Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Which Way Do You Face?

Playing basketball with Elder Pogroeszewski, my friend, Collin Larson's cousin
The work in the Woodlands is business as usual. However, the work of the salvation of souls is not exactly "business as usual." So it's a privilege and an opportunity I cherish to bear the name of Jesus Christ and preach His Gospel and give service in the way that He would. 

One of the things that hit me hard in personal study this morning was in relation to changing our nature. I read a talk from a mission president from awhile back that talks about the 4 different types of missionaries. The 1st is a disobedient missionary who either gets sent home, or chooses to go home. The 2nd is a disobedient missionary who stays the full 2 years, but doesn't really learn anything, and doesn't impact anyone's life, and doesn't change. The 3rd is an obedient missionary who does everything he's supposed to, but against his inner thoughts and desires. He has feelings of resentment and bitterness towards working hard and serving. He still does these things and helps change the lives of people, but he only changes his behavior, but not his nature. The 4th missionary is obedient, but gives all of his heart, might, mind, and strength to the Lord. Not just his strength and his might. But rather he puts his goals, dreams, and desires in a hypothetical box along with his other material possessions back home, and he only focuses on the work. This missionary is happy. He is allowing the Atonement to work in his life, because he is choosing to allow the Lord to change him. Agency is the one thing that God has given all of His children, but He will not change us or help us be better if we don't choose ourselves to consecrate ourselves to him. The talk made so much sense to me, because unfortunately there have been times where I have given service begrudgingly to others, and I'm not happy. I have been faithful pretty much all my life in regards to service, but I haven't always chosen to be happy and willing to let God change me. So I'm striving to be like the 4th missionary, and let God change me.
Cute kids in the ward
So we are the only Spanish missionaries in the Woodlands and most of Spring, but there's several sets of English missionaries in the area, we just don't see them much, unless they come teach English class with us. The Woodlands is an area in the mission that can be discouraging for Spanish missionaries if you don't have the right attitude about it. The adversary has worked hard on me by telling me things such as "There's no point in knocking doors, there aren't any Hispanics in this area, and even if there are, they won't be interested, what are the odds?" I've come to learn that if you let those thoughts linger, you will start to believe them, and you will see the results you expect. Even if 98% of the doors we knock aren't interested in our message, it is always, always worth it to find the 2% who will. A few days ago we were out knocking in a middle-class neighborhood that seemed to be full of exclusively white people, but we found a guy from Cuba who was really excited in what we had to say, so miracles do come from finding.

As far as our other investigators go, most of the lessons we planned with them fell through, so we spent quite a bit of time finding this week, and found some decent potentials. We did have a lesson with that family from Cuba again, except this time it was just the parents, Ronnie and Amnevys. We got to know them a little bit more, and they talked about their lives back in Cuba. The sad thing, is that they came from Communist Cuba, where religion is allowed, but not in the public square at all. You have to practice in private if you want to avoid retaliation from the government. It has helped me understand just how critically important it is that we fight for religious freedom here in this country. We cannot allow those who are blinded by the adversary in the spirit of "equality and fairness for all" cause those with religious beliefs to lose their tax exemptions and freedom of speech and expression. If we eliminate religious freedom in this country, we will allow for our other rights freedoms to get trampled and dissolved, and we will be subject to oppression and unbalanced control by the government.

And now for some thoughts about The Holy Ghost and receiving personal revelation. Boyd K. Packer once said: "Inspiration comes more quickly when we need it to help others than when we are concerned about ourselves." Also, a little later in this talk he touches on accepting the will of the Lord rather than our own will: "Sometimes we are confused simply because we won’t take no for an answer. On several occasions when a member has insisted that something be done his way, I have remembered that great lesson from Church history. I have said to myself in my mind: All right, Joseph, give the manuscript to Martin Harris. Do it your own way, and see where you get. Then when you’re confounded and confused, come back and we’ll get you set on the course that you might have taken earlier if you had been submissive and responsive."

How many times do we think that we know better than God, or those who are called to speak for Him? We need to receive our own personal witness that the words and teachings in General Conference certainly are the words of God. If we study the scriptures, pray, and study these things out in our minds and we still aren't receiving spiritual confirmation, we must look inward. If there's anything amiss, we must repent and fix those things which block the powers of heaven that prevent us from receiving those answers. Gaining access to the powers of heaven and gaining spiritual knowledge and wisdom are inseparably connected. We must be keeping the commandments of God if we are to receive revelation. Sin blinds us, so always strive to be clean and worthy so that you can receive personal revelation.

It's so true. President talks quite a lot about "restoring sight" as missionaries. Truth and light is inside of everyone. We just have to ask the kinds of questions that will bring it out of them. Service is a huge part of it. If you can truly make a difference in someone's life, you've done good in the world.

Hope you all have a great week!

Elder Barrus

One of the families in the ward has a pet pig!

One of the young women that was baptized in the ward.

From the Hoodlands to the Woodlands

Good afternoon everyone. As I mentioned in the subject line of my email, I got transferred to the Woodlands, which is exactly like Houston 3rd Ward, except for it being different in every way. The Woodlands is exactly what it sounds like, a city where everything is surround by trees and fundamentally sound environment-loving citizens. The design of the city is pretty unique. The area is also gigantic, so we cover most of the city of Spring as well as some of Conroe. There definitely aren't as many Hispanics, but there is still plenty of work to be done.

My new companion is Elder Heiner, and he's like 6'5" from American Fork, Utah. He's a real cool Elder. He loves to play basketball so P-days will get real heated. He is really enthusiastic and has lots of energy and is really positive.

As far as the work goes, we have a few families that we are working with, and someone named Pablo on a date for baptism on July 9th. Our goal is to strengthen the ward here as best we can.

