Monday, December 28, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Hey Family,

It was so good to hear from you on Christmas. It sounds like things are going well at home. It was so fun to talk to all of you and just hear how things are going. I can’t believe how fast the time went there is still so much I want to tell you. Sounds like things are going pretty good at home. Sounds like I have it pretty easy compared to most of the missionaries in our ward. Some of things you told me are pretty crazy. I hope they're doing okay. Don’t worry about me I eat things that are pretty normal, and I feel pretty safe. Life is good! This week was pretty unproductive to be honest. Not many people wanted to let us in to teach because it was christmas and they were all super busy and almost every appointment we had, not all but most of our appointments, cancelled on us. So it was frustrating but it was a really good week because I got to talk to all of you and because we had a pretty good christmas conference. We met up on Thursday at the office and we had a conference with speakers from who were both former area 70. They were both really good. There was a bell choir made up of youth from the stake that was really good. President Martineau also talked. Then we went to the mission home, all hundred something, of us and ate lunch and then there was a talent show. People did different skits, sang christmas songs etc. Our district sang a version of Carol of the Bells with the words changed. It was fun to meet more of the missionaries and be in the Martineau’s home. It made it seem more like Christmas.

We went to a member’s house for dinner and then we had to be home at 6:00 on Christmas Eve. So we read the Book of Mormon so we could finish it by the end of the year, the mission started at the end of the November and the goal is to finish by the end of the year. Then we opened up our packages, decorated the gingerbread cookies you sent and just sort of hung out. The next day we taught a lesson to Feni, who sadly still isn’t married, and wasn’t able to be baptized on the 26th. Then we had lunch with our DueƱos. It was fun to talk to them and to explain to them what we do exactly I think they think we are so crazy two young girls living here by themselves, not really knowing what it is we do all day so it was a really good experience. We knocked for a few hours and surprisingly were able to teach a few lessons which were really cool. It is amazing how you can teach standing up on someone’s porch and yet the spirit can be so strong and you can see that they don’t exactly understand but they want to know more.Then we came home and talked to you guys on the phone.

Things here are going pretty well. We are still teaching Ana, one of our investigators that the Elders passed on to us when we got here. She didn’t have all the lessons so she missed her first baptism date. We tried to set a second with her and she didn’t want to set one she still didn’t know if she wanted to. We have realized since then that she has a ways to go. So we’ve started back at the basics with talking about Joseph Smith, The Book of Mormon, Plan of Salvation, she doesn’t remember a lot and I think she likes listening to the lessons, she likes going to church but she doesn’t really have a testimony of these things. So it might be awhile before she is baptized but that’s okay.

We are still teaching Emma, she is so amazing! Our doctrines are so different from her Jehovist Witness background but she is open to letting us come and she is reading the Book of Mormon. Not just reading it she studies it she looks up cross references, she thinks about it and has really in depth questions and she is praying and knows that it is a true book. She is gaining a testimony of Joseph Smith as well. We watched the Restoration movie with her and the spirit was so strong. We were a little nervous because we had this feeling that she was sort of hesistant to let us keep teaching her the last time we were there but once we watched that movie it was amazing. She was emotional and said, “I imagine you get emotional everytime that you watch that. That was so beautiful.” We taught her the first half of the plan of salvation, we weren’t able to finish because she had tons of questions and it took quite awhile and then her daughter and grandchildren came over. Everything is so different and I don’t know how she likes it but we are excited to go back and explain the rest. I just know that she is so special and even though it might take awhile she will be baptized.

Other than that there aren’t too many other things as far as our investigators go. We have visited lots of members and eaten at a lot of their homes since it is Christmas time. If you ever come to Puerto Rico stay away from Pastel. No it is not a desert is like a tamale but it is made up from mashed up plantains and it is a green/grey slimy thing. Not my favorite. Other than that we eat mostly rice, rice and more rice. I don’t think I have eaten as much rice in my entire life as I have in the last month. That is a lie, but you get what I mean.

I am sending you some photos of the apartment, Christmas Eve, and some of Naranjito, the pueblo that we also have in our area. This is not where we live, we live in the city with like no trees and its flat. But I just wanted you to see what the non-city part of Puerto Rico looks like. Well I am hoping that I will get to stay in Bayamon. Transfers are coming up and there is a chance in a week and a half I might go somewhere else. So I’ll let you know. I secretly hope though that I’ll be able to stay since I feel like I am just getting to know the members and the area and I love working with Hermana Venegas.

