Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Crazy week + transfers

A few weeks ago I talked about meeting the super awesome family while we were equally super late. We've been back a few times to go and talk with them, and they are just more awesome that I could have possibly imagined. The first time we went back to go and talk to the M***family there were kids running around all over the place just being crazy, with the mother, C***, frantically trying to calm down the horde. B***, the father simply pulled out a folding table and several chairs and we began to talk. We were there for probably close to an hour and a half, longer than discussions normally go because we don't like taking up too much of people's time. The first discussion is that of the Restoration, simply how our church came to be, why we have the Book of Mormon, and why people should care about any of this stuff.
B***'s son was sitting there with us for the majority of the lesson asking questions about who Christ was and why He needed to come to earth, what the role of a prophet was, things like that. As we gave explanations and showed scriptures from the Bible to help explain it all B*** was all like "Yeah! I believe all of that!" and added to what we were teaching. It was the coolest thing, because this is a man who just 9 months ago did not know anything about God and did not want to know anything. He had an incredible spiritual experience that helped him to want to change all of this around, and he hit the ground at a full sprint. Both he and his wife had addictions, but now B*** has completely turned everything all around and is sharing his story and his work with anyone and everyone who would listen. He's studying the scriptures on a daily basis and in the past 9 months has memorized more scriptures than probably both Elder Raiford and I combined. He's so awesome!
Anywho, when we started talking about the Book of Mormon and telling what it was and why it was so important his eyes just lit up.  He was so excited at the thought that there was more of God's word that he could read and just loved the idea that not only does He still live but that He sent us more scripture so we could come to know Him even better. We invited him to read from it and to pray about it to find out for himself if it is truly the word of God, which he eagerly agreed to. After all, this part's important, how can you try to find spiritual truth unless you go to a spiritual source? Wikipedia will only take you so far; eventually you have to turn to God if you want to know the Truth. Otherwise you are just selling yourself short.The Spirit was so strong in that home, and I could see so easily that our Father in Heaven truly has blessed this family.

The next time we went by to see him, 5 days later, he told us an awesome story. Shortly after we had met he had his Bible Study with the church he is attending. The sermon for the day: Don't talk to Mormons because they're not Christians anyway. B*** said he just sat there throughout the entire thing thinking that his preacher didn't know what it was he was talking about. At the conclusion of the sermon he went up and started talking with the preacher, telling him that he had met with the Mormon Missionaries just the day before and that Mormons didn't actually believe or do any of the things that the preacher had said we did. He was very much not happy and flat-out told B***that he should stop meeting with us and throw away all literature we had given him. A few of his friends also tried to tell B*** a bunch of lies about us, which he just sat there and listened to. Here's the best part! After he drove got home the first thing he did was break out his Bible and read it. Next he got on his knees and started praying. When he was finished he said he completely disregarded everything his preacher and friends had said, because they hadn't read it and thus didn't know it was true, and also because God said it was true. So there!
Elder Raiford and I just looked at eachother with our jaws hitting the floor. It was all I could to do to not jump up and down screaming "HE KNOWS IT'S TRUE!! HE KNOWS IT'S TRUE!!" *ahem* I was a little bit excited about it. We have been wanting someone to just actually pray to know if it is true for the longest time, and then IT ACTUALLY HAPPENED! He says he'll be baptized as soon as he can, which may not be for several months because of some continuing legal obligations.  Super excited for him!
This past Sunday has also been crazy awesome. We had 5 Inactive members come to church, one of which hasn't come in years! Elder Raiford has been working with her for over 7 months, doing all he can even before I showed up to help her come. Last week, she did. #HappyDance! As an added bonus, that week was Potluck after church, so we all got to pig out a little bit. I love how they make banana pudding here in the south. Not sure what goes in it, but I'm sure it's just as bad for me as it tastes good.
Yesterday Elder Raiford was able to go to the temple, which I was super happy for. Unfortunately I was unable to go with him because the Bartlett, TN temple is tiny and barely had room for all of the missionaries who were supposed to be there, let alone the ones who weren't, so I got to chill out with Elder Diaz, a Spanish elder serving in Jonesboro. He's originally from Guatemalla/Virginia (dual residency) and is as fun as he is short. He can put some of my friends back home to shame. haha. Anyway, Raiford and I didn't get back to Walnut Ridge until about 6 pm so we didn't really have much time to email, as the library was closed. Hence why I'm on today.
And now, transfers. I am staying in Walnut Ridge, but my companion is sadly leaving. As in both leaving sadly, and I'm sad that he's leaving. We got along very very well the past 4.5 months and I think we've got a lot done. Here's the really ironic part: Elder Raiford has been working with the inactive-no-longer woman I just mentioned ever since he got here, and often times joked around that it would be the day before he got transfered that she would finally come to church. Well, she finally came, and the next day, Monday, we called the missionaries in charge of Transfers and they said we were both staying! We were very happy, Elder Raiford particularly as he has less than 6 weeks left in his mission. Then at about 9am this morning we got a second call from some elders saying that Elder Raiford was shipping out and needed to pack and everything that day. So today's plans have pretty much been kiboshed, and we are going to go say goodby to everyone as soon as possible. I'll find out who my next companion is tomorrow in Memphis around 2pm-ish. Should be fun.
To my friends serving a mission right now, if you read all of this incredibly long email, I salute you. To my mother, you are welcome. ;D
Remember your Savior. It is only by his grace that we even get to be alive, and should we take the time to thank Him for all He does for us we will recieve more blessings than we will know what to do with. Which is a pretty awesome thing in my opinion.
Until next week!
Elder Jayden Barker

