Monday, December 28, 2015

Mission stuff

Elder W. and Elder Barlow, Christmas 2015 
Hi family,
Well Mom, you asked for details. Friday (Christmas) morning we had a zone meeting (more like a zone party) until 1. Then we got dropped off at our Bishop's house to skype. He wasn't there. Well, our cell phone didn't have any more minutes so we were stuck and I was hard core stressing because you were all waiting by then. So we walked to the only open store around, a little gas station type store, to buy credit for the cell phone. A random member from Pape'ete asked us if we needed a ride somewhere. He took us to the family's house where I skyped you from. After quickly making my own account (since they didn't have one), I sent you the little message, and then you all skyped me! What a blessing to see your faces. But voilà, a little Christmas miracle in talking to you. Sorry you had to wait.
Okay, what else... Oh Wednesday was our missionary Christmas party. There were probably 100 plus missionaries there, and it was so good to see some of my friends from the MTC. It was the first time I have laughed so hard since leaving the MTC. 
Christmas night all the elders at our house stayed up until midnight playing Risk and eating gingerbread cookies that someone's family sent. After going to bed on time every night, midnight feels SO late! But it was worth it, it made it feel like a Holiday. 
We also engaged an investigator to baptism this week for the 9 of January. Hopefully that goes through. Oh before I forget the family where I skyped from is just some investigators who are really nice and have their baptism and marriage fixed. I actually don't know them that well because they have already received all the lessons and we just stop by once a week or so to check up on them.
On Saturday all our lessons fell through, and it was actually one of my favorite days so far on the mission because I was working. I went tracting! I just went around talking to whoever we saw and going up to houses. I don't know the area, I don't speak the language, but I don't care. I had the gift of tongues and actually tracted into some potential people. We set up lessons for this week. So that's good.
Anyways, tracting... everyone's house here has a big gate out front. So you walk up to the gate and shout out "Iaorana!" (hello) really loud. If people come out and talk to you, voilà. If not, you move to the next house. When people come out, you just say hi, how's it going, how's life, what's your name, we're the missionaries have you heard of us, would you like to hear our message, is there anything we can help you with, thanks for your time, okay, Na na (bye). There you go, my "door approach." We bike a lot and there's a lot of hills in our sector, so I have been eating a lot! I have my appetite back, which is awesome. I lost it there the last week or so on Ahe. I bought cereal and milk today! Woot woot. 

And that's awesome Ethan is going on a mission soon! If the Lord calls him stateside, the only reason it's stateside is because the Lord needs him there at that time, and no one else could do the same job he could do. I believe the Lord's servants are inspired, and I know that revelation is a real thing. The Holy Ghost is real and can actually guide people to certain answers or choices. 

Well, that's about it. It's really really hot and humid today, I sweat a ton this morning at the house. Alma 26:27 gave me some comfort this morning.

I love you all, and miss you tons. Praying for you each day, and I feel your prayers each day. I'm so glad you are all seeing blessings in your lives. Our family is a special one, and I think we have been truly "highly favored of the Lord." Happy new year, this is the last email where I can say "see you in 2 years!" Next week I can say, "see you next year!" Woot woot. Time is a weird thing. It has passed so slowly for me the past 4 months, but also kind of quick sometimes.

Love you all,

Elder Barlow

Joyeux noel!

