Wednesday, January 21, 2009

From Alec: Happy Human Rights Day!

hello fam!

well, mom the toilet story has to do with our white elephant gift exchange with the zone christmas morning. the zone leaders saw the toilet next to a dumpster and grabbed it to have as the big deal present, so they put it in a box and did a drawing of numbers to see who would win. i drew out the number 8 and thought, hey, i like this number! what if it won? then that was the number called. so i went out and found out i had won a toilet... they put it back by the dumpster that day. so that's that story!

that talk by brother Casos sounded awesome - i love that story and i actually came across it again just this last week. It was after some struggles we'd been having in our area and i happened to read out of Jesus the Christ that section about the good samaritan. "so who is my neighbor?"

i'm glad that lawyer asked that question. because i was able to realize that we as missionaries can be like the people in the story very literally. we ride our bikes around, and it is the hope that we have the compassion of the Good Samaritan to stop and bind up the wounds and take him to the inn (the church, church, the gospel...). because everyone in this world has been beat up by robbers. satan and his angels, through the many ways he influences men - gives us half-truths and we sin and we end up being "left for dead" (spiritually) by the world. and as we come, we have the responsibility to be the Samaritan and have compassion and love to try and help heal the wounds and care for the worlds bruised souls. I can see how also the missionaries are the innkeepers too, and the priest/levite/samaritan are the members. either way we all have the wonderful responsibility to "lift up" the hands that hang down. i'm not sure off the top of my head where that scripture is but i think it's in Isaiah. ["...where is that scripture?' 'somewhere in the Old Testament..." :) ] - sorry that's a slightly missionary inside joke.

so Elder David A. Bednar came to our mission for a 2 1/2 hour lesson/Q&A. that was really great. He is called by God, i know it. that man is amazing himself and an amazing teacher. the main part of his time with us was him asking open questions and letting us be "agents unto ourselves". i'm very grateful that he was able to come and show us how to do so much. Elder L. Tom Perry will be coming to visit our mission this saturday i think... i guess i'd better figure that out.

We had a baptism on friday, that was great! this guy is just amazing. if you came to church this next one and met him you would have no idea he wasn't a member his whole life. he is so committed and down-to-earth.

our teaching pool is really dwindling (mainly because we're baptizing them. good, but...) but right now we have this guy who knows it's true but seems to be waiting for a huge answer. he's on our minds constantly, and we really hope he'll take the important step for his eternal progression.
Also pray for us as a companionship (mom i know you already do!) and that we'll be able to have the sensitivity to the spirit so that we can be lead to do and say and be what we need to. we need a little bit of a boost, as it's been hard to do very much teaching in this small area.

man, seeing the picture of karene skiing made me want to be out there... which reminds me though - i wouldn't mind some pictures from back home. just ones in general. i didn't take out any because i don't need them really, i can remember things. but for the missionaries i meet it helps them get to know me better. i've got a huge file of my pictures somewhere on the comp - in kodak easyshare. that's full of good stuff.

i know that God loves us, and he leads us with his loving hand. we're where we are now on purpose, to affect and love those who we know and will know now. i'm touched by something that Elder Hafen said and i think it was one of the few moments his voice cracked, i'll paraphrase it the best i can: We didn't do anything to deserve the love God has for us, that he gave us spiritual bodies and made for us a plan so that we can feel of his happiness.
I could tell of his complete sincere gratitude. and it is true. let us go forth in the strength of the knowledge that we are loved by God. let us be converted - that is my hope, then we'll "be ok", that's what Elder Bednar said.

Elder Hoopes

From Mom: Happy Human Rights Day!

Dear Elder Hoopes,

We got your Christmas picture CD, and it looks like you had a great time. What is the story with the toilet? We are all happy and healthy. I just got back from taking the dogs for a walk so my hands are so frozen I can barely type, so this will be slow. The dogs are grateful that the snow is gone so they can be taken for walks again, and it is good to catch up with my walking buddies, and get some exercise again.

The ward is doing well. There still is some financial stress, which will only get worse, but the Lord is compensating by sending His love and Spirit as people are humbling themselves. We had wonderful talks, music and lessons yesterday in church and there was really an outpouring of love and comfort. Brother Casos (a new brother who is a trauma surgeon) spoke about service,
and he likened the parable of the good Samaritan to us. He said that on one level, the good Samaritans actually represents the Savior and at times in our lives we are the victim at the side of the road who can't help ourselves. The Savior runs to us and pours into us His atonement and
healing love lifts us up in His arms and carries us to an inn (the church?) where we can be healed and find rest while we recover our strength. Then at other times we are the innkeeper who has been charged by the Samaritan/Savior to care for the victim, because His business calls him
elsewhere. The Savior promises that one day He will return and pay us for whatever it cost us to help this victim. But we already have been paid and are already in His debt, as King Benjamin has pointed out. Yet he promises to pay us again. The Savior never says if the victim will recover, or how long it will take for his recovery, or how much the innkeeper will have to pay to help the man, but the Savior will return and will recompense us.

Brother Casos finished his talk by saying that often the Inn can be our own homes where the Samaritan/Savior asks us to serve our neighbor who is also our own family. He said that after 5 wonderful daughters, the Lord sent them a wonderful son. Jericho is severely autistic, and Brother Casos said that the Lord sent Jericho to teach him how to serve and how to love. "I don't
know when the Savior will return, it might be next week, it might be in 10 years, I may not meet Him till the end of my life, but He promised He will pay me again, even though He has already paid me and I am in His debt."

We sure love you and are so proud of you. There are angels about you bearing you up.



From Alec: Happy New Year to Mom

Hello family and friends,

So this week was pretty interesting but awesome at the same time, sounds like yours was too, mom. i'm glad my ol' violin is getting used, even if it is only for object lessons!

This week we had our Zone Development Meeting (ZDM) and it was awesome as always- that's when we have interviews with the President Bassett and i love talking with him. the meeting was great anyways, it got me pumped again, as they always do. The interview with the Pres was partly about my relationship with my comp because he has been getting migraines, and putting us out of commission, and so president had some advice as he was worried about him. there was some very interesting things he said to me too about my mission - felt like i was having a patriarchial blessing for my mish! just no tribe of israel mention. he is an inspired man -

speaking of those, we're going to be listening to Elder Bednar this saturday, he's having a huge meeting with like stake presidents or something and we're going to be able to come in the back too. and then the next week Elder Perry is coming but to the MISSION, that will be intense! he's the one over missionary work too so i'm nervious/excited for it.

a cool thing too - this saturday after we listen to elder Bednar we're going to be having a baptism, i've only taught the guy like once or twice but he is awesome. his name is Dustin and he is so solid. The missionaries told him that they couldn't keep teaching him if he didn't get married to his girlfriend, and so he said, "oh seriously?" then turning to his GF he said, "so when you want to get married? January 10th? ok!" so that got sorted out pretty easily!

we also had a lesson with this guy in our singles ward. he is so awesome. his girlfriend is a member and so he's been taking the lessons. we were with him and we'd already challenged him to be baptized but he said he'd definitely pray about it. but he is a stud and he prayed to close out this lesson. that was soooo powerful. it took like 3 minutes to say like 15 words. half of the room was in tears during it (the women and a couple guys) and he thanked heavenly father for giving him an answer and taking away his fears. he'll be talking to his mom today and hopefully we'll be able to set a date with him! I was especially happy for this occurrence because it helped my companion alot.

i've been really feeling alot of responsibility as the senior companion. it really is my job to make sure we are working hard and learning and improving the area, and i'm sad to say that i haven't been doing as well as I should have. i'd say the main reason was because of last transfer i became a little complacent - and that made the transition really hard for me, but it's changing, i can see it day-by-day.

today i read in Helaman 3 and i re-found (not a word... rediscovered is probably better but i like refound!) verse 29 (i think) and then 30 finishes off the thought. it is amazing how if we do hold on to that iron rod, it can "lead us across the gulf of misery and endless woe" safely to the other side to eternal life. i love that imagery. and it is the path before us. i love you all and i look forward to emailing you next week about all of the improvement we've made!

From mom: Happy New Year!

Dear Alec,

I didn't get in on the letter last evening, 'cause I was prepping for seminary, of course. We woke up this morning with a couple of inches of new snow, and we've had 2 more inches in the last few hours. Last week had been warmer, in the 40's so all our snow had melted from Christmas time, so we weren't ready for it today again. But it is beautiful!

Karene flew out this morning. It was so fun to have her for 2 weeks. We miss her so much. We miss all of you; we've found that after your missions, you kids are only home for short visits. Ben, Laurie and Elliott are still here for another week, until the 13th, the day after Ben's birthday, so I am especially lucky. Rachel and Dad only get to spend time with them after school and work, but I get all day with them. Elliott is so cute!! He is saying all sorts of French and English words, and he's very curious and busy.

