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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Coming Home

I just want to start off with a big THANK YOU to all the people who have supported me and understood what has happened the past few weeks. But more than just understanding and supporting me, those who have supported any missionary who ever had to come home early - for any reason. 

I never imagined it would be this hard to come home. Almost everyday in Argentina someone asked me "Do you miss your family?" In an indescribable way I could honestly answer "No." It wasn't that I didn't miss them but it was that I understood why I wasn't with them, and that my not being with them could potentially help someone else be with their family for eternity. But I missed them, not in a painful way. I was never homesick or sidetracked by the fact that I didn't get to call my mommy every night. I was delighted with the chance I had to help other come closer to Christ. 

But this post isn't about how I felt on the mission. It's about how I feel now. I'm not frustrated. I'm not depressed. But I'm not ecstatic nor am I bursting with happiness. I am torn. I want to be in both places. I want to be here, home, to get better. I want to be there, Argentina, to be a missionary. I know I need to be here because the work required of me in Argentina is impossible with the current state of my back. With that - for those of you that don't know - I am home because of a back injury. Bringing me to the point of this post. 

I am home. I am home for a reason. Every missionary that has ever come home, simply put, is home and they are home for a reason too. Maybe it is a medical reason. Maybe it's not. But they are home. To come home (early) from a mission is heart breaking. The only thing that lightens the sting is family and friends. The people who are willing to stand behind you and support you. Whether they understand from experience or just understand...the people who understand are the people who help us heal. In my case the ‘understanders’ will not heal me. Just because people understand my pain doesn't mean my pain will get better. But they will help me.

I read Our Search for Happiness while I was on my mission and I love the first paragraph...
     "Consider for a moment the word understanding."
     "It's a simple word, really - one that most of us use every day. But it means something that is quite remarkable. With understanding we can strengthen relationships, revitalize neighborhoods, unify nations and even bring peace to a troubled world." 

Think about what he said for a moment. The importance of understanding. I never imagined how important understanding could be in my own life...but it is. I have now been home for a week and a half. I have gotten text messages, comments on social media posts, and unexpected visits from people, who want to understand. Who want to help. Who want to help me heal. But there is always the occasional gossip. Yesterday I went to lunch with one of my best friends. After I was released I went to her house. She was someone I knew I could turn to. With that. Others too thought they could turn to her for answers. To their own questions. 

"Did you see that Brooke is home?"

"Why did she come home?"

"Can you believe she came home early?" 

"Wait! Did she not repent of something?"

I'll stop there because this is where my heart stopped. Why does everyone think that if a missionary comes home early it because of the last question? Did he/she not repent of something?

I'm not saying it doesn't happen because I know people who have had to come home early for that. But guess what? It doesn't matter why they, we, or I am home. We are home to get better. I'm not going to post about how hurt I am that people always think the worst. I just want this post to be an eye opener. 

You. Our Friends and family. Can help us. It doesn't matter the reason. Nothing is more important than recovery. Missions are strange. You leave on your mission heart broken because you won't see your family and friends for 18 months / 2 years but you know it's what God wants you to do, and you love him enough to do it. But when you come home..Your whole heart doesn't come home. You fall in love with the people, the culture, the country. Simply put, you fall in love with your mission. It can't last forever. In the beginning that's our hope..."I only have __ months left. I can do this." But in the end it's our fear. "I only have __ days left. I can't I won't I don't want to leave." Then we are released and stripped of the spiritual strength we have enjoyed. We feel torn. Like part of us is missing. Life is different than before the mission...but exactly the same. We still have our friends. We still have our family. Our ward. Our pets. But we are different. We have led a life VERY different. And we are left torn.. Half my heart is in Argentina. The other half is here, and very confused. 

I want everyone to know the truth. I am home for an undiagnosed back problem. I can't tell you what it is or how I got it because I do not know. But I am home. To get better. Every person who has ever come home, came home for a reason. Whether it be mental, emotional, physical, spiritual or just the end of their mission. They came home. To get better. Missionaries who served their full mission are home to get better. They now get to apply their teachings to their own life. And trust me, if missionaries apply what they taught, if the live what they asked their investigators to matter how great your life is or was. It will get better. 

Think what you want. Believe what you want. But if you want to make a difference in someone's life, you can. Listen to them. Help them. DO NOT JUDGE THEM

There is a quote from last conference that I love...

I have many friends that have served me in the week and a half since I have been home. I recognized. Maybe the person you help won't recognize. But I promise, God will. We can help anyone, if we try. When Christ was on the Earth He didn't exclusively help the righteous or the rich. He helped EVERYONE. Our purpose in this life is to become like him. We can help everyone. We shouldn't look for the opportunity to help someone for praise; we should look for the opportunity to help someone for God. 

