Hey friends/family/secret admirers!
I hope everything is going well for you and that all of you had a fantastic Christmas. If you had an opportunity to give your family a really big bone-popping squeezey hug but didn't, please go and give them one for me. Both they and their chiropractor will thank you later for it.
Let's start with how the week went, shall we?
Monday started as an unusual PDay. P*** and her family (reactivated members) had recently moved homes but since they owned no vehicle was unable to bring much of their furniture with them. A***, P***s daughter, had been taking stuff over one trip at a time using a shopping cart and a couple of buggy/wagon things tied together. She was able to get quite a bit over the course of several days, but the really big stuff she wasn't able to get for obvious reasons. We had talked with Bro. Schelin about him helping and he said he had a large trailer we could hook up, but he couldn't lift anything because of a surgery he recently had. Luckily for us the Spanish Elders showed up for the party too, otherwise we would have been there a while. As it was we made short work of it, getting it all knocked out by about 12.30. After that it was off to the college to email! It was seriously weird because there was pretty much nobody else around, what with school being out and all, just the occasional faculty poking their heads in and asking us how in the world we got into the building and what it was we thought we were doing on the computers. It's remarkable what happens when you mention the Dean lol. We cleaned up a bit in our apartment, made it look all nice and pretty (not!) and enjoyed doing some hard-core R&R. It was tiresome work, but we were more than happy to take a nap and accomplish it!
We had supper over at the T***'s home that evening and it was really good. I hadn't realized how much I had been craving stir fry until I saw the massive wok that they were cooking it in. I must have piled it on there, because I was only able to get down one bowl of veggies and rice. After the meal we saluted the upcoming holiday with celebratory eggnog in proper miniature toasting glasses. It was glorious. We had a short game of Dirty Santa with them and their kids afterward. I got a nerf blow dart gun. It's pretty classy. Elder Smith got some soap and was thrilled that he wouldn't have to buy any more in the near future; he had forgotten to get some earlier in the day when we went shopping. That night we had a lesson with Angie on some of the commandments, specifically the importance of the sabbath day and keeping it holy.
Tuesday was Elder Schoenfeld's first District Meeting as a District Leader. He did really well instructing us and has been asking us to recite from memory a scripture from both the Bible and the BoM for each lesson point for one of the five lessons. I thought I knew my stuff, but apparently there's quite a bit for even an old foggie for me to learn! I was able to share a great scripture in Nehemiah chapter 10 on keeping the Sabbath Day Holy though, and that was fun. People's jaws tend to drop when you pull out scriptures from the really obscure Old Testament books. Brownie points if you email me back with the verse I was talking about! (BTW, there's not a whole lot you can use in Obadiah or Nahum. I checked.) We ate at chick-fiil-a (SP) afterward as a district. It was awesome because the nice server lady gave be a free refill. It must have been the suit I was wearing, because there were lots of other people in the restaurant at the time - the line went out to the street by the time we left. Even more fun is we ran into Bishop Rich when he brought some of his kids in to eat and play in the play area.
Right after that we headed over to Walmart (bad mistake; everyone and their grandma was there buying last minute gifts) to get some supplies to bake lots of cookies with for members and investigators. After all was said and done we had enough dough to make 15 dozen normal sized mint chocolate cookies. Naturally that didn't work out that well because we are Elders after all and it is practically a law that we make all types of food bigger than it has to be. This means we only made 12 dozen instead of the normal 15. We got dropped off by the other guys not far from our apartment with a small sack of groceries to bake stuff with and as we walked up the parking lot toward our apartment we saw a bunch of kids sitting on one of those large metal green power boxes laughing at something. Perhaps the sight of two young guys in suits and ties carrying a Walmart grocery bag across a parking lot was a comical sight; I dunno. Anyway, as we got closer to them some of them called out to us, just the usual kid-in-the-hood style greetings.
I wasn't really sure what it was I wanted to talk to them about, but I mentioned to Elder Smith that I wanted to go talk with them. We started just asking them about what it was they wanted for Christmas, if they were going to be able to visit with their families, and what some of their favorite parts about Christmas were. We soon turned the conversation to about Christ, teaching these little kids, all of whom looked to be between 6 and 12, about why it is we have Christmas to begin with. We asked them if they loved Jesus, to which they all responded "yes!". We told them that Jesus loved them too, and that's why He was born. We mentioned to them that Jesus and our Heavenly Father wants to hear from us and we can talk to them through prayer.
