Monday, December 26, 2016

December 26, 2016 - Merry Christmas etc. from Zimbabwe!!

Happy Holidays everybody!! I hope everyone has had a blessed December filled with memories of the Savior!
This week doesn't have a whole lot of content in the missionary work department because of various circumstances (interviews, branch party, etc) but I'll try to include as much as I can!
So first, on Wednesday we had interviews with President Mkhabela. He gave us instruction and counsel on using our area books (greatly needed) and our planners. That was pretty good. President is kind of soft spoken, but he has a decent sense of humor and he's passionate about the work. My interview was short but good. We basically just talked about how I was doing and a couple questions that I had. He gave me great counsel on how true conversion and repentance relates to keeping commitments. He also talked to me about how laying our burdens at the feet of the Lord isn't necessarily laying them down; it's pushing forward and allowing Him to carry us. That was really powerful and I enjoyed that. 

On Thursday, something crazy happened. Elder Mtunja and I were on the edge of town walking on a path when we heard some loud groaning noises. We turned and looked over the fence of a nearby backyard and couldn't believe our eyes. Sure enough, a GIANT tortoise was just walking there. Wow. We were so surprised that we backtracked to find the house where it was. We found a pretty nice house with massive and aggressive hunting dogs (I almost backed out right there haha) where the owner, an older Rhodesian man, was kind enough to let us in to see the tortoise. This white guy was born and raised here and he loves this place, and the tortoise has been in his father's family since it was a baby. Oh, and did I mention that it's 79 years old, will live to around 200, and is just massive? It was so cool to see the tortoise, and the man was honestly so kind and polite. Quite the unexpected but awesome experience!
On Friday Elder Barrus and I went on an exchange in his area. It's in Rimuka, which is a poorer township. It was pretty great. We taught a couple lessons, including a baptismal invitation, and contacted 58 people!! It was awesome. I got to use a lot of my Shona in contacting in such, which was pretty cool. It turns out that I know a little more than I thought I did, but I was still humbled on a couple occasions. It was really fun and I feel like I'm getting more comfortable teaching and contacting. We had a dinner appointment with a member afterwards and we spent most of it learning Shona with the young man that lives there. I'm understanding Shona ok and slowly learning to speak it. Hopefully the gift of tongues will aid me in my progress!
Saturday was the combined branch Christmas party. Haha it certainly wasn't the same as the ward back home, but I still enjoyed it. There were food, games, and more excitement over hula hooping and tug of war than I thought was possible haha. The other missionaries and I enjoyed. I love Kadoma because everyone seems to be such good friends and they truly have fun together. Put that together with enthusiastic leaders and you have a recipe for a ton of potential for church growth. We played soccer on the basketball court (yeah yeah wrong sport I know) with the young men for a while which was sweet. Then, the rain got super serious. It poured so hard. If you stepped outside for 10 seconds you'd be soaked. There were copious amounts of thunder and lightning thrown in the mix too. There were traffic jams in town and no power, so it was certainly ridiculous. Oh well, I got my Christmas Eve precipitation!
Christmas was awesome! Elder Barrus and I got up early and went straight for our Christmas packages, so that excitement never gets old haha. Thank you to my wonderful family for including such wonderful things! It warmed my heart a ton and honestly made my week. Also a huge thanks to Reeve Nield for delivering my package as well! After that I got to phone my family for a couple minutes to chat about communicating later (I know it sounds redundant) and that was the greatest!! Church was nice and we had an investigator come to church that we had given up on, which was really awesome. 

Then came one of my favorite experiences thus far. Reeve sent Elder Barrus and I a bunch of toys, so we took them to a small orphanage after church. It was so sweet. You can tell that things are hard, but I hope they were able to find a little joy in the few gifts we had to offer. Just seeing them play with the toy cars made me smile. Service truly is the best way to celebrate the birth of Christ. Afterwards we came home and made chipatis, which are kind of like tortillas, and taco-esque filling. It was divine, and fun to cook with the other missionaries. Then the greatest Christmas present of all: Skype with the fam!! It was the sweetest thing to see and talk to my family and it made me happier than anything. One of the most valuable things that my mission has taught me so far is that my family is the most important thing to me in the world and that I really don't need more than that to be happy. I couldn't have asked for a better gift on my first Christmas on the mission!

So just a quick cool experience that I'd like to include as I close this email. Remember the Mositeri family, the part member family that's super powerful? Well, we had another dinner and discussion with them this week. It is so amazing how happy they are all the time. We taught them about the sacrament, the Holy Ghost, and even went deeper into repentance as well. Their understanding is so sharp and that makes for powerful and meaningful discussions full of good questions and the guidance of the Spirit. Speaking of the Spirit, it was so present as we taught and I could feel it guiding us. They had more nonmember family members present and we could tell that the Holy Ghost was starting to work in them. I think we are getting slowly closer to baptizing the parents and it makes me so excited!!

Well, that's about all for now!! I love and miss you all and wish you the happiest of holidays from the land of Zim!!
Love Elder Barlow

Monday, December 19, 2016

December 12, 2016 - Masebela

Elder Muzenda and I in our sweet traditional clothing
Hey everyone!! Sorry for the awkward way that the pictures are set up, I forgot to just send them as attachments. Oops! Anyways, my first week in Kadoma was great!! I feel like I have a lot to tell.

Elder Mtunja and I
Elder Mtunja and I get along really well. We've been talking a lot in the area and he's a cool guy. It's crazy that he goes home in April. I still have a long way to go haha. We stay in our house with Elder Barrus and Elder Ogonda and also with our Zone Leaders, Elder Blignaut and Elder Banda. It's super awesome and I love all these guys. The area is kinda different. It's a massive area, but there are actually some really nice houses here. However, because the chapel is a two hour walk from some houses. it's difficult to have investigators to come to church. I really like our branch president though and we are teaching some good people. There are plans to open up a group in town though, so that would make missionary work so much easier and I'm excited.

