Tuesday, April 18, 2017

April 17, 2017 - Caterpillars, Rain, and a Joyous Easter

Hey everyone!!
I hope your Easter was as wonderful as mine. Being able to celebrate the Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus Christ as one of His servants is an incredible blessing. This week was full of powerful experiences and a whole lot of happiness. Sometimes there's so much to tell and I can't remember all of it, but I will try my best to convey my feelings.
Yours truly, eating caterpillars

We'll start off with the adventure part!! This week, Elder Ray and I had probably the toughest and most traditional meal that I've had on my mission. An investigator fed us sadza, sour milk, and madora. Oh, what is madora, you ask? It just happens to be caterpillars. You heard me. Actually it wasn't that bad, as long as you didn't stare at your plate and think deeply about the food that you're consuming. The sour milk was the hardest part, but I finished it. I assumed I'd eat it at least once in Zimbabwe, so I can check that off the list! Haha so here in Zim, there are an innumerable amount of pentecostal and prophetic churches and they all have their crazy all-night prayers and giant celebrations/crusades this week. Everyone loves partying about Jesus, but sometimes I wonder if they are really excited for the right reasons.

Now I want to kind of transition to the more spiritual part of my week. I'd like to share a little about two people that I've met here in Seke and why I love them.

Brother Tino - Tino is a powerful young man. He also happens to be confined to be a wheelchair because of some serious physical disabilities. However, that doesn't mean his Spirit is confined to that chair. He is on time every Sunday and has a great desire to read and understand the Book of Mormon. He doesn't read English too well, but we've been helping him to read and understand it. Now he does it on his own, using both the English and Shona Book of Mormon and the Book of Mormon stories picture book. It makes me so happy to see him striving to increase his testimony and doing his best to prepare for a mission, even though we don't know if he'll be able to serve. It is a blessing to know him.
Us and the YSAs

Ms. Chiwairo - I've mentioned a little bit about Ms. Chiwairo before. She's a single woman in her late 40's-early 50's. When we first met her several weeks ago, she told us that she had just lost her 20+ year old daughter and seemed very sad. However, in the weeks since we have taught her, she has come to church a couple times and seems to be so happy. Especially since we taught her about the Plan of Salvation in our first lesson and how she can see her daughter again, she has changed. She commented at conference last week how she was so blessed to hear such wonderful gospel counsel. She is one of the best investigators that I've ever taught and I want her to be baptized so badly. She is so powerful and asks great questions, especially about baptism. As we left her house after giving her a baptismal date and teaching about Joseph Smith this Friday, such incredible joy filled my heart. I love this gospel, the light and truth and understanding that it brings, and the love that is felt as you share it with others. I'm truly beginning to understand more deeply what this work is all about.

Elder Ray and I with some of our investigators
This Saturday we finished the Sunday Afternoon session of General conference and it was so powerful. Elder Palmer (who happens to be in the Area Presidency here in Southeast Africa) gave an amazing talk on the love of the Savior and how we should see others with that love. It was really touching and something that I seek to improve. That afternoon, we held our Easter activity for the young single adults. We incorporated a few American traditions (spoon/egg race, etc.) which was super fun for them. We put together an Easter egg hunt race (yes, with dyed eggs) and the eggs had different scriptures on them about peace, love, Christ's Atonement, and the Resurrection. It was awesome to see everyone excited and to be able to tie that back to the Savior. Cool experience: of course, on the day of this outdoor activity, it decides to rain for the first time in weeks and weeks. We were worried that hunt would fall through. However, I walked to the corner of the chapel/tent and said a prayer asking Heavenly Father to stay the rain just long enough so that we could have this activity to teach people about Christ. And sure enough, the rain stopped. However, as soon as the egg hunt was done, the heavens opened and the rain poured like crazy. The Lord truly does care about us and knows us, and if we ask Him in faith He will bless us!!! We concluded the activity by watching the Bible videos about Christ's final week in mortality and it was so amazing to see those events portrayed. The room was silent, but the Spirit was there and it had an amazing effect on everybody present.

On Easter Sunday we had a nice Sacrament meeting where favorite conference talks were discussed and Easter feelings were expressed. We didn't have many investigators at church at the beginning, almost none in fact. During the sacrament, I again prayed that those we had invited to church would be able to come. By the time we were going to classes, 11 investigators were present, some who we'd never met before. Wow. Yet another testimony to me that this is the Lord's work and not ours. I taught investigators class on repentance, and then to finish we had them listen to Elder Costa's talk from conference that was addressed to the investigators of the church. It was so powerful. Our branch also does a great job of providing fellowship for the new friends that we bring to church, and they seem to be excited about coming back. It's amazing to witness.

