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

Temple Trip Last Wednesday

Exchanges with my former companion, Elder Wells

Monday, May 15, 2017


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
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

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

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
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

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

Zone Meeting


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

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
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.