Monday, January 25, 2016

Ma'am, do you know your neighbor?

This week I went on an exchange with a Zone Leader. They let us pick who would be going where, and after Elder Connolly and I prayed and talked with one another about it, we decided that it would be a good learning experience for him to stay in the area and run things for a little bit. I went to North Charleston, which has some of the most run down Ghettos I have ever seen. 
We had a missionary broadcast on Wednesday that talked a lot about the way that we are and should be doing missionary work. It was a great broadcast, but kind of repetitive as to what we have been learning the last couple of months. 

It was pretty cool to be on exchanges with one of our Zone Leaders, because I haven't been the biggest fan of them from recent events in the past that were fairly frustrating. I learned a lot on the exchange though. I was able to realize that I was probably being pretty critical with them because they are both just like me. They are just regular missionaries that have a whole lot more responsibilities that they have to worry about. It was nice to learn & understand that. 
We did some great work too; we had a couple member present lessons, and helped 2 of their investigators prepare for baptism. We went to the dentist in Mt. Pleasant, which is arguably one of the richest places I have ever been, and it is kind of far away. Driving there from Summerville is like driving to Provo from West Valley almost. I visited a dentist while I was there. The dentist is a very good man and he helped a lot. He found a place where I had a cavity and went ahead and numbed half my face and fixed it. Haha I love having my teeth fixed because they don't hurt anymore, but trying to eat Chick-fil-a after was more of a game of "Try not to bite your tongue off. 
When I got back to my area from exchanges, we got dropped off near the top of our area for an appointment that fell through, so we started walking back. I had feeling back in my face now, and it was pretty sore. We were fixin to just head home, but we would be passing by a former investigator I have wanted to see for a while, so we detoured to go see him. He wasn't home and we were starting down the street. I glanced at a house, and the thought came into my mind that we needed to knock at their house. I really didn't feel very well, so I shrugged it off and we just kept walking. That's when it came back into my mind and I realized that it was a spiritual prompting, and I was arguing with it. I made a promise to myself and to the Lord at the beginning of my mission that anytime I get a prompting, or think I have, and it inspires me to do good, I will follow it no matter what. 
We knocked, and a lady in her late 60's answered the door, and all I could say was something along the lines of a regular greeting, and ask "Ma'am, do you know your neighbor?" I think that took her by surprise a little, and now she was interested in why we would be asking that. We talked with her for a while about him, and she didn't know much about him other than his name. She asked us why we were trying to contact him, and we told her about what it is to be a missionary, and what we do. We ended up talking with her for about 40 minutes on her front porch, which didn't seem like it was going to happen considering it was getting dark and very cold. She was very interested in the fact that we talked about Prophets, and had a very strong opinion that we still need a prophet. We shared the restoration with her, the spirit was so strong while we talked, and I knew she could feel it. We invited her to be baptized on February 20th, and she accepted. She was a little nervous about it and quiet after we asked her, but she smiled after a short time and said yes. We were so excited to finally see success again after the trials we have been going through as a district and zone. We actually taught a lot of people that day, while we were walking home, we contacted a man who was walking the same way as we were, and taught him the better portion of the restoration. He gave us his name number and address and invited us to come by next week. Unfortunately, he lives out of our area so we will have to refer him to another set of missionaries. It is at this point where all we can do is pray for him and hope that things go well and that he'll accept the gospel. 
Things are really looking up these last few days, and I am hopeful that they will stay this way. 
Excited for this next week! Transfer calls are on Saturday, and I don't plan on going anywhere, at least that's what President told me ;) 
Love y'all!
-Elder Joel 'Sunshine' Barker

Monday, January 18, 2016

Ultimate Frisbee

It is very bright and sunshiny here today!
Hey y'all, 
Much better week this week.
 It started off a little slow, but picked up very fast. We had lunch with the Zone Leaders on Tuesday after our meeting, and we talked for a long time. We will be going on with them on Wednesday and we are both pretty excited. I'm interested to see how it goes. They are letting us decide who will be going where, and I'm not sure if I should send Elder Connolly, or let him stay in the area. I know that he would do fine here, and it would be a super good growing experience since he is new missionary, but I am mostly leaving it up to him, and praying to know which is the right thing to do.

We got a call on Tuesday night from a member that had some stuff come in her life, and she needed to pack up and leave by Friday. She was taking her kids and moving to Utah with her parents. We went over Wednesday and there was so much work to be done. We would spend Wednesday, Thursday and all of Friday over there: painting walls, holes in the walls, replacing light fixtures, ripping out carpet and pulling the staples out of the floor, and a ton of other stuff. We basically remodeled the entire house. It was so much fun, doing manual labor felt so good. We got some new referrals that we stoked to go and contact, and I am really hoping that we gain some people in our teaching pool so we can help them come closer to their Savior. 
We had an ultimate frisbee game on Saturday morning, and invited as many people as we could. We had two less active teenagers in mind that we have been trying to get back to church, but their parents aren't really good influences on them at all, and with them being members and not living it, their kids see no reason why they need to even try. It breaks my heart.