Right around this point one of the younger kids stuck his hand in the air and, looking somewhat left out, told us that he didn't know how to pray. Several of the other kids piped up and said something similar once he finished. We asked them all how many of them knew had to pray, and only one or two of the older ones put their hands in the air. We started to teach them about prayer, first asking them for what they were grateful for. After they listed off various toys and games they had we asked them about their families, and if they were grateful for their homes. We asked them about some things that they wanted and more suggestions about toys and games were given. Then one of the boys from the back mentioned that he was grateful that his mother wasn't sick anymore and wanted her to stay better. Almost immediately the boys started thinking about other people and about how they wanted this person or that person to do well. We taught them that was all a prayer is, telling those things to God. We asked them if they would be willing to pray that night and talk with God. They all said they would, but one of them, the boy who first raised his hand, said he still didn't know how. We asked if they would like us to show them how and a dozen little heads nodded with muttered "yes sir"s. It felt like Elder Smith and I were teaching a Primary class about prayer as we told them fold their arms, bow their heads and close their eyes. I started to say a simple prayer, pausing a moment after saying "Dear Heavenly Father" to decide what it was I wanted to say to show these kids how to pray. During that short pause a dozen little voices repeated the words "Dear Heavenly Father" back to me.
It surprised me at first, but afterward as I thought about it all I remembered that this was how my siblings and I learned how to pray. Yes, we watched and listened to others, but first we practiced by repeating what others told us to say. So phrase by phrase together we prayed a very simple prayer. It was one of the neatest experiences, and to make it even more incredible to my mind is that later the next day we saw one of the kids on his bike as we pulled up in our car at lunch time. I was busy grabbing stuff from the back of the car, but he went up to Elder Smith and told him that he had did what we asked and had prayed that night and felt really good afterward.
A good chunk of the rest of the day was spent baking cookies. I was fighting with a bit of a cold and thus didn't help much with the baking, but worked on the area book and on keeping my bed from floating off instead. We ate some food in there (not cookies) and finished the day off by teaching A*** about some of the other aspects of the church, such as home and visiting teaching and callings. It was a solid lesson, one that R*** and P*** got a lot out of as well.
Wednesday we drove a lot trying in vain to deliver our many creations from the night before. You'd a thought that when we baked that many cookies it would have occurred to us that we were not super-humans with the power to deliver 12 dozen cookies within 6 hours, but sometimes we aren't thinking completely rationally. (We still have about 4 dozen in our car yet to be delivered. Oops;) During the madness we stopped by to visit a guy we had thought had a lot of potential, but when we got there things were quite different since last time. There was a distinct lack of the Spirit in his home and we found out a little later that it was because he and his wife had been looking up nothing but anti for the past several days. I wanted to shake him by the lapels and ask "Why are you looking up things specifically designed to destroy your faith? What good could possibly come from it?" It was irritating, because the only thing we could see come of it thus far is his wife is now afraid to even look at us. =/ Once this little episode was over we headed over to the Schnider's home for supper. It was really good, some sort of rice and chicken meal similar to Costa Vida. We wrapped up the day with a lesson with A*** on the Baptismal Interview questions. It was solid.
Thursday we had the interview with A*** and President Busbea at the church building. Right after we had an impromptu lesson on the Atonement with A***. It was really powerful; President Busbea is a powerful teacher and has a strong testimony of the gospel since he is a convert himself. We had brunch with Bishop Rich and his family and all of us got matching scarves. It was pretty awesome. Dropped off a bunch more cookies, and had a great lesson with B*** on the BoM. He enjoyed the cookies. Later we had supper with the G*** family and played Bang with them. It's a super awesome simple card game about Cowboys. The best part is that the French made it. Apparently the French love the Wild West as much as us 'Murrican's do! Sometime during the day we got a call from the AP's asking them to meet us at the Chruch building to pick up some last minute boxes. It was fun, and at last we started in on the BoM from the Beginning with A***, P***, and R***. We left them with the Introduction and the Testimonies to read. No matter what God always provides multiple witnesses to almost everything He does.
Friday was Christmas! We opened presents from home with the other members of the District, at breakfast with the Rougeau's, and later Lunch with them also. It was awesome. At the close of the night we Skyped home at the Schelin's place. It was awesome! Best Christmas gift Ever!!
Saturday we had lunch over at the Schelins. I'm not sure what it was called, but it was kinda like an omelette, but it had potatoes slices in it and bacon. It was really good and went great with the salad. After that it was driving around trying to see people as best we could without much luck, but that's OK, because we had a Baptism that we went to go prep for!!! It was super awesome.
Sunday we were invited to attend the Ward correlation meeting. It was really neat to see all of the goals and plans that are being set for the upcoming year. I'm kinda sad to not get to be a part of it, but at the same time I'm perfectly OK with working my hardest this final month and then calling it good for a bit! Since our weekly planning kept getting bumped back because of Christmas and such we got to do that Sunday night instead.
Sorry for the freakishly long email, but I really don't want to forget most of what happened this past week. It was one full of miracles, and am super stoked to see what this next week will bring! Thanks for all the support, and I will talk to y'all again next week!
~Elder Jayden Barker
"Don't forget to read!"