I've gotten to see Elder Makalio and Elder Hamblin a ton which is sweet because they are in my zone. Our zone is only 12 elders and they are all awesome guys. All the guys from my MTC district except for Elder Dixon and myself are training already which is awesome!! It's been fun to see those guys.

Oh, as to my title, it means "jokes" in Nyanja. I know it's not Shona, but Elder Banda is from Zambia and says that a lot and we've adopted that a lot haha. It's hilarious. Anyways! You'd have to be here to really understand haha.

This week has actually had a lot of rain. The weather is super hot here but it has rained a ton. ON Saturday it kind of ruined our day because it rained so so hard and we were unable to see hardly anyone. The weather is going to be a bit of a struggle. Oh well.

The elders from our MTC district
On Friday we drove to Gweru for our Christmas devotional with the Bulawayo and Gweru zones. It was so awesome to see all the other elders and my past companions. It was honestly such a blast. We got to watch the First Presidency devotional and do a huge white elephant and it was so much fun! Each zone had to come up with a musical number and perform it. We only had a day to come up with it and practice it, so we did a blend of O come all ye faithful and Angels We have heard on high with some beatboxing in the middle and I got to sing a solo in the middle. It was fun and not too awful for a small, all-elder district with one day to practice. President said he was impressed and that he wants me to sing happy birthday to each missionary on their birthdays for him. Haha I said it was ok. It was such a blast see everyone and to get into a little of the Christmas Spirit. In the car on the way home we sang songs all the way back to Kadoma and it was a ton of fun. 

I'm trying to study more Shona. It's hard and that's made my desire to decrease a little but I'm trying to push through and work hard. It's so fun to talk with the other Elders. We all come from such different backgrounds but we have a lot of fun together, whether it's telling jokes, playing games, or talking about the gospel. Yesterday church was great! Our branch president is young and enthusiastic, the keyboard automatically plays hymns, and we have more priesthood holders. I really liked it a lot. Afterwards we went and contacted a ton with Elder Barrus and Elder Ogonda. We met a lot of people and it was sweet. Haha I convinced some kids that I was from Australia. Masebela haha. We met this lady who said she was struggling a ton. She called us in and said she needed someone who she didn't know to email about her problems. however, after I started teaching her a little, she told us some stuff about her life and we convinced her to let us come back. It was so powerful and the Spirit was really working. Last night we had dinner with Sister Nota, a sweet old lady in our branch. It was great to be with all the elders and to talk to this wonderful sister. I really enjoyed it a lot.Oh and I forgot to mention, Elder Barrus got a really crappy mini ping pong set in the white elephant so we've been playing a little, which has been hilarious. 

Anyways, Kadoma has been great so far! I'm sure I've forgotten a bunch of stuff but that's probably all for this week!! I love you all and I hope December has been wonderful!!

Musari zvakanaka!!

Elder Barlow

Samson and Edson's baptism last weekend

Monday, December 5, 2016

December 5, 2016 - KADOMA

Hey everyone!!!

So,,,I have limited time today because I have been transferred!! I'm
in Kadoma with Elder Mtunja. He's from SA and he goes home in April.
It's really crazy!! It was hard saying goodbye to all the other elders
and everything and there were some families that I really am going to
miss. Mkoba 3rd will be missed.

Just a few highlights!! We taught some pretty good lessons. We had
zone meeting on Friday and it was great to see everyone together as a
zone for the last time. We also practiced a musical number for zone
conference which was slow and discouraging at first but got better (I
was in charge of it, and it's a shame that I'm no longer in Gweru).
Anyways, Elder Aden and I spent the rest of the day filling the font
and contacting people while ELder Tsongora and Elder Muzenda took care
of baptismal interviews. It was hard but fun to use my Shona and to
get out of my comfort zone.

Saturday we had our baptism for Samson and Edson. Remember, their mom
is the RM that has been inactive for 20 years. The service went well
and it was great!! AFterwards Elder Aden and I went on exchange again
to his area to teach and contact. It was sweet! It also hailed like
crazy!!! Wow weather is nuts. I'm really feeling like I'm getting some
good practice. We taught a bunch of 18-20 year olds the law of
chastity and it actually went really awesome. I also got the news that
I was being transferred and that Elder Aden was going to Bulawayo.

Last night after church we went around getting to say goodbye to
people. The Muchemwa family made us a cake for our training graduation
party and that was super delicious!! I'll miss them a lot. We spent
the night at the zone leaders house with all the elders eating cake
and sharing stories. It was an awesome end to my time in Gweru. I'm
really gonna miss all the elders.

This morning I packed up and got on the bus to KAdoma, which is
between Kwekwe and Harare. I'm praying that things will be good and
that the Spirit can guide us!! It's pretty hard being in a new area
but I know the Lord will make things possible.

I'm so sorry that this is rushed but I only have an hour today instead
of my usual 3. NExt week will have pics!! Love you all!!

Elder Barlow

Monday, November 28, 2016

November 28, 2016 - Ndichadzidza Shona!!

