Monday, February 29, 2016

Leap Day!

The road leading into our neighborhood.

La Mission- one of the quartiers in our sector.

Our House.

At the mission office!
Hi family!

Papeete is a fun zone! We cleaned our house a little tiny bit this morning. Elder Porter cleaned the kitchen and I cleaned the bathroom downstairs. The assistants are cleaning the upstairs and their car. Our current house doesn't have anywhere to do pull-ups, but I make do by using the spiral staircase. It wraps back around and I can do pull-ups from hanging on the highest step. More of a wrist workout than anything, but it's better than nothing!

Apparently there's a cyclone (this part of the world's word for hurricane) coming. We've been experiencing some wacky weather from that. Mostly tons and tons of rain and it is very humid. This morning our zone leaders picked us up from our house to go do mail at the chapel and I got soaked during the 5 second or so transition from opening the car door, closing my umbrella, and climbing into the car. Lots of water here! Luckily it is not as hot when it rains though.

Dad mentioned that I am in the complete opposite position of where I started my mission, and it's totally true. I am so blessed to be here. Whenever I feel down, I think of where I started and I realize that I am so much better off. I learned a lot at Ahe, but I am glad I don't have to go through that trial again. Living with the assistants is interesting. Anyways, can you believe it is already March (as of tomorrow)?! February went quick! February always seems to go quick, probably because it has less days than all the other months. Ha ha.

This week was good. It rained a lot and we didn't teach as many lessons. But we have 2 baptisms now for the 12th of March, and potentially 2 or 3 more. We had a new amis this week from Skyano, the boy we baptized a few weeks ago. He brought us his cousin. She is 19 and she took the lessons when she was younger. Now she is old enough that she can get baptized without parental permission. The first lesson she started out by asking us: How many lessons do I have to take before I can get baptized? Elder Porter and I did a mental fist bump. But then she didn't come to church yesterday. Hmmm... the life of missionaries, right? Anyways, we have some amis en progrés (progressing investigators), so that's good.
Elder Porter and I also tried to eat better this last week. We bought stuff for PB and J's, and made sandwiches for lunch all week. I also brought an apple and a big carrot each day for lunch. As a result of eating healthier and more often, I think I lost a lot of weight! That is very encouraging for me. I have more of an appetite when I eat more often too, which is good.

 My French continues to improve just from being immersed. I haven't studied French for a while now. I want to study it, but I have to learn Tahitian first, it's more important in my mind. I've been studying and I am starting to understand more words! This morning I walked into the genealogy center here at Fariipiti (where we do emails) and a Tahitian papi asked me "Where are you from?" in Tahitian, and I totally understood and replied in understandable (apparently) Tahitian "No Marite mai au, Washington." Which of course means, I'm from America, Washington. Cool! That made me happy. Haha. Last night also Elder Thia was reading te buka o moromona out loud to me, and I understood absolutely nothing! So it's an up and down thing. Everyone here speaks French, and not really Tahitian. Only the old people or people from tiny islands really know how to speak pure Tahitian. But I can learn anyways, haere maru, haere papu (slowly and surely). Elder Porter and I are teaching a Tahitian papi the lessons in Tahitian. He speaks understandable French too, but he expresses himself in Tahitian. So it's a good opportunity to learn.

The week was overall normal. Last night we went to the office with the assistants and zone leaders while they made their reports for the week. That was fun. There's always Hershey kisses at the office too, so we snacked and joked and checked out all the reports and stuff. It was fun! I'm glad to be here on Tahiti right now. Thanks for the prayers.  Have a good week, ua here au ia outou! (I love you all!)


Elder Barlow

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

I moved....

So last weekend was transfers... haha but don't worry, Elder Porter and I are still together! We got a bit of a scare when the assistants called us last Friday night though. They played a mean trick on us, they actually just called to tell us that we have permission to move in with them if we want. We want to live with the assistants so we can coordinate together since we are in the same ward. We're like a 4 man team. There are more new missionaries who get here from the Provo MTC. Crazy to think that it's been 5 months since I arrived here, and 6 months on my mission. The time flies.

