Thursday, October 19, 2017

Week 100 - Picture this

No email this week, but here are some pictures to make up for it.



Thanks to new mission rules allowing missionaries to visit certain tourist sites, I managed to get a selfie with Mona Lisa herself

A family I knew from Caen (my first city) that I was able to catch up with

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Week 99 - Changes are happening

Hello all,

So we had a rule change and now we can visit a select list of cultural sites in Paris, ainsi donc, I'll be exploring the Louvre this afternoon! How cool is that?? Mona Lisa Selfie as well as all the actually cool things to look at the Louvre.

The zone conference was actually a triple Zone Conference including the three zones from the Paris region. So half the mission or so. It was centered around an online proselyting training that we presented. There is a good amount of hype around the whole thing! It's probably no big suprise that a team of 18-20 year olds that compose the Lord's missionary force (who have previously spent a cumulative untold hours on Facebook posting unimportant things)  would be excited about the chance to use Facebook in the mission field.  We don't have too, too many investigators who are actually connected with Facebook so the utility of this is a little down right now.

Other news from this end? Zone Conference was really cool. Giving my farewell testimony was a harsh taste of reality mixed with a wonderful blessing to be able to testify. I was pleased to see the other missionaries from my MTC group (the Elders at least) who all happened to be there at the conference.

So, I've got a lot going on here and I'm honestly not very excited to come home yet. I've got about 3 weeks including 8 exchanges of normal missionary efforts left. We have a baptism this Saturday-- super exciting, right? We've consistently had 4-5 investigators at church for the last few weeks, all of whom progress, which is fantastic news. I'm excited for all that though at the same time I'm reasonably sad because I can see the end coming.  But I temper that with hope and optimism for the next leg of life.

Until next time,

Having dinner with Brother and Sister Barnes (mission office couple) and other missionaries

Reunited with the other two elders from my MTC group.  We're all that's left here (since the sisters are already home)

Week 98 - Things are going quickly (from October 2, 2017)

I can't believe things have gone so quickly! Tomorrow I'll be presenting at a triple Zone Conference and giving my departing testimony. Which makes it all feel a little more real.

Online Proselyting is officially a thing. That's actually what the training I'm giving tomorrow will be on! Despite all the warnings of a loving father I finally have a Facebook. And I didn't even really want one. I show up as "Alex Hacke" though... Facebook accused me of making up my last name. C'est la vie eh? :) My first Facebook friend was and will always be Soeur Barnes. The other friends are just random French members and returned missionaries. I was astounded after just making my profile and inserting no information, Facebook was suggesting people I knew both from the University of Wyoming and people I've met here in France. I thought I had a small digital footprint. Crazy.

We will be in a trio for the last week of my mission most likely. Currently it's just me and Elder Silva carrying the weight of the world. And even then it's Jesus carrying most of it.

We've been super busy and we're about to move appartements! That's also pretty exciting! We just set a baptismal date with a French chap who will be baptized in two weeks. The rest of our investigators include a middle-aged single mother from the West Indies, a Japanese grandmother straight out of Japan, a family from the Ivory Coast, and a few others splashed here and there. Things are really going quite well! I love each one of those people like my family, and I know them better than my own niece and nephew. I'm excited to get to know those little tykes.


Missionaries at the Mission Leadership Meeting
Missionaries formerly from the Vannes zone jump for joy

With my former companion, Elder Cheshire

Week 97 - A little taste of Paris driving - (from September 25, 2017)

Here is a video Alex sent of a car with missionaries trying to navigate a big roundabout in Paris

My companion is Elder Silva (black tie, standing on my right)

I got a spiffy new French suit!

Monday, October 2, 2017

Week 96 - The Pseudo-Monthly Update (From September 18, 2017)


Stardate 45630-44
Time: 17.23..00

...I'm quickly realizing that my wide but relatively shallow pop culture pool doesn't allow me to effectively make this sort of an allusion. I don't know how to write Stardates! At least pops will get that one.

That's it. The long awaited email is actually just a poorly conceived and incorrectly executed Star Trek reference (Which I've only seen when our afore mentioned Pops tried living vicariously through his kids and had us watch a few of the movies). Weeks of silence come to a close with less updates than usual and even more bad humour than usual. I do expect to write a little more this time, though I don't imagine there would be more than a few more emails written during the 8 week period to come. This email is also the frankenstine stitching together of partial baby emails strewn about the digital landscape of like a month. Though do let me genuinely apologize for not sharing anything for so long and for the lack of sharing I will be doing. I love writing to you all. Like a ton. It's an awesome outlet and I have such a fun time telling stories and connecting dots and telling you how much I like writing you all. So, in summary: It's not you, it's me.

Alas, news!!
The same wonder, mystery, and frustration Harry describes the moving staircases from the first few books and movies would describe certain aspects of my life nowadays. We spend a lot of time working with new people. Sometimes they were what we expected, and even the people we expected to be spending time with, and sometimes some other staircase shifts into place right before planting the foot. It's exciting and fun and brings a constant unpredictability, though it's probably as annoying as being late for Potions was for our young wizard. These moving staircases of life lead to much more discovery than a singular flight or an elevator might.

