Monday, July 10, 2017

One of the best weeks I've had as a missionary.

Hey everyone! This week went by lightning quick! We saw some amazing miracles and can't wait for what's in store this week. Our week was one of the best I've had as a missionary. 

To start off, on Monday we had a lesson with a guy who we knocked into named Pascual. He mentioned the previous Friday on the doorstep that he was looking to grow closer to God. We came back for the return appointment on Monday to find out that his wife is already a member! She was baptized in a El Salvador but never went to church when she got to the United States. As well they have 5 boys, Kevin, Francisco, Oscar, Angel, and Eric. We taught all of them except for Kevin and they already have a special place in my heart. They fed us after our lesson with them on Wednesday and Pascual brought 3 of his sons to church on Sunday! He loved it and so did they. Next week they're planning on the whole family being able to get work off so that they can go to church. We are going to set a baptismal date with them this week. Their last name is Oropeza, so if you could keep them in your prayers I would appreciate it!

The family from Honduras that came to church the week before is doing well. They weren't able to make it to church because they worked, but they said that won't happen again because things didn't go well because it was on the Sabbath day. We are working on getting the Horacio and Nelly married. They don't want to, but we are praying and fasting that their desires can change!

As well on Thursday we met President Petersen and his wife and they were super awesome! Really great sense of humor, genuine, warm, down to earth people. I know that they were called of God to lead this mission and will do a great job.

Anyways, that's all for this week folks. Hasta pronto!

Elder Barrus
THM

Monday, July 3, 2017

Miracle of the Year

Hey everyone, this week was super awesome and full of tender mercies from the Lord for sure! To start out, on Tuesday we had our last MLC with President and Sister Mortensen and it was really inspiring. Tears were shed as it was the last time we saw them. 

Also on Tuesday Leo was baptized by Elder Garcia. It was a beautiful service and our obispo (bishop) told a story about the first baptism he had on his mission in New Jersey. It was a 60 year old woman and he dunked her on the short side of the font, but she hit her head on the wall and let out a scream. She still got baptized.  But Leo and his mom Daniela were super happy so it was a special night. 

This week started out kinda rough after the baptism to be honest. We rolled into district meeting with 0 new investigators, 0 investigators committed to come to church, and no one with a baptismal date. But our stellar district leader Elder Hunt pumped us up and promised us specific blessings so we left that meeting determined to get back on track. 

Well, we had an appointment at 5 with a potential investigator named Adali but she wasn't home so we started knocking the trailers around her house. We knocked on one door where a couple of little kids answered so we asked if their parents were home. They said their mom was in the bathroom, so we left them with a pass a long card and went on our way. We knocked a couple more houses, but when we turned around we saw the same kids we gave the card to outside with their mom, who was motioning for us to come over. So we walked over to their front porch and she said "Pasenle!" which means come in. So we did, and she asked us where the local Mormon church was. 

Apparently someone had invited her to church a couple of months ago and they looked online but couldn't find the closest one. So we gave her the address to the church and taught her,(Reyna) her daughter Tatianna, niece Angie, and nephew Anthony the Restoration. They all accepted it and said they'd be baptized once they know it's true. But don't worry, it gets better. They said they'd come to church and they actually did, in addition to Reyna's sister Nelly and husband Horacio. I went up to bear my testimony and saw Nelly in tears and all of the others attentively engaged. During second hour Gospel principles class the teacher asked if there were any questions and Nelly raised her hand and said "I want to be baptized in the Mormon church, but I was already baptized in the Catholic Church, is that a problem?" They are so prepared. So that's probably the miracle of my mission. We are going back tomorrow to see them.


Pues, God is good. Thanks for your prayers and support. And remember, faith precedes the miracle. 

Leo's Baptism

Leo and his mother, Daniela

Leo and Elder Garcia

Training a Brand New Missionary

(This email was sent June 26, 2017)

Hey everyone! I was notified on Monday night that I am training a brand new missionary! He's the freaking man, his name is Elder Garcia, he's from San Diego, California, and he's pretty much training me, he's a really good elder. He is a convert of about 1 year and 4 months, is the only member in his family, and has a really strong testimony. 

His best friend growing up was a Mormon and always set a good example for him. He met with missionaries in high school but never got baptized because he wasn't ready to make the change. He went to a year at BYU-Idaho as a non-member and one week when he was reading in the Book of Mormon he decided that he needed to get baptized. So he called his friend, who in turn called the missionaries and the rest is history.

Elder Garcia is paying for his own mission, he's a really hard worker, and we've hit the pavement hard early on out here. I already know he's going to be a really good missionary!

