Monday, July 29, 2013

The Should-Have-Been-4th-of-July Weekly Email

Pic of Zoey's awesome drawing of my future wife under a rainbow! I have it hanging up over my desk now because it's so cool. If people want, they can send me more cool hand drawn pictures for me to hang up.
But......Zoey's will always be the best.

Hey Everybody!

So, let me apologize in advance for this weekly email. I have already admitted that I cannot top the one from last week, so if you can forgive me for not being that creative every week, maybe this letter home won't be too bad. 

This week was an interesting one for one reason... and that reason? Politics! One of the cool things about Togo is that they love fighting about politics which makes my life here just a little bit more interesting. This week, I finally got to understand why Togo is known for being very politically active!

This week, they had their legislative elections. Now, like I said in the photos from last week, there has been a TON of campaigning going on. Just droves and droves of people all over the place... they even have pines printed with political party logos and party figures. I guess that's Africa's way of doing politics! It was really weird because just about two weeks ago, all these political posters started popping up out of nowhere. Since there are (from what I heard) 9 political parties here in Togo, it made the usually dull and not fun to look at walls very colorful to look at... even though the posters were usually pretty ugly and look like things I could have designed when I was about 5 years old on Dad's old HP Windows 95 PC. 

However, the names/logos of the parties are rather interesting. The two main parties are UNIR (unir meaning "to unite" in French) and then the Comité d'Action pour le Renouveau (which is the opposition party). There's some other political parties with other weird symbols, like there's one called "Arc-de-Ciel" (meaning rainbow) and then another party with a weird white chicken as its logo. Not quite like the donkeys and elephants that I'm used to you could say. 

So anyway, things all came down to Thursday which was election day. We were told on Tuesday at a Zone Meeting that we were not to go out and work Thursday because of the political activity. So that was really... ummm... BORING! We had to stay in the apartment all day Thursday because of the elections. I only left the apartment once and when I did go out, everything was just empty! The roads were very, very quiet with almost no traffic whatsoever. Also, almost EVERYTHING was closed! Cybers, boutiques, restaurants, coiffeurs... everything I tell you! I think I saw more things closed that day more than I did on Easter and other official holidays here. 

Now the reason it's so dangerous is because of the government here. I'm pretty sure West African corrupt government was born out of Togo. To give you a little background, in the 60s there was some guy who came into the presidency and ruled Togo for almost 40 years. Then, he died of a heart attack in the mid-2000s and his son took power. Then, he was "elected" into power in 2010 and has remained since then. Needless to say, people are SICK of their president and want him out (next presidential elections happen in 2015) but they are also sick of his party (which is apparently UNIR). When people told me that UNIR was his party, I wasn't really surprised because they were the ones who always had the nicest cars going around, nicest flyers and the most posters. 

So, because people really hate the government, that's why it's pretty politically active here. However, nothing really happened Thursday... since the results didn't come out, nothing big has happened. Apparently they were supposed to come out today, but nobody has said anything to me about them yet. Everybody seems to have different opinions about everything... some say that when they get released, we should stay home because that's when the rioting will happen... others say that people already know the results so when they do get released, it won't be that big of a deal anyway. 

As someone who is really interested in politics and government back home, it was really interesting seeing the political system out here. It was cool to see everybody with their right pointer finger dipped in ink too! Usually you just see that on the news when a third world country holds its elections... but nope! I got to see that in real life! People hate the ink though because it doesn't really wash off for like a week. Also, ink on black skin looks like a dead finger tip dead with frost bite so sometimes it looks pretty gross. 

Of course, in seeing all of this, it can't make me help but think about how lucky we are back home. I mean right before I left on my mission, I voted in the US Presidential Elections... did I have to worry about political corruption? No. Did I have to worry about staying home at night due to riots? Nope. I just walked in, cast my vote, and had a nice rest of the day! Here, everything just shuts down due to the elections and also the danger of riots. I'm not sure if it was true or not, but apparently, there was a curfew set in place for everybody in the city. I think there were still people out but the roads were very quiet traffic wise and apparently the military was patrolling the streets. I still did hear tons of whistles and vuvuzelas in the streets off in the distance so I'm guessing there was some rioting going on elsewhere but not too much in my neck of the woods. My companion was telling me about when he was in Souzanetime and he had to stay in the apartment for three days straight because of rioting (Souza is right in the middle of where all the riots happen so it's a little worse than everywhere else). That sounds crazy and really boring to tell you the truth.

