Monday, July 16, 2018

July 16, 2018 - The Beginning of the End

Hey everyone!!
I still can't believe it, but this is the start of my final (half) transfer! Time has flown by so fast, and I want to make the most of every minute until it's over! Transfers are today, and as expected I will be leaving Southlea Park. I will be serving as a district leader in Domboshava, which is pretty close to Hatcliffe! My new companion will be Elder Wheeler from Idaho. I'm very excited for what these last few weeks have in store, and I truly want to give the Lord my all!
with the Tshabango family,
a less active family that we've been visiting
and reading the Book of Mormon

Elder Hansen and I had another great week! We kicked it off by having MLC (basketball and everything). I loved being taught by President Makasi. You can really tell how much he loves the Lord and us missionaries by the way he speaks and acts. We were instructed on leading others with a lot of love, but also with high expectations. When we lack in one of these attributes, it can result in rebellion, complacency, or even dishonesty among those we lead. The Savior was our perfect example during His earthly ministry. He had a perfect love for those He led, but He expected the most from them. As a result, those who hearkened unto Him were blessed beyond measure. It was an inspiring meeting and a great time to see our mission president and other missionaries. 

This week I also had the opportunity to go on exchanges with Elder Tshibamba. He's from DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo) and has been on his mission for about 10 months. When he came to the mission, he didn't know English because at home he only spoke French and other languages. Now he can hold a decent conversation and teach simply. He told me about how others at home didn't believe that he could learn/speak English, and then shared about how he read from the book of Moses about how Enoch was also insecure about his ability to speak. The Lord made Enoch into a powerful witness of the truth, and Elder Tshibamba told me that the Lord could help him to speak English too. I was so impressed with his humility and trust in the Lord. I have no doubt that the Lord will reward him for his faith.
our beloved Nissan
(the poor thing has taken a beating in Southlea Park)

We were fortunate enough to have a few days of warmer weather, which was awesome. Elder Hansen and I took advantage of that and walked to Church again with our friends from the far part of Stoneridge. This time, 10 of them got up early to come with us! Though it took us about an hour to reach the meetinghouse, we made it on time. It was exciting to have over 10 new people at sacrament meeting for my last Sunday. Some people that haven't progressed in a long time finally made the effort to come to church, and it was awesome. I will really miss the members here in Southlea Park! They are so spiritually self-reliant and so excited about the gospel. It was a privilege to serve with them. I will also miss Elder Hansen a ton! We've become good friends and tackled many problems together as zone leaders. I'm grateful for his good example and desire to do right. 

I hope you all have a great week! I love the Lord and know that He lives, and I'm so grateful for every remaining second I have to serve Him!

Love Elder Barlow

Sunday, July 15, 2018

July 9, 2018 - Chanda Chakadzoka...and Finding Like Crazy!!

Hey everybody!!
I hope you had a great week and a great Fourth of July!! We experienced the complete opposite of July weather this week! On Wednesday, the real winter weather finally kicked in. For the past few days we've had cloudy, windy, and cold weather with a few showers. Remember how I mentioned about it getting cold in Africa? It gets really cold.
On Tuesday we got to meet President Makasi and his family! He's from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe and has been serving in South Africa as an Area Seventy. He has a young family with four kids, ages 3-15, and they are awesome. President Makasi is very different from President Mkhabela. He's more outgoing, and has a kind, warm, and humble disposition. Although things are a bit different, I am very excited to serve with him for the last month of my mission!

KFC on July 4th with Elder Odunga,
Elder Hansen, and Elder Tambe

I went on exchanges with Elder Tambe on Wednesday. He's from Austin, TX and his parents are originally from Cameroon. It was cool to connect with him on a few things from Texas and from BYU (turns out we were both there during summer semester 2016 and knew some of the same people). I really enjoyed serving with him. We devoted some time to contacting new people, and almost everyone we contacted has either been taught by missionaries before or has some history of attending the Church. It was incredible to see the Lord's hand guiding us to those whom He has prepared. We celebrated our freezing fourth of July by stopping at KFC on the way home; nothing like a little American food on American independence day.
As I mentioned before, the cold weather has definitely arrived. What's the best way to stay warm when it's cold outside? Missionary work, of course! Elder Hansen and I managed to find 28 new investigators this week! Throughout the course of the week we were led to so many amazing people who are willing to hear the gospel. It is a blessing to be able to share the restored gospel of Jesus Christ with so many of our brothers and sisters! One of the people we started teaching is Brother Chibwana. He's not yet 30, but he and his wife have lost all 3 of their children as infants. We taught him the plan of salvation, but he told us that he was tired of people telling him about the next life and how much these things have pained him. As we listened, I felt prompted to share Isaiah 53:3-5 about the atonement of Christ. We bore testimony of the healing power of Christ's atonement and how peace can truly be found through the Savior because He has carried our burdens. Brother Chibwana's countenance changed, and he seemed a little more comforted than before. It sometimes can take a while for one to understand that Jesus Christ truly has felt and overcome all things. However, once we realize that He has perfect empathy and can provide strength and healing in the midst of trial and tragedy, there truly is peace in Christ. I love the Savior and I'm grateful for his perfect love that can help us get through our difficult mortal journey.
I hope everyone has a great week! I know that God lives and that He loves each and every one of His children!
Love Elder Barlow

