Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Progression of an Ami

Hipster pic of my church building sign.

Okay, this week I am not going to start off by saying that this week has gone by quick. Why? Because I'm pretty sure that I start off my emails with that every week! Although, I think I might have foiled my plans in not saying this week has flown by in complaining about always talking about my weeks flying by. Dang it. 

So, yesterday I was thinking a lot about how, as a missionary, we run into tons and tons of people on our missions. Honestly, I felt like I've met the world in the 17 months that I have been on my mission. The scary thing is that I really haven't! 

But, I was thinking about the process that these people usually go through. Of course, there are exceptions to everything, but I wanted to outline the general phases that a missionary experiences with investigators.

That Awkward First Rendez-vous: Okay, this is pretty much true for any new ami that we get, whether it be by OVB or through a member contact. The first meeting almost always seems to be awkward because the ami really doesn't know what to expect from us. Some think that we are pastors who will be coming to their house so that they don't have to come to Church, others think we are prophets, everyone thinks we are Jehovah's Witnesses, and some are going through the first time of ever having a white person in their home. 

Usually, this meeting will be full of questions, ranging from "what the heck are you doing in Benin" to "so, what religion do you guys really belong to" to "so what do you guys know about the Freemasons?." Another reason why this RV is so awkward is because you really don't know if the person you are teaching is serious or not... however, I don't even think the ami knows if they're serious or not either! 

And of course, that awkward first RV always ends with that awkward first prayer. I say awkward because people here are also super scared to say prayers in front of others, fearing that we will ridicule them for their UNRIGHTEOUS PRAYING! Okay, that's just my theory, but in any case, it can be pretty awkward too because we always ask them who will pray (since it's at their house, they're usually the ones who get to pick). Now, whenever we ask that question, they almost always assume that means that they HAVE to pray so they get really awkward. That's when I jump in and just say a prayer.

It's pretty awkward.

The Honeymoon Stage: Wow! We made it through the first awkward rendez-vous and the ami has decided to accept us for a second rendez-vous (miracle!). This is when things start to get interesting because the ami now knows what the purpose of our lessons are (or should know... usually it takes a few times for them to figure that all out). If the ami read the brochure that we gave them, they will almost always have some good questions to ask us. This is the exact reason as to why I call this stage, the "honeymoon" stage. Their questions make it seem like they are very interested in our message. Even when we give them commitments to follow, they always say yes. 

You see, everybody is happy! The ami gets to have people come to their house and talk to them about God, the missionaries have people who commit to pray to know if Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, to know if what we're saying is true, etc. They even promise to come to Church on Sunday! As an added bonus, they even seemed to have an idea of where the Church actually is so you have the impression that they will really be there! Woohoo! I love missionary work! 

The Shattered-Dreams StageOkay, your ami didn't come to Church. Bummer. They seemed so interested! What else could we have done better for them to get excited about coming to Church? Offered them patte maybe? Ugh, what could we have done?!?!

Of course, the lessons that follow the first not-followed through commitment tend to be like the ones before, from the last stage. You kind of just pretend that they didn't keep their commitment, so you are still generally pretty happy and still believe that, if they do eventually come to Church one day, they will be baptized! 

This is also the stage where you see if people will really read the things that you leave them... and this is also the stage where people will start dropping you if they didn't drop you from the get-go. What I mean by that is RATEZ-VOUS... the dreaded ratez-vous... where missionaries' dreams go to die. 

