Tuesday, April 12, 2016

"What can we do to help Ricky attend church?" "...Inception?" - Elder Hawkes and Elder Bryant, during weekly planning


Sunset Cliffs was amazing everyone! The next time you all are in San
Diego go to Ocean Beach and follow Sunset Cliffs Blvd all the way
down. Lots of exploring, lots of great stuff. Unfortunately it means
that I don't have as much time as I'd like to write. Sad face.

From April 12, 2016

So, highlights!

First off, Ezekiel is probably the greatest 9-year-old on the planet.
He's so excited for baptism and he's not afraid to tell everyone in
his family about it. We were talking with his semi-active mom about it
and she said, "Oh you have no idea how excited he is. It's all he
talks about!" And he's been calling her out on Word of Wisdom and
Sabbath Day observance... I want to be him when I grow up. Everything
is all set for Saturday with him and I'll definitely send you

Sunset Cliffs-where Elder Hawkes spent his
We were able to visit with one of our investigators, Ray, who haddropped off the face of the planet for a little bit because Navy duty (silly armed forces!). He came to church on Sunday and we taught him the Plan of Salvation. He talked about how he wasn't sure if he had faith and he wanted to wait to be baptized until he finished the Book of Mormon and Bible so he could get faith. We were just really bold with him and told him, "Ray, you have more faith than you think you do! If you didn't have faith you wouldn't be reading or praying or even taking the time to meet with us." He was really appreciative of that and yesterday he texted his fiancee in Texas and told her he needs to be baptized by the end of the year. She texted us and was really excited about it.

Those are really the big highlights of the week! I promise next week will be longer! I know the Savior lives and that this is His gospel and His church. And I love sharing it with everyone!

-- Elder Hawkes


From April 5, 2016

This week, we...
- Walk
- And walk
- And walk
- And walk (you get the idea)
- Meet with Ezekiel and get him solid for the 16th
- Teach the Restoration to a Jordanian
- Actually use my Arabic! For 10 seconds...
- Visit a less-active while looking for a referral

So to start off, it seems like everywhere I go we wind up being low on miles for the month. Perhaps the problem is me, I don't know. But in any case, we wound up being a little short for the rest of March. So what did we do? We embraced our handcart ancestors and walked all around. In doing so, we were able to save on miles, give ourselves a few blisters on our feet, and talk with a lot of people. We wound up planning most of our days to be around "Who can we walk to and how long will it take?" We walked up big hills and small hills, we walked for hours and hours and then we walked some more. On Wednesday night we found ourselves running a bit behind so we wound up having to run home for a good half mile or so in our proselyting clothes. That night we resolved never to do that again.

We were able to meet with Ezekiel on Wednesday with our bishop. He told us, "I've been talking with my mom and we feel like April 16th would be a good day for me to be baptized." We were able to teach him most of the commandments and keep him solid on those. Yesterday we were able to visit him with the Primary president and taught him the Ten Commandments, the Law of Chastity (we kept it really simple), and Obedience. He's solid for the 16th! Elder Bryant and I are very excited!

On Friday we taught a lady named Wedad. Her family is from Jordan, but she was born in the U.S., so she speaks very broken Arabic (sad face). Half her family is Muslim and half is Christian, "so one half will judge me and the other half... will also judge me." We taught her the Restoration with our YSA ward's mission leader and it went really well. She agreed to be baptized when she knows this is true and committed to read and pray. She said she was going to come to Conference, but she woke up sick Sunday morning and wasn't able to attend. We invited her to watch the recording of it, though, and she said she would.

We were also able to teach Yessenia the Plan of Salvation. She really liked it and talked about how much sense it made. We invited her to be baptized and she said she'd like to be, but she's worried that her family won't approve. We told her to pray about it and continue to read. She read 17 chapters of the Book of Mormon and marked it up. She's on fire!

