Monday, August 24, 2009

Matt's 1st Letter from Cleveland

Hello everyone!

Here I am in Cleveland, my trainer is Elder Marini (I'll send you a picture), and I have been assigned to the Garfield Heights area, which, due to some changes in area boundaries, actually does not include the city of Garfield Heights. My area covers downtown Cleveland and the west side. It is an interesting mix of nicer neighborhoods and poorer neighborhoods and government housing. It is always fun when you turn down a street and a bunch of guys block it of and tell you "wrong turn", but luckily the people in Cleveland are pretty bad shots, so I am okay. Just kidding, mom.

P-day is going to be Monday most of the time. My new address (the mission office, where letters should be sent) is:Elder Matthew Smith2070 W.117thCleveland, OH 44111 It is weird to me that the address is "2070, West 117th" instead of "2070 West, 117th like it would be in Salt Lake" Elder Marini is pretty cool. He likes aviation, '90s country music, and spicy food, (and the scriptures, of course) so I couldn't have really asked for a better companion. I guess the Lord really does know what He is doing.

The day we arrived we had interviews with President and Sister Sorensen and talked to the APs a lot. The next day after we arrived we got to go to Kirtland and go in the temple and the Newell K. Whitney store, then we went to transfer meeting to meet our trainers. Since then, we have been mostly just trying to find people to teach. We do not have any progressing investigators; I guess all the people our area was working with are now in a different area due to the aforementioned changes to area boundaries. Luckily we get a lot of referrals; the Ohio Cleveland mission gets the 4th most referrals of all the missions, and my area gets the 2nd most in the mission. So we spend a lot of time contacting referrals, visiting less active members, and tracting.

Funny story: we were tracting the other day and the lady who answered the door said "no Ingles", so I started talking to her in Spanish and found out that she was already a member. She invited us in and showed us pictures of all the different Elders that had taught her and that she had fed. Elder Marini was pretty lost (so was I, a little), but luckily her son spoke English. Later that day, we were still tracting and someone else said "no Ingles", so I tried Spanish on them, too. then they said "no Espaneesh; Arabic; Muslim" so I felt kind of dumb. During our tracting and contacting this week we have met a few people who might be promising, so hopefully I will actually be able to teach a lesson here pretty soon, but maybe not; we'll see what happens.

Remember in "The Best Two Years" when the new Elder gets to Holland or wherever he went and talks to someone and says to his companion, "that's not the language they taught me in the MTC!"? Well, that's kind of how I feel. I don't know how to speak black, and about half of the people I talk to are black. I hope I will be able to learn the language fairly quickly though. The other day we were contacting downtown and Elder Marini was holding conversations with people, but I mostly just smiled and nodded. I am starting to be able to pick out a few words here and there, though.

Our ward is interesting. We are in the Cleveland 1st ward. About a third of the active members are Pediatry students from out west - Utah and Idaho mostly - who are going to school here in Cleveland. The ward mission leader and the bishop both seem like really hard-working guys, also, so that should be helpful. It is about 20 miles or so, I think, to church, so the 2nd counselor of the bishopric picks us up and takes us to church, then whoever is feeding us gives us a ride from church to their house to our apartment. We live in an apartment in a nicer area about a block or two south of the lake. The cupboards are full of top ramen and macaroni, of course. Luckily, the members in the ward are really good about feeding us, I guess, so we have not had a night yet where we did not have a dinner appointment. I am going to get SO fat, I can already tell, since every night is like a Sunday dinner with dessert.

Our area is a walking area, so to get around we usually ride our bikes to a bus stop or rapid station (the rapid is Cleveland's light rail - like trax in Utah, but smellier.) (the mission provides us with bus/rapid passes), then ride our bikes the rest of the way.

Mom: If I left any slacks behind that still fit me, could you please send them to me? I need more slacks that are not dry-clean only - we don't wear suits except on Sundays in the summer, and when it rains they can get pretty dirty when we have to ride/walk through the rain.

