Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Know by the spirit.

Ran into some of the Ciprano family at stake conference!

Hey everyone!

This has been another good week! 

Everything about moving into a new area that neither you or your companion have any knowledge of can either be an extremely fun, or extremely difficult experience. Often times, both.

Well, we have really been focusing our time on trying to just get to know as many people in our area as we can, and we have seen some good success doing that! We have been able to meet a lot of really cool people, and have come to find out that the Dutch Fork ward is awesome! 

So, highlights of my week...well, no missionary week is complete without a bible-bashing lesson...We got a text one day from an unknown number asking if we were still planning on coming over, but she signed the text with her name. We had read a little bit about her from some notes that the previous Elders had left for us, and we knew she had been dropped from the teaching pool, but we didn't really know the reasoning behind it. Either way, we were excited to have a lesson with a non-member, so we scheduled a time, and we went over. She was very nice to us, and invited us in and introduced us to the rest of the family. She started the lesson by giving Elder Taylor and I each our very own was the King James Version, at least...but it was one where after each and every verse, someone has gone in and put an interpretation to that, we all know why that just doesn't work..God doesn't work that way...Jesus himself explained that he spoke in Parables so the truly believing would understand and know by the spirit...It is also extremely hard to convince someone that they need to pray to have help understanding the scriptures, when all they have to do is keep reading, and see what another man has told them it means....right there, I knew this was going to be a challenging lesson, and it of the many problems with bible-bashing, is that it gets contentious very quickly, and we know that God's Spirit cannot dwell in unclean places, and is driven away by a spirit of contention...I also can't stand contention...those in my close family will be able to back me on that. Another thing, is usually when we are being bashed with, it is from a pastor or preacher, someone who is extremely skilled, and payed to be able to remove the spirit of discernment from the scriptures, and teach it "Their" they're crafty, and can use words to confound people...sound like anyone? Korihor, Nehor, those people in the scriptures that caused a lot of trouble because they were able to use words and philosophies of man to stir up the people in anger....well, all those people end up being confounded by true doctrine, and we hope that's the case, but it isn't always...sometimes, more often than not, we aren't able to even get a word out, let alone explain the doctrine...this bashing session wasn't the case though...she didn't really know what she was even trying to explain, and when we would open to a scripture in the Bible or the Book of Mormon that explained/answered the question she was asking, she would quickly change subjects to something else, or cut us off and repeat what she was saying...haha it can get frustrating...oh well, I don't know how much more we will being going over to visit with her. 

We had Stake conference this week! The Saturday Priesthood session and the night session were both wonderful! Some very powerful instruction and talks were given. I was a bit anxious during the Sunday Session, and couldn't sit still or get my mind into it, so it kinda just seemed long...doesn't sound like me, does it! Can't sit still or pay attention ;) haha 

Well, we are on bikes for at least this next week, so we will see how all of that goes until we get our car back! 
Love y'all! 
Two Elders, happy for a ride in the pouring rain!

Sister Barker serving in my mission!

Day of Service 
Love that the Mechling family from my first area are now in this ward!
So great to get to know their cute daughter.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

"...when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God"

Hey everyone, been a crazy week!
        Sorry that I didn't get an email put up last week, so many things were going on that I completely spaced and didn't get one written up!
        Well, We had our transfer calls this last Monday, and Elder Taylor and I both got moved, together. We got the call on either Friday or Saturday, I can;t remember which one..anyway, the assistants told us that President Turner was closing the Camden Elders area, and putting the sisters into a three pack, and letting them cover the whole ward. It was a bit of a shocker to find out that they were doing that, and that Elder Taylor and I would be white-washing another area together. I haven't really ever heard of a companionship getting moved together, but it has happened to me twice in the last 5 months. Haha we are happy to be here in Dutch Fork.
        We spent our last few days in Camden packing, cleaning our apartment, and saying goodbye to members. It was hard and emotional at times, but for the most part, it stayed a happy thing.

