Monday, March 31, 2014

A little view of my world in Cabot.

Yup! It's a sign!

In case you weren't aware....

This is what happens when big boy toys are just left on the side of the road!

And this is what happens when missionaries spend 3 hours at Golden Corral challenging the capacity of their insides...

One of my favorite families in the area, the Kirkhams!  Unfortunately for me, they just moved to Utah last week :(

Awesomeness! Me and Elder Clason.

Mission Math

If I did my math right, today is day 63/730, or 63/731 if next year is leap year. This means I am either 8.501% done with the mission, or 8.499%. (I did that on paper. So proud of myself.) It's kinda freaky that, although the 29th was my 2 month mark, it really doesn't seem like all that much, but put it in percentages and it becomes a whole new ball-game.

It also sets in the reality that I've been out for an incredibly long time, and while it doesn't feel like it, we can't seem to get any of our investigators out of the beginning stages. We can find people to teach, and start to teach them, but we can't get them to the finish line. it's a little frustrating. Perhaps this is wrong of me but I just want to help someone get baptized.

Most of our investigators are all on the same road though, so it's really easy to get from one appointment to the next. But all of them have issues that we need to work with. J*** still has horrible anxiety and thinks himself an awful person, O*** still likes to get drunk, J*** doesn't want to come to church yet, C*** has some serious WoW (word of wisdom) issues and was a convicted felon, and the newest people we found, T*** and J*** (different J***), are simultaneously the easiest to teach and the strangest people I have ever met. The W*** Family are always injured and in the hospital as well. *sigh* Maybe one of these days we will be able to go back and have a second lesson.

Funny story about O***. One of the times we went over to teach him and his family, largely just K** and K** (daughters) now, he was drunk again. Not plastered like he was a while ago, but just drunk enough that he really didn't care what he said or what was said. During our lesson (it went surprisingly well) he let slip that after the first time we stopped by the house all of his daughters talked for about 5 minutes about how cute the missionaries were. They didn't have conversations like this after they found out that one of many restrictions on missionaries is no dating while serving, but the mortified look on their face after their father/step-father told us this was priceless. 

To make things even funnier (for me) we somehow got on teh topic of what music we listened to before we went out. This was another appointment, BTW. I told them that I enjoyed listening to instrumental music, largely because the singers' voices grate on my ears sometimes. Before I could say anything else K** snorted "nerd". As soon is it came out she slapped both hands over her mouth. It was hilarious. To make things even better they, both K** and K**, spent the rest of the night doing everything they could to take their proverbial foot out of their mouth. They won't be able to live this one down for a month. hehehe

We are probably going to play volley ball with the other missionaries here in a bit. This should be fun, especially because Sister Wilkerson is about 5-foot nothing. Wearing heels. Kinda reminds me of a bunch of my friends back home. 

Honestly, not much else to say. Talk to you all again next week!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Arkansas Logic

Arkansas Logic...

So the title has to do with the pic. FYI. The people inside weren't interested in listening to us unfortunately, but it was still fun to take the pic. I wonder how they got off so badly on the numbering that they had to put a 1/2 in there, or maybe it was just a joke. Either way it was immensely amusing for me.

Things are starting to smooth out now. We are finding people to teach, and some of them invite us back, which is always a bonus if you want to share something with them. We are finally getting people to church as well. Up till now we have had 0 luck in this, but we are starting to change that with a great deal of help from God.

Declaration: I hate smoking. It is a horrible addictive habit that nobody I've talked to wants to keep around. It makes teeth and fingers turn yellow and does nothing to aid in making someone smell nice. However, there is just one place I love the smell (kind of), and that is in church. To smell smoke on someone's clothes means that someone is striving to come closer to our Father in Heaven, and I love this.   

Today is transfer day, meaning I've been in the field for my first 6 weeks. It's kinda weird to think that it's already gone. To quote Dr. Who: "People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but *actually* from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint - it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly... time-y wimey... stuff." It's surprisingly accurate when you are talking about a mission, as the past 6 weeks have been the only time I've had days feel like weeks, weeks feel like days, naps that felt far too short, dinner appointments that felt far too long, and some of the strongest deja vu ever. So yeah, one down, 17 to go!