Hey y'all!! I hope everyone's week has been fantastic!! This week's title basically means, "I will learn Shona." I've definitely made some progress with the language, although it's small, and I am understanding more and more each week. Man, learning a language is tough, but I know the Lord will help!!
It's been a pretty good week. One of the days we had lunch with Sister Mugwagwa, who's less active but has a son on a mission. She's so nice and I love visiting their family. They fed us sadza and fish. The whole fish. Head and all. It tasted good, but I have very little experience eating a whole fish, especially when it's looking back at me. Also, if you have sadza for lunch, you are in trouble. It makes you so sleepy!! My companion and I were void of energy and we kept yawning for the rest of the day. Haha it's so funny, so many people ask if I'm ok with eating sadza or if I even eat it. We laugh because it's just normal now and I eat it all the time.
Thanksgiving!! (ignore the awful look on my face)

Thursday was Thanksgiving!! After a hard day's work, the other Gweru elders came over and we made mashed potatoes, chicken, and gravy. Wow it was so good, especially the potatoes. It was a very different thanksgiving for sure and a little hard, but I was so grateful to be with friends. We spent the evening eating, laughing, and telling stories. I made pudding for dessert too, which I figure is just pie without the crust. We all went around and said what we were thankful for, which was sweet too. I truly have so much to be grateful for!! My wonderful family, the best friends, the restored gospel, my Savior, my mission, and more things than I could possibly type in this email!! When we count our blessings, we truly realize how much the Lord has given us!! honestly from the time I've spent in Zimbabwe, I don't feel inclined to complain about anything. I've truly been so blessed for which I am so grateful.

On Friday I went on an exchange with my District Leader Elder Tsongora to his area. Man we marched!! We were speedwalking the whole way, which was awesome!! We didn't have a single lesson that wasn't good and we saw some seriously powerful people. It also gave me a chance to see a new area with new people and a new companion. That was pretty refreshing and I enjoyed it a lot. It rained pretty hard in the afternoon which cooled everything down. That was really needed.
   Brother Makora after the marriage and baptism!

 morning was hectic. We were trying to make sure that Brother Makora's marriage could be performed so that the baptism could go through, but the two marriage officers that we planned on were not available. We were about to cancel, but we were able to contact the bishop of the 2nd ward to do it. It took some stressing and some scrambling, but the very simple marriage was performed and I was able to baptize him!! It was sweet to see him and his wife happy and to be able to help him make covenants. He walks super far every Sunday and is really faithful. It was really awesome.

On Saturday evening we taught Believemore about the Book of Mormon and he committed to read it! He understands a lot and I really have faith that he can receive his own testimony! His family is super nice and I'm hoping that we might be able to teach them too. It was really great.
Yesterday we had almost 50 people at church!!! It's mostly because of the holidays, but it was so awesome. Although our numbers were still few, the hymns had a little more strength and the Spirit felt a little stronger. We also had 9 investigators come!! It was super awesome!! It gives me hope for this small branch.

We had dinner with Sis. Fadzai and her fiancee last night and they invited Elders Barnett and Bamutesiza. It's so great o be in such good company, especially an RM and my first companion. It was awesome! Also last night, I was reflecting on the pioneers and their sacrifice and their faith. It touched me very deeply. There are so many who came before us who suffered and endured to provide us with the lives we have now. How can we not honor their legacy by enduring in faith? I love that so much.

To conclude, a couple more fun facts! Most women go by Mai (meaning mother) and the name of their oldest child. So if a woman's oldest child was Tadiwa, she would be called Mai Tadiwa. Also, Zimbabwean women are magicians! I can't believe how they carry so many things on their heads. It blows my mind for sure. There are going to be an eternal supply of mangoes in about a month because of the hundreds of trees in people's yards. Oh, and it's not uncommon to see a firewood cart being pulled by a couple donkeys up and down the streets. That's Zim for ya!

I hope everyone is doing well!! Thank you for all your love and support!!

Elder Barlow

Elder Muzenda and I with Brother Khumalo our branch clerk

November 21, 2016 - Mupande ne mheni

What's up everybody?! This weeks title is translated to mean "thunder and lightning." The weather has been serious this week! I'll mention more later.
This week was pretty good! Although we started off slow, we managed to teach a lot by the end of the week. I think cumulatively we taught about 20 lessons on Thursday and Friday alone! It was sweet. On Thursday we taught Thomas, the older guy with the WofW problem. We taught him the plan of salvation and it was the coolest thing. I just finished teaching him about Adam and Eve and the Fall, and he started realizing and talking about how God knew we would fall and sin and that was the point and so He sent Christ to make it possible to repent. Wow I was blown away by his understanding and I couldn't help but smile and nod my head excitedly. It was really awesome and I hope some progression can be made. On Friday we also taught Mai Diana. We had a really interesting discussion on tithing and also on fasting/prayer. Apparently at her church things are super different, less organized, and strange when it comes to funds. She was so surprised when we told her about how tithing works, how organized it is, and how church leaders receive no salary as volunteers. It was awesome and I think she realized that maybe she wants a change. She speaks super good English because she's a teacher so that makes the lessons we have very profitable for the both of us. It's great!!
We made an effort to visit more less actives again, and I think we totaled about 13 lessons with them this week. Elder Muzenda said he was proud of me for trying to talk to people and put myself out there. It's still hard with the language but I'm trying. He's teaching me to pray in Shona which is super cool. Hopefully my progress will continue to increase. It's a very different language from English, so I definitely need the Lord's help in learning. Anyways, that's it for teaching experiences this week!
This week it's rained pretty frequently but not very hard. It's a blessing because we are in a house every time it starts raining. It's made the weather super mild and that has really helped a ton. We can always see serious parts of the storm far off though and it's so sketchy. I have never seen so much lightning in my whole life. It's super cool! The thunder is serious too. African weather doesn't mess around. It's so funny because when we leave the house it may be hot and sunny, but after our first lesson it will be cloudy and raining, then it will clear up, and then get cloudy again. It's tough to prepare for sometimes haha. 

