Wednesday, January 10, 2018

January 9, 2018 - Climb Every Mountain...but be smart about it

Hey everyone!!

I hope you are all doing well! Unfortunately this will just be a brief email because the internet is moving at about the speed of a kombi in a traffic jam. I hope you've all had a great start to 2018! How blessed we are to have another year to live, learn, and have new experiences!

Before I talk briefly about the week, I want to share some really exciting news: the Zimbabwe Harare Mission will be splitting to form Zimbabwe Bulawayo Mission beginning in July 2018!! I'm so pumped!! It's so cool to see the work of the Lord progressing so quickly in this wonderful place. I'm going to remain in the Harare Mission as I will only have a short time left when the split takes place, but I couldn't be more excited!!

Elder Hamblin and I
The highlights of the week were going on exchanges. On Wednesday I went to Dangamvura with Elder Hamblin, who is from my MTC group but is now my zone leader. We had a great time working and teaching together and it was fun to catch up with him. We also barely avoided getting drenched in a downpour and getting swarmed by a flock of hungry birds. He gave me some great counsel on helping my district do what is right by setting a good example. Overall it was a great day. Elder Stone and I went on exchanges in Penhalonga on Friday. He's in his third transfer and he comes from Layton, UT. It was a fun day because he is super outgoing and jokes with everyone. It was great to talk to him and see his zeal for the work, and we also had some great conversations in the area. I'm always thankful to serve around and get to know other missionaries!

Elder Penhalonga

We had district conference this weekend, and it was so powerful! President and Sister Mkhabela came to preside over the conference and it was great to see them. Sister Mkhabela spoke on how we are all building our own house of salvation and conversion and how we have a personal responsibility to do the very best we can. President Mkhabela gave an incredible talk on how we need to teach our families in the home and how the Church, just like all organizations, will fail without strong families. It was so powerful and my heart was really touched by what was said, and I hope that the members will apply the things they learned! 

I wanted to add a note about the passing of President Thomas S. Monson. He was such a kind and joyful man who set an amazing example of being spiritually in tune He was the prophet through most of my growing up; he announced the age at which I could go on a mission, announced the temple here in Zimbabwe, and issued my mission call. I will be forever grateful for his counsel and his loving example!

That Mutare View
Today we went on a hike with some of the other elders in the zone up to Mount Gimboki. We initially planned on climbing up the spine of the mountain, but we took some bad directions from a farmer and ended up trying to bush-wack and climb up the face of the mountain. And it was boiling hot! As you might assume, our efforts proved fruitless about halfway up, so we climbed down and walked around to try our original idea. Not all of us made it to the summit because of some really tough conditions close to the top, but the view from the mountain was incredible (see picture below). The object lesson here? We all face problems that are difficult to tackle and our first attempts may seem futile, but if we take a step back and try again (perhaps in a different way), we will be able to push through! Either that, or be smart about mountain climbing.

Love you all, have a great week!!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

January 2, 2018 - HAPPY HOLIDAYS + 2018

Merry Christmas!
Hey everyone!!

I hope you all had an amazing Christmas and that you're enjoying 2018! Time flies doesn't it? I can't believe I spent all of 2017 in Zimbabwe. I am so grateful for the last calendar year that I've had to spend as a missionary and for all the experiences that I've had! I'm so excited for what 2018 has in store! I'm sure you've all made around 5 new years resolutions and you may have already broken 3 of them haha. I think my biggest new years resolutions are to endure to the end of my mission and speak Shona fluently. I hope I can stick with them!

This has been my first email in a few weeks because last week I was skyping my family!! It was so awesome to talk to them and share a few moments with them on Christmas day. My brothers need to stop growing haha. Truly, the greatest Christmas gifts I could've asked for were talking to my family and spending time spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ! I am grateful that I've come to the understanding that Christmas is all about the Savior and the greatest way we can celebrate is by sharing His light with others! I hope you also had a wonderful Christmas and found ways to celebrate the birth of our Redeemer! 