Well I have to go. Love you all tons. Hope everything is good. Oh, mom will you send me the TollHouse Chocolate Chip cookie recipe. I have had several members say that they want to invite us over and have me teach them how to make cookies. They don’t have them here and they are like a novelty. Everyone keeps asking if I can make them and I told them yes but I can’t just do it I need an exact recipe so I told them I would try and get one. That would be great if you could! Love you all a ton!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Tough Week

Hey Family,

Thanks for all the emails! I opened up my email and had so many its great to have two weeks of things to read through. Sorry if you were worried last week when you didn't get an email on time. Hopefully by now you have gotten my letter that I wrote from the hospital. Everything is back to normal now, Hermana Venegas is feeling great and she gets to stay so that is great. These last few weeks have been sort of hard, not going to lie. The main thing was that my companion was sick and I had to sleep several nights in the hospital with her. But that aside, we still had sort of a rough week. We had a lot of investigators not show up for appointments, we had every appointment cancel one day and we've had several of our investigators out of town and a few days where we were knocking/yelling, haha, and we just weren't finding anyone that was interested. It is the hardest thing to teach someone the first lesson and feel the spirit so strongly and then have them not show interest anymore. You can see it in their eyes, you know they feel the spirit and they like the sound of the message, especially when we talk about the first vision but then I think they stop to think for about it and logic sets in and they realize that this is so new and so different than anything they have ever heard and they get scared or something I don't know what it is. I know they must think we are crazy, when we talk to them and tell them that there is a living prophet on the earth today or that the true church has been restored. When we are contacting people and they look at you like you are crazy sometimes I just want to say, "I know we sound crazy, I know this is so different than anything you have ever heard but we're not crazy! Just give it a chance". The other problem here is that people many people say that they are catholic even if they don't actually go to church. Lots of people do go to church, there are so many churches here, most of them I have never heard of. So people probably think we are just one of the many churches that someone just started.

We have found some really awesome people to teach. One woman we are teaching is named Emma. She is from Dominican Republic. We knocked her door about a week and a half ago. All we said was good morning and we are missionaries and she let us right in, went and got the keys to her gate and told us to sit down. This never happens! She said some Elders came by two years ago and they gave her a Book of Mormon and set up an appointment to come back and teach her but her husband was dying of Leukemia and she was at the hospital a lot and so when they came by she was probably never home. She was pretty busy and so were we so it was about a week before we could go back and see her. We taught her the first lesson and the spirit was so strong, stronger than I have felt it yet when we've been teaching. She is Jehovist Witness and this is all very new to her but I can tell she likes it and she feels the spirit she very happily accepted a Book of Mormon. She told us before we left that she had always heard a lot of stuff about our church but now she understood a lot more and one thing she said was that she had always heard that our church looked down upon women a lot but she was so excited to see that here were two sister missionaries teaching the doctrines of the church and that really impressed her. We asked her if we could do anything else for her and she said we had already done so much and she said she would be thinking about this (meaning the lesson) all day! We are going back to teach her tonight and I just pray so hard that she reads the Book of Mormon and loves it. She's so great.

We are still teaching Feni, but we are done with all the lessons so we are going to watch a movie with her about eternal families but after that we will have to start thinking of other things to teach her. We are pray so hard everyday that her husband will soften his heart and marry her. She wants it more than anything.

We are teaching a woman named Ana and we are going to set a new baptismal date for her. She had one for the 12th of December but she had a lot of things left to be taught and she works out of town for this older woman and she goes and she cleans her house and takes care of her and she randomly gets called so sometimes we have appointments and she had to go to work so she is really hard to get a hold of. She is going to Florida for a month in January so we are hoping to have a baptism date for the 26th or the 2nd.

Everything else is good. Knocking is slow, we have had a lot of investigators that aren't home for their appointments but thats okay hopefully when we talk to people of give them a pass along card one day they'll be interested.

