Monday, August 25, 2014

Lose Yourself in the Work

AFRIKA!


Still alive and still in Africa! 

That's just about as exciting as the week has gotten for me. When I was in the office, I felt like there was something new happening just about every week... but when you're a missionary out in the field... well, you just do the same things over and over again! 

Last week I mentioned that my companion and I have been working hard at trying to visit all of our amis and being diligent in seeing the contacts people have been giving us. Well, it has been working because this week we pushed ourselves a little harder and we were able to really get things going in this sector. We were able to squeeze out a few more lessons this week and I think we have really been pushing ourselves to see people. 

On Tuesday, we had a Zone Meeting which, in my opinion, are not really the most exciting parts of missionary work. A lot of times I feel like we just talk about stuff we already know. I was complaining about it a bit to Elder Mejean (a Zone Leader) and he said that I should at least try to get something out of it... I'm not really sure if I got anything out of the meeting but I did enjoy being there and I tried not to mope around and complain, I'll call that progress! 

Afterwards, we had a zone activity at a member's house in Aibatan... where we ate some Fufu... aka enyam pilee. We ate it with some really good chicken and some beesap (the juice that people make out of hibiscus leaves). We had to pay for it but because the zone pitched in, we ended up getting a good amount of food for the amount we paid... so I was happy!


AFRIKA... enyam pilee style... pictured is Soeur Florence, Soeur Assouman, and Elder Jenkins


Elder Silvas and I enjoying some enyam pilee with peanut sauce and chicken.


Elder Silvas just couldn't handle keeping a huge chunk of pima for more than a minute. Poor kid.


 Blue tongue and teeth from the beesap!
Kinda weird and I never noticed that beesap did that to your teeth and tongue.

What I was not happy about was as we were on our way to the member's house to eat, Elder Jenkins decided to stop and buy yogurt on the side of the road. Of course I had to buy some because I was missing my yogurt lady that I had back at the office! And that's when I learned that not all yogurts are created equal. It was awful yogurt. Tasted like wheat. How you get yogurt to taste like wheat is beyond me, but this lady somehow found a way to do that. Goodness, it was not very good. And she put sweetened condensed milk into it... like seriously, if you need to put sweetened condensed milk to sweeten your roadside yogurt, than you have got a problem.

Needless to say, I will not be buying yogurt from that lady anytime soon. However, I'm still on the hunt for good roadside yogurt in my sector... so far I have seen no fruits from my labors. 

Yesterday, we had a nice time not having water! Before I got to the area, this apartment was famous for it's water outages and once I got here and saw how bad they were, I told myself nope I'm not gonna deal with this! So I got a water tank installed with a water pump and as long as we have power, we have really good water pressure! 

But then, yesterday, we noticed that we didn't have any water and that we had no water in the water tank... what the heck?! For there to be no water in the tank, that's gotta mean that the water has been cut for awhile! We called the office and asked them if they had paid our bills and they said yes... so we were pretty confused as to why they cut the water at our apartment.

After getting home from all our appointments, there were so many dishes that had piled up, and still no water. I couldn't take it anymore. So, we took a couple of buckets and drew water up from the well! Elder Mejean and I were doing an alright job drawing up water, but my comp came in and, him being Togolais and all, was a freaking champion and a water-pumping machine. So we took all the water from the well and poured it into the water tank so that the pump could pump water through the pipes. We got quite a bit of water and we decided to stop once the water turned brown... we felt like that was a pretty good indicator. We felt kinda bad when the neighbors got a little mad that we used up all the good water as they depend on the well to bathe, do laundry, etc. Still, it was the best temporary solution we could think of as nothing could be solved on a Sunday.

Now, here's the dumbest thing about this story...we found out this morning that the neighbors' kids had SHUT OFF OUR WATER! OH THE LITTLE RASCALS. They are so annoying to begin with because they like to come into our apartment and be stupid and then make tons of noise while we're trying to sleep but gaaaahhhhh I wanted to go MAPOLO all over them!!!!!!!!!! But I controlled myself and have not gone mapolo on them. (in case you all have forgotten, mapolo means I'm going to hit you in Ewe). And we have water now so we're all happy.