Conference was amazing! I loved all of the talks, especially President Russell M. Nelson's during the Priesthood Session; Elder Dale G. Renlund's from the Saturday Morning Session; Elder David A. Bednar's from the Saturday Afternoon Session; Elder Gerrit W. Gong's from the Sunday Morning Session; and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland's and Elder Patrick Kearon's, both from the Sunday Afternoon Session. There was so much revelation and inspiration I received! President Schmitt invited us to come with the question, "What can I do to increase my faith in Jesus Christ in order to fulfill my missionary purpose to teach repentance and baptize converts?" I got answers not only to that question but also many other personal questions I'd prayed about over the past few weeks. If you haven't had a chance to go watch it, I'd encourage you to do so.

Giant pizza that the misisonaries had at Zone
Conference. It didn't last long.
On Sunday we went up to El Cajon to contact a referral we had. The person we went to visit wasn't there, so we went and talked with their neighbors to see if they were home. Turns out the neighbors spoke Arabic (yay!), so I had the opportunity to practice my Arabic by asking them if they knew when their neighbor was home and thanking them for their time. It was refreshing to be able to use it again, even if it was just 5 or 10 seconds.

Lastly, we were out last night looking to contact a referral we had received. She wasn't home, but we found out there was a less-active nearby so we went and visited her. We taught the Restoration to her and spent the entire time just focusing it all on Christ. As we talked, she listened. And as she listened, she felt the Spirit tell her what she needed to do to improve (she told us so). Everything was focused on Christ, even if at first it didn't seem like it connected very well. But as we went we found that it all was centered on Christ and it was so natural to focus it all on Him. It was an amazing experience.

That's it for this week, everyone! Thank you all so much for your prayers and your support. I love you all!

-- Elder Hawkes

"Why can teens only gather in groups of three?...

From March 29, 2016
"...Because they can't even!" - Elder Hawkes

Sorry, that's all I've got this week folks.

This week, we...
- Feed the homeless
- Get to know the areas
- Teach a man named Ricky
- Have an investigator hesitate to come to church and then stay for
all three hours
- Get a baptismal date for an investigator!

So on Wednesday we spent a lot of time driving around trying potential investigators in both areas to no avail. We cover the Spring Valley ward and the Helix Young Single Adult ward. Helix YSA covers all of Sweetwater zone (which includes National City, Lemon Grove, Spring Valley, and a little bit of San Diego and Chula Vista) as well as all of El Cajon zone, which means that we do spend some time in Zion/El Cajon, whichever you prefer (one and the same for me). We talked with an old lady that day who claimed to only speak Chaldean. I talked to her in Arabic and kept it pretty simple, and she understood all of it.

On Thursday we got permission to go to downtown San Diego. The nonmember father of two recent converts, Tim, invited us to come with him to feed the homeless at a Salvation Army shelter primarily to see what it was like so the bishop could get the youth involved. We filled up cups of soup, passed out sandwiches and pizza, and gave out deodorant. Turns out there was a youth group there named McAllister that was helping out. The group is for youth with troubled pasts (usually former drug addicts, people on probation, etc.) that helps them get a fresh start on life through service and good deeds. At the end of the project they had essentially a testimony meeting talking about why they were there, how the program has changed them, and what good deeds they did that week. At the end we closed with a word of prayer. Elder Bryant put up a few #Hallelujah cards on bulletin boards
and gave one or two out.

Now for the next part...
There's a lot of work in Helix YSA and Spring Valley is coming along slowly but surely. Ricky is a young man we taught on Thursday who has turned his life around recently. The elder's quorum president (who actually was attending Hillsdale for a little while until just before I got transferred) came with us to review the Restoration with him and invited him to be baptized. He said he would be, but that he's not sure when because "It's a big commitment and I don't want to rush it." We bore testimony to him of the importance of baptism and set up a return appointment. He's a great kid.

We taught a lady named Yessenia. She's had some experience with church in her past, but not much. We taught her the Restoration at a park on Friday and invited her to attend church. She as on board with the Restoration and agreed to pray about it all, but when we told her church was three hours she said, "That's a lot!" We told her to just come for at least the first hour and see if she wanted to stay, and she agreed.

