Monday, February 22, 2010

Por todos Ustedes: February 16-22, 2010

Another week! Wow! It seems like I was just barely doing this for last week. Things are going well here at the MTC, but I am starting to get pretty anxious to get out in the field...even though I know I'm not ready.

I think the main reason for this is because my companion, Elder Palmer leaves this Wednesday for the Peruvian MTC. It really is hard to say goodbye to him since he's been such a good companion and a really good influence in my life. It also gets me a little envious that he is going to get immersed in the language and some of the culture elements long before I do. So he's off to Peru and I'm in Provo for another six weeks....oh well.

But I cannot say enough about Elder Palmer, he has taught me so much by his example and the way he lives his life. He is one of the most funniest and easy going people I've ever met...when he's getting ready to go to bed. But as soon as the suit is on, it's off to work! He focuses so hard on obtaining perfection on the finest details of the work that it really has been a call of repentance on my part. I'm really going to miss him, but I'm happy for him to have the opportunity to finish his training in the Peruvian MTC.

So after wednesday...I will probably be put in a trio with Elder Davis and Elder Jensen, who I share a room with. But I'm more than okay with that, because I've come to love them and everyone in our District so much! It is amazing how good the elders in our district are. In the morning, during personal study, you would think that a group of 10 boys of 19 or 20 years of age would be going crazy and messing around. However, I have felt more solace and peace in our classroom at 7:00 in the morning than I have anywhere else except the temple. It really is a testament, not only to the divine calling we have, but of the character of all these elders who respect and take their calling seriously.

Spanish is still coming. I had a rude awakening on last Saturday. Our district decided to have "un ayuno de inglés" or an "english fast." This meant that we went the entire course of our day without speaking a word of English. Sometimes we slipped some english words, but most of the time we ended up mostly using a combination of meaningful grunts, sign language, silence, and a couple words of spanish to communicate with each other. We literally acted like cavemen all saturday!

So now I'm not as confident in my language abilities as I was before. I really realized that I have so much more to learn before I can even function in Mexico, let alone teach the gospel! It truly was a wake up call, but I'm not eager to do any more ayunos for a few more weeks, but I think we all realized how we need to do better in the SYL (speak your language) program here at the MTC, or as we Español hablantes call it HSI (habla su idioma).

Before I get off I want to share something that happened this week, which is of a lighter note. Elder Bylund, one of the elders in our district, has the most amazing shirts in our district: they are completely water-proof! It is amazing! He can literally carry the contents of a glass of water in the tail of his shirt with out it leaking through! He even actually tested it in the shower and it held up for about 7 seconds before some of the water leaked through! It's incredible!
That being said, I don't know how good his shirt will do if it gets too hot in Mexico, because it is pretty heavy material, but it certainly keeps us entertained and amazed here at the MTC!
Unfortunately for Elder Bylund, not all his shirts are like this, just most of them. However, he was not aware of this until he attempted to demonstrate the water-proof capabilities on one of his shirts only to find out that...well, this one wasn't water proof.

Anyway, I don't know if you will all find as much entertainment in this I did, but maybe it's something you have experience first hand to fully appreciate.

I love you all and wish you all God's blessings in health and all else you stand in need of.

Con Amor,

Elder Thomas Blackham

Monday, February 15, 2010

weekly letter from Thomas (February 9-15, 2010)

Sorry about how I wasn't able to get my email out to everyone last week. I was in such a hurry last week to send it out that I didn't proofread anything...including the email address, where I did a serious typo. Oh well.
Things are great. My companion is great and we're really getting along. Occasionally we butt heads like any two people would if they are with each other 24/7, but we are getting along very well. I really enjoy my district as well. I cannot believe how I've been blessed to be in such a good district. The only thing that could be better is the fact that my companion is flying out to the Peruvian MTC next week and I'm really going to miss him. But we both hail from Sandy and will both be going to BYU when we get back so we shouldn't have too hard of a time in catching up.
This week literally sped by. Everybody said that after the first Sunday, things start getting better, but I had no idea how fast time flies after you get over the hump of the first four days. I can't believe how fast this week has gone, and this week shows no signs of slowing.
Spanish is....coming. I'm really nervous about our appointment tomorrow with an investigator named Noé.
Noé is a character played by an MTC teacher, and is Elder Palmer´s and my progressing investigator. So we have our first Spanish appointment with him tomorrow and I don´t feel ready at all! But we´re working hard so hopefully our tongues will be loosed.
I've seen so many people here at the MTC that I know, and I keep on running into them over and over again. I talked a lot about some of them last week, but I also ran into John Ellis and Tyler Stoker from the BYU ward and Alex Larson, Brady Davies, Parker Syndergaard and more from High school. It's so great!
Well, I'm running out of time, but first I want to share a highlight of my week. There is an Elder in my District how has the loudest, most boisterous laugh...and he uses it a lot. The thing is, whenever he gets going, it doesn't matter how funny (or not so funny) the joke is that got him started laughing, he cannot stop!
So one day in the cafeteria, Elder Jensen just finished telling a really long and unfunny joke that only he appreciated the humor of. So he just laughs and laughs for so long that my companion Elder Palmer starts laughing. So the two of them both beginning laughing to the point of tears with no end in sight and we're catching all these stares from half of the cafeteria. So I'm trying to hide and disassociate with these Elders, but I realize that I'm laughing too and I can't stop. Eventually everybody in our district on the same table is laughing hysterically, most without a clue why, and it was like a dominoe effect until half of the cafeteria was laughing, mostly because we looked like we had all gone insane.
As soon as the spell finally died out, one of the Cafeteria workers walked up to Elder Jensen and said quietly "It's good to laugh, but not during dinner." We got the hint and left the cafeteria, where we resumed our laughter for the rest of the night.
This may sound dumb, but this laughing spell was just what we needed for that time of the week.
Well, the time is short, so I'm just going to send this without proofreading (just like last week), so hopefully it makes sense. If not, just know that Elder Blackham is really enjoying himself in the work.


Elder Thomas Blackham
Mexico Mexico City West Mission.

Thomas Blackham's e-mail from last week (February 3-8, 2010)

Well, it's been a crazy first few days, but I've enjoyed it. