Monday, July 28, 2014

Round #2

July 28, 2014

To start off the letter here's a bit of unrelated trivia: There are 4 different venomous types of snakes in the US; the Rattlesnake, Water Moccasin, Copperhead, and the Diamond Back. For the most part they have their native habitat in various different parts of the country, but in just one state of the Union they all meet. That's right, baby, the Good Ol' Arkansas!
Now for those of you who guessed that I'd be staying in the area, you would be correct! Elder Raiford and I will be comps for at least another 6 weeks. This is a very good thing, as he has had a total of 3 companions in the last 3 transfers here; I'm the only one who is actually sticking around. The church members here was getting worried he was scaring everyone off! Haha.
It's kinda sad, but, while we have found some new people to teach a bunch of our 'oldies' have dropped us. K*** and J*** were among the group. From what we could tell from our conversation with K*** she was OK with us coming over and even enjoyed our discussions because we were "intelligent human beings who actually knew what it was we were talking about". Her husband, however, was less interested, and had sent K*** out to talk with us and tell us that he didn't want us to come back anymore. His excuse was he "didn't want to be a Mormon", which I can accept if there is a good reason behind it, but when we were just told it was because 'he didn't want to' I was a little bit unhappy. Simply put, this was old prejudice coming back to the surface. It seems almost everyone here is related to a preacher of some sort and thus has been taught from birth to hate/fear us. It makes those golden people who are eager and willing to listen that much more awesome, and I'm disappointed that one of said people is married to someone who isn't. The good part is we were able to help them feel the Spirit, so that some future missionaries will (hopefully) be able to help them make it to the temple.
Another iffy good thing is about S***. We lost contact with her for a bit as she was trying to get a place of her own to live in. She is currently between jobs and has a bit of a drug issue, so that makes it really hard for her. She finally found a place, but it isn't in our area. In fact, it isn't even in this mission! It's over in the Missouri mission. We are getting a hold of the missionaries in the area where she is going, but we are both sad and happy to see her go. Sad because we have grown to care a great deal about her, and happy because she is getting away from the better part of her poor friends.
A super awesome highlight from the past 6 weeks: Although we haven't brought anyone new into the church, we have been able to help 2 people begin coming back to church who haven't been there in a very long time, mostly because of work. This is, to a great extent, a far greater success than baptizing someone new. The reason for this is highlighted perfectly in Alma in the Book of Mormon.The people who once had the truth, and then fell away from it, were often the most wicked and unrighteous part of all of the people against the Church. Once someone knows the truth about God and His Gospel they cannot sit idly by, serving neither God nor the Devil. There is no middle ground, and once someone has decided to walk away from God, it is often very hard for them to walk back. Their pride gets them. I've heard some inactive members say that they don't hate the church or God; they just want nothing to do with them. These individuals are demonstrating by their actions that they hate both, because if you know something is true and then walk away from it, particularly after you have grown to love it, then it is only because you are against it, perhaps not in word but in deed, and this is just as damaging. These two people, just by coming back, are doing more good for both themselves and those around them then they will probably ever realize. They are living testiments that it is possible to come back, it is possible to repent, it is possible to do what is right, even when it is hard. I am so very happy for them and hope that they will stick with this new direction they have chosen.
Sorry about my tirade. I had a few more thoughts on the subject than I had realized. Hmm. Anyway, to conclude all of this I will bestow upon you, dear reader, a portion of my majestic wisdom I have gained in my extensive 19 years of living: People will not change unless they are invited to do so. Sometimes this invitation comes from God Himself as a feeling of emptiness or unease, perhaps a repeating thought after reading in the scriptures. Other times (rarely) peole will change for the better simply because they feel like it, or have nothing better to do. Most often this invitation will have to come from someone who is personally close to the individual. This means that you are going to have to talk to that friend, child, parent, aunt, uncle and invite them to change. They won't unless you invite. Thus far I've been talking about this with regards to spiritual matters, but I would apply this to everything else too. If they have an eating disorder, invite them! If they are lacking on personal hygene (I really hope this isn't the case), then invite them! When you invite someone to do something you have to also stick around, help them to do those changes that they need.
Bringing it back to God, this is all he is ever doing for us. He is inviting us to repent, to change, and to come back to Him. He will help us do it, if we let him. He will also use us as His tools to bring to pass His miracles. Translation -- He needs you to be willing to help. You need to invite. This is my call to action. Stand up and help those in need. You will be astonished at the help you recieve as you help others.
God bless my friends, and believe in Him who created you.
Elder Jayden Barker
2 Nephi 31:20

