Monday, January 28, 2013

New Address

Here is Parker's new address:
Elder Parker Banks
4371 Meadow Green Estate
St. Louis, MO 63129

Hello St. Louis

          This week was my first week in Oakville and it was great. The last couple days in Fairview were good and I just went around and said goodbye to a few people and taught some good lessons. Probably the most memorable thing that I got to do was my very last lesson at 8 at night on Tuesday. We went to a preacher’s house and had bible study with him and his family and a couple people from his congregation. Every time I have met with preachers on my mission it has been a disaster, but this time it was awesome. The Spirit was there super strong for us and it helped me realize even more that just because people don’t have 100 percent of the truth doesn’t mean they aren’t doing their best. I hope Elder Anderson and Elder Hoggan can have success teaching him.

            My new companions name is Elder Bullock and he is really cool. It has been a huge change going from Elder Anderson to Elder Bullock. Elder Anderson and I had a ton of fun and we worked really hard but the time flew by. We were constantly laughing and having fun so it was super disappointing to find out we weren’t companions anymore. Elder Bullock is the hardest working missionary I have ever served around and he is super, super obedient too. He is very serious so we don’t laugh and joke as much but we still have fun in a different way. He is from about an hour away from Calgary in Canada, so he is a little bit more used to the crazy ice weather we have been getting recently. But thankfully today its 60 so we don’t have to worry about that too much. He loves basketball so we are really excited to get to go to the church building and play today.
By the way the church building is an exact copy of the church building I went to back home and the first time I walked into the building it was quite the deja vu experience. It’s been a really good time serving with Elder Bullock so far.

Oakville is a super cool area. We live with a member right now named Brother Mills. He is a dentist and he is super cool. It’s really humbling to think that I have friends and people who are living in little tin huts in the middle of nowhere and I am living in a house bigger than my one back home. It is a huge blessing and I am super thankful for it every day. I have been here for almost a week now but it stills blows my mind when I open up a pantry and have tons of food or get to go sit down and play his really nice piano for a few minutes. We are going to live in this house for about 2 more weeks then we are going to move in with the Bankheads. I have met them a few times and they are super nice. Brother Bankhead is the temple president out here. I don’t know too much about the move but I have heard that the house we are moving into is even nicer than the one we live in now. I’m so thankful for all the members in this ward who are so helpful.

            The ward here in Oakville is awesome too. There were 16 baptisms last year which is a ton for our mission. The ward is crazy helpful and they are always wanting to help the missionaries in any way possible. We haven’t had any problems getting members to come with us to lessons at all so far. There are 2 families that were just baptized and one that is being taught right now. The missionaries who were here before me did a super good job finding those big groups of people who need the gospel. We have 5 baptisms set up for February 9th so I’m really excited for that. One is with a guy named John who they tracted into a little while back and he is way solid. He came to church yesterday and just couldn’t stop talking about how at home he felt and how much he loved it. The other 4 are a family named the Medinas. They speak mostly Spanish and me and Elder Bullock speak none. We had a lesson the first night I got here and it was an interesting experience to say the least. But the Elder who I replaced speaks Spanish and he is an assistant now with another Spanish speaking missionary. So the Medinas will be coming to our ward but the assistants are going to do all of the teaching for us because it’s much easier for them. So we will see how that goes and hopefully they are ready by their date.

             I got to go back to the Fairview Heights building yesterday to have a meeting with Elder Anderson and Elder Hoggan because we have to plan out a zone conference that is coming up. It was fun cause on my way into the parking lot Brenda and her family drove past and I got to talk to them for a little bit. It was really cool to get to see them at church again and so happy together. Also earlier this week we got to do a few baptismal interviews throughout the zone. They were both in the heart of St Louis so it was cool to get to drive around in there a little bit. One of them was in Lindell 1's area and that the area with the arch in it so it is really the center of the city. It was fun to get to work there a little bit and tract before the interview.

