Monday, April 25, 2016

Turn Around, Don't Drown

Good afternoon! You probably weren't expecting two Mormon missionaries to show up on your doorstep this evening?... wait a minute, I think I just got my door approach mixed up with my weekly email. Sorry about that. But anyway, everyone has been asking me about this "Historic Flood" that allegedly went down this past week, but I have yet to see much flooding--a little on the freeway underpasses, but that's about it. Oh and the signs on the freeway, "If you see water on the road, turn around, don't drown". The serious flooding happened about an hour away, but since we can't watch the news, I couldn't tell you much about it. A member showed us some pictures, though and it looks pretty epic. Apparently the flooding in Katy about an hour away closely resembles the flooding that happened in the time of Noah in the Bible, but who knows, I don't watch the news so I couldn't tell ya. 

This is about the extent of the flooding we saw. 

I think Elder Gibb was trying to make me break the 
"No Swimming" rule by parking so close to this ditch.

We haven't helped with any clean up, because there wasn't anyone affected in our area by the flood and so we're just doing our regular service. 

The weather is starting to get hot. It's like 70s and 80s right now, but it will become 100s in the summer with humidity, so that'll be crazy. I love it when it rains, the rainstorms and lightning are super rad. Elder Gibbs and I keep our apartment very clean. We got a perfect score on our last cleaning check! As far as receiving any packages or letters, I have only received the one you sent last week, after you learned we have a different apartment number. 635 is where the elders lived before us, but the office forgot to change it. It's #116 now.

I just started the first week of my 2nd transfer here in H-town. Not much has changed in our area, but we are still diligently doing all we can to bring others to Christ. We have taught a good amount of Restoration lessons, but have yet to have any progressing investigators with the exception of an 8 year old named Gio. To be fair, he wanted to get baptized before we started teaching him, so we probably could have taught him nothing relating to the Gospel and he would still want to get baptized. We're still not sure if we are going to be able to baptize him or not. His grandpa Franco is one of our investigators who goes to church fairly often, but we would prefer for him to finally commit to living the Gospel and be baptized along with Gio. If Gio doesn't see his father figure doing the things he knows he should do, how can he be expected to live the Gospel himself when he's only 8? We don't want to baptize him into inactivity and without the support that he needs. So that's a challenge we've been praying for guidance with.

As far as some of our other investigators go, some of them have fallen off the face of the earth, unfortunately. Wendy and Savannah, who seemed super solid, have stopped returning our phone calls and text messages, and when we visited them yesterday, they told us they weren't really interested anymore. I get the feeling that Wendy may have come across some anti-Mormon literature that concerned her. We should have reminded her that Satan will do anything he can to keep people from finding the truth, so we must go to the source if we want to find the truth for ourselves. Obviously there's both sides of the issues that need to be considered, but we won't know if the Book of Mormon is true, or if Joseph Smith was a prophet of God unless we study it out in our hearts and our minds with sincere intent. I would challenge anyone who questions the authenticity or divine nature of the Book of Mormon to read it, and tell me whether or not anyone could have made up a story and written a book like it.

I don't want to keep this email negative though. I would like to share something from a devotional Elder Holland gave a while back from his days as President of BYU. He reminds us that none of us came to this life intending to be perfect. We should be pushing ourselves, always learning new things. We're going to fall short, but if we do the best that we can, the Savior Jesus Christ will make up the difference. We need to always accept the invitation to "come unto Him." It's hard. It requires change. It requires doing things maybe we don't like doing. But it's worth it. Church isn't a place where we go to put ourselves on a pedestal above others so we can show how righteous we are. Church is like a hospital where we go to heal ourselves each and every week. Going to Church and partaking of the Sacrament with the right mentality helps us to come away each week with a renewed desire to improve and overcome sin. I've felt this healing power in my life. I've lived it. And I promise that it will help you gain more inner peace, joy, and comfort.

-Elder Barrus

Sister Childs and Sister Christensen offered us some
of their spaghetti, but apparently I wasn't hungry.

Monday, April 18, 2016

It's Raining, It's Pouring

The flooding came up to the gates of the Houston Temple.
I am currently writing this email whilst Houston is in the midst of a more than sufficient amount of rain and flooding in many places. Our apartment is in a good place that hasn't gotten flooded, so we're #blessed at the moment. Other places have flooding, and we've seen some stranded cars along the feeder (frontage road) of the freeway, but we've been fine. I had no idea it rained so much down here. I guess August is crazy rainy season, and it's not August. A lot of people lost power, but ours hasn't been out.

