Monday, April 29, 2013

These People are Somehow Happy! Despite the Pate!

Alright... so this week was pretty normal as usual... but I want to start with a little photo story. Hopefully with the Fro's blogging skills, she can get this to look pretty with the photos!

Pate: How to make it, eat it, and "enjoy it"

Step 1: Be prepared at all times for members to ask you to make pate. And just so you know, pate is literally just boiling water stirred with corn flour. Nothing else... that's why it's pretty miserable to eat. But nonetheless, I'm happy and ready to help make it! 

Step 2: Pull up your pants, get in a good squatting position, and let your arms do all the work. It's all about spinning it and getting all the air pockets out... and also so that it doesn't burn on the pot. A lot of times it kinda climbs up as they spin it... so what they do is they dip their hands in water and just skim their hands along the ring of the pot (which is scorching hot) to keep the pate from spilling over. 

As I really didn't have the desire to burn my finger tips off, I let our hosts do that. Oh yeah... and Elder Shearer helped spin a little to... apparently he had better technique than I did because he wasn't spinning it as hard as I was, but I didn't want to look weak so I let my strength loose! POWER!

Step 3: This is the finished product. I'll talk about the actual eating process in the next steps.

Step 4: Grab a handful of scorching hot pate. Usually the outside is pretty good, but as you work your way inside that monsterous glob, it gets, well, scorching hot... which you can tell from my face and how I'm trying to roll it around in my hand to cool it down. I made the grave error of touching the pate with my left hand though... you never use your left hand (just grab the pate and dip it in the sauce with your right hand) because, remember? It's supposed to be the hand you wipe your behind with... yes, that really is the reason. It's considered rude and really, it just makes both your hands messy instead of just one.

Step 5: Scoop up some sauce (it can vary from disgustingly awful to bearable). This is what really gets your hand super messy and dirty. It's all good though because they give you a bucket of water and soap to wash your hands in before and after the meal.

Step 6: Enjoy some deliciousness! Honestly, you can't even imagine that you're eating a hamburger or a hoagie. You just gotta take it for what it's worth. People literally eat this stuff for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I honestly cannot think of a more depressing meal routine... but these people are somehow happy! Despite the pate!

Sooo... that's the story for this week. Hope that little story gave everyone a little glimpse of what my life is here in Togo!

Things have been going good though! We had a baptism this week with Davide, who is actually the brother to Kodjo (who I baptized last month). He's a pretty awesome dude and really loves the gospel! Our branch has been really struggling with membership retention so we've been working with the inactives and the recent converts a lot this week. We'll be having two baptisms coming up this week, so that's good, but I think they'll be the last ones for a while now. Really, our focus is trying to get this branch up and going since it was just made at the beginning of the year. I'm also sending a picture of Davide, our latest baptism... it drives me nuts that Africans don't smile in their photos!!!! Elder Owusu does, but all the Togolais don't! It totally doesn't do Davide justice because whenever we see him, he always has this great big smile on! I don't even recognize him with a frown.

So rainy season? Not sure what people are talking about. There was a HUGE rain storm last Wednesday morning or something. It lasted for like 6 hours (the streets are still flooded of course) but that's it. It's been hot and humid as usual. I'm hoping it starts raining more because the day after that big rain storm was very nice. It was pretty muggy but it was 10 degrees cooler than usual so when the wind blew, it felt like A/C!
I'm sending a few other pictures home. One of them is a picture of fruit and stuff... just wanted to show you the buying power of two dollars here. And I also wanted to show off my amazing Guacomole, which I've been eating semi-regularly over the past two weeks. Gotta say... I make some pretty good Guac... so watch out when I get back home. That whole bowl and the fruit is included in my $2 spending spree.

Also sending a pic of Elder Welsh, me, Elder Read, and Elder Landeen. We're kinda unofficially known as the baptism four because (since we're all junior companions) our comps make us come to the baptismal service every week, even if we don't have one lol... so basically, you can always bet to find us at the baptism. We had to take a picture together since transfers were coming up... but anyway, got to know these guys really well.

Let's see... what else, what else... well nothing much else! The language has its ups and downs as always, but that's pretty much how it is every week. I really need you guys to pray for the gift of tongues this week! Also, me and Elder Owusu were really struggling this week in terms of our companionship. I don't know if something has been wrong with him lately, but he hasn't been talking much this past week. The past few days have been somewhat better, but we'll see how things go. Since he's stuck with me for another transfer (ie 6 weeks) we're gonna have to work through it. So, the gift of tongues and companionship help is really all I need. 

