Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Week 84 - Super Busy!

As an assistant visiting with some newly arrived missionaries and enjoying the tradition first chocolate pastry
Out to dinner at a Chinese restaurant with the newly arrived missionaries
With a group of other missionaries living in Paris. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Week 83 - Very Sorry


I'm alive and well! I'm not very free to write much here though. Next
week will be really good though if only for the title. Mostly for the
title. You can actually just read the subject line next week and get
the best part of the email.

I'm moving! Surprise! This is as surprising as when Mom announced she
was pregnant at family council about 9 years ago. Shout out to Risto
for being born. Hence the lack of time for I must pack. For all of you
who were about to send numerous letters of support and sentiment maybe
wait a week so you'll have the new address.

I wanted to really quickly say a few words too. All the humour and
fluff and everything else cut aside. I just wanted to say quickly,
"Don't give up on stuff." That same message found on cat posters and
fortune cookies and in the Bible. I'm kinda far displaced from most of
you, I'm not sure what's going on too much, but I just wanted to share
that message. Whatever's going on, giving up on things/people you care
about is likely the worst choice. Whatever deserts, spiritual,
emotional, or literal for those friends I have in the Sahara, you're
walking through... just keep walking. Keep doing good things and your
studies and taking care of your kids. Thank you for doing those
things. Keep fighting off bad things and bad influences. I wouldn't
ask you to do something I don't think you can do... so take that as a
vote of confidence. I absolutely believe you can do it! Whatever it
is! ~16 months ago I was about to give up. I was about to give up this
grand French adventure. I held the towel ready to throw it in. Maybe
nervous sweat kept it stuck to my hand? It was hard and I couldn't see
far ahead in the darkness and I just wanted to turn around. And I'm
going to tell you now, I almost threw away everything. I almost threw
away a plethora of priceless friendships. I almost threw away all the
personal growth. I almost threw away all the fun I've had. I almost
threw away the greatest gift of all because the wrapping paper was
really quite ugly and hard to bear. I couldn't stand to watch anyone
make that same mistake. So Don't. Give. Up. :) On anything.


Parent's note: Alex didn't give much detail on his sudden move, but he did tell us that he is going to be working in the Versailles area and is in a companionship for the moment with two other elders.

The next day, a nice stranger texted us this picture and said she had run into these three elders on the temple grounds.

Week 82 - Father's Day, Sacrifices, and Dad (June 12, 2017)

(Title: Noun #1, Noun #2, and Noun #3 (Week count that's probably off
by one or two))

(Intro Thingy),

(Short transitional paragraph trying to express gratitude and start
into whatever theme I've prepared.) (Gratitude.)

(Short humorous anecdote to lighten the mood before the hefty content arrives.)

(Point #1 as referenced in the title)

(Point #2 as referenced in the title)

(Point #3 as referenced in the title)



-Elder Alex Hacker

(Pictures I always forget to include. Literally always. I think maybe
3 times total I've actually sent a picture.)

...And that's the cheap and easy formula for any who want to learn to
write really cool emails. Try and use alliteration with the three
nouns and make at least one kinda unexpected. Shoot for excessively
long and ramble paragraphs. Remember to swap your name in for mine for
those who copy and paste this draft word for word. Liberal use of
cheese and sentiment is allowed but at least of the three points
should be vaguely lighthearted. Express love and gratitude somewhere
in the email :)

If I needed evidence if I've changed over 18 months one would need
look no further than the number of exclamation marks and smiley faces
I use now compared to before! :) !  !  :)  ! (:

It's funny how I'm actually almost following the formula I just
roasted myself with. Not even intentionally. I was just really unsure
how to start out this email but I'm pretty happy with how that turned
out. I guess I didn't know what I wanted to say this week. Normally
the random tidbits you guys read are inspired by some events during
the week, some profound though someone else shared with me, some old
memory that kindles back to life, etc... and that still happened this
week. More so than usual! We were living in an appartement of 6 for
the most of the week and constantly swapping companions which made for
extra things I've learned, friendships fortified, crazy stories and
thoughts... I don't think many of them are meant to be shared, or at
least aren't meant to be shared in this sort of a format. I'll share
those tales in a few months when we sit down across the table for a
nice cup of coffee... of Sam's Club/Costco Hot Dogs because that's more
up by fiscal and moral alleyway! Though for now, I'll just talk about
my Dad.

I wrote about Mom not too long ago. And it's different writing about
Mom than writing about Dad. Mom's are different... usually softer...
with more hair. That one is especially true in my case. I couldn't
write about Dad without making that classic joke. He's getting ever
closer to being able to pull off Santa with the whitening of his hair.
That's the other classic joke. The third classic is whenever he burps
he says "barge coming through". I'm not sure what that's referencing
but I think it gets funnier and more endearing as I grow up. Burps
aren't usually endearing, that's the thing you see. And so here I am
writing about Dad(s) not to sure what I want to say, but knowing I
have something to say.

