Monday, March 28, 2016

Just you see if I don't!

This has been a good week!
First off, I apologize for not writing something for the blog last week. It was a little crazy and there were a lot of things on my mind making it difficult to think very clearly...things will be better soon though. I am faithful, but things can be hard on a mission sometimes. All you can do is push through the the hard times and enjoy as much as you can out of the good times. :) 
So, we did a lot of service this week; we actually spent all P-day doing service for the charity in Camden called United way. They did this big Easter Project where a bunch of companies would fill Easter packages for kids, people in Hospitals and all that, and we got to put them all together, send them off, then on Monday, we were there organizing them as people brought them back, then waiting for the school, hospital, or whoever the representative over the people who the packages were going to, would come and get them. Basically, every time we would bring groceries in for our Mommas, and we refused to make more than one trip so we would load as many Walmart sacks onto our arms as we possibly could, that was really just preparation for this service project. Haha It was a blast, actually. 

Had a little scare at the end, because we left, they locked up, and I realized that neither me or Elder Connolly had the phone...we were still in the parking lot with the sisters though, so they called one of the managers who gives us all the projects, and she let us go get the key and unlock the building so we could get the phone...well, the sisters went and got the key,  we went to the room, and we could not find it..we looked through everything. I just started thinking about some kid in a hospital getting a crappy little cell phone with a picture of Jesus as the background in his Easter basket because it must've fallen out of my shirt pocket...haha well, I said a prayer, and asked the sisters if they would mind checking their bags, and low and behold, one of them had stolen it. Funny thing, and it made us laugh. 
We were there a good portion of the day Tuesday helping out again, and we actually had another guy ask us if we would be interested in helping him tear down one of the roofs on their back buildings, and re-doing it with him. We are stoked!

We helped Brother R, who is the one who lets us come over and do service with him and we have been helping him move his wife's mother into their guest home. Well, we called him up and asked if there was anything he needed done that we could help with, and we found out that he was clearing the debris and dead wood from the woods around his property, so we waited for him to pick us up,and we headed out. We got the Other Elders, Thompson and Larsen, involved too! It was a blast. We got to do work hard, I got to ride on the back of a tractor, my boots were completely green/yellow at one point because of all the pollen from the pine trees...haha I really really love getting to get dirty and work hard. He had this big fire pit made of brick and was surrounded by log stools that he needed us to move. While we were loading the brick into the bucket of the tractor and the burn pile in the background was crackling and you could smell the smoke, for just a second, I could close my eyes and it felt like I was in Fremont. It was a good time :) Fremont has always been and will always be my happy place.

OH, Something I knew would make Grandpa and Justin laugh was while we were working- I was walking around finding things that needed to be done, to make sure that we were helping instead of hindering his work, and he asked if I would start filling in the holes that were left from uprooting the dead trees and moving them into the woods farther away. Well, the holes weren't too big, so I started filling them with the surrounding dirt, and rocks. I asked Elder Connolly to bring me a rock to help fill the holes, and he was gone for a second or two, and brought back this fist-sized rock, and tossed it into the hole. As soon as it hit the ground, I said "doggone it Elder Connolly! When I say bring a rock, I mean a ROCK!" And I just hear Elder Thompson (from Cannonville Ut) laughing from the background, and said "Whatcha got right there's no bigger than a grapefruit." Made my entire day. (if this isn't playing in your head-click link)

We went out teaching with the second counselor of the Camden bishopric, and we were able to see a less-active member we have been trying to visit for a while, and we had a wonderful lesson in his home. It is hard to get ahold of people in this ward, so we are always happy when we get to have a real lesson. We taught about the atonement, and read in Matthew when The Savior went through it. The spirit just filled that little room, and this man, who is going through a lot in his life, just told us how hard it is to not be making the right decisions in life, and not feeling as close to God as he could be, and used to be. He wanted so badly to feel that again, and we bore testimony about how easy it really is to come back to Christ, you just need the real intent and desire..We explained how Jesus is always shown in paintings with his arms open, and how that is him welcoming us all back when we make our way..He loved hearing that..