July 2, 2018 - The End of an Era...and the Split!

Hey friends and family!!

Can you believe that it's July already?? Time is moving way too quickly! This week was great and full of emotions! President and Sister Mkhabela are heading home tomorrow and I can hardly believe it! It is difficult to see such amazing people go, especially because I've been so close to them for so much of my mission, but they have served well and will enjoy being home with their family. I couldn't be more grateful for the things I've learned from them; they have helped me grow so much during my mission and I know that I wouldn't be who I am today without them! I know that the Lord's plan is perfect, and that He knew that I would be strengthened by serving under President and Sister Mkhabela.

We did a ton of finding this week! We were able to find 16 new people to teach, which was awesome! I'll share some more about that later. I definitely have a testimony of the Lord blessing us with wonderful people to share the gospel with when we put forth our best efforts! 

With Elder Anderson
I went on exchanges with Elder Anderson this week! He's 3 months behind me and he comes from Idaho. I don't know why, but it seems like all of our plans always fall through on exchanges. However, we stayed diligent and had a great day. He's a cool guy and it was good to learn from one another. His companion is from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and speaks French (so he is learning English) and it's awesome to see how Elder Anderson is helping him progress. Funny story: we were visiting an investigator family, and we somehow got on the topic of there supposedly being a mermaid in a nearby dam. Elder Andersen and I looked at each other, like what? We told them that there was no way, but they insisted and tried giving us all this evidence. We asked them if they had seen the mermaid. They said no. We asked if there were mermaids in the scriptures. Again, the response was no. We rest our case. That's only a fraction of the conversation, but it was too funny. Sorry for any of you that still believe in mermaids.

At the Chikunguwo's house with all their friends
We had another cool experience this weekend. There's a member couple, the Chikunguwo's, that I knew in Seke and that technically stay in a far part of our area. They were once incredibly successful branch missionaries and pioneers for the Church in Mutare in the 1990's, and they are amazing. They stay far from the Church (they still attend every week), so they've been sharing the gospel with all their neighbors and friends. They invited us over to their home last weekend, and we taught a gathering of about 10 of their neighbors! It was unique and cool to teach so many people at once. The Chikunguwo's have a goal of getting a group started out where they stay, and if they keep doing great missionary work, that goal will definitely be realized sometime soon! 

The back of my planner: Harare and Bulawayo Missions

Also, there are now two missions in Zimbabwe! It is cool to be a part of this historical time for the Church in Zimbabwe! 

Have an amazing week everybody! I know that Christ lives and that this is His work!

Love Elder Barlow

Monday, June 25, 2018

June 25, 2018 - Service

Hey everybody!!

I hope everyone is doing well! This week was a great one! We were able to get some much needed work done in our area, and we met some sweet people along the way. Elder Hansen and I still have our hands full, but we're enjoying every minute of it! 

On Tuesday we went to district meeting in Chitungwiza! Being back at the meetinghouse there brought memories rushing back from my time in Seke. It was really cool to be there for the first time in over a year. We had a busy day planned, but it turns out that Elder Hansen is allergic to cashews, which were contained in a candy bar that he ate after the meeting. He ended up getting sick, so we had to head back home so he could get some rest.

