Monday, February 24, 2014

Greenies are flexible.

Sorry for the short letter. =p I'll write more next week, I promise.
Honestly this past week has been a bit tough. Nearly all of our investigators haven't been at their appointments, and all but one of them didn't come to church. The only reason he came (I freaking love C***) is because he decided to walk the 10 miles to the church, 3 hours after finding out he was now evicted from his apartment. The ward members are trying to get him a place to stay though, so hopefully that won't be an issue for much longer.
Tomorrow (tuesday) I will be going on splits, and I will be the one staying behind. Translation: The totally green missionary will be playing senior companion with an elder who has been out much longer than him, and will be depended upon to get to all of the appointments, even though he doesn't know the roads yet, or all of the people he will be teaching. He is also kinda freaking out right now. I only hope that the Lord will personally help me with it, because if he doensn't tomorrow will be a disaster.
I hope everything is going great at home, and will talk to you soon.
Love you!

Elder Jayden Barker

Feb 17th letter bonus!

From a handwritten letter Feb 17th...

Hey Y'all!

My trainer's name is Elder Josh Clason.  He's 21 and will be going back to BYU when he is done here.  Right now, he is training for a 5k to run with some members in our ward, and as the dutiful companion I am coming along for the ride.  I won't be participating, but that doesn't mean I won't have to follow along on my bike during the race or go on splits with another elder.  Onto physical description.  He's a little taller than me and is a little stockier as well, all muscle.  Before Brianna asks, I don't know his eye color or if he's cute or not.  Besides one: he's too old for you.  Two: he's taken.

Elder Clason hs been out for 18.5 months and has just 4 transfers left including the two I am taking up.  My guess is that they will be spent training as well because the last two transfers were also taken up by a greenie.  He's praying that it won't, but it totally will.

I thought when I arrived that there would be some time to unpack and such, but nope.  We went straight to work instead.  Half of what I brought is still in suitcases.

I am completely lost here.  I don't mean mentally or spiritually, but rather geographically.  There are no mountains! None! It's completely flat!  That and the fact that all of the streets here have names instead of numbers and grow in whatever direction they feel like means that it is impossible to get your bearings.  Even President Petersen has long since given up [trying to figure out all all of the streets].  At least the weather's been nice.

There is one family we are super excited to teach, and that is the D**** family.  We had been knocking doors in a part of town when E. Clason got the feeling to walk back to a trailer we had already passed.  We knocked on the door and this big guy walked out followed by a short woman.  We aren't supposed to introduce ourselves as mormon missionaries because that only gets door slammed in our faces and a couple of Elders in another area were mugged after doing that.  So, we introduced ourselves as representatives of Jesus Christ, and then offered to leave a blessing on the home. After that we started talking and they turned out to be the nicest people.  The woman is D*** and the man is D****.

Pretty soon we found out that they had all lived on the east coast up until 6 months prior and had moved down for job opportunities.  As it turns out, D(man) had felt the night before we showed up that something was missing in their lives and they decided that  it must be God.  D(woman) started taking about the various christian churches he could join (there's 10,000 down here) and the LDS faith came up.  D (woman), it seems is a long time inactive member and while she hadn't gone to church in years, she still believed in everything.

D (man) told us it was a sign from God that we showed up when we did and is now starting to take the discussions with his family. The Lord has prepared them, so now it's up to us Elder to teach them.

I hope things are going great, and will write you another letter...eventually.


Monday, February 17, 2014

Shotguns and such.

The mission home was great. They had the best augratten (pardon my spelling) potatoes I've had in a long time. The food there was so much better than the MTC.

As to the missionary work bit itself this week has been a huge rollercoaster of emotions.

I am currently in Cabot. It's a fairly large area and our boundaries are the boundaries of the ward. It makes it simple. The weather has been kind to us, Elder Clason (clay-son) and I, and the temperature has only gone up. It is just perfect, although the nights are a bit chilly.  I've heard several different stories about chiggers though, some telling them that they are the devil's physical incarnation, and others saying that they are they, but really aren't all that bad so long as you remember the golden rule when playing Pokemon: don't walk in the grass unless you want stuff to jump out at you. Luckily they won't come out until the mosquitoes come out too. While the work is exhausting, luckily I haven't fallen asleep anywhere other than my bed yet and have been in bed at a reasonable hour each night. Naps are nice too.

