Monday, December 27, 2010
Sorry this email will be super short because we have to hurry today - the APs will be picking me up and taking me to my new area in a couple hours and there's still some things I need to do to prepare.
I loved talking to everybody yesterday! I'm kind of sad that I only get to talk to you guys one more time on my mission. I never thought I would be so excited about mothers' day!
So I'm being transferred to the Lakewood area (the west suburbs of Cleveland), where I'll be serving in a triple-up for the next week until transfers. My new companions are Elder Farmer and Elder Jensen. Probably Elder Farmer will get transferred next week and then I'll be with E. Jensen. Elder Fronk's new companion is Elder Talbot (who was also his MTC companion, incidentally). The reason for the early transfer is because I'm being called to be an AP and new APs usually serve for a week or two with the old ones to learn the ropes, etc. Sorry I'm not sure what my new address will be - you can send mail to the mission office for now. (2070 w. 117th st, Cleveland, OH 44111)
I'm a little bummed to be leaving before Robbie, Esther, and Yazmeyne's baptisms - I expected to be here for 3 more months or so, but maybe we'll be able to get an investigator to come with us to their baptisms - lakewood and sandusky are only about an hour from each other.
That is REALLY WEIRD that you're buying tickets for a play that I will be home for. Seriously.
I don't know yet how I feel about you picking me up to end my mission - I can see pros and cons. I'll think about it and tell you what I think. Sorry everything's breaking. It reminds me of something Bro. Boggs from our ward said: "Someone told me 'Cheer up! it could always get worse!' So I cheered up, and sure enough, it got worse!"
I love you all and really appreciate your love and support! I continue to grow in my gratitude for having been raised in a gospel-centered home as I see families unknowingly starving for the peace and solace that can only come through the atonement of Jesus Christ.
Elder Matthew Smith
They went to dinner at Robbie and Esther's house. They had ham, potatoes & gravy, garlic noodles and rolls. Robbie and Esther are so solid. Matt says the ward loves them and they would be fine without missionaries teaching them. Matt told us some funny things that Yazmeyne has said. One time she was praying and asked that an acquaintance would "stop smoking the wrong things". She also called certain drinks "drug cans".
They don't have too much snow right now.
As a Zone leader Matt's duties include: meetings, exchanges with missionaries in their zone, taking care of "problems", etc. He said all the "problem" missionaries (companionships that didn't get along) all got transferred. Matt had told President Sorensen that a few of the companions "hated each other". President Sorensen told Matt that was why they were kept together for another transfer. "They can learn to get along or go to hell together".
They have to drive to Cleveland at least twice a week. It is an hour round trip and about 100 miles round trip from Sandusky. They have 1750 miles a month for their truck. Elder Fronk has been in Sandusky for 7 1/2 months, and he'll be staying the next transfer too.
The ward in Sandusky gave them stockings with candy and stuff in them. Our Riverton ward sent a big poster/card made out of wrapping paper that people in the ward had written messages on. He also got something from the cub scouts in our ward.
Matt has decided that you can tell how good a ward will be by how loud they sing. If the ward sings loudly and enthusiastically they are usually a gung-ho ward. Sandusky Ward may be the exception because they don't sing too loud, but are still pretty good. That might be because there are only 100-150 active members. They have the age old problem in that ward of a few members doing most of the work. They have a regular building, but they are the only ward in it. They go to church at 9:30. The missionaries go to choir practice after church - Matt sings tenor. They used to have meetings before church like Ward Counsel, but with the new handbook they don't have to go to that anymore.
Merrill had to give a talk on the 26th on agency and accountability. Matt says he loves teaching members about agency, but it's harder to teach investigators. He says with members you can go in depth, but with investigators it's like giving them a drink out of a fire hose.
Matt told us he would be transferred on the 27th, a week before normal transfers. He didn'g go into any detail, but said he'd tell us what was going on when he e-mailed us. He was a little sad that he wouldn't be in Sandusky for Robbie and Esther's marriage or baptisms. He is hoping to have an investigator to take so he can go back.
He said "I'm doing real good!"
We got to talk for about 45 minutes and nobody shed any tears. It was awesome to talk to him!
Monday, December 20, 2010
Seated from left to right: Elder Fronk, Elder Smith, Chance, Bro. Boggs, Bro. Billiard
No, I'm not sure exactly what time I'll be calling on Christmas. I'll let you know, but it will most likely be in evening - probably 7:00 or 8:00ish Ohio time. Yes, I'll most likely be calling on our cell phone. I'm excited to hear what everybody is making for Christmas Eve - there's usually some really fun, creative, or crazy stuff!
On Christmas Eve I think we're going to go caroling as a district. On Christmas day we'll have a zone P-day at the stake center for a while, then we've got dinner with Robbie, Esther, and Yazmeyne, and then we'll call home.
So Chance got baptized on Saturday and confirmed on Sunday! It was really good, and a little unique. Four of us picked him up out of his chair and carried him into the font. We set him mostly under the water except for his head. Bro. Boggs (who performed the baptism) supported his head, Elder Fronk and I were on either side of Chance holding his body and controlling his arms, and another brother kept his legs under control. Bro. Boggs said the prayer, covered Chance's mouth & nose with a hand towel, dipped his head in the water, and brought it back up. It all worked out great - his mouth and nose area were still dry and he didn't inhale any water. The Spirit was exquisite and it was an overall great experience. Chance was confirmed yesterday in sacrament meeting, also by Bro. Boggs.
We didn't have any investigators at church (except Chance, who got confirmed and was transformed from an investigator to a recent convert in the twinkling of an eye). A lot of our eggs are kind of in one basket, which doesn't really help. Sis. Young (returning less-active member) came to church again, though. She's definitely starting to get an active member kind of mindset now. She's been reading her scriptures every day as well. We've found a couple new investigators, but nobody that's come to church yet.
The mission office has requested that we remind everybody of our addresses so things don't get forwarded through the mission office - the post office is mad at them for forwarding so much mail & packages - especially at Christmas time. Just as a reminder, my address is:
1413 1/2 Camp St.
Sandusky, OH 44870
I will be at that address until at least January 5th and probably longer than that.
talk to you soon,
Elder Matthew Smith
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
All the libraries were closed yesterday because of the snow, which is why we're emailing today. I'm not sure when we will get to email next week since our P-day schedule usually changes around holidays.
Mission conference in the Kirtland temple was amazing, as expected. The speakers were inspiring, the music was angelic, and the Spirit was palpable. We had a sacrament meeting and testimony meeting and, of course, sang "The Spirit of God".
Our investigators are progressing pretty well. Chance's baptism will be this Saturday at 5:00. That will no doubt be quite a unique experience. Robbie, Esther, and Yazmeyne will be coming to it, as well as some of Chance's family. Robbie & co. are also doing great - yesterday instead of teaching them we had them teach us the Plan of Salvation as if we were investigators. They did great - I was really impressed! All the aforementioned investigators came to church as well, and they mentioned how things they had learned in their church classes applied to the Book of Mormon chapter they read as a family.
We went to a production of Handel's Messiah put on by 4 Northern Ohio stakes on Sunday (Robbie, Esther, and Yazmeyne came as well). It was super good and exhibited a lot of vocal talent. Everybody enjoyed it, but the drive to Cleveland and back was a little frightful with all the snow. It snowed quite a bit on Sunday here, and I guess it was even worse in Cleveland.
Thanks for the package wiith the Christmas tree - it's nice to have a little bit of Christmas-y-ness in our apartment. No, there's nothing I desperately need. Except maybe some more of those candy-cane hershey's kisses - they were awesome!
I love you all! Thanks for being such great examples and supports. I'm really grateful to have such a great family that I can trust and rely on - it just breaks my heart to see so many people here who don't have that blessing and opportunity.
Elder Matthew Smith
Monday, December 6, 2010
So we have mission conference at the Kirtland Temple tomorrow. Elder Fronk and I are pretty stoked - we get to speak, we get to have a testimony meeting, and President Sorensen got permission from the area presidency for us to take the sacrament. That's pretty amazing. So Elder Fronk and I are going to get to pass the sacrament in the Kirtland temple. I can't even describe how cool that is!
We've had a truly remarkable week. I wish you could have been there, because I definitely can't describe in a letter how great it is to be a missionary, and especially a missionary serving in Sandusky right now. We've had a lot of success this week and the past weeks, especially in keeping the members involved in all phases of the work. Our investigators' fellowshippers are doing so good! I'm so proud of them! As a result, our investigators feel comfortable at church - so comfortable that a couple of them bore their testimonies in fast and testimony meeting yesterday. Robbie, Esther, and Yazmeyne all came to church - Esther bore her testimony of how the gospel has changed their family's life and brought peace and joy into their home, and of how the Spirit has confirmed to her that this is the truth. I'm so glad that Robbie was there to hear it! By the way, Robbie and Esther have moved their marriage date up to February 12th. Their baptismal date is February 19th, and the plan is for Yazmeyne to be baptized by Robbie the next week, on February 26th. I'm so excited for that family. The ward has done so great at integrating them into the ward family. The girls went to another RS activity this week, Yazmeyne has made friends in Primary that she goes to their house to play with, Robbie is coming tomorrow evening to play volleyball with the Elders' Quorum, Esther sings in the choir - it's just great!
