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

"Atlas Shrugged was a waste of three months of my time." "Yeah, you could've just played Bioshock..." - Elder Hawkes and Elder Belnap

From January 12, 2016

Alternative title, I'll be honest, was going to be something about how
El Cajon was once the crystal meth capital of the world but I figured
it would not be appreciated by many. So I wrote this instead.

Welcome to my 100%-drug-free email, everyone! This week, we...:
- Drop Tithing Guy
- Have some really great lessons with Morad!
- Help a less-active commit to come to church
- Go to English work for the day and sort-of tract
- Add some people in Arabic South's area
- Visit some potentials with the Bishop and get a great lesson!

I don't know how many of you remember Basaam, the Tithing Guy (Elder
Greer, put your hand down). We had a tough time getting in contact
with him, but we finally got in the door on Wednesday! And he dropped
us. He told us essentially, "You came in and shared the message and
that's great I guess. But we really don't care about learning more. If
we want to know more, we'll call you." And that was the end of the
Story of Tithing Guy (for now)!

We visited Morad several times this week. He's progressing really well
towards baptism on Jan. 23rd. We gave him Book of Mormon Stories and
he was really happy about that. He understands the doctrine really
well and believes it's true, which is great. We've got to help him out
with the Word of Wisdom but other than that he's solid. His dad
actually sat in on one of the lessons for a few minutes. Turns out, he
doesn't understand Arabic too well and is more on the illiterate side
than most people. He also isn't really interested in learning.

On Wednesday we visited with Bro. Dunlop, a less-active we've been
working with for a while. We brought out our High Priests Group Leader
with us to get him involved, and it was definitely an inspired choice.
He invited Bro. Dunlop to church (after admittedly some really
ineffective questions on our part) and he said, "I'm a lot more active
than you think!" He agreed to come to church when he's in town. All it
took was for us to really level with him and go, "Look. We're helping
you come back to church because we love you and want to help you. We
know this can and will bless you."

We had exchanges with the Zone Leaders and it placed me in English
work for the day. We tried potential after potential after potential
and did a little bit of tracting. Lots of door slams. A few "Maybe"
responses. One guy named Sin told us he was agnostic, which was pretty

We got to add two people in Arabic South's area that Elder Belnap and
Elder Schroeder had found them during a service project. They met the
son, Elias, and when we went by on Saturday once the dad heard his
son's name he sat his son on the couch, said, "Well this is for you
apparently!" And left the room. Nonetheless it was a good lesson. The
mother was really involved and interested.

Right after that we brought our bishop out with us to visit Morad, who
turned out not to be home. We wound up bringing him out to visit some
potential investigators with us, and one actually turned into a
lesson! His name is Ceazif (sp?) and he was telling us how despite his
Catholic background he's very against tradition. He was really
interested in the Book of Mormon and agreed to read it. It was really

That's actually it for this week everyone! Thanks for your letters and
emails, and more importantly your faith and prayers! I love you all!

-- Elder Hawkes

I don't think anyone's going to hack your email to steal a bunch of Arabic notes." "That's what the hackers want you to think!" - Elder Hawkes and Elder Belnap

From January 5, 2016

I'm going to switch up the format just for this week, I think. Variety
is the spice of life, after all.

Happy New Year everyone. On behalf of the El Cajon Hillsdale Arabic
North area I want to personally welcome you all to 2016, albeit a few
days late. You made it everyone! And what an exciting year 2016 is
going to be, filled with baptisms and some of my friends leaving their
missions and Elder Hawkes bawling his eyes out at the end of the year
as he himself prepares to leave. But that's not for another 12 months
or so, so I don't have to even worry about that at all. Nor do I
intend to dwell on it; I love being here and I love being in Arabic
work. Every morning I wake up and it hits me once more that I'm
actually 1) On a mission 2) Speaking a language I never thought I'd
ever use again. Words alone cannot describe just how awesome this is.
I wish every one of you could experience just how great it is to be an
Arabic-speaking missionary in El Cajon (four of you have and are
nodding your heads in agreement right about now).

