Saturday, May 31, 2014

To the Rescue!

 Elder Edwards going home! Sad to see him leave... he was a BBQ master and a great missionary... he actually trained my current companion Elder Izekor! Will surely be missed!

Goodness holy free-mizzle dizzle gracious! This week sure did fly by because I felt like so much happened! 

I guess I'll start with the weather... it has been crazy rainy. Finally, the rainy season has been kicking into high gear! Let me tell you, the roads have been all flooded. And it seems like we've been getting big rainstorms day after day so the water that comes from each rainstorm has no time to dry out and evaporate. That is to say: HUGE PUDDLES THE SIZE OF THE ATLANTIC OCEAN.

Now, I say that because the Assistants got into a little (just a little) hiccup with the van this past Friday. I was sitting at my desk trying to focus on my personal studies when all of a sudden the phone starts ringing and I see the Assistants calling... I'm like... errrr... what the heck? Why would they be calling right now? So I answer and I hear all these random people in the background and then Elder Ritchie started talking to me and telling me how they fell into a hole... I feel really sorry for laughing while on the phone with Elder Ritchie, but at the same time I thought it was pretty hilarious... Elder Ritchie did not think so but asked me if I could go out, buy a chain, and help tow them out of the hole.

And then, the A-Team theme song started playing in my head and we went into action! BOOM!

First step: finding a chain. Thankfully, on our way to Church every Sunday, we walk by the Quincaillerie de Gbegamey: that's French for the Home Depot of Gbegamey. You can find all sorts of random paints, locks, sinks, pipes, and all sorts of junk. Though, it's not like a Home Depot in that it's really just a big market full of construction materials... and just about everybody sells the same exact stuff. However, I had never seen a chain so I didn't really know if there would be a chain or not. 

Well, on our way over, the first place we stopped at had a chain. The shop vendor wasn't there so we had to negotiate with her 7-year-old daughter who was opening up the shop for her. Always a joy. Thankfully I was just sitting in the car, all nice and dry, while Elder Haggard and Elder Izekor were trying to get the chain and some hooks. We spent about a half hour trying to negotiate for the chain (we only had a 10,000, or about 20 dollars) and the hooks! We ended up getting the two hooks and 2 meters of chain for 10,000 which I think is a good deal but I'm not really sure... I've never bought a chain before. Especially in Africa.

Anyway, in the meantime everyone is calling the Christensens and President to see if we should really go out and help them... I mean the last thing we want to do is get the truck stuck or pull off the bumper in trying to get the van out. Finally, at the end we decided we would go "assess" the situation and see if we could get them out. 

The Bus... in water... stuck in mud.

So, we get to the scene of the crime and... well... yep, the Assistants managed to fall into a hole (covered by water since it had been raining all morning) that was about a meter deep. It was dang deep. Elder Rybin and Elder Desvergez were walking barefoot through the water and looked like caveman missionaries all covered in dirt and junk. They had rolled up paints and shirts all covered in mud... It was pretty sad to see how things had deteriorated to that point... I'm pretty sure if we had got there 15 minutes later, they would have had to revert to cannibalism. It was pretty scary to see the state they were in.

 Is the bus supposed to be tilted like that?
Elder Desvergez... rocking the chain like a pro.

ELDER HAWKINS TOWING POWER (with a chain and a 4x4 Toyota Hilux)
Before we got there, apparently 15-20 Beninois tried to help pull the van out of the ditch but to no avail... a semi-truck also tried to pull them out but their cord snapped! Yet, Elder Haggard, in his infinite knowledge of how to get any car unstuck and out of decommission, thought that we would be able to do it. Long story short, we put the trusty chain on parts that looked pretty sturdy on both our truck and the van (no tow hooks on either)... and BAM we got them out! Pretty easily too! It was a huge sigh of relief for everybody. Thankfully there was no damage to the van so we were able to drive it away with no problems. Mission accomplished. (A-Team theme song fade out...)

Lala driving to his new home... and the last time he would be driving for a while (hence the frowning).

In other news, my long-time companion of almost 5 months, Elder Lala, has finally been transferred! Elder Haggard, who is being transferred to another mission for health reasons, had to be replaced in the mission field. Now, I'm alone with Elder Izekor (well, Elder Haggard is here with us until he leaves on Tuesday... it's been fun since we were together for 4 months at Kodjoviakope!). But, the adventures of Elder Hawkins and Elder Lala are over for the time being... but you never know what can happen! I know he'll miss my daily singing songs to him, who wouldn't?

