Tuesday, April 21, 2015

"... Joseph Smith was behind the Moon landings!" - Elder Hawkes

Originally sent on April 14, 2015

I don't even know.

This week, we...
- Have a slight panic attack as Basim drops us
- Drop people
- Drop more people
- Go on exchanges and drop people
- Play "Hot Potato" with other missionaries regarding a referral in Long Beach
- Get called on to do a baptismal interview last-minute
- Add some people! :D :D :D 
- Have investigators come to church!
- Celebrate Elder Jackson's birthday
- Find out what in the world is up with Basim
- Get really really good at pulling dandelions

There are some weeks in Arabic work that I wish "Dropped investigators" was a key indicator. This week was one of those weeks where a lot of people got dropped. 

First off: Basim.

On Tuesday, Basim called us to tell us that he was stuck between a rock and a hard place. He's got more family coming from Jordan in the next month or two and none of his family is on board with him wanting to get baptized. We offered what advice we could. On Wednesday he called us to tell us that he was working at Wal-Mart full-time for a month and so he couldn't meet with us during that time. D: We said we would respect his wishes (not like we weren't going to anyway) and told him we would be keeping in touch with him. At that time we were at a member's house and he said, "In my experience [as a Border Patrol agent], if something doesn't add up it doesn't add up." We figured he probably was taking a month off to let his family cool off a bit and resolved to keep in touch. 

We started going around to other investigators to teach them but one by one they got dropped until we had dropped 9 investigators for the week. Not fun! It does give us time to go contact people and find more people, though, so it's kind of a bittersweet thing. Everyone we dropped said that they don't want to hear our message but that they would be inviting if we needed some water or something, so at least no one hates us. 

On Thursday evening we did exchanges. Elder Jackson came down south with me and we spent most of the day walking on the streets to find people. We were able to get in the door with some investigators, one of whom dropped us by saying, "I'm a Mandaean [John the Baptist follower. Look it up.] and I'm going to stay Mandaean." He also got rather upset with us when we mentioned that we were made in the image of God and that God has a body. Mandaeans, I found out, are an ancient group of Gnostics, so they believe God is a spirit, that we need to do things only in spirit, etc. The other investigator we visited, Marooki, said that he was too tired that day but that we were welcome another day. 

And now... the "Hot Potato" referral. 

On Wednesday the mission office called to give us a referral for an Egyptian man up in Bellflower, CA. We were busy so we weren't able to call him. On Thursday the mission office called back and said that the missionaries up there were going to teach him because his son knew English and could translate. So we crossed it off our list and went on our way. On Friday the mission office called again about the referral and said the missionaries in that area would be giving us a call about him. Which they did. They explained that the entire complex is full of Egyptian refugees and that the man seemed interested. They then asked us if we could come visit him. 

Bellflower is two hours north. And it's two missions away.

That wasn't going to happen. 

So we passed it back to them and said essentially "You teach him. He's in your area." They passed it back and told us that they wanted us to teach him because he spoke Arabic and his English wasn't that good. So we called him and he said he would be open to a visit. Now we've got an interested potential investigator and two different companionships who cannot teach him. Then the thought came to us, "What about that Egyptian you met at the San Diego temple?" 

When we taught Sandra at the temple a few months ago we ran into an Egyptian convert named Ahmed. We talked to him and he said he'd love to keep in touch and gave us his phone number. We wrote it down and kind of brushed it off since he said he was in Los Angeles. But now this referral came up. So we called him and told him the situation, he agreed to visit the man with the missionaries, we got the missionaries in touch with him and he with they. We got someone to teach him and avoided opening a can of worms for President. 

On Saturday, Elder Poffenbarger got a call. "Could you come do a baptismal interview in Arabic? Like, now?" We were helping a family move out at the time, so we had to finish up there, get changed back into proselyting clothes, head to a stake center about 20 minutes away, and do an interview. It turns out that a family I had taught on MTE's (see earlier emails) was getting baptized and the wife last-minute decided she wanted to get baptized too. They called President and asked what to do and he said, "Get her an interview!" Since she spoke primarily Arabic we got called on to do it. She was surprised that there were Arabic missionaries and asked why we didn't teach her. The reason: her husband had said that he wanted English missionaries. Despite that, she was able to get baptized with her husband! 

