Monday, August 31, 2015

Heart and Soul

Hello family!
This has been a good week! We had an awesome lesson, here's the story!
She was a referral that we got one day, and she said that she wanted a bible from us. Bible referrals don't usually go too far, but we are always hopeful! We drove out to Buffalo, SC and we met her at her house. She didn't have any chairs, so we sat Indian style and taught her the restoration. My legs went numb right before the first vision, haha. We were really surprised by how much she already knew and after we were finished with the lesson, we invited her to be baptized and….. she accepted! We got the whole story from her of how she met a lady in Union who is a member up in Greenville, and they became very close friends. This lady had shared pretty much everything with her about the church. She had already gone to church and had attended a baptism in that ward; she is so ready! We are very excited for her, and she will make such a good addition to the branch. :)    Pray for her, sometimes people in the South can be kind of harsh to those that decide to convert. She is also going to let me work on her car this week :) 
We have a pretty new district with all the new missionaries that came from this transfer, so our district meeting was fun. Both of the Spartanburg companionships got sister missionaries in their areas and they split the areas in half. Elders Hall and Bowles lost their car, so we have pity on them and take them shopping and stuff that is most uncomfortable on a bike. I remember when I was in Hopkins and we had to bike on p-day. It wasn't fun at all. 
We are finding new people to teach everywhere we go, and we are doing our best to always ask for referrals from everyone. Pray for us! Love y'all!

Take one.

Take two.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Loving mission life here in Union!

Happy week! 
This has been a really fun week and a crazy one too! 

We had Transfers on Wednesday, and it was crazy! It is so much fun to see all the people I know that are serving all over the place! It is really weird though being there and not having anyone that I came out with be there. Everyone that came out with me from the MTC has finished and gone home. 
When it was my turn to get a new companion, they called my name, I stood up, and then they called Elder Jeremy Olmstead, who was my companion when I first came back to the mission! We both freaked out! We hugged and went and sat together and were having a blast already, and President Turner said "Maybe I ought to rethink that one" and everyone laughed. It was crazy, and we are still trying to convince each other that this is actually real. Before transfers started, we were talking about how much fun it would be to get to serve around each other again, and it happened!

I also got to see Brother Clow (my other dad) at transfers, that was so nice! I had no clue he would be there! 

We have already taught some awesome lessons together, and we have some great investigators that we are working with and we have had some success there! We put one of them on date to be baptized, and we are meeting with another tomorrow to follow up on how they liked church, and we are praying to put them on date as well! 

I am learning more about the gospel at this time in my life than I ever have before, and I think it is because I am really supposed to help these specific people while I am here. I want so badly to just make them believe my words, but I know that isn't how it works. :P I keep praying for them, and praying that things will keep progressing in their time investigating this wonderful gospel. 

I am having fun, and loving it. Everyone always talks about how when you get put with a companion that you get along with just like friends, that the work moves so much faster and you have way more fun. That is happening, and I am so grateful for it. 
Loving mission life here in Union! 
Love y'all! 
-Elder Joel 'Sunshine' Barker

Bamboo Forest 

Monday, August 17, 2015

ONE YEAR! Excited for new. Hopeful for hard work. And faithful for improvement.

Last district pictures before transfers!
From left to right, top, Elder Mitchell, Elder Hall, Elder Bowles, Elder Barker.
 Bottom, Elder Gonzales, Elder Crapo
So, story time.
We had a birthday on Saturday for our recent converts daughter. We went over a little early to help get things set up, during the time that everyone was opening presents, I grabbed a handful of animal crackers. The party was at Foster Park right next to our house. It's a little pond and there is a playground and some pavilions. Elder Gonzales watched me back away and kneel down and start throwing crackers to the geese. They inched their way over to me and were really apprehensive about coming to eat. Rightly so. They kept getting closer and closer, and the only person watching me was Elder G. I ran out of crackers, reached out and grabbed a goose by the neck, and pulled it up and gave it a big hug to calm it down. Haha I picked it up and brought it over to the pavilion. Everyone was laughing and pretty amazed. The 2 year old birthday girl kept calling me over so I brought the goose to her and she pet it over and over again. She was pretty sure it was hers. haha I turned around to let it go, and where there were 10-15 geese, there were now about 40. I was like whoa. They called reinforcements!! Haha I let it go, and all the other geese crowded around it, then they all just stood there and watched us. I kept my eye on them, because I was pretty sure they were planning an attack. :P
I will always catch some kind of animal!

