Tuesday, December 19, 2017

December 19, 2017 - On the Road Again...to Mutare

Hey everyone!!

Happy Holidays!! I hope you all are doing well and enjoying the Christmas spirit! I can't believe how quickly time is flying. 2017 is drawing to a close and my last Christmas in Zimbabwe is approaching faster than I could've imagined. Oh, and just a forewarning, this email will be shorter and less detailed because of a lack of time (have to love transfers).

My final week in Tshabalala was a great one. Elder Magoha and I worked hard to find new people and share the gospel with those we met. On Thursday we had our Christmas devotional in Gweru along with the Kwekwe and Gweru zones. We viewed the First Presidency Christmas devotional and it was so inspiring. The themes of giving rather than getting and making this season a season of love were touching and uplifting, and I'm so grateful for the lessons we learned. Afterwards, we had a brief talent show, where Elder Condie, Elder Baldwin, and I sang a song that we had arranged all in one day and practiced a few times. It went super well! (Hopefully the video will come through so you can judge for yourself) There was also a baking contest among all the companionships, and although my banana bread wasn't the victor, I still think it put up a good fight haha. A ping pong tournament was set up during the festivities, and I took 3rd place out of about half the mission. Plus I beat my good friend, Elder Whiting, who is probably the best ping pong player ever. Overall, it was a great time to come together and feel the Christmas spirit and have a little fun.

Defeating Elder Whiting at ping pong
at the Christmas Devotional
On Friday I went on exchanges with Elder Horlacher for the last time. I've always enjoyed working with him. He's been setting a great example for the other missionaries in our district and has become a great friend. On Saturday, Chantel got baptized!! It was so awesome, even though she was afraid of water. Her grandma and a few friends will be following her footsteps soon, and we are excited for that! That afternoon, the call of destiny came: I have been transferred to be a district leader in Mutare. Mutare is on the other side of the country and is one of the most difficult places for missionary work in ZImbabwe, but it is also full of beautiful mountains (pictures will come soon!). My new companion is Elder Motsoiri from South Africa. He came to the mission just one transfer after me, so I'm glad to be getting a companion with some good experience in the field. I am a bit anxious about the move, but I have faith that the Lord will provide miracles just as He has in the past! 
Chantel's baptism!

On Sunday it was time to say goodbye to the beloved Tshabalala ward. It was difficult to say goodbye to the Nyoni family and other good friends that I've made, but I know Elder Magoha will take good care of them. We met Perseverance's dad in the evening, who has been pretty opposed to her joining the church. He has a degree in theology and knows much of the gospel, but we realized that he is just defensive about his family and wants them to be united and to be saved. I hope Percy's family will be able to receive the blessings of the gospel just as she has! I'm so thankful for the opportunity that I had to serve in Tshabalala and to train Elder Magoha. I learned so much and grew a lot as a person and a missionary. I truly feel that we worked hard and did our best, and it was such a privilege to meet so many incredible people along the way. Serving as a missionary truly is the greatest thing! 

Good-bye to the Nyoni's

Yesterday I said goodbye to Elder Magoha and boarded the bus for a 6 hour journey back to Harare. After that, we boarded a kombi for the 3 hour ride to Mutare. I can't wait for what the future holds!!

Merry Christmas everyone! Enjoy being with family and friends, and never forget about the Redeemer, Jesus Christ, who is the reason for our celebration! I know that He was born in Bethlehem of Mary, that He set a perfect example, that He died and that He lives again. I love all of you so much!!

Elder Barlow


December 11, 2017 - Ndbele Tongue Twister

Monday, December 11, 2017

December 11, 2017 - Time Flies in Zim

With Elder Taloa
Hey everybody!!
I hope everyone had a great week and that you are all enjoying the Christmas season! Here in Zimbabwe it essentially feels like the middle of July. We've had another good week just preaching the gospel and inviting others to come unto Christ, plus we got a little bit of rain!
On Wednesday I went on exchanges with Elder Taloa yet again. It's always good to work alongside a great friend, especially since we've served around each other since he came on mission. We walked all over the place but we taught a few nice lessons. We were able to go teach Skiki's family this week. Skiki is the only member in his family and in his neighborhood and this is the first time that his family has had continuous visits from missionaries. His parents are a sweet old couple that love God and are eager to listen to us, and it's my hope that they will be able to accept the gospel just like their son did!
This week we bumped into Kendrick again. He's a 19 year old kid that we were teaching but that disappeared for a while. He couldn't remember a single thing from what he read, but surprisingly he recalled the things we had last taught him almost perfectly. I guess he learns better by listening than reading, and I hope that reading the Book of Mormon will be a different experience for him. We also started teaching a girl named Sitheminkosi. She stays right next door to the meetinghouse and is 16 years old. We've only taught her once but she is super eager to learn and meet with us, even if her mom isn't as enthusiastic. She even came to stake conference with us this week and it was awesome! We've also started teaching a group of 13-15 year old kids that we met while playing soccer. We had a nice little discussion with about 6 of them and they seem willing to learn. When we teach kids, it can be difficult because their English is usually limited and they are often shy (often because of the first reason) but I have faith that the Spirit will touch their hearts and help them to understand. 

