Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Odds and ends over the last month.

These were the questions I asked the district several weeks back
as part of an activity in understanding our purpose a little bit
better. It is hard to understand how we fit into our purpose if we
aare having difficulty in understanding ourself.

Le Questions...

I am...
I stand for...
I desire...
I will grow by...
I foresee...
Others will remember me because...
My companion...
I shall be successful...
I will not...
I know...
I am...

Not only is Elder Barker able to serve some of the most incredible people in the country, but he is also able to serve with some of the greatest missionaries ever!  Here are some of them...

Fourth of July celebration up near Birdville, Arkansas.
Elder Barker, the Sister Missionaries and folks of Birdville.

Hermana Sipple, Elder Barker, and Elder Schoenfield.  A great trio in the Gospel!

P-Day in the District (August 11, 2015)  Elder Thomas, Hermana Sipple, Elder Barker, and Hermana Tester.  Loving serving in Danville and Morrilton!

August 10, 2015 "And we are moving...we are moving!"

We are moving Elder Barker away from Morrilton! That's right,
transfers is in two days, and this cat ain't coming back till the big
'16. So, guesses where I am going? I will be staying on the Arkansas
side of the river, so that should help out a bit narrowing it down.

It's really touching how many members are saying that they wish I
could stick around, and our dinner calendar has never been this full.
Here's two of the nicest things that happened this past week: 
At the Wockenfuss family. All of the cool things you see were made by Katie, the woman on the right with the massive sword. The dagger I am holding is a replica of Sting from LOTR. She gave it to me as a going-away gift.

 I am seriously going to miss J's family.

I loved being able to hold a pet raccoon.  Check him out!  So cool.

We have been super busy, trying to find new investigators and help the ones we've got to progress in the Gospel. This week will be a lot of packing, saying goodbye to people here in Morrilton, and then getting my bearings in my new area! Catch y'all later!

~Elder Barker

August 3, 2015 " It was only a Miracle."

By far the biggest thing that happened this past week was the baptism of J*** and A***. It was also the biggest miracle that I've seen on my mission so far, and perhaps might ever see. Let me tell you little bit about it!

A***'s baptismal date has been set for a couple of weeks. He had been found, really he found us, through a friend of his who is a member of the church. Our district meeting just before our first appointments with him we had talked about setting baptismal dates within the first lesson, so that's what we did. He excepted it eagerly and we started moving forward with it. With that being said we were somewhat expecting a baptism on August 1, but we were not expecting to be able to have anybody else decide to be baptized though. That's where the miracle, the really big one, and J*** comes into play.

J*** and her family had been down in Texas for some weeks taking care of some stuff. Apart from a phone call in a couple of texts weren't able to keep in contact with them, and we just decided that we would get back into contact with them when they got back. We didn't know when that would be but we trusted that it would hopefully be soon! J***y had had a baptismal date for July 4 sometime ago, but obviously that one didn't work out. She came to church twice with us and then left for Texas for several weeks. Last Tuesday we were in a small town called Mayflower giving an infantA blessing before she went in for heart surgery. While we were on our way back from that J*** texted us telling us that she was back in town. It would be an understatement to say that we were excited!

I shot her a text back telling her that we were looking forward to seeing her, and was wondering if we would be able to go and see her that night at 8 o'clock. She said that would be fine and so we did. We got there a little bit late, which she gave me a hard time about for days after that (it was all in jest), and we had a really good discussion outside on the porch. We answered some questions about things that she heard while she was down in Texas, stuff primarily about the Prophet Joseph Smith. We set up a return appointment to see her the next day and ended for the night.

We went over there in the early afternoon, this time having our discussion on the couches in the front room. We watched the short movie about the Restoration with her and her kids. After the film I had the strongest impression to invite J*** to be baptized again, but I ignored it thinking that we would need time to teach her the doctrines again and refresh her memory. A few moments later and after a moment of silence, J*** looked up at us after Elder Thomas invited her to be baptized and asked if she could be baptized on Saturday, which at that time was only three days away. 