Both Jim and Deb Bowden came up to us in church yesterday and raved about you, how awesome you looked, how excited you are about missionary work, and how you have the missionary glow. Bro Bowden said he gave you lots of hugs for us. Dad is actually going to be
in Scottsdale this weekend for speaker training, but he will make sure not to see you then.

Today in Seminary we studied in John 8 about how the truth makes us free and how sin places us in bondage. We discussed the consequences of our good and bad actions, and the spiritual, physical, emotional and mental consequences of sin. We talked of how truth and goodness is liberating. My object lesson was playing "O Holy Night " for them on your violin. You can imagine how it sounded. I told them that practicing the violin was too much of an infringement on my free time. Then I played a CD of Jenny Oakes Baker playing the same song and pointed out that she was much more free to play beautiful music than I was because she had practiced. I challenged them to become "Spiritual virtuosos" so that we could become free and able to be instruments in the hands of God.

Well, have a wonderful week! We love you and pray for you and those you teach.



From Alec: Hello Saints in Eagle

Hey fam,

so i saw that you used karene's email to write me but i hope this will still be fine.

The work is going great! the area isn't necessarily progressing at the moment but that is because of the holiday weirdness, but we (elder Case & Me) are progressing so the area will soon follow suit.
i'm glad that my room could be of service (Ben & Laurie). man, now i know how Jon felt when i'd get his clothes from his closet! but you can totally use them ben - those flannels are bomb - especially for cold weather. (like...minnesota) oh and elliott has free rein on those little cars (as long as jon is ok) he'll probably enjoy them more than i ever would!

Caitlyn: that was a pretty good joke, i can't say i've heard that one or even one like it - and i'm getting old so that is saying something! ;)
did you get to go to the New Years church dance thing? i remember really liking that - there was just so many people and so much things you could do.

That Baby blessing sounds awesome - we're actually teaching this less-active man who wants to be able to give his baby a blessing, so it is a great motivation as it should be, things like that make us step back and realize there might be more to life than the world might make us think. I know what you mean with that people usually need just a little nudge to do good things - we are all children of God and have the spirit of Christ, so we know what is good, and most people want to do good things - so usually we just need to bring the spirit and show clearly the path for people. it's kindof like that saying in a way too: "you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink".

to answer dad's question: we have basically a mix of member finding and our own - but the real good ones that are the best and most effective is when the members help - for a huge number of reasons that you can see if you read PMG. and something that i share with lots of members is (well part of it) D&C 123 (way awesome chapter) but especially the last verse. what i get from that is not that we have to be superman (ha or superwoman for karene, nor wonderwoman;) but we are asked to "cheerfully do all that is in our power". reach out to those we could know better and have faith that the lord will use you as his instrument, not necessarily because you are the best - but because you are there and i know we're where we are on purpose! it's like a talk a general authority gave when i was a kid - that we should be like pocketknives, we're not always the sharpest or biggest tools, but what is important is that we are "handy" that we are always there and ready to do what we can.

to answer another question - we're supposed to teach about 20 lessons a week , and in this area we do about 13 or so (always trying to improve though!) that includes lessons taught to less-actives/investigators/ members. but like i said, always trying to improve. oh and we don't tract. :) in this area we do a little - but my last area we spent like 10 minutes tracting the whole time i was there, and so far we haven't done any here. it is a little pointless in this area - our square mile has been knocked quite a bit already.

well i hope you're all having a good time and a great week, family and relationships are what eternity is all about so definitely enjoy your time together.

it is funny how really we are all like ammon, our strength is weak - and if anything gets done in missionary work it is because of the spirit/us and the investigators themselves. i was talking with elder Case, and we came to the conclusion that the people who take the right steps and listen to us - we don't even really have to do anything! they just are sensitive to the spirit and make amazing choices themselves and also the members help as well. another thing that's been on my mind is how the fruits really set apart those things that are of God. if you really think that the church sends out 19 year old males to teach people, you'd think "that would NEVER work!" and you look at the church organization: you give random everyday blokes church callings in which they are to teach and nurture people spiritually. It would just FALL apart! if you really think about those things. the spirit, and the love and direction of our heavenly father make this all possible, it is so funny how truly dependent we are on him for any of this to happen, but it is on purpose - just like leonidas and his 300 soldiers in the old testament. i just can't help thinking "for in his strength i can do all things"! just like ammon said. another cool thing along those lines is that we were teaching this now-active girl the last lesson and i realized when the closing prayer was being said, that there was Elder Case and Me two 19 year olds, the girl who is 18, the WML who is like 23, and two others like 22-25 (somewhere in there). what would go on in a normal situation of those ages? a party, that's what. but in this situation we were all sitting around joking with each other and teaching about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and how he calls prophets to help us.