In other news, I have again learned to walk a lot... it's funny because I didn't realize how much muscle I lost in my legs when I started driving everywhere while I was in the bureau. Now my lower legs hurt all the time because of all the walking we do. It's weird because I don't remember feeling these kinds of pains at the beginning of my mission. 

Now, of course, in walking so much I have a lot of time to think... maybe even too much time. Being so close to the end, I do tend to think a lot about home because now I actually can... at the beginning of my mission, I would avoid thinking about home at all costs because I knew that it would be a very, very, very long time before I would see any of that stuff again! Because of that, I pretty much just made it a habit not to think about home...

...But now... things are a bit different. It's like I can taste home because it's so close! Plus, with three other Elders in the apartment going home within the next two months, that's pretty much all we do is talk about going home (not when my companion is around of course!). 

Now, trying to fight off those thoughts has been tough! But I've been trying to keep myself busy, because working is the best way to lose yourself in missionary work! I feel like I have been trying to do that my whole mission... I think it's only now that I realize that I have been "lost" in missionary work for a while because time has flown by so fast. With the family being in Topsail, NC this week, I swear that it wasn't too long ago that they were telling me the same thing... over a year ago! 

I'm having a great time though. We have people to teach, people who love the Gospel, and people who keep us busy during the day. Thankfully, my comp has been a huge help too because he is a really great missionary already! Still rough around the edges (as expected) but he has really surpassed my expectations and knows a lot about missionary work already. Gotta love them Togolais! 

Keep praying that I will have people to teach and that the people I do teach will start to progress and develop faith in the Gospel! 

Hope you all have a great week! And a quick shout out to the Fro, Happy Froday! I'll be there for the next one! 

Love,

Elder Hawkins


Found this on my comps side of the desk... Semehawkins! Gotta nice ring to it, huh? A for creativity!



Monday, August 18, 2014

My Area of Expertise



Well, back in the hot, sweaty cyber! I’m actually writing this email in a Word document right now as to not waste time while I wait for the connection to come back. This is exciting.

As for the week, we were pretty productive, if I might say so myself! We were able to get a few new amis and I was surprised that we were able to teach the amount of lessons that we did! I think this week we can push ourselves even further and harder if we really try (and of course, I will really try).

This past Saturday, we had the annual Mormon Helping Hands activity… if you remember last years, in Togo, we went to the TVT (national Togo television station) and did some weeding and cleaning up. This year, our part of Cotonou (there were three projects in three different places so that people could attend without paying too much to get to a project) we went to a… drum roll please… hospital!

Goodness gracious, no I didn’t work with people with flu-like symptoms or have to wear a crazy body suit to prevent getting Ebola… this hospital seemed more like a clinic for people to go to (so no patients actually stay there). Plus, we didn’t even go inside the hospital. What we did was move rocks and then spread cement so that way they can put cobblestone in the courtyard (which will double as a parking lot I suppose). It wasn’t that big of a project actually because we finished in like an hour (there were about 200-300 people there I think). Of course, the real reward came from getting some African sandwiches and African lemonade! Boom! Score! Oh yeah and the blessings from helping your neighbor made me feel nice and good too.

Getting there was actually the most fun part of the whole thing… our branch rented this ghetto bus that I call a “Tokpa bus” because you see them on the main roads all the time heading to the main marche aka Tokpa. They are always PACKED full of people and they look extremely uncomfortable. But… I didn’t have time to complain on Saturday… it was either take the bus for a dollar (that covered the return trip too) or pay a moto ride… I’m still not sure what is safer, but I suppose the bus is and plus all the people can double as airbags if you sit in the middle and get hit by a car, right?

Anyway, like I said, the bus was pretty ghetto. What they do is they take out all of the normal benches in a van (they don’t really have these kinds of vans back in the states but think of those big Ford vans) and then put in tiny benches that have been welded together by an ironworker. Needless to say, the more spots you put in the car, the more money a bus will get so the benches are tiny… and they didn’t really think about giving leg space to a 6’2” guy… so the whole ride wasn’t too comfy. But, it’s a cultural experience! That’s what’s important!