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Repent Ye, and Be Baptized = Awesome Meeting!

So sorry ya'll for jumping the gun a bit last week about transfers. Transfers is coming up, but we will get the call this upcoming Monday, the 20th, instead of this last one. Oops. Again, I will just blame the skewy sense of time all missionaries have. =D. 

Anywho, the reason for the later email is because of a very long meeting on Tuesday, and a holiday on Monday. Who would have thought that everything would shut down because of it?! So yeah, that's my excuse.
We've been having some awesome weather out here of late. A bunch of big storms with lots of potential for tornadoes, lightning, nasty stuff most people don't like. Everyone around here got super worried about this storm, but like most of the others we've seen in Walnut Ridge, the storm was a bit of a push-over. Lots of rain, some lightning, but not much else. Yes, I heard that tornadoes had set down in other places, but The Ridge was left largely untouched. Right now the sky is completely clear and we are loving it.... mainly because we are on bike week again! Yay! All joking aside, I really am grateful for this, because we, as a companionship, have been having a weekly goal of finding 7 new people to teach each week. It's a bit of a tough goal, and one that will be made easier by being forced to actually use our feet. Haha.
With this new goal of ours in mind (well, new-ish. We started it a few weeks ago) I've got a really awesome experience to share about last week. Two weeks ago I was in Paragould on an exchange with another missionary, Elder Wahl. His companion, Elder Cook, came down here, and while he was here he found a woman named T***. Even funnier, it turns out she is B***'s sister, but I'll get to that later. We went to go and visit with T***last week on Tuesday to introduce the Book of Mormon to her and to answer any questions she may have. It went very well, she's super interested and is a huge blessing to us. The lesson went so well, in fact, that we had gone over by about 20 minutes without even realizing it and were now late for another appointment. We asked her if there was anyone she knew we could go visit, and she recommended we go and talk with her three neighbors: Next door, Behind, and Across the street. We were on our way out and saw that one of the people in the Next home were there, so we detoured to go talk with them. He wasn't interested. Sad, but ok, moving on.
We started hurrying to the car, which was parked up the street a ways, to hurry to that appointment we were now dreadfully late for. As we were walking, Elder Raiford turned and looked at me and said we needed to go and knock on the Across house. We've had the Holy Ghost prompt us to go and do crazy things like this before, although not while we were so late, but we did it anyway. If God speaks, you listen.
We knock on the door and a woman answers surrounded by several young children. She told us that both she and her husband were recovering drug addicts (she'd been clean for 2 years and he for 4 months #HurrahForIsrael!) and would absolutely love for us to come back and share a message about Jesus Christ with them. Needless to say we were elated. Now in high spirits, but still very much late, we hurried to the car and drove over to the appointment. They weren't home. Well, we couldn't really blame them and started working with our backup plans. They failed too.
Mostly on a whim (AKA God told us to) we decided to go and visit a family who had been dropped by the missionaries some months ago becuase they were never home or it was never a good time to stop and talk. We did so, and not only were they home but were incredibly interested in everything we had to share. We had a good 3 hour conversation about everything from Joseph Smith to the the Law of Chastity to Apostles to "Are you allowed to marry 9 women?" It was a great discussion, and we hope that next time we can have one that is a bit more organized. Btw, no, we do not marry more than one person. Mormons are not polygamists.
At the end of the week we had found 11 new investigators, a record for both myself and Elder Raiford.
Tuesday we had a really good Training that was all about Repentence. The Spirit pointed out several things that I needed to work on, but one of the main universal things talked about was that if people are not willing to keep commitments or to change, then they do not understand repentance. At it's heart repentance simply means change. First you build faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Next you want to become more like him (repentance). Next comes baptism and an improvement of your life. We all need to realize that we cannot do anything to save ourselves, that we need to accept the Atonement of Jesus Christ and repent of those things which are not in harmony with God's will. Only then will we find true and lasting happiness.
I know that God lives, and that he loves us so much that he sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to save us all from death and to help us return to Him. I know that we can come to know the truth of all things through prayer and scripture study. I know repentance can and does change lives, and that through Christ we can all be saved in the Kingdom of God. This is my witness to you. God bless you all.
Elder Jayden Barker