Alright, I know it's hard to believe that I didn't have a lot of time to write my email this week due to the length of this monster, but I've got to get going now! (Pate-making cut into our time at the Cyber as Fro will tell you...) Thanks to everyone who emailed me and thanks for the prayers and support. 


Elder Hawkins, pate master

Note from the Fro:Yes, I was a little panicky when he wasn't at the Cyber when he usually it.  But all is well, and we got a lesson on pate-making!  Raise your hand if you're going to try this delicious dish this week???!  Um. Yeah, not raising my hand.  But I'll be happy to make guacamole! I asked him about transfers, he said: 

Turns out Elder Kunz will be coming into my zone so I'll be seeing him more often! And, because his comp is the District Leader, he will get to come over on splits and stay for a day at my apartment! (since the Zone Leaders are the ones who do splits and live in my apartment!)

Actually got to see him and Elder Gunderson today. Citimart was closed today (no idea why but it was just for the day... of all days!). So me, Elder Shearer, Kunz, and Gunderson went to another place that sells mostly french products (so... it's kinda okay but didn't get the stuff I usually get). They're doing good, but I'm glad Elder Kunz is coming into my zone as well as Elder Welsh who I saw often before but I'll see him regularly again. Nothing is changing for me, but all is well. We're doing good.

Let's hope he and Elder Owusu can hold out another 6 weeks!  
Prayers are welcome, as always.

Monday, April 22, 2013

No Ordinary Moto Driver - The Tender Mercy that Changed Everything

Who knew a mosquito net could get so dirty...

Greetings from the Switzerland of West Africa... well, I guess I would have said that over 60 years ago when Togo was apparently the Switzerland of West Africa... however today... it's still... well... a "developing nation". (was Switzerland ever a developing nation???) 

Things are going pretty good over here. It's gotten a tiny, tiny bit cooler every once in a while. The rain clouds are supposed to be coming in but nothing has happened yet with the rainy season supposedly here. You can see the clouds in the distance (usually, they're to the West meaning they're over Ghana) but they never make they're way over here. I'm sure that will be changing very soon though. 

It doesn't matter too much though because I've always got my umbrella in tow thanks to my AWESOME bag that Chris made me! I finally got it this week and it is LEGIT! Sorry for the caps, but everyone in the whole mission is super envious right now. Especially of the velcro flags that he had made. I'll try to send a picture for you all to see what I'm talking about... but because I have the Togolais flag, all the Togolais are super jealous! One of the members told me he's gonna come to the house and steal the bag from me... he was joking of course! Well, I believe he was... let's just say if it gets stolen, I know where to look. 

My awesome, cool bag... notice the sweet Togo flag on front!

Anyway, the bag was pretty much the highlight of my week. I feel like a pretty legit missionary now because of it. Though I'm super scared of it being on the ground and getting dirty. It will get dirty anyway just because everything here cannot escape this place without getting dirty. It's a sad reality, but I'm going to try to wash my bag every week in order to avoid this disastrous outcome... however, I feel that dirt doom is imminent. 

So, the worst thing that happened this week was last Monday night. We've been having problems with the power at our apartment (nothing to do with the city or anything... just the awful, oldness of our apartment). We finally lost all power monday night and I decided to sleep outside because it would get too hot in the room. 

That ended up being a grand mistake. At 1 AM, I was woken up by some random guy chanting and singing praises to "Jehovah" and other stupid, stupid songs in the school next door. He was singing sooooo loud and was clapping too. To make things worse, the mosquitos were really bad outside on the front porch so I was under my sheet which made things super, super hot. I decided that I would just go back into my room since I wouldn't have to sleep with my sheet and I would have my mosquito net to save me.

That ended up being another awful mistake. While I was able to escape the awful singing and chanting, I unfortunately found out why fans are absolutely essential here in West Africa. Yes, sleeping in a 90 degree room with no fan and no breeze going through the room is as awful as it sounds. I was miserable to say the least.

So, because I couldn't sleep due to the surface-of-the-sun like conditions of our room, I went back outside. Singer dude finally stopped and the breeze started to pick up outside so it wasn't as hot. All in all, I ended up finally falling asleep at about 4-5 AM in the morning, getting a total of about four hours of sleep. 