Chance Pete came to church also - his baptism on the 18th is looking good so far. It's going to be interesting since he can't hold his breath or really control his limbs, but we'll manage. He also bore his testimony - I think I've told you about Chance before, but he has a disease that just about cripples him and makes it very difficult to understand his speech until you've gotten used to it for a while. He's a very smart man, though. Anyways, he wheeled up to the front of the church and had his aide stand at the pulpit and translate what he was saying and bore powerful testimony of the healing power of the atonement and forgiveness. It was amazing. He also has great friends in the ward who make him feel at home there and do a great job of fellowshipping him.
Bro. and Sis. Jenkins came to church as well. Sis. Jenkins is trying so hard to quit smoking, and was smoke free as of yesterday (especially since she's been sick this week and starts coughing violently when she tries to smoke). She's having a really tough time with it, though. She could definitely use some extra prayers. (that goes for Robbie and Esther as well)
We're also working with some less-active members. The star right now is Sis. Young - she's a really sweet older lady who's been inactive as long as anybody can remember, but has been showing forth a great effort to come back. She's been at church two weeks straight now, and is making good progress at getting to know the members of the ward.
Yes I remember who Mekeli is - I talked to him at his home a couple times, but didn't put as much effort into reaching out to him as I should have. That's really exciting that he's thinking about a mission. I wish everybody would go on a mission. Missions are like the gospel - they change lives. Congratulate Ryan on his mission call for me.
Talk to you soon,
Elder Matthew Smith
Monday, November 29, 2010
Our thanksgiving was good. We had the usual stuff - turkey, dressing, potatoes, yams, green beans, pecan pies, etc. it was all super good.
Yeah we set a date with Esther & Yazmeyne in may, but we keep on trying to get them to get married faster. I think they will.
Esther & Yazmeyne came to church. Robbie & Lakota stayed home sick. That family has been doing really well - they're even having family scriptures and prayer.
We have one new person - Chance. He was a former investigator who was dropped about 6 months ago because he wasn't willing to keep the word of wisdom. He had a change of heart, though, and came to church and asked us to come back and teach him again. He's been living the WOW and is committed to baptism on the 18th of Dec. He's mostly disabled physically - he's in a wheelchair & has little control over his arms or legs, but he's all there in his head. Baptizing him might be interesting.
What do we have to do with transfers? Basically just take people to transfer meeting and bring them back.
OK - college stuff: That hasn't been on my mind for quite a while now, but here's my thoughts. Tell me what you think, also, since I have access to basically zero information right now, and I'm out of practice when it comes to playing the college game.
The long-term goal is still air traffic control. With that in mind I probably want to apply to UAA. With regards to UAA, I seem to remember it was a two-year program that I was most interested in. See what you can do to find out if there's any way to shorten that in light of my already having an AA degree. Check also on estimated costs with regards to tuition (keep WUE in mind), board, other fees, etc., and if there's any prospect of scholarship money in light of my gpa and test scores, your income, etc. I think UAA basically said 'no', but double check anyways. Also check the availability of student loans or grants. I'd like a return & report on what I can expect my financial status to be at my mission's end as well. Another thing - see if you can find a solid answer on the physical requirements, eyesight specifically, involved in ATC positions. It would majorly suck to spend a lot of time and money freezing my cute little tail off at a very cold and snowy university only to fail an eye exam. If there's a doctor that can administer that examination in or near cleveland or sandusky, I don't think it would be a problem to see him. As backup plans for UAA I would probably want to apply to BYU and maybe to UVU's flight program (again, pending eyesight issues). Check also on their estimated costs & scholarship availability. Will I need to do FAFSA again? When thinking about deadlines, remember that only emailing once a week means that communication will be pretty slow-moving. How much do college applications cost?
Another Christmas idea: music. Reminder: anything in the green hymnbook or mormon tabernacle choir is OK.
Keep an eye on the dogs.
Elder Matthew Smith
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Elder Fronk and I are both staying here. About half of our zone is getting transferred, though.
On thursday we will play some T-bowl football in the morning, then go the "Catawba Island Club" on Catawba Island for thanksgiving lunch with a member family, and later have dinner with another member family. We will do our weekly planning sometime on thursday as well. Who all is coming to Thanksgiving?
So winter has totally set in, huh? Sorry to hear that. It's been cold enough to dig out the thermals and sweaters a couple times, but we haven't seen snow yet, for which I am quite thankful. Snow is a whole lot less fun when you're a missionary and can't do anything fun with it. I'm glad you got back before the snow started, especially since you ran out of gas. I'm amazed that the suburban can hold 44 gallons! We need a gas tank like that on our truck - we have to fill up 2-3 times a week sometimes, what with all the travel we have to do. I think our tank holds 18-20 gallons.
Good job Delaney on the YW program. That's a pretty profound statement about smiling! What else was on your list of stuff you believe?
So we had an interesting experience the other day. We left the keys in our apartment and locked ourselves out. No problem - the members downstairs have the spare key. So we went down and knocked, but nobody answered. So we called Sis. Boggs, but as it turned out she wasn't home. However, she told us to just go in the unlocked back door and that our key was the one with the blue tag on the key rack in the hall by the kitchen. We thought it was a little weird to go in their house when nobody was home, but we didn't want to be stuck outside and we had permission, so we went in and commenced the hunt for our key among all the keys on the key rack. Well, as it turns out, Bro. Boggs was home and just hadn't heard us knock. He came strolling around the corner and we felt understandably awkward and commenced trying to explain why we were in his house. (He didn't really let us get a word in edgewise, though, he just started talking to us.) The funny part, though, is that he wasn't even fazed when he saw us - he just said "Oh, hello Elders! How have y'all been doing today?" and commenced talking about how he was about to go visit a less-active member of the church he hometeaches and the other things he was going to do that day. He never even asked what we were doing there (although we tried to tell him as soon as there was a break in his talking). Even more awkward to us, he promptly said "Well, I've got to get going or else I'll be late to visit Jeff." and walked out and left - again leaving us alone in the house. I guess he just really trusts the missionaries or something - if it was my house I'd probably be demanding explanations!
Esther & Yazmeyne came to church on Sunday. We'll see if we can set a baptismal date with them today. The date may end up being in May, though, since that's when their marriage is.
Sorry I haven't given you any ideas for Christmas presents, Mom. Are your mind-reading powers diminished by distance or something? Just be glad I'm not serving in Hong Kong! You can tell people to get me cool doctrinal books like "The Joseph Smith Papers", "History of the Church", The Messiah series by Bruce R. McConkie, "Mormon Doctrine", "The Miracle of Forgiveness", "The Great Apostasy", anything by John Bytheway, etc. I'd also like an electrical shaver and another sweater or two. NOTE: I wouldn't be able to read the books on my mission, since they aren't in the approved missionary library. You'd have to save them for me at home. Send me pictures of them or something. Hopefully that gives you some good ideas.
bout to get booted from the computer - LYMNB!!
Anyways, per your question, yes we do assign people to be 'fellowshippers' for our investigators - their basic job is to be the investigator's friend and help them progress and feel comfortable while they are making a big and often difficult change. They sit with the invs at church, invite them to activities, take them to their different classes, sometimes give them rides to church if necessary, come with us to teaching appointments, etc.
So our ward website says Daniel Johnson is serving in the Bahia Blanca mission - that's where Elder Wells that I trained for a couple weeks back in Toledo went once he got his visa. I wonder if he knows him. Elder Wells was pretty solid - he might be an AP by now. My address is wrong on the ward website as well, by the way - it still shows the Madison address.
Thanks for being such a supportive family! I love and appreciate you and look forward to speaking with you next month!
Elder Matthew Smith
Before I forget, my email next week will probably be on Tuesday. Transfers is next week (the day before thanksgiving, actually). I'll probably stay here and I think Elder Fronk will get transferred. We'll see.
Wow, Dad, it sounds like you did your homework before going in to argue with Cody's VPs. "That's a violation of title VII of the Civil Rights act of 1964!!" I definitely admire your skill in out-talking and out-maneuvering people in conversation, whether it comes to buying a car for you or someone else or putting a VP in her place. Serving a mission definitely helps with that. Did Cody at least find any change for the charity jar?
Good job on the pheasant hunt. I met a vizsla the other day while we were tracting.
Yep, I'm aware that the browns suffered a disappointing loss - we were tracting while it happened and the people we talked to let us know. People get really uptight when you knock on their door and it's tied up with 20 seconds left in overtime. Who would have known? Just to clarify: Robbie is Esther's fiancee. Yasmine is his 8 yr old daughter. Lakota (Koda) is some sort of cousin that lives there. She's 18. Yes, we are making progress with all of them. They would have been at church yesterday, but Esther's father had to go to the emergency room yesterday morning because of a heart-attack scare. He's doing alright now, though.
So we've been sharing a cool member-missionary work lesson with people. I'll try it out on y'all:
First of all, I'd like to pose a question.... What is the largest living organism in the world?
Think about it for a minute...
Is it an elephant?
No - bigger than that.
Maybe a whale?
Nope - I'll give you a hint. Try a plant.