RJ was.... interesting. I'm really not all that sure he's ready to hear our message, because when we went over there he just basically talked over us all the time. So yeah. Dunno if I will be going over there again.

Things with JB are looking up. He still hasn't come to church because his son "Troy" is visiting him and wanted to go fishing instead of going to church. I can't say I blame J*** for his decision. On the plus side his nephew next door "Samwise" (I wanted to name Troy "Frodo" to make it work better but that would be plagiarism) randomly showed up and is curious about what we teach. Hopefully things will progress with him too.

This is one of the things I really like about this street: No matter how long we go around it talking to people, once we think we have found everyone more people seem to pop up out of the ground like daises! Just with the O***, family I just found out that there is a sister I never even knew existed. Where do they keep coming from! lol

Yesterday we were out finding people to teach and, true to tradition, we were out in the middle of nowhere. We had talked to a few people outside and knocked on a couple of doors with absolutely no success at all, and so turned back around to go and drive elsewhere. About half-way to the car I felt like we needed to go and knock on a brown house about 300 yards down the street we had just left. It took the rest of the walk to the car for me to say that we needed to go back and knock on this house before we moved on. So we turned around, parked on the side of the road, and knocked on the house. We could see people home inside, but they didn't answer the door. It was rather discouraging. While we were knocking on the door we saw people outside next door, so as soon as it was obvious nobody was coming to answer the door we walked up the driveway, up the road a little ways, and down the other driveway. Just as we were about to call out to the people, they got in the car and started backing up. We stepped out of the way to let them pass, and then knocked on the door for good measure, but no answer. #Discouragement. For lack of anything better to do we continued up the street, not knocking on doors but just looking for people to talk to. Up ahead of us we saw a car pull behind a house and several other people back there. We knocked all the doors around that house, hoping that they would  go inside where they could answer the door and save us from a very awkward street approach, but to no avail. After several door literally being shut in our faces, we turned and walked down the gravel driveway leading to the back. After going back there and introducing ourselves, we said a prayer with them. This turned to a really good talk about different religions and what we believed in, leading to a return appointment! This never would have happened had I not listened to the prompting to go back and knock on the brown door. We go back Thursday.

Love you all, and have a good one!

Elder Jayden Barker

Monday, March 17, 2014

"I was just swinging a sword"...the rest of the story.

For the rest of the human population getting my emails/reading my blog, yesterday was my favorite brother's birthday. He just turned 4 for the 6th year in a row. Quite an impressive feat. Please feel free to publicly humiliate him for me, all in the name of surviving another year around the sun.

I realized that I had forgotten to tell the story about the sword-swinging. Sorry 'bout that. For some reason that I cannot remember Elders Weaver and Despain were in our appartment. I think that they may have been on bike-week and we were giving them a ride somewhere. Anyway they were inside and we, Elder Clason and I, had gone outside for about 5 minutes to go and get the mail. After discovering nothing but ads again we went back to the apartment. E.Clason had left the door slightly open so he could 'kick in' the door on the way back, which he proceeded to do so while screaming like a lunatic. After the door stopped moving the first thing we saw was Elder Despain kneeling on the ground picking something shiny out of the carpet. He looks up at us and the first things out of his mouth were the words "I was just swinging a sword". This was when we noticed a conspicuous lack of a light bulb in the ceiling fan. Mainwhile Elder Weaver is sitting at the table trying hard not to laugh. For some crazy reason we had had a 3-foot long sword stashed away in a closet which E.Despain had happened to find. I'm not sure it's purpose in a missionary's apartment, but he had thought that it would be a grand idea to try becoming a fencer with it. It didn't end well. After the glass stopped falling he apparently told E.Weaver that it would be their secret what had happened. As if we wouldn't notice that we no longer had any light in that room. So yeah, that was exciting.

