Thursday, May 21, 2015

"Hello, this is the 'musharabeen'." - Elder Neiderhauser, an elder in our zone

'Musharabeen' means 'drinkers'. 'Mubashareen' means 'missionaries'. A for effort, though. 

In this weekly email, we... 
- Help a four-year-old put rocks around his house and move dirt
- Find out you can download Conference music!
- Teach Morad about the sacrament and get him to commit to pray about baptism
- Get a flood warning for our area
- Go on exchanges
- Help a member throw a bunch of junk into a dumpster
- Go on splits with Granite Hills so Elder Poffenbarger can help teach a family he taught in his first six weeks
- Have another throwdown in Gospel Principles by Mohammed
- Listen to Elder Poffenbarger's wonderful farewell talk
- Get TONS of food from members

So first off, on Wednesday we went and did service at a member's house. The four-year-old who has been helping us pull weeds was there, and with his help we placed a bunch of stones around his house between the grass and the woodchips surrounding the house so the chips don't blow into the grass. We also spent some time filling in space between rocks with dirt. We've been wanting to do service at this member's house for a while now, so to do it before Elder Poffenbarger leaves was great! Also on Wednesday, I found out that you can download the music from General Conference I now have a CD with Conference talks from Ezra Taft Benson and Conference music. :D

On Thursday we taught Morad about the sacrament. We decided to try a different approach with him than hammering in baptism seven thousand times. By the end of the lesson he was committed to pray about baptism and seemed more willing to do it and progress than before. It also rained a lot on Thursday. We found out we get service alerts on our phone because we got an alert saying there was a flash flood warning issued for El Cajon. There was a distinct lack of flooding where we travelled, but that was probably due to the fact that we didn't really travel on any roads aside from the main roads. 

On Friday we went on exchanges. I went with Elder Greer to the Arabic North area. We did service at a member's house right after district meeting. The member was a little unsure at first because it was raining, but we put on our jackets and went to work. He had a ton of junk on the side of his yard that we helped throw into a dumpster. Elder Poffenbarger proved once again that he's really strong by grabbing these big poles that had copious amounts of cement on the bottom of them and carrying them, one at a time, over to the dumpster! 

I rolled a big tire to the dumpster. Does that count?

We spent Friday mostly just street contacting and working to find people. It turns out that both areas are in need of some more people to teach. We ran into a lot of Muslims who weren't interested, but not many people who were wanting to learn. 

On Saturday we went on splits with the Granite Hills Elders (Granite Hills is a ward in the El Cajon zone). Elder Poffenbarger had taught a family in his first six weeks in La Mesa before he got transferred to El Cajon to spearhead Arabic work. His replacement, Elder Neiderhauser, also taught them with Elder Poffenbarger's trainer. The family wound up moving to El Cajon and was recently contacted by the sisters, but they said they wouldn't come to church until Elder Poffenbarger and Elder Neiderhauser showed up. 

Christian received great reviews when he made
coffee cake for a member after doing service.
So we made it happen. :) 

They committed to meet with the sisters and come to church (they weren't able to attend on Sunday, unfortunately), so we'll see what happens. 

Yesterday in church was Elder Poffenbarger's farewell talk. It was a very emotional day for the ward because a member of the ward did a special musical number that left everyone in tears, Elder Poffenbarger spoke, and a returned missionary from the ward spoke. There were very few dry eyes in the audience. After his AWESOME talk, he taught the Gospel Principles lesson for Suhaila, Mohammed, and Bro. Seba, about "Exaltation". Suhaila started reverting to the traditions her priests had told her. Elder Poffenbarger had her read a Bible verse that supported the lesson, and then Mohammed, out of the blue, asked her, "Which is more important: the word or what a priest told you about it?" By the end of it she was a lot less freaked out about it, although we'll be talking with her to make sure she's okay. 

Lastly, since Elder Poffenbarger is leaving, everyone in the ward is vying for dinners with him. And if they can't get dinners they're looking to get lunch. We had a big lunch with some members yesterday, and then a just-as-big dinner with some other members a few hours later. We're getting VERY well-fed because of it!