My new companion--Elder Garcia
New missionaries with their trainers
We've gotten off to a good start out here, I spent Tuesday and Wednesday with Elder Fitt and Elder Berry in a trio down in H6 and had a lot of fun. On Tuesday night the Spanish elders going home stayed with us and it was really cool to talk to them and hear their stories. 2 of my former companions Elder Curtis and Elder Sellers were there, so it was a lot of fun. We went to the trainer-trainee meeting on Thursday and I picked up my newborn hijo and got to work. We hit the pavement and found some really cool people. First was a lady named Nancy. We saw her mowing the lawn so we asked her if we could help. She asked us if we could take apart her plastic swimming pool and so we did, and then we sat down outside and talked with her for about an hour. She's from Honduras and is looking for ways to strengthen her family, so we explained the Book of Mormon and how it can bless her family. She was really appreciative of us and we're going back this week to see her.

As well we talked to a lady named Michelle on her porch for about 30 minutes on Saturday. She's from Brooklyn and has had some rough challenges in her life but she was really open to the message we brought and said she would love to have English missionaries over! So we sent them over and they've already met her and are excited to teach her.

2 for 2! About a month ago we knocked into a lady named Amanda who seemed pretty interested and so we referred her over and now she has a baptismal date for July 8th! Now I have the faith that prepared English people do exist, I never knew because most of my mission they've straight slammed the door in my face haha.

But anyways, all is well, tomorrow we have MLC and it's probably the last time I will see President and Sister Mortensen. I'll miss them a lot but I know that President Petersen will do well. He's inheriting the Texas Houston Mission at a really good time so things are on the upward climb. Love you all! Stay out of the heat!

Elder Barrus
THM


Dinner with the Stabios Family 

We saw a marijuana plant on someone's porch

Monday, June 19, 2017

Onward and Upward!

Transfer calls came last night and Elder Wyman has been voted off the island, so he's been packing all day today. I don't know who I'm getting so it's a waiting game until the APs let us know either tonight or tomorrow morning. 

On to how this week turned out though. On Wednesday we taught a sweet Venezuelan lady who we first thought was just being nice to us because she already went to the Baptist Church, but at the end when we asked her if she'd be baptized when she knew the Book of Mormon was true she said yes! As well she said she was excited to read the Book of Mormon because the introduction said it will help her gain peace and eternal salvation. She said her husband travels a lot but he is someone that would be interested. So we are excited about that. As well she told her Venezuelan friend who lives down the street about us and she wants to listen too! 

On Thursday we had our last zone conference with President and Sister Mortensen. President's training he gave was so amazing, once again. He talked about the growing problem of permissiveness in both society and in the church. He gave the example of parents who say "It's my child's decision as to whether or not he gets baptized", but they haven't taught the child so that the child understands the necessity of baptism. He then walked us through a couple of scriptures in 2 Nefi 2:14 and 16: 

And now, my sons, I speak unto you these things for your profit and learning; for there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon.

Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other.

And then went on to say that the world and the media do enough of the evil enticing, but that sometimes parents drop the ball on providing righteous enticement for their children. If our kids never understand the positive consequences and blessings of choosing God, they don't have enough information to make an informed decision. 

I was able to connect with Maria and Richard Smith this week (family friends). We had dinner with them. I had forgotten that Richard had served a Spanish speaking mission in Salt Lake, so it was fun talking about serving a Spanish speaking mission in the states. 

As well we were able to teach Leo and he came to church on Sunday so we're pretty pumped about that. Pues, de todos modos, until next week. 

Elder Barrus

THM

With Elder Wells and Kate's Dad, Omar

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

"Salvation is Not a Cheap Experience"

Mission Leadership Council June 2017

Houston West North Zone Leaders
We went pretty hard in the paint this week. We spent most of our time knocking doors and visiting the members. We found a couple of young adults named Jose and Carlos from El Salvador that were pretty receptive and let us come inside. They said they'd come to church and didn't, but we will continue working with them. I'm still working on trying to baptize someone from knocking doors. It hasn't been easy but faith precedes the miracle!

On Friday we were out knocking in Magnolia, the northern part of our area that we almost never go to, and we saw a plethora of tow trucks and police cars next to an SUV upside down in a ditch. Then we talked to these little kids that said "My cousin flipped his truck over and the cops found drugs on him!" They were pretty casual about it but it wasn't something you see every day.

And then on Saturday, we were out knocking when we stumbled across a group of drunk Mexicans who called out to us "Oye, quieren tequila?" (Do you guys want some tequila?) I've been offered a lot of alcohol thus far in my mission but every time I've politely declined. 

