Monday, September 26, 2016

September 26, 2016 - "That's Powerful, Man"

Hello Everyone!!
I survived my first full week in Zimbabwe! Each day seems to get a little better. On Tuesday we had zone meeting and it was good to see some other Americans haha. It's so funny, we eat the same food for all three meals because my companion is a simple cook and I haven't yet gotten up my courage to attempt anything. So beans, rice, beef, tomatoes, and onions for every meal! Haha it's actually really good.
As to the title of my email, whenever something spiritual or cool happens, everyone says "powerful." Haha it's so awesome. I find myself saying it more and more haha. This week we contacted 102 people!! Holy cow it's so much. Most people in Zimbabwe are too nice to say they aren't interested, so we end up with a billion contacts haha. Everyone says they will come to church too, but no one really means it but that's ok. I can't let the ninety and nine keep me from the one! One guy actually told us yesterday that he wasn't interested, so although it was disappointing his honesty was refreshing. We have taught a bunch of lessons this week, almost all of them about the Restoration. The highlight of our investigator lessons was Shane. So there's a YSA named Tino that's our branch mission leader and he goes around with us often. He introduced us to Shane, who's almost 17 and one of his good friends. We taught Shane and then Tino brought him to church yesterday! That was so cool. Also after we taught the first lesson to him, he followed us around as we finished teaching for the rest of the day! I think he has real promise and that the Spirit is speaking to him.
The other highlight of the week has been eating dinner with a couple members. We first had dinner with the Muchemwa Family. Sister Fadzai Muchemwa is really influential and has helped us in our teaching and finding a lot. She also teachessunday school and seminary so members like her are so powerful in this branch. Last night we had dinner with Sister Jabangwe. She's the relief society president. She was married in the temple and has 4 grown daughters, but her husband died 20 years ago and she now lives with her young grandson who has bad legs. She's so faithful and sweet, and the sadza and chicken that she made was absolutely delicious. Haha I think I can survive the food here so far. We had the opportunity to give her grandson Clayton a blessing and that was special, and it is so tender to see the way she takes care of him. People like her strengthen my testimony and remind me of the good in this world. 
I need to find more change. They use American dollars but not coins because they use their own coins which is odd. I need change to buy the African equivalent of otter pops when it gets hot haha. It has been extremely hot this week and I've had to drink lots and lots of water. Also, I love African names! Some have English names, but others have names like Innocent, Believemore, Reward, Precious, etc. which is so cool. Others have native names that are awesome but that I have a very hard time pronouncing and spelling in my planner haha. I'm learning a little Shona each day thanks to my companion who knows a good amount. As I learn more I'll be able to participate more in contacting. We also had a cool experience this week. As we were contacting, a lady and her baby ran up to us. She had a smile on her face and tears in her eyes as she gave us her contact information. We referred her to the missionaries in her area and I hope that goes well! I participated a lot more during teaching this week and my companion says I'm doing well! I'm so glad to be doing the Lord's work. Because of resources we can't give out many copies of the Book of Mormon which is hard for me, but we are finding ways to help people learn about it and eventually read it! 
Also, I really understand what Joseph Smith was talking about when he talked about religious confusion. There are a ton of different churches in our area and plenty of false prophets in this country. The people are very Christian but there's so much confusion.
My companion happens to be a movie buff (whataya know!!). We talk about movies often and he quotes them all the time. Africans have such great senses of humor. Elder Bamutesiza has a deep, rich laugh and it kills me every time. I'm doing my best to work hard and find joy in the journey. Haha so funny story. Yesterday in church the speakers didn't show up. So guess who the 2nd counselor comes to to speak 2 minutes before the meeting? That's right, yours truly. So I got up and talked about the Book of Mormon for as long as I could. I think it went well. It's hard because many members that were present last week weren't there this week, even though other members came this week. This branch really needs some strengthening and a real jumpstart. We are trying to influence less actives as well. As I was doing my personal study I came across Alma 32, and it talked about that if we forget to nourish and care for our seed of faith, it won't take root and will wither. That really impacted my thinking about this branch and I hope this work continues to strengthen it. I love you all and I'm grateful for your support and love!
Elder Barlow
1. Oh Zimbabwe!!