It is kind of hard for me to tell which way is which here since there are no mountains. The lake is north, but you can't usually see the lake. Downtown is east, but you can't usually see downtown. Also, the streets that run north-south in Cleveland "usually" make sense. They are mostly numbered based on how far west (or east, but my area is all west of Cleveland) they are from Cleveland. However, the east-west streets all have names. Luckily my current area is right under the final approach course for Hopkins Airport and their big runways run Northeast-Southwest, so that is my main way of telling directions: a plane will fly over every minute or so and they always fly Southwest. My companion thinks it is pretty funny that that is how I tell directions, but it works. I will probably be totally lost once I get to my next area, though.

I am basically always tired. I guess either this is hard work or I am still living in Mountain Time; either way. I can tell I am working hard because I am not eating like a little bird anymore. That probably has something to do with being in a walking/biking area.

I'm good, the food's good, it's all good.

I love you, everyone!

Elder Matthew Smith

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

On the way to Cleveland!

We got to talk to Matt this morning. His flight left at 7:10 a.m., so he called around 6:40 and we talked to him for about 15 minutes. He was his usual talkative self - ha!ha!

There were 8 missionaries going to the Cleveland Mission today. They had to leave the MTC at 4 a.m. and he said there were lots of missionaries on the shuttle bus besides their group.

He sure sounded like he has caught the missionary spirit! He is convinced that everyone should use Preach My Gospel as their family home evening lesson manual, and that all home teachers should use it for their lessons each month.

He had his 3rd companion and we teased him that he is going through them awfully fast. Especially since he will get a new one in the next day or two. His current companion is from Murray, UT but grew up in Northern Idaho. He has spent the last 8 months in Alaska as a King Crab fisherman. Matt said he is buff and we should see his biceps!

I asked what he thought of the MTC and he said it was great and about what he expected. I asked if they had pulled a lot of pranks and he just said that he would have to send his camera card home. I guess that means that he took pictures. That actually surprises me and gives me hope for future pictures.

When I asked him if he saved the talks he wrote in the MTC each week so he wouldn't have to write new ones in the mission field he said that they were like Youth Speaker talks. Only about 5 minutes because they didn't have much time to work on them. I wonder how much time he thinks he's going to have to write talks in the mission field!

Letters can be sent to the Mission Home until we have a different address. They will forward any 1st class mail to him as needed. The Mission Home address is:

Elder Matthew Kay Smith
Ohio Cleveland Mission
2070 West 117th Street
Cleveland, OH 44111

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Last Letter From the MTC

Hello, This is my last P-day at the MTC so next time I get to write I will be in Ohio!
Yes, I did see Elder Mitterling as our district was walking to the temple for our session, and we stopped and talked and took pictures and stuff.
Yeah, after I sent the last letter and got back to my room I realized that Diane's address was on the top of the box, but oh well.
I suspected that the milk consumption at our house would go down after I left, but luckily the MTC has AMCM as well, not to mention ice cream bars and such.
Well that stinks for Delaney I guess, but hopefully whoever she ends up sharing with will be a friend after a while instead of a stranger.
Yes I know what line of authority is, and I was actually going to write you to ask you to look it up for me. I was teaching a lesson with another elder and we were talking about having the authority to baptize and he was able to pull out a card that showed his Aaronic Priesthood line of authority all the way back to Joseph Smith and John the Baptist.
These last few days have been kind of weird for me, because a few things happened:
1. Elder Hyer and I got a new companion, Elder Green, who has been here for 5 or 6 weeks because he had a foot surgery, and will be here a few weeks longer.
2. Elder Hyer went home, so now Elder Green is my companion.
3. Since Elder Green has already had the lessons our district is having, he usually just goes to the Referral Center (a call center at the MTC that people call when they see our TV spots or passalong cards) or helps other teachers teach lessons. Because of this we dont see him very much.
4. So I usually just join another companionship as a threesome for most of the day. Other than Elder Hyer leaving, things are going pretty well. We study a lot and practice teaching a lot. No, we don't practice finding people very much or knocking on doors, mostly it's just teaching.
I really love the devotionals they have on Tuesdays. We (the whole MTC) sing hymns for 15 minutes before they start, and then a general authority comes and talks to us. Last week we got President Bateman, an emeritus seventy and the Provo Temple president, and this week it was Elder Snow, from the 2nd quorum of the seventy. They both had GREAT messages and the Spirit was very strong.
Tell dad that he should have told me how amazing it is to be a missionary!!! If he tried to tell me, he never did it justice! Since I arrived here I have felt the Spirit more often and more strongly than ever before, and I am loving every minute of it. I am also learning the scriptures way better than I have ever known them before, and whatever the question or situation is, it seems like a scripture just jumps into my head that answers it. You guys should definitely study Preach My Gospel in Family Home Evening or sometime, because it is really amazing.
Also, tell dad (and anyone who might want to learn more about the Savior) that he should read Jesus The Christ because it is amazing and full of insight. Well, I'm not sure when my next P-day will be but I will write then.
Also, I heard I might be able to call home from the airport, so that would be cool.
Elder Matthew Smith