We are teaching several different families.  J*** and M*** are some of my favorites by far. They are as country as they come, complete with large dogs for hunting, living in a  trailor, and three different firearms within sight upon opening the front door. One time while we were teaching them M*** was outside and J*** kept on looking out the window behind him. In the middle of one of our sentences he jumped up, screamed "Hold on!", and quickly disappeared down the hall. He came back seconds later with a large hunting rifle, threw open the back door, and fired a shot at some target off in the distance. Please keep in mind that up to this point he had been super sick and on medications for a couple of weeks asleep. After he fired his shot he calmly walked back toward us, set the rifle behind the chair I was sitting in, and told us quite calmly to proceed with the lesson.

Apparently he was shooting at a dog that had been a nuisance in the area for a while now and was trying to scare it off and have a little fun at the same time. He put a bullet in the ground right under the dog's legs to see how high he could get it to jump. He said it went a couple of feet in the air and couldn't get out of there fast enough.   He's pretty awesome though.

We are also teaching B*** and M***  and they are great.  They moved out of their old home on        , the only day it has rained thus far BTW, and we were able to help them with that.  It felt weird wearing non-white clothes. Even now on Pday i'm still in my white shirt. Anywho, they moved clear out in the middle of nowhere, but it's kinda a good thing too because there are a lot of doors we haven't knocked yet there. I.e. all of them. M*** will be baptized on       and she is totally excited, and while B*** is ready as well he is also on parole right now and is waiting on the first presidency. 

C*** is a guy who has been taking the lessons for a while now, and was committed to be baptized next week, except for the fact that his company he worked for when under about a month ago and hasn't been able to pay for anything, including rent, power, water, and food. We were able to help him out a little there and get him some job help, but without those things he really wasn't looking for spiritual help until he was able to support himself everywhere else. The church is helping with the rent and such, and the ward members helped him get a suit from good-will so he can go look presentable at interviews. Once that is done we will get back on track with the lessons. Here's hoping!

While we were knocking on doors in a wealthier part of town (most of the area is poorer) a mid-age woman answered, took one look at our nametags, and said "I will listen to you if you listen to me." This was fine with us and so we began talking. She had been going to a nearby baptist school for several years now and had apparently talking with missionaries before. She started out basically telling us that Jesus is all that she needed, Joseph Smith was a lie, the BoM was made up, revelation is dead, prophets are no longer needed, and that even if the BoM was true it was unnecessary because she had the Bible.

We taught her as best as we could, but in the end she just interupted us and said that we were all taught a load of lies and should go home before shutting the door on us. The saddest part is I don't know if she was unable or unwilling to feel the Spirit talk to her, because He WAS there. Either she was ignoring the Spirit, or was so far gone as to be unable to anymore. Either way it was a very sad occasion, but a real insight as to how some people believe. I don't know what I could have done differently, but I have been praying about it and reading. Hopefully she will humble herself a little bit soon.

As of right now there are just two sets of missionaries in Cabot, elders and sisters included. Good thing we work fast!

I love you all!

Elder Jayden Barker

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Just got in.

 President and Sister Petersen. Oh yeah- and me :)

The greenest  of the green Arkansas missionaries.  Ready as ever to serve!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

MTC folk.

 Self portrait in the MTC

 Elders Pulsipher, Biddulph, and Iversen.

Elder Kemp, my first companion.

Hey-O! I'm-a leavin' on a jet plane!

I'll just start at the  very beginning before getting into the meat of my letter. 

Mom: I just got the package last night, and while a bag of bananas are now gone, plus one of the bags of bread and gummy bears (I ate them all myself - No sharing! ;), I still have most of the cookies, M&M's, and other loaf of bread to work through. Well, the MTC is trying to make us well-rounded individuals. I will just do my best to follow their guidance to the letter. Mostly around the middle area, but still to the letter. 

Everyone: I will be waking up to leave to the airport before 3am tomorrow. That will be something awful, but what-ev's. I don't understand why I need to be there so early, as my flight doesn't leave until after 7, but in the maintime I will be available to call and talk with all y'all! YAY! Also I will be able to call sometime after I arrive at georgia, because it makes perfect sense for me to fly completely over my mission, just to hop back to it in a connecting flight. There will be about a 3 hour layover there, but as I am not entirely sure when that will be I will just tell you when I call you tomorrow. I don't know how long I will talk as I don't know how many others will want to call home, but we will see. Mom, I will call you on your cell-phone as soon as I arrive at the airport. It'll probably be around 4.45-5.00 ish. Sorry I can't be more specific. I look foward to hearing from you all.