There is a special homie named Brian Jacques who wrote a special series of imaginative books called Redwall... that later inspired an aspiration-driven PBS cartoon!... and this book might help describe some of my feelings towards my mission. Redwall is the titular name of a fictional abbey around which most of the action turns. That sounds like a boring piece of historical fiction!... and it might be... if it weren't for the charming part: the size of the problems/social conflicts/emotions/wars presented by the books were all affronted by small woodland animals. Instead of boring clerical stewards, anthropomorphized field mice took care of the abby. A diverse cast of woodland creatures assumed varying roles and personalities. There was the flippant hare who was big into running. There was the huge badger with the deep voice who was headstrong and stubborn. A crafty, wizened vole. A plucky, courageous mouse taking on the world. Those books hold a special place in my heart. A nightly image: Picture young Elder Hacker battling sleep clinging to a British man's recording of these books playing on an old CD player. And after months of really spending a great deal of time in the inner workings of an organized mission such as this, with missionaries coming and going, after making 8 billion phone calls to all sorts of random people scattered over France, I feel ready to compare the two! That was the point of the long ramble paragraph! You also have the flippant dude who's super into running. The huge badger full of boldness and self-confidence, sometimes too much. The young but fearless fella fighting all the problems of the world. And it's those characters that transform a logistical machine with leadership checks at various levels into the most creative and unique organization/culture I've ever known: a mission such as this. Small but varied woodland critters, or in our case, vaguely mature children, taking on the world and all it's problems. With a message that professes to be the answer to those very same problems. We've got the legendary.....
Elder Phair a Californien moved into the appartement bringing with him a goofy vocabulary that I didn't realize people really used. I've learned new uses for many classic words. Ex: "Pirate 101 is way more lit than Wizard 101 man." And that summarizes a chunk of one of my new roommates personalities. He is "hecka stupid" cool. I ran that one by him first to make sure it was grammatically correct. I've also been blessed with the company of an Elder Ethan Silva. A taller chap from who is technically Irish by birth but basically from Utah. He weaves a harmless passive agression with radical statements and a cool cucumber exterior to make his sense of humour. The number of once-strangers I've lived with continues to grow. Elder Abramson, who is the living incarnation of Dad-jokes also makes up part of the lovable cast.

"Hope is not dead." That's another thing Elder Phair said. In referring to a fellow missionary who was struggling. And that really got me thumbing through my thoughts. I'm worried and sad there is a general lack of hope nowadays. What percentage of the time am I genuinely hopeful for something? I don't think but a handful of people would auto-describe themselves as hopeful. At least for me, hope was far too often something I used to combat a hard time or struggle through something... as opposed to an attitude that defines and shapes my daily actions. It was more of an entity I looked for when I felt like I needed it instead of an internal reflex pushing me to push myself and push others. Hope is what bridges a high love to a high level of expectations. I think hope can be manifest in even the smallest of things. Imagine a day where you would be actively hoping for things at all moments of the day. Hope blossoms into confidence, trust, love, and all other manner of flowery adjectives. I'd be totally down to say hope should be a fondation of society, government, and basically all human relationships.... though it's just not mentioned enough. :(

Hope is really cool. And I'll explain why using a long backstory from my childhood! This time we turn to a television show that landscaped and designed a huge portion of my early development: Avatar the Last Airbender. Those with small smiles to wide grins on their faces understand. At maybe the midpoint in this animated series, the joyous and robust monk that protagonists his way through the show finds himself quite down. Disappointed by those around him, the loss of his best friend, probably himself, the difficulty and challenge of the next leg of the journey, and a slew of other things we've all tasted once or twice, he runs across a sign-- graffiti really-- at the mouth of a dangerous path scrawled, "Abandon Hope". And he decides maybe they should do that. Maybe they should stop looking ahead, and stop dreaming, and just place one foot in front of the other. Hoping became the much harder and more painful thing to do. After much danger, romantic subplot, the comedic relief character doing his thing, the group makes it out. Only to have a member of the group enter into labor and struggle through childbirth in the wilderness. In the pivotal and touching scene, Aang, the now calloused, hopeless, step-taking shell gets to hold the baby. And he cries. And the mother names the little baby Hope. This whole email has been referring to hope as some abstract entity that will help us all out, and here's where it becomes concrete. In my younger years, I did know how to hope; albeit I would have loved to. Though I didn't realize I needed to love my little niece and believe in her success to hope. I didn't realize I needed disinterested, unfeigned dreams in order to hope. I didn't realize I needed to have  specific names in mind to hope for things. I had to hold a little baby, or a career ambition, or a belief in God, or whatever else in my arms and cry to hope. That's why I was so bad at hoping. And hopping.

