Monday, January 12, 2015

Transfers and Training

This week was really awesome, but kinda sad. See the Subject line for the reason. The cool thing though was that we found out what was going on a bit earlier than most, because we received a call on Saturday from the AP's that my companion, Elder Holden, will be training this upcoming transfer! He says he's super nervous and totally not ready for it, but from what I've seen that just means that he's up for the challenge. Usually it is the missionaries who say that they are ready to take over an area/become a zone leader/train who are the ones least ready to do so. In other words, he's got this.

One of the sad parts about leaving is exactly that, the leaving. There are a great many people I've already said Goodbye to so far and still more that I will say goodbye to tomorrow. You tend to get attached to a few people when you stay in an area for 7.5 months. Still not sure where I'm going (that's the norm for this mission) but I do know that I will be going to the Memphis side of the mission. Which means I could end up in Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, or Missouri. Yeah, really narrows it down, don't it? Lol

So back before Christmas we were going around with a long list of people and addresses that the Sisters were seeing/had seen once. We were going to go and see one of the women on this list. With it being dark we pulled into the wrong driveway completely by accident, mistaking the brightly lit up one we were in for the correct house. By the time we realized our mistake we were already on the front porch about to knock. We had a really brief hushed conversation that went something like this: 

Holden: Bro, I think that this is the wrong house.
Barker: <Checks for himself> Huh. Sure enough. I think the house we wanted was that one over there. 
H: You mean the one with no lights on, no car, and really no signs of life anywhere?
B: Yeah, that one. Let's go knock on it!
H: One more time, no lights on, no-
B: I'm just messing, Chief. What do you think we should do?
H: I dunno. What do you think?
B: Meh. We're here. This door is here. The worst that could happen is nothing.

After we knocked a guy answered the door asking who we were. We introduced ourselves and stated our purpose. He said he was interested and would like us to come back after the holidays were over. ("You mean two weeks from now?" "Yeah, then") Usually when someone sets a return appointment so far out it means that they really aren't all that interested in what we have to say but are too nice to say it. Kinda like the woman who told us to come back in March... yeah, that really happened. We grabbed his name, M*** and said we would come back.

Anyway, true to our word we came back to this man's house after the Holidays and surprise of all surprises, he was not only there but waiting for us. We had a very good short visit and set a return appointment three days later. Before we even knocked on the door that second time M*** was already opening the door to invite us in. Since then he has read many chapters in the Bible and Book of Mormon, something he hasn't ever done in the past. Both he and his Fiance have decided that they want to be baptized on Feb. 21, one week after they are married. Yeah, we're pumped.

That's my week so far. Let you all know where I'm at next week. 


~Elder Barker

Happy New Year! December 29, 2014

​It is crazy for me to think that soon I will be past my one year mark and that nearly all of the major holidays are past. I was thinking to myself the other day at how closely a mission's life resembles regular life:

In its early stages you think it will never end. You are just fired up with all sorts of energy and all the of "chronologically mature" people wonder how it is that someone as "young" as you could have so much optimism about everything. There's a sort of go-getter attitude that demands that you do absolutely everything in as short a time as possible, because simply things are just that awesome!​

As time moves on you start to realize that things might be a little bit more difficult that you had originally thought, and started to wonder what it was exactly you had agreed to do and to wonder if it wasn't a bit too much for you to handle. But as you continue on your way you decided that it really doesn't matter all that much; you are young-ish and invincible anyway, so nothing could possibly happen to you. Bad stuff was just for all the other people out there who weren't invincible like you were. 

Eventually you run into some people you just really didn't get along with, some circumstances you just couldn't quite tackle on your own and that deflates you a little bit, but by golly you are here and you are going to make the most of it and enjoy making the most of it, whether you like it or not! Even if you aren't quite as invincible as you once thought you were your extreme knowledge about everything more than makes up for it; it's no trouble to handle just about everything when know just about everything after all.