We had some fun with the bananas and mangoes. I made some really good smoothies with just bananas, milk, and mangoes, and ice. But my favorite is the smoothie that had ice, spinach, broccoli, an apple, and 3 bananas. And milk. And cinnamon toast crunch! And it was so good! I tasted it, and instantly I thought of pumpkin pie. That is literally what it tasted like. So I told Elder Porter he had to taste it. And he said "it tastes like pumpkin pie." What!? It literally tasted like that! So we had the assistants try it. And they said the same thing! Crazy right? I think the cinnamon gave it the pumpkin pie feeling. Elder Porter said if I ever open a smoothie shop, I can get famous with my "Pumpkin 'lie' " smoothie. Haha. Okay, enough with talking about smoothies for now. ;)

So as far as missionary work goes. We worked so hard this week. Elder Porter and I went out walking in the hot sun every single day. One quartier in our sector (called la mission, or "te misioni" in Tahitian) is about a 30 minute walk from our house. So once we are up there, we don't want to walk all the way home. The result, we stay out in the sector the whole day long. It's productive, but hot and hard. So the results of this week: we committed a young couple to marriage and baptism! On the 12 of March. The man is an inactive member who will reactivate, but right after the baptism the woman will get married. Exciting! Also, we had two investigators, ages 10 and 12, who had their baptism dates already fixed. They are siblings and were perfect investigators! But now they don't want to take the lessons anymore because their Dad asked them to stay in the Protestant church with him. Even though he is inactive and sits at the house all day, and the kids still want to come to church every Sunday, they don't want to get baptized because they want to stay in the church with their Dad! That seems to be my frustration this week, people doing stupid things with no logical reasoning. It is depressing to see them reject the gospel when they know it is true. *sighhhh

We taught 8 lessons Friday! We went out around noon, after our zone meeting, and walked all day between lessons. Walking up to te misioni, a chinese guy stopped us and said "it's way too hot, come drink some water!" So we went and got a drink. Then he said, I also stopped you because I want to learn about your church! Score! We started giving him a little pre lesson, then when we were fixing another lesson and taking down his information, another family at the same house was like "hey, my niece wants to take your lessons! And me too!" And we were thinking "okay okay, just a minute!" What a good problem to have, right? Haha. So we have about 6 new investigators to teach this coming week from that. And they all seem to have solid potential. That's a blessing from working hard and walking in the hot sun I guess. We also have been teaching a Tahitian papi who speaks pretty much only Tahitian. Elder Porter speaks well enough to teach him. I say a few things, but mostly I just listen. But I have been studying Tahitian and I am starting to understand some of it! The gift of tongues is real. I think I can learn in in 4 months or so from now, just judging by how long it took to learn French. I understand a lot of the Tahitian when I read now too, in the Book of Mormon. It's just words I've never seen before that I have to look up in the dictionary.

Other fun things this week: The new missionaries arrived. Since the mission office and mission home are in our sector, we got to see them all! It's crazy how much I've learned in 5 months here. I was translating for one of the greenies who didn't understand what his companion was saying to him in French. Weird. It feels like yesterday that I was the greeny! It also feels like it's been ages that I've been here.

Our new house is nice. We don't run out of food now. The assistants are cool. We have a good time. The new house doesn't have air conditioning in our room though. We are supposed to get AC soon, but they can't get a hold of the homeowner. So we kind of miss our old house. Hopefully things will improve with that this week. But our house now is 2 stories and a little bigger and it's clean! All of us who live there (the 2 assistants and Elder Porter and I) keep it clean. Lovely! Also, I worked really hard to eat healthy this week. I packed sandwiches and stuff for lunch. I also focused on not eating too much at each dinner apointment. And as a result, I think I lost a little weight! This will be a constant health struggle for the next two years. I really miss being able to go out for a run by myself, or eat healthy all the time, etc. I have limited agency on that front right now. Sigh. But ça va, I am much happier now than the first 4 months or so here in Polynesia. I just have to remember what I went through whenever I am feeling down, and I realize how blessed I am now.

So living with the assistants is fun. We see all the inside stuff of the mission. On Saturday I went on a split with Elder Thia, one of the assistants. We went and picked up some missionaries from the airport who were coming back from the islands, then dropped them off in their new areas. Then we took another one to the hospital, he cut his hand out in the islands. Then we sat with him in the hospital waiting room for several hours. That is their "urgent care." (Socialism is not cool, trust me.) Then I switched back with the other assistant, so I got to go home. They didn't get back to the house until around midnight. That's like a 5 hour wait at the hospital! So it was interesting to see the life of an assistant.

