Monday, November 30, 2015

Sunshine in Summerville!

Hello family, 
This week has been crazy! Started it in Union, now I am across the state in Summerville, right next to Charleston! 
70 degrees in Summerville today ;)

I love Union with all my heart and I know I always will! I met some of the best people while serving there, and I know I'll never forget them. It is a very small town, and everyone knows everyone. We sometimes had better luck running into people at Walmart than if we were to knock on their door, and ask anyone that has served there, that's no joke! 
The people are quirky, and very nice. It only takes a short time to become part of the Union family. 
Our week started with a fishing trip. Monday was pretty hectic but fun anyway, it was pretty cold too. I loved it :) We caught quite a few fish, again, which I filleted and cooked. 
We had DDM (district development meeting) on Tuesday, and it was a very good meeting. We studied a lot about preparing for our appointments, making lesson plans, and role playing how things were gonna go down. Our district was very close, and we all had fun.

 I had no idea that was the last time I would see all of them, but I am very glad to have that be our last time together! We finished DDM and headed to go give a blessing to a member who'd just had back surgery. We headed back to Union and had a good night of seeing people. Wednesday morning, we got the call from the Assistants that I would be transferred Friday morning. We were all really bummed. I figured I would get transferred when we got put into a three pack, but I wasn't entirely sure. It was a hunch that came true. We spent Wednesday meeting with and telling people that I was leaving. It was hard being the day before thanksgiving, because a lot of people weren't home. I only got to say goodbye to a few people, it was hard. I'll miss Union a lot. 

Thursday morning, we got a ride up to boiling springs because we'd been invited to the turkey bowl up there with the zone leaders. It was a lot of fun, but pretty much every missionary that participated throughout the mission over did it. We were all super sore. It was really cool though, we had a lot of fun and I got to see a lot of missionaries that I wouldn't have been able to see before I left. We headed back to Union when we were through, and had thanksgiving dinner with the Southards’; they made some way good food. We were fit to burst before we left. It was really terrible to have to say goodbye to them all. 

We went to the Songs after that, and they were also eating. We mainly went to say goodbye though. Family parties with them are always a good missionary opportunity, because there are a lot of less actives there. Her brother Caleb tried to get me to ride his motorcycle too, that was funny. 

It was definitely an emotional day, I had spent 8 months getting to know and love all these people, only to leave with 3 days notice. It seems like three days notice is a theme for me. :P 
I was finished packing an hour or so before the assistants came to get me, and they were limping and sore from football the day before too, so now I didn't feel as bad for overdoing it. I was slightly worried about my rhabdomyolisis acting up, so I started pounding water the last couple days. Anyway, they picked me up, I said my goodbyes, and we headed out. It's a pretty long drive across the state; to we stopped at their apartment to have lunch. We all limped and groaned as we walked down the stairs, and laughed at how dumb we were. I'm glad it only lasted a couple days.  

Okay, one of the coolest this about driving across the state, everything changes! In Utah, you drive from one end to the other, and it kinda stays the same with some light differences, where in South Carolina, I went from lots of pecan and water oak trees and rolling hills, to fewer hills, and a lot of pine trees. So many pine trees, then we left the Columbia, Irmo area and we started seeing more palm and palmetto trees, then both sides of the road were just swamps, we were literally driving on a highway surrounded by swampland and water, then all the Spanish moss started to appear. I felt kinda dumb as I would flip around to take a picture of a moss covered tree, only to see that they were everywhere in my new area. Hah! 
We left Union around 9:30am and got to Summerville at 2pm with a one hour lunch break in between driving. Pretty good time. It is very pretty down here in the low country, and now I have been everywhere! Columbia, West Columbia, the upstate and the low country! I am pretty a cited to be here! 