I think the funniest part was that we stalled twice in trying to get across town to the service project… thankfully I was packed way too far back in the bus to have to go and push it out of the road. I’m sorry I couldn’t get any pictures for you guys but I’ll be sure to take a picture the next time I’m in a Tokpa bus.

Speaking of Tokpa buses, I actually took my first real one today! Meaning I actually packed myself like a sardine in one of those buses and took a nice ride. There was a soccer activity down in Gbedjromede that we stopped by and said hi to a few people… then Elder Mejean and I went down to the marche to buy some ground beef and flour… I’ll be sure to NEVER take a picture of the meat market I bought my meat from. Remember that picture of that roadside butcher? Think that but about 10x bigger with a billion flies.

Taking the bus was actually kind of funny. All the buses stop by this big gas station right outside of the marche and people stand around calling the places where their busses are going to. Once they see the white guys, they start going nuts. Some guys started grabbing and trying to pull Elder Mejean in their busses (nobody touched me… guess I have some sort of intimidation factor). We finally found one and got inside. There were already about 10 people stuffed in there and I of course I thought, well we should be off pretty soon because I don’t think you can fit very many more people in a van the size of a small VW bus. But three more people got in and they tried calling more people to get in but there were no takers… so off we went!

One thing I should talk about is how there are two people that work for the bus… the driver and the (name I have given him) cattle herder. The cattle herder’s job is to get as many people into the bus as humanly possible. So, as we were driving off and away, the cattle herder put his head out the window and kept calling out “Calavi” (the final destination). So, though I thought there was no more room, we pull over and another person gets in… then we get going again, and two minutes later, another person gets in. At this point, I’m thinking there is no way on this green earth that another person could fit in here… well, the Cattle Herder set out to prove me wrong I guess and we pulled over for a third time, and the cattle herder opened up the back and crouched down in the trunk (think back of a minivan).

But then, the driver proved me wrong and we pulled over AGAIN to pick somebody up. This time, the driver got out and a lady got up and shared the driver’s seat with the driver. In total, I think we got up to around 18 people before we got off. I don’t think I ever understood being packed into a car like a can of sardines until that experience. But all in all, being crowded into a Tokpa bus with no AC was actually kinda fun!
That’s one thing that I have been enjoying about these past couple of weeks… even though I’m nearing the end of my mission, new experiences are happening all the time. Like being asked to teach Relief Society!

At first, I thought it wasn’t that big of a deal that they asked me because I figured it would be about missionary work… well, it turns out that the subject would be on how to raise children in a gospel centered home, which is of course my area of expertise as I have raised many children in gospel centered homes!

As nervous as I was to teach a room full of sassy African women how to raise children, the lesson actually turned out quite well. We had a really engaging discussion about how do things with kids in order to give them gospel-related experiences that they will remember for the rest of their lives (daily prayer, family home evening, reading scriptures as a family, etc.). I explained that doing those things would help influence a child’s choice once they start having to make decisions that can influence the rest of their lives. We talked about how parents can’t make choices for their kids, but they can be examples to them and give them experiences that will help them remember the importance of the Gospel of Christ in one’s life. Thankfully, having parents that did all those things with me during my own childhood, it was actually a pretty easy lesson to teach.

However, the very last question that was asked was really powerful. As everyone in that room, besides myself and Elder Mejean, are converts to the Church, a sister asked how they could do all of those things to help influence their children to choose good over evil. How could they, members with little experience in the Church, do all the things that would be necessary to be a good Latter-day Saint parent?


Daniel Garn


Then, I talked about a convert and pioneer in my own family: Daniel Garn. He, much like the sisters in that room, was not born in the Church. In fact, he was the 35th member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He walked and talked with the likes of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, etc. He too had to fight a lot of opposition coming from family members and friends for his choice in joining the Church and following the counsel of the prophets. Yet, because of his dedication to the Gospel, his faith in Jesus Christ, and his belief in truthfulness of the Church, hundreds, if not thousands, of lives were changed because of his choice. So many people have come to know the infinite amount of blessings found in this Gospel because of his example.