On to the weekly email!

This week saw a few personal milestones:
1. I finished the Book of Mormon in Arabic at 8:13 A.M., January 1st,
2016. I was really happy I did it. In the back of my Book of Mormon I
wrote down the time I finished it and intend to repeat the process in
the future. I spent most of the week working on finishing it and at
about 10:00 on Dec. 31st I finished up the Book of Ether. I proceeded
to do my best to read Moroni as fast as I could, but I got hung up on
Moroni 8 and decided sleep was more important to me. Didn't finish it
before 2016 like I had hoped, but the important thing is that I
finished it. As a result, my reading and speaking skills have improved
a lot. Take note, all you language learners: The best way to learn the
language is 1) Pray for the gift of tongues, 2) Read the Book of
Mormon out loud and get every word correct, no matter how slow you
have to go, and 3) Constantly be on the lookout for unfamiliar words
or phrases and write them down.

2. I started reading the New Testament in Arabic. I'm on Matthew 6.
Ideally I'd like to finish the Standard Works in Arabic by the end of
my mission. I don't know how long the Bible and D&C would take,
though. I'm going to finish the New Testament and see where that
leaves me.

3. I broke my Nazarite vow this week. Yep, for the first time in my
life I actually had to shave. With any luck, I won't need to to that
for another year or so. I could have probably dragged it out for
another few months if I wanted to, but it's better to do it when it's
just starting to get noticeable than to have President Schmitt call
you out in a few months I say. :)

Also, one ward member died. Sister Storrs, the lady we did service for
by bagging her food in her house for fumigation. She had been going
through a lot of pain and a lot of health problems in the past few
years and so it wasn't a matter of if she would pass but when she
would. The family members at the funeral were all talking about how
they were really grateful they got a few more years than expected with
her. She was a really sweet lady. She gave us socks as a Christmas
gift this year. She absolutely adored the missionaries and was really
grateful for our service. It was kind of a shock to me, but at the
same time it wasn't unexpected. If you all could keep the Storrs
family in your prayers that'd be great.

Also, a lady in the Grossmont ward in Santee got murdered by her
inactive husband. I don't know the details for that so don't ask me,
all I know is that they talked about it in PEC on Sunday and announced
that she had passed away over the pulpit. I think she lived in
Hillsdale a few years ago.

Lastly, we have a new Arabic speaker moving into the ward. Bro.
Garvin. He's really cool. He went to Russia on his mission and had an
investigator from Jordan named Muhammad who was golden but couldn't
get baptized because he was Muslim and going back. He got the
prompting to start learning Arabic, which was really weird to him but
he went for it. Majored in Middle Eastern Studies and Arabic, went to
Jordan in 2012... He found work down here recently and is moving from
Seattle. Bro. Seba talked with him and shared his opinion that there
are no coincidences, especially in the work of the Lord. Honestly, how
random is that? A guy goes on his mission to Russia and learns Arabic
when he gets home just out-of-the-blue and then just happens to have
family in San Diego and just happens to find work in San Diego and
just happens to move into 1) San Diego, 2) El Cajon, and 3) the
Hillsdale ward, where there just so happen to be Arabic-speaking
missionaries... It gives me the chills just thinking about it. The
Lord's preparing some big stuff to happen here.

Not a whole ton to report this week, honestly. We worked really hard
this week to find new investigators and we didn't get any. The
important thing is that I prayed at the end of each night and felt
that the Lord was pleased with our efforts and our desires. We set
some goals this week of passing out more copies of the Book of Mormon.
In one day we had passed out 3 Arabic copies and 2 English copies,
which was monumental for us (just passing out 1 or 2 Arabic copies is
remarkable). The next day we passed out another two. We're really
working to emphasize the Book of Mormon more in our teaching and in
our finding.