The next morning I was super miserable, depressed, and tired. I had no desire at all to walk miles and miles in the sun, but what choice did I have since we had people to meet. 

However, this story does have a happy ending! As we were walking to the sector... a moto passed by... but this was no ordinary moto driver. He had a PHILADELPHIA FLYERS HAT on!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! When I saw that I instantly lit up and got super, super excited. I tried to explain my enthusiasm to Elder Owusu but he wasn't getting it! My goodness... my entire attitude changed the whole entire rest of the day. I didn't feel tired or disgruntled as I did before. I was so happy, words cannot even describe it. The chances of me finding someone wearing a Flyers hat here are slim to none which makes it all the more amazing. I can count on my fingers the amount of times I've seen Philadelphia sports apparel here and even hockey stuff too. I could not even believe that I actually saw someone wearing a Flyers hat. 

It's funny to think that so much joy came out of a goofy little hat like that. However, I really can only think of it as a tender mercy from the Lord. He really does know his children and our needs, and that just added to my testimony of that. I know it sounds pretty ridiculous and stupid, but it honestly did make my day and changed my attitude. I was on track to have a pretty awful day, but that one little tender mercy changed everything. 

Well, got to get going now. With the nice hour long power outage at the Cyber, don't have too much time to write. Hope everyone is doing good back home... enjoy the beautiful spring weather! Thanks again for all the prayers, encouragement, and support! 

With Love,

Elder Hawkins

P.S. Last week, I believe I asked everyone to pray that I would be able to speak up during lessons. I think that needs to continue. This week has been better (and we were actually pretty busy this week so I'm pretty happy about that)... but I really need some courage my way. Lots of times, I just need to spit out what I want to say and not worry about how awful my French grammar will be. So that's what I need... just come courage, like the Lion in the Wizard of Oz! 

Note from the Fro: Well he did it, he made me cry with his Miracle of the Flyers Hat!  If you know my boy at all, you know that he is the most devoted sports fan of every team in Philly.  If you ever had the pleasure (or pain!) of sharing the drive with him to and from Seminary every morning, you would know that he listens to sports radio non-stop.  NON-STOP!  Only one thing could have changed his attitude that day, and I'm grateful to a Heavenly Father who knows this and granted him that one tender mercy.  How our Elder's are watched over!  What a blessing.  As for the mosquito net....oh my goodness, there are no words.  The LEGIT missionary bag was designed and HANDMADE by his cousin Chris Hawkins who served his mission in South Africa and seemed to know EXACTLY what a missionary bag should be.  I'm going to post more pics of the bag from his site, HawkTactical. Here is more praise for the bag that Elder Hawkins shared with me: 

Elder H: He did a great job with it and the stitching is top notch as always! I love the bag!!! It fits everything I need in it. So, he put this cool velcro thing on the front cover and then he made a Togo flag, Benin flag, and an American flag (as well as a a missionary badge with my name on it!). It's really cool! All the Togolais say that I'm a real togolais because I wear their flag on my bag now!  All the missionaries are so jealous because he basically thought of everything when it comes to that bag. It's pretty legit. 

Fro: I get the idea the bag is legit. ;)  Did the stuff Aunt Beth stuffed inside make it safely?

Elder H: Yeah...tell her THANKS! Got some drink powder and a big jar of PB! That's all I need though... except my food from the past two boxes has gotten very low. It's all good though now... I'm pretty happy with myself because I still have about $25 to spend for this whole entire week (which is actually tons) so I'm happy that I won't have to dip into personal funds this month! If I have enough... I might just have to buy myself a Calzone!

A tidbit from his letter to the Sur: Everything you said definitely reminds me of Elder Wirthlin's last talk he gave (October 2008 or something like that... it was one of his last talks I believe). He talks a lot about how we can't control the things that come into our lives... but he talks about an important lesson that his mother told him: Come what may, and love it! What I took out of that is that even when things don't seem to be going our way, when things seem to be just a little too hard, or when things just seem to be out of our reach... we just need to learn to love our trials. The Lord gives us trials because he knows that we can handle them. Through Him all things are possible. 

That's something I've definitely used on my mission a lot: learning to trust in the Lord and his understanding rather than my own! It always reminds me of Fro's favorite scripture in Proverbs about trusting in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding. How true that is, isn't it?