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Finding Miracles

          July 21, 2014
My most prolific greetings to you all!
So this past week has been crazy. Basically all of our appointments have fallen through the past week, but by some miracle our accomplishments have never been higher.
Small miracle #1: The temperature has been crazy low. As in less than 90. Without vast amounts of humidity. Yeah, it was fantastic. There as also a constant breeze blowing which both kept our favorite flying parasites off of us and also kept us nice and cool.
Small miracle #2: None of us were bitten by spiders last night. This could be an chapter straight out of a horror story. We got home from church and all of our activities last night and called up the District Leaders to tell them our numbers for the week. (How many lessons we taught, who we talked to, how they are progressing, etc...) During the middle of our conversation Elder Raiford noticed a very large spider on the wall next to my head. I grabbed the nearest object (a Book of Mormon) and proceeded to pound it into the wall. I then noticed that there was a smaller one on the wall behind his head. Before he killed it though we got a good look at it. It was a Brown Recluse. I grabbed a can of Raid bugspray from the closet and Elder Raiford examined the carcass of the newly-deceased arachnid. Right around the time I finished covering the second spider in white foam my companion decided that the first spider was most likely a Brown Recluse as well. We began a thourgh examination of our living quarters to try and find any others.
We went into the bedroom and started looking everywhere in the walls and in the closet. After examining all of the visible walls we closed the doors and looked at the walls behind those. Guess what we found on the ground behind the closet door? A Nickel! Hurrah for hidden money! Just kidding, it was another Brown Recluse, about the same size as the second one. (The first was about the size of a quarter and the second and third were about the size of a nickel.) I then proceeded to cover that one in white as well. Somewhere in the midst of all of this Elder Raiford mentioned that Brown Recluses are often resilliant to common poisons. As I sprayed down the newest invader I told him "Then it's a good thing over-kill will fix just about anything!" You couldn't even see the spider after I was done spraying it.
By this point both of us were thouraghly paranoid and were seeing every random spotch on the walls as a spider ready to attack us.  After scouring all of the walls and doors yet again, we decided that we probably/hopefully got them all and started checking out our beds to make sure there weren't any in there either. Mine was clear, but Elder Raiford's.... not so much. We pulled back the pillows, nothing; blanket, nothing; the bedspread, yep. A big fat one, sitting right in the middle of it. He screamed quite nicely, so nicely in fact that I wish I could have gotten it recorded, and proceeded to flick it off of the bed and beat it to a pulp. Apparently the myth that a well-made bed keeps the spiders out is true - mine was made and his was not. (both of us made our beds this morning; tucked the sheets in as tight as they could go.) We plan to buy a few more cans of bug spray today and go to war.
Small miracle #3: We were walking down the most run-down part of the town looking for someone to talk to. We did that a lot this past week. While we were walking we saw a guy I'll call Denny working out in his yard. He introduced himself and told us he was Pagan and really wasn't interested in what we had to say. We asked him if he believed in a higher power, to which he responded 'yes'. He told us a few of his beliefs, the majority of them being that there is a God, but that he doesn't care about us, and he wasn't going to serve a god who didn't care about his creations. We started talking to him, showing him in the scriptures about how God really did exist and not only did he exist, but he loved every one of us. Long story short, he became intrested in our ideals and has invited us back to talk with him. We plan on going back tomorrow or tonight. A bonus miracle to this story: we have been wanting to knock on his door for a while now, but never seemed to have the time to do so. Now we know why our Father in Heaven wanted us to go there! It was very much an Ammon and King Lamoni experience. (Book of Mormon, starting on page 250)
My testimony is this: God is there, and he still is a God of Miracles. They are there; you just have to look for them. Just as God performed many miracles in the biblical days, He still does so today. Some of these miracles are big and obvious, like the last one I shared. Others are like the first, far less visible, unless you take the time to look for them. Something kinda crazy I've noticed as well: The more you look for miracles, the more you will find. The more you thank the Lord for that which you recieve, the more you will recieve. So thank the Lord for the miracles you've got, and keep looking for them.
The Church is True,
The BoM is blue,
God loves you more than your mom,
Sorry y'all; it's true!
Stay classy, my friends!
-Elder Jayden Barker
Today's scripture: 2 Nephi 1:13-15