With Buhle and Chantel
(2 kids that are getting baptized this week)
and their friends
Stake Conference

On Thursday it was overcast and it only sprinkled a little, so when the same weather appeared on Friday we were confident that we would be ok. Well, we thought wrong. We got soaked and we found ourselves sprinting through Tshabalala trying to find new investigators and traveling to Nketa for baptismal interviews. Haha we eventually made it home safely, but we definitely were not dry. On Saturday we met a man named Christopher. He's a humble man who has had a lot of trials in his life but wants to learn. We bore our testimonies of the Savior and how living the gospel could bless his life. He then told us about some serious issues that he is having with his wife and how angry he has been, but as we testified of the Savior's Atonement and of the guidance that prayer can be, he said that all his anger left him. He was in tears by the end of the lesson and the Spirit was there. I pray that we will have the opportunity to teach him more about how he can find solace in the gospel of Jesus Christ!

This Sunday we had stake conference! They held it in a big tent at the Nketa chapel and it was almost filled to capacity. 9 of our investigators were able to attend and it was great to have them there! One of the speakers, a bishop of another ward, spoke on true conversion and having a mighty change of heart. He related a story once told by Spencer W. Kimball about a man who had an evil face, but put on a happy mask to marry the girl he loved. As time went on, he changed his habits and desires and found the simple joys of life. When the mask was torn from his face by old friends, his once evil face had become saintly and pure, just like the mask. I loved that story so much! The Savior Jesus Christ has the power to change all of us if we will but repent and turn unto  Him so that He may heal us. As Elder Holland once shared, it is impossible to fall further than the light of Christ shines. There is always hope to become better than we are and to find forgiveness. I know that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, all of us may reach our potential, put off the natural man, and become a true son or daughter of God. I love this gospel and know this to be true because I have seen it in my own life!! 

I love you all, keep lighting the world and making a difference!!

Love Elder Barlow


December 4, 2017 - Elder Magoha Got "Prophesied"

Salibonani friends and family!!

December?! I can't believe how fast time is flying. I hope you are all enjoying the cool weather and the snow back home, because the Zimbabwean sun has been scorching us this week. The rains are a little bit late this year, so we have had to endure the sweltering heat for a little longer. I do have a testimony that the Lord gives us strength when we need it!!
Elder Barrus and I

On Wednesday we went on exchanges with the zone leaders. I got to work with Elder Barrus in Mzilikazi and Emakhandeni. He's in the same group as me and we were in the same zone in the MTC. He's from Farmington and played hockey. We had a lot of fun together teaching and finding new people. He gave me a lot of good advice for my companionship and my district, which was really needed. We worked with this 16 year old girl named Kaylie, and she's basically a missionary already. She was introducing us to new people and teaching the lessons like a pro, and it was so awesome! Elder Till is my other zone leader, and he's from Austria. He has a German accent and basically sounds like Elder Uchtdorf all the time, which is pretty funny.

This week we found lots of new people! I have high hopes for them and I can't wait to teach them. We got to teach Jannet's mom and her friends, and I know the gospel can bless their family so much!! We also saw Trinity, Albring, and Alroy again. It turns out that their parents aren't really fans of them getting baptized in the church, but we had a great lesson with them from the Book of Mormon. At the end of the lesson, Albring prayed so earnestly for their parents to understand and let them come to church. Trinity and Albring did make it to church this week! They were late and they had to leave early because of a family issue, but I have faith that they felt something while they were there.
Skiki, Persy, and friends

We were teaching a young woman named Delight the other day, and after the lesson her uncle asked if he could talk to Elder Magoha. He had been sitting on the steps behind us, and so of course my companion goes to talk to him. He asked, "do you believe in spirit?" Thinking that the guy meant the Holy Ghost, Elder Magoha answered yes. Then this guy proceeds to tell Elder Magoha that he needs to pray for his father to not have an illness. And then he told him that his wife wouldn't accept him because of his work as a missionary. We just looked at each other, and then my companion goes: I'm not married. The guy pauses, and then just says that he should pray so that evil spirits don't enter into his future marriage and that his girlfriend will accept him even though he's a missionary. As we walked away, Elder Magoha just burst out laughing. I asked him if he ever thought that he would be prophesied to on his mission and he just laughed harder. It was strange but pretty funny. 

Yesterday was fast Sunday and the heat was at its peak. All of our appointments fell through and it was tough to just keep walking back and forth with nobody to teach. It was easy to feel like going home early, but we endured. Then we happened to bump into Munashe, who we hadn't seen all week aside from church. We were able to have an awesome lesson with him. He's already in 2 Nephi and we had a great lesson with him, expounding the things that he had read and helping him prepare to receive the priesthood. That guy is so awesome and his budding testimony just makes me excited to find others like him!
Jamming with Elder Baldwin, Elder Tuimaseve, and Elder Condie

I want to encourage all of you to #Light the World this Christmas season! On mormon.org you can find ways to share Christlike love and service each day leading up to Christmas. I know we can bring light into people's lives just by small and simple acts. I know that the Savior was born, that He died for us, and that He lives again. I know that Our Heavenly Father loved us enough to send him to this earth so that we might be able to return to him, and I know that He answers prayers. I love you all so much, have a wonderful week!!

Love Elder Barlow


November 27, 2017 - There's So Much to Be Thankful For

Hey everybody!! 

