Monday, December 20, 2010

Weekly Letter: December 14-20, 2010

Well, this week, I got to know my companion´s name and all of that. His name is Elder Lauritzen, he´s from Conneticut(I think I spelled that right), and he has about three weeks here in Mexico. He also arrived late from the MTC due to problems with the visa, but he did arrive two weeks before changes. So he was with one of the Zone Leaders for two weeks in Puerta Grande(sound familiar?) So yeah, I've basically adopted him as my son(in the mission, of course), but it is a really interesting experience having an American almost never happens. However, his spanish is already really good, in fact he knows the names of many objects better than I do...which made me realize that I need to take out that good old dictionary and do some studying.

It´s funny, many times when I don´t understand words in the scriptures, I look it up in the dictionary, only to find that I don't know what the word means in English either. So I might have to invest in a spanish dictionary, because the Spanish-English dictionary doesn't always help me as well as I would like.

Yeah, but being American, I had to put my foot down and tell him we weren´t going to speak in English. But, he seemed totally okay with that. I thought it would be hard because of the lack of ability in Spanish, but he does understand and speak pretty well. However, that said, one time in the Comida I decided that I wasn´t going to talk to the members, that my companion had gotten comfortable hearing me talk and not saying anything himself. So it was a very silent conversation, and I wanted to talk to the members so bad, but I couldn't. However, I think he's realized that and he's working harder on that.

Well, the work goes on. It's something really interesting, teaching with someone with limited use of the language. People actually listen to my companion more than they listen to me, because it's a lot harder to understand him, and they have to pay more attention(haha, I'm asking my companion to help me with my English, I had no idea how to say that sentence). Also, we knocked on some doors, and I realized that the people are more honest with him than they are with me. We knocked on the doors, and they told him "I´m really not interested sorry, but thanks for your time." But when it was my turn to make the contact, they said "Not right now, but some other day." I would then make an appointment with them, to which they readily agreed to, and then we would return for the appointment one! So there are a lot of blessings with the fact that my companion is harder to understand.

This week we worked hard, but we had very little fruits. However, what I love about my companion is that he came to work, and hasn't lost sight of that. He doesn't get discouraged, which encourages me to improve myself in my attitude. This week, we weren't able to obtain any references, and we had a lot of appointments fall on us, but I know that our efforts were organized and diligent, and I have no doubt that the fruits will come if we continue working like this. I'm actually starting to see some fruits already, this ward is beginning to trust us more. I don't know how many times yesterday the brothers and sisters talked to us about how they had seen us in the street talking to someone, and how they loved seeing us working.

So, I believe that we'll have more success this week. It'll be interesting working on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, already, we've see some people try to avoid setting appointments for this week due to the holidays, but we just have to keep working on it, because the miracles only come by faith...and faith means we have to ACT!! For example, if we believe that God answers prayers, but we never pray....what happens? Nothing! And this faith begins to die slowly because we can't obtain a testimony if we haven't lived it. So we have to have faith that work brings miracles....and then we have to WORK!

Well, that's basically it for this week. I hope you all have a great Christmas and that you remember why we celebrate this day. I can't remember who said it but someone once said "there wouldn't be a Christmas if it weren't for Easter."

Thank you all for everything. Please continue praying for my companion and me. We need those prayers.


Elder Blackham

Weekly Letter: December 7-13, 2010

Another week, another cambio, another companion, and another experience in the mission field. Yeah, today we have changes again. I can hardly believe that Elder Mendoza and I already have had a month and a half together. I seems like the time has just flown by. However, I'm incredibly excited, because we've seen the area grow quite a bit while we were working together. However, Elder Mendoza got changed to Mexico, to the Zone Tacubaya(where I was the first six months in the field.) I get to stay here in Toluca-Centro. It's pretty interesting, it seems like neither one of my mission presidents is in any hurry to change me from area to area. I was in my first area for six months, and now I have about 3 months in this area....and at least another month and a half more...

Maybe I'll end up the same way as Elder Leavitt, who started his mission in Plateros about a year before I did, six months later, he came to Centro, and was there for another six months. Who knows? I know it's pretty weird that I'm going to be in my second area in the mission for Christmas and my birthday....and maybe when I complete a year too! Wow, a year in the mission, and two areas? I didn't think that would happen.

Here in Centro, I'm going to receive an Elder.....something. He's an American, but because my Mexican companion received the changes by phone from my Mexican District Leader, they didn't get the last name of my new companion very well. Oh well, so I have no idea if I know my companion or not. My companion told me about 7 last names that could be my companion's last name, but to spare you guys all the drama and everything of which of the seven(if any of them) is indeed my companion, I will just send it in the email next week.

Anyway, I'm pretty excited, I don't know how it'll be working with a "gringo," all of my other companions have been Mexican....except Elder Childers, but he's half Peruvian, and had almost finished his mission, so in all aspects: culture, language, hair color, everyone always thought he was Mexican. Anyway, I'm excited, but nervous. However, I think it will be a good experience.

So yeah, we also had a baptism yesterday. Elder Mendoza baptized Javier, a sixteen year-old who is a cousin of some of the members in our ward. His mom and nephew are also coming to church, and they both want to be baptized, but the mom wants to wait until January, and we haven't really talked to the nephew outside of church because he's always with his mom because he's only 8. But, yeah, we're starting to have some work here in Centro. We just have to find more. That's the thing with missionary work, you can never be too pleased with everything that has happened in an area, or else, the area begins to die. I think I learned that too late in Plateros, but I´ve learned that we have to focus every week in the area, as if we were opening the area, because the majority of the people you find aren't going to progress really fast, or they aren't going to want to listen after a while. Like the mission president says, you have to be constantly filling the tank, and if we do that, the fruits will come on their own.

So, we finished the change on a good note with the baptism. The only thing that Elder Mendoza doesn´t like about leaving right now is that he never got to activate his family. We visited them a lot...maybe too much, but they don't seem to be motivated to go to church. I'll see what I can do with my other companion, but I think that if a family member-missionary couldn't do it, I better not waste too much time going with them day after day. But, I can't just leave them either. So we'll see how it goes.

Anyway, it's getting late, and I've got to go to Metepec in like thirty minutes.

Thanks for everything! See you all next week!(not literally, but in email format)


Elder Blackham

Weekly Letter: November 30-December 6, 2010

It´s official, I´m old in the mission field. Friday, we were going to have a baptismal interview (it fell through), and when the District Leader arrived(who´s from my same generation of missionaries...but is Mexican so he has more time in the field than I do), Elder Loya congratulated me. I was like "what?! Our appointment fell through and you´re congratulating me?" He laughed and said, "No, not that, congratulations! We completed 10 months in the mission today."

Wow. How weird, huh? It is so weird to think that I´m near to being halfway done with my missionary service. Everyone says that the second year goes faster than the first, and if that´s true, I´m in trouble! It´s going way too fast as it is. The months seem to fly by. Yesterday when a member mentioned the Christmas devotional, I was like, "Oh yeah, I guess it´s December." It´s really weird reading about home and how there is a bunch of snow and all that stuff. Here in Toluca, it´s pretty calm. November gave us a scare when it reached like 34 degrees Farenheit or something like that, I though it was going to get COLD, but it´s pretty warm now, and basically nothing like what I´m used to this time of the year.

Well, the time keeps going and all you can do is 1) look at the marvel of it, or 2) get to work!

This week, we could have done better on option two. I don´t what happens, but every appointment we have with investigators seems to fall through....including the baptismal interview we were going to have Friday, and a trip to the temple on Saturday. This week could have gone a lot better, and unfortunately, my companion got quite a bit discouraged because of it. I tried not to, but when your companion is discouraged, it´s hard to keep your head up. When you´re discouraged, that´s when the adversary works harder on you, because you are already likely to look at your failures, and your inadequacies. (which are multiplied when you're in another country and speaking another language.)

That is, discouragement is a downward spiral. Luckily, I was able to recognize that early on, and the next day, although, it wasn´t the best day, did get a lot better. I think I will start doing what Elder Javier and I did whenever we got discouraged. We would stop what we were doing, read a passage together in the Book of Mormon, say a prayer, and then get to work. After those moments, we were able to find investigators like Irene Sanchez, the Family Orea Zavaleta, and other golden investigators. I think the adversary really tries to get down on us when we are at the point of doing something important, the key is that we don´t get down on ourselves and find out what miracle is about to happen that Satan doesn´t want to happen.

We keep hearing stories of missionaries in the rain and deciding to knock on that last door, and finding investigators that want to be baptized in that last door that they were thinking about leaving unknocked. I don´t have experiences exactly like those....maybe I need to knock on more doors in the rain(and not a cloud in sight), but I believe it´s the same concept.

That said, I´m incredibly excited about this next week, I really feel like we´re filling the tank with new investigators. Finally, we are doing what we should have done all along, looking for new investigators. Only when we have people in teaching, can we be the best we can be.

Thank you all for your love, support, and prayers. Please continue praying for us. We need the help.


Elder Blackham

Friday, December 3, 2010

Weekly Letter: November 23-29, 2010

I think I´m going to have to write a little more news this week, because a lot has happened, and I didn´t write anything last week. This transfer from working in Almoloya all the time to working more in the Centro of Toluca has been hard and sometimes discouraging. However, I think we are starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Elder Mendoza and I basically decided early on that we were going to drop the investigators we had in the Centro. Nobody was progressing, they had been in teaching for over a year, and our appointments kept on falling through. It was truly a trying experience to decide to leave all of them, I hope they have a future chance to accept what we´ve been teaching them.

