Monday, April 26, 2010


Hey Family,

How are you? Its good to hear that Rachel got home safe, that's so crazy. Hope everything is going well this week. No worries Dad that fried food was a one time thing and I didn't eat it all. I don't like fried food so I never eat it unless its at a members house and I have to. Haha actually I've eaten more american food than ever before because so many people in our ward are from the states.

Wow, this week was amazing so much to tell. The baptism on Saturday was amazing. So there were three baptisms, Jose, Madeline and Alondra. The first was Alondra is an eight year old girl of a family that is recent convert/less active. The mom got baptised years ago but the Dad and the kids were baptized last year. They stopped coming to church for awhile but recently started coming back to church about a month ago. Wow it was so amazing to see the Dad be able to baptize for the first time. To see the Mom crying and feel the spirit so strongly.

A little background information first about Madeline and Jose. Two years ago Jose worked with a friend who is a member in the ward in Bayamon. He gave him a Book of Mormon and they would have long discussions at work about religion and Esteban would answer Jose's questions using the Book of Mormon. Not long after they lost touch and Esteban has not been attending church. Luis, Jose's best friend since they were very young, was invited by his girlfriend Laura to listen to the missionaries last year. Becuase of her and her family Luis was baptized in December. Luis then invited Jose to come over and listen to Hermana Thornton and Hermana Mertlich. Jose readily accepted the invitation.

Madeline was also a reference from a member. A few months ago the Young Women were each given a Book of Mormon and challenged to write their testimony in it and give it away to a friend. So Desire decided to give it to Madeline. Madeline started going to Seminary and then Hermana Thornton and Hermana Mertlich started teaching her. Madeline from the beginning always wanted to get baptized, but she still had not gained her own testimony that this was the true church. Each time we taught her we would ask her if she had received an answer and she said that she still hadn't. Hermana Thornton talked to President about and asked him what we should do because she wanted to be baptized and kept all the commitments but hadn't recieved an answer yet. He told us to go ahead with the baptism and that maybe her spiritual gift was to belief on the testimonies of others like it says in D&C. So we've been praying hard every day that she would be able to come to know for herself and we went ahead with the plans for the baptism.

There were quite a few members, Madeline's family, and also Luis and his girlfriend, Esteban and his girlfriend who isn't a member and also Jose's girlfriend who isn't a member either. It was especially amazing to see Luis baptize Jose and despite his nerves (no kidding, he was literally shaking before the baptism started) he said the baptism prayer perfectly and they embraced each other afterwards for a really long time It was really neat. Madeline was baptized by the bishop. After the baptisms the bishop wanted to have time for the bearing of testimonies while they all changed into dry clothes. He was definately inspired because the spirit was so strong. Luis' girlfriend Laura bore her testimony first and I realized how amazing it is that through one person's example so many miracles can come about. How amazing to hear Esteban bear his testimony and then finally to hear Jose bear his testimony for the first time testifying how he received an answer to his prayers and how the influence of his friend had brought him to know that this was the true church. Everyone was crying including the two girlfriends that don't know much about the church. Then Madeline got up and bore her testimony for the first time. The spirit was so strong as she thanked Desire for giving her a Book of Mormon and Hermana Torro and other members that helped her then she paused and started to cry and said that she knew that this was the true church and that she knew the Book of Mormon was true. Hermana Thornton and I just started to cry, she had come to know for herself. We played the last five minutes of the Testaments when Jesus Christ comes to the Americas and I'm pretty sure there was not a dry eye the room. I looked around and saw Madeline's mom crying, Jose's girlfriend crying, Alondra's mom crying and I don't know how to describe it was just so amazing.

As they left the baptism the group of six friends Luis, Jose and Esteban each with their girlfriends were already planning on having a movie night to watch the Testaments all the way through and Carla, Jose's girlfriend left with a Book of Mormon in her hand, a gift from Esteban.

Wow, I love this gospel so much. I am just amazed at how small things like a Book of Mormon with a testimony written in the cover can change the life of a seventeen year old girl or how an invitation to listen to the missionaries from Luis' girlfriend Laura set off a chain reaction that has not only blessed Luis but Jose as well and who knows how many more people, as they continue to share the gospel with their friends. How home teachers and ward members helped to reactivate a family that had become inactive after recently being baptized and the father was able to baptize his 8 year old daughter. By small things great things come to pass.

