Monday, September 18, 2017

Fresh From the MTC

Hey everyone how are things? This week I found out that I would be training a new missionary again. Before I was to find out on Thursday, I spent a couple of days in the Houston 6 area with Elder Christensen. It's an area that's a lot like the first area I served in. Lots of low income areas that you need to avoid after dark. But it was fun. You see a lot of interesting things that you don't normally see. And then on Thursday we picked up our new missionaries. There were 24 missionaries that came in so there's been a lot of turnover in the mission.

My new companion is Elder Broschart from San Tan Valley, Arizona. He's a really good kid that is motivated to work hard and give his all to the Lord. He studied really hard in the MTC and already has pretty good Spanish. He understands a lot and is improving rapidly on speaking the language. We've put in a lot of work already in a short period of time. On his first door he knocked, we got let in by an 18 year old named Carlos from El Salvador. He was really interested in what we had to say and loved the emphasis on peace and hope.

Also on Friday we had an all mission zone conference with Elder Uceda and Elder Daniel Jones of the 70. It was really awesome. Elder Uceda had tons of energy and enthusiasm despite arriving in Houston by airplane at 1 AM Friday morning. He talked about Matthew 28:19 which reads:

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

He expounded on that scripture by saying that the original translation for the word teach is a Greek word that actually means "to make disciples." So he focused on the importance of helping our investigators become true disciples of Jesus Christ rather than just teaching them.

Another missionary before me hung up a story on the wall about the process of refining silver. Very relevant to our experience here as mortals and especially as missionaries. Recently I've been listening to a lot of Elder Holland talks in the car and there's been an underlying theme in almost all of them about suffering being a part of the process of true discipleship. I hadn't really thought about that before. I thought if we did good and kept God's commandments we'd have easy carefree lives. However, it is not the case.
Elder Garcia's last day in Oakcrest with our ward mission leader, Hermano Casco and his wife

Elder Barrus
THM

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Transfers!

We got transfer calls last night and surprisingly my comp, Elder Garcia is leaving the area. I thought that I would leave but I don't mind staying in the Oakcrest ward at all. They've been good to us and feed us really well. Elder Garcia is a little sad but he's going to be a superstar missionary when it's all said and done, so he'll find success anywhere he goes. Also his mother and little sister are getting baptized this Saturday so he's really excited about that. His 13 year old little brother told the missionaries he doesn't want to. It's alright though, he'll get there.

This week was good. We were able to get back to a normal missionary schedule on a few days. We went with a group of members on Saturday and Sunday to do some flood cleanup 30 minutes south of our area.  As we got out and talked to people we realized how much people had been humbled by the recent events in the world. There was one lady named Brenda who let us in because she had some questions about God in light of all the natural disasters. She admitted she wasn't super religious but the recent events definitely left her seeking some answers. It's been very intriguing to see the hand of the Lord help open the eyes of others who don't claim to be to into the whole religion thing. It reminds me of a scripture in Alma 32:13 which says:

"And now, because ye are compelled to be humble blessed are ye; for a man sometimes, if he is compelled to be humble, seeketh repentance; and now surely, whosoever repenteth shall find mercy; and he that findeth mercy and endureth to the end the same shall be saved."

 And then something else that came to me is a quote from a talk by Jeffrey R Holland titled "Borne Upon Eagles' Wings":

"I decided that if those men had to go to the penitentiary to take advantage of the gift of mercy--and if by going there, they found the gospel of Jesus Christ or the scriptures or the Atonement--then their imprisonment was worth it.

So let us go to the place of penitence--to the bishop or to the Lord or to those we have offended or to those who have offended us. We have our own little penitentiaries, I suppose, all around us. If going there is what it takes to make us truly penitent and to enable us to lay claim to the gift of mercy, then we have to do it."

So all in all I've come to realize that if we need to go through a crisis or a difficult trial in our lives in order to truly be humbled, then it is worth it. So never forget that.

Elder Barrus
THM

September birthdays
Unfortunately I only managed to come up with one picture this week but for district meeting on Friday we did a birthday bash because 5 of the 6 members of our district have birthdays in September. Elder Hunt, Elder Garcia, Hermana Fluckiger, Hermana Hurst, and I.(And Elder Garcia didn't even tell me it was his birthday on Tuesday because he doesn't like birthdays!)


This is a really great video that shows some of the work the members and missionaries are doing to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey. 


Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Cleaning Up

It was nice to get out of the apartment early last week and start helping with the disaster cleanup efforts. Only one family from the Oakcrest ward had their home flood so it wasn't too bad in our area. We spent most of our time helping out various families south of our area. It was crazy. Entire neighborhoods got flooded and are filled with garbage and debris on both sides of the street. People were very grateful to receive our help though. And not even one person slammed the door in our face! So it was a good week. This week we are going to find the balance between giving service and proselyting. I'll attach some pictures below.

This past week as we helped various families clean up their homes, I reflected on the process of repairing a home that's been damaged by water. First you have to get in the house and take out everything that got wet. Mattresses, tables, chairs, dressers, bookshelves, you name it. As soon as the furniture is out, you have to start tearing out the carpet in the house and the pad underneath it. Then you tear out the sheet rock and insulation from the wall in the entire house. As soon as that's finished you must let the house dry out, which can take up to several months. 

This is what is piled up in front of every home. 
I liken this process to the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Sometimes we have spiritual floods that happen in our lives which can be any type of crisis that happens in our lives. Loss of job, sickness, death of a loved one, etc. It is in those times that we usually have to look in the mirror and identify what needs to change. We start with the big stuff, the "furniture problems" like major sins we have not repented of or bad habits we may have. Bit by bit we try to remove everything we can that is not in harmony with the Lord's will, which is both challenging and an ongoing process. However, as we take those things out of our lives that have accumulated mold from all the moisture, the musty smell of wet furniture starts to diminish. After everything has been removed and is dry, you are ready to replace the carpet, sheet rock, furniture, and flooring that was damaged. This is like replacing our bad habits, thoughts, or surroundings with positive and constructive things. As painful and laborious as the process may seem, it is well worth it, because instead of living in a house festering with mold, water damage, and a horrid smell, you are living in a clean house that smells nice. So never forget that regardless of the cost or effort it may take to clean our lives up, we can do it. We just have to be patient with ourselves and with the Lord and trust that he'll help us make the transformation as long as we do our part.

Anyways that's all from here. Pray for Texas and for those affected by the flooding.

Elder Barrus

THM

Hurricane Harvey Helping Hands

First house we helped with--an elderly couple.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

God Bless Texas

This is the first email we received August 28, 2017


Good morning mom and dad! I just wanted to give you an update on how things are going down here. Currently where I am at in Tomball things are fine. We have been told not to leave our apartments so I haven't seen much of what anything else looks like, but outside our apartment everything is fine. There is no flooding as far as the eye can see and we are up safely on the 3rd floor. It's getting a little boring inside the apartment but I've almost finished the New Testament.

Anyways, I hope that all is well and just know that your prayers have been felt.

Love, Josh

This is the one we received later in the day. 


Whelp this has been a weird week with an unexpected turn of events to cap it off, but I'll start with the positive. We visited Sergio and Perla, a part member couple whose parents are active in our ward. As we started to get to know them a little bit, Sergio mentioned to us that he wants to get baptized and sealed in the temple with his girlfriend. Kind of a shock to us because we had barely met him, but not unwelcome. They are going to get married on December 15th but we will teach and meet with them leading up until then.

As well, another part member family named the Morales just returned from Mexico so we met with them. They talked about how much they liked the church's focus on strengthening families and raising children in good homes. The wife Itzia talked about how she's inactive and some of her doubts and concerns. Her husband Jose talked about how much he liked going to church, but he hasn't been able to go for awhile due to work. We asked some more question and asked them what their goals are and how they expect to achieve them. They opened up about how hard it is to change their lifestyle. So we just testified about how God will help us if we make sacrifices in order to follow him. It reminded me of a scripture in The Book of Revelation 12:11 in the Bible that describes how the war in heaven was won:

"And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death."

I thought about that last line in the verse and how it applies to me. It is possible to love our lives unto the death. Sometimes we can get very distracted here in this life and lose sight of the purpose of our very existence: to make it back to God's presence. Satan has done a really good job of distracting us of our ultimate divine purpose. If we wait too late to repent and become true followers of Christ, we will not be able to reach our potential as children of God.

As well, midweek we received an email from President Peterson about a tropical storm brewing in the Gulf of Mexico headed for the Texas coast. Eventually it developed into a category 4 hurricane that hit the Texas coast just west and south of Houston. It has been raining ever since Friday. Apparently there is some catastrophic flooding in parts of Houston, but where we are at there isn't much. But they canceled church yesterday and we have been instructed to stay inside both yesterday and today. So I've read a good portion of the Bible and I've wiped the floor with Elder Garcia in chess. We've definitely prayed a lot and continue to pray for those impacted by the flooding in various parts of Texas. We are anxious for the storm to die down so that we can get out there and start helping with the recovery efforts.