        The transfer meeting was an absolute madhouse. Hah I guess the Irmo building, where we usually do transfers, was having some renovations, so we all met at the West Columbia stake center. It was SO hot. and humid. We would be switching our car for another one, and we were told that it was missing the back glass because of an unfortunate occurrence with a golf ball..haha but it would be getting fixed the following day. Everyone is supposed to bring their luggage and everything into the gym so they can grab and go as soon as they got their new companion, but since we were staying together, I went out on a limb and parked next to the Ford Fusion that had plastic instead of back glass..haha

        The new way of doing transfers is a little weird, and it is harder to know where people are going unless you're there for the entire time. The way they're doing it, is as soon as you are called, you find your new companion, and you leave. Grab your bags and head straight to the new area. Elder Taylor and I were the last few since our new area and Stake gets called out last, so we got to hear where most everyone was ending up. But getting back to it being hot and humid, when we were switching all of our stuff over to the other car, I was absolutely drenched. I didn't ever sweat this much in Utah, and even though I have been here for such a long time, I still haven't gotten completely used to it!
        We left transfers after being assigned to Dutch Fork, and we ended up driving back to Columbia because Elder Kirby's new companion had his bike, and they didn't have a bike rack since a member was driving them, so we took it to their apartment for them. It started to rain pretty good on our way back to Dutch Fork, and I was worried about the plastic that was covering the hole where our back glass should be, but I remembered that I had cut a few of the edges and patched some holes that were in it a little earlier, and I hoped that would hold it, which it did. All of our stuff was dry when we got there. The apartment that we live in is where the Assistants to the Mission President used to live, so there are a few things left behind by Elder Wright and Elder Appleton, who both came out with me. It was pretty cool to see! Also, the last time I'd seen this apartment, was when I was being moved from Union down to Summerville, and we stopped to get some lunch at the AP's place. Now I live there! :)
        So, the common theme among people since we have arrived here, has been to let us know how tough this ward is for missionary work, and how they haven't had a convert baptism in quite a while...but here's the thing! We only have about 30-35 less actives on our ward roster, and some great attendance in Sacrament Meeting. That isn't a bad thing! I mean, if all you are looking at is how successful you are in bringing non-members to church, then yeah, I guess you could say it can be hard, but no different than any other ward! If you look at it from a non-missionary standpoint, this ward is doing awesome! People are friendly, they fulfill their callings, and they are active in the gospel. Now comes the time where we get to work and see what God is wanting us to do right now! I really enjoy being here!
        So, since we got here last Wednesday, Elder Taylor and I haven't had much of a lead into who we should be visiting, and since we are both new here, we decided that after meeting the bishopric and most of Ward council, we would go around and visit basically everyone that is in our area and on our lists, and see where that brings us. We had a rough first couple days, being the beginning of summer, no one has been home when we drop in, plus the added anger and yelling of neighbors telling us we can't park on the street, or that we're wasting our time, and they aren't interested in what we're selling. Good old fashion rejection. Haha we trudged on though. We had some cool lessons with some people that would be active other than a few little things like the time being too early, or whatever else it may be, but we taught the doctrine and asked for referrals like we are supposed to, and we saw a little bit of success! We got caught in a HUGE storm a couple days ago, it was a regular, hot, sunny day, but all at once dark clouds moved in, and there was lighting everywhere! We got to our car and got away from any trees for fear of them blowing over, which is common out here since the ground is always so wet, and the winds are so strong. Glad we did it too, because driving around after the fact, there were tons of trees that had toppled over, and we were told that the rain turned into decent sized hail really quick!
        Church was great! We got to meet the majority of the Ward, still don't have all the names down, but I'm getting there! Haha We got to see the Mechlings at church! I was so excited to see them! For those of you that don't know who they are, they are a couple that lived in my very first area back in 2013 in Hopkins, and they now live in Dutch Fork! Sister Mechling is like my big sister, and is trying to figure out a way that we can go have a meal with them! I love them so much haha
        We had a super cool experience yesterday while out meeting people! We were in a neighborhood about 7 or 8 miles away from our apartment, and we knew that there were at least 4 members in the neighborhood. We talked to one guy who was marked as a less active, and it was clear that he wanted nothing to do with us..we left there, and got no answer at the next house, but the next member was just up the road. We knocked on her door, and she came outside to meet us. She was very very friendly, as was her Collie/Lab mix, Freckles. Haha we stayed for a while getting to know eachother and getting covered in Dog Hair, and we left after being told where we should go next. She had given us the address of a less active that she visiting teaches, but has a hard time catching her at home because she's a trucker and is always on the road. Well, we got there and there was lawn equipment on the front porch, and it looked like the lawn had been professionally done, and it was fresh. I remember telling Elder Taylor "Either a team just left, or she's home" we knocked on the door and waited a minute with no answer, so we knocked again. After a few seconds, we heard "Come in!" We walked in, and again were greeted by two very enthusiastic dogs, haha I think God knew I needed a little play time with some animals. Anyway, we came in and found out that we had just woken her up from a nap that she decided to take after working hard and finishing her front yard. Her name is Sister T, and she wasn't too pleased with us being there, but then again neither would I be if I had just been woken up from a nap! We sat and talked for a minute or two, and just tried to get to know her a little better, and she started warming up to us. We offered our service in any way we could help, and after being reluctant to comply, she said "Okay. I am gonna go get a hammock out of the attic, will you help me set it up?" And I said "I'll do you one better, where is the hammock in the attic? I'll get it for you." She insisted that it was too hot, and I insisted that it didn't bother me, and we went to the hall where the entrance was. She had me go up and get it, then we went outside and helped her set it up. We then sat on the little patio she had outside, where we would talk for the next 2 hours! Now, I know it doesn't seem very significant, but it shows how powerful service really can be.. King Benjamin taught his people this wonderful doctrine in Mosiah, chapter 2. He says: "And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God." Well, it works...I know it. And as weird as it sounds, a lot of the time we spent with her, we spent listening to different songs that talked about Jesus. She is on the road a lot, and wanted to bring the spirit with her. We listened to "the way he was raised" by Josh Turner, and "I'm only Jesus" by Tim McGraw" and "Your Plan" By Dustin Lynch..all my favorites. She was in tears during a few of them, and when someone cries, I start to cry too..haha I have heard it is one of the ways you can know that you have the spirit with you..anyway, since we were then on that subject, we had a wonderful conversation about the character of God. We talked about why other churches argue so much about who God is, and why it is so important that we have modern day revelation. We even talked with her about going back to the temple! It was so great :) We loved it! Then, since she had a captive audience, she decided to show us her favorite old country. She had us listen to things like"Phantom 309" and a few others by Red Sovine. Reminded me of when Grandpa and I would be driving to Fremont or out to Generator Exchange, and he would show me his favorite music :) Made me really happy, and I even knew some of the lyrics! Haha I know it is a very round about way of explaining it, but it shows that people are much more willing to listen to what we have to say when we take the time to get to know them, and have the same interests as them.
        Sister T thanked us, and told us how much she truly needed the time and spirit that we had given her and brought with us..and truthfully, I needed it too. She told us about her Elders, and about how much she loved and missed them. Meerkat and Richie Rich, as she referred to them haha She showed us the picture from her baptism and the spirit was very present at that moment. We bore our testimonies, and said a prayer with her. We committed her to come to church as soon as her job would allow her too, and to allow us to come over and help her finish her back yard as soon as she would let us. It was a wonderful lesson, and a great start to our week :)
        Okay, well I will end there and get this sent off.
I love The Lord! I love the Gospel, and I love being a missionary! :) Over and out!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Just living life as a missionary.

