Monday, March 27, 2017

March 27, 2017 - Elder Mukundi

Hey everyone!! I hope you all had a fantastic week.

Haha as to my title today, we were teaching a family last week and Elder Ray told them that his Shona name was Tanaka (we're good or we're beautiful). They asked me mine, and I didn't have one haha. They told me my name was now Mukundi, or in other words, the conqueror. Haha I was pretty pumped about that, so now I expect all of you to refer to me as Elder Mukundi. Just kidding.

This week started out pretty low but it got amazing by the end. We had a nice district meeting on Tuesday, even though I wasn't doing so well. As the day went on I felt better and better. On Wednesday I went on exchanges with Elder Taloa to his area. It was a lot of fun. He still has a lot to learn but he is doing awesome and is very humble. We taught some nice lessons, including one to this guy who thinks that he had a fellowship experience (sitting in chairs and talking) with the Holy Ghost and claimed that he could speak in tongues. The Spirit really guided me in helping explain to him about the Holy Ghost and clarifying the gift of tongues while not discounting his spiritual experiences. It was awesome and I really enjoyed being able to help Elder Taloa with some things in addition to learning from him.

On Friday I had some realizations about myself and about things that I needed to improve on. At first it was hard, but when I realized that I'm not expected to fix things and improve on my own, I felt a lot of comfort. The Savior is always there to lift us and help us. Our highlight came later that day when we contacted a referral named Lloyd. He's super huge and friendly and very excited about the gospel! We taught him about the Book of Mormon and told him that we'd come pick him up for church on Sunday and it was pretty great. On SaturdayElder Ray and I were all over the place. We got up early and went to the area to make sure we could see everyone. We taught a couple of nice lessons to people. Apparently one of our lessons was so good that the investigator told Elder Ray that her younger sister was single. Yes, Queen Lamoni is in Zimbabwe. That was pretty funny. Then we went to baptize for the sister missionaries, which was awesome. Afterwards, we had our YSA activity. Elder Ray and I organized it with Simba and we had a super good turnout. I had them play Telephone to demonstrate how information gets corrupted by people, but how when we ask of God (James 1:5) the truth is always given. Then we had a physical activity and some refreshments. We concluded with Simba and I singing Come Thou Fount as Elder Ray played guitar. It was pretty awesome and we hope the YSA's will continue to invite friends to church. Then we cooked burgers and fries for Brother Mtetwa, which was super delicious!

Sunday morning we were up and at it early. We walked all the way to Lloyd's house to pick him up for church and he was all ready to go!! He was even taking notes during church and it was so amazing!! That guys is so powerful. Also, remember about that lady that we taught the Plan of Salvation to last week? Well, we weren't able to see her this week but she came to church!! I was so excited. It was further proof to me that we weren't the true teachers, but that the Spirit had touched her. It was amazing. After church we walked with Bro. Faston, our recent convert. He really enjoyed going with us and said he learned a lot. He told us his English and his life have improved ever since he met us, and that made us super happy. It was pretty awesome!!

This morning we went golfing with a ton of other missionaries in Harare. CC and Lolly, both members of the church and professional golfers and part of the Eyes for Zimbabwe charity, helped us improve in our form and provided lunch for us too. It was so much fun and they're such amazing ladies. Watch out Dad, in 2018 we are going to have an 18 hole showdown. Haha it was really awesome!!

I love you all and I hope that you feel the hand of the Lord in your lives each day!!
Love Elder Barlow

My delicious crepes

March 20, 2017 - In Which Elder Barlow Actually Understands a Lot of Shona

This week has been crazy!! I hope you all have been doing well. Like most of life, this week was full of a lot of ups and downs but we did our best.
Harare East Zone

On Tuesday we had zone meeting in Mbare. It was super powerful, mostly because our zone is full of amazing and hardworking missionaries. We set a goal for 65 baptisms for March and we're all going to work hard to reach it! It was fun to talk to everyone also.

It was a huge blessing to be able to work with our branch mission leader, Simba, for almost the whole week. He's such a stud. He's preparing for his mission and he's super active in helping us. Plus he loves singing and beatboxing so we get along great haha. We decided to really push and find new investigators this week. Well, we found 16 new investigators this week!! Hopefully among those people, there is someone who will accept the gospel.

Throughout the week I've actually been understanding Shona really well. I still struggle with some things, but I'm definitely learning to understand a lot. Speaking is another story. I was told many times this week that I speak Shona like a Zimbabwean, even though I don't always know what to say what I want to say. The interesting thing about Zimbabwe is that very few people actually speak pure Shona. Almost everyone fails it in school, although they all speak it. We joke that it's actually Shonglish because so many words and terms are adapted from English. On Friday we did baptismal interviews for the sisters and there was a 91 year old sekuru there! He had a conversation with one of the South African sister missionaries (cause Africans pick up other African languages super fast) about the gospel and I understand almost all of it!! However, somehow it seems that I don't understand at the most inopportune times. Guess that's life. 