On Sunday we were pretty certain that we would find a lot of families but instead we ended up knocking this one neighborhood that was 100 percent caucasian. We didn't get so much as 5 words out of our mouths before they would say "Not interested" and close the door. One lady threatened to call the police and another asked if we'd like to learn more about the Methodist church before slamming the door. It was pretty rough but it caused me to reflect on the Savior's call to "Take up your cross and follow me." That cross wasn't meant to be light nor easy to bear. In fact, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland mentioned something about this in a talk I read recently called "Missionary Work and the Atonement:

I am convinced that missionary work is not easy because salvation is not a cheap experience. Salvation never was easy. We are The Church of Jesus Christ, this is the truth, and He is our Great Eternal Head. How could we believe it would be easy for us when it was never, ever easy for Him? It seems to me that missionaries and mission leaders have to spend at least a few moments in Gethsemane. Missionaries and mission leaders have to take at least a step or two toward the summit of Calvary."

But all in all, great things are going on here in Oakcrest. Leo will be baptized at the end of this month and we have a mom named Sofia and her son Benny who we might set a date with this week.

Half Horse Half Zebra

(This email was sent June 5, 2017.)

!Epalé! ¿Que pasa calabazas? I'm just loving Oakcrest the longer I'm here. The members are super awesome about coming out with us to lessons and fellowshipping our investigators. So shoutout to them for making the difference.

We've been working a lot these past few weeks on refilling our teaching pool and getting to know all of the members. We found a super awesome family of 3 that is really excited to guide their family in a way that will help them be happy. The husband isn't very interested but the mother and 2 kids are super on board.

As well we visited a part member family that had 2 super adorable little girls that already want to get baptized. It made me reflect on that family and how right now they're not on the path that will help them in the long run, but if they make some changes they will be on the path to be an eternal family. There's a fine line but I know that with some support we can help change that family's eternity. Working with families is the thing that has brought me the greatest joy as a missionary. And what a blessing it is that families can be together forever through the Priesthood of God.

Anyways, Daniela's son Leo told us that he wants to be baptized so we put him on date for June 24th. Things are on the upward climb.

Elder Barrus
THM
Half horse half zebra
Exchanges with Elder Blackford and the Uribe Family

Selfies with Elder Blackford and ward mission leader, Hermano Casco

Hermana Fuenmayor and Andres came to the fireside last Sunday



Spanish "Why I Believe" Fireside

(This email was sent May 29, 2017.)

After having baptisms in back to back weeks we've gotten back to the streets in searching for those who are prepared. In the process we found a family of 9 that listened to us teach about the Restoration of the Gospel. A few days prior we had talked to the same family sitting outside drinking cerveza (beer) and they said we could come back, but we didn't think too much of it because people are always nicer when they've been drinking. On Wednesday we called one of the guys who gave us their number and he didn't answer, but he called us back twice (which almost never happens) and said he wanted us to come over later that night. So we came back and everyone was outside, and they left 2 chairs for us to sit on. It ended up being a really great experience and they said they'll be baptized once they know.

Other than that I'm not really sure what else happened besides us knocking doors. On Sunday we had our Spanish mission president's fireside and it was President Mortensen's last. We heard some testimonies from some recent converts who overcame some difficult circumstances in order to get baptized. It brought a tear to my eye to see the lives of these converts as they've done their best to change what's bad and do what's good. As well I saw Liliana and Andres Fuenmayor from Westgreen while I was there! They were one of my favorite Venezuelan families and it was so good to catch up with them. They're still active and doing really well.

Anyways that's about it. I love you all. Write me sometime. ✌🏽

Elder Barrus

THM

Matching Ties

Monday, May 22, 2017

Baptism in Tomball

Week 2 here in Oakcrest was kinda slow but we finished it off with Kate's baptism so it was good. We spent a lot of time knocking doors and visiting less actives, honestly nothing too note worthy happened. It's a lot of fun showing Elder Wyman the ropes. I've gained a strong passion for building wards here on my mission and I enjoy teaching others how to do it. Not only are we here as missionaries to help others qualify for the Celestial Kingdom, but we're also here to build the kingdom of God. I've loved identifying those who are semi-active and helping them become fully active, which in turn moves the needle on our sacrament meeting attendance. The Gospel is so simple, we just have to humble ourselves and fully embrace it.