Tracting... that’s something I have done a lot of recently. Me and Elder Anderson rarely tracted because we had lots of other things to go do that were a lot more effective. Me and Elder Bullock have tracted more in the last few days than I did in my whole transfer with Elder Anderson. The city is a sweet place but people are not the nicest here. With all our tracting we have gotten about one potential investigator out of it. Hopefully as I start to get a little more familiar with the area and families around here we can get some other things to do. Overall I love my new area. The ward is awesome and church was a ton of fun. The missionaries in this zone are way cool and I get to hang out with Elder Loveless today and I am way excited for that. I haven’t seen him in a few months and I can’t wait. It’s been a super solid few days and I am excited to keep working and to learn and grow even more.

            I hit my year mark in just a few days and I haven’t thought about it too much but I’m pretty excited. It’s fun to look back and realize how much I have learned. I think I have done a pretty good job of not letting myself think that I am almost done because another year is still a long time. I know it’s going to fly by just like everything else has, but I am super excited to keep pushing along and learning new things every day. The more I study humility and learn about that the more I can learn from every experience I get to have out here. I am so thankful for the amazing blessings I have seen on the first half of my mission and I can’t wait for the second half to start out strong.

-Elder Banks

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

He's getting transferred

           This week has been full of crazy stuff. Our weather has gone from being 65 early in the week to 14 on our way to email today. It’s freezing now. And to answer one of my mom’s questions, I have wanted to Ravens to win the super bowl since the playoffs started so I’ll be cheering for them for sure a week from Sunday. Sorry Matt.

This week started out with a few really cool things happening. I mentioned a guy named Ali in my last email and he was doing amazing. We were teaching him and he wanted to get baptized and for the first time in the 6 weeks me and Elder Anderson have been together, we had an investigator at sacrament meeting, with a date, and progressing. We were really excited about that. After we met with Ali a couple times the rest of the week really slowed down. We only met a couple people who were interested at all this week and of course they were all in other people areas. So we had a long week of rejection but it was still way fun with Elder Anderson and we learned a ton from it. Then we had a really cool thing happen. Brother Nance was going to come with us to a lesson and he pulled up into our parking lot and we went and got in his car. He was wearing 2 pairs of sunglasses and laying down in his chair. He told us that he was having some kind of headache that only a doctor like him would actually know what it was. It’s about 10 times as painful as a migraine but without a few of the symptoms. He asked us for a blessing because he couldn’t drive us anywhere because his eyes hurt too badly from it. So we walked him up into our apartment and gave him a blessing. Within about 5 seconds he took off the sunglasses and said he felt great and was ready to go. It was a really cool thing to get to see. Then the lesson we went to wasn’t home so we went to his house and had him realign our backs instead. It feels great to be all popped back together again.

            Going back to Ali for a second. He came to church and loved it there. Then in the middle of sacrament meeting we got a text that we definitely weren’t expecting. Turns out Ali is already a member... He got baptized in 2000 and just doesn’t remember it. We are happy because he is still coming back to church and he lives with a few people we are hoping to teach soon, but it was still a little demoralizing to find out our only solid investigator is actually a less active member. Definitely a turn that we didn’t see coming. But it was just another humbling experience in the mission field that we can learn and grow from.

            Saturday night we got transfer calls. I got the call that I am leaving Fairview Heights and heading to be a zone leader in the south Saint Louis zone and I’ll be staying in a city called Oakville. I am so excited. Oakville is probably about 20 minutes from the arch so we are right down town. The Saint Louis zone is awesome because it covers pretty much all of Saint Louis. Almost all of the cool things to do in the city are in south zone. I love Saint Louis and can’t wait to actually live in the city now. From what I have heard in Oakville we live with members. There are 3 different members that have places for the missionaries to stay. I think we will be moving shortly after I get there to a new members house but I’m not really sure. But I have heard it’s the 2nd nicest place to live in the whole mission so I’m way excited about that. Also I know that south zone has 24 baptismal dates right now which is insane. Anything in the double digits is great so 24 is amazing. I am so thankful and humbled to get to go into such a good situation.

Of course it comes with mixed feelings from having to leave Fairview Heights. Leaving here can’t even compare to how hard it was to leave Jacksonville, but there are still a lot of things I am going to miss here. There are a lot of good people who I have grown to love. On Sunday night me, Elder Anderson, and the Assistants all went and ate dinner with the Kremers and Sandy at the Kremers house. It was fun to get to all be together but of course it was hard to say bye to the people who have become some of my best friends. I am going to miss being with Elder Anderson SOO much. He has been an awesome companion. We have had so much fun together and put into a situation that could have been miserable I was able to have probably my favorite transfer of my mission so far.