Oh...ok. ummmmm - maybe a Redwood tree?
Close! You're on the right track! But it's even bigger than that... OK fine, I'll just tell you - It's the Aspen tree.
WHAT? Aspen trees aren't even that big!
Not so fast! - here's why: When an aspen tree starts growing, it's doing its thing putting off branches and leaves and all that good stuff. Meanwhile, like other trees, it's putting roots out under the ground to suck in moisture and nutrients from the soil. But aspen roots are a little different than some other trees - they have what is called "runners" - they tunnel out some distance from the tree, and then sprout up out of the ground and start another tree! This tree sends out more runners, and pretty soon you have a whole forest of aspen trees, all connected together underground. The whole aspen forest is really one single tree, and some of the larger ones are estimated to weigh upwards of 600 tons! Wow!
OK Elder Smith, that's all well and good, but what does that have to do with member missionary work?
Well, I'll tell you. But first, a little more about aspen trees. When one of the trees in the interconnected forest is damaged, it can heal much, much faster than other types of tree because it has hundreds of other trees sending it nutrients and energy through the root system. Aspen trees take care of each other.
Alright, we have a similar network and support system in the church. We are nourished both physically and temporally - we have home teachers and visiting teachers, relief societies and elders' quorums, all established to meet our needs. Fledgling testimonies are strengthened by sunday school teachers and shared in testimony meetings. Casseroles are cooked and houses cleaned and children taken care of when someone is sick or injured. Bishops' storehouses restock empty shelves when someone falls on hard times. A vast array of counseling and other related services are available through LDS Family Services. Perhaps most important of all, we have a ward family to rely on for friendship and support whenever we are in need.
Our job as missionaries is to graft the freestanding, vulnerable trees (investigators) that we are working with into the support system of the ward. When investigators have strong relationships with ward members, they progress rapidly and recieve nourishment from someone other than just us missionaries. In the missionary department, we report how many LMPs (lessons taught to investigators with a member present) we teach each week to our mission leaders. But teaching investigators with a member present is just the minimum. When we're really effective missionaries, we focus on teaching LFPs - lessons taught to investigators with their fellowshipper present. Our mission president counsels us to "engineer love affairs" (in an appropriate way, of course) between investigators and members. Our effectiveness in member-oriented missionary work correlates directly to all other aspects of the work.
In preparation for a training meeting for our zone's district leaders, I looked through all my planners and evaluated every single investigator who had come to church during the 15 or so months that I'd been on my mission. It was not at all surprising that, with only one exception, every investigator who had come to church had first gotten to know a member of the ward. During the same meeting Elder Fronk and I shared some scriptures about stewardship and how the Lord requires an accounting at the hand of every steward and asked the missionaries how that made them feel about their proselyting areas. As you could probably guess, they responded that is motivated them to give their all, to be the best missionaries that they could possibly be, to work hard, etc. Can you imagine if every member that we invited to friendship and fellowship one of our investigators understood and applied that conception of stewardship? Investigators I've taught who have had fellowshippers that understood that the investigator was their "baby", their responsibility, have progressed rapidly and gained testimonies much more easily. For example, Tim, who was baptized back in Cleveland, told us at church one day how much he had enjoyed family home evening with his member friend, Bro. Branch (unbeknownst to us). We hadn't asked Bro. Branch to invite Tim to FHE, he just invited him because he was his friend and thought he would enjoy it and it would strengthen his testimony. Similarly, we were at an appointment at Esther & Robbie's house when Sis. Victors (their main fellowshipper) showed up and invited them to a relief society activity. We were thrilled. Those member-fellowshippers understood their purpose & their stewardship, and they were (are) true friends to the investigators.
(this is the part where we would commit you to a specific fellowshipping activity for one of our investigators, but that doesn't really apply to you since you are quite some distance from any of our investigators right now.)
(you can probably also see why member referrals are so much better than investigators we find from tracting - they already have the friend in place and we don't have to put much work into 'engineering a love affair'.
So reach out to people! Get over your intrinsic shyness and make a new friend today! It will do them (and you) a world of good to be connected to all the other aspen trees to which you are connected! Go be somebody's miracle!
The church is true & our leaders are inspired! I'll talk to you next month!
Loveymnb, Elder Matthew Smith
Monday, November 8, 2010
I'm pretty jealous that mom and dad got Garth tickets. Hope it was all you dreamed it would be! What kind of stuff did they sing at the Donnie & Marie show?
It's also pretty cool for delaney to be playing in Messiah. There's a four-stake choir that's going to be performing some of Messiah up here in december. I'm pretty excited for it. Hopefully one of our investigators will want to go to it so we can go too.
If you like being home alone that much, Cody, you'll love your mission. You're always home alone. Too bad they don't have Panda in Ohio. (Actually, they do, but not in Sandusky. I had Panda at a mall in Parma when I was serving in Cleveland.) Where was Peyton while you were writing the email alone and Delaney was at orchestra? What did Diane feed you for dinner? We had an AWESOME dinner on Sunday night - it was green bean casserole, but it was indescribably extreme. Inconcievably so, even. Thanks Diane for feeding my siblings!
Sorry they didn't leave you any ice cream, Delaney. You could always go buy some if you were so desperate.
"""How's the investigator situation? Anybody new? Who came to church this week? Inspiring stories?"""
Investigators are doing well. Esther's fiance, Robbie, likes us a lot more now than he used to. He even asked some questions about how the BOM relates to his native american heritage. He actually listens to and participates in our lessons now, which is some big progress. They had a family function and were unable to come to church, but we took them on a church tour with the Bishop and it went really well. It got Robbie and Koda, who haven't been to church yet, much more comfortable with the idea of coming to church. We even went down into the baptismal font and did a 'dry run' baptism. (now they're 'dry mormons', get it? ha ha ha...)
Sister Jenkins has to work Sundays for a couple weeks so she probably won't be at church for the rest of this month. Not much to update there.
We've taught a lot of members lately, seeking referrals. We watch the PMG dvd segment about working with members and discuss it and then commit them to think of their next plan of action for sharing the gospel with their friends, and then role-play it with them to help them practice. As a result, we were able to teach a member referral in the member's home yesterday, and we have commitments from a couple other members to share the gospel with their friends.
So you'll never believe this: President got all the zone leaders portable DVD players so we can watch the PMG and PMG2 dvds at our apartments and during the district meetings we attend. We're also getting new phones with full keyboards and text messaging. Lots of exciting changes that I never thought I would see on my mission!
President shared a pretty cool story during a leadership training meeting last week. Ether 12:23, but here goes anyways: As a VP of Holiday Oil, another company offered to pay for President Sorensen and his son (I think he was a bishop at the time) to go to a NASCAR race at Indianapolis. The race, of course, was on a Sunday. He knew he should keep the sabbath day holy, but his son really liked nascar, so he decided to go against his better judgement. The company (gatorade, I think) wined and dined them and put them up in the finest hotels. Sunday came around and they looked up the nearest lds chapel to go to sacrament meeting. Then they headed off to the racetrack. They had the option of staying in a nice, air-conditioned box that directly overlooked the finish line, or if they didn't want to sit there, they could be on the front row, right behind Jeff Gordon's box. Literally, they were right beside the track. They could feel the bass compression waves as the cars revved and roared past. President Sorensen contemplated the experience as he was sitting there watching the race, and then compared it to how he had felt sitting in an alien chapel full of strangers and taking the sacrament. He realized that it was no comparison - the world's fleeting thrills simply cannot compete with the Spirit of the Lord. I've often felt similarly as I've been teaching investigators and others - when the Spirit is present at a lesson, that is when the Godhead is making itself manifest, and neither the missionaries, nor the investigators, nor the members who are present, would rather be anywhere else in the world. It's that good.
Yes, Delaney, missionaries can and do bear their testimonies on fast sunday.
No, I didn't hear about the football games. Thanks for the update. Funny story: We were visiting a member in a nursing home last week (or maybe the week before, not sure) and his roommate had the browns game on. We pulled the curtain between us, but the guy was obviously pretty hard of hearing, so the volume was WAY up, so we couldn't help but overhear what was going on at the end of the game. Anyways, the Browns beat the defending superbowl champs with an interception that was run back 67? yards for a touchdown. Anyways, a couple hours later we were at dinner with a member family, the bishop and his wife, and the sister missionaries serving in our ward. As we were waiting for dinner to be ready, we were sitting in the living room on the couch and the bishop and Elder Fronk and I had the following conversation:
Bishop:"do you know who just beat the superbowl champs from last year?"
Elder Smith: "of course - the Browns!" (I acted all excited about it)
Elder Fronk caught on and said: "yeah, with the interception right at the end!"
Elder Smith: "yeah, the one that was run back 67 yards for a touchdown!"
Elder Fronk: "yeah, it was amazing! What a game!"
The sister missionaries' eyes were as wide as saucers - their jaws dropped. Sister Houston said "HOW do you know THAT?"
The looks on their faces were priceless.
