Monday, February 27, 2017

February 27, 2017 - Round 2 in Seke!!

Yours truly doing his laundry
Hey everybody!! Transfer news has come and Elder Ray are staying together in Seke! He's now the district leader! Elder Mkhaliphi is going for his last transfer in Harare Town and Elder Barnett is staying and training. Other awesome news: Elder Bamutesiza is spending his last transfer as my zone leader!! It's going to be super awesome to see him!!

There were plenty of highlights this week. On Tuesday we had interviews with President Mkhabela. That was super awesome. I'm really gaining more love for him as I get to know him better. He gave me some great counsel on receiving answers to prayers and he was very thoughtful. President Mkhabela knows so much about the gospel and it was just a great experience.

Wednesday was sweet as well. We took Brother Brilliant with us and taught 8 lessons!! It was awesome. We were able to see the majority of the people that we had planned for and we even met some new opportunities (including a couple of stoned and drunk guys...the gospel is for everyone!). We also were able to see Moreblessing, who's 18 and has been coming to church for 3 weeks. She's super promising and seems to love the gospel and we hope that she'll be baptized soon!

On Thursday we came together and watched the worldwide missionary broadcast. We received counsel from Elder Oaks, Elder Bednar, and Elder Andersen and others. It was so powerful and the Spirit was awesome. I could've watched it all day. My favorite part was when Elder Bednar talked about how the doctrine of Christ shouldn't be separated into different parts (faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end) because it's all brought together in one in our Savior Jesus Christ! It's such a cool way to think about it. As we seek to follow Christ, we implement his doctrine in all that we do!!
Elder Ray with Brother Bomba!!
He's an RM from a year ago and he's powerful.
Haha and he remembers Elder Davenport!

On Saturday we helped the sisters with their baptism again. That's always fun. It was awkward though because their meetinghouse had no water so we had to pull a firemans' brigade to fill the font haha. That was interesting. Haha Elder Ray and I have no trouble staying busy. He's been my favorite companion because we can just talk about everything. He's not afraid to correct me on things also, which I'm grateful for. As for Shona, I've about climbed up to Elder Ray's level of knowledge. We can speak semi-fluently to people in the area and it gets a couple reactions: laughter, shocked looks, and very happy old people. The kids are the best because we mess with them a little and they laugh. It's pretty fantastic!!

Sunday night Elder Ray and I taught Munashe. We were going to go straight into the First Vision, but we got the feeling that we should wait. She was expressing some agnostic feelings regarding how all churches are true or not. We asked her questions and talked a little about faith and prayer, and then Elder Ray laid it all on the table. He told her we believe that our church is the only true and living church on the face of the earth, and she seemed a tad defensive at first. However, as we read James 1:5 and then introduced Joseph Smith, the Spirit took over. Everything was quiet as I bore testimony of the prophet Joseph and the Restoration and priesthood keys. I can't even remember what I said, but I know the Spirit guided me and the whole atmosphere changed. I haven't really experienced much of that in a lesson before, and it was amazing!

That's about it for this week!! Oh, we got the car today!! Hopefully it'll last longer than last time haha. Well I guess I'll see you all next week!! Love ya!
Musari zvakanaka,
Elder Barlow

KFC in Zim!!

My smiley-face pancake!

February 20, 2017 - Akaisa Pafudzi Rako Kuti Vhiri (Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel)

Hey everybody!! I can't believe it's been 6 months since I left! The Lord has definitely been with me every step of the way! I hope the week has been great for you all!

On Tuesday we had zone meeting in Mbare and it was nice. One of the sisters gave a presentation on humility and it really struck a chord with me. While I don't really consider myself to be a prideful person, I definitely can be more humble. As a missionary it's really important to align your will with God's and rely on Him, and I'm definitely learning how to do that.