Whenever there was something serious going on, like this email's
tone... it always ended up in Dad's court. Mom was the one who took
care of sleepover requests and rides to friends houses though if that
was a problem at school, a problem at home, a problem in life, a
question about insurance or finances... Dad was the guy to see. Family
feuding, life problems, and college decisions were in his domain too.
I swear he must have absorbed a good 70% of all information on
Wikipedia because he always had the answer to everything. Being the
serious guy sometimes made him have to be the bad guy. And we kids
didn't understand that but now I look back with an eternal
appreciation. For being the firm voice of reason, for boldly
expressing what we shouldn't and should do, for sending us to our
rooms when we misbehaved! I am so grateful Dad loved me enough to send
his son to his room in tears. I'm so grateful Dad was willing to come
down to the room after and try and dry those tears... though sometimes
he would use his analytical, logical, lawyer side a bit too much and
that was where Mom would step in.

In 6th grade Dad drove me to school every day and I'd ask him
questions. And this wasn't something I did with Mom; this was special
Dad/Alex time. I'd ask him about anything I could and he would find
some answer if he didn't have one already. I'd ask him about planets,
about soccer, about being a lawyer, about crazy situations I'd
imagine, about super-heroes and just about anything else! I will
cherish those morning drives until the grave! My Dad lived up to the
legend of knowing just about everything. So than I grew up and I don't
know why... but I ceased to ask my Dad questions. And I don't know why
because I certainly had way more questions of a more pressing and
important nature during that middle period of my life. That's when
things got hard! The most infallible source of knowledge and wisdom
and love who had proved himself time and time again when I asked him
"How big are really big nuclear bombs?", "How come football players
don't try to jump over each other?", "Would Wolverine win in a fight
against Superman?" (He probably cited the actual comic book as his
source for that one) could have easily explained his wisdom about,
"What do I do when I'm sad?", "What should I do with my life?", and
"What's really important?". I didn't ask. He answered anyways. He
answered with his example, his actions, his words, and sometimes by
telling me when I didn't want to listen. And it takes extra love to
tell someone the truth when they don't want to listen.

What brought us together was board games! It wasn't the glorified
cardboard that makes a game but the smiles, laughter, eye rolls and
sighs of defeat that floweth forth! My father collects them and
indoctrinates anyone who joins the family with a deep love of board
games. We didn't do all that many things as a family though we could
always find the time to play some sort of game. Test out the newly
acquired gem of my Father. He would even look for games based on our
interests and skill levels. Dad thought about his kids so much it
changed what board games he collected. That's the profound depths to
which my father cared about me and my siblings! He didn't have a lot
of time, though he always had time to play a board game with us. And
that meant a lot.

You know what impresses me in a very unique way about my father and
fatherhood in general? It's the spirit of sacrifice he has/they should
have! My father was willing to sacrifice his time and efforts to work
for his family. My father was willing to sacrifice being the good guy
sometimes to keep us safe. My father was willing to watch and trust us
make our own choices... even though I can't imagine how scary and
painful it is to watch your children foray out into the big world and
step on the first rake someone left on the ground leaving a nasty
bruise. My father was willing to give up everything to become the
ghost of his very own children. I can't think of anything in which he
truly invested himself that didn't have the welfare of his children in
mind. It wasn't that he stopped living... his life became his family
and kids. He rejoiced when we rejoiced and he was sad when we were

I think we sometimes are willing to make huge sacrifices. I really
think most people would jump into a street to save a stroller and baby
if they were fully aware of the situation. I'd take a bullet for
Jesus! Heck I'd take a bullet for everyone on this list. And that
might come across cruel and dramatic but that really is true. That'd
be super easy. A few seconds of agony. Some blood. A pretty cool scar
and an even cooler story to tell after provided I'm still kicking...
this is too morbid but it illustrates a real point... that's just a
simple yes/no decision about whether I care more about you than
myself. That's an analog switch. Loving somebody more than yourself
for a second isn't hard. We've all done it a thousand times. That
happens every day. What's a lot harder is to live for someone else.
It's a lot harder to live for someone. It takes a lot more to wake up
every morning and do things for someone. I dare say that scraping the
snow off of someone's car every morning for years exacts more
dedication and effort and commitment than jumping in front of a primed

That's how I know my Dad loves me in a way nobody else can ever
approximate. He sacrificed his time, his efforts, his emotions, his
weaknesses and strengths, his money, his wisdom, his pursuits and
desires, his dreams... to exchange them for the dreams, efforts, time,
of people he cared about more than himself. My Father lives for his
kids and his grandkids. I've never seen a tired old lawyer be more
excited to hug his squealing loud grandkids. And that image, when I
see my Dad carrying my Niece in his arms, and when I see they way he
looks at her, well that's the definition of love and sacrifice.

