Wednesday, December 16, 2015

"Do you have an iPad yet?" "No, not yet. I carry the Wi-fi in my heart." - Bro. Seba and Elder Belnap

Sent on Dec. 1, 2015

Normally I'd have something witty or interesting to say about the email title this week, but I don't, so let's get right to it!
This week, we...
- Forget about the fact that we have exchanges until the Zone Leaders call us
- Get lost in downtown San Diego, then proceed to get lost in La Mesa
- Meet a Chaldean who wants to pay tithing
- Have dinner with an older family in the ward and teach a lesson before dinner
- Go on exchanges with Elder Campbell
- Have second Thanksgiving dinner
- Check up on Morad, who quit smoking!... and then didn't.
- Interview an eight-year-old for baptism
- Find not-Arabic speakers in apartments where we were told there were Arabic speakers

First up, I don't know if it's the mission or if I got dropped on my head or what, but I've developed a poor memory when it comes to really important things. When we go to visit someone at their house I usually have to check my iPad three or four different times in a short interval because I've either forgotten the address, the name, the apartment number, or some combination of the three. Sometimes when I check my iPad to find out one of the above I forget the other one or two. This week, I learned that it applies to exchanges with the Zone Leaders also. We got a call on Wednesday morning from them saying, "So, about exchanges today... Elder Godby is going to be with you and Elder Belnap for the day while Elder Egnew and Elder Jones stay in Fuerte." 

This was about 7:30 in the morning. We exchange at 8:30. So that was an interesting start to the morning! It also didn't help that they closed down a section of the freeway for the morning, forcing us to take the really long way to get to where we needed to go. But we got it all worked out, Elder Godby came with us, and we drove out to the mission office in downtown San Diego in order to get needs for our district (needs normally come with the mail, but there was some mix-up and we didn't get our needs). We figured while we were out there we could try some potentials and formers in the surrounding areas, so we went to work. On our way to the first former, Google Maps forgot what distances are and said that our turn was an immediate right, which it wasn't. We spent a good half-hour circling around trying to find this nonexistent turn when we finally ran into two missionaries biking in the area. We asked them where it was and they pointed us in the right direction - right down the street from where we were circling! We finally found the address, got to the door, and no one was home. So we left a card with our name and number on it and figured they'd call us if they were interested. 

After that we had an almost exact repeat of earlier in our attempt to find a potential investigator in La Mesa. Google Maps didn't understand this time what directions were and started leading us to our apartment in Santee. After Elder Godby and Elder Belnap worked it out on a different map, we went to the house... and no one was home! Again, we left a card and figured they'd call us back. At that point we figured it was best to head back to El Cajon where we knew the streets and could figure out where we were without the use of maps.

We parked on a street and prayed that we'd be led to someone who was willing to hear our message. Right before we went back to the car, we decided to knock on one last door. A man named Basaam opened and after a brief explanation of what we were about he said we could come in for a little bit. We didn't have a whole lot of time but we sat down, started with a prayer, and got a feel for his religious background. He's Catholic, but he's always felt that he needs to pay tithing to God. He told us, "I've always felt that I need to pay 10% to the Lord - العشور (Al-Ashur, "tithing"). I've got about $130 from previous paychecks and I'm wondering where I could pay it. Could I come to your church and pay it?" 

After I picked my mouth up off of the floor, we explained that we believe in the principle of tithing and he's welcome to come to church but he's under no obligation to pay anything because there isn't a collection plate passed around or anything like that. We also talked a little bit about our belief in Jesus and how our message was centered in him. He said we could come back Friday at 8:30. He wasn't home on Friday, but his wife said to try on Wednesday when he is home. 

