Monday, June 24, 2013

People are Still People. Ca va aller!

Yo Everybody!

Greetings from Nykonakpoe, my crazy sector. Let me apologize before I get this letter started because I really feel like I have nothing good to say this week but, we'll see how things shake out.

This week was tough but good at the same time. The sector is really, really, really empty. Now that I spent my first full week in the area, I realize how bad things really are. Nobody to teach. Nobody to see. Nothing to do. 

Well, that's not too true. There's A LOT to do. This week, we were able to do OVB (door-to-door contacting) a few times. This is probably the least favorite thing I do on my mission. My first two companions hated it too so we almost never did it. However, because of how painstakingly bad my sector is, it's really one of the only things we can do. The rejection is pretty tough, but it's not unbearable. Some people are also just pretty mean too us... sometimes they just flat out reject us and other times they just laugh at us.

It's not far from what I expected though. Even though a lot of people think this mission is just an easy, sit-back-and-relax baptizing mission, it's not at all. People are people, no matter what your circumstances or where you live. While people here are more God-worshiping then they are in other countries, people are still people! 

One of the things that really gets a missionary down though are people lying to us! Usually, we have a pretty good plan of the people we're going to go teach and what we're going to go and do the next day, but we our plan almost always falls through. For example, there's this one recent convert who we plan to go and see a lot. We've even called him and confirmed appointments the night before many times. Of course, when we go there he's never there. Ever. We've probably tried to see this guy about 5-6 times since I've been here and every time, no matter what time, he's not around! And this happens with EVERYBODY!!!! So frustrating and really discouraging when it takes you a half hour to 45 minutes to get to their house. 

But, as the people say, ça va aller! And, like they say, there's always a good side to the bad side!

The good side is that there are tons of great members here! Soeur Sonya is a tailor and has this awesome sewing machine that Fro would really like. She keeps trying to sell me this really kinda crappy ties though... so I told her last week, you know what, I really didn't come to Africa to buy crappy things I can easily buy at Goodwill (not the exact words, but close to it). I came to Africa to buy African things! So then she responded, so would you buy a tie made out of pine? (that's the traditional fabric out here) and I was like you bet! So, hopefully I get some pretty sweet looking ties soon (but she's usually pretty busy so I hope she doesn't forget!). 

We also have some other sisters in our area. One is Soeur Nathalie who is this funny 20 year old who is almost as tall as me! She doesn't really work or anything so she's always home chilling out. She likes to make fun of my comp a lot so needless to say, I find her pretty funny. One day, we were chilling at her house and she asked me if I wanted "bouillie". Of course, having no idea what that was, we looked it up in my dictionary and the translation is "gruel". The first thought that came to mind when I read that was... hmmm isn't gruel the stuff you usually imagine mean, fat lunch ladies in middle school slopping down on your lunch tray? So, needless to say I wasn't too enthusiastic to eat or even find out what weird middle school lunch lady gruel actually was... but, I said yes because, well... why not? Turns out, gruel is pretty good! It's basically like sweet oatmeal, but less chunky. We even bought some beignets (donuts) to dip it in. Maybe mean middle school lunch ladies know something that I don't, huh?

We got plenty of other awesome members in the group, but I got to say in the week and a half that I've been here, I've really grown to love these people. They're a pretty tight nit group, despite the fact that they really don't like their group leader at all. It's kind of a shame that they don't like the guy but he's a bit of a power hog and doesn't like to share responsibility. Meaning, he's overwhelmed with all the work in the group he has to do... meaning, he doesn't do half the work because he has too much to do! It's frustrating, but as we always say...  ça va aller!

So, as tough as things might be with all the problems in the sector and with the group, things are still going great. I'm loving the mission right now because I'm loving this challenge. There's a lot that needs to be fixed in the area right now, but I'm ready to get to work and make a difference in the area.

That reminds me, Elder Haggard has also really inspired me to start writing in my journal regularly and daily again... it's so awesome I forgot how awesome journal writing is! I've found that it's really helped clear out my thoughts and helps destress me too. If that's one piece of advice that I can give to people today, it's that... keep a journal! It's really amazing the kind of inspiration you can get when you write down your thoughts every night.  