I know this is what you really wanted to hear from me. =D

So I should have brought my journal with me, as it has all sorts of good stuff in it that I can write about, but I will write what I can think of off the top of my head and, permitting I can grab a computer in the Laundry Room, I will write a bit more latter. Cross those fingers for me.

It has been cold and wet. It doesn't really matter what it has been wet with, just know that the sun itself has evolved into a legendary myth these past few days. I think i saw a blue sky  once this whole time, and that might have just been a hallucination induced by the hamburger I had ate just a few hours before.  I'm not loving a lot of the food here.  It really makes me miss the food from home. Granted this is all-you-can-eat, and they have lots of cantaloupe (which makes me insanely happy) plus all the apple juice i can drink, (which I practically lived off of at USU) and so while there are some definite perks, but it's just not the same.

I have been playing volley ball at every chance during gym, and I am loving it. If for no other reason than to be super-competitive with people who are equally competitive I am loving it. I'm not the best, but I really don't care. It's just nice to be able to do something active every once in a while, even if 50 minutes of gym a day doesn't seem like enough to me.

Just today I bought a bunch of journals, because if I keep on writing at the rate I am right now I don't think I will last much longer than a few months. thank heaven for missionary discounts! I'm hoping that this habit of writing every day will stick, because I've been terrible at it in the past.

I had a couple of really cool spiritual experiences this past week as well, one of them on tuesday and one of them just yesterday (Sunday). On Tuesday for one of our classes we went into different rooms as companionship for some role-play. You do that a lot as a missionary I found out. The thing that made this RP so different from the others is that usually you are RPing as a fictional investigator, or as one you are currently teaching, but this one we were playing as ourselves, as if we had grown up outside of the church. That made me think for a bit, but I decided a long time ago that if I couldn't be LDS I would be  Buddhist instead. The cool bit was that Elder K  was the missionary first and was having a really hard time getting started, so I broke character for a bit and told him that instead of trying to think of what to say he should just go completely off of what the Spirit told him to say. He sat there for a bit and then told me that I needed to give him a blessing. If nothing else that made me sit back for a bit and think, but inside I was screaming "What?!". But I felt like this was something that needed to be done because he really needed it. I grabbed one of my teachers, Brother Lester, and he was just outside the hall waiting for me to go get him. Earlier we had deviated completely off of the lesson for no apparent reason, but the Spirit had told him that there was a reason, and this was it.  As we went back into the room and we put our hands on Elder K's head, I got the impression that I needed to give him a blessing about faith, and so I did. Five minutes later I couldn't remember a thing I had said. I remember starting the blessing and closing it, but whatever was in the middle is a complete mystery to me. Whatever it was I was prompted to say though was given to me from the Spirit, because there is no way I could bring the Spirit that strongly into any sort of meeting without help, especially a blessing.

It made me think of what would have happened had Brother Lester  not listened to his promoting to change the lesson, had Elder K not asked for a blessing, or had I not been worthy to give one? None of us would have walked away enriched like had happened to us. I have no doubt whatsoever that this particular experience was specifically for my companion, and that i was just lucky enough to be a part of it.
The next awesome even was this Sunday. As per usual for me, i was given  a responsibility, this time for the music, but was not told what hymns i would be playing until it was time for the sacrament meeting to start. I was given a list of hymns, the first one I had never even seen before, and was basically told "good luck". I didn't want to make the Spirit leave the meeting before it even got started, so I said a very quick prayer asking to be able to play the song. After i played the first note it was as if I could somehow know exactly where I needed to put my fingers and when to hit the keys. It was the most perfect sight-reading I have ever done. When it was time for the sacrament hymn I had had a little bit of time to look over the hymn and practice, but it wasn't nearly as much as I would like. Again I said a quick prayer, this time somehow knowing that God would help me again. I wasn't disappointed. By the time we were to sing the last hymn, this time one I actually knew, I knew that God had helped me with both songs. The proof was that the last hymn, on that I should have been able o play perfectly because of it's familiarity, was the one I played the most poorly. It was still great, but the songs where I had the spirit's help were infinetly better than the one where it was just me at the keys. 

Something kinda cool I found out last week: my residence hall had been dedicated by Elder Holland. This has no real relevance to the rest of the letter, but it was written down in my journal (I ran and grabbed it) so I figured I'd share it anyway.