Thanks for all the emails. It was so good to hear from you all. I will try and write you all an email or a letter. It's weird to think that it's Christmas time back home, it doesn't feel like it barely at all here. I'll try and send you all something for christmas, to be honest there isn't really anything here that is different from the states except that its way more expensive. Everything by us is like walmart, K-Mart etc. So I don't really know what to send you all. But I'll try and think of something and it will get there late. Sounds like you've been super busy with things, like choir concerts I can't believe how many Abby has. I always thought that was crazy for Ensemble and its nothing compared to what Abby does. I can't believe it was so cold there! It's usually in the eighties here. The highest it has been is about 95 but its been rainy the last few days I actually wore a sweater to church yesterday and it was only 76. But I was freezing with all the fans on full blast in the chapel. I was going to send you pictures of my apartment and of my companion but I forgot my camera cord so I'll send them next week. The apartment is pretty nice we are upstairs and we go out on the roof to wash our clothes and hang them up to dry and our Duenos told us we are welcome to have fruit from their trees. We have star fruit (like in Hawaii) and Avocado trees and Guava trees but those aren't ripe yet. Food here is pretty heavy. Lots of meat and beans and rice. The rice is not just rice though, they feed you like a whole plate full and it is rice with all sorts of stuff in it like beans, and chunks of bacon or other type of meat, sometimes there is just chunks of fat, which I pick out. I had a pastel at the ward christmas party the other day. Not my favorite, it is not a pastry as you would think, it's like a tamale but the masa is mixed with mashed up unripe plantanes. It is sort of a slimy mushy texture and it is grey/green. Hopefully I'll get used to it but I just couldn't finish it. We mostly eat at home anyway so I just eat like I would at school. We are super careful to because Hermana Venegas has to be careful with food. Well I should go, love you all tons!
Good luck with everything. Love you!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Letter from the Airport

Dear Mom and Dad,

I am sitting here in ther airport in Salt Lake. I'm going to call you from Atlanta which I am really excited about. It's crazy that I am here, actually wearing this tag. It's the real thing and I'm so excited but nervous too. I look around me and see all these people and don't even know how to start talking to people. I was talking to a couple from Moroni for a long time. They were excited when I told them we had a house in Spring City. They were very nice. While I was talking to them these two women came and sat by me. They started staring at my name tag, and looked like they wanted to talk to me. She asked if I spoke Spanish. I told her I did then she told me that she waas with her aunt, they were both Peruvian and her aunt was flying back to Peru via Atlanta. She needed help with getting to her next gate with a wheelchair so she asked if I could help her get a wheelchair and have someone help her get to her gate. I said of course, I talked to them for awhile in Spanish, then the niece had to leave. She had gotten a special security pass to get through the gate to help her but she had to go back. Anyway, the aunt had come to Salt Lake to visit her neice and to go to the temple here. This little old Peruvian lady was so cut. She had never been to the U.S. before and spoke no English. When her neice left she started to cry. I told her it would be O.K. and I ashe the woman working there how to arrange fora wheelchair. Another woman who spoke Spanish came up and offered to help. She reassured the Peruvian woman and offerred to stay with her the whole way and take her to her next gate to translate for her. I was thankful for her because Atlanta is so huge and I knew it wouldn't be easy to help the Peruvian lady find her gate plus I am supposed to go straight to my gate. Anyway, I started talking to the second woman who was from Mexico, had been living in Sun Valley and was going b ack for her Nephew-in-law's funeral. I was scared of how to approach her. I wanted to share something about the gospel but didn't know how to start. She looked deep in thought and seemed upset. When it was time to board I just knew I had to say something. I had already told her why I was going to Puerto Rico. But before I boarded I gave her a pass along card and told her to call and get the free Lamb of God dvd. I told her it was about Christ. She looked extremely tehankful and asked me to pray for her nephew-in-law. I told her of course. I with I were better at this but I'm trying. It's so strange to be without a companion, the whole way to San Juan but it's O.K. I can't believe that I'm already on my way after only 2 weeks and 6 days. It was so weird to say goodbye to Hermana Rocha and Hermana Ruiz. Hermana Ricks left last wednesday and we've been back in a threesome for about a week. They are both going to be amazing missionaries, the other Elders in our district will be too. I'll send pictures when I have a chance to print them off. I'll talk to you later today.

Love you,

Sister Barker