In other news, our sector is going well too! 4 of the Nigerians we found last week came to Church this past week and I think they really enjoyed it. We haven't been able to teach them this week because of school and stuff but we're probably going to stop by and see if they can't come again to Church this week. It would be really great if they could. 

Other than that, there's nothing too new to report on. Things in the sector are moving surely but slowly. Our ami, Innocent, was supposed to get baptized today, but was not able to because she couldn't get interviewed by the President due to scheduling problems. So, cross your fingers... hopefully the baptism will hold for this week! 

I cannot believe that June is already upon us. That will mean that I was transferred into my second area a year ago on the 12th! Wow! It is ridiculous how fast time flies. I realized this past week that I really don't have too much time left, as I have done 6 months in the office and I have 5 months that are left. And these past six months have flown by, so I know that in not too long I will be back home, which is great and frightening at the same time. 

In my personal study this past week, I was really touched by a scripture in Romans 12:21... in French it reads "Ne te laisse pas vaincre par le mal, mais surmonte le mal par le bien."  Roughly translated it says that we cannot let ourselves be won by the bad, but we have to beat the bad by the good. I loved that scripture because so many times, we try to not do bad things by simply avoiding it. But in reality, we need to replace the opportunity to do bad by doing good instead! 

I think this is something that I really need to focus on because it's easy to try to not do bad things... but to actually focus on "replacing" bad with good seems like a good challenge! I actually loved the whole end of chapter 12 because Paul just lists these great exhortations that are very encouraging... I would encourage you all to read it! 

Thanks for everything that you all do! Thanks Sharky for the letter... I hope to be replying to you this week... it made my day when I got it as it was a very pleasant surprise! 

Keep praying for me... love you all and catch you next week!

With love,

Elder Hawkins

Note from the Fro: One other big piece of news he shared with me today was his actual RETURN DATE!!!  He will be coming home October 28th (probably the 29th by the time he gets here!).  It's a little earlier than he wanted, but there are missionaries arriving that day, hence the change.  The ONLY bummer to that news is that his parents will be out of town the entire week after he gets home, so I'll only get to see him a couple of days before I have to leave him.  Sniff!!  

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Meet My Trusty Bag

So... this is my bag. I think you guys all know my bag, made by my cousin Chris... this bag has pretty much been with me for about a year and a month now and it has still been going strong. It has been tough... probably even tougher than me, going through high heat, dusty weather, crazy rain, and, worst of all, me (meaning I've had to wash it by hand more than once). 

Despite this, it has been a very trusty bag and I love it to death. But what you might not know about it, is what's inside. I'll give you a hint, it's not Intel, but it's everything that I have found to be needed on my mission. So I thought I would give you guys a quick tour on what's inside.

First up, this is what's in my main pocket. Always have to have my glasses case (just replaced the one I was using with the one in the photo since the humidity has torn the other one into shreds). Then I've got my wallet (when change is such a big part of every day buying, you have to have a wallet that doubles as a coin pouch). Then, I still don't know why but I always have my memory cards and my USB drive with me in case I need them... it's actually come in handy many times but I think I should stop carrying it around in my bag because I did lose it for a couple of months when it fell out in the bus when I was transferred to Benin...

And of course, the most important thing has to be my Book of Mormon and my Bible! By far the heaviest things I have to carry and for the past 6-7 months I've just been using a Book of Mormon instead of a Triple Combination just because I use the Book of Mormon way more than Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price. And of course, I have my bible which I love to death. I really can never buy a different bible because I basically know the pages of my bible by heart. Meaning, I don't know scripture citations, but I can very easily find you the verse you're looking for in my Bible. 

Next on the list is what's on/in the inside pockets of my bag. First, I got my "References par Sujet" that Dad gave me. Very handy when you have members that ask you random questions about the Millenium or the Pre-Existence. Then I've got my mini French cantiques which I'm always sharing every Sunday because of hymn shortages... but it's all good. When people only pick from the 15-20 hymns that they know, you get to know those particular 15-20 hymns pretty well.  

