Monday, September 28, 2015

Two steps forward, another step back.

The past week has been a crazy blur. I am more tired now than ever, so
I will probably keep this a bit shorter than I've written some of my
other letters. #OldMissionaryProbs

We spent a good chunk of time making some Plan of Salvation cutouts to
help in teaching an illiterate man. We still haven't been able to use
them yet, but hopefully that will change soon. After this picture was
taken I rounded out the corners to make it look nice and smooth, and
then a good member of the Ward volunteered to laminate them for us! We
were super grateful, because our idea was to use packing tape.

Typically speaking, actual laminate is better for laminating things than tape. Revelation #1

We also had a super awesome teaching opportunity given to us in the form of free hotdogs. Yes, miracles happen even through processed pork products. We were heading back to our apartment on Thursday when we saw a guy on the sidewalk holding a large sign that said "Free Hotdogs" in front of a city park. We were biking in that general direction and as we drew closer he called out to us inviting us to stop. I needed no further encouragement to get free food! We detoured and parked our bicycles next to a few street bikes, Harley's and the like. I only had time to take my helmet off when we were swarmed by the owners of the bikes and several of their friends, each of them commending us for doing "Jesus's work". One of them asked if he could pray for us. After the prayer we walked over to get our food and were again swarmed by people, again thanking us and pushing strange copies of the N.T. into our hands. 

While we were there we ran into several interesting people. One was a Methodist preacher woman who, after asking if we were the Mormons, encouraged us to work harder. Another two people we met were converts to the gospel, temporarily living down here from Kentucky. They were baptized back in 2009, but hadn't been to church in years. They were sad to hear about the passing of two of the apostles, but said that if we could get a ride they would love to go to church with us this upcoming Sunday. 

As the day continued on we had opportunity to talk with a man who was recently out of a drug rehab program. He turned his life all around and is now doing all he can to help others and bring them to Christ the same way he was. It reminds me a lot like B*** from back when I was serving in Walnut Ridge. Same back story almost. Anyway, he got to having a makeshift sermon there at the park with the myself and Elder Price adding things every now and then. It was interesting to see how simplicity can inspire thought so much more than long sentences with dramatized eloquence. It only took a sentence or two from us to cause himto pause for a  second to think on what we said. Simplicity is awesome.

We also were able to go all over the place a few days ago trying to contact referrals. We probably spent more time outside of Jonesboro than we did inside of it. Most of the people were either not interested, or not home. It was nice to be able to just hit the road and have a gospel discussion with a member of the church. In-depth studies on Agency and Priestcraft are rare. We were in Hickory Ridge, Lake City, Harrisburg, and Marked Tree. All in all about 4 hours in a car. Totally worth it! We also had a super solid lesson with one of those people. The spirit was felt very strongly, and we have a return appointment for later this week. Brother Schnider already said he would be able to go with us to the appointment. Even cooler, I got to serve with him back in Cabot, almost a year and a half ago. He and his family somehow knew I was coming and couldn't wait to meet me here! Haha

In my studies lately I've been reading on and thinking on the principle of Consecration. Our Heavenly Father has much greater plans in mind for us than what we could possibly come up with on our own. This means we need to give up all of our desires, and not just the unrighteous or the worldly ones. It is the idea of giving everything we have to the Lord, and this is the way we can find the most happiness. I heard it said by a married couple of the church once that her loyalty was to the Lord first, and to her husband second. In like kind his Loyalty was to the Lord, and to his wife second. Does this mean that they aren't absolutely devoted to eachother? Absolutely not; they have one of the strongest relationships I've seen out here. But because they gave everything to the Lord first, everything else that they needed was added unto them.

I am about out of ideas, so I will close with this. By surrendering the fight with God, we will win the world and all that it has to offer.

~Elder Jayden Barker
"Don't forget to read!" 

