Monday, September 18, 2017

Fresh From the MTC

Hey everyone how are things? This week I found out that I would be training a new missionary again. Before I was to find out on Thursday, I spent a couple of days in the Houston 6 area with Elder Christensen. It's an area that's a lot like the first area I served in. Lots of low income areas that you need to avoid after dark. But it was fun. You see a lot of interesting things that you don't normally see. And then on Thursday we picked up our new missionaries. There were 24 missionaries that came in so there's been a lot of turnover in the mission.

My new companion is Elder Broschart from San Tan Valley, Arizona. He's a really good kid that is motivated to work hard and give his all to the Lord. He studied really hard in the MTC and already has pretty good Spanish. He understands a lot and is improving rapidly on speaking the language. We've put in a lot of work already in a short period of time. On his first door he knocked, we got let in by an 18 year old named Carlos from El Salvador. He was really interested in what we had to say and loved the emphasis on peace and hope.

Also on Friday we had an all mission zone conference with Elder Uceda and Elder Daniel Jones of the 70. It was really awesome. Elder Uceda had tons of energy and enthusiasm despite arriving in Houston by airplane at 1 AM Friday morning. He talked about Matthew 28:19 which reads:

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

He expounded on that scripture by saying that the original translation for the word teach is a Greek word that actually means "to make disciples." So he focused on the importance of helping our investigators become true disciples of Jesus Christ rather than just teaching them.

Another missionary before me hung up a story on the wall about the process of refining silver. Very relevant to our experience here as mortals and especially as missionaries. Recently I've been listening to a lot of Elder Holland talks in the car and there's been an underlying theme in almost all of them about suffering being a part of the process of true discipleship. I hadn't really thought about that before. I thought if we did good and kept God's commandments we'd have easy carefree lives. However, it is not the case.
Elder Garcia's last day in Oakcrest with our ward mission leader, Hermano Casco and his wife

Elder Barrus
THM

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Transfers!

We got transfer calls last night and surprisingly my comp, Elder Garcia is leaving the area. I thought that I would leave but I don't mind staying in the Oakcrest ward at all. They've been good to us and feed us really well. Elder Garcia is a little sad but he's going to be a superstar missionary when it's all said and done, so he'll find success anywhere he goes. Also his mother and little sister are getting baptized this Saturday so he's really excited about that. His 13 year old little brother told the missionaries he doesn't want to. It's alright though, he'll get there.

This week was good. We were able to get back to a normal missionary schedule on a few days. We went with a group of members on Saturday and Sunday to do some flood cleanup 30 minutes south of our area.  As we got out and talked to people we realized how much people had been humbled by the recent events in the world. There was one lady named Brenda who let us in because she had some questions about God in light of all the natural disasters. She admitted she wasn't super religious but the recent events definitely left her seeking some answers. It's been very intriguing to see the hand of the Lord help open the eyes of others who don't claim to be to into the whole religion thing. It reminds me of a scripture in Alma 32:13 which says:

"And now, because ye are compelled to be humble blessed are ye; for a man sometimes, if he is compelled to be humble, seeketh repentance; and now surely, whosoever repenteth shall find mercy; and he that findeth mercy and endureth to the end the same shall be saved."

 And then something else that came to me is a quote from a talk by Jeffrey R Holland titled "Borne Upon Eagles' Wings":

"I decided that if those men had to go to the penitentiary to take advantage of the gift of mercy--and if by going there, they found the gospel of Jesus Christ or the scriptures or the Atonement--then their imprisonment was worth it.

So let us go to the place of penitence--to the bishop or to the Lord or to those we have offended or to those who have offended us. We have our own little penitentiaries, I suppose, all around us. If going there is what it takes to make us truly penitent and to enable us to lay claim to the gift of mercy, then we have to do it."

So all in all I've come to realize that if we need to go through a crisis or a difficult trial in our lives in order to truly be humbled, then it is worth it. So never forget that.

Elder Barrus
THM

September birthdays
Unfortunately I only managed to come up with one picture this week but for district meeting on Friday we did a birthday bash because 5 of the 6 members of our district have birthdays in September. Elder Hunt, Elder Garcia, Hermana Fluckiger, Hermana Hurst, and I.(And Elder Garcia didn't even tell me it was his birthday on Tuesday because he doesn't like birthdays!)


This is a really great video that shows some of the work the members and missionaries are doing to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey. 


Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Cleaning Up

It was nice to get out of the apartment early last week and start helping with the disaster cleanup efforts. Only one family from the Oakcrest ward had their home flood so it wasn't too bad in our area. We spent most of our time helping out various families south of our area. It was crazy. Entire neighborhoods got flooded and are filled with garbage and debris on both sides of the street. People were very grateful to receive our help though. And not even one person slammed the door in our face! So it was a good week. This week we are going to find the balance between giving service and proselyting. I'll attach some pictures below.

This past week as we helped various families clean up their homes, I reflected on the process of repairing a home that's been damaged by water. First you have to get in the house and take out everything that got wet. Mattresses, tables, chairs, dressers, bookshelves, you name it. As soon as the furniture is out, you have to start tearing out the carpet in the house and the pad underneath it. Then you tear out the sheet rock and insulation from the wall in the entire house. As soon as that's finished you must let the house dry out, which can take up to several months. 

This is what is piled up in front of every home. 
I liken this process to the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Sometimes we have spiritual floods that happen in our lives which can be any type of crisis that happens in our lives. Loss of job, sickness, death of a loved one, etc. It is in those times that we usually have to look in the mirror and identify what needs to change. We start with the big stuff, the "furniture problems" like major sins we have not repented of or bad habits we may have. Bit by bit we try to remove everything we can that is not in harmony with the Lord's will, which is both challenging and an ongoing process. However, as we take those things out of our lives that have accumulated mold from all the moisture, the musty smell of wet furniture starts to diminish. After everything has been removed and is dry, you are ready to replace the carpet, sheet rock, furniture, and flooring that was damaged. This is like replacing our bad habits, thoughts, or surroundings with positive and constructive things. As painful and laborious as the process may seem, it is well worth it, because instead of living in a house festering with mold, water damage, and a horrid smell, you are living in a clean house that smells nice. So never forget that regardless of the cost or effort it may take to clean our lives up, we can do it. We just have to be patient with ourselves and with the Lord and trust that he'll help us make the transformation as long as we do our part.

Anyways that's all from here. Pray for Texas and for those affected by the flooding.

Elder Barrus

THM

Hurricane Harvey Helping Hands

First house we helped with--an elderly couple.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

God Bless Texas

This is the first email we received August 28, 2017


Good morning mom and dad! I just wanted to give you an update on how things are going down here. Currently where I am at in Tomball things are fine. We have been told not to leave our apartments so I haven't seen much of what anything else looks like, but outside our apartment everything is fine. There is no flooding as far as the eye can see and we are up safely on the 3rd floor. It's getting a little boring inside the apartment but I've almost finished the New Testament.

Anyways, I hope that all is well and just know that your prayers have been felt.

Love, Josh

This is the one we received later in the day. 


Whelp this has been a weird week with an unexpected turn of events to cap it off, but I'll start with the positive. We visited Sergio and Perla, a part member couple whose parents are active in our ward. As we started to get to know them a little bit, Sergio mentioned to us that he wants to get baptized and sealed in the temple with his girlfriend. Kind of a shock to us because we had barely met him, but not unwelcome. They are going to get married on December 15th but we will teach and meet with them leading up until then.

As well, another part member family named the Morales just returned from Mexico so we met with them. They talked about how much they liked the church's focus on strengthening families and raising children in good homes. The wife Itzia talked about how she's inactive and some of her doubts and concerns. Her husband Jose talked about how much he liked going to church, but he hasn't been able to go for awhile due to work. We asked some more question and asked them what their goals are and how they expect to achieve them. They opened up about how hard it is to change their lifestyle. So we just testified about how God will help us if we make sacrifices in order to follow him. It reminded me of a scripture in The Book of Revelation 12:11 in the Bible that describes how the war in heaven was won:

"And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death."

I thought about that last line in the verse and how it applies to me. It is possible to love our lives unto the death. Sometimes we can get very distracted here in this life and lose sight of the purpose of our very existence: to make it back to God's presence. Satan has done a really good job of distracting us of our ultimate divine purpose. If we wait too late to repent and become true followers of Christ, we will not be able to reach our potential as children of God.

As well, midweek we received an email from President Peterson about a tropical storm brewing in the Gulf of Mexico headed for the Texas coast. Eventually it developed into a category 4 hurricane that hit the Texas coast just west and south of Houston. It has been raining ever since Friday. Apparently there is some catastrophic flooding in parts of Houston, but where we are at there isn't much. But they canceled church yesterday and we have been instructed to stay inside both yesterday and today. So I've read a good portion of the Bible and I've wiped the floor with Elder Garcia in chess. We've definitely prayed a lot and continue to pray for those impacted by the flooding in various parts of Texas. We are anxious for the storm to die down so that we can get out there and start helping with the recovery efforts.