More Pics of the LEGIT Missionary bag!  Please visit Chris' site, HawkTactical, to see all the cool stuff he makes.  You may NEED something legit too!  He made Elder Hawkins' scripture case too. He's all decked out in Hawk Tactical! How cool is that? 

Monday, April 15, 2013


Sooo... found some sweet sour skittles on sale at Citimart last week... I mean who wouldn't buy Skittles that were on sale!?!? Well, as it turns out, the reason they were on sale is because all the skittles managed to melt into one giant mutated skittle. It tastes pretty good, but it's hard to eat since I keep it in the fridge and it's like a solid rock! Still worth it though!

Yo everybody...

Interesting Africa fact to start of with this email... I know everyone back home thinks yo is just a funny slang way to great people back home, but it's actually how you greet people in éwé which means "hi". Whenever we walk into a parcel (courtyard thingie between houses where people live) people say hi (I actually have no idea what they say really) but I do know that to reply, you just reply with one big "yoooooooooooo". A little slice of home for me in a weird, fro-y way.

So the rainy season has been creeping up slowly but surely here. We're starting to get them pretty regularly every week now. Last Tuesday was crazy though. We had a Reunion de Zone and afterwards the clouds were just plain dark and the wind was starting to pick up... everyone knew that a storm was coming! We had a mangez-vous in Doumassese (Elder Owusu's old sector) and it rained tons while we ate some pretty good spaghetti and hot dog stuff. The storm ended just as we finished eating, but let me tell you, the rest of the day was absolutely glorious! It was nice and cool throughout the day because the clouds stuck around and the rain cooled everything down. If Togo was like that all the time, I would have NO problem with that. Once nighttime came around, our room was at 78 degrees and it was FREEZING!!! I had to pull out my extra sheet and actually had to sleep with a blanket... I even had to consider turning my fans down but I was too tired and the sheet helped a lot. However, as Togo can't actually get cold without any consequences, it was blazing hot the rest of the week... so the cool temperatures were very short lived. 

 Elder Owusu, Sister Juliette Asima, Brother Samson Asima, our Ami Samuel (awesome dude!), and some random yovo (he's an oddball for sure).

We had a baptism this past week, which I'm really happy for! The baptism went very well and I'm really happy about that. Things got kinda shaky the next day on Sunday. What happens is that we have to confer the Holy Ghost on either the Sunday after the baptism or the next Sunday. Or, we have to do the baptism again. Since he told us he was going to the village to see his father (who is sick) the next week, it was imperative that he was at church yesterday. We were getting pretty worried because we tried calling him and calling him right before Church started, trying to remind him to come, but he wasn't picking up his phone. When church started, we pretty much gave up all hope that he was going to be in sacrament meeting... so that bummed us out a bunch. BUT... due to some weird problems in preparing the sacrament, church ended up started a 1/2 hour late... and, as it turns out, he came into the chapel during the hymn right before his confirmation! Perfect timing!! Pretty cool how things like that work out huh?! The Lord works in mysterious ways, doesn't he?

So, on a completely different subject, I wanted to talk a little bit about one of the cooler things of Togo. People here sell tons of things just walking around with little carts or big bucket things on their heads. You can find everything from sunglasses, DVDs, FanMilk products (the ice cream stuff), cell phones, clothes (all types of clothes too)... basically anything. But... they don't just sell products but a lot of people walk around and will do random things for you. For example, during our lesson with one of our amis (who, after months of teaching finally said he wants to get baptized!) called over a guy to give him a full manicure/pedicure thing! The guy completely cleaned and cut our amis nails on both his feet and toes... all for 10 cents! It was pretty cool, but the stuff the guy was using was pretty shady and who knows how long ago it was cleaned. Still... kinda cool though! 

 Pic courtesy of Google!

There are tons of other people too! Some people walk around with sewing machines on their heads so if you need something hemmed or fixed, they are right there for you! (I can just imagine Fro doing that! Haha.) Or, if you need a shoe cobbler, they always walk around hitting a woodblock so that way you know their coming. A lot of women walk around with food too... you can get all sorts of fruits, beans, rice, bread... they can usually make you a pretty good lunch. The problem with these walking around street vendor people is that it can be hard to tell when they'll come back. Like the FanMilk guys I see multiple times a day, but other people it can be tough. Like our ami who got his nails cut apologized to us for having that done during our lesson, but he said that it might not be for another few weeks until he sees him again. So... the people walking around selling stuff is one of the cooler parts of Togo in my opinion! 