Sept 21, 2015 "There's a first for everything"

This past week was a rough one. We were unable to see most of the
people we needed to,  and our finding efforts didn't yield
extraordinary results. Despite it all though we saw many great

The first blessing is a man by the name of Freddie Greene. Freddie is a
member of the church here, and is one of the biggest supporters of
missionary work in the Jonesboro ward. As I am writing this I am in
the passenger side of his car heading to Memphis (more on that in a
bit) and the whole trip so far has been made up of him telling us
about how he wants to buy a van around Christmas time, for the sole
purpose of being able to help all of the missionaries get to meetings
easier. Either that or an old truck, because a truck would be able to
hold suitcases and bikes easier than the little compact he is
currently driving. I look out the windows and see a few splotches of
white clouds, a whole lot of flat farmland, clusters of trees
stretched out in lines to mark where one field ends and the other
starts, the worn and faded tan upholstery of his car, and several
missionary pass-along cards sitting in the front dash with the
pictures looking out the windshield in the true missionary fashion.
Beneath each exposed card are several others, all of them bleached
blue from sitting proudly for so long in their place of honor. When I
made the announcement in priesthood meeting yesterday that I would
need to make a trip this morning, asking for someone to help me,
everyone with few exceptions slowly shook their heads as they
contemplated their work schedule for the following week. Freddie
volunteered to help, and I am very grateful that there are people like
him in the world.

Another miracle occurred on Friday morning. We got a call from one of
the other Elders the day before informing us on an opportunity to help
out with food distribution to various local food pantries. We drove to
a baptist church about 9am and saw the semi were going to unload. It
was packed full of pallets of various foods. We were surrounded by
trucks and trailers from all sorts of different churches. There was
probably a good 50 people there, ready to help unload and receive
their portion of the food. Since I am a missionary right now I get to
have a rather unique perspective on things. Very rarely do we get to
work along side anyone of different faiths; most of the time other
preachers and missionaries avoid us like the plague. But when it comes
to helping feed the hungry, all religious differences are set aside.
Hunger is hunger, and it is a beast that knows no boundaries. So too
are there no boundaries when it comes to fighting it. About 3 hours
later the semi was unloaded and everyone was off to take their cargo
back to those who needed it.

Saturday we spent nearly the whole day trying to contact less-active
members of the church. With the exception of 2 people, nobody we were
looking for actually lived at the address we had for them. With the
exception of two families, we were able to attempt contact with every
less-active who lived inside Bono city limits. We put about 65 miles
on our car and got to go down some seriously fun backroads doing so.
One of these people is the son of an active member and hadn't come to
church in probably close to a decade. We pulled into the driveway and
less than 30 seconds later he and his family pulled up. The trailer
was clear out in the boonies, down a glorified one-way dirt trail. The
family headed into the house, and the man we were there to see opened
up with "OK, who sent you this time?" After talking with him for the
better part of a hour we learned that he wasn't coming out because of
some of the other members in the ward, that some of them had acted
spiteful to him and his family because of his past. He was a super
nice guy whose biggest concern was for his family and their wellbeing.
He plans to move to another part of the state soon, and will start
going back to church once he gets there.

A funny story about our adventuring around the boonies of Arkansas:
when we were headed out to see this member I just talked about we
passed a young couple on horseback. As we were talking with the member
they passed us twice, once heading the was we came, and the other
heading on the way back out again. Naturally, I waved at them at every
opportunity. As we left the trailer and began our trip on to the next
less-active family we saw them a fourth time, again soliciting as big
a wave as I could give (just because I could). It took us about 8
minutes to drive to the next persons house, again driving down dirt
county roads, just to find out that the person we were looking for had
never lived there. That's normal for less-active work, so we just said
thanks to the nice shirtless man who answered the door. (You can
imagine what was going through his mind. I would bet he had never seen
missionaries, or any sort of visitors for that matter!) Our time was
running a bit short so we began the process of heading back to
Jonesboro for supper. We took a different road this time than we had
earlier, and who should we pass on the road but our good friends on
horseback! Judging by the laugh on their faces as I waved for the
fifth time they enjoyed the irony also.

Earlier that day we went to try and contact a few of the less-actives
in Jonesboro itself. None of themwere living at the listed address,
(one of said addresses was in the middle of an elementary school
compound... yeah...) but we met a guy named S*** at one of the places
(not the elementary school). He had moved in just a few months ago,
and actually was being taught by missionaries up in Paragould earlier
in his life. He doesn't seem to remember a whole lot of the specifics
we teach, but he recognized us for what we are and also remembered
about the Book of Mormon once we showed him one. There were a lot of
other people in the house, but he seemed the most interested. As we
walked in there was a couple doing something, I couldn't really see
what, on the recliner, but they got up and left the room shortly after
we entered. Before we even asked S*** anything he simply stated
"Darkness can never stay when light enters the room." He's a pretty
awesome guy, and I look forward to teaching him.

