Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Got Faith?

Elie, Elder Semeha, and I at the baptism Saturday.

Third time's a charm? This will be the third time that I am rewriting my weekly letter for this past week! Goodness... if there's one thing that I won't miss, it will be power outages and internet outages. I'm not sure if people back home realize how lucky they are! 

This past week went a lot better than the week before... this week, my companion and I worked really hard so that I could keep myself distracted and lost in the work.

After the Cyber last week, I was thinking of ways to get distracted and not think about going home. The next day, my companion and I were doing companionship study when my companion talked to me about how he wanted me to start helping him learn English during language study...I was actually quite surprised because nobody has ever asked me to help them with their language study before! So, my companion and I have started to do that... surprisingly, his English is actually pretty good right now. Our focus has been in pronunciation and vocabulary. We've also been setting aside certain parts of the day where we only speak English to each other (aside from lessons). It has helped
solve the problem where we usually don't speak to each other in the sector because I basically talk to him a lot about things in English so that he can spruce up his vocabulary.

In exchange for my help with English, my companion has been helping me brush up on my Ewe, because really, he thinks it's so funny, as does everyone here, when a white person speaks Ewe! Let me tell you, these languages here are difficult because they use so many sounds that don't exist in English. For example "gb" is a really big deal here...I remember one day back in Togo when I was trying to remember this sauce that I really liked with patte called, what I thought "bomun". However, in reality it's "gbomun" and the g sound comes from the back of your throat and can be really hard to hear if you don't pay attention... everyone made fun of me that day because I thought bomun started with a b... but no, it's a g... but whether it starts with a b or g, it's still a good sauce!

Also, as my companion has been helping me with Ewe, he was teaching me how a lot of words in Ewe have multiple meanings... like mountain and ear are the same word. I also learned that Ewe also means "difficult" which I believe comes from the fact that it's a difficult language to learn!

We've also been trying to work really close with the Branch president in order to help the branch. In our district meeting last week, we decided that having a meeting with him would be imperative to helping us fulfill our job in helping out the Branch... so, I set up the meeting with him... and got really mad at him because he was two hours late! Okay, well I wasn't really mad, pretty used to it by now, but goodness... two hours, seriously?

Nevertheless, we went on with the meeting and it went great.... it was actually one of the better moments on my mission because I could really feel the Branch president coming out to us and telling us what his branch needed from us. From that meeting, we're going to start a new Sunday school class to help new converts learn how to integrate
into the Church and apply the Gospel in their lives (like using the priesthood, creating good gospel habits such as family home evening, how give talks, how to fulfill callings, etc)... it's basically a class on how to be a good member of the Church.

In another meeting we had with the Branch president, we outlined everything we would be teaching and who would be teaching the class...it was actually pretty tough for us to pick somebody to teach the class, but after a few suggestions, the Branch president said, "Well, what about Elie?"

Elie just happens to be the newest convert to the Menontin branch, baptized just last Saturday and confirmed a member of the Church this past Sunday. He is a really intelligent and bright guy who was given to us as a contact from the Gbedjromede sisters. He just sucked up all the lessons that we taught to him, but really the key to his conversion was from his friend, who is already a member of the Church. It might sound bizarre to say that she was key to his conversion because she (1) never helped us teach a lesson to him and (2) never has gone to church with him since she's in a different branch. But, to be honest, she was key because she helped respond to a lot of the questions he had and outside of our lessons, they would talk about what was taught in the lessons, what he learned at Church, etc.

Now, back to the class we were setting up with the Branch president, at first I thought it was kinda crazy to call somebody who was just baptized as a teacher to this class... but one of our goals with this class was to call somebody how would not only teach it but learn from the material he would be teaching. I'm still a little bit nervous about him and his new calling, but more often than not, you just got to trust the Lord!

Speaking of trusting the Lord, I'll leave you with a cool little story that happened to us last night. This past week, we have been ravaged with power outages, much like we were having at the beginning of this year. The power would cut for at least 3 hours and this past week was terrible. Multiple days this week, we've had the power cut on us for
over 6 hours (sometimes at night, which is obviously the worst since I can't sleep without a fan). Frankly, they can be unbearable and it hasn't helped that this week has been very hot.

And last night, it cut again right as I was typing my last letter to you guys. We then went to a family home evening (held by candle light) which went well (really because we got to eat a pineapple, the charwama of the fruit family). As we were dodging the huge puddles and mud on our way home (which were only visible thanks to the tiny flashlight on our circa-90s cellphone), my companion says to me "Okay, I KNOW we will have power when we get home." I'm just thinking okay man... you can say that but, he knew as well as I that when the power cuts around 7pm, that usually means it will be off until at least midnight, if not the next morning.

As we were walking up our street, I noticed that the power was still off. I thought to myself, well if the Lord is gonna bring back the power for my companion, it's gonna be now or never! Still a little bit discouraged, I said a little silent prayer saying something along the lines of "I know my faith is small, but I know my companion has faith that the
power will come back. If my faith is too small, at least remember the faith of my companion."

We get to the gate of our apartment... still no power.

We unlock and get through the gate... still no power.

We take off our shoes... still no power.

Discouraged, yet still hopeful, I pull out the keys to open up the apartment door and as I get the key ready to put in the door...

BOOM. The power is back.

I can't really tell you why... I've prayed for the Lord to bring back the power many times on my mission and sometimes the power would come back and sometimes it wouldn't. But this time, something was different. Maybe the Lord knew that I couldn't go another sleepless night without power. Maybe the Lord knew that my companion really did
believe that He would bring back the power that night. Maybe the Lord is finally helping Benin solve it's power problem. Or maybe it was the simple act of praying on behalf of my companion and not myself.  Honestly, I don't really know why the Lord brought the power back, but what I do know is that He really helped me regain hope in a night where I was so filled with disappointment because of the fact that I couldn't send my letter. I also learned that even "If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed (...) nothing shall be impossible unto you" (Matt 17:20).

Maybe you won't get what you want when you want it, or even get what you want at all... but if the Lord can restore power to a country as small and unknown as Benin at the very moment I needed it, the Lord can do so much more and so much greater.

But... that all depends on you and your grain of faith.

Thanks again to everyone for the encouragement and the prayers... they were much appreciated and I hope you have seen that they were answered!

With love,

Elder Hawkins

Chrawamas all around! After the baptism.

Praying mantus... in french it's "une mante religieuse" or
"Religious mantus"

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