 Missionary Suppers (Chips and salsa, Pancakes, and Gummyworms) Not typical of us, but awesome nonetheless.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Only in the South

So the picture was not photoshopped. This happened about 30 minutes after my email last Monday. In the Walmart parkinglot. Apparently this is quite the common occurance down here.
I'm so out of time it's not even funny. The only reason I've not been kicked off yet is that this computer has been dreadfully slow and that there is nobody else in the Library right now. #TenderMercies. So if this is shorter than normal, it's because I'm just stickking to the bare bones. Please forgive typos as I most likely won't go back to fix them. 
First off, Gen Con was awesome this week. We were over at B*** house durring the Sunday afternoon session, and when Elder Bednar got up to speak and said that he would be focusing his remarks to those who are not members of the church, both Elder Raiford and I turned and looked right at B***with the biggest grins on our faces. Anywho, it was fantastic. Of all of the sessions, the Saturday afternoon was probably my favorite. I'd talk more, but alas for time constraints.
Next week is transfers. Elder Raiford has been here for 5 transfers now, 7.5 months. And yes, 4.5 of those months have been with Yours Truly. I'm loving it. Also, he only has one more transfer left, leaving back home in December, so here's the question: what's going down next week? Personally I think we will both be staying, but I'd love to hear what y'all have to say.
1. both staying
2. both leaving
3. me leaving
4. him leaving
I've been asked what we do for Halloween. Honestly, that is one of the holidays that we just stay inside, both because of common sense, and also because we are told to. A lot of people like to dress up as missionaries and wreck havoc around here, so we just stay indoors and tell everyone that is where we will be. We will take the time to try to pass out pass-along cards and candy to everyone who would like to knock on our door. Perhaps we will dress up as zombie missionaries or something. We'll make it fun.
This week has been awesome. We've seen a lot of miracles in finding new people to teach, many of which we will see today or tomorrow. Thank you for all of your prayers, and keep serving God. I know He will bless you for it!
-Elder Jayden Barker