As missionaries sometimes we find people to teach and baptize, but even more amazing is to sit back and watch as miracles unfold because of members who are willing to share their testimonies. We just get to be instruments in the teaching process.

Anyway sorry that was really long but it was just a really amazing experience that I wanted to share with you all. Love you all a ton. Hope you have a great week!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Hello Stranded Friends

Hello fellow stranded friends,

Haha I only say this because it looks like we're all stranded in one way or another. As for myself, I've been stranded in the house a lot this week because Hermana Thornton is still feeling really sick. It was better than last week but I've still been making a lot of phone calls instead of knocking doors but things are good. We have been able to go to all of our teaching appointments but there have been a few days where she hasn't felt well enough to knock (and also we can't cancel some of the appointments or we won't finish the lessons before the baptisms this weekend). For those of you who are stranded in Utah and England, WOW, I can't believe the emails this week. That's so crazy. I hadn't heard anything about the volcano eruption in Iceland. As missionaries we never hear anything unless members or someone tell us and we haven't heard anything. That's crazy how many days has it been erupting for? Hermana Thornton's Dad just told us that there was a earthquake in Utah, in Randolf and that he felt it where he lived in Fruit Heights. Did you feel it at all? This is crazy. I'm sorry you had to cancel your European trip I know how much you were all looking forward to that; well at least after the plane landed :) I'm really sorry. Rach, I am praying for you and all the students so that you will be able to get home safely and I guess all I can say is that in the meantime enjoy your extra time in London. Dad said that you were going to go on an extra weekend trip so that will be good. Wow, things are crazy. Hope school is going good Erin, when are you done? That's cool that you are moving back to Salt Lake.  Are you moving home or getting an apartment? Ab, good luck with AP tests; I'll be praying for you. You'll do great and then it will be such a relief to be done and you can just enjoy the rest of your senior year with less stress. Wow, so weird my baby sister is graduating from High School.

Well things are good here. This week has been really great. We had to move Madeleine's baptism date because we didn't have time to finish the lessons. So this weekend we are having a triple baptism! Madeline, Jose, and also Alondra who is a little eight year girl of one to the coolest families in our ward who are recent converts. So it is going to be great. We just have to round up the baptism clothes (its turning out a lot harder than we thought), visit both of them each day even though they live about 45 minutes away, and keep Luis (Jose's best friend and recent convert of only 4 months) from hyperventalating because he is so nervous because Jose asked him to baptize him and since he just got baptized himself he is super nervous and worried he'll do it wrong.

We had a really great lesson with a man named Angel who is a former investigator, the spirit was so strong. Luis (same Luis mentioned above) also happens to be one of our most gung-ho member missionaries and he went with us to teach Angel. Wow, the spirit was so strong as Jose testified of how he received a testimony of Joseph Smith. Even though we were on the front porch and there were a million distractions inside the house from the tv and computer and the neighbors were playing loud rigatone music it was like, I don't know, this amazing moment where it was like we were in our own little world and the spirit was so strong. I am really excited for some of the people that we have found because of the hours of calling on the telephone from the area book. We have 3 or 4 really great appointments this week with people. So maybe spending lots of time in the house is just what we needed :)

Well I am going to send you some pictures. I don't have a ton but some of them are pretty funny. In Puerto Rico where it rains a lot sometimes you have to try and dry your laundry inside the house which is a pain because unless it dries in the sun it never really gets dry very well. Last week it was raining a ton so the only place to hang a clothesline happened to be where we study. So we couldn't see each other as we studied. So this is how we did our companionship study. Well... that's a lie, we moved it out of the way so we could see each other but we took pictures because it was funny.
This is why I am going to gain a ton of weight here, fried food. A recent convert owns a little shop on the side of the highway (a very common thing here) where she sells frituras (fried food).
 These are bacailiatos which is basically fried batter that has little bits of bacalai which is a really salty which fish. There is empanada with ground beef and my favorite, Pinonos, which is the little round thing which is bananas stuffed with ground beef and then fried. The bananas are really sweet.