The only investigator we were able to visit this week (Basim didn't
answer, and Basaam said try another week) was Morad. I should really
stop thinking about dropping him because every time that I even make
the attempt something stops me. He's got a lot of desire and he's
willing to listen at least. We're working with him on doing the right
things for the right reasons (coming to church because the Lord wants
him to, not because the missionaries tell him to; quitting smoking
because that's what the Lord wants; etc.). Last night to help him
understand the scriptures a little more we gave him a copy of Book of
Mormon Stories in Arabic. Initially he was a little hesitant, but once
he opened it up and looked through it he fell in love with it. We
shared the story of the Tree of Life and talked about it, and he told
us, "I really like this book. The stories and information stick in my
head a lot better!" Elder Belnap had felt impressed earlier in the
week to give a copy to him, and it's going to help him a lot I think.

That's actually it for this week, everyone. Thanks for your emails and
support. Thank you to all those who are participating in the Book of
Mormon reading challenge with me. I'd love to hear your insights and
thoughts as you read, so feel free to email them to me as you do so.
If you came up with a question before you started reading, great! If
not, you can still come up with one and highlight and mark verses and
words that stick out to you to help answer your question. Have a great

-- Elder Hawkes

"Elephants are my reverse Kryptonite." - Elder Belnap

From December 29, 2015

Sometimes context helps understand an email title. Sometimes it
doesn't. This is one of the latter.
I hope you all had a wonderful Boxing Day. Oh yeah, and a good
Christmas. That too.
This week, we...
- Walk all over Santee
- Visit a less-active who kick-starts our caroling run for the night
- Do some more caroling!
- Do even more caroling!
- Celebrate Christmas by eating lots of baked goods, Skyping our
families, opening presents, and doing weekly planning
- Do some after-Christmas caroling that kind of falls flat
- Teach the stake president (and some other people)
- Walk all over Santee... AGAIN!

Brothers and sisters, friends, Romans, countrymen... Don't drive up to
Poway. If you're ever in Arabic North's area, just don't drive up
there. Because if you do that too frequently in an attempt to contact
referrals you'll find yourself low on miles for the month. Which isn't
necessarily a bad thing (you can contact a total of zero people
driving from appointment to appointment, whereas you can easily get
more than that by walking), but it is a mild inconvenience. Such is
the story of Arabic North at the moment. So on Wednesday we walked all
over Santee looking for people and contacting potentials. I know El
Cajon like the back of my hand for the most part, but Santee isn't El
Cajon. Admittedly we got lost while walking and wound up going back to
our apartment rather than going to the potentials on Carlton Oaks
Drive we wanted to go see. But it's okay because we got a lot of
walking in and on the way we talked with a lot of people!

On Wednesday evening we had plans to have dinner with a less-active
member, Bro. Dunlop, then go caroling as a district right afterward.
Bro. Dunlop was a little stressed out (he was going to have an open
house on Christmas Eve and thought he had an extra day that he didn't
to prepare) but the dinner was wonderful and the lesson was good. As
we were leaving he had his player piano play his favorite roll, "The
Barber of Seville", and then we met up with the rest of the
district... On his front porch. I joined the rest of the district in
caroling while Elder Belnap stood in the doorway with Bro. Dunlop and
got sung to. Bro. Dunlop was really happy that we stopped by. He's
really close to coming back to church and just needs a little push.

Thursday was spent caroling (President told us at the Christmas
devotional that Christmas Eve wasn't going to be very effective for
proselyting so we should go caroling), as was Friday evening.
Highlights of our caroling:
- I think caroling is a thing in Iraq. Most people were really
confused about what we were doing but appreciated that we were singing
about Jesus. Only one person cut us off and told us to leave because
he said he was sick.
- We went caroling and found a family for the Sisters to teach. We
were in a parking lot and he said as we were caroling to him, "Stop
for a second. I've got a family that would love this. Come carol to
them." We sang a few songs to his family and invited them to learn
more. They said "Come back after the holidays." Finding through
caroling is a thing, people!
- We knocked on the door of a member family's house and may have rung
the doorbell once or twice. A person opened the door and said, "Sorry,
we're Jewish. But the residents are over there," and pointed to the
garage. Turns out the members rent out their house every Christmas and
live in their (very spacious) garage for a little while. Elder Belnap
tried to salvage the situation by handing them some treats and going,
"Well sorry about that. Have some non-denominational cookies!"
- Silent Night and Far Far Away on Judea's Plains sound pretty good in
Arabic. We typed up a transliterated version of both for the Sisters
and Elder Campbell used it as well since he's still figuring out the
Arabic alphabet. When they start up an Arabic Mormon Choir, the six of
us are going to be right at the front every Christmas, I guarantee it.