On Sunday we miscalculated and wound up being a little late to church for Spring Valley, which was really awkward and frustrating for both of us. No one seemed to care much, though, and the bishopric was happy to meet me. Because it was Easter Sunday we didn't have ward council so we got to sit in on the Spring Valley ward's classes and then wait for Helix YSA's sacrament meeting to start. Elder Bryant and I received the assignment to bless the sacrament, but since my voice was/is out (I had a cold this week, and allergies haven't been helping) Elder Bryant wound up blessing both. Yessenia showed up to church and her fellowshipper sat with her during sacrament. After sacrament meeting we talked with some of the sisters and asked if they would take care of her and get her to second hour. Immediately they went over and urged Yessenia to come to class and sat with her during the meeting. Before we could even go up and thank Yessenia for coming to second hour, they had already invited her to Relief Society and were out the door taking her there! It was great to see the immediate
friendship and fellowship.

Yesterday was a big huge walking day, since we're low on miles this month. We went and taught a young kid named Ezekiel who's been investigating. He's the son of a less-active member and he's really smart. We reviewed the Plan of Salvation with him and invited him to be baptized. He said "Yes," but he also felt that he wasn't ready. We pulled out 2 Nephi 31 and read with him verses 10 and 11. After reading that we invited him to be baptized again and he said, "Yes," and agreed to a baptismal date for April 16th! He's awesome!

That's it for this week! YSA work is weird. English work is weird. Not being in El Cajon is weird. Missionary work is weird. But I do it anyway! Thank you all so much for your support and your prayers! Love you all!

-- Elder Hawkes

"Elder, how can we teach like Daft Punk?" - Elder Belnap

From March 22, 2016

So crazy thing happened today in that I actually got transferred! But
more on that in a little bit!
This week was relatively uneventful again in Arabic North, but the
highlights include:
- Finding a new apartment complex
- Actually teaching a lesson!
- Actually adding a new investigator!
- Teaching BYD
- Getting transferred
Not necessarily in that order.

So first off, most of the work we do is actually in apartment
complexes. We've got a few blessed corners (areas where there are a
lot of people that have been investigators/are investigators) but in
Arabic North area it tends to be more "1 of a family, 2 of a city."
We'll find one here, find a few there, etc. Well we found an apartment
complex in Santee just up the road from where we live that has
Arabic-speaking people! We contacted a referral in there who said he'd
come to church (the Santee Stake Center is right next door to his
apartment complex) and spent some time walking around the complex
determining a few doors that we knew for sure had Arabic-speaking
people. Lots more potential potential investigators in there now!

Sister Stewart finished her mission so they held a mock
funeral for her leaving the mission to go back to the world.

We spent a lot of our week just walking around, talking with everyone,
knocking on doors, etc. We didn't actually get any lessons until
yesterday. We got a referral for a man named Othman, a Muslim who was
street contacted by some elders in Santee. Right as we walked up to
his door to knock on it, he opened it and let us in. We taught the
whole Restoration to him and it went really well. He was very open and
very willing to believe. His policy, he said, was "If it's good I'll
believe it," and he had the "I don't see why not" attitude we see
occasionally. But we were able to help him pray at the end of the
lesson about the Book of Mormon and he accepted the invitation to be
baptized. We were able to set a return appointment for Wednesday and
add him.

The sisters in Elder Hawkes' district totally shocked Elder
Hawkes with this photo. It's of them with his dad while
he was visiting San Diego. He dropped off a package at the
mission offices and they were there. It freaked him out a little.
On Sunday (jumping around here) the Bishop texted us and asked if we could teach BYD. We were instructed to teach about missionary work, specifically how to prepare, what we do as missionaries, and what we wish we had done to prepare. Elder Belnap and I discussed these questions with about 13 youth. Only one person in attendance was a young man, so we presented to mostly young women. At the end we were able to share the new #Hallelujah video (which if you haven't seen it, go do so now! FollowHim.mormon.org) and invite them to share it. At the end of it the youth told us they loved it and the leaders said we should try it again sometime.

Lastly, transfers.