We have heard a lot about the Atonement lately with it being Easter and all, and one of my favorite things to talk about kept coming up. 
I think we as people take things way too seriously, and we are much too hard on ourselves, and Satan will help us think that we are "in too deep to return" but what I like to focus on, is the word "Father".  God is our Father and that makes us his children. Well, I know I am his child and since it hasn't been a terrible long time since I was a little kid...and I remember when I had done something wrong, I was so so scared to tell my parents because I was sure they were gonna be mad at me and I would be in a ton of trouble...even if it was something so small that they wouldn't even care about...well, when I would tell them, usually the response I would get would be something like a smile and a hug, letting me know that things were okay and that they forgave me for whatever I had done. Well, I think God does that with us too. We are so afraid to repent sometimes because we feel like what we are struggling with (Whether we are actually overcoming it, or still struggling a lot) will be too much for God, and that we won't receive forgiveness, or something silly like that...and when we finally build up the courage to talk to our Father, what we get is a smile, a big hug, and an overwhelming feeling of his love wrapping us up and we can almost hear "It's okay, I forgive you." 
I have never in my life heard a story of someone repenting, and having the reaction or feeling they get from God and The Spirit being sad, upsetting, binding, frustrating or anything like that...That isn't how God works y'all...Don't let Satan deceive you...That is why I love the way it is put in the scriptures, Malachi 3:10 for an example:
"10 Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it."
Notice that it says if I will not open the windows of heaven. It, to me, kinda sounds like, in lay man's words "Try me." Or "Just you see if I don't" haha 
If you have doubts that you can't be forgiven, or that repenting just isn't worth it, just go look at your favorite picture of Jesus and imagine him saying "Try me." It works! We as people sometimes need to be called out. 

We had a fun adventure Saturday night. It was about 7:30, and our plans had fallen through, so we were left with an empty night. I was kinda frustrated, so I prayed and asked for instructions on what to do and I got a couple ideas in my head. I called a bunch of people and tried to do some appointment setting up, but that didn't go very far. So, I found a less-active kinda near our apartment because it was about 8pm now, and we needed to get out of the apartment and do some more work! We headed out, and tried to find this sister. We got to her street, and there were a lot of people on the street walking and yelling and it kinda seemed like a party neighborhood and the Spirit told me that we didn't need to be there right then and to try later...well, I had been looking at the map and knew that the Wateree River wasn't far from us, so we went on an adventure to find it. We found the river, and a muddy trail that someone had carved out with a 4Wheel drive one night, and we followed it. It reminded me of all the times Sawyer and I would go out behind Bacchus Highway and play in the dirt with my truck. We found the train tracks, so we followed those for a while until we reached the point where it crosses the river and there were signs that said "Do not cross" and "Keep out" so we took pictures and headed back. While we were out there, we saw fireflies! The first time since last summer in Union! I loved it. Adventures always remind me of running around at camp with Quinney or Sawyer and just finding cool places. :) 

I'll finish up with a story about our lesson in Elders Quorum (Thank you for auto correct, because I'd never be able to spell that word without it.) 
It was a lesson on the atonement, and it was an object lesson. 
Brother D was teaching, and asked for my help. He had me come to the front, and he pulled out his favorite candy, Andes Mints. He asked one of the guys in the front if he wanted one, and he said yes. Before he gave it to him, he turned to me and said "Elder Barker, would you do 10 push-ups so that Brother H can have this?" And I did. He waited until I was done, then handed him his candy and moved to the next person. He asked the same question and asked me to do 10 push-ups so he could have his candy. People caught on, so when he got to the third person, he asked if he would like an Andes mint and talked about how they were the best thing and his favorite, but the man knew I would have to do push-ups and said "No thank you." Brother D paused for a moment, turned to me, and said "Elder Barker, He does not want his piece. Would you do 10 push-ups for him anyway?" And I did. That is when it started to click in people's minds..The push-ups got harder and harder as I went on and somewhere around 70 or 80 it got very very difficult, it was hard to even do five. He finally got to the end and asked Elder Connolly if he wanted one. Elder Connolly looked at me right in the eyes and said yes, and I did 10 for him. When there were no more people, I got to take my seat. 
We read scriptures about why the Savior did what he did, and the point was made that push-ups are hard, but the atonement was immensely harder...whether you want it or not, Jesus did it all for you so you could have eternal life..
The lesson was amazing, and the spirit was so strong in that room. He did an amazing job, and that is a lesson I will be keeping for later down the road. 
Don't forget why we celebrate this Holiday Y'all...Painted Eggs are cool, but be sure to send up a prayer in humble thanks for what Christ did for every last one of us, whether we always appreciate it or not.
Love y'all!

P-day plans? John 21:3 
"Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing."

Sent from my SunshinePad 🔆

I made beef jerky!
Not sure how to really do it, but my invention worked, it was excellent!

Giving haircuts

District breakfast!
Momma, that's an alligator snapping turtle. It almost took my finger off. Haha
Snagged it by its leg, they are vermin, bishop killed it. He's gonna try to clean the shell and give it to me to keep for a mission souvenir.

Friday, March 18, 2016

The way I was raised.

Elder Cuff recognized me from Frontier Scout Camp!