Merry Christmas family! 
So Tavararo... whew it has been a long week! The sector is still great and my companion is great! We have normalish food around and all the members are really nice. But, we are en velo (on bicycles in our area). And there are A LOT of hills. Steep hills. For example, our house is actually in the zone leaders' area, and it is up on a hill (that's why we have the killer view). But that means every night when we go back to the house, we have to bike up a huge hill. I must have gotten really out of shape on Ahe, because this week has been absolutely killer! To give some validity to my claim of the hills being steep: my ankles got really bruised from biking! Haha yikes! Anyways, the Lord answered my prayer exactly how I asked. Now I have a great companion and we work hard. Our sector is down on the flatlands next to the airport and the people are all extremely generous and friendly. That seems to be consistent no matter where you go in French Polynesia.
Well, the work is going fine here. Apparently I came into a "drought" in this area. There weren't many "amis" (investigators) because they baptized them all! But the Lord blessed me on my first day out in the field here last Tuesday. We found a family of 11 who is now taking the lessons! Bam. And then throughout the week we found 4 or 5 other amis. So we have a pretty good amount of lessons going. For the lessons, I actually don't talk too much because my companion talks a lot. So we can work on that. But it's not a big deal. He's awesome and we get along really really well.
Today was a great P Day. The sisters in the next zone over organized a talent show and invited our zone. Everyone was supposed to bring a talent. So the 5 of us in our house (the 3 zone leaders, because 1 of them goes home in a week, and my companion and me) were sitting around one night trying to think of a talent to do for the show. Being goofy elders, we came up with a grand idea. Why not buy a bunch of cereal and milk, go on stage like we were going to do something cool, eat all the cereal, keeping the audience thinking that maybe something funny was going to happen, and then walking off the stage once we were done eating! Surprise! Haha so we did exactly that because we all loved the idea. So this morning at the talent show we went on stage one by one, poured our cereal, prayed over it (each person in their head), then ate, then finished! Haha some of the other missionaries watching thought it was hilarious, and the rest were like "What? I don't get it." But there was nothing to get. We just wanted an excuse to eat cereal haha. Anyways, that was fun. Then later the 5 of us went to Papeete and the mission office to drop off something for the zone leaders and pick up some more Books of Mormon. Then we went around this cool market place downtown. It reminded me a bit of Pikes Place market, but smaller and less fish, more touristy souvenir stuff. Then we went to Carrefour's, which is basically a shopping mall and it has a big grocery store inside too. We ran into President and Sister Bize there, so that was funny to see them. Then we all did our shopping and came back to the house. Now the zone leaders are over at their chapel doing mail, and Elder W. and I are here at our chapel doing our mail! I'm doing great but dreading the bike ride back home... Haha.
I don't have any wise scriptures to share this week. But I finished the Book of Mormon in English and I have 15 pages left in French! I've read the whole thing out loud in French and I am almost done. My goal was finish before Christmas, so voila. And after I will start the Tahitian. There was the huge Tahitian grammar book that I didn't get in the MTC at our house, and the zone leaders said I could have it. Boom. Another blessing from the Lord. And also lots of the people here know how to speak Tahitian. So I will be able to learn slowly but surely over time. Please just keep praying for my health, for me to have the spirit and the gift of tongues, and to love being a missionary.

Love you all and miss you!
Elder Barlow

Monday, December 14, 2015

Words Cannot Describe...

View from Jonathan's apartment in Tahiti!
Oh family. Can we have a moment of hugging and crying and laughing together because the worst is over. I don't know where to start to explain this last week.

Actually, start with reading 3 Ne. 14: 9-11. The Lord knows how to give good gifts.

Last Tuesday night, Elder Gruhn got a call. It was one of the senior couples who works in the mission office. They told him on Sunday that I would be taking the plane back to Tahiti with him! The mission is going to send sister missionaries to Ahe after Christmas. Okay, so that's the biggest news. But the rest of the week was really hard. I like my analogy of the video game last week. This week was definitely the last level, and the hardest level. After hearing Tuesday that I was almost finished on Ahe, I thought the worst was over and I could endure until Sunday. But then on Wednesday I got sick. Like really, really sick. That was a dark night. Thursday I was exhausted and weak, but continued to follow Elder Gruhn around.  Friday brought a new trial. A member who works for Air Tahiti (the airport system here) said my name wasn't on the list for the flight on Sunday. I had a moment of panic, thinking I would get stuck on Ahe. But after prayer and thinking, I realized it's all in God's hand. Saturday, the last day, we woke up at 5am and went on a boat all day. We watched people from Manihi (the next island over) race against Ahe in the little rowing canoes. It's called "ram."  Sunday was the last day. At church we bore our testimonies, then took pictures with the members. I have a ton of shell necklaces, called "couronnes" in French. They're a sign of respect, good bye token, etc. Then around 3 we took the plane for Tahiti.  It worked out with the whole plane ticket thing, there wasn't a problem there. So we flew back to TAHITI! I'm here in the town called Faaa, right next to the airport. Sunday afternoon the assistants picked us up at the airport and we drove to a stake center to meet my new companion. He is from Vanuatu so he understands a little English, but mostly he speaks only the language of Vanuatu and French now, thanks to serving here for 20 months already. His name is Elder Welecktabit (spelling? Not 100 percent sure haha) and I love him! Anyways, Then with Elder W and his old companion, who is still with us until tonight (named Elder Cooley from Kaysville) we drove back to the house. Our sector is named Tavararo. We live in the same house as the zone leaders, both from the US, so they all speak English there. Anyways, I feel like I woke up from a bad dream. I don't know how to explain it. No one will ever quite understand what I've gone through but God and myself, although I'm sure many other missionaries have had similar trials. Anyways, this morning I ate frosted flakes and milk after working out. All the elders in our house are normal, they like to talk to each other, they smile and laugh, there is hot water in the shower, I can drink the tap water. It's like I am in paradise. I love it here already! 