Anyways, be safe y'all. God bless Texas.


Pretty much sums up the last few days

Barbecue with the Reyes family


Shout Out to Elder Garcia!

This email was sent August 21, 2017

Hey y'all honestly it wasn't too eventful of a week this week but a few things did happen. First and foremost I would like to give a shoutout to mi hijo amado Elder Garcia who had his 8 week follow up training on Wednesday. He did really well and it was an edifying meeting. It was interesting attending the meeting from the perspective of a trainer.

This week we focused a lot on receiving referrals. The key with gaining the trust of the members is getting to know them. So we tried to stop by whatever members were in the area whenever we were out knocking and ask for a drink of water or to share a 10 minute lesson. It worked really well. We feel like the members know us and can trust us. We got some good potentials who we are going to visit this week so I'll let you all know if we pick up some solid new gators next week. 

Elder Barrus
THM

It was a L-O-N-G Saturday

Stabio Family Farewell Party

This email is from August 14, 2017

What's up fellas? This week was kinda slow but we had a lot of fun. First off it's been very rewarding to continue to work with Pascual and his family. They are making lots of progress and there is a special feeling in their home. Pascual told us this week about some goals he's made recently. He is planning on saving money with his wife so they can buy a house and move their family out of their mobile home. He works as a welder and actually makes a lot of money, but in the past he blew a lot of it on beer. Now he's using that money to put his family in a better neighborhood. The Gospel not only helps people be happier, but also helps them achieve their goals.

As well not too much happened besides the fact that we knocked lots of doors. We didn't really find any solid people to teach but we'll keep at it and they'll come. The prepared people are out there, we just have to find them. I have learned that we can't force the issue as missionaries. If people don't want it, we move on. It's as simple as that. Find out what people want or are looking for, help them understand that the Gospel will help with that and promise specific blessings.


Going away party for the Stabio family


On Friday we went to a going away party for the Stabio family. They are a super cool family that is going up to the University of Wisconsin so the father can get his master's degree in business. The wife didn't speak any Spanish 4 years ago, but then they decided to attend a Spanish ward and her hand was forced. So she learned and now speaks it better than a lot of the missionaries that come through here. They are good examples to me of a strong family that loves, serves, and does all they can to live a quiet, Christlike life. I want to be that type of member when I return from my mission.

That's about it from here. √Āndale pues!

Elder Barrus

THM

"And he inviteth them all to come unto him..."

This email is from August 7, 2017

Que onda y'all? This week was definitely the most gratifying of my mission thus far. Pascual and his sons Oscar and Angel were baptized on Saturday and was a baptism that I will not soon forget. I had the honor of baptizing Pascual and Elder Garcia baptized his 2 sons. Pascual has come a long ways since when we first knocked on his door about a month ago but he was very prepared and progressed very rapidly. It was an especially happy day for his wife Yami who had been praying for him to change for awhile before we showed up. I already know that the Oropeza family will be a strong family in this church that will be leaders and will send their boys on missions. It was days like Saturday that made all of the sacrifice, frustration, and hard work of the mission worth it. I've been extremely blessed and fortunate to be in the position I'm currently in and to have had the
experiences I have had thus far on my mission. Just makes me want to continue to do my very best because you never know who may be on the other side of that door.



The Oropeza Family


Elder Barrus, Pascual, and Elder Garcia

The District 
Besides the baptism we've been working hard to refill the teaching pool so we can continue this wave of momentum. On Sunday we stopped by a guy we talked to about a month ago named Kevin who we gave a Book of Mormon to. He came out a little bit drunk and started going off on how everything related to Mormonism was wrong because there's a depiction of a white Jesus appearing to the ancient inhabitants of the Americas in the pictures section. He talked about racism and how we are racist and how he will grow up telling his son that Mormons are racist and not to associate with them. And then he said "Your belief in a white Jesus is ruining the future of this country!"  We honestly didn't say much to him, we both were just shocked by how bold he was. I wanted to point out a Book of Mormon verse that says:

"...And he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his
goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white,
bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and
all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile."

But ni modo, I wasn't upset, just amused at how passionate some people can be about simple things.

That's about all from here, look forward to hearing back from y'all next week!

Elder Barrus
THM