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!
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 drink...you 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.