Also on Saturday we went to the house of some former investigators and they agreed to a teaching visit. We taught them about prayer and had them break from tradition a bit. They were initially hesitant, but by the end they prayed without using the Lord's Prayer (as is tradition)! :D

Nather and Siham came to church on Sunday. When they sat down they made the Sign of the Cross and looked around confused as to why no one else was doing so. Despite the fact that they were expecting it to be similar to Catholic services, they loved it and want to come back next week!

Elder Jackson's birthday was also on Sunday. We went around the church building telling people. He's 20 now. I gave him a two-week-old croissant for his birthday, which he didn't take. 

We pulled some more dandelions yesterday for the same part-member family. I'm getting really good at that. 

Also, we were able to talk to Basim last night. Everything does in fact add up. He's working at a Wal-Mart in Santee (about 10 minutes north of here) but he has to take transit up. So he has to leave early in the morning, go, and come back late at night. We talked to his mom about our visits and cleared the air a little bit. She was concerned that he would be called to be a full-time missionary if baptized into our church. We told her that we're missionaries only because we had the time and the ability. Since he's got obligations (he's the only person in his household working right now) he wouldn't be able to. She was a little less freaked out after we explained that. She said that he can choose his own paths but at the same time that "second baptism is not allowed in our church [Catholicism]." At least she's warming up to it a little more! He's definitely not cold, but his schedule is so crazy that he can't come to church or meet with us often. He said that hopefully in the next month he'll be able to find part-time work or get his schedule solidified. 

That's it for this week! It's been absolutely crazy! I hope you all are doing well! :D

-- Elder Hawkes
Elder Christian Hawkes
California San Diego Mission
7404 Armstrong Place
San Diego, CA 92111

"I just read that and I'm even more confused now." - Elder Hawkes

Alternate email title is "Ghost Sasquatch for the WWE!" by Elder Poffenbarger. I'm not going to include context for that one because it won't make a difference. 

This week, we...
- Help the husband of a former get home and then add his wife a few days later
- Add a man in National City who mixes four different dialects
- Get in the door with a recent convert who is simultaneously less-active
- Try (and fail) to figure out what Unarius is
- Drop the people who came to church
- Murder a bunch of ants
- Have a throwdown by a recent convert in the Gospel Principles class (and figure out when I'm teaching my first Sunday School lesson in Arabic!)
- Get to witness a Mission President's Fireside
- Get in the door with a few people we've been meaning to see
- Pull the biggest dandelions ever

So first off pardon me if there's some overlap in weekly emails. As a missionary, I know only a few days:
- Weekly Planning day (Thursday)
- District Meeting day (Friday)
- Church and Ward Council (Sunday)
- P-day (Tuesday)

Any and all proselyting activities blend together into what we call a "week", which is normally comprised of seven days but could actually be anywhere from 6 to 10 days depending on what happens and how good I am at remembering things. Dates don't matter (for example, I realized today as I got to the library that today is the 21st of April) because we divide things up according to days of the week (e.g.: "On Wednesday we will..." "On Saturday we've got..."). I don't know if this is typical in missionary work because 1) I'm in the CA San Diego Mission which is very different from other missions and 2) Preaching in a language that according to the MTC is not actually available for proselyting. Arabic work is WILDLY different at times and unlike the other missionaries (who worked in English work for anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months before going Arabic) I've never done anything aside from Arabic work. 


One of the days last week (I think) we were street contacting and found an Arabic-speaking man in a wheelchair. He waved us over (we were on the other side of the street) and we wheeled him back to his apartment which was nearby. Elder Poffenbarger recognized the apartment as that of a former named Ikhalas (whom Elders McCombie and Jackson taught) and we went back a few days later. We had a brief discussion with her and invited her to church and to take the lessons again. She agreed, so yesterday we taught her about prayer. She's solid.

On Friday we went down to contact a referral in National City (a 20-minute drive south of El Cajon, much closer to downtown San Diego and the airport than El Cajon is). We got in contact with him and taught him a little bit of our message. His name is William and it turns out that he is an immigrant from Iran (so he speaks Farsi as his first language) who lived in Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey, and Syria before coming to the U.S. His Arabic is a weird conglomerate of Jordanian, Iraqi, Egyptian, and Gulf (UAE-Saudi) Arabic, so Elder Poffenbarger and I had trouble understanding everything that he said right away. Then again, Elder Poffenbarger knows Iraqi and maybe one or two words in other dialects while I've bounced around between Jordanian, Egyptian, and now Iraqi, so some parts of it sounded more familiar to me than others!