On Wednesday we were out visiting some investigators and we met the husband of an investigator that hadn't really been interested. This guy, however, was super receptive. He even told us that he wanted to join our church and that he would do what he could to come and become a member. It was so powerful. We taught him about the Book of Mormon a little and it was really sweet, especially since our teaching pool has been void of fathers recently.
Me and Bro. Godfrey
(one of our favorite YSA's,
he kept calling me ngirozi (angel) haha)

We were able to work with one of the YSA's again this week. His name is Simba and he's a recent convert (August 2016) and he's powerful. We taught this 19 year old kid who's a seventh day adventist and has trouble letting go of the law of moses, and Simba did an awesome job explaining for us and everything.
On Saturday we taught Samantha the last couple things that she needed to know before her baptism. She's so smart, even though she's only 17. We assigned her to read 3 Nephi 11 last week and she closed the book and gave us a detailed chapter summary! Elder Ray and I were shocked, but pleasantly surprised. It was really powerful. Also, we were able to meet Mai Mondwa's husband finally!! He's a sweet guy and they really seem to be happy. Hopefully their marriage can progress soon!!

Church was great. Haha the branch presidency pulled a fast one on Elder Ray when they announced that he would be speaking right in the middle of the meeting. That's the life of a missionary for ya! Also, we had 7 investigators at church! That was so awesome to see. We baptized Samantha after church!! It went really well and it was so awesome to have our first baptism in Seke. We know it'll be the first of many!! It decided to rain like nonsense after the baptism and we definitely were soaked. That night we taught some investigators about the first half of the Restoration. It was a really long lesson and they asked some amazing questions about the apostasy and the bible and prophets. As a missionary, good questions are just the best. Overall it was a great week. Elder Ray and I made a goal to work harder this week and as a result we taught the most lessons that we have in a week, found a lot of new investigators, and had a high sacrament meeting attendance. And our companionship unity continues to go so well. I'm honestly enjoying missionary work!!
Samantha's baptism

I love you all!! Thanks to my uncle mike and carsyn for writing me some awesome letters I really appreciate it!!
Elder Barlow

Some sweet sculptures that I got!

Monday, February 13, 2017

February 13, 2017 - Nothing Surprises Me Any More

I hope everyone's week was fantastic! Ours was certainly interesting with no shortage of odd and fantastic experiences!!
So I guess we'll start off with the strangest story of the week. So Elder Ray and I were in Unit O (the far end of our area) and we needed to take a comby to Unit L to finish for the day. This guy guided us and set us in a comby that he said was going there. Long story shot, said comby proceeded to take us to downtown Harare, a 25 minute drive away. Face palm. We were able to get our money back, and even though we were frustrated because they wasted our time, we had a good laugh because it was so dumb. Haha you've gotta love Zimbabwe.

Elder Ray and I eating sugar cane that we found in our backyard

Our companionship unity was on point this week. There were several times that Elder Ray handled questions or taught lesson points the exact way I was thinking and he expressed that vice versa also happened many times. It was so cool to have that harmony in teaching because it's something we've wanted to work on. He's been an awesome companion. We taught some nice lessons this week and found a couple of new investigators with potential.

On Friday
 we had exchanges. I went with Elder Barnett to part of his area. It's always fun to be with someone who came with me on mission. Our awesome day comprised of 11 lessons, 32 contacts and some strange experiences. 
Our district left to right
(zone leaders Elder Luvuno and Elder Allen,
Elder Mkhaliphi, Elder Barnett,
me, Elder Ray, Sister Hopkins, and Sister Walbeck)

Those include teaching an abandoned bus full of marijuana smokers, playing with some kids, and getting really tan in the hot sun. The coolest part came at the end of the day. We taught this mama and her daughter for the first time. As we opened with the Godhead, she seemed a bit defensive and such. However, as we transitioned into the Restoration and Joseph Smith, her body language and everything changed. She was hanging on every word and we could tell the Spirit was working with her. She was very eager to learn about Joseph Smith and we left her with a solid commitment to read the Book of Mormon! We also read 3 Nephi 10-11 with the mdhara (old man) who owns our favorite tuck shop next door. He said everything was so so clear and that he was enlightened. I love the Savior's words in the Book of Mormon and how direct He is. God never leaves us in confusion and it's so comforting to know that.
Yeah I have some of my mom in me, haha!