I guess you can say, so far the recipe for success in my mission so far is not to let the bad outweigh the good... which, I've found to be pretty easy when you got the Lord helping you out and pushing you through the days. Thanks to Elder Haggard who brought a whole iPod full of conference talks, I was able to listen to a talk given by Elder Holland this past conference. It really inspired me as he talked about how small our faith really has to be in order to see miracles in our lives (see the parable of the mustard seed to understand more of what I'm talking about). Sometimes I've felt like I haven't had enough faith for miracles, but I know I've always remained confident in the fact that nothing is impossible to God.

That's my goal this week, to exercise my faith and see miracles happen in this sector... because honestly, that's what it's going to take to be successful in this part of my mission. I have confidence that God can work miracles in this sector... as for whether I see those miracles tomorrow, next week, or even after I get transferred out of this sector, I'm not sure... but I do know they will happen.

That being said, I feel like there really is only one way I can end this email...

Hope On!


Elder Hawkins 

P.S. Oh African cybers... won't let me upload my pix. Have to do it next week. Sorry!

Note from the Fro: Mean middle school lunch ladies.  Haha!  Still not sure about gruel. Anyway, we will pray for faith and miracles this week. He was really bummed his sister hadn't opened her mission call yet. But it was fun to email chat with him as we were driving together as a family.  It was almost like having him in the car with us as he was making us laugh hysterically as usual. I'm going to share the email he wrote to Sienna, it made us laugh the most (but probably only because we could "hear" exactly how he'd say this out loud!) 

Hey goobs,

Thanks for checking in on mes! Sos I'm likes nots deads so that's pretty goods. My next sects sucks but it's okays. I guessles it will go betters with a few prayers and stuff. But, idbk like who knows... oh buts its really hots. Theres like this big orange ball in the sky that gets really hot... like really really really really hotz. OMbgeebers it's a really hot orange ball and it like doesn't go away all day. Ughz... 

Haha, anyway... now that I think about it... of all the ridiculous shoes I have seen here, I have yet to see Ugs out here! I guess it's just not hip here anymore... maybe it's because it's too hot but people wear ridiculous coats out here that would be super hot so I don't think it's because of that. Maybe it's because Rihanna doesn't wear ugs or something. (yes, people's style of fashion really does go off of rappers and pop singers back in the states... guess you really can't ever get away from crappy American pop can you?) That reminds me of when I went to visit a member last week and she was singing Justin Beiber... I was like ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?! I didn't even think Africans liked that music!

Don't got much time to write this week so my email will be a bit short this week, but I got to ask you how the scripture study is going! Don't be like me and get lazy after I finished up at BYU! Got super, super lazy but I was able to reread the Book of Mormon before I went out on my mission and was able to read part of Matthew... so yeah, don't get lazy! Just read!

Got to get going now. Thanks for the letter. Have fun in Cali! Can't wait to hear about your call next week! I'm sure that's all anybody is going to talk to me about next week haha.


Elder Hawkins

Monday, June 17, 2013

Ocean Breezes and a Marching Band?

Here's a picture of the Togo missionaries for you. I'm in the back right side on the aisle. And you know how you said the zones in Philly are huge? The picture of all the Togo missionaries? That's all 3 zones in Togo! About 50 missionaries in all!

Yo, yo, yo greetings from Kod-jo!

Well, I finally moved myself down to the beach! Figured I could use a nice little vacation haha... although it's not really a vacation because of the sector but I'll talk about that later.

Me and my dear washing machine... parting, one last goodbye. You were a great little water spinner... she was faithful and a great friend. She will be greatly missed. But don't worry! I pay someone 1000 francs (errr... 2 dollars) every week to wash all my clothes, so it's actually a pretty sweet deal and is way better than that washing machine! Yay helpful African women!

Things are going good, as always. I feel like I write the same things in every letter... maybe I should start copy and pasting to see if anybody really is paying attention! Haha!