Meanwhile, we have been focusing a lot on getting references, and finding new investigators. There is an older Brother in the ward here that is basically looking to give us another reference....and some of his family is inactive. We have been working a lot with him and his family, and we have been able to find some prospective investigators thanks to his help. We´ve also been witnesses to daily miracles, where people start contacting us in the street, asking us if we can go to their home....which never happens normally.

We are far from out of the woods. We realized that we spent a lot of time with inactive members this week and almost didn´t teach investigators....or not as much as we could have. I´ve realized that we can´t be focusing on how much time we have until the next appointment. We have to be busy no matter what. Many times, when I´m looking at the clock all the time, I start looking for things we can do with that time. However, we many times end up spending 40 minutes doing what we could have done in 15, just to spend more time. That isn´t work, we feel better because we´re talking to people, but that isn´t the work that the Lord wants us to do.

We had a Seventy visit us on Saturday, Elder De Hoyos told us basically that. He gave us an example of what we can do. One companion is like "It´s 12:30, and our next appointment is at 1:00, what members live around here?" the other is like "Oh! Hermano So-and-so," they go to the appointment and members commit to go to church that Sunday. They offer something to eat(like the members always do), and they decline for another ocasion, saying they have work to do. They leave the house at 12:40, and one elder is like "We still have 20 minutes before the appointment," and the other responds "yeah, but they don't have to know that. Let´s see if we can do some contacts before the appointment."

The work is like that. We have to keep busy if we want to be blessed. Like the Lord said we have to be "anxiously engaged in a good cause." This week, we were always in engaged in a good cause, but we were far from anxious. However, this week with the investigators we have, we have a better head start than the other week, and I think we can work harder on being anxiously engaged in this work, and have more fruits this week.

Well, I´m out of time, I was going to write more specifics about some investigators that we had, but I didn´t get the chance. However, we've already challenged a family to be baptized, they've accepted, but we just have to encourage the mother to get baptized. She said that in January she would be baptized, but then her son looked at her and said "Mom, I thought we were going to get baptized sooner than that!" We´ll see if we can get to the temple this Saturday, it´s a little more complicated now that we´re in Toluca, but we´re going to see what we can do. But I know that that can help them get excited to be baptized!

Well, I got to go!


Elder Blackham

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Weekly Letter: November 16-22, 2010

I really don't have much time to write, but I do have a lot I would like to write. I've been thinking a lot about the line in "Praise to the Man" that says "sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven." How many times I have sung that hymn in English and not realized the great truth in it until I had to sing it in another language. This week, we have worked hard on reactivating a lot of members in Centro of Toluca. And every time we ended up teaching the same topic: obedience. And later this week we gained a testimony of the truthfulness of this principle in the lives of missionaries.

Truly, obedience is the first law in heaven, the first sacrifice that each of us have to make. Obedience simply put is to submit to the will of God. However, this sacrifice of our will to His is perhaps the biggest sacrifice we have to make. Missionaries actually live this sacrifice everyday, because we have to. If we don't we can't have the spirit, we can't work, and we can't teach. I have to continually remind myself of that everyday here in Toluca, we have to pass by the mall in Toluca many times in the week. The smell of popcorn in the theater, the new music that we overhear, advertisement for a new movie, everything tries to distract you from what you're doing. However, we have to act on faith.

Some people don't want to act on that faith, they may think that there is an option in selective obedience. Missionaries and members alike, the principle is the same. But when we choose not to make the sacrifice in order to be obedient, we end up forfeiting the blessings that our Heavenly Father has ready for alluded in the line of the hymn I mentioned. Upon being baptized each of us made a covenant with our Father in Heaven. He never fails in his part of the promise, we are the ones that fail in our end. He tells us "I am bound we ye do what I say, but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise." But how many times we as His children are not able trust in his promise.

I find that the scripture that's found in Enos, where he says that he knew that God could not lie is something admirable. When we aren't willing to make the sacrifices in order to receive the promised blessings from heaven, we don't, in effect, have the same conviction that Enos had. We are unsure if the blessings will come or not, we believe that God could become a liar.

In that effect, we realize why faith is the first principle in the gospel. A principle is a doctrine put in action. We have to exercise our faith in order to complete the first law of heaven: obedience.

I was also surprised by an insight that my companion had. Here in Toluca, we were teaching a less active member that was looking for work and was thinking of taking a job that was on Sundays. My companion told her directly that that job was not a blessing from heaven, because God will never bless us with something that impedes our obedience. Sometimes we think that what we have in our lives are blessing us, but if these blessing are making it impossible to obey, they cease to be blessings, they are subtle tricks of the adversary.

I know that this principle is true. I know that through our faith, we will make the sacrifice to be obedient, and when we are obedient, we will receive the blessings from heaven. I have seen it time and time again in the mission, but I have also seen the opposite. Even if it is waking up one minute late or taking too much time with the meal with the member, any degree of disobedience, and the spirit withdraws. Missionary or member... it applies to all of us.

How grateful I am to be able to learn from all these experiences in my mission. I hope with all my heart that one day I will become the missionary that I hoped to be, that my family, my friends, and my Father in Heaven wish me to be, but more importantly, I want to be the kind of son that God wishes me to be. Like Jesus said to his disciples in the Americas Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you,even as I am.

I want to make that my goal, here in the mission, and afterwards. Thank you all for the prayers and support. I truly feel the strength of them in the hardest times in my mission.


Elder Blackham

Weekly Letter: November 9-15, 2010

This week really flew by, and I can´t believe it is Monday again. This second week, we had struggles with the work. It seems like we always seem to start over every change in the area. Because of our new focus here in Toluca it´s been difficult to have the success that we would like. It is when appointments fall time after time, that you really have to work on your patience. I know this week could have gone ten times better than it did as far as finding new people, teaching new people, and teaching in general.

However, I think my companion and I are finding better ways to work together. Some of the things that Chavez liked are things that Elder Mendoza doesn´t like. I´ve realized that I´ve tried too hard trying to be like my companion. Luckily I´ve had good companions before, where it was easier to get along, but what we need to do is not clone each other, but complement each other. We each have different talents, likes, and abilities. So when both of us are working to the best of these three things is when we have greater success in our work. Of course, there is need for compromise, but compromise doesn´t mean becoming someone you´re not, but finding a common medium where both of us can work better together.

That´s one of the things I´ve learned in the Mission that I probably didn´t think too much about before the mission. There are a ton of those things, like learning to not make faces when a sister gives you your least favorite food....for the fifth time (that´s a joke, she´s only given us papaya twice.) Yeah, there are a lot of tiny things that someone learns when on the mission, especially when he´s in another country and culture learning another language. I don´t know if my investigators or I have learned more so far. I´d say we´re pretty even because I´ve seen some pretty drastic changes so in some of the investigators I´ve taught so far.

Another lesson that I´ve learned that might have more of a spiritual application is that, as much as this is the Lord´s work, the adversary does his best to stall it. On Wednesday night my companion and I talked about contacting a family that´s inactive and has a daughter of 13 years that hasn´t been baptized. We sent a message to them that night to see if they would be willing to have her be baptized this week, but we never got an answer. Because they lived in Almoloya, we had to wait until Saturday to see them. As it happened, the mom´s phone(whose number was the only one we had) no longer worked; she had never gotten the message. When we got there, we thought of encouraging them to get ready for a baptism maybe later on, because we didn´t want to challenge them to come to church and be baptized the next day. However, as things happened, the Mother asked if her daughter could be baptized the next day. Well....we weren´t going to tell them no.

That next day, we were witnesses to the adversary´s efforts to stall the work of the Lord. This baptism was not an exception, it was case in point. The family got to the chapel late, the brother had to be interviewed before the services, but they arrived late and he was not shaven. Everything looked bad. Even the baptismal font wasn´t filling up like it normally did because the water pressure was down. Things were looking bad...but then, somehow everything managed to work out, but not only work out, but to do so marvelously with such a special spirit. The brother was interviewed and found worthy to baptize his daughter. Our Ward Mission Leader helped us organize a great baptismal service where the spirit was so strong. It was like literally we had hit the calm of the storm during the service. We were literally running from end to end in the chapel to get everything ready. We arrived for the service, breathing heavy, but we felt the spirit´s presence that is present in a baptismal service. Everything felt right. We made it, they made it. And now I feel like this family had an experience that they won´t soon forget.

Well, I´m about out of time. We´ve got to get ready for a Family Night appointment, and we´re going to see if we can pass by with some other people to set up appointments.

Time to work!
Thanks for the support and prayers.