That's it for this week. Thank you all for your letters and emails! Anything from friends and family in terms of email and physical letters is greatly appreciated! My address, as always, is in the signature of this email!

-- Elder Hawkes

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

"You're saying it's 'Murica. I'm saying it's the Nephites." - Elder Poffenbarger

Alternate email title is "I need an email title. Quick, say something funny!" from yours truly. 

Before I begin, P-day next week is on Monday the 18th due to our mission conference on the 19th. Don't be confused when you receive emails from me on the 18th and not on the 19th. 

This week, we...
- Have a throwdown by the Zone Leaders at Zone Meeting about teaching and planning
- Have exchanges, delaying our weekly planning
- Stumble through a lesson with Ikhalas while on exchanges
- Exchange back and spend the afternoon helping the third-biggest area in the zone, Jamul (delaying our weekly planning further)
- Have MTE's, where President Schmitt throws down about the exact same stuff (and have our weekly planning delayed even more)
- Have a breakthrough with Morad!
- Find out some key information about iPads
- Teach the Restoration to a very very Muslim family
- Attend a baptism with some former investigators (and have our weekly planning delayed even more!)
- Have a non-member who isn't an investigator show up to sacrament meeting 
- Don't give the Sunday School lesson in Arabic (did I mention our weekly planning got delayed even more?)
- Skype our families! :D
- Drive out to downtown San Diego to visit a potential that isn't home
- Pull some dandelions and make a four-year-old's day
- Find out the poor condition of an investigator's husband's health
- Teach Morad about baptism
- And finally, forget to bring our camera to emailing thus preventing us from sending pictures that should have been sent a few weeks ago

And all of this can be summed up in one phrase:
WOW. What a crazy week. 

So first off, last Wednesday we had Zone Meeting. The Zone Leaders taught us how we were planning and teaching incorrectly and how we need to do better. Basically, we weren't planning right, setting goals right, or teaching right. They showed us how we are expected to plan, teach, etc., and they're very right. We were doing things very incorrectly. It's like they're the Zone Leaders or something (and like President Schmitt knows what he's talking about!). We also had exchanges that day, which resulted in me taking over the area and Elder Jackson coming with me. 

We stumbled through a lesson with Ikhalas about obedience and baptism. My Arabic is good, but it's not that good. A lot of what she said went over my head and over Elder Jackson's, too! She's still not sure about baptism and concerned about her husband (more on that later). We told her to pray about it. We also spent most of the day working on finding new people, which led to some decent potential investigators being written down. 

We exchanged back on Thursday, which would normally lead right into Weekly Planning. NOPE. Jamul, the third-largest area in the zone (aside from the Arabic areas) needed some help contacting former investigators and less-actives. So we as a zone went to Jamul for the afternoon to help out. I learned how crazy a GPS can get when in a rural area (Jamul is VERY rural) as we would pass by where we were supposed to turn because the GPS thought there was another way to our destination and then have to drive another half-mile down the road to make a U-turn. When all was said and done, we got some good contacts for Jamul and went back to our areas to finish what was left of the day. 

Christian via Skype on Mother's Day. 
On Friday we had MTE's. I described them a little back in February but basically President Schmitt calls everyone in a few zones together to give us instruction on how to improve our proselyting, scrambles companions for the day, and sends us out. I wound up taking over the area again, only this time without an Arabic speaker! We went and visited Ikhalas, who told us that her husband was sick enough to prevent her from leaving the house. We taught her about prayer and invited her to keep praying about baptism and for her family's health.

We also had a breakthrough with Morad! We re-taught him the Restoration with an emphasis on the restoration of authority to baptize, then asked him if he would be baptized. He said, "Yes!" We then asked if he would be baptized on June 6 and his brain must have caught up to his mouth because he said, "Hold on. You can get baptized again?" "Yes, because the authority to baptize was lost, but it's been restored." "Let me ask my cousin about this." We asked him to pray about it, and he said he would. We also got the address for his brothers in Michigan.

