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

"'Enjoy the moon'? Great, now she's going to think we're pagan moon worshippers." - Elder Belnap

From Feb 23, 2016

You've got to watch out when street contacting. When people see white
shirts, nametags, and ties, they immediately think "Pagans".

This week, we...
- Visit Bro. Dunlop again
- Teach a Saudi Arabian and have dinner at 7
- Get solicited to on exchanges
- Have ward conference

Not as much happened this week. On Wednesday we visited Bro. Dunlop
again. The fellowshipper we brought hit it off right away with him.
Bro. Dunlop was talking about his piano and the fellowshipper, Bro.
Bezdechi, casually mentioned, "Oh yeah! My dad used to make pianos
like that." Immediately Bro. Dunlop dropped what he was doing in shock
and started swapping notes. All in all it was a good lesson, despite
Bro. Dunlop chafing at the church commitment.

A Trailer Park Gingerbread House we sent Elder Hawkes
On Thursday we were going to have dinner with a recent convert family
at 7, so our day seemed a little rushed. We had an appointment at the
SDSU Institute at 6, so we rushed over there after getting some
preparations done for our translation of ward conference. At the
Institute we met up with a Saudi Arabian named Sam who had approached
the Mandarin Sisters at UCSD and asked to learn more. It turns out he
was a Muslim-turned agnostic and wanted to find out what our beliefs
were. We taught him the Restoration and invited him to be baptized. It
was an awesome lesson. Unfortunately, our dinner appointment
cancelled, so we just ran across the street to McDonald's and got some
food before driving back to El Cajon to finish off the night.

Friday and Saturday we had exchanges. I went to Arabic South with
Elder Jensen. We started the exchange off right by being solicited to!
Some guy knocked on the door of the member's house where we lived and
was advertising for a veteran's shelter. We almost gave him a
pass-along card but he ran off pretty quickly after he finished his
talk about how the shelter was certified as a 501(c)(3) organization.
We spent a little bit of companion study analyzing his door approach
and determining how we could do better. The other great thing that
happened on exchanges was that we helped set up a giant tent for a
wedding. We neglected to take pictures (sorry Dad!) but it was a
really fun project that took four hours.

On Sunday we had ward conference. Everything was on the Sabbath Day.
They talked about how we shouldn't feel guilty about what we do on the
Sabbath and how our Sabbath Day observance is a sign between us and
God. It was awesome!

That's it for everyone! I'm going to take pictures of our district
putting together a gingerbread house now. Thank you all for your
prayers. I love you all!

-- Elder Hawkes

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

"The more you think about it, the more it makes sense... Darth Vader is Cailou." - Elder Hawkes

From February 16, 2016

Flawless. That's all I can describe this theory as: flawless.

So I should really proofread my emails now and again because I know that last week's wasn't really anything at all and I apologize for that. Lots of crazy things happened last Tuesday and it was not very much fun. Thankfully those really stressful P-days only happen once in a while, so I can look forward to having some relatively-stress-free P-days in the future!

This week, we...
- Get in the door with some less-actives
- Do more service!
- Go on exchanges with the zone leaders
- Teach more less-actives!
- Add someone! :D
- Listen to Elder Renlund throw down
- Convince some old women we aren't Jehovah's Witnesses (which is a success in and of itself)

This email is really really not going to necessarily be in chronological order because that's not the way this week went. Yes, that's right. This week was not in chronological order. And neither is this coming one. Sometimes your weeks feel more like the Topical Guide or the Index to the Triple Combination, and sometimes your weeks just feel like Song of Solomon. 

Speaking of Song of Solomon, we had a bunch of less-actives to visit from the Ward Council. So we visited them over the past week! A lot of them, to be honest, weren't home. We got to see two or three of them, but none of them were interested. One told us he had asked to not have much contact. One said, "Check back in a month." One said, "Yeah you could come by, but I'm not sure what we'd talk about..." I'll get to him in a minute. Anyway! We met this one named Bro. Layton who we had never met before. He let us in very politely and told us he wasn't really interested in changing or coming back to church or anything. He talked to us about how much family means to him and how his faith in Christ helped him. Really, he needed someone to just talk to. I was grateful we were able to help him out. 

We also did a lot of service this week. We've been helping an elderly lady tear out her grass and get new seed in. Every time we go over we think "We'll finish this in half an hour!"

And every time it doesn't work like that. 