Our dinner/devotional
On Friday we had dinner and a little devotional with the other missionaries. We made sadza (of our own free will!) and had drinks and it was a blast just hanging around with them and making jokes. They're all good guys which is a huge blessing for me. On Saturday the other elders had a baptism so we attended. It was super awesome to attend a baptism that I wasn't participating in. I loved it!! It was hilarious too because afterwards the new converts and their nonmember sisters all wanted pictures with me, even though I'd never met them. It was super hilarious and I felt kinda like a celebrity which was cool.
Sacrament meeting yesterday was poor in terms of attendance but powerful in Spirit. We had these two 18 year old young women speak on prayer and repentance and I was so impressed. They weren't short and super simple, and it really made an impact on me. It lifted my spirits a lot. We spent part of 2nd hour talking to the one semi-active RM in our ward and it was sweet. He's a good guy and fun to talk to because he's been on a mission and he gets it. Then last night we waited out the rain at a member's house and talked for a long time about all sorts of things which was really nice. Super awesome fact, 5 out of the 6 days we proselyted we were fed dinner! And we had sadza every time haha. It was super awesome!!! Especially since we hadn't had many DA's before. I've actually grown to love sadza a lot. We had quail with the Ngwaru family, which was so so good. It was honestly amazing. Brother Ngwaru (the one who's not in the church anymore) was talking about his couples mission and it blew me away how happy and how much pride he took in his mission. I want him to come back so bad, because he still knows it's true. I want to talk about my mission like that. We also ate with this nonmember family. We've been teaching their son Tafara who's in his 30's and we'd only met them once. However, when we stopped to say hi, they invited us to come back later to have dinner and everything. It was so incredibly kind. Even though we're practically strangers, they didn't care or didn't run away because we are missionaries. It was so amazing. Zimbabwean people can be so kind.
A couple of fun facts! I finished Jesus the Christ this week! It's super long but I absolutely loved it. It contains so much doctrine and helps you know the Savior and I encourage everyone to read it! And, my brother Sam is 16 today!! Everyone wish him a happy birthday for me!! He's such a great kid and I'm so proud to be his brother!!
Until next week, musari zvakanaka!!
Elder Barlow
Sometimes you are overcome by the Spirit after church ha

Monday, November 14, 2016

November 14, 2016 - Zvakanaka

How's it going everybody??!!

I hope everyone's week has been a blast and filled with joy! This was honestly a difficult week but I hope and pray that things will continue to get better.
The title for this email can mean many things (beautiful, well, good) but it honestly just essentially means good things. I hear this word a lot and it's super great!
This week we had a ton of fall throughs which was really disappointing. We spent most of the week visiting less active members, because frankly they outnumber the active ones. I'll just share a couple of experiences. We met Sister Mupindu and her sons this week. She actually served a mission in the early 1990's, but following her marriage her husband forbid her from going to church. She's since separated from him, and she came to church for the first time in about 20 years this Sunday and I think we are going to baptize her sons!! I hope and pray that things continue to go well. We also saw the Ngwaru family. Brother Ngwaru was a branch president multiple times and they served a couples mission a couple years ago, but because of a serious misunderstanding he left the church and now goes to Jehovah's witness. His testimony, however, is still strong and we can tell it is still there. Someday, he will return to church and find again the joy.
Proof that I can kubika (cook)
[please excuse the odd look on my face]
The one highlight for our investigators is Brother Makora. He lives in Woodlands, which is probably over a half hour walk from the church. However, every Sunday he walks on his own and has been doing so for months! He would be baptized by now but he and his wife aren't legally married, as is the case with many people here. We are trying to get that issue sorted out so that he can be baptized! This guy has truly gained a witness and a testimony and is more dedicated than half the members. It's inspiring to me.
Another highlight this week was Wednesday night! Thanks to the thoughtfulness of my wonderful mother, we had taco night with the zone leaders! Ahh everything tasted so good. By some miracle we were able to find tortillas as well so it was awesome!! Holy cow it was sweet.
I don't know if my companion is sick of me singing around the house all the time, but I hope not cause I'm not really planning on stopping haha. Oh, other thing! On Friday the rains seriously came. It rained from 7 am to 7 pm and it rained HARD. We couldn't even go out because it was so ridiculous. It rained hard last night  too. The nice thing was that as a result on Saturday we had the nicest weather we've had! It wasn't too hot or overcast, overall just really nice.

Overall, nothing too exciting to report this week. Sorry I know I wrote less. I heard things are sure exciting there though! I'm not sure what to think of president-elect Trump, but I'm sure the Lord will take care of everything. I love you all!!

Musari zvakanaka!!

Elder Barlow

Giant millipede that we found outside

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

November 7, 2016 - "I'm So Glad You Know English"