Translation: Life is short.  Eternity is not. - God
Translation:  Do you feel lost?  My book is your map. - God
Why don't we have billboards like this in the states?  I love Puerto Rico

Hey Rach, remember the pictures of the tans that we used to laugh about like the lifeguard ton or the rollerblade tan?  Well, you can add Puerto Rican Sister Missionary Chancletta tan.  Wish the picture did it justice, it looks better in person.

Ab, you'll like this one.  These little critters are everywhere.
Love you all. Hope everything is well. Thanks for the emails I love reading about everything back at home. I'm praying that everything works out well this week with airplane flights, tests and moving home.

Hermana Barker

P.S. Thanks for the package it was perfect.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Toa Baja and two baptisms this week

Hey Family,

Hope things are going good this week. Sounds like everyone is really busy between work and school. Good luck with work Dad hope you get all your returns done. Good luck on finals Rach. Don't stress out too much but enjoy your last few days in London. I didn't go to France so I don't know anything about it but I am super jealous take lots of pictures and tell me all about it.

Things here are good here. Toa Baja is a really great ward. I still don't know anybody but I am excited to serve in this ward because there are a lot of really great members. I'm not going to lie its been a pretty hard week. Hermana Thornton has been sick these last few transfers and even though she has been to the doctor several times she still isn't better or something else comes up. Its hard because she has no energy and really horrible headaches and dizzyness. So we spent quite a bit of time in the apartment this week. I felt bad because I know she feels miserable and she was a good sport about it and we tried to work as much as we could and we taught most of the lessons we had set up but she just didn't have the energy to knock doors some days. So we would go back to the house and we were able to count finding time by going through the area books (these are binders that keep track of all the contacts we make so like everyone you ever contact you write in the book so other missionaries later on can contact them. It also has the teaching records for former investigators). So I spent hours this week calling former investigators or contacts trying to set up appointments. That gets old pretty fast. But its good to try and go back and find people that were listening to the lessons that maybe at the time weren't interested or ready but maybe they are now. Hopefully this week will be better. We are going to be really busy this week because we have two baptisms coming up! Jose and Madeleine. Madeleine was supposed to get baptized this week but she was sick and had a lot of school projects this week we won't be able to finish the lessons in time so we put her baptism date back a week and we are going to have a double baptism with Jose on the 24th. They are both amazing. Jose is especially excited for his baptism date. I just love how enthusiastic he is about the gospel. He went to his first fast and testimony meeting yesterday and loved it. He told us that he couldn't help but think what he would say when he would be up there bearing his testimony. He takes his Book of Mormon with him everywhere and always reads it when he has a free moment at school. When his friends made fun of him for reading it all the time and saying, I don't know how you can read that its so long and the letters are small and it looks so boring. he started saying "well you read Lord of the Rings for the tenth time and instead they could read just a few verses of the Book of Mormon" he tells them how much it would change their life. He and Luis and are going to talk to one of their best friends today to see if we can come teach her the lessons. It is so great to see young people get so excited about the gospel and also want to share it with their friends.

We had a really great zone conference on Friday where we talked about how we can work better with the Bishop. We met with him last night with the elders that also serve in our ward. He said that his main goal is to get 150 people in Sacrament each week. So we have a giant list of the names of less active members that we are going to go out and find. We want to start working with the members and going on splits, bringing them to our lessons but then also going to visit less active members. There are so many in this ward. But we are excited and up for the challenge.

Well hope everything goes well this week. Thanks for sending the package mom. My asthma is doing fine everything is back to normal. Don't worry Dad, I'm wearing sunscreen.

Love you all a ton. Have a good week.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Transferred to Toa Baja

Hey Family,

Thanks for the emails this week. I have to say I especially enjoyed the slap bracelet picture from Erin, very cool. haha. What was the conference for that you went to in California? Sounds cool. Sounds like Rach is once again having an amazing experience in london you'll have to show me pictures when you get back (ps I can't see them unless they are attached individually which is quite sad). Sounds like things are super busy at home. Hope you get this these next two weeks at work Dad without being too stressed. Have fun on your trip these next few weeks what's the itenerary? What are all the places you are going to? Yea, Ab, you got into housing at Helaman that will be fun and it will be super close. I'm so excited for you. BYU is awesome you will love it. Say hi to all the family for me. Sounds like Easter was fun. It didn't feel like easter at all here, except for conference. PS I'm supposed to tell Amber Worthen hi from an Elder Hill that is serving in my mission.