Elder Blackham

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Weekly Letter: November 2-8, 2010

Another week of work our here in the mission with my new companion Elder Mendoza. The work here continues to go forward, but sometimes not at the pace we would like. However, before I get started on that, I´d like to introduce my new companion. His name is Elder Mendoza, his family is pretty big... he is the second of six children, and all his family for four generations have been members, some more active than others, but the majority are baptized members. In fact he tell me that his ancestors were the first members of the church in Veracruz. Not to confuse you guys, he is not from Veracruz personally. He´s from Tijuana. His extended family basically live in one of three cities in Mexico, but he basically only knows those in Tijuana. Other part of his family lives in Veracruz, and the third part lives in: ..........¡Toluca!(more on that later)

Now about the work. Here in the ward of Centro in the Toluca Stake we have some problems about the work. I think I´ve mentioned this before, but basically this area has to proselyting areas that are really far apart from each other: Centro and Amoloya. Amoloya has a lot more fruits and the people are much more open to the gospel, but it is very very very far from the church. They´ve already got sufficient active membership to make a branch in Almoloya, but the problem is that Centro doesn´t have enough active membership to maintain itself as a ward.The church cannot and will not split a ward into two branches, so we have a little bit of a problem. So we´ve been focusing on working here in the Centro 5 days of the week, and the other two days in the afternoon, we will work in Almoloya. However, it is a little discouraging because the people here are a lot harder to talk to and make appointments with, and later they end up avoiding the appointment altogether.

However, I feel that the Lord had His hand in sending my companion here. He has family here in the ward that are inactive....and there are a lot of them! It´s been pretty interesting, because some of the members here in the ward actually know the names of all his family better than he does! Actually, he tells me that he only met his Grandfather before he came here, and the last time he saw him was 4 years ago! However, that only amounts to part of the work we want to have here in the Centro, so I hope we can find a way to find more people here in the centro. In Amoloya, it basically rains references, and it feels so wrong that we are not going to maintain that much contact with the area where there is more work, but in the end, I feel this will help the area grow and thrive in the gospel. A lot of members that were baptized in Amoloya later become inactives due to the cost of transportation, but if there were a branch here and a Worship House(not a chapel) there, there wouldn´t be as much problems.

Anyway, I´ve written a ton. I better get off because I now am out of time. Thanks for the prayers and support.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Weekly Letter: October 26-November 1, 2010

I will have to apologize for the rush I have today. Today is a holiday in Mexico and we couldn´t find an Internet Café open. And we have to go to Metepec at 12:30 to get on board a bus that´s going to take the Toluca and Metepec zones to DF for the changes. So I´m going to write quickly, sorry.

This week, was the last week of the change, and I feel that we worked hard this week. Some times the missionaries don´t quite understand that the phrase "endure to the end" also applies in Missionary work. But this week was not the case for us, I think. Sure, we could have done better in our time, but we were always doing something, and I feel the work progressed this week, which is always a good feeling.

We also had some fruits this week. We thought about dropping one of our investigators because basically asked questions every appointment without any desire to accept the answers we gave him. I think he may have been looking for a way to see that our church isn´t in harmony with the Bible. So we were about to drop him, because he wasn´t completing his commitments either...when he showed up to church this Sunday. I don´t know what he thought because he had to go after sacrament meeting, but it was more than a little surprising to see him fulfill his commitment, we´ll see if he keeps it up this week.

However, the greatest fruit this week was in the baptismal font on Saturday. On Saturday, Carlos was baptized. He had already said that he would get baptized later on, but my companion was inspired in our appointment this week to extend the commitment, and he accepted! Being in the font with him was a special experience, because, before, I thought he only wanted us to be there because we were cool friends that he wanted around. He actually told us once that he wouldn´t be baptized, he just wanted to listen. However, the Lord made a change in him, and he now wants to prepare to enter the temple with his wife and two kids (who are already members).

Truly the change of heart is the greatest miracle in the lives of the people. Think of it, Laman and Lemuel saw angels and their younger brother shocked them miraculously.....but their hearts did not change. We as missionaries truly have the chance to see this miracle day after day, with investigators, with companions, with ourselves...and it still doesn´t stop amazing me the miracles that the Lord works in the lives of His children.

We also, with the changes, Elder Chavez is going to El Oro, which is still part of the same Zone (toluca) but it´s really really really far away, so who knows how much we´ll see each other. Meanwhile, I will receive Elder Mendoza here in Centro. I don´t know him, but I feel like this area is ready to have success, and I hope it continues.

Thank you all for your help and support. I know that many of you are praying for me. Please keep doing so, I need that help!


Elder Blackham

Weekly Letter: October 19-25, 2010

Another week in the mission has come and gone, and I am clueless how that happened. I was in divisions with Elder Lopez, one of the Zone leaders in his area for two days, and I don´t know why but, I feel like those two days just whisked by like they weren´t anything. We worked hard and really put a lot of effort, but it was so weird being in a different area. I also went with him for some interviews that he had to do for some of the district leaders...but we had to go all the way to Atlacomulco, which is about an hour north of Toluca in bus. (Elder Leavitt, the other Zone leader, who also was in Toluca Centro about a year ago, actually told me that our area actually stretches as far north as Atlacomulco.....that´s HUGE!)

Anyway, when I returned with Elder Chavez, it was like a breath of fresh air....I was back in my area. I learned a lot from the divisions and I got to know a lot of good people in the other area, but I feel more like I belong in this area. Anyway, the last two days of the week, we were able to work together well, and try to put what we learned in our different divisions in action.(Elder Chavez was here with Leavitt while I was with Lopez)

Also, we were really pleased that we were able to enjoy some fruits this week. Javier and Rocío were interviewed this friday, got baptized on saturday, and confirmed Sunday in church! It was something really gratifying to see that our work finally amounted to some fruits....but also humbling to realize how little we did. Sometimes I think we are literally spiritual cheerleaders for them so that they can win their game victorious. (not exactly a manly image, but oh well). But literally, I am really surprised how the Lord prepares the people. I think after the first lesson with Javier, I knew he was going to be baptized. Rocío, I felt would also be baptized, but needed more encouraging. Well, three weeks of teaching, encouraging, and fellowshipping later: the four of us were in the Baptismal font.

It really is a beautiful thing to be in the baptismal font, but I think it´s all the more gratifying after having taken that journey together from the beginning. This is one of the first times that I have had the opportunity to find, teach, and baptize the same family with the same companion in the same change. It really was a great experience this Saturday to help them make that decision. We´re looking to see if our other investigators will be able to take the same decision. It will be hard to get some of them for this change...because it ends this week, but I believe there are some that are ready, they simply need the encouragement to make the decision. That being said, I feel that that attitude can be at times dangerous. If we push people too fast to be baptized, it becomes OUR baptism....great for numbers, but hard on the people that have been converted into numbers.

I have seen many members that are less active, good members and everything, but they feel a weird sense of obligation now that they have been baptized and they feel scared about it. Actually, one of them has a son that is 10 years old and not baptized because she doesn´t want him to feel pressured too soon. As missionaries, we have a powerful calling, but an overwhelming responsibility. With every single one of these "numbers" we might see, there´s a face, a name, a soul. We have to be careful that we don´t let the number overshadow the rest. A brother in the ward here told us something I think has a lot of reason. He said "Focus on the people, and being obedient yourself, and the fruits will come. The worse thing you can do is focus on the numbers, because then they will never come."

I think that is really true. I think a lot of the time, when we focus on the numbers, we are no longer instruments of the Lord. We are merely ourselves, looking to gain fame and look good to peers, family, friends, leaders, and everyone else. But how many times do we look at shovel before we start digging? Never, unless the shovel doesn´t work when we try it. When we draw attention to ourselves, not only as missionaries, but in whatever calling we have, we no longer are a functioning instrument. More and more I realize that humility has everything to do with the work. We don´t use gold nails to build a house, because steel is more practical and just as, if not more, reliable.

I feel like I´ve written a ton, but I wanted to express that. I have been disappointed in seeing some of the missionaries....and I´m ashamed to include myself in that list....who get so pressured by the desire to be recognized by people that don´t matter, that they don´t focus on being the instrument the Lord wants us to be. I have realized a lot of things in the mission, but this is one of the biggest, and one of the ones I´m probably going to have to struggle and fight for some time to finally be the instrument the Lord wants me to be. I think I´m realizing more day by day what it really means to "forget yourself and get to work."

Thank you all for your support, your love, your prayers. They really do help. I feel like I have angels back at home to support me. Keep praying!


Elder Blackham

Weekly Letter: October 12-18, 2010

I'm going to write really fast. I wish I could write with less pressure, but we've got to be in an appointment with some investigators at 6:00 and we have to go to the other side of our area in Almoloya by Colinas del Sol. So, I hope that you can excuse the grammatic and spelling errors that may appear in this letter....that is, if my brother doesn't edit them out.

We had a pretty good week this week. Elder Chavez and I are starting to figure each other out a little bit. We are starting to figure out what annoys the other, and the things we should do (or not do) when we're around each other. Yeah, being with a person for 24 hours a day is a little difficult, but we're both learning a lot, and not just about ourselves but from other people in the ward.

We've got a great ward where many returned missionaries see our efforts and are willing to give us advice. Unfortunately, I'm sorry to say that some of them did not have the same confidence with some of the past missionaries in our area. So getting references from them is a little harder because a lot of them say they want us to clean up after the work of the other missionaries. Not all of them think like that, but sometimes it is discouraging when you know they have people in mind to receive the gospel.

So that's one our challenges. However, we still manage and deal with it well. Sometimes we come home after a long day, and realize that we had only one lesson with an investigator and the rest of the appointments with less-active members or fell through. So, we try to bear things up and keep going. We feel like we're working hard and putting in our effort, but sometimes it feels like the fruits just don't want to come. I try to think that it's an opportunity to find more people, or to learn how better to work effectively in a given area of the ward where we're working.