Let's see... other than that... not too many other cool things to talk about. Things are going well in terms of the work. We were tied for our second busiest week this week... so once again the prayers for a busier week worked! I would like to improve this week again, but we went from 11 lessons to 17 so I think that's a nice improvement.

For this week, I'm not really sure what I have need of. I think this week, I really want to work on speaking up during lessons and having the opportunity to teach effective lessons. A lot of times, I think I know what to say but I'm never sure when to speak up and share my thoughts because sometimes Elder Owusu just talks forever. So what would be really helpful is to be able to find the courage to speak up. Also, I think Elder Owusu has been having a tough week, so keep him in your prayers too!

Elder Shearer and I attacking each other with our homemade pingpong table! Pretty good workout considering our apartment was somewhere in the 90s with no fans on! 

Anyway, through it all, I'm doing pretty good. Through all the sweat, stained shirts, constant yovo songs, dirt, dust, and sand... I'm still alive and kicking! The time does seem to go by pretty quick though... I've gotten pretty good in getting lost as to what day of the week it is, which is a plus! Now I just gotta start letting the weeks add up and get a good amount of time under my belt.

Thanks for all the love, prayers, and emails! Fro always keeps telling me that everyone really enjoys reading my emails so I'm glad people read through all my rambling! Sometimes I write down things I want to talk about in these emails, but most of it just comes randomly, on the fly.

Got to get going now... Miss you all!

Byebyeloooo (figured if I started out with the typical Togolais greeting, might as well end it with their way of saying goodbye!)

Elder Hawkins

P.S. Thank you Mrs. Hunter for providing for my pure bliss moment of the week this week... I finally opened up that box of Lucky Charms today... my goodness... those things are even more magically delicious in Togo than in America! Oh they were sooooooooo amazing... I never knew so much joy could come out of having a full bowl of Lucky Charms in the morning haha. 

Note from the Fro: First of all, he's COLD at 78 degrees? What??  Wow, I guess he's acclimated to the heat already.  That's so crazy!  And spaghetti and hotdogs?  Oh no.  It's happening, he's becoming a true Hawkins.  Nails trimmed on the street?  Interesting.  Glad he noticed the questionable cleanliness of the instruments and didn't give it a go himself!  And no, I will not be carrying my sewing machine around on my head any time soon (quilters don't hem anyway, ask the Sur!).  I asked him about the teacher strikes going on in Togo right now.  It's kind of crazy down there at the moment, I read that over 20,000 primary, secondary and high school students marched on Thursday to support their teachers on strike!  He said: Our 2nd counselor is actually a teacher and is on strike. The reason they're striking? They haven't gotten a pay raise since 1969 fro! I'm surprised they haven't gone on strike earlier!!  Aside from the one time we saw them marching on the main road, we really don't see much of the protests. Because there's a public school surrounding the apartment, the mornings are so peaceful and lovely for personal study now that they're on strike. So I don't mind the strike at all! 

P.S. Notice the new countdown widget on the sidebar?  Countdown to Mother's Day...woohoo, less than a month away!

Monday, April 8, 2013

No Eternal Root Beer

 Cool pic of the flag that I see out of my window every morning! It's from the school out back and they have their little flag raising ceremony every morning with drums and marching... it's really funny to watch. 
I need to get a video of that!

Hey everybody!

Hope things are going well back home... hot as ever here (one day it was in the 100's all day and all night!) but I'm glad that heat is finally coming your guys' way. As you can imagine, there really isn't a spring time here because it's hot all the time! So... I guess you could say this is my public service announcement to go out and enjoy the beauties of the Earth! It's pretty cool once you start going out and exploring a little bit!

Things have been going pretty slow this week. Not too many exciting things happened though I did get to hit up the American store today... bought tons of goodies that should hold me over for a while in terms of missing home! Bought some canned chilli, canned peaches, American sodas (including Ginger Ale... that's for you Sean!), and some pringles... not exactly the greatest grocery list in the world but I take what I can get!