Other random items I keep on hand are my International Driver's Permit (I don't even know if I need it to be honest. The two times I have been pulled over, all they ask for is my Carnet du Bord, which is a booklet with all our insurance information and licensing of the car. The reason they only take that is because it's illegal to drive without one so that way you can't just drive away. Trust me, I've gotten so mad at the stupid things that I've been pulled over for (always driving through a yellow) and I'll I've wanted to do is drive away and shout profanities at them... but I can't because, you know, I'm a missionary and that wouldn't be very Christlike of me! Plus, I don't use profanity. So it's either you pay them (which is what happened the first time I got pulled over) or try to bribe them with a Book of Mormon (which is what I did the second time and it worked really well!)... but anyway, that's just one reason why it's a good idea to keep copies of the Book of Mormon in the car. Haha!

OKAY, back to the bag... other things I carry... PENS! You always need pens to be writin' down your appointments. Then I got my cool vial of consecrated oil with my American flag keychain. Gotta love the American flag keychain... also got some hand sanitizer (thanks Mom!) that can make a whole car smell like a Lancaster candle shop within a matter of seconds (it's pretty great). Also, weirdly enough, I've had need of chapstick here, despite the super humid climates. Then of course, we have the "White Bible" (aka the Missionary Handbook) which lists all of the rules that a missionary has to follow. 

Now for the front side of my bag, I keep a verity of things but not too much. On the very front, small pocket I keep my Togo and American flag... it's mostly just there because I won't lose them if they're there... but again, you can never have too many American flags on you. I also have my handy-dandy pocket French dictionary which does come in helpful. Next, I've got my planner which is where I write all my RVs down and helps me remember what day it is. It's been the 14th that I've used on my mission, hence the 14 on the side. 

Then, of course, I keep my brochures in one of the pockets. I usually carry lots of Restoration and Plan of Salvation pamphlets and then a couple of the other ones... it's really awful when you run out and have nothing to give to people which is way a missionary should never be without a brochure! However, I can't keep too many brochures with me because they are slightly too big for the bag so they get bent at the top (the bag was designed to carry English brochures, which are about an inch or two smaller in height than the French ones)... plus, after a while, the ink starts to smear on the brochures because of the humidity so it looks all gross. But it's okay! That just means I have to give away all my brochures before they get gross! 

I also have a little notebook, which is where I write down all my lists (like I talked about before), write down my favorite quotes and scriptures, and also write down words in French that I would like to remember (I keep this and my dictionary in the same pocket because I'm usually always using them together!). Recently, I've added a mini-Bible to my bag... it's actually a Gideon's bible, but the translation (Louis Segond 21) is only slightly different from the original Louis Segond version that we use. I still have no idea what I'm going to do with it but I'm trying to figure that out. It only cost me a dollar, which I thought was a good price until I saw the inside cover which says, in all caps, "DÉFENSE DE VENDRE CE LIVRE" (prohibited to sell this book)... still, a dollar isn't too bad for a mini-French Bible!

And that's about it! That's my bag for you. Of course, it can change depending on the occasion. For example, sometimes I've got to be carrying an umbrella with me because you never know when the freak rainstorm will come. Also, sometimes I'll carry a copy of the Book of Mormon to give to somebody... usually I don't carry around water because it's just too darn heavy and I can buy "pure water" on the side of the street when I'm really thirsty. 

Also, for a follow up of last week, I've been getting some good glimmers of hope this week! We've been finding some good people who seem interested in hearing about our message and even coming to Church. Elder Izekor, Lala and I went and did OVB (knocking on doors!). Lala and I really did NOT want to do it but we had planned the night before to do it, so, well... we pretty much had no choice. Elder Izekor, seeing that Lala and I were not at all ready to go out and do OVB, decided that we should pray before getting out of the car and doing some OVB. So he offered a little prayer and then as soon as he finished and got out of the car, he talked to the first person he saw coming out of the car. Turns out he was Nigerian, like Elder Izekor! Then, this guy takes us to all his friends at his house (that we happened to park in front of) who were also Nigerians. We're not sure if anything will happen with them but they all (like 6 people) want to come to Church tomorrow so we offered to walk with them to Church this Sunday (tomorrow).... hopefully they can come! 

