Sunday, February 9, 2014

And That's Okay

"Sometimes, you just don't know what to say."
- Elder Trevor Hawkins

I think this phrase applies to many, many aspects in my life as a missionary. As I was trying to come up with something to write home about this week, this phrase just kept running through my mind and I realized that I think that is kinda the perfect way to sum up my week... here are some situations throughout my week that explain that:

"Hey, Elder Hawkins can you take us home?" 

This one I usually do have something to say, but the answer is usually no because (1) Elder Semken told me not to, (2) it's just way too far out of the way or (3) there's no more space in the car (however, as you have seen from past photos, that's not usually a problem for most missionaries). 

However, this past Monday, we had to pull out 7 different missionaries from their P-days to get Carte de Sejours taken care of (i.e. visa stuff). I already felt bad that we were wasting pretty valuable missionaries' time since it was P-day, and I also knew that if it was me, I wouldn't want to go because it would be prime cyber time (they had to come in at 3 PM)! Well, it ended at around 5 and P-day ends at 6 PM so I pretty much knew that these guys were really already bummed. 

Elder Semken told me the plan was that I would take the bus and take the Sisters in Aibatan first, then cross town to Tokpa so the missionaries in Fignanon could take a taxi there all the way to Fignanon. Then, I was going to go to Calavi to drop of the rest of the crew. In any case, the point was it was already going to be a long trip... but then the Elders of Figanon asked me if we could drop them off all the way over in Fignanon which is a pain to get too... but because I was feeling kinda bad for them (and I was hungry and there is an amazing restaurant over there that sells a big mac type sauce on all their sandwiches/charwamas). At that point I really didn't know what to say because, I didn't want to go because it was far but I did want to go because I wanted to help them out, and yeah, there were charwamas involved. You can see how I was at a loss for words for a moment, but eventually the charwamas (err, feeling bad for the missionaries) won me over. 

This is what my final trip looked like: 

Green first, then red (at first, I was only supposed to take them to the river that splits the city, so you can see how it is a bit of a burden taking them out all the way across town), then purple, then orange... to give you an idea of how long it is, the purple part alone is about 30 km.

I ended up really regretting that the next day because I was so sooooore from doing 4 hours of driving the day before. The next day I could barely even walk around without feeling pain from may back, arms, and legs... I cannot even begin to describe how driving here really does take a lot of energy out of you. So much traffic, and so many potholes! But you know, I was happy to help out... and just gives me more driving experience! And it also made me appreciate pothole-less highways in America, street lights, traffic lights, pedestrian walkways, and road shoulders.  

"What did he just say?"

This is a question I often get from Elder Semken as I do a lot of translating for him throughout the week. As I have talked about before, a lot of times translating things to English just doesn't make sense because of the way people talk here... there are just phrases that are used that do not have the same meaning as they do in French, so it can be tough to translate. 

For example, our real estate agent who helps us deal with our apartment problems is named Paul... he's a really awesome guy and this mission would not run as smoothly as it does without him. The only problem is that he speaks really fast and in a way that I do not understand a lot of times... and because he's dealing with vocabulary that I don't know in French (but I am slowly becoming more and more familiar with) sometimes I just get completely lost. 

But another tough thing about translating here is that people can say about 1,000 sentences that mean the same thing. So, a lot of times they'll just say the same thing in 10 different ways. Sometimes, Elder Semken probably hears Paul rambling for a good 3 minutes and then I sum up everything he says in 10 seconds. Why? Because well... people are repetitive here! 

And not only that, but Paul likes to joke around and let me tell you, jokes die when they have to go through a translator. The joke is always funnier to the guy telling the joke than the one who's going to hear it translated. So, a lot of times, I really just don't know what to say to Elder Semken when he asks me!

"I don't know if God has really ever been on my side"

This one is a little bit deeper than the other ones. Let me explain.

This past week, we stopped by an ami who has now been meeting with the missionaries for over a year now. She really likes the missionary lessons but has problems coming to Church and respecting some other commandments. As of late, it's been hard to see her because she's never home and is usually working on stuff. Whenever we set up appointments, it's ratez-vous after ratez-vous. 