Oh, one more thing: we went on exchanges with one of our district leaders and his companion last week. I was working with his companion in West Cleveland, where I was trained. We got to teach one of their investigators (actually, I was interviewing him for baptism, but we taught him a lesson as well.), and of course we brought the investigator's fellowshipper along with us. The fellowshipper was Tim, who I taught and got baptized right after I was transferred. It was great to see him again and see that he's still strong in the gospel and has a great testimony. He has his patriarchal blessing now and is progressing towards the Melchizedek priesthood, as well as fellowshipping investigators and helping others accept the gospel. Tasha, who I taught in Cleveland, and was also baptized right after I left, is now less-active and questioning her testimony.
LYMNB, Elder Matthew Smith
Monday, November 1, 2010
Sorry about the rotten weather there - our weather's been nice enough, but it's starting to get chilly. What kind of french food did you have at the Neu's? (other than cheese).
Some members from Catawba Island took us to dinner at their country club and it was super fancy and cool (the food was great, too). I decided I might have to marry a super-rich wife so we can live at a country club, too. They had beautiful multimillion dollar houses, a great ocean view, (well, a lake erie view in this case, but you couldn't tell the difference), a big fat golf course...it was pretty schnazzy. Since we don't get up to the Catawba Island area very often, we stopped to look at the lighthouse on the way to our next appointment. It was a really clear day and you could see Canada to the north and Cleveland to the east. I called up Elder Toth (one of the missionaries serving in our zone) and told him I could see his house from there. (He's from Canada).
Glad the primary program went well. What was the theme? What play did you go to at Hale Centre?
Thanks for the packages!! I had been running low on candy, but what with the boxes and the generosity of the members, combined with the aftermath of halloween, I should be well supplied for a while now. Thanks for writing the letters, too - those are the best part.
Congratulations to the mighty hunter!!! I enjoyed the story of how you got him as well. My companion is impressed with our family's continuous hunting conquests. What are we doing with the majority of the deer and elk meat this year? How are you going to mount the antlers from Cody's deer? What kind of mount are we getting for Mom's elk? Do we have any more hunts coming up?
Our church attendance this week was pretty disappointing, with a big, fat goose egg. (Speaking of geese, it seems like they are coming out of the woodwork here - you can't hardly walk outside without running into a goose or seeing them fly overhead or at least hearing them.) Sis. Jenkins got her sundays taken away at work so she won't be able to come for a couple weeks. Yasmine was sick so none of Esther's family came.
I'm glad Sis. Anderson emailed you. Her son got back from his mission in Nicaragua about a month ago. He comes teaching with us all the time - he's great. Yes the "hillbilly hoedown" was a lot of fun and a great success - there were a whole lot more people at that on wednesday than came to sacrament meeting on sunday. Esther, Robbie, Yasmine, and Bro. and Sis. Jenkins all came and had a good time. Esther even won 2nd prize in the costume contest. Since the activity was such a success, I'm thinking maybe the activities committee should just be in charge of sacrament meetings. Or maybe we should have a dessert contest at sacrament meetings. Or line dancing. Or maybe more people would come if sacrament only happened quarterly. With all these great ideas I have, I don't understand why I haven't been called to the seventy yet.
So I was also thinking about a great idea to help us contact more people - we're still not having much success in finding. It's always awkward when we walk up to somebody on the street and start talking to them, but Elder Fronk and I noticed that smokers have no problems walking up to somebody and asking them for a light. We've decided we should start smoking so that we could just walk the streets and ask people for a light, and then start talking to them about the gospel. I guess we'll have to see what President Sorensen thinks of the idea...
I'm glad I still look skinny - It seems like it's getting harder and harder to see my jawline...
Thanks for being so supportive! I love and appreciate each one of you for your great examples of gospel living in action! I know that as you stay on top of the small and simple things of the gospel, everything else in your life will fall into place. The storms will still rage and the winds will still blow, but if you are built on the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, they can have no power over you. The standard of truth has been erected. No unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing. Persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, and calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, 'til it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every nation, and sounded in every ear - until the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the great Jehovah shall say the work is finished. I know that with the Savior's help we can weather every trial and come out stronger on the other side until, like the refiner's silver, we reflect the image of our Maker.
Elder Matthew Smith
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Monday, October 25, 2010
So we had a District Leader training for the DLs in our zone last week and invited President to come. During his workshop, Elder Fronk said "you guys" at one point or another. President called us that night to remind him that the appropriate way to address a group of missionaries would be "you Elders", not "you guys". Elder Fronk and I decided we should just start saying "y'all" instead. Maybe not. Also, I recently was reading 3 Nephi where the Savior comes to the Nephite people and decided that I should follow His example in how I introduce myself. Now when missionaries call our phone instead of saying "Hello, this is Elder Smith", I say "Behold, this is Elder Smith". (see 3 Nephi 11:10). Just thought I'd throw that out there.
Anyways, sorry it's snowing! How much did you get? Is it sticking? When do the ski resorts open?
It sounds like you've been doing some pretty intense fiddling, Delaney! I remember watching videos of people doing that (fingering your own violin while playing the bow on someone else's) and I thought it was mind-boggling. How did you decide that was what you were going to do? You should also find out if it was Elder Butler or Butcher whose farewell you played at so I can say hi to him at transfer meeting next month. I think its on the 24th - not sure. What song did you play? Note: Delaney helped her violin teacher with a musical number in another student's ward and it was a missionary farewell. Guess where the missionary was going!
I don't remember anything about an annual donut eating contest - where was I all this time?
Sounds like Peyton is already a pretty good wingman when it comes to flirtatious capers. It's funny to me to think of you texting, Mom (or Delaney or Peyton, for that matter). In our mission only the APs have texting on their phones, but we were talking about it last month at Zone Leader Council, and we're probably going to get texting on all our phones in the next month or two.
Thanks for the info on the Nestmans' missions.
Yes, my release date is a transfer week. Here's how transfers work:
Tuesday: New missionaries leave the MTC Tuesday morning and arrive in Cleveland Tuesday night, where they have interviews with President, some instruction from President & Sister Sorensen, the senior couples, and the APs, get a whole lot of orientation stuff - their new arrival packet -, have dinner, and sleep at the mission home.
Wednesday: Transfer meeting happens at the Kirtland stake center around noon. Prior to that, President Sorensen and Patriarch Karl Anderson (the Kirtland Guru) take the new missionaries on a tour of the Kirtland sites and Kirtland Temple (a Community of Christ tour guide is also present at the temple) (the sites and temple are both less than a mile from the stake center). In the School of the Prophets, new arrivals kneel and covenant what kind of missionaries they are going to be. Then they head to the stake center. Right before transfer meeting, the trainers meet their trainees, and the APs let the ZLs know where everyone is serving. During transfer meeting, President says a few words (announcements, instruction, introducing the new missionaries), a few departing missionaries are asked to give their testimonies, and the ZLs announce who will be serving where in their zones. Then everyone disperses to their new areas and companions, usually driven there by the ZLs. The departing missionaries go back to the School of the Prophets to return and report on their missions to the Lord, then go to the mission home where they have their departure interviews, etc. They spend the night at the mission home.
Thursday: Departures cry, are driven to the airport, fly home, meet their families, and cry some more.
So what kind of chatter is there in the family about my departure date?
The primary program should be great. Our ward had our primary program yesterday and it was phenomenal. We had some investigators there and I was really glad they were able to see it. The kids (and parents) had to write their own talks, too! Does every ward do that now, or just Sandusky?
Our week was pretty good. Bro. and Sis. Jenkins came to church yesterday. We made sure their fellowshippers were all over them, too, which made for a good church experience. Esther and Yasmine were also at church. Their fellowshippers were also on the ball - I was really pleased with the ward for what a great job they did helping our investigators feel welcome and at home. Everybody liked it and had good experiences. We did a good amount of teaching this week, but we've been struggling to find new investigators. We tracted a lot this week and have a bunch of return appointments with potential investigators, so hopefully some of those will work out. We've been praying real hard that we can find some people to teach & baptize who will be solid leaders in the ward, too - our ward struggles with not having enough strong families that are really anxiously engaged to fill the leadership positions. Extra prayers would be appreciated.
I'm glad you made it out to the temple. That's probably the thing I miss the most (other than family, of course). First, Family; second, Temple; third, Cafe Rio. I always joke that I'm not sure what I want to do first after I get off the airplane - go straight to the temple or stop at Cafe Rio first.
We classify our investigators as "progressing investigators" and "other investigators" based on whether or not they are keeping the commitments we have given them - reading the scriptures, praying, coming to church, etc.
The prophets have given us commitments to do the same things: personal and family scripture study and prayer, church attendance, FHE, temple worship, etc. Are you a 'progressing member' or an 'other member'? Can ye feel so now? (Alma 5:26)
I love you, appreciate you, and pray in gratitude for you!
Elder Matthew Smith
Monday, October 18, 2010
Sorry Lake Powell didn't work out, but the cabin was probably fun. What were the kids up to while Katie and Diane were slaving away and you were getting your foot massage? Where does the new road go? What is Texas sheet cake? How are you doing on the missionary sisters' assignment to find people for them to teach?
How does Sis. Nestman feel having 3 kids out on missions? That seems like it would be pretty tough. Chris is in Prague - remind me where Trevor and Brittany went? By the way, if I remember correctly, I come home on August 4th, in case you were wondering. (not that I'm getting trunked out or anything - you just mentioned that you thought it funny that Chris knew his release date so far in advance. I'm pretty sure I knew that date just about from the get-go.)