The Sorting Your Amis Out StageOkay, after the stage where your dreams are shattered because your ami didn't come to Church, and didn't you were ratez-vous'd, you can generally sort out all your amis into these four categories. Again, it's not that every ami will fit into a category, but in general, they work.
  • The Ami Who Comes to Church the Next Week: This is your dream investigator, if s/he didn't come to Church the first time you invited them (if they did come to Church the first week, then of course they are already great investigators). This is the guy who you know has a chance to progress and be baptized one day. This is what's known as your "progressing investigator."
  • The Ami That Might Come To Church Once, But Probably Never Again: This is the ami that teases you. You see hope in them, plus they are always there for your rendez-vous, are very accepting of what you have to say, but... when it comes to showing their seriousness, eventually don't keep your engagements. And, eventually, they'll even just start giving you ratez-vous too. 
  • The Ami That You Have Finally Figured Out, Is Really A Waste of Your Time: Okay, these amis are some of the worst. You had a little hope in them when you first started teaching them but you just realize that they don't understand anything that you're teaching them, or just don't want to. The biggest and most telling indicator of these amis comes from when they ask random questions. For example:

    "Okay, brother/sister so and so, do you have any questions on the Word of Wisdom?"

    "No, but I was wondering, where is Jerusalem? Some people say that it's in Africa"
  • The Ami That Believes in Everything You're Saying, Accepts You Every Time, But Just Can't Seem to Come to Church: These guys are the toughest. You really want to keep teaching them, but you really have to ask yourself, as a missionary, if there aren't other people to see. I mean, you love them to death because they ask great questions, and read what you give to them, but you wonder if they will actually come to Church and progress. A lot of times, you gotta spend a couple of months with these guys because they usually have potential, but you just have to work with them.

    I remember, one of my amis in my first area, would not come to Church regularly. But we kept seeing him because he was always there, plus, he would read the stuff we would give to him in the Book of Mormon. Four months later, we did eventually baptize him!

    So, it all depends on one thing: your patience. Are you willing to stick it out and hope they start regularly coming to Church? Or will you just drop them and hope that you can find another ami that will progress? The answer is never straight forward nor clear cut. These amis are the toughest ones to figure out! 
Once your ami is sorted out into one of these categories you usually know how to move forward with each of them. Here are the next steps for each category.

  • The Ami Who Comes to Church the Next Week: Fix that baptismal date! What are you waiting for, fool?!?!
  • The Ami That Might Come To Church Once, But Probably Never Again: Fix a baptismal date with him, hope that will get him a little more serious. If the date comes and goes, well... pray about what to do next.
  • The Ami That You Have Finally Figured Out, Is Really A Waste of Your Time: Awkwardly find a way to not come back. This usually just includes not fixing a next appointment and then avoiding their road for the rest of your mission. Not really. But kinda true.
  • The Ami That Believes in Everything You're Saying, Accepts You Every Time, But Just Can't Seem to Come to Church: Pray and fast. Be patient. Hope that one day, even if you're not there anymore, they will progress!
Anyway, I hope that helps you guys understand what life is like between a missionary and an ami!

This week has flown by (dang it, said it again!). Thank you all for the prayers and the kind thoughts sent my way! I hope you all have an awesome week. If there's anything that I would like people to pray for me to have this week, it's to have a cool spiritual experience. I don't know why I'm asking for that, randomly this week, but I certainly do love them on my mission and they are the stories that will last with me (and maybe even you!) for a life time. 

Miss you all!


Elder Hawkins

Cool beach pano that I took from our visit at Ouidah this past Monday.

Valentine hearts Fro sent that melted in my fridge. Yeah, don't know how that happens.

Cool pic of a beach road that Lala and I explored while at Ouidah.

Note from the Fro: Only TWO more Sunday's until I get to see his face on Skype for the LAST time before he comes home!!!!  How exciting is THAT?  

And yes, I do think that when they are working most of their days in the office, it is difficult to find those amazing spiritually uplifting moments.  At the same time, what a wonderful place he is at on his mission where THIS is what he is asking for, and not help with a companion, or with the language, or with Africa in general. It's been quite the journey, hasn't it? I hope our prayers for him this week will be answered.  

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Testimony? Check!

Armand at the baptism

Well... just another week gone by here in Benin... 