I told the sisters that they too were at the head of many generations of faithful members of the Church to come. They too would be the pioneers that could change the lives of their children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, etc. I told them that if they continued to study the Gospel, be faithful to Christ, and fulfill their duties as mothers and wives that they would one day see thousands of their own posterity blessed because of their example and their dedication to the Church of Jesus Christ.

Honestly, I don’t think I had ever taught more powerfully my whole mission. I could feel the Spirit in me, just burning so greatly. While I was talking, just about every single person in that room was paying attention. It was a really extraordinary experience. I didn’t get any thank you's after the lesson (it’s normal here) but as I was talking and testifying, I did get a few amens so I’ll take that as a thank you!

I just want to end in saying that I’m so thankful for the courage that my own ancestors had in standing up for what they believed to be true! Thanks to them, I’m out here helping others learn about the Gospel and learn that there really is a Father in Heaven that loves and watches over them. I think it’s pretty cool that, though I have never met the pioneers in my own heritage, I am helping the pioneers out here in Benin and Togo so that one day, they too can have their posterity look at them and admire them for their faith and their courage. 

Who knew that there would be such a strong connection between 21st century West African and 19th century American pioneers? And who would have thought that I would have been lucky enough to be a part of both?

Thanks for the prayers and love,
Elder Hawkins

How to eat a coconut, West Africa style:


1. Find a coconut lady (we actually have a member that does them not too far from our apartment!). And yes, that's how coconuts are fresh off the tree.

2. Have the her cut a coconut.

3. Take off the "lid" of the coconut. (You can see the actual coconut "meat" that most people are accustomed to seeing).

4. Drink away! It's actually kind of sparkly/soda-like oddly enough. Very sweet and very delicious!


5. Give the coconut back to the coconut lady, have her cut it open, and eat the still moist and chewy insides (it has the same texture as wet rubber but it's not very hard to chew). Again, really good! 



Note from the Fro: Note to self: get Trevor to teach RS when he returns. And try not to worry about the meat he bought covered with flies....



Monday, August 11, 2014

New Sector, New Comp...Life is Good


Elder Semeha's first mangez-vous! 


It has officially been one week back in the field of missionary work... lots and lots and lots have things have changed since I last wrote to you guys. But, just so you all know, things are going well and I am doing well too! (and NO ebola!)

I got my new companion, Elder Semeha this week! Fresh out of Togo and even fresher out of the MTC! He's a really nice guy and I think we are going to get along great. It was kinda weird because he only came on the mission with one carry-on size piece of luggage... then I look at all my bags and wonder if I really need all the things I have! Then I remember that he probably lived a lot like the people I saw back in Togo who don't have a whole lot to begin with... but I feel like it wasn't by accident that the Lord put him and I together because I will be leaving a ton of stuff behind which I'm sure he can use. I sure hope my vitamins don't give him the same problems that they gave me...

Other than that, things are going well in Menontin... except for the water cutting almost daily... and the power was out for a few hours today as well, though it doesn't seem to be as much of a problem. One of the first things I did when I got to Menontin was call the couple to tell them to install a water tank at the apartment (when you have a water tank it gives you a backup supply of water so when the water does cut, you don't notice it because you have an extra tank of water!). 

Other than that the apartment is nice. I'm with Elder Mejean (French) and Elder Mbala (Congolais). They're both really nice guys, but the funny thing is that we are all going home within the next three months which I think makes it a little hard for my companion but he seems to be taking it like a champ. Elder Mejean is a lot of fun to be with because we both started our missions at around the same time and we talk about cool stuff in France (from what I can remember anyways). 

Background: Benin has recently been enforcing a law where people have to wear helmets if they ride a moto. It's been crazy and it's basically all people talk about here! But, as you might expect, people can pretty much get away with anything on their head and it will pass for a helmet (think cardboard boxes). Well, one of our members seems to have gotten a cool Army helmet! That's Elder Mejean sportin' the helmet, btw.