That all said, it really does make your heart swell to see that after all the work that week, that some fruits finally came. Saturday, we had a very successful Family night with a less active family in the ward, who invited three neighbors to it. At first the neighbors seemed to think that we were aliens or something by the way they looked at us(or rather, the way they avoided eye-contact with us), but after the message and the film (Testaments), everyone contributed to the discussion, and we set appointments with everyone of the neighbors.

Even though the neighbors weren't able to come, Javier and Rocio, who were challenged the week before to baptism, did! We actually got up at 5:00 Sunday morning to travel to Almoloya in order to bring them all the way back to the Chapel in Centro at 9:00. We got there at 8:45....and no one was there but us, the chapel wasn't even open!(Mormon Standard Time in Mexico is a beast!) Oh well, it was still good.

Also, Carlos was able to come. All his in-laws and children are baptized members of the church, and he really likes it and wants to be baptized.....but his mother is a Jehovah's Witness, and although he readily admits that he does not like what they teach, he doesn't want to go against his mother that gave him life. So for all these years(since 2001) he's been talking to the missionaries, and he likes it a lot, but he's always kind of been in a limbo for that reason. However, he has said that he would like Elder Chavez and I to be the ones that baptized him, and he says he wants to get baptized in December, in order to give him time to think about how to break the news to his mother.

Anyway, he also came to church and really liked it. So the Sunday really helped boost our hopes. I just hope that we can keep helping them along in this path. (actually the Family night is with Javier and Rocio, and we're planning on teaching some commandments and setting an appointment with the District Leader for an interview). So yeah, we have plenty of work to do and little time to do it. I can't believe how fast this change has gone, we're already in the second-to-last week of the change. The next changes will be the 1st of november. Literally, this change(as well as October) has been nothing but a blur!

So yeah, that's my week in a nutshell. Thank you for the support, and keep praying for me. The work goes on in Toluca Centro.


Elder Blackham

Friday, October 15, 2010

Weekly Letter: October 5-11, 2010

Okay, another week. I can honestly tell you guys that I have no idea where this other week went. I feel like someone hit me in the head, took a lot of my money and here I am on Monday.

No, but really, this is really weird, we´re already half way through the cambio, and I have no clue how that has happened. I feel like I´m just getting to know the ward, the area, and my companion, but wow, three week already!

So we had a week of a lot of fallen appointments this week. Basically, we´re supposed to at least two plans for every hour of every day, in case something falls. I felt every night that the three plans we had would surely be enough....and guess what? They weren´t! We actually ended up knocking doors, which is basically the first time I´ve knocked doors since we opened Plateros 5 months ago, I´m a little rusty.

So yeah, our week could have gone better, especially when no one came to church this Sunday that we had been teaching. However, somehow, we managed to find to new investigators who came to Church this week. One is the girlfriend of an inactive member who lives in Almoloya, and the other is a friend of the wife of the ward mission leader(wow that´s a mouthful). They found each other in the street when the sister was literally on her way to church, the friend said that she had had a hard time, and the sister invited her to church. We were going to teach her today (on our P-day), but the appointment fell (again), but at least we have a way to keep in touch with her, and she did seem to enjoy the spirit in the chapel.

We´re really working hard with this young couple we have in teaching. They are family of a brother in the ward that have moved in while the husband looks for a job. He found a job in the meantime in a Walmart more or less close to where they live. We actually watched Testaments with them this week, and they both loved it, then we extended a baptismal invitation. He said yes right away (he´s seen the difference that it´s made in the life of his Uncle, the member). She hesitated for a moment and said that she would like to learn more, but that she wanted to get baptized too.

Anyway, I hope that the get their answers to their prayers. When we leave to work at 6:00pm today, we´re going to Almoloya to see them. We´ve been praying for them, because we know that they can get baptized this change, it´s only a matter of keeping contact with them.

Well, this letter was pretty short, but I have very little time now. But thank you all for your prayers and support!


Elder Blackham

Monday, October 4, 2010

Weekly Letter: September 28-October 4, 2010

So we had a great week this week. Of course our numbers could have been better this week, but it was still one of the better weeks I´ve had as far as numbers go. I got to know more of the ward this week, and we found a few new investigators, some of them look really promising for baptism. Two of which are a young couple that are living the house of his Uncle while looking for a new house. The Uncle is a recent convert and absolutely excited about the church. It has truly changed his life. All his life he had had problems with alcohol, and could never stop for the world, even after going to professional help. The missionaries came to his house as when a member in his neighborhood gave the referral. He was baptized about a year ago, and he has been completely clean ever since. Everybody in his family has noticed the change. His cousin who has a son in a similar track has also asked to have the missionaries visit her son, and both of his sons that have moved out to other places have sent their addresses to their father so that he can send the missionaries to their house, and finally, his nephew and his wife have come to live with him and are listening to us. How great difference an example of a member and their enthusiasm can make!

Yeah, so things are looking up right now. Especially, since I more or less know the area and the ward and we can focus more on the investigators and finding new people. My companion had an interesting dilemma the other change. His companion, Elder DeGeorge got hit by a car in the second week of the change and had to go to DF, (he´s fine now, in fact, they gave him a boot and put him in the offices as secretary and he´s now driving the Mission van around in DF!), but after that, the two Zone leaders became Elder Chavez´s companions whenever he couldn´t do split with the members in the ward. And, as zone leaders, he went with them in all their interviews and activities, and had to split their time in their two areas(both of which were big). Anyway, the long story short: he has lost touch with many of his investigators, and I feel like I´m once again opening up an area, like I did in Plateros. Oh well, the fruits will come, but patience first.

I´d also like to talk about General Conference. The President of the Mission encouraged us all to attend all 5---or four for the sister-missionaries----sessions of conference. So we were able to participate in all 5 sessions. It was interesting to see the difference between the English and the Spanish versions. I attended the Spanish General conference for the first four sessions, and I liked it a lot, but when I went to the other room to watch it in English, I realized that there was more power in the way they spoke...not only what they spoke. The translators, although they do a great work, simply cannot do complete justice to the conference. (also, once of them has a Spanish accent that is a little distracting...the Spaniards lisp all the z´s and all the "ce" or "ci" combinations. Pres. Uchtdorf´s talk that constantly talked about the "velocidad" was a little bit hard for me.) So, I decided to watch the other three sessions in English. My companion decided to go with me, since he has really good English and wants to work harder on it so he can go to BYU or BYU Idaho, and he agreed that it was much more powerful from the voice of the prophet.

I was also impressed to see some people I knew in the choirs in the second session (from families in the Draper-Sandy area) and the Priesthood Session (friends from high school and BYU in the MTC Choir.) I actually was able to point out to my companion, who knew Elder Steed in the mission, that brother of the Elder Steed that he knew was in the choir. It´s really weird to think that Elder Douglas Steed is home from the mission, and that Elder Russell Steed has just begun. It´s hard to explain, but I always feel so happy when I hear that people are going on their missions!

Anyway, even though we had a lot fewer hours to work on both Saturday and Sunday, I feel like these talks were just what I needed. I don´t think there is any experience quite like General Conference as a Full-time Missionary! I think it´s because you have been focusing so much on how to help the people in your areas for 6 months, and then the "experts" get to tell in 10 short hours what you can do to make it better! How grateful I am for the Lord´s Servants the profets and apostles.

Well, I´m out of time. Thank you all for your love, support, and prayers. Please know that, even if I can´t name all my friends and family specifically, know that my companion and I are praying for all of you. Please continue praying for all the missionaries, you have no idea how much it helps.


Elder Blackham

Weekly Letter: September 21-28, 2010

My first change in the mission. I don't know why, but somehow I thought I would be in Plateros forever, but here I am in Toluca. Toluca and DF are completely different animals. DF is HUGE! and Toluca, while not small, is definitely not at the same scale. The areas in Toluca are a lot bigger than those in DF, thanks to the less dense population. My area is Toluca Centro, but it includes several other small towns, including Lomas, Almoloya, Suteym, and Colinias del Sol. Unfortunately, I have gotten in the habit to sleep in the buses or taxis if the journey takes more than 10 minutes(which was the longest journey we would take in DF) Luckily, we haven't had problems with that, even though my companion has the same tendency. However, it seems that whenever he's asleep, I'm awake and vice versa, so we've always gotten off at the right stop.

This area, also has a lot of more hills and mountains, Plateros had a lot of hills, but none of them were this steep and all of them were completely blanketed in houses and buildings. Here in Toluca there is a lot more nature. Anyway, there are a lot more opportunities to take photos here, but I just have to find a way to make my connection work with the computer to send them. We also can see El Nevado de Toluca from our area in a clear day (which happens a lot more here than in DF, thanks to the pollution there). It's a dormant volcano that basically dominates the valley. We've talked to a sister in Lomas, who says that the view from the hill just outside of Lomas has a great view of the entire valley and volcanoe. So I think that one P-day we're going to hike it.

I also had the chance to meet my new companion, Elder Chavez. He is a great missionary, and very humble. I have learned a lot from his example of teaching. It's funny, you'd think that since I have more time in the mission that I would know how to teach better than he does, but the fact is that we're both learning from each other. Actually, I don't really have all that much time more than he does in the mission. We just figured it out today, with my MTC experience, and my coming late in the field due to my visa, we basically have the same amount of time in the field, so really, I do have more time in the mission, but we have about the same experience level: Two areas and 5 months in Mexico.