Kodjoviakope is one nice apartment. It's pretty new with really nice sea breezes that keep the apartment nice and cool. However, the place was an absolute MESS when I got there... before I even unpacked my bags I cleaned up the whole bathroom that was covered in black dust and grime, wiped off the inch of dust from my desk, and then swept and mopped our room. People who know me well know that I'm not the cleanest, most organized person in the world so you can tell that this means business! The next morning I cleaned the gross kitchen too (still not done with that either). My goal is to win the cleaning check coming up this week... which I've never done before but Elder Haggard is on my side so watch out Elder and Sister Leavitt, we're gonna win our $10 this month! (it's really sad that $10 is enough to push one to win a cleaning check... but hey, that's a whole Calzone we're talking here!)

The north end of my sector is a really dirty lake... looks really nice but apparently it's infested with crocodiles? Some member told me that but I'm not really sure that's true.

The view of the beach from my apartment! (okay, the zoom feature might have cheated a little bit because it's actually a lot farther away)

The sector is pretty rough though. The people in this area have been in a group (too small to be a branch) for years now and things don't look like they're getting better anytime soon. We have some really great strong members who have great testimonies, but a lot of them have flaked out due to the leadership here in our group. It's going to take a lot of fasting and prayer to get this sector up to shape but I'm not scared to take on the challenge. We did a little bit of OVB (knocking on doors) and found a guy who could really progress, but you can never be sure with a cold contact like that (ie somebody who's not a contact from the member of the church). 

The sector is much different from my old sector too (not only in terms of the people and branch!) It's much flatter than my old sector (that's not saying much though since my old sector was pretty flat) and there are a lot more paved streets. We have some members who live on the Togo/Ghana border too so I've officially seen Ghana up close. The fence that seperates the countries is... well... not quite like the USA/Mexican border. You can easily get into the country if you wanted too... there are tons of gaps in the fence where people just walk freely in and out of the country. We actually do have some amis who live in Ghana and every so often they'll come across the border and take lessons from the missionaries over here. It's against mission rules to go into Ghana, so we can't go over there and teach... but if I paid the right people... it would be pretty easy! Fro, you know I'm JKin'. 

So I guess this is how they deter people from the Ghanian border? By putting a huge mound of trash by the border?! Well, it works because nobody was even close to it when I took my picture! Maybe the US should do that with the Mexican border?! My Tucson cousins should write their congressmen or something!

So last Friday, I was sitting in my room reading when all of a sudden I hear this marching band coming down the street. I'm thinking... what the?!? Why in the world would there be a marching band coming down the street here... in TOGO?! I run outside and go on the roof... and it was actually a funeral procession! Pretty crazy right! There was just this crowd of people with a car in the middle... but in the front of everyting was first, a guy carrying a big picture of the lady who died, then these people waving what handkerchiefs around and dancing, and then a cool New Orleans style brass band playing all sorts of cool music. Speaking of New Orleans, it really reminded me of a New Orleans funeral procession. I even remarked to Elder Ngandu it's cool to see how a tradition that started all the way back here in Africa still holds with the people in New Orleans (who, of course, have ancestors that come from this part of West Africa). The music wasn't as Jazzy as it is in NO, but it was still fun to watch them. They even played God Be With You 'till We Meet Again! 

Start of the funeral procession. Note HUGE swarm of people. Judging by the way people were dressed (suits and nice dresses), the fact that the woman who died was being burried in a tomb, and by the fact they had a freaking band playing for them... this was a very, very expensive funeral! Even by American standards I would say. Just goes to show that there is money out here but the disparity between the rich and the poor is great and very, very far apart.

 The band! I really got to missing my drumline days hearing that basser going by... played some pretty good music though and apparently this happens every once in a while so I'll get to see it again hopefully.

The band in their cool suits and cool African hand made undercoat things (I really have no idea what the thing under the suit coat is called but they're hand made and VERY expensive). 