We also got to visit a recent convert named Fawzie. He's awesome! He's less-active because his job requires him to be in Chula Vista (south of downtown San Diego and about a 30-or-40-minute drive from El Cajon) almost every day, but he prays every day that he can come back to church and progress. We're preparing him for the Melchizedek Priesthood and his endowments while helping him find a job in El Cajon that doesn't force him to work on Sundays. 

On Saturday we had a big street-contacting day in an effort to get more people added. In downtown El Cajon, just a little south of Main Street, is a building called "Unarius Academy of Science". We've all expressed interest at finding out what in the world it is. We never see anyone go in or go out (except for this weekend when we drove past and saw some people having a conversation in the doorway), no one ever acknowledges it exists, it's just... there. If you walk by it there's some stuff about how you can get palm readings and "past-life therapy" as well as something about a confederation of star systems and another thing about "Atlantis returning in our hearts." Elder Poffenbarger and I took a few minutes to look the displays they have outside over and we both came to the conclusion that we know even less about Unarius now. Hence the email title.

Nather and Siham, the old couple who met missionaries in Sweden and Jordan, dropped us. Essentially they said, "Thanks but no thanks." They're not interested in learning our message or changing anything. They're complacent. That makes 10 investigators dropped in two weeks. If there was a key indicator for that we'd be on fire. 

It's ant season now, which means we've got to make sure not to leave food lying around. Elder Poffenbarger and I woke up to find a trail of ants boldly marching in the middle of our floor over to a bag of candy sitting on a dresser. We sealed the bag, threw it away, grabbed some bug spray, and murdered every single one of them. We also sprayed every crack or hole in the baseboards, the wall, and the doorframes just for good measure. "I am become death, the destroyer of [ants]."

"I think we're going to need more RAID" 

On Sunday we had a discussion about the Word of Wisdom in the Arabic Gospel Principles class. We had one of Arabic North's investigators, her mother-in-law, a recent-convert (Mohammed), and one or two active members in the room (we've got three active families in the ward that each have at least one Arabic speaker). The investigator, Dalia, asked about tea. She said, "I get the whole 'No coffee' and 'No alcohol' thing, but why not tea? I love tea!" Mohammed turned to her and said, "What would you do without your tea?" "I would die!" "EXACTLY! It's addicting! God doesn't want us to drink addicting things!" He then went on to say that tattoos, transgender surgeries, etc., are implying that God isn't perfect or that He made a mistake in making them. Regardless of anyone's views on those things, it was still an interesting throwdown. As an aside, I'm going to be teaching my first Gospel Principles lesson in Arabic on May 10th. 

On Sunday we went to a Mission President's Fireside in the Del Cerro area. We went because we thought we would have a recent convert there, but we didn't see them there. As we were sitting there, one of the sister missionaries' investigators came and sat by us. Our thought process was, "Well, we don't have anyone here but the sisters are up in the choir singing, so we can't just leave him." So we didn't. President Morgan, one of the counselors in the mission presidency, gave a final testimony. He and his wife are going to be presiding over the Chile Santiago East Mission beginning in July (if you know anyone serving there, tell them they're SUPER lucky for getting President Morgan as a mission president!). He started off by saying, "Many people say they were 'born in the Church'. I wasn't born in the Church. I was born in a hospital. And others say they were 'raised in the Church'. I wasn't. I was raised in a house and at school. But I went to church!" 

And that is the third alternate email title for the week. 

He bore powerful testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and his experience reading it and praying to know if it was true. We're going to miss him. 

Yesterday we got to see Morad and Miller again. Miller is going to Michigan in a few days with his cousins while Morad is staying here in California and saving his money. We taught them about the 10 Commandments and the Sabbath Day. We also got to see Muwafaq again! He's been very busy working and he's got a foot injury, but he still loves seeing us and hearing our messages. We didn't count him as added because his schedule is really shaky still, but we hope to add him soon!

That's it for this week! Thanks everyone for your emails and letters! I love hearing from you! 

-- Elder Hawkes
Elder Christian Hawkes
California San Diego Mission
7404 Armstrong Place
San Diego, CA 92111

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

"Your teeth... is not beautiful." - Morad, to his father

More on that title in a bit. 

Welcome once again to my weekly email, wherein:
- Elder Hawkes gets really good at trimming bushes and pulling dandelions
- Suhaila, Mario, and Marceleno dye eggs at a member's house
- We get the car door fixed!
- Morad and Miller discuss their plans for leaving El Cajon and have a back-and-forth insult fest with their dad
- Elder Hawkes goes on splits with Bro. Seba and the person they try to visit cancels on them
- Elder Poffenbarger understands Conference while Elder Hawkes is left guessing
- A lady condescendingly reminds us of "No Soliciting" signs
- More dandelion pulling!