I am basically out of time. I'm sorry that with all the new changes in the mission (including having to use time on internet to write the president) I don't have nearly as much time as I did before. Anyway, thank you all, like always for the support and keep me in your prayers!


Elder Blackham

Weekly Letter: September 14-20, 2010

So, yeah, we´ve had a bunch of rain these last few weeks. I have been very well aware of the hurricanes in Veracuz and Tabasco Mexico. It sounds like the latest one in Veracruz was pretty strong and left quite a few people homeless. It´s interesting because many of the Elders here have homes in Veracruz or Tabasco. There´s a joke here that if you´re not from Utah, you´re from Veracruz. Elder Gamez would be an exception to that, but his family lives in Tabasco, which is just south of the state of Veracruz in Mexico, so I figure it´s close enough.

So basically, I thought the rainy season would have ended by now, but it still shows not sign of slowing, basically every afternoon, it rains, many time really strong. Actually more than a few people here expressed their concerns about the Bicentenario celebration in Zócalo (that was in our Zone, but, of course, we couldn´t go.) that it would be rained out. However, things remained more or less clear that day. It rained a little at about 5 or 6 in the afternoon, but it wasn´t strong and it didn´t compete with the celebration at 10:00 that night.

But yeah, ¡Happy 200th, mexico! We as elders weren´t able to do much work that night, so we got together as a Zone to have....basically a barbecue, but in a Mexican way. It was a great opportunity to interact, especially because we knew by then that the cambios (transfers) were going to be the following Monday....which is today.

Anyway, I´ll give you the news right now. I have been changed to my second area. We´re to report to Camarrones for the changes, I´m going to have lug all my luggage, and then from their, I´m going to Toluca Centro. Everybody here tells me one of three things when I tell them this: It´s far away, It´s really cold, or It´s far away and really cold. So I guess I might be going somewhere really far away, and might be a little cold. Anyway, they tell me there are a lot of mountains there, so I´ll try to take some pictures on the way.

I´m going to be received by Elder Chavez. He´s going to be senior comp even though he only has 5 months. When my companion was talking on the phone about the changes he at first didn´t want to tell me the news. When he told me that he had less time than I did I started to worry and I asked him who was senior. He told me that Elder Chavez was. Actually, I found it a relief that I wasn´t going to leave my first area in the mission as senior companion. Everyone was telling me that that was going to happen, but I didn´t feel right about it. I was worried, more than I should have been. I feel that I have more to learn from another area as junior companion, so I´m thankful that the Lord is giving me the opportunity to serve in this way.

I also believe that it will be a chance to grow in my humility. Even though I don´t want to think about it, that fact of having a Senior comp that has less time in the mission as you do can be a sting in pride. I have seen many people that have felt that way and I never wanted that to happen to me, because I know that if I´m in that situation I need to learn from it, and I can´t do that if I´m too prideful. As I mentioned earlier, my first reaction on hearing that news was relief, but I´m ashamed to say that I did focus a little in that he had less time than me. However, I soon turned to the Lord and asked for the help to accept this assignment and support my new companion. (who probably just became senior companion in this change with me and needs my support in being such....just as I would need help in his situation) Right now I can honestly say that all my feelings of jealousy or pride that could have overridden me have disappeared miraculously. How great miracles the Lord can work within a person when he is willing and to change!

I also am really excited for my companion who got raised up this change. (I don´t like using that term, but it´s what all the missionaries say here.) It came from the many changes that our mission president made in the mission this change. Before this change, in one of the districts in a zone, the junior Zone Leader doubled as district leader in his district. The district here in Plateros was one of these districts. Now, the two Zone Leaders in Puerta Grande are equals in their station, and there is another district leader aside.....i.e.: Elder Gamez.

I have two very quick, and funny comments about this. One, is that he brought this on himself. I mentioned earlier that he really renewed my faith in this area in Plateros, that I had been bored with and had thought there couldn´t be much success here. One time he said "It can have a lot of success, I think it can even be an area of leaders" in the mission, the leaders don´t have much time to work with people, but manage to still maintain a good or higher-than-average level of success(Puerta Grande that baptized more than 20 this change is a good example of this). So when he became the district Leader, I told him "It´s a great area, I think it can even be an area of Leaders." He, however, (who didn´t like the idea of this new calling) laughed very weakly, and said, "I guess I brought this on myself." I assured him that it was simply revelation.

The second thing that is funny comes from the fact of my history in companions. Elder Javier, right now, is still in Lerma, as District Leader, Elder Childers (before he left today) was in Clavaria District Leader, and now, thanks to the changes, Elder Gamez is still in Plateros, but as District Leader. Man! I really feel sorry for this Elder Chavez, he´s going to have less time in the mission that I have right now and he´s going to become District Leader, too! (if my history continues in this direction.)

So yeah, I was really happy to hear about that. Elder Gamez didn´t like the idea very much, but he´s willing to work in that calling, and as I said before, I feel he already has been shaped into being the District Leader that is needed right now

Well, it looks like I´ve run out of time. Thank you all for all your prayers. Please help me with this new change. It will definitely be a change.


Elder Blackham

Monday, September 13, 2010

Weekly Letter: September 7-13, 2010

Another week. I won´t bore you guys in talking the time really flies. Unfortunately, I wasn´t able to have the opportunity to enjoy many fruits this week. The ones I did have I will try to talk about, but I think this week was a week of learning more than anything. I want to tell you guys that I´m not down on myself, never had been. If I sound like I´m a little disappointed in my letters, it probably means that I am a little disappointed, but I´ve never felt like this isn´t where I should be or that I´m wasting time. In fact, everyday, I realize that this is exactly where I need to be, and that time is short and should make the most of it, because for these two years, none of it is mine.

This week, I received a great testimony about the revelation of the Mission President and his Assistants. In our Zone Conference in the las Change, another Model Lesson was introduced. This lesson was designed by the Assistants and the president in order to receive more referrals. It includes a letter with a talk by L. Tom Perry called "Bring Souls to Me"(from April 2009 conference)and other short quotes from Gordon B. Hinckley and Joseph Smith about the necesity of missionary work with the members. At first, I, knowing much of the members thought about each one of them and thought, "I don´t know who would have references." We didn´t teach it very well.

Then came Elder Gamez who already tried and had a testimony about this. We read the letter with several members this week and had more fruits than I thought we would get. One person after the final prayer gave us the list. It had 18 names on it! This came as a surprise because whenever we passed by her house we asked for references and she would say: "I think the other Elders have knocked on all the doors around here and no one has accepted." But this conference talk brought in the right spirit and she chose to give us the references.

I´ve also learned a lot about my teaching. I mentioned in my other letter about an experience with a confirmation after almost "Bible bashing" them. What I have come realize more and more that it wasn´t that at all. It was pure doctrine explained with clarity. We weren´t apologists for the doctrine, the doctrine is black and white. I´ve come to realize that I have been a sort of apologist in the past for the doctrine. I thought I was expressing love to the investigators, but I wasn´t doing that. I was trying to explain the doctrine for something that I saw they were having troubles with in a way that didn´t hurt their feelings...and what do I see? People who love having us around because we talk pretty, but don´t complete their commitments.

So I realized a little bit too late what I was doing. I also tried to spoon feed doctrine to some people. I would take a scripture and try to apply every part of it to their lives exactly....what ended up happening was I ended up blabbing on for a long time, and they just looked at me. That isn´t how the work should be. They need to teach themselves. We explain the doctrine cleanly, purely, plainly, and then let them apply it to their lives....let them see what they need to do in order to apply to their lives.

I continue to marvel at the patience of my companion Elder Gamez with me. I had one such lesson on Saturday where I basically blabbed and blabbed. Afterwards, I realized what I was doing, and tried to get him to save the lesson. He simply bore his testimony on what I said and set another appointment. After the appointment he told me quickly, quietly, but clear as ever that I need to study the doctrine and teach it clear and pure. He said that I would learn soon enough as senior companion(he believes that I´m going to transfer to another area as senior comp....I think it´s wishful-thinking because he doesn´t want to be transferred and become District Leader like everyone says he will be.) that I can´t always rely on my companion to know what to say. I need to study the doctrine to know for myself what I need to say.

Anyway, I think that he´s completely right, and I´m going to take care to study not only from the Book of Mormon, but also from Preach My Gospel and the pamphlets for the lessons that we have.

So I have no time, but thank you all for your prayers and support. Love you all!


Elder Thomas Blackham

Friday, September 10, 2010

Weekly Letter: August 31-September 6, 2010

Another week....and another month....and almost another transfer.

I haven´t a clue what´s happened with August. It was here just a moment ago. I was just thinking of the date and realized.....I´ve completed 7 months in the mission. If I could express the joy and horror that come from that phrase. 7 months! I´m not green anymore! and 7 months: and what have I done with these seven months? I don´t know what I´ve done with this much of the Lord´s time, but I doubt it´s enough! I don´t know, I was still getting over the fact that I had 6 months in the mission, and then this had to happen! Oh well, I guess we keep going and try to make the best of the time I have here.