Funny story. We are back in contact with D***'s family. Stop laughing; that's not the funny part. We were talking to them at their house for a bit and they told us to not stop coming over. Fine by us. (Nope, that's not the funny bit either.) Anywho, we went over there again just before church on Sunday, and both D*** and A*** (le wife) told us that they would not be going to church. "Ok, that's fine. Can we send your daughters instead then?" "Oh, sure. That'd be great!" "Sweet!". I'm pretty sure how the conversation went. So anywho we got them to church with the Bishop's wife, and K**, one of O's daughters went as well. I think that K*** will be our first baptism. Jason also would have come, but he has pretty awful social anxiety. Hopefully next week will be the week, but honestly I'm just glad that some of our investigators came! We have gone too long without any of them in church.

We also met with the W*** family. K*** has done her research. One of her sisters converted Mormon, while another converted Islam, and to top it all off her g-father is a baptist preacher. Because of all this she has checked into basically every religion ever known to man and has pages upon pages of notes on all of them, with a great deal of emphasis on the LDS faith. Just to give an idea, the first question she asked us dealt with the Melchizedek priesthood, why we don't use it's actual name, and if the biblical priest is where it's name came from. It was a rather impressive discussion, especially once you take into account that we were there for a little over 2 hours and every minute of it was about questions like this. It made me very glad that Elder Clason was well versed in the Bible, because if it was just me I would have been totally lost. I still was, but at least I was able to provide some support. We will go back and teach them again sometime this week. I have a feeling that this will either be a quick baptism, or we will be dropped equally quickly.

The weather has been cold. Lots of small storms to keep the temperature down and the humidity up. I am hoping that this next week will be better. At least there are no bugs.

This week has been a bit hard on our numbers. We had a lot of appointments fall through, and our luck in finding has seemed to finally run out. We only found 5, and a couple of them was at 8 pm last night. Again, here's hoping that next week will be better.

Elder Jayden Barker

Monday, March 10, 2014

Things you don't really want to hear on a mission...

Things you really don't want to hear on a mission

"I was just swinging a sword."
"It was jusht a couple of beersh, I promish!"
"...and then the head blew off!" (actually that one was pretty awesome)

Bike week was pretty cool, I guess. Lots of walking. Elder Clason wanted to walk instead of bike, so off we went. But walking around was really good when it came to finding people to teach.

We found a super interesting guy while walking around named RJ. I'm fairly certain that isn't his real name because he had to think about it for a second when we asked him, but whatev's. Normally a street contact only takes 5 minutes max, but when we stopped at his house while he was outside the conversation took about 40 minutes. He was Pentecostal, and also had a very large quantity of questions, most of which we answered. We will see how that discussion goes.

C*** has taken a turn for the worse. He had been working with a member for income, and the church had set him up for a month in a room somewhere, but one day he showed up to work clearly on drugs, and nobody has seen him after that. I think the wrong crowd got a hold of him again, which is sad because he was serious about changing.

N*** is doing fantastic. She contacted us on Saturday. telling us that she wanted to go to church. She confirmed this again just before church, and then showed up. We are super happy for her. She's been in a much better mood,  and has been catching up on BoM reading as well. I'm very grateful that things are looking up for her.

Recently (last week) we found a new investigator. In our phone we have him down as Jason Bourne, because he's a ex-military guy and looks just like him. It also helps that the first thing we saw when he opened his door for the first time was an AK-47 and a 22 with a massive scope on it. Obviously his real name isn't Jason Bourne, but I got on my blog and noticed that all of the names have been removed, so just for the sake of having a name on there that isn't ***'d out, I'll keep calling him Jason. Before he joined the military (army airbourne) he kinda sorta believed in God. After he joined up he did/saw/heard/other some things that made him basically go agnostic (hates god). He was in there for 13 years, and then after he got out he started doubting his own doubts. And guess who walked down his incredibly-scarily-awesome-long-dirt-driveway the one day that he had asked God for proof that He was there? That's right, the Mormon missionaries. #GoTeamMoroni! We introduced our purpose, to bring him closer to Christ, and started him on faith and prayer. When we went to go see him a couple of days later he had said that he had been praying, and also that he had been seeing the help the Lord had sent. He wasn't sure if it was God, but he did notice that things were easier for him after that. The appointment after that (we are taking it much slower with him than usual) we gave him a Book of Mormon and challenged him to read it. Two days later he texted us to tell us he was in 1ne.12. 