Need I say that we were ecstatic! But just in case it isn't completely clear, we were! The church's policy for people who want to be baptized here in Arkansas is that they need to have come to church at least twice, have been taught all of the missionary lessons, believe the things that they've been taught, and had an interview with one of the mission leaders. She had already come to church twice before in the recent past, so we were OK there, but having only three days to finish teaching her the doctrine was a form of time constraints that I had not previously felt. The biggest miracle there is the reason for her sudden and strong desire to become a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. She said that the night before, When we were outside talking on the porch, something we had said just made sense. That night while she was sitting in bed thinking about the strongest desire, according to her words, came over her along with the feeling that she needed to join the church. You might say that she grabbed by both hands!

The next two days were spent frantically teaching her the lessons as quickly as we possibly were able to and still be able to teach them clearly. This is one of the reasons I know that her testimony is superstrong to get whatever questions that she had about the things that we were teaching, she took them to the Scriptures, to prayer, and to us. We had already scheduled an interview for Austin to be baptized on Thursday, so we were able to work that in but everything else is a mad rush to the finish! It was really nice though, being able to be the Lord servant in helping this wonderful person join the church. We got the font all filled up Saturday afternoon after arranging to get the baptismal clothes for her, and then the double baptism. The next day, yesterday, the two were confirmed members of the church and were given the gift of the Holy Ghost. President Wakolo made a surprise visit and was there that sacrament meeting. We took pictures both at the baptism and also after church on Sunday, but unfortunately my companion has all of those pictures, and I still need to get them from him! I'll send them to everybody next week.

One other thing this last week happen that I want to share with everybody, and that happened on Thursday. The stake president's son, John, signed to go teaching with us that afternoon from 1 o'clock until five. We has started an exchange with the zone leaders in Conway that morning, so Elder Wahl was with me, while Elder Thomas was in Conway. It was only about 1220 in the afternoon so we decided that we had more than enough time to going to try and see a couple of people before John arrived. We decided to go and visit a family that I will call the Smith family. They live in a little bit of a nicer neighborhood and are fairly well-off. We tried seeing them before in the past but with their lives very busy with sports and other activities it was difficult to build to keep in contact with them. We walk up and we go knock on the door and the and their son, who I will call Benjamin, answers the door. It took my moments friends remember who we were, just because it's been so long since we've been over there, but once we reintroduce ourselves he told us that his mother was feeling ill and that it was a bad time for us to be able to visit with him and his family. From somewhere inside the house we could hear somebody moaning in pain.

This freaked us out just a little bit but we're missionaries and I have a firm testimony in the power of prayer, so we asked if it would be OK if we said a prayer for her and for her family. Because she was obviously not feeling very well our expectation was that we would simply say the prayer with them on the front porch and then leave on our way. Instead Benjamin called up to his mother and asked if it would be OK with her if we came in and said a prayer for her. I personally did not hear her response but the end result is that Benjamin invited us inside and we walk around the corner just off of the front hallway leading back toward the bathrooms and the bedrooms. I had never been in that part of the house before, but even if I had been, it would not have prepared me for what I saw.

Lying on the floor on her stomach was the mother of the home (I will call her Susan) with her lower half of her body sticking out of sight and into the bathroom, while her upper half was sticking out into the hallway. It was from her that the groanings and moanings were coming. I'm not sure what the normal responses when someone sees another person lying flat on the floor writhing in pain, but the very first thing I did was I jumped forward and trying to figure out what the problem was! I can thank three years of being a lifeguard for that. Elder Wahl just sort of leaned against the wall and stood there not sure what to do. After finding out that an ambulance had not been called because apparently this was normal, I called Elder Wahl down to where I was kneeling by her head and gave her a priesthood blessing. I took hold of her hand and just started talking to her trying to help her keep her mind off the pain that she was in. She told us while we were there a little bit about what it was she was going through, and what I understand is that one of her organs has slits and ruptures on the outside of it. She is the mother of three kids, and she told us that she would rather go through childbirth again rather than have to go through what she was feeling at the time.