Anyway, it just made me thankful (yet again) of the country I come from. Sure there's always something to complain about, but I don't really hesitate to say that Americans take almost everything they have for granted, especially when it comes to political freedoms. This week, I don't think I've ever really taken to heart what the preamble of our constitution really says... I didn't even realize I had the words (sorry fro, you know me and song lyrics, it's even hard for me to remember the school house rock version!) but it's on the photocopy I have of my passport! Here's what it says, just for a refresher for you all:

"We the people, of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, ensure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America" 

I'm not sure if anybody back homes realizes this, but people here in Togo are not guaranteed ANY of those blessings. Domestic tranquility? Try rioting and protesting every other week. Common defense? Try having an army that's capable of a coup d'etat at any time and isn't scared to shoot down students marching in a protest. General welfare? Try a country who sits at the bottom of almost every statistic that measures health, wealth, etc. in a country. Secure the blessings of liberty? Try having the same president for almost 40 years, hoping for a change, and then his son coming into power. Sounds more like a kingdom than a democracy. 

I hope I'm not coming across as bashing against Togo... that's not my point. My point is people really don't know how lucky they are back home. (Fro: cue the Dr. Seuss!) I can certainly tell you that my testimony of how lucky I am to live in the USA has definitely grown. 

So that's my message for this week! Especially for those Philadelphians back home. Go and appreciate the country you live in! Go down to the Constitution Center, go see the Liberty Bell, and go to Independence Hall... what our Founding Fathers did over 200 years ago is truly incredible. They could have done anything they wanted with the USA... they could have even turned it into a Togo! But they didn't. And thankfully, by the grace of God, those founding principles are still in effect today. 

Alright, I think the ranting is enough for today. Thanks for all the love, prayers, and support as always.

Thank you all and (I do feel really dorky saying this but I don't even care!) 
God Bless America!

Elder Hawkins

Me making Pat. Whenever I go to somebody's house, I always ask if I can help them with something. Usually, they just say no and that I can help next time. FINALLY, Victoire (member here) was making pat and I asked her if I could help her and she said sure... hooray for helping! And my gosh does it get hot in a concrete house mixing pat for 10 minutes.

Note from the Fro: I'll admit I couldn't read the "preamble" without singing the song! And yes, we are truly, truly lucky to live in the US.  I told him about the BYU Alum who is running for President in the West African country of Mali, he thought that was pretty cool.  For those of you who missed it, I will post it here.  Pretty amazing.  Maybe Togo will have a chance one day! You think?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Inside The Mind From an American in Lome

My hipster pic of the week. Had a little extra time with my scriptures.

(So this week, I thought I would be a little creative and wanted to help people back home know the things I think about while I walk through the streets of Lome. Now, I'm not really sure how this is going to turn out so bear with me... but here we go!)

Keys? Check. Handkerchief? Dang it... where is my handkerchief?

Goes back into room and looks through my armoir.

dirty... dirty... dirty... where is my last clean one?!?! Oh well, guess a handkerchief with a little blood and sweat never hurt anybody. 

Returns to the living room.

Pamphlets? Check. Wallet? Check. Change. Check. Alright, looks like I'm all set to go. 

Walks out to the porch, prays with companion, walks down to the door and then goes out and locks door behind

Dang it! Why the heck does my comp never wait for me?! He knows I have to lock the door behind me. I swear he runs while I lock the door and my back is away from him. I look ridiculous fast walking in my white shirt and black dress pants. 

Fast walks to catch up to companion. 

Wow, let the sweating begin. Glad I brought my handkerchief. I don't think handkerchiefs are supposed to feel greasy before you use them, but... ehhh... I don't really care. If there's one thing I've learned from the Togolais, it's that you gotta work with what you got.