Another awesome miracle occurred late-ish Sunday evening. There was a
semi-active member by the name of R*** R*** who I was working with
the entire time I was living in the Pocahontas Branch. We would go
over to his home and read the scriptures with him, focusing on helping
him understand what it was he was reading. Not long after I left that
area for Morrilton he moved to Jonesboro, and I thought that would be
the last time I would see him. I guess not, because not only was I
able to find his house, but we were able to got a solid phone number
for him. He was taking his granddaughter to her church service, so I
wasn't able to talk with him face-to-face, but the conversation over
the phone was awesome. He recognized me instantly when I called him,
which I guess goes to show that it's pretty distinctive! As we talked
he seemed to be much more mentally alert and aware of things than he
was when I had last talked to him about a year previously. As we
talked I soon found out why that was; he had developed a habit of, in
his own words, "reading the scriptures diligently every night." He
said he has a copy of the Book of Mormon by his bed that he reads
before going to sleep. He said he's been coming to church quite a bit
also, but usually sits in the foyer because of a special need of one
of his grandkids. It truly was incredible, and made my day.

By this point in time, as in my writing this paragraph, we are headed
back home to Jonesboro from the Memphis, Tennessee Temple. It was an
enlightening experience, but not in the way I was expecting, or even
remotely wanting. I learned that simply going to a spiritual place is
not enough to receive large amounts of spiritual enlightenment. You
have to prepare for it, be that going to church or going to the
temple. And the way we prepare is through diligent scripture study and
earnest prayer. It was humbling for me to see this in myself, that
even with all of the knowledge I have gained so far, it does not
license me to slack off in doing what I am supposed to.

A final thought to consider, mainly directed at those few missionaries
who are getting my emails and are still out in the field, but
hopefully something that we all can gain from. Elders and Sisters, be
the type of missionary your mother thinks you are.

In Christ's name, amen
~Elder Barker

"Don't forget to read!"

Thursday, September 17, 2015

September 14, 2014 "Recollections"

This past week was busy and crazy, but I'll do my best to run y'all
through it! Perhaps I should start following my companion's advice and
write this from day to day? It might be a good idea!

Monday was awesome. Much thanks for all of the birthday wishes, and
thanks to those who sent cards and packages. After emailing and the flammable
adventures, we headed over as a district to play some Settlers. Even
when the Blue man and the Red man ganged up on me, I still led the
White man to victory!

About halfway through the others found out it was my birthday, which I
enjoyed greatly. We had a good time eating with the G*** family near
the end of the day. Here's a pic:

I also got to hold a chicken.  Also thanks to the parentals (you guys are the best) the Ward found out quite quickly that it was my birthday. It was great.

Tuesday we had a district meeting. Originally we were supposed to have a Zone meeting on Friday, but that got cancelled, so poor Elder Hamblin had to throw something together last minute. It was a crazy meeting, and certainly one of the more memorable ones. The focus was on getting lessons off of tangents and back onto the lessons.

Wednesday we worked hard, and saw some small successes, but nothing too crazy. We spend a lot of our time in areas where the people are living a very worldly life, and so we see a lot of very interesting people with lots of very interesting ideas about things. Several people we tried to see weren't home, and several more rejected us outright, but we did get some referrals from a Vivint guy who was working that same area. It was pretty good. Near the end of the day we decided to go and try this one man we had visited the previous week. He had been going through a bit of a hard time before we walked up, and even told us a few days later that he had considered sending us away just because of the gloomy thoughts on his mind. He said he was glad that he didn't, because we were able to share a short message that seemed to be exactly what it was he needed to hear. I know the only reason we were led over to that area was because we had stopped a short time previously to ask the Lord for direction. It is seeming more and more crazy to me as time goes on that any missionary would try and do this work without doing seeking aid from the person Whose work this is, but I've been guilty of that multiple times. I am working to change that though, going back to the basics.