The procession totally caught me off gaurd though. I had no idea there was actually a cemetery right across the street from us... stupidly enough, I thought it was some kind of Tomb store because it's just this big plot of land filled with tombs... people not being too rich over here, I really didn't connect the fact that they were actually all filled with dead people! Hmmmm. 

Alright, well got to get going now. Sorry for the shortish email this week but I'm gonna try to send some good pictures for all of you too! Pray for me, my comp, and my new sector this week because we will surely need help from all you guys. Thanks for all the love and support!

All the best and much love,

Elder Hawkins

Tokoin apartment (Elder Shearer, Mukenga, Owusu, and me). Gonna miss all those guys, cuz we had some good memories over there. I even gave Elder Owusu my Flyers beanie because he needed some way to remember his Freakin' Philadelphian! He was pretty sad to see me go and I was pretty bummed too. We spent 4 months together which is a really long time! Love that guy like a brother... I really do. 

Note from the Fro: He seemed to be in good spirits this week despite the hard work he has ahead of him in his new sector.  His new companion finishes his mission on July 12, so they won't be together long.  But he does want to finish with a bang, so hopefully he'll be motivated to work!  He said he got to meet Elder Jenkins for a bit when they dropped off Elder Haggard.  And of Elder Haggard, he says this: I also got a new American elder in my apartment (Elder Haggard). It's really made me put my whole mission in retrospect because it feels like forever ago that I started my mission out here in Togo... now I'm showing him the ropes! Crazy to think that was me only 5 months ago. It's funny though because the things I've become so habituated with are things he asks me questions about (like where to buy stuff, how to spend money, how to manage time and manage your perspective here on the mission). I will say that it's helped me realize how far my French has come... I can understand people here almost perfectly now (well, not perfectly but it's much easier) and I'm having many more opportunities to speak now that I'm with a French speaking comp (though his French is... well... interesting.) However, before I get all confident, God gave me a reality check today when I got to talking with some French elders... still have a tough time understanding the French but ca va aller! One step at a time, right?!

Yes. Ca va aller!  Ca va aller!

I told him to GET TO WORK!  I know he will. :)

Monday, June 10, 2013

On My Way to Kodjoviakope!

I'll be going from Wuiti (A) to Kodjoviakope (B)! 

Hello World!

I had a pretty good week this week. A bit sad that I have to say goodbye to all these people in Wuiti, but I'm happy that I'll finally be a part of my first transfer! I will now be going to Kodjoviakope (say it like Kodjo via Kope with the e at the end like "ay"). It's right next to the beach and the Ghanian border, so that will be pretty cool.

However, it wil be a very tough sector to work in as it's still just a group (meaning only about 20 people show up to Church every week) and it's been like that for years now. The only thing the other missionaries tell me when they hear I'm going to Kodjo is "Bonne Chance"... meaning "Good luck (with that!)" So yeah, heading into the desert of the mission on Wednesday. The nice thing is that it happens to be the smallest sector of the mission so it won't be tons of walking and it's also the most built up part of the city. It will be an interesting change of pace for me, that's for sure. 

Okay, enough with this silly transfer business. The highlight of my week was definitely from today... going to the VOODOO MARKET! Now we're finally talking about some cool African culture here.

We went with Frere Francois, a return missionary who came back to Togo and married a Togolaise. He's French, but he knows everything about Togo since he's lived here for years now. He was our tour guide so that we wouldn't get ripped off like crazy... which is how touristy places tend to be like. 

Monkey skulls!

As we pulled up to the place, I instantly knew we were there because of all the crazy dead animal skulls and stuff. First thought through my head? This is AWESOME! I got pretty excited. We had to pay 5000 francs each to get in (10 bucks) which is 3000 more than other missionaries had paid a few weeks before. Fr Francois tried to talk them down the best he could, even spoke some Ewe to them, but we couldn't budge em. It's not too big of a deal because they gave us a card that allows us to come back whenever we want for free, whether it be next monday or in 10 years! 

After we paid, they took us around the whole market (which was empty aside from us and the vendors). They explained to us how they dry out the animals (which they never kill, but only take if they died naturally in the wild). They also talked to us about how they use them in sacrifices and in order to make charms and what not. It's pretty interesting stuff actually. 