Huge 1930s French diesel semi-truck chugs by with huge plumes of black smoke coming out the exhaust. 

Case and point. 

Finally make it down to the end of the street. Busy paved road to cross now.

If Fro ever had to see the kinds of streets I had to cross every day, I think it would just about kill her. Probably shouldn't tell her that most moto driver's don't have licenses either because there's no way a cop here could ever pull over a moto driver. 

Makes mental note not to tell Fro about crazy Togolais drivers and busy streets. Knows that forgetting this mental note is inevitable. Crosses street.

Alright! Another successful crossover! 

Keeps walking. Sees burning trash pile.

Okay, first of all... why are they burning their trash in mid-afternoon?! That's so not Togo-like. Ugh crap... gonna have to hold my breath through this cloud of smoke. 

Takes deep breath and courageously walks through, hoping to make it through the smoke without breathing. Fails.

AGHHHHHH!!! GOSH!!! GROSS!!!!!!!! That was definitely a little bit of burning hair, rubber, and then who knows what. I'm sorry but I'm pretty sure that whiffing second hand smoke in New York City everyday is safer than inhaling this stuff. At least I'll know how I got lung cancer if I ever do! 

Hears first of many "yovo, yovo bon soir" chants

You know, I actually feel more bad for my companion. He's not even white but he has to hear that every day, just like me! I think it was Elder Mukenga or somebody who told me that people sing it to the missionaries even when there isn't a white missionary! Oh kids... that reminds me that I need to ask Fro to send me some vampire teeth. Haha... that would be soo funny. Go up to a kid singing yovo yovo bon soir and then just show them crazy vampire teeth to scare them off! Oh kids... 

Finally makes it into sector

Ahhh... nothing like walking 15-20 minutes just to get to your sector! It must be weird living in your actual sector. Maybe one day President will bless me with being able to live in my sector. Or maybe he thinks I need to lose weight and therefore puts me in sectors that are super far from the apartments.

Suspicions arise. Walks past candy stand.

Okay, I'll give the Togolais one thing... they definitely do not hide where to get candy! Maybe President is aware of my sweat tooth and knows I need to walk off the calories. 

Buys freaking awesome milk/chocolate lollipops. Intends to share with others, but will most likely forget. Arrives at first rendez-vous. 

I won't lie, I do love the Togolais tradition of offering water to guests. You know, at first I was hesitant of drinking water out of little 500 mL bags, but... gotta say it's pretty cool. Now that I think about it, the Togolais drink everything out of little bags... beesap, their weird maize/barely drink... even Fanice! Gosh Fanice is awesome... it's like soft serve in a bag... ughhh... so good. Sometimes I think I'll miss it when I go home, but honestly... there's real ice cream made out of actual cream, not powdered milk back home! Still Fanice is amazing.

Starts lesson off by a prayer. Answers a few random questions about whether or not respecting Voodoo customs is breaking the 10 commandments because apparently taking off one's shoes before entering someone's house comes from Voodoo. 

Okay... I'm not really sure where people get some of these questions but it's cool... gives me something to write about in my journal!

Starts teaching lesson. 

Gosh I really hope these people understand me through my weird American/French accent. 

Lesson goes out according to plan, which is introducing the Book of Mormon. 

You know, I've got to admit... I really do love teaching about of the Book of Mormon. There's just a spirit about teaching from it that comes from nothing else on Earth. You know, now I realize that no matter what language barrier I face, whether that be my ability to communicate French or their ability to understand French, the Spirit I feel from teaching people about the Book of Mormon is undeniable. It's amazing to see these people gain the same testimony that I have gained of the Book of Mormon. It's just crazy to think how people gain such a powerful testimony of it. But then again, when you know the message inside is true and when you really think about it being another testimony of Jesus Christ, it's actually not that hard to believe.

Lesson finishes up. Closing prayer is said. On to the next lesson.

Alright, one lesson down, 4 more to go... oh gosh, I just hope they're there! 

Hears Yovo, Yovo bon soir again.