On Saturday we baptized some investigators for the sister missionaries and visited a few people before attending an activity at the meetinghouse. The activity was on couples and strengthening marriages and I really enjoyed hearing some of the counsel that was given. Big shout out to my parents for being a great example of a loving marriage!! Love you! For most of it though we kept the kids busy for all the parents.This included soccer, handstand contests (see below, yeah I have some of my mom in me haha), and watching some acrobat contests. My highlight of the week came that evening. So there's this 3 year old kid named Shane and he's adorable!! He speaks Shona in the cutest little voice and is just so friendly. I started showing him little "magic tricks" with rocks (ya know, the make a bunch of hand motions and then hide the rock behind your back type of thing) and he was laughing so hard. It was basically the greatest thing ever. Long story short, Zimbabwean kids are the greatest.
Shane 😄😄😄

On Sunday it was a little odd. They decided to have a Scout centered sacrament meeting, which wasn't really appropriate. Anyways, in third hour Elder Ray gave everyone fire for not doing their home teaching and so I think they will improve. And we spent the rest of the time encouraging the young men to fulfill their priesthood duties and to be mindful. There are a lot of good young men in this branch and it's so cool to see them get excited and help each other.
Today we found a football!!! We threw that around for awhile and enjoyed some soccer and basketball as well. I still miss volleyball a ton but it's ok. It's been a pretty good week and we're going to work even harder next week!
Love you all!
Elder Barlow

Our house (yeah it kinda looks like a prison but it's safe)

The streets of Seke

Monday, February 6, 2017

February 6, 2017 - And I Would Walk 500 km.....

Some sweet flowers in the area
Hey everyone!!

I hope everyone is doing spectacular and had a great week! It hasn't been the most exciting week ever but it's been good overall!!
I can now speak surface Shona!! Basically what that means is that starting conversations and greetings and such and such I can do pretty fluently! It's pretty awesome. My companion is even better than I am so we figure things out pretty well. I can understand about 30-40% of what people say now so it's pretty great. It's so funny to speak Shona to people and see the surprise on their faces. It really makes a lot of people happy so that's really fun to see.

On Tuesday I taught our doctrinal study in district meeting on conversion. It turned out super well. I love how conversion is a lifelong process. It all starts with desire. I love how in Alma 32 it describes the growth from a desire to a tree bearing the sweetest fruit. I also love the quote from Elder Boyd K. Packer which says "True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior." So it is with us as we become converted!! How awesome is that?! Understanding is the key.

One reason why this branch is so awesome is that we have young men that are always willing to work with us and help us. It's the best! I think it means a lot to some people to have another person who isn't a missionary bear testimony to them. We placed a lot of copies of the Book of Mormon and we were able to teach a lot about it, which was so awesome!! We taught a mama about the Restoration and the Book of Mormon in about 40% Shona which was hard but super awesome!

My German pancakes

Aside from that, the highlights of the week included finding 9 new investigators, meeting lots of little kids, and making german pancakes! They didn't rise like they should've but they still tasted really nice. We definitely eat well in our house. Oh, and we walked a TON this week. If I forgot to mention it last week, our car was taken from us and condemned last Monday because of all the problems it had. So we're back to walking!! It certainly puts a damper on our efficiency but we are doing our best! It was amazing when we taught Mai Mondwa the Word of Wisdom. She said when she was reading the pamphlet, she saw that tea wasn't allowed. She then confessed to loving tea but that she stopped immediately after reading that. Ahh she's so powerful! I'm praying that her marriage can go through soon!!