Beautiful Mutare
Mutare is beautiful!! It's really green, basically the opposite of Bulawayo. Oh, and there are MOUNTAINS!! The view is so beautiful and I hope that the pictures that I will be sending will do it justice. The weather keeps switching between blazing hot and pouring rain, so it's hard to be prepared. We see monkeys almost every day in the area, which is also pretty cool. The Church in Mutare has been struggling in recent years, but I am excited to work with these people and see what miracles the Lord has in store for us! My companion is Elder Motsoiri from Free State, South Africa. He's almost 23 and speaks 9 languages fluently, plus he played volleyball. We've been enjoying working together and he is helping me get my Shona back to form. 

Elder Motsoiri

We've met so many awesome people as we've been working here. To quickly name a few:

Feryne: a 25 year old member who we are encouraging to be active in the Church. He's really cool and we cook dinner for him when we go to teach.

Lisa: One of the many Eat 'n' Lick restaurant employees that we've befriended. She's 17 and we found out she stays in our area, so we've been teaching her and will soon invite her to be baptized!

Razo Family: They were married and baptized the week before I came and they are so powerful! It's a husband, wife, and 3 little kids and they are awesome!

That's just to name a few of the friends that I've made in Mutare over the past few weeks. Town is pretty quiet and there are quite a few large houses, which is very similar to my area in Kadoma where I was serving one year ago. 

Tanaka's baptism
We baptized Tanaka this week!! She's 19 and the sister of a recent convert. Even though she's quiet, she's super powerful and we are happy for her! We were supposed to baptize two others this week, but Nelson wasn't home when we went to prepare him for his interview, and Shepherd never showed up for his interview. That was disappointing, but we have faith that both will be baptized soon! One reason that missionary work is difficult in Mutare is because of some rumors that have been going around about the Church. For instance, many people think we are Satanists, which is strange because the name of the Church is the Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter Day Saints. Fortunately, we haven't met too many people who believe that and we've been able to find many who seem willing to talk to us. 

On New Year's Eve, we cooked a big dinner of chicken, mashed potatoes, and yes, crocodile. It was delicious! It was a great way to welcome the new year! It's crazy to think that I will be returning home this year, but I am doing my best to soak up every minute that I have as a missionary here in Zimbabwe!! I'm sorry this email has been a bit scattered and doesn't have too many spiritual thoughts, we have limited emailing time today because on New Years Day there were no internet cafes open. 

Have a wonderful week everybody!! Enjoy 2018!!

Love Elder Barlow

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

December 19, 2017 - On the Road Mutare

Hey everyone!!

Happy Holidays!! I hope you all are doing well and enjoying the Christmas spirit! I can't believe how quickly time is flying. 2017 is drawing to a close and my last Christmas in Zimbabwe is approaching faster than I could've imagined. Oh, and just a forewarning, this email will be shorter and less detailed because of a lack of time (have to love transfers).

My final week in Tshabalala was a great one. Elder Magoha and I worked hard to find new people and share the gospel with those we met. On Thursday we had our Christmas devotional in Gweru along with the Kwekwe and Gweru zones. We viewed the First Presidency Christmas devotional and it was so inspiring. The themes of giving rather than getting and making this season a season of love were touching and uplifting, and I'm so grateful for the lessons we learned. Afterwards, we had a brief talent show, where Elder Condie, Elder Baldwin, and I sang a song that we had arranged all in one day and practiced a few times. It went super well! (Hopefully the video will come through so you can judge for yourself) There was also a baking contest among all the companionships, and although my banana bread wasn't the victor, I still think it put up a good fight haha. A ping pong tournament was set up during the festivities, and I took 3rd place out of about half the mission. Plus I beat my good friend, Elder Whiting, who is probably the best ping pong player ever. Overall, it was a great time to come together and feel the Christmas spirit and have a little fun.

Defeating Elder Whiting at ping pong
at the Christmas Devotional
On Friday I went on exchanges with Elder Horlacher for the last time. I've always enjoyed working with him. He's been setting a great example for the other missionaries in our district and has become a great friend. On Saturday, Chantel got baptized!! It was so awesome, even though she was afraid of water. Her grandma and a few friends will be following her footsteps soon, and we are excited for that! That afternoon, the call of destiny came: I have been transferred to be a district leader in Mutare. Mutare is on the other side of the country and is one of the most difficult places for missionary work in ZImbabwe, but it is also full of beautiful mountains (pictures will come soon!). My new companion is Elder Motsoiri from South Africa. He came to the mission just one transfer after me, so I'm glad to be getting a companion with some good experience in the field. I am a bit anxious about the move, but I have faith that the Lord will provide miracles just as He has in the past! 
Chantel's baptism!