Day goes semi-according to plan. Most lessons fall through, but the few members in the sector help to fill the gaps in the day's schedule. Still had to do door-to-door contacting. As night has fallen, starts walking back to the apartment. 

Ahhh... another day accomplished. Oh jeez, what in the world am I going to eat?! I already had my bean sandwich this afternoon for lunch... ugh... that means mac and cheese with hotdogs again. There are only so many times I can eat that... I mean it's good but it gets pretty boring. I did buy all that rice to dry my camera in... I guess I could try to cook that... arghhh but that requires actual thinking in figuring out how to make rice taste good. I'll save that for another day. Mac 'n' cheese it is. Gosh dangit.

Arrives to the apartment. Greets doorman in Ewe as usual.

I wonder if he'll ever figure out that all I know how to say is thank you, how are you and I'm doing good in Ewe. I guess I also know how to say shut up and I'm going to hit you, but I'm not sure how I can bring those up in a conversation with him. 

Does planning. Prays. Makes mac 'n' cheese. Writes in journal. Talks to Elder Haggard about how much of a hipster he is. Takes shower. Says nightly prayer. Turns on fan. Closes mosquito net. Closes eyes. Thinks about America. Misses America. Misses Philadelphia. Misses home. But, misses family the most. Then realizes that despite all that, this time in Togo really have been, are, and will be the best two years. Goes to sleep.


Love you all!

Elder Hawkins

Note from the Fro: Note to self: send vampire teeth.

Pix from this week:

Found some cool bushes while waiting at the church

So....Saturday there will be huge elections going on for the legislature. So, I'm not sure why they picked our road but we've had tons of demonstrations come through our road. At first you'll hear tons of motos honking their horns and then you'll see a bunch of random crazy people spilling out of a van or sometimes a freaking brass band packed inside a van. I've also seen random vans with huge, huge speakers strapped on their roofs and driving around. It's kind of crazy and I can see why Togo is known for being a bit politically crazy.

My cool pine ties!!!! Pretty sweat huh? Got a sister in the Group to make me them. I know Fro is jealous.

A cool shot from the roof of the apartment overlooking Lome. I took a panorama but not sure the internet connection will cooperate with me today.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Back and Better than Ever!

Alright, found a new cyber and the connection is great! Shouldn't have any problems this week (knock on wood). It's still Africa, after all. 

This was from the baptism a few weeks ago. The one in the middle is Mama Geebete and I found her with Elder Owusu, but she ended up getting baptized when Elder Seidl got there. However, since I was still part of the process I was honored to be part of the picture! Also, the person on the very right is not a missionary! He's the Branch President of Wuiti wearing Elder Seidl's badge!

Well, just to let everybody know... it's gotten kinda hot once again out here. I didn't realize that it was actually cool until the sun started baking my skin again... in honor the returned heat, this little nugget of a poem came to me the other day.

Africa is really hot
I feel like a frying tater tot.

BOOM! Pretty good huh? I wanted to write more to the poem but my poem engine/english skills are not as up to par as they used to be. However, maybe as my mission goes on, I can continue adding to what I have.
Aside from my poem skills blossoming this week, it's been a pretty good week. I got my new companion finally! His name is Elder Kapuku and he's from Congo (again). As odd as it sounds (because his name is so easy to say) it took me a good two days to actually remember his name... it was really embarrasing introducing him to everyone in the sector because I would be like, "And here's my new companion, who calls himself....errrrr... well... how about I just let him present himself" But it's okay now! I know his name so no worries.
I think that we're going to be able to work well together. He has some good ideas to get the group working better... hopefully we'll actually get to put them into action, but that will take some time first! You should have seen him the first few days in the sector though... it was like one piece of bad news after the next. He only has 3 months left, so I'm pretty sure this mess is not something that he wants to be walking into right now in his mission! Ca va aller, however!
I'm happy to have finally gotten a companion though. It really stunk for a while because I just couldn't do anything to fix my sector since I didn't have a companion, but now that I have Elder Kapuku, we can actually start fixing the sector. We're already seeing the fruits of our labor, I believe. The past few days, our schedules have been filled and we've been finding people to teach too. Of course, as to how they will progress remains to be seen but you figure that the more people we talk to, the more success we will have. Right?
Since I just got the conference issue of the Ensign this past week, I have been reading tons and tons of talks. One talk that really touched me was that of Elder Uchtdorf's on light in our lives. In the talk, he talks about how he has a picture in his office that shows an open door with light coming from it. The thing he likes about it the most is that even the light is coming from the door, it does not illuminate the whole room, just the path the open door creates (cue the fro, maybe she could put the picture into the email so people will know what I'm talking about!)