Kate's Baptism


Kate was baptized on Saturday by her dad Omar and it was a special day. Her dad was inactive for about the past 19 years but returned about a month and a half ago. He's been super humble and we've grown really close in the short 2 weeks I've known him. As well Kate brought one of her best friends to her baptism who loved it! She doesn't speak any Spanish but we'll teach her anyways because God is no respecter of persons. :)

Elder Barrus
THM

Temple Trip Last Wednesday

Exchanges with my former companion, Elder Wells


Monday, May 15, 2017

Tomball!

So on Tuesday I drove out to Tomball to unpack my bags in my new area, Oakcrest. It's a really big area. We cover Magnolia, Tomball, parts of Cypress, and parts of Houston. I think we have a bunch of English missionaries that are serving within the boundaries of our area. So maybe what we can do is have them knock doors for us and wait to receive the referrals they send us. We won't do that but it's always an option. ;)

My new companion is Elder Wyman from Cedar Hills, Utah. He actually knows Elder Wells from when they went to Lone Peak High School. He just got done being trained by my Peruvian homie Elder Miranda and now I get to greenie break him and polish him up a little bit. He's a really hard worker so it's definitely something we can work with.

This week was spent getting my feet underneath of me and cleaning out the area book a little bit. We had a baptism on Sunday for someone named Daniela. She was very prepared and said she felt so much peace during the service. As well we have been teaching a 16 year old young woman named Kate whose father was recently reactivated. She has progressed really well and really wants to do all that God would have her do. She will get baptized by her dad this Saturday.

Anyways, it was good to Skype with the family yesterday, everyone looks good and hard to believe that I'll only have one more of these Skype/FaceTime calls the rest of my mission. As well with it being Mother's Day yesterday I have to give a shout out to my mother. She's great. She's right up there with La Virgen Maria and Mother Teresa for greatest women of all time.

Elder Barrus
THM
Daniela's Baptism

Monday, May 8, 2017

Last Day in Waller

Last night we got the ol' transfer calls and I'm packing my stuff today because I leave tomorrow. Not sure where to but I'm hopeful that my next area will be just as good as this one. I'm really sad that I'm leaving Waller because I've met so many cool people and seen so many lives change. It's been quite the ride and I've loved the the miracles I've seen and the growth that has taken place in the almost 6 months that I've been here. I am hopeful that it will never be the same and that things continue to grow so that when I come back the Waller 2nd Spanish Branch will be the Waller 2nd Spanish Ward!

To start off this week, we had some good lessons early on and Mission Leader Conference on Tuesday. The next MLC will be President and Sister Mortensen's last in this mission. Every companionship in the mission has been challenged to have at least 2 people with a baptismal date heading into the month of June. We're a little bit behind on our yearly mission commitment of 630 convert baptisms, but if June goes well it will put us right back on track. As well we focused on making a list of all of those in our areas who:

-Had a baptismal date in the past
-Came to church
-Are unbaptized children of record
-Are in a part member family
-Are prospective elders
-Are recent converts

This has helped us identify those in our areas who are fairly easier to reach because they already know members and perhaps have already been taught. I love it because this is something that I have focused on throughout my mission. As I've taken care of what may be termed "low hanging fruit," we've been able to reach the harder to get to people. As well, we show this list to all of the members to see who they think would be a good candidate to get reached out to. As we've put eyes on the list, we've seen miracles.

On Friday we had a lesson with Norberto and Vanessa that was pretty rough. A friend of theirs introduced them to anti-Mormon stuff on the internet and they have been reading that straight for a week. We really emphasized the need to read in the Book of Mormon and pray and ask God if it's true. And then take their questions to God, ask Him, and study them out using the scriptures. We told them that we could answer their questions all day long, but if they didn't put in their part to ask God it wouldn't matter. We emphasized the importance of receiving answers from God and the scriptures, the ultimate sources of light and truth, rather than us, the internet, or a pastor. I honestly didn't leave that lesson feeling very confident that we could help them getting back on track. However, on Sunday Norberto showed up to church and we met with him, Hermano Bonilla, and Hermano Alvarenga after the 3rd hour. He was still asking a mountain of questions, which was good, but both hermanos really helped him understand the need to exercise faith and ask God in prayer if these things are true. It was easily one of the most powerful lessons I have ever sat in.