Also on Sunday I watched an incredible film that the church made in 2000 called "Testament". It was, spoiler alert, a movie about Christ. I know, shocking that we would watch something about Christ in such a non-religious place as the MTC, right? =D Have I told you that I hate crying? Maybe? Well, I do, unless it's for a very good reason, and I don't consider a movie to be a good reason. But I was tearing up, whether it is because of the depiction of the crucifiction, the spirit that was telling me that this all actually happened, or that there were two Sisters behind me from Texas who were bawling their eyes out. Anyway, it's good, and I think you should read it.

There was another Devo that night as well, this time by some area 70 that I had never heard of before, but apparently he's a regular here. He showed us several commercials that were made last century, but were still. There were a bunch of lines from them that I wrote down, and maybe you could use them. Alert- some of these are cheesy.

1. It's not who you aren't; it's who you are, and being yourself is great.
I like this one because it seemed to tell me that the Lord sent me on a mission so I can be myself there, not to be some uptight missionary or whoever I think should have been called there instead. He want's me there for me. 

2. When everything says that you can't, believe in the part of you that says you can.
'Nuff said, unless you are trying to fly. That's just silly.

3. The people in your heart can't hear what's in your heart. You need to tell them everyday.
If I haven't told you recently, I love you, whether it's as a friend, family member, as some random guy from school, or something else. I need to work on this one a bit.

4. Your [companion] often views [himself] by the label you put on [him].
Originally the first word was 'children' but I think this can apply to just about anything, whether it's companion, children, wife, boyfriend, or anything else. The only exception to this rule would be Boris, because he's too stupid to know he's stupid. (For non-family personages, Boris is our rather slow-minded poodle).\

Honestly, I can't believe that I will be on board a plane in less than 24 hours flying to Atlanta, Georgia. It is the strangest feeling, but I can't wait to get out of here, but at the same time i really don't want to leave. As the MTC president said, this is the only place on earth besides the temple where almost everyone on it's grounds holds a temple recommend. I know I would go crazy if I stayed here much longer, but still, it's hard.

I hope everything is going great, and I can't wait to hear from you again. 

Elder Jayden Barker

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Le Letter #1

Hey Family! Sorry that I can't send individual letters, but I only have an hour and I was surprised at how long it took to get everything down that I did. I hope everything is going well, and am glad to hear that you were able to have the family over for the super-bowl. 

This last week has been incredible. I've learned so much about how the Spirit works and teaches us, and have had some incredible teaching experiences as well. There was one lady who came in on Friday to be taught. They are called Gold Tag investigators, because they are either members acting out their conversion for the missionaries, less-actives, or most often simply non-members who want to learn about those crazy Mormons and figure the MTC is a great place to find a missionary or two. The woman we taught was Carol, and she was so ready to hear the gospel it wasn't even funny. I mean, give her another three lessons and she'd be set for baptism. We are also teaching our teachers when they role-play as investigators they had taught in the field. It is really interesting, and I never thought that I would use my theatre acting skills out here, but I've been doing a lot of it. I decided that a lot of missionary work is like those twenty question riddles; you have a limited amount of time to find out everything about the investigator as possible to be able to teach them the most effectively. The studying I've done in the past on body language has been invaluable.

My companion is Elder Kemp, and he's from West Jordan. Most of the people in my district are going to Jamaica, except for me and Elder Pulsifer. He's an interesting guy, and both he and the District Leader, Elder Iverson, remind me of different aspects of myself.  E.Iverson is incredibly Yellow, and is crazy excited about going to Jamaica. He has an incredible testimony and is a fantastic teacher.

I've been studying like crazy, and I never thought that I would ever have a reason to study the scriptures and Preach My Gospel for nine hours straight before! My brain has been so fried this past week, and while I love the MTC I can't wait to get outa Dodge. 

As a Zone Leader it is my job to make sure that everything is going well and that we are all working our hardest.  THis upcoming week we, meaning my companion and I, will be escorting the newbs to get their name tags and books, and then help them find their rooms to go to. It should be fun.

Also I found out that I will be the travel leader when we all go to leave the MTC. I will be checking in my bags and confirming that the other students here under my charge are all ready and accounted for. Normally I'd think that this would be nothing but a good thing, but we are kinda having to leave at 03.30. So early flight for me. I'll be going to Atlanta first, and then on to Arkansas. The other elders and sisters in my zone will be going with me to Atlanta, but there we will all be going our separate ways. Elder Kemp is also going to Jamaica, so I won't be seeing him much after a week. I am super excited to meet my new companion in Arkansas though, and hope that I will be a good elder.

I hope everything is going great, and will talk to you again next Monday. Love you lots!