So, keep up the prayers! They are very powerful and they work! Even Elder Izekor's little prayer that he gave right before we went out had big effects on our day. My companions can tell you that I do not like OVB and am still not very comfortable in just going up to people and talking to them about the Gospel. However, that day we found some good people and the time we spent contacting went by super fast. I'm not sure how many we talked to, but I swear that half of them were Nigerian. Next time, I'm going to say the prayer before going out to do OVB so that we meet Americans! Haha... if only! 

Thanks for everything you guys do to support me here. I hope you all have a wonderful week!


Elder Hawkins

Other random pics:

Elder Izekor braiding hair! He's actually really good at it... eerily good at it.
He did it better and faster than the two other girls working on the hair combined
My bus gauges... as you can see, she can go pretty fast according to the odometer (I think I've gotten it up to 100, maybe even 110 and that was scary enough for me). I don't think the motor could do much better.
Also, modified the photo to make it cool looking.

Elder Woodland, Elder Edwards (going home Tuesday... noooo!), and
Elder Izekor fanning the flames to our BBQ.
Our bought-on-the-side-of-the-street BEEF! It was pretty dang good in the burritos we made. I even brought some of my homemade guacamole which was gone in seconds. 

Elder Merrill, me, and Elder Kunz

Monday, May 19, 2014

Glimmers of Hope

Life sure does have its ups and downs, doesn't it? This week has been a very interesting week... one that surely was full of ups and downs.

One of the most exciting things that happened this week was the opening of the new branch/area, Porto Novo! We found the apartment and the building they would be using about a month ago so it's exciting that everything did finally come together. Elder Lala and I helped bring out the new Elders to the apartment in Porto Novo this past Monday in order to complete the transfer. It's pretty cool to see how the Church is progressing out here... it makes me feel like I'm part of history being made! 

A lot of missionaries have been asking for the phone numbers of the Elders in Porto Novo in order to send them contacts. I'm sure they have been receiving contacts up the wazoo this week just because the members have been waiting so long for the city to finally open up. We even sent them the number of one of our investigators that lives out there!

It will be interesting to see how many people come out to Church in Porto Novo this Sunday. When I was creating the Branch proposal to send to the Area Presidency in Ghana, the local Church leaders here only knew about two large families that live there and we're attending Church at the closest Branch in Cotonou. I feel like a lot of members will be appearing out of nowhere once they hear that the Church is in Porto Novo now... or that they see the missionaries walking around out there! That's pretty fail proof most of the time... when you see the white shirts and ties, members (wherever they may come from) know who the missionaries are. 

Another up has been that we've been pretty busy at the office, with another new group of missionaries coming in (including the new Lala, i.e. a new French malagash Elder!). We've also been training Elder Izekor about how life works here in the Bureau. I can tell that he's having a bit of trouble trying to get used to our rocky, always changing schedule but I remember when I was in his shoes and had a tough time adjusting to the office too. It will come with time, I'm sure. 

Of course, the best "up" of this week was being able to talk with my whole family this past week! It was fun to be able to chat with everybody for a few hours and be able to catch up with how the family was doing. Oddly enough, I was kinda nervous before I got on Skype with everybody... I'm not sure why but I think it was just the excitement kicking in. Of course, everything went fine on the call (I don't know why I was so dark and blurry! I was using a really good computer! Curse of Africa I guess?). I'm glad everybody got a kick out of me and SisSieHawk talking together... I won't lie, it was good to laugh with everybody. Even Elder Christensen could tell I was having a good time because of all the laughing! 

THEN THE POWER WENT OFF AND RUINED EVERYTHING :( That was pretty sad... typical Benin just ruining everything by the power cutting uuuuuggggghhhh. I guess you could say that was the first down that happened to me this week. Happily I was able to call back using our phones and say goodbye to everybody, though it would have been better if I said goodbye on Skype! 

The other big "down" that I had this week was that I finally figure out that I don't like charwamas anymore. Haha! Just kidding! That will NEVER happen.