On Friday we opened our presents we got from our families and ate lots
of baked goods. There was some miscommunication on timing for Skype
calls but I did get to talk to my family. Sorry everyone, but my
parents are the coolest people on the planet right now. So are my
sisters. And my brother and brother-in-law. I need not say any more.

Saturday we tried a bunch of potentials in the afternoon but nothing
worked out. We got together as a district to do one last round of
caroling to some people we needed to see but hadn't been able to. It
wasn't as impressive, to be honest. Caroling before Christmas is fun
and cool. Caroling after Christmas is really awkward and a little more
uncomfortable and just plain weird. So we called it a night and went
our separate ways. 2015 Caroling ended that night. It was fun while it

On Sunday our Gospel Doctrine teacher was out of town so he gave us
the assignment of teaching his class. He told us, "It's on the
Resurrection." I figured "Oh, easy! It's in the Gospel Doctrine book
and I can talk about the Resurrection fairly easily."

First off, it isn't in the Gospel Doctrine book. So I had to come up
with something from scratch which went okay...

Until I ran out of material in about 10 minutes.

In front of the stake president, who was in the room.

Fortunately, the program talked about how we would be talking about
the Final Judgement and so I pulled a little from that and then got a
good discussion going about exaltation and what steps we need to take
in order to achieve it. The stake president's comments were insightful
as always and he really carried the lesson in my opinion. In essence:
Ordinances prepare us for exaltation. Exaltation is achievable if we
put forth the effort to follow the Gospel and let it change us. Christ
is the way for us to achieve exaltation; without His help, we can't
make it. We tried some potentials and investigators at the end of the
night, but no one was home.

Yesterday we walked all over Santee again and actually didn't get
lost! We left the apartment, bags in hand, and I said to myself, "I
won't need my umbrella today."

About 4:15 the clouds above us started to give us a drizzle. And that
drizzle turned into a downpour. And Elder Belnap and I were still
about 30 minutes away from our apartment. We got into the apartment,
soaked and tired, around 4:45, had some dinner, and went down to El
Cajon for the night. It rained on and off all night. We went to stop
by Morad's, but we felt we shouldn't visit him that night so we went
over to Mollison and did some finding over there. At the end of the
night, my feet were admittedly pretty sore from all the walking, but I
suppose that's a good thing because we didn't walk just to walk, we
walked to find people.

That's it for this week! Shoutout to my trainer, Mason Poffenbarger,
who got married last week in the Laie Hawaii temple. Congratulations!

Thank you all for your prayers and your fasts for the people here and
for my companion. Thank you also for your letters and emails. I hope
you all have a wonderful week!

One last thing before I close up...
When was the last time each of you read the Book of Mormon
cover-to-cover? Last week? Last month? Last year? I know I just
finished it up on Christmas Day and I'm going to be starting it back
up on January 1st. I challenge each and every single one of you to
read it cover-to-cover and to pray about it, whether it's for the
first time or the hundredth, beginning January 1st. I'd also love to
hear your thoughts and feelings as you do so, so email me and tell me
about your experience. I love you all!

