Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Week 40 - Mussels and Fries

Sorry for the missed emailing last week.  I am still doing quite well here in Dunkerque. I am very happy and have had the chance to have some fun these last few P-days. We have been up to Calais where we spent the day with the Elders there. We went to the largest aquarium in Europe! That was pretty cool! It was quite the thing. It is also the first city where missionary work was done here in France. It is quite a pretty city. We got the chance to eat some moules Frittes which is a Northern dish with mussels and fries served together. It tastes pretty wonderful! It has been nice to enjoy fresh seafood being a bit closer to the ocean than I was before (in Wyoming).

My delicious bowl of mussels (bowl of fries can be seen off to the right)

My companion and I are doing quite well and have become great friends. Dunkerque can be a patience trying place at times because the finding of people who are interested is rough.  But we have learned to adapt.   The Branch is doing well and is really getting excited about missionary work. For the first time in several months we got someone to come to church and that has helped get the Branch excited again. We have visited each of the members and made a personal family missionary plan and we have an activity once a month or so. Currently we have 3 solid Amis we are teaching and continue our finding efforts for more people willing to listen.
Elder Shenkle and I sitting on a seal (statute).

I want to remind everyone that they have a Father in Heaven who loves them, and no matter what trials we face or difficulties we have in our day or our life, He is there to bless and protect and strengthen us.  And that we all have a Brother named Jesus Christ who sacrificed himself for all of us and whose Atonement for our sins blesses us all.  

Elder Alex Hacker

Monday, August 8, 2016

Week 38 - Dunkerque, New Arrivals, and Unhappy Frenchies

Hello everybody! I hope this last week was a good experience for you all. You are the best! Everyone of you!

I am feeling great right now. I wish that you all feel likewise! It has been a lovely week in Dunkerque. I talked with a lot of people and some of them even wanted to listen to me.

After discovering that myself and my companion were to stay in Dunkerque, and that we were to tragically lose Elder Shenkal and Elder Lamothe [from our District], we started off with some planning. We reflected on what we had seen over these past 6 weeks together: what worked, what didn't work, a bit of shameless self-flattering, what we sucked at doing, etc... And then set about creating a vision of where we wanted to be in 6 weeks. Now I have never been much of a planner dude. The free ones gifted me during high school and junior high would have been better served heating freezing orphans then waiting in the recesses of my backpack. Planning had it's value for me but I was pro-spontaneity at the time. Still am. I never really took time to plan. So here on the mission I have really been able to recognize the value of planning and setting goals. And then doing them after. I think the passage of time should always be accompanied with goal setting of sorts. With a planning and responsibility for who you are and what you want to become. These ideas help us ride all the numerous types of waves that one can confront. Those people and events that push us up can push us up even more. Those that may chop us down... Those things that wound and scar can be used to strengthen and teach us.

I would have loved being a cartographer. The drawing of maps would have been cool enough. Whenever I started a book as a dashing youngin' I would spend ages regarding the fictional maps at the beginning. The most marvelous thing is someone who is in over their head. A fish out of water. Someone who has bit off more than they can chew. Whatever other colloquialisms that vaguely describe someone in an overwhelming situation. If I had been given an accurate description of what these two years in France consisted off before making the choice to leave, I do not think I would have had the courage to go. The desire to help people would have been there but the fear and doubts may have easily squashed it to the point that I would not have embarked. Since embarking, since jumping into the pool not knowing how to swim, trusting my Heavenly Father would catch me, I have experienced a spurt of personal growth I could not have imagined. I have had more fun than I imagined. I have found a love of other people that exceeds anything I thought myself capable of. I love it!

The is not the happiest country. Everyone living here recognizes it too. There is a lot of searching for happiness and not many seem to have found much of it. My 20 years of experience don't exactly qualify me as an expert on the subject, but I guess I have a few ideas to share/think. French children seem to grow up too fast. The family doesn't really exist— a nuclear one or a family that forms through friendships. A man sporting a lovely French mustache on the street described his country as a world were everyone looks out for themselves. As a consuming liquid society (If I correctly understood his vocabulary). People try to fill their lives by trying things: they try each other, they try books, they try passions, they try classes, they try to fill up by eating stuff. Though eating things doesn't fill us up I don't think. And this random French dude didn't either. It is rather in giving ourselves to something that we filled. When give ourselves to a study, to a hobby, to a movie or book, to another person, to a question, then we get something out of it. Then people are filled. Then we really find out who we are! And what an incredible process that is! It is just about the meaning of life. This applies very specifically with the gospel of Jesus Christ. It does nothing if you don't look for it. If you aren't willing to give.