Hey y'all!
Man, this was quite the week! I don't know if I will be able to remember it all!
So, fishing last P-day was awesome, and when the day was over, we spent a good bit of the night trying to contact some less-active members in the Camden ward. It has been a challenge to get in contact with people here, because no one seems to like answering their door or phone when we has kinda sucked the last little while, because we have been trying so hard with not a whole lot of success in the teaching aspect of missionary work. What we have been successful in though, is a whole lot of service!
We went to the Habitat for Humanity place again this last week, and they had us preparing for a huge service project this next Monday, which will take up our whole p-day, but we will have WiFi there, so we will be able to hang out and email and just play games there while waiting for people to come drop off the Easter packages. No one else will be there for whatever reason, so they have kinda just left us in charge. It's a pretty sweet deal though.
We have been working hard this week with a member to move his mother in law out of her house and into the house/apartment that he built onto his own home. This week was a blast, because he had us come over and do like 4 hours of work with him, and he bought us dinner afterwards...that's the best, until April 1st when it gets gone...Oh well.
Anyway, it was Elder Connolly and I, and our District Leader Elder Thompson and Elder Larsen (his companion). Brother R took Elder Connolly and Elder Larsen with him to go drop a huge dresser and some furniture off at one of their relatives homes, and while they were off doing that, Elder Thompson and I were in charge of bringing stuff out of the outdoor basement, food storage mostly, but also some miscellaneous stuff that was down there too. Now, Elder Thompson is from Cannonville UT and knows exactly where Wayne County is. So, we spent the majority of the time talking about the best places to fish, and how sick it'll be to hang out after the mission. It was a blast. The basement was kinda weird; no one out here really has basements, so I was surprised to see this one. You walk out the back door, turn right and go down the concrete steps, and it is more like a cave than a basement...:P It is dark, damp, and has a gravel floor. Tall enough that we can stand up, but you have to duck under the pipes and AC/Heat hoses. We enjoyed our time there :) Brother R has us help him with the project once or twice a week. I love service!
Also, we had a day where we weren't going to be home because of service and our appointments, so we planned to eat out. Well, at both places, someone paid for our food! It was awesome :) Helped out a lot too!
Okay, highlight of the week! We had 4 lessons this week! It was about time too! We had a lesson with a non-member that knows missionaries pretty well, and knows quite a bit about the church, but he got a lot of his knowledge from anti-Mormon websites, which is kinda like trying to search Pinterest for ideas on how to gut a deer rather than learning first hand from someone with experience.
We taught him for about an hour, and it was a lot of answering questions he had, and listening to the way he believed what we believe, and helping him to understand the actual way that we believe. The whole time we were teaching, we were sitting outside of Chick-fil-a having dinner, and three different members stopped by to say hello. It was just kinda cool to have a nonmember see so many of us in one place, but not a church. Just a little testimony that there are lots of regular people in this church. I think he enjoyed it.
Our other lessons all happened on Sunday night. We were heading back from this little devotional we have at a member’s home once a month, and we asked the brother that was driving us if he would mind stopping by to see a less-active with us. Thankfully the guy we wanted to see was home, and we had a brief little lesson on the porch! Brother C even invited the less-active to have dinner with all of us one night this week! Perfect :)
When we got dropped off, we turned right around and biked across town to see another family we have wanted to see. We got stopped on the way by a man outside of McDonalds who waved us down. I had been riding a wheelie up the road (Because I can!) and he said "I just wanted to get your attention, because that cop over at Burger King was about to pull y'all over for doin a wheelie!" Haha he said "Just playin man."  He told us that he and his girlfriend had been kicked out of the hotel they'd been staying in since last November, and were a few dollars short on rent. We are used to people asking us for money, and we usually just explain that we don't have any and try to teach never really goes anywhere, except for maybe a prayer. Well, this guy started talking about how he'd talked with Bishop S that morning, who is the bishop of our ward, and he asked if we would talk with him for just a little bit before we left. We said a prayer, and taught about the blessings of coming to church, and how things just work out when we make the sacrifices and show God that his time is precious to us. We got their information, and we told them we would check back in a couple days, and to keep the faith. We are hoping they'll be sincere and weren't just looking for a handout...a lot of people are like the latter though, and it breaks our hearts when we think they have real intent, but are only after things of the world.
Well, by the time we got across town to see this other family, after our brief detour, it was 8:50...we were about 15 or so minutes from home if we biked hard, and should've probably gone back, but I felt inspired that we needed to see this family, and I am so happy we listened to the Spirit. We knocked on the door, pitch black outside, and we were pretty sure we were about to get yelled at and a door slammed in our faces...well, Sister R answered the door, and a huge smile grew on her face, and she said "Elders! Come in, please!" And she sat us right down, made her husband turn the TV off, and they were both paying us very close attention. It was awesome :) haha Her husband, B, isn't a member, and Sister R hasn't been to church for a while. We said a prayer with them, and started to share a scripture from Alma 5. We had a short little discussion, and then talked about coming back to church. I think the way I was raised has helped quite a bit, and the boldness/bluntness of my family, because I feel totally comfortable in saying something like "Now, what has been so important in your life that you've been unable to come to church in Sundays?" While making sure to listen to the spirit if they will handle it well. In this case, they did! She was excited to hear that someone wanted her back at church, and began to explain how miraculous it was that we came over when we did, because she had been telling her husband how she really needed to get back to church, but hadn't really heard from anyone lately...Then, we knocked on the door :) I love the spirit. We invited them to church, and committed them to come. We are hoping to reactivate her, and hopefully baptize her husband, but we need to test the waters a little bit more and see where he is spiritually so we can know where to begin.
The rest of the night was wonderful, we biked home, it was nice and cool finally, and in the small town that we're in, it is lighted enough that we don't have to worry about people not seeing us, and there are sidewalks the entire way!
Love it.
Well, that's my week, if I left anything out that y'all want to know about, let me know!
Love y'all!
-Elder Joel 'Sunshine' Barker!
Newest tie I made for one of the members here.
Thanks for sending me the fabric Grandma!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Momma taught me well.