We also helped a blind man sort his mail this week, which was great. We'd been trying to get ahold of him for the longest time and we finally stopped by. Turns out, we had the wrong phone number. So now we know. 

On Thursday we added someone! His name is Lance. Elder Belnap had street contacted him on MTE's last Monday (as an aside, I went to La Mesa for MTE's and nothing noteworthy happened) and he said to come by Thursday at 3. So we went by and knocked. And knocked. And knocked. 

Right as we were about to leave a card saying, "Sorry we missed you" he came out and said, "Sorry about that." We then sat down at a nearby pavilion and taught him the Restoration. We went waaayyyy too fast and he seemed really confused by it all, but at the end he prayed and told the Lord he'd read from the Book of Mormon and looked forward to doing so! We have an appointment on Monday with him and I'll be sure to let you all know how that goes. 

On Friday we had exchanges with the zone leaders. Elder Godby came with me to Arabic North, and we had an awesome day talking with everyone. We went and visited the less active that told us to try in a month, and we were looking around and seeing who we could talk to right after that. We looked up the road and there was the less-active we'd been teaching, Bro. Dunlop. We were talking with him and the thought came to my mind to have him bear his testimony of the Restoration. And that was exactly what was needed! We testified of the reality of the Restoration, and right at the end Elder Godby invited him to church. He paused for a minute and said, "Yes," followed up with "You invited me so fast that I couldn't come up with an excuse not to come!" It was awesome!

On Sunday we had a regional broadcast. Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve spoke. It was awesome! He started off with his story of when he and his wife were at Adam-ondi-Ahman and someone asked them what the Church taught about the place because they "felt a special spirit" there. "How do you start a gospel conversation with Adam-ondi-Ahman?", he asked. His wife started with "The short answer is this...," then testified of the First Vision and the Restoration, turning it back to her husband by saying, "And now my husband will be more than happy to explain what this place has to do with that!" She did the same thing in Athens about coffee, and then he did the same thing when someone asked him about the Law of Chastity. The point of it was that in order to teach commandments, it's important to have the context of the Restoration and the Plan of Salvation. Pure medical statistics or social mores or surveys or scientific research is not enough to explain the Word of Wisdom, the Law of Chastity, etc. He also talked about disagreeing without being disagreeable. Overall it was awesome! Bro. Dunlop had something come up and didn't come, but Arabic South had two Muslim women attend the broadcast and they loved it!

Yesterday we had a member come out with us during the evening to visit some potentials. As we were walking in a complex some old women flagged us down. One of them was asking about Moses and why he wasn't able to enter the Promised Land (it took four or five repeats to understand what she was saying), and the other made a comment about how Jesus was crucified with his arms outstretched, not above him. I realized they were talking about Jehovah's Witnesses, and told them, "We're not Jehovah's Witnesses." 

And they believed us!

Picking up a thing or two from the broadcast on Sunday we talked about who we were by saying, "The short answer is this..." And then shared the message of the Restoration with them. They were really receptive, although initially hesitant to take a Book of Mormon because they thought it cost us money to get. When we were able to explain that it was for them, they were really grateful! We're going to follow-up this week and see how things went. 

Lastly, a thought tied to an event last night. Remember that less-active that said he wasn't sure what we'd talk about? We went by last night and knocked. He didn't answer, so we were about to ring the doorbell. Right then I felt that it wasn't the right thing to do. I told my companion and he said, "Okay." We were wondering where to go and we felt that we should go to a less-active a half-mile away. We went there, knocked on the door, annnndddd.... Nothing. So we said, "Okay, the Lord told us to come here, so where should we go?" As we were walking, Elder Belnap felt we should go knock on one particular door. So we did, annnndddd.... Nothing. What I felt impressed upon me last night was this:
Oftentimes I think that when the Lord tells me to knock on a house it's because there's someone there just eager to hear the message or to be baptized or come to church or get sealed in the temple or whatever. But many times it's to see how obedient I'm going to be. The Lord tells me to knock on a house and I knock on it, I've obeyed. The Lord tells me to tract every house in a neighborhood and I do it, I've obeyed. And because I've obeyed, He's more willing to trust me with people willing to progress towards baptism. 

Now that's something I knew, and I'm sure everyone knew that already, but last night for me was yet another "one step closer" experience wherein a simple lesson was impressed even greater upon my mind. I love those moments. 