I hope everyone has had an awesome week! Thanksgiving came and went, so I thought maybe I'd share a list of some of the things that I've become grateful for during my mission:

-my loving and supportive family
-good health
-the restored gospel and my Savior Jesus Christ
-clean water and safe housing
-peace in this beautiful country of Zimbabwe
-good friends
-my mission, an invaluable time to bring others to Christ, serve others, learn how to be like the Savior, and avoid being trampled by black friday shoppers.

Thanksgiving in Zim

I hope you all have done your best to count your many blessings during the past week. I think we often forget how blessed we are and we take many things for granted. I know that I have been guilty of that, and I am so thankful that I have been able to have my eyes open to see how much my Heavenly Father has blessed me. One thing that I've also learned is that our Heavenly Father will bless us if we turn to Him. He is waiting to help and knows what's best for us, and if we exercise our faith and acknowledge His hand in all things, we will have peace, joy, and gratitude throughout this life.

Baptism! Munashe is in the back next to me,
and Diana, Jannet, and Andile are in the front.
Andile's mom is also there, and McCartney
(our ward mission leader, the short guy in the back)
was the one who baptized them

We baptized 4 people this weekend! Since most of our week was spent with them, I thought I would do a spotlight on each of them:

Munashe- He's 21 years old and was referred to us by a member who was working on our new house. He plays rugby and is just a solid young man. He's become a good friend to us and has great potential as a priesthood holder!

Jannet- Jannet is the cousin sister to a member and is 17 years old. She came to church and wanted to be taught. She's super small but so sweet and humble.  She's definitely one of the most golden people we've ever met.

Andile- Andile's mom contacted us as we were walking in the street. She doesn't really speak English, but I was able to talk to her in Shona and she told us about her daughter who wanted to learn about the gospel. Andile is 13 and intelligent, and she came to church after our first lesson. She's been so committed to the church and the gospel ever since we began teaching her.

Diana- Diana is Andile's 16 year old cousin that she brought to church with her the first time that she came. She's the kind of girl that's always smiling and she told us that she wanted to be baptized after hearing that another girl was going to be baptized.

It's been such a privilege to get to know each one of these amazing people and I'm so excited for all that lies ahead of them! 

This week we had interviews with President Mkhabela. He taught us about faith and hope and emphasized his confidence in the Lord and his love for us. It was a comforting message especially with all that's been going on in Zim in the past week or so. My interview with him was pretty straightforward and he told me that he felt like he could rely on me, which really helped boost my confidence. He really is an inspired mission president and I'm grateful to serve under him. Yesterday we were able to view the Face 2 Face event for young adults with Elder Oaks and Elder Ballard (if anyone missed it, it's still on lds.org). They answered some very applicable gospel questions with profound spiritual wisdom and provided some laughs along the way. I am so grateful to be a part of a church that is led by revelation given to God's ordained servants.

The rains came down and the floods came up

Before I close, I wanted to share my thoughts on the gospel of Jesus Christ (2 Nephi 31, 3 Nephi 11, etc). The gospel is made up of five basic principles and ordinances: faith in Christ, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. As Elder Bednar has said, the gospel is all gathered into one in Christ, and I had an interesting thought about the last principle of endurance. It seems like it's just a repeat button. It's kind of like shampoo (interesting analogy I know): lather, rinse repeat. Being a disciple of Christ is all about reapplying those basic principles over and over again: have faith, repent, be baptized and receive the Holy Ghost, repeat. Have faith, repent, partake of the sacrament, repeat. It's such a beautifully simple way to "be perfected in [Christ]." I'm so grateful to be a missionary and have the opportunity to teach this good news to all I meet and to learn to apply it more completely in my own life. I know that by doing so we will find ourselves closer to our Heavenly Father with each passing day.

Love you all, have a great week! 

Love Elder Barlow

November 20, 2017 - Not Those Ancestors

Hey friends and family!!

No worries, I am doing fine and so are the other missionaries. We are all safe and the situation right now is pretty peaceful. Thank you for your prayers on our behalf and for the people of Zimbabwe!! 
Elder Magoha called this picture, The kiwa and his disciples.
I laughed pretty hard

This email will probably be a little bit shorter just because we didn't do as much thanks to the circumstances here (which most of you probably understand much better than I do). On Wednesday I was on exchanges with Elder Tuimaseve and we were just beginning our personal study when we get a text: don't go out and proselyte today, stay indoors. We had no idea what was happening, so we basically proceeded to have the most boring day ever. We cooked some food, played the ukulele, and read the scriptures a LOT. You can imagine our excitement when they told us that we could go back to teaching the gospel on Thursday. I'm grateful that things are peaceful right now and that we can continue doing the Lord's work. 