Hey y'all, 
This last week flew by, but it went pretty well.
We had a great Monday! It was my birthday and we enjoyed hanging out with Bobby on his birthday too! Elder Griffin and Elder Kirby came up from Columbia, and Elder Griffin brought his guitar, as did I, so we spent some time having a jam session! I love playing guitar with that kid haha we also got to throw a frisbee around for a while that night, and had a long drive back from Columbia. I love long drives :) 
We had our District Meeting on that Tuesday, and the Assistants to the mission President showed up to sit in. It was fun because one of our AP's is the trainer of Elder Thompson, who is our district leader, so they goofed around a little bit. It is nice when you have good leadership that will actually have a little fun here and there. Anyway, I got to teach on How to better use the Book of Mormon in our teaching appointments, and the importance of answering questions using the spirit. I thought it went pretty well :) We have made a tradition of going to Taco-Bell after our meetings and on P-day, so that is what we did. I really enjoy getting to just sit and talk with all of the other Elders in the District. I wish we were allowed to have the sisters there too, because they always feel left out...because they can't do the same things as us :/ oh well. We have some pretty awesome sisters. They work hard, and had an awesome investigator at church yesterday! :) 
Wednesday, Thursday and Friday are all kind of mixed together, because we were able to do a lot of service this week. I absolutely love and crave being able to work and serve people...This time, we were taking a tree down. Now, I am not allowed to use a chainsaw while on the mission, so I borrowed a saws-all from another member, and with the help of a verrrrry tall ladder, I got to trim all the big limbs at the top in such a way that they would fall and avoid hitting the house. Everything went very well :) 