This week was pretty good! It flew by a lot faster than I had expected it to! We started off by going to this cool park on P-day where we played tennis, kickball, and volley ball. We had a blast! Elder Gonzales and I both freaked out when we saw that this park had Frisbee Golf baskets too! We made plans for this P-day right then, and that is exactly what we will be doing today. :)
We had our DDM (District Development Meeting) On Tuesday, and the Zone Leaders came down since they were going to be going on exchanges. We had a great meeting, and then we headed to The Beacon in Spartanburg for lunch! We all had a nice big plate, and then afterwards, I went and bought us a "Pigs Dinner" Is what it is called. And, well, refer to the picture. haha it was sick! We all pitched in on eating it, and we finished it. It was so much ice cream!  I bought a shirt this time.

We also had our "No more strangers" devotional (Ephesians 2:19) all the way out in Greenville. We rode with the Spartanburg elders out there. It was a really really good meeting :) It was a little discombobulated because there was an error in the communication on who was supposed to speak, and what recent converts were going to be bearing their testimonies, and there ended up only being 3 speakers. There wasn't much of a foundation to it, but the spirit was still there, and was very strong. I love the talk one of the speakers gave, she talked about the first time she felt the spirit. She related it to smelling smoke from a campfire. When you camp a lot, there are so many good memories that are associated with that smell, and when you smell it, all those memories flood back into your mind. At this point I wasn't really following, because I was lost at East Fork in my mind. I found myself there, Winter Camp, and Fremont. I loved a trip down memory lane, then she related it to the first time she felt the spirit, and how it felt familiar it was to her, even though it hadn't been there before. It was really cool :)
I love how far away Union is from everyone else, because it means we have to drive for a while to get anywhere, and y'all know how much I love driving. That's not the only thing though, it is also causing me to be much better at planning and budgeting our miles. We have also done a lot of walking and some biking. I always feel it in my ankle after a long walk or biking, but it feels so good to come in at night just exhausted from a long hard day of work. :) Nothing feels better.

Transfers are this Wednesday, and Elder Gonzales will be leaving Union. Everyone reading this; please keep him in your prayers. Pray that his new area will help him, and that his new companion will be able to be a friend to him.
When we got our transfer call, they send it out in a voicemail. It is a common thing in the mission that before the voicemail is sent out; someone will record a fake transfer call and send it to everyone to mess with people. Well, when we got this voicemail, the zone leaders had done it in a really high, weird voice. We thought it was fake. So we deleted it like 15 seconds in. Oops...haha turns out it was real, so we ended up having to call the zone leaders and have them tell us who was leaving. They said everyone's name, except Elder Gonzales, just to mess with us. Then they finally told us, It was messed up.
I am really going to miss this kid, and I hope he does well.

I am so glad to hear that everyone is doing well! I have been praying for Dad and I am glad to hear that he is recovering well. Does this mean he will be able to walk better now and won't be in as much pain while walking? What exactly did they go in and do?
I wish I could be there to come watch Savannah's play and clap as loud as I can for her, but I know that y'all will give her all the support in the world :) Let her know how proud of her I am. :)
And Sawyer is a boss. There isn't one thing that boy can't do if he puts his mind to it. He looks so grown up! I can't believe how well he did!
I am also happy that Alec will be leaving the Mall. I think he will enjoy working somewhere else, somewhere quiet, and not running into all the weird people we went to high school with heading to hot topic :P Haha

Love y'all. I am truly enjoying myself out here, and I am going to go and wear myself out playing Frisbee golf in this heat.
Tally Tally Ho!

-Elder Joel 'Sunshine' Barker

That graffiti is in the middle of the projects in our area. It is full of drug dealers, gangsters, and fights. But the second we step foot there, everyone perks up and cleans up their act. They call us Jesus People, and they know not to be dumb around us. Black people especially have respect for Jesus. ;)  
We seek the gifts of the spirit in all that we do, and He will always tell us where we are safe and where we aren't.

She named her chicken "Bonnie Barker" after me :)
(upon closer inspection she may have to change it to Elder Barker)

My Carolina reapers!

Elder Barker hit is year mark in the past week! 
He sent this video to commemorate the special day.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Dare to stand alone.

Went up to boiling springs to play kickball, sand volleyball
 and ultimate frisbee. I am covered in sand.

This week has been tough, but rewarding as well. We have had a bunch of secret little blessings be dropped in our path, and we have been working as hard as we can to keep them progressing. 
We had an awesome lesson with a less-active's mother, and we were able to put her on date to be baptized on September 5th. She has some struggles, so we are doing our best to meet her needs, it is just hard to catch her at home! We are hoping that if we can help her build a firm testimony of the gospel, is will touch her son as well, and he'll come back to church.
I am learning to be bold in a loving way. There are people that will just get offended if you tell 'em how it is, and then there's the people of Union. They know they need to come back, but they lack the conviction it takes to get up in the morning and come to church. We had 4 people tell us they would be at church, and as we called around Sunday morning, one by one, people told us they weren't coming. It gets frustrating, and I am learning to not let it affect me. I used to be a lot better at just letting things roll off my back, but I also didn't used to care about the people as much as I do now. It is just really hard to be a missionary by yourself. 
Interviews with President Turner were really good. It is nice to be able to get a personal relationship with him, and it is nice to know that he knows my true desires and what I want to get done. 

