Monday, October 26, 2015

Short and Simple

One of the things we have been focusing on a lot in our lessons and meetings is simplifying what we say. In honor of that I will do my best to keep this a bit shorter than normal! (It's not just because we have a lesson at 4 and we still need to clean our apartment and get groceries... no, nothing like that... ;)

Picking up where I left off last week, Thursday was bizzare and nothing really went as we had planned for it to go. After we deconstructed the wooden pallets with style - and perhaps more force and bigger tools than strictly necessary - we tried to find a few people to teach. This only resulted in having an old woman chew us out saying she didn't want to hear about a "Mormon Jesus" (because apparently that's a thing). Later we broke our fast by eating supper with a recent convert, T***. She made some killer chicken, and I ate far more than I probably should have. Later we played basketball at the church. One of young men here brought a whole bunch of his friends from school and several instructors with him, resulting in about 30 people there to play. It was the birthday of one of his instructors, so said young man bought a cake for him. We ate it, right after we shoved a small piece of it into his face.

Friday I got sick and we stayed indoors. yay.........not

Saturday was spent running around trying to teach people the Gospel without great success. We were able to share with a few new people, including a woman named T***, though, and that was nice. After pumping up our bikes again we headed off. Later it got a bit colder and I was finally able to break out the jacket and gloves again. We also ate a truly autumn-style dinner of biscuits, stew, and apple cider, wrapping it up with some icecream that tastes just like pumpkin-spice eggnog. Life was good that evening!

Sunday B*** came to church! It was awesome and she really enjoyed it. We also got to meet a less-active, BK*. After a little bit we started walking to see who we could find, running into a hispanic family that spoke zero english. Elder Price speaks zero spanish, leaving it up to me. I was able to say just enough to be able see if they were interested in hearing our message and then sending the address on to the Spanish Elders. 

I find it remarkable the number of times I've had to speak Spanish on my mission, mainly the past few months. I might as well just go Spanish, because we've sent over a dozen names of interested people to the other Elders. I know next to nothing really, but the Lord is using what I've got and is supplementing it with words that I didn't even know I still remembered. It is remarkable. 

Monday we had a few small miracles occur. After eating supper we hitched a ride with the Spanish Elders, who were planning to work and area just a few miles from our apartment. We got out of their car about 8pm. Our intent was to simply walk back to our apartment and talk to whoever might happen to be outside on the way. On our way back we were prompted to knock on a particular door, which we obeyed. Please keep in mind two things that make this a miracle: 1- It is after dark, and 2- nobody answers their door after the sun goes down. Not only did the woman answer the door, but she was willing to talk, perhaps because she had talked with missionaries about 8 years previously. We left her with a copy of the Book of Mormon, which she said she would look into. She also asked us to come by again today at about 4. We continued walking and ran into some other less-actives we are working with just walking the streets. We were invited inside and were able to teach again about what the Book of Mormon is and how it can strengthen our faith in Christ. Randomly the Elders from Mountain Home, AR (outside of our mission) called about some information on a referral we had sent about a month previously, and we had a great conversation there. One of them knew a missionary in this mission, and I was able to pass on a message for him. It was really cool.

Tuesday was District meeting with a focus on teaching in unity. Every time someone said "switch" the person speaking had to immediatly stop and let the other guy talk. It was fun, particularly when, since we were doing so well, the people we were 'teaching' started saying "switch" every 5 seconds, sometimes in the middle of a scripture referrence! It was crazy

Wednesday I got to split wood. It was great. I'd send the video, but it's kinda big. Sorry peeps! WE also got to teach D*** about prayer. It was solid! Dinner with the Dinsmore's.

Thursday we helped Sister Casteel with some stuff in her yard, cleaning up some large limbs that broke off of a massive tree next to her house. Can anyone say "health hazard?" I got to use a large ax again. It made my day. #SimplePleasures

Friday we had the privilege of teaching the E*** family again, this time about the Word of Wisdom. It went for a very long time, but was good. WE were also able to see S*** and B*** and help them get more ready for coming to church in the future. That morning I also crashed hard-core. I took an hour nap right after studies to help me focus on the rest of the day. Three-and-a-half hours later I woke up. This is getting crazy; I've not been this tired my whole mission!

