute from Chapter 6 in Preach My Gospel every week/couple of weeks/month (we'll see :) ). It was super cool how my companion brought up the thought about a week ago that he wants to become what God wants him to be, not what he wants to be. So I've really been trying to focus on that! I think that really applies with that awesome quote you shared! God knows what we should be and how we can achieve that. We don't know anything - but we still insist on changing how we want to! So we just need to let Him take over!

Anyways! Sorry, that probably sounded super preachy! I'm reading over that and thinking it doesn't really sound like myself....but that's what came out and I'm too lazy to fix it ;) Also, on New Year day, we went to a party at a member's house that was super fun! Don't worry, there were non-members there, and we didn't spend too long! But it was fun :) That is SO crazy that Grandma and Grandpa are coming home soon! I've told them this before, but I always really looked up to them for making that sacrifice, and it was an incredible example as I decided to come out! They're pretty amazing :) 

That is SO cool that you're trying to make the Sabbath even better! To be honest, I've always really looked up to you and how you acted on Sundays! You were such a perfect example of diligently going to church, and participating in your callings, and serving (through making dinner for us, and helping others too!)! I don't really have anything to add! I just love how you said you want to "focus more and serve more". I think that's a beautiful perspective on the Sabbath Day - a day to remember and focus on God, and show our love for Him by serving others. I think also, in Preach My Gospel, it specifically says that good activities on Sunday are ones that are centered on the family. You've always tried to make Sunday a family day, which I really appreciate, but I just thought it was something I could remind of :) By the way, thank you SOOOO much for updating my blog every week! That really means so much to me! I'm super excited for when I can take a look at it; it's going to be really special for me to get on it myself and remember all the emails and pictures and stories. THANK YOU! :)

I didn't think your thoughts were all over the place at all! They made perfect sense and were super helpful for me! I don't think I'll EVER figure out the balance between improving and changing, and being patient and not worrying. UGH! :) Every time you remind me of it though, it helps it make just a little more sense! Thank you for your prayers and everything you do!! I hope my emails show and tell you enough how much I appreciate, and love, and respect, and admire, and look up to, and love, and like, and love you :) You're seriously the BEST!!! :)

So......I have a favor to ask of you.... I hope it's ok! My Zone Leader, Elder Moreno, is going home in a few months, and we've become really good friends! And he's from Mexico and doesn't get many packages. A couple times, he's kinda jokingly told me to ask you to send him a package, cause he sees how many I get from you :) And while I think it's mostly a joke, I know he'd really appreciate a little something. Would that be ok, if you maybe just put together a little one for him? That would mean a lot to him! He really likes spicy stuff, and camo things. Just to give a couple ideas :) You could just send it to the regular address, and just address it to Elder Moreno, and it would get to him!

Thanks again for the thoughts in your email! Your ideas always seem to line up perfectly with what I'm struggling with - I always look forward so much (maybe just a little too much :) ) to your emails! Thanks for being so incredible!! I love you SO MUCH!!!! I'll talk to you next week! THANK YOU!!! :)

Elder Connor Hopkin :)