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....

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