As for the sector... well we have a couple of amis that I hope will progress. We actually had three amis at Church yesterday which is a miracle in and of itself because we hadn't even been working in the sector for more than a week. The nice thing about Zogbo is that it's actually a very old sector and there are quite a few members that we can go and see. We've been asking for contacts from everybody and everybody seems to have people ready to take the missionary lessons. I think this week will be a big test because this is when we'll actually follow up on all the contacts. Hopefully we can get a few interested people out of it! 

As for myself... it's kinda weird to be in the sector again. Wake up, get ready, study, go out at 10:30 (because I have to train, we have to study for an extra hour), get back at 12:30, eat lunch, go out at 2:30, then come back to the apartment at around 8:00 PM. For now, I'm actually liking getting back into the routine and getting back into real missionary work, but I'm afraid that I'm going to get bored of being in the same routine. Hoping that won't happen just because I only have a matter of weeks left on my mission, so I'm learning to cherish as much as I can here on the mish.  

For the first part of last week, the ZLs in our apartment were going out with us showing people in our sector. Then, on Thursday, they had to go to their own RVs in their own sector so we were pretty much left on our own that day... needless to say, I was pretty dang scared because I still really didn't know the sector, but things turned out okay. 

I've been figuring that I really need to trust in the Lord right now... I know that he put me in this dead sector training a new missionary for a reason. So far, things have been working out for the best. Even on Saturday, we had four appointments and all four turned out great. To be honest, the days where we are able to see everybody we have planned to see are rare on this mission! Though there were few lessons to be taught that day, the reason there were so few was because we had to walk an hour to get to this recent converts house... I thought it wouldn't be that hard but once I got home, my feet hurt so bad... plus now I have sun burn on my face which is kinda embarrassing but at least I will be going home with a nice tan (well, I hope that the sunburn turns into a tan anyways...). 

In other news... I'm sure Fro has told you all about my flight plans... won't lie... I may or may not have jumped and shouted for joy when the Office Elders handed those to me. It was a sweet moment for me... I thought the day would never come. However, unlike other missionaries who like to stick their's up on the wall for everybody to see or carry them around and show them to people, mine is safely tucked away where I can't see it on a regular basis! I'm honestly trying to not make my companion feel bad!!! I was in his position when I got on the mission and know how rough it is to be thinking of all those months still ahead,  so I'm trying my best to not talk about going home with him or with investigators... although it is kinda funny when people ask me how much time I have left and then they turn and ask him... ahhhh... I remember those days!

Goodness... the only other thing I have to say is that I'm loving life as of right now! It's good to be a missionary to be honest... and plus, when you have a sector that seems to be turning in the right direction, you can't help but smile! 

I hope you all have a great week! Thanks for the prayers and kind thoughts... if you need something to pray for, pray that I will have a good connection at the Cyber next week and that I stay healthy! 

Love,

Elder Hawkins

More Pics:



 Boom! BBQ! Last week we had a nice BBQ out in Avotrou. There was meat. And it was good.

This is Lac NokouĂ©, which is the north border of my sector. It's a pretty shallow lake but the part that touches my sector seems to be filled with trash. Trust me, it smells lovely. Next week, I'll have to send a picture of Jean's house, the branch clerk, as he lives on a house built on the water. It's pretty scary to be inside.

Just preppin' some patte, Beninois style. 

It's a little bit thicker than Togolais patte and they eat this green stuff called "krenkren" with a lot of their sauces (the point of the krenkren is that it makes the sauce thicker so that you can scoop it all up with the patte). It doesn't exist in Togo so my comp was pretty confused when he saw it! It's funny to see all the differences between Togo and Benin, even though you would think they would be virtually the same countries! 


Note from the Fro: For all those who are asking about Ebola in Benin....there were two cases that were being tested for it, although this article (click HERE to read) states that both cases came back negative.  So as of now, Benin is holding strong against the virus.  Keep those prayers for West Africa coming!  And pray that my boy will be able to finish out his mission there in good health. 