We had a pretty decent turn out at the game, and it was a blast getting to run around the field and play, just like Thursday's back home. We are putting some of the youth in charge of getting the word out, and are playing every Saturday morning at 11 at the sports complex near our church building. So much fun. Watched a broadcasted stake conference from Salt Lake yesterday in church and got to sing in the youth choir since none of the youth showed up but it was still way fun. This morning we got up and went to the field and played some 3 on 3 ultimate with some members, and 2 nonmembers. It was awesome :) we also found out that the stake young men's president that lives in our area is a huge frisbee golf fan, and he wants to take us sometime. :) lots of plans for the near future. I am having a blast, and I'm excited for this next week.
Well, that's my week! 
Hope everything is good and everyone is doing well! 
Love y'all!
-Elder Joel "Sunshine" Barker.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Thrilled to be able to do this work, no matter how hard it is.

Hey Everyone,
The theme of this week was sick. Elder Connolly and I both got this bad cold and couldn't shake it. We still did our best though!

We had a lady call us out of the blue, a less active woman, and she asked when we would be coming by again. Neither of us had met her before, and the other Elders had no idea who she was, so we scheduled an appointment with her and got biking. 

There aren't really any sidewalks or shoulders on the streets in South Carolina, so we do a lot of biking on the white line next to the road, and a lot of praying. haha The worst thing is when you look behind you, and there is a whole line of cars because the guy in front refuses to pass you, so we have to move even farther off the road so they feel comfortable passing, and everyone gives us mean looks. We always just say "We promise not to hit you if you promise not to hit us!" they never hear us though, probably because we don't really say it out loud. 

Anyway, we biked about 2 or 3 miles away from our apartment to this trailer park. It was pretty run down, dogs were barking from inside and it smelled like smoke. This week was very hectic and stressful, so this was just another thing I was waiting to be stressful and hard, and when we went in it was very humble, there were Chihuahua’s running. No place to sit, so I took a place on the coffee table and Elder Connolly found a stool somewhere. We said a prayer with this nice lady, and talked with her about her life and the church. We ended up having a wonderful lesson, and it was the highlight of my whole week. Sometimes, I think God gives you super hard weeks so that when you are able to find something that really brings the spirit in, it helps you stay humble, and that is exactly what happened. We talked about the blessings that come to us from going to church and partaking of the sacrament weekly.
We shared some scriptures out of Moroni 6 with her, and in the middle of that, we heard a really loud noise coming from another room, so I paused while a cat climbed out of the wall, and she said "at least it wasn't a rat" and went back to listening. 

Hah! It was just what I needed. It was just enough of the right kind of crazy chaos to help me remember those times back in Hopkins, in some of the filthiest places I had ever been, having the best time of my life. It helped me to remember my purpose.  Maybe we weren’t completely comfortable, but it isn’t about us. She's coming to church this Sunday, and we get to go back and teach her again. That is what this is all about, and I am just thrilled to be able to do this work, no matter how hard it is.

Summerville has been very different than what I am used to, but I love it. It is so flat (Which makes biking so easy) and there is Spanish moss and regular moss on pretty much every tree. Sooo pretty. I find myself biking, not looking where I am going, just staring off into the trees that seem to just go on forever. It is amazing to me that there can be a full neighborhood, and a city with an endless forest right next to it. I just want to take off running into it and get lost :) It's so cool.
Anyway, that's my week.
Love Y'all!

-Elder Joel 'Sunshine' Barker

Monday, January 4, 2016

We will not give up on our goal, we have faith!

This week started off a little rough but It’s okay, it taught me that I need to be more self-reliant. If there is something I want done, or if I want to go do something I need to just go do it. 
As I am writing this we are on the bus heading to downtown Charleston for a fun day!! Elder Connolly and I have been having a lot more fun together, and hopefully after the Holiday season, we will be able to get back into a real routine for missionary work. 
So, our district meeting was on Tuesday, and we talked about the goals we had set the week prior to baptize 3 people by the end of this transfer. Our mission has really been working on using the principal of Faith as a power in order to accomplish a task or goal. We were all really excited about it, but the steps are as follows:
"Miracles only occur when circumstances of a mortal perspective seem impossible" -President Turner
1) Desire
2) Prayer
3) Labor
4) Expect the Lord to act
5) Trial
So, we had our desire, and it was a specific goal to help these 3 people receive these blessings and be baptized. We have been keeping this goal and our other goals in our prayers and our fast, and then we get to working. We knock as many doors as we can, we talk with every person we see, and we ask for and contact referrals. All of us have the faith, and we have expected the Lord to act and to bless us in our efforts, but what we didn't expect was the trial to come so soon. We set the goal 2 weeks ago, and the trials came as soon as we left the building. We really haven't been able to teach that many people in the last two weeks and not very many people have been home. We keep working though, we will not give up on our goal, and we have faith that we will hit it! 