I am going to serve with Elder Bullock in Oakville and I am really excited to do that. I don’t know him too well but I have heard nothing but great things about him and I know he is from Canada. That’s pretty much all my information on him right now. I am extremely excited and nervous to be making this change but I know that God needs me to go to Saint Louis now and work hard there.

             I got to call a few missionaries the night of transfer calls and talk to them. Elder Williams in staying in Champaign and getting a new companion. Elder Jensen’s companion is going home, so he is going to get a new one for his last transfer in the mission. And Elder Anderson (the one I served with in Jacksonville) called me at 10:00 and we talked for about half an hour because it was so good to talk to each other again. I am so jealous of him because he is going back to Jacksonville to open Jacksonville 2. He is so excited and I am probably just going to have to beg and plead president to send me back there to serve with him again. It’s worth a shot. And also one of my best friends in the mission, Elder Loveless, is in South zone so I will get to see him again and I am way excited for that.

I am so thankful for all of the amazing blessings that I get to see every day as a missionary and I am thankful for all the great experiences that I have gotten here in Fairview. I’ll miss everyone, but I am headed out to the next part of my mission and I am so thankful for the opportunity. I love this gospel and know it’s true. No matter where I go, or who I am talking to, I will always know that one thing.

-Elder Banks

Monday, January 14, 2013

            We had a really good week this week and it started with something that was really different but it was a really cool experience. One of our friends Elder Hunter is in Belleville right now and he needed to go to St Louis so he could go to court. A few months ago he got mugged in the city and they caught the two guys who did it to him so he had to go to the trial. After we finally found a place to park and figured out what building it was in we walked into the court room and sat in the back. It was interesting to see Elder Hunters reaction because the person who just a few months ago was pointing a gun at his head was sitting right in front of him now. The kid had already said he was guilty so there was no jury or anything but they simply just asked Elder Hunter to go up and talk about how the crime had affected him. It was really cool because he walked up there and bore his testimony to the whole court. He talked about his testimony of Christ and how through Christ we can always be forgiven. He told the kid he had forgiven him and how he knew that God loved him and wanted to help him still. The kid is 18 and won’t be out of jail until he is at least 29, so we were really happy to at least see a small amount of guilt be taken off of his shoulders.

             I have heard the weather in Utah has been insane. We are so thankful we haven’t gotten what you all have back home. On Tuesday it was like 65 degrees and wonderful and right now it’s about 20 and really cold. Sunday I saw freezing rain for the first time and that was weird. It kinda feels like hail while you’re in it but it just instantly freezes as soon as it hits the ground. It pretty much turns the whole city into a giant ice skating rink. A few people’s church got canceled but thankfully ours didn’t get shortened or anything.

             The rest of this week was full of exchanges. Wednesday we went up to Mt Vernon. Elder Lainhart is up there finishing out his mission and he got lucky enough to smash his toe earlier this week. Elder Anderson said that the x-ray of his toe looked like someone had smashed a cookie because there were just pieces of bone everywhere. So we are trying to help him out and get his companion out of the apartment for once. But they are an hour and a half drive away so it’s tough sometimes. After the MT Vernon exchange, I went to Belleville the next day with Elder Taylor. Then the next day I was in Fairview Heights with Elder Smith while Elder Anderson was in O’Fallon. Then the next 2 days were spent with the assistants in our area. So needless to say I was pretty happy to be back with Elder Anderson finally.

We have one week left before transfers (we get calls this Saturday) and I can barely believe it. This transfer has flown by. It’s been fun and frustrating at the same time. From the time that Elder Anderson got here until now we have a teaching pool that is pretty much exactly the same, it’s just different names. No one has really made much progress and some recent converts have even gotten worse. But I am super thankful for two things especially right now. First is Elder Anderson. No matter how terrible a day has been or how many hours we spend walking around in the rain we can never stop laughing. We are always having fun and that makes it so much easier to teach and to have the Spirit with us all the time no matter what. The second thing I am thankful for is the miracles that have happened this week. We found 2 young couples who are really interested in learning and have crazy potential. There are a lot of young couples in our ward so we are hoping that they will come to church soon and meet some people they like and feel that Spirit. We also found a guy named Ali. Like the prince Ali song from Aladdin. He is an AT&T salesman and he knocked on the O’Fallon elder’s door. They taught him and he loves The Book of Mormon and knows everything we teach is true. It’s just impossible to meet with him. So once we can start meeting with him and get him to church he should be ready to get baptized. It’s been a pretty stale transfer but we are really happy to be ending it with some good news.