In the spirit of Father's Day make sure you hug yours and tell him how
you feel about him.

Oh, one last thing. You know God? You know what I call him? I think
he's not some glowly cloud somewhere but he's my father. You can
reread this and take about 80% of what I'd written here and apply that
to a relationship with God too. I think the love manifest by my father
makes a pretty solid reflection of the love of the big man upstairs.
The love of your Heavenly Father. You can talk to him, you can ask him
questions, and just like my Dad, he'll answer. He might seem like the
bad guy every now and then but he's probably just as hurt as you are
during those times. He was willing to sacrifice an awful lot to help
you out too. Like my father sacrifices a lot to help me out. And I'm
grateful for both of them. Thanks Dad. I love you. Happy early
Father's Day!

-Elder Greg Hacker's Son

Week 81 - Orange Juice, Sliding, and A Desire to Time Travel (June 5, 2017)

Greetings from a kinda comfortable seat in a metro under Paris!

How is everybody? (X relative) has lost weight! My how the kids have grown! Etc!!! I am happy to be able to write you all about the week that's slipped away beneath my feet.

Friday morning was spent at Celestine's house! She has the flu so we didn't stay long. It was still a very pleasant time spent together. After we came back to the apartment for lunch and some studies. (Don't worry I'm about to stop talking about what I did this week and launch into some anecdote) I went to the fridge to get some orange juice. And the juice was still there. So let me explain how the orange juice worked in the Hacker Household back in the day. We didn't buy orange juice for the early part of my life-- I don't think we were impoverished or anything but I guess it was more so on the luxury, we'll-live-without radar! And than we starting getting orange juice. That was a good time to be alive. Orange juice had such a powerful influence on how the morning would turn out! It made everything brighter and happier and more colorful. So my younger siblings come into existence and they decide that orange juice was something they were going to drink at all hours of the day and no longer a morning thing. Shortly thereafter there was no more orange juice in the fridge :( They would drink it way too fast and even worse they would drink it at times when they weren't supposed to like dinner or before bed. So I didn't drink much orange juice anymore because I wanted them to have it even though they misused it. And I was low-key bitter about that for like 10 years... until this Friday morning, Boom, fridge with plenty of juice. I'm more excited than I have any right to be as I'm pouring a cup. And then... the feeling of drinking orange juice just wasn't as good as the feeling of knowing my siblings were drinking orange juice. Turns out I didn't have anything to be bitter about the whole time.

Spectacular train mix up this week! We didn't take a train going in the wrong direction per-say, just one that kindly elected to avoid most of the stops we thought he would hit. Paris has a bunch of subway lines and a few larger train lines (also a few lines at Subway for sandwiches-- that one literally wasn't funny) and it's enough to say I don't know them as well as I thought I did. There is one particular, the C line, that has life twenty different routes it takes and goes all over the place and crawls about Paris like a drunken inchworm. Though kinda fast still. So this drunk inchworm may have taken us waaaay outside of our sector :)

Following that little train swipity swap I was reflecting that being inadequate and failing shouldn't be so frustrating an experience. I had a hard time really learning this particular lesson in 21 years! Who amongst those reading these emails who wasn't born before the invention of slides remembers what it's like to be a child running up a slide? Not the curvy tube slide either, that's too easy to climb up. We're talking the steepest, fastest, most straight slide in the whole playground. Running up a slide always felt like such an achievement! I felt much too prideful every time young Elder Hacker showed himself better than measly stairs! So one summer day I thought I could handle the steep red slide at Lion's Park. I made it what surely felt like 3/4 of the way up (Any spectators would have seen I probably only made it up 1/2 the slide) and then there was a moment of chagrin. I paused and held myself there for a few seconds struggling to accept that I had failed...

And than I let go... Sometimes that's the hardest part...

...And I had a grand old time slipping back down into humility and playground gravel as soft as playground gravel can be! Those three seconds of sliding turned out to be pretty darn fun! It was arguably better than sliding while facing forwards!