I've been trying to test out some of the road side foods as of late... a lot of people here just set up little tables and make tons of food for you. You can get rice, beans, yams, plantains... just tons of stuff. They're always hidden under blankets though, so you have to ask around and find out who sells what. No helpful signs or anything telling you what people sell. One of the things I do everyday for lunch is I buy about 100 francs (or 20 cents) worth of beans everyday with two little loaves of bread. Then, I boil up some hot dogs and slap some Dijon mustard on the bread... load the bread with beans and the hot dogs and it makes a pretty filling lunch! I know Dad used to eat "Hot Dogs Delicious" or something like that on his mission... so, I guess you could call this my own version of that: Hot Dogs Delicious: African Style! 

So that usually holds me over for lunches, but I've been getting kinda tired of that recently so I've been trying to find other road side people. I just found a lady who makes fried Enyams, which is some sort of yam/potato thingy. It's pretty darn good, especially with the spicy tomato sauce that they make. I always found a lady who makes fried bananas and enyams... soooo good but she's only open at night and sometimes we don't pass by her. And just so everyone knows, the average I spend on a meal here is about a dollar... so, yeah... I can survive on about three dollars worth of food everyday out here. How do you like them apples?!

Not too much happening with Amis this week. We have a baptism next week with our ami called Samuel. He is really cool... totally prepared for the Gospel. He's also really social so he hasn't been having much trouble with the socializing aspect in terms of Church. Problem is that church attendance has been kinda lame as of late. Aside from the super strong members, it can be really iffy for the recent converts. It has been really hard with being the only missionaries in our branch to handle all the recent converts to be honest.... making sure they all come to church and stick to it has been next to impossible. Needless to say, we have been doing a lot of walking when we have been going out, but a lot of things have been coming up with our amis and recent converts... lots and lots of tombez-vous. That's really hard on the mission, when people's rendez-vous fall through and you don't see an ami. We always try to have a back up plan, but those usually end up falling through too. Maybe that's something people can pray for (for me): pray that people will be willing to see us! 

Sienna asked me to send a pic of our church. This is a pic of our chapel... it's out of a house so we kinda all have to squeeze in this little hot room. Nothing like the chapels back home.

The French has been going pretty good... slow as ever but I've definitely noticed that I can understand people more thoroughly than before. It still takes a lot of concentration but I can now understand what people say with almost 100% understanding. It doesn't happen with every conversation, but I'm getting better and that's what counts. So, I guess you could say that I'm getting the ears of French, but the mouth hasn't come as well as I would like! Building up my vocab has been tough, but I want to make an effort to memorize more words and stuff like that. 

What else, what else... we had a pretty interesting Fast and Testimony meeting this past Sunday (since we didn't watch conference). Elder Owusu bore a really good and simple testimony and talked about what a testimony really is. He told a story about how he had a convert to the church who didn't think she had a testimony. So, he asked her if she believed the Book of Mormon is true. She replied yes, that's the main reason why she converted to the Church! Then he asked if she believes Christ is our Redeemer and Savior... she replied yes. He asked a few more simple questions like that and then he told her that that's all a testimony is... sharing the small and simple things that you already know! No long stories, crazy spiritual experiences, scripture references, or anything else is required! All it is that you need to tell people what you know is true! 

I just want to share my own testimony with you guys, too. I know, without a doubt in my mind, that this Church is true. I know that Christ's church was really restored through Joseph Smith. I don't know where I would be without this Gospel in my life today, but I know that I wouldn't be the same person, not by a long shot. I know that through faith in Jesus Christ and his Atonement, we can truly repent of our wrong-doings and sins... we can become closer with our Father in Heaven. He knows the path to Eternal Life, which is the greatest gift he can give to us! 

It's funny actually... I've really come to appreciate what Eternal Life really means. Whenever I have things out here that are from America, I of course really enjoy them, but sadly enough they always come to an end... no eternal root beer, pringles, etc. There's an old saying that "all good things must come to an end" and while that's true in most cases, through Heavenly Father's plan, that really isn't true! Because of Christ's atonement, he has overcome death of the soul and body. We can live in eternal happiness after this life if we try our best in this life right now! And I know the only way to do that is through Christ's example and gospel. 

Usually, I'm pretty shy in sharing my testimony with other people... I often worry about what other people think and about being "preachy" to others. But, I'm a missionary! Isn't that my job? :)

Thanks again for all the letters and prayers. They give me the strength and courage to go out each and everyday... sometimes the heat can be unbearable, the French can be tiring, the work can be stressful, but your prayers really do work. They keep me going everyday.

Love and miss everybody!

