Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Little blessings make a huge impact.

Hey y'all!
This has been a pretty good week! 

I got to help paint the pinstripes.

It started off a little slow, and with a lot of emotional roller coasters. We share the Camden ward with a companionship of Sister Missionaries. We are fortunate to have awesome sisters who work as hard as they can and we have enjoyed having them here, and sharing the work. So, one of them got really sick, and was sent home this past week. The whole district was pretty upset about it, and we threw a little improve/emergency District meeting so we could bear testimony, sign airplane books, and take district pictures. She went home, and her companion went to be in a 3-pack for 2 weeks until the next transfer, when she will get a new companion. Well, the sister went home is hopefully going to return and finish her mission in about 6 weeks. We are hopeful and praying a lot for her. She and I had a long talk about what it was like to prepare to come back out after being home, and I think it will be a lot easier for her since she'll only be home for a few weeks.

On the good end of the spectrum, while they are gone, we are using their car, and helping them with some of the appointments they had scheduled while they're away. It is extremely nice to have a car on a mission. I know that it is a luxury, and I am not allowing myself to get dependent on it/we are still biking places. It makes it so nice to not have to ask for a ride to go get groceries and stuff like that. Little blessings make a huge impact when you need them. 

My iPad hasn't been having a very good week either...haha it has always had a little bit of troubles, but this past week takes the cake.  I talked with the mission, Apple, and iPad support down in Salt Lake City...after a few days, and doing anything and everything I was instructed to do on that iPad, including resetting and wiping the entire thing and starting new, it was still broken. I called the Elder in charge of our iPads in the mission and he told me to get it to him and he would take it up to the Apple Store with him when he went. Being in Columbia, this is usually the place you want to be when you need to go to some sort of business, but as it turns out, the closest Apple Store to Columbia, would either be 2 1/2 hours to Charleston, 1 hour 45 minutes to Greenville mall, or 1 1/2 hours to Charlotte, NC...that last one is out of our mission though, so he had to drive to Greenville. Well, he brought it back while I was on exchanges, and it was a new iPad! Brand new, never been used. That was also a great little surprise blessing, because my old case had been putting scuffs in the back of that old one. This one has been doing great :) 

We did an exchange this last week. Elder Connolly went to our District Leader's area and I stayed in Camden with our District Leader, Elder Thompson. He's from Bryce Canyon, so we talk about Southern Utah, Wayne County and all that. Since he knows where and what it is. :) I am excited to hang out with him after the mission! He and I had no set appointments and since it was a surprise exchange, and they asked us the night prior, we couldn't set anything up in time. Even though we had little preparation, we had so much success! We stopped by a referral, taught him and then got to teach a less-active family we have been trying to work with and had a lesson at the church with a man who was baptized fairly recently and got the priesthood yesterday during church! We were excited for him. :) 

So, backtracking a little, the referral we taught. His name is D, and the sisters were who met him initially. They were looking for another person on his street, and D and his friends (19-21 year olds) stopped the sisters and asked what they were doing, talked about religion a little, and asked them to come to his home sometime. They didn't feel comfortable with it and it happened to be in our area, so they gave us his info and told us to go see him. We were knocking on his door when he and a couple rough looking guys were walking up their street towards us. I had the thought go through my mind "This is gonna be who we are looking for, and he isn't going to be happy that we're here..." See? I need to get rid of the prejudgment mentality that I have...it tends to be wrong a lot, because he walked straight up to us, let his friends go inside, and talked to us for a little while about the church, why he is looking for a new church, and that he is very interested. It surprised me a lot, because you don't meet too many 19 year olds who are that interested in finding a new church. We taught about the Book of Mormon, and the restoration, and asked him if he would accept a copy. It was cool, because when I offered, he lit up! He said "I was going to ask if y'all had an extra I could have, thank you so much.." And I gave him the one I was using to teach since I didn't have an iPad haha It was an awesome thing. Pray for D. 