At the MTE follow-up meeting on Saturday, President re-emphasized the points he talked about on Friday: We need to improve finding and praying in particular; we must teach quickly and simply; and we need to ask everyone "Who do you know?" He also told us that iPads are not, in fact, coming on the 19th because the 19th is Part 1 of 3 different meetings about iPads. Meeting 1 is a general overview. Meeting 2 is about the Area Book application (all our paper records will be shredded after being entered into the iPads, so everything needs to be up-to-date!). Meeting 3 is about online/Skype teaching and another "Don't be stupid" reminder. Then we get iPads... sometime. 

After the meeting we went back to our apartment, had a little lunch, and went out for the day. We went to a potential's apartment who had said that we would come back that day. They were very Muslim. Which isn't a bad thing, don't get me wrong. I love Islam and the Muslim people. I've been to mosque a few times and I've always had a good experience. The people are very friendly, very hospitable, and very willing to at least wish us luck. When it comes to teaching Muslims, we generally don't do it because 99% of them aren't interested and with the 1% that are we have to jump through a lot of hoops. This family was asking us questions and at the end of it agreed to read the Book of Mormon (on the grounds that "You can't refute something if you haven't read it!") and wished us well. 

The Zone Leaders had a baptism on Saturday. We called some former investigators, Nather and Siham, to come with us. There were a total of 8 people there, not counting the bishopric members or the person getting baptized. Despite that, it was a good baptism and Nather and Siham said we could come back if they're around. 

On Sunday we had an Arabic-speaking non-member at church who wasn't an investigator. That usually doesn't happen. In fact, that's the first time it has! We taught him a quick 5-minute Restoration before the meeting began. He left after sacrament meeting but promised he'd be back the next Sunday for church. Since no Arabic speakers were around for second hour, I didn't give my Gospel Principles lesson. Maybe next week.

We Skyped our families. Elder Poffenbarger's family is pretty cool. Mine is too, but that goes without saying. :) It was nice to see everyone again and to hear from each of them. 

We also drove out to downtown San Diego to contact a referral from the APs (Assistants to the Mission President). They weren't around, but we got to know the area a little more. And by that we mean, there are a total of maybe 5 Arabic speakers in the area, all of whom are Muslim. Probably won't be going back that way for a while. 

Yesterday we pulled some dandelions at the part-member family's house. We're almost done with all the dandelion pulling; just one or two more visits and it'll be done! We had the member's four-year-old grandson with us (he loves helping us) and it made it a lot more fun than it already was. We also finally finished our Weekly Planning yesterday! :D

We taught Morad about baptism. He's a lot more open to it now, but he's still not sure about a date. We also got a call from Ikhalas. Suffice it to say her husband is in the hospital and isn't doing too well. 

Lastly, I forgot my camera! I promise I'll have pictures next week! 

Thanks everyone for your letters, emails, carrier pigeons, etc. I love getting all sorts of mail! Talk to you all on Monday!

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

Sunday, May 10, 2015

"Sorry. Just playing 'footsies.'" - Elder Greer

You know when you say something and at first it sounds okay but then you re-evaluate?

This week, we...
- Meet with a former and find out he's super dropped
- Help move a family out and get lost on the way there
- Add an investigator who's concerned that we'll decrease his faith in Mary
- Have dinner with a recent convert
- Visit Ikhalas and get four referrals from her
- Go to the San Diego temple with Suhaila!
- Spend three hours teaching two less-actives and two families... at the same appointment
- Help tie back a fence while a police helicopter circles the neighborhood
- Have dinner with a four-year-old and her family
- Teach people English in their home

So first off, we called up a former investigator we've been wanting to keep track of. De'a, if you'll recall from more than three letters ago (I don't keep track of when I send what I send, really), had surgery and insisted on moving around despite it. A few weeks ago we went back to find him on the couch writhing in pain. He had had a stroke after a recent surgery and wasn't feeling great to say the least. We gave him a blessing, told him we'd keep in touch and pray for him, and left. We called him, and he had fully recovered! He wasn't in any pain from the stroke or the surgery and said he was doing wonderful! 

Elder Hawkes name right to left
He then proceeded to rip into us and tell us we were totally wrong. 