Saturday not a whole lot happened other than trying to help various investigators we have not do stupid things and go to jail. We also had to help another part-member family realize that just because one person wants to go to church and the other doesn't is not a good grounds for divorce! *sigh* The work goes on! (We helped get both things cleared up btw...)

Sunday we found another Hispanic man who had recently moved in, and again sent him over to the Spanish Elders. He lives right next to another one of our investigators, so maybe they'll be able to fellowship each other into the church! I love it when that happens! We had two people to church, D*J*and his brother. We wrapped up the day with dinner at the Chandler's, an awesome family with 8 kids, all of whom have names that start with the letter 'K'. It was oodles of fun! Lastly all three sets of Elders got to help teach the youth at a missionary-themed fireside. Elder Price and I taught on how we can tie just about every conversation and question back to our belief in Christ and the Book of Mormon. It was awesome!

All in all, things are going well. I am happy and loving it here in Jonesboro. This is Elder Hamblin's last Pday with the rest of us, and we will be sad to see him go. Elder Price and I want to compose a "Trunky Song" to sing to him just before he heads for the Mission Home. I know he will enjoy it.

I also realize that this email isn't nearly as short as I had thought it would be. Perhaps next time I will type more of it up in advance! Lol.

Life is good! God loves us! This is His work! Remember who you are and that you are wonderful in God's eyes!

~Elder Barker

Friday, October 23, 2015

October 19, 2015 "Remember"

This past week was impressive. Perhaps I've used this subject before, but it seems fitting.

Last Sunday (not yesterday, but the one before that) we were able to have supper with the Schnider family. It was sort of a last minute thing with them calling us just a few minutes before it was to start to see if we wanted to come, but it was awesome. And what missionary wants to pass up an opportunity for free food? It was great, and afterward we spent far too long there as all of us started geeking out over different forms of classical music. Elder Hamblin is really into that type of music, so he had fun there. Then I found the Phantom of the Opera sheet music and I had lots of fun there! They also made some of the best banana pudding I've ever had. It was awesome.

Monday was a much slower PDay than some of the other ones we've had, as far as the personal time we had was concerned. The other Elders ran off to do something (we later found out it was tennis), so we just went home and slept a bit, wrote a letter, and relaxed. Later we had a quick supper with the Adam's family. We wanted to go and contact a referral immediately afterward, but shortly after getting on the road we got a call from one of our investigators saying that her son, P***, was in the hospital and wondered if we could pray for him. We offered to go to the hospital to give him a blessing and she was more than thrilled. We changed our plans and headed to one of the hospitals here in Jonesboro, meeting the family in the CCU. I think it is interesting how most of the PDay's we've had here in Jonesboro have been spent, at least in part, in visiting someone in the hospital. I love being able to help out, but still find it interesting. By the time we left it was close to 8pm and figured we would try this referral anyway, even though it was a bit later than normal for us to do so. We usually try to contact referrals about 6pm, when people are more likely to be home but not trying to get kids in bed. It turns out that it was perfect timing on our part, because she had just gotten home. We were able to give her a copy of the scriptures and also bless her home while we were there, at her request. Probably the greatest thing that happened that day, apart from D***(the woman's name) was the fact that they were selling Eggnog at Walmart. Normally I am a strong advocate of selling Christmas-related things only after Thanksgiving, but in this case I am more than happy to make an exception. Let the Eggnog pour all year round!!!

Tuesday we started off our day with a really solid study session in planning for the lesson we would have later that day with D***, probably the best one I've had on my mission.  We headed over to the post office to mail off a letter and package (since the offices were closed on Monday; Columbus day or something lame like that) and spent lots of time  trying to get things set up over the phone. We probably spent a solid 2 hours trying to get stuff figured out. On the plus side it was warm that day and we hung outside a McDonalds to use their free wifi! We set up a ride for one of our investigators, B***, to get to a job interview with some members who live nearby and then was able to go to this thing at the university called Conversations. There are a lot of students there who don't speak English and Conversations is just us going and being the "Native Speakers" to help them in their practice. We got to talk with a few guys from Saudi Arabia and had a great discussion on the differences between Islam and Christianity. Hopefully we get to see them again. We later had dinner with the S*** and had a solid lesson with G. E.. He's an older man, and has a hard time accepting anything. We made some serious headway though. Later we had a Great lesson with D***. We met up with Brother Brumwell at the church building and drove over there in a Camero. it was a fun experience. Anyway, once we got there she let us right in, and then proceeded to disappear into her bedroom to get 'ready' for about 30 minutes. We just sort of chilled on her couch waiting for her to reemerge. We taught her about the Restoration of the gospel and the Spirit was felt very strongly. Since we had just blessed her home the other day we were able to tie Priesthood Authority in very easily. She understood easily.