It has finally cooled off and has been raining quite a bit this week. We have been in some desperate need of rain in Union, it has been so hot!

I am so thrilled to hear that Savannah stood up for her values and stuck with her decision to be modest. In a way, that reminds me of the Mormon Message "Dare to stand alone" :) I think she would like that. 

Hearing about Sawyer's cow makes me so happy! I wish I could be there to help him, but it doesn't sound like he needs my help at all! :) He is growing up into a great young man, and I wish I could see it happening. 

So many things are happening, I will say a bunch of prayers for Daddy and Grandpa. I hope the issues get fixed finally. I would love to come home and see Daddy walk and not be in pain! And I am sure Grandpa is excited to be able to use his shoulder. We'll be unstoppable when I come home, and the Chevelle and the model A will be fixed up! :) This'll be fun!! And we will be prepared for the next time the Subaru breaks down! (Knocks on wood!)

Transfers are next Wednesday, and we find out this Saturday who is leaving and who is staying. Pray for good things!
Love y'all!
Elder Browne sent me a gift!

Monday, August 3, 2015

My purpose is to bring souls to Christ.

This week has been pretty great! We are working on exact obedience in our companionship, and I think it is just in time. Things are tough in Union as far is a teaching pool goes, and we cannot afford to not receive the blessings from being obedient. We will be meeting with President Turner this week also for one-on-one interviews, so that will be a great thing to help keep us obedient :) 

We spent last P-day with an investigator named C, where we played the card game rummy for the majority of the day. It was a lot of fun, and we love spending time with him :) He always makes sure that we are taken care of and have all the things we need. We finish off that day with a great meal at a members home, and a couple of awesome lessons. The week went by very fast, and we got a lot accomplished.

I have learned a lot in the last week, and I have been able to see a lot of changes in my own life. I have also received a lot of revelation about what I want later on in my life. I have been a lot more in touch with the spirit, and I have noticed little differences like how the spirit is different when you do a little extra to make sure that your house/apartment stays clean. I have also been faced with different challenges. One of which was Obedience. Throughout all missions everywhere, exact obedience is required and expected of all missionaries, however some lack the conviction that it takes to help you become and stay obedient. It is hard to make the decision to be obedient to every rule when the people around you aren't as supportive of that decision as you are. It is hard because there tends to be a spirit of contention when issues arise, but I know that if I am always fighting for the way God asks that we do things, I will be blessed and things will turn out okay in the end. My issue has always been worrying that if I cause a problem for the sake of being obedient, I would get talked about the same way I have heard others get talked about by other missionaries who think they are being too "Uptight" However, I have learned that that really just doesn't matter. What matters to me, is that I am right with my Savior, and that I am doing His work His way. Because, if I do His work any other way, it becomes my work. I only care what He thinks, and what my Mission leaders think, and I am going to do my very best to always be doing something that would make them proud. I hope it will help others make good decisions as well. 

We had a great meeting at church yesterday! The spirit was so strong, and in a small branch like Union, I am always thinking about if I will need to go bear my testimony so that there isn't any dead time like there usually is back in Utah. I remember at home sitting there for 10 minutes of complete silence because no one wanted to get up to the microphone and bear testimony. That's silly to think about now. Yesterday, I felt like I needed to get up and say something, but every single time someone would end and begin to sit down, I would start to get up and be beat to it by a member of the branch. Every time, this happened, and it made me so happy. Everyone kind of bore testimony on the same topic as well. It seemed that the spirit was really working on one person in there, and they needed to hear what everyone was saying. One of my favorite things about a small branch is that everyone knows each other. It is so much more personable :) 

I just get to sit there and listen to people talk and laugh with everyone while B (The Southards' daughter) runs from her Momma to give me some kind of candy or grapes or whatever she has for me to eat, then runs back to get more, and bring them to me. :) It's a fun game, and I never go hungry. 
After church, we got to go see a brother who has an injured leg from going to another area and helping those missionaries with some service, but while he was there, he fell through the floor. We went with Brother Southard, and we got to go inside his home. I had never been there, in fact I didn't even know he lived there, but we got to go inside and give him a blessing :) I love being a missionary. 

Something we did every morning when President Holm was here is standing quotes. We still do them at meetings and before Companionship study during training, and they go like this:
My purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, Repentance, Baptism, Receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost and Enduring to the end. My purpose is to bring souls to Christ. My purpose is to baptize and confirm. 
There are other parts to it, but this is what I love. I think about this every day, I have it memorized, and I am going to let this guide me through the work. It is in Preach My Gospel, so it must work :) Haha 
Well, we are going to go bowling today, and go do some laundry.
Love y'all!