We couldn't believe it! Most people haven't gotten past the first page by that time. He also defended us to his brother, who tried to drop Anti-Mormon doctrine on him. Not only did he shoot it down, he also invited his brother to take the lessons with him. Unfortunately the brother declined, but still! This is too cool! He also has some of the coolest stories about his army career and what happens to small rodents when you shoot them with high-powered weaponry.

The W*** family, the one who asked us for a return appointment, was unable to meet with us. The father had been in an accident about 2 weeks previously, and went to the hospital. with concerns that arose from it If it had been within out boundaries we totally would have followed them there, but alas for us, it is not. This week or next week we will get to teach them.

We are also teaching a family whose last name I'm not entirely certain of. The father's name is O.B.  but the rest of the family is from several different families/marriages/random passerby so it's kinda hard to know one way or another for certain. He kind of found us, identifying us as "prayer walkers" and hoping we can share a prayer with him. We did, and then told him that we liked to do quite a bit more than just share a prayer. He was quite happy to invite us back. His daughter K*** is the only one who attends church and bible study regularly, which is impressive because she's only 16. The family had been taught by sister missionaries about 5 years back, but had been dropped for some reason. The wife, B***, remembered some of the lesson material, and the daughters (I really have no idea how many kids there are in that house) have some positive experiences, so that has helped Elder Clason and I set up a positive connection right off the bat with them. Yesterday we committed two of the daughters, K*** included, plus O*** and B*** to baptism on the 30th. I really hope everything goes well there. That lesson took about 1.5 hours, crazy long by any standard, but the Lord had a hand in it for sure. The Spirit was very strong.

Funny story about two meetings ago with them: we had gone over there with a member to try and teach the lesson we taught them yesterday (sunday). E.Clason and I had known previously that O*** had a bit of a drinking problem, but we hadn't known how bad it could be. When we pulled up with the member O*** ran out of the house, arms spread as wide as they could go, and, while screaming "My new friends!" at the top of his lungs, tried to hug the car. Things only got better as we got inside. His daughters were mortified by his behavior, especially K***, but honestly we were just trying so hard not to laugh the entire time. After seating himself on the ground in front of us in a perfect Lotus position he began to recount to us a story including, no joke, aliens, the orange jersey of his old little-league baseball team, a dead uncle, a weird mole on his back (he almost took of his shirt to show us but his family stopped him), the time he was run over by a car, and how important it was for us three to find a man-cave where we could talk freely. I would be amazed if he could talk more freely than he did during that 30-min interval.  It was so funny. That night was basically useless with regards to missionary work, but we needed the laugh to relax a bit.

The weather is finally starting to be nice again to us, which is great because it means more people will be outside for us to talk to.

On March 14 we will be having a program geared to try and get the RCLS's back in church (Recent Convert, Less Actives), and i will be singing in it. THe idea is that having a missionary to sing will invite the Spirit more strongly, but clearly the haven't heard me sing much. We have been practicing, so it should go well. 


Elder Jayden Barker

Monday, March 3, 2014

Of ice storms and scary back roads.

Ice storms. Yeah, they're fun. Lots of very cold rain and slippery roads. Mix that with a healthy dose of thunder and lightning and you have yourself a proper show! Unless you are the missionary who has to stand outside to back up the car you drive in. Then you just want to get back in the automotive vehicular device.

Our apartment complex.

Ice encrusted bushes.

Most of our investigators have become very difficult to contact. So we have done what every good missionary does in times of difficulty; go and find new ones! I don't know how he does it, but Elder Clason has a ninja-like knack for finding new people to teach. For instance last week we found 11, and the one before that 14.  We aren't giving up hope on the oldies, but we are seriously going cray-cray (slang for crazy) finding people.

We are now teaching some random family that just moved in with one investigator. He is soooo cool. He's about as down to earth as it can get
Just a quick question that he made me think though: does God pay more attention to your prayers when you start cussing in them? I'm still trying to figure that one out. Just another he is so awesome.