Thursday was a day where we did our best as much as we could. Lots of success, but also lots of failures. That seems to be the norm here in Jonesboro, that there won't be that many days where things are just mediocre. It might swing from one extreme to the other quickly, but rarely will it sit peaceably in the middle. It just keeps life interesting all of the time! The biggest miracle was running into a guy named D*** again. We had met D*** the first week we arrived in Jonesboro and had a great lesson with him. We tried several time after that to catch up with him again, but never were able to find him. We didn't even know where he lived, which tends to make things a little bit difficult. We had just left someone's house after being dropped by one of our most promising investigators when we saw this dude walking toward us on the opposite side of the road. I didn't really want to talk with him, I was silently lamenting this other man's loss, but I guess the Lord took pity on me and told me to try it anyway. After talking for a bit he said he was still reading the book we had given him, and I recognized him as D***. We got his proper address, and said we would meet up again soon. Really, it was nothing short of a miracle. We ended the day playing basketball with some of the other Elders' investigators. It was fun.

Friday there isn't a whole lot to talk about. Got rejected some more, taught some random kids about who prophets were, and did our planning for the week. We tried to see D*** again, but we couldn't find him. Found his house, but he wasn't home.

Saturday was busy busy busy. Our day started early, at 8am when we helped build a house with Habitat for Humanity. They help low income families get homes of their own when they meet certain predetermined requirements, and they use volunteer work to build the homes. It was a lot of fun. We tried to visit this other family at about 10, but they were busy smoking weed and didn't want to talk. *sigh* We headed back to the apartment for studies and lunch, then hit the streets hard until 8pm for supper. We saw lots of different people and found a few new solid potentials! It was perhaps the longest day and the most rewarding one we've seen in a while. It helped when we took a 10 minute nap in the car about halfway through the day. It's incredible what a power nap can do for a guy!

Sunday was church and back to the grindstone! We had a really good lesson with a guy named R***, and we have plans to see him every sunday at about 2. He is really busy, so that's the best time to see him. We taught him about the Plan of Salvation, and will finish teaching him about it next time. We had dinner with the M*** family over in Bono, and even contacted a few referrals while we were there. We will be going back to that general area again later this week.

I think that's about everything. Thanks again for all you are doing, and particularly for who you are. I love you, and will write again next week!

~Elder Barker

"Don't forget to read!"

September 14, 2015 "How the mighty have fallen"

I've been thinking about sharing this for a while, and today seems like a good day for stories. Because of the type of story this is, know that I am being deliberately vague about the details.

In one of my previous areas there is a man I will call Brad. Brad is a convert to the church, and is a man I look up to very much because of his faith and all that he did to further the work in the area where he lives while I was there. His family is great, and the Ward could say nothing bad about him. I found out last month at a missionary meeting that this once stalwart individual has in almost every way fallen from the church, going as far as to join another church with 'clearly false doctrine', as he had told me repeatedly while I was serving with him. He is now working there in some religious capacity (I don't know exactly what) and is receiving payment for his services. Not only is that directly against how the Lord would have us live, but all of this is for a stupid reason.

He thought he knew better than the prophet. This man has been to the temple. He served as a Mission Leader. He received a witness from God that there were prophets on the earth today. He knew through thick and thin that the Book of Mormon was true, and that Christ's church had been restored back to the earth after centuries of being lost! And he abandoned it. He was so confident in his own interpretation of the scriptures that when an ordained prophet of the Lord said otherwise, it was easier for him to surrender all that he had already gained, than to see something in a different way. I bring again to your attention all that he had been through and all that he once was. In a way, he was spiritually the mightiest man I had ever met. And yet, he still fell, bringing with him his wife, his children, and several other members of the church, helping them to forsake the covenants that they had already made.

I do not bring this up to put him down in any way, nor do I wish to make it sound like everything going on is his fault; it probably isn't, and at best I have second-hand information. But Brad, if you were to read this, all I want to ask you is "How? How could you walk away? What could possibly be worth the blessings you are giving up? Do you have any idea what an inspiration to me you are, or how many times I have shared your conversion story with others to bolster their failing faith? Do you know how often I pondered how I could be strong in the church the way you were? To both of those questions, more times than I could count. Please, if I could ask you to do nothing else, remember your faith, and the feelings you had when you were growing that faith."