I guess I'll start with the highlight of the week... which happened today with Armand's baptism! And I was even the one who did the baptism, which was pretty fun. It's been a good while since I've been able to get into the baptismal font but it was pretty crazy today... there were 18 baptisms today in Benin so the church was PACKED with people. 

I was really happy to be able to baptize Armand though... every time we taught him, I was just amazed at how prepared he was for everything. In fact, earlier this week, we were gearing up to teach him about the law of Chastity. Now... as you can imagine, two 21 year old missionaries introducing another 21 year old guy something about sexual purity and chastity is probably one of the most awkward things ever. Before the lesson, Lala and I were just talking about how this will either make or break the baptism because the Law of Chastity is a tough commandment for people to keep here. 

But, in typical Armand fashion, he put us to shame. Why? Because HE TAUGHT US about the law of Chastity instead! During the lesson, we were explaining stuff and then I asked the question. "Why do you think this is an important commandment to follow?" Then he basically explained everything about it, the numerous amounts of blessings that come from it, and continued to tell us that it was already an important part of his life to begin with. After he explained that, Elder Lala and I were just like, "well... you pretty much already know and have a strong testimony about that... so we'll just leave." Haha just kidding but that's what we wanted to do because Armand is probably the best example of somebody I have seen that was prepared by the Lord! 

And it was pretty much like that for all the other lessons we taught him too. Word of Wisdom? Well turns out that he had an uncle that would drink and use drugs all the time and it ruined his and his family's chances to live in France. Testimony? check. Tithing and Fast Offerings? Ooh, well, he's already born his testimony in Church on fast Sunday and is already down with paying tithing and wants to pay it! Testimony? check. Honestly, this list can go on and on and on because he is just that cool! He keeps telling us that he doesn't want to wear a white shirt and tie until he receives the priesthood because, well, I don't know why but he feels like that's when it will be his duty to wear priesthood attire.

Otherwise, life has been pretty busy. Three missionaries returned home this week, finishing their missions this week so we got to hang out with them for a day or two. We also ordered Elder Lala's flight plans since he only has three months to go on his mission (scary stuff!). We've been gearing up for Porto Novo as well, as we will officially be opening up the Church in a city that's not Cotonou nor Lome for the first time in the mission! 

Goodness, I am really running out of things to say this week. I think the sun has been beating just a little too much on my head this week because I feel fried up there. It has been super hot lately (that's I how feel rainy season is here... rainy hours and then the rest of the days are just super hot). It's not officially rainy season yet but it has started to rain numerous times throughout the week. 

Okay, one thing I will make a comment about is this little map that my friend Steph sent to me this week. She asked me if the things that were on the map were actually true about the nations. I can't talk about every country but here is my list of African countries and what they are "known" for, from a white kid living in Benin's perspective.

Benin: The map says "bad driving" and they're spot on. Why are they known for that? Motos, lack of real driving schools, lack of car controls which means that cars break down all the time. 2nd place: voodoo.

Togo: The map didn't say anything about Togo but here's what I'll say: patte. Never seen a people more obsessed with wet cornflower than the Togolais. 2nd place: complaining about Togo.

Ghana: Funny people. Honestly, Ghanaians always seem to have a great sense of humor, at least the ones that I know from out here, be it missionaries, members or random people. Probably one of the most smiley people I know, too. 2nd place: Good soccer team.

Nigeria: Cheap gas. I'll have to get a picture sometime, but on the sides of the road, you'll see people with huge containers of brown fluid... meaning, it's cheap gas from Nigeria (a liter is 650 FCFA whereas you can buy road side gas at about 400-450 FCFA, which is about a 20 cent difference). Apparently, the government tried to ban the roadside sellers because, well quality is always a bit iffy, and all the roadside gas people went on strike. Then, people said that there were just huge lines at all the gas stations, filled with motos and there was like a mini uprising here because of it. So, they scraped the legislation and the roadside gas people stopped striking. Vive l'essence Nigerian. 2nd place: bizarre and many times incomprehensible English.