Sunday, August 9, 2009

August 6th Letters

Dear Smith Family,
Thanks for the letters you sent, but I must say that you are lagging behind Diane in the package area. That's cool that you have a calendar to cross off, but don't forget to leave room for an extension. Please post my emails to the blog.
The MTC has fairly good food, chocolate milk, and unlimited ice cream bars, but they only have caffeine free Coke and Diet Coke. I found out that members can volunteer at the MTC as "investigators" so that missionaries can practice teaching them. I wish I had known that before, since it would have helped prepare me quite a lot. It is really weird to think that everyone around me is a missionary. Basically what we do all day is study the scriptures and Preach My Gospel, get taught about missionary stuff by teachers, and eat. Also, we get to go to the temple on P-Day.
Companion's good. Food's good. It's all good.
Elder Smith
PS. It was weird to go to church in a bulding that has like 6 or 8 chapels in it, and our branch only had about 30 people there. Also, at the MTC you have to write a talk EVERY week.

Dear Smith Family,
I thought of more things to write, but I already sent the other letter so I had to write a new one.
I wanted to share a couple of scriptures that I just barely realized what they mean. First, Genesis 3:15 says that the seed of the woman could bruise the serpent's head. Why was this promise not given to the seed of man or the seed of man and woman, but just to woman? Because Christ was the only one who would have only a mortal mother and no mortal father. Also, 2 Nephi 2:25 says that "Adam fell that men might be". I didn't realize before that the reason he partook of the fruit was so that he could fulfill God's commandment of replenishing the earth, which could not happen if Eve was cast out of the garden and Adam wasn't. Finally, in Alma chaper 17, Ammon is offered the opportunity to marry the daughter of the Lamanite King, thus becoming a prince. You would think that it would be easier to spread the gospel to the Lamanites if he were a prince, but we later see that he had great opportunities as a servant of the King. But how did he know to refuse the King's offer? In verses 2 and 3, we see that he had searched the scriptures diligently, and given himself to much prayer and fasting, so that he had the spirit of prophecy and revelation. The spirit prompted him and gave him what he should say and do. I don't know if you guys already knew all this stuff, but it was cool for me to learn.
Also, Dad, if you haven't already, you should read Jesus The Christ. I is an amazing book replete with knowledge and insights. Read it. Now. (please)

Elder Smith

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

And an email!

Matt's email home:

Hello everyone, today is my first P-day and my first chance to send email. My email is . I get 30 minutes of email once per week so they will have to be somewhat short. Things are going pretty well and my companion, Elder Hyer is great, as are the rest of the elders in my district (no sisters in my district, unfortunately). The food is good, and everything is pretty much good. There are many opportunities to feel the spirit and President Bateman, an emeritus seventy and the Provo Temple president, came and spoke to us yesterday and it was very powerful. Also, thank you for the letters and packages. Especially the packages. Thanks, Diane! Well my laundry is done and I have to go now, Bye!

Merrill's commentary:
We decided not to give out Matt's email as he has so little time with it each week, and frankly, we'd rather have him writing home!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The First Letter!

We received Matt's first letter Friday, July 31st. It reads:

Dear Family,
Today was basically just a rush from room to room for orientation meetings, much like the first day of school. I found out there are about 2400 Elders here, and about 300-400 entered today. My companion is Elder Hyer. He is from Dalls, TX, and so far he seems like a great guy.
Dad was wrong about the rooming assignments; the other companionship in our room is going to Dallas and they leave on Monday. Also, even the people in our district are not all going to Cleveland; it is about an even split between Cleveland and Rapid City, SD. Other than that, the food is good, and everything is good. I'll write to you next week. 'Till then, goodbye.

Elder Smith