Elder Hawkins

Note from the Fro: I continue to be incredibly grateful for a loving Heavenly Father who watches over my boy and fills him with knowledge and the strength he needs to get through each and every day.  It's certainly not easy where he is, but I'm grateful that he makes the most of it and continues to see the good all around him.  His strong and simple testimony warms my heart. I told him that the leaders of our church spoke about West Africa in our General Conference yesterday.  It was incredible to hear of the very area that Trevor is in! You can find one of the talks by clicking *here*.  Meanwhile, since he wasn't able to view General Conference, I gave him some highlights and finished with one of my favorite quotes of the day by Jeffery R. Holland:

Hope on!  Journey on! Have Faith!  All things are possible to them that believe.  

Hope on, Elder Hawkins, hope on!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Mama Yvonne Returns!

Hipsta pic of my cell phone with the authentic TOGO CELL! It's actually the worst network on the face of the earth, but it's still authentic African coolness.

Hey Everybody!

So things have been going same old, same old out here in Togo. 

I got my big package though... so big thanks to Mrs. Hunter and Pauline for sending me some good stuff... they will definitely be put to good use while I'm out here. I will not confirm whether or not the whole bag of Starburst jelly beans have already been eaten (hint: they have). Carne asada beef jerky???  Yum! (trying to ration.)

So Happy Easter to everybody! I hope everyone had a much better Easter than I did out here... honestly, there wasn't anything special about it. If I hadn't looked on the calendar or if nobody told me that it was Easter, I would have thought it was a regular Sunday as usual. Even the talks in Sunday weren't on Easter, nor were any of the lessons throughout Church. Kind of strange. Soooo... yeah... probably one of the lamest Easters I've ever had compared to the ones back home. It's okay though! Today, we had a good Easter Monday, as the district had a little soccer game... the branches made three teams and then the missionaries made another team and they did a little tournament together. I didn't play because I'm awful at soccer and all the jerseys they had wouldn't fit me because I'm a huge American!  They actually played the game at a legit stadium on was pretty weird to see in Togo, but the stands were completely run down, nothing like the nice field. I deemed it the "Cowboys Stadium" of Togo! Haha! Honestly, the stands look like they were made at the same time as the Coliseum in Italy...they were that junky...not even benches, just slabs of concrete!  I was able to talk to all the American missionaries though as we waited for all the games to pan out...Elder Seidl scored a goal! Everyone was shocked, being that he's a little American against these big Africans! That was cool, and it's always nice to get to know the other missionaries in the field because they're the ones going through the same problems as I am! 

That was a lot of fun today... and actually... we had a Relief Society activity this past Saturday too... I can only deem that experience as certified crazy. One thing I've noticed in all the district activities here is that the two I've been two have lasted all day on Saturday. At this activity, all the Branches did these really crazy dances that they had been working on for months. They were partialy native but also mixed in with some hip hop. Then, all the RS from each branch put on a little skit about... errr... I have no clue. I honestly had no idea what any of the skits were about but they were weird. It was funny seeing some of the women in my branch in pants though... I didn't even recognize them because all the women here wear pines 24/7! (Togo Fact: a pine can be best described as a skirt wrapped around your waste like a towel). 

The one standing up is the wife of our branch president and it was really weird to see her in mens clothes like that. The one sitting down is our RS president. I didn't get many pics from the activity, so this was the best I could get.

So, yeah... those skits and dances took all freaking day to do! But during the half time (I guess you could call it that!), everyone separated into their branches and they all ate food together (yeah forget big tables with serve yourself food). I followed Elder Kunz and Elder Gunderson to their branch because I was talking to them anyway. I got to eat some pretty good mayo salad and some rice with chicken. It wasn't half bad to be honest! I also got three sodas! Score! It was funny though... Elder Woodland, who came on the mission right before I did, just keep getting loaded with food. He was next to Elder Welch, who kept saying that he was full whenever a lady would come and bring them food. So, they just unloaded tons and tons of food on Elder Woodland... most of it was pate... poor guy!

Elder Welch and Elder Woodland... notice the smirking face of Elder Welch as Elder Woodland has a huge plate full of rice (which was given to him after he ate three huge balls of pate). He was not happy to say the least!

So yeah... I don't think this RS activity was anything like the one's that go on back home! It was pretty fun though.