On Sunday it was time to say goodbye to the beloved Tshabalala ward. It was difficult to say goodbye to the Nyoni family and other good friends that I've made, but I know Elder Magoha will take good care of them. We met Perseverance's dad in the evening, who has been pretty opposed to her joining the church. He has a degree in theology and knows much of the gospel, but we realized that he is just defensive about his family and wants them to be united and to be saved. I hope Percy's family will be able to receive the blessings of the gospel just as she has! I'm so thankful for the opportunity that I had to serve in Tshabalala and to train Elder Magoha. I learned so much and grew a lot as a person and a missionary. I truly feel that we worked hard and did our best, and it was such a privilege to meet so many incredible people along the way. Serving as a missionary truly is the greatest thing! 

Good-bye to the Nyoni's

Yesterday I said goodbye to Elder Magoha and boarded the bus for a 6 hour journey back to Harare. After that, we boarded a kombi for the 3 hour ride to Mutare. I can't wait for what the future holds!!

Merry Christmas everyone! Enjoy being with family and friends, and never forget about the Redeemer, Jesus Christ, who is the reason for our celebration! I know that He was born in Bethlehem of Mary, that He set a perfect example, that He died and that He lives again. I love all of you so much!!

Elder Barlow


December 11, 2017 - Ndbele Tongue Twister

Monday, December 11, 2017

December 11, 2017 - Time Flies in Zim

With Elder Taloa
Hey everybody!!
I hope everyone had a great week and that you are all enjoying the Christmas season! Here in Zimbabwe it essentially feels like the middle of July. We've had another good week just preaching the gospel and inviting others to come unto Christ, plus we got a little bit of rain!
On Wednesday I went on exchanges with Elder Taloa yet again. It's always good to work alongside a great friend, especially since we've served around each other since he came on mission. We walked all over the place but we taught a few nice lessons. We were able to go teach Skiki's family this week. Skiki is the only member in his family and in his neighborhood and this is the first time that his family has had continuous visits from missionaries. His parents are a sweet old couple that love God and are eager to listen to us, and it's my hope that they will be able to accept the gospel just like their son did!
This week we bumped into Kendrick again. He's a 19 year old kid that we were teaching but that disappeared for a while. He couldn't remember a single thing from what he read, but surprisingly he recalled the things we had last taught him almost perfectly. I guess he learns better by listening than reading, and I hope that reading the Book of Mormon will be a different experience for him. We also started teaching a girl named Sitheminkosi. She stays right next door to the meetinghouse and is 16 years old. We've only taught her once but she is super eager to learn and meet with us, even if her mom isn't as enthusiastic. She even came to stake conference with us this week and it was awesome! We've also started teaching a group of 13-15 year old kids that we met while playing soccer. We had a nice little discussion with about 6 of them and they seem willing to learn. When we teach kids, it can be difficult because their English is usually limited and they are often shy (often because of the first reason) but I have faith that the Spirit will touch their hearts and help them to understand. 

With Buhle and Chantel
(2 kids that are getting baptized this week)
and their friends
Stake Conference

On Thursday it was overcast and it only sprinkled a little, so when the same weather appeared on Friday we were confident that we would be ok. Well, we thought wrong. We got soaked and we found ourselves sprinting through Tshabalala trying to find new investigators and traveling to Nketa for baptismal interviews. Haha we eventually made it home safely, but we definitely were not dry. On Saturday we met a man named Christopher. He's a humble man who has had a lot of trials in his life but wants to learn. We bore our testimonies of the Savior and how living the gospel could bless his life. He then told us about some serious issues that he is having with his wife and how angry he has been, but as we testified of the Savior's Atonement and of the guidance that prayer can be, he said that all his anger left him. He was in tears by the end of the lesson and the Spirit was there. I pray that we will have the opportunity to teach him more about how he can find solace in the gospel of Jesus Christ!