Thursday wasn't any special day or anything. Just, you know, عيد التركي (Aid Al-Turkey, what Arabic speakers call Thanksgiving here). We had a dinner with an older family in the ward, the Mahaffey's. Sis. Mahaffey had her non-member brother come in from Arizona and she described him as "very anti-religion." So from the start we figured it was going to be an interesting lesson! It started out with Bro. Mahaffey, the non-member who I'll call Greg, and two other older members of the ward talking politics. I've learned to not talk during those conversations, regardless of whether I agree or not. Suffice it to say I now know their individual stances on gun control, Islam, and the House of Representatives. After that fun little conversation, they turned it over to us. We asked Greg some questions about his familiarity with religion; he told us that he's not really familiar with religion aside from what he sees الدعش (Al-Da'ash, the Arabic abbreviation for ISIS/ISIL/What have you) and from history textbooks. He told us he wasn't really into religion at all. While we were talking, I prayed silently that the Lord would show me and Elder Belnap where to go with this because I personally had no idea. As we started the lesson, the words came to me in the form of "I should say this next" and similar thoughts. It was an awesome lesson and we were able to actually use the earlier discussion about الدعش and current events to reinforce some of the things we were talking about. At the end we gave him the Book of Mormon and he said, "I'm definitely going to read this." We invited him to pray about it and he said, "Sure. I don't see the harm in doing it at least." I was grateful to see the words come to me and to Elder Belnap as we prayed for direction. Dinner was good and there was a distinct lack of political conversation. Just another tender mercy from the Lord. :)

Sidenote before I go into the next bit: As district leader, I have to go on exchanges at least once a transfer with every missionary in the district (aside from the sister missionaries, of course). It turns out that this transfer is a short transfer so that the people going home in December don't go home two days before Christmas. So for the last three weeks of the transfer (last week, this week, and next week) we have the privilege of doing back-to-back exchanges. I started it off by going on exchanges with Elder Campbell. He's a Linguistics minor who grew up in Washington, D.C. and wants to work for the State Department. It was almost frightening how similar we were. He ran me through what's going on with the Presidential Election in five minutes and I understood 90% of what he was talking about. Thankfully our conversations were not political in nature. Yet another tender mercy from the Lord. District meeting went well, there isn't much to talk about with the exchange. We didn't have any lessons, and we only met one or two people, but at least we didn't drop anyone! 

Saturday we exchanged back, did language study with our ward mission leader... Not much happened until the evening. We went to visit Morad on Wednesday and he told us he'd quit smoking and he was going around telling people all day that he'd quit. We were really happy for him and started going through the baptismal interview questions in order to get him prepared. Well, on Saturday we went back and it turns out he bought another pack. :( We told him that when he came to church on Sunday we'd go over a program with him that would help him quit (he didn't come to church on Sunday, so we're doing it tomorrow with him). We felt like we should just keep moving forward and so we taught him the Law of Tithing. It went a lot better than the last time we taught it, in part because we brought a member who has an amazing testimony of the blessings of paying tithing. He agreed to live the Law of Tithing and continue to prepare for baptism. We honestly weren't very shocked at the fact that he relapsed; he's been smoking since he was a young kid and it's a difficult habit to break. We told him to keep working on it and not give up just because he went back to them this time!

On Sunday we were going to go to Jamul to interview an eight-year-old the Sisters have been teaching, but it didn't work out so we rescheduled for Monday. It was honestly one of the hardest interviews I've ever had. I had to rephrase the questions a lot for her and it wasn't the easiest thing to do. She passed the interview (the Sisters did need to do some follow-up on one or two principles but they got those taken care of) and she's going to be baptized this Saturday. It's really cool to see who the Lord is preparing!

Last night we had a lesson with Morad that wasn't very noteworthy (plot twist: He agreed to follow the law like he already has been!), but afterward we went to contact some other potentials. We went to one door and knocked on it and out walked a guy with long hair who definitely didn't speak Arabic. He talked to us about youth outreach and how he was wanting to be a good example to kids and help the community by showing kids and teens the right way to spend their time by offering free guitar lessons. He wasn't interested in hearing our message, but he was really cool! The next one we tried was referred to us from the same set of missionaries that referred the guitar-playing guy. We knocked on the door. No answer. We rang the doorbell. Out walks this guy with a very thick Texan accent. He told us, "You're looking for Arabic speakers? Well there aren't any in this apartment... but you must be looking for #96! They speak Arabic." So we thanked him for his time and went on our way because it was late and we needed to get home. And that's how we were 0 for 2 when it came to Arabic speakers!

That's it for this week (I'm 90% sure that I'll remember something really cool after this that I can't remember right now)! Thank you all for your prayers for me and my companion as well as for Morad! They are very much appreciated! Have a wonderful week! 
!الرب يبارككم
-- إلدر هاكْس

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