Monday, May 30, 2016

Old School Book of Mormon

Getting ready to role play at Zone Conference

Zone Conference group shot
This week started out well. On Tuesday, we received a Bible referral. Now, 96 percent of the time that we receive Bible referrals, it usually is someone who just wants to show off their wide biblical knowledge and doesn't usually care too much to listen to our message. This guy actually turned out to be a pastor named Anthony, which made me super happy because I have been wanting to talk to a pastor for some time now. He was a real nice guy who we had a pleasant conversation with. He doesn't affiliate with any sort of religious denomination. (Like many, he used some arbitrary scriptural verse in the Bible to justify his own beliefs, but that's okay.) He's the type of pastor that conducts funerals and preaches in the prison and other houses of worship. He told us he would set up an event where we could be guest speakers in the prison and other houses of worship, which made me very happy. I've always wanted to preach, and this is my chance to do so. Also, Anthony told us that his mom was actually a super strong member of the LDS church and he had an old version of the Book of Mormon! He showed it to us which was real fascinating, because old Book of Mormons have pictures of archaeological artifacts that could represent artifacts from the time period from which the Book was written. 

Pictures from old Book of Mormon
We weren't able to teach any lessons to our three investigators at all this past week because they all worked late, but they all came to church yesterday, which shows that they desire to progress. Our ward mission leader set up a Family Home Evening activity for us and invited all of our investigators, so hopefully they have a good experience. 

On Wednesday, we saw a huge miracle. We were out knocking doors, and noticed one house on the street that had several cars come and go in a space of only a few minutes, which indicated to us that it possibly was occupied by people who sell drugs. However, I felt that we should knock it, and we did. The guy that answered the door told us that he was hoping we would knock the door when he first saw us, because he is a member who has been inactive for awhile, but feels that he needs to come back to church. He came outside, and we pulled up a few chairs and talked with him for awhile. We asked him what he missed, and he said he missed the guidance of the Holy Ghost in his life. He specifically remembers times in his life when the Spirit prompted him to "not go to that party" or to avoid a certain area of town, and he has seen the consequences of ignoring those warnings. He is currently going through a real hard time with regards to some legal issues, but we assured him that the Savior will never give up on him, and that we'll be there for him. Some of his buddies also showed up during this time, and they are going through some of the same struggles, and showed a desire to change, so we'll see where that goes. As I was pondering this event, I realized that it is possible that we were led to Anthony, the pastor, who would help us get into the prison to teach, and led to these guys who we might be able to teach, too.

Anyways, I love ya'll sons and daughters of God, and I hope that this email finds each of you well. If not, feel free to send an email my way, I'm always happy to help in any way I can, even if I only can on Mondays.

Elder Josh Barrus

Monday, May 16, 2016

"Gibbs and Barrus, what are y'all, a law firm?"

Good morning everyone! This past week I have definitely seen the hand of the Lord in His work. One of those blessings has been that Elder Gibbs and I have been safe and have not gotten robbed (yet). Now I am going to talk about some pretty cool people we've come to know in the past few days:

Miguel: This guy is super awesome. He came to English class last week, and told us that the minute he walked into the church building, he knew it was where he was supposed to be. So he came to church last Sunday, and liked it a lot, and we taught him the followingTuesday. His desire to learn for himself and study the scriptures is something that brings me a lot of joy, because I have come to love studying the scriptures myself. By showing God that we value His teachings and words, we show that we are deserving of receiving personal revelation, which has something that I find very gratifying. The only problem with Miguel is that he actually lives 30 minutes north, so we have to turn him over to another set of elders. 

Melvin: Melvin is probably 30 years old, and he's from El Salvador. He had been going through some changes recently in his life, and he started coming to our English class a few weeks ago. He came to church last Sunday, and we gave him a Book of Mormon without really explaining what it was and didn't think too much about it. Well, he actually called us a few days later and told us he had been reading and that he wanted to meet an hour before soccer night on Saturday so we could talk about it. He's a real smart guy who figures things out quickly, and he has the desire to read The Book of Mormon and to ask God if it's true. The only problem is that I did a less than stellar job of relating the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to his desires, so we're not actually sure he understands why or how the Gospel applies to him. That will definitely be a lesson that I can learn. But we're excited to see his progress in the coming days or weeks, the only foreseeable obstacle is that he works almost all the time. And I know what you may be thinking, "That's what people say when they're not interested." However, most of the men that we teach down here, when they say they don't have time to meet, they literally mean that they don't have any time because they work until 9 pm 6 days a week. I do have a lot of respect for them though, because they make the sacrifices necessary in order to provide for their families and don't really complain too much about it. 