The actual big "down" that I had came to me this past Thursday... already, because of all the work that we were doing at the Bureau, we had had very, very few lessons for the week. And, to make matters worse, most of our planned RVs for that day were falling through... like flies. We tried calling people to get more RVs but nothing was working. Finally, we went to a member who works in our sector. We stopped by and then, she just started talking for like an hour and a half. Oh my goodness. It was about n'importe quoi too! I love her to death but honestly, even I wouldn't want to hear myself talk for an hour and a half straight. The only thing I can really remember about what she said over that hour and a half was that she believed that people were doing some weird voodoo stuff to her. And for some reason, I don't know why but these people can send bugs to her house and can watch her for them. So she told us about how she smashed this spider that was the size of her palm and then went on to burn it. Turns out, the next day one of her enemies died. Then she told us about a cockroach that was in her house and told us how she prayed (in the direction of the cockroach) saying in the name of Jesus Christ, if you are a demon sent by my enemy, don't move. The cockroach didn't move so she smashed it and burned it. Again, the next day another enemy of hers died.

You know... not that I don't like hearing stories like that because they're kinda funny but while I was listening to her telling us these kinds of stories, I just kept thinking to myself, "what am I doing here? Is this seriously why I came to Africa? To hear stories of people smashing cockroaches by the power of Jesus Christ?" I was just getting so down on myself... so tired of seeing the same people, hearing the same ridiculous stories, worrying over how to replace the 10-or-so investigators that have disappeared, moved, or we've stopped seeing because they won't progress. 

And then of course, I couldn't help thinking about how we could have done OVB rather than talk to the member who we were listening to... but then I couldn't help but think about all the amis that I found in the Area Book that never progressed and were found through OVB... so I know that wouldn't really work... honestly, on that night, I was just in a bad mood and in a bad place.

Yet, even though I was not at all in a good mood and was really down on myself, I still asked the member if she needed help her close for the night by taking everything inside. Of course, she was happy to accept the help and at the end of the night, she did really thank us for coming and having somebody to vent to... that did make me feel just a bit better but that didn't solve all the problems that were going through my head at the time. 

Of course, many of those problems are still running through my head at the moment. And yet, I know that things are going up now. Even yesterday, we were able to see one of our only progressing investigators who we were having a tough time seeing for the past two weeks... and plus, we asked her if she knew somebody who would be interested in seeing us and I think we might end up trying to teach her roommate, so even though it's really not much and it might not pan out, I think a glimmer of hope is better than no glimmer at all. And though I'm very used to glimmers of hope turning into ashes of despair, that's no reason to give up! 

For this week, I feel like my goal is to create more glimmers of hope... I don't think I can just change my sector from night to day in a heartbeat, but if I can just ask for a contact here, work with a member there, and meet some new amis, night might change into day sooner than I will be able to imagine! 

So, pray for me that I will be able to get some glimmers of hope this week! I'll be sure to pray for it too because I really need it... and more importantly, my sector really needs it too! 

Hope you all have a wonderful week... keep going strong in whatever you may be doing!

With love,

Elder Hawkins


 Don't worry, this truck will probably tip over on route to wherever it's going. It's normal.

The Lake and the only bridge that goes from Porto Novo to Cotonou

A little view of the city of Porto Novo.

Picture of the beach in my sector. Hopefully those trees will grow soon because if not, it's too hot to chill out at the beach!

Well, I don't think we'll be having rice shortages anytime soon.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Now Entering the Final Phase

Lala not ruining our quarterly Kunz, Seidl and Hawkins Photo.(in warp drive!)

Warp drive is over. Well, almost over that is. 

When I first got on my mission, time passed so slowly. Every day felt like a lifetime, an eternity. When I was with my trainer, Elder Kiputa, I felt like everyday would last forever. Everything was so new, so foreign to me, and so different that there was so much for me to process during every waking minute. For a long time, I would always say that the longest part of my mission were the three weeks that I was with Elder Kiputa... not that it was his fault or anything, but it was during those first three weeks were I felt the newest in my whole life. 

So, I asked Elder Hanna about that... way, way, way back when we were still together. He told me that the way the mission works is that the first six months go really slow, then the next year goes by super fast, but then the last six months go by very slow, once again. 

Well, I'm at that point now. Like I said, warp drive is over as I now enter the final phase of my mission. The final 1/4 of my mission. I will say that warp drive over this past year has been really crazy. A lot of stuff has happened within this past year and it's hard to believe that the greater part of my mission history has already been written. Of course, that's not to say that the last part won't be just as good as the mission has been so far... most bad movies are bad because they have bad endings! So, you know, I have to end well! 