That's it for this week! Thanks to everyone for their letters and emails and more importantly their prayers and fasts. Have a great week! Don't be afraid to repent!

-- Elder Hawkes

Really quick email...

From February 9, 2016

We went to the temple today as a district. We got there 10 minutes
before 12 and wound up having to do a 1:00 session rather than the
12:00 session with the rest of the district. So I have yet to do
shopping. Also, we had a meeting this morning that ran long, so I have
yet to do laundry. Very hectic day today!

Nothing really has happened in terms of work. Only lesson was Morad's
drop lesson. We just went and did finding all week and didn't get
anything out of it except a few people dropped.

I love you all and hope you have a great week.

-- Elder Hawkes

"And if you think that nothing is good on the menu at Sonic, I invite you now to repent!" - President Schmitt, at a YSA Devotional

From February 2, 2016

This week went by way too fast. January in general went by way too fast. Seriously. 

This week, we...
- Walk all over El Cajon and meet a lot of Spanish-speaking people
- Help uproot some weeds in a yard
- Teach a few people other than Morad
- Have two random people show up to church!
- Sing to a bunch of YSA's
- Close the chapter of Morad for now

So first off, on Wednesday we had exchanges! Elder Jensen came to Arabic North with me and we spent most of the day walking from potential to potential in an effort to find people and teach them and baptize them (which is what we do every day, but you know...). We started out on Third St, which is north of I-8. We tried a few potentials on there with no success. We then walked over to a complex on E Main St and tried a few other people in there, with no success. We then walked down E Main and talked with everyone. 

It's kind of funny, actually. For Arabic-speaking missionaries serving amongst the second-largest Arabic-speaking population in the U.S., we sure run into a lot of Spanish-speaking people. It doesn't help much that my Spanish vocabulary is essentially limited to "We're missionaries and we don't speak Spanish, but could we get your address?" The most notable Spanish-speaking street contact of the day: We were walking on Main St and noticed a lady who was carrying her groceries. We went over and did our best (by that I mean mostly talked with her in English and used hand gestures) to explain that we wanted to help her carry her groceries. She was really confused by it all but allowed us to help her out. At the end of it all, we managed to somehow get an address from her and explain to her that other missionaries would stop by sometime. 

After that we continued down E Main, taking a brief detour into a street called Shady Lane where probably about half of our area book lives. We tried a few potentials on that street but nothing worked out so we continued to soldier on and talk with everyone all the way down to Mollison Ave. From there we walked over to Madison Ave. (probably about half a mile) and proceeded to walk up Madison and head towards our next appointment. We ran into a few English speakers who wanted some materials (we placed a Book of Mormon!) and we managed to place a few pamphlets to some high schoolers as they were walking away from school (I presume they were going home but I didn't bother to ask them because even though there's a three-year age gap it's still creepy). Once we got to Second St (I'm not sure how far away that is and I'm going to either be way under or way over if I guess) we walked up to a set appointment on Oakdale only to discover that he wasn't home. By this point our legs were sore, we were almost out of pamphlets and copies of the Book of Mormon to give out, and dinner time was close, so we walked from Oakdale back to our car on Third, stopping to talk to a lady who kept giving us referrals as we asked her "Who do you know that could use a message about Christ?" Which isn't a bad problem to have, really. And that, ladies and gentleman, is the riveting tale of how we walked all over El Cajon! Dad, if you want to map this out in Map My Run and give me an actual count of how far we walked, that'd be great. I'm really curious now. 

Thursday we didn't do our weekly planning but instead helped uproot weeds in a ward member's yard. Sis. Sorensen (remember the lady who said the secret to living long was chocolate?) had a lot of weeds growing in her front yard and it needed to get taken care of. We uprooted a lot of it through shovels but three hours later and we still weren't close to being done. So we called it a day and said we'd be back another day with some extra hands to help her out. That evening was another evening of talking with everyone. Morad had a quick lesson wherein we essentially encouraged him to continue preparing for baptism and don't relapse because honestly Morad you've got less than a week before your scheduled baptism and you can't afford to relapse now so don't do it. 

Friday was a district meeting wherein we talked about Revelation through the Book of Mormon, which is honestly one of my favorite topics to discuss. I love talking about the Book of Mormon probably more than any other topic we teach about as missionaries. It's just so great! I'd encourage each of you to read it and keep reading it (speaking of which, how is the Book of Mormon challenge going for you all?) After that we did Weekly Planning and got a lesson with a man named يعقوب (Yaqob/Jacob). Right before we got through the first three points of the Restoration he and his wife stopped us and said, "We're Catholic. We already know about Jesus. Go preach to Muslims." So we thanked them for their time and left. We left behind a copy of the Book of Mormon and encouraged them to read it. 