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Heat is On

July 14, 2014

   Things are getting warm  in Arkansas. Very warm. I feel a great deal of sympathy for our District Leaders who had the great misfortune to be on bike week, but that sympathy did not extend far enough so as to allow us to let them borrow our vehicle. The mosquitoes are also getting quite aggressive (did you know there are more than one type? The striped ones are the worst), but we have found that by adding liberal amounts of garlic to everything we eat and bathing ourself in bug spray we can fend off the worst of them. Perhaps I've asked this question before, but do you think it is a sin to kill something with a book of scripture? Because I've started thinking of a game we could play with the bugs: If you kill one that's on you it's worth 1 point, if you kill one out of the air it's 2 points, either by clapping your hands together or smacking it out of the air and then stepping on it, and if you kill one on the other person its death is counted for 3 points (plus there is the pleasure of hitting each other). If they are 'juicy' the points count for double. I haven't decided on a reward for the victor, so it's mostly just bragging rights for now. Any suggestions?
   I don't remember if I have mentioned Stephanie (not her real name) before, so if I have then sorry for the repeated info, but if not then you're welcome. Stephanie is a young woman we ran into a while ago when she was working in her yard. She's somewhere in her 30's (maybe?) and has had a very difficult life. Very difficult. She has no real family to speak of and no real friends. She's staying with the mother of one of her ex-husbands and they take care of eachother. Stephanie hasn't gone to church in a very long time, not since her childhood and had really lost her connection with God, largely because of the great many could-have-been-better choices she made in her past. After we talked with her that first time both Elder Raiford and I got the strongest impression that, although she is very far from where our Father in Heaven would want her to be right now, she has massive potential to get there. We met with her several times and invited her to come to church, which she agreed. We went by her house last Sunday (eight days ago) with a member to pick her up for church and we found her outside working on a shed, clearly not remembering the commitment she had made a couple of days previous. She was quite embarrassed and promised to come the next week. Well, we stopped by several times this past week to visit with her and check up on her. Stephanie had sliced her hand up pretty bad by grabbing a submerged knife in the sink, but despite this she was dressed and ready to go when we knocked on her door yesterday morning.
   The meeting was definitely one of the better ones, because a Return Missionary named Dallin Ginn was to speak for the first time in 2 years at his home congregation. The Spirit was super strong there, and as bonus speakers both Elder Raiford and I were able to talk. Personally I thought that the feeling in the room was best when the other two were speaking, but appparently I did Ok as well.Stephanie  really enjoyed the mettings, although it was clear Satan did his best to make it so she didn't. She had gotten a massive migrane about half-way throgh the meeting and took a smallish nap on the couch instead of going to the Relief Society class. However, there was a really good pot-luck afterward where lots of people had brought food and it was a really good time fo stop and feel a spirit of unity over a large plate of food.
There was some more that happened that Sunday, but allas for me I have zero time left because I have an appointment with Brian (agian, not his real name) in about 8 minutes. Tell you about it next time and will have some pictures to show as well.
Love you!
Elder Jayden Barker
Thought for the day: Church, Prayer, Reading = spiritual CPR. If you are feeling far away from the Lord, this is a good place to start.

Watching the Proverbial Fireworks

July 7, 2014

Greetings, girdles and boydles. 
This fourth of July was rather uneventful. The crazy drunkenness was kept to a minimum (that we could see) and the temperature was incredibly kind. It was only about 82 with 0% humidity. This never happens. Like, ever. It was very pleasant to walk around in, but we didn't get all that much done. Nobody was very interested in us or what we had to say, although one guy did give us hotdogs. That was nice.
We had a very interesting experience a few days ago. We had been walking down a street looking for people to talk to when we saw an older gentleman in his driveway talking to a woman we later discovered to be his daughter. The man was clearly intoxicated after his first word to us. We introduced ourselves par usual and asked if there was anything we could help him with. This man turned to us and asked us if we had a chainsaw. We told him no, we didn't own a chainsaw, because there aren't any trees by our house to use it on. He began to cuss us out in some of the most foul and filthy language, calling us liers and demanding that we take the chainsaw out of our bags so he could use it. "If you really are from Jesus you would take out the chainsaw from your bags so I can use it, but you aren't so you can't!" It was a strange mixture between slightly insulting and incredibly funny, because this old man was so drunk that he couldn't even swear us out properly; he kept on mixing up his words, sentences, and vowels. Eventually he just collapsed on the driveway, bawling his eyes out, occasionally muttering the random vulgarity at us. His daughter just stood there looking more and more mortified as the seconds went on, and when her father collapsed she ran over to him, knelt on the ground in front of him and just hugged his head. As she got down she said over her shoulder "pray for him". With assurances that we would we accepted the dismissal and continued on down the road.
It's rather sad at how badly alcohol can completely destroy an individual. This man probably didn't wake up when he was 50 years younger thinking to himself, "You know, I want to be a drunk when I grow up." He most likely had aspirations to become a rodeo star, an astronaut, or the doctor who cures cancer. I am very grateful for the prophets we have on the earth today, who were able to receive the Word of Wisdom and counsel us to stay away from alcohol and other addictive things. I would have liked to think that if I didn't have just a man of God to follow I still would have been just fine, but I don't know. I certainly wouldn't have the same knowledge that I do now. I really hope that I will have the oportunity in the near future to go and talk to this gentleman again and share with him the Gospel, and bless his life the way it has blessed my own and the lives of my family.
The rest of this week has been rather difficult. We have a car thankfully, because it is pouring right now. Mother Nature added her fireworks to the sky a few days too late. We were supposed to finally get some investigators to church this last week, but it didn't happen. One of them skipped town, another forgot, and I don't know what happened to the last family. I'm hoping that next week will be better. The Lord has really been testing our diligence and our patience, watching to see if we are going to keep on going even after things get hard for us. I'm hoping we passed the test.
Not much else I can add right now, mostly becasue I'm out of time. I love you guys, (yes, even you Random Citizen), and are praying for you. The Church is true and has the power to bless the lives of anyone who will take the time to simply learn about it and pray to know if it is true. I wouldn't be in the state of Arkansas if I didn't know this for myself.
God bless.
Elder Jayden Barker