One family has basically dropped off of the map as well, but they live so far away it is highly impractical for us to go visit them in person. Vehicle miles and all that. Missionaries are only allowed so many per month, so we try to keep it as low as we can in case we go over. Going over means your next week is bike week. Which apparently sucks majorly, but I'm kinda excited for it. We have it starting wednesday. Or at least i was excited until the world decided to turn into an iceskating rink.

D**** and his family are being particularly hard to get a hold of as well. They did just buy a whole bunch of furniture they are trying to assemble and he did just get a new job, but still.... we're a little put out about that.

N**** is back from court. We still aren't entirely sure what the ruling was on that, but the point is she isn't behind bars right now. So good thing there. Bad news is she took whatever when down in there really badly, and is now trying to use her anti-anxiety prescription to help her get over a severe depression. Luckily both ward members and her family is on top of things and nobody is allowing her to be home alone. Ever.  E.Clason and I go over every night for about 20 minutes to pray and read the scriptures with her. I think it's helping, but this is one heck of a challenge that the Lord is putting her through. I hope she can make it through.

C*** is doing better. He was evicted from his appartement, but the church pulled through for him and has found him a temp-residence and a job with a ward member. He's not really progressing though, so we're a little worried about him. Hopefully once he gets all of this sorted out he'll get moving again.

We found some new awesome peeps this past two week. One of them isn't really a new find, but we just started teaching him, and he's a pretty sweet guy. He is just one example of how frank and open guys can be around missionaries. We went to teach him one time and the first thing he tells us after we sit down is "Guys, I've been sinning." We almost asked him what he had done, but then we realized we didn't really need to: he was as high as a kite. Needless to say that discussion on the BoM was very interesting, but even more impressively was that he remembered most of what we had talked about the next time we went to go see him. We starting teaching his mother last week as well, and she's very different from Him. She's studied the bible very closely and feels like she's still missing something. Good for us she's willing to give the Mormon Missionaries a shot to see if what they say is it.

Another cool experience we had was just this last saturday. We were walking down one of the back roads looking for people to try and set return appointments with. The city/town proper has been tracted out, so back roads it is for us. One of our finding strategies is to ask ourselves if a road or driveway would be scary to walk down in the dark/ever. If the answer is yes we walk down it. Thus all the crazy awesome people we find. This family we found isn't crazy (that we can tell yet; you never know), just awesome. We knocked on their door and a white guy answered. He wasn't wild looking, and he didn't reek of smoke and alcohol either, which was kinda cool. The only difference was he looked tall enough to be a NBA star. He asked us what we wanted and we said that we were representatives of Jesus Christ and hoped to leave a prayer with him and his family. He told us perhaps it wasn't a good time because the house was a mess and his wife wasn't dressed yet. That was a bit of a bummer for us, but we said ok and started trying to get a return appointment. Clear in the back of the house (it was an actual house. #bonus) his wife called out and asked what church we were from. Usually when people do that it's because they are either about to chew us out for satan-worshipers, slam the door on our face, or try to bible-bash with us. So we were a little hesitant when we said "The church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints". Suprisingly, she told us not to move because she had wanted to talk with us for a long time. She ran to the door, apparently getting dressed first, and proceeded to ask us for a return appointment. That never happens. Ever. So awesome sauce, we are going to go talk to them tomorrow. Mostly because we aren't going to risk driving there today.

Splits was great. I was surprised at how well it went. Basically every door got shut in our face, and all but C***'s appointment fell through, but I was totally cheerful the entire time. my companion was Elder W. Obviously that's not his full last name, but it is so awesomely German that I can neither write nor pronounce it properly. (Elder Clason just fell over backwards in a wheel chair. Don't ask; I don't know either. lol) He's a super quiet guy, and so i was in charge in basically everything. You'd think that this would be bad, but I've been in a supporting role for so long it was kinda nice for a change. We also had a bunch of cool experiences during it about giving some members blessings. I found that giving three back to back can really wear you out, but it's a good worn-out feeling.

I hope all's good back home. Talk to y'all later!

Elder Jayden Barker