With Elder Huffaker
The next day we had exchanges with the Queensdale elders. I went with Elder Huffaker. He is from Colorado and we were in adjacent districts in the MTC. While we were walking back to the car to get some water, we met a woman who was taught by missionaries two years ago in Waterfalls here in Harare. We set an appointment with her, but didn't know where she stayed. She said we could go with her to see her house. It turns out that she lives in Stoneridge 2, which is another part of our area--a very distant part of our area. We walked for nearly an hour through some fields and giant rocks to find her place, but it was worth it because she seems very receptive and willing to learn about the gospel!
Blessing's baptism
(featuring Mathias and Kelvin)

 A picture from our last MLC with President Mkhabela
(4 weeks back)
The highlight of the week was Blessing's baptism! She has a super cool conversion story! Two years ago she had a dream about sitting in a classroom and reading two Bibles. She had another dream about a white guy and an African coming to visit her. Then a month or so ago, Elder Allen and Elder Nhamo contacted her and started teaching her. When she learned about the Book of Mormon, she understood about the dream of having two books of scripture. She's a very pure and genuine person that has had some difficult and confusing experiences in her life, and I know that she will be greatly blessed by her membership in the Church!

Recently we've been talking a lot about serving others. The Savior set a perfect example by going about "doing good," and simply serving others is a major part of the gospel of Christ. As Elder Hansen and I have been looking for opportunities to share the gospel and find new people to teach, we've tried to keep our eyes open for chances to help others. As we've done so, we've been able to assist members and investigators and doors have been opened for us. I testify that as we seek to help those around us, we will truly share the light of Christ with others! Have a great week, and find ways to serve those around you!

Love Elder Barlow

Sunday, June 24, 2018

June 18, 2018 - No Time to Rest

Hey everybody!!

I hope everyone is doing well and enjoying summer! Winter weather in Zimbabwe is kind of bipolar. In the mornings it's brisk enough to take a jacket when you leave the house, but by 11 am it will be hot and sunny. Sometimes you might choose to leave the jacket at home. However, by 5 pm it begins to get colder again, and you wish you had your jacket. Evenings are cold enough to need a blanket and a heater. So we get the best of both worlds in Zimbabwe.

This week was incredibly busy again for us. We didn't have a full day in the area the whole week, but we had some great experiences. On Tuesday we had zone conference. It is always good to gather as missionaries and be taught by our leaders. It's crazy to think that I may or may not have another zone conference! I will definitely miss them. It was President Mkhabela's last zone conference as well, and he addressed us on valuing and believing the scriptures. He asked us if we truly believe the scriptures that we read. For example, he read for us from Matthew about seeking first the kingdom of God, and then asked if we choose missionary work over worrying about what we will eat or wear. It made me think hard about how I understand and value the scriptures, and I've been trying to make a conscious effort to apply all that I learn in the scriptures. I also had my last interview with President Mkhabela before he goes home. I am truly grateful to have served around him. I have learned so much from him and he has helped me to become the person I am today. It was hard to keep emotions back in the interview. He was very gracious and paid me some high compliments as well (which I won't take time to mention), which was very kind. I will miss him and his wife when they return home.

The rest of the week was full of crazy errands. Everything from moving 4 missionaries into a different house with our little Nissan, to helping some missionaries in our zone with an open house. We definitely didn't have a second of open time (or any time to take pictures...sorry Mom). It was hard to not be able to proselyte as much as we wanted, but I know that the work we do for our zone is still important in helping the Lord's work roll forward. Church was awesome on Sunday! Southlea Park has an attendance of about 80+ members, many of whom are very strong in the Church. They seem very supportive and I'm so excited to work with them and get to know them better! 

Well, that's about all for this week! I promise I'll have more to write next week! I know that Christ lives and that this is His work, and I love being a part of it even when it pushes me to my limits!

Love Elder Barlow

Sorry, I didn't really have time to take pictures this week, but here's my last picture with Elder Gunther and Elder Whiting from two weeks back

June 11, 2018 - Hitting the Ground Running

Hey friends and family!!

I hope you all have had a great week!! This week has literally been the craziest week of my mission! Elder Hansen and I have been all over the place trying to run errands and figure out our area, but it's definitely been an adventure. 

With Elder Hansen

First, a little bit about Elder Hansen. He's from Orange County, California and is 6 months behind me. He's super funny and a great missionary. He was trained by my buddy Elder Byrom, and I love being his companion. On Monday and Tuesday, we were helping the assistants out with transfers, so we were constantly moving missionaries around and helping them find their houses; not to mention the fact that we had to find our own house, which is on the far side of Harare. We barely had time to take a breath haha. We eventually did find our house and our area. The house is pretty nice, but because it's mostly tile and windows, it acts like an icebox on these cold winter mornings and nights. We've been doing our best not to freeze. I don't know if living in Zim has made me vulnerable to the cold, but it's frigid these days! Southlea Park is actually a lot like Eastview: a high density, developing area with lots of dust. The only difference is that Southlea Park is flat and has less farming area. However, it is no less devoid of potholes and craters in the roads. We just have a sedan and I'm really missing the truck haha. The branch here is also just 2 years old, but they've only had a meetinghouse in Southlea Park for about 10 months. Since then, the branch has been growing like crazy and the future is looking great!