We spent a lot of our week biking, getting to know the parts of our area we had never been, and contacting former members and less active members. We both gave talks in Sacrament last Sunday, which was a lot of fun! Elder Connolly did very great, he's a very good teacher and very sincere. He surprises me every day. There weren't a whole lot of people at church because of the Holidays, and that made giving our talks even easier! The bad part though, was that no one was there to sign up on the meal calendar...we had one family sign up for Wednesday, the Fish's, and they took us out to this Italian bistro which was very good! They asked us if we'd been fed well this week, and when we told them not really, they told us they would be feeding us the next 3 days! It was great. We had lunch at a fish camp (any food joint centered on oysters, shrimp, scallops, or other fish) Thursday with Brother Fish, and then had dinner with them Friday night in their home. 

I think Friday was my favorite day this week. It was cold and really overcast and was supposed to be raining on us, and hard. We got to do some fun stuff that day though! The McLean children found out that I have a love for the best sport which is Ultimate Frisbee, and they have friends with the same passion! They set up a game and invited some non-members to come play. It was so much fun! Kind of short notice p, so we didn't have as big of a turnout as we had hoped for, but it was still pretty good. :) We are hoping to make this an every other or even an every week thing and spread the word to get non-members from all over there. 
When we finished, we went home, changed and we started what is about a 3 mile ride to the Fish's home, and it started to sprinkle on us a little bit. I said a prayer while riding and I remember asking for forgiveness for my poor attitude since I was sore and it was probably going to rain on us. I asked that we would get there safely and dry, then revelation hit and I said "unless Your way of helping my poor attitude is by soaking me to the bone, and helping me find the humor in it, then bring it!" Haha the night went better. 
We set up some awesome appointments, and Elder Connolly got to know what I meant when I told him that darkness in south caroling isn't normal darkness. It's "advanced...darkness" hah you need a good light in order to bike here at night. Good thing I have one!

We have some good hopes for teaching some people right now! There is a lady who has been a member for 20 or so years, but hasn't been active. We can't find her records either, but she has a non-member husband, and three girls that could all be baptized! She is very very nice to the missionaries, and wants us over; it is just really hard to catch her at home. We were slightly apprehensive about meeting her husband, but we went over anyway, and he was the only one home. He was very kind to us and asked us to try by another time when the entire family is home so they can all meet with us. Pretty much ideal for a missionary. :) 

I ate at a place called perfectly Frank's this week, I guess it has been on the food network and is supposedly super delicious. It very much was haha it is basically a menu full of every type of sandwich you can think of, with a hotdog or bratwurst under it. So good, mine was like a brat, bacon, onions and bbq sauce. Next time I think I'll try the pulled pork. :) 

Well, that is pretty much my week! Oh, and New Year’s. That also happened! We had to be in by 6 pm because of all the drunkards and reckless drivers and we spent pretty much the whole night cleaning out apartment. 

I made monkey bread and scones and we gave some to the Sisters that live across the complex from us, and since we 1) weren’t allowed to leave and 2) can't do fireworks, we threw pop-it's out the window. :) totally allowed haha 

We caught a bus today and headed down to Charleston and we had a blast! We got to the bus just on time and got down to Charleston with time to spare. Ate breakfast at a little coffee shop, talked with the owner for a little while, took the trolley to the aquarium, got to touch some sharks and stingrays, saw an albino alligator (way sick!) talked with a lady about the church for about 20 minutes, which was cool because this mornin’ I was telling Elder C about how often we end up teaching people even on P-days! I guess we were in the right place today because we talked with about 3 or 4 people about what we do. So much fun :) we went around the little shops, heard the song 'Jesus' by "Brand New" at a bike shop, ate lunch at Bubba Gump's (so good!) and got Ice cream at Ben and Jerry's. I think it was a pretty good day! We went back to the visitors’ center to get my bike, and then headed to the bus stop. We are now on the bus, headed back to Summerville. We just passed the Boeing factory. There are a lot of well-known name factories based out of South Carolina, like this morning we passed the Bosch factory. Way cool :) 
Alright, fun week ahead of us, pray us luck in finding those that will receive us! D&C 42:8
Love y'all! Thank you so much for the endless support and love. Please let me know what I can do for any of you. Love y'all from South Carolina!
-Elder Joel "Sunshine" Barker.