Monday, November 29, 2010

Email from 11/29/10

Hello, my frostbitten family,

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

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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!!

Time extended!!!

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

‏Email from 11/15/10


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

Letter to Utah

Hello everybody,

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

Eatin' good in the neighborhood!‏


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 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