Tuesday, November 17, 2015

November 16, 2015 "Brevity"

This week was another one with ups and downs. I seem to be seeing a trend here! lol.

Some of the downs were most of the people we had found last week we were unable to see (yet). Failed appointments are nothing new, but they were still a bit disappointing. The part I want to focus on though is the ups, the awesome things that happened. We had a large meeting on Jacksonville this past Friday which took up most of the day. During it we received some truly excellent instruction on how we can better work with our ward and branch leaders, how we can better use the BoM in our teaching, and also try and speak to a few people in the area itself to use some of what we had been learning. We were able to find a fairly solid family for the elders there to go and teach which was really exciting.

Before getting sent out into the city for about an hour we were assigned a different companion to work with, perhaps just so we can get to know a few of the other missionaries and learn how they work. I was put in a trio with a missionary who had spent nearly all of his time over on the Memphis side of the mission (about a year) and with a missionary who had only been out a few weeks. As we walked we asked each other the usual questions: Where are you from? Where have you served? and How long have you been out? When I responded that I had been out about 21 months the young missionary stared at me with an expression akin to a young child staring at the skeletal remains of a dinosaur. It provided no small amount of amusement for me.

Another HUGE highlight is being able to work with a less-active family, a mother and her son. Their names are R*** and P***. They were baptized about 4-ish years ago in Kentucky and eventually moved down here to Jonesboro. I might have shared some of their story with you before, about how Elder Price and I met them while getting free hotdogs at the park. Anywho, We had been working with them for a while, but this past week we were able to teach them the Word of Wisdom again, and help them with their Family History work. They both have such a strong desire to get to know their ancestors and preserve the memories they have of their family who has already passed on. Richard in particular has a desire to go to the temple and be sealed to his father. This past Sunday they were also able to come to church for the first time in a very long time. A member named Freddie helped us out with that. I'll send a picture of all of us here in a bit.

We also were able to see D***J***'s mother for the first time in a while. She has been letting us teach her kids about the Gospel for some time now, even allowing us to bring them to church, but hasn't taken an active part in the lessons at all. Yesterday evening we were able to talk with her about the scriptures, about revelation, about prophets, and, most importantly, God's love for her as an individual. We were able to share some scriptures on the Atonement with her, Christ on the Cross in Mathew 27:46 and what he did for us there and in the garden of Gethsemane, explained in Alma 7:11-12. It really touched her and (finally!) got her interested in what we had to say. We left her with some passages from the Bible and the BoM for her to read and for us to discuss when we come back again tomorrow.

I've been learning that this work truly isn't about numbers; if you looked just at our numbers for this week one might say that it was a dismal failure. But it is in the lives we touch by our simple actions. I've heard this compared to a football game. If you have two teams and one of them has more passing yards, more time with the ball, more interceptions, more successful sacks, but the other team has more points on the scoreboard, which team truly did better in that game? Last week we were able to touch at least 3 people's lives for the better, and ultimately that is all that counts.

I know this work is true. There is a reason it cannot be stopped. There is a reason people join the Church every week by the Hundreds, and that reason is not because Elder Barker is a perfect missionary. This is the only organization I know of that can send young adults between the ages of 18-26 out into a strange land with an apartment, food, cell phone, and a car, leave them mostly unsupervised, and have them accomplish anything meaningful. Ask a buisiness executive about if that sounds like a good idea and he would double over laughing, and yet work it does. The Lord's hand is over us and this work. I close with Joseph Smith's own words:

“The Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.”

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

~Elder Jayden Barker

November 9, 2015 "This Week"

This week was intense. My new companion is Elder Smith, from Washington state! He's a great guy and is already progressing towards becoming a truly great Elder. He's about 5' 2" and is able to crank out pushups like nobody else.

We've had a lots of downs this week, but we've also had a lot of miracles happen. But since time is an issue right now (we are sacrificing 2 of our PDay hours to help with a baptismal goal of 100 this month) I will include just one of them:

Yesterday after church both of us were feeling rather down, for obvious reasons. We had been expecting about 10 people to come to church and only 1 came. The news about A*** was a blow below the belt. I really didn't want to do anything even remotely resembling missionary work after that; I was tired both physically and mentally, and I wasn't feeling the spirit like I wanted to. Training though has given me a stronger incentive to go and do what is right, because I really want to help Elder Smith have a happy successful mission. I knew that work is the best antidote to feeling depressed about things, but it was still difficult for me to put that into action. I know that the miracle that followed though never would have happened to us had we just stayed inside. We headed out on our bikes, just looking for new people to talk to. There were a few smaller side streets on our path, and since there were only a few houses on each street we paid tribute to traditional tracting and knocked every door on the street. This yielded more rejections than appointments and we decided to stop paying tribute after about an hour. We continued on, stopping to talk with the few people who were outside (one of them was brewing beer; we have a return appointment for tonight) and to contact the referral we recieved. Ultimately though, it was appearing unsuccessful. 