How's it going everybody?
Happy Halloween from Mkoba District
I hope all is well!! This week has been an interesting week for sure. Monday night we "celebrated" Halloween with our district by taking a goofy picture that you'll find below, which was super awesome!! It's been super hot, lots of long days of walking.
Tuesday was practically like Christmas!! I got the package from the family and letters!! Wow I never appreciated how good American peanut butter is, and I am undyingly grateful for the taco seasoning and pancake mix!! We're definitely going to be eating well this week. I think the Shona books included will accelerate my learning too. Thank you so much for your love and consideration, family!! Love you guys!!
This week, especially this weekend, we had a ton of appointments fall through. That was a shame, but we still managed to teach a lot. I've found that lessons with people who speak good English are so powerful!! I feel like I'm contributing, there's understanding, and the Spirit is there!! It's been a blessing to find people like that. I got another opportunity to teach the plan of salvation, this time to Believemore, and it went way better. With that lesson especially you have to teach for understanding and share a lot of proof from the Bible. Boy, do Zimbabweans love their Bible.
On Thursday we got some drastic relief from the heat. We were teaching Panashe in the evening when the heavens opened and dumped rain for like two hours. We waited it out for an hour before deciding we could try to get home. There were rivers running through the streets!! In primary, you sing about the rains coming down and the floods coming up but you don't truly understand the context until you're in the middle of an African monsoon. We were all the way in village 16 and were soaked by the time we got home. Whew, what an adventure!! It hasn't rained since but we definitely got a taste of what it's gonna be like!!
Friday the Muchemwa family had us over for dinner again which was really nice. They're such a great family and I love how they always invite us over. The food was delicious and they baked us another divine cake!! Nothing gets a new missionary excited like a dinner appointment with cake (except maybe repentance and baptism haha). Douglas, one of the family members, is 22 and in college and we talk with him a ton which is awesome. I love faithful people.
The baptism!
On Saturday we had the baptism!! Ok tiny miracle story: we showed up to the baptism and the branch president couldn't open the chapel with his keys because someone had put a different lock. We waited for like 45 minutes without being to go in, and I started praying that we would be able to find a way to open it. We had the number of the guy who had the keys but we or any members of either branch knew where he was. About 10 minutes after my prayer, a member of the 2nd ward bishopric happened to drive by, called the guy with the keys, and then went and picked them up and brought them so the baptism could go through!! Prayers truly are answered!! The baptism went well for Mollette and her 8 year old daughter Paidamoyo. The font was all the way full this time and there were no problems haha. It was great!!
It was super hot this weekend again and there were many people who happened to be absent or busy. Church was nice. By the way they found the branch counselor's son safely so thank you for your prayers. I had the opportunity to help in the confirmations which was again special. I then had the great chance to bless the sacrament for the first time in almost 5 months. It was so special to me. I read the words of the prayer so carefully, each one taking on new meaning and the Spirit increasing during the ordinance. It was so awesome. We had fast and testimony meeting. There's a sister who's husband (our former YM pres)  passed away the week before I arrived and she finally came back and bore her testimony. It was so powerful and emotional and there were tears in my eyes for sure. The Savior truly does carry us in times of need. We also got to confer the Aaronic priesthood upon Panashe which was also really cool. Definitely many cool experiences. We talked about some ward members about how the branch used to be so different. Now so few people come, hardly any priesthood holders are active, and the joy of the gospel seems to be missing. I'm really hoping that there is hope for change in this area.
We stopped by Sister Takaya's house last night and without planning she made us dinner which was so awesome!! People don't realize that us missionaries don't need special treatment or huge nice meals. We honestly just love visiting and are happy with any hospitality they offer. It was a simple meal but so good and it felt so loving. Her son in law is in the branch presidency of the 5th branch and an RM and we talked to him for a long while which was super cool.
Guess who has arrived
This morning we went to the air and military museum in Gweru. We saw some awesome old planes worthy of a President Uchtdorf conference talk and took some hilarious pictures. It was pretty cool.
Haha I hope everyone has fun voting this week!! I'm sure it'll all be ok, because the Lord will never forsake the faithful!! He'll take care of things if we put in our effort!
Spiritual thought for the week: a guy we teach has this sign in his house that says, "Only God can solve my problems." Immediately, that made an impression on me. That's not really a true statement. The sign should really say, "through God I can solve my problems." Our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ love us so much and are always willing to reach out and help us. However, we have to show our faith by doing our part and putting in our best efforts. Then miracles can occur in our lives. I loved something our high counselor said about self-reliance: luck (or miracles or blessings or whatever) is when preparation meets opportunity. We can truly overcome everything as long as we do our best and turn to the Lord!!
I love you all and hope all is well!!
Musari mushi!
Elder Barlow
My buzz cut haha
My buzz cut haha

Monday, October 31, 2016

October 31, 2016 - "Kuri Kupisa!!!"

What's up everyone?!
Another week has gone by! I hope all is well with everyone! In English, the subject means "it's hot," which is probably the best description I could offer for this week. The sun has been relentless!! As missionaries we are pretty used to it by now mentally, but it continues to make things a little hard. Even the people here know it's too hot!
On Monday after I finished my email we went and played soccer at the town chapel which has some grass. These 4 guys stopped and asked if they could play with us and we invited them in. Holy cow those guys were so good. Honestly we were outclassed and I'm glad we mixed up the teams a little. My team won 4-1 and I scored all 4 goals! (...even if I didn't do that much work) Afterwards we got their contacts and invited them to church. It was awesome!! This week we had a lot of appointments that fell through again, but we also had some of the best lessons we've ever taught.
Soccer with the Elders

I have to tell you guys about this guy we met named Brother Mutsata. He owns the 3 kiosks in our area and has been pretty successful. Holy cow this man has been prepared. He had an American friend years back who was a member and got him interested. When we stopped to talk to him, he invited us into the kiosk and let us teach him. He had great questions and was so grateful for everything that we taught him about Joseph Smith and the Restoration. He honestly just gets it. He's so humble and willing to learn, even though he's decades older than us. He's a methodist originally but recognizes that there are things missing and was so willing to hear us. He offered to help us with anything we need. We taught him again about the doctrine of Christ. He honestly just understands faith, asked great questions about repentance and baptism, and the Spirit guided us to answer his questions. He always says he is satisfied with our answers and that he doesn't want us to stop coming. He speaks really good English which is really nice. He said something profound to us last week: "this badge you wear, it's the light of the world, and it's not a joke. People see that. It's not a joke, you are doing the work of God. Your work will help us. Continue to help me understand especially from the Bible. I've read the Bible 20 times, but you have researched and you have understanding. Please help me to know." I'm paraphrasing but wow, zhakasimba for sure. I love this guy and i can't wait to teach him again!! On the humbling side, we taught the plan of salvation for the first time (crazy i know don't ask) and I was not very prepared. I shared an off topic scripture and everything, but luckily Elder Muzenda knew what he was doing. I definitely have a lot to learn and need to study and prepare better!

