Monday, March 12, 2012

March 12, 2012

Hello everyone:

This is Parker's Mom. I tried to put a few pictures on his blog today. I am not good at that part. The first one is of all the new missionaries who went to St. Louis the same day as Parker. President and Sister Clark are with them in front of the St. Louis temple. I had to put one of Parker riding his scooter down the hall in his apartment building. Then it's his congratulations poster to his sister, Amanda. Finally a pic of Parker with his trainer, Elder Jensen. I'll put more photos on Facebook because that's easier for me!


Jodie Banks

So this week I have to start by saying congrats to my sister Amanda and brother Landen. They got married this week and I am so excited for them! I don’t know when they will read this because they are on their honeymoon but i hope they have an awesome week that starts an awesome eternity together.

Also I heard that Weston is getting his call pretty soon and I am freaking out haha. I was thinking about that a ton last week and I want to know where he is going to bad. I can’t wait for all of my friends to get to experience what I am right now. It’s true that it is almost impossibly hard at the beginning. And it doesn’t ever get much easier. But i have only been out for about a month and a half and it’s already way worth it.

This week in Jacksonville was insane. So many good things happened and we had such a busy week. It was a real roller coaster this week because Satan was trying to stop us from doing all the good things we did this week. It felt like we had lead weight around our ankles every time we tried to do anything. Especially get out of bed. But it was obvious that Satan was trying to keep us down so we just kept pushing on knowing that obviously something good was waiting for us. It has almost gotten to the point where when we feel awful we get excited because we know that Satan is trying to keep us from doing something good that day. And without fail every day that we push on and work hard something amazing happens.

The weather here has been super weird. Monday it rained a lot. And i mean a lot. Every street here has giant ditches dug off to the side of it because it’s like a hurricane when it rains and all the streets and everything floods. But when you're inside looking out the window at it, it’s pretty amazing.

Then Tuesday it snowed and that was awful cause it was freezing. But from Wednesday on it has been amazing. 65 degrees with a slight wind to keep you cool. We have to enjoy this weather for the few more weeks that we have until it gets unbearably hot.

So a lot happened this week like I said. Monday not much happened cause it was just P-day. But Tuesday was way interesting. It looked like it was going to be a horrible day. We had a full schedule at the beginning of the day but then because everyone canceled we ended up with about 6 hours with nothing to do. So doing our best to avoid tracting at all costs, we decided to go and see some less active members. There was one name on a list we looked at that stuck out to us and his name was Terri Anderson. We found out more about him and realized that the sisters before us had tried to contact him but he had moved. But because we were already in a pretty bad mood my companion just said "Too bad we're going to see him anyway!" So we drove to his house and turns out the sisters were right. He had moved. But we talked to his slightly crazy daughter who still lived there and she gave us his new address. So we drove down to his new house and knocked on the door. He was there with his son and we were pretty surprised when they let us in. He was just getting out of bed even though it was almost dinner time. We found out that he works from 6 at night until 6 in the morning. So very luckily we had caught him on a day when he had work off that night. After talking to him for about 30 minutes we found out he hadn’t been to church for a few decades and his life was pretty awful right now. But he wanted to try to fix it so he told us to come back later that night to talk more. When we went back he read some scriptures with us and it was really cool. But then what made the night really special was he told us about how his life had really fallen apart. He has been praying for a few days that God would either send him someone to help so he didn’t have to be alone, or to just take his life. He was pretty amazed that we showed up just a few days later. I am so thankful for the opportunity that we have as missionaries to be so in touch with the Spirit and know exactly what to do and when to do it. And I’m thankful for a good companion who won’t sit around and do nothing even when that’s exactly what we both want to do.

The next day was interesting cause we did a blitz of a city called Beardstown, which has the greatest name ever. A blitz is when all of the missionaries from a district go to one city for the day. So I went up with the zone leader Elder Young and we tracted for a few hours and then went home. That was pretty much that whole day.

On Thursday we went to my first ever zone conference. It was really long. But most of it was good. Elder Jensen wasn’t feeling to great after some weird gravy we had eaten so we spent some time in the bathroom while he was throwing that up. But a cool part of that day was the drive back to Jacksonville from zone conference. It was about a 2 and a half hour drive and in case you don’t know Illinois is completely flat. I can look for hundreds of miles in one direction and not see anything but maybe a water tower. But because of that when the sun goes down you can see some of the most amazing sunsets ever. I took a few pictures but they really don’t do it justice. It was amazing.