It was also about 100˚ while we were out working, so all of us were just soaked by the time we were done. We were all ready for some food, and a milkshake. Chicken fill-it to the rescue! (Chick fill-a) that is kind of our spot, other than TacoBell, there are a ton of members that work there, and they always come talk to us while we are there. We have actually taught a few of the other workers there too! It is amazing what just living life as a missionary can do. People look at us differently, and when they get curious enough, they start to ask questions :) 
We had some great things happen this week too! Our Recent Convert, T, was interviewed for the Priesthood last Wednesday, and we were able to stand in the circle yesterday when he was ordained and received the Priesthood :) That was awesome! We are so happy for him! He has just taken off in the gospel. We could not have asked for a better situation. Really. He is the definition of "Elect" We love him. 
         Well, sorry to cut this one short, but know that I love all of you, and I'll write more next week! 
Classic Missionaries....


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The reason I am here.

Hey y'all,
Sorry about not having a weekly email to input last week. If I can say anything about the last 14 days, they have been eventful...
So, my companion and I have been blessed with a car since my ankle had continuously been giving me more and more trouble, and that could not have come at a more perfect time.
Those of you that keep up with my blog and my updates know that my companion and I have been teaching a man and helping him come closer to The Savior and ultimately, enter into the waters of baptism and make those covenants with Heavenly Father. Well, that happened this week. It was so wonderful to feel the spirit that accompanies a baptism again, but let me assure you; it did not come without a trial of all of our faith beforehand.
There was a large sum of situations that seemed to all be connected against our favor but none of that seemed to matter when, on Sunday, we stood at the microphone and listened to the words "Receive the Holy Ghost..."
It really helps me to remember what is important in life, especially on a mission....there is so much stress caused by things that really just don't matter, and it can really be frustrating when all of those things try their best to get in the way off the important things. It makes everything worth it when you are able to take part in what all of our work is meant to lead up to.
This has been a rough time, and has most definitely tested me to my wits end, but I am happy that it turned out better than I had expected. I am pushing through the hard parts, rolling with the punches, and doing my best to make the best out of every situation. I really appreciate all of the prayers that have come from every single one of you. I have most definitely felt them.

So, we loved the baptism. Let me go through the story and explain it from the beginning. Our investigator T was on date for the 4th of June, and was on fire. He was ready to go, and one of the most elect investigator I have ever had the privilege to teach...well, our ward mission leader was recovering from his surgery, so the Sisters decided to Heart Attack his door, and called us to come and help. We accompanied them, and when we were through we were able to go in and give our ward mission leader a blessing, and sit and have a little missionary devotional/testimony meeting with him. It was a very sweet experience. It was also very nice to be out of the sun, it was a hot day.

Well, we began on the topic of T, who had talked with Brother C before his surgery about how he really wanted his daughter (who is a non-member also) to be at the baptism, but she would be leaving town the Wednesday before. When we got T on the phone, we decided it would be best to move the baptism a week earlier. Now, keep in mind that all of this takes place on Tuesday. We got everything arranged as best as we could, but still had one lesson to go over with him before we could set up his interview. That is when we lost touch with him. We went to his home several times and had no luck. We would spend the next 2 days trying to get in contact with him, until Thursday when that finally happens. We set up a teaching appointment with him at out WML's home, and it went wonderful. He understood all of what we taught, and saw the purpose for every principal that we presented to him. As soon as we finished our lesson with him, we made the trip up to Elgin to pick our district leader up to bring him back to Camden for an interview. I hate stress y'all, and at this point I had felt a lot of it, and the adversary was pushing a lot of doubt into my mind that something wasn't going to go well, or that he wasn't going to pass his interview, or that we had failed to teach something, but that was all a lie coming from Satan, because T walked out of that room with a big smile on his face, and threw his arms in the air and said "Praise the Lord!" It was awesome.
We kept getting things ready for the baptism, but we were having a very difficult time getting on contact with...well, anyone. It is graduation time right now, so everyone has been insanely busy and trying to get everything set up. We decided we would get everything finalized on Friday, since we would have the whole day to do that. I hate being so unprepared, but given the circumstances, I didn't have a whole lot of choices. Well, Friday rolls around, and that was kind of the tip of the iceberg for me and the stress...We had an unexpected phone call, that was tough, but we made it through, and at about 10:00 that Friday night, we had finished the last phone call we had to make, everyone that needed to be ready for the baptism was as ready as they'd ever be, and I was able to set the phone down and give myself a little time to unwind from the day. I got a blessing from Elder Taylor, which helped a lot too.