Yesterday we had a lesson with a family from Cuba which caused me to ponder some things. We asked them who God was to them, and the dad responded with "He's the creator of the universe, but other than that I don't really have a relationship with Him." It was really cool to ask him how he would feel if his daughter never spoke to him or asked him for advice, because I don't think he'd ever realized before that God is someone who wants to hear about our lives and goals and dreams. He talked about how he was a dentist in Cuba, but how he had to start all over when he arrived here in America. I could tell he was pretty discouraged with trying to learn English and becoming a dentist, and I so badly wanted him to know how much God could help with his goals. I have gained such a strong testimony of our Heavenly Father and how much He really does love us. He wants us to be happy, and we will do so if we follow His commandments and teachings. We're pretty excited to help this family see how much God can bless their lives, if they'll turn to Him.

Anyways, hope everyone is happy and healthy back in Utah or wherever you might be.

Elder Barrus

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Temple Trip and Transfers

Last time with Lenny, Franco and Alep
My week has been good! I was unaware that Houston is actually more like a tropical rain forest than anything else. It rained like every day last week, but still no flooding in our area. Scuba gear might be needed in August, when I hear it rains super hard for weeks on end.

The temple is a wonderful place. I was able to go last Thursday, and do some work for one of our ancestors, and I felt strongly that he accepted the work, and was so grateful to finally get out of spirit prison and start his eternal progression. Missionaries cannot do sealings though, so if you want to do the sealing for William Breton, born in 1646 in Lancashire, England...

Temple trip 
I think I'm going to reserve this space for an in-depth description of the miracles that I see throughout the course of my weeks here, because the hand of the Lord is definitely apparent, if you look for it. 

First and foremost, this week was pretty busy with tons of meetings, seeing as Elder Gibbs had 2 zone leader meetings, so I went on a couple exchanges with Elder Pigott, the District Leader 30 minutes up north and we visited a few people, We didn't have a whole lot of time to do much work in our own area, but we were able to have at least one lesson with Miguel, and he's doing so well. He accepted a baptismal date for July 2nd, and we can already see that he is repenting and following the path God would have him take.

Another miracle happened yesterday. The PiƱeda family, a family who has been inactive for about three years but has been returning these past few months, came to us and told us that their nine year old son wants to be baptized. Now, this is a neat thing, seeing as how a few weeks ago, we had a lesson with them about raising up a righteous posterity by relating it to the story in the Book of Mormon about the Sons of Helaman, and how it was the mothers who taught their sons how to have faith and keep God's commandments. We were worried that they took it the wrong way and that we were criticizing their parenting, but we did it out of love, so hopefully they just felt more inclined to teach their children the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Well, now the parents have a goal to go to the temple to be sealed as a family for time and all eternity and Elder Gibbs and I are so excited for them.

My companion and I talked about your very thoughts you shared about commandments last week. Like you said, we don't keep commandments to avoid the punishment of God, but rather we keep the commandments so that we can feel comfortable being in the presence of God. No unclean
thing can dwell with God, and if we did not repent and give our best effort, we would not be able to handle even being in the presence of God. And, the more we repent and change, the happier we will be. Men are that they might have joy, and keeping the commandments with exactness and faith will make us happy both temporally and eternally.

So I am actually getting transferred tomorrow, but I won't know where until tonight. I'm a little sad to leave this ward, cause I've grown to love them so much. If I don't return to this area later on in my mission, I'll definitely come back and visit after my mission.

Have a great week!

Elder Josh Barrus

The District as of May 2016

Sneak peak of Josh's new companion (on the left)

New Neighborhood

This week was full of miracles. The first one being, we were out visiting less-actives on Tuesday, and we found several neighborhoods on the very edge of our area that were really nice. It was quite odd because we are used to seeing run-down homes with tons of people loitering while drinking from brown paper bags, regardless of the time of day. This neighborhood was quiet, clean, and well-hidden. We contacted there a little bit yesterday, and it seems like there are a lot of Hispanics, so it's a gold mine of potential that we are very excited about. The nice thing about it too, is that it is much easier to identify the prepared, because people value their time more. If they are not interested, they will tell you straight out, which is really nice, because it's disrespectful in Hispanic culture to say no, so sometimes we have people who say they are willing to let us come back, but have an endless array of lame excuses as to why they are "busy" every time we go over.

We found a new neighborhood. (Downtown Houston in the background.)
As far as our investigators go, Miguel is progressing really well. We've met with him 2 times this past week, and he is rock solid. Has tons of faith, and has already identified the Spirit, which will go a long way towards his conversion and progression. We've also started to teach his 3 kids, and they are extremely prepared as well. The only issue that I can see, is that they live with their mom, and she is very much against them meeting with missionaries, which could cause some problems, but we are praying for a miracle.

Melvin came to a family home evening activity last week with the Robles family, and he seemed to have a lot of fun. I think that really helped him because when we taught him the restoration, he thought we were Jehovah's Witnesses, but now he knows that we're not, and that he wouldn't have to change too many things in his life if he were to join.

Also, the sister missionaries in our district had a baptism last Saturday with a real cool guy named Albert. Back in October, he had been meeting with missionaries, and they had actually set a baptismal date with him, but something happened that resulted in the date being dropped and the elders losing the trust of Albert. However, he still continued to come to English class, sports night, and church every single week for several months. We decided to have the sisters teach him, and they were instrumental in helping him understand the why behind baptism, and helping answer his questions and concerns. We are really excited to take him on visits with us, because we know that he will be very helpful in fellow shipping other investigators.

Anyways, just want you to all know that God is there, and he listens. It's cliche, but if we heed the counsel of His prophets and apostles, as well as read the scriptures and keep the commandments, we will see the difference in our lives, and we will ultimate have lasting peace and happiness.

Elder Barrus