This week we had a few changes for us. First of all, Hermano Zepeda was released as the Ward Mission Leader. It came about a month or so later than it should have. Hermano Zepeda had been called as a counselor in the Stake Young Men´s presidency, which is calling where is basically assisting every ward but his own throughout the month. So he was basically out of action, even though he was very supportive and kept asking the bishop to call another ward mission Leader. And yesterday we got a new one. His name is Santiago, he´s recently moved in to the ward with his wife who had been in Plateros her whole life. However, I´m really excited to work with him. He´s not Hermano Zepeda, but I feel that he´s going to support us and help us as much as he can.

We also had an interesting experience. Elder Javier, Elder Childers, Elder Gamez, and I have been working for months to get some of the people we baptized confirmed. There were two that have put quite a bit of resistance of being confirmed, and had the longest time without being confirmed. The bishop told us that if someone passes 3 months after their baptism without being confirmed, they have to repeat the ordinance. So we did all we could to help make this step, but they didn´t want to.....or rather, they kept saying that they were working on it, but never gave the signals of progress. I think they were one of the reasons that I have stayed in this area. I really didn´t want to leave this work unfinished, like Javier and Childers were unfortunately obligated to do. Especially with these people, because if I went, that would mean that neither one of us that had baptized them (Javier and I) would have been there for their confirmation.

Unfortunately, the whole time with Childers, they made little progress, and became a lesser priority with all the work we had. But with Elder Gamez, we made them a higher priority from the start. And finally after almost three months without being confirmed, the two of them came to church yesterday and were confirmed members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It really thrilled me to see them, I still don´t know what we did to help them, but I think it had to do with our lesson on Friday.

Friday, we passed by like we often do before another appointment. We´ve found out from hard experience that it´s better that way because they´re almost always home in the afternoon EXCEPT whenever we´ve made an appointment for that afternoon. Mysteriously, they always seem to have urgent business somewhere else that they hadn´t a clue about until two hours before the appointment. Anyway, so we didn´t make that mistake again. We passed by, they welcomed us warmly, told us they were doing marvelously(like always) and had us sit down and put their attention for us. We had brought a seminary video for the Book of Mormon and were going to talk about faith, but our plans went down another road when she asked: "Has the bishop asked about me?" My companion was inspired to say that he was worried about her, and said that we would explain why in the lesson after the prayer.

In hindsight, I should have been worried, because I had no idea where he was going with this, but I had a great trust in him, and more than that, in the Spirit that was directing him to say what he needed to say. After the prayer, my companion and I described what was a covenant, and that we were concerned because of what the scriptures said about not fulfilling a covenant. My companion just happened to flip to Mosiah 5 where it describes the woe to those who don´t fulfill covenants. It was funny, I thought it was just a normal lesson, until my companion read one scripture in 2 Nephi 31 that was really hard...but neither one of us realized until we looked at the face of the Sister that was strangely quieted, (she has a habit of giving lengthy, wordy answers that really have very little feeling or comprehension behind them) I then muttered "Wow!" to my companion, who at that point realized that he had "planchado" or "bible-bashed" them.

So yeah, we ended the lesson quickly after that, not even committing them to go to church. We both left, marvelling about how hard we had been on them. I hadn´t been as hard on them as he was....or at least I don´t think so...but the more I thought about the things I taught them and how I taught them, I couldn´t believe it. I also bible bashed them....or rather, described the doctrine clearly without compromise. We actually felt really bad, because the family was very hospitable, but never wanted to put in practice the stuff they said they knew was true. We didn´t even follow up the next day on what had happened. So we were really surprised to see them in Church yesterday, and even more so that they didn´t put any resistance in getting confirmed.

I still haven´t a clue what we did that friday. I don´t know if this will be the final challenge that they´ll have with the church, but at least the convenant is complete, and we can ease the work more to the members of the ward. Anyway, I´m just glad that they could have been confirmed, they were ready for it, but I don´t have clue why it took so long.

Well I´m out of time right now so I´d better go.

Thanks for everything!


Elder Blackham

Weekly Letter: August 24-30, 2010

So another week has gone by. It was funny, it seems like yesterday that my companion was like "ummm, what happened to the second week of the change?" and I was like, "oh, yeah, this is crazy. Time is moving so fast!" And guess what? We just finished week three! What happened?! The thing is, that every week, my companion and I are motivating each other to work harder, faster, and more effectively with the time we have. The thing is, when we do that, the time passes even faster. I literally can´t believe how fast this week has gone. I feel like nothing has happened since the last time I wrote but then I think about all things we did day by day, I can´t believe how we were able to do all this in one week.

Even though this week didn´t have the fruits that I thought we would have, we worked harder than we have before in the mission. The thing is, we couldn´t find very many new people this week because we had so many appointments with so many people. We´re going to make some hard decisions this week, and deciding who isn´t progressing and leaving them. We literally had so many appointments this week, that we weren´t able to keep in good contact with someone who was going to get baptized this week, but because we were so busy we weren´t able to get everything ready for them. So, yeah, we had a hard lesson in learning to put priorities, but got to learn in some way, right?

Anyway, I´ve been learning a lot from Elder Gamez. I´m really lucky to have him as a companion. There are a lot of Elderes in this mission that are focused in different thing, such as leadership and stuff like that. However, he is perfectly content how he is. He says that leadership is just a bunch of responsibility and less time to focus on the people. I agree completely with his way of thinking. The thing is, I´m really happy to see other people I know getting leadership positions, both Javier and Childers are District leaders in their respective areas, and I´m so happy to hear that. Also some people that arrived at the same time I did have become senior companions, and one is District leader. I´m really happy for them, but whenever people tell me that I´m going to be raised up, too, I get nervous, and my head starts thinking in things that are not my current responsibility. Whenever I catch myself thinking like that I get angry at myself and try to think of the people I have in my area. That´s the thing that I always fall back on in the mission, when I think too much of home or whatever, I think about the people in my area.

So yeah, neither one of us likes the idea of being a leader, which is funny because Gamez is the senior companion, and he´s always asking me to make the decisions, and I´m always like "You know the area as well as I do, you tell me what you think." Anyway, I might sound a little lazy, but I really don´t like the idea of having to split my time between taking care of both the investigators and the missionaries, being that I don´t have that much time as it is for our investigators.

Anyway, that being said, Elder Gamez really shows the capacity of being a really good leader. He´s really humble, he has a lot of knowledge, and he gets along with people very well because of his patience. I really admire these qualities and I´m working on developing them more like him...not because I want to be a leader, but a better missionary.

It´s truly a great experience the mission. We learn so much from our study. We learn so much from the people we meet, even more from those we teach, and even more from our companions. I really haven´t learned this much in my life! I´m really glad for this opportunity to serve the mission, and even more so when I think about for whom I´m doing this service. I´ve said this before, but the Lord doesn´t need us to do His work, it´s a gift to work for Him in bringing blessings to His children.

Thanks for all the love and support. Truly I´m so grateful that I have help in this work, if it weren´t that way, I would only be wasting time, but as it is, with the help I have, I´m able to see miracles.


Elder Thomas Blackham

Weekly Letter: August 17-23, 2010

Wow, what a week! I don´t even know how to start this off! First of all, it rained....a lot! I had thought that the rainy season would be finishing up right now, since it started in well in June, it should be ending right now, but basically like clockwork, every afternoon, it rained a ton! it was pretty cool, except that our house didn´t like it too much. Our apartment complex, like many others here in DF, has an open center where we can hang our laundry to dry. It was way cool because we literally had to go down a waterfall to get down stairs! Then we opened the door and the street was basically a river! But being DF, the traffic was heavy as usual, it was way cool to see the cars passing through knee-level water. The small cars literally looked like boats because you couldn´t see the wheels!

So yeah, this all happened while we were waiting for the Zone Leaders to do a baptismal interview with two of our investigators. They had already been interviewed before by Elder Steed, but that was two months ago, so Elder Cardenas and Elder Cabrera wanted to check that everything was good. When we arrived at the house of Uriel and Gabriela, Gaby basically chewed me out. She said that some of her friends in the church were saying that they weren´t being fair to us as missionaries, that they kept saying they were going to get baptized, but never followed through. She told me that she had told me when Javier left, that this month was going to be difficult to be baptized because it is the busiest time at her work. She then told me, "I told you I´m going to get baptized! Okay? So don´t act all sad and everything in front of the members."

I can honestly say that this was the first time I enjoyed getting chewed out. I can honestly say that I was starting to doubt that I would see them get baptized, I knew they would be baptized, but every week something else would happen that made it difficult. However, after the interviews, they said that this Sunday for sure they would get baptized.

Sunday came, and so did they! Actually, Gabriela skipped out on her work to be there. She said that they were going to reprimand her, but she wanted to get baptized so much that it didn´t matter. She said that because the busy season at her work was now going to calm down that she shouldn´t have problems anymore with going to church on Sundays. Uriel also received a job that is only Monday through Saturdays everyday from 9 am until 6 pm. That may not sound very ideal, but here in DF, that´s a real blessing.

So the Lord provided the way that the two of them could be baptized. Elder Childers was able to get permission to be there for their baptism, (because Gabriela had made him promise to baptize her). So it was a beautiful experience, and the two of them were really happy and excited. Even the cold water didn´t deter them....even though Uriel gave me a hard time about the water. He told me afterwards "You didn´t even give me time to prepare myself you just dunked me as soon as you said the prayer." I told him it was better to get it over with and get out of the cold water, and, shivering, he laughed and agreed.