It was pretty loud last night, but the lightning was super cool. Unfortunately, we're on the first floor, so our view looking out the window is covered by trees.  With lots of flooding in the area comes lots of service opportunities, which is a blessing, because we've been praying to find service opportunities. 

We spent a lot of time contacting this week to no avail. Obviously, we don't know the seeds we may have planted and the people we may have helped, but it didn't seem as if many people wanted to find a way to access blessings for them and their family this week. 

I was on an exchange with Elder Schloer, the zone leader from Hafer on Friday and he asked "Have you run into many Jehovah's Witnesses down here?" and I said not really. Well, as you can probably imagine, we knocked the doors of 4 JWs in the next hour and a half whilst contacting. I have a lot of respect for them and their beliefs, but they are incredibly hard-headed.

It's amazing how many different interpretations there are of the Bible, and how so many different denominations are convinced that theirs is correct. There's a lot of truth to be found in other religions, but the power to bind on earth as well as in Heaven is only found in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. We definitely don't Bible-bash though. We're more than happy to talk to people about their beliefs and share ours, but we never argue because it's useless to do so, and does not invite the Spirit. Reading the Book of Mormon and praying about it with real intent brings converting power of the Spirit. So one can only know for himself, the truthfulness of the Gospel can't be proved to anyone. 

I love teaching lessons, but it's been difficult to find teaching opportunities. We'll have to head to the park someday and play some basketball in exchange for teaching lessons. I know that this difficulty of not finding many people is all part of gaining patience, love, and perspective, and learning what God would have me learn. 

I know I said I would take more pictures, and I haven't, so I'll work on that this week. I saw someone riding his bike in 4 feet of rain and didn't take a picture, so now I'm sad. Onward and upward. 

-Elder Barrus

Peanut Butter Service

Serving at the Houston Peanut Butter Factory
Good afternoon everyone! It's hard to believe how quickly time flies and how I'm almost done with my first transfer! The work is looking up down here in Liberty. Here is one of my cool experiences from this past week:

Last Sunday night Elder Gibbs and I were at a Taqueria and it was getting late, but we decided to talk to one more person who was waiting for her food. Her name was Wendy, and she was super friendly and we ended up scheduling an appointment with her the next day. We taught her the Restoration and she loved it. She mentioned how she attended a non-denominational church in Lakewood, but was looking for something different and expressed a desire to attend church with us this Sunday and she did! She wasn't able to bring her 8 year old daughter Savannah, but she said both of them will come next week. She even accepted a member's invitation to attend a Family Home Evening tonight, so we are confident that she will build many friendships within the ward because she has such a charismatic personality. 

We spent a lot of time finding this week. It's a lot harder to talk to people about the good news of the Gospel down here than I originally anticipated. But we've received many referrals from other people, not so much from our own labors. I think that this experience helps us feel how God feels with all of His children. There are many that reject Him, even though He wants to help them. We have to always be like the Savior and have our arms wide open to accept all of our brothers and sisters. 

I've attached some pictures from a district photo shoot. One of the elders set up their iPad to take timed photos. We tried to get the one around the campfire to look like a cheesy For Strength of Youth photo. 

Anyways, I'm not really sure I have much else to share. I really enjoy hearing from all of you though, even if you think your life is boring, it's not boring to me, because anything besides missionary life isn't boring. But missionary life is fun too! 

Elder Barrus

The District
Guitar Playing Man in the Middle of the Street

Monday, April 4, 2016

"By Their Fruits Ye Shall Know Them"

What's up everyone? I love hearing from you all, and hope all is well back home, wherever home may be for you. 

I'm told that the Final Four started this past weekend and finishes tonight in Houston, at NRG Stadium which is about 10 minutes outside of my area, but I couldn't tell a difference. But we did visit the Houston City Jail on Wednesday, which was interesting. We visited a man named Guadalupe. His brother, Ricardo, is being taught by the missionaries in the South Mission, and wanted the missionaries there to visit his brother. They couldn't because the jail is out of their area, so they called us and we went instead. Ricardo couldn't visit him, so he told us what to tell Guadalupe and we did. Guadalupe had met with missionaries before, and he's probably going to get out in a couple weeks, so hopefully he continues to meet with missionaries. 