Wednesday we had Zone Meeting and that took up most of our day. Later we got chewed out by a member for not calling ahead for dinner early enough, gave up the car, had a bunch of appointments fall through, and ended up talking with a Church of Christ guy who was more converted to his preacher than he was to Christ, assuming he was converted to Christ at all. His big hold up was that unless we could arrange the Prophet to come and visit him personally and perform a miracle for him he would not believe a thing we had to say. All I could think of was the two criminals who hung on either side of Christ, one of them recieving favorable words from the Savior and the other receiving silent condemnation because he unrighteously requested a miracle before he would believe. I offered similar words to him, saying that even if a miracle was to be performed he still would not be able to believe since his heart was in no condition to receive more of God's word and if he was to make it anywhere after this life he would have to learn how to have faith first. Perhaps I should have been a bit more careful with my wording, but the only thing that was good that day was the Zone meeting and I was in no mood to mince my words and put up with such foolishness. Hopefully it did some good.

Everything that happened Thursday was not what we had planned for originally at all! First off we did service for Sis. Boudrero, an awesome member of the Ward here. She does a lot for us Elders. We spent the better part of the morning dismantling wooden pallets for a Relief Society thing she was doing. Eventually we found a system that knocked it out (literally) almost as fast as we could move the pallets into position. 

Shoot, I'm out of time. We are on bikeweek still, so we are dependent on the other Elders for rides. I'll send the rest next week! Love you all!

~Elder barker

"Don't forget to read!"

October 12, 2015 "The Final Countdown"

This week has been crazy and certainly more than a bit unique. It, of course, started with last PDay. As of today the Jonesboro District Leader, Elder Hamblin, has just about two weeks left on his mission. (Later this week he will give his departing testimony; he's still in denial about it all. lol) After we got our shopping done and such we headed over to the Spanish Elder's apartment to socialize with them until it was time to head back to work. Elder Lewis and Elder Geddes went off to go play some golf, leaving myself, Elders Ceron, Price, and Hamblin to do stuff. We bought some pizzas to eat for lunch and were just enjoying hanging out when we heard a knock on the door. Very rarely does anybody ever knock on a missionary door except for missionaries of other religions, so we followed our gut instinct to grab the nearest set of scriptures and throw wide the door. On the other side was a large man wearing a dark green shirt depicting bowhunter zeroing in on a deer. He introduced himself and said he was from some other city in Arkansas. He had talked with missionaries quite a bit home and had given them rides a few times, and recognized that most missionaries will have a picture of Christ on the door. He took a hunch and knocked on our door, thinking it might be more Mormon missionaries, so he could ask for a little help moving his daughter. He was happy to find out he was right.

After we helped him out and got the rest of what we needed done we headed over to Elder Hamblin's apartment to eat. He started firing up the kitchen to make stuff and made a comment something about how there was no music to listen to. I, being the incredibly helpful and useful individual I am, generously fired up a MP3 of the Mission Song on my iPad. Together, Elder Ceron, Elder Price, and I provided the music that he said he so desperately wanted. The painful ways he was threatening to kill us by is a clear indication that he enjoyed it immensely and enjoyed the encore just as much as the first performance. After all, if he's going home soon we have to help him enjoy the song as much as possible before he leaves! Lol.

That's another crazy thought. This transfer is just about over. And upon the conclusion of this week I will have less than 100 days left. That mark is either the 15 or the 16, or maybe the 17, I don't actually know; I got off a little in my counting. So, to make things a bit more fun, here's an invitation to all of you who read my letters. Email me a list of things that I need to accomplish before it is time for me to take off the badge. I will take 100 of the most fun items on the list, and make it a goal of mine to accomplish all of them. This is why I will need all y'alls help though. Just 5 people will most likely not make the list big enough, so you need to send some stuff in too! It could be I need to take a picture of said random event, or do something weird while I am out and about. Whatever floats the boat works. I just can't break mission rules to do it, so please nothing involving explosives, water activities, or extreme sports. While I would love to do stuff like that, I kinda can't right now, so we'll just do it when I get back. Next week I should have the list put together and I will show everyone. 