Fix some goal this week everybody. That is the weekly engagement. Either find, or redefine, what path you want your life to take. Write down a dream! Decide to live one of those dreams! Inspiring words!

Thank you anyone who took the time to read my ramblings. I do really appreciate your time. I love each and every one of you guys.

I will see you next week!

Captain Elder Alex Hacker

Week 37 - It's a Small World (after all) (August 1)

Hello my family and friends!

First off, shout to the French for knowing American geography weirdly well. Better than lots of Americans. I have had a surprising number of people recognize the unpopulated prairies from whence I come! Granted it is usually either Yellowstone Park or "the state where you had Indians before America kicked them out" that clicks with people. However! I did run into someone this week who had not only been in Wyoming, but had lived 2 months in Cheyenne. Back in 83'. When I was -12 [negative twelve]. Cheyenne though! The city where I grew up and spent the majority of my life! What a crazy coincidence. I thought the whole "it's a small world" wasn't really a thing but during these 8 months abroad I have definitely discovered it is a thing. In multiple senses. Everybody has the same fears, many of the same dreams, the same names pronounced all funnily. People recognize a lot of each other's lives!

Even little Cheyenne Wyoming. It is not the differences that have been pronounced as I have encountered all these different cultures but all the similarities. How empathetic we can all be! Or at least try to be.

I write this email from the interior of a FNAC— Barnes and Noble with more technology thrown in that happens to have WiFi. The FNAC is located here in Bologne Sur Mer which is a gorgeous little seaside town not far from Dunkerque. The site of Europe's largest aquarium!

This last week has been a little crazy. We have been super busy and were are changing a third of our district. I don't have too much time this week to write but the next week will be a double-length episode!

Alex Hacker

Our zone.  See if you can find me in the picture....

Week 36 - What did you learn today? (July 25)

Hello all of you beautiful people.

I hope you all had good weeks! What was something you learned this week?.. And if you don't have an answer to that question then maybe you are not remembering well. After school during family dinner my father, bless his graying hairs, would usually ask what was one thing we learned at school. And his flock of four children would often struggle to come up with something. "That I don't like school" was a somewhat common response. [But was not accepted as a valid answer]  And now, many years later, I recognize the value of the question! It wasn't just to bother his children after all but to invite them to retain what they had learned, and learn to learn something each day. So I now pose you the same question that was posed daily around the scratched well-used surface of the Hacker-family table: what was one thing you learned today?

If any of you know my mother or the youngest child of my sister be sure to wish them happy birthday. I learned today that one of my dearest friends was married. And I am filled with joy that this person found someone to spend her life with!

There was a man with a bright pink shirt who had just finished leaving his store that sold men's fashion bags when he found himself approached  by two young Americans who tried their very best to speak with him in his native tongue. He said something that one of the chipper American lads found unusual. Something to the effect: "when you are young, you want to change the world but then once you've put yourself in the world you find that it changes you." The conversation went on and we chatted for a bit. We all agreed that changing the whole world was a pretty lofty goal. I told him that my world had certainly been changed. People, events, etc... Had shaped the way I view, understand, and live in the world. And that is what changing the world should actually consist of. I visualize myself and a Mark Kim talking in a Barnes and Noble one evening- I had just spent the day chopping strawberries at a frozen yogurt store. I asked him if he wanted to change the world, and he reciprocated the question. With all the teenage dreams in the world we made our grand plans right there in the Barnes and Noble. Changing the world was as simple as changing the lives of a few people. Which is something everyone of you have already done.

Since I last rambled I spent a full day in the city of Calais and Saint Omer. Missionary work in these two cities is mostly talking with people on the street. Chatting with those resting on park benches. Chatting with people who were just taking a walk. Speaking with these glorious strangers makes up a huge part of the last few weeks. It is something I have really grown to love!   Not only does it give me that chance to find someone whose live can be changed, but it also give me the chance to change my life for the better as well.

Until Next Week,

Alex Hacker