(From the Fro: This is a great talk! The picture he's talking of is shown early on in the talk.  
And he talks about Africa at the end!)

He compared it to our lives here on Earth. Throughout our lives we are surrounded by darkness and if we are not careful, we might pay too much attention to it and drift from the light. What's really important is that, despite all the darkness that surrounds us, we need to remember the light that we are in and face towards the light. 

It reminded me a lot about what I'm going through right now. A lot of things in this sector could be considered pretty big problems... the group has been a group for two years, no progressing investigators, no members live in our sector, etc, etc. It kinda sucks... but at the same time, that's not what I'm focused on. I'm focused on what can happen here, not what has happened here. I'm focusing on the light that's ahead of me, not the darkness that's behind me and surrounds me right now. Sure it's important to understand how those bad things happen so I can avoid those mistakes, but what's important here is that I have basically a new sector to go off of. Like the Boy Scouts always said, leave your campsite better than you found it!

So, I guess you could say I'm trying my best to be a happy camper!

I also learned something rather interesting about my French skills... it comes and goes. I won't lie... my French is much easier than it used to be but it's still tough at times and it's not always at 100%. I remember one time somebody called us around 6 in the morning and I answered the phone since my comp was in the bathroom. I honestly thought he was speaking another language and I could not undestand him at all! It's those humbling experiences that kind of remind me that it was with the help of Heavenly Father that I have gotten to where I am today. To this day, I still always pray for the gift of tongues and the ability to communicate with these people here. I've noticed that I've never asked to be able to speak perfect French, but I've always tried to ask for the ability to communicate with people here so that they can understand me! And the Lord has blessed me countless times with that, because I can't even count the number of times I stumble over my words and feel like my tongue is tied. But, whatever the case may be, people still seem to understand what I'm trying to say despite my difficulties.

That's my little spiel for today... I think I'll be able to send some good pictures this week to entertain everybody. Thanks again for all the prayers, support, emails, etc. They're really a big help for me out here. Love you all and keep going strong!
With love,

Elder Hawkins

P.S. Shoutout to the Olsen family! The drink powder and the Sour Patch Kids ROCK! But of course, that was nowhere near my favorite part of the package... Zoey's hand drawn picture of my future wife was amazing! You have got to tell her thank you thank you thank you!!!! Absolutely loved it! 

Boss of the mangez-vous as shown by my position at the head of the table!

Mmmmmmm... comb and HOT PIMA SAUCE!!!!!! We had two different kinds (there are a lot of different kinds of PIMA... some much, MUCH hotter than others). It was actually delicious to be honest and if I was fed that more often, I would be a much happier missionary. Remember folks, always feed the missionaries!

Proof of me eating my FISH HEAD! Told you, I'm a rough and grizzled veteran now so this stuff does not scare me anymore! 

This is Elder Haggard in the process of losing his mind... well, actually it was already lost at this point. He was sweating like crazy and making no sense due to the large amount of pima he consumed. Still, I give him props for tying Elder Seidl in eating the most amount of comb with pima. Kudos to you, Hipster Haggard.
(yes, he's a hipster).

This was the first mangez-vous of the night (a surprise mangez-vous really). I think I talked a little bit about Sr. Nguessa is the sister back in Wuiti who ALWAYS feeds us if we are at her as around dinner time. 

On one of Elder Rama's last nights, we had to take advantage of his CHARWAMA making skills! In all, we each got 6 big charwamas filled with lettuce, mayo, ketchup, ground beef mixed with curry seasoning, french fries... it was delicious! And now, because of Elder Rama, I know how to make charwamas! Needless to say, we ate like KINGS that night! 