Elder Griffin and I were joking about how I would be without an iPad for a day, and we were saying things like "How will I do missionary work!? What am I supposed to do without an iPad to do all the work for me?? I am gonna have to use....paper...ugh.." Haha so much sarcasm about it. When I got my iPad, I vowed that I wouldn't get dependent on it, and that I would be just as good of a teacher with it as I was without it. That thought helped when I was without it, because teaching with the scriptures was just as affective! There are actually times and places where bringing the iPad would just jeopardize us and our safety, so we leave them home and bring books instead. Keeps us on our toes :) 

Church was great too! We were about to head to Elder's quorum, but we were asked if we could go and help in Primary for a little while, and we said sure. As soon as the lady that asked was out of earshot, Elder Connolly and I both freaked out! We were so excited to go help Primary, and we would get to sing the primary songs too! Haha just shows that I'm still a little kid. Anyway, we got to play a certain part, and read a script about how "We" felt when The Savior visited after his resurrection. Sister S was Mary Magdalene, Elder Connolly was one of The Savior’s disciples, and I was a Nephite. The Primary President introduced us as those people, and their guests and one of the little kids said "No, that's sister S and the Missionaries!" Haha it was so cute. Reminded me of my Primary buddy Canyon! :) It was a very fun thing to do. 
good week, lots of fun and hard work. Looking forward to another! Today we are meeting as the district and getting lunch at TacoBell, and then we will go to Brother R’s for some pool, ping pong, and air hockey. We are excited for it!

Love y'all! Now that I have a working iPad, I will be sure to take pictures this week!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

I am exactly where God needs me.

Hey everyone!
This week seemed to fly by pretty quickly, so much was crammed into it..
We had our ZTM (Zone Training Meeting) on Friday, exchanges from Monday night until Thursday morning, and a bunch of other stuff.
Exchanges are always fun, but this one was especially fun! I got to go to Elgin with Elder Griffin. He and I are good friends. He was in Columbia when I was serving in Windsor Lake. He was fairly new at the time, but we had a blast together! I am stoked to be serving around him again! We are both pretty old in missionary age and know what's going on and how to do work. Our exchange was a blast! We spent some time looking for a lake in their area so we could do morning exercise on the shore, then study by the lake. That didn't work even a little bit...every little body of water here is privately owned. We did find one lake after walking through the woods towards what was a body of water on the map, but we couldn't find a clearing. We did somehow end up on a private little camp with a cabin, some boats chained up and a little cabin on it..that was the only clearing on the entire lake, and it was privately owned...thoughts were brought up, and things were considered...but we decided that we were probably better off to not trespass...haha,  so we headed home to do our studies. We had a good exchange, saw some people, laughed a lot, and had some pretty deep conversations. It makes me sad that he is from AZ because I would love to hang out with him after the mission, but that is a long drive...I am sure we'll still do it though :P

We had a mini district meeting at TacoBell for lunch one day this week. We had finished doing some stuff at the church with the Lugoff Elders (Dearden and Whittaker) Dearden and Connolly are trying to compose a piano/violin mixture of "I believe in Christ" and "Abide with me" to perform at a zone meeting. It was pretty cool to hear them start to make it! We finished there and we decided we wanted TacoBell, but that was back up in their area. We called our District leader (Elder Thompson) and asked if we could leave our area, and he said that was fine. He asked what it was for, I told him we were having lunch with Lugoff, and I asked if he and Griffin wanted to come. He said yes, and I said "Are you actually going to drive down though?" And he said "Probably not.." Missionaries have a certain amount of miles we have to stay under each month, if given the Luxury of a car, and they didn't want to use that many. I got off the phone, and we started biking. I love biking, it is really fun when you get to go really really fast! Anyway, us 4 convoyed it the mile or 2 up to TacoBell, chained our bikes to a tree, and went in to order. We try to eat at Taco Bell every P-day because we like it, and it is cheap on Mondays for the specials. The people there all know us, and they talk to us a lot while we are there. We are going to try to teach the ones that talk to us the most; we think they'd be really receptive! Anyway, while we sat down to wait for our food to be ready, the Elgin Elders pulled into the parking lot, so we moved to a table that was big enough for all of us, and proceeded to have so much fun. Goodness,  I love this district! It was a blast!

We went out teaching with a few members this week and it was pretty successful! We were happy about it! One particular thing that stuck out that I want to include in here, was when we were out with Brother Hunt who is our Elders Quorum President here in Camden, and we kinda got stumped where we had time left, but our plans and appointments had fallen through, so we stopped on the side of the road and we said a prayer to know where God needed us. After the prayer, we sat and just listened for the spirit for a moment. I started to think about an active family that is totally involved in the ward, but wasn't at church this week. We usually don't go visit active members on exchanges, or at all for that matter, unless we have a purpose in mind to go try to get referrals..so I didn't mention it, and kept thinking about the names we had prayed about. Then, Brother Hunt said that he was feeling like we should go visit that family. Even though I didn't say anything, he felt the same prompting and so did Elder Connolly. We figured that was probably where we needed to be, so we went and checked on them. Turns out their teen daughter had an injury, and wasn't able to make it to church, and they were going to be taking her to the hospital the following day. We were able to give her a Priesthood blessing while we were there, and sit and visit for a while. It was awesome. I love knowing I am exactly where God needs me to be, and not just where I want to be.