Things start to shift and to change in ways that weren't entirely pleasant and also were completely out of your control. Your "parents" (Missionary slang for the missionaries who trained you) "die" and go home after they've reached the ripe old age of 2 years, you pack up and ship off to a completely new area, people reject you and those who were making the most progress suddenly decided coming closer to Christ isn't worth the cost, and you realize that all you've done so far simply isn't all that much. You aren't invincible, you don't know everything, and if you keep it up you will stay working alone in all but name. You are put to the test, but not in ways that you have do before.

You reach that point where you either break or realize that you can't continue on your own. You have to start to rely on those around you. You have to trust them. You have to turn to God and accept His help. The only other alternative is to break, and stay broken, instead of breaking and then growing stronger, like a muscle after a good workout.

Next you reach a little bit where I'm at, the "Midlife" crisis. Half of your life is gone, and you start to wonder if it was worth it, worth the cost for coming to this place. You look back on all the things you've done, the people you've talked with, the places you've been, and then you try to add up the cost verses the reward. It's another point where you either bounce back or break, and the way to bounce back is exactly the same as it was the first time; you turn to God. You must decide that you can't see everything the way that they truly are, that you've influenced people in ways that you simply cannot see. You have done things you did not know that you've done, and will yet do a great many more things without you even knowing that you did anything worth talking about. It was crazy the first half, but the party is just getting started because Round 2 is about to start. It's time to soldier up and get going again, but this time remember that you have allies. You have friends and supporters. Most importantly, you have a Father who knows you better than even you do, and will support you in all that you need to accomplish.

Wow, that took a bit longer than I thought it would! Sorry if that was a bit strange, but these thoughts have been bouncing around in my head for a very long while now.

A few things worth mentioning of last week and today. We have been working with a woman and her son, M***and J***, for a few weeks now. Her daughter had already been baptized because M***'s deceased husband was a member of the church. M*** really wants to join the Church so she can go and be Sealed in the temple with him and her children for all time and eternity. Even though she has a lot of questions, (some that even we can't answer with all of our missionary wisdom!) she is still willing to be baptized because she believes in what we believe and in what her husband believed and she has faith that all of the questions she has will be answered sooner or later, in this life or in the next.

We also ran into a really awesome guy named C*** while we were walking around on Friday. He is in the Marines and was on leave for Christmas when we saw him and started talking with him. He was just outside shooting a pellet rifle at a target with a friend when we started talking about religion. He'd never heard of the Book of Mormon before and was really interested in reading it. Sadly for us he is back to New York by now (Heading your way, Hermana!) and we are unable to teach him. Hopefully we planted a seed.

Just today there was a convert to the church who invited us out to lunch and met us at a restaurant here in town. It was super nice and equally unexpected! I love little surprises like that.... =D

Anywho, Happy New Year! Make this next year the best one you've ever lived!

~Elder Jayden Barker

These are all geese.  Yeah- there's a lot!

The Food Awaits! December 22, 2014

As I was sitting here, trying to come up with a somewhat whitty subject line (what do missionaries have if not clever subject lines?) one of the nice people here working in the library said that beautiful piece of poetry within earshot. It is her now eternal fame to be remembered for food!

This week was particularly slow, but we have seen some awesome miracles! We've spent the majority of our time going through the Sisters' old Area Book, and we compiled a list of names and addresses of people that we would like to go and see. Some of them haven't been talked with again in almost a year. Some were not home (most of them actually), some were rude, most were polite, and some had already moved and were replaced with a very nice (probably) Hindu family from India who didn't speak a lick of English except for the mother. That was fun. I totally want to go back and try teaching them.

We've also been gifted with a great many left over meals from members of the church this past week. It's remarkable how volunteering to play the piano for the Primary can get you in people's good graces! Elder Holden gets to sit in the back and sing solo pieces while I try and figure out some of the songs in the Children's Songbook. I'm surprised at how complex some of them are!