On Wednesday night I also baked a black forest cake for our favorite less active family, the Zhawapo's, and we took it to them for our visit. It tasted super good, which I didn't expect, and they made us a nice dinner too. We read about Lehi's dream and it was awesome. They also came to church this week!!! We were so happy!!!

Saturday and Sunday were initially pretty rough. We had a lot of lessons fall through and it was a tad frustrating but we kept working. However, Moreblessing and Chantel were confirmed on Sunday, which was awesome. Somehow, none of our 16 new investigators came to church, which was a bit hard, but I'm only motivated to work harder to help them come.

Us with Robin Spencer after our pancakes and basketball

Sunday was also Elder Dixon's birthday, and it was super fun to talk to him and joke with him. We've been super good friends ever since being MTC companions. The cash shortage in Zim continues, so that's a bit crazy. This morning we got up and went to the Spencer's house. They're members that live in Highlands near the mission office. Bro. Spencer is from the US and Sis. Spencer is from Zimbabwe. They have a super nice house and they invited us to have pancakes and play basketball this morning. We went with the zone leaders and it was a blast. We also met their son Robin, who leaves on his mission in a few weeks. It was such a blast and they were so kind to us. It's been a great day!!

As usual, I'd like to conclude with a spiritual experience. Sunday wasn't going very well, until we taught Ms. Chiwairo. We met her last week on the street, where she told us that she had just lost her 20-something year old daughter. We taught her about the plan of salvation, and I could just feel the Spirit working through us. Elder Ray said he could see her heart being touched as we taught. It flowed so well, and we were not the true teachers. She said everything was so clear. As I bore my testimony on the love I have for my family and how I know that I'll be with them forever because of God's plan, I felt the Holy Ghost so strongly. That night, she sent us a text asking us to pray for a few specific things for her. But she concluded by saying that she prayed that we'd meet again, and how she would pray that God would make a way for me to be with my family again after my mission. I was honestly so touched, and it really showed me a greater glimpse into why I am here.

Elders Taloa, Barnett, Bamutesiza, and Barlow
I love you all, my God bless you with the comforting knowledge of His wonderful plan of Salvation. I know it to be true.

Love Elder Barlow

Monday, March 13, 2017

March 13, 2017 - The Best of Both Worlds

Hey everybody! I hope you all are doing well and feeling the Savior's love for you! This week was pretty awesome, both in the missionary aspect and the adventure aspect. I'm not even sure where to start.

This week we were kind of running around all over the place trying to get Faston and Moreblessing prepared for baptism. The car has really come in handy for that. We managed to teach all the lessons to both of them and they both were very prepared. It made me happy to see them both understanding so much, especially because they're both about 18. We had a lot of appointments fall through, but we were thankful that we could prepare them for baptism.
Our picture at zone conference!

Elder Dixon and I...6 months later!
On Thursday we had a surprise zone conference. We watched the training broadcast for mission presidents, which Elder Oaks said should now be shown to missionaries as well. It was so cool to hear Elder Bednar teach the mission presidents and to hear their insights about repentance and conversion. It was amazing and I learned so much. Repentance is truly the most important step to conversion, because it leads to everything else. It's never a checklist, but an ongoing process to become more like the Savior! I loved it and could've watched it all day. It was also super fun to see Elder Sink, Elder Dixon, and others. It's amazing to see how many awesome friendships that you make while you are serving the Lord.

Elder Bamutesiza and I!
On Friday we brought Elder Barnett and Elder Taloa to see Mai Makore, an investigator who a member brought to our branch but who stays in their area. She doesn't speak much English because she comes from kumusha (rural areas), but she studied and did all the additional stuff in the back of the Plan of Salvation pamphlet and it was so powerful! I taught her mbijana (a little) in Shona, which was cool. The zone leaders, Elder Baldwin and Elder Bamutesiza also came to do baptismal interviews. All our candidates passed. We also met Chantel this week, who is an 8 year old who actually isn't a child of record, and she was interviewed as well. I love both those elders and it's fun to talk about mission life with them.

Triple baptism!!
Saturday we had the baptism!!! Moreblessing came an hour late, which was stressful, but it happened!! We were so excited to see our efforts coming to fruition. Both Elder Ray and I were super pumped. Also, it was chilly, windy, and overcast all weekend, which was very unusual. The warmth we felt from the Spirit drove away the cold and it was a great weekend. On Sunday only Faston showed up on time to be confirmed, so the other two will be confirmed next week. Then we had an awesome lesson in Elders' quorum about the women in our lives from the teachings of President Gordon B. Hinckley. It made me so grateful for the wonderful influence of my mom, my grandmothers, and other women in my life!