As far as language goes, being around the new missionaries this week made me realize I am really comfortable in French now. The Tahitian is really tough because we aren't immersed in it. Only the older people really speak it. I've been trying to study it each day, but we've been pretty busy with appointments and stuff so I don't always have time to study it each day. So that is still stressing me out. I want to be one of the missionaries who really learns the language and culture and everything.  Today we will go shopping, maybe clean the house a little, and then play bball/volleyball at the Fariipiti chapel. P Day.

Love you all, thank you for the prayers! I hope you have a great week!

Elder Barlow

Monday, February 8, 2016

The bananas in our back yard.
Hi family!
So Papeete 2 (BIS) is the official name of our sector. Elder Porter and I don't know what the BIS means, but the missionaries in Papeete 2 are the assistants. So the BIS is just a way to distinguish which missionaries you're talking about on reports and stuff I guess.
Okay, where to start...? So this week went well, as far as misisonary work is concerned. Elder Porter and I had a baptism of on Saturday. That was great! All week we had lessons, some good, some not so good. One time an Adventist guy stopped us on the street and started trying to bible bash us, but there's no way they can win in a bible bash against the truth. The scriptures and the spirit are on our side. My new goal for studying this coming week is to prepare with  the scriptures. The Tahitian culture is such that if you can show someone scriptures that prove your point, they'll probably believe you.  
Elder Porter and I had good numbers for our report, 25 plus lessons, some new investigators, and a baptism, along with several follow up lessons to our new converts. That was nice. Tahitian is difficult, but I am picking up little words and phrases bit by bit. Elder Heno, a short, funny,  frenchman who lives in our house, speaks Tahitian pretty well and he has helped me during a few language studies. I learn a lot when he helps explain grammar concepts, etc. I haven't studied French in 2 months or so now, but I feel comfortable speaking with people in French. My goal is to get Tahitian down, at least in a conversational, functional speaking level, and then return to studying French again. So maybe in 4 months or so.  I really like the French language. But the French they speak here in Tahiti is a bit slang. So I want to really learn it well and study it after my mission.

That's about it, as far as new stuff goes. I marked what street we live on. We live right next to the chapel on the corner of Prince Hinoi and Commandant Chessé. It's a big stake center with a courtyard in the middle. Our house is a little rectangle in the corner of the church property. We have some banana trees growing in our little yard and a bunch became ripe yesterday! So I enjoyed my breakfast this morning. I ate 4 bananas with milk and sugar. We also got a bunch of mangoes from members this week. And we have a blender in our house! My plan sometime today is to make a smoothie with bananas, a mango, milk and sugar and ice. The bananas and mangoes here are super duper sweet and delicious. I only wish we got to eat them more often! A typical meal here is rice and meat (chicken or beef) and baguettes (the white french bread things). If you're lucky there's a salad of lettuce and cucumbers. So getting fresh fruit to eat whenever we want at the house is awesome! They also will feed us other stuff, like poisson cru (raw fish, which is actually super duper delicious) or potatoes and cheese and stuff like that. So the food is good, just really unhealthy and fattening. I am super jealous of the wheat waffles with fresh fruit you all got to eat!

So, I was studying about the plan of salvation. I was studying agency and the role of Satan and stuff like that. I wonder if Satan has agency. What exactly does it mean to lose your first estate? Is our first estate agency or getting a body or... what? I never really found an answer to my questions, but it was still a really interesting study. The gospel is fun to study!

Love you all, have a good week!

Elder Barlow

Monday, February 1, 2016

First Week in Faripiti

Elder Porter and I with our fanny packs.  We call them "sky  packs" which sounds way cooler.  Hahaha!
Also a picture I have been wanting to send forever. From my first day at Ahe. The internet here is a little better, but it still takes 5-10 minutes to upload a photo. Sorry! Otherwise I would send way more.

A view from the house at Pamatai (the quartier just next to Tavararo), my last night before I found out I was being transferred. Glad I snapped this pic! My current house has zero view, we close the curtains for privacy haha.
Displaying DSCN0176.JPGHi family!