Elder Hunter Wilbert is my new companion, and he is from Pleasant Grove UT, and will be finishing his mission in about 2 weeks. I have a short time to learn this area, but I know it is inspired that I'm here, so God must have a plan to help me do it. 
1 Nephi 3:7 very quoted and seems cliché sometimes, but it is a very accurate scripture! We have to have unwavering faith and trust that God knows what's up. 
I love this new ward; I actually found out that this is where Elder Welty trained my trainer, Elder Sumner! Now I'm here! :) This ward is very self-reliant when it comes to missionary work; we filled the font Saturday morning for a baptism that the missionaries really didn't have to work to get. His wife and the other members had prepared him and taught him everything, and the missionaries just had to go over everything with him to check his understanding, and boom, he's been baptized. :) so cool!
I got sick yesterday, but I am grateful that God let me get through church, the afternoon and a dinner appointment before it really hit me and I started throwing up. No fun for my new comp to have to deal with, but he's very kind and makes sure I have everything I need. 
I know I'm supposed to be here, and I'm ready to take on this new challenge. I love tough things.
5 things I'm thankful for this week:
1) tums
2) spiritual confirmation
3) member meals
4) challenges
5) scriptures that testify of trials

Love y'all!
Elder Barker with Elder Nielsen
They attended High School together and are now serving in the same area :)

Makin' new friends already!

Monday, November 23, 2015

I'm grateful for y'all this Thanksgiving!

Hey Y'all!
South Carolina is FINALLY COLD!! Haha this has been so great :) Woke up this morning and went out to the car and just sat there. It was 44 Degrees, and I love it :)
This has been a fun week, and a crazy one too. We have found 2 new, awesome investigators who both have a close connection to a member that lives here. J is one, and D is the other. We are really working on trying to help solidify them both to where we can have daily contact with them and help them gain the desire to learn. J is a way cool dude, and is on date for December 19th, please pray for him! And pray that D will accept the invitation to be baptized!

S is awesome! She is not in Union, she lives in Duncan where Elder Crapo and Evens were. Elder Crapo is now in Gaffney, and Elder Bateman is in Duncan now, or I guess it is Spartanburg 2nd. She is doing awesome! Her and her 2 girls are getting baptized on December 5th! Pray for them!
Thank you so much for sharing those things with me about the family Thanksgiving party, everyone has been in my prayers, and I am so grateful for y'all & so glad that everyone is doing great.

I am also glad that you were supplied with pictures and videos from people here! The members here love you!  Last Sunday, Alonzo, who is our branch mission leader, asked me to come listen to his car because it was making an awful squealing sound. I went, and so did another mechanically inclined man in the church, and we both ruled that the bearing in his alternator pulley was bad. He knows a guy that rebuilds them for cheap, so he had me come take it off. No problem, got it off just fine, the problem came while I was trying to put the new one back on. I was trying to put pressure on the tensioner pulley, but the power steering pulley was made of plastic, so it crunched in and broke. Good job Ford. We went the next day, and bought him a new one for 10 bucks, and went and took it all apart again, rented a tool with Brother Song, and took the old one off and pressed the new one on. We also changed the idler pulley while we were there. It still squeaked like crazy, so we did some more investigating to find that it was now coming from the water pump. We got a new water pump, but the awesome guy at "O'really's" told me a little secret. He told me to put a little RTV silicon of any color on the pulley right where the belt hits it. I did that before we put the water pump on, and the squealing went away instantly. That was way funny :P We took the water pump back, and all is well. I really enjoyed working on his car :D

There have been an unusual amount of possums around Union the last week or so, and we have gotten to interact with them quite a bit. Sister Song has a trap by her chicken cage so they'll get left alone, and she caught one, and had no clue what to do with it! She called us (Awesome) and we got to take care of it. I just took it way back into the woods and let it go, because we had to get to our DDM, and I didn't have enough time to skin and dress it ;) I also have a companion that isn't very okay with that kind of thing. Last night when we came in, there was a possum by our house, and I usually get out and chase them, and they run up a tree, but this one didn't. It just backed up to the wall, and started to hiss and growl at me, so I grabbed a stick and played with it for a little bit. :)

We also got to go fishing with our recent convert A this week. :)

We went out to John D. Long. It is lake that was just reopened after being drained for years. Lots of fish!

We caught upwards of 25 bream and 2 catfish :) They were delicious!

We are going to head back out this evening around 3 to go catch more!

Pop is doing well, he loved his gift!! You are the best momma and Dad is the best dad ever!  He isn't cooking this week actually, he is going to be eating with his family. We ate lunch with him yesterday, and it was so good! When I come home, I am going to need to find a place that sells grits, and collard greens. Well, collard, mustard, or turnip greens. They're all good :) I have learned a lot of new recipes that I am excited to show y'all!

