Saturday, March 1, 2014

Portus Lunettesus and the Slack-Jawed Kid

This week, on "The Weekly Letter of Elder Hawkins," find out how Elder Hawkins:
  • Magically got his contacts to work again
  • Masterfully negotiated his way into buying 23 yards of fabric
  • Suddenly got chosen to be interviewed by a Seventy
All on this week's edition of "The Weekly Letter of Elder Hawkins."

*cue Top Gear music guitar intro*

One morning, I woke up. I know, nothing too exciting about that as have been doing that for a good 21 years now, however... this time, it was different.

For the past year now, I have been suffering from a truly awful, nasty disease that has plagued me: Portus lunettesus. In case you don't know what that means, in English it is roughly translated as "wearing glasses". It is quite an awful disease to have out here in the heat of Africa. Basically, what happens is you need to wear this device in order to be able to see. Without it, you are basically blind. Thus, they are essential. However, the worst part is that this "seeing device" was not designed for regular wear and tear in Africa. First, because of the sweat, they fall all the time. Second, because of the sweat and the dust combined, they get dirty quite often and are hard to clean. Third, they just always get in the way. It is truly awful.

That is why, that one morning was so inspirational. I decided to try on my contacts that Fro sent me from last year. The reason I didn't wear them before was because I thought Africa had already screwed up my eyes and the one time I tried them a year ago, they didn't work. 

But, I ventured into the unknown. I opened another box, put them in and BOOM like that my vision was corrected! I could see again! I could see all over the world! I could even see the next door neighbor making patte! Oh the joys of vision are so wonderful! I tried to convince Elder Lala I was turning into Spider Man by trying to put on my glasses and then saying that my vision was clearer without them on. When I closed the door, I put my hand on the door and pretended that it was stuck to it... he almost believed me, but then he asked me to spin a web and fly down the stair case, which I could have if I wanted to but decided not to just because I didn't want to scare him. And it was broad daylight.

Anyway, having these contacts are pretty glorious! No more glasses is really nice. Though, to protect my eyes I gotta be pretty careful and I don't plan on wearing them every day as to protect them. Still, that made me really happy! 

The contacts turned out to be really helpful too as I was going around Tokpa today and buying fabrics... like the pictures I sent a couple of weeks ago, there are just tons and tons of choices. Too many choices. Thankfully, we only spent about 1-1.5 picking out the fabrics and negotiating prices but I feel pretty satisfied with what I got. I know the Fro was pretty jealous when I sent the pictures over. I'll be sure to send the final results of my fabric too: meaning the clothes I make out of them! 

this one is called "bazin" tissu.

Famous African "pigne" tissu.

Side note: the one bad thing about all the fabric I bought was that they all have stickers saying "Do not machine wash, Do not dry clean. HAND WASH ONLY." Yeah, don't know what world these fabric makers are living in but ummm... yeah right. After my mission, I will never wash my clothes by hand again. Never, ever, ever, ever. Never. If worse comes to worse, at least Adele will wash them for me by hand.

So the real highlight of the week was the visit we got from Elder Vinson, who is the first counselor in the Africa West Area. He just got called as a Seventy pretty recently but it was pretty cool to have him come to the mission and visit. 

In his meeting with the missionaries, he made a ton of interesting points that I really liked. First of all, he talked a lot about how missionary work in West Africa is going at a rate that no other place in the world can compare to. He also talked about how our mission is the best mission to be in because, of all the other West African missions, it is the least cultivated of them all, meaning there's a lot of work to be done. 

An interesting statistic that he pulled out was that 80% of the baptisms that happen in the whole Africa West Area come from a member contact. I thought that was a huge, huge number! He really encouraged us to spend as much time with the members as possible (when there aren't amis to teach) in order to gain their trust, respect and friendship because they really are the key to effective missionary work. 

However, if there's any one thing that I will pull from the whole discussion we had with him, it has to be the Spirit that was felt as he was teaching. I felt the same kind of way when Elder Dickson came and talked to us last May... there is just a wonderful Spirit that comes as they teach and open your eyes to the Gospel. The whole time, I just felt like a little kid with his jaw down, and looking up at him as he was teaching. I think it really testified to the magnitude of his calling. In any case, it was a really special experience and when it was all said and done, I had a good four pages of my journal filled from the experience! 

Remember how I said I felt like a little kid with his jaw down, gazing in awe and wonder? Well, you can imagine how scared that little kid got as Elder Vinson put a microphone in his face and asked him to respond to a question, to which he didn't know the answer (he was asking for a really specific answer and my mind went totally blank the whole time). It was pretty embarrassing (for the slack-jawed kid anyways, nobody else cared). 

What was even crazier was afterwards, after the meeting was over and everyone started to stand up, Elder Vinson started pointing over in my general direction... and I was like, hmmm... that's weird. So then I turned around and started talking to some other missionaries when all of I sudden I get a tap on my arm from President Weed, telling me I have been chosen to be interviewed by Elder Vinson. 

All I could think was: no! Why did I answer that question wrong?!?! Please don't chastise me for not knowing the right answer! I'm just a random missionary from Philadelphia! I know I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed, or the brightest crayon in the box, but I'm an alright missionary! Oh gosh...

And then, he interviewed the first guy and then he came to me and I sit down, on this tiny bench made for Primary children, sitting across a man called into the Quorum of the Seventy. Add his Australian accent on top of all of that, and it's pretty scary stuff! 

But in all honesty, he is a really, really nice man. He asked me some questions on my family, how my French was, what I've learned on my mission so far... nothing too unusual. To be honest, I was really comfortable in the interview and it probably only lasted 5-7 minutes but it was still really cool! The one piece of advice he gave to me was always look for the good in this eye-opening experience I am getting because it will be a real blessing for all of those around me when I get back. He said that because very, very few people will ever get the opportunity that I have while I am here on my mission, so I will be able to bless the lives of others when I get back home. 

So that was the highlight of my week... being interviewed by a Seventy! I think that might only be a once in a lifetime experience so it is definitely really cool to say that I have done that! My only regret is that....I didn't take a picture! AH! 

Anyway, thank you all for the support you have been giving me! Thanks to the Lowes for sending an awesome care package, too! That was another highlight of my week to be honest! 

Love and miss you all! 

Elder Hawkins

Note from the FroThe fact that he went fabric shopping was music to my ears! However, this particular fabric is not for ME, WHAT? Sigh.  He told me not to worry though, he will definitely go shopping for the Fro before he leaves.  Although, he also just realized how HEAVY fabric is.  Hahaha.  After all the hauling of my fabric in and out of my studio, I'm surprised he's just figuring this out.  :)

Talk by Elder Vinson from Oct 2013 General Conference

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