We've had a bunch of interesting discussions with other people this past week. One such discussion ended in our investigator getting super riled up and cussing out her father. It made things a tad bit awkward, and we left not long after that. On the other hand we had a great discussion with a guy named R*** just yesterday. He is hard to get a hold of, but we had a schedule where we will go and visit him about once a week on Sundays at 2. We were able to share a lot of new information about what happens after death and Christ's role as our Savior. I fully believe that someday he will join the church. It might just take a little bit!

We also got to witness a full blown case of domestic violence while we were talking with a few people on Tuesday. There's this house that every time we knock on it we meet someone new. Apparently a few of these people became rather angry with eachother, enough so that three police officers showed up to help keep the peace. We were recommeded by the people we were talking with that it would probably be a good idea of we came back the next day and got out of the area for a bit. Randomly there was a small fair going on, so we poked our heads in and got to talk with several baptist ministers for almost an hour. They had talked with the missionaries about a year previously. After talking with them it became a bit more clear that they had spent more time looking up anti than they had actual doctrine, and thus their ideas were a little bit skewed. We'll see if they give us a call like they said they would.

The highlight of everything this week was being able to help 5 people come to church, 4 investigators and one lessactive who hadn't come to church in a very long time. Hopefully this week will be even better!

Love you all, and I will see you again next week! If there is anything you want to know about the area or about me, please let me know and I will be more than happy to get back with you. I love getting emails! =D

~Elder Barker

"Don't forget to read!"

Monday, October 5, 2015

A Few Highlights

Conference was incredible. I loved the advice we received from our leaders. I also want to mention this, brought up during a conversation I had with an investigator a few days ago: Jesus Christ is the head of the Church. That is why it has His name in it, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The prophets and apostles, great men though they are, simply are not the head of the church. They represent Christ, and it is important to remember that our loyalty is to the Lord first, and then to the rest of humanity.

One of the greatest things that happened from this conference was helping a woman named H*** come to church for the first time. We promised her that if she would come with a question in her heart that she needed answering that she would find an answer. The very first speaker answered many of the questions she had brought. We are looking forward to seeing her again later today.

One of the streets where we spend much our time was heavily visited by a missionary some years back, an Elder Jardine. It seems that nearly every person we talk with there has had some sort of former contact with him, and this has opened more doors that we could have opened ourselves. H***s family was one of them, although she herself has never talked with missionaries before. Another person is a wonderful woman named Miss E***. She is  up in her 80's and is a minister. She was very active in her preaching when she was younger, but has since slowed down some due to her age. We'd been meeting with her for about a week and invited her to come to Conference with us. She was so excited to go, actually going door to door in her neighborhood to invite everyone else to come with her to listen to a "real live prophet!" Right before conference something bad happened, and she was hospitalized for a short while. During one of the sessions we get a call from her on the phone making sure we weren't mad at her for not being able to come to church with us. She told us "I've gotten fond of you boys. If I had grandkids like you boys I would be the happiest grandma in the world! You still can come over for bbq later this week, right? You're not mad at me, are you?" I just love this woman! She is such a big miracle!

The weather is starting to turn a bit cooler. It's that fun time of year that you aren't really sure wether to bring a jacket or not, because it would be really nice early in the morning or in the evening, but a bit overkill during the day. Soon it will be Halloween, and I will get to carve pumpkins to put in front of our door! I'm considering using that as a means to find people to teach, just taking a whole bunch of pumpkins outside one night to carve them with the other residents here. If nothing else it at least help people see we aren't JW's! Lol. I said this last year too, but holidays are NOT a good time for us to go out, simply because people are more likely to give you a handful of candy than they are to invite you in. I've also been having a lot of really bizzare dreams lately, more and more frequently about people or places or events back home. It's made for some fun conversations during the mornings with Elder Price.

I'm really not sure what else to mention. Life is going well here. Some of the other Elders are headed off to go play golf. We still need to get groceries and laundry and such done, so that will come first, but we'll find something entertaining to do before we head back to the grind. 

Thanks for those who read these emails, and for those who support the missionaries back home! We couldn't do it without you.

~Elder Barker

"Don't forget to read!"