Of course the rain continued yesterday and today, and we've really appreciated the cool weather. Today we got to play basketball and ultimate frisbee with all the elders in our zone, and that was fantastic. Sports on P Day are probably the non-spiritual highlights of the transfer.

I want to share with you my testimony about Easter, including some of the thoughts that I had the opportunity to share with the YSA's on Saturday. The story of Easter is the reason that I am here as a missionary. But I'm not the only one that has a knowledge of this amazing truth. So let's not keep it to ourselves. Let it change us. The fact that the Son of God suffered and died for you and me and that He lives again is a life-changing truth! So we should be changed by it. We can repent and have peace. Because Our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ love us, Christ suffered for our sins and died for us so that we can have peace and overcome death. I love my Savior. And as I come to know Him more, I love Him even more and I gain a supreme gratitude for His sacrifice. So remember Him each week as we partake the sacrament, and live so that others will know that we believe in Christ. I know that we can become clean through the blood of our Savior and Redeemer. He is the only way to eternal life. And He is always there with outstretched arms. He calls, Come Follow Me. So let us follow Him. Easter is something so incredibly special that celebrating it can't be confined to a single week. It is a celebration of a lifetime. I know He lives, and that He loves us.

Have an amazing week!

Love Elder Barlow

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

April 10, 2017 - Third Time's the Charm

Lion King anyone?

Hey everyone!! Time is flying like crazy and I can't believe we are at the beginning of another transfer!! And the big news is: Elder Ray and I will be staying for a third transfer in Seke! Crazy, right? 3 transfers with one companion doesn't happen often, but I'm excited for what lies ahead!
Elder Baldwin and I

On Wednesday I went on exchanges with Elder Baldwin, one of our Zone leaders. I went with him to his area in Eastview. It is so big!! We went around a big part of their area teaching lessons and it was pretty great. We get along pretty well. He's from Wyoming and is twice as old on mission as I am. He said I was doing well and he commented that my Shona was pretty good. It was a fun day overall and I learned a lot from him. We did run into this crazy pastor guy who was friends with some other missionaries. Haha he was walking and praying for us and what what. It was pretty crazy haha.

On Thursday I went on exchanges with Elder Barnett and he came to my area. It's always fun being on exchanges with someone in your group and one of your friends. We taught a few powerful lessons, the highlight being with Clive. We read 2 Nephi 2 with him about agency and the plan of salvation. He was really blown away by the explanations we gave him and you could tell the Spirit was opening his heart to the Book of Mormon. He told us that he was coming to conference because he wanted to have the light and knowledge that we had. And sure enough, he came!! It was pretty awesome. Clive is a great guy. He's almost 20 and he loves dancing (like the animation/robot) dancing. Overall it was a fun day. We studied about knowledge and about 2 Nephi 9 together and it was so awesome. Knowledge is an attribute of God, but if we begin to think we're wise and forgot God's counsel, we become foolish. I love the Book of Mormon!!

On Friday we had zone meeting and it was sweet. We had some great presentations on planning and so on, but my favorite was Elder Bamutesiza's on diligence. He's been such a diligent missionary throughout his mission and it was so cool to hear his testimony in his last zone meeting. We did interviews for the sister missionaries after that and I met a surprise friend! Melusi Moyo, who served under Mimi and Papa and knew my buddy Elder Boyce, is good friends with the guy we interviewed!! He told me how Papa sends every missionary from Zimbabwe home with a charge to find me and take a picture and he's the first one! It was so fun to hear stories about Papa making jokes and so on. It was awesome!!
Solomon's baptism

Saturday was so awesome!! We watched conference and had a couple investigators there! Solomon was also baptized in between the sessions, which was really cool too. Saturday night we made burgers and fries to celebrate our house staying together for another transfer and we enjoyed. Early Sunday morning we drove to Unit O (the far end of our area) and took combies to church with a bunch of our investigators. We were able to come with a bunch of them and we really enjoyed conference. We were unable to watch the Sunday Afternoon session because of some stake business, but we'll be viewing it this week. Last night we went to Brother Bomba's house and watched the priesthood session, which was unbelievable powerful. It was a sweet weekend.

