So this past week was the last time we did any major house-painting service. Yeah, it's all good. Thus far in my mission I have noticed a trend about people coming to church, and other missionaries have echoed it: As soon as someone commits to coming to church, something bad will happen. Every time. Usually we joke around that a car will blow up or someone will die or a tornado will show up or something major, largely because they never happen, right? Well... not any more.
Several of the women we had been doing service with had expressed their interest in attending a service with us and finding out a bit more about the religion that would have two men in their twenties show up almost every day for 6 days to help paint buildings, and actually have them enjoy doing it. Needless to say we were ecstatic. It has been a real struggle getting people to church for some reason, and the idea that we would have several come in one day was just awesome. We gave them directions to the building, told them about the pot-luck afterward, and then left feeling incredibly happy. The next day was the last day we worked on the building, and also when that picture of me on a ladder was taken. While we were there one of the women got a phone call and, after hanging up, went to go talk with all the other women. Apparently someone died that all of them knew and the viewing for the funeral was going to be that upcoming Sunday, exactly when our services would start. Naturally, all of them expressed their apologies and said they would not be attending church with us that day.
So yeah, that was a bit of a let down.
On a huge upside though the sister missionaries in this area were going through their area book (the place missionaries keep records of people they've taught or had dinner with or anything; it's a way for us to stay organized) and they saw a record for a guy named L***. He had been taught by missionaries several years previously but nothing had every really come from it. Also owing to the fact that he lives way out there in one of the many small towns surrounding Pocahontas and Walnut Ridge/Hoxie eventually the missionaries stopped coming over. However Sister Neff saw the old record and felt that he was someone that they needed to go and see. She wrote down the name and address as a last-resort backup in case all of the plans fell through and off the Sisters went doing their missionary awesomeness. According to Sister Neff absolutely every appointment and backup plan fell through within a couple of hours. Having nothing else to do they just went for it, driving out to this satellite town to try and meet L***.
Ever since the missionaries stopped coming by 6 years ago L*** hadn't been happy attending other churches. They would teach something and claim it was from the Bible, but when he went and did his own studies he found that they were completely wrong. He also ran into a great many athiests who tried to convince him that Jesus Christ was just another pagan version of the Egyptian god, Horus. This led him to study extensively indo-euoropean mythology and Egyptian mythology so he would know the truth for himself. He then decided he didn't like the fact that there were about fifty bajillion different Bibles, so he learned how to read and speak Greek and Hebrew so he could go back to the oldest versions of the Bible currently available and read them directly. Long story short, the guy's awesome.
I'm not all that sure how exactly the conversation went when the Sisters knocked on his door again, but they did tell me that the discussion went on for roughly four hours and they talked about basically everything gospel-related. Which I guess means it went really well. Anywho, I first met L*** two days later when he showed up for church on Sunday. He showed up super early, like 2 hours early, because his clock was off and he didn't want to be late for the meeting. After finding out that I went to school briefly and was considering becoming and aeronautical engineer after the conclusion of my mission ("You mean I know a rocket scientist now? Sweet!", "Well, not quite...", "Nope. Totally a rocket scientist!") We hit it right off and started talking about our beliefs and how it related with what he already believed to be true. We talked for almost the entire meeting and also for the pot-luck afterward.
The really awesome part was right before priesthood meeting started. We had already had the Sacrament and one hour of sunday school (we were teaching this week - Honesty) and he was loving every second of it. He started by asking if he could say something, and he didn't know if then was the appropriate time to say anything. After very little encouragement from the Branch President and others at the meeting he stood up and told everyone how he loved how he felt, how he know the teaching were true, and how he wanted to join the Church and be baptized as quickly as possible.
My jaw about hit the floor! This never happens. As in, ever.
We quickly told him that the Sisters (those lucky girls!) would be overjoyed to help him make that a reality as they were the ones who started teaching him again. He was just so happy and everything awesome after that. I was also very grateful that so many members attending took the time to go and welcome him even before the meetings started. This is what Christ-Like love is all about, fellowship. We left after the pot-luck with assurances that we would talk again next Sunday.
I also feel it would be good to mention here that the first thing Elder Raiford and I did upon going home was to go back over our area book as well.
After this was done we left for an appointment with B***. This meeting was a bit longer than the rest, only 2.5 hours, but what we talked about was very similar to the last couple of times. He believes everything but will not commit to anything, not even coming to church. After praying about it a great deal both Elder Raiford and I know that as soon as he commits to something it will come to pass. We just need to help him see that. He really could use your prayers.
This upcoming week we plan to do a great deal of finding people to teach. The people we have now aren't progressing, so we are going to try and find people who will make and keep those commitements to come closer to God.
Best of everything, all y'all! The Book is true and God loves you!
Elder Jayden Barker