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? 

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