Cool experience of the week!! Last Sunday Mai Mondwa brought her younger sister to church. We taught her on Thursdayabout prophets and the Restoration. Then we asked if she had prayed or had any good feelings since we'd taught her. She told us that after our visit on Tuesday, she had a dream about Elder Ray and I being in her home in the middle of the night. She said she was confused, but that a voice said that we were protecting her. then she said she made tea for us but we refused. It was so cool to see how the Lord was telling her of our roles as missionaries, to protect people from the wiles of the adversary.

Spiritual thought! I've thought often this week about two words: obtain and maintain. The Lord commands us to obtain His word and every good thing. However, if we fail to nourish and maintain the good that we have, we will lose it. As the scriptures teach us, he that receiveth receives more and more, but he who neglects that which he has received will lose even the portion he has. So we must not only obtain our testimonies, faith, love and respect, integrity, and our relationships, but we must maintain them so that the blessings can remain in our lives!!

Today was super awesome!! We got up early to clean and stuff, and then we drove with another district to Lion and Cheetah game park! We paid $5 each and then literally drove our car through a lion enclosure and then a game reserve. Man it was so cool!! The lions were super close and pretty intimidating. We even walked out in the bush next to some zebras, wildebeest, eland, and a giraffe!! It was so awesome. Then we ate lunch at Nando's, which is a delicious Portuguese restaurant in town. Overall it was a fantastic week!! We had to drop a lot of our investigators because they weren't progressing, so we're really going to be focusing on finding new people that will accept the gospel!!

Love you all!! 
Elder Barlow

Elder Koch and I.
He's the son of Sarah Allen's mom's friend in Denmark!
We emailed pre mission. He's 6'9"!!


 Elders Barlow and Sink,
album dropping Fall of 2018

Elder Allen and I

Friday, March 10, 2017

March 6, 2017 - Ridiculous

Haha hey everybody! This is the only word that adequately describes my week this week. It was full of ups and downs, but that's life as a missionary! (and I guess life in general)

On Tuesday Elder Barnett came with us because his trainee wasn't here yet. We went around and taught a bunch of lessons. Haha we kept joking that he was third-wheeling in our companionship. He went with us on Wednesday too. Needless to say, he was very anxious for his new companion to come. We taught 8 lessons on Wednesday though! It was pretty cool. The only weird part was that rain showers kept coming out of nowhere and then disappearing. The weather here does what it wants. It's been nice to have our car with us this week.

On Thursday we drove to Harare early in the morning. We first tried to get our allotment, which ended up not working because of the cash shortage and the incredibly long lines at all the ATM's. We ate lunch in Borrowdale, which is the wealthiest suburb in Zimbabwe. It was like we weren't even in Zim anymore. We saw a totally different side of the country. Then we dropped Elder Barnett off and went back to our area. The rains made it incredibly difficult to be effective, but we did have an awesome lesson with our branch president's in-laws. Then the AP's called us and told us that we needed to pick up Elder Barnett and his trainee, Elder Taloa, from town (which was a waste of time and gas because all the other trainers just stayed at the transfer house). Oh well.

On Friday we had to drive Elders Barnett and Taloa back to Harare for training. Then we had a district meeting and got to work. We taught Mai Sean, who's a new investigator. She seemed very interested and very enthusiastic, although her niece kept interrupting the lesson and asking for selfies (people like taking pictures with murungus). We also had a nice lesson with Moreblessing, who will be baptized this coming week. She's very shy at church but very open at home, which is fun. The other elders came back that night. Elder Taloa is a Samoan from California. He's a sweet guy and eager to work. It's been interesting to give him advice about a lot of the homesick feelings that I had when I began my mission and it's kind of cool to see how far I've come.

Saturday....pakaipa. Elder Barnett had been having a runny stomach and he ended up getting really sick right before we had to leave the area. I kind of played medic while the other elders called Sister Mkhabela (thank you Mom for packing that thermometer). We had to go pick up some medication and other stuff for him. He was in pretty bad shape and we spent most of the day taking care of him. We weren't able to really accomplish much else for the rest of the day.

On Sunday Elder Ray and I were pretty proactive and got to church really early. Samantha was confirmed! That was really great. Testimony meeting was also awesome. Mai Mondwa brought her sister to church, which was cool. Elder Ray taught a nice lesson on obedience in the second hour. We went out and mostly visited those that didn't come to church. To be honest, it was a pretty disappointing day. We had high hopes for a couple people. It got a little tough when we visited Munashe and found out that she hadn't read or prayed. It was the first time that I've felt true disappointment in an investigator and felt the desire to help them. We ended up dropping her in person, which was kind of hard. It was just a tough day. The Kafudza family decided to feed us though, which we were very grateful for.

Today we cleaned and washed clothes before getting our shopping done. After we washed the car we went into town and played basketball at the mission office. That was a ton of fun!! I haven't played sports in a while so it was a great feeling.

Anyways, I love you all!! Have a fantastic week!!

Elder Barlow