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

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