Monday, September 19, 2016

Hispanic Heritage Night and Soccer Contacting

This week was a solid one here in Westgreen. We taught some good lessons and found some new people to teach, which is always nice.

I feel bad because I can't really think of anything too interesting that happened this week, so this email is probably going to be a little boring but I'll try to spice it up a little bit.

One thing that we've been trying to implement to find more people to teach is by going to the soccer fields. Mostly it consists of us walking up to families who are playing in the park or watching their children play soccer and invite them to be taught by us. Usually they decline, but hopefully it at least plants a seed.

Heritage Night at the Westgreen Ward

Hermanas Rivas and Calderon were happy to have a night where they could speak Spanish fluently.
On Friday night our ward had a party celebrating Hispanic heritage. Since we have Hispanics from many different countries, people brought food and other stuff from their own countries. We have members from Mexico, Peru, El Salvador, Venezuela, Bolivia, Guatemala, and Colombia. So we were graced with some really good food, because Hispanics always come through with that. I've had at least 3 members here tell me that I look fatter, but it's worth it because the food is phenomenal and it makes Hispanic women happy to see you eat a lot.

Anyways, that's all for this week.

Literal Fulfillment of Prophecy Happening Now

September 12, 2016

Katy West Zone Meeting

This week was great, even though it was hard, it still was rewarding and the hand of the Lord was clearly evident through it all.

We are still in the process of increasing our teaching pool. We are knocking on doors, asking members for referrals, and doing all that we can to find people to teach, because teaching is our most important role as missionaries. In Preach My Gospel it says "Find when you teach, and teach when you find." So we knock on people's doors and share as much of the Restoration with them as much as possible until they tell us to leave.

We did have one miracle on Sunday that was remarkable. We felt impressed to go knocking in a wealthy looking neighborhood. Usually, we don't knock in those kinds of places because we don't typically find many Hispanics. However, after knocking an entire street with pure rejection, a man with a beer in his hand called us over and said he'd listen to whatever message we were sharing. So we gladly obliged, and shared a summary of the Restoration with him, he loved it, accepted and committed to read The Book of Mormon, and wanted us to set up a return appointment with him. He only speaks English, so we might have to give him over to the English missionaries, but it was nice to see after a week of almost no one giving us the time of day.

Last night we had a ward mission activity titled "Meet the Mormons" so members brought their non-member friends and we watched certain segments from the movie "Meet the Mormons," as well as listened to our mission president speak. He shared a powerful message and brought up a scriptural passage from The Book of Mormon in 2 Nephi 1:6 which reads:

"Wherefore, I, Lehi, prophesy according to the workings of the Spirit which is in me, that there shall none come into this land save they shall be brought by the hand of the Lord."

This is a literal fulfillment of that prophecy happening right now in America. It especially is something powerful to use with Venezuelans, because right now many are leaving because it has become far too dangerous and the government too corrupt. Helping them understand that they have been preserved by the Lord and brought into this land for a purpose is something that we will try to focus on in our door approaches this week. Later on in the chapter, Lehi goes on to say that the Lord will prosper and protect those who keep His commandments. So there are great blessings promised for those who are faithful and decide to follow God.

If everyone understood the wonderful blessings that come to them and their family, they wouldn't open the door, look at our name tags and say,  "Not interested". If they had any idea about the powerful and life-changing message that we bring, they would be knocking on OUR doors or chasing US down. But it's all part of the work. From the beginning of time, those who have taught the Gospel have not seen a ton of success, percentage wise. But it's the few who do accept and convert that make it all worth it.

Have a great week!

Elder Josh Barrus

New Companion in Katy

This email is from September 5, 2016

Last week was a hard week for sure. There's days where I have no fear and can talk to anyone and feel like I could go stand on top of a soapbox and preach in downtown Houston like the missionaries in the old days, and then there are other days where it is hard to open my mouth. That will always be the struggle on the mission, because Satan is really good at getting us to not open our mouths.

So on Tuesday we got our transfer news and I found out that my new companion is Elders Sellers from Colorado. It was sad to see Elder Curtis head off to Louetta, but Elder Sellers is great! He's spent the last 11 months of his mission in the country in Waller and Sealy, so he's in a little bit of shock being in an area with lots of people, but he's adjusting well. He has desires to learn Hebrew and will be involved with the gathering of Israel in Jerusalem, so it's interesting to learn about the prophecies that involve the gathering of the 12 tribes of Israel. He's very knowledgeable with the scriptures, so if anyone tries to Bible bash with us they might find themselves engaged in theological warfare, figuratively speaking of course.(As a disclaimer, we don't seek opportunities to tear down the faith of others, but if someone challenges our beliefs, you had better believe that we will do the best we can to defend the truth.)