I've been learning that's its kind of the same thing. Basically all the time. You get credit and have fun even when you don't make it up the slide. Whether it's the gospel,a high school acting career, being a parent, playing sports, the terrifying world of higher education, being a missionary, writing, dancing, life in general! From the most important, lofty, and significant things down to those meaningless events that play out on a playground! J'y crois! Humility leads to peace. As I continue to fail and slide and make as many mistakes as I did at every other point in my life (Though I will say I've found much better slides to run up recently), I've learned to have a lot more fun on the way down. In the words of a modern poet, Bob Ross, "there are no mistakes, only happy accidents." :)

This Saturday we were just leaving a teaching appointment and I remember feeling vaguely frustrated. It just hadn't come out the way we wanted it to. We had prepared as much we could without being redundant, we had done our best to explain things, all three of us were willing to listen to one another, etc... and it just didn't work out. It was kind of awkward and conversation just sort of turned in place. And that frustration came from thinking I was effectively entitled to success and good results based on everything I'd done. I thought I had the right to succeed because I'd taken some "necessary measures" I'd defined. Just like the whole slide thing! Sometimes it doesn't work out. More often than not I'm not enough! I couldn't make it up that slide and I couldn't make that lesson come out the way I wanted. And that's ok.

Another things that's pretty cool is that I think there are lots of people waiting at the top of slide to catch us! Like Catcher in the Rye. Catcher on the Slide! Example: Just this week I got an email from a dear friend that spoke to me in many ways. You've got family, friends, sweet high school English teachers, etc... all waiting to pull you up the rest of the way. Short-lived mortality wouldn't be half as wild an experience were we to face it alone. And that's another part of humility that's pretty important I've been learning. Relying on and trusting in others. It's funny sometimes how dependent we soft squishy humans can be on the affirmation of others. Or maybe it's intentionally designed! That way we are more humble. That way we need each other. That way we want to have families and longer term relationships instead of crumbly short lived interactions. That way we need a God to love us. That way we're pushed towards our responsibilities to love and carry and drag one another towards good things. So catch someone who's falling down a slide this week if you please.

I realized that I'm only here in France for 6 more months late Wednesday night. I mean I knew before... there have been many reminders of late. It's a lot like the feeling you get when you're 3/4 of the way through watching one of your favorite films. The slight anxiety of knowing it's nearing the end that eventually gives way to the resigned enthusiasm of just enjoying what's left of the ride. Though it clicked this Wednesday evening during a calm evening of tranquility, "Yo Elder Hacker that's not enough. Enjoying what's "left of the ride" isn't enough. You will never do this again. You won't ever have this set of circumstances, this many pastries, this group of friends, this fantastic and fulfilling service to which you can dedicate literally all your time. You don't have to worry about that continued education thing, the whole finances thing, etc... this is the only time you will be able to do what you love 24/7... provided this is really what you love?" And that poignant paraphrasing pierced my heart.

Last testimony thingy:
Pssst... do you want to know who's the best at waiting at the tops of slides to catch people? Even more reliable than a mother waiting at the bottom to catch her child?
Who are pretty dang reliable, mothers!
... It's Jesus.

So that's the weekly report from this end. I am too grateful and happy to be here. Seriously! Too much gratitude. People are probably annoyed by the frequency with which I say thanks! So thank you everyone who read any of this and thank you for doing all the things you during any given week.

-Elder Alex Hacker

Follow up Email that same day from Alex:

Number of people who sent pictures of them drinking orange juice made me die of joy :) Thank you all for that! 

Week 80 - Surprises, "Death" of the Sisters, and Wow (May 29, 2017)

Hello to everyone!

I hope this finds you all well. I just realized this would be the 80th
email I've written if I'd been reliable enough to write every week!
Which is crazy. For any loyal people who don't immediately delete what
is not too far from a corny spam letter every week, I truly do thank
you :)

Thanks to the mission I have been able to discover the validity of the
fact that Mohammed really is the most common first name in the world-- I think
I've talked to a million of them at this point.

Wednesday involved a lot of standing in a train station. It's more fun
than you think though not as fun as I wanted it to be. As missionaries
come drop of their old companions and wait for their new ones you end
up with a morphing amoeba mass of suitcases and missionaries coming
and going. It's socially pretty fun! I ran into a number of people I
recognize and hadn't seen in ages! After 3 hours the magic wore off a
bit and I was regrettably less smiling and happy to be there.

I received a number of the sweetest and most entirely unexpected gifts
of my mission this last Monday that I thought to wax poetic about! We
had a large conference where the entirety of the mission all came
together in one place for the first time I can ever recall. I was too
busy rambling about stained glass during the last email to share
anything concrete, alors:

1) My so called son e.g. The missionary I trained, showed up with a
Christmas present from his mother that was a little bit late. It was
an apron with a wee sticky note-- equal parts sass and gratitude! I'll
attach a photo. I can't believe how thoughtful some mother I've never
met could be. Would I be that kind of a mother?

2) A missionary who was about to go home gave me a letter. It was
probably one of the letters I've been most excited to open: behind my
mission call letter and above ACT scores/college acceptance stuff.
That was very, very sweet.

3) Another missionary who I've seen 4 times (maybe?) had taken the
time to print off a photo he'd taken of us and write a quick little
message on the back. It was very unexpected and meant a lot given the
small amount of time I'd spent with him.