Well, I was only able to write about this experience, and although it was the crowning experience of the week, it wasn´t the only thing I wanted to write about, but right now I am out of time. So I´ll have to close with that and save the rest for next week.

Thank you all for the love and the support. It really means a lot!


Elder Blackham

Monday, August 16, 2010

Weekly Letter: August 10-16, 2010

So my first week with a new companion in Plateros. I cannot explain how blessed I have been with companions. When I told a bunch of people that I had Elder Gamez, the following happened: 1) they didn´t know him 2) they didn´t know him, but knew of him, that he was a good guy 3) they knew him and told me he was a good guy. So I was a little nervous but not too much. Manuel was more nervous than I was about "his" new companion. (It´s funny, but he literally is like a third companion for us....except he can go on "splits" with girls, because he isn´t subject to mission rules yet.) However, from the beginning, we´ve been working hard. We could have done better, for example, we had a baptism fall through, and we don´t know what happened because we couldn´t be in contact Saturday, because we were in the Visitor´s Center by the temple. However, Elder Gamez has a different kind of energy for the work. I don´t know if it´s a better energy than that which Javier and Childers had, it´s just different. It´s really hard to compare my companions, so I won´t. But I will say that I learned a lot from Elder Childers, more than I thought I would, he´s a masterful teacher of the gospel, a great missionary, and an incredible friend.

But with this change, I´m really excited to work with Elder Gamez, it seems like he was a born learner. He has learned the area really fast that sometimes I forget that he´s only been here a week. He´s already very familiar with our investigators, our area of proselyting(I don´t have a clue if I spelled that right), and he´s getting to know the member really well. He and Manuel have become good friends, and it feels like we´re a trio again.

About Elder Gamez, he is from Monterrey, Monterrey, México, although like a year before his mission, he and his family moved to Tabasco. So he´s from the North. The North is a different culture than here in the south....and different food. I shouldn´t say that Mexico City is Southern culture, because it´s not, it´s different from that of Tabasco or of Oaxaca, but it´s a lot more southern than Northern. This being said, his tastes for food a little more American....or maybe just different. Not only has he heard of Root Beer, but he also likes it.(Root beer hardly is found around here) He also knows a great deal more of English than Elder Javier.(Not quite as much as Childers, but he´s getting there). He loves Burritos(which are also a scarcity in DF) and he likes his tacos with flour tortillas and not with corn tortillas.

Anyway, we´ve really gotten along really well. He´s incredibly obedient, which has woken me up to the fact that I can improve in that respect. In fact, I had an awesome experience this week with my personal study. My personal study probably had been lacking a little bit since I was in the field. I was often really tired, and wanted to read in my bed....and you guys can probably guess what that would lead to. This change, thanks to a stirring talk from President Villarreal, I was moved to improve in every aspect of my study this change and strive to be perfectly obedient.

With this desire, I was blessed with a beautiful experience the first day. In the MTC, I not only enjoyed personal study, but looked forward to it every day. I really had the opportunity to feast on the scriptures. However, as I mentioned, maybe my study was a bit lacking before here in the field. This time I decided to study in my desk, with a study journal. As I was studying, Elder Gamez put some music on from his mp3 player....hymn arrangements on piano. This music, with the study journal brought in a spirit that I didn´t realize I was missing. If I needed to, I couldn´t tell you which hymns were playing, which one touched me so, or what I learned in my study that I wrote down. I just remember the feeling, I felt like I was in the MTC again. I didn´t realize how strong the spirit was in that place until this week, when I got a taste of it again. I don´t often weep, not out of shame of shedding tears, but more because my emotions usually don´t cause such a reaction, but I will admit to you all that I was weeping profoundly that first day. Thanking my comp(who either thought I was weird or really emotional) and God for such an experience.

I also had a gratifying experience with a priesthood blessing this week. We´re teaching this family, who has two teen-age daughters, the older of which has not been very open about the church, she´s been willing to listen, but never has accepted any commitment, because she only wants to hear our beliefs. This said daughter, has been trying to pass an exam for years, but she has always been nervous for the said exam, and hasn´t passed it yet. She was going to take the exam this Friday, and was again very nervous about it, which she admitted openly, was her problem more than the fact that she didn´t know the material. Both Elder Gamez and I, who have historically done well in our exams in the past both gave some advice, and offered to give her a priesthood blessing. She accepted this blessing, and we gave her the blessing Thursday, the night before this exam.

I was chosen to be voice for this blessing. I have always been nervous to give blessings, even in English. In Spanish, I´ve got a few more challenges to overcome. Along with the lack of vocabulary, I have to use the "Tú"-form for "you" in these blessings, of which I am not so familiar with, since in the street, we use the "usted"-form for "you." However, this time, the words flowed out of my mouth with a fluidity that I didn´t think was possible. During the blessing, words would come to my mind, in written form(I can pronounce more accurately when I see who a word is spelled, than from hearing the word from a native mouth). Also during the blessing, another piece of advice came to my mind that he had not yet mentioned. I finished the blessing, and after a moment told her the piece of advice. We wished her luck with her exam.

That Saturday, we went with both daughters, Manuel, and Antonio Sandoval(a recent convert) to the Visitor´s Center by the Temple. And this daughter thanked us for the blessing and told us that she felt unnaturally peaceful during the exam, and had put in practice the advice I had shared with her at the last minute, which also helped a lot with her nerves. Anyway, the Visitor´s center is another story of it´s own, and I have no time now, but I think they both had a good experience.

Anyway, thank you so much for your prayers, and help for me. I need them. We all, as missionaries in the world, need them. This isn´t our work, it´s the Lord´s. It should never be anyone else´s, because when it is some else´s work, it ceases to have the power that we have seen. I hope you all can have such an experience in you life to be made an instrument in this work, it´s a humbling thing.


Elder Blackham

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Weekly Letter: August 3-9, 2010

The cambios have come again, and with them come....change. I was in quite the situation last week. Whenever I thought of the cambios, I dreaded the change, but also looked forward to it. It´s hard to explain, I tried to explain it last week, but I think I failed to do so adequately. I would try again this week, but I know I´ll just waste time and energy only to fail again. Oh well. One of the changes that I wasn´t looking forward to was saying good-bye to my District Leader, Elder Steed.

This last week was surreal to see him leave. We had both gone to Alta together, but hadn´t really gotten to know each other very well because of difference in age, but I had known and been friends with his younger brother, Russell, and they look very similar to each other, so I recognized him instantly to be his brother. It was a great experience having him as a district leader these last two transfers. He basically was smiling every moment for those 12 weeks. I bet he even smiles when asleep! So it´s really weird to think that he´s right now on the airplane ride home. But I know that he served honorably and I´m very grateful for the opportunity that I had to get to know him here in the Mission.

But this was only of the changes that came. I´m going to receive another companion here in Plateros. So I get to stay here with the people I knew and got to love these last 3 and a half months....but I lose my companion (well, one of them, Manuel is basically the third Elder). Elder Childers is actually returning to the area he was in before he came to Plateros, but this time as District Leader. There, he is going to complete his mission. So my Stepfather(in the mission) is going to die(in the mission) in Camarones.(it´s a place, but it´s named after a shrimp---yeah, the fish in the ocean. Why? I have no idea. No one does.) [Basically I just used some lingo from the mission which sounds really weird in English, I imagine that it does in Spanish too, but all the elders that I talk to understand what I mean when I use it, so I don´t think it´s so weird. So if any of you don´t understand what I said, just skip that sentence because I was basically repeating myself in Mission lingo.]

So I´m going to receive Elder Gamez here in plateros. Once again, I´m going to have to teach him the area, but it´s okay, at least I´m not senior companion. Right now, I think that would be too much of a headache for me. I guess I haven´t learned all I could from this area, because I´ll be here another 6 weeks. That´s actually okay, what I was hoping for actually, because we were going to have a lot of baptisms this Sunday, but all but one fell through at the last minute.

The only one that got baptized was a member from a less-active family that had been baptized a year before. The bishop had given us this name because the daughter had been baptized a year before, but went to Canada the week after for 6 months without being confirmed. Elder Javier and I had worked hard in finding her, but she had been busy because she was preparing to be married. When she got married, she then went on a honeymoon, but these last two week she had returned again. When we finally had an appointment with her last week we explained that because it had been a long time since her baptism that she had to repeat the ordinance. She accepted the idea pretty easily, since she had already made the decision once. We then asked her when she would be baptized, and she asked if she could this sunday. We were like... "Ummm.....YEAH!" She got interviewed two days latter, and, even though she was a little sick, she came to church and got baptized after the services.

So yeah, I was a little sad that the other 6 baptisms that we had set for that date fell through, but during that one baptism, I forgot everything. I definitely need to work on the other 6 that weren´t able to. The Orea Zavaleta family, had to do a lot of paperwork with the house(which they are to inherit from Uriel´s grandmother who passed away recently), Carolina and Fernanda weren´t able to go because of a family commitment for their father´s birthday, and Guillermo and Socorro couldn´t get interviewed and didn´t go to church. So we had one baptism this week, but we still have a lot of work to do. I wonder how my companion is going to react when I tell him that we had 7 set for baptism this week and only one got baptized. He´s probably going think, "Oh, we have some work to do here." I think I´m still learning patience daily, and I´m learning a lot about the agency of others. We can only do so much, it´s their decision. But we´re going to work hard on having a lot of baptisms the next week....especially if the other family we challenged to baptism this last week follows through on their commitment.

