Shucks! Gee Wilikers! Great Scott! Darn! Steamed Brocoli! Nuggets! (Assorted G-rated expletives of all sorts) That was much longer and faster than intended. It is indeed a slippery slope from procrastinating writing a group message for a few days to then end up in a month's hibernation! I would add that there was a generous donation of my iPad to a lucky refugee here in Dunkerque as well, leaving me without any real way of emailing for two of those weeks. Don't let theft justify my lack of punctuality though.
As numbered as those who eagerly wait the next installment in the life of Elder Alex Hacker must be, I owe that population an apology. I am not dead nor comatose. I am still happily living in France doing humanist things. I had a friend describe my labors here as such. And I was sort of taken by the description. I still try new cheeses. An orange one that looked a bit like a rock. I still run into the most crazy things.
How many of you have ever watched 8 year-olds play soccer? It is the best thing. My father, bless his heart, used to volunteer to coach young children soccer. By extension I was able to witness my fair share of what should really be a televised event. They run into each other. There is one kid that actually knows how to play and tramples every one else. 50 percent of goals are accidental. There is probably one child who keeps his hands in his pockets the whole game. (I was this one). The meaty fellow who kicks as hard as he can at whatever falls before him, be it ball or the weak shins of his comrades. At least one team will score on their own goal for sure. Unity only exists when there is food involved during halftime. A parent or two will probably freak out. U6 and U8 soccer will forever hold a place in the "things-that-need-be-televised" folder under the sub heading: "vaguely-sport-related". Other ideas I have had on the mission that fall under this category include:
-Ice Running. It is just people in bowling shoes racing each other on ice.
-The Olympics, but once everyone shows up they secretly switch the events. Think of how sweet the bobsled teams playing basketball against each other would be.
-Fire Curling. Curling with fire.
-Others will be added.
Coming back to 8 year-olds playing soccer. It is a pretty fine analogy for how this mission actually plays out. The image of handsome, hard-working humanitarians, while alliterative and cool, isn't all that accurate. It is something 6 times more beautiful! A bunch of people just quitting adolescence (some of them still in it) running around, bumping into each other. And the most beautiful thing is that it works somehow...
Turning to that oh so controversial Bible and that other Book of Mormon thing that I have previously mentioned, there are stories of two dudes who are going around doing bad stuff. You've got your boy Saul going around tossing people in jail. And than you have Alma the Younger who is going around destroying church. These guys are doing evil things. So in their respective stories they both get a celestial messenger who descends down from heaven and gives them a right talking to. A divine ear pulling of sorts. Following this divine intervention two people who were without doubt lost— regardless of the morale compass you're using, turn their lives around. We see persecuters turn into benevolent folk doing as much good as they can. The question sort of asks itself: how come these people get heavenly messengers to direct them? Where was my angel? If he wanted to talk to me why didn't he said someone? If he was there he would have sent someone? There was a point in my life where I was asking these sort of questions. Later the answer sort of came to me, and it is something I have seen pronounced strongly during these ten months in France. I don't think he needs to send angels for most of us. You guys are my angels! Those who I waited for! The people who influenced me to good. The people with whom I was truly happy! I'm sure that each one of has already been an angel and someone else's life and that you will continue to be angels I'm sure. You really will make a difference in the lives that surround you. There are abundant holes in that parallel, though the message for all those people standing on the road like Saul or Alma, for all those people moving forward in life without a direction, is pretty clear and something I find really beautiful. Use those angels around you, and then go be someone else's angel.
(After repetitiously using the word angel I'm secretly praying that I misspelled it as angle somewhere in there and that a hilarious typo was born. I lack the time or willpower to look at the moment.)
For those of you were not aware, which is probably the most of you, I have just added someone to my family. Some person who evidently doesn't know me well enough decided I was qualified to train a new missionary. So Elder Siedow was replaced with a an Elder Arnell. An 18 year-old from Utah. Who graduated a few months ago. So that changes things a bit. And there has been a learning curve for both of us. But we are both making good progress. There is a surprisingly paternal (maybe even maternal sometimes) attachment that forms for the little guy. Teaching someone how to order food at a restaurant forms a bond man. After a shaky and scary submersion in French culture he is now doggy paddling his way towards salvation and missionary autonomy. I'm sure you will come to know him a bit in the next weeks installments.
I will attach a photo. Elder Arnell is the one wearing the Elder Arnell name tag