- Bottom line - You shouldn’t judge us for why we are home or assume you know why. Jesus Christ wouldn’t. He would help. He would understand.

If you have recently come home from your mission, or if you came home years ago, and just need someone to understand...please e-mail me

I want to listen. I want to help. I want to understand. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Game Changer

Well for those of you reading this that at some time this week had access to any sort of social media...I'm sure you already know. But for those of you who are out of contact with the 'real word' (i.e. missionaries) I am home. 

Honestly I have been dreading writing this post all week...

I guess I could start from the beginning, what I have been holding back from my blog for awhile now. I am injured. I have been having back pain since the middle of February that in all honesty I have no idea where it came from. One night I had already laid down to go to bed but had forgotten to set my alarm so I got up turned my alarm on and when I turned my body to get back into bed my back popped. I thought "rough day, my body is tired, it will be better tomorrow." As you can wasn't better 'tomorrow'. Anyway after a few days with the pain I called Hermana ParreƱo (our mission president's wife) and told her what had happened. 

Later that week I saw a doctor and he took some x-rays and came to the conclusion that it was "very probable" that I had herniated the disk L5 - S1 in my back. I was devastated. BUT he didn't say it was for sure so before paying for an MRI I was given some alternative things to try for two weeks and if it wasn't a herniated disk the pain would begin to decrease and I would start getting better. Well after a fun two weeks of wasn't getting better. So I talked to the area doctor, he agreed with what the doctor in Punta Alta had told me and that I needed to go back to get a MRI request. Well I waited a week and a half for my MRI and I got the opportunity to do that at 3am... #onlyinargentina 

Then I waited a week for my MRI results...That was a week full of worry and anxiety.

Turns out, no herniated disk. BUT (there is always a but in this story) The doctor in Punta Alta told me my spine was too straight and lacked the necessary curvature and because of that my muscles were fighting the structure of my spine...causing all my pain. So with that there is a special Rehabilitation program that should help my back regain the correct curvature. So twice a week for five weeks I did my rehabilitation and everything the doctors asked of me. 

Week three of the rehab the area doctor called me to tell me that the Church Missionary Medical Department had looked over my MRI and saw no problem, EVERYTHING looked fine... and that there is no such thing as too straight of a back. wasn't fine. I was still in pain so with high hopes I was given permission to finish the rehab in hopes that maybe it could fix what ever unidentifiable problem I have...In this phone call the area doctor told me he had talked with the Church doctors for awhile and they all believed that if the pain didn't go would be better for me to come home..I would not accept that. There is nothing more that I wanted or want than to continue the work of our Lord and Savior. 

Well the next two weeks...nothing got better. I was still in pain. I was doing everything I could and...nothing. In this time I spent a lot of time in the house  trying to rest. (Rest being one of many things that 'should have' helped my back)

Thursday April 30th I finished my rehabilitation and I was ready to put all my hard work to the test. My district leader Elder Rodriguez gave me some inspiring encouragement...Maybe my rehab was like the Atonement. It didn't and couldn't work until it was finished. Until Christ was resurrected we could not conquer death, we could not live with our Heavenly Father again, because we would not live again. But just like Christ conquered death...We all thought. Hermana Barker can conquer her back...

Well Friday May 1st I worked almost all day with my amazing companion Hermana Greene. It was so nice to get out of the house to remember why I was there. Why I was in Argentina. And from 11 am - 8 pm that day I got to take part in the work. But (there it is again) at 8 pm my pain persisted and I couldn't keep going. We went home. I was defeated. I was devastated. 

I tried to stay positive that it was just my first day back. I'm just's not the same pain it's 'getting better' pain. Well Saturday I could hardly get out of my bed and working was a nightmare. That afternoon I called my mission president to set up an interview with him on Sunday. 

Well I think we all already know how this story ends. He too felt that it was better if I went home to begin, continue, start over (which ever one you want) my rehab. 

So Monday night at 6:00 I got a call from the Assistants saying that I would be leaving Tuesday morning. I traveled for a solid 30 hours and Wednesday Morning at 10:30 I was back in Utah. 

Needless to say it was a very quick almost non-existent goodbye...

More than how I ended up home this post is about what I learned before I got home...

I had the once in a lifetime chance to serve God with all my heart might mind and strength. I got to witness him perform miracles. I know I was merely a representative of Jesus Christ in Argentina but never in my life have I felt the need or desire to reach out and help people like I did for the past 7 1/2 months.  I got to help 4 amazing people enter the waters of baptism. 

Oscar Perrone. Rosa Pintos. Sofia Fragapane. Moira Daniela. Thank you. For letting me witness your conversion. While these 4 people may never read this post and even if they tried it's in the wrong language. But I love you all. You changed my life. Not for a moment. Not for 7 1/2 months. But forever. 