If my last six months on the mission really do turn out to be slow like the first six months were (I have a feeling that it probably won't be as slow!), I guess it's really only for my good so that way I get to savor the rest of my mission! 

It's really weird because now, all those things that were so foreign to me and so strange to me, are now actually good things! I've gotta make sure I eat all the patte that I can... it's weird too because sometimes I actually crave a little bit of well prepared patte with a good fried fish. I know that I'm pretty weird for thinking that, but you know what they say, things just have a way of growing on you! 

Don't get me wrong... Benin still drives me crazy on a day-to-day basis but there are certain things that I know I'm going to really miss here that I need to really take advantage of. Like the pignes and the other traditional fabrics. Like honestly, the stuff we have back home is so boring (except Fro's stuff!). Like seriously, who invented plaid patterns? Vertical and horizontal lines. Really? You couldn't think of a more creative design?!?!?!?!?!?!

As you can well see, I think I am going mentally insane here as the two things I will miss about this place are patte and fabric. 

But anyway, this week has been pretty average though. We had Zone Conference again this past week and it was good, though very long. President Weed gave his very last Conference this past cycle so it's going to be weird to have President Morin teach us in August! 

It will also be interesting to see what the future holds for me until that next conference. Elder Lala and I got some news today that we would be receiving a new companion this week. His name is Elder Izekor, he is Nigerian, and he has almost a year on the mission now (feels like he didn't get into the mission field too long ago however!). It will be good to get somebody new around here... it's so easy to fall into bad habits when things don't change and things aren't shaken up! I'm excited to be able to work with him... also, all I need is a Togolais companion to complete my West Africa companion collection (Ivorian, Ghanaian, Beninois, and now Nigerian). Unfortunately, there are no Togolais serving in this mission nor are there any scheduled to come here for a while so I feel like my collection will be left incomplete *sad face*

This shake up comes at a great time though. Our sector is really hurting and really needs to be shaken up as well. On Sunday, during weekly planning, I had counted a loss of about 10 amis from the past 2 weeks! Let me tell you, that's hard to come back from. This week we were scraping by, trying to find people to teach. The few amis that we have aren't very enthusiastic either. We almost got a scare from one of our progressing amis, Anni, when she went on a trip to Togo for the weekend and then when we called her after the weekend, she told us that she moved! For a while, we thought it was outside out sector, but thankfully after searching for her new place for over an hour, we finally found out that it was right on the boundaries of our sector... yeah! 

Hopefully, with Elder Izekor, we can find ways to get new investigators that will progress! I think that will be the best thing everyone can pray for this week for me... that we find new investigators to teach, investigators that are willing to accept the gospel and receive the blessings that are tied to the gospel! 

Well, I don't have too much else to say but I want to thank everybody for the prayers that have been said for me! They are very much appreciated. Love you guys and hope that you continue to find joy and happiness in your daily lives.

With love,

Elder Hawkins

Pics and Videos from our Mother's Day Google Hangout:

Elder Lala ruining our quarterly Kunz, Seidl and Hawkins Photo!

Well, it's rainy season! That's my next door neighbor scooping water out of his home with a dust pan... just life in Africa. Also, oddly enough, our apartment, that's on the second floor, flooded a little too. I guess that's what happens when you have slitted windows and doors with huge gaps between it and the ground.
Ca va aller.
Peacock at the French Institute... we were teaching a lesson to a recent convert and this guy was just chilling with us. Then he hopped up on the little canopy thing (which is very poorly constructed) and there was a guy near where the peacock had jumped up and he was so scared that the thing was gonna collapse!
Oooooooh peacocks. Always wreakin' havoc.

NOTE FROM THE FRO: We had a GREAT time "hanging out" with our missionaries on Mother's Day yesterday.  Elder Hawkins called in first and during the last 45 mins of his call, Sister Hawkins joined in.  One of the things we miss the very most is watching these two interact with each other, they are so funny together! Here are a couple clips of some funny moments. Love these two!!! (also, check out that counter on the right side bar, under 200 days left...wooohoooooo!)

Monday, May 5, 2014

Be Anxiously Engaged

Elder Hawkins: Being Inspired (apparently I have two different colored eyes too).

Inspiration is a funny thing. 

Throughout my mission, I've been trying to figure out how "inspiration" works. I still haven't quite figured it out, nor do I think I ever will to be honest! 