Now that we don't have transfer meetings, President sends out a call list for the mission on Monday morning to the zone leaders, who then get it to us. This tells us where everyone is, what ward they cover, and what their phone number is. Elder Belnap and I didn't have wi-fi in our apartment, but all of the sudden Arabic South texted us and said, "I called it!" Then we got a call from them explaining what was happening.

The look on Elder Hawkes' face as he was informed he
is being transferred out of Arabic work. :(
President has transferred me and Elder Jensen out of Arabic work! I'm in Helix YSA/Spring Valley with Elder Bryant from Washington and Elder Jensen is in San Diego YSA as a zone leader. Elder Belnap and Elder Campbell are the Arabic elders for now.

So lots of changes! I want to welcome Bro. Seba, Bro. Bezdechi, and Bro. Garvin to my weekly email list. I also want to welcome Menley Stewart, who went home this morning after finishing her mission in Hillsdale/Jamul.

Great things are happening, friends and family! Thank you all for your prayers and also for the letters and emails. I love you all!

-- Elder Hawkes

"I like to think that puns are the highest form of humor." "Yeah... They aren't." - Elder Hawkes and Elder Belnap

From March 15, 2016

First off, a welcome to Elder Mann from the Hillsdale ward (the ward
I'm serving in) who is serving his mission in Tuscon, Arizona starting
this week (well, MTC and all that... Let's split hairs here). Also a
request for prayers for the Bell family in the El Cajon Stake and the
Myers' family; Sis. Bell, a longtime member of the stake, passed away
this past week and the Myers' son wound up in the hospital this week.
He's doing fine, but just keep them in your prayers.

This week saw some interesting things happen, but not much in terms of
proselyting. We didn't get any lessons this week (spoilers!) but that
doesn't mean our area isn't progressing! We got to try out some new
apartment complexes this week we'd never been to and gauge where the
people are in general in our area aside from the usual three or four

Elder Hawkes challenged his zone leaders to
this burrito challenge. If they could finish the
first in an hour, he'd buy them a second. They lost!

On Wednesday the sisters got a new companion, Sister Guest. Sister
Guest has been out since July and will be in my travel group home in
the distant future that's never ever ever going to happen because I'll
always be on my mission right? Anyway... She had gone home for some
medical testing about two weeks ago but it turns out she's all fine.
So she came back and President put her in a trio with Sister Stewart
and Sister Stussi. We had zone meeting on Wednesday and Sister Schmitt
came to that. During accountability she commended the Arabic elders
for their work and told us not to get down about our numbers. "We know
you serve with your whole heart," she said, "And sometimes in Arabic
work you see the fruits of your labors, sometimes you don't, and
sometimes other missionaries see them." That really brought a lot of
comfort to me, especially since I've been stressing myself out over
lack of numerical success the past little while. Zone meeting went
great. Not much else to report on that front.

We're running low on miles this month so we've been walking around a
lot. We were out walking on Friday and got caught in the rain without
our jackets or umbrellas. We were in the middle of doing an hour of
finding activities when it started. Once we were back to the apartment
we threw our pants in the dryer because they were soaked. For the rest
of the week whenever it was cloudy I wore my jacket just in case. It
didn't rain. I was slightly disappointed.

Another thing to note this week: I noticed I'd been really passive in
finding efforts. When we were walking in apartment complexes I
thought, "You know, what if we knocked on doors in here?" So we
knocked on doors in apartment complexes this week!

And it scared me to death almost every time.

But you know what? That's okay! We need more people to teach and this
is one of the ways we'll find them. What's the worst that they can do,
say no? It's helped me get over my fears a little bit and it's been a
lot better overall for us.

Lastly, last night we were walking on Main Street and a Spanish guy
flagged us down from a taco shop. We walked over and asked how we
could help and he just said, "You hungry?" Elder Belnap and I looked
at each other and at him really awkwardly and just said, "Sure...?" So
he bought us food! I'm currently eating the California burrito he
bought me last night. It was awesome! As a missionary, I've learned
never to turn down offers like that. First off, free food. Second off,
it's their chance to serve and receive blessings for doing so. People
in San Diego are awesome.