On Saturday we went to go contact a bunch of referrals we had received from other missionaries, all of which were in the same area. And every single one of them wasn't home! We knocked on one door and asked for the person and they said, "They're not here. Try in the evenings." So we went to contact the other potential and the same thing happened, except this time a man answered and so we asked "Well could we share a message with you?" And so we went in and taught the family of the referral! The father was kind of half there mentally, so we'll need to follow-up, but other than that it went well. We did our best to get a return appointment, but they wouldn't set one. So we're going to go back today and follow-up with them and contact the referral! 

On Sunday Morad came to church. We also had a random man named Eisam show up to church that Elder Belnap and I street contacted. He just walked it and sat down and stayed for first and second hours. Morad left after sacrament meeting (after some vain attempts on my part to convince him to stay) but Eisam stayed for Gospel Principles and so we decided to just do the Restoration in Gospel Principles that day. Bro. Garvin, the new Arabic-speaking member in the ward, was there and Eisam made a point to tease him for sounding like an Egyptian. The lesson went well, and Eisam accepted the invitation to read the Book of Mormon. Right as we were talking about the Book of Mormon, another random Arabic-speaker showed up, accompanied by Elders Jensen and Campbell. This was a guy that they had street contacted who wanted to come for sacrament meeting but came late. He said he'd be back "Next week" and really really wanted to come to sacrament meeting. His name is Sabah, and that's really all that I know about him. It was a miracle Sunday! As a random aside, there was a big storm on Sunday that knocked out power at our church building in the afternoon right as Elder Belnap and I were doing our studies. I'll include pictures in a separate email. 

Sunday evening we went to the Mission President's Devotional for YSA's because Sister Stewart and Elder Belnap were singing in it. One of the new missionaries, an ASL Elder, stood up and shared his testimony and conversion story. Basically he went to Sonic one day and while frustratingly trying to communicate with some of the workers two missionaries walked up and offered to translate for him. He felt really good about talking with them and so he stopped them, learned more, and eventually got baptized. Now he's serving a mission in San Diego doing American Sign Language. President Schmitt started his remarks with the email title for the week, and bore powerful testimony about the Lord changing us and how we can come closer to Him through living his Gospel - Developing and exercising faith in Him and desiring to come closer to Him through changing ourselves through repentance and baptism for the remission of sins, then receiving the Holy Ghost so that we may endure to the end and live with God. I love President Schmitt. 

Yesterday we visited Morad. He bought another pack of cigarettes and told us he doesn't believe God listens to him. He hasn't been reading out of the Book of Mormon or taking steps to increase his faith and repent, and we told him very frankly that as much as we loved him and wanted to help him, we wouldn't be stopping by anymore because he wasn't exercising his faith and demonstrating sincere repentance. Honestly, one of the hardest things I've ever done on my mission was drop him. For the past three months I've fasted and prayed for him, I've rejoiced when he's progressed and been saddened when he turns away from God. Dropping him was what we needed to do, and I walked away feeling that I had gotten one step closer to God by doing so. I now know more fully what it must be like for God when He sees people turn away from Him and reject Him over and over again. Morad's story doesn't end here. We won't be visiting him, but we'll still be praying for him and fasting for him and I know that in the Lord's time he will progress and be baptized. 

That's it for this week everyone! Thank you all for your letters, your emails, your prayers, and your fasts. I love you all and hope you have a great week! Happy February!

-- Elder Hawkes

"You speak Arabic? Ha! You just activated my trap card!" - Elder Belnap

From January 26, 2016

Not too much to report this week, so I'll be brief. 
This week, we...
- Throw furniture off of a balcony, set off a fire sprinkler, and rearrange furniture... All in a five-hour period
- Get Morad interviewed for baptism
- Push back Morad's baptismal date

So how about that missionary broadcast on Wednesday? It was awesome! There was a ton of focus on the Preach My Gospel Fundamentals, especially about the Doctrine of Christ. What was great was that there wasn't really anything new discussed: It was all stuff I'm sure we as missionaries have heard before. The Lord teaches and works through repetition, and it's so great that there was a lot of that. The Fundamentals are there for a reason, and it's great to be able to refocus and reemphasize those. 
After the broadcast, Elder Belnap and I rushed over to give a blessing to one of the Sisters' investigators, then grabbed something to eat and rushed to a service opportunity. The Church donated 40 bed sets to a homeless shelter and it was our responsibility to help put everything in the apartments. It was not the best coordinated service project, but we got things done.