In missionary work, I find that I hear inspiration all the time. God inspired a prophet to call us here... Prayer will help you receive inspiration for your amis... Inspiration comes from a variety of sources, the best of which being the Holy Ghost... etc. In fact, the word "inspiration"/"inspire" appear almost 50 times in Preach My Gospel! To somebody who wasn't in my shoes, they might seem to think that we're inspired just about every waking moment of our mission.

And yet... I don't feel like I'm "inspired just about every waking moment of (my) mission." Well, maybe not in the way people think that inspiration comes! 

I've found that, in order for me to be inspired, I need to start doing something. Many times, I just need to go. For example, a lot of times when I write emails home, I have no idea what to write about (today being a good example!). Another example would be on what to study... many times I have no idea what to study for a day, yet I find that just doing it is usually the best way for me to study. Or, another good example would be during our daily and weekly planning... many times, I don't feel exceptionally inspired when setting goals or figuring out who to see for the next day. 

Before my mission, I often thought that we had to be inspired first before we started doing inspired things. What I mean to say is I thought we had to have those epiphany moments in order to be inspired. 

However, what I've found is that that's not really how inspiration works for me on a daily basis. Instead, like I said, I need to start doing something in order for me to get inspired. I think this can be compared to when people are scared to make a choice because they don't know if it is inspired of heaven or not. It reminds me of this scripture from Doctrine and Covenants 58:26-28, which says:

For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.
Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; 
For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.

I discovered, or really first started to pay attention, to this scripture when I first hit the MTC and ever since then, it has really stuck with me. I've found that, in order to be inspired, one really has to be "anxiously engaged in a good cause" and then do things by our own free will. 

And that's the key! I've found that in order to do good things, it often comes to me on the fly when I'm anxiously engaged in a good cause. I'll give you a few examples:

  • For our pancake activity, Elder Lala and I were doing our weekly planning session one day. I really wanted to do something for the branch and an activity in order to get people to come and see the Church... we were throwing around ideas and then all of a sudden, I remembered how Dad and Steve did a pancake activity on their mission... BOOM. Idea created.
  • Once with Elder Legbanon, we were doing OVB... we basically had no idea what to do and neither of us had the courage to talk to anybody. So, what did we do? We just decided to pray in the middle of the street. Afterwards, we just started to walk. We didn't wait for somebody to come up to us nor did we wait for an idea to come to us. We just started walking. As we were walking, about five minutes later, both Elder Legbanon and I were inspired to talk to this one lady on the street. It went well, but long story short, we finally met her for the first time about a month later and she fed us some awesome food! One of the best mangez-vous ever (and with a brand new ami, first RV!)
  • I don't know if I told you guys this story (I think I did) but a long time ago, over a year ago, when I was still having trouble with French, Elder Imoukuede and I went on a split together. Both of us being English speakers, we didn't know how to speak French very well. And to make matters worse, we were in my area, meaning I had to make all the shots. I was scared out of my mind that day. In the morning, we had a RV that was probably one of the worst RV that I had ever had in my mission. It was extremely discouraging... I didn't even want to go out for the afternoon after that epic failure of a lesson. But... we did. And then we come to another ami and we talked about the Book of Mormon and it was spectacular... I was so happy that the lesson went well... I felt the words just flowing out of my mouth and I didn't have any trouble communicating with our ami.
You see? Anxiously engaged in a good cause! As long as you keep doing what is right, good things will follow! Inspiration from the Holy Ghost will happen... but the key is that you have to be ready to be inspired... and usually, that means getting down and getting to work. Don't be hesitating... don't be waiting... don't be lazy! Just do it! 

I'm really thankful to have had these experiences, as well as many others, throughout my mission that have taught me this lesson. Many times we fear if we are doing the right thing, if we are being guided by God and the Holy Ghost... yet the Lord promises that if we have just a bit of courage... just a bit of faith, then He will work miracles through us! 

I wish you all a wonderful week! Keep going strong... enjoy the warm weather! Keep praying for spiritual experiences for me. Nothing really exceptional happened to me this past week, but there's no reason to get discouraged!

Just gotta be anxiously engaged... 

Love you all!

Elder Hawkins

Pic sent by Sis. Eastmond: They had no idea I took it, but the business was handled very professionally.
It was a phone call from Elder Gray, haha.