Ummm....Is it me or does Joel look exactly like his Grandpa here....

Elder Olmstead, Elder Bassett and I are doing so well. We are all so happy to be serving with each other, and everything we do is so much fun. We have such a good time with the work, and it was such an easy transition! It is like Elder Bassett was never not here! Our small house is housing all three of us very well, and is much more lively now. :) We are allowed to go see single sisters now, because there are three of us, and with a branch full of older widowed women, it is very useful! We have been able to see a lot of the people we were unable to before. :) We are unstoppable!!!
This week has been challenging though. Not just for us either, we have been hearing how all the members have been having trials too, which makes me think that Satan is working hard on separating this branch.
We have been working hard though! 

I am doing very well Momma, everything is good here. I am not even nervous about transfers. I am sad, slightly that I most likely won't get to spend Christmas with Elder Olmstead and Elder Bassett, but that is overcome by the feeling of safety and comfort I feel in leaving this are in their care. I know they will work hard and do good things here :) I trust them, and so does the Lord. I don't even know if I will be leaving though. It could happen, but I could stay too. Whatever the Lord wants.

 Moroni 7: 27-29 27 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, have miracles ceased because Christ hath ascended into heaven, and hath sat down on the right hand of God, to claim of the Father his rights of mercy which he hath upon the children of men? 28 For he hath answered the ends of the law, and he claimeth all those who have faith in him; and they who have faith in him will cleave unto every good thing; wherefore he advocateth the cause of the children of men; and he dwelleth eternally in the heavens. 29 And because he hath done this, my beloved brethren, have miracles ceased? Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither have angels ceased to minister unto the children of men.

~and my favorite:
 Moroni 7: 37 Behold I say unto you, Nay; for it is by faith that miracles are wrought; and it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men; wherefore, if these things have ceased wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of unbelief, and all is vain.

In this world, we need to have faith. Because of the truths we have, we know that faith will bring miracles. I have seen so many amazing things happen in this area because we have had faith that they will happen. "Faith precedes the miracle" -Spencer W. Kimball

And now, a list of things I am thankful for this last week:

1) Bishops that work hard
2) The book of Ether
3) Clean water
4) Spiritually prepared people
5) Cold weather :)
Love y'all! Talk to you next week! Happy Thanksgiving!
Elder Joel 'Sunshine' Barker!

Monday, November 16, 2015

The golden question

Hello family! And everyone else!
This has been a great week! We had Elder Bowles last P-day and we went and bought Krispy Kreme which was delicious, and hung out at the church for most of the time. We had a good time with him, and it was sad to see him end his mission! He served his full 2 years, but I wish he could've stayed a little longer! Love that boy. 

We spent a good bit of this week trying to get back in contact with some of our former investigators, and reactivating some people that had been coming back to church. I don't know what happened this week with church though; we only had 20 people, including us, show up. It was kinda sad to see so little people there. That just means we will have to work even harder to get people to come to church! 

So, this is something that we read in Priesthood yesterday. "The Book of Mormon is the great standard we are to use in our missionary work. It shows that Joseph Smith was a prophet. It contains the words of Christ, and its great mission is to bring men to Christ. All other things are secondary. The golden question of the Book of Mormon is “Do you want to learn more of Christ?” The Book of Mormon is the great finder of the golden contact. It does not contain things which are “pleasing unto the world,” and so the worldly are not interested in it. It is a great sieve."
Here is what I started thinking, hah. It says "the golden question..." But what I heard is the gold in question, talking about the people who are ready to actually read the Book of Mormon. They are the gold in the question. The Book of Mormon is the great sieve. Well, what are we separating with this sieve? The faithful and prepared from the hard-hearted and unprepared. Just as a man pans for gold and casts the stones aside, but keeps and polishes the gold flecks and nuggets, we move on from those people that are unprepared to read the Book of Mormon, and look for the people that are ready to "learn more of Christ" and act on it.
I thought it was kind of cool. Hah
Another funny thing that happened was we had someone at church that is on date for the 5th of December, when it came time to separate into our different classes, she was really nervous about going to Relief society. We reassured her, and a member even came and invited her in, so she went. Right before class started, I saw her sneak outside, so I went with her boyfriend to go find her. We saw her sitting on the curb outside and she said she just wasn't ready to go to that class, and her anxiety was just too much in there. I told her that it was totally fine, and she could come sit with us in Priesthood, that is when her boyfriend interrupted and looked at her and said "Do you want to come learn to be a better guy?" Haha it made us all laugh :P Then he talked with her and helped her come back and go to her class. It was awesome and helped me realize that we are adults, and sometimes we just have to do what we know we are supposed to. I love tough things! I do tough things first! All this because I am a finisher.  