I have a lot to tell you, but I don't really know where to start.  I don't know the name of the street that we live on, but we live next to our stake center in Pape'ete. It's called Faripiti. It's about a 5 minute walk from the temple compound. If you find the temple, our area includes the temple and all the buildings around it (the chapel next to the temple is the chapel where our ward goes on Sunday). Our area is also three big neighborhood areas back behind the temple. The assistants are in the same area as us, but they have two different neighborhoods. Since we are all in the same ward, each night we have our faatamaaraa's together (dinner appointments). So we know them pretty well. They are pretty chill, one is from Africa somewhere (he's a white Frenchy person) and the other is from Colorado. Two fun stories with them: Friday after our zone meeting, us four went and got some pretty good pizza in the zone just next to ours. Perks of hanging with the assistants ;) Then on Saturday, for our faatamaaraa, a member who must be pretty well off took us four to a little restaurant, ordered 7 plates of food, plus dessert, for us four to share, then paid for it and left. Haha. So we ate lots of different types of yummy food for freeeeee!

Other perks of our area: the visitor center is in our area, right next to the temple. We have a key, so we tell investigators to meet us there and teach lessons on big comfy couches in an air conditioned room. It makes it easy to feel the spirit, and easy to take naps! There's also a big screen TV so we show gospel films sometimes. We are on foot in our sector, which is nice.

Cool stories from the week: Monday night we had a huge family night with the senior couples in the mission at our Bishop's house. They all speak only English, and the food was really good that night. We all ate outside, and I felt like I was in America. It was a good start to my new area. The senior couples are so funny. One couple is from Midway Utah, the other from England (love their accents).

We are teaching a 15 year old boy. He is ready for baptism, his mom is getting baptized next Saturday, he wants to get baptized, he's not breaking any commandments, but every time we asked him to get baptized, he says "peut-etre" (maybe). When we asked him why not, he would say I don't know. So we acted in faith and God sent down a crazy storybook miracle. We told the boy: Okay, if God tells you that baptism is the right choice, will you get baptized next Saturday? He said yes. So we said, will you pray out loud right now, on your knees with us, and tell God you want to be baptized, then ask him to confirm your decision? Then after the prayer you will just open the book of Mormon to the first page you come to and start reading? We know God will answer your prayer (yikes, we totally just were calling on God to answer right then, it was a suspenseful moment!) The boy said okay. So we all knelt down, he prayed and asked, then said amen. After the prayer we all sat back on the comfy couches (the visitor's center) and he opened the Book of Mormon. He started reading (boy the suspense was on!) and kept reading. The verse he opened to (are you ready for this?!) was 4 Nephi chapter 1, verse 1. Go read it. It talks about disciples of Christ receiving all who desire to repent, baptizing them, and giving the gift of the Holy Ghost. The boy smiled, sat still, closed the book, then said "OK then." Haha wow! What a response from God! Cool, huh? After the lesson Elder Porter and I were just like "yeah that just happened." Awesome!

That's about all the adventures for this week. By the way, my bedroom has air conditioning! We turn on the AC every night and it is awesome! I feel so spoiled. I will try and send a picture. We also bought matching fanny packs (that's a thing here in Tahiti). So we have been rocking those when we go out walking. Today the plan is to clean a little (maybe), go shopping, and later go play soccer with some other zones somewhere. Coolio. Oh yeah, in my house there are 6 elders, and the house is smaller than my last one! It's a constant struggle to keep it clean. But it's an adventure! One of the Elders is from France, Paris. He is super short and hilarious. Imagine Kaden Bergeson, at his most hyper moments, combined with a French accent and broken English, and a classic French attitude. Hilarious combo. One night he jumped on me when I was almost asleep. I was like "you're heavy" in French. He replied in his accented English "eetz my bones." Hahahaha Elder Porter and I were dying. The things people learn in English are so random. Okay, that's all my fun stories for the week! Keep praying for me, things are still difficult sometimes, but much much much better overall. God has truly blessed me. The past 4 months here in French Polynesia had been the hardest of my life, but I realize that God is really blessing me. Some of my thoughts include: when I get back, I will be fluent in French and Tahitian. I will have lived in a foreign culture and country for 2 years.  My family is still super awesome. I will have a way stronger testimony, and still have my hard work and discipline. I will definitely have much more patience. With all that, no matter what life throws at me I will be able to succeed. Sometimes when I am stressed I think about all that and then say a prayer of gratitude. I'm sure there are so many blessings I won't see for years and years to come, but they will come eventually. Enough sentimentality; I'm just grateful. Love you all and miss you tons! Keep the prayers coming, I feel the support! Love ya!

Elder Barlow