 On Thursday we taught Nonceba, Natalie, and Charmiso again. They had a TON of questions about the restoration, but they were more argumentative and they kept overreacting as if they didn't really want the answers. Eventually the Spirit took over and we were able to teach and testify. We read from the introduction to the Book of Mormon together. Charmiso was reading and she got to the end of the second paragraph where it says that the Lamanites are among the ancestors of the Native Americans. When she got to the word "ancestors" she looked up in horror. It was one of those things where you try to stop something in slow motion. Of course, all three girls started freaking out because they thought ancestors referred to ancestral spirit worship. We spent like 10 minutes trying to set the record straight, and it was super frustrating. We even used a thesaurus they had laying around. Finally we got them to commit to read and pray about the Book of Mormon. I don't know how these people would react if they came to the USA during Memorial Day. Natalie unfortunately refused to take the Book of Mormon, which made us kind of sad. Hopefully someday she'll have the desire to search for a testimony of it.
The area

We also got to teach Netsai this week. She's Perseverance's cousin-sister and we met her a few weeks ago. She's only about 20 years old, but she had 3 kids under 3 years old from 2 different fathers. She's busy and stressed and has a lot of trust issues, but has a fun personality. We were able to meet with her and introduce our message to her. We testified about how the gospel blesses families, and she started telling us how she does not want to get married because of the situations that she's been in. However, we explained and bore testimony about how marriage and family are ordained of God and how He opens doors for those who are faithful. I can't wait to keep teaching her because I know how much this gospel can bless her and give her hope. The gospel of Jesus Christ is all about hope and peace. Our problems won't just disappear, but we will have the strength that we need to get through them and become the people that we have the potential to be! 

We had a unique experience with Andile and her family this week. We finally met her father. Our first meeting with him was very unique, in the fact that he stumbled in heavily intoxicated. He basically told us it's ok to teach his family, in a very sluggish manner, and we almost had a misunderstanding about him thinking that my companion wanted to marry Andile. Oh boy. Our second meeting was much better. He was sober and listened to the lesson that we taught. I really hope that he might find a desire to change and be an even better father to his family. The gospel is all about repenting and progressing, changing who we are to follow the Savior, and I testify that there's hope in the cleansing power of His Atonement, no matter what we struggle with. 

I'm making progress with the language! We went to visit Martha, an older woman who came up to us and asked us how to join the Church. Unfortunately, she only speaks Ndebele and hardly any English. However, I was able to have a short conversation with her in Ndebele and I told her what time the church starts and how the people at church speak Ndebele and can communicate with her. Then lo and behold, she came to church! Score one for the kiwa!! (or more accurately, for the Holy Ghost because I can't take credit)

We met Marvellous this week, a 14 year old girl who's older sisters once met the missionaries some years back. She's super awesome and actually keeps her word. She was one of the 13 investigators we had at church on Sunday!! It was incredible. We watched an area broadcast from several of the church leaders and it was really inspiring. All the counsel was specifically for Africa and God's love for this beautiful continent was constantly expressed. It was an awesome experience. We had a lesson with Andile, Diana, and Janet after the service and it was super awesome! We're hoping to baptize all three of them along with Munashe and possibly a few others this week. The Lord has really placed some amazing people in our path and I'm so grateful for all that He has done for us and for the people we meet. 
Soccer today

Today we played soccer and rugby with the other missionaries, some members, and their friends. It was a lot of fun and we were able to meet some great new people and have fun playing sports. We have quite the busy week ahead and we have our work cut out for us, so I'm sure I'll have much more to talk about next week! I love you all and I love this work!! Have a fantastic week!

Love Elder Barlow

Cool rain shot

November 13, 2017 - Blessings Poured Out From Heaven

Salibonani everyone!!

I hope you are all doing well! You are all in my prayers, whether you realize it or not and I'm grateful for each one of you! This week was full of awesome experiences and I am full of gratitude to my Heavenly Father! Plus the weekend came with abundant rainstorms (more on those later).

One of the biggest blessings that I saw this week was that Elder Magoha and I were getting along better. We spent a lot of time telling funny stories and I listened to him about his experiences. He is actually a really smart guy and is great to be around when he opens up. We were able to teach in unity and with the Spirit, which is a blessing in itself. For all those who have been praying for me and my companion, we have felt the blessings and I am so thankful!
Me and the Shona Bhuku raMormoni,
bound in cool leather

On Tuesday we went to go see Nonceba, a 22 year old girl who had kind of told us off when we contacted her, but we still managed to get a return appointment. When we got there, 3 of her friends joined her and they were actually interested. We could tell that they weren't quite ready to dive into a gospel discussion, so we just started by introducing everyone and talking about who they were and what they wanted most in life. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland  once said that we don't have to plan out what we want to say because the Spirit and our friends will give us exactly what to testify of. They started talking about wanting a good family, so we bore testimony of how trying to live like Christ helps us succeed in family life. Before we knew it, we were teaching about the Apostasy, answering prayers, and got another return appointment. I sincerely hope that they will progress. I love teaching young adults because it's easy to connect with them, and I'm excited to teach them again this week! We also had a cool experience with some other new investigators. Trinity (18), Albring (16), and Elroy (13) are a sister and 2 brothers that we started teaching this week and they have had some interesting questions for us. Trinity missed the first part of the lesson on the Book of Mormon and the Restoration so when she came she had a lot of questions. Albring came to the rescue, explaining everything we had taught and then some. Elder Magoha and I just sat back and watched excitedly. Later she asked a question about drinking, and after we responded, Albring quoted another scripture that answered her perfectly. It was so awesome to watch our investigators teach each other.