The moral I get out of this story is to beware of pride. It is so true, that being learned is good, but only if one hearkens unto the counsels of God (2 Ne. 9:29). We cannot know everything there is to know about Him, not in this life, and probably not long into the eternities either. But we can trust in His word, and in His chosen mouthpieces among us today (Amos 3:7). I invite each of you to ponder what you can get out of this story, what moral you can apply to yourselves, and then to do it. Don't just think about it and then condemn the back of your mind to that scarcely looked at file cabinet (you know the one I'm talking about; we've all got one), never to be seen again. Yes, I realize I am starting to sound a lot like of of those really cliche email chain things that are usually typed in massively large font, but this means a lot to me, so please, do it. Write it down someplace - journal, notebook, nearby napkin, whatever works.

Those who are currently drifted away from the church for one reason or another, I am writing specifically to you. Don't stay away. It isn't worth it.  What is there to gain which is of any lasting value outside of the church? I was talking with an atheist man a while ago, and if there was a reward for being a depressed human being he could be the one standing on the pedestal holding the sign that said in big bold letters "Exhibit A" while wearing the gold medal. (He probably would say it was filled with uranium or something.) His line of thinking was that after death, there was nothing, and the only thing we could do was to try and fruitlessly make a lasting impression of ourselves on our kids and on the world. Books are burned, buildings collapse, medicine grows outdated, history is forgotten by all but the most near-sighted, and even the greatest scientific theories are someday proven false. Within 4 generations, he said, nobody would even know you existed.

Now that's a depressing way to see the world! Basically, life sucks and then you die. Game over. Blackhawk down. Do not pass Go; do not collect 200 dollars. Thank the creator of all that's holy that there's a more too it than just that, and that you I an both know what that way is. The full blessings of this life and in the life to come are available to us in the temples, and all we have to do is cash in that spiritual check. Getting there might not be terribly simple. It could be downright a pain in the rear. But it would be worth it in the end. Not only find the entire stash of Mario's green mushrooms,  but then we also go on to trade a couple of our underdeveloped brown properties for Parkplace and Boardwalk, with a couple of hotels thrown in for good measure. Remember how you felt when you were growing your faith, and start with that. The rest will come, and in no time we will be turning in our green mushrooms and plastic game pieces for the mansions prepared for us in heaven.

To those who feel that they are strong, and to those who feel that they might be slipping, I commend you. In either circumstance it is impressive to see you keep going strong. Things are hard, and it could be our very strengths that would be what the adversary tries to use against us. Think of how you were a month ago. Do you feel as close to our Heavenly Father now, as you did then? What changed? I've been doing a bit of introspection lately, and more and more I've been thinking of how important it is for me to go back to the basics and back to what it was I started out with. My purpose as a missionary; the 4th missionary; daily Book of Mormon study; chapter 3 of Preach my Gospel. More now than ever I am feeling the importance of keeping close to the basics of the gospel, because ultimately it won't be how much deep doctrine we know that will help us, but how strong out testimonies are in the basic principles and ordinances. And the only way we can keep those testimonies strong is by prayer and scripture study.

Just a little slice into my mind as of late.

~Elder Barker

"Don't forget to read!"

Monday, September 7, 2015

"What just happened? I dunno."

​I love having the iPads to use as tools. I really do. But ​sometimes it makes it rather difficult to remember what happened throughout the day, because you aren't committing everything down to paper. But I'll give it my best!

Last Monday wasn't much of a PDay, mostly because it ended really early and just stuff came up. I'm not complaining because the stuff we had to do was important, but it did help make the day memorable. We had just started eating a late lunch with the other Elders when their phone rang. On the other end was the Relief Society President of the Paragould branch. One of the members of the Branch was in the hospital here in Jonesboro and had requested a blessing. (Because Jonesboro has about 70k people, there are lots of hospitals here and people get transported here often.) Because the other Elders didn't have a car, we responded to the call. It only took us a short time to find his room, and when we entered we saw a man in an official-looking uniform standing near the bed, which contained a similarly dressed man hooked up to all sorts of wires and tubes. His wife sat in the chair on the other side of the bed. Everyone looked at us as we entered the room.