Yesterday we didn't have very many investigators at church but we still had a good time. We were able to break our fasts with homemade burgers and fries, which was amazing. The best part of all, however, came when we went to Mai Kupa's (RC of the other elders) and watched the Restoration movie. It was so powerful and the Spirit was unbelievably strong. I know that Joseph Smith was called as a prophet of God to restore the priesthood and the fulness of the gospel. We got to talk about it afterwards and it was so amazing. It meant so much to have that comfort from the Holy Ghost. We spent the evening talking about scriptures and doctrine with the other missionaries and it was awesome.

Anyways, that's basically my week! I apologize if I've left something out! I love you all so much!

Elder Barlow

Haha sorry I'll send better pictures next week!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

January 30, 2017 - In Our Humble Way

Uno :)
Hey everybody!!

How are you?? Hope the few of you got my topic reference above haha.
This week was pretty awesome! We had another powerful district meeting on Tuesday about the Atonement. I thought I'd share my favorite analogy from it: So to trap a monkey, you put a trap with bananas that has a hole just big enough for the monkey to put its hand in. The monkey will grab the banana, but then can't withdraw its hand. It will sit there until it's captured when all it has to do is let go. The moral? We all of our favorite sins or things that keep us from keeping all the commandments and finding true joy. The Atonement of Christ makes it possible for all of us to be free if we will only let go of what we think we want. We don't have to be trapped!! Isn't that awesome?

On Wednesday we taught Mai Mondwa about the Law of Chastity and she was already asking about how to improve her family. She's so amazing and it brings so much joy to teach her. We gave a blessing to a girl next door and it was cool to explain that to the family. We were able to teach some good lessons as well. 
Breathtaking Mountains of Mutare

Our week was then put on hold. We met in Harare and took a bus to Mutare for a special zone conference. The travel took like 4 hours and we played UNO the whole way haha. Mutare is so beautiful. Missionary work is super tough there but the mountains are breathtaking. It comforted me a lot. Long story short though, I ended up getting some sort of food poisoning the night before the meeting and throwing up. It was pretty miserable. However, the Lord permitted me to have the strength to attend the meeting the next day. Elder Stanley G. Ellis of the Seventy and his wife spoke to us on faith. He shared the story of Elijah and the Widow of Zarapheth and it was awesome. He has such a conviction of the Atonement as well and they pushed us to be obedient. I really enjoyed it a lot. The bus ride home was absolutely terrible. It took almost 2 hours to leave Mutare and the bus ride stunk. We got back late and I still wasn't feeling well, but we got out car!! The clutch is stiff but it's a car!! (don't get too excited) just wait.

Saturday was good. We searched for an investigator's house forever and we finally found it. Solomon is in his 40's and so powerful. He only can't be baptized because he's having some pretty serous marriage issues. It's sad so we will be praying for him. We then took a comby to Unit O and saw Tanaka and Takudzwa. We taught them a little and they agreed to be baptized in two weeks!! It's so awesome!! Then we had a dinner with the other elders at a member's house. They were so nice. The father is an RM and he was super funny. I really enjoy members like that.

Church was sweet!! We had 6 investigators at church!!! We were so pumped up. We talked about prayer and it was so powerful. Mai Mondwa told us after that she now understands that God answers our prayers through other people and that we were an answer to her prayers. It made me so happy. The branch president walked around with us after to show us some members. It was great!! The members that we have seen are so awesome.

We were walking and some ladies called us and said "Murungu!" and then ran and hid. We turned it into a teaching appointment and it was funny. Then something cool happened. They invited us to attend their church too, and I bore my testimony of this being the truth and I think they really felt it. It was so powerful.

Today we got to play basketball at the mission office!! It was so good to get some serious exercise and just have fun!! Overall this week has been good and I hope you all are doing well!!
Pictures from our trip to Mutare

Musari zvakanaka!

Elder Barlow

PS Y'all might be wondering a little about the picture of me covered in money last week. So Elder Barnett got all of his allotment in 2 dollar bond notes and he was joking about how they don't feel like money. So we had some fun with them haha.