Close up of the little guy I ate. I hate to say it but I actually really liked eating it. Sure the fish eyes were a little funky but it was really good still. Oh goodness, what has become of me!?!?! I guess I really have become an African man. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

Unforeseen Circumstances and Looking on the Bright Side

Hey Everybody!

Well, usually when I write these emails it just reminds me of how boring some things are here but this week has been quite the opposite. Due to some unforeseen circumstances, Elder Ngandu got transferred out last week and nobody replaced him. Meaning, I've been working the past week with Elder Rama and Elder Haggard. It's been a pretty crazy week and definitely not what I was expecting but things are moving along as always.

Unfortunately, because of the craziness this week, I haven't been able to do much in my sector this week. We could work in it if we wanted to but there really is just nobody to see in my sector. It's still rather tough, I decided to clear out our area book (where we keep records on everybody we teach) and it hasn't been updated in MONTHS and had stuff in it from over two years ago which is rough, but hopefully my new companion is willing and ready to work so that we can try to get this sector going once more.

One of the nice things that happened this week was that I was able to go up to the Kegue building to attend the other equipe's baptism. I got to see Elder Owusu's last baptism on his mission (it's actually the mother to one of my recent converts and actually someone I started teaching while I was still in Wuiti!). So it was cool to see her get baptized too. After the baptism, we headed over to my old sector for some mangez-vous. First, we met up at Soeur Nguessa (cool Ivorianne) who, even though we didn't plan on eating at her place, she always HAS to feed the missionaries (and there were 9 of us!). So she fed us some rice and pima sauce which was good as always... it was cool to see all her kids again... they were all watching TV when I got in there and I popped my head in to say hi to all of them. They were really surprised to see me! Even the youngest, Koukoo, was like we all really missed you! It made me feel loved! Although, Sr. Helene their maid/servant said she was really mad at me because I never said I was leaving! I could have sworn I did but whoops! It happens though and she did eventually forgive me.

Then we all headed over to the Asima's parcelle for the real mangez-vous. My goodness, that was the king of mangez-vous! Sr. Asima (who is a great cook) made us comb, which is like pate but it takes a little longer to make and is usually wrapped in corn husks. Of course you take those off and then eat it with sauce. She made two different kinds of pima sauce which were both really hot! I really, really liked it! She even fed us all fried/grilled fish (I'm really not sure how they make it). Me, being the rough/seasoned vet that I am, just took the fish and started eating it like an African. It completely grossed out Elder Jenkins and even Elder Seidl was a bit surprised at my African-ness. The fish wasn't half bad... the head was better than the last one I had. Although, I have to say that the eyes are not as good as Elder Owusu said they are (he really likes fish eyes). They're really hard and chewy... not my favorite. Overall though, the meal was great!

One thing that was funny was seeing Elder Haggard champion his way through the meal. He took it like a champ but by the end he was crazy! The pima really got to his head! I tried to send the picture I got of him while he was eating but it's priceless! He wasn't speaking in complete phrases and it seemed like he got really hyper because of it all! It made me laugh.

So that day was pretty awesome. Throughout the day I got to see a lot of old friends, some recent converts of mine... it was really just a great day. It made me really miss Wuiti! Thankfully I'm still in Togo so I can go visit them (Sr. Ngeussa was telling me before I left... alright, when's the next time you're coming to eat!). The problem is that it's kind of expensive to get up there (yes, a two-three dollar taxi drive is expensive on our missionary budgets!).

Down here, things have been going alright. Kodjoviakope is still Kodjoviakope. A lot of people asked me how my 4th of July was and too be honest... kind of lame and didn't really get to celebrate it as I would have liked to but oh well... one more to go and then I'm home back to all the good BBQs, fireworks, etc... still a long ways away but maybe I can have a little more fun next year. I hope you all had a fun time and remember the significance of our country's independence! Even here, people don't celebrate their independence like we do. It was a few months ago and it was probably the lamest thing I have ever seen. Meaning, I saw nothing. It was just like a normal day! Back home, I know that that would not fly! 
In fact, I think the funeral I talked about a couple of weeks ago was more festive. People here are somewhat patriotic, but that's really only when their national team is playing in a big tournament or something... wow... woooohhhhooooo sooooocccceeeerrrr... I'm sorry, but if you need soccer to get you excited about your country, you got some major problems! (oh how I miss real sports).