One thing that can get kinda annoying out here... the kids love to climb all over us. They honestly are not happy unless they're on our laps or messing with us in some way. Elder Kunz was trying to show me some pictures while we were eating and the kids just kept coming over and wanting to play with the camera. It was so funny watching him just talk to me as if he was having a regular conversation while he's batting away the two kids who kept trying to take his camera. He was a pro though.

Hola the crazy dog! She's finally not as scared of me as she was before so we're buds now.

Things have been going well between me and Elder Owusu as of late though... I definitely could feel the power of people's prayers for us this week. I haven't been getting annoyed like I usually was. It was really cool to see the power of prayer working again this week... hopefully we continue to get along better this week, because I can't say that all of our problems are solved, but things are looking up. The thing I've been noticing about him is that he doesn't like to talk about a whole lot of stuff, even when I'm asking him how things are going. It's tough, but I've been finding ways to handle it.

Let's see... what else happened... oh yes. So remember Mama Yvonne? She's been on a trip out to the village to take care of her mom for the past two and a half weeks. It was only supposed to last a week, but every time we called her to check up on her, she kept saying she was staying longer. So, I was getting kinda bummed. But, she came back! She called us to let us know she was back, but we were planning on seeing her at the RS activity. But, we went to one of the member's houses and she surprised us! Turns out the RS invited her to help prepare food for the RS activity the next day. When I saw her, I got so happy (as did Elder Owusu!). I wanted to go up and give her a big hug because I missed her so much!!! It was like seeing a long lost friend! Anyway, I'm glad she's finally back.

This week was pretty slow, but I'm happy to finally have two full calendar months out here in the mission field! It's still not a whole lot, but it's better than nothing. I try not to be one of those missionaries who counts the weeks or days... a lot of missionaries do this though: "So, we're basically almost at three months, which means, with the MTC, we're at five months... which is almost 6 months! So basically, we're already a quarter way through the mission!" Elder Kunz kept saying that today and I was like noooope... too new in the mission to even be thinking I have any time under my belt! 

Well, it's getting to be a bit late now. Thanks to everyone for the support and prayers. I think this week, I'm definitely going to be focusing on the gift of tongues and speaking up during lessons. I've been trying to help out Elder Owusu this week by speaking more during our lessons, but it can be hard with the limited French. So, pray for that! I will say that the French does improve week by week, but it's very, very slow and can be hard to quantify most of the time. At times, I feel like I'm never going to be comfortable in this language, but I know that one day, it will come without me even realizing it! Elder Gunderson always assured me that the language barrior does fall, it just takes about 6 months or so. I worry a lot though, because my 6 months out here on the mission is coming up and I don't feel as comfortable in the language as I would like. But I pray for it everyday, with the faith that one day I'll be a pro at this whole French deal.

Love all you guys! Thanks for the prayers and support... it does help more than you can imagine.

With Love,

Elder Hawkins


Note from the Fro: Yes, it's opening day for baseball here in was one of the first questions he asked, said he could "feel it in my bones"! Which made him "super depressed".  This is a kid who lovingly stored away all his Phillies t-shirts, probably shed a tear to say goodbye to them!  Luckily, his friend Steph bought him a red tie and hand-embroidered a Phillies "P" on the back so he can still feel connected.  Thanks Steph! He said he was going to wear it tomorrow for sure!  I also asked how the weather was.  I hear it's been hot, dry and dusty, with the rainy season looming and that the wind causes power outages. Here was his reply: 

"Just hot as usual. I think I'm getting used to it though... I'm still sweating a lot but the ring around the collar is definitely not as bad as usual. The anti-persperiant stuff you sent for my face actually works really well with that so maybe send some more if it's not expensive.  Apparently the rainy season starts at the end of this month so that's when the exciting weather stories happen.

Not many power outages though... it did go out in the middle of the night. I thought I went deaf because I couldn't hear the fans as usual! Then I realized the power went out and I just prayed for it to come back. Not 10 seconds later, the power comes back on and the fans start pushing that nice hot air again! :)

Also, apparently, the power goes out in Souza (where Elder Kunz is) all the time... but where I'm at, the power is usually pretty consistant.

And I think my time is almost about up! ONly got two minutes left!

Thanks for all the prayers and the packages. And tell grandma hawkins I got her card finally! Tell her thank you very much for the card and also grandpa's funeral thingy (that said who was giving what talks and stuff) it was really nice.

GTG!   Love you!" 

This week, we'll be praying for that language barrier to drop!!  Go Elder Hawkins, we know you can do it!