My street in Mkoba 12
There are a ton of cute kids. There are a couple two year olds in our branch that are so adorable and bring a huge smile to my face.
Haha I love taking combies. We only do it like once a week, but it's a blast. Who wouldn't want to be crammed into an old van with 20 random people and a crazy driver?! Every time I ride in one it's like an adventure haha. We also had our baptism moved to this coming week, where we will be baptizing Mollet and her 8 year old daughter! It's going to be great.
I got a haircut today!! The guy had to cut it really short, so it's basically the shortest it's been since my dad was giving me buzz cuts when I was twelve. It actually doesn't look too bad haha. The thing is, people are used to cutting only African hair, especially in Gweru, so the only razor attachments that they have are 1-4. The guy even wanted to do a little shaping, so he did haha. It honestly isn't bad. You can see the scar from my staples super well though, so that's a reminder in case I forgot what was happening two years ago haha.
I'm slowly starting to learn more Shona. Sometimes Elder Muzenda just sits and talks with people in Shona, and I kinda just sit there. I do my best to listen to words and to understand parts of conversations. It's hard but I'm working on it. It's hard to just talk to people sometimes because not everyone speaks good English and because of cultural and background differences it's hard to relate to people and to know what to talk about. I'm working hard to put myself out there and to be more outgoing. It's not easy but I'm improving. We focused on teaching with more unity as a companionship this week and that really blessed and improved the quality of our lessons. I feel more and more like a regular missionary each week.
Elder Muzenda and I with Sister Muza and her mom
This Sunday was a little tough. Only about 20 ish people showed up to church with about 3 Melchizedek priesthood holders and 2 investigators. Yikes, that was kinda tough. It makes me so grateful for the wonderful enthusiastic ward I have back home that raised me and prepared me in the gospel! The speakers didn't show up, so of course the branch president came to us. We gave impromptu talks and I spoke on the scriptures and the words of the living prophets. I think it went pretty well. The words of God truly haven't ceased coming to us if we know where to listen, and new revelation can always be found in past scripture! I love Elder Neal A. Maxwell's expression, that the scriptures are "thin pages thick with meaning." I honestly love the scriptures! In my personal study I've been reading conference talks from October 1999, and there are some amazing ones and I'd encourage everyone to take a look at them! I also studied the end of Mosiah and the beginning of Alma this week, and the transformation of Alma the Younger just inspires me. He, through the Atonement of the Savior, transformed from an awful sinner into a powerful prophet. His example is one of hope and one of incredible joy! I also loved the attitude of the sons of Mosiah, who shuddered at the thought of losing one of their brethren, enough that they willingly served 14 years among their enemies! They are great examples to all of us.
I just want to close this week by bearing my testimony of living prophets. God called Thomas S. Monson to guide his church on the earth today. His sacred example of enthusiastic service, loyalty to the Spirit, and boundless energy inspire me to become greater and to serve more. He truly was prepared throughout his life to answer the call of the Lord and I am so grateful to be a witness to his counsel!
I love you all and hope that this week brings blessings beyond belief! Never forget the power of faith and prayer!
Elder Barlow
At Wendy's and Monica's baptism!

October 24, 2016 - "How Old Are You Again? (Transfer 1 Over!!)

What's up everyone?!

We made it through the first transfer!! Haha it feels good to have one under my belt. Just a couple fun things I might share from my first transfer:

You know you're in Zimbabwe when:

-there are ants and mini cockroaches crawling everywhere in the kitchen and you're used to it
-a rooster crows every 10 seconds
-every 3 steps there's a pothole in the road, if it's paved
-you hear a child ask "how are you?" 148 times a day
-people are insane drivers and bikers and you have to be on your toes at all times to not be hit
-when the only other white people are missionaries haha (every time we go into town and see a white person we are just as shocked as everyone else haha)

This week has had a lot of ups and downs. Haha with regards to the title, my favorite thing ever is when we are talking to someone and we ask them how old we are. They always say I'm like 23-26. Their reactions when I tell them that I'm 18 are the best. They are so shocked and I can't help but laugh. It's the best. Also, if I baptized someone for every time I was asked how I'm doing by these little kids, I'd have doubled the church membership by now. Haha it's great. This week we had a bunch of fall-throughs so we weren't able to be as productive this week. However, we still taught a good number of lessons and I think we will baptize some good people in November. Unfortunately, Takudzwa's parents called from South Africa and said he couldn't be baptized. We were super bummed, so we've been praying for him a lot. Also, when we went to do the baptismal interviews on Friday, Mollet wasn't there and she didn't come to the baptism on Saturday either. Hopefully that will be taken care of next week.

I tried maheu (a flavored maize drink that people love here) for the first time, and I don't know it's honestly not very good. yikes. Haha I've gotta find something that I like here. There's this juice called Mazoe that you dilute with water and it's super good. I also found some coconut biscuit cookies that are pretty nice. 

Can I just say I love the scriptures?! There are honestly answers to every question and support for every doctrine between the thin pages of the holy scriptures. Whether it be about the Sabbath day, speaking in tongues, or the apostasy or whatever. it's all in the scriptures. It's so much fun in our companionship study to come across scriptures that prove doctrine. It's the best! The scriptures truly are the word of God.

I went on an exchange with my district leader Elder Tsongora on Friday. He's 18 months on mission and is super thoughtful. He teaches with great detail and with a good Spirit. It was fun to talk and teach with him. Then we had the baptism on Saturday!! I was able to baptize Wendy and Monica. It was tough for a couple reasons: they filled the font up to like my knees, and also many people haven't been in water that much so they freak out when they go under. I had to baptize them both a second time, but we got through it and it was pretty special. 