4) Another person who really is like a sister to me gave me a photo
with a few kind words scratched on the back. My heart was like *warm
Hershey's* that day. And maybe this whole week really!

*Note that warm Hershey's is not entirely a good thing and is meant to
connote the innate goodness of Hershey's mixed with the inconvenience
of trying to eat melts chocolate-- it was both a good and inconvenient
feeling this week*

Tuesday was highlighted by going "mothering". Missionary jargon for
taking newly arrived missionaries (a literal hour or two after they
got off the plane) to go out and talk to people for the first time. I
was so deeply in love with this whole experience! I swear you can
practically see the mix of apprehension, excitement, sheer-horror,
awe, wonder, exhaustion in their eyes and actions. The rude transition
from from Utah to France shakes people up in such a way that you can
really see how they are, what they are feeling, and maybe most
noticeably, how good and noble their intentions be! To them everything
is so French! The trashcans, the quiche featured in the little brunch
bar, the language they don't understand, the dirty river by which
Elder Rosette (the one I mothered!) was dying to get a picture! And
they make such an effort to speak in French. Ego-feeding and adorable.
It really feels remarkably similar to what watching little kids learn
how to do things is like. Or when my little brother picked up some
skill. Or when my niece figured out how to walk. It's not too too far
from that. Maybe mothering isn't such a silly term after all.?

--!!!Other breaking news!!!--

In that freshly mothered group of missionaries there is one destined
to eclipse and surpass me in every way! There is now a Sœur Hacker who
will be doing the same thing I've been doing for 18 months but in
female. Likely with more love, patience, and hopefully success. The
namesake will live on.

Sœur-tain of the missionaries I know are now home! They all hopped on
planes, along with ol' Elder Jackson, this Thursday. (See attached

I don't think heaven is so much a place where one might end up after
dying so much as it is a direction that you go in. It's not the place
we go if you were well behaved during the sometimes random number of
years whiled away on some space rock. One of our dear friends Caroline
had a bit of a rough week-- her uncle is very ill with advanced cancer
and so she asked a lot of questions about why she was here and why
life was so short and assorted other things! And she asked, in her
roundabout introspective Caroline-way, what does this whole live lead
up to and why did we sign up for it anyways. If I'm just going to lose
my uncle and he's just going to peace out one day why did we want to
do this? And just end up chilling in clouds if we did enough good
things? She was frustrated and emotional. And it makes perfect sense
that she be.

The thing with Caroline is the way she says "wow." It's pure wonder.
It's more wonder than children. She says wow when something really
clicks. When she finds some truth or thought or idea that dramatically
changes what she plans on doing and how she thinks about the world.
It's an expression unfortunately lost today. I regret how often I say
or feel, "wow."

I think heaven is a lot more of a direction that a destination. It's
can be as much a state of character and being that we work towards in
this life. And I think all things are actually pointed towards it. All
hardships, departures, injustices... as well as all friendships, good
things, awesome puns, education, etc... can push us in a better
direction and shape us towards becoming better people. Little tiny
steps towards personal heaven and happiness, and bigger- sometimes
unfair steps, teach us to love fairness and give us the desire to see
it realized here in the world. Caroline said "wow" as she started to
believe and love the idea and the life isn't only the beautiful and
great human experience with requisite ups and downs, but that it's a
continuous progression towards a 'heaven'. We sprinkled that lovely
park where we met this Thursday with just a few drops of salt water.

...Look at that! I actually talked about an event from this week for once.

Anywho, I love you guys and appreciate so much what you all go about
doing day to day. Stay yourselves! I wish you all a great week!

Week 79 - Stained Glass Windows (May 23, 2017)

Dearest Brothers and Sisters! (Please read in a deep preacher voice),

Quick taste of humour before the usual and potentially annoying Hacker
verse: two kids ran by playing tag the other day and as is the problem
with two-person tag, player 1 declared, "Mom and Dad are base
forever!" thusly ruining the game. I died with laughter as I
remembered doing similar things as a child.

One of these weeks I'm not going to talk about childhood stories nor
share réflexions nor ramble about something but I'll actually just
summarize the week. This is not that week.

There is a little quoted verse in the Book of Mormon where somebody is
complaining about their bad writing skills. "...I said unto him: Lord,
the Gentiles will mock at these things, because of our weakness in
writing..." and then there are a few other descriptions of how bad
this guy feels he is at writing. And until late this Monday evening I
never understood what that was supposed to mean and why some of the
precious real estate in the book was eaten up by some guy's insecurity
about writing. This week I really emphasize with him. I feel weak in
writing! And it's got nothing to do with grammar or punctuation or
whatever else... but everything to do with having lived and felt such
unique and special experiences that cannot be translated into text.
And it is legitimately frustrating to the point that I'm doing the
exact same thing that Book of Mormon prophet did: complaining about my
failure to express myself. And it only matters because I so dearly
want that these things be expressed! I feel so very realized and
satisfied and in peace and this is the only medium I have for sharing
that with most of you guys!

