Monday, September 7, 2015

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!"

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