We looked on the map to see where we were and about how long it would take us to bike back to our apartment for supper and studies when I noticed a few streets that caught my eye, mostly because the names were kinda funny. We decided to go there before heading in. On our way to those streets I saw a few kids outside playing in the street down a road that we were just about to pass. Following a gut feeling I now recognize as the Spirit working through me I told Elder Smith that we needed to go and talk with them. When we got there four of them recognized us, calling out "Missionaries, Missionaries!" It took a moment but I eventually recognized them as some kids we had met the day before in a completely different part of town about 20 minutes away by car. They had been staying with an uncle of theirs while the mother was shopping. The uncle, J*** spoke with Elder Smith for just a few moments while I was talking with the kids outside about the Book of Mormon. What Elder Smith said to get him interested I don't know, but he ran up to me and said that he (J***) wanted to be taught right then. We headed inside and learned a bit about him, how he had come from a rougher life and how he was now a Deacon in a Baptist church and then taught him a great deal of the Restoration. We were unable to get through all of it because of the good questions and comments he had about the scriptures we shared, but we left him with a copy of the BoM and a desire to learn more. We go back on Saturday. I know none of this would have happened had we just stayed inside like I had originally wanted to. I am sad that I had even considered giving in to the natural man, but am glad I decided to work anyway. My driving thought was that no doubt the Savior would have wanted to stop and rest at some point during his ministry also, to just give in for a small time, but had he done so the Atonement never would have happened and his greatest work would have been left undone.

I love this work and all that I am able to do. I love that the last 12 weeks of my mission are able to be spent training a new missionary and sharing my knowlege with him. I am really looking forward to everything we are going to accomplish!

Thanks for your prayers and all that you do to share the gospel with those around you.

~Elder Jayden Barker

What do you do when your mother sends spiderwebs in your halloween package and mission rules say that you have to stay in Halloween night?  Dress up as Santa Clause, of course! 

Monday, November 2, 2015

Game Over...One Life Left

This week was a slower one as far as missionary work went. Nearly the entire week was spent in the rain, which did very little to help both with motivation and encouraging people to open the door. On a positive note we were able to see more people with members of the church this week than we've had since I got here! That was really exciting, and I hope that the trend continues as we make it a focus in our work. We were able to see A*** like we had talked about last week, and that was a solid lesson. We taught her about the Restoration of the Gospel.

We were able to spend a decent chunk of time on Tuesday getting CD's burned with the entire Book of Mormon on them so we can give them to our investigators. We've already seen good success from doing so. We were also able to see D***J*** and the E*** family with Elder Green. Elder Green is a missionary whose family lives here in Jonesboro. He has been serving in Ghana for about a year before getting seriously sick, so he was sent home to recover for a short while. We made the most of it while he was here! It is likely he will return to Ghana before the end of the week.

Wednesday we had the ward chili cookoff/Trunk-or-Treat. It was awesome, and we got to see a lot of investigators there who have never been to our church before. Prior to the cookoff we also were able to go teaching with Freddie Green to visit several people. One of them was a woman named S* K***. She is a convert to the church some years back and is a very good example of a woman who was offended by some members who made some inappropriate comments and has since decided that since she can't understand all the reasons for things everything must not be true. It is really quite sad.

The rest of the week was spent without much to talk about. Thursday we had our usual basketball game at the church and it got pretty awesome. A few minor injuries, but nothing crazy. Elder Lewis, another one of the Elders in the District, is a basketball fanatic but has hurt his knees and decided to take it easy. That lasted all of about 5 minutes before he was hopping around like a little rabbit. During the game I ended up biting the inside of my cheeks pretty hard when I went for the ball. I'm pleasantly surprised at how quickly they are healing up!

On Saturday we spent the evening with the Rougeau family. Since it was Halloween going door to door like we normally do would be more than a big waste of time. So we instead participated in Elder Hamblin burning a suit to commemorate the close of his mission!

We also carved pumpkins. Here's mine:

A few of the other guys did scary stuff, and one of them, Elder Geddes, carved the angel Moroni. It was pretty awesome looking. 

Sunday we had our correlation meeting and was able to prep for a lesson before heading over to the Schnider's for dinner. Since it would be Elder Hamblin's last day in the mission Elder Price and I wanted to do something special for him to send him off. So we wrote some song lyrics and sung it for him. This was sung to the tune of Alleluia:
It made him cry. :3

To finish it all off we had a great lesson at the E***'s with M***, one of the Ward Missionaries. We focused on the different aspects of missionary work and how it various auxilaries came to be, like the Relief Society and the duty of member missionary work. She had some concerns about her own work in spreading the gospel and how fit she would be to do these things, and we hope that this helped ease her fears. She seemed to be much happier afterward!

One last thing of note: On SUnday I both myself and Elder Price got calls from the AP's. I will be training my last transfer and Elder Price will finish training Elder Lewis, Elder Hamblin's half-trained companion. I am super stoked to be training my last 12 weeks. I've heard it said that the last 10% of a mission is the hardest and the most successful ever. Well, it's time to put that to the test - that starts in two weeks! Elder Thomas, my first trainee is also training again, and his trainee is training. Mission Posterity!!!

Got to go, but I y'all are awesome! Keep up the good work!

~Elder Barker