Sunday we had our branch conference. We had a few more members attend than in previous weeks, but still not many. I got the chance to conduct the music (no keyboard) and that was nice. I also got  to participate in confirming Wendy and Monica and that was so spiritual. It was so profound to be able to confirm someone and give them the Holy Ghost. I'm so grateful for the priesthood and the ordinances of the gospel. Third hour our branch president led us in Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel and was so enthusiastic and I loved it! He's an older guy and a convert but you can tell he truly has a testimony. Then in the evening we had dinner with Brother and Sister Wicho and their family. He's an RM who's been super active in stake callings. He also remembers Elder Davenport!! So that's cool. It was awesome to talk to someone who speaks good English and just gets the gospel and stuff. It's funny, everyone thinks I'm super quiet and reserved here. They don't realize that I'm just trying to be respectful and that I'm trying to listen and learn Shona. It's hard to relate to these people because we are so different, but i'm working hard to talk to people and put myself out there. Every day it gets better.

It's been super hot this week and solid lessons were hard to come by, but we are working hard. Hopefully this next transfer will bring more blessings and more joy! I love you all and I'm so grateful for your support!!

Love Elder Barlow

PS I'm unable to send pictures because I left my card reader at home. whoops! I promise I'll send some good ones next week!!!!

Monday, October 17, 2016

October 17, 2016 - "It's Not the Heat, It's the...No It's the Heat"

Masakati Everyone!

This week has been so amazing and it totally flew by!! There have been so many blessings and amazing experiences that have happened this week!! I don't even know where to start. Gweru has been pretty good. We had a solid zone meeting on Tuesday. The Elders in the Masvingo district had been sick in the hospital so that was sketchy, but they're all ok now. There's also a keyboard in the chapel where we meet, so that's been super sweet to sit down and play even if it's just for a minute. We had some good lessons this week. Elder Muzenda has been super good for me because he's helped me to better teach people not just lessons. He's really sociable and great with people and gets to know them quickly. It helps them warm up to us, and I'm doing my best to put myself out there, even though it's difficult. It helps that he is fluent in Shona and Ndebele, so that has motivated me to learn more. I pick up a new word or two each day so that's been fun.

Elder Muzenda and I
Elder Aden and I study Shona together sometimes. We founds a Shona Restoration pamphlet and tried reading through the first vision. Wow, we butchered it so hard but it's a start haha. It's been an adventure figuring out how to cook and stuff. We've eaten some unorthodox things, like last night we had leftover spaghetti so i cooked some beans, hot dogs, and tomato soup and it wasn't all that bad. Breakfast is my forte though. I made pancakes and French toast this week and they've turned out awesome.
My plate of sadza and stuff
It's so nice to have other missionaries in the house. We get to tell stories and joke around and it's just awesome. We don't have too many options for working out, so it's usually pushups and stuff. This morning Elder Aden and I actually made weights out of these empty oil containers and an old mop stick so that's pretty exciting.

This week has been so so hot. Like, it's crazy. Sometimes we feel like we are melting. honestly, the Lord blesses his servants because we always have the strength and the motivation to work hard throughout the whole day. Every time we step out in the sun in our priesthood attire, I feel this surge of motivation and energy. By the time we get home and close the day and everything, then it hits us haha. I have a wicked collar tan haha, it's so bad. 
There have been some interesting experiences this week. Zimbabwe is a very Christian country and people absolutely love the Bible. I swear some people memorize it and are so devoted to it. We have to teach using the Bible a ton until we can introduce the Book of Mormon. When we use the Bible, people are very understanding and receptive. There was this one older guy we taught this week. I started teaching him while Elder Muzenda was helping wash their car. This guy wouldn't budge until we showed him Biblical proof of Joseph Smith and he wouldn't let us get anywhere. He kept interrupting us and it was very frustrating. Some people don't open their hearts to the gospel, and so it helps me appreciate the ones that do. We taught a guy named Kudakwashe, who only speaks Shona. He loved our message and was thanking us for teaching him so he could understand. It was pretty cool. Tafadzwa, the 15 year old girl we have been teaching is progressing well. She asked if I could help her get a passport to America, haha and I told her i would if she married Sam. So Sam I've found your wife haha. Her dad only speaks Shona, so I greeted him and stuff as we left and he grabbed my hand and wouldn't stop shaking it. He had the biggest smile and kept laughing and said "My son, I'm very happy, keep it up! Good!" It was pretty cool. We are praying that he will let Tafadzwa get baptized.

We also taught Sister Fadzai's uncle again, and he's really understanding and willing to learn. We know he will get baptized someday. I wish I could tell more about all these people. We taught this guy Ephraim who happens to be a polo player, horse trainer, elephant and lion trainer, expert hunter, and just super awesome. That guy has got an adventure for a job.

Crazy story time: so here people claim they've seen all kinds of visions. Like the first week, some guy told us his wife saw a pillar of fire above his head. This week some guy told us he was ordained an Apostle when he heard a voice, and that last month he saw a vision of Matthew 10:10 in front of him calling him to preach the gospel. Wow haha, that's not even the craziest we've heard from the other missionaries. Definitely always entertained. 
Yesterday we had stake conference. It was super hot but it was nice. President and Sister Mkhabela came and spoke and that was really awesome. They really are such great people and I'm glad they are taking care of us. I talked to President afterwards, and he made sure I was ok and stuff. He's soft-spoken but dignified and passionate about the gospel.
Afterwards we went out and taught this lesson to Mai Diana, a teacher we had last taught 3 weeks ago or something. We learned a lot about her and she was very receptive. She's been divorced but remarried happily, and survived a life-threatening car accident and is fortunate enough to teach close to home. She's been so blessed.  I ended up inviting her to baptism at the end of the lesson and she said yes! Ahh it was really cool.