Some of the other really cool things I've been able to do takes place in my studies. I've been working a great deal on learning and memorizing scriptures in the Bible to share what we believe a little bit better. Want to know if God cares about us? Look up Ecclesiastes 12:7. Want to know why a Restoration of the Gospel was necessary? Because 2 Timothy 4:3-4 and 2 Peter 2:1 happened. It was also talked about in Acts 3:21 as being necessary before Christ will come again. Cool, right? Sorry this is all so short, but I guess I'm just excited to be able to skype with my family in a few days. It's gonna be great!

Elder Jayden Barker

New Kicks- December 15, 2014

First off, ladies, gentlemen, and my siblings, I am no longer living in Walnut Ridge. That's right, I'm kicking it up in Pocahontas now. If you want my new address, please email me and I will give it to you.

It's got quite a few pros and cons to it.
Pro: Closer to the church and the majority of the members.
Con: Lots of hills; bike week won't be fun.
Pro: A full-sized Walmart.
Con: Even further to drive for meetings and to visit out current investigators.
Pro: A bigger house.
Con (kinda): Still no dishwasher.

I'll send some pics in the next email.

We've been super busy with moving and such with moving that this past week was crazier than normal, which means it's just a slightly-strange week for your standard missionary. We've been driving between Pokey (Pocahontas) and Walnut Ridge quite a bit moving food, furniture, and clothes. We are now all moved in though, and just need to finish deep-cleaning the old place tonight. I think it's interesting: Elder Raiford, my last companion, was the one to make the move down to Walnut Ridge almost 9 months ago, and now here I am making the move back to Pocahontas.

On Tuesday we received a call from a recent convert moving to Ravenden, a super small town within Branch boundaries. We drove out there, about a 30 minute drive one-way, and helped him unload everything off of a trailer about 7.30 at night. It was fantastic! I wearing work gloves and a t-shirt and everyone couldn't understand how it was that I could stand the cold. It was about 38 F, so not quite freezing. I handled it like a boss. On the way back we got these sweet pic in front of a giant Raven, hence the name Ravenden I guess. I thought it was cool.

Anywho, while we were driving home from the service we stopped in at a icecream place (It never gets too cold for icecream) and who should we meet but an inactive member of the church who lives in Walnut Ridge who I've never met. It was awesome. Plus we got icecream.

One of our investigators, G***, pulled the nicest surprise for us on Wednesday. We had gone over to her house, and she was acting really sketchy. Like, she was clearly hiding something, which was something that she had never done before. We go over there, not sure what to expect and then she commands us to go and sit down on the couch, and even told us where to sit, another few things she'd never before done. Then her son goes and hits play on the DVD player, and what turns on, but Frozen. Elder Holden had started his mission just before it came out, so he's been hearing all about it, but has not been able to see it yet. G*** found out about it and decided that she would just turn it on when we came over and we would all watch it together. I felt so bad when I told her we weren't able to watch movies, at all, instead of just at our house. She was super disappointed and I could tell that it was really bugging her. So she went out an bought us icecream. #TwiceInAWeek  We spent a good length of time with them so she wouldn't feel like her surprise was a failure. We taught H***, her son, a game called Liars' Dice. Google it, it's fun. We are going back there as soon as I'm done here to spend the rest of our P-Day with them playing Liars' Dice and Monopoly. It's going to be awesome.

One last interesting thing. Yesterday we were able to go and be a part of a meeting for The Compassionate Friends, a support group for people who have lost a child/family member. One of our investigators was speaking so we made every effort to be there, and I guess it was because I was in a tie, but they asked me to say the prayer at the end of the meeting. It was awesome; there was about 60 people there. The funniest part was that there was a door raffle. Both Elder Holden and myself put our names in... and we both were chosen. We got a lot of crap (all in jest) from all of the other people there that it was because we were the only ones in ties. What made it better is that we were chosen back-to-back.

Stay awesome, my friends!

ELder Jayden Barker, Soon to be Grand World Champion at Monopoly

  1. This house is much roomier than the last.