Cote d'Ivoire: Attecheke and cooked fish. I've already sent pictures of the meal "attecheke" but that's a food staple of the Cote d'Ivoire. The map says malaria, which I would suppose is true but that's pretty much most of West Africa as a whole compared to just one country. It's kinda funny here because whenever anybody gets sick, people just say they have malaria. As to whether or not they actually do get malaria, I have no idea, but people sure do seem to say they always have malaria. 2nd place: dislike of French people.

Congo (RDC): Cassava leaves. Probably a Congolais' favorite sauce of all time comes from the leaves of a cassava plant. Seriously, these people are obsessed with it. I've had it a few times and it's pretty good when made right... but come on... that's like saying I would kill to eat iceberg lettuce. 2nd place: using pretty much every other currency but their own.

Anyway, that's my little commentary of what these countries should be known for the most on that map! I hope everybody continues to has a great week and keep up the prayers for me! I need them and thank you for the prayers already said for me.

Have a Happy Easter!

Love you all,

Elder Hawkins

Hipsta pic for SisSieHawk. Figured it's been a while.

Man cake. Had to do something with all that leftover flour!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Stalling Effect

Cool picture of the welcome gate to Cotonou

Stalling. That's something I've really come to learn on my mission. Of course, there's car stalling since I drive stick shift now... I don't stall as much as I used to but it does happen every once in a while! 

However, that's not the stalling I wanted to talk about this week. Actually, stalling is something that happens quite often in missionary work and it's quite tiring. 

What stalling is, according to my dictionary of life, it's when things just aren't going anywhere with what you're doing. In my current sector, as well as my past sector, I felt like I had a lot of amis who were just stalling. Even with the two amis that I have baptized in these two sectors, you could tell that they were willing to be baptized and wanted to, but the conversion process was always kinda iffy. I've noticed that a lot of people will accept what you have to say, but will either be really slow to act on it or not act on it at all.

I call it the stalling effect because you could say that I'm trying to shift gears with them, trying to help convert them to the Gospel, but I always feel like the engine stalls, or rather the ami stalls when they don't follow through on a commitment or when you can tell that things are really not going anywhere on their path of conversion. And really, that's how most of a missionary's investigator pool is: people who are willing to see you but slow to progress, slow to change. 

And a lot of times, you just kinda have to deal with it. You can't force people to change, neither should one want to force somebody to change. Patience, as they say, is a virtue. An annoying virtue, but a necessary one at that. Like a car stalling, you just gotta turn the engine back on and keep trying to progress. 

To tell you the truth, that gets pretty tiring after a while. Personally, a lot of times I tell myself that maybe they will be converted a long while after I'm gone... maybe they'll realize and understand that what we talk about during lessons isn't just a little chit-chat, but it's actually there to help improve your life! The problem with maybe, however, is that it's just that: maybe. I always have faith that the Lord has me meet with specific people for a reason, but it's hard to see that reason a lot of times. I always have faith in the Lord, but when little results follow your faith, boy... the mission sure does get tiring! 

And then... every once in a while, you have some people that fall into your lap that really, well, for lack of a better word, inspire you. I could also say that really re-invigorate you as a missionary. 

Happily, two of those kinds of lessons happened to me this week. The first one happened this past Monday with our ami, Armand. We haven't taught him too much but he has been very interested in the Church and has come the past three out of four weeks. Also, what's nice, is that he is surrounded by members at his house and they have really gotten him interested in the Church (hmmm... members being a help... who would have thought!?). 

As we were teaching the Plan of Salvation with him, you could tell that he had already brushed up on everything we had to say. Everything we were teaching him, he was just soaking up. Awkward silences were minimal and the few silences there were were when you could tell that he was thinking of a question that he sincerely wanted answered. One of them was when he asked about how salvation works for people that have already passed away, that didn't have a chance to hear the Gospel. Of course, we start talking about baptisms for the dead and other ordinances that can be done at the temple for the dead. The whole time we were talking about that, he was just nodding his head and saying yes... it was like somebody who was wandering in the desert for years finally downing a bucket of cool water! You can ask Elder Lala about how giddy I was after that lesson... really, it was so cool to actually see how the Gospel seemed to finally be filling a huge void in somebody's life.