"ye shall know them by their fruits"

Elder Hoopes

From Alec: Happy New Year!

hello fam!

thanks Dad for the email, that is great you got a break - everyone needs a time to just sit back and unwind for a second. hey, we as missionaries have a whole day devoted to preparation but at the same time a break from our hard work as proselyting.

i have no idea the name of the cousin of Grandpa's, i might recognize it if i heard it but i don't know. i actually did meet someone who met grandpa two days before - the family i ate christmas dinner with, the grandma there met him two days before, and she is connected with him (very indirectly) because Ruth Ann's first husband (crandall?) was this woman's cousin. wow, that sounds like the riddle "this man's father was my father's son". sorry to maybe confuse you!

thanks for your words too, Dad, about Focus (at least that's what i got from it). that you're trying to get everyone to focus more on the good and "building up of the kingdom" than problems. that is something that is an eternal principle. focusing on the good things in life is not ignoring the bad, it is purposely choosing to focus on the good things in life, and therefore search them and savor them. (..."we seek after these things"). and that simple fact will do wonders for any man (or woman) because there will most definitely come into their life an added measure of gratitude for the good things that we've been given, which is really something missing from this world. there seems to be so much hate and bitterness towards God from people, and i feel when i try to help them that they basically say to me that i can love God and also be a happy person because i've had an easy life, that they've gone through things that i cannot imagine. Of course a few times that has made my pride kick in but i've gotten past that and realized that no one has an easy life. yes they've experienced things in their life i can't fathom because i simply haven't experienced them! I can say that same thing to them as well however, even if they might have gone through things that do seem "harder to go through" for the world. But i feel i might have figured out why this whole arguement has always rang wrong to me. it is because we all will go through bitterness in this life, there will never be anyone who doesn't, and it is not up to us to "deal with" our trials or become embittered because of them. because of our entire purpose of being here on earth we need to overcome, triumph over our adversity. we need to be humble and sensitive to the ways we need to change to more become like our Savior. there's a scripture in Romans (4 i think) that says that paul glories in tribulation because we become better from it! and that can and should be true - just like how in the Book of Mormon the people either became hardend because of the long warfare between the Nephites and the Lamanites, or they became softened and humble and closer to God. So (and while i say this know i am not being judgemental - i will do this same thing i'm condemning sometimes, but i'll always try not to) those who say that they are not sure God loves them or are having trouble with things in their past need a change of attitude that will not only let them triumph despite their past, but make them happier people. another thing i just realized is that there is no solid correlation between righteous and happy people and absence of trials. it is not the abscence of trials or sin that make people more like christ - it is the overcoming of temptations and trials and repenting that we become like Him and our Heavenly Father. That has made a huge difference in my life, and i hope i can help it make a difference in everyone around me and their life.
but i'd just like to end with a paragraph of gratitude:
I'm very thankful for my parents for their love, support, help, patience, and righteousness - it made it so much easier to learn more and try to be a better person. I'm thankful for my siblings who have always, always loved me for who i was and were always patient with me as well. Every one of them have left a deep impression on my soul in ways that i will always be grateful for. I'm very thankful for my membership in the church of our Heavenly Father, because i've been able to feel his love and guidance in very large ways - especially through church leaders and the scriptures. I'm so very thankful to my friends, who made it easy to be a better person and to love life, and to also see that we, together, can accomplish things that i alone could never dream of. They're awesome. And i could keep going but i'll leave my email to that right now - don't feel left out if i didn't specifically mention you, Helaman didn't mention any of his stripling warrior "sons" (i LOVE how they called him "father") names individually, but you could tell he loved each and every one of them. and i know that that is the same with heavenly father. I love you all and hope you have the best week of your life up to this point!

