Tuesday, February 23, 2016

"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

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