Susan's husband had just barely got a new job and was on his way to a retreat of some kind, and was unable to be able to come back and take care of his wife, otherwise he would lose his job. Susan have been praying that somebody, anybody, would show up to help calm her children back down until other help could arrive. And that way we were direct miracle for somebody else, and that was a really incredible experience also. Eventually her mother showed up and began to try and take care of her, but the funny part was that Susan did not want to listen to what her mother had to say; God had sent us to her, and therefore she was going to listen to what we had to say and not her! The icing on the cake is that her mother worked as a nurse at a hospital, but Susan still chose to listen to me over her. After sitting on the floor for two hours just reminding her to try to breath and relax her muscles, and talking about the Scriptures and just random things to help keep her mind off of it, she was finally able to move and stand on her own and make it to the couch. We made sure that she was OK and then continued on about our way. Both myself and the zone leader I was with were very grateful that Susan wasn't about to start dying on us! Needless to say, this one event sort of threw off everything else about our day, but it is probably something I will never forget! We are able to have lunch in Perryville with the Stewart family, before rushing up to the church building just in time to be a few minutes late to an interview with President Wakolo and the people who are going to be baptized a few days later.

I am running out of time, so if there's anything else that I have forgotten to mention I will put it in next week's email along with the pictures of the baptism. For now though, I just want everyone to know that I have a firm testimony about our Savior Jesus Christ.  I have been learning, sometimes the hard way, the importance of being exactly obedient. It does not matter whether that obedience is to the spiritual laws that God has given us, the laws that are mission presidents has given us, or even The laws that the government has given us. All of them are important, although in that order. I know when we keep the laws, especially the spiritual ones, we are blessed for what we do. Obey with exactness, even when it seems silly to do so.

Know that I love you, and will write again soon. Stay true and faithful, and we will be blessed. 

~Elder Barker
D&C 115:5

Sent from my iPad

July 27, 2015 "Weird Stuff"

I'm not sure what happened to the last few emails I sent out, because my iPad randomly deleted them. This is why nice things aren't always nice! Lol. Anyway, I really don't have a whole lot to talk about. Here's a little bit from my letter to President:  

This past week I was able to go on exchanges with the other Elders in the district, and it was a really good experience to go to their area and do some work there. They had been having a bit of a hard time finding new people, but we spent about 4 hours just walking around talking to everyone in sight, and miracles happened! We started out knocking on a few doors, with next to zero success; just one super-shady potential investigator with a sketchy return appointment. We continued walking, going strictly off of the Spirit guiding us, and proceeded to find 5 new investigators, 4 of whom now have baptismal dates. The neatest part of the whole experience was that after that one potential investigator, we didn't knock on a single door that whole night. We simply talked to everyone who was outside, and prayed together as a companionship before we left the appartment that we would be able to find those who would be willing to receive us. Miracles happened, and I know it was because we were being guided by the Spirit, and was willing to follow whatever promptings we received. The best family, for example, we came into contact with because we called out to him when he was taking out his trash. He was about 50 yards away, but because we followed that prompting, a man and his wife who both had been spiritually prepared now are preparing to be baptized.

It was a really neat experience, to say the least. I will be driving up to Dardanelle later this week to help out with a baptismal interview, and hopefully later for one of the people I helped find that day! The work is really moving forward, and it is the coolest thing to be a part of it.

This transfer is almost over, and so we are doing all we can to make the most of it, because I will most likely be leaving in two weeks. The work goes on!

If anyone has any questions about anything in the mission, please shoot me an email, and I will respond as soon as I am able. For those missionaries who are just home are on their way there and would still like my emails, please send me your new email address so I can help out.

Thanks! Y'all are the best!
~Elder Barker