It reminded me of my own experiences with prayer and patience in having my questions answered. Certainly there are things in early church history that are not easy to read about, especially considering the times we live in. However as I learned to focus on what's really important, those questions no longer troubled me. I still don't know why God commanded the early Saints to do certain things, but I also don't understand why God commanded the early Israelites to kill or to not preach to the Gentiles during Christ's life. But what I do know is that God lives. Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and the Savior and Redeemer of all mankind. And I know that God has told me that the Book of Mormon is true, and that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, called to restore the same church that was established by the Savior over 2,000 years ago. I know it because I have received an undeniable spiritual witness that all of this is true. And I will continue to declare these things to be true for the rest of my life. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Elder Barrus
THM

The Zacarias Family

The Contreras Family


No Greater Joy

This email is from May 1, 2017

I can't believe there's only one more week left this transfer. It's gone by super quick. I've really enjoyed my time here in Waller with Elder Blackford. We've learned a lot from each other, especially how to love those we serve. The Hispanic people are my favorite for sure. 

Norberto and Vanessa got cold feet and pushed their baptismal date back a little bit. On Tuesday we reviewed the baptismal interview questions and they were all good to go. On Wednesday when the district leader Elder Miranda came to give the interview, they were with a friend who was a member of another church who tried to Bible bash with the elders. They didn't take him up on that because that's not very faith promoting. I'm all for reasoning with other people, but I've come to realize that we can show people the truth in the scriptures up and down, but if they're not willing to pray and ask God if the Book of Mormon is true, we can't really do a whole lot to help build their faith. But we will work with some  members of the branch who were ex-Evangelicals themselves to help the Flores family take the leap of faith and get baptized.

As well, on Friday I went on exchanges with Elder Pogroszewski, my ZL comp and had a blast. I love that kid so much and learn so much from him. We went to the temple to do a tour with one of his recent converts and I ended up running to Brittney, my recent convert from Westgreen out in Katy! She's doing super well, has a calling, and is still working on finding her own family names to take to the temple. It's always fulfilling to see those I've worked with remain active in the church and continue learning and growing.

Anyways, I love you all. Have a great week!

Elder Barrus
THM


At the temple





Add caption




We saw Brittney at the temple! She's doing great!

Exile hasn't been so bad after all

This email is from April 24, 2017

The latest from the Metropolis of Waller, TX is that Wilson got baptized on Sunday. He even spoke at the service. He's been golden from the start and we're excited to take him out to lessons with us.

As well we finally met with Vanessa and Norberto on Saturday after they returned from their trip to Mexico and they're excited for their baptisms this upcoming Sunday. They have their baptismal interviews on Wednesday so any prayers on their behalf would be much appreciated.

As well one of our English class students Lorena invited us to eat with her family on Monday. They offered us beer so we had to tell them we don't drink but it's funny how I've been offered so much beer on my mission. I could start collecting the bottles and selling them. But besides that they fed us really good carne asada so we've been taken care of out here.

On Friday I went on an exchange with an old companion in an old area. I was with Elder Heiner in the Woodlands and it was really cool to see the growth that's taken place in that area in the almost year that's passed since I left. We knocked into 2 inactive members in the same apartment complex, one from Argentina and the other from Venezuela. The guy from Argentina let us in and was basically reading us his patriarchal blessing, it was great. He said that he was expecting us to knock on his door because he had been thinking a lot about going back to church. For some reason I've really enjoyed being led to inactive members on my mission, it gives me a lot of satisfaction being an instrument in God's hands and letting others know that God still is aware of them, even after they've been baptized.

On Sunday we ate dinner with another of our English class students named Veronica and got offered wine, ha ha. But the food turned out really good and we had a good discussion about some of the desires they have for their family. They said they're Catholic but I think they would enjoy hearing about eternal families. Veronica was shocked when she found out we read the same Bible lol. It's funny to hear the things people have heard about our religion and to show them that we read the same Bible.

Elder Barrus
THM
 
Exchanges with Elder Heiner

Wilson's Baptism


Everything is Better With a Pinata

This email was sent April 17, 2017

I was thinking about it today and I'm going to hit my 15 month mark this month. It's gone by really fast. Just gotta make these last 9 months count!

This week was good. Norberto and Vanessa went to Mexico for the Easter weekend but we taught them the Word of Wisdom and Law of Chastity before they left so we had nothing to worry about. They should be all good to go for their baptism on April 30th assuming they returned home safely.

Wilson is still going strong. He passed his baptismal interview on Sunday and is really excited for his baptism this upcoming Sunday. It's been so neat being able to see his countenance change from when we first met him until now. Such a good kid and will do great things for the church as he progresses and stays active.