Animal sacrifice alter for the "God of Fire"!

Porcupine needles!

Then, our tour guide took us into a "sacred room" with a Voodoo priest who only speaks Fon (Beninois language), so our tour guide translated for us. He should us several blessed trinkets we could get... one of my favorites was this little wooden stick that had a wire wrapped around it and at the end of the wire was a little piece of wood. It's supposed to be a Voodoo phone... meaning you talk into it and ask for protection during your journey. Then you put the little piece of wood at the end of the wire into the bigger stick... like you're plugging it up almost. Then, it's supposed to give you good luck all the way through your trip. 

I ended up buying a necklace from him and then having it blessed for me. It's this little bag thingy that has "over 41 special spices and herbs" in it and then two sea shells sewn on top of the little bag. It's supposed to give me good luck and good health wherever I go. It was funny because in order to bless it, I had to say my name into it three times, then the priest said some random stuff and shook a maracca (best way I can describe it), then to end the blessing, I had to say "I recieve this between my two hands" and then it was blessed! Boom! Voodoo POWER!

Of course, after it was blessed, we had to negotiate the price. They wanted me to pay freaking 18,000 CFA for it (over 30 dollars) for it. Fr Francois just laughed when we heard the price and I finally said I would only pay 2000 CFA for it (around 4 dollars) and they accepted the price, but they WERE NOT happy about it! I didn't even want to pay 2000 for it but I was afraid I was going to offend them or worse, that they would curse me with bad voodoo black magic! 

After that, they let us loose to do what ever we wanted. I took A TON of pictures (91 total) so I'll be sure to send as much as I can. To give you an idea of what there is, there's pretty much every animal you can think of over there. Dead dogs, cats, birds, geckos, lizards, owls, vultures, buffalo, hippos, frogs, bats, porcupines, chameleons, snakes, cows, sheep... EVERYTHING! They import a lot of stuff from all over West Africa. It was pretty cool to see it all... and best of all, TOUCH it all!

Left is python skin and right is crocodile skin. Crocodile skin is surprisingly heavy.

Elder Shearer with monkey claws!

Dog heads! (gross)

Cool animal skin! Tons of different kinds throughout the market to make tamtam drums

Cheetah head (I don't think it's a cheetah actually but I don't remember the animals name and I'm in a time crunch!)

Croc head!

That's a freakin' vertebrae to an elephant! Holy crap!

That's it's freaking leg bone!!!! It's extremely, extremely heavy! Like over 50 pounds or something!

Hippo mouth!

Errr...Gross bat

Overall, we spent over three hours in the market just admiring all the stuff and taking tons of pictures. I also was able to touch and play with a live chameleon! The guy brought it out of the bag, and at first it was all brown (like the bag!) and curled up. Then as we started playing with it, it started to change into a really cool green! And it's eyes are so cool! They're not aligned so it can move one eye in a completely different direction than the other. Also, did not realize that chameleons had claws... made it a bit difficult to get off my head!

Chameleon on my head!

I also got the chance to handle a boa constrictor... or at least I think it was. That was pretty freaky, but he was a nice little guy. He even got scared, which was cool to see because the snake basically coiled up into this ball with its head at the very center of it. Pretty neat... and it felt pretty cool too... first time I had ever handled a snake before!

Crazy snake in my hand!

Alright, well I should probably get going so I can upload most of the pictures I took from the day! 

Before I go, just want to ask everybody to pray for obedience for me! With this new sector, it's going to be really, really tough since there are no investigators and the church is so small. I know that through obedience to commandments, the Lord blesses his children... so this week, I will put my faith of that principle to the test... well, I'll be focusing more on it this week than I usually do!

Thanks to everybody for all the support, love, emails and prayers. It's much appreciated and I hope that everyone has a fantastic week. Take it easy everybody!