We have been working J and H a lot lately, and we have been able to do a lot of service for them this past week. We went over Saturday night to roast hot dogs and Bratwurst over a fire. It was a good time, and I enjoyed being around a campfire again :) It had been far too long. We were sitting and talking, and we started to teach about Family Home Evenings. We made plans for the coming weeks to come over and have a lesson by the fire every Monday night :) Can't get too cold when you're burning Pallets! Well, we were interrupted by some loud noises coming from the woods behind their house, so we went to investigate. Long story short. I caught a possum. Haha 

So, for those of you that haven't heard, we had transfers this last week, and we were put into a three pack. It is now Elder Olmstead, me and Elder Brandon Bassett from Phoenix Arizona. He's a great kid, and though we live in a small house and have very little space for...anything...we are all getting along very well. Being in a three pack is actually more fun in my opinion. We have more ideas for how to do missionary work. 

Oh, and I get to change an alternator on our branch mission-leader's car this week :) 
Well, that's my week! Hope y'all have a wonderful week! Love y'all!
-Elder Joel 'Sunshine' Barker.

Saw this scary rig on the way up this morning, thought of home ;)

Monday, November 9, 2015

Union Three Pack!

I can't believe that I am staying in Union! For those of you that don't know, I have been in Union for 7 1/2 months, and President usually moves us around then or at 9 months in an area. We thought one of us was gone for sure, but instead, we are both staying, and we will be getting a third companion! Three Pack! Hah should be interesting living three of us in our little bungalow. :P 
Our first thought? We have a small water heater for 2 of us...haha 

Why are we being put into a trio? I'm not entirely sure. There are several things that we could speculate, but the real reason we are unsure of. I am wondering if they are planning on emergency transferring one of us in the middle of this next transfer. We really aren't sure why, but we know that it will be awesome because we can go into any home because there will be 3 of us and we will just have a blast! :) I am excited because it will be new and I enjoy new. :) This Saturday the Greenville East Stake is doing a mini missionary program, where the youth will go spend a day being a missionary with the missionaries. They called back and told us they are sending 2! So there will be 5 of us for that day. We are trying to figure out how we are going to be splitting up, who will bike, who will drive the car, where we will go, and what we will do. Likely, I will end up biking with one of them :P should be fun. Some people are afraid of change and different things, but my quote for this transfer has been "If you want something you've never had, you have to do something you've never done" Elder Crapo shared that with me, I don't know where it originally came from, but I like it. :) 

This last week has been good! We have really been working with H and J! They have a lot of service to be done with the move, so we have been going over there and helping them with a lot of painting, putting down carpet, and cleaning up. The house looks way better than when we started! We have H on date for the beginning of December. We need all the prayers we can get, and send some her way!
I am loving this weather, and I hope it stays this way! I have been trying to take pictures, but I haven't really been able to take a whole lot, so here are some from our last DDM :) 
Love y'all! 
-Elder Joel 'Sunshine' Barker

Trying to photograph the Fall colors

Elder Bateman and I were twins.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Halloween Southern Style

Hey Y'all!
It's raining. A lot. :) I love it so much! When it rains here, it makes you feel like you're in a tropical rain-forest! All the trees like so cool, everything holds little drops of water, and there is usually mist or fog, and the air is so clean! South Carolina is a beautiful place! I love serving here :) 
So, we had a really good week, because we had set a lot of goals for ourselves and our companionship. Goals that will help us to improve ourselves as missionaries, and help us find new people to teach. :) We have definitely been doing better.

