Monday, March 28, 2016

Confetti Eggs

Good afternoon everyone. Sorry this email is so late, but Elder Gibbs and I have been recording a couple of LDS songs with a member who has his own recording studio. Elder Gibbs wrote the songs and we sang. I'll have to send some of the songs to you when we get them touched up next week on PDay. It was pretty fun!
Easter was good. We had a ward party and the only real thing of note is that Texas Hispanics have an Easter tradition of putting confetti inside of egg shells and breaking them over each other's heads, so we all had confetti in our hair. The Final Four is in Houston, but it is not in my area, but we will still feel the effects of excess traffic for sure this weekend. 

Jemma, Angel, Elder Gibbs, Elder Barrus, Armando
My health has been great! We do eat at members' homes like 4 times a week, and it's decent Mexican food, but not Rancheritos, and no one makes burritos. It's a fake stereotype. We cook a little bit. I'm doing great with money, budgeting it very well. 

This week we've been diligently seeking to find the prepared. We've found probably 6 new people who could be potential investigators, but it's still early in the process. The mission has really opened my eyes as to how we have to be exactly obedient if God is going to trust us with teaching those he has prepared to receive the gospel. However, in order to teach us lessons such as patience, the fruits of our labors are not always seen right away. Sometimes we are frustrated when we don't see success right away, but we can't get discouraged. Often times we plan results and think that our improvement should come right away, but we have to have more patience. It's cliche, but God's timetable is different than ours. 

I've felt my heart grow bigger. I'm starting to see others as the Savior sees them, and it's awesome to see the potential that everyone has. 

As for our investigators, Elder Gibbs and I started teaching Roberto along with his wife Rosa, and it has been a little bit difficult. Rosa is a little apprehensive about The Book of Mormon, and wants proof in the Bible about Joseph Smith. Elder Gibbs told her that we could show her some verses in the Bible that prophesy of Joseph Smith and the Restoration, but that even if we did she still wouldn't believe.So we told her that if she and her husband will sincerely read the Book of Mormon, pray about and ponder it with real intent, then they can know of that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God. So we've been praying in hopes that Roberto and Rosa will take this leap of faith and have softened hearts.

This experience got me thinking about my own conversion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and how I've been working on having more faith. It's still okay to have questions and study them out in our hearts and minds, but we need to go to the source (the scriptures and words of the prophets and apostles) to find our answers. We can't trust our flawed thought-processes and beliefs that change often over God's doctrine that has proven to be perfect and doesn't change.

This week we all have an awesome opportunity to listen to the words of God in General Conference. If we prayerfully consider questions we have, as well as open our minds and hearts to the messages that will be shared, I can promise that answers will come, and reassurance will be had. The Holy Ghost can testify to us of the truth of these things, if we let it. Conversion should be a daily goal that we all strive for, and this weekend we can have our testimonies fortified and re-affirmed by the convincing power of the Holy Ghost. 

This is God's work. That I know with certainty.  I love you! Appreciate the support. Gotta run, but take care!

-Elder Barrus

Elder Gibbs, Franco, Elder Barrus, Ninny
at the Ward Party last night

Monday, March 21, 2016

"Forget the Dog, Beware of Wife"

President Mortensen, Josh, Sister Mortensen

President Mortensen sent this picture to us.
This week was a good one. Elder Gibbs and I have just been out here contacting as many people as possible. We did have one miracle last week though. The first door we knocked on was an older man named Roberto from El Salvador who let us in and we were able to teach him the Restoration. At the end, he said a sincere prayer and was in tears afterward. We have taught him once more since then and have another lesson tonight. He seems sincerely interested in finding the truth. He has already started reading the Book of Mormon and understands the gospel really well. We know that he has been prepared by God to be ready to accept the gospel. 

We also are working on reactivating lots of less-active members in the ward, as well as strengthening the members. We have probably 300 hundred records of adult members in the ward, and sacrament meeting attendance yesterday was 104. So we've got some work to do. Part of the problem is that a lot of the Hispanics down here are illegal, so they move and change their phone numbers quite often so it can be hard to contact them. I've come to appreciate church leadership in Utah much more since I've been here. Our bishop is a convert of like 2 years, and all of the adults are converts, but for the most part they are all trying their best to fulfill their roles in leadership. God expects effort, and he will take care of the rest. 

The weather is unpredictable out here. Some days it is like 80-90 degrees with tons of humidity, but yesterday was like 50 degrees with lots of wind, so it was really cold. I miss spring in Utah. And the mountains. But other than that, I'm happy where I'm at. We got to go to the temple last Thursday. The Houston temple is beautiful and pretty cool.