            This Saturday we had president interviews. Like always, mine was about 60 seconds long and fairly uneventful, but something else really cool happened that day. The Shiloh elders had 3 people get baptized that day. Earlier that week I had the opportunity to interview Jennifer and her son. Jennifer was for sure getting baptized but the kids were a little bit of a risky situation. They were with their dad on Saturday and he wasn’t too supportive of the situation. He doesn’t have any custody so he couldn’t stop them but if he decided to not bring them to the building then they couldn’t really get baptized. But with lots of prayer and the Spirit softening his heart he brought them. It was really good to see all of their hard work paying off. They went through a lot of weeks of nothing but tracting and disappointment but it finally all paid off so that was an amazing experience.

            This upcoming week brings a lot of uncertainty with transfer calls and a lot of excitement with some new investigators that are coming out of nowhere. We know that it’s going to be a good end of the transfer and we are so thankful for all of the many blessings that we have seen together. We pray that we can finish out strong and see some results and see people’s lives change in the near future. Thank you all for your love and support and I’ll talk to you again soon.

-Elder Banks   

Monday, January 7, 2013

            Yesterday (Sunday) we drove around to talk to about 7 or 8 part member families we had on a list. Unfortunately like is so normal we only got in to talk to one. When we got in there the lady who is a member said "I know you’re here to talk about religion but right now I just don’t want to talk about it. But you are welcome to come over and watch football with my husband any time." So that kinda stunk but because her husband isn’t a member and he was a captive audience watching football. We decided to make the huge sacrifice and watch 10 minutes of football with him. It was the Ravens-Colts game and it was the very ending of it. I heard all about Ray Lewis retiring after this season and how it was his last home game and all that. So getting to see him play his last game at the Ravens stadium was pretty sweet. I want the Ravens to win the Super Bowl (or at least just beat the Broncos next week) so I’ll be cheering for them. Sometimes God gives us little things like 10 minutes of football with a potential investigators to just make us smile and I’m thankful for that.

             Something I totally forgot to talk about last week was the mission baptismal goal. So the year before I got to this mission the goal was 400. They weren’t even close. They lowered it to 340 and then didn’t even get that. Then last year they set the goal at 365. We were pretty close the entire time I have been on my mission until November then we fell way behind. President Clark told us that he was even starting to think of excuses of what he could tell people why we didn’t reach our goal. Then all the missionaries in the mission were challenged to invite their investigators to have a baptismal date. Every single person we are teaching. We needed about 5 dates to be set to have a chance at coming back. At the end of the week we had set 105. Of course most of those fell through but we ended last year with 372 baptisms. We had a mission wide miracle and we are all so thankful for the chance we had to see it.

Then in ZLC we all had to decide what the next goal is going to be. When we had talked about it and prayed we decided that with all the new missionaries coming in our new goals should be 450 just like at the waters of Mormon. It’s a big goal but we are excited to work towards it. It’s interesting because I was the only person in the ZLC meeting who is going to be here at the end of next year to see the result of the goal. So it’s means a lot to me and I am really excited to see how it goes.

              Something I have been thinking a lot about recently is how blessed I have been on my mission. My mom wrote me today and told me a couple things about some missionaries who have been struggling. Part of being a zone leader that I don’t love so much is that I hear about most of the missionaries that are having a tough time. It breaks my heart to hear about people who can barely make it through parts of their missions. It made me sooo thankful to have the amazing companions that I have been blessed with so far. I am not even close to being the perfect person or perfect missionary. But thankfully I have been blessed with insanely humble and patient companions who have helped me so much. I have been thinking a ton about Elder Jensen this week too. He goes home in about 2 months and I am going to miss him so much. I wouldn’t be anywhere close to the missionary I am now without him. He helped me learn so much and taught me a ton. I don’t know why I have been so blessed with so much help and love on my mission but I am definitely thankful. One thing I have been trying to work on with myself is pride. Something I have learned on my mission is that no matter what if you are unhappy or contentious in any way it is because of pride. The more that we can all humble ourselves the happier we are going to be.