And to conclude, I LOVED CONFERENCE!! There were so many amazing talks. Some of the highlights for me included talks by Elder Clayton, Elder Sabin, Elder Oaks, Elder Ballard, Elder Bednar, Elder Holland, President Eyring, and President Monson!! My absolute favorite was President Uchtdorf's talk on love casting out fear. I felt like he was speaking directly to me and the Spirit was so strong. We don't need to fear. God is not a God of fear but a God of love!! Fear doesn't change our hearts and show us the good the way that love does. So let us turn fear into faith and perfect love!! I absolutely loved that so much. Conference has become a spiritual gold mine for me in the last year or so and I can never seem to get enough. I hope each of you enjoyed it and were edified as much as I was.
Ladies and gentlemen, the exit of the Spartan of Uganda,
the one and only Elder Bamutesiza

Today, I said farewell to Elder Tsongora, Elder Mkhaliphi, and of course, my beloved trainer Elder Bamutesiza. All of those guys and the rest of their group have completed their 2 years of dedicated service to the Lord and are returning home. I couldn't be happier for them and I hope to meet them again someday!!

I love you all and wish you the best week ever!!

Elder Barlow

Me and a few of my departing brethren (Elder Bamutesiza, Elder Tsongora, and Elder Mkhaliphi)

April 3, 2017 - Snakes are Dangerous

Hey everyone!! I hope everyone had a fantastic week and a wonderful conference weekend!! Unfortunately I won't be viewing general conference until next week, but I want to thank you all for your amazing insights on the messages that were given! I promise I'll send my thoughts and highlights next week.
Chi-town District, best in Zim

We had our last district meeting with everyone together on Tuesday, which was a little sad, but super powerful as always. I'll definitely miss being in this district when transfers come. We were super busy this week, and Elder Ray and I improved on teaching lessons in a shorter time so that we can see more people. On Wednesday we had interviews with President Mkhabela. He is a powerful man and very caring. I am feeling more and more comfortable with him and I always appreciate his counsel. We had to stay at the mission office longer than we expected, so we missed a couple appointments but were able to see some people. We were able to be with Simba again a bunch this week, which was awesome. We had a little incident on Wednesday that was pretty crazy. We paid a guy some money to clean our yard, and he came back the next day wanting more money for more work. We refused, and then he came telling us that a snake bit him in our backyard and that we needed to pay him for it. Well, funny thing is, there was no bite there. This guy then cut his arm to try and prove it to us. We went away from him, but he kept harassing us for the next day or so. I won't share too many details, but with some help from our neighbors and the police, the issue was taken care of and we are safe and ok!! No worries!! I promise everything is under control!! Gotta love Zimbabwe.

With Simba
We had a couple of great lessons this week. Solomon seems to finally be ready for baptism this coming week. His marriage issues have begun to blow over and he really has begun repenting. We also got to see Lloyd again. He has a baptism and marriage date for the end of this month and he's been reading the Book of Mormon on his own!! That guy is a stud. We taught a bunch of lessons on Saturday. I'm getting much better at teaching to the needs of the people instead of just teaching what I want to. The Spirit has definitely been with us a lot. We had another YSA activity on Saturday where we had popcorn and watched the Other Side of Heaven. We had even more investigators than last week and it was great. We got to teach lots about repentance and the Book of Mormon throughout the week which was awesome. I'm feeling much more comfortable with the people and I love getting to know them and smiling with them.

On Sunday we had 10 investigators at church!!!! It was so amazing to finally reach our goal. Faston also received the Aaronic priesthood yesterday, which 
was really cool!! We taught Ms. Chiwairo about prophets after church, and she continues to be one of my favorite investigators. She seems happier and seems to have a greater desire to study the gospel which is sweet! Last night we visited the Bomba's and their new baby boy Kayden! He's adorable and they are so happy. I baked them banana bread and it turned out pretty nice! Overall it was an amazing day!!

Well, that's about all for this week!! I love you all and wish you all the best!! Since I haven't seen conference yet, I just want to recommend a favorite past talk that I studied this week. It's called "Which Way Do You Face?" from 2014 by Elder Lynn G. Robbins. It meant a lot to me and I'm sure it will speak to you as well!!

Love Elder Barlow


Studio C shirt I saw on the street