Good Morning 'Murica!
Things are really going awesome here in Walnut Ridge. As I said earlier, it's a very small branch, but we are hoping to help it grow and bring those inactive members back into the fold. It is difficult for me to imagine why people would walk away from God the way they do, but it isn't my place to judge or even to question: it's simply to love them and help them realize that God still loves them too. A great many of them have said that the reason they won't go back to church is because it is a 'dead branch' meaning it has very few people that come. I wish I could help them see that you don't go to church for the other people - you go for yourself. You go so that you can gain the blessings that our Father in Heaven has in store for you, and so you can renew those promises you made to Him when you were baptized. If it just so happens that there are other people there doing the same thing, then the more the merrier.
The weather down here is getting quite warm, and the mosquitoes are out in force. Poor Elder Raiford is getting mauled by them. We were teaching a man by the name of D*** out on his porch for about 2 hours. During the course of our long discussion Elder Raiford's left arm was destroyed by mosquito bites. It looks like he has a very bad case of the chicken pox. For some reason they don't like me nearly as much. I think I will want to stick around him for longer, if only so I can continue to offer him up as a sacrifice to the blood-thirsty pests and so they will leave me more alone. Haha
The Sister missionaries are also doing great work in the Pocahontas branch, but for the most part they stay in the city of Pocahontas itself, while we take care of Walnut Ridge and Hoxie. We usually only see them twice a week at church and at a missionary meeting during the week. Walnut Ridge is fairly small, and we can walk from one side of it to the other within an hour. That hour, however, is rather painful right now because of the high temperature, high humidity, and high number of flying parasites. Just like the rest of Arkansas the streets here make zero sense, and you just need to walk around a great deal in order to find your way around and remember where everything is.
On to Small Miracles. I have heard, and seen it true in my own efforts, that 90% of your results come in the last 10% of your effort. It is similar to the story Christ appearing to his Apostles on the water "in the last watch of the night". That last watch, the last bit when you give everything you've got, is the most important because it is when you prove just how dedicated you truly are to whatever it is you are doing. For us it was last Wednesday. The entire day had fallen through, and we had completely run out of people to try and visit. We took the newly freed time to try and find more people to go and teach. After 2 hours of this, all the while the sweat getting in our eyes and Elder Raiford being devoured by mosquitoes, all we had to show for it was a flat tire on Elder Raiford's bike. It was 8pm, and we stopped to drink some water and fix the tire. Luckily it was a quick fix, but that gave us time to talk about what we wanted to do.
We decided there really only two options: we could go in, call it a night, or we could keep going and just try to talk to everyone we ran into. Eventually we decided to ditch the bikes at the house and start walking. As we walked we were able to help a young couple finish up some yard work. They introduced themselves, and accepted a Book of Mormon with assurances that they would read it. We continued on our way and I felt prompted to go and talk with a woman smoking on her porch. I mentioned this to my companion and we turned back around. This led to a very good discussion with her. She introduced herself as K***, and said she was a teacher at the local school. Both she and her husband, J***, were Catholic and were very interested in what we had to offer. They both invited us back and said that they would like to attend a church meeting with us, but they both got sick and were unable to attend. We will be going back soon, hopefully today.
By this time it was about 8.50pm, and we started back. I was very pleased with what had happened and would have been content to stop them, but Elder Raiford wanted to stop and talk to one more person who was outside trimming his bushes by his house. He had been taught by missionaries about a year previous and wanted us to come back again to answer some questions that he had, particularly about the BoM he had been given during the last missionary visit. Again, the very last bit of work produced the best results. 5 people who invited us back within 1 hour just doesn't usually happen. It was very much blessings from the Lord.
You have my testimony that the Church is true. I have no doubts that somehow these letters will find their way to someone who does not believe the same way I do. I just want to bear you my witness that Christ's church was once on the earth. It was lost because wicked men killed off it's leaders, but is now back and led by Christ through a prophet similar to Moses, Isiah, or Jeramiah. You can know this if you pray and as God if it is true. Great blessings will come into your life if you do.
Elder Jayden Barker