Since not much happened this week, I can take time to tell you all
that I love being here. I love the people. I love the food. I love the
opportunity to go and work. I love the people that say "No" and try to
trip us up by claiming Joseph Smith was contradictory in the King
Follett Discourse (which I took the time to read this week, as an
aside. Interesting stuff). I love the area. I love El Cajon. It's the
best place on earth!

-- Elder Hawkes

"I love James E. Talmage. He's my spirit animal." - Elder Campbell

From March 8, 2016

Quick email this week!

We had zone conference on Thursday. We went up to Camp Wildwood Ranch in Ramona. We started it off by receiving some training on referrals and lesson plans (in short, we need to do better and contact referrals much faster). After lunch, we went for a silent hike. At the top of the mountain we were hiking was a cross. President had each of us take a rock up to the top and lay it at the foot of the cross. It was a tough hike! There were rocks, hills, sand, more rocks, and more hills. But at the very top we could see clearly all over. President had each of us hike with a yellow bandana in remember acne of when the pioneers in the Salt Lake Valley "lifted their ensign to the nations" by waving a yellow bandana from the top of the peak. It was an amazing spiritual experience. I came back feeling closer to our Father in Heaven and wanting to be better.

Rick got baptized on Saturday. It was an awesome baptism! He had a bad leg so I was there to help him in and out of the font while his fellowshipper baptized him. The Spirit was very strong and the
ordinance was performed perfectly. As he came out of the water and was being helped into the changing rooms, he commented how his leg seemed to be doing a lot better and he was able to support himself a lot more than when he was coming out of the changing room the first time. We as
missionaries got to participate in his confirmation on Sunday, which was a great privilege.

The sisters in Elder Hawkes' district had a baptism!

"I want to be a dwarf someday." - Elder Jensen

From March 1, 2016

Happy March 1st everyone! I'm sure something groundbreaking happened today at some point in history.

This week was awesome! We...
- Find out about a dinner appointment 10 minutes after we're supposed to be there
- Have a weeding project turn into a landscaping project
- Inadvertently wake up an old lady but proceed to add her as an investigator!
- Walk around El Cajon
- Help take down the tent we put up two weeks ago

So Wednesday was what I like to call a "patchwork day". We had plans, but curveball after curveball was thrown our way and at the end of the night we evaluate our day and go, "What in the world happened?" In this case, remember that never-ending service project wherein we started tearing up grass at an old lady's house? We had planned to go over there with the district and help out again. So Elder Belnap and I went over and started working on it. 

Then an hour passed. 

Then two hours. 

And no one showed up. 

Turns out the other members of the district had another service project pop up that went longer than they thought it would. So Elder Belnap and I sifted through a giant dirt pile to find some weeds to put in the green waste bin for about two hours and then rushed over to Arabic South's apartment/room to change and get ready for dinner. We assumed we didn't have a dinner appointment that night so we figured, "Well, we'll just have a sandwich or something and then get back out working ASAP." 

About 10 minutes after 5 we get a call from some members asking us if we're coming to dinner. Oh no. None of us checked the dinner calendar and we actually guessed wrong in thinking we weren't going to have anything. We got dressed as fast as we could and hurried over to the member's house. By the time we got there with traffic and red lights, we were about 25 minutes late. The members were very forgiving, thankfully. 

Thursday we did our weekly planning and there really isn't anything to note about that day, so let's move on to Friday! Remember how earlier in this email I mentioned a weeding project at an old lady's house that turned into us uprooting grass? Well, we as a district thought to ourselves, "This is a bigger project than we thought it would be. We should call in her home teachers and then we'll be done with it in an afternoon." 

And now it's turned into a landscaping project. 