Delaney is thinking about going to BYU, huh? That's unexpected. Dad probably just said he'd still love her because he was sick and didn't really understand what was going on.
Investigators are doing alright. Sis. Jenkins was sick and thus absent from church. We've been inviting her hometeacher to come with us to lessons, though, and that is paying off. He overcame all sorts of Word of Wisdom problems in the past, so he was able to really relate to them well. Bro. and Sis. Jenkins are both making progress, albeit slowly, on the word of wisdom.
We've made a little progress with Esther & Robbie. Robbie used to be really standoffish with us, but he's opened up a lot since we invited him to come to the gym with us on P-day. He's really into MMA and would like to learn the Jiu-Jitsu part of it, so he accepted. He liked it a lot and said he thinks he's going to join the gym. He also said that he's going to quit smoking so that he'll be able to keep up with everybody there. After that he was a lot more open with us and even sat in on our next lesson, although he didn't participate too much. The owner of the gym is a somewhat active member, too, so he really appreciated us doing some 'advertising' for him.
Per your questions: we go to jiu-jitsu class once a week (on P-day, obviously). How it compares to karate - it's all about grappling and not so much striking. They're both a lot of fun. Also it's a lot more 'martial' than 'art'. Yes, MMA is why Elder Fronk works out so much.
So I just got an email from my trainer, Elder Marini, stating that he's getting married in December. Just thought I'd throw that out there.
Our teachpool has kind of dwindled down to just those 2 investigators that we're really actively teaching, so we're focused on finding now. I kind of miss my last ward where the members were all really excited about missionary work and we had some success with finding through members. This ward really means well and tries hard, too, but the 'core' of leadership in the ward is pretty small, so its usually just the same ten people that are really putting their shoulders to the wheel. I've really been praying hard that we can find some people to teach and baptize that will be able to help the ward out with leadership and build it up.
Keep up the small & simple things! Individual and family scripture study & prayer and FHE are vital! If all our investigators would do that, we'd baptize tons - imagine if all our members would do the same!
LYMNB, Elder Matthew Smith
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Sorry about your candy bar - I guess for future reference we know now that Penny likes milk chocolate w/ almonds, so on her B-day we can get her milk chocolate and dark for everyone else, right? What is the new mexican place called? Is it more along the lines of taco bell, cafe rio, gecko's, or la casita? Did you get/do anything else exciting for your birthday?
Thanks for doing your part in feeding the missionaries! Did they have any health concerns or allergies you had to be careful of when figuring out what to feed them? What did you eat? The sisters in the same ward as us have been in a triple-up for a week or so now after a sister in the neighboring ward went home sick - I guess she was allergic to just about everything. She said she would usually take her own meal to member dinners just to be safe and reduce the hassle for the members. It won't be a triple up anymore since transfers is wednesday. That's funny that they are triple-up training that new sister missionary - that doesn't happen very often here. What commitment did they leave you with their dinner thought?
That's pretty cool that our stake is putting out so many missionaries - are there any statistics available about how many missionaries our stake has out versus other stakes, etc?
Way to go following the spirit in your classes and "teach(ing) people, not lessons"! Isn't it cool how Heavenly Father knows the needs of His children and helps us meet them?
"How are your investigators progressing?"
They're doing alright, but progress is coming slower than we would prefer.
"Do you have any new ones?"
Not really - we've had a dearth of finding in our area for a couple weeks. We've decided it's time to fast again.
"How are the word of wisdom concerns coming?"
Sis. Jenkins has made some progress on smoking. We've also arranged to bring Bro. Brown to our next lesson with them - he is their hometeacher and has overcome similar concerns in his life as well, so should be able to help and encourage them really well.
"Who came to church?"
This week was stake conference - it was broadcast from the stake center in Westlake to our ward building here in Sandusky, but the quality of the A/V left a little to be desired - especially as compared to general conference. The meeting itself was really good, though. President and Sister Sorensen both spoke, as well as the stake presidency, of course. There was also a really good talk by a recent convert in the lakewood ward who got baptized last month. She told her conversion story about overcoming word of wisdom concerns and how much the gospel has changed her life and improved her relationship with her husband (recently returned less-active member). It was really inspirational and uplifting, and I was glad that Bro. and Sis. Jenkins were able to see it, since they're basically in the same boat the recent convert was in before her baptism. We also had a less-active member, Sis. Young, at church. We've been working on her for a while and it is really cool to see how the Book of Mormon has softened her heart as we've read it with her. She went from being totally closed to coming to church to finally coming out on Sunday. What's more, it turns out that she and Sis. Jenkins know eachother, so they hit it off really well.
"How is the unmarried couple doing?"
Alright - Esther is gaining a testimony and feels that the Book of Mormon is true (although she's yet to pray about it, which is not good.) We think we're getting in the door a little bit more with Robbie as well. He's big into MMA, so we talk about that with him and he has been wanting to get into the Jui-Jitsu side of it for a while, so we committed him to check out Bro. Snyder's gym by coming to Jiu-Jitsu class with us today. I definitely never thought that we would commit someone to come to a fight club with us as part of teaching the gospel. It's definitely inspired that Elder Fronk is serving in this area.
"How much time do you spend being missionaries versus being zone leaders?" What
are your responsibilities as a zone leader? How many districts or missionaries are you in
charge of? How big is the zone in area anyway? Do you have anything special that you have
to do because of transfers? I've told people that you drive a truck and they think it is
funny. Is it a 4-wheel drive?"
We get to be missionaries most of the time, but there's a bunch of stupid stuff we have to do like going to more meetings, arranging for other missionaries to get to transfers or other meetings (or to the airport to go home, as has been the case a couple times this transfer), training our DLs, about a million phone calls per day, going on exchanges with disobedient or discordant companionships, etc. Usually our proselyting time isn't affected too much, except that we usually try to go to two district meetings per week, and for a couple districts that means a drive all the way to cleveland and back. Exchanges also affect our proselyting time since we have to go meet them to exchange and meet them again to exchange back. Most weeks we'll only go on one exchange, but we had to do 3 last week. Our area suffered a little because of the lost time, as well as having an extra meeting to go to in Cleveland that killed a whole day. The Cleveland zone in area is everthing from Sandusky to Cleveland. It exactly aligns with the boundaries of the Cleveland stake (as is the case with all the stakes in the mission, with the exception of the Toledo stake which is divided into two zones because of how much area it covers). 22 missionaries in zone. Anyways, we started out with 23 missionaries in the zone, then one went home, then another, then a missionary got transferred from Kirtland to serve in a triple up, and we have 22 again. The zone is divided into 3 districts, plus the Assistants who aren't in a district. We don't have to do anything too special for transfers except give people a ride to and from transfer meeting and announce to everyone at transfer meeting where people are going to serve in our zone. Yes, the truck is a 4-wheel drive.
About transfers - Elder Fronk and I are both staying here in Sandusky.
No, I don't really need anything more than prayers.
You'll have to let me know what lake powell is like in October. Hopefully everybody has fun and stays warm. It should be a lot easier to sleep, at least.
Pretty cool story: Elder Robison (seems to have been serving near me for half of my mission or so - he's now a ZL in Findlay) and his companion were preparing a man for baptism, and had a member teaching with them. During the whole lesson the member felt like he recognized the investigator from somewhere, but couldn't place it. The next day, he had a flashback to ten years ago as he was going to general conference in SLC - the investigator had been one of the protesters outside the conference center and said some pretty offensive things to him. He remembered going inside and praying that the protester would have his heart softened and eventually be able to accept the gospel. At the next lesson the investigator said that yes, that was him. It took ten years and a lot of effort, but his prayer was answered, and he got to be part of the answer to his prayer. The protester/investigator was baptized last weekend. Sweet!
I love you! Thanks everyone for being great examples of gospel living and learning. Keep it up, choose the right, and focus on what's most important!
Elder Matthew Smith
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
(and September 13, 2010 - we got 2 identical letters)
Dear Brother and Sister Smith:
We are pleased to inform you that your son, Elder Matthew Kay Smith, has been called to serve as a zone leader, for the Cleveland Zone. The responsibilities of a zone leader are many, and it is a critical position because of the impact a zone leader has in the life and success of each missionary he has responsibility for, and ultimately upon those whom they teach.
Sister Sorensen and I have every confidence in Elder Smith's ability to lead this zone with his pleasing personality, his developed leadership skills, and with his usual reliance upon the Lord for guidance. I'm sure you are very proud of Elder Smith, as he is an outstanding missionary and has served faithfully and diligently in every calling he has been given. He excels in gaining love and respect from everyone around him. He is truly a disciple of the Lord.
I am looking forward to working more closely with Elder Smith as we strive to accomplish the work the Lord has for us to do here in the Ohio Cleveland Mission. Thank you for raising up such a faithful, devoted servant of the Lord, and for sharing him with us. Please continue to support him in his work with your prayers and letters.