2. Our humble abode

Monday, September 19, 2016

September 19, 2016 - "Elder, We're Not in Provo Anymore"

Hey everybody!
Well I'm officially in Zimbabwe! Holy cow I can't believe it. The flights were extremely long and I had a pretty bad headache, but it was ok. So crazy story two of the elders we were with got held up in South Africa overnight and got moved onto a different flight! But by a tender mercy, a member saw them and let them spend the night at his house until they could fly out which was awesome. President Mkhabela is a good guy and I am in good hands. The first night we spend in the Harare transfer house. Total there were at least 30 missionaries there at once so it was super crowded. The living conditions aren't the best and there's no hot water, but it's ok! My companion is Elder Bamutesiza from Uganda. He's 22 and been on his mission for over a year. He's very wise and sets a great example for me. We had meetings at the chapel by the mission office and had interviews with the President, which all went well.
The food isn't too bad here. I had sadza for the first time this week. It's essentially solid cream of wheat, so that'll take a little bit of adjusting haha. We headed out to our areas after one more night in the transfer house. We got up early Thursday morning and all got on a huge bus. My first area is Mkoba, which is a suburb of Gweru, about 3-4 hours southwest of Harare. The busride was long and hot but we made it. Wow Zimbabwe is very different from home. It is a very poor country and not very developed. There's lots of trash on the streets and it's dusty. The traffic is also kind of disorganized. People jaywalk whenver they want and it's crazy. Also the driving on the left side of the road is strange. Everyone lines up along the streets and sells things to try and make money. Also for transport, most people take combi's, which basically are 12 person vans that they cram as many people in as possible and drive all crazy! What a blast haha. Mkoba is a very poor area. It's extremely dusty, the houses are very small, and the roads are broken down. It's ok because the people are good and usually pretty happy! I'm the only white person I've seen other than the other missionaries, so that's different. The little kids point at me and say Murungu Murungu! all the time and sometimes come up and hold my hand, which is cute. I will learn to love this place a lot. Our house is pretty rundown and we only have cold water, but we are doing good. Also, if you've ever wondered what it's like to sleep in a giant jellyfish, buy a mosquito net haha. 
Our area got whitewashed, so my companion is also new to this area. We don't have many people to teach right now but we're working on it. The missionaries there before us taught and committed to baptism a 14 year old boy named Panache and I had the opportunity to baptize him on saturday!! Ahh so cool. I'm so excited about this work and I want everyone in Zimbabwe to receive it. We taught a man named Tinashe and a young man named Believemore on Saturday as well. That was good. It's pretty hot, but Sunday night a super cold wind whipped through and it was freezing. Gotta love the weather. Church Sunday was interesting. The branch we are in is struggling a lot. There were only about 30 members there Sunday and it wasn't very enthusiastic, so we will work hard to change that. Nobody plays the piano so we sing a cappella, so that's different. Also, everyone speaks Shona all the time and prefer to speak it rather than English, so i've got some work to do there haha. I hope I covered everything. Overall it's been a pretty hectic week. I miss home a lot, but it's ok I'm doing the Lord's work. I love you all and hope you know that this gospel is true!!
Elder Barlow

September 15, 2016 - Safe Arrival!

Dear Brother and Sister Barlow,

We would like to inform you that Elder Barlow has arrived safely in Harare, Zimbabwe.  We will enjoy having him with us to share the gospel with the wonderful people of Zimbabwe.  We have attached a photo of Elder Barlow with President and Sister Mkhabela.

Have a good day,
Sister Peterson

Mission Office Administrative Manager
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
Zimbabwe Harare Mission

Sunday, September 11, 2016

September 8, 2016 - "Time Flies"

Hey everyone!!