Then, my second lesson happened with an ami, named Innocente, who is the mother of one of our current amis. It was funny how we met her actually, because we were teaching Anabelle (her daughter) a lesson and she was sleeping on the floor of the room we were in. Then, she woke up, saw us there, and started listening. She didn't say anything the first time that we saw her but the next lesson we had with her daughter, she was super excited to see us come and again, loved everything that we had to say. 

This past week, we had a lesson with her and we invited her to be baptized. She hasn't come to Church yet (that should be changing tomorrow) but her answer was interesting. She told us that she wanted to pray first. She told us that she knew God's answer was probably already yes, but she wanted to pray first. And then she asked us a really cool question in asking if her life would get easier after getting baptized. 

Thankfully, during my Book of Mormon study, I had recently fallen upon the story of the followers of Alma (who were baptized in the Waters of Mormon). I had shared with her that scripture and told her how these people were so excited to make the baptismal covenant with God, but shortly thereafter were put into slavery. Then, we read from Mosiah 24:13-15 which talks about how the Lord did not forget the covenant that they had made with him and how through/because of that covenant they made, he made their burdens light and eventually got them out of their captivity. 

I could see in her eyes that that was something that she really wanted. She told us that she still was going to pray, though she said she already knew the response.

Honestly, as a missionary it is really so cool to see how the Lord has prepared people for this Gospel. And it's also interesting to see how it responds to so many of the questions people have had throughout their lives but have never gotten satisfying answers to. Of course, there are always those amis who just keep stalling, who keep testing your patience, though you keep hoping they will one day progress in their conversion. 

But then... there are those few amis who you can tell, were readily prepared and have been waiting for it their whole lives! Those amis who give you hope that you're not just waiting for miracles to happen, but that you're actually part of a real miracle in somebody's conversion! 

And that's why I'm here... not to keep stalling, not to keep waiting for a miracle to happen, not to keep hoping that something will happen...

But, I am here to move mountains, as Fro would say. Whether that be a rocky mountain or a conversion mountain, it doesn't really matter to me... because a mountain is a mountain, and no matter what, they're hard to move! 

But, with a little faith... you would be surprised the things that happen!

Hope you all have another wonderful week! 


Elder Hawkins


We went to the Songhai center again this past week with a zone (remember the Adventures of Elder Lala and Elder Hawkins?). Here are some pictures of what the place looks like/does. Basically, it's a place where people go and learn how to create eco-friendly/low waste farms and agricultural factories. So, everything they do there is environmentally friendly and local

Fact: Turkeys do gobble. And it's hilarious!

Fish in a weird green pond. But it's Tilapia apparently!

Fields of... err.. stuff. Pretty though!

 Okay this is cool: All that stuff in the middle are sliced up pieces of grocery bags. What they do is they take those and make them into pellets of plastic and then make stuff out of it. Example: the trash cans that you see behind the thing. Pretty cool, huh?

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Soiree Pancakes!

Soiree Pancakes! Disregard the sweaty shirts...

There's comes a point in a missionary's two years where the normal, daily routine just isn't enough. Not that knocking on random doors isn't fun... not that asking nonstop for contacts from members isn't fun... not that walking under the burning hot Beninois sun isn't fun either... but honestly, all those things get pretty old, pretty quick. 

So, as I said last week, sometimes, you just gotta get a little creative and start thinking outside the box. One of the problems (and blessings actually) is that it's really hard for missionaries to do all the work all by themselves... to be honest, though possible, it's extremely hard and the results can be minimal. However, when the branch/ward members get involved and start inviting their friends to do things that are Church-related with them, then things get a whole lot easier for us.

