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