Sunday, August 3, 2014

Last Week in the Bureau

My favorite person in the office! This is Precious! She's nigerian but she's lived a good part of her life in Benin so she knows French and English really well! She's so awesome... always super happy and very easy to make life... I am going to miss her dearly! 


Wow... what a crazy week! My very last week at the Bureau! It's just been so crazy this week because we have been going to soooooo many hospitals! Everywhere! In trying to give back to the community, we have been visiting tons of hospitals and singing christmas carols to them (even though it's August). They seem to really like it! It's pretty crazy to see how many sick people there are here, not sure what is going on in Africa... coughing, throwing up, groaning, oozing blood, just looking sick in general! The crazy thing is that in Benin, it's custom to always offer whatever water you have to a guest, so every time we go and visit people in the hospital, we always have to drink out of their water or else it's very rude. But people here don't look too sick... they all seem to have symptoms of the flu. I think I saw a few dead people, but I can't confirm that... even our amis have all been looking sick... one of them threw up on Elder Oliverson and he was pretty mad about it because it ruined his favorite shirt and tie, but he's gotten over it. 

Okay, okay...before the Fro has a heart attack, that was all a joke! Ebola is NOT a problem in Benin so don't worry about us. Yes Fro sent me hand sanitizer that smells like candles meaning I use it all the time because it smells so good... so you don't have to worry about me. And nobody threw up on Elder Oliverson. (Note from the Fro: that was just mean...yes I almost had a heart attack! Drinking the water? Ugh.)

Today was a pretty crazy day because we had to move everybody around for transfers... which means driving to the Togo border (Sur, I'm not sure if they pay rent or not). It was even more fun because they have destroyed most of the paved road going out to Togo, which makes driving there even slower... and plus, we had to drive the bus! Wooohooo! No low suspension and almost no shocks! 

The dumbest part about the whole thing was when we had to merge into a single lane to pass onto the other side of the road. In doing so, I hit a guy's side view mirror and broke the mirror part (the housing was fine aside from some paint scratching off). The guy got out and made a HUGE deal about how I hit his stupid side view mirror. Like 5-6 pedestrians came over and made a little group (thankfully Izekor was there to help negotiate my way out of going to the police station with him). What really astonished me the most was that I was acting really calm and just telling him I was sorry and I didn't see how close he was to me because I'm high up in the van and he was on the passenger side. You would think that I had scratched his Mercedes or Rolls Royce... but no... he was freaking out about his Ford Focus. A Ford Focus. We gave him $20 (which was too much but he wanted $30) and it took him a while to calm down but he saw we weren't budging and I think he realized he was acting like a complete clown, so he just stopped arguing, took the money, and got in his car. 

Just kinda makes me shake my head and I say to myself "Ohhhh Afri-ka!"

I'm glad that I will probably not have to deal with any of those situations any longer though! Even today, while we were driving around, people kept reminding us that they needed their propane tank refilled, or that they needed extra money because their ATM card didn't work, or that we need to give a present for this person because she's going home... there are just so many little things that an Office Elder has to do which makes the job quite annoying sometimes.

One of the problems with being an Office Elder was that just about everyone asks you to do just one little favor for them... just one! Except that when everybody asks for that one favor... well, that's a lot of favors! And there's not often a whole lot of thanks in the work that we do so that gets really tiring, really quick.

But to be quite honest, even with the problems there were, I loved being in the Office. I feel like I was able to do a lot of things in the Office that I would have never have been able to do in the field. 

Throughout my mission, I've always felt like I was never really the person made for straight up missionary work... I struggle with a lot of aspects in missionary work like talking to strangers, taking care of amis at Church, teaching in lessons, finding creative ways to find people. In the first part of my mission, I thought I would get really good at those things... though I'm sure I am better than I was before at all of them now... I just never really felt like I was ever doing enough or doing what I was doing well enough. 