We introduced ourselves as two of the missionaries in Jonesboro, and asked if the man on the bed would like a blessing. The other man politely left the room as he nodded his head yes. We administered the blessing with Elder Price as the voice. It was a powerful blessing all about the Atonement and forgiveness and how it ties into healing. Just before we left we learned that this good brother had only been a member of the Church 3 weeks. The Lord has great plans in store for this man, and I felt very blessed to be able to be there for that blessing.

I will do my best to write more, but right now we are emailing at the ASU campus. One of the professors here is a member of the church and lets us in to do stuff on Mondays. He is also going to help us light our hands on fire or something else that is awesome, so I will go and do that and let you know how it goes! Tootles!

Elder Barker

August 31, 2015 "232 and Counting"

This past week was one of the most interesting weeks I've had so far on the mission. Lots of meetings, all of them awesome, a bunch of really interesting people, and being absolutely exhausted all of the time from it! There's no better feeling for a missionary than being exhausted from the work. Let's start with 231, shall we?

Remember how I said that the Jonesboro area is crazy awesome, and the missionaries in it are equally so, with an emphasis on the crazy? That's because I said nothing of the sort before, but it is absolutely true. This past Saturday we had a double baptism, and about 70 people came out to be there from the Ward. I regret not getting pictures, but it was a very neat experience. The Spirit of the Lord was felt very strongly there. Yesterday these two good sisters were confirmed members of the Church and given the Gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying of hands. I loved seeing the smiles on their faces.

I'm going to jump back to Monday, just so I don't forget anything. My mind is a little bit all over the place right now. First off we got emailing done, and then headed over to the Spanish Elders' apartment to hang out as a district. (Side note: About a week ago the other English Elders came up with a nickname for our companionship - the Gypsies. Not totally sure how they came up with it, but we like it. It was already established that the Spanish Elders were the Maria's. After much deliberation between Elder Price and myself we decided that their nickname would be the Romanov's. Elder Hamblin is crazy, and Elder Croft looks like he could be a Russian, so it works! If you see those names, Gypsies, Maria's, or Romanov's, that's who I'm talking about.) After arriving we taught Elder Ceron, who is from Mexico, the proper way to play Settlers of Cataan. #GypsieVictory.  It was awesome. Supper at the Rawlins family afterward, followed by a good meeting with a guy named Travis.

Tuesday we had District Meeting, with Elder Hamblin putting his interesting twist on everything per normal. He instructed us to blindfold ourselves with our own ties and led us single-file into the cultural hall of the church. Once there he closed the door behind us, insturucted us to "Accomplish the goal" and proceeded to throw various forms of sports balls at us. After stumbling around for a while I found that there were chairs scattered throughout the room, with twine running between them at about ankle height. ("The more perfect to trip you with!") On top of some of the chairs were other balls, volleyballs, basketballs, soccer balls, tennis balls, the works. I had no idea what the 'goal' was, so I decided to make my goal that of hitting Elder Hamblin with as many balls as I could. Suffice to say that was not the actual 'goal' but it was fun nonetheless. Eventually someone succeeded in doing what we were supposed to, and we were told to take the ties off of our eyes and to turn the lights on. There, hanging from the basketball backboard, was a bunch of paper taped together with a rough bulls-eye drawn on it with marker. With our vision blocked and no light to see by anyway, hitting the 'goal' with one of the balls was probably more a matter of luck than anything, and it took a good 10 minutes of the 5 of us to figure it out (4 really; I was busy harassing elder Hamblin).

The meeting took a little bit of a serious tone as we read together Proverbs 29:18, which reads:
>18 Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.<

It took us a long time just to hit a piece of paper with a ball, and the comparison to all of the other people out there just in the city of Jonesboro and the surrounding areas who are perishing in unbelief because of a lack of vision was sombering. We have been called to find those who are lost and don't know where to look, either because they have never heard the Gospel before, or because others have blinded them. This scripture ties in very well with another scripture in the Bible found in the 10th Chapter of Romans:
>14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!<

The rest of the meeting was taken up by practicing teaching, and an introspection into our own vision. What do we hope to accomplish here? Without that idea of where we want to go we will never recognize our full potential as servants of the Lord Jesus Christ, and as preachers of His gospel.

