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

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