While waiting at the jail, we had 2 people come up to Elder Gibbs and me and asked if we could visit one of their family members who is in jail. One of these women had a grandson who is 17, who kind of got in the wrong crowd and ended up in jail, and she felt that having young people like us visit him would really help. She said she would call us, so hopefully she does so we can go back. I never knew that I would have the opportunity to teach and influence people who are in jail, but I'm really excited for it. I once heard a quote from a man who had spent many years in prison who said that he regularly felt the influence of the Savior Jesus Christ, walking the halls of the prison. I believe that with all my heart. He will never give up on any of His brothers and sisters. As we turn to Him and acknowledge our weaknesses, he will "Make weak things become strong unto them."(Ether 12:27) As we turn to Him and try our best, we will be amazed at how much His grace and mercy enable us to improve ourselves. I know I have felt this enabling power in my own life, and it comes from our Savior. 

This week was really good. I've been very happy and grateful to be here. All the missionaries in our zone are super obedient. That's super awesome to hear about Charlie. North Korea would be scary, so Thailand is probably safer.
We teach an English class for an hour every Tuesday and Thursday, but haven't been able to find many other service opportunities. We've talked to leaders from other churches, YMCA's, The Salvation Army, and local libraries. The only place that seemed semi-interested was the libraries, who are interested in us teaching family history courses and English classes, but they have yet to contact us. The Church does own a peanut butter factory down here in our zone, so we are going to go volunteer there sometime next week I think. 

They have places that have the same likeness of Rancheritos, but they're all different. Delicious breakfast burritos do not exist down here. It's mostly tacos, with meat ranging from good stuff to gross things like cow tongue and intestines. We rarely cook. We either eat at cheap taco trucks, members houses, or fast food places. We are trying to cook more though, to save some money. It is hard because we don't have that much time to go back to our apartment and cook dinner. 

I've only been in Houston for about 3 weeks now, and I've already seen countless miracles, like this one: We get a lot of Bible referrals, which is a great way to find people and give them free Bibles, but we hadn't found any Bible referrals that were very interested in our message. This past week, we visited a woman named Gracy who requested a free Bible. She has been confined to her bed for the better part of the last 3 or 4 years and her skin burns from the inside out, which has been agonizing pain to endure. Anyway, she explained that she still feels the Savior's love for her, and prays many times a day. We've started teaching her, and she's been super interested in everything she's heard. She's already been reading in the Book of Mormon, and watched some of General Conference over the weekend. She wasn't able to watch the Saturday morning or afternoon sessions, but when we told her that there would be a Priesthood Session, she wanted to watch it. We explained that it was more geared towards the men, but she still wanted to and even said "I'm going to watch with my 12 year old grandson!" We're hoping she continues to have the desire to learn more.

We watched General Conference at our local ward meetinghouse and I loved it. They aired the Spanish broadcast in the chapel, and the English broadcast in the Relief Society room. I'm just grateful I got to hear it in my native language after hearing Seth's stories about trying to listen to it in Indonesian. Conference was really awesome. I am kind of sad that I didn't really listen all that well earlier in my life, because there's so much that can be gained from it. As Elder Holland said that, I immediately thought of both you and dad, and how you'd talk about how you never wanted to leave the temple each time you go. I understand that feeling now. I was ready to leave the MTC, but I didn't like knowing that I would be going into "The lone and dreary world." The millennium sounds like such an awesome time where we get to live in a Zion-like society without crime. I'm pretty excited. I think we have to experience the Telestial world for a bit before we can truly appreciate the Celestial Kingdom!

Like all of Elder Holland's talks, I loved his, but there was one line that really stuck out to me from Elder Dallin H. Oaks. He said that there's a lot of talk about how things from the Church's early history that might shake people's faith, and lots of speculation about what Joseph Smith did or did not do, but we are reminded that, "By their fruits, ye shall know them." The Book of Mormon is one of those fruits, and it stands on its own as a witness and evidence of the divinity of the Restoration of Christ's Church. 

-Elder Barrus

Thought you might want to see what our apartment looks like