On Friday I went on exchanges with Elder Goronga. He's waiting for his visa to go on his mission to Cape Town South Africa, and I actually served in his branch in Kadoma. He's a humble and cheerful elder who knows a lot for being a missionary for only 4 weeks. We had a great day together and I enjoyed his company. This week we found 13 new investigators, nearly doubling our goal for this week! The Lord placed a lot of people in our path and I can't wait to continue teaching them. We taught Andile and her mom about the Plan of Salvation, and Andile is so happy in the church. She reads everything we give her and does all her chores beforehand so that she can come to church! Oh, and she's only 12. Her mom only speaks Shona and Ndebele, which tests my translation skills but it has been a cool experience to teach her as well. Yesterday we went to go teach another woman who mostly speaks Shona. Her aunt was there and said she lives in Victoria Falls. The Victoria Falls. I think it's the first time that I've asked someone to take me back with them, which is ironic because everyone who finds out that I'm from the USA asks me to take them back with me. Haha Zimbabwe is awesome!

Like I mentioned earlier, the rain came back this weekend. At first it was only sprinkling, but we felt the full force Saturday night on the way home from visiting a member. We were walking on the road when a huge storm caught us. We were sprinting along the road, and we passed a congregation of madzibabas (a more traditional "apostolic" church that wears white robes and goes and prays in the bush) singing in a field off the road. I turned to my companion and told him how much I love our church and he was cracking up. We made it home soaked but safe. Being on a mission is definitely an adventure sometimes and I love it!
With former Elder Mpisa,
who just returned from Mimi and Papa's mission in Ghana

Today we played basketball as a zone at the church in Mpopoma and it was a ton of fun. And then the rain came again. Haha I forgot how inconvenient the rainy season can be sometimes. 

This week I've thought a lot about charity. Moroni 7:47 tells us about how charity is the pure love of Christ that endures forever and that we will be blessed for having that love. And then verse 48 tells us that we must pray with "all the energy of heart" to be filled with this love so that we may be pure even as Christ is. I've always wanted to be more charitable, to love unconditionally and to see others as God sees them. I know that as we pray for the gift of charity, we will find greater joy in each day and we will treat others as Christ would treat them. If you also read in 1 Nephi 11, we learn that the great and spacious building (the pride and wisdom of the world) will fall no matter how many people are drawn to it, and that the love of God will remain forever. I love the gospel so much because I know that no matter what happens, what choices we make, or how alone we may feel, our loving Heavenly Father is watching over us. Have an amazing week!!

Love Elder Barlow

November 6, 2017 - Trick or Tracting

Hey everybody!!
My improvised Halloween costume

I hope you all had a fantastic Halloween. Some of you, like my younger siblings, collected enough candy to feed a missionary in Africa this week, so if any of you are feeling generous you can add some to your food storage (I'm sure it won't expire by August 2018). The holiday passed pretty quietly because that's not really a thing here, but you wouldn't believe it if you were in Zimbabwe because you see many potential costume contest winners walking the streets every day haha. Of course, for tradition's sake, I threw together a Nephite costume with what little resources I had. My companion passed on taking a picture with me; whether it was because of embarrassment on my behalf or another reason, I'm not sure haha.

This week we worked hard to prepare Perseverance for baptism, and we had the opportunity to teach her about the temple. She of course had lots of questions, but it was a very spiritual lesson. As I bore testimony to her of the sacredness and blessings of the temple, I felt such an immense gratitude for the Lord's house and the eternal blessings that my family and I have receive because of it. These amazing people will soon have their own temple, and I cannot wait for the day when that sacred structure will be available to all of Zimbabwe. 
Perseverance's baptism!!!

We also met with Faith again. It was her birthday, and we sang for her. Elder Magoha fulfilled the African tradition of splashing water on the birthday person. However, the excitement wound down when she told us of the struggles she is having with her living situation. She is only 16 years old and is going through so much, and Elder Magoha both discussed our wishes to do more to help. However, I know this gospel can change lives and enables us, through our faith/diligence/patience (see Alma 32), to gain greater peace and blessings in this life. Even though it doesn't seem like it, the gospel of Jesus Christ is the solution to our problems. The Savior can heal us when we are broken and set our sights on higher blessings if we only put our trust in Him.

Perseverance got baptized on Saturday!! It was incredible. Her testimony was so awesome and I'm so excited for the journey that she's begun!! One of her little sisters, Charmain, told Perseverance later that she would follow her and get baptized when she was older and their dad would let her. That made it all the more awesome!! Perseverance was confirmed yesterday during a very spiritual fast and testimony meeting. The Spirit was so strong and the uplifting and peaceful feelings were so needed. I have a huge testimony of keeping the Sabbath Day holy every week because it recharges our spiritual batteries, allows us to renew our covenants through the sacrament, and gives us the peace we need to take on the coming week.
We cut down a banana tree in our back yard

At the end of this week, we had a tough time finding people to teach. Nearly all of our appointments fell through Friday-Sunday, so we spent lots of time talking to new people and contacting them. Not many of them really seemed interested, but if there's anything I've learned about missionary work, it's that you can't use your own judgment to decide who will receive the gospel or not. I have faith and hope that we will find among those people someone who has been prepared for the truth. We got to teach Adrian on Sunday as well. He's a track sprinter that's finishing up his schooling exams and struggles with feeling discouraged about life. Elder Magoha and I helped him with some of his geography questions and then taught about the Restoration and the Book of Mormon. I also got to share Elder Hugh B. Brown's story of the Currant Bush (which my Aunt Sarah sent to me last week, thanks!) and I taught him about how sometimes the Lord loves us to enough to cut us down so that we can become what He knows we can be. I know it's hard to accept God's will in our lives because sometimes we think we have a better plan, but I know that our Heavenly Father has the very best in mind for us if we're willing to humble ourselves and trust Him. 