President Darwin D. Sorensen
Ohio Cleveland Mission
So conference was amazing!!! I'm worried that sometime if an investigator isn't progressing or something I'll be tempted to yell "you stupid cow!" at them. That might not go over well. I love how funny Pres. Uchtdorf is - he was right - I totally was wondering what tree rings had to do with flying an airplane when he said that. My favorite talks were probably Elder Kearing's (sp?) talk in Priesthood about how flip-flops are inadequate protection in a scorpion-infested desert. I thought it applied very well to Paul's admonition to have our "feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace". I also really liked the one (Elder Oaks', I think) about the personal and priesthood lines of revelation. The one about the power of the Priesthood in healing & addiction recovery and everything was great, and was hopefully a big confidence booster to Bro. and Sis. Jenkins, who were at the session when it was given. My other favorite was probably the Priesthood session talk about how women need to be so much nicer to men. I'm pretty sad that I only get one more general conference as a missionary. That's a depressing thought. The temperature and weather turning sour is kind of a depressing thought, as well.
So I thought I saw Bro. Neu during the Sunday afternoon session - was he in the choir?
Back in Utah can you watch conference at the church or stake center, or do you just have to watch it at home?
The only investigator who came to the church to watch conference was Sis. Jenkins. Esther's daughter was sick so we committed her to watch it at home. Thanks for the advice about the marriage situation. Bro. and Sis. Jenkins are doing really well, by the way. As part of our addiction recovery plan we committed her to get cinnamon candies to eat. We were sitting by them at conference and she handed us some candy. We were pretty excited when we realized that it was cinnamon candy. She has significantly reduced her smoking habit and we're really excited for her. (she is, too). Bro. Jenkins has been dry for a week - also a major accomplishment.
We took a member teaching with us who had recently returned from his mission in Nicaragua. We talked about his mission and what it was all like and stuff. He said the mission goal was two baptisms per week per companionship at the start of his mission, and later on they stopped hardly caring about individuals and had a goal to baptize a family each week. I've heard it said that for every door you knock on in the US, someone gets baptized in South America. Pretty crazy.How does the potato fundraiser work? What do you do with all the potatoes you box? No, I'm not really trying to keep up with Elder Fronk's morning workouts. Mine have gotten a bit more intense from serving with him, I guess.
Transfers is next week so we'll probably email next Tuesday instead of Monday. I expect that I will stay here and not be transferred.
How's everybody's family prayer, scripture study, FHE, family dinners, and everything else going?
Loveymnb, Elder Matthew Smith
Monday, September 27, 2010
Good job Mom (and everyone else involved in the victorious conquest)!
Thanks for all the details - what an exciting story! Mom, you should definitely let him stay in the house: I was thinking maybe the vaulted ceiling in your bedroom would be nice: wouldn't you want to wake up every morning and see that huge elk head hanging over your bed?
Why aren't you stoked for Conference, Peyton? It's like Christmas two days in a row! How was the Relief Society Broadcast, Mom? We had a couple investigators at that, but we weren't able to go with them to it. I'm so excited - I don't know what it is about your mission, but conference gets way more exciting. I especially can't wait for Elder Holland's talk. I've been asking Heavenly Father to tell him to speak about authority, so we'll see how that goes. To answer your question, conference will be broadcast to our ward building. It's kind of funny - fast sunday was last week because of conference, this week is conference, and next week is going to be stake conference (also broadcast to our ward building). In a couple weeks here, we won't have had a regular sacrament meeting for about a month! I'm pretty jealous that you will have conference DVR'd so you can watch it as many times as you want! Modern technology is so cool!
What did Mom say about my mission other than that the food is good? What did the other missionary moms say?
How was homecoming, Delaney? Did you go to Riverton or Jordan's homecoming? Did you win the football game? I KNOW Mom took pictures, so why aren't there any pictures of Delaney attached to the email? What can you tell me about Steve? What does Diane think about him?
I heard that BYU lost - our ward's Elders' Quorum was talking about recording a BYU game and watching it on a Tuesday night for an Elders' Quorum activity, but that idea kind of died when they lost. Instead they borrowed my copy of "Joseph Smith - Prophet of the Restoration" and watched it. I love that movie so much! We've watched it with a couple of less-active members here, too and it's so good! I would have seen it again on Tuesday, but I was on exchanges with one of our district leaders - Elder Leake (he came out with me and was serving near me when I was in Cleveland).
That's nice of President to send you a letter saying how great I am. Did both letters say the same thing? Why were there two letters?
News from the Perry ward: I got an email from Elder O'Donley today, and I talked to Elder Ercanbrack (his new companion) the other day - here's the scoop on our investigators: Lisa has been dropped, they're still working with Steven, I forgot to ask about Ethan, and Bro. Hanny has a calling now - gospel principles teacher! (I know, right? So cool! The Hannys are so solid!) I think Sis. Hanny has a calling as well.
Solid families we're teaching:
Esther & co.: I think I told you a little about her before: Esther (24ish) lives with her fiancee Robby, her daughter Yasmine, her cousin Lakota, and her brother Robby (and we've taught her friend Sue as well - she just happened to be at their home once when we had an appointment). Esther is super solid - she keeps her reading commitments, keeps appointments, understands well, asks good questions, and everything else. The reason she doesn't have a baptismal date is because she's living unmarried with Robby. Robby's not really on board with us - he's pretty set in his Native American beliefs. They have a marriage date, but it's in May of next year, I think, so we're working on that. Any ideas, Dad? I think I remember you saying that you had a lot of trouble with people living unmarried on your mission. I think if we can get past that concern she will quickly get baptized. Esther, Lakota, and Yasmine all went to the RS broadcast Saturday night (at the church), as well as a potluck dinner our ward's RS put on beforehand. By all accounts they had a great time and were well fellowshipped. (we weren't there, of course). They have a great RM sister in the ward fellowshipping them very well.
Michelle & Michael: I think I told you about them also, but I can't really remember, so I'll just repeat myself. We found Michelle tracting. She had basically prayed us there and was super prepared. Michael was there for our return appointment as well. As we taught the restoration, their answers to questions and their comments were sounding almost like Mormon cliches - "I don't think you can just go to school and have authority to be a pastor" and things like that. They had been talking amongst themselves recently about how there was no record of God's dealings with the indians' (and other peoples') ancestors, so were excited to hear about the Book of Mormon. They understand and believe in continuing revelation. They've felt the spirit "nagging" at them that they need to read the BOM. The only thing they don't really seem to get is authority, so we're working on that. I also think they're a little confused about our Sunday services because of the weird schedule in the coming weeks. I've asked God to tell Elder Holland to speak about authority, so that concern should get cleared up this weekend. It was pretty cool - we prayed with Michelle that she'd find a better job and right after we left she got a call with an offer that she accepted. She was pretty excited about that. They've got a lot of potential - I can definitely see them getting baptized. We've got a great recent convert as their fellowshipper, so that will help them, too.
Unfortunately, the junk food I didn't finish I left in Perry for Elder Ercanbrack. My three suitcases were too full of junk to bring any more. I'm going to have to send some stuff home once winter is over (and probably again before I come home).
So Elder Fronk is pretty intense - he does 600 pushups and 50 pullups per day (except Sunday and Monday)
I'm excited to talk to y'all, too, although I must admit I'm more than a little distressed about how fast my mission is going by and how little I have left of it.
Remind me again when Chris and Nate (or, more properly, Elders Nestman and Horrocks) get home. E. Nestman should be getting pretty close to done, shouldn't he? Any news from their parents (or anyone else's?)
LoveYMNB, Elder Matthew Smith
ps keep an eye on my debit card balance please - zone leaders have to travel and eat out a lot more.
Monday, September 13, 2010
Yeah, Sandusky probably is about Sandy's size. I don't really remember how big Sandy is, but it sounds close enough to me. It's a whole lot more ghetto than Sandy, though. Yeah, the roller coaster park, Cedar Point, seems like a pretty big deal (except nobody in Sandusky seems to like it very much - I guess it would be like living right next door to Disneyland or something - they take it for granted and get used to it.
I'm pretty excited to hear about mom's massive elk next P-day! You guys should have gotten a squirrel tag, too! Has mom been practicing? Doing finger exercises? Who all is going up hunting with you guys?
Way to go my Eagle Scout brother!!! That is so cool - well done! So, now that you're the champion of the world, what are you going to do next? Do you like learning Spanish? Are you as good at it as Delaney? At least you're probably a better golfer than her, right?
I have to say I agree with you on the importance of compound bows over violin bows, Dad. Why don't you just tell Delaney that? I'm sure she'd change her mind. Why didn't Cody go to the Lion King play?
You guys continue to astound me with your knowledge of missionary lingo and practices - I never knew what 'trunky' meant or who went to district meetings until I was out on my mission. Elder Fronk and I are the Zone Leaders (or Zone Lords, depending on who you ask...). As for why the ZL area is Sandusky, I do not know and it makes no sense to me - we've burned up tons of miles already with the trips we've had to make to Cleveland, Kirtland, and other places, and we wouldn't have had to use nearly as much if we were in a closer area to Cleveland instead of at the edge of the zone. I think the ZL area is going to be moved in a transfer or two - there's an area close to Cleveland that covers two wards with only one companionship and I'm guessing that area will get divided and one of them will be the new ZL area.