Heading into this week, we had a goal to visit all of the "unknown" households in the ward so we can clean out the ward list and make it accurate and updated. We also have some focus families in the ward that we are helping either get sealed in the temple or return back to being active in the church. It certainly is a challenge gaining the members' trust and guiding them back to the Iron Rod when some of them have been less active for a long time. The sad thing is that many people allow themselves to become inactive because someone said something insensitive or offended them. We try to explain to them that the Church itself is perfect, but the members are not. We help them center their testimony on Christ rather than something someone said or did that wasn't right or whatever. Because if we truly have a good relationship with Christ, we will do all we can to go to church and partake of the sacrament so that we can evaluate our lives and see how we can do better going forward. If we have the mentality of enduring to the end and being faithful rather than worrying about someone who may have offended us, we will be a lot happier and at peace with where we are.

Before my mission I always thought that being a missionary only meant teaching and helping investigators along the path to conversion. But the more I think about it, the more I realize how much we need to be focusing on "building the kingdom" in whatever wards we serve in. This includes finding those inside and outside the church without testimonies and strengthening them so they can partake of all of the blessings the church has to offer. It's a remarkable thing to be a part of for sure, not only helping an investigator along the path of conversion, but helping those who have already made that baptismal covenant to set their sights on the temple and help them arrive there and get sealed as a family for time and all eternity. It certainly isn't easy, but it has been very fulfilling and rewarding work.

This week we found 3 new investigators that definitely have some potential, and tonight we have a family home evening with a member who is bringing her 2 friends, so we hope to add them to our growing teaching pool as well. It has been kind tough these past few weeks with finding some solid new investigators, teaching them the Restoration, and then not being able to get back in with them because they are "busy." It seems to happen every single time. It's sad and frustrating because you know they have felt the spirit and want to have an eternal family, but are too worried about what their family or friends might say if they changed religions. But so it is in missionary work, we lovingly invite and do all we can to help them feel the spirit and receive answers to their prayers, but people still have their own free agency that allows them to either act on the feelings of the spirit or to ignore them, unfortunately.

But overall, things are going well. I love being a missionary, I love serving the Lord, and even though it's the hardest thing I've ever done I know I'll be able to reflect on this experience as one that I'll cherish and hold sacred. My only advice to those who are either considering a mission or are unsure about whether or not to go, is to take it to the Lord in prayer. He knows what He wants you to be, and that you can become someone great in His eyes. Even though a mission is very difficult and requires great sacrifice, it is a great opportunity and blessing that God has afforded to many who are able and willing. It is 2 whole years where you can completely forget yourself and serve others with everything you have. In so doing you will find that God can change you, He will change you into the very person you want to become. It's an experience that can shape and influence the course of the rest of your life for the better if you let it. So please, take my advice and not only consider a mission, but serve a mission. Take a leap of faith. Regardless of the obstacles, God will help you overcome them because He loves you and wants you to succeed. 

I want to give my testimony that the work 75,000 missionaries are engaged in is God's work here on the earth in preparation for the Second Coming. I know that Jesus is the Christ. He suffered all of our pains, afflictions, and heartache so that He could know how to help us bear and overcome them. He suffered for our sins, and made it possible through Him that we might return and live in His presence if we will only repent and try our very best. He died on the cross, and was resurrected 3 days later so that all of us could one day be resurrected and stand before Him to be judged of our deeds. I know that Joseph Smith did see God the Father and His son Jesus Christ, and was called to be a prophet to restore what was lost. He was able to translate the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God, and by reading it men can grow closer to God. That is all, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Elder Curtis and I getting ready for rain

Knocking on doors in Katy, Texas

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Elder Curtis is being transferred :(

This email is from August 29th.

Whelp, we just got the news and Elder Curtis just got transferred and leaves tomorrow. It's kinda sad because we wanted to stay together for at least one more transfer, but it was a good 6 weeks. I feel like we got a lot of work done and had tons of fun together.

As far as the work goes, we had to drop Benito's baptismal date because we weren't able to meet with him at all last week. We still texted back and forth with him, but when we tried to set up a time to meet he kept giving us the olĂ© flakeski. It's been pretty frustrating because we don't know what his concerns are, so we don't know how to help him. It seems like this happens a lot in missionary work. Investigators start progressing towards baptism and are doing really well, and then they get cold feet and fall off the face of the earth. That's the thing that I've liked about being with Elder Curtis is how we always find ways to laugh and enjoy the work no matter how good or bad things are going.

Our favorite family from Venezuela--the Fuenmayors
This week caused me to reflect on how as a missionary we are called to find those who are 'searching for the truth, but are kept from it only because they know not where to find it.' We can Bible bash all we want, but we will not see very much success from doing that. It's gotten to the point where I can tell pretty shortly after knocking on someone's door whether or not they are prepared. It is always nice to remember thatmissionary work is not my work, but rather the Lord's. He knows what He wants us to do and be, so all we have to do is strive to do our best, and He makes up the rest. We don't have to do it alone. 

We got to go to the temple and I met your cousin, Mom! She
was working in the baptistry. She saw my name tag and asked
if I was related to you. Small world. So great to go to the temple.
I read a talk called The 4th missionary by Lawrence Corbridge as well as "Becoming a Consecrated Missionary" by Tad R Callister. Both of those talks suggested sacrificing our worldly desires and submitting our will to the Lord's and it has made a big difference. I feel more focused on the work and less interested in what's going on back home.

The district at the park on PDay

Exchanges with Elder Norton