Much love,

Elder Hawkins

Note from the Fro: Whew!  Did you make it through all the pictures?  Ick, kinda gross.  Think it's so funny that his first thought was AWESOME!  Boys will be boys. I did love the chameleon, however.  I think he should bring that one home!  I do like that some weeks we see the spiritual giant and others....well, we see the boy. :) In chatting with him I asked if any other Americans will be in his new apartment.  He said: There will be a new American in the apartment. His name is Elder Haggard.. so that will be interesting... first time I'll be the oldest American in the apt! He's a little worried about his new comp as he only has a month left and hopes he's not too "trunky" (ready to go home!). I think that's why we'll be praying for obedience!  He's also a little bummed that he's leaving the 3 baptisms behind that he had set up for this week.  But says that he'll be even closer to Akif's and the Citimart, plus have a view of the beach.  Always looking on that bright side!  

P.S. Let's hope he's not wearing that weird voodoo amulet....

Monday, June 3, 2013

Two Simple Lanterns

Elder Hawkins... ready for Preachin' in the Rain action! (Y'know, kinda like Singin' in the Rain!)
I knew I brought that umbrella and raincoat for something.

Yo Everyone... What's up?

And just like that, I'm back to writing my weekly email! Funny how the weeks go by pretty fast like that. I'm still pretty convinced that the days and the weeks go by pretty fast but the months just draaaaaagggg on like crazy. 

West Africa has been treating me well like always. I guess the most shocking realization I had this week is that I'm actually starting to like some Pate that I get (also, just to clear things up, I really should have been spelling pate like "pat", like patrick, because that's how it's said... not sure why I added the e at the end. Maybe because of the French?) 

So yeah... not sure how it happened but a week or two ago, we were at the Asima's house. For some reason, whenever we go over there Soeur Asima always, ALWAYS, has pat ready for us to eat! A month or two ago, we were at there house at 10 o'clock in the morning and BOOM! Just like that we were eating pat. We don't know how we got tricked into eating it, or how it even appeared in front of us... but she had it ready to go. 

That's happpened about 3 times now, including last week where she gave us this really, really delicious pat with a really simple tomato sauce that was delicious! And the pat itself wasn't sticky or mushy... it had some girth to it! The chicken was even well cooked and not chewy whatsoever. She also put in the perfect amount of pima (the West African jalepeno-like pepper) so it wasn't super hot like it usually is but it gave it a really nice flavor! It was super satisfying, even though I had a stomach ache on the walk home. Worth it! 

As you can well see, my transition from American to Togolais is happening slowly but surely. I even had to buy some crappy Chinese electronics today. 

This is our First Counselor's daughter named Gracia. She's so funny! When we saw her that day, she kept putting coins in her Afro and then tippping her head down to get the coin out... but it would always get stuck in her Afro lol. She's pretty hilarious (and, unlike many babies here... not afraid of white people!).

That's actually something I wanted to talk about today too: China. You would never think that the Chinese would have anything to do over here but they are all over the place and they really are taking over Africa. Apparently, they import the most stuff from China and it's no joke. Almost everything they use from their hair clippers, their cell phones, their motos, the $1 pirated DVDs... it all comes from China! I know most stuff from home is made in China but this is different because not only is it made in China, but it's also all Chinese brands.

One of the unfornuate side effects of all this fake Chinese stuff is that almost all of it comes with English packaging and labeling. I'm not really even sure if I can say it's English. Sure all the words on the packaging are English, but the packaging on things makes no sense. Like the other week, I bought some lanterns and the packaging just made me laugh... the pictures even were just these random camping images with the lantern photoshopped in... the only reason I knew it was photoshopped was because the lantern was about as tall as a small child in the pictures. Oh funny Chinese packaging. Sometimes I think the Togolais think that is real English... good thing Elder Shearer holds an English class every Friday night to clear these things up!

This is a picture of the baptisimal font in our new branch building. It should be finished in two weeks... unfortunately, I will probably be transfered by then so that means I'll never actually get to serve in the new branch building *sad face*

Pictures of our recent convert's shop.

"hipsta pic" for Sie-Hawk

Before I sign off, I just want to share a little story about those Chinese lanterns I bought the other week. 