I want to send a big shout out thanks to the Fro and Mrs. Hunter though! Thank you very, very much! I got the package today and am super happy! I also went over to Ramco and Citimart today (spent like 40 bucks!). My cupboards are stocked to the brim! I even don't have enough room for everything! It was getting rough there for a few moments, but no need to fear, all is well now that I have my reinforcements! And my new prescription sunglasses. ;)

Not much else to report this week. I'll let you know how my new comp is and hopefully I'll have some good stories and pics for next week. Next week I will definitely be going to a new Cyber so no need to fear if you send me an email next week... I should be able to respond. Well, that is if the cyber is better than the one I am currently at! Here's hoping!

Alright everyone, that's it for this week! Thanks for the love, emails, prayers, and support!


Elder Hawkins

Note from the Fro: He's really sorry he's been having trouble uploading pictures.  Hopefully next week the cyber cafe they find will be faster!  He admitted in his emails to me today that it was a really, really rough week.  He keeps most of that out of his weekly emails to everyone, which is nice, but sending a few extra prayers his way this week wouldn't be remiss.  I wanted to add a quote from Elder Haggard's blogpost from last week, I like the way he put this: 

There is a heavy weight that falls on the shoulders of the American
missionaries here, and that isn’t to boast or brag about or capacity
or how amazing we are. The truth is that we have been blessed with
living within the states so close to the church and truly seeing how
it is meant to work. The Africans here are floating in the same boat
as many of the recent converts and investigators, they have the
message and a testimony, but the building a church from nothing is a
truly tasking feat. The resources are limited here, and none of them
have seen the most recent General Conference, and that includes the
missionaries. We essentially are sailing at night in a raging tempest.

The hope I have from this mission is like many scout leaders have
taught me with camping, always leave the site better when you leave it
than when you found it. Hard work is what is required. Appreciate
life; you only have one with these trials and difficulties. Yes, enjoy
the challenges that come, they will be worth it.

SO true!  To read more from Elder Haggard check out his blog at:
Since he's in the same apartment as Elder H, it's fun to see another point of view.  Funny, he didn't mention eating fish eyes and spicy pima in HIS letter this week!  :)

Monday, July 1, 2013

Greetings from the Worst Cyber in Lome

The whole zone... we're a pretty cool bunch, huh?

First, I just want to say my apologies to those who haven't been responded to yet! I'm trying my best to get emails out to people but the Cyber that I'm at has an extremely slow connection. I'm thinking about getting AOL Dial-Up now because the connection here is so bad...To make matters worse, some guy decided to be the unofficial Cyber DJ

and has started blasting awful rap music from his phone. Can't really say I'm having the time of my life at this moment.

Rap music aside, things out here in the crazy wild, wild west of Africa are going pretty good. Our sector is just really, really bad still and we taught barely anyone this week due to a lack of investigators, but it's all good. Nothing that a little prayer and fasting can't do to fix that all up!

Oh, forgot to congratulate Sienna on getting called to Brazil! Didn't see that one coming that's for sure! I was pretty nervous and excited the whole week about where she was going to go... I was thinking either Temple Square (well... most Sister missionaries get called there), Canada (since nobody in our family has yet to serve a French speaking mission in Canada!), or Tokyo, Japan (because it would be absolutely hilarious imagining Sienna learning Japanese... "like ombgeebers... are those sounds even supposed to make words?! ohhhh nooooo."). So needless to say... Brazil is a huge disappointment for me after imagining all my Sienna-serving-in-Japan scenarios. I really feel like the First Presidency missed out on a huge opportunity there. ;)

No, but seriously... Brazil is awesome! Bummer that we'll be missing each other by a good six months, but it's all good! We could be serving back to back missions, right? Brazil will be sweet! The Olympics? And the World Cup? Better learn the language of soccer! I think we need to start praying now that she will get her visa work all done before she hits the MTC!