There were 20 apartments, each of which needed two beds and a dresser. As luck would have it all of them were upstairs! We spent about half of the time getting rid of the old furniture and the other half putting everything in the rooms. Initially we were moving all the furniture down the stairs and helping to get those unloaded, but then the management had a brilliant idea of just tossing the old furniture over the balcony. And that's when things got fun. In coordination with one or two other missionary companionships (we had all the missionaries in the El Cajon zone there, plus some members) we would lift the furniture (usually heavy wooden bed frames) up and then push it out so it landed in a nice good pile on the pavement below. At one point Elders Jensen and Campbell set off a fire sprinkler after they hit it with some of the furniture they were getting rid of, which almost ruined the dressers we were supposed to set up were it not for the quick action of some of the missionaries. All in all it took about six hours to get everything done and we only stayed for five. I slept well that night and I think I'm still a little sore from it. 

This week was all about Morad. He quit smoking and after some maneuvering agreed to quit drinking tea. We got an interview set up for him for Saturday and after a 20-minute discussion about why the interview was important and how it wasn't that bad and Morad you need to be there, he showed up promptly at 7:00 for the interview. He passed with flying colors (he was a little confused about the Law of Chastity and thought we were suggested celibacy) and everything seemed set for this Saturday. 

And then last night happened. 

He went and bought a new pack of cigarettes yesterday morning because he was stressed out. We were really sad to see it and he definitely understood that it was not a good thing. We brought a member with us that the Ward Council had recommended and it went well. He recommitted to live the Word of Wisdom and prepare for baptism on Feb. 6th. During the lesson he kept talking about how he wasn't sure if God really loved him, and we testified throughout of God's love for him and His happiness at Morad's willingness to listen and progress. It was really a sad lesson, but at the same time we felt so much hope. He can be baptized, I know it. 

That's it for this week! Thanks for your letters and emails and more importantly your prayers and support for Morad and for us. Please pray for Morad and I'll let you all know next week how he's doing!

Happy birthday on Jan. 29th to my friend Millie in the Japan Tokyo Mission! It's so great hearing from you and being your friend. 

-- Elder Hawkes

"So next week we've got a lunch appointment, a teaching visit, and we're dumping a dead body!" - Sis. Stewart

From January 19, 2016

To make a long story short, one of their investigators found an urn
amongst a bunch of things, so she invited the sisters to come with her
to lunch while she spreads the ashes at a lake. How one just happens
to have the ashes of some random relative in one's house without
realizing it, I don't know.

Speaking of dead bodies, here's my email for the week!
This week, we...
- Get invited to a lunch appointment we weren't actually invited to
- Teach 3 back-to-back lessons with members present! :D
- Help Morad quit smoking!
- Have an okay district meeting
- Baptize someone!
- Drop the person we added on Wednesday
- Drive up to Penasquitos so Elder Belnap can sing at a Mission
President's Devotional

So on Wednesday, Elder Hawkes started the day by praying for patience.
Because who couldn't use more patience in their life?

Friends, family, elders, sisters, Romans, countrymen... I have a
testimony that the Lord answers prayers like that. For instance, one
time before we left the apartment we prayed for patience and it took
twice as long as normal to get to our ward mission leader's house
because we hit every single red light on the way to his house without

So this time around we finish up our two hours of Companionship Study
and are about to microwave some Star Wars macaroni and cheese (Elder
Hawkes can't resist product placement sometimes) when we get a phone
call from Bro. McCoy. He immediately tells us we're late for our lunch
appointment. "What lunch appointment?" "Didn't you go over and pick
lemons and move firewood for Sis. Sorenson last week?" I immediately
deferred to Elder Belnap because I knew I had been on exchanges, but
he didn't know of any lunch appointment. We figured we might have
neglected to write it down and after a good amount of apologizing left
the apartment to drive to Alpine (15 miles east of El Cajon) to meet
Sis. Sorenson for lunch.