Last week we had a lesson with a new family we've been teaching. We found them while knocking doors and they've had a ton of enthusiasm in regards to meeting with us and reading in the Book of Mormon. It's a little bit tricky because they are all Catholic and tell us they go to church every week. But Lidia (the mom) read 5 chapters of the Book of Mormon between our first and second visits.(Which is rare, mind you.) So as they continue reading and we keep involving former Catholics in our teaching I have no doubt that the Spirit will work on them. They even say that they have a lot of doubts about the Catholic Church but tradition is strong, so if you could remember them in your prayers I would appreciate it. (Their names are Lidia, Joseph, Ana, and Alma)

On Sunday one of our English class students named Lorena invited us to her Easter party so we went. It was a lot of fun and there was a piñata and everything is better with a piñata. We were talking to her sister Veronica who also goes to English class every once in awhile and she told us she was excited to have us come over so we could "perform an exorcism on her husband." From what it sounds like she's gone through a lot in her marriage so we're excited to testify about the healing power of the Atonement when we visit her. So grateful for Jesus Christ and His Atonement. His sacrifice makes it possible for us to return and live in God's presence with our families as we abide by his teachings and laws.

Elder Barrus
THM

Easter Party with Lorena and Veronica
Keep Calm and Trust God

District Meeting at the Woodlands

¿Que Pasa Calabaza? 🎃 (What's Up Squash?)

This email is from April 10, 2017

Honestly we had kind of a rough week but life can't always be smooth and easy. On the bright side no one threatened to shoot us!

We started out the week with MLC on Tuesday and we received a shout-out from President Mortensen because our zone is doing awesome. It gives me a lot of satisfaction to see those on my team succeed because we're in this together. He even told us that the Spanish program has never been better, which is a huge compliment because just a few months ago he was not super happy with us as a group. All that has changed as we've tried to eliminate all the excuses that have been used to justify why we can't baptize in the Spanish program (Hispanics work 2 jobs and don't have time, they live together and aren't married, they prefer not to drive in the rain, the strict immigration laws, etc.) But it's been a huge testimony builder to me as to how you can always succeed, regardless of the situation you're in. There will always be reasons to fail throughout your life, but as you do all that you can, miracles happen.

In other news, Norberto and Vanessa are progressing nicely. Yesterday we watched Joaquin Costa's conference talk and asked them what stuck out to them. Vanessa said that she needs to consistently read in the Book of Mormon and seek an answer from God. She asked us how to recognize an answer from God so that was a sign to us that she's sincerely looking for an answer. She's come a long way. At first she would tell us that she was Pentecostal and had a boatload of questions. But as we've answered her questions using the Bible, she's come to the conclusion that some of the doctrine of her old church is inconsistent with the Bible. Now she says she "used to be Pentecostal", which is a lot of progress because Pentecostals are generally very strongly rooted in their beliefs.

Wilson is chugging along quite well. The branch has taken him under their wing and helped motivate and inspire him to continue along the path that God would have him take. So we're real excited for his baptism on the 23rd of April.

This weekend was hard... we had a lot of potential appointments set up and every single one of them fell through. We were looking to refill our teaching pool a little bit but faith precedes the miracle so I'm sure that as we continue seeking those who are ready, God will lead us to them.

Elder Barrus
THM

Zone Meeting

#TakeTheMissionariesSeriously

This email was sent April 3, 2017

It's been a stellar week here in Waller and things are still rolling with Elder Blackford and I.

This week the assistants committed us to set 7 baptismal dates as a zone. We ended up setting 7 as a zone to show the great unity and faith that's being built here in the Houston West North Zone. We have 14 baptismal dates for the month of April as a zone which is the 2nd most out of the 12 zones in the mission.

On Thursday we were able to set a baptismal date with Norberto's wife Vanessa for April 30th! She hesitated a little bit at first but then we told her that it was more like a goal, and if God gave her an answer before April 30th that all this was true, then she would be ready to be baptized. She accepted that and both her and Norberto watched General Conference on Sunday and seemed to like it a lot.

Wilson is still doing really well. He likes to read in the Book of Mormon and feels as though he knows it's true. He came to the priesthood Session and liked it a lot. Said he didn't understand a few things but that he felt good as he watched it.

All in all we are having a blast out here and the members are feeling the energy and all have desires to help us and share the Gospel with their friends. 

Elder Barrus
THM


I take selfies with the kids during the lessons to help keep them quiet. 
Selfie #2

Selfie #3
Branch Pre-Priesthood Get Together
We found a goat head in a tree when we were helping Norberto move

Goat head in a tree

We found a merry go round in someone's front yard. So we rode it.

So Happy Together!

This email is from March 27, 2017

The transfer calls came last night, and Elder Blackford and I are staying together for one more transfer! We could hardly contain our excitement last night, we were so happy.