Elder Hawkins, Elder Owusu, Elder Seidl

So the week was pretty boring, but the highlight of my week was that I got to do splits with the Zone Leaders this past Thursday! So, I went back to my birthplace of Tokoin and hung out with all the elders there for a day. Goodness, do I miss it over there! Not their new apartment however... it's even smaller and hotter than I imagined it would be
when I first saw it over a month ago before I got transferred . I didn't get to work in my old sector, but I did see a lot of members from my old branch at the end of the day when we went to the church to do our Coordination meeting. They were all complaining to me about abandoning them!! I was like... whhhattt???! I served there for over 5 months! I think that's plenty of time over there! I am proud of myself though because I was able to fix a mangez-vous with my old second counselor this Wednesday! Since this is Elder Owusu's last week, he and Elder Seidl will be there too (I did tell you that they're comps
now, right? Yeah, crazy that two of my former comps are now comps together!). I'm pretty excited because Soeur Asima makes pretty dang good pat, so it will be a treat! Even more so because I haven't had a mangez-vous in this new sector since I got here three weeks ago...ughh... Nykonakpoe...

One interesting thing that happened last Thursday was that all the BAC-1 exams got released. For those who don't know, the BAC is a huge test that all high school seniors here take to finish up high school. They must have it in order to graduate. It's an extremely hard test...and the worst part about it is that if you fail (which most people do
the first time), you not only have to retake the test, but you have to repeat the whole YEAR of school you just did. In Tokoin, there's a recent convert who I knew pretty well while I was back at Wuiti. She happened to fail the BAC and told me that of the 26 people in her class, only 4 passed not even including the first in the class. There were even a few people in my branch out here that failed the BAC (one for the second time). Apparently, there's a lot of payoffs that happen to teachers so any students with rich parents are able to pay their way out of retaking the BAC.

So that was rather eye-opening for me, in terms of understanding the Togo education system. Glad to see they picked up the same ancient system that France still uses! The way I've been cheering up a lot of people is by telling them hey, when you pass it next year, I'll still be here to congratulate you and party the pass! It's funny because
most people still pity how much time I have left on the mission... :(

Cool hipsta pic of an old McDs toy

Let's see... nothing else really to talk about this week! I'm sending a picture of Elder Owusu, Elder Seidl, and I at a recent zone meeting. Also sending a picture of the whole zone... we're a pretty cool bunch, huh? Also sending a pretty cool hipsta pic of an old McDs toy a member had at her house. And, sending a picture of the lizards one finds out
here in Lome all the time. I always see them on the wall outside our house and I finally got a picture of a good one for you all. As you can tell, they're pretty sweet looking but rather scary when you hear them crawling on top of your investigator's roof that sounds like it's going to break through the rough and land on your head. Do you see those NASTY claws?! They would destroy me!

Guess I should probably get going right about now, I wasted an hour just trying to get online at this fun cyber! Thanks for all the emails, love and support. I'll hopefully find a better cyber and be able to write more to you guys next week!

Much love,

Elder Hawkins

Note from the Fro: Was it just me, or did you notice that he was excited about a  mangez-vous where he'll be fed pat?  Haha!  Thought he'd never be excited about that certain West African dish!  Please join us this week in praying that our Elder will find people to teach in his new sector so he can feel a part of helping that area grow!

Had to add a tidbit from the letter he wrote his dad (because if the sector is as bad as Ross Gload, it can't get much worse!!!):

Mission has been going well. The sector is still about fun as watching
Ross Gload come up and bat... so you know, pretty awful. Speaking of
the Phils, jealous you guys got to go up and see them in LA! Too bad
they lost and blew it but honestly the bullpen woes don't really
surprise me... it's never been solid/consistent since 2008 (though it
was pretty good in 2011 or last year if I remember correctly). Also,
can't believe Keegan got to see Randy Johnson! What a lucky son of a
gun. I'm going to email Elder Poll (he's the AP of the mission and the
one who emailed you a few weeks ago) because he's a huge D-Backs fan!