The transfer also ended and I will be staying in Tshabalala to finish training Elder Magoha. I look forward to all that it will bring!! Love you all!! Have a wonderful week!!

Love Elder Barlow

October 30, 2017 - Another Great Week in Tshabalala

Hey friends and family!! I hope everyone has enjoyed their week. It's been another great week for us here in Tshabalala. The Lord has blessed us a lot for our efforts and it's been incredible to witness!!

The weather has been unreal this week! We started off the week with the normal blazing October temperatures. Elder Magoha keeps complaining about how he's about 3 shades darker than he was 5 weeks ago. I always chuckle a bit because he's still got nothing on my wicked farmer's tan. That's the Zimbabwean summer for you, at least that is, until the weekend. By Saturday, clouds had overshadowed the entire landscape and the wind chill was brutal. Then on Sunday, the rains came and made it even colder. Zimbabwean weather at its finest. One of our investigators said they need to fire all the meteorologists because even they can't predict the weather here. Oh, and then there's today, where the same frigid weather prevailed until 11 am, when the sun finally came back and brought perfectly fair weather. I don't even know how to explain it haha.

Elder Horlacher and I on exchanges

On Tuesday evening we ate dinner with the Ngungunyane family (their daughter Bernadette just came home from Mimi and Papa's mission a few months ago). They're an awesome family and super active. Before the meal, Sister Ngungunyane asked Elder Magoha if he eats rabbit. His face falls and he turns to me. I smile and nod my head, and he starts to panic. And then it came to pass that we ate rabbit. It was delicious and I was proud of my companion for eating it. Yet another thing to add to the list of Zimbabwean foods that I've consumed. That night we started a companion exchange and Elder Horlacher joined me in Tshabalala. He's from Centerville, UT and has been out for a year. We set up the study desks and played ping pong and had a good time. The exchange was great. He's a great missionary with a desire to do what's right. We taught Sister Netsai, who speaks only Shona, and she was able to understand through our limited abilities. She even came to church this week with her kids!! After that, a crazy guy in his car called us over. We didn't realize how drunk he was until he stumbled out of the car with a half empty 32 oz. bottle of beer. Now mind you it was 11 am. Yeah. We reluctantly followed him inside and met his wife, who was a nice enough lady and thankfully sober. He proceeded to tell us that this was his wife, and that the other two women in the house were also his wives. They just laughed, and so did we. Then he told us that he had to translate for them because they don't understand English. So we introduced ourselves as missionaries, and then the guys proceeds to translate our English---back into English. Elder Horlacher and I just looked at each other. It was too funny to be real. The day was great and we taught some wonderful lessons. I'm grateful to be serving around powerful missionaries!

Elder Magoha and I

On Thursday we met a young woman named Bethel. She invited us in and we just talked with her. We found out that she struggles with depression and is occasionally suicidal, and my heart just went out to her. We bore testimony to her about God's love for her and the Savior's sacrifice on her behalf. Jesus Christ died for ever single person on this earth. If you feel unloved, unwanted, or alone, know that Christ took your place. He loves you, and always will. His arms are always open to receive you. Never lose hope, because there is always hope through the Redeemer of the world. Later in the day we watched the Restoration video with Perseverance and her mother. It was incredible, and she was visibly moved. There was a moment of sacred silence after the video finished, and the Spirit just bore witness that the restored gospel is true. It was amazing. I cannot wait for her baptism next week!! 

Faith's baptism
On Friday we spent the day doing baptismal interviews. Our district baptized 7 people this week, and it was special to meet each one of them and help prepare them for the sacred covenant of baptism. Of course, good old Mother Nature sent a crazy lightning storm during the afternoon, but all the interviews went through!! Saturday was Faith's baptism!! The taxi driver we hired to take us never showed up, so we managed to get a kombi to make it to the baptism. It was incredible and Faith was so happy!! The church is the good thing going for her in her life and it is incredible to see the journey that she's made. In the evening we met a young man named Munashe, who was a referral from a member who had been working on our house. He's 21 and a sharp young man, and we taught him in the chapel alongside our ward mission leader. He showed up to church on Sunday too,and we are so excited to meet with him again!! Sunday was awesome: 11 investigators at church!!! That's the most since I've been here in Tshabalala, and it's incredible to watch this area bear fruit after we've been working so hard. We even had a few new investigators come. It was just amazing. Even thought the weather was punishing us throughout the week, the Lord has been blessing us so much.

I love you all, and pray that you have an incredible week! I know that the Savior lives!!

Love Elder Barlow

With Elder Tuimaseve

October 23, 2017 - One Step at a Time

Hey friends and family!!!

How's your week been?? I cannot believe how quickly time is flying. This week has been an incredible one, and I don't have much time to write about it so I'll get right to it!
Our new house

On Wednesday we got moved into our new house. It's a two man house in Tshabalala and it's actually pretty nice. I'm not a huge fan of living in two man houses, but things are looking pretty good. They split the Nketa elders because there are a bunch of Zimbabwean missionaries that are waiting for their visas to go on their missions elsewhere that are now on hold in our zone, so now our district has 10 missionaries. It's pretty crazy, but mission life is all about adapting to new circumstances. 