This Sunday we had stake conference! They held it in a big tent at the Nketa chapel and it was almost filled to capacity. 9 of our investigators were able to attend and it was great to have them there! One of the speakers, a bishop of another ward, spoke on true conversion and having a mighty change of heart. He related a story once told by Spencer W. Kimball about a man who had an evil face, but put on a happy mask to marry the girl he loved. As time went on, he changed his habits and desires and found the simple joys of life. When the mask was torn from his face by old friends, his once evil face had become saintly and pure, just like the mask. I loved that story so much! The Savior Jesus Christ has the power to change all of us if we will but repent and turn unto  Him so that He may heal us. As Elder Holland once shared, it is impossible to fall further than the light of Christ shines. There is always hope to become better than we are and to find forgiveness. I know that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, all of us may reach our potential, put off the natural man, and become a true son or daughter of God. I love this gospel and know this to be true because I have seen it in my own life!! 

I love you all, keep lighting the world and making a difference!!

Love Elder Barlow


December 4, 2017 - Elder Magoha Got "Prophesied"

Salibonani friends and family!!

December?! I can't believe how fast time is flying. I hope you are all enjoying the cool weather and the snow back home, because the Zimbabwean sun has been scorching us this week. The rains are a little bit late this year, so we have had to endure the sweltering heat for a little longer. I do have a testimony that the Lord gives us strength when we need it!!
Elder Barrus and I

On Wednesday we went on exchanges with the zone leaders. I got to work with Elder Barrus in Mzilikazi and Emakhandeni. He's in the same group as me and we were in the same zone in the MTC. He's from Farmington and played hockey. We had a lot of fun together teaching and finding new people. He gave me a lot of good advice for my companionship and my district, which was really needed. We worked with this 16 year old girl named Kaylie, and she's basically a missionary already. She was introducing us to new people and teaching the lessons like a pro, and it was so awesome! Elder Till is my other zone leader, and he's from Austria. He has a German accent and basically sounds like Elder Uchtdorf all the time, which is pretty funny.

This week we found lots of new people! I have high hopes for them and I can't wait to teach them. We got to teach Jannet's mom and her friends, and I know the gospel can bless their family so much!! We also saw Trinity, Albring, and Alroy again. It turns out that their parents aren't really fans of them getting baptized in the church, but we had a great lesson with them from the Book of Mormon. At the end of the lesson, Albring prayed so earnestly for their parents to understand and let them come to church. Trinity and Albring did make it to church this week! They were late and they had to leave early because of a family issue, but I have faith that they felt something while they were there.
Skiki, Persy, and friends

We were teaching a young woman named Delight the other day, and after the lesson her uncle asked if he could talk to Elder Magoha. He had been sitting on the steps behind us, and so of course my companion goes to talk to him. He asked, "do you believe in spirit?" Thinking that the guy meant the Holy Ghost, Elder Magoha answered yes. Then this guy proceeds to tell Elder Magoha that he needs to pray for his father to not have an illness. And then he told him that his wife wouldn't accept him because of his work as a missionary. We just looked at each other, and then my companion goes: I'm not married. The guy pauses, and then just says that he should pray so that evil spirits don't enter into his future marriage and that his girlfriend will accept him even though he's a missionary. As we walked away, Elder Magoha just burst out laughing. I asked him if he ever thought that he would be prophesied to on his mission and he just laughed harder. It was strange but pretty funny. 

Yesterday was fast Sunday and the heat was at its peak. All of our appointments fell through and it was tough to just keep walking back and forth with nobody to teach. It was easy to feel like going home early, but we endured. Then we happened to bump into Munashe, who we hadn't seen all week aside from church. We were able to have an awesome lesson with him. He's already in 2 Nephi and we had a great lesson with him, expounding the things that he had read and helping him prepare to receive the priesthood. That guy is so awesome and his budding testimony just makes me excited to find others like him!
Jamming with Elder Baldwin, Elder Tuimaseve, and Elder Condie

I want to encourage all of you to #Light the World this Christmas season! On you can find ways to share Christlike love and service each day leading up to Christmas. I know we can bring light into people's lives just by small and simple acts. I know that the Savior was born, that He died for us, and that He lives again. I know that Our Heavenly Father loved us enough to send him to this earth so that we might be able to return to him, and I know that He answers prayers. I love you all so much, have a wonderful week!!

