Monday, February 26, 2018

January 22, 2018 - Gettin the Gang Back Together

Hey everybody!!
MTC District 38C reunited:
Elder Sink, Elder Barlow, Elder Dixon,
Elder Gunther, Elder Hamblin, and Elder Makalio
I hope you all know how much I love you! This week in Mutare has been pretty solid and a couple miracles took place (one of them being my Christmas package finally arriving...ok not really a miracle but that was awesome).

On Tuesday we piled into a kombi at 6 am and headed off to Harare for zone conference. After a 3 hour drive with the driver playing the same songs over and over again at maximum volume, we arrived. We received direction on the mission's increased focus on family history and also were taught in preparation for the upcoming mission split. I also got to see the other 5 elders from my MTC district! It was the first time we were all together at a zone conference since Christmas of 2016 and it was awesome to see them! They've been such great examples and friends throughout my mission. Of course, the conclusion of the zone conference was followed by another long and tiring journey back to Mutare (with the same music), but it was a great experience!
With Elder Motsoiri on his birthday,
in front of our flat

On Friday we had interviews with President Mkhabela. He spoke a lot about how missionaries have had a bad perception of and attitude about Mutare for a long time. He also told us about how it is a great opportunity for us to serve here and encouraged us to be unified in achieving our purpose as missionaries and helping one another. We discussed about how as missionaries, we have strengths and weaknesses. Then we learned about how we can help each other turn our weak points into strengths. I definitely have a lot of weaknesses, but it is so comforting to know that I can repent and improve and be better than I was yesterday!
Sunday was awesome!! We had 6 investigators come to church, two of whom were new! We also had some beloved less active members come. I can't explain how happy I was to see them. Truly, Christ taught that the good shepherd bears the lost sheep back home on his shoulders, rejoicing that he has found the one who had gone astray. I can definitely say that I have felt that joy seeing inactive members and investigators come to church. After the service, we had a lesson with Ngoni and Cynthia. Ngoni is from Bulawayo and Cynthia is from Gweru. They met and started dating at university in Gweru and they are both working here in Mutare. Cynthia is a member, but Ngoni is not, and our lesson with them was so powerful! He had so many deep questions that the gospel can answer, and Elder Motsoiri and I couldn't help but smile as we listened to him and answered. He seems so prepared and I am excited to see what the gospel will do for him. Later in the day, we were meeting with Brighton, a recent convert of 2 months who is studying in college. He is such a cool guy and so serious about the Church and the commandments. As we were talking, we met a young woman from Japan who is actually lecturing at the college. We talked with her for a while and we found out her name is Mayu. Elder Motsoiri asked her lots of questions (especially about Japanese, my comp loves languages) and we found out that she's not really religious but that she'd be interested in meeting with us sometime. I love meeting all kinds of people on my mission. Who would've thought that I would meet a Japanese person in Zimbabwe? I love this work!

Today we played volleyball!! That's right, actual volleyball. I admit, I'm super rusty, but it was so much fun! Some of the elders in the zone are great athletes and we really enjoyed ourselves!
Well, that's about all for this week!! If I had to choose a thought to share, it would be to reach out in love to those around us. There are so many of our brothers and sisters around us in our own neighborhoods that need our support, our friendship, and our help. I have gained a testimony of these things. When we choose not to judge others and love them unconditionally, even if we don't know them that well, we can be the Lord's hands in doing His work. Mosiah 2:17 states that we serve God when we serve those around us, and it is my prayer that we will choose to keep the first and second greatest commandments with all our heart, might, mind, and strength.

I love you all, have the best week ever!!
Love Elder Barlow

January 29, 2018 - Back in H-Town

Hey everyone!!
Where is the time going?? It seems like 2018 just started, and January is almost in the books! I love being able to dedicate this time to serving the Lord. Transfers came and I've been sent back to Harare, this time as a zone leader! My new companion is Elder Byrom from England, and it's awesome because we are in the same group! I'm pretty humbled to have this new responsibility, but I'm also super excited! What I'm not as excited for is driving a stick shift in downtown Harare. I stalled out a couple times today, but I got a few laughs so it's ok! Gotta love the mission!

