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