Rundown on our investigators: They're all new in the past week or two. In the week before I got transferred here all our investigators we had were dropped. Fortunately, we've had some great success in finding - way more than we usually have (this is the magic of fasting) - and we're building up our teachpool again.
Treena: Lives across the street from us. She's been married for 18 years but is soon getting a divorce. She has a 17 yr old daughter and a 14 yr old son and I think one younger daughter that we haven't met yet. We've taught her twice - went over the Restoration both times and committed her to a baptismal date at the end of October. We've been teaching her on her front porch and her street is really busy, so we're hoping to start teaching her in a member's home. She wasn't at church this week because her son (probably) broke his hip on Friday and needed some extra TLC.
Janet: Is the newlywed wife of a member husband who is currently returning to activity. She's lived there for quite a while, but not been very open to missionaries apparently. They got married two weeks or so ago and that seemed to open a lot of doors for missionary work. We're pretty excited about her. She (as well as her husband and his 18ish yr. old son) came to church and had a great experience. We're still working on trying to get them to stay for the full block, but we've got an awesome fellowshipper for her from the RS and are confident that she can do it.
Jeanene (sounds like "Janine"): We found tracting the other day. We taught her the restoration and committed her to a baptismal date at the end of October as well. She has been searching for God and appears to have been pretty prepared for the message of the restored gospel. Challenges with her will include anti from friends and hesitancy to go to church because of feelings of unworthiness. She has a 7-yr old son and a 6-yr old daughter.
Esther: We found street contacting the other day, and she kept her return appointment yesterday. She had a surprising level of interest in and comprehension of our message. She lives with a fiancee that we haven't really talked to - he seems pretty gruff and standoffish, but we're hoping to soften him up with our UFC talk (he likes MMA). She also has a daughter who I think is 8 yrs old.
For Mom's talk: Missions are great, everybody should serve one. You may never have a comparable opportunity to experience spiritual growth of the rate or quality that occurs while faithfully serving a mission. Fasting works. The church is super true. You won't really understand it 'til you've done it, but it's worth it. Member-oriented proselyting is the KEY to success, and it works wherever we try it. Preach My Gospel is the 2nd most correct of any book on the earth and it was written on the other side of the veil. Members of the church are far more effective at finding and fellowshipping people who are prepared to recieve the gospel than full-time missionaries.
Sorry, Mom, I'm not really sure what you're looking for. Any more specific questions?
Elder Matthew Smith
I was about to get timed out of the library computer. Got back on now.
Thank goodness for nice librarians. Last week I went to the desk to get a library card and they were telling me about how I needed proof of address and stuff. I tried to sweet-talk through it like I have at all the other libraries where It's been necessary, but surprisingly it didn't work that time. I had to pay a dollar for a guest pass. I came in and tried the same thing this week with a different librarian and it worked much better. Everyone please hug a librarian for me. (missionaries can't do that)
So we have some awesome P-days in this area. After studies we went to the Sandusky Fight Club, a mixed martial arts gym, and learned Jiu Jitsu. We practiced chokeholds, escapes, full guard, and even blind sparring. It was a ton of fun! Maybe I should forget about all this ATC stuff and just be a cagefighter for my job instead. What are your thoughts on that, Mom? I think Cody would be really good at it, too.
There were a couple of days last week when it got under 70 and we had to put our suit jackets on. It was crazy. I can't believe that summer is already drawing to a close. It's back in the 70s again now, though. We're having to do a bit of biking because all of our miles are getting used outside of our area going to meetings and stuff like that. No good, but at least we get to talk to more people that way.
How is everybody's personal and family prayer and scripture study going? How about FHE? Just in case anybody's slacking off, the 13th of September is always a good time to reevaluate and recommit yourself to a renewed effort! It really makes a difference. There's a reason why we work and struggle and teach and testify and try so hard to get people to read the Book of Mormon and Pray about it daily, and why we're so devastated if they haven't! Remember, we're all investigators in the gospel, no matter how far down the investigative path we may currently be.
Alrighty, I really do have to get headed off now.
LoveYMNB, Elder Matthew Smith
Thursday, September 9, 2010
One Zone to find them,
One Zone to teach them all,
And to their families...
I'm back in the Cleveland Zone, baby!!!
Hope everybody's having fun camping. Sorry this email will have to be super quick since we're short on time.
"We're all curious about where you ended up last week."
I ended up in Sandusky, Ohio. 1413 1/2 Camp St. Sandusky, OH 44870, to be exact.
"Please tell us all about it!"
It's pretty cool - home of Cedar Point and Kalahari waterpark (neither of which we can go to, of course, but oh well)
"Where are you?"
In Sandusky, like I said.
"Big city or small town?"
It's more of a small city. Much bigger than Perry, but much smaller than Cleveland or Toledo.
"Who's your companion?"
Elder Fronk from Tremonton, UT. He's not a hunter, he likes sports like football, basketball, MMA, and weightlifting. He's been out one transfer longer than I have. He's a really good missionary and teacher. He has both older and younger brothers and sisters.
"Car or bike?"
"Lots of investigators in the works?"
Not really. When I got here we had one investigator, but we've yet to get in contact with him, so he's pretty much dropped. We've had some pretty good success finding this week, though, so hopefully there will be more in the works pretty soon.
Sandusky - a little more than an hour west of Cleveland.
"Do you have a leadership position in your new area?"
"Do you like the ward?"
"You know - answer all the things that mothers think are important and you probably don't even care about."
We live in an upstairs apartment above some members of the church. The ward seems to feed us very well. There's one set of sisters in the ward in addition to ourselves. Every P-day we get to go to the Sandusky Fight Club (owned by a member) and learn Jui Jutsu (sp?).
Last Monday was "Zoned Out" - a huge missionary field-day type thing where half of the mission (the other half will go next week) meets at the John Johnson farm to play around for a P-day. I spent most of the time playing football and ultimate frisbee. It was a lot of fun. That's why we couldn't email on Monday. We couldn't email on Tuesday because of leadership training meetings. We couldn't email on Wednesday because we went to the Elyria district's District Meeting. So now it's Thursday and we're finally emailing. Sorry it took so long. Hopefully you got my letter.
How did the chukar taste?
You're welcome for the bracelets, but you can thank the Hofmann family for them.
Elder Matthew Smith
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
As I pondered weak and weary (from a long day of tracting)
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore... (old Ensigns)
Suddenly there came a beeping
And our telephone was ringing
I picked up the phone to hear my ZL on the other line...
Finally the call I dreaded
Over which I'd thought and fretted
I petitioned him to know if I was gone or had more time...
All my hopes and fears were coming
To a head - my heart was drumming
And then like a hammer falling, Quote the Elder:
"You're being transferred"
So, I'm being transferred. I'll let you know my new address as soon as I find out. Elder O'Donley is staying here in Perry. I'm kind of jealous of him; I love the people in the ward and who we're teaching. In addition, the ward is super excited about missionary work and helpful to us. They have been seeing all the investigators and less-active members we and the sisters have been bringing to church, as well as seeing success themselves as they did member missionary work and it's like a snowball effect of excitement!.
Thanks for the updates on the ages - it's tough when they keep changing (except for Mom's, of course)
Our church was great, too. It was the primary program and they did great. It was a wonderful program about the gospel of Jesus Christ. Elder O'Donley and I sang, too. (the last song of the program was "come follow me", and small groups of primary children or soloists sang the first three verses, the sisters sang verse 4, we sang verse 5, and the whole congregation sang verse 6) With exception of the 5th verse, I thought it was excellent. Steven came to church Sunday as well as Bro. and Sis. Elliot, who came to all three hours for the first time. I kind of had to play the "I'm getting transferred, it's my last Sunday" card to get them to commit to all three hours, but hey - whatever works, right? Conspicuously missing from church was Ethan (10-yrs old) and his mother (a member) Christina, who had committed to come to church and then to the baptism of an 8-yr old in our ward afterwards. That was disappointing, but I'm still pretty confident that he'll get baptized this coming monthSay congratulations to the Lays for their daughters marriage and happy birthday to Dawn for me. (invite them to church for me as well)
You Said: "I was going to mention that maybe you shouldn't mention teaching drunken gun-toting robbers. But mom took it all in stride. Thanks for relating the story. "
Sorry - I must have miscommunicated - it was actually a balance-and-speech-challenged squirrel with a water gun, and he was just on his way to borrow some things. Nothing to worry about.
Have I mentioned before that one of my dreams for my mission is to serve in the Youngstown area? The reason behind this is that they sell a really cool T-shirt there. It says "Youngstown, Ohio, 2-time defending champion - Murder capital of the USA" (and the years that Youngstown was the murder capital) and has a graphic of two crossed M-16s. I would want one for me and one to send home for Mom. I thought she would really appreciate that.
Thanks for relating again your bishop's counsel about being with your family, even on the weekends. I remember hearing about that several times, but hadn't thought about it for a while.
Sometimes all it takes is an invitation: We committed the Dahneke family to invite the boys from a less-active family to their FHE and this Sunday one of them came to church. We talked to him there and he committed to come next week and said that his parents would be fine with us visiting them. After seeing the new face at church, the seminary teacher visited their home and introduced himself, and two of the boys came to seminary yesterday!