We had a really good week. Ivan got baptized by his father yesterday and it was a beautiful thing to see. The whole Contreras family was happy to see him take this first step after 3 years of waiting. Hermano Alvarenga stepped up and talked about how he got baptized when he was 20 years old and served a mission shortly thereafter, and it was the best decision he ever made. He challenged Ivan to consider serving a mission seeing that he's 18 and will graduate this year. It was the perfect thing that had to be said because I felt the same way, that we needed to challenge him to serve a mission. That would bless him and his family so much.

As well, on Saturday we stopped by our investigator Norberto. His wife wasn't there, but we challenged him to be baptized on April 30th and he accepted! He and his wife came to church the next day and it was so awesome to see them get encircled by the members of the branch with genuine friendship and love. That's what is so nice about this area, if we bring investigators to church, the branch pretty much does the rest. As well they went to Ivan's baptism and missed the actual baptism by about 20 seconds. But nonetheless they still enjoyed it and felt the Spirit. Norberto didn't talk to his wife Vanessa about getting baptized, but we'll challenge her this week.

Wilson is still doing really well. We've been able to see a genuine change in his countenance as he's come to church and read in the Book of Mormon. We can tell that he is changing and wants to become a better person. During Elder's quorum yesterday he volunteered to bring the drinks for the pre-priesthood session get together this Saturday. We are so excited to see his desire to serve faithfully in the Church. I can't wait to take him out to lessons with us after he's baptized.

On Wednesday we had our zone conference and as usual President Mortensen blew our minds with his knowledge and wisdom. He helped us understand the difference between priesthood power and priesthood authority, as well as the purpose of the Melchizedek priesthood. I love thinking about how everything we do as missionaries helps other people to understand their purpose in life and how they can return to the presence of God. It is a grand privilege to preach the Gospel in this part of the Lord's vineyard, even if there are times when people tell us they're Christians and then threaten to shoot us if we don't get off their property. But all in all I've met so many wonderful people both in and outside of the Church who I've come to love and respect very much, and I have thoroughly enjoyed seeing the change and light that has been brought into people's lives as they embrace the Gospel and choose to live it.

Elder Barrus
THM
Our favorite family from English class that always makes us laugh
Splits with Elder Wyman

Ivan at his baptism

Ivan with his parents

While out knocking doors on Friday, a horse escaped and managed to evade the owner
for a good 20 minutes. So I took  a selfie.







Thursday, March 23, 2017

Waller Ballers

So today for P-day we played soccer with a member down in Houston and that was pretty fun.

It's been a good week, a little frustrating because everyone and their dog was out of town for spring break but nonetheless full of miracles and edifying experiences.

On Monday we had an FHE with Wilson and set a baptismal date with him for April 23rd! He also said he wants to marry our recent convert Yadira so we'll see about that haha.

On Tuesday I gave a baptismal interview to the Oakcrest elders' investigator Wilson and was very impressed with his testimony and desire to be baptized and serve in the church. And then on Friday we get a text from the Oakcrest elders telling us that Wilson dropped his date because he got cold feet and a ton of opposition from his family. He said he needed more time. He ended up coming to church on Sunday and telling the elders he wanted to wait 2 weeks to get baptized so it's all good, but it made me think about what I would do if I was in a similar position. It certainly wouldn't be easy to have family members telling me they strongly disagreed with my religious views and that I was making the wrong decision, even if I knew the truth. But as well I decided it's important to have some backbone and stand up for yourself because there will always be opposition to that which is correct.

On Friday I went on an exchange with Elder Miranda from Peru and had a blast. I'm really impressed with how much better his English has gotten over the course of only about 4 months here in the States. He still struggles understanding African Americans and those with thick southern accents, but to be fair everyone has a hard time understanding those heavy accents.

On Sunday Norberto and Vanessa finally came to church! They have a lot of questions but we are hoping to set a baptismal date with them if we can get over the hurdle of "I've already been baptized." But they are a lot of fun to teach because they make jokes and they're real with us. That's the thing I've come to love about the mission, the relationships you form with people you don't know super well. As well as how much better it is to teach someone after you've gotten to know them and their situation. The more you are genuinely interested in the lives of others, the more likely they are to listen to what you have to say. Elder Blackford has taught me a lot about being homies with everyone and it's helped a lot with gaining the trust of members.

Elder Barrus

THM

Splits in Waller

Where There Is No Vision, the People Perish

This email is from March 13, 2017

Whelp, we are already at week 5 of the transfer with no signs of time slowing down anytime soon. Elder Blackford and I are looking to stay together for another 6 weeks, but if not, it's been a good run. We've accomplished a lot and had lots of fun in the process.