I almost just didn't write this week. Despite being a week full of
emotional, spiritual, and social highs there were also certain
sadnesses associated in the mix and I figured nothing would make sense
and if I didn't even have a good understanding of what this week was
than why would trying to paint a picture for others be useful. So
everything was fuddled and jumbled like unto the crumbs left in the
bottom of a box of lucky charms-- some unwanted brown bits, a few
partial marsh mellows, and that fine rainbow powder that cushions
everything. I think that sums up pretty well actually! This week was
mostly a fine powder of rainbow with some larger marsh mallow-esque
burst-of-sugar events tossed in there... though the unfortunate brown
bits had to be eaten this week as well. Namely saying goodbye to a few
loved ones.

So the actual thing that made everything click this week and
engendered this email was the visit of a certain Tom Holden, a well
known and absurdly talented stained glass artist, and his wife, to
talk a little bit about stained glass. Tom Holden is the guy who
realized all the stained glass in the temple that I've been able to
visit so much this month as well as many other fantastic works around
the world. Late Monday evening, in all my tired weakness, I'm sitting
listening to Tom take forever on a long rambling introduction (forgive
my impatience Tom, I was in the wrong) all the while trying to digest
my thoughts and figure out what I really thought of this week... when
suddenly the response comes! Tom is explaining the beautiful story
behind the decorative border on one of his windows and I really felt
very strongly that I was a lot like that window. And that this week
was a bit of the assembly of that window. And the week suddenly made
sense. And I would even say people are a lot like stained glass

This week on paper consisted of a few super cool teaching
appointments, a large missionary activity on Friday, an interview and
sleepover on Saturday, a temple-related dedication/consecration
broadcast which ate up all of Sunday, and than a mission wide
conference Monday afternoon. This week in glass consisted of all kinds
of shards and bits and fittings and colors and pieces being put
together into what feels like a more finished product than ever
before. I think the individual pieces that shape us, sometimes all
funky and irregular and ugly colored by themselves-- like a glaring
weakness, or some tragic event, or some fear-- when contrasted next to
all the other glass shards make the image all the more defined and
beautiful. Events that make no sense in our lives or the lives of
others have a much greater beauty once they are nestled into this
larger window with a light radiating behind. The friendships and
feelings from others become permanent, lasting of parts of our
characters as scenes of this glassed mosaic are added day by day and
interaction by interaction.

There was a lot of light in my life this
week. Light reflected in my smile, light from others around me,
literal sunlight, spiritual heart-filling light; ex. I was strolling
this week in the streets of Versailles with a friend and I could not
stop dumbly smiling. And this light allowed me to see what sort of
stained glass window I was! What quality work of the Most Masterful
Craftsman was coming out! A few years ago I think the stained glass
portrait of myself would have been pretty eye-offending: lots of
darker and turbulent shades, really inconsistent and unsure lines,
lots of pieces missing. Like really amateur modern art! Though this
time, I saw a lot more bright colors. I saw the darker shards serving
as accents to the most beautiful and hard-earned sections. I saw the
influence of others who had intervened and added bits of their own
glorious mosaics-- even some as freshly added as this week: Georgette,
Sarah, Caroline, Celestine, Tom. I saw the touch of a master's hand
who really had been organizing and designing ever since the beginning
despite moves I found questionable.

And this time, looking at myself
as illuminated by all these sources of light surrounding me, was
something oh so very beautiful and happy and fun. A year-ago it was
frustrating to look. Two years ago it was kinda painful. Three years
ago it was downright demoralizing. Four years ago I didn't even think
to look. Etc. I felt so very special and important. I felt as special
and important as all the other stained glass masterpieces surrounding
me! I felt like there really was a plan for me and with a sudden
clarity the people who played a part, the things I needed to do, and
who I am didn't seem like scattered disconnected bits of glass but
rather a pretty cool looking window glowing softly. I guess that is
mostly supposed to be a description of how much I've changed and how
everything has come together for good. I feel so disappointed and
mostly just sad that so many of you haven't really gotten to know and
see what a repentant, changed, loving Alex ever looked like. I wasted
a lot of time when I should have been loving and serving others. And
I'm so sorry. And nobody should have to be sorry for that. So don't do
the same thing! Realize way before I did (I've never given thought to
stained glass before I got here in France and started running into it
in ominous cathedrals and the temple and everywhere else.) that you
are the greatest and most stunning stained glass art in progress.