When we got to the restaurant we were more than a little confused when
we saw Arabic South sitting at the table with Sis. Sorenson. Realizing
the downsides of triple-covering a ward we shot Arabic South a look
from the front room of the restaurant that essentially read as, "What
are you doing here?" They shot us back the same look and so we
figured, "Well, we drove all the way out here, might as well have
lunch." Sis. Sorenson laughed about it and said, "Oh isn't that nice!
Bro. McCoy invited all four of you to come!" She willingly paid for
our food as well as Arabic South's and we went away laughing about it.

Our mission has a goal this year of baptizing 1,000 individuals. In
order to do that, President Schmitt has directed to strive to get
members to every lesson, if possible. We brought a member out with us
to visit a former named Nithal. Not much to report on that lesson, her
concerns are the same ("I've read your book and it's essentially the
same as my Bible. I don't see any difference between what you have and
what I have."). We then took him to visit Morad, who is progressing
towards baptism on Jan. 30th. That night we needed to clear a very big
hurdle with him: smoking. We brought the lesson, the materials,
everything we needed. Only problem: We were running late and we had
arranged to bring a different member out with us at 8:00! We wound up
doing splits with the members wherein Elder Belnap stayed and helped
Morad with smoking while I went to visit a man named Abdulilah.

Abdulilah was a very stubborn man but we taught him anyway and he
agreed to read the Book of Mormon. We got to the invitation to be
baptized and his stubbornness came out. As it did when we invited him
to attend church with us. And as it did when we invited him to pray
something other than the Lord's Prayer to close our lesson. He was
very stubborn but we felt we should come back, so we added him and
went back to reunite with Elder Belnap. Turns out that Morad chafed at
the commitment to crush his cigarettes. He promised he would do it the
next day and we made everything happen to hold him to it.

When we went back on Thursday Morad had gotten rid of his remaining
cigarettes. Not entirely sure what to do in the situation we went
forward with the program. We actually had two different members come
teach him with us and it went well for the most part. He committed to
follow the program and allowed us to take his ashtray and throw it
away. We gave him all the necessary materials and told him we would
pray for him and stop by on Saturday.

On Saturday the sisters had a baptism in the Hillsdale Ward. Margaret
requested that I baptize her, which was a great privilege. We filled
up the font and got everything ready well in advance. The program was
great, the Spirit was strong, and... The water was cold. Regardless,
the baptism went really well! Margaret started crying in the font
after she was baptized and all she could say was, "Thank you! Thank
you so much!" It was a really powerful event. Morad couldn't make it
because he had work. I wish he'd been able to attend.

Speaking of Morad, we went by on Saturday and half expected there to
be a new pack of cigarettes on the table. There wasn't! He told us,
"I'm done. No more cigarettes. I used the money I would have spent on
cigarettes to buy food and put gas in my truck." It was so wonderful
to see! We went over some of the Baptismal Interview Questions with
him to help him prepare more for baptism. He's got issues with tea
still, which is worrying given the short time before his baptism.
We're working on that with him. He talked about how he wants to be
able to marry someone and have a family, and the member we brought out
with us testified of the principle of eternal marriage. It was a great

That evening we visited Abdulilah again. We asked if he had read out
of the Book of Mormon at all and he said he had. He said he liked it
and he intended to keep reading. We taught him a little more about the
Restoration to clarify a few things and he told us, "Even if I knew
this was true, I wouldn't come to church. I've got responsibilities at
my church! My priest needs me there! I can't go." So we dropped him,
but not before asking who he knew that we could go teach. He pointed
to his neighbor and said, "They're the only ones in here I know.
They're Christian, but their faith is weaker than it should be." So we
got a referral out of it, which was great!

On Sunday Margaret got confirmed, which was another spiritual
experience. Morad couldn't make it (he got called into work because
some other employees got sick and had to go to the hospital). :( That
evening we had a Mission President's Devotional in Penasquitos. Elder
Belnap and Sister Stewart auditioned for a musical number and were
invited to sing at it, so our Sunday consisted of studies, church,
correlation meeting, lunch, and the Devotional. It was really great,
though. I was really happy that we got to attend.

Last night we visited Morad and one of the first questions was, "Wait,
what's baptism?"


Either we hadn't taught very well, he didn't remember it, or both. So
we went over baptism again with him and he was initially closed off to
the idea but at the end was more open to it. I worry about him. Please
please please keep praying for him!

That's it for this week! Thanks everyone for your prayers of support
and for your letters and emails. Have a great week!

-- Elder Hawkes