The meeting ended with our singing "Happy Birthday" joyously to Elder Hamblin. He denies that he enjoyed it, but he did, particularly when I sang my special version of it to him. Even the barber ladies in Morrilton (back when I was still serving there) loved it! The eyes truly are the windows to the soul, but watching someone double over gasping for breath after laughing violently is usually a pretty good indication too. We had lunch as a district, and then finished the day talking to everyone who would be willing to talk to us.

Wednesday was more of the same, a little bit slower, but still good. We were able to go teaching with a member that night on his home teaching route. Nobody was home, and some of the Less Active members we tried to see with him don't live there anymore either, but we were able to see a couple of really cool people, including one guy who's best friend/old boss is an active member in a different area. Super cool, and hopefully we will be able to see him again. He works crazy hours, so it's a little up in the air, but no doubt we or another set will catch him again when the time is right. About 8.45 that night, just before we were about to head back to the church to get our car back, we three decided to try one more LA. This member doesn't live there, but this other lady did. She was very interested in talking with us, which was surprised considering the time; most people would rather not talk with us at such a late hour.

Thursday we had a meeting that took all day in Little Rock. Normally only the Zone Leaders, Sister Training Leaders, and the Assistants go to this meeting, but a whole bunch of other missionaries went to this one per special invitation. Elder Price wasn't invited, so he got to hang out with Elder Hamblin while I and Elder Croft hung out in the car and during the meeting. I'm not totally sure what it was they did, but by the sounds of it they got really lost and confused, something about not having a GPS and all of us being very new to the area. Fun stuff! We ended the day playing basketball with a bunch of nonmembers who show up. We usually have about 12 people there. While I was getting a drink I saw a YSA who recently moved into the Ward to work on her Grad School (she's going PT). I didn't think she would say yes, but I invited her to join us anyway. She responded by grabbing her gym clothes out of her car, and put us all to shame. It was something else!

Friday was just crazy. None of our plans worked, but we met a lot of cool people and taught a lot of discussions to people in random places. One such lesson was with an elderly lady on her front porch. She knew some members of the church and we got to talking about the gospel and what it means to us. 2.5 hours later, we finally 'escaped'. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the conversation, but there were some brain-muscles that were hurting after that because they hadn't been used in a while.

Saturday was a solid day, starting off with a lesson to a woman named Melody. We met her earlier in the week and was able to teach her and her nephew about the Restoration of Christ's gospel. It went very well, better than most, and we have another appointment to see them again tomorrow. We had supper with Bishop and his family later in the day, and spent some time getting rejected in his neighborhood for about an hour before we sat down to eat. Some of the people had some potential though, so we plan to go back and try a few of them again along with their neighbors. Always try and talk to the neighbors.

Sunday was Sunday. Several new people, a really good dinner with a family I've not met before, and forgetting where we parked the car for a few minutes. It was a great excuse to try and talk to people! One of the people, Dustin, we met walking around outside. He walked with us for a little bit and invited us to come back again. We saw him today (#PdaySacrifices) and had a really good discussion with him. He is very knowledgeable and spiritually thirsty, and this has propelled him to look into many different churches and know lots about the Bible. It was impressive. His schedule, too, is very busy, but he enjoyed our conversation with us and said that he will let us know the next earliest time we could meet again. I am looking forward to that phonecall. 

I think that it the entirety of our week. It was very, very good, and I am looking forward to what the next one has to offer! This is by far the most promising area I've been in. Elder Price is a good, hard worker, and I am learning a lot about how to speak simply from him. He is very quiet, perhaps something I can learn a thing or two about! And the Ward here is amazing. Last week we had an attendance of 230. I fully believe that we will be able to split the Ward before I leave. It will take a lot of faith on everyone's part, plus a few miracles from Christ, but it can and will happen!

I love this Gospel. I love sharing it. I love having my faith stretched and tested. This is the true gospel, and I know this is where everyone needs to be. 

Go forth and Be Mighty!

~Elder Barker

"Don't forget to read!"

August 24, 2015 "Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel"

Hello Starshine! The Earth says "Hello"!