Friday was probably the most interesting day of the week. We had a member invite us over to meet with his friend who was a preacher for another church. To make a long story short he pretty much just yelled at us for 2 hours about how we don’t believe in the same God as people who believe in the Bible, while we tried to teach him something about the gospel. But one moment that was really cool for me was when he told us that it’s cool that we believe in our church but we need to do some research. And that later in our lives we won’t think the church is true and we will have to study it more to believe in it again.

When he said that I gathered up all my courage to look at this giant, crazy Brazilian guy and tell him as boldly and bluntly as i have ever been in my life that he was wrong. I respected the fact that he believed in his church and we believed in ours. I wasn’t going to try to convert him. But that i could guarantee him that I would never not know our church was true. That even if every other person on earth fell away and told me I was wrong I would be able to know it’s true. And nothing he said or anyone else says can change that. I could help but smile after I saw the expression on his face after that. He just sat back and said "You're one special dude. The Christian faith could use a few more guys like you two." We didn’t convert him. We didn’t even come close. But it was a very negative experience that turned into a positive one because we were listening to the Spirit. My companion looked at me on the ride home and said "Now don’t get a big head or anything, but you served your purpose as Gods representative tonight." Just hearing that from him was enough to get me through the rest of the long night.

Saturday was the day my sister got married which was awful not being able to be there. But we got to go to a baptism which was cool. Pittstown was baptizing a girl in our church that Elder Jensen had been teaching before he came to Jacksonville. So we got to clean the font which was surprisingly cool and attend that baptism which was way cool.

Then on Sunday we went to church and I gave a talk on the 3rd article of faith and that went really well. Then in elders quorum the member who invited us to come talk to the crazy preacher guy at his house stood up and said how much he respected us and how strongly we have the Spirit with us and that they should all take advantage of having us here for the short time we are here. It has been so awesome the affect that members have had on our work. We have been working really hard to get them to trust us and now finally the referrals are starting to come in.

As a result of one of these referrals, we went to a woman’s house on Sunday. They answered the door and let us in really easily. We then found out that the woman who let us in was from out of state and is taking the lessons back in her home town. She moved out here for 6 weeks to take care of her sister who is a less active with a non member boyfriend. They insisted that we stay over for dinner as well so we got some pretty awesome steaks out of it as well. We are going back over tomorrow to see how they are doing and teach them a lesson so hopefully it goes well.

A few good things happened this week with our old investigators. Kodie learned the Plan of Salvation and of course took it in and already knows it better than i do. He is a 10 year old sponge who never forgets anything we tell him. And Shelly accepted a challenge from us to pray about when she should be baptized last week. This week she called us up to cancel an appointment cause she was sick. But they she told us that she had prayed and God told her she was ready. She wants to set an exact date for sometime at the end of April which we will hopefully get to set sometime this week. She has some problems to work out but we are really hoping she goes through with that. She has taken a 180 from the first time we met with her just a few short weeks ago. It’s a trick getting them to come to church though. Kodie lives with his active grandma but his mom only gets to see him on Sunday. So he has to choose church or time with his mom and almost every 10 year old is going to choose mom. But he said he would come to church every other week so that’s a start. And Shelly has a really bad problem with being in big groups. She had some really horrible things happen to her as a child so she still has problems being around people. But we think that both of them should be getting baptized fairly soon so keep them in your prayers and wish us luck!
Real quick to end I want to tell you about a man named Father Weitzel. He is a former Catholic priest who is 85 years old and lives in Beardstown. He is the coolest guy ever! He loves the missionaries and treats them like his own children. He has the most beautiful dog I have ever seen and I decided that I am getting one when I am older no matter what. He always tells people to listen to the missionaries even though he would never become a Mormon himself. He is just a good example of how kind the people are here.

Real quick a couple things i forgot. There is an awesome guy in the ward named Darin Michael who lives with his wife but they work opposite shifts so he spends most of his time alone. He lets us come over and visit him all the time and he keeps me updated on sports. He let me know when Peyton got released (sorry Austin) and I got to watch about 30 seconds of a Kentucky game this last week which was my sports fix for the next little while.

Also, Jacksonville sounds tiny but it really isn’t which i don’t understand. It only has 19,000 people but it feels just like Orem. There are like 4 colleges here including the one for the deaf. They are all tiny but they keep a lot of people here. There is a Wal-Mart and most of the same things that Orem has so we don’t have a very hard time getting food or anything like that. We use the computers at Macmurry College in the library and it’s really nice. I have to go now so we can have time to get ice cream at the Frozen Penguin before we go out to work tonight. But I will talk to all of you next week.

P.S. Kinda forgot to bear my testimony. But the church is true. I’ll do a better job next week.

-Elder Parker Banks

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