Our companionship is doing really well. We get along, laugh and joke a lot, teach well together, and talk about deep doctrine when we can, so it's a fun time. Our Sunday was good. We went to church and spent most of our afternoon and evening contacting, which wasn't too fruitful, but it's all good. The church is like 10 minutes away. It's a really big area, which is why we have a car. The Spanish is coming. It's not perfect, but I'm working on it. We do tract, but we work through the members as much as we can as well as referrals that come in from other areas. 

I'm not sure that there's much else to say, other than that this is God's work. It's hastening. 

-Elder Barrus

That sign definitely says, "Forget the Dog, Beware of Wife"

We had a ward Family home evening activity where we put a rope in the dark gym and had it lead to a tree that was lit up. People were blindfolded and couldn't see, so Bishop had our companionship try to lead people off the "Iron Rod" and we were successful with it. We played the role of Satan really well. 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Liberty Texas

Hi Everyone,

I arrived in Houston last Wednesday and it's been pretty awesome so far. President Mortensen and his wife are awesome! President will become an Apostle some day. Write it down. His wife is real nice and just glows. We had real Texas BBQ dinner at the mission home when we arrived, probably one of the few I'll have down here, unfortunately. We have eaten a lot of Hispanic food, which I really like, too. 

At the airport with President Mortensen

Real Texas BBQ

Texas BBQ for dinner
I'm in Liberty, Texas, which is about 50 minutes northeast of downtown Houston. We work in both Spanish and English branches. I guess it's the poorest area in the mission, but I've liked it so far. Let's just say I'm in a bit of culture shock, and I've only seen like 6 white people. Didn't know people lived like this in America, but it's all good. I've already come to love the people I'm serving. My trainer Elder Gibbs from South Jordan, Utah, and he's incredible. He's been out 21 months and is also a zone leader, so I'm in good hands. We have a car, so no bicycle.

Elder Gibbs
We hit the ground running so far with teaching lessons, contacting, and putting up fliers for our English class that we teach every Tuesday and Thursday. People down here are really nice, and virtually everyone believes in God, which has led to some interesting discussions on the street. In fact, when we were knocking doors Friday, a man opened the door who turned out to be a pastor. We asked him if he believes in God. He replied that he has "a PHD in God" and "I know about y'all, and y'all worship the devil!", and slammed the door shut. Made us chuckle a little bit. It baffles me just a tad how a religion that centers on Jesus Christ can "worship the devil." 

We are working on reactivating a lot of these ward members because attendance has definitely gone down lately. I love it though, the members are fun, Hispanics turn everything into a big party. They are going to start bringing food to English class. 

We have not found any new investigators, but we've had a few people we've taught who we call "eternigators." They've met with the missionaries many times and have been taught many things, but just aren't willing to commit to baptism yet. So we're working on it. We fasted yesterday that their hearts would soften and they would be able to take a leap of faith and trust in God. 

Yesterday for Stake Conference Elder Dallin H. Oaks and Elder Jones from the 70 came and spoke. Both talks were quite stellar. Elder Jones talked about the hastening of the work of God in the form of technology. Elder Oaks hit on many different points, but the one that stuck out to me was an object lesson he gave. He brought a 12 year old boy up to the stand beside him. He took off his jacket, and put it on the 12 year old. Obviously it was really big on him. He compared that to the mantle we take upon ourselves when we have callings and responsibilities that seem daunting. However, with trust in the Lord, and a constant desire to work hard, we grow into the role. Inadequacy becomes adequacy and capability. We just have to trust in God and His son, Jesus Christ. If we focus too much on ourselves and dwell on those things we struggle with and complain, we are basically saying that "Christ's grace isn't good enough for me." So I have certainly been doing all that I can to remain cheerful and to work hard despite the newness of the situation I am in. Work really can cure any sort of homesickness or negative emotional feelings you might have.

That's cool that Elder Holland came. I would give my left leg for the opportunity to have 10 hours to talk to him and ask him questions about deep doctrine and whatnot. I guess I could have talked deep doctrine with you, Dad, before the mission, but yanno, I wasn't interested I guess. Don't know what I was thinking, cause now I am. Fortunately, my companion has studied it quite a bit and we talk about it often. 

Anyways, hope y'all have a more than stellar week. 

Elder Josh Barrus

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Leaving on a Jet Plane

(From Josh's mom)

We just talked to Josh on the phone this morning. He was at the airport awaiting his flight to Houston Texas. He is traveling with 7 other elders and 2 sisters who are also going to the Texas Houston mission, English speaking. He hadn't met them before this morning.

He sounded great! He said that he LOVED the MTC. He thought when he was going there that it would be all about learning the language--and it is, but more importantly, he said, he learned to recognize and teach with the spirit. 

He LOVED his teachers there and said they had helped him and his companions so much. 
Brother Gomes with his students, Elders Barrus, Wilson, and Sitterud
He also loved the camaraderie among the missionaries--those in his district and zone, and also all of the missionaries there. He said you could sit down and talk to any of them and have a great conversation and feel a kinship with them.