Fun week, slow week for teaching, but a very good week for doing service.
We had a service project on Wednesday, one on Thursday, and another on Friday!

We went to the habitat for humanity, like we do every week, and we finished the Easter project that we started the week earlier. We had all 4 other elders come and help us, and everything went a lot faster with them, but there wasn't enough for all 6 of us, plus the sisters do all have something to do, so we ended up sharing jobs, until the other 4 Elders had to leave and The Sisters and Elder C and I just took over. It was fun, and we headed to the library afterwards to do our service there, which is mainly just reorganizing books, and straightening them on the shelves. Probably the only time you'll find me in the library, unless I am borrowing Country CD's to head to Fremont in the Mustang. :P

The other one that we did was in the other Elders area, but was led by one of our members. There is this vacant field next to a shopping center, and she was organizing a cleanup effort on all the trash that blows in from the highway. Us 4 Elders were the only ones to show up, but we got it done in plenty of time! I enjoyed being able to spend some time in regular service clothes instead of a tie. I don't know, I have always felt more useful when getting my hands a little dirty in the work, and I don't just mean finding out that door was recently painted. Only had that happen a few times…

The other service project was pretty easy, but very fun. I got to go and plant a cherry tree. :) A lady in the ward adjacent to ours had bought a tree, but had no idea how to plant it, so she asked the Elders. They weren't too sure how to do it either, and they asked us if we did. Luckily, Momma taught me well, so we went over and I planted it! :)

We had a Zone Training Meeting this last Friday, and that was also fun. One of our Zone Leaders lost his voice, so they called me the night before and asked if I would be willing to sing in the musical number they'd prepared for ZTM. I was happy to. Only problem was that half of the hymn was in Spanish, so I winged that part. Haha I don't think I did too terribly bad either! I enjoyed it though, and I have been taught that is all that really matters. :)

We had some..interesting changes at ZTM and in the mission, they are going to be changing the policy on members feeding the missionaries. The way that it was explained to us, is that some members feel that all they have to do in order to fulfill their missionary responsibilities, is to feed the missionaries or give the money in order to buy food. In order to help them realize their responsibilities, they are making it so that we can only eat with them if there is an investigator or less active member of the church at the meal, and we will be having a lesson afterwards. The members weren't too pleased to hear that, but I'm really hopeful that they will take it for what it is and start inviting their friends and less active members to the new appointments in order to help us with our missionary efforts.

The other change was regarding the way that we do missionary work… The mission is focusing on something called the South Carolina initiative, which focuses primarily on less active members, members that are prospectively the age to be an elder, and anyone with an unbaptized child age 9 or above. Since that is our primary focus, president has asked us not to just go and knock on doors, but rather only knock on doors if an appointment falls through. The majority of our missionary work is going to be found working with the people that I mentioned before, and asking for referrals while we are doing that work. I am really hopeful that this will work in the Camden word, because there's a lot of less active members need to start coming back to church.

Well, that is about it for my week. Elder Connolly has been having bike issues, being that his back tires refuses to stay inflated, no matter how often I try to find a leak and patch it. It just doesn't like holding air. We will see if I can't get to the bottom of this tonight.
Love y'all!

-Elder Joel 'Sunshine' Barker

Large mouth bass!
It will be a tasty meal ;)