Monday, April 18, 2016

Week 36

Hi Mom!!!! :)

So I'll start with the report I guess! Let's see... the investigator that I was talking about that came to the baptism is SO cool! :) We had two lessons with him this week (which is the first sign of how prepared he is - we barely get a lesson a month with most people) and he will hopefully be getting baptized sometime next month! Ahh it was so cool: in our lesson with him last Monday, we were talking a lot about the Book of Mormon and receiving an answer through the Holy Ghost. We bore our testimonies and did the missionary stuff and he paused and said... "Hmm... I think I'm feeling the Holy Ghost right now!" And we were like "Yes you are!" :) I think one of his spiritual gifts is being able to recognize the Spirit. Similar to Abraham and Martha, it's a humbling privilege to work with him. That less-active lady that I said came to church last week, came again this week! She's loving it! She cried at both sacrament meetings - it's really cool! The family that came to church last week isn't interested anymore; we tried to drop off a video to her, and her husband turned us down hard. So yah! I'm happy with the way things are going - of course not perfect, but this is definitely a higher point in my mission as far as the area goes.

We had interviews with President Palmer on Thursday, and it was one of the best days ever. As a zone leader, we had to stay and keep time for all of the interviews (10 minutes each :) ) so since I was going to be sitting at the church all day, I took some piano music!! I got to practice for a couple hours, and after a while some of the missionaries started singing along and it was just so much fun!! :) I've noticed that whenever I try to play something not church-related, I've lost about half of my skills. But when I play hymns or try to improvise on hymns, I'm almost better than I ever was! Pretty interesting :) My interview with President was wonderful. I had a personal question I wanted to ask him; before my personal interview, he talked to me and my companion together, and answered my question there! Before I had said anything! Talk about inspired :) Elder Roudabush had a pretty long interview with him, so I got to talk to Sister Palmer for a long time, and she's the BEST! I walked in and her first words were, "Do you want a cookie?" :) A member of the Stake presidency walked in on us and stopped to talk for a while, and she carried on a good conversation for about 5 minutes - then the second he left, she turned to me and whispered, "I have NO idea who that is!" :)

This morning, I had a prompting to read in my patriarchal blessing, and I learned SO much! I've been so amazed at how Heavenly Father has helped me learn line upon line over the last several months. I looked back about 6 months in my journal to another study I had done with my patriarchal blessings, and I had learned several of the same things, but today it was just a lot deeper. It's amazing to me how God has a plan for every single one of us and helps us progress in the way we need. I've noticed this as I've read emails today about what different people are learning; as I've been taught by different missionaries; and as I've seen less-active members come back to church because of big trials. God knows exactly what He's doing! :) Yesterday, while taking the sacrament, I felt an overwhelming feeling of love and forgiveness come to me through the Spirit - a lot stronger than I usually do. It was amazing and really strengthened my testimony that Christ loves us and forgives us because of His sacrifice. I'm so grateful to Him!

That's exciting with Ethan's baseball! And crazy with him and Makaeli receiving new callings! Makaeli's life really does sound too familiar! :) Nice and busy! I hope she really enjoys that trip to Europe! I'm glad you have Grandpa and Grandma behind you to help you out with things! You do a more-than-adequate job running the house with Dad gone though - just so you know :) I hope that all goes well!

That's really really cool that Cooper was humble and faithful enough to accept that. I respect him already of course, but that just increased my respect for him. I hope he's doing ok. Please give him my love too! Is he gonna work, or go to school, or anything in these 6 months? Do you know?

That's cool that the family is reading through the General Conference talks! I hope I get the chance to join in on family scripture study when I get home! I've realized just how important and special of a time that is. Thank you so much for always making that, and family prayer, and family home evening such a priority! It's given me such a good example of what I want for my future family!

I love you so much! I'm looking forward to Mother's Day too!! I think last time it stressed me out to where I didn't enjoy it as much as I should have (I still loved it of course!). But I feel a little more acclimatized and normal, so I hope I can act a little less weird this time :) I'm so grateful for you! I miss you lots! Thank you for your love and example of faith and kindness and service! You're the best :) I love you!!!!!