Elder Li from Hong Kong--a basketball friend. He's heading to Vancouver, BC, Canada
He told us that he would probably call between 6:30 and 7:00 am, so by 8:30, we were getting a little nervous that we wouldn't be able to talk to him, since his flight was leaving at 9:30. But, the phone finally rang around 8:40 and we talked for about 20 minutes. All of the phones at the airport were being used by missionaries calling their families, so a nice "brother" from Texas let him borrow his cell phone, which is why it came up as "Texas" on the caller ID. 

He said he was excited to get going, and a little nervous, but not too nervous. He was anxious to meet his mission president. We've heard such wonderful things about President and Sister Mortensen and are so glad he will have such caring "mission parents" for the next 2 years. 

Here is a link to a news article from a Houston area TV station about President Russell M Nelson's recent visit to Houston and his meeting with all the missionaries in the area:

Here are few pictures he sent yesterday in a brief email:

Flag of Hong Kong, front view

Rear view flag of Hong Kong
I have to be at the travel office at 4:50 am, but I'm thrilled that I'm finally off to Texas. Last night we met with our teacher, Thiago for the last time and it was powerful. He showed us some scriptures that prophesied of us being directly involved with the literal gathering of Israel, which is sooooo cool. This is God's work. We are gathering His sheep, like you said in your dear-elder letter I got yesterday. I love you both. I'll talk to y'all tomorrow.

Elder Josh Barrus, tus hijo (your son)

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Countdown to Texas

A week from today (minus about an hour and a half) I'll be stepping off a plane in Houston ready to embark on my life as a missionary in the land of Texas! And I couldn't be more excited. Not that I wasn't before, it's just that now it's getting more real to me. 

Don't know where he's pointing, but pretty sure it's not Texas
Teaching went really well this week. I never thought I would come to enjoy teaching the Gospel, but I honestly love it so much. As a trio, Elder Wilson, Elder Sitterud and I have been working on teaching the gospel more simply while asking questions that help the investigator figure it out, so that they'll come unto Christ because they want to. Our MTC choir director shared an interesting line he heard at church the other day with us: "This Gospel must be really simple if we're sending out 18-19 year old kids to teach it." The Church's missionary program is evidence enough to me of the truthfulness of this Church. There are 75,000 elders ages 18-25 that have put their life on hold for 2 years, themselves or their families have paid their own way to come out here, and if you talk to most missionaries, they are so happy to be here, even though there is no monetary reward at the end of the 2 years missions. 

Barrus, Sitterud, and Wilson threesome 
In my personal study lately I've been studying the life of Christ in the New Testament a little bit and 
it's really helped me gain such an appreciation for His life and mortal ministry. He was the literal son of God, but he did not think himself to be above anyone else, despite their weaknesses. He gave up a life of wealth and power to establish His Church on the earth, and to minister to all types of people from all different cities. He descended beneath all things, suffered more than what is comprehensible so he could understand our afflictions, and eventually suffered death, so that he could conquer both sin and death. Without his sacrifice, as humans we would not be able to experience life after death, nor gain redemption from our sins. This has helped me realize that Christ is the way. The only way we can walk if we want to experience complete and everlasting happiness, as well as be able to progress eternally. 

In talking to some of my teachers this week, it's been humbling to realize that I am a representative of Jesus Christ. In my mission, I will be looked up to in order to give blessings and help people change their lives. I won't just serve a few types of people. I will serve everyone I can. Homeless, rich, poor, middle-class, happy, depressed, sick, atheist, it doesn't matter. That's what's amazing about the Gospel. It is all-inclusive. Jesus was criticized for spending time with publicans and sinners during His ministry, but that's why I want to follow Him. Because he doesn't consider himself to be above others, and he's only worried about how he can help each individual person reach their full potential. He doesn't give up on anyone. I can't wait to share this truth and knowledge I have with everyone that will listen. 

I am so grateful for this sacred opportunity to wear the Lord's nametag these next few years. This is Christ's restored Gospel on the Earth today. He wants nothing more than for us to follow Him because it will help us be so happy. I love y'all and hope things are going well!

-Elder Barrus

Looking good in the new suit.

The Tree of Knowledge along with Satan

Brother Gomes Finds a Girlfriend

(This email was written February 24, 2016.)

How big IS Texas?
I'm just living the dream out here in Provo. I have 2 weeks left but am not really sure how everything is going to change once I head out to Houston. I don't even know how I can really explain this life I'm living. It's like a dream, albeit a good one. 