Elder Aden and I and our precious muffins

Last night Elder Aden and I made banana bread muffins and they were manna from heaven!! Thanks mom for the recipe!!! Everyone loved them. I was so proud haha. This morning was awesome. We played a little with our soccer ball in the living room and then packed 8 of us in the zone leaders' car and went to Antelope Park. This place is one of the best game park and resort places in Zim and it's so nice. It was really green and really cool. We got some delicious lunch and were sitting there when they walked 4 elephants right by us!! It was so cool!! They were so huge and we were going nuts taking pictures and stuff. Gosh it was awesome. We were misinformed about the price and time of the activities so we didn't do anything else, but got some sweet pics. It was so cool. We passed a kudu (small antelope) on our drive out and Elder Aden and Elder Tsongora got out and chased it haha. It's been a phenomenal week.


The Elders of Gweru

I wish I could write everything but I can't!! In conclusion I've honestly felt everyone's prayers this week. I've had a lot of struggles but I know the Lord has blessed me so much. This truly is the Lord's work. Sister Mkhabela talked about mothers and the stripling warriors in stake conference, and I'm so glad that I too can say that I can't doubt, my mother knows it. I'm so grateful for my mother and her wonderful influence on me and also to everyone else who's helped me become a better person and a better missionary! I love you all!!

Elder Barlow

The View Though

Monday, October 10, 2016

October 10, 2016 - "Hakuna Matata"

Hey everybody!!

Haha I know that hakuna matata isn't Shona but I've been trying to make it my motto, especially this week.

Haha let's just say this week has been a little rocky. On Tuesday, I learned that one of the new missionaries in my area had a bad trainer and that my trainer was being given to him. Wow. That was really hard to have my trainer be taken away from me three weeks in, but at least he's still in my zone. My new companion is Elder Muzenda. He's originally from Zimbabwe but lived in SA. He's been on the mission for 6 months and this is only his second area. He's got a cool story. Because of visa problems, his initial call to Cape Town South Africa last year was cancelled. However, after 6 months he got reassigned to Zimbabwe. He loves soccer, hip hop, and just having fun. We get along pretty well and hopefully that continues to improve. This week I've mostly been showing him the area and the people we've been teaching. Basically, I've been the senior companion for the week. Being more active actually helps me feel more like a missionary. Elder Muzenda is fluent in Shona and is really good at getting to know people and just talking with them, and he sets a great example of how to get to know and love the people. I think he will teach me a lot of valuable things.

A couple of cool experiences this week! So before the emergency transfer, Elder Bamutesiza and I received a text from Sister Fadzai (the member that's been really helping us with our missionary work) saying that she was sick and needed a blessing. When we got there, it was so hard. She couldn't speak and she was just shaking. I had the opportunity to give her a blessing, and I really felt the Spirit. That evening we called her and she said she was much better, and the following day when we saw her she was basically back to normal! The power of faith and our Heavenly Father is real!! Also we saw a couple of our investigators at Choppies (basically African mini Costco) and it was like seeing old friends. It was awesome. We taught this guy Prince, and when we asked him what religion he was he told us that he was a seeker of the kingdom of God. Wow, zhakasimba (it's powerful).
Conference finally came!! Ahh I can't recall a time when my soul yearned so much for the words of the living prophets. President Uchtdorf's talk about finding the joy of the gospel really spoke to my heart. I need to really feel the joy of the restored gospel more and find more joy in sharing it with others! Elder Cook's talk about stumbling blocks was amazing too. Ahh it just wouldn't go on long enough. President Monson is obviously becoming very weak, so let's all continue to pray for him and the other leaders of the church. Saturday night we had burger night with the Elders in Gweru, and that was a blast. I love just talking with the zone leaders and the other guys. It was a blast.

A couple of blessings this week! Elder Tsongora and Elder Aden moved in with us this week! Elder Tsongora is from Zimbabwe and goes home in April and Elder Aden is new from Idaho. It's so good not to have a quiet house anymore, and I have another American to cook pancakes with haha. When we made pancakes it was so flipping good (no pun intended haha). Friday we had dinner with the Muchemwas (Fadzai's family) and her sister made a cake (she bakes and paints for a living). It was SO DELICIOUS!! Also, the cakes that she makes even rival your birthday cakes mom......just kidding haha. Also, we found out that one of the showers has hot water!! So I took a hot shower for the first time the other day. Hallelujah, that was wonderful. Haha anyways/

Our zone leaders nicknamed me muroy, which means sorcerer haha. They are nicknaming all the new elders. Crazy story, so both on Tuesday and Wednesday we had no power and no water. Welcome to Africa!! Needless to say, this week has come with more than it's fair share of challenges, so I pray for more patience and charity each day!

The best part was on Sunday. So at first when we got to conference, we had no investigators there. That was tough. But 15 minutes into the Sunday morning session, 7 investigators walked in!! 7!! I was so pumped!! Afterwards I was rushing them around introducing them to members and just saying hello, I was so excited! Hopefully we can baptize all of them by the end of the month and help them get closer to Christ! Fadzai introduce us to her uncle as well and he was super receptive and willing to listen! Some people, when they have questions, they aren't willing to hear the answers. This guy was super humble and wanted to learn so we have high hopes for them!

I hope you all are doing well! I pray for everyone a lot and I hope that the Spirit guides you all in everything! Also, congratulations to Kelsey Schwartz on getting her mission call!

Here's to one month in Zimbabwe down, a ton to go haha.

Love Elder Barlow

1. Last week celebrating Elder Allen's year mark
2. Beautiful, purple jacaranda trees that are everywhere
3. One of the many nightmare spiders