Wow time really goes by fast. Everyone told us to just make it to Sunday, and now it's almost time to leave! It's crazy. I got my travel plans last Friday! We fly to Atlanta Monday morning, then to Johannesburg, and then to Zimbabwe! Let's just say it's about 36 hour s total travel time. Wow. I need to learn how to sleep on a plane.
This week has been full of blessings. We finished teaching Jen and it was amazing! She's really awesome and it was a wonderful opportunity to teach her. Ps she's actually a member and an RM so that was cool haha. We got new TRC investigators this week. Rod is middle aged and from Chile. Half his extended family is LDS. His wife and him have lost two kids and it's been rough, and we taught him the plan of salvation and he loved it!! By the way, Elder Dixon and I found out why we teach the restoration first. Lots of questions!! He said he'll work towards baptism and that he wants his wife to take the discussions and that if she reads the Book of Mormon she'll gain a testimony! Wow, he has so much faith. Jessy is in her mid twenties and going to UVU. She's struggled a lot in life and is having a rough time, but she has the happiest and most bubbly personality and it's great! We taught her about Heavenly Father and the Spirit and about prayer. Not only is she getting answers to prayers, the Spirit is almost tangible in our lessons! We were almost in tears yesterday. She's amazing and this gospel will bless her so much!
On another note, we had a devotional on Sunday. Chad Lewis came and spoke to us and that was really awesome. He knows Elder Gunther really well so we went back afterwards and talked to him. He gave me some awesome words of encouragement and Mom he said he remembers you and Mimi and Papa so that was cool. We had another devotional on Tuesday and guess who walks in: ....Elder Christofferson!! Ahh we got so excited. He spoke to us about repentance and about being trustworthy servants of God. It was amazing. We also sang in the choir and Spirit was incredibly strong. I love the Apostles holy cow. 
Elder Dixon and I are the spikeball champions haha. We've played a bunch for exercise time and let's just say it's not even close. It's so much fun. I've gotten to play a lot of volleyball as well which I'm very grateful for. My district loves sports so that's a blessing. We've had a lot of funny discussions and stories. Elder Sink and Elder Boice are the best storytellers and we have a lot of laughs.
Everyone in our district has had a cold in the past week and a half. I'm just starting to get over it. Let's just say it's not easy to catch up on sleep as a missionary. Some elders are struggling with it but everyone is doing ok. Class has been really good this week and we are learning a lot from our teachers. Haha we all have trouble staying awake during class sometimes, which is weird because when I lay down to go to bed, I'm wide awake. It's gonna take some adjusting.
At the beginning of this week I was having a tough time. Some things hit me and I was just feeling a little overwhelmed and insecure, but I have been blessed so much. I'm doing a lot better know. This week I've been reading in 3 Nephi when Christ comes. Something about reading words that came from the Savior is really special. The Book of Mormon really is true. I love this work so much. 
We got to go to the temple for the last time in 2 years today, which is really sad but also really amazing. The two times that I've been able to attend the temple have really been special. I know it is the Lord's house. On a side note today we saw Whitney and Stephen from Studio C in the temple! How crazy is that??!! That was cool. Anyways sorry haha. 
Ahh I feel like there is so much to say and I either can't remember it all or I can't fit it all in this email. Oh, haha thank you to everyone who has sent stuff. It means a lot. Also haha, we have way too much food. So thank you to everyone who has sent it I honestly appreciate it. I love you all. Next email will be from Zimbabwe! AHH it's so crazy.

I love you all and pray for you every day. Helaman 5:12

Elder Barlow

Elder Dixon, Elder Barlow, Elder Gunther, Elder Makalio

"Haha please don't send any more food we have way too much haha."

T-shirt from Elder Hampton (cousin) serving in N.C. Raleigh mission.

September 1, 2016 - "Survived Week 1"

Hey everyone!