Speaking of other things of Asiatic origins!!! I have a fantastic new friend named Mieko!  I wish I could show you a picture. Mieko is a Japanese grandmother who has 4 kids. We asked her once what her husband does and she told us, "he just plays golf." And he's not a professional golfer either. Mieko is an ex-tea ceremony coach/instructor (literally that scene from Mulan with the grumpapotamus making sure people pour tea right-- though she's far less grumpy) turned professional artist studying at the school of fine arts here in Paris. She doesn't speak English at all, though she does speak a little French. We didn't really understand her well when she told us about her art the first time, so we thought she was just a nice old lady who'd taken up fruit-bowl-painting in her spare time. Once we got our Japanese translator involved (a friendly Stanford graduate named Zack Rodgers) we found out she's been featured and galleries and all kinds of stuff. So needless to say she's one of the coolest and most culturally intriguing people I've ever met. With our combined trilingualism we've been doing some translations as service and so that we might teach her. You can't imagine the affinity I have for my new Japanese grandmother!

The Versailles palace is off in the distance behind us

Blame it on television but I think there's a tendency to make episodes of things. It's that pesky desire to make things ordered and understood and clear rearing its head again. And I'm not too sure if I like that. It creates a lot more ends, starts, separations than we need? Maybe we need episodes and compartmentalism. That to say that I'm really sad and nigh hurt and the impending end of my mission. At least once a week my heart is broken by some reminder. Not to say there isn't a ton of hope and enthusiasm surrounding the other exciting adventures that await. It's more like I'd prefer the bandaid to get ripped of. Except it's more like an arm getting pulled off instead of a bandaid. Maybe two arms. An arm and a leg? That's the expression!

I love you my friends. I will see many of you frighteningly soon! Have a more hopeful week than the last week!

Look at this baby wrangling a sea serpent

This one has angel babies riding swans with bows

Versailles gardens are very large!

Week 95 - Yes, Still Alive (from September 11, 2017)


I am still alive and well. 


Here is a picture of me with a few missionaries that I love and cherish! Reunions! Don't be fooled by the fellow on the left; he has eyes normally. 

So in other news I've been quite busy. The pace and speed is primarily a good thing but man is it exhausting at times. I understand why this assistant to the president gig is only meant to last for a limited number of months. I must have spent more hours of the phone with assorted missionaries, French people, PrĂ©sident Sorensen, etc... than I have over the rest of my cumulative years! The lack of Elder Hacker communication is due to that. We've only recently worked out a way to preserve and have our P-Day again. So now I can write a few thoughts, feelings, and updates. 

If the imminent end to my mission seems real to you I don't think I could describe the contrast between moments of lucid, sharp, and very tangible reality melded with a those of dreamy illusion of perpetuation. I'm not too big a fan of most of those feelings. Above all I'm just excited and blessed to have anytime left at all. I understand that there are other missions I've got to do elsewhere. 

Overall things are going really well! As a district we had 12 investigators at church this Sunday. We have a number of really really cool people who progress very seriously. In terms of missionary work things are swimming. In terms of missionaries-- we are nearing the crazy part of this transfer. Adventure awaits!


I ran into the Vandivers hours before their plane. I may have accidentally offered them a stay at our house if they road trip through Wyoming ever. Whoops :) 

Tell everybody I said hello back there!


PS. Barge coming through. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Week 91 - Amazing Guest Apearance from Elder Richards (from August 14, 2017)

[Alex didn't get the chance to send a regular email this week, so I'm taking the liberty of borrowing a story told by his companion, Elder Richards, which was posted online on Facebook because it is a really neat story.  So all of what follows below is Elder Richards' words--thanks to him for sharing this!!]

We had an awesome miracle right at the beginning of the week. We went to that family's, the Kokesha family, home and taught a lesson about prayer. We invited the middle child, about 8 years old, to say the prayer at the end. We asked him to pray so that we would be able to find an investigator we had found about six weeks ago. We hadn't been able to contact her since, but we had a good feeling about this evening. The young boy prayed, maybe not fully understanding the situation, but prayer with faith and when we went to find Clothilde, she was there and so happy to see us.

We also had the last exchange of my mission which was slightly crazy. It was really good though. It took place over two days, which is unusual, but was interesting. The first day, one of the elders who I was with who speaks Spanish made the goal to find a Spanish speaker. He did not tell us, however, that he was carrying a Book of Mormon in Spanish that he planned to give away. We were getting near the end of
the day and were actually carrying suitcases for another elder to our apartment (sorry you have to follow this weird story). My companion, Elder Hacker, who is sick and was even more sick on that day, but none the less diligent, stopped a man. When he explained after why he had stopped him, he said that it was because he just envisioned him walking towards us in white. This man was Catalan and did not speak very much French. Elder Dorado was able to speak with him and give him the Book of Mormon. I got to testify using my very limited Spanish. It was a really cool experience that showed me that God really does make miracles happen thanks to little efforts made by many.