And then... President Weed called me to the Office. And for once, I actually felt like I was fitting in somewhere in this mission. For example, driving people over to the Togo border, or running errands around Cotonou... that's something I can do! I mean heck, if I can drive from DC to Philadelphia from 12-3 AM without dying or drive my uncle's Infinity to Manhattan without putting a scratch on it, I think I can handle the craziness of Cotonou and Benin!

Of course, it was pretty easy for me to put back on the "Tech Guy" hat in the bureau! From photoshopping passport photos, to redesigning the journal, to fixing tech problems, to helping the Morins learn how to use their iPhones... I just felt like I was in the right place. Everything felt really normal to me and I never felt out of place at the bureau.

And it never hurts to throw in a little A/C, too! 

The other thing that I loved about being here was that every week was always different... there really wasn't anything routine about the Bureau... always a new problem to solve, always a new place to go, always a new person to see! At the end of the day, I just had tons of fun doing what I was doing here.

Of course, that's not to say that I wasn't a missionary! I still had people to teach, people to find to teach, people to take care of at Church, and duties to do at Church, but I felt like there was always a blend and it fit me quite well. I think it was exactly what I needed too. The experiences that I had at the Bureau have been priceless... I don't think I will ever trade it for anything. Nine months is a long time, don't get me wrong, but I honestly feel like I'm ready and that I did what I needed to do.

And now, I start a new chapter of my mission, and most likely the final chapter of my mission. I'm scared though! It's been nine months since I've worked a normal missionary schedule! And to make matters more difficult, I'm training a brand new missionary... his first twelve weeks are my last twelve weeks. I have a feeling that these next twelve weeks are going to be hard, but I have a feeling that they will be the twelve weeks that I will need. I have a feeling that this last sector will be the ultimate test of where I am as a missionary... almost like a final exam that the Lord will be giving me to show me how much I have grown as a missionary and how I am not that same kid I was when I first stepped foot in the MTC. 

I can't wait for this next chapter of my mission... it's scary to think how close home is, but it's even more scary that everything I've come to love here will be getting farther and farther away. 

Thanks to everybody for the kind love and support... especially the prayers! Keep praying that I will be in good health to return home... I'll be needing it the most during these last couple of months! 

Love,

Elder Hawkins

Whoops... accidentally took tons of photos this week... 

Enyam pile night!!! For family home evening this past week, we went over to our favorite family's house and made some Enyam pile... aka African mashed potatoes! It's nothing like mashed potatoes but that's the best way to describe it. 


Oliverson and I prepping the sauce (meaning pulling the stems of the leaves)... what a tedious process. 

Worse part? Izekor messed up the sauce so we didn't even end up eating it!!!! But it's okay, Mama Rebecca whipped up this amazing spicy peanut sauce so all was well in the end.

BOOM! BOOMBA NIGHT (we had a traditional Africa night with the family... they all thought it was hilarious to see us in Boombas because they only see us in missionary attire).
Us all taking shots at the Enyam piling... it's pretty hard and you get tired really quickly. 




Actually rather dangerous if you don't know what you're doing. 


Elder Izekor is an enyam piler master by the way... Enyam piling is in his DNA! 


Final product! 

The meal with the peanut sauce... eaten with hands, of course.


Random pictures:

Flooded streets. nbd.

August 1st was Independence Day in Benin. It got pretty crazy here and they shut down the major road in Cotonou for most of the week so traffic was a nightmare... but Cotonou looked nice when it had flags everywhere... I thought this was the best looking one. 


Well, it just wouldn't be a good week if I didn't include a picture of Ceilia, would it? I actually just got off the phone with her mom and told us it was going to be hard for them to get to Church because the State now requires all moto drivers to wear helmets! We told them that we would help get them to Church, but it was funny because Rebecca handed Ceilia the phone and she started saying "Haw-KINS! Haw-KINS! (something in Mina)." When I asked her mom what she said, she said that Ceilia asked me if I had a helmet because I really need one! Haha it made me crack up! The thing that surprises me the most about her is that she actually always remembers my name whenever I visit her! Most Beninois cannot remember my name to save their lives, but I think she remembers my name better than my companions' names because it's only two syllables.