So this past week has been crazy in lots of different ways. First off was the baptism of A*** and A*** I was able to help their mother, J***, join the church a few weeks before I left Morrilton, and then late last Wednesday night I got a call out of the blue from the Zone Leaders saying I could go to the baptism. Here's a little bit of how the conversation went:

Me- "This is Elder Barker"
Him- "Hey, this is Elder so-and-so. President asked me to tell you that you are good to go to the baptism provided you could find a ride!"
Me- <Silence as I try to figure out what he was talking about> "What baptism?"
Him- "The one of those two people you taught!"
Me- <Still greater confusion> "I've got no clue who you are talking about..."
Him- "Some woman's daughters, Janice, Stacy-"
Me- "J***?!?"
Him- "Yeah, that's her!"
Me- *Shout of excitement* *Mumbled apology for startling the driver*

So yeah, nobody told me that they were going to be baptized until they called me, and even then it was the Morrilton Sisters who called me to let me know the next day. Elder Thomas, my old companion, didn't mention it until I called him (the punk!) Lol. The baptism was so awesome though! It took up almost the entire Saturday, but every baptism is worth a 3+ hour drive in my book! We didn't get back until about 11 pm, and we just crashed at the other English Elder's apartment. Elder Hamblin and I got to talking about philosophy, psychology, and how it all ties into religion, for a good 3 or so hours. What with the little bit of conversation between the four of us preceeding it, I didn't get to bed until about 3.30 am. I suffered the next day, but it was a really good conversation! 

The district is really crazy and fun. We have Elder Hamblin, who has 3 months left and is the DL, and his companion Elder Croft, who is 3 months out. There are also two Spanish speaking elders, Elder Geddes (about a year), and Elder Ceron, who is brand new and from Mexico. Then there's me at 19 months and Elder Price (11 months). 

Going back to this week being crazy, we had a meeting in NLR on Wednesday, spent the majority of Tuesday and Thursday trying to find people to teach, went and taught some of the people we found the previous few days on Friday, and the baptism in Morrilton on Saturday. Lots of people who really didn't want anything to do with us, and a few people that loved talking with us. 

I would say more, but I am out of time. I had it pointed out to me the other day that I have a little over 5 months left. I'm going to make the most of them!

~Elder Barker

August 17, 2015 " Let's start at the very beginning"

You know the saying that a journey starts with a single step? Actually, for this missionary it began with a 4 hour drive from Little Rock, stopping by at a Walmart to get rope so we could more securely strap down our luggage to the roof of the minivan on the way over to Jonesboro, AR! Jonesboro is right beneath Pocahontas, one of my old areas. Also, our new home is in the more northern part of town, so if I wanted to and decided to ignore the rules for a bit I could totally be in Walnut Ridge in 20-30 minutes from our house. I kinda want to head up there one of these PDays and go see some old friends there. Meh. We will see.

It is strange for me to be out of Morrilton Ward, but at the same time kinda nice. I was in that area for 7.5 months, the same amount of time as I was in Pocahontas Branch. Don't get me wrong, I love it there, but you can get a little burned out as a missionary if you are in one place for that long. I was getting jokes that I might as well just buy property; a previous elder in that area applied for (and received) an Arkansas state driver's license from that apartment. What with me having 6 months left, this will most likely be my last one. And with that being said, my goal is that before I leave we will have baptized and reactivated enough people to allow this ward to be split!

Here's what we have to work with: A total of 3 sets of Elders! This is a crazy number of missionaries for just one Ward, even if it is a rather big one. 

Originally the Ward had been told that they were going to get a new set of Sister Missionaries to go in Jonesboro. You can imagine their surprise when we showed up, looking distinctly unfeminine! Hopefully they will get over their disappointment soon! lol

With us opening a new area, we started out with a teaching pool of nobody, and we have been working hard to change that. We are living in a more poor and rougher part of town, which means more people who will be willing to listen to what we have to share with them. Just in a few days (one of them I got sick) we were able to teach 10 lessons and find 5 new people to teach, including setting a baptismal date. We should have even more people to teach by next week. I'll keep you posted on how it goes.

One of the best things that's happened so far is the cooling temperatures. No more heat index of 105+ for us! Whoot!

Thanks for all you do, and I will talk with you again next week!

~Elder Barker