We teach 3 fake investigators a few times each throughout the course of any given week, and it has been really neat. First investigator is Marco, and we call him Investigador de Oro (Investigator of Gold) because he follows every commitment we issue him, and teaches us lessons that can be found about teachings in the Book of Mormon, as well as the commandments. In my heart of hearts I want to believe that is a real investigator, but I'm 95 percent sure he's a member. We have a baptismal date with him set for March 5 and he's ready. 

Andrea and Santiago are our next two investigators, and they are much, much harder. Both are played by my 2 teachers, Sister McBride and Brother Gomes, who play the part of real investigators from their missions. Santi was a little agnostic when we first met him, but since then, we've helped him pray and see the need for constant communication with God in his life. He's starting to understand that the Gospel can help him develop a better relationship with his family, which is quite dysfunctional. He is close to accepting a date for baptism. 

Andrea grew up a baptist, and was hesitant about what we taught her, but she's starting to warm up to us. She told us she feels something every time we visit her, that isn't there when we leave, which is an awesome thing to hear. We are instruments in the Lord's hands. She has accepted the commitment to be baptized, she just hasn't quite yet committed to a date. 

Last week when we were teaching Andrea the importance of repentance, she posed an interesting question: "So this means I'm going to have to make a really big list of bad things I've done in my life up to this point?" We explained to her that repentance is a desire to change, and align our actions and will with God's will. Last night during devotional, Sister Rosemary Wixom of the Primary Presidency spoke and helped answer Andrea's question also. She asked "How can we know when we've fully repented?" And proceeded to share Mosiah 3:19 which explains that the natural man is present inside of all of us, and how we need to become as children, submissive, meek, humble, and willing to submit to the will of the Father. So repentance is a process, not an event. And all of us need Christ's atonement in our lives, because there is great power that can be unlocked if we decide to use it. I'm so excited to teach those who don't know about wonderful gift of repentance because some live with guilt in their lives that they can't seem to get rid of. Christ's atonement helps us wash away our sins and the accompanying guilt sin brings. 

Attached below are a few pictures of life here in the MTC. One is with my teacher, Brother Gomes, and I just want to take some time to talk about how much I love him. Initially I was going to start soliciting dates for him in my weekly emails, but he has since gotten a girlfriend. The story of how has strengthened my testimony of prayer. One day a few weeks ago, our district was gathered in class and praying at the end of our personal study time. In the prayer, I prayed that Brother Gomes could find a novia(which means girlfriend in Spanish). The next day when we saw him, I asked him how his love life was, and told him I had prayed that he would find a girlfriend. He responded with "Sus oraciones ha sido contestado," which translates to "your prayers have been answered." He had gotten one the night previous, merely hours after my prayers. God is good everyone. 

Elder Gomes, our awesome teacher, who now has a girlfriend, thanks to our prayers!

Halfway to Houston!

(This email was actually written February 17, 2016.)

Sunday Temple Walk
I got your Valentines package and it was awesome! Brother Gomes, my teacher thought it was from my girlfriend, so I had to explain that it wasn't.

I have kind of reached a point at the MTC where the days get lumped together and not much changes throughout the course of the week. I have about 3 weeks left to go here but it's still going well and I'm happy to be here. Just this morning as we walked to the temple, a car drove by with some music that was very worldly. I kind of felt like Nephi when he saw the vision of our day and all the technology and changes that have been made through the course of thousands of years. Seriously, it is so odd to be focused on one thing, and one thing only: the work of the Lord. I love it though. I thought before I came out here that I wouldn't be able to adjust to a life without sporting events, social media, and other fun stuff. But living a life that is hard, yet fairly simple is both rewarding and full of joy. 

Artsy temple shot from behind.
Just last night we had Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the quorum of the 12 come speak to us for devotional. The Spirit he brought to the meeting was powerful, and the Spirit testified to me that he is a man that is ordained of God. He told us to come to the meeting having read the talk he gave in April 2010 conference called "The Divine Call of a Missionary." I'm grateful I get to serve in Texas. Heck, I'm just grateful I get to serve a mission anywhere for the Lord as a representative of Jesus Christ. Some people do not get this sacred opportunity, so I'm going to take full advantage of it and just be grateful. It definitely doesn't hurt that like 5 random elders or sisters in the MTC ask me where I'm serving, and when I tell them "Houston, Texas, they without fail respond promptly with "I'm from Texas and you're going to love it!!" We also have a new elder in our zone who is actually from an area in  our mission, Cypress Creek, which is about an hour north of Houston and he says it's a pretty chill mission. His name is Elder Burns and we share the same first name, so I guess the same initials too. 

Serious in the snow

Anyways, keep the work of the Lord progressing wherever you are, and don't forget to strengthen your relationship with Christ. All we need to do is knock, and he will answer the door and pour out blessings of joy upon us

-Eldér Barrús

Cousin Annie--we have the same temple time