To start, on Tuesday we tried to set a baptismal date with the Rivera family. They told us that they felt it was a little too quick, and that they wanted to be more sure that this was something they would commit to 100 percent before accepting a baptismal date. Fortunately we've been able to get back in with them 3 times since then and answered a lot of their questions and reassured them. Which was nice because they were very open with us. Usually it's hard to get those we're teaching to open up and express their concerns, but that hasn't been the case thus far with the Riveras. What's helped more than anything is the testimony of the members we've brought to the lessons to help reassure them. As missionaries we can try to reassure people until we're blue in the face, but nothing we say really helps until members step in and share a similar experience.

On Monday we started teaching a new guy named Wilson. He's dating a recent convert here in the branch and has now come to church the last 3 weeks. He shared with us his story about how he came to the United States 9 years ago from Guatemala, and got in with the wrong crowd. He developed some bad habits, but he's at the point where he wants to change his life so that he can live a happier life. So he's been very humble and more than willing to keep commitments, so we'll keep teaching him and maybe even set a baptismal date with him this week.

On Saturday and Sunday Elder Blackford got sick, so it was hard not being able to do as much as I wanted, but we still got out and knocked doors for a couple of hours on Sunday night.

Elder Barrus

THM

Monday, March 6, 2017

I Can Always Feel the Spirit Confirming to Me the Truthfulness of the Message

Pues (Well)... we had yet another stellar week here in the land of many bueys (oxen). (Not to be confused with the endearing term "güey", as in "¿Que onda güey?" or "What's up, dude?). 

On Tuesday we went to MLC or Mission Leader Conference. I had heard that it's the best meeting in the mission, and that was confirmed. Super uplifting and full of inspired counsel from President Mortensen. Then, later that day we had a family home evening with the Sosa and Zacarías family and talked about the Restoration of the Gospel through the eyes of investigators. I've taught that hundreds of times thus far on my mission and it never ceases to amaze me how powerful and true the message is. I can always feel the Spirit confirming to me the truthfulness of the message.

On Wednesday we knocked on doors for a long time. We found a new trailer park which we had never knocked on before, but was unfortunately filled with mostly grumpy white people. On the last door before getting to our next appointment, we met this couple outside named Chris and Daisy. They mentioned that they had been going through some stuff and were looking for more hope and guidance. We were able to testify to them that that's the reason we were there. They were in tears for most of the lesson and told us that hours prior to our arrival they had been talking about how they needed to start going to a church. They took it as a sign from God that we stopped by and we are going back this week to see them.

On Thursday after weekly planning I went on exchanges with Elder Pogroszewski down to Louetta in preparation for Zone Meeting on Friday. I've always enjoyed his passion and determination to win in missionary work. He doesn't try to be diplomatic and non confrontational, but rather tries to win, to find those who are ready to be baptized. At the beginning of my mission I was always too afraid of offending people, of introducing something new like the church or the Book of Mormon, but now I realize how our role as missionaries is to teach and testify of the Restoration. If we go around to people and never talk about the Restoration, they're never going to have the opportunity to accept it. There's many that won't accept it, but we need to be bold and find those who will. There are a lot of good people who go to good churches with nice pastors, but not one of them talks about eternal families. Not one of them talks about continuing revelation to guide us in these difficult times. It's our job to help these people understand that their church and belief in Jesus Christ is good, but that there's more that God would have them receive, like an eternal family, and the ordinances of salvation.

Come Sunday, we were expecting a lot of our investigators to come to church. Every Sunday morning we go knock on the doors of those we are teaching so that they don't sleep in or anything like that. At 10 o'clock we went and knocked on the door of the Rivera family, and they were about to leave to take 2 of their daughters to Catholic classes as they're getting ready to do the 1st communion. They told us that they don't get done until 11:30, so they wouldn't be able to make it to our church at 11. We were pretty bummed about that because they don't even go to the actual Catholic Sunday services themselves, they just take their kids to classes, but they haven't been able to find anyone else who can pick their kids up from the classes. At 11:15, we get a text from them telling us to wait outside the chapel for them. They came for the first 2 hours and loved it. The branch helped them feel right at home and in Gospel principles talked about how they received answers to their prayers asking if the church was true. When the teacher asked Fabian, the father of the family if he had prayed about the message the missionaries share, he said he had, and he felt that it was true. Wow! We are sooo excited for them and are looking to set a baptismal date with them this week!

Elder Josh Barrus

Houston West North Spanish Zone Leadership


The Zone on a tractor we found
With our favorite new member (cholo), Carlos