So, after I closed out for the week last Wednesday, we went and did some service for a part-member family. The non-member husband recently had surgery so he can't go out and take care of his bushes. We went by and, using pickaxes and shovels, uprooted a bunch of dead bushes while trimming back living ones with dead branches. We also pulled dandelions here and there, but he said we could come back another day to do that. I'm starting to wonder if my mission is a sign that I'm supposed to go into gardening as a profession. Maybe it's just my chosen hobby, aside from ranting about politics and pretending to know things. 

Wednesday night we went to a member's house with Suhaila, Mario, and Marceleno. They did an egg-dying activity that looked like a lot of fun. Mario and Marceleno were acting like they were too cool for it (as 14-year-old boys are prone to do), but Suhaila loved helping the little kids out. She turned to us and said, "Why don't you join us?" Mario immediately responded, "I don't think that's how they roll, Mom." And that was almost the email title for the week. 

On Thursday we went to the Ford dealership in the morning and got the car door fixed. Now it can actually open again from the inside! :D We wound up sitting in the lounge and studying our scriptures for a few hours while it got fixed. It's the little things in life that you appreciate, like having a car door that opens properly. 

We taught Morad and Miller about prayer and how to pray. For the first few minutes they were discussing their plans for moving to Detroit. Miller is going sometime this week and Morad (who just got a job at a car wash) is going to be saving up money and going in two months. *cue internal panic as investigators discuss their plans to leave the area* About halfway through the lesson, their dad started talking about prayer. As a bit of context, the dad is a longtime smoker and so he's got a few missing teeth and the rest of them are yellow. Morad turned to his dad and said, "Your teeth... is not beautiful. Is ugly!" Miller was egging him on like a "good" little brother and their dad just laughed it off. Later they insulted his moustache and he turned to them and said, "God bless your mother for having you two!" "But you participated in the process because you're the dad!" "Yeah, well... you're still stupid!"

There is beauty all around, when there's love at home....

On Thursday night we had an appointment with Basim at 7:30 and then with Akheqar at 8. Elder Poffenbarger went with Bro. Evanko (a ward member) to Basim while Bro. Seba and I went to teach Akheqar. Right as we pulled up, we saw Akheqar standing out on the sidewalk. We went up and talked to him and he said he was waiting to go somewhere and so he couldn't meet with us that night. We asked for his phone number and he said, "I thought I gave it to you." He hadn't, so I asked if we could get it again. He said he didn't remember it. So now Akheqar is in the "Stop by occasionally and if he's home you can teach a lesson" pile. 

The Conference Attendees —
just the Elders

Christian's Easter Basket from Ward Members
We had a live Arabic translation (the only one in the nation) for Conference! We didn't have anyone show up, but we watched it anyway. Elder Poffenbarger was actively taking notes in Arabic and understanding it all, while I was just sitting there going, "I think that one was about faith." That's what the May Ensign is for! We did get to watch the Priesthood Session in English, and I enjoyed that one. Apparently someone yelled out that they were opposed in sustaining the General Authorities, Boyd K. Packer was hard to understand, and there were some other interesting moments. We didn't hear the "opposed" and Boyd K. Packer spoke clearly to us... in Arabic. 

Yesterday we went back to the part-member's house and did some more service. We wound up pulling dandelions and other weeds for a few hours. It was fun, but some of the weeds were rather annoying. About half of them had little hairs growing on their stems that hurt when our hands touched them, so we had to dig around and underneath them to get to the roots to pull them out. 

Maybe gardening isn't my thing....

That's about it for this weekly email. Thank you to all those who have been writing to me. I love getting mail! 

-- Elder Hawkes
Elder Christian Hawkes
California San Diego Mission
7404 Armstrong Place
San Diego, CA 92111

"The sun didn't exist before Jesus was born!" "That's why everything was black and white back then!" - Elders Poffenbarger and Jackson, respectively

Sent to us on April 2, 2015

Hahahahahaha! The ultimate April Fool's joke! You all expected an email from me yesterday, but I'm sending it today! Totally an April Fool's joke, and not a symptom of the libraries being closed yesterday due to Cesar Chavez Day! Hahahahahahahaha!