-- Elder Hawkes

"Elder, you're giving me too many email titles. Slow down!" - Elder Hawkes

From December 22, 2015

Can also be titled with any of the following:
"Elder, I realized I wave like Margaret Thatcher." - Elder Belnap
"Mace Windu died with his dignity and honor intact!" "Yeah, but not
his arm!" - Elder Campbell and Elder Belnap
"Anakin fulfilled his destiny as the Chosen One." "Yeah, but he was
really whiny about it." - Elder Hyde and Elder Belnap
"Oh my gosh! Is that polar bear Jewish?" - Elder Belnap

I love my companion. He's the best.

This week, we...
- Learn how difficult it is to understand Somalian dialect
- Help a nonmember move in
- Almost drop Morad
- Sing "Silent Night" in Arabic with the Primary
- Walk to an appointment only to have it cancel on us as we're on our way
- Have the Christmas devotional
- Go caroling

Nothing really to report on Wednesday. Transfer meeting happened, and
we got a new zone leader named Elder Schroeder. This is his first time
being a zone leader, fun fact. We tried some potentials and formers,
but nothing really worked out.

On Thursday we went to contact a missionary referral named Bashir in
Lakeside (right next to Santee, where we live). He's from Somalia and
he and his wife are Muslim but open to other religions and ideas. I
had never heard a Somalian speak Arabic before, so I was totally
unfamiliar with a good chunk of what he said. It was like a blend of
Iraqi dialect and Egyptian dialect. For the former Arabic missionaries
and people who understand Arabic, he kept switching between swallowing
the ق (like Egyptians do) and turning it into a گ (gaaf, like the
Iraqis do). For the most part he talked about his current health
problems, though, and so I could understand a good part of it due to
context and the fact that he pointed to what he was talking about. Bad
heart, bad leg... awesome guy, though. We gave a brief overview of our
message and he was really interested when we said that we have a
living prophet. We're going to go by tomorrow and teach the
Restoration and see from there if he's willing to progress towards
baptism. If yes, President Schmitt will need to come with us to our
next visit and have a brief interview with him to make sure he isn't
going back to Somalia anytime soon.

On Friday we had zone meeting from which all those Star Wars quotes
came (Elder Belnap is a huge Star Wars fan). Afterward, some of the
members asked us to help someone move into a recently-remodeled home.
When you have four missionaries working on unloading stuff, it goes by
pretty quickly. She was nice enough to give us lunch afterward and the
members are going to be inviting her to activities and church meetings
to gauge her interest level.

Saturday was the only day that we were able to see Morad this past
week. He was going through another one of his "I don't believe in God
because life is hard" phases. He didn't express any desire to read or
learn more, and I said, "Well, it sounds like you need some time."
Shortly thereafter Elder Belnap was able to see past the walls Morad
was putting up and help him and us see that he really did want to
learn more, he just was having a bad day. I'm really grateful the
Spirit gave Elder Belnap those words and helped Morad take a step
forward. We committed him to come to church. He didn't come. :(

On Sunday Basim wasn't able to come to church (he had work) but
Elder/Brother Jackson showed up for a
surprise-except-we-knew-about-it-several-weeks-before visit. It was
really cool seeing him again. It was also really weird seeing him
growing out his hair. Muhammad had some great discussion in Gospel
Principles. He talked about how his neighbors don't like him being a
member and how they're trying to persuade him not to come to church.
He's got a lot of faith! We also got to sing "Silent Night" in Arabic
during sacrament meeting with the Primary children, which was really

Yesterday we had the mission-wide Christmas Devotional. It was really
cool to see some old members of the district/zone again and chat with
them for a little bit during lunch. President gave us a CD and a
temple recommend holder for Christmas. He's so awesome! Last night we
went caroling as a district to members, potentials, investigators, and
formers. We had a lot of fun and learned how to do a good job the next
time we do it (which happens to be tomorrow night).

That's it for this week. I feel like this email is a lot shorter... Oh
well! Merry Christmas everyone! To my family, I'll talk to you on
whatever day of the week Christmas is this week (I think Friday?) and
to everyone else I'll talk with you in 13 months. Have a Merry

-- Elder Hawkes