Oscar taught me that no matter what we are struggling with. Addictions. Pain. Stubbornness. If we humble our selves The Lord will change us. He will not only make up for what we lack but will give us an over abundance of power to continue conquering satan's temptations and trials. Thank you Oscar.

Rosa taught me that God works in his time. Two of her sons and two of her grandchildren were baptized in the first year they met the missionaries - but she resisted. Missionaries had taught her for months. We never changed what we taught. We just taught the truth. But when we are ready The Lord will change us. He will guide us to our own understanding of the truth. Thank you Rosa.

Sofia taught me that we can be an example no matter the circumstances. Being 10 years old it couldn't have been easy to say - "I want to get baptized" when both your parents and older sister are inactive. But she did. And she did it with courage. Some Sundays she came to church alone. Some Sundays she brought her sister. And one marvelous Sunday she brought her whole family. We are nothing more than instruments in The Lord's hands. If we are worthy and listening, He will help us change them. Thank you Sofia.

Moira taught me something I never believed was possible. My whole mission we worked with flakey investigators. People who wanted so badly to change but just were not willing to change...I had lost hope that the miracle existed where there were people 100% ready to be baptized and they just hadn't listened to the missionaries yet. The only reason they didn't have the truth was because they didn't know where to find it. It's exactly that. Our spiritual brothers and sisters are here, on the Earth, many of them lost, very very lost. Waiting. For us. Waiting. For us to share what we KNOW. It is our time, our opportunity, and our calling to find them. And through us they will find God. If we do our part. God will ALWAYS do his. Thank you Moira. 

The 7 1/2 months I had on my mission were the best 7 1/2 months of my life. Not because I explored Argentina. Not because I got to learn Spanish. But because I got to know Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Really and truly know Them. They love me. I know They love me. I know They love you. I got to understand The Gospel of Jesus Christ. Not just enough that I could teach it. But enough that I can live it. I found my testimony in Bahia Blanca Argentina. I know without a doubt in my mind that Jesus Christ is our Savior. That when we can't, He can. When we feel weak, He can strengthen us. I can't count the times I couldn't lift my feet but I kept walking. I couldn't find words but I kept talking. God and Jesus Christ trusted me and gave me power and strength. While today I can no longer wear my tag - I will always be a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. If we live our life looking for the things we can do without God we won't find anything. But if we look to God and try to live a life like His son we can do anything. 

I want to leave you all with my testimony that I know The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in the only church of God and that through him - we can. We can conquer Satan. We can know the truth. We can be examples. And we can create miracles. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

The First 2 Hugs Mommy and Bubba

Then...Amanda and Aaron 

Lunch at The Garden 

The a a mini photo shoot...

My momma missed me a whole lot....

Up next... The boys! No one told them I was coming home so I attacked them from the front door with a nerf gun...haha Aiden ran screaming and he didn't even know who it was then when Ethan said my name Aiden ran straight at me and Ethan about tackled me as he jumped off the stairs. 

The cute sign my brother made for me that was at the airport with them. 

A nice surprise to come home to. 
I think Meeka was more excited than anyone..haha

Hermana Brooke Barker 


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Listening to the Holy Ghost

This week was super weird...haha. I spent a lot of time in the house with Hermana Silvestre because she has some problems with her foot and so we switched off all week who stayed in the house with her and such but it was interesting. A few times we went to the church and I got to practice the piano...(I´m still so sad I quit when I was and were right) Anyway I can kind of play Sisters in Zion and Onward Christian Soldiers. 

Hermana Greene and I had a week full of fun and missionary work! I was so happy! We have a member who is 20 and LOVES helping out missionaries so ALL day on Friday Michelle accompanied us. Wow what a powerful day! We found so many new investigators. Something way cool happened. We were coming up on a street and I felt like we had to turn right but I didn´t say anything and they turned left we got like half way down the block and Michelle said she wanted to turn around! (YES! Thank you for making up for me being dumb). Her and Hermana Greene were trying to prove they could walk faster than me even though they have tiny little legs so they were like running in front of me and I just felt like I needed to stop. So this time I listened and stopped at the house on my left side. Two little boys walked out. 

They were so interested! They have Mormon friends but told us they could never explain it very well so they were super confused and wanted their questions answered...Gotcha! They couldn´t come to church this Sunday but they said they will come next week! Yay. 

Sunday one of our contacts showed up to the church. It was a really drunk guy who contacted us and we ended up just giving him a Word of Wisdom pamphlet and almost running away, but he came. We´ll see where that goes. You really never realize how useful WoW pamphlets are! 

Thank you for all your love support and prayers! 


Hermana Barker


I found my Soul Sister! Hermanita Winn! 

Santiago! He is in the other ward but when we did divisions we all ended up passing by him at some point so we all got to go to his baptism! His little brother is going to get baptized next week! 

I have ate more potatoes these last 6 months than I have my whole life #missionarybudget