Anyways, the last person I would like to talk about is Elmer. Elmer just came from El Salvador also, but his dad and brother are already baptized and active members of the church. He's come with them to church the last four weeks, and has a ton of desire to repent and do the things that God wants for him. Initially, we thought he was only taking lessons from us because his dad wanted him too, but now we've come to see that he has real desire to do this for himself. Last week we extended a date to him, but he wouldn't accept a date because he didn't feel ready, which was good because it showed that he is taking this seriously, although we tried to explain to him that helping him prepare for baptism was what we are here for, but still. He's a great guy who I have a lot of hope for.

In conclusion, this last paragraph is basically going to be some advice that probably no one is going to read, but should read, so if you're still reading this, good on ya. 

1. The first being, stay in school kids. You don't want to be gone from 6 am until 10 pm every night working construction. Trust me on this one. 

2. Also, I invite everyone to read the Holy Scriptures each and every day. 

3.Thirdly, church attendance is extremely important. When we go in the right spirit, with a desire to learn, improve, and build others up, we will come away feeling refreshed and edified. One of the first commandments God gave Abraham was "Be thou perfect." (Genesis 17:1) Obviously no one is going to be perfect in this life, but we can strive to be better each and every week by participating in sacred and saving ordinances. The sooner we start our eternal progression on the path that God has laid out for us, the happier we will be, and the more people we will be able to help, which in turn will bring more purpose and edification to our lives. 

I know that this is the work of the Lord. I know that Jesus Christ is the head of this Church, and He has restored His church through the prophet Joseph Smith in these, the latter days. I know that he always stands at the door, ready to receive us and help us on this path of peace and happiness. I know we have a living prophet who speaks with God, and he has 12 apostles that are called to be witnesses of Him. 

Elder Josh Barrus

Also, shout out to my guy Santos who went contacting with me
for 2 hours in the pouring rain yesterday. Super awesome member. 

View of downtown Houston

Houston Zoo

The Texas Houston Mission is the place to be!

Saturday we had Gio's baptism and it went well.
He was super excited 
to finally get baptized and confirmed!

Elder Tidwell and I on an exchange

The District at the park

The District Line Up at the Park

A couple of the elders had some extra jerseys, so we took some pictures in them.

The first 3 days of this past week were full of meetings, so not a lot happened. On Thursday, we formulated a plan to help this ward become spiritually self-reliant, because we realized a few things. We have to help the ward have better church meetings, because it is imperative that investigators have a good church experience when they do come.

Also, home teaching is something that struggles in the church, but especially so in our area.  We have already helped some of the men in the ward do some of their home teaching visits, and are encouraging members to call investigators and less-actives and invite them to things. The goal is to create more unity in the ward.

On Friday, we had our Mother's Day party at the church, and tons of people brought friends, but unfortunately there was really loud music so it was hard to hold a conversation with anyone. We are hoping to have parties in the future that are more interactive and fun. But there was carne asada, so I can't complain too much. :)

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

"El Angel Moroni Me Dijo..."

Thumbs up!
We had an interesting week, as evidenced by the title of my email. On Friday, we were at a Washateria hanging up English class fliers, and as we were about to leave, a drunk guy flagged us down from the car wash next to us, so we decided to talk to him. He definitely was not in the right state of mind, as he said "The Angel Moroni talked to me, and told me I needed to go to Utah, and you guys would take me there with you." (All in Spanish of course.) Pretty much he kept repeating himself and said a lot of things such as "I am from the tribe of Benjamin." Apparently he's been baptized into the LDS Church, but is now homeless and presumptuously an alcoholic, but I'm not 100 percent sure. I wish we could have helped, but there's only so much you can do. 

The problem is that virtually everyone has substance abuse problems of some sort, and aren't really willing to change. It also prohibits their ability to feel the Spirit. I don't write these things to complain, these are serious problems in society that need to be addressed, so my comp and I are wondering if an addiction recovery program could be started in the area. Honestly the biggest problem has been the destruction of the family down here. It makes me so sad to see so many broken and dysfunctional families. That definitely doesn't help things, especially when it's all you've seen from your parents, and their parents, and their parents, so on and so forth. It's helped me see the importance of setting goals to raise a family based on love, support, and The Gospel of Jesus Christ. Centering our families on Christ and His teachings helps us to have unity and happiness within our families. 

We've still been diligently trying to find those prepared to hear about the Gospel that will change their life, and still haven't found anyone that is really all that interested. We are going to start focusing more of our efforts on strengthening the ward and visiting less-actives, and it's gone well.

We're doing our best though. Christ makes up the difference, and that's comforting to know. Trust in the Lord, and He will never fail you. 

In answer to your questions:

1. I got my iPad on Wednesday at 8 week orientation

2. We got our packages and letters that had been sent to #635 in our apartment complex! The lady finally called us. Thanks for the package! Fruit snacks are always appreciated. Twix are too. 

3. I'm not sure when we can call next week, but I think there is a Skype app on our iPads, so we can do that. I'll let you know as soon as I can what time I'll call on Sunday.

- Elder Barrus