Elder Connor Hopkin

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Week 35

Three letters I am posting this week. First one was what Connor sent to me. Second was his letter to Shon, and the last is a group email he sent out to those on his email list. If anyone is interested in being included in his group emails, send him your address and he will put you on. He doesn't write very often, but who knows??? that could change at some point. :)

Hi Mom!!!!! :)

I'm glad the week went by pretty quickly! That's always really nice! That's so crazy that Ethan was ordained! Melissa emailed me and reminded me that Katelyn is turning 12 too! Ahh it's nuts! Dad also told me about Ethan's testimony - that's really cool! I wish I could be there to see everyone growing, but I guess I'll just get the end result after 2 years - that'll be awesome! :) I'm happy the week was so good for everyone! Spring Break sounds really nice :)
So, the picture with President Palmer (I think that was the first) was from Sister Baker, and the one at Golden Corral was from Sister Case. They are both SO incredible and helpful and just wonderful women! I've been so blessed by both of them and their husbands! So President Palmer actually came out with my companion and I for the night! Last Friday (a week and a half ago) he asked us to choose a day, so we chose Thursday and he came out with us from 4 to 8. We were able to teach a 10 year old boy the Restoration, have dinner with the Bakers, talk to a lady about family history, and then read Alma 7 with a less active lady that's going through a really hard time. It was a great night, and such a privilege to spend some time with him! And the less active woman came to church for the first time yesterday!!! :) I've gotten the chance to be around him a lot more lately because of my assignment, and I'm learning lots from him - I definitely couldn't have asked for a better mission president.

Our new investigator from last Sunday came to a baptism in another ward, and then came to church yesterday. He's super prepared and we're really excited to teach him! He's a really nice guy and loves so many things about the Church. He's searched out a lot of different religions and likes this one the most - probably because it's true :) Also, while trying to find a less-active woman, we came across a family that just randomly asked us to pray for their relatives - and then after the prayer asked if they could come to our church! They attended yesterday, and in Relief Society, the mom "coincidentally" learned about Joseph Smith and the Restoration! We'll hopefully be teaching them soon!

I'm so excited to see you all again on Mother's Day! It doesn't seem all that long ago that I called on Christmas!! For my I've actually managed to tear my pinkie toe through the mesh on my running shoes again - imagine that! So a new pair might be nice. I know those aren't exactly cheap, plus shipping too, so no worries if that's too much! Or if you find something else you'd rather get me! Just throwing ideas out :) I'll keep thinking about it too! Thank you so much!

I love that scripture you shared! We actually have been thinking about sharing that chapter with an investigator! I've never really focused on that verse though - that's super good! I've studied a little bit lately about the Doctrine of Christ and the fact that He makes it possible for us to be cleansed from our sins. It's His part (already accomplished) to provide the means by which we all can be cleansed and resurrected - something we could NEVER do on our own. But we ourselves need to follow Him to the best of our ability; and then He mercifully forgives our sins out of love for us. I've come to think of it sometimes as if the Plan of Salvation applies to each one of us individually. We have our own little Plan that God gave us. If we don't accept and follow Christ, then that Plan is destroyed and broken. It's up to us to make sure that Plan hold true for us - and Christ has allowed it to work for us! I don't know if that makes sense at all....? :)

With my assignment as a zone leader, I've had the chance to attend some meetings with different church leaders, and it's been really cool to see them do their best in administering and ministering to others. I've started to realize more and more that every little action within the church is meant to bring someone (ourselves or others) closer to Christ. We get caught up in all the details, but little things like planning mutual, or bringing bread to church, or going to a meeting on Sunday, are all supposed to help God's children find temporary and eternal happiness. It's pretty cool how important we all are :)

Thank you for all your encouragement and love and compliments! :) You don't know how much I appreciate them! I'm learning to accept that I'll never be perfect in this life...ugh! No worries though, it'll come eventually :) I love you so much! I hope my email made sense and wasn't too long :) Thank you for everything! You're my favorite :) I love you!!!!!