One last thing. I wish y'all could just witness some of the things we see out here... We are ending P-day and we are just finishing our shopping. We are unloading everything into the car and I hear tires screeching for just a second. So I turn and look, just in time to see some lady pop the curb and smash into the corner of Walmart...she freaks out, waves her arms for a moment, then gets out of her car and starts yelling at some guy in the parking lot as if it were his fault. When we drove by, they were facing eachother, holding each other’s hands and talking, while a crowd gathered around her car, which was still running and sirens wailed in the distance...yep, that was our night.
Love y'all!

Oh, yeah,
So, I have this slingshot..and I have been trying to get a squirrel so I can cook it for Elder Connolly, but I haven't have a ton of luck...
We talked to a guy who did bow fishing...then I started thinking of my slingshot and how I wondered if it would shoot an arrow...then I needed a way to steady the arrow....so then the key ring...then I made the dowel into an arrow...:)...put some fishing line on it. Then I sharpened a piece of a fork and glued and tied it in place...aaaand...tada!

Now I can go bow fishing, I am very proud of it :)

Monday, April 11, 2016

Ice cream for the win!

Hey y'all,
The theme of this week is wind. 
Haha it has been insanely windy the last few days, and was windy at the beginning of the week too. Back home, the only time I ever really thought about the wind affecting what I was going to be doing, was if we had a frisbee game planned, or if the family was going to try to burn Fremont to the ground with lanterns...Haha but I never really thought about how difficult biking would become when you have a headwind, somehow, both directions you travel. Man, our legs have been sore this week. I remember lying in bed one night and having my knees just ache and not knowing why they felt like that, and it just clicked like last night why.
We have had an AWESOME week! 
I don't know what changed to cause it, but we started to get some great referrals, people started listening to us, and members starting taking the exchange list a lot more seriously. 
We have 2 new investigators this week, one man has had a rough life and just got out of the hospital from having 2 strokes, and a very life-threatening and traumatic experience. He is interested in the gospel now and since a lot of his family are members here in Camden, he has a lot of support behind him. He is on date for the 14th of May!
The other is a young women that we always talked to whenever we went into Chick fill-a, and it helped that there are 4 members that go to school and work with her there. She started asking them questions about what we believe and how our church works. We had a good lesson with her this week, and it went a little meh at first, but got a lot better as the time went on. She had brought her little brother along for lunch, and he wasn't too happy to be there. He is 13, and his birthday was the following day, so he kept talking about how he needed to go home and do stuff, and since he was the birthday boy, he shouldn't have to sit here and listen. He was being pretty disruptive, so I decided that since it was his birthday, and we needed to keep him busy so we could teach, I bought him a big icecream cone, and then we would teach. That worked wonders! Haha icecream for the win :) The lesson went very well..it actually surprised me. We started to teach, and she just looked at us, and you could tell that she was really listening..it was actually really cool, because her little brother did the same thing! I love when lessons just go well.
Another cool thing that happened in that lesson, was when we started teaching about Joseph Smith, and the first vision, and when we talked about how he was called to be a Prophet, I looked at her little brother, who was 14 himself, and asked how it would make him feel if God and Jesus came to him, and told him he would be a Prophet. His eyes got really big, and he just said "Woah...I'd be scared. I don't know how to do that!"
It was so cool to be able to relate it to him, and to find out that he'd actually been listening, and was able to liken the message to himself. I really think he got what we were saying. The spirit only got stronger from there, because we started talking about eternal families, and about her grandparents who passed away, and how she had been told that her Grandmother wasn't going to heaven...goodness..she was so sad at that point, and I was so eager to teach that she will have another opportunity, that I almost couldn't wait for her to be done sharing her thoughts. We talked about that for a while, and slowly her little brother lost interest (His IceCream was gone) and our time ran out. She told us she would think about what we'd shared, and accepted our invitation for her to pray about it and about coming to church.
It was a wonderful lesson :) She wasn't able to come to church, and that was a bummer, but we won't give up. We will keep working :)