So, the 3 Ne. 14 scripture. God really knows how to give good gifts. Not only did he give me a good companion, but he blessed me with so much more. I can't explain all my feelings. It is too much. I want to cry with joy and gratitude. Thank you for all the prayers. The hard times are over. Last night while eating at an investigators house, my companion started talking to a family member who wasn't part of the conversation. He totally started teaching her on the spot! It was amazing! So I am confident the work here will be great.

Reflections on lessons learned on Ahe: before I left Ahe this week, I was reading in Mormon chapter 8. In verse 5, Moroni explains just how alone he really was. That totally related to me. I was completely alone on Ahe. Then in verse 11 Moroni says, but I had the ministering of angels. I had the ministering of angels on Ahe. Perhaps I needed to learn that lesson and it wasn't possible without the trials. Then this morning I was sitting on the balcony of our house here (did I mention we have a killer view?! I'll send a picture) and thinking. The other missionaries here are great, but they're kind of goofy and love joking and stuff like that. After my time on Ahe, I feel like a different person. I am kind of reserved, but also I feel like I planted deep spiritual roots. And my French is actually pretty good. I don't have the same accent as the Americans because I never heard an American speaking French on Ahe. Anyways, I'm sure I will see tons of blessings from my time on Ahe as my mission continues. My goal now is to become an effective teacher and to re-open my personality, rediscover humor, love life again, etc. It will take some time, but I am excited again. I don't feel homesick for the first time in two and a half months! Prayers of gratitude!!! 
 What is everyone's plan for Christmas? For me, there will be a missionary Christmas with the mission president on Dec. 23 for all the missionaries here on Tahiti and Moorea. That's just another blessing of being here. All the missionaries on Tahiti dream of being sent to the outer islands, but I would be happy to stay on Tahiti the rest of my mission. For now, I am happy, safe, comfortable, and happy. Did I mention I am happy? Haha. Love you all, praying for you all, Merry Christmas!


Elder Barlow

Wednesday, December 9, 2015


This past week was difficult again. It's like the Lord is raising the level of difficulty with each week and not letting me get comfortable. I think of it like a video game. Each week is a level and the following week is always more challenging. Hopefully after this week I will beat the game. 
Anyways, last week it rained harder than I have ever seen in my life. And it lasted for a long time. One of the little fields between the houses turned into a lake. We named it Moses Lake. Haha. The week was challenging because it rained so much. That meant no basketball on Monday and Wednesday, like normal. 
My thoughts this week have been all over the place. Besides not being able to exercise, I did okay most of the week. When I look back at the first week I was here to now, nothing has changed externally, but I am much more patient/go with the flow. Also, this week I started feeling more comfortable in French. I am getting close to the end of the Book of Mormon in French. I have been reading about 15 pages out loud every day. By the end, I should be fluent. At least, that's the promise President Hinckley gave the missionaries a long time ago. If a missionary reads the Book of Mormon out loud in his mission language, he will be fluent by the end. After the French, I am going to read it in Tahitian. 
Anyways, I really enjoyed reading 3 Nephi this week. In chapter 11 the Lord says become like little children. I feel like a little child here. I don't really understand much and I just submit to the will of my companion. Haha. I've had the feeling repeatedly that the Lord is really preparing me for something. I don't know what, or why. I just have to trust in faith. 
I got your Christmas package! Yesterday our branch president came back from Tahiti (for the weekend he was there). He brought mosquito spray and some letters from you! I got the ones you sent on October 27 or 28 and the one after that. Also I got the letter from Cara that she wrote around Halloween!  My favorite letter was Cara's to be honest. She said sometimes its hard for her with the bike accident, and I realized I have nothing to complain about. She is an example for us all. I will keep her letter. It is a treasure to me.  I find out who my companion is on Wednesday and he will be here on Sunday.
Thanks for the letters. Prayers going to the whole family for health and safety. Thanks for fasting for me, I feel the strength everyday from you. I tried to fast yesterday but then our dinner appointment was at noon, so that was that. Oh well. The Lord will understand. Stay strong and safe.
With love,
Jonathan (Elder Barlow)