Sept 29, 2014 Small Blessings

This past week has been absolutely crazy. We've had so many meetings in various parts of the mission that we have probably spent more of our waking time out of our area than in it. We've been in Searcy, Jonesborro, Paragould, and Bartlett (over by the temple). We have another meeting in Paragould tomorrow. *Sigh* I'm really glad we were able to have these meetings because all of them were really awesome. We had Elder Zwick of the Quorom of the 70 address us as missionaries in Bartlett, and then in Jonesborro we were able to hear him address the various leaders of the congreagations in this area as how to better do missionary work. It was really awesome.
We were in Bartlett for 6 hours, three hours of he and the Mission President addressing us, one hour of lunch, and then two more hours of Elder Zwick. The first three hours he talked about was how to share gospel messages quickly and powerfully, without extra uneeded talking. He shared an experience in which he was able to talk with a great deal of time with one of the Apostles, Elder Oaks I think, about this very idea. First you teach a principle, then share scriptures, then show the blessings that come from this principle, and finally share personal testimony. What had happened was Elder Zwick had several such occasions to do so at a temple dedication that the Apostle had also attended and had taught several principles during his talks. The Apostle told him that although all of the principles were well taught and were true, if you reach a climax when you are teaching, don't keep talking. Leave the statement strong and move on instead of talking more and ruining it. If more needs to be said, then it is time for your companion to start talking. Missionaries come in pairs for a reason.
After lunch, which went over a bit, we all went back into the Chapel for another round of instruction. This time it was about something that we have been waiting for: iPads. The Church had made a deal with Apple ages ago about outfitting every missionary in the US with an iPad to aid in sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We would have access to church videos, all of the scriptures, and other points of interest. It will help a great deal (hopefully) in keeping organized. Originally we were supposed to be able to buy these (Yes, the missionaries have to buy them, although they are cheaper than if one was purchased through retail) and begin using them long before I started my mission-trip 8 months ago, but there were too many glitches in the code and everything was postponed. Now, however, we are have been promised that we will be able to begin using them before Christmas. <Insert happy dance here>
L***didn't come to church yesterday. Not sure why. I'll bug the Sisters about it later. As for B***, well, we have gotten to that point where we will either have to help him accept a commitment to follow Christ's example and be baptized, or we will have to stop going over as often to make time for people who are ready. It's a fact of missionary service that I really hate, having to walk away just after you have gotten to the point where you really care about someone, but the fact remains that some people simply are not yet ready to accept the Gospel. If they are not ready yet we still care about them and make sure they are doing well, encouraging them often, but we must use that time available to find and help others make those covenants with the Lord that they are unwilling to make. I really do hate this, but there is litterally nothing else that I can do. It is between him and God now.
On a much more happy note we have had some remarkable success with finding new people. Because we have no people progressing in the Gospel we have basically placed greater priority on new contacts and lower priority time-wise on those who are not progressing. One really awesome example of this was last night. We went and parked the car off to the side of a good-sized residential area, largely middle-class families and started talking with people. One of them was a gentlemen named J***. He himself wasn't all that interested, but he said his son was big into learning of other faiths, and although he wasn't home at the time J*** invited us to come back and visit to meet his son. It was the coolest thing talking with him because it was as we drove past his house where he was smoking that the Spirit told me "You need to go and talk with that man." I was all like "Sure, sounds like an adventure!". I was very grateful that we were able to talk with him, and then the blessings just kept on coming.
Next we were able to talk with someone named A***. Typically we offer to share a prayer with them to offer the Saviour's peace and belssing on their home. This time, though, the Spirit told us that this was a bad idea, so we just straight up said who we were, representatives of the Saviour Jesus Christ, and that we have a message centered on Him as to His restored church and how it can bless families throughout eternity. It was a very brief and simple invitation, but A*** was very interested particularly as he and his wife had recently had a small child. We will go back on Tuesday. On our way out we felt prompted to knock on one last door. A young woman named S*** answered. Again, we bore simple testimony about our purpose and invited her to learn more. She declined saying she wasn't realy sure about anything at the moment, but would get back to us. I offered her a Book of Mormon, which she accepted, and Elder Raiford shared his testimony as to its truthfulness. I could feel the Spirit of the Lord so strongly when we were speaking with her, and I hope she remembers those feelings and will read the book.
I know that the Book of Mormon is true, and has the power to bless people's lives beyond what we can imagine. The Lord can, does, and will lead us to those who will both bless our lives and who we can bless. The more we look for opportunities like these the more we will see them, not because we are getting more of them but simply because we are now allowing God to bring them to our attention.
God bless, and I'll talk with you all again next week.
Elder Jayden Barker