Elder Thompson (Our District Leader) had a minor procedure on his foot this week, and was still wanting to go out and work, but he wasn't able to wear a shoe on that foot. He was still able to walk on it, but he said it was weird and hard to walk with only one shoe..I had an idea, and offered him to wear my Chacos for the day and just wear black socks with them. 
Tacky, I know, hah but very affective! 
He accepted it, and it made me very happy that he let me serve him that way, and I got to teach someone about my Chacos...haha I know I shouldn't be as excited about Chacos as I get, but I am. :P I love em.
We had out Stake Day of service on Saturday, and we had a blast. We went to a ball field in our area, and we hung gates that a man in our ward had welded together, then the primary kids got to spend time painting them (That was fun !) and we also had some garbage can holder things that needed to be sunken into the ground and cemented in place, so "I got a post hole digger, and I got after it. Had the sun on my back and a blister on my hand, but man I had myself a goal" for all my Rodney Atkins fans out there. 
I love doing that kind of work, and we had a lot of the youth that were just old enough that they could help out, and when I would give them an opportunity to help digging a hole, they would get really excited, it was a blast. Sometimes I forget how much I love working with and around younger kids and teenagers since I am always talking with mostly adults. Makes me think back on my days at Frontier teaching a merit badge class of some sort, and how much fun I had with that. I love being able to look back and recognize how and when I was being prepared for a mission way back then. :) It helps so much to develop teaching skills early on like camp teaches you to :)

Well, our day holds fishing and Taco Bell. Love y'all!
-Elder Joel "Sunshine" Barker!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

God is so amazing!

This week I...
wait no, that wasn't me.. ;)

Anyway, this was a pretty good one, it was really busy! We got to go fishing last Monday for P-day, and I caught a snapping turtle! I have never seen one in real life, but I knew what they could do to a
finger...I was a little apprehensive about picking it up, but we got it on land, and out of the pond at our bishop's property. It was a fun day.
We went to Columbia with our district leader and his companion because Elder Griffin needed to have surgery to put one of his fingers back together after he broke it playing football. We were originally going with them so we could leave one of us there during the surgery, and the other two could go get new tires put on the car, but that didn't end up happening...hah, we ended up all just waiting for him to be done...goodness we had a good time. I served around Elder Griffin last year when I was in Windsor Lake, and he was in Columbia ward. We went on a p-day hike through the Congaree national swamp...I mean park...haha I love this kid, so I was stoked when he came to our
district. I am so happy he chose to stay out on his mission too.  We got to go out to lunch with the mission nurse, and stopped by Hopkins and by one of my favorite stores and we each bought a shirt! Fripp and Folly are cool shirts :)
We had an awesome night on Thursday, where our bishop wanted to take us out teaching, but we also had another member who wanted to go out teaching with us, so we split our area. I went with our bishop, and Elder Connolly went with Campell Connell, and we covered way more ground. I was eager to serve and teach along side the bishop.
We all ended up meeting at a part member's home where Bishop and I had already begun teaching a lesson, and they showed up. Could have used a little more coordination on our part, but hey, it all worked out. :)
We helped a man in the ward with service, and while we were there, we taught his less-active daughter about the atonement, and got a referral from her, and they fed us dinner while we were there! She and her mom are also both hair stylists, and they saw a part that I had missed on the back of my hair, so they helped me cut it. That was good to have :) I love when members cut hair, because it means I don't have to pay for it, or do it myself. :) And they do a good job.

Conference was AMAZING. It was my last conference as a full time missionary, but it was so good...I think my favorite quote was "God knows everything we don't want anyone to know about us, and still loves us." That touched me..it is so true! God knows all of the little secrets that we don't want anyone to know about us for fear of judging us, but he still offers forgiveness for whatever it may be, and wants to help us, and loves us infinitely...God is so amazing! It was also comforting to see President Monson doing so much better than last conference..I know I wasn't the only person praying for him the entire time, and he had so much more strength than last year. Very
comforting. :)
We are excited for this next week, because we have 3 new referrals and we are very hopeful for at least 2 of them, but we don't know much about the third! We will just have faith that it turns out well! :)

Love y'all!
-Elder Joel 'Sunshine' Barker!