Anyways, be safe y'all. God bless Texas.


Pretty much sums up the last few days

Barbecue with the Reyes family


Shout Out to Elder Garcia!

This email was sent August 21, 2017

Hey y'all honestly it wasn't too eventful of a week this week but a few things did happen. First and foremost I would like to give a shoutout to mi hijo amado Elder Garcia who had his 8 week follow up training on Wednesday. He did really well and it was an edifying meeting. It was interesting attending the meeting from the perspective of a trainer.

This week we focused a lot on receiving referrals. The key with gaining the trust of the members is getting to know them. So we tried to stop by whatever members were in the area whenever we were out knocking and ask for a drink of water or to share a 10 minute lesson. It worked really well. We feel like the members know us and can trust us. We got some good potentials who we are going to visit this week so I'll let you all know if we pick up some solid new gators next week. 

Elder Barrus
THM

It was a L-O-N-G Saturday

Stabio Family Farewell Party

This email is from August 14, 2017

What's up fellas? This week was kinda slow but we had a lot of fun. First off it's been very rewarding to continue to work with Pascual and his family. They are making lots of progress and there is a special feeling in their home. Pascual told us this week about some goals he's made recently. He is planning on saving money with his wife so they can buy a house and move their family out of their mobile home. He works as a welder and actually makes a lot of money, but in the past he blew a lot of it on beer. Now he's using that money to put his family in a better neighborhood. The Gospel not only helps people be happier, but also helps them achieve their goals.

As well not too much happened besides the fact that we knocked lots of doors. We didn't really find any solid people to teach but we'll keep at it and they'll come. The prepared people are out there, we just have to find them. I have learned that we can't force the issue as missionaries. If people don't want it, we move on. It's as simple as that. Find out what people want or are looking for, help them understand that the Gospel will help with that and promise specific blessings.


Going away party for the Stabio family


On Friday we went to a going away party for the Stabio family. They are a super cool family that is going up to the University of Wisconsin so the father can get his master's degree in business. The wife didn't speak any Spanish 4 years ago, but then they decided to attend a Spanish ward and her hand was forced. So she learned and now speaks it better than a lot of the missionaries that come through here. They are good examples to me of a strong family that loves, serves, and does all they can to live a quiet, Christlike life. I want to be that type of member when I return from my mission.

That's about it from here. Ándale pues!

Elder Barrus

THM

"And he inviteth them all to come unto him..."

This email is from August 7, 2017

Que onda y'all? This week was definitely the most gratifying of my mission thus far. Pascual and his sons Oscar and Angel were baptized on Saturday and was a baptism that I will not soon forget. I had the honor of baptizing Pascual and Elder Garcia baptized his 2 sons. Pascual has come a long ways since when we first knocked on his door about a month ago but he was very prepared and progressed very rapidly. It was an especially happy day for his wife Yami who had been praying for him to change for awhile before we showed up. I already know that the Oropeza family will be a strong family in this church that will be leaders and will send their boys on missions. It was days like Saturday that made all of the sacrifice, frustration, and hard work of the mission worth it. I've been extremely blessed and fortunate to be in the position I'm currently in and to have had the
experiences I have had thus far on my mission. Just makes me want to continue to do my very best because you never know who may be on the other side of that door.



The Oropeza Family


Elder Barrus, Pascual, and Elder Garcia

The District 
Besides the baptism we've been working hard to refill the teaching pool so we can continue this wave of momentum. On Sunday we stopped by a guy we talked to about a month ago named Kevin who we gave a Book of Mormon to. He came out a little bit drunk and started going off on how everything related to Mormonism was wrong because there's a depiction of a white Jesus appearing to the ancient inhabitants of the Americas in the pictures section. He talked about racism and how we are racist and how he will grow up telling his son that Mormons are racist and not to associate with them. And then he said "Your belief in a white Jesus is ruining the future of this country!"  We honestly didn't say much to him, we both were just shocked by how bold he was. I wanted to point out a Book of Mormon verse that says:

"...And he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his
goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white,
bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and
all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile."

But ni modo, I wasn't upset, just amused at how passionate some people can be about simple things.

That's about all from here, look forward to hearing back from y'all next week!

Elder Barrus
THM

Monday, August 28, 2017

Transfer Calls--We're Both Staying!