Love Elder Barlow


November 27, 2017 - There's So Much to Be Thankful For

Hey everybody!! 

I hope everyone has had an awesome week! Thanksgiving came and went, so I thought maybe I'd share a list of some of the things that I've become grateful for during my mission:

-my loving and supportive family
-good health
-the restored gospel and my Savior Jesus Christ
-clean water and safe housing
-peace in this beautiful country of Zimbabwe
-good friends
-my mission, an invaluable time to bring others to Christ, serve others, learn how to be like the Savior, and avoid being trampled by black friday shoppers.

Thanksgiving in Zim

I hope you all have done your best to count your many blessings during the past week. I think we often forget how blessed we are and we take many things for granted. I know that I have been guilty of that, and I am so thankful that I have been able to have my eyes open to see how much my Heavenly Father has blessed me. One thing that I've also learned is that our Heavenly Father will bless us if we turn to Him. He is waiting to help and knows what's best for us, and if we exercise our faith and acknowledge His hand in all things, we will have peace, joy, and gratitude throughout this life.

Baptism! Munashe is in the back next to me,
and Diana, Jannet, and Andile are in the front.
Andile's mom is also there, and McCartney
(our ward mission leader, the short guy in the back)
was the one who baptized them

We baptized 4 people this weekend! Since most of our week was spent with them, I thought I would do a spotlight on each of them:

Munashe- He's 21 years old and was referred to us by a member who was working on our new house. He plays rugby and is just a solid young man. He's become a good friend to us and has great potential as a priesthood holder!

Jannet- Jannet is the cousin sister to a member and is 17 years old. She came to church and wanted to be taught. She's super small but so sweet and humble.  She's definitely one of the most golden people we've ever met.

Andile- Andile's mom contacted us as we were walking in the street. She doesn't really speak English, but I was able to talk to her in Shona and she told us about her daughter who wanted to learn about the gospel. Andile is 13 and intelligent, and she came to church after our first lesson. She's been so committed to the church and the gospel ever since we began teaching her.

Diana- Diana is Andile's 16 year old cousin that she brought to church with her the first time that she came. She's the kind of girl that's always smiling and she told us that she wanted to be baptized after hearing that another girl was going to be baptized.

It's been such a privilege to get to know each one of these amazing people and I'm so excited for all that lies ahead of them! 

This week we had interviews with President Mkhabela. He taught us about faith and hope and emphasized his confidence in the Lord and his love for us. It was a comforting message especially with all that's been going on in Zim in the past week or so. My interview with him was pretty straightforward and he told me that he felt like he could rely on me, which really helped boost my confidence. He really is an inspired mission president and I'm grateful to serve under him. Yesterday we were able to view the Face 2 Face event for young adults with Elder Oaks and Elder Ballard (if anyone missed it, it's still on They answered some very applicable gospel questions with profound spiritual wisdom and provided some laughs along the way. I am so grateful to be a part of a church that is led by revelation given to God's ordained servants.

The rains came down and the floods came up

Before I close, I wanted to share my thoughts on the gospel of Jesus Christ (2 Nephi 31, 3 Nephi 11, etc). The gospel is made up of five basic principles and ordinances: faith in Christ, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. As Elder Bednar has said, the gospel is all gathered into one in Christ, and I had an interesting thought about the last principle of endurance. It seems like it's just a repeat button. It's kind of like shampoo (interesting analogy I know): lather, rinse repeat. Being a disciple of Christ is all about reapplying those basic principles over and over again: have faith, repent, be baptized and receive the Holy Ghost, repeat. Have faith, repent, partake of the sacrament, repeat. It's such a beautifully simple way to "be perfected in [Christ]." I'm so grateful to be a missionary and have the opportunity to teach this good news to all I meet and to learn to apply it more completely in my own life. I know that by doing so we will find ourselves closer to our Heavenly Father with each passing day.

Love you all, have a great week! 

Love Elder Barlow