Monday, December 27, 2010

Happy New Year

Hello Family!

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

Highlights from the Christmas Phone Call

On Christmas day Matt went to the Stake Center in Cleveland and had a zone p-day. They played basketball and "chush-wozy" which is a game that the elders in that mission made up. It is a cross between ultimate frisbee and basketball. There are 22 elders in Matt's zone. They went and ate lunch at the mission home with President and Sister Sorenson. They got President Sorenson to tell them stories of meeting General Authorities.

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

We wish you a merry Christmas...‏

Here's a picture from Chance's baptism.

Seated from left to right: Elder Fronk, Elder Smith, Chance, Bro. Boggs, Bro. Billiard
Merry Christmas Everybody!

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.

A derivative party - that sounds funish, I guess. Not really. Is Delaney taking a calculus class?

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

It's Christmas Time in the City‏

Hello Everybody,

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

Time to fulfill some prophecies...D&C 109, here we come‏

Hello everybody,
Here's a picture of what Elder Fronk did to me while we were wrestling this morning. He was dragging his arm across my face trying to get it on my neck for a choke and it started bleeding. We ended up with a draw today - neither of us could submit the other during two 5-minute rounds.

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