We taught Perseverance about a couple of the commandments this week, specifically the Law of Chastity and the Word of Wisdom. She is so powerful and is such a joy to teach because she reads the scriptures and teaching materials and basically teaches us all the principles! Hopefully she will be baptized in two weeks!! She really has been a shining star in our teaching pool. On Friday we had exchanges and I went with Elder Tuimaseve. He's from Missouri and he visa waited in the California Fresno mission for a few months before coming here. He has a great desire to be obedient and is killer at the ukulele. He even taught me a few chords and we wrote a song, which was awesome. Brother Bongani also came and worked with us. He has been less active for the past little while but has become more active as we have taught him and he asked us out of the blue if he could come teach with us! He was a huge help to us and was really powerful and it's so incredible to see the changes that are happening in his life! On our visit to Perseverance, she had told us that she had an amazing singing voice, so I told her I'd sing for them if she sang for us. We were blown away, she's phenomenal at singing and basically put me to shame. One of the awesome parts of my mission has been meeting so many talented people in Zimbabwe!

Bulawayo Town

This week we found 10 new investigators, and on Sunday we had 8 investigators come to church!! That's that's the most that I've ever had during my time here in Tshabalala. There's a 12 year old girl named Andile that we've been teaching, and she brought her mom and cousin sister to church with her yesterday!! Things are really starting to look up and it's incredible. It has been a journey here in Tshabalala. It has been difficult to help people progress in the gospel here, but through our diligence and obedience we've seen some miracles. Life itself is a journey where we are trying to become more like Christ, endure hardships, strengthen our weaknesses, and serve others. I love Ether 12:27, which teaches us about how our weaknesses and shortcomings are there to humble us, and that if we turn to Christ He will make us strong! It reminded me of Elder Holland's talk at the most recent general conference about eventually becoming perfect and not beating ourselves up because we aren't flawless yet. The path back to God is there and all of us are trying to find our way back to Him, no matter what trials and struggles we face. The Savior suffered for all of us so that we don't have to walk this mortal life alone. The Holy Ghost has been sent to comfort us and guide us throughout the storms of life. And I testify that as we put our trust in God and face life's challenges with faith rather than fear, we will truly progress. 2 Timothy 1:7
The undefeated soccer team:
Elder Lamb, Elder Barrus, me, Elder Tuimaseve, Elder Makalio

I love you all, have the best week ever! you don't know how much you mean to me!!

Love Elder Barlow

Monday, October 16, 2017

October 16, 2017 - Elder Barlow and Volleyball: Reunited

Hey everyone!!!

I hope everyone has enjoyed their last week! It's been a pretty interesting week and it's gone by very quickly, so I guess I'll just get right to it! Oh, and we played volleyball today, which was incredible (hence my title). I am definitely a bit rusty after not playing in over a year, but it was so nice to play again!!
On Wednesday we had interviews with President Mkhabela.  Interviews with President get better the longer that I am on my mission. I feel like he knows and trusts me and that I'm not just a name on the transfer sheet to him. He's very willing to help and his scriptural knowledge is so powerful. I always feel uplifted and encouraged when I meet with him. Interviews took most of the day, so we only had time to go meet with Perseverance. She told us everything she loved from conference (pulled out her notes and everything; so sweet) and we had an awesome lesson on the plan of salvation with her and her mom. Her mom asked about rumors that she had heard about the Church and ancestors (so many crazy rumors I could share), so we taught about family history work and baptisms for the dead. It was such an awesome lesson and we could tell that they were visibly touched by the message we shared. I can't wait for Perseverance to get baptized! It's people like her that make serving my mission such a joy!!
Chitown district reunited

On Thursday we got up early and got on the bus to Gweru for zone conference. This time we had the meeting at the Gweru stake center, which is in Mkoba right next to my first area! It was super weird but cool to see where my time in Zimbabwe began. The conference was awesome! We were instructed on obtaining knowledge, the power of the Book of Mormon, and the importance of teaching investigators about families and the temple! I always feel so inspired during zone conference and it really is an amazing time to refresh and recharge spiritually. I also had the opportunity to play the piano during the meeting; it was stressful but I was so grateful that I got to play the piano for the first time in forever.
Elder Taloa and I went on exchanges on Friday. He has been one of my best friends on the mission and he is such a fun person to be around. He grew up in Oakland and San Francisco and played football in high school. It was fun to relate, to tell stories, and talk about improving as missionaries. It has been such a blessing to have him in my district. I got to interview two people for baptism as well, and that is always a special experience for me.
Elder Taloa and Elder Barlow hit the streets

Our baptism on Saturday never materialized because of some problems with Faith (the 16 year old girl we are teaching) , and we found Mandla still at his church....awkward. It's ok though! Faith is back on track and we hope to baptize her in a couple weeks!  On Sunday we had lots of less actives come back to church, including Bongani, who we have been visiting a lot! Only a few investigators came, but one of those that came was a young girl named Andile that we had only taught the day before! Hopefully she will continue to progress! Elder Magoha and I are going through some rough patches here and there, so I'm going to do my best to humble myself and help him with his needs. I have a song on my MP3 called He Walked a Mile in My Shoes, and it talks about how Jesus Christ atoned for all our difficulties, sins, griefs, etc. It has been so comforting to listen to the words about how the Savior can comfort and strengthen me because He has been here before. If the Savior loved me, and the rest of us enough to suffer and die so that He could relate to us and forgive/strengthen us, then I can try a little harder to love Elder Magoha and empathize with him. I testify that Christ has power not only to forgive sins , but to heal broken hearts and lift up the hands that hang down. If you haven't read Alma 7: 11-13 recently, I would encourage you to do so. The Savior is there for us, and He has truly walked a mile in our shoes. I love Him more than I can express, and I am beyond grateful for the opportunity I have to serve Him each and every day as a missionary! Have a great week!!
Love Elder Barlow

October 9, 2017 - The Voice of the Lord to Us

Hey friends and family!!