Realize, I beg you, how great and luminous you can be. Realize that
all the little things that happen-- good and bad-- and all the choices
you make-- good and bad-- shape what that window will look like.
Realize how many other people surround you to toss you a few of their
colored shards. Realize someone a lot bigger who knows a few more
things about glass art is eager to participate if you will but let
him. Realize no one will change your colors or shape against your will
but that you have the ultimate control of that final product. Realize
how impressive and intricate and just plain cool each and every one of
you already are. Realize that stained glass is meant to be seen and be
an integral part of the surrounding architecture, and so are you.
Realize lastly that I love you guys. I had to leave most of you for 18
months to learn what it means to love you guys, though I dare say I'm
a lot closer to understanding it nowadays! There is only one other
thought more inspiring and motivating than* thinking about you guys
when I'm tired, when I'm at my limits, when I'm stressed when I can't
go any further. That's how important you guys are! And I promise that
during this year and a half I have at one point needed to think about
each and every one of you; I have needed to borrow a bit of your
light, example, and friendship to keep going. So thank you for being

I think this turned into a reasonably fitting 3/4 mark email! I hadn't
thought to write anything atypical but it turned out that way. Go

Have a great week! I'll see you in 6 months!

-Elder Alex Hacker

*Great gratitude to you Rebecca for finally teaching me the difference
between 'then' and 'than' 3 years ago*

All of the MTC sisters were able to make it there for our zone finding day.

A 400 euro  Dyson hairdryer that was super hardcore and frankly dangerous considering the volume of molten air it could shoot out.

The Cathedral in Chartres

An investigator I taught in Vannes being baptized in the ocean there.

Week 78 - Translating, Temple, and Thanks (May 15, 2017)


Holà Mes Amigos,

Haven't used that greeting before! If you didn't tell your mom you
love do that before you read anymore. Seriously. That's not at all a
joke. I'm happy to be able to write and have thumbs (take that most
animals!) that let me type out little messages to you on beautiful
days like this! I hope everyone had a great week!

Translating live is an interesting thing! This is actually the third
city where I've done that. I feel like things have vastly improved in
that department since little baby Elder Hacker started translating
things a year and a half ago. At first it's quite the exercise because
it's basically like running two languages at the same time. There is a
strange sensation where you find that magical translating flow and you
synch up with what the person is saying and you're no longer playing
catch up. And the only the thing that distracts you is pride telling
you how cool you are for translating like that after which the whole
thing falls apart again. I think the strangest though coolest thing
has been live translating very sincere and often emotionally charged
statements: when someone bears testimony about something they love,
when someone recounts an emotionally painful experience, when someone
starts tearing up, when someone starts speaking with a sudden boldness
and confidence. It feels weird because here I am stealing what they
are saying into my voice... and the emotion and all the memory and
intimacy behind what they are saying only kinda of translates. It's
like hearing the best song in the world and wanting so dearly to share
it with others but being limited by your voice. I really do enjoy this!

Of all the unrealistic business ideas I've had over the course of my
life I think the best one I've had came this week while waiting for a
bus. Ready for this? Personalized Muppets. You send in a photo, pay
some probably exorbitant fee, and then you get a full sized muppet
that looks like yourself. That's the whole idea.

This Friday played out on the streets of Melun. We took a train down
in the morning! There is always a grand sense of adventure exploring a
new city and wandering new streets. My internal sense of geography has
gotten so much more refined. A year ago it took me weeks if not more
time to learn even part a city but now it comes so much quicker. I
didn't realize that was a learnable skill. There are many skills I've
learned that I didn't realize were things people could learn such as:
eating really fast, finding public toilets, eating tomatoes, walking a
lot, asking people for directions, smiling at strangers, etc... From
11 to about 5 we went all over the town speaking to whoever would
listen. And the sky smiled down from above. Though 6 o'clock rolls
about and the heavens start crying. Explosively. I heard more thunder
during the next two hours than the rest of my time here in France.
Hail and everything. And we all find ourselves cowering under a medium
pine tree. We are hungry. We also need to catch a train in about an
hour. In what will infamously rest in my memory we sprinted through
heavy curtains of rain to the nearest kebab shop. I don't think I've
ever been so soaked in my life. After 6 seconds clothing was as
saturated as possible and everything after was a carefree and
exhilarating dash. The Melun rain sprint ended with us finding the
most lost New Yorker possible: Eduardo. He was just bumming around
this pretty empty kebab stand. He was pretty cool!