So I survived my first week at the MTC and it's been great! It's definitely a lot of hard work but I love it. I think that's mostly because of my great companion and my awesome district. What a great group of guys. Half of my district is going to Zimbabwe and the other half is going to Ghana Kumasi, so Mimi and Papa will be getting a great batch of new missionaries soon. Let me tell you about them.
Zimbabwe Elders: Elder Dixon is my companion. He's our district leader (which is awkward because I'm the senior companion haha). He's 20 years old and from North Ogden. He played soccer at Weber State and is just a genuinely polite and super nice guy. I love working and teaching with him. We play off of our strengths really well and we have a lot of fun. Elder Sink is from Las Vegas. He's about 6'4" and 300 lbs. He's super hilarious and really nice and he's going to play football at Colorado Mesa after his mission! Elder Hamblin is from Syracuse, Utah and he grew up on a dairy farm. He's a little more quiet, and he has a bit of a country accent which is awesome. Elder Gunther played football and basketball for Lone Peak and is just an all around stud. He was the only one I knew going into the MTC. Elder Makalio is a year older than us and is from West Valley, Utah. He played football and rugby and is just the most fun-loving guy ever! 
Ghana Elders: Elder Boyce is from Montana. He played rubgy and football and wrestled. He's really funny and has kind of a baby face. Elder Crowley is from Arizona and is really smart. Elder Edgerton is from Nashville, Tennessee. He's really punctual and smart and logical, but can also be really funny. Elder White is from Riverton. He's just a cool guy to be around and real genuine. And elder Christiansen is from Pleasant Grove. He's really short but has a really big heart. He's really good at having a good time and staying on track.

So that's our district. We all have so much fun together, but also really help each other out spiritually (so Dad, we are taking the work seriously but not taking ourselves too seriously). I really haven't been too stressed out. It's really strange though. I have trouble staying awake in class, but when my head hits the pillow at night I'm wide awake. So that's tricky. Basically we go to class almost all day. Lots of prayer and scripture study. I love it a lot. We've had practice investigators really often, and that's been great. However, I've had some humbling experiences. Turns out that you need to teach by the Spirit, not just know the doctrine really well haha. Oops. Well, ever since Elder Dixon and I have realized that, we've prayed and studied a lot to allow the Spirit to work through us and the results have been incredible. Our lessons have gotten progressively more impactful and it's amazing. We started teaching our TRC investigator on Monday. Her name is Jen and she's going to UVU. She's super outgoing and fun to talk to, and she's also very receptive. In our first lesson, I really felt prompted to bear my testimony on the Atonement, right in the middle of our lesson about the Restoration and prayer. The Spirit was so strong, it was incredible. And guess what?! We invited her to be baptized the next lesson and she said yes!!!!! Ahhh it was so cool! Elder Dixon and I were so pumped. So that's been the highlight of our week. The food is good and being surrounded by so many fellow servants of God is a really special thing. We have exercise time, and although I make a fool of myself in the weight room, I wipe the floor with everyone in volleyball haha. That's been a huge stress release. I took Daniel's advice and sang in the MTC choir and that was so amazing! There were 1600 of us. Wow. The Spirit works so strongly here. I've done a lot of studying and this is definitely really hard. But it is so right. This is the work of God and I know this is exactly what I should be doing. 

Another exciting thing was that I've already run into Elder Hales, Elder Callahan, Elder Jackson, Elder Romney, Elder Kerr, Elder Edlefsen, Elder Fankhauser, and more! It's so awesome! Basically being a missionary is hard, but absolutely worth it. I've felt the Spirit more this week than I have in my whole life and it's incredible. I've been studying in the Book of Mormon a lot, and my mission scripture, Alma 26:12, about sums it up. I know that I'm not much, but through God all things are possible! Thank you to grandmother, mom and the boys, and everyone else who has sent me packages it means so much! I love you all and I will try to be more specific and ramble a little less next week haha. 

Love, Elder Barlow

1. Elder Dixon and I
2. Our district: (left to right)  Elder Crowley, Elder Boyce, Elder Makalio, Elder Gunther, Elder White, Elder Edgerton, Elder Hamblin, Elder Christiansen, Elder Dixon, me, and Elder Sink (plus our teacher Sister Merrill)