Elder Ritchie, our sometimes wise Assistant to the President (I say sometimes just because I like giving him a hard time), has often put it best by giving an example. Imagine if somebody comes to your door and starts trying to sell you something. Chances are, you probably don't want it because you probably are thinking to yourself that you don't need it. Now imagine that your friend comes up to you and starts raving about a product that he just bought. Chances are, you are probably going to want to try it because your friend recommended it to you. 

I think you can all see where I'm going with this... missionary work is so much easier when the members from a branch/ward are involved! President Weed has often said that we experience very little success in missionary work if we don't work with the members and interact with them. 

So, Elder Lala and I, the adventurers that we are, tried to think of ways to start working with members. Of course, Elder Lala, in his "infinite wisdom", offered that we do a soccer activity. Look, soccer is... well, soccer. People here seem to love it... and when I mean people, I mean boys ages 8-26 seem to love it the most. Not that I'm against meeting soccer loving guys between the ages of 8-26... but... okay, I'm not going to beat around the bush anymore. Soccer is a dumb sport, nuff said. I wasn't going to go to another soccer activity. Gosh, I do not like soccer. 

Anyway, I had an idea... an idea that I knew would unite people of all ages, of all backgrounds, and of all continents: pancakes. Could you think of an easier and finer American delicacy to share with the people of West Africa? Because I sure couldn't! 

Now, it took a couple of weeks to finally get it all figured out, we had thought of the idea the first week of March and finally got to hold it on the 29th of March.

 The flyers we sent out! (date had to be changed to the 29th however).

Honestly, everything starting coming together about 24 hours before the activity. We got to our Coordination meeting (meeting between the missionaries and the Branch Mission Leader) a bit early so that way we could go to the marché and buy everything that we would need: flour, tons of water, oil, tons of sugar, powdered milk, pineapples, mangoes, and plastic plates and forks, plus napkins. We thought it would take us forever to find all that junk, but it actually did not take long at all. It's always awkward going to marches as a white guy, but having a white buddy in Elder Gray always helps. We didn't get ripped off either! 

Well, there was no room in the car for Elder Gray after we filled everything up from their apartment
along with ours... sooo... he just had to hang onto the side of the car to get to the Church
(don't worry, it wasn't too far away!)

The next day, the 29th, the big day had finally arrived. I kept telling Elder Gray that this idea was so crazy, that it just might work. I had asked him if he had ever done an activity like this before, since he's been on his mission, and he said it was a first for him too. We decided to set up shop on the second floor because the first floor would be used for a district activity at 6:30 PM that night, so we didn't want to bother them. Thankfully we have a kitchen on the second floor so we were able to install our four burners and two gas tanks up there. There was running water at first, but then it got shut off for some reason... oh well, this is Africa, that's why we bought the extra bags of pure water! 

Then, as the other Elders were taking care of entertaining everybody with some games and music, Elder Gray and I set up a barricade in the hallway so that people would stop bothering us while we were making pancakes! Goodness, people are so nosey when it comes to wanting to watch white people cook. 

American Pancake Crafters

So, Elder Gray and I, armed with our American-ness, set out to make pancakes. At first, we just started making popcorn to hold people over as people started to trickle in (did you know: West Africans don't like salted popcorn as much as they love popcorn coated in powdered milk. It's actually pretty delicious.). I have never popped popcorn on the stove before, but Elder Gray did a masterful job of not getting the kitchen to smell like burnt popcorn! 

Then we started cutting up our mangoes and pineapples to make our syrups... they turned out to be really jelly-like but we would just add more water in order to make them a bit more syrup like. They tasted SUPER good though! I preferred the mango syrup over the pineapple one though... I think pineapples are a bit more watery so it wasn't as sweet as the mango one was. 