Anyway, time is short. Thank you for the support. Please continue praying for me. I know it would be a mistake to say that I´m completely ready for what will come this cambio, because if I had already learned the lessons, why would I have to experience it again? Pray for me to learn and improve daily.


Elder Blackham

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Pictures for July 27-August 2, 2010

First of all, I attached a few photos from the baptisms we had last week. The taller lady is Marisela and the shorter one is Bety. I also attached a photo of Irene, Bety, and Marisela we took after the baptism of Bety. (who is smiling! A Mexican smiling in a photo? No way!) I debated attaching other photos of a photo duel that Manuel and I had one night. We both have cameras that have a low-light setting. So we turned of the lights and had flash wars(on P-day of course). A lot of them are pretty meaningless, because we were focusing more on having the camera flash in the eyes of the other, but I´ve attached a few, most of them because I won (I took the picture first).....and you can tell because in the pictures you can see his camera warming up to flash at me.

Weekly Letter: July 27-August 2

Another week has gone by. I cannot believe that transfers are coming up again. This is the last week before transfers, and so I´m in a little spot. I don´t want to change. I love my companion, I love the people here, and I've still got a lot of work to do here. However, I realized last week how much time I have in this area, and I would like to get to know more of the city. It would be perfect if I could bring my companion and all the people here to another place in the city.

Anyway, I´m getting ahead of myself. It´s not my decision. It´s the Lord´s. It´s out of my hands, and all I can do is live in the here and now, and do the things that are in my hands, and leave the other things in the hands of the Lord. He knows what I need to do, and whatever that may be, I better do the best I can to do it.

This week could have gone better in many respects. We didn't have any of the 6 baptisms we had as a goal follow through yesterday. (Coincidentally, we now have 6 people with a date for next Sunday....I hope everything goes through) First of all, the family Orea Zavaleta was unable to get baptized this week, because they still have people in their house Reciting Prayers and all that stuff in respect of the death in their family, and they didn´t feel very comfortable leaving so many people in their house for about four and half hours(during all the services and then their baptismal service). However, they seem to be coping well with everything. I was able to talk to Uriel a little bit while my companion and I took a short walk with the two of them Saturday night. I does seem a little hurt, but he continues strong, and he still has a lot of desires to get baptized. So they told us that this next week they will be baptized.

Two other people were Carolina Ábrego and her daughter Fernanda. Carolina is the sister of Bety that has been in teaching almost as long as her sister, but didn´t seem to be going anywhere. They just liked having us around. When we committed them to be baptized last week, they looked at us like "Is that what you wanted this entire time?" So they weren´t certain. That is, until Bety got baptized last Sunday, Fernanda, upon hearing of her experience(they weren´t able to go to church that sunday) suddenly got lit up with desires to get baptized, Carolina was a little less sure, but she was also bolstered by the example of her sister. As much as hearing of the baptism of Bety bolstered their desires, going to the Visitor´s Center by the Temple multiplied about fifty times. We went Friday with Irene, Marisela, and the two of them (Mari Tere was going to come with her son, but they had commitments). Irene and Marisela enjoyed themselves a great deal, but had to leave after a couple hours due to problems with the little girls they brought along(their granddaughters.) Meanwhile, Carolina and Fernanda seemed aloof in respect of time, especially when they were looking at all the temples, and when they listened to a few short messages from President Monson. That night after everything, Carolina finally opened up and begged us to put her baptism for the next Sunday, and not for yesterday, because she wasn´t sure she could convince her husband. We told her to pray about it and to make her decision. Before we left, Fernanda whispered that she would convince Carolina to be baptized that Sunday. So both of them now have the desire, the only thing that impeded them was the fact that her husband was away in a trip for work until well after the services on Sunday, and she never got to talk to him. However, I don´t have doubts that they will get baptized.

The final two people is an elderly couple, whose nephew recently was baptized and confirmed in the ward in Santa Fe(it´s a Colonia in Mexico City, kind of like Plateros, Mixcoac, Tacubaya, or Puerta Grande). They only problem is they haven´t ever come to the ward in Plateros, but have gone to the ward in Santa Fe two or three times already. That said, I think that if they do go to Plateros this Sunday, that will be able to baptize them after the services. Both of them really wanted to get baptized this week, but had already agreed to go to the ward in Santa Fe, to watch their nephew bless the sacrament for the first time. The only thing I´m concerned about is that the Elders in Santa Fe(who are in our Zone), are going to try to steal them and baptize them there. But I don´t think it would make much sense, because the Elders were the ones that gave them to us as a referral, but who knows what could happen!

Anyway, so this week could have gone better, but I´ve got high hopes for this next week!

Thank you so much for the prayers and support!


Elder Blackham

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Weekly Letter: July 20-26, 2010

Another week, eh? I´m not sure what happened. It has gone by so fast, but at the same time we have done so much this week. We were able to have our first Zone conference with the new Mission president. I really enjoy learning and working with him. He is very loving and expresses it well. We had a chance, Elder Childers and I, to talk to him a little. He first asked how much time we had in the mission. Childers told him about 22 months, and I told him 5. He laughed and told us that he had 3 weeks. It´s interesting that his approach is different from the other president. He told us that we should count the days of our mission. We were like "huh?" I thought it would make us trunky, but he clarified saying. "I´m counting the days of my mission....every. single. one." How true this is. Everyday is a gift, especially in this work, and if we don´t make every one count, we really aren´t treasuring the gift we have. I still haven´t been able to do this, but I´m working on it. It´s hard to think that I´ve already got 5 months, almost a quarter of my mission already under my belt. And what have I done? Not enough.

That being said, we had a pretty good week. The highlights were the two baptismal services we had on Saturday and Sunday. Marisela Valdés got baptized on Saturday. The service was very beautiful, but the only thing that I regret is that there wasn´t a lot of people, I think, due to the rain. However, her testimony was sweet and we all had a special moment with her that day.

She was then confirmed yesterday in the services. After that, Bety Ábrego was baptized after the services! She was able to finally convince her family to let her get baptized. It was a marvelous experience. We had challenged her to get baptized that thursday, but on friday, when we visited her, she hadn´t still talked to her family. I thought that this was going to be a challenge for her, especially with her husband, so I didn´t have a lot of faith. What´s more, I felt really bad in the stomach that morning and we were late to church. However, I now have a testimony of the power of priesthood blessings. Manuel Piña and my companion Elder Childers were able to give me one before the services. In Manuel´s spoken blessing (his first time giving one), he gave me the promise that I would be able to accomplish all that I needed to do and keep the sabbath day holy. This was before I knew that Bety was going to ask me to baptize her.

So, during the services, I felt almost normal, and I was marveling why. That is, until Hermana Ábrego asked me to baptize her. What a grand experience it was to baptize her. I was no longer distracted by my fatigue and discomfort and was able to do the ordinance well in the eyes of God. I have seldom seen such faith as I have with her. She actually quit her job this week,(so that she doesn´t need to work on Sundays) and is waiting with faith for the blessings of her baptism. She went to church, alone, even though her sister Carolina was going to come, but couldn´t, even though we were going to pass by in the car of Hermano Zepeda, but were a about an hour late(due to my sickness). She took the initiative and I have no doubts that she will be blessed for it.

It´s a tender mercy to have witnessed this miracle in her life. I don´t know if I wrote this before, but she told Elder Javier and me earlier about a dream of her baptism, she explained the baptismal font perfectly and told me there was a lot of people there to support her. Well, both of these came to pass yesterday. Because it was after the services, everyone that could from the ward came to her baptism, to the point that there were people standing in the back. In addition, Irene Sánchez and Maricela Valdés(the three of which had become good friends) were there to support her in her decision. I didn´t realize until Hermano Zepeda mentioned something about fulfilled promises that she had perfectly seen this baptism about a month before in her dreams.

In respect of her work, Hermano Zepeda commented something to Elder Childers that I think is an answer to her prayers(but we haven´t able to give her the information yet.) He commented that the distribution center needs people that can work in making clothes(Neither I nor my companion know how to say this in English: "Sewery? I don´t think that´s right.") This is what she has worked in in her other work, it will pay well, and it´s by the church, so she will rest the weekends(including Sundays!) We still have a lot to do to make sure everything fits out for this job, but I know that our Father in Heaven is very well aware of the needs of His daughter.

Well, those were the two baptisms that we had. The only ones we missed were the family Orea Zavaleta. They´re still continuing strong. But were unable to be baptized or attend church because his grandmother died on friday. Her funeral services were yesterday, so that made things difficult, but I no longer have doubts that they will get baptized. We just have to continue helping them with their concerns. He no longer has the reservations that he had before about being baptized, in fact he was telling every one of his friends about his baptism in the week. Right now, they are facing the challenges with more strength and faith. Of course, they´re a little sad about this challenge, but neither one have doubts that they´ll see her again. We also talked to them about baptisms for the dead, especially because the grandmother also wanted to get baptized when we talked to her. So I expect that as soon as they can get a temple recommend she´ll get baptized for the grandmother of her husband.

Anyway, I literally have no time to write more, but this week was a good one, and I´m looking forward to an even better one.


Elder Blackham