I hope you all have had an amazing week! These past few days in Zimbabwe have been full of ups and downs, including some crazy weather. The October heat finally arrived at the beginning of the week, but it was surpassed by the heavy rains that came in the latter half of the week. Well...that's Zimbabwe for you!

Nketa district:
Elder Barlow, Elder Magoha, Elder Taloa, Elder Richardson,
Elder Tuimaseve, and Elder Horlacher

We had our first full district meeting together on Tuesday, which was pretty awesome. All the elders in our district seem willing to work hard, and I'm excited to serve around them. Elder Magoha, my trainee, is doing better and better each day. I love teaching with him, and he has a great testimony of the gospel. He's also a graduated civil engineer, so it's cool to here about his knowledge and experiences. One of the best blessings of being on a mission is that you meet all kinds of people and learn all about them! Later in the day, we met a man named George. He had a big smile on his face, even though he insisted that he was miserable because of currency issues and other struggles of Zimbabwe life. We stood on the street and talked to him for 30 minutes about how there are always things to be grateful for (life, health, family, shelter, a knowledge of Christ, etc.), how happiness is a choice, and how if we truly know God and His plan for us, the challenges of this life come second to the divine potential that we have as God's children (Romans 8: 18). He kept shaking his head and going back to the issues he insisted were too difficult to overcome, but I truly hope that he has thought about what we shared with him. I truly know that if we trust in the Lord with all our hearts, we can and will find lasting joy and peace in this life and in the next!

Find us on Facebook
(but you won't haha) 

On Wednesday I went on exchanges with Elder Richardson. He's from Missouri and lives in an adopted family of 25 kids. That's a lot. He was born in Haiti and is a super outgoing and energetic missionary. I enjoyed talking to him and teaching with him throughout the day. At the end of the day when we went to Brother Taranja's house for dinner, we were in for an unexpected surprise. We found two guys that we didn't recognize inside the house. At first they started accusing us of some crazy things, but I discerned that one of them was a member. After a little his cover was blown and he told us that he was Brother Taranja's brother and an RM. Yet, the other guy kept going. He said that he was a Jehovah's Witness, and he started asking us a bunch of questions. We had a doctrinal conversation going back and forth on several points for an hour and a half and the guy was good. Eventually, it came time to eat and the guy (Bongani) was asked to pray. Afterwards he asked us, "Elders do you enjoy what you do?" Of course we responded yes. Then he said, "Good, because I really enjoyed serving in Durban." Oh no. You guessed it, the guy was a returned missionary that had served in SA. Man, he got us good. We were totally convinced that he was a JW, and we defended ourselves pretty well, I might add. It was crazy, but we had a good laugh about it. 

This week we met another Bongani, this one the brother of a member. He has been staying in South Africa and has been less active for a long time. We've had a couple of heartfelt lessons with him, encouraging him to do what's right and to improve. The Spirit was really guiding me as I felt prompted to ask him about and encourage him to receive the Melchizedek priesthood. I've truly felt a desire for him to reach a higher potential and make something better of his life. It has been awesome to teach him and get to know him. Perseverance also came back from SA finally. We taught her and she is just as powerful as I remember. She has so many questions, perfect questions, and I can't wait to keep teaching her! 

Pizza with the zone
General Conference was so amazing!! I couldn't get enough, and I loved every single speaker. Elder Holland is always powerful, and I thoroughly enjoyed his talk on becoming perfect but not being discouraged, as well as the themes of the Book of Mormon, Repentance, and Christlike service that were present throughout the conference. Perseverance also attended the sessions and was visibly moved by the things she heard, which was so sweet. Elder Andersen's talk on hearing the counsel from prophets and apostles at conference as the voice of the Lord to us really impacted me. When we truly apply prophetic counsel in our lives, we will find greater happiness, greater peace, freedom from burdens, and a stronger testimony of Christ and His gospel. I'd also  just like to share a quick thought from President Uchtdorf's talk in priesthood session. Light chases away darkness. That is how it has always been. The light that emanates from Jesus Christ influences all to do good, and we can invite that light more abundantly into our lives as we seek to become like Him. A shadow is merely a temporary absence of light, and we don't have to get caught up in times where darkness seems to creep in. When we look to Christ, who is the light of the world, we will be spiritually well throughout all our difficulties. Although this life can be hard, we aren't meant to walk unguided in darkness. Let us all let the light of Christ radiate through us and seek to be a light to others. I truly know that light always chases away darkness. So don't give up!! Instead, lighten up with the help of the Savior.

I love you all, have the most amazing week!!

Love Elder Barlow