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