We finally got to our area on Wednesday, and we had no idea where to go. We had names of people to find, but nobody seemed to pick up their phone. We were able to speak to a few people in Shona and got directions to our meetinghouse. The first guy gave us directions to the local Jehovah's witness church....facepalm. We finally found the place and eventually found a member family and a few investigators. On Thursday we had more success because we found a branch missionary that showed us around to a bunch of investigators and members. Our branch president is cool as well. He served a mission in Ghana and knows a lot about missionary work. He already gave us a few assignments that we plan to fill.
Once we started working with a member, we stopped getting lost as often. One thing the branch president asked us to do was to proselyte in the low density area of Southlea Park. That's where most of the more wealthy people stay, and there aren't any members there. Well, we decided that we would go check it out when our plans opened up. We went and knocked a few doors, and the first three people we met let us in and listened to our message! We were so surprised and excited! I can't wait to meet more people there! We had another miracle yesterday when we went to follow up with someone we met in the low density area. He wasn't home, so we were driving back with a member and happened to see an investigator on the street that we were supposed to see. On top of that, he happened to be in front of a house where a friend of his stays, and he had been planning to refer her to missionaries. We met her and set up an appointment there and then. Coincidence? I think not!

With Saru at stake conference

Another amazing experience was our stake conference yesterday! We all met at the big stake center in Mbare, and Elder Joni L. Koch of the Seventy was there! He and other speakers gave great messages about ministering to others and allowing people to minister to us. It's always special to be taught by a General Authority. In addition, Southlea Park is in the same stake as Chitungwiza and Seke, so a ton of the members were there and it was amazing to see them. Among them were two of my recent converts, Saru and Sister Kwaramba and her son Tasha!! I can't explain how amazing it was to see them still active in the church!! Seeing things come full circle with them was incredible! The Lord's plan is definitely perfect! 

One last quick thought: as I've been adjusting to the whitewash and not knowing half of our zone, I've realized how important it is to rely on the Lord. When we try to use our own strength and wisdom alone, we will feel lost, confused, and inadequate. I'm happy to know that I'm not meant to do everything alone. This is the Lord's work, and He helps us accomplish it!

Love you all, have a great week!!

Love Elder Barlow

June 4, 2018 - From the East Side to the South Side

Hey everyone!!
Saying goodbye to Tildah, Tanatswa, and their mom
Today marks the beginning of my last full transfer! It will also be the last transfer with President Mkhabela, and by the end of June there will be two missions! Things are happening in Zim!! I'm also being transferred from Eastview to Southlea Park (still in Harare) to be with Elder Hansen. We'll be the zone leaders over the biggest zone in the mission and both of us will be new to the area, so we've definitely got our work cut out for us! This email will be a bit shorter because of transfers, but I'll do my best to give a recap of the week.

This week we worked hard to find more people to teach. We've been struggling to find new people who are prepared for and ready to act on the message of the restored gospel, but things definitely changed. Our recent converts have been so key in finding new investigators. This week, Tildah (a recent convert of one month) showed us to 3 of her friends and their families, and also brought her mom to church! Powerful! I love these people who are brand new in the gospel because they have so much energy and a great desire to share their newfound faith! One of the people she showed us is a lady named Beauty, who has 3 daughters. All of them also came to church, which was amazing! Funny story, one of her daughters is named Shivine (which is a unique name by itself) and when you say it fast, it sounds just like schwein, which means pig in German. Elder Till was dying; it was hilarious.
With Freedom's family

Elder Till and I also ate chicken feet this week. Yes, you read that correctly. It was definitely strange, but it wasn't that bad actually. If you think you've eaten chicken fingers before, think again haha.

Overall, I'm so grateful to have served in Eastview. I've experienced the most success of my mission here, and I'm convinced that the Lord blessed us because my companions and I were striving our best to be obedient and diligent in all we do. I love each of the incredible converts that I had the privilege of meeting and sharing the gospel with. It was difficult to say goodbye, but I know they are in good hands. Serving a mission truly is the most incredible experience!
Hopefully I'll have more to write next week! I love this work and I'm grateful for each and every day I have to serve the Lord. Love you all!

Love Elder Barlow