Elder Hoopes

From Dad: Happy New Year

Dear Alec,

It is such a treat to be able to type your email at 9:30 in the morning! I've taken the week off from work (really just Monday and Tuesday because no one is working Wednesday and Friday). I'm sure I'd be bored out of my mind if I lived like this every day, but once in a while it is a break.
I hope and pray that all is well with you. I told Grandpa John that you have run into a cousin of his who knew him as JB from Thatcher, but from your description he could narrow the possible cousins to two or three - do you remember her name? I had a strong feeling at your call that your mission to Arizona is in part a gift in return for the wonderful father your grandfather has been to me and what a wonderful grandfather he is to all of his grandchildren.

We have really taken the last 2 weeks off from the full requirements of the bishopric, which has also been refreshing. It has allowed me a time to reconsider some of the things we are doing and to reconsider doing some things we have not been doing. I am very excited for the new year when we will have the opportunity to pursue these new directions for me and to some extent for the ward.
The missionary work here has been going on, however, but our ward mission leader has been out of town so I have not been able to meet with him.
We have the little dramas playing out in different places in the ward, which I have to attend to, but I'm constantly urging our leaders not to allow problems to monopolize our attention. It is important to remain focused on the building the Kingdom, otherwise all our energies will be drained by the problems and there will not be any energy or attention left to build.
It was wonderful to talk to you on the phone - for the next several days I felt you with us as we prayed and celebrated the season.
I am very proud of you and your service which is blessing the people you serve as well as us,


From Alec: Happy December

Hello fam!

glad to hear from you - i am doing well. though transfers are this tuesday and i am getting transferred to the pueblo zone. i think west of where i am now, but still in mesa. i'll be with elder Case, and i'll be greenie-breaking him. (that means the companion after the trainer). i'm excited and bummed at the same time. i was looking forward to being able to skype with you guys - there was this family who had skype all set up and offered to let me use it. but i'm moving so...

thats awesome there was an investigator, mom. i didn't see enough of the missionaries at home.

yes i got the thanksgiving package - i also got the christmas dear elder one just a couple days ago. did i mention i'm running out of contacts? i'll probably need some new ones after christmas in january.

christmas music does have a great spirit to it.i love it. and that is hilarious that dad got that tree like that. must have been so nice.

mom: something that i noticed that you had said. i know that you're my mom and i don't have any authority or stewardship over you, but just something i've been struggling with. i had those same feelings about worrying about what needs to be said not being said. and those feelings are motivated by a concern and love of the people. but the thing is, that faith needs to come in that the teacher is called of God to teach that day, and that what we want to say or do might not be the best thing even if it is good. well don't think i'm preaching to you because you're the most saintly person i know. love you guys!

Elder Hoopes

From Mom: Happy December 15th

Dear Alec,

Well it's been another wonderful week for us. We got snow this weekend so it is a beautiful winter wonderland here, although we are all crawling along the icy roads at 20 MPH. Rachel had her Eagle High Choir Holiday Concert on Saturday and it was incredible! All the choirs and soloists were amazing, and I'm not just being prejudiced. This coming Sunday we are having our
musical Christmas Sacrament meeting and I will be singing in the choir for that. Christmas music is the best, because you can feel the Spirit as it testifies the divinity of the Savior, as well as the divine origin of the love we have for one another.

Caitlyn is doing great; she made 8th grade student of the month for academic progress and citizenship, and her grades are steadily climbing. She is so smart, and learning so quickly that she constantly amazes me. If all goes well, I will be driving her down to Utah this Friday to spend Christmas with her family.

Rachel is learning how to put the pathfinder into 4 wheel drive. She decorated the house and tree for Christmas, a duty I have gratefully relinquished to her. When we went to choose a Christmas tree on Saturday, we drove to the lot by Flynn's Saddle Shop and parked right in front of a row of trees. We got out and the salesman asked what kind of tree we were looking for. Scott told him, "a noble fir, about 8 ft tall and narrow at the base." The man pulled out the tree right next to the car: it was shaped perfectly, cut just a few days prior and less cost than the last several past Christmas trees we have bought, so I paid for it while they tied it on the top of the car, and we were out of there 5 minutes after we had arrived. It happened that we met some friends there and the husband stared in envious disbelief, as we picked the first tree at the first lot. They had already been to 4 lots and had 4 more to see before a decision could be made!

Seminary is going well. Now when I have to get a sub, I feel sad because I don't get to study and teach that particular lesson, and I worry that the sub won't say what needs to be said. I know that is irrational and arrogant, but I guess it also shows my level of commitment to the class, which is a change in the right direction. Speaking of which I need to prepare tomorrow's lesson, so I'll sign off.

Love you forever,