Turns out she doesn't have a sprinkler system, so her home teacher talked her out of re-seeding it with grass. We got all of the grass out of the front yard (finally!) but then the home teacher told us, "We're going to need to level this whole thing out," and started having us shovel dirt into a wheelbarrow to put out back so the front yard is level. He staked it out and everything. This week we're getting both the Young Men and the Elder's Quorum involved, but with the way things have gone previously even with all the extra hands it'll still take a few more weeks. Lesson learned: When you tell an old lady you want to help weed her yard and her yard happens to be falling into disarray, it's wise to contact her home teachers, the ward leaders, and possibly a professional landscaping company to come in and help you out. 

On Saturday we started the day off with a baptismal interview for a man the Hillsdale Sisters have been teaching, Rick. It was a huge testimony-builder for me of the importance of opening my mouth and talking with everyone. 

Flashback to October-ish: Elder Greer, Elder Jensen, and I are walking in an apartment complex looking to find someone to teach. We come across this guy sitting outside his apartment smoking a cigarette. Elder Greer immediately approaches him and asks if he'd like to learn more. This man's name is Rick, and in the interview he told me that when we went up and talked with him something inside him told him, "Yes. Listen to them. Let them come back." He had some health problems that made his progression difficult at first, but we gave him a priesthood blessing to help him out health-wise. Ever since, he's been going strong. He told me in the interview, "You were one of the first ones to talk to me. ...Thank you so much." He passed the interview and is good for baptism on Saturday. I'll get pictures for sure! 

That evening we went to follow-up with a lady named Elizabeth we had given a Book of Mormon to previously. We knocked on the door and no one answered. Her neighbor came by and said, "She's sleeping right now." So we left a card and walked away. Right as we rounded the corner, Elizabeth opened her window and said, "Did you just knock on my door?" "Yes," we said, "But if we just woke you up don't worry about it." She motioned for us to come back. After about 5 minutes of explaining why we couldn't enter her apartment (no man present), she asked us about the Book of Mormon and about Joseph Smith. Turns out she had read part of the Book of Mormon (well, someone had read it to her because her reading is not good) and was really interested in it! We taught her a little more about Joseph Smith and about the Book of Mormon and said, "We want to come share more about why all this is important. When could we come?" She made us promise to come Monday at 6. And that's how we added a new investigator! Elder Belnap and I were really really excited about it. 

Church on Sunday was good. Arabic South was able to get three people to attend church, two of which they had invited over the phone the night before. We finished up our studies and spent the night walking around talking with people. 

On Monday we helped take down the tent that we set up for a wedding two weeks ago. It went really fast with all of us there, which was nice. Taking down tents, turns out, is a lot easier than putting them up. 

Our lesson with Elizabeth went well. We spent the day texting and calling members seeing if they were available to come with us. Finally someone said "Yes" and we were able to have a great lesson. She told us right from the start, "I can't see Joseph Smith being a prophet. I've been taught there are no prophets after Jesus." The entire lesson was us explaining the points to her and backing each one of them up with scriptures. By the end of it she was really excited about it and was really happy we came. Our member also shared great testimony of the Book of Mormon and how it testifies of the Bible. The only problem is that she can't read very well. She wants one of our recent converts, Fawzi, to come by and help her understand the Book of Mormon in Chaldean (Fawzi lives just a few doors down from her). We asked her to be baptized when she knew this was true and she accepted the invitation! She then spent 20 minutes essentially telling us why she was ready for this message. "Religion," she said, "Is like an ocean. There's so much more to it than what I've received by going to my church. In Iraq, I was taught to not read the Bible or touch it. It was حرام [haram, "forbidden"] to do so. Then I came here to America and I see everyone has the Bible. I'm tired of just hearing the priests tell us, 'Now here's the story of Moses.' 'Now here's the story of Abraham.' 'Now here's the story of Paul.' I want to read it myself and know about it myself! There's more to Christianity than just saying 'Our Father' and 'Hail Mary'." 

Elder Belnap and I were both wanting to learn more about the culture and the religious traditions of the Chaldeans and I'm pretty sure at one point I looked over at him and he was drooling as she talked about these things. 

So that's it for this week's email! Next week is going to be even more crazy. After that I'm looking forward to a comparatively mild March. Thanks everyone for your prayers on our behalf! I love you all!

-- Elder Hawkes