I'm going to try to send some pictures in a sec...lets see how this goes (Note: I got an email that said - "nevermind I'll try next week". so - no pictures)
LYMNB, Elder Matthew Smith
Hey, just a quick reminder that transfers is on Wednesday the 1st. There's a pretty high probability that I'll get transferred, so it might be a good idea to send any mail to the mission office until after transfers. Also, I will probably end up e-mailing on Tuesday this week, since that will be our P-day.
We've had a pretty good week so far, including some really powerful spiritual experiences. I've never been as aware of spiritual experiences as I have been on my misson. I was just writing in my journal about how the abundance and intensity of spiritual experiences is one of the things I will really miss when I have to go home. I know I can still have the Spirit to be with me even after my mission and everything, but I doubt there will be many times in my post-mission life when I will be as in-tune with the Spirit as I am now. It would be like trying to be in as good a shape as I was in during my Senior year in high school - you can't get there without long hours of workouts every day, keeping the taper rules, a great coach, and a meaningful goal towards which to work. Well, I've got the spiritual counterparts of all those elements available to me while I'm on my mission, and I lament that I might not have another time in my life when I can dedicate all my time and attention to serving the Lord. This year keeps feeling shorter and shorter - it's going by faster and faster and it scares me a little.
How's everything going back home? Is everybody having fun at school? Who has Delaney been dating lately? On a scale of one to infinity, how excited is mom for her elk hunt? (I want to hear everyone's answers on that one). Can you send back the other SD card? How old is everybody now?
Elder Matthew Smith
Monday, August 23, 2010
We had a pretty good week. Lisa came to church again and enjoyed it greatly. She was the only one, though.
Good job shooting, mom. Remind me when your hunt is? How is Cody's baseball team?
The quartet of be still my soul sounds like it was pretty cool. (Delaney played a violin musical number in church Sunday) I'd like to have been able to hear that. Are Delaney's teacher & son members? Elder O'Donley and I found out yesterday that we're singing in church next week. That should be interesting.
Since when do people have "the price is right" parties?
It's kind of weird to think of all these people from our ward getting married. I wonder if I will even recognize anybody when I come home after having been gone for 2 years.
Yes, the ward is still good about feeding us pretty regularly. I know the gift of tongues is real because I've never disliked anything that the members have fed us. (except for one part of one meal back in Cleveland - Viennese sausages...but that doesn't count.) I've started liking salad a lot more on my mission.
We ate with the Bests this week and she asked for your email address so she could write to you, so yes, I figured she would write you.
We went on exchanges with the zone leaders this week - Elder Jensen worked with Elder O'Donley in Perry and I went with Elder Saxton in Shaker Hts. (their area has some nice suburbs and some of the ghetto from Cleveland's East Side) Elder Jensen was Amazed at how much candy and cookies and stuff we had in our apartment. Good job keeping us well stocked with sweets, family!
Another interesting tidbit from that exchange - I had been on exchange with Elder Saxton a couple weeks ago in Shaker Hts. and we contacted a guy who was drunk, had a gun in his pocket, and was on the way to rob a house. We taught him again this week on exchanges and it was pretty amazing to see the changes he's made - he's a totally different person! His countenance was way brighter and he was excited to keep learning the gospel. He's been to church a couple times and is making a lot of progress.
Our investigators are progressing slowly. Lisa came to church this week, but she was the only one there. She had a great time, though, and is still excited about baptism. We are really excited about Sis. Elliot, also. She asked about changing her schedule at work to get Sundays off, and yesterday was the last Sunday that she's going to have to work. Fasting works.
We're not going to be able to teach Stephanie anymore - her parents don't like her learning about the Mormons. I'm pretty sure she'll get baptized eventually, though. She had some really powerful lessons with us where she felt the spirit very strongly, she's got some great friends that are good examples of living the gospel, and she loved church when she came last week. I really feel at peace concerning her because of some pretty special experiences Elder O'Donley and I had while praying on Stephanie's behalf on Friday after we talked to the Mitchells and found out that we were done teaching her. I'll tell you about that in person after I've come home. This answer was confirmed by the content of the following letter.
The Mitchells gave us a copy of a letter Stephanie wrote to Elder Dahneke (a missionary serving from our ward in the long beach CA mission that she knew from school before he left): here's some excerpts from it:
"Hello! Rulon gave me your address cause he said it would be alright if i wrote you. Umm, I know you must be busy and whatnot with your mission and stuff, but I wanted to tell you that I've been talking with two missionaries here - elder smith and elder O'Donley, and before i had met with them i had went to your church once before and she (Rylee) wanted me to meet with the missionaries and I complied but i did not give much thought to it. well i did but i was more nervous that they would, like, want to convert me, and I'd be like, "no", and they'd get angry. but I've always respected Rylee because of how much love she felt toward her church and always, always asked questions. so when i went to this meeting with the missionaries at the Mitchell's house i had a list of question s which were eventually all answered and then they began to talk and to teach me - we talked about the Lord and how He loves us and what the Spirit truly is and how the gospel makes you feel. We went around the room and each described what the Spirit had felt like to them and when they came to me, to be honest, I didn't know what to say because i don't think until then i knew what it felt like. I replied that "i can't stop smiling". I had butterflies sand felt so happy. I just wanted to give e those dudes a hug (but i didn't ha ha) I went with the Mitchell's to church the following Sunday and loved the atmosphere. it was amazing, just the people and the love they displayed. it was like one bit happy family. following the service I went to the Mitchell's house again to speak with the missionaries again and ask more questions. i admitted how I attempted to read the book of Mormon but failed epically (so now Rylee is going to help me out with a little study session) then we talked about faith, repentance, confirmation, and receiving the Holy Ghost and I asked a few other trifling questions such as why bad things happen to good people and things about my family. After they left i began to become very emotional for my parents do not necessarily approve of expanding my knowledge and interest towards your church, and neither does one of my close friends. and i found this very hard because i do not like letting people down, but mama Mitchell (that's what I call Rylee's mom) gave me some strength and told me its about making the right decision for myself ... There's no way I'm going to stop furthering my knowledge about your church ... I will never ever forget the way i felt after my first meeting with the missionaries ... I left out telling you about the uber important thing which I'm sure you know about: Moroni 10:4 - to ask god the eternal father. And I have several times and I do not find myself doubting it ... In ONE WEEK I feel like everything has changed for me, i am beginning to want God in my life and to be the best person he wants me to be. I've been happy the entire time I've been writing my tale to you and I thank Elder Smith and Elder O'Donley and I truly bless them for helping em and presenting me this gift . and after they left this past Sunday i thought of you because other than my missionaries you're the only face i could put to doing such a great thing and a great duty. ... You have a very important job to do and i very much so hope it is going well, and you have found someone to help, like me. ..."
(end quote) Sorry, I typed that fast so there's probably a million mistakes. She also wrote us a letter which said pretty much the same things. Pretty cool, huh?
Well, got to go.
LoveYMNB, Elder Matthew Smith
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Yep, our week has been great, although it was marred by a lot of appointments being cancelled, which delayed some of the progress we were hoping to make with our investigators. It was good all in all, though. We only had one investigator at church this week. That was Stephanie, who we've been teaching at a member's home. She had a great experience at church and loved the 'ward family' atmosphere. It contrasted starkly against her old church where she goes in, sits down and listens for 45 minutes, and leaves, pretty much without talking to anyone.
I'm really grateful to be serving in such a great ward; the Perry ward is excellent at making new faces feel welcome and at home. I recall a couple weeks ago when Lisa came to church. She was the only african american in the whole congregation and I worried that she might feel out of place or something. Talking with her afterwards, she had the same worry when she walked in, but all the smiling faces and people introducing themselves and making friends dispelled that immediately. This ward is great.
Anyways, Stephanie is reading, praying, and doing great, but we may have a setback with her because she's only 16 and her parents are nervous about her learning about the mormons. Prayers for a softening of heart on behalf of her parents would be appreciated.
Bro. Elliot came to church today, after a couple weeks of missing. Sis. Elliot's work schedule should be changing next month and allowing her to come to church as well. We are really excited about that. They've both shown a great effort in reading and praying and coming to church and we've been really excited to see the progress that they've made.
Good job being the king of the archers, Cody. Now I guess you just have to work on your fishing. Maybe you should have tried archery fishing?
That tent stove idea sounds pretty cool (or warm, as the case may be.) Be careful of Carbon Monoxide.
Good job teaching and listening about temples in sunday school.
Yesterday Sis. Hofmann and Bridgette Hofmann (12) spoke in sacrament about the temple. They were baptized a year or so ago and were recently sealed as a family. Sis. Golightly also spoke about sealing power and forever families. All the talks were great. Bridgette Hofmann had to speak in Primary as well as Sacrament meeting, so Bro. Hofmann was joking about how he had to write three talks - one for his wife and two for his daughter. How did your talk go, Peyton?
Sis. Hill from my district went home on Friday. She's been really sick for the past couple weeks and they haven't been able to figure out the problem. Prayers for her and her trainer, Sis. Carter would be appreciated. Sis. Carter's new companion is Sis. Reed, who is waiting for a visa to Spain. She has been in the mission for 9 weeks.
How's the family reading, prayer, FHE going?
Love, Elder Matthew Smith