Fun fact: my second year on mission is feeling like a repeat of my first year. From Sept 2016 to Dec 2016, I was being trained. After that I went to a town area (Kadoma) for one transfer where we only baptized one person that didn't get confirmed (Nellie). Afterwards, I went to an area in Harare East (Seke) where we had a car. And from Sept-Dec 2017, I was training a new missionary. Afterwards, I went to a town area (Mutare) for one transfer where we baptized only Tanaka, and she hasn't been confirmed yet. And now I've been transferred to the Harare East zone with a car. Crazy, right? Either it's coincidence or divine design haha. 
After church with Brother Feryne
My last week in Mutare was full of interesting experiences. On Tuesday, we attended a funeral for a returned missionary with the Penhalonga elders. It was pretty sad to see so many of his family members and friends so devastated. The whole experience made me think pretty deeply about life, death, and God's plan of salvation. I felt impressed to study more about Jesus Christ's Atonement, the eventual resurrection, and the promise of salvation if we are faithful. I was really impacted by this experience, and I am gaining a greater testimony that there is a life after death and that Christ made it possible for us to return to our Heavenly Father and be with our families forever! It is always sad to lose someone, but I know that peace and comfort can be found through the Savior! 

With Sister Narikenya and Virginia Makelve

While I served in Mutare, I gained a great love for members who are less active in the Church. Everyone is a child of God, and all are of great worth in His eyes. This week we worked with the Makelve's and Feryne, and it was awesome. Feryne came to church yesterday and he contributed a lot--it was so cool! I think he realized how much he had been missing and I hope he will continue making an effort to be active! It was really difficult to say goodbye to the Makelve's and Feryne. I got close with them in such a short time, and I pray that they will be able to fully return to the fold of God!
This week I had the privilege to finish reading the Book of Mormon again. I love the final chapters in Moroni about faith, hope, charity, and Christ! Mormon and Moroni were perfect examples of enduring to the end and remaining faithful no matter what the circumstances. I keep realizing how short of a time that I have left as a full time missionary, and I have truly gained the desire to press forward to the end of my mission and remain faithful. If you haven't recently, read Moroni 7. We can truly lay hold upon every good thing through faith in Christ, and if we develop charity, we can become pure even as He is!
I love you all so much! I'm sorry that this email isn't as long, it's been a bit of a busy day! Hope you all are doing well!
Eating an ice lolo
(a homemade popsicle made of baobab powder,
etc and frozen on a twig)

Love Elder Barlow

Monday, February 5, 2018

January 15, 2018 - Singin' in the...sun?

Mhoroi friends and family!!

I hope you all had a great week! This year's rainy season has been pretty devoid of rain, so we have been teaching/preaching/working as missionaries do in the hot Zimbabwe sun. It also seems like most of our appointments fell through this week, which isn't too fun, but I've tried to make up for it by singing just about everywhere I go. Missionary work can be a bit tough sometimes, but there's always a bright side and I'm truly grateful to be a part of it!

To be honest, this week wasn't the most exciting, but it still had its good moments. We found another family to teach! The Mukutuzi family is super awesome. The husband works at a grocery store and the wife is a tailor, and they have two sons. Their 2 year old son Lawton is super crazy and is basically bouncing off the walls every time we go there to teach. We've also met quite a few people who were taught by previous missionaries, so hopefully we will be able to teach them and see what they know. We definitely need more investigators here in Mutare, and I have faith that we will be able to find them! 

I went on exchanges with Elder Masitsa this week. He's from Kenya and hit his year mark last month. He's a quiet and reserved guy, but it was fun to learn about his conversion to the gospel and to work together. Yesterday was Elder Motsoiri's 23rd birthday! He's been pretty excited about it. By the way, the Zimbabwean trend of empty promises about coming to church, etc apply to birthday presents too. Almost everyone we know said they'd get Elder Motsoiri a present, and surprise, almost none of them actually did. It's ok though, he's had a good time these past few days. Speaking of birthdays, I want to wish my dad a happy birthday today! I couldn't ask for a better father and I'm grateful for the example of hard work and priesthood service that he has set for me! 

I know this hasn't been the most enthusiastic of emails, but I'd like to share a thought that came to me this week. I have been studying in Ether in the Book of Mormon, and I've noted an interesting trend. Whenever the people remembered all the good things that God had done for their forefathers, it motivated them to be righteous and they too received blessings of joy and prosperity from the Lord. When they forgot about their blessings, the people fell into contention, greed, and rebellion. It is so important for us to remember all the tender mercies that we have received. Doing so strengthens our testimony and our hope for further blessings as we live the gospel. In fact, Moroni's first counsel to us when we receive the Book of Mormon is to remember how merciful the Lord has been unto His children even back to the days of Adam (Moroni 10:3). I know that as we choose to learn from our mistakes and others' and keep in remembrance all that God has done for us, we will look forward with an eye of faith and be able to endure all the challenges that lie ahead.

I love you all and I hope that you have a fantastic week! Know that we are never alone!

Love Elder Barlow

Sorry, the computer is not cooperating so pics will come next week!!

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