Elder Connor Hopkin :)

Hi Dad!!! :)

Sounds like a busy week! I know I shouldn't be jealous of Makaeli and everyone else - cause I've already been those places - but I want to go SOO bad!!! It's probably good I can't, or else I'd be even more upset :) That's so cool about Ethan!! I saw his testimony start to grow a little bit before I came out, but I feel like he was still a little kid... But I'm realizing now how much he's probably growing up so much right now! It's crazy! I doubt I'll recognize him when I get home! :) I'm so interested to see how those different parts of his personality develop as he gets older!

That's fun that you saw Maddie! She's such a great girl! I'm so excited for her! She's going to be incredible out there! You're right, I've been so blessed with amazing friends!!

That's a cool and interesting analogy with the carcass :) I've completely found that too though! Whenever we're at a dinner appointment, as soon as the scriptures come out and testimonies of Jesus are borne, the Spirit enters the room. It's been really cool to experience that. As a leader and a missionary, I'm finding more and more that I can't fix anything for anyone - bad moods, disobedience, trials - the only thing I can do is try to point them to Christ. He's the one that changes and fixes and brings good. That's why our whole purpose as missionaries is to invite others to come unto Christ.

The transfer changes in exactly 2 weeks! I'm pretty anxious - I have absolutely no idea what's going to happen! I'll keep you posted! Thank you for everything, Dad! You're the best and I love you so much!! Good luck with everything this week! Please be safe and have lots of fun! :) I love you!!!

Elder Connor Hopkin :)

Hello family and friends!!!

I'm officially the worst group-emailer! I looked at my sentbox and realized I haven't sent an email in months! My last update was that I would be training another missionary - his name was Elder Ashcraft, and he was a fantastic companion!! I absolutely loved the opportunity to serve with him - I learned a lot during that time! He was my companion for two transfers, and 5 weeks ago, Elder Roudabush became my new companion! He's about as opposite as you can get from Elder Ashcraft, but we get along great as well, and I've really enjoyed working with him. He's been out over 18 months, so I've been able to learn a lot from him! I'm still at home in Tracy ward; I've grown to love these people so much, and I now feel so comfortable around them that I wouldn't be surprised if I got moved in the near future. It's all in the Lord's hands though - we'll see what happens! Last month, I had the privilege of teaching a couple named Abraham and Martha and helping them make the covenant of baptism. They're so wonderful and were so proactive in learning about the gospel! We hadn't even invited them to be baptized before he asked what the steps were for him to join the church! We've been blessed with several other investigators right now; the work fluctuates quite a bit, but it's all been so incredible!! I've gotten to play basketball quite a bit lately, so that makes me pretty happy too :)

I've learned a lot recently about the love that our Heavenly Father has for every single one of us. We are his entire work and glory - he's so completely invested in us and our happiness. He cries when we do, and he loves every single little good choice we make. He's so proud of us, and He just wants us to come closer to Him. This has helped me realize how His love applies to and helps me personally, and it's helped me learn to love others for who they are. I've also come to know more and more that He is always there to help us, to comfort us, and to answer our questions. When we put in the effort to ask, then do our best to find the answer, He ALWAYS answers! I promise :) Something that our mission president has been focusing on is how we need to individually and personally apply the Atonement to our lives. Christ sacrificed to heal and help us; but if we don't allow Him to, His sacrifice meant nothing. We need to learn how to find comfort and peace in Him, and allow ourselves to feel forgiveness when He has given it. And when we can feel that for ourselves, we know how to better share that happiness with others. I know He loves us and will help us, and I love Him so much!

I hope all is going well with everyone! Again, thank you all for your love and support and help! I'm so blessed by each one of you!

Elder Hopkin :)

We also got a couple of pictures from the stalwart members that are so good to keep in touch.

Sister Baker, Elder Roudabush, Elder Hopkin, President Palmer
Thursday, April 7, 2016

"And, we have a soaking wet set of Elders filling up at Golden Corral before Fast Sunday."
Saturday, April 9, 2016

Monday, April 4, 2016

Week 34

Hi Mom!!!!!!