So I haven't moved too far, just the next ward over, Toa Baja, the ward that meets in the stake center.

It was sad to say goodbye to Bayamon and I related a lot to what Rachel was saying about saying goodbye to the people in her spanish branch, saying goodbye to the investigators and the members that we had there especially since I had no idea if I would be going to the next ward over or to the other side of the island but its fun that I'm not too far and I got to see a ton of the people in the Bayamon ward at General Conference which was really fun. I am very excited to be in Toa Baja though. This is an excellent ward with a lot of really strong families. Many of them are american, or at least speak english. My companion is amazing!!!!

 Her name is Hermana Thornton and she is from Fruit Heights, Utah and has been out almost a year.

 I am really excited to work with her because she is really excited about missionary work and you can tell that she just loves this gospel and is so excited to share it with everyone. Wow, she's really an amazing missionary and I am already learning a lot from her. We are really excited to start out this new transfer and have a lot of the same ideas and goals that we want to work on and complete this transfer so I am really excited. We get up every morning and go to track nearby which is really great. Its amazing how much energy you have when you exercise more in the morning.

I still haven't met all of the people that we are teaching but I am really excited because our investigators seem really great. We have to baptism dates for this month both of them are young people and both references from members. Madeleine is 17 and she's awesome. She's really excited for her baptism and has been working on her personal progress and is just really excited about the gospel. Jose is another investigator that is 19 and really cool. He's so excited about the gospel. We taught him the word of wisdom the other day and he full heartedly committed to it saying "if that's what I need to do then I'll do it". He's really excited about his baptism date. Our area is huge, Toa Alta, part of Naranjito, part of Toa Baja, Corozal and Dorado. There are places that have probably never been knocked before which will be really great but also hard because we have to drive really far to get anywhere and most of the members live pretty far away. Its more country than Bayamon. Bayamon has tons of small houses close together since its city but this area is more country with lots of hills and also Dorado, which is a really nice beach area with a lot of closed urbs that are really nice. We are already planning a p-day activity to go the beach (to take pictures of course, no swimming) and to play tennis!!!!! at the courts that are in a complex where a member lives. I am super excited its been a long time since I've held a tennis racket. Haha, little side note.

For General Conference we went to our ward, which is the stake building and we watched General Conference there.

There was a room with a tv just for the missionaries, the younger full-time and also the missionaries that work in the mission office, and we watched it in English, (those who don't speak English watched it with the other members of the stake). It was a fun two days. Wow, what an amazing conference!!! Wow, the spirit was so strong and those were some of the best talks I have heard in a long time. It was obvious the overlying theme of the conference seemed to be strengthening the families. We can also see that the world is getting a lot harder, life isn't easy. Its almost as though our leaders where saying "the war against satan is on. Time to rally up the troops, Mother, Father, all priesthood holders, young men and women and even the little kids. This is the time to be better and stronger than we ever have been because things are harder than ever before but if we focus on the doctrine of the atonement and eternal families we can conquer anything". If I could summon up conference in a few sentences that's what it would be. It was amazing. Wow, you can see it here on the mission more than ever how many people need this gospel. Life is hard. But with the gospel of Jesus Christ we can overcome anything. I am so thankful for an eternal family. That's what the end goal is. We have a new goal to focus more on the family, not only testifying more about the family but also focusing on strengthening families in the ward, and using young women and young single adults to go out with us. Anyway, conference was amazing, the spirit was especially strong. I can't wait to get the Liahona and go back and read them again and try to apply them in my life and use the talks to share with the members and less active members here.

Well I am attaching some pictures of me and my new companion and another of all the sisters in the mission. Got to love the pictures where everyone is looking at 20 different cameras. I'll send some more pictures next week.

Love you all a ton,

Hermana Barker