This email is from July 31, 2017

Last night we got the transfer calls but Elder Garcia and I are staying together for one more transfer so I get to continue imparting my wisdom with him. 😀 We've got things rolling here and are excited to reap the harvest over the next 6 weeks.

To start out we finished teaching Pascual and Oscar the lessons on Friday and he understood and liked the commandments. He's been listening to the Book of Mormon every day at his job as a welder and is now in Jacob. We've seen such a change in him. His whole countenance has changed since we first met him. He came to church for the fourth week in a row and is ready to be baptized this Saturday with his son Oscar!

Also on Friday we visited a Venezuelan family that had been coming to English class and it went super good! They talked about their transition from Venezuela to here and how they had to start at square one economically and socially. But we shared 2 Nephi chapter 1 verse 6 that talks about how those who come to this country are brought by the hand of God. Neysi, the mama of the family loved that scripture and how after it talks about the Lord prospering those that keep His commandments. They committed to come to church and Neysi actually ended up coming and loving it.

That's really all the noteworthy things that happened this week but I'll try to include some better stories and stuff next week.

Elder Barrus
THM

Exchanges with Elder Hunt. I love this guy!







"Why I Believe" Fireside

This email is from July 24, 2017

Well, this week I think I officially hit 6 months til I get home. Elder Garcia's been whipping me into shape and we've been going running 2 miles every single morning for the past week. It's been rough but it's made a difference already.

This week was business as usual and Pascual is still the man. He's been telling us about the changes he's seen in himself since we started meeting with him and even his wife agreed. The wife never lies! As well we met his oldest son Kevin this week. He's really shy but he's super open to learn more and change his life. He'll come around. Pascual even referred us to his neighbor Jose though! He told us he's not much of a church person but that Pascual raved about how we were helping him change his life and be a better husband and father and he said he was down to learn more. So we'll go back this week to see what's up.

Today we got a text from the Honduran family telling us that they didn't feel ready to be baptized and are going to discontinue receiving the discussions and coming to church. They didn't really tell us why but we'll try to stop by this week to get the story.

Lunch with this cool family--the Arredondos

Boris at the "Why I Believe" Fireside
Also on Sunday we went to an English "Why I believe" fireside that was pretty darn cool. At the end I noticed a Venezuelan guy from the audience that looked kind of familiar and he came up to me and said he remembered me! His name was Boris and way back when I was in Katy, Elder Sellers and I visited him once and then could never get back in because he was super busy. Come to find out that he's going to be baptized this Saturday. I guess you'll never know the impact of your missionary service until later sometimes. That taught me how critical it is to know our role and be true disciples day in and day out, regardless of the numbers or immediate results.

Elder Barrus
THM

Bowling with the District

Monday, July 24, 2017

Another Super Good Week Here in the Heart of Texas

This email is from July 17, 2017

Hey y'all we had another super good week down here in the heart of Texas. We definitely saw the Lord's hand and were able to set 6 baptismal dates in our area for the month of August. First was with Pascual and his son Oscar. They were both really excited to accept the date of August 5th. We can definitely sense that they are changing and showing fruits of repentance. When we asked Pascual's wife what this meant for her family, she told us that she had been praying for her husband to change and a few days later we showed up knocking at their door. We are also working with 2 of their other sons, Kevin who is 18 and Francisco who is 14. They have expressed interest, it's just a matter of helping them know how to receive an answer from God.

As well we were able to set a date for August 12th with Reyna, Tatianna, Angie and Antony. We held off on officially setting one with Nelly and Horacio just because they still aren't super set on getting married. Nelly told us on Saturday that if she sees a change in Horacio, she'll marry him.

Zone Leaders at MLC
On Friday I went on an exchange with my ZL comp Elder Cammack and it was awesome! He's from Idaho and we have a lot of the same interests. We knocked doors for 3 hours in the 100 degree heat and definitely felt the heat. But this summer doesn't feel as bad as last year. Maybe I'm just used to it. People out here are usually pretty nice and offer us water bottles even if they're not interested in what we have to say.


Norberto
On Saturday I went back up to Waller to attend Norberto's baptism. He's come a long way since when I taught him. He's definitely shown a lot of faith and humility, even if plenty of family opposition and challenges during it all. I already know he's going to be a great leader in this church.

And to top it all off, on Sunday we had 8 of our investigators come to church which amounted to 13 people who came if you include the children under the age of 8. It was a really rewarding sight especially after having worked so hard during the week. I'm really enjoying the mission and know that these last 6 months are going to fly by as we continue to pound the pavement and build relationships with the members in the ward.

-Elder Barrus

THM!

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