Thank you so much!!!! I really really appreciate that! Your help and love and emails and prayers have been such a help to me, and I'm so grateful for you! General Conference always seems to bring up women, and I'm always so impressed by you and how strong and incredible and faithful and loving you are. Thank you so much for everything :)

So, I was trying to think about the last week, and realized it was pretty eventful actually! We had a nice leadership meeting on Tuesday, where President Palmer helped us realize that the missionaries in this mission don't allow the Atonement to apply to them! A lot of us teach about how Christ can strengthen and forgive and save us, but we don't trust it or personally apply it for ourselves. I found a lot of that same message through General Conference, so that was really cool! On Wednesday, one of the missionaries in our zone gave us a call; he was having a super low day and needed some help. I was able to go talk to him, and a lot of his concerns were similar to the ones that I've experienced, feeling overwhelmed with everything. I was able to help him out a bit, and we read in the Book of Mormon together. I had no idea what to read with him, so I thumbed through and found Helaman 5. I remembered it was a good chapter, so we read that, and he said it helped him a lot. It was a big testimony to me of how the Book of Mormon brings the Spirit and answers our questions. So that was an intimidating experience, but I'm super grateful for it! On Thursday, Elder Roudabush and I led our first zone training. It was so scary :) I think it went well though; we basically just tried to bring up the same points we had learned from our leadership meeting, and a couple of the sister training leaders in our zone led a discussion that was perfect! On Friday, I got to do an exchange with Elder Lopez, my first district leader here in Tracy, and it was really good spending some time with him. Then of course, General Conference was incredible! We had a pretty good day yesterday, teaching a few lessons and finding a couple investigators!

General Conference really was so good!!! Elder Holland's talk was the most perfect conclusion I could have imagined! Especially during Priesthood session, I felt pretty chastised (which is really good in its own way :) ) but that last talk helped smooth it all out. Something that stood out to me was in President Uchtdorf's talk on Sunday morning. I'm not quoting it perfectly, but he essentially said that obedience isn't supposed to be us painfully molding ourselves to God's rules - it's a way for us to find what we're made of. Obviously our natural man doesn't want to comply with the commandments - that's why we have to overcome it and become a saint through the Atonement. But what we're TRULY made of is our spirit - the same spirit that dwelt with God and remembers being in His perfect presence. Our true nature wants to be good and obedient; so the commandments really are fine-tuned to what we are. That's why we feel so much happiness and satisfaction when we are obedient; we're following our true nature! We just have to learn to let our spirit overcome that stupid natural man! Also, I absolutely loved Elder Bednar's talk. It was the perfect missionary talk; it was essentially the last half of our lesson 3, "The Gospel of Jesus Christ." He explained so well why we need to be baptized and confirmed, and why the sacrament is so essential. I learned a lot from his. It was really incredible how much these talks answered my questions! I had three questions that I wanted to be answered, and as I looked over my notes this morning in context of my questions, there were SO many answers! I've also had several other experiences this week where I've prayed and asked for answers, and God has given them to me. That seems to be a recurring lesson for me out here - maybe I'll learn it one of these days :)

Anyways, wow! Sorry for those long paragraphs :) The music really was so beautiful too!! They're so good! You know, as I've thought about the lyrics for Called to Serve, I was never really that impressed with them - they never really stood out to me. But with you writing them there, I actually really like them now! So thank you!! :)

Ahhhhh I was freaking out when I realized that Ethan went to his first priesthood session! That's so crazy! He's already looking so much older! He's gonna, like, be through puberty when I get home! What the heck? :) Ooooh I need to see a picture of Jimmy!!! She told me about him but never sent me a picture!! I'm so glad for her! And I'm sooooo jealous of those girls and their vacation!!! :( Ahh I get to see almond trees and stoplights while they look at Sacre Cur and Big Ben! But I don't even care, mine is better! :) That's going to be so fun for them!

K well, I think that's it for the week! I love you so much!! Thank you so much for your email!! I hope you make sure to apply the exact same things to yourself that you said to me :) You do so much good and you try so so so hard (and succeed more often than not :) ) and I know that Heaven is cheering you on and that Heavenly Father is so proud of everything you do! There's this song that's around the mission called "In the Meantime" that basically talks about how when we lose our lives and serve others, that's when we find the true reward and progress - and you exemplify that I think :) Thank you for everything you do! I miss and love you so so so much!! :)

Elder Connor Hopkin