Finally, as it seemed like we had everybody there (I would say a good 30-50 people showed up), we fired up those pans and started pouring pancakes down. We found that the secret to making really fluffy pancakes is adding more baking soda! I know Fro is probably laughing at me right now because there has to be some faulty reasoning in that somewhere, but it's true! We were making some pretty monstrous pancakes! Elder Gray and I were getting so efficient at making the pancakes, it was like clockwork... at the end, I was even making the pancake batter without any measuring of any kind (I was using handfuls of flour, eyeballing everything). It was pretty scary how fast we were churning out those pancakes.

And then finally, the moment arrived where we would find out if our pancake factory was all done in vain. We brought out the pancakes and the syrups (we had three cups full). We put them down and told people they could start eating when they wanted too (we had already blessed the food, don't worry!)... and then nobody was coming to eat them. 

Our greatest fear was actually this: Beninois (and West Africans in general) do not like sweet things. Yeah, that's right: sweet and sugary is a no-no here. It's really weird to think but people do not have a sweet tooth like we do back home... instead of going for a nice bowl of ice cream or a cookie or two, they reach for alloco (sweet banana plantains) or beignets sprinkled with sugar.... definitely good stuff, but nothing like a nice pancake! 

Look at all those delicious pancakes and their delicious syrup!

However, thankfully our work was not in vain: Elder Lala and Elder Konduah (Elder Gray's comp) started dishing out the pancakes and the syrup (and they looked pret-tay, pret-tay, pret-tay good with those cool colored syrups that we made)... and people did start eating them... and they actually LIKED THEM. Then we brought out the beesap and some more waters and everybody was happy. Since it was an activity for the young adults and the youth, they were all occupied playing games, enjoying the music, and eating up the glorious pancakes. 

I was really happy as well because three of our amis came, as well as my recent convert Olivier, who brought a friend with him. I didn't get to talk to them too much because I was either busy making pancakes or busy cleaning up the pancakes, but everybody seemed to be having fun. Also, favorite youth African activity? Musical chairs. I'm pretty sure these people can be entertained for hours watching the youth play musical chairs (actually, it is pretty amusing though).  

Tellin' ya, they love musical chairs.

It's amazing to see how just a little bit of energy, about $40, and some teamwork can really all come together and give people a good time together! I've always been a fan of doing non-threatening Church activities like that for people who really don't know the Church that well... I feel like a lot of people are scared to go to Church activities because they are going to be preached too, but I think Church activities are more about helping people feel welcomed into a community that is inviting to everybody! Even looking at Christ's ministry here in Earth, when he fed the multitudes TWICE with fish and bread, he never said that only the members of His Church could come and eat! He invited everybody, no matter where they came from or who they were! 

In retrospect, the pancake activity was a ton of fun, but at the end of it we were all just super tired from it. The youth absolutely loved it and want us to do it again next month (um, yeah, how about they sweat out a storm making pancakes next time!) but I don't think that's gonna happen anytime soon! Now, I think we're going to try to do a general branch activity to get everybody involved but that's gonna be a long ways out because we're still tired from the last activity that we had! 

If there is any advice I have to give out this week, it's that missionary work doesn't have to be boring! It can be really fun if you just get a little creative and are not afraid to sweat a little bit (or a lot of you're stuck in a tiny kitchen with four burners going!).

Just like Miss Frizzle says: Take Chances, Make Mistakes, Get Messy! 

And you'll end up having a whole lot of fun! And success. 

With love,

Elder Hawkins

Couple more Pics from Porto Novo:

Went back to Porto Novo this week to look for missionary apartments and took pictures
of these Voodoo things... thought they looked pretty interesting.
Have no idea what they do inside of them, but don't know if I want to

Note from the Fro: He says THANK YOU to Mark & Cathy and family for all the letters.  He got them!!!  Tami, he got yours too.  He was SOOOOO excited to get REAL mail! Told me to let you know he will be writing you back. Thank you ALL for writing!