I was able to Skype my family this Sunday! The next time I hear their
actual voices will be in person in 6 months when I go home. I'd pick a
bone with that little word 'home' though. While the empty streets of
Wyoming and it's sometimes azure heavens that crash into the horizon
will always hold a special place in my heart (ironic given I did and
still do poke fun at my silly state), and my family is voluntarily
locked for the rest of my life and we plan on hitting each other up
even after, my understanding of 'home' has changed a lot! I think part
of it was when strangers happily let me into their homes! I popped in
and spent Christmas with people I'd know for a week... and they gave
me fancy boxes of chocolate; some asylum-seeking refugees spent their
meager government wages on a traditional Sudanese meal without
breaking a sweat; etc... and on the other hand I've seen the less
hospitable side of humanity in the many people who have blatantly
ignored me as I've tried to talk to them; those who have taught me
French swears saying some kinda rude things; those who don't like me
for whatever reason without knowing me... and through all of that the
common factor that makes me feel at home is feeling loved, and feeling
love. I'm on a train as I write and I feel at home. The life of a
proselytizing nomad somehow feels comfortable and normal and it is
entirely something that exceeds, if not skips entirely, the brain.
Mine at the very least. I don't miss home when I fell like I am
already there :)

On Saturday we spent the whole day as volunteers at the temple. We
stood at the end of the tour in a snazzy little room and answered
questions and gave out pamphlets and magazines. It was incredibly fun
and satisfying; I felt like I was full of sunshine for the whole day.
And I needed that sunshine because it was incredibly exhausting for
even one day and I have no idea how certain missionaries and other
volunteers survived plural weeks of that. I feel like my feet are
still recovering a bit from all the standing. A sampling of
cool/interesting moments from that day:

-I ran into a larger balding fellow who funnily enough barely talked
about the temple visit with me... though he talked about another
pretty special and magical place: Disneyland! This guy jumped on board
way back in the early days of Disney and spoke fondly of the glory
days of working at Disneyland. When they were all dressed up-- suits,
hats, clean hands-- and imagination reigned. It was really an
incredible perspective! Already being a pretty large Disney advocate
myself his poetic waxing really was something to behold.

-I fear being a bit of a broken record but I was blessed enough to see
many acquaintances, friends, teachers, those I taught, missionaries,
members, etc... during those twelve hours on my feet. I was able to
work side by side with some of my favorite people during huge parts of
the day! Imagine the absolute best part of your job concentrated with
all the fluff diluted out-- than throw in your best friends--
effectively family (see above)-- and do that for a whole day. Like I
was back at Spooners chopping fruit with my then dear coworker
Rebecca. It captured that same feeling. I didn't show it outwardly
then nor am I able to express it in words now though it was definitely
one of those life-highlighting and life-shaping moments.

-There was a woman in her 50's who came in and started talking about
her family. It's not doing too well. She talked about parents who
didn't and don't respect and make the effort with their kids. Kids who
take off and break contact. Siblings that don't see each other. And
see clearly wasn't happy nor feel in peace about this. She wanted the
family to work. I was pretty clueless as to what to say as I realized
just how different my understanding and belief about family was and
the extremes to which that belief has changed my family dynamic. We
180'd from a young family looking to find a house and
work and love to an awesome supportive community of people who are
each other's best friends! And that's what's we should definitely all
shoot for! Shouldn't we all have the right to that? I realized, with
the violence of a slap in the face, things would not have turned out
the way they did if I didn't believe in the family and know it could
and would work out. How thankful I am for that!!

I'd finish by expressing gratitude. I've learned that I'm not nearly
good enough at doing that. I read a friends email just a few hours ago
and essentially the only thing included was thanksgiving. The way she
described her week was both humbling and inspiring! Where would I be
if not for you guys? I wouldn't be here, that's for sure. All the few
ounces of goodness and light I've been able to pick up and learn here
and there are linked to all of you and the plethora of ways you
inspire me. My mother gets a huge slice of credit pie but so does
each one of you! Whipped cream as desired. Surcharge for ice cream on
top. And I used to think it wasn't okay to except credit pie from
others but that just leaves a disappointed pie-maker and someone who's
still hungry. So please know of the enormous gratitude and thanks I
have for you! Grateful tears feel different than other types and that
is just a quirky biological reflection of the true depth of emotion
that is actually chillin' inside! I thank you profusely. While
vigorously shaking your hand. Than hugging you. And any other gesture
I could ever offer. I have never felt so carried and supported and
important than when you were there... This isn't very specific but
then again I'm writing to more than a handful of people. Everyone of
you and your dogs have contributed greatly to the Elder Alex Hacker
who is currently writing this ramble-y sermon-y text! So thanks.
That's the best message right now and the only one left to share.
Thanks. And let that thanks be manifest in my actions and behavior
towards you and others and God. Don't forget to eat and share credit
pie with someone this week! Please!

With much feeling,
-Amateur Pie Enthusiast (I was going to put chef but that gives me too
much credit!) Elder Alex Hacker