In short, he was very rooted in tradition and not willing to read further or do anything. He had a big problem with authority (even though we walked it through with him three or four times and he agreed with every point) and said "Come back any time to talk about anything except this." So now he's reallydropped. At least he's feeling better.

On Thursday we went and helped a family move out of their apartment. Elder Poffenbarger and I forgot to write down the address before we left, so we knew the approximate area but not the exact area. After driving in circles for a good five minutes, we finally spotted a U-haul truck and figured that was the place. It was. 

We added an investigator named Sa'id. He's got two very young children (one of whom loved our pamphlet so much she tore off the front cover) and is very Catholic. When we invited him to be baptized if he knew our message was true, he responded that he was concerned we'd build his faith in Christ but tear down his faith in Mary (in case you haven't gathered or I haven't mentioned, praying to the Virgin Mary is a BIG deal in the Chaldean community). Still, he accepted an invitation to learn more and actually set up an appointment, so at least he's interested. 

On Friday we had dinner with a recent convert, Mohammed. He fried up turkey and beef kebabs and chicken for us. I came away from that dinner very full. With Chaldean recent converts and the normal ward members, I don't think I have to worry about whether I'll be eating dinner on my mission or not!

On Saturday we visited Ikhalas and found out some more cemetery information. It's all super expensive, unless she gets cremated, which she isn't going to do. We taught her about the Gospel and invited her to be baptized. She's a little hesitant because she doesn't want to create a rift in her family, but she's willing to do it if she can without getting her family all freaked out. We then asked her, "Who do you know that we could teach?" She took us out to her back porch, pointed to four different doors in her complex, and said, "Go teach them. They need to hear this!" Moral of this story: Ask EVERYONE for referrals!

That evening the youth in the ward went to do temple baptisms. Suhaila and her boys came too. All the Arabic-speaking missionaries got to go with her, which was awesome! (I'll explain the rules of temple visits for us at the end of this email) Suhaila just did confirmations (31 of them, apparently!) because she didn't want to get baptized, but Mario and Marceleno did baptisms and confirmations. We talked with them last night about their experience and they all said they loved it and would love to go again. We told them they can go anytime they want since they have recommends and also told Suhaila she could get her endowments in a year, which she was excited about. 

On Sunday we had a dinner with a member. The rules for member dinners are that they can only be one hour and they have to be done by 6 P.M., unless there is a less-active or non-member there. They called us and asked if we could reschedule for 5:30, which would give us only a half-hour to eat. We told them we could, but that they'd have to invite someone over or make sure everything was wrapped up by 6. So they called their less-active mother, a less-active down the street, and another member family (referred to as "Family B" in this email) over! We were there from about 5:15 to 8:15 eating and teaching them. We went over why we follow certain things like the Word of Wisdom and how we follow them because God told us to. Family B had a four-year-old daughter who was being a normal four-year-old and not really paying attention, but everyone else was on board entirely! We had some long discussions about the Book of Mormon, apostasy, and the Second Coming. By the end of it, we had enough time to park the car and walk down a street or two to find some people!

Sunday night and early Monday morning it rained, which made pulling dandelions at the part-member's house easy. After we did that, an older lady in the ward asked us to help her tie parts of her wood fence to the chain-link fence behind it. It was a pretty quick and easy job. While we were working, a police helicopter was circling overhead, telling the neighborhood about a fugitive they were looking for. We're pretty sure they found him, because I thought I heard them say, "Get on your knees and put your hands up!" but I wasn't sure, and then saw it fly away after a while. So that was something. 

Last night we had a dinner at Family B's house. They informed us that their four-year-old had in fact been listening to the lesson on Sunday because she said, "I listen to you [the girl's mother] because God told me to!" We had a very fancy dinner of Mickey Mouse chicken nuggets (as requested by the daughter) and salad. One of the most interesting member dinners I've had so far, that's for sure! We also taught Muwfaq (a former investigator) and his wife basic introductions in English at their home last night. They want us to come by more frequently to help teach them English. 

That's it for this week as far as memory (and my planner!) serves me. I love getting email and hand-written letters, so don't be afraid to write! 

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