We had an awesome thing happen on Tuesday right after DDM, where we got a call from an unknown number. We love unknown numbers, because it is usually someone we gave our number to, or a referral! Well, this time it was a guy named J. He is the boyfriend of H! We finally got back in touch with them! We had her on date to be baptized, but out of no-where, they disappeared. Well, He called us to let us know about how he moved, lost his phone, broke his hand, and was in need of a lot of help. A lot of hard things had gone on in his life, but it opened the door to us being able to talk to and serve him! We came over, and the home they are living in, needs work. A lot of work, and they know it. It was a last minute thing, and someone let them stay there if they promised to fix it up. We went back home to change into service clothes, came back and spent a good while painting and doing some other things. We had an awesome lesson with them, and they said they'd come to church! It was so cool! Well, skipping ahead to Sunday. We had worked out a ride for them, because the lady that we asked has a van and would have plenty of room, she had no problem picking them up. She was happy to find out they were coming! We get to church, set up, and we wait. A half hour goes by, and we don't see them. We wait another ten minutes, and we get a call from her. Her husband had lost the keys after taking the kids Trick-or-treating last night, and didn't tell her! We called J and H to let them know she'd be a little delayed and they said that was fine. About 15 minutes later, she shows up with her kids, but no J and H. She turns around and mouths "Sorry" turns out she had to drive the little truck and cram all the kids in it. We talked with our branch clerk, and we left. We went and got them and brought them back for the rest of the meetings. :) It was funny, and the only time I have ever left church on my mission. It was for a good cause though! The member felt really bad, and thought we had told him she wouldn't be able to make it, and apologized profusely. Everything turned out great in the end though! Hopefully we can put H back on date and help her progress towards baptism again!

Okay, going back to DDM! We left our meeting, which was way fun! Elder Bowles gave an awesome training on how his mission went, and had us all thinking. The spirit was very strong. We took some funny pictures of our district since it would be the last time we would have a meeting together.
We then left for exchanges. I was going up to Duncan with Elder Evans from Texas! He's an awesome kid! We had a lot of fun. We started our exchange by eating at Fuddruckers, and then we got to work. We saw a couple really cool people, and had some good lessons. The best one however, was a lady named S. We went over to see someone else, actually, but we found her. She came out to talk to us, and she told us of some of the hard things her and her girls were currently going through. She seemed kind of closed off, but was still willing to talk. I know that we were supposed to be there, because as soon as we started talking, the spirit took over completely. I know that she could feel it as well, because she got up off the porch and invited us in. Later she would tell us that we were the first missionaries to ever actually get into the home. We had a very spiritually strong lesson! She has heard a lot of things about the church from someone she is close to that either aren't completely true, or are just things that don't really matter but are harder to understand without the knowledge of a prophet, and the restoration. She had kind of already made up her mind that she didn't like it. We talked for a good while, and as the time went on, she got more and more open about it. She was actually listening to what we had to say, she was thinking about it all, and she felt the spirit. She is the coolest lady, and I really hope I can see her enter the waters of baptism! She has twin daughters that are both baptismal age, and they are really funny. We get along pretty well. They’d never met a missionary that listened to the same music as them :P I love all the little things God uses in us to help break down peoples' walls. We concluded with invitations to read and pray about what we had learned, and we said a prayer together. She has been in touch, met with the missionaries again, and came to the Halloween party on Friday! It was a lot of fun. We came up to Spartanburg Friday for the Chili cook-off and trunk-or-treat, and our costumes were Dollar store mustaches. :) It was funny, but itchy. 
Everybody called me Elder Hitler...

We had Lockdown Halloween night starting at 6:00 PM. 
Elder Olmstead and I went and got Pumpkins, and spent the night carving and giving out candy to Trick-or-treaters. It is weird here in the south, because everyone trick-or-treats out of their cars. The parents drive the kids around, and let them get out to run up to the house. It is really frustrating for people because on the more popular streets, cars line the streets and block everyone in their houses.

Oh, I also carved a watermelon. Because yeah. Haha

 We had dinner with our RS president, and her neighbor has this huge pit that is chained out back. It usually barks and barks at us, but has let me pet it a couple times. Well, we walk past and see that the chain is twisted so bad, that it can't get to its food or water. We tried to contact the people that own it, but they weren't home. I used that as consent to hop the fence, tame the beast, and unravel the chain. We're friends now. :)

Anyway, fun week coming up. 
Week before transfers, hopefully all is well! 
Love y'all!! 
-Elder Joel 'Sunshine' Barker!