Monday, May 23, 2016

Week 41--Happy 19th Birthday (26th) AND happy 10-month mark (29th)!!

Well, this week, on Sunday, May 29th, will mark 10 months that Connor has been serving as a missionary. It is also his 19th birthday on Thursday, May 26th. It will be sort of weird not having him here for his birthday, but I wouldn't really want him anywhere else. He is learning so many valuable life lessons and his testimony is growing exponentially! What wonderful experiences he is having--it beats a traditional birthday dinner and a birthday cake, for sure. I did send a package with a few things he had asked for and a couple of surprises. Hopefully it will get there by his birthday so he'll have at least one gift to open. Here are pics of the package and his letter.

 Connor's been getting some more chances to play basketball recently and wanted his basketball shoes sent. And he needed a new pair of tennis shoes because he blew out the side of the ones he had. The more things change, the more they stay the same...hahaha. (I was lucky enough to get both pairs to fit inside this box--they barely did).

 Another pair of machine-washable, wrinkle free pants. Don't blame him for that one. And, I am trying him out with a floral tie--they are the new trend (unless you grew up in the 70's, then they are old-school). We'll see if he likes it--I have my doubts.

 The closest I could come to sending him a birthday cake--birthday cake flavored Oreos.

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

Haha it's SO crazy!! My companions and I were talking just the other day and I realized that I wouldn't have even left on my mission yet if it was still 19! I've had the opportunity to share and think about my experience when I prayed to know when I should leave on my mission; I received a slight but obvious answer that I should move forward and serve when 18, and it's been incredible to see how the opportunities and experiences and amazing people have lined up - situations that wouldn't have happened had I left a year later. I realized that I'm already seeing so many blessings in my life come from my mission - and I'm probably not even seeing a part of it! It's pretty weird to me that I'll be 19 in a few days. There's this missionary that turned 19 about a month ago, and I asked him how he felt about it, and he basically but indirectly said "Well, people won't be as impressed with me now that I'm 19 and not 18" and the prideful part of me totally agreed :) I thought that was funny :)

Holy cow, you're going to do some service to celebrate my birthday?!? I LOVE that!!!! :) Thank you so much! Please do report! That's such a fun idea!!! I'm SUPER excited for that package - thank you so so so much, in advance, for that! Thank you so much for your compliments! I hope I'm a decent son :) I know there's nothing I can do to pay you back at all, but I hope I do enough to at least show you how much I appreciate and love you! My turn: I couldn't ask for a better mother!! You've taught me so much and given me so so so much love and I'm just so blessed to be your son! As I've gotten older and heard different things about who you were, I've realized just how incredible of a person you were - and then it made sense why you're so amazing now! :) I love you so so so so so so so much :):)

Dang - last week of school?? It's been a whole year?!? That's crazy! Sounds like it'll be a nice, busy summer :)

That's so cool about the keys of the gathering of Israel! I learned about that recently but totally forgot :) It reminds me that the Lord is in this work with me and all of us - it's His power that is moving forward, and we're just lucky enough to be a tiny part of it! We really are so blessed to have that Priesthood in our lives!

So I guess it's time to update? It was an interested week to say the least! I had a lot of experiences reminding me of just how much my Heavenly Father loves me and will comfort me in hard times. He's always there for us! I especially learned a lot from the Missionary Department visit! Dang it was SO COOL! So, Brother Gonzalez is a former mission president of the Fresno mission - he served right before President Gelwix - and has been serving at the Department for quite a long time. His companion was Brother Randall, who has been at the Department for a super long time and is basically second in command there. He's actually serving as a mission president in Philadelphia this July. And holy cow he is so cool!!!!! So a quick run-down of the week: My companions and I met with them on Tuesday morning while President Palmer was picking up an off-transfer missionary from the airport. They basically just grilled us in a loving way about the mission - things we've focused on, things that go well and not so well, etc. That evening, Elder Maxwell and I proselyted with Brother Randall in our area after he took us to dinner. We had 3 lessons, and they each went quite well. He just listened intently most of the time, then near the end, he'd BOOM hit them with a super powerful question and I was just watching with my mouth hanging open :) The thing is, it wasn't anything dramatic or incredible - but he spoke with the Spirit and it was amazingly powerful. He came back to the house to watch us plan, then we drove him to his hotel while he told us stories about The District (basically our missionary game film - the stuff I was watching for pre-MTC training). He told us all this behind the scenes stuff, and how he knew a lot of the missionaries personally! Way cool! :) Wednesday, we met again with them, but with President and Sister Palmer there, and planned our Mission Leadership Council. Thursday, we had the Leadership Meeting, then they left. Friday, all the zone leaders took the training we received to the rest of the missionaries. And now we just have to do our best to apply all the stuff we learned! :)

So, something that Brother Gonzalez taught us was super cool!! He said that whenever we do something good, the light within us grows - right? But he said that different activities help our light grow linearly (which is good) while others help it grow exponentially (much better). He proposed that anytime we focus inwards (read scriptures, pray, attend church) our light grows linearly, while when we turn outwards (give service, bear our testimony, study scriptures for someone, pray for someone) our light grows exponentially! I thought that was so cool!! In the MTC, I learned how Jesus, after fasting for 40 days, learned that John the Baptist was in prison and sent the angel that had come to minister to Himself, to John. He turned outward in his greatest time of need. Similarly, as we make it a habit to focus on others' needs, we are taken care of by our Heavenly Father. I'd rather be taken care of by God than by myself :)

Thanks again for your email!! I love you so much!!! Things are going well here - I'm well taken care of! :) Thank you for everything you do! I'll email next week, as a 19 year old :) I LOVE YOU!!!

Elder Connor Hopkin :)

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