In our Branch, we have a family that was baptized this past January I believe and my companion and I have been teaching them ever since Elder Gunderson and Imoukuede left. We usually teach Mama Dobe, who is a widow, and her daughters Nathalie (she's about 13) and Debo (she's like 9-10 years old). They live by very, very humble means... their situations might be one of the worst I've seen so far in Togo. They have one hut they live in that's about 10 feet by 12 feet and that's it. No electricity. No running water. No bathroom. They really have very, very little. I'm not sure how Mama Dobe's husband died, but all I do know is it's just her, her daughters, and her son (he's like 14-15, but he's not around a lot). 

Since the beginning of the year, the Branch President has been able to help Mama Dobe find a job selling bread (she walks around and sells it in the neighborhood). She used to just wash clothes for people, which brings in very little to almost no income whatsoever. Nathalie also got really sick so Elder Owusu and I helped them out in paying for a medication she needed. 

One thing they don't have are any lights because we've taught them a few times and we've noticed that they don't have any lights to do things at night at all. We always pass this guy who sells lanterns and flashlights so I figured it might be a good thing to give them a little gift of charity.

Now, I have been procrastinating that for weeks. I don't know why, but finally last week I just decided to do it. I bought some lanterns and batteries for a total of $10... nothing at all when you compare it to us. Because we were seeing them later that night, I had to carry them around all day before I gave it to them. Everyone asked me what they were for and all I said was, "they're just for a friend!" 

Finally, we get to their house. We give a lesson as usual... only Nathalie speaks French so we have to translate through her. It's tough but we usually do alright. Before we left, my companion and I bring out the lanterns. Of course, it is completely dark out so when we turned them on it was BRIGHT! At first, they were all confused like they didn't know why we brought out these random lanterns. Then, they realized we brought them for them.

Words cannot even described how happy they were. Mama Dobe even ran around in disbelief because she couldn't believe it. The girls were so giddy and happy to have lights so they could do stuff at night. When they saw us off, they were all smiling and happy, which really isn't much different from any other time we leave them after a lesson... but this time they were really grateful to us. As Elder Owusu and I walked away, Elder Owusu even remarked how happy they were. Even we just couldn't help but feel happy to have done a little good deed to a family we've really come to love.

And all of this came because of two little lanterns.

What a humbling experience that was for me. In the US, we get caught up in our never ending desires... we always want the newest, latest, and greatest stuff. I've learned a lot from giving those lanterns to Mama Dobe and her family (so much that it took up three pages in my journal and I probably could have written more), but the small message I will share with you is that none of that stuff really matters. I saw more joy coming out of that family from two simple lanterns than a child opening gifts on Christmas day. 

Appreciate what you have and remember what's important in life. That's why there's this crazy white American guy teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ to people on the other side of the world. I've seen the Gospel bless people's lives here... tremendously even! I wish I could describe to you how thankful I am to be here and to be able to help people out in whatever way I can. These funny little Togolais have really helped me come to understand how loving our Heavenly Father is to his children, no matter where they are in the world. Whether it be the computer you're reading this email on right now, the lights lighting up your house... wherever you may be...

"Count your many blessings... Name them one by one... Count your many blessings and see what God hath done."

You will truly be amazed what you will find.

Thanks for all the love, support, and prayers everyone! Until next week.

Mawu Neerrow (God bless you in Ewe),

Elder Hawkins

Somebody decided to make a roundabout in our sector a few weeks ago. Surprisingly, even as official as the stacked tires do look, nobody actually goes around the roundabout.

Note from the Fro: And what a blessing it is to have this crazy white American guy teaching the gospel to the people in West Africa! We sure love him.  As he said, he thinks he'll be transferred next week, so we'll see where the next part of this adventure takes him.  I asked if I can pass along any messages and he said, "Tell people DON'T FORGET TO WRITE! Letters mean everything to us out here."  So there you have it!  If you find yourself with a little extra time on your hands this week, how about sending a letter to our fav Togolais?  Thank you, Thank you!

And remember....