This week, we just decided to go and take our chances and hope she was there. She did just happen to be there... at that point, she really just let out all her stresses onto us. She's been a refugee from Congo for about 20 years now. She has a couple of kids, but we only know the daughter who is about 20 years old. Her other kid is in a psychiatric clinic for reasons I don't know. She has had a troubled married life and divorced her husband because he was cheating on her (or something like that). She doesn't get much income support and all her business ventures seem to fall through. 

And basically, she just has been telling us how she is tired of God, tired of not knowing if she's doing the right thing, and tired of never succeeding in life. Wondering if God is ever on her side. We kept trying to comfort her... and even trying to share scriptures with her but she even told us flat out that she was tired of the scriptures... it was a pretty rough lesson.

The whole time, I just kept seeing how she kept rejecting all the help we were trying to give to her. Even Elder Lala bore a beautiful testimony about how the Gospel has really helped protect his family throughout his whole life and how it has benefited him and comforted him. But still... it did nothing to help.

The whole time, I just kept praying that the Lord would give me something to say... but nothing was happening... no amazing one-liners, no amazing scriptures came to mind, nothing came to mind. At the end of the nearly two hour appointment, I had gone through the whole thing saying only a few sentences.

At the end, I felt like a failure. I kept thinking about what was I doing wrong... what limited me from saying something great, something that would fix all of her problems. I also felt bad because I left it up to my companions to talk to her and get rejected by her. I really felt like I didn't do much to help out. 

However, at the end of the lesson as we were all walking out of her home, she looked at us and thanked us for listening to all her worries, thanked us for letting her unload her concerns. I can't remember what exactly she said before parting our ways, but she said something along the lines of sorry for wasting so much time/why do you guys listen to a 50 year old women for 2 hours.

To that, I finally gave the only reply I could think of... "Because it's our job to listen" and then we all said "Because we love you!" To that, she was a bit speechless but I recognized her gratitude nevertheless, her little smile of appreciation. She was a bit surprised that we had endured what we had just endured with her and didn't even complain, and we continued on our separate ways. 

I don't know how things will finally shake out with our ami Deborah... hopefully she will recognize that the answer to all she is looking for is found in the Gospel of Christ... until that point, we are determined to help... in not having anything to say to her during that lesson, I realized that maybe the way to help her is not through words but through action! That's something I can do pretty easily! 

My point is, sometimes you just don't know what to say. Sometimes there is nothing to say... and that's okay. Life would be a sitcom if we always knew what to say, always had a script to go off of and always knew how to crack a good joke that sets a laugh track off. And maybe it would be cool to live a Seinfeld sitcom life....but it would only last for 9 seasons!  

I've learned that sometimes it's okay to not know what to say. It's okay to be confused, be at a loss for words, and to be helpless. Many times, the Lord needs people to listen more often than talk. Many times, the Lord needs people to act more often than just talk! It depends on the situation but nevertheless, don't be afraid, don't feel like a failure if you don't always know what to say.  I've found that you really just have to trust yourself and trust that the Lord will work everything out in the end! 

Thanks for all the prayers, support, and love! Keep on going strong. Stay warm in the snow... I'll be sure to send some heat your way! However, it might take about two-three months for it to get there.

Love you all!

Elder Hawkins


So, Elder Ouonnebo wanted to go shopping for stuff in Tokpa with another Ivorian... we ended up getting lost in Tokpa finding the place they want to buy from, but we ended up in the middle of the pigne/fabric section! 

The colors are super cool when you see everything up close... thought Fro might like some pictures of all the fabrics hanging out.

Lunch of champions! Fried enyam, banana plantaines, and pima sauce... with a banana and pineapple juice! All for 80 cents! 

Note from the Fro: Aside from hoping the crazy kid doesn't get himself into trouble driving all over creation, for let's face it, a charwama with Big Mac sauce....I love his little weekly words of wisdom!  He's right, sometimes it's just the right time to listen, and that's okay.  And also, life should most definitely last longer than "9 seasons".  :)

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