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