Well, Saturday morning came, and we had a couple more bumps in the road, but we got all of those sorted out head-on. The baptism was so wonderful...there is this different feeling when your day is started by filling a baptismal font. More people showed up for the baptism than we had expected, and we even had to set up some extra chairs in order to accommodate everyone that was there. Okay y'all, to give you an idea of how hard the Adversary was trying to keep this baptism from happening, during the opening song and the first portion of the invocation, Elder Thompson and I could see the light in the font coming through the accordion doors start to flicker a little bit...then boom, the power was out. Only in the font lights and the AC were affected though, and he and I seemed to be the only two that noticed. While I got up to give my talk on baptism, he ran into the hallway, and I don't know what he did but he got the lights back on. T was baptized, and there were many tears shed by members, and the non-members of his family that had come to support him. Even the Sister Missionaries that are currently serving in Columbia ward showed up to support him, because they were actually who started teaching him while he was in the hospital recovering from an accident...We finished our day by going to get some snow cones in celebration. You know, you have to have ice cream or some sort of treat after a baptism, it is like a missionary tradition!

Sunday came around, and all those people that were at his baptism showed up to church as well! It was great because the members (Who are most of them related to T) really stepped up in fellow shipping these people, while all four of us missionaries were sitting up on the stage. We were told Wednesday night that we would all be speaking about missionary work in Sacrament. We got the whole program. Anyway, while we were on the stand, the members of the ward went around and invited these kind people to sit with them and support them being there. It was great to just sit on the stand, and watch while T had hands laid on his head, and was given The Gift of The Holy Ghost, and confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints...Truly, the reason why we are here. That is the sole purpose for coming out on a mission...helping people come back to the Fold...Whether they be a member or a non-member, Christ taught us about the "Lost Sheep" in Luke 15. We are to go out and find these people that have strayed away, and often times we don't realize that they have been prepared for this...

We as missionaries struggle with a lot of things, but when it comes to asking for referrals, the most common theme is that the person being asked doesn't feel that who they are thinking of is ready, or would be accepting of hearing the message we have to share...other times, they are afraid that their friend would be offended that they would invite them to church. One of the Sister Missionaries in her talk today, gave a great example, and said "Imagine you are over at a good friend's home for breakfast. You sit down at the table and you see a big pitcher of freshly squeezed orange juice sitting in front of you. Your friend grabs a glass, fills it, and begins to look at him/her, and ask "May I have a glass?" And they look back at you and say "Oh, I am sorry. I didn't know if you liked orange juice, and I didn't want to offend you by offering you some..." “See? That doesn't make a whole lot of sense...and we all too often live the gospel right in front of our friends and loved ones without reaching out to them and offering the same thing that we have, because of silly fears that Satan pushes into our minds...Let's all be missionaries!

Okay, other things that we got to do this last week? We had some awesome opportunities to help a member with some service in a home he rents out. We put new carpet in, painted some of the rooms, and bleached the sides of the house. That was fun! I love being able to serve at any opportunity I am given...

Sorry that the beginning of this wasn't as happy as some of my other emails, but it was a trial no doubt, and I am glad that it is passed and I am able to move on to better things. We have another investigator that we are getting ready for baptism in the coming weeks, and we are stoked for him!
Hey, it's my birthday! I am now 21, and we are having a joint birthday dinner at the R home, because they are awesome! It is also Brother R's birthday too. That is pretty cool!
Love y'all! Hope this makes up for the lack of an email last week!

-Elder Joel 'Sunshine' Barker

Joel celebrating his birthday with the kind people in Camden.