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

Monday, October 3, 2016

October 2, 2016 - "Be Careful What You Wish For"

How is everyone doing?! Sorry for any typos this keyboard isn't super cooperative. There's so much to tell about this week and I hope I can get as much of it down as possible! This week went by kind of slow, but that's ok. The beginning of the week was very very hot, and it seems like I can't carry enough water haha. Thank heavens for the members that let us in. We contact a ton of people and it's getting hard to remember everyone. My planner is almost full and it's only halfway through the transfer! 
Briefly about some of the people we are teaching: 
    Tafara: He's a barber probably in his 30's. He's very humble and receptive and teaching him is very encouraging! We taught him the Restoration and the Book of Mormon and his own copy, but he didn't come to church. Hopefully we can help him progress!
    Takudzwa: He's 15 and staying with his cousins, a less active family. He's so enthusiastic and told us he wants to be baptized on our first meeting! He's so excited that he doesn't understand much so we have to teach him slowly. His only barrier is coming to church because of the less active family members.
     Shane: 16-17, great kid and we love being around him. He was progressing well, but missed an appointment and church, so we are doing our best to help him.
     Tafadzwa: A 15 year old girl, she seems like she isn't receptive but she asks good questions ad seems to be understanding. However, I think she's afraid of coming to church.
     Ayami: age 15, his two sisters are members. He's a good kid, but kind of immature in the quiet, ignorant sense. He won't look us in the eyes and doesn't respond too well, but he surprised us by coming to church yesterday!
    Wendy/Monica: Wendy is in her 30's Monica n her 50's, living in the same house. We've only taught them the doctrine of Christ and it's gone over well! They came to church!!
The best part is that we've committed all but Shane to baptism this week!! That really got me excited and I want to help them keep their commitments and realize the importance of this gospel! It's going to be hard with new converts in our branch if we can't reignite some enthusiasm at church. The members and less actives need as much strengthening as the investigators so we have our hard work cut out for us!
Zone conference was on Friday and that was so awesome!! It was so good to see the Elders from my district! They are like my brothers and it was so great to share experiences and see how they are doing! We got to do some role plays, ad the one I did got lots of encouraging feed back which was awesome! President Mkhabela also bore his testimony at the end, which was super powerful. So needed. He's a great man. 
Haha I save all my change to buy Bompies on the street, which are basically frozen fruit juice. Everything is super cheap here. I can buy all the groceries I need for around $30 which is nice. They don't have everything from home so sometimes I have to be creative. i made french toast this week, which tasted like manna from heaven holy cow. Also, i found cereal!!! I had the equivalent of cocoa crispies this morning which was awesome! 
A couple of times this week I had the opportunity to bear my testimony about the Book of Mormon and the blessings of baptism, and the Spirit was really there. All I had to do was open my mouth. Our Heavenly Father wants to use us as instruments in his hands, and all we have to do is be ready and willing to open our mouths! 
To our surprise on Saturday night a massive storm blew in. Dark, rainy clouds came around 4 and the wind was whipping around 5. By the time we got back to the house it was really storming!! My companion said it will rain at night in October and then all day in November so time to buckle up! Saturday night all the elders in Gweru came over and we celebrated our Zone Leader Elder Allen's year mark with cake and soda. That was awesome to interact with the other elders and just have a good time. I love being around other missionaries and it was such a blast!! 
Church was ok, but our branch needs some more life. Fast and testimony meeting was good, and my companion and I had the chance to speak which was good. I love sharing my testimony more than just about anything. it reminds me of why i'm here and what is important to me. Everyone, this gospel is so true. I love the Book of Mormon so much. We are all children of our Heavenly Father and He loves us enough to send His Son Jesus Christ to be our Savior! Wendy, Monica, and Ayami came to church which was good. it got super stormy as we came in last night, and I was weak from my fast. It was crazy last night. Today it is overcast and cold with crazy windchill, so i'm not sure if I should've asked for rain!! I'm doing pretty well ad doing my best to lose myself in the work!! Which is hard when there are giant spiders everywhere haha. Those are nuts. The kds are as crazy as ever, and the looks on their faces are priceless when I turn and say somethig to them in Shona. People understand English but often prefer to use Shona, so my companion is a necessary medium when teaching some people. i'm doing my best to pick it up quickly. Anyways, that's about it for this week! IT's funny, i have so much to put down and after I go I feel like I left stuff out! Oh well!
Love you all!!
Elder Barlow
PS I left my card reader at home so I'll send pics next week!!