             Another sweet thing that happened this week was in gospel principles class. Not so much what we were talking about or what was said but just something that I noticed. I looked around the room and saw a class room full of people. We have up to 8 people in that class sometimes. When I first got to Fairview it was consistently just the missionaries and the ward mission leader with maybe one other person, so getting to see 8 new people join that class is amazing. I got to look around and see how much people’s lives have changed over the last 6 months. Seeing those people at church is a great blessing I am so thankful that I get to see. I have been studying the Book of Mormon with the student manual that you can get at the distribution center and it has been awesome. Something that I came across recently was in an Isaiah chapter in 2 Nephi. I don’t remember the verse or what it says exactly but it talks about the king of Assyria and how he thinks that he is so powerful. It compares him to an axe in someone’s hand. While the axe is splitting wood it probably feels really powerful and knows that it’s doing good work. But the second that the person puts the axe down in lays there worthless. Without God we are all nothing. I am so thankful for the chance that I have to be a tool in Gods hand and help accomplish his work. I know that without God I would be nothing. I am so blessed to be able to do His work no matter where or what he wants me to do. If he wants me to go to East St Louis and tract the ghetto that’s what we are going to do. If he wants us to give up a day to drive and help another missionary then that’s what we are going to do. I am so thankful for the blessings that I have received and the lessons I have learned on my mission. I love being a missionary, and not because I have been trained my whole life to think that I’m supposed to love my mission, but because I can be happy every morning waking up and getting to serve God. I love doing this work.

-Elder Banks

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Elder Banks with his birthday loot
Paint St. Louis
Hot and tired after riding bikes to a cornfield?!!
A "cool arch thing" they saw on a lawn

Christmas and New Year's

           I haven’t written an email home in a long time so a lot has happened. Probably the greatest thing that happened is that my mom downloaded angry birds to her new ipod touch. I am so proud of her. I’m sure she is thrilled that I was willing to share that with everyone.

We have had some crazy weeks recently. We had Christmas and Christmas Eve last week. Those were both really fun. We got the whole day off both times and we just got to spend some fun time with members in the ward. The weather out here is finally starting to look like Christmas unfortunately. It has snowed a little bit but mostly it’s just freezing and windy. Up until about the day after Christmas it was 40 or 50 degrees most days. But not all good things can last forever so now it’s more like 20 or 30 degrees and icy all the time. When we drove up to Springfield for a Christmas party it was a disaster. Semis and cars tipped over and off the side of the road everywhere.

Two days ago was New Year’s Eve and that was fun. It was P day and we just got the whole day off to do whatever we wanted. We went over to the Jacksons and played Phase 10 and all the years of playing that with my family on Sunday finally paid off. Then on New Year’s Day we cleaned our apartment until 4 and then after that we got the rest of the night off. Our apartment definitely needed the 6 hours of cleaning. We had fun throwing away stuff Elder Anderson had used last time he was here about a year ago, including some food which was pretty gross. We had a really good couple days break though.

            This morning we were talking about how hard it is to work around this time of year. We just had 2 weeks where we only had to work for 5 days and we got 2 days off. Now that we are looking ahead and our next day off is Mother’s Day it looks like a huge mountain to climb. We have gotten used to breaks and it’s also freezing cold outside. Sometimes getting yourself ready to go out and work a long day in the cold is hard. But I’m so thankful to have a companion and other missionaries around me who make it that much easier to go work. When you are with someone who you have to drag out the door each day it makes it a lot harder. But when you have someone who is there to help you and support your good decisions it makes things a lot easier. This week’s email is going to be super short because we have to go to some appointments now, but thank you to all of you for the help and support that you constantly give the missionaries. We have a few good potential investigators that we are trying to work with right now so hopefully I have some good news on them next week. I’ll talk to you all again soon!

Elder Banks