Welcome to my weekly email, wherein: 
- One of our investigators leaves for Michigan without telling us
- A Chaldean couple actually recognizes "the Mormons"!
- We re-meet and re-add a guy we lost contact with months ago
- Elder Hawkes once again throws large pieces of wood around
- We add the uncle of a former investigator who tells us he's a Communist
- Bro. Seba, the Ward Mission Leader, hosts a barbeque and a TON of people show up
- President Schmitt hosts us for dinner and we get to see his cockroach-killing skills
- Our driver-side door betrays us

So, last email I told you all about Marvin, Morad, and Miller, three young men whom Elder Poffenbarger taught way back in the days of Elder McCombie (whom, I should mention, is now added to the email list). They've been prepping to go to Michigan for a little while because they've got family in Detroit. Well, last week we went to teach them and there were only two around. We asked what happened to Marvin and they said, "Oh, he went to Michigan yesterday." Wow. The other two are already packing their stuff and prepping to go, so we may not be able to see them soon. 

We had some cool experiences adding people. One couple, Nather and Siham, actually recognized us and said, "Are you the Mormons?" After E. Poffenbarger and I had picked up our jaws from off the floor (most people think we're the Jehovah's Witnesses or Evangelicals), we said, "Yes we are!" They asked us, "What's different from your church?" and we were able to teach them the Restoration! 

The other experience was when we were contacting a referral. Back in January (about 5 days after I got here) we met a man named Akheqar and walked with him back to his apartment and taught him the Restoration. We both forgot to write down the correct address so we couldn't find him again. Last week we went to contact a referral in the complex Akheqar was in and we both remembered the approximate location of Akheqar's apartment. The next night we went back and found him! He was sitting on his couch with the door open and he invited us in. He's been reading in the Book of Mormon and praying to know if it's true. We re-taught the Restoration and asked if he would get baptized if he knew this was true. He and his son, Yusef, both said, "Of course we will!" When we meet him this Friday we'll nail down a specific date. 

On Saturday we went and did service at a member's house. He had some old fenceposts that he needed us to throw into a trailer. After he cut them all in half we grabbed them one-by-one and threw them into the trailer. I found it rather amusing that the latest service we've been doing involves me throwing around large pieces of wood. 

We also added another investigator named Malik. He's the uncle of a former investigator named Teeba and belongs to the same religion as her (Mandaean? John the Baptist followers). We were talking about the Restoration and after the lesson was over he was telling us his story. He's a journalist from Iraq and knows Arabic, English, and Russian. He also said he was a Communist. A Communist John the Baptist follower from Iraq who worked as a journalist. That's a first. 

Bro. Seba on Sunday had a barbeque and invited the Elder's Quorum and some of our investigators and recent converts. We had Suhaila and her family, Sandra and her family, Mohammed (a recent convert) and his family, and Basim, along with a bunch of ward members. Lots of food. Lots of good company. Good times. Afterward, Basim told us how he's been facing some family backlash because of his decision to get baptized. Bro. Seba and Bro. Faradjian both told him their stories and gave him some advice: follow what he feels is right. Afterward he felt a lot better and told us he wants to get baptized still. He's on track for April 18th. 

On Monday night President Schmitt had us and Sandra over for dinner. We had a wonderful time. Andrew was well-behaved and Alex was Alex. After dinner we had a quick family home evening where Sister Schmitt talked about sealing. Halfway through the lesson all the kids start screaming. There was a huge cockroach (a few inches) on the back porch that they were looking at. President got everyone to calm down and we finished the lesson. Afterward, E. Poffenbarger took a shoe and tossed the cockroach into a nearby bush. President grabbed the shoe and one other shoe, calmly walked over to the bush, found the cockroach, and nonchalantly proceeded to smash it. "Better out here than inside," he said. He's way cool. 

Lastly, the door. We were out contacting some people on Monday when suddenly my door (the driver's-side door) stopped opening from the inside. Elder Parkin (the mission fleet coordinator) took a look at it yesterday and said, "Yep. You've got a busted door." So we've got to take it over to a Ford dealership in La Mesa (about a 10-minute drive) tomorrow to get it repaired. Fun fun fun!

This weekend is Conference weekend. We're not going to understand anything because we'll be watching it in Arabic! Let me know if they get into any crazy deep doctrine or anything. :)

That's it for this week. Thanks for writing me, everyone. I love getting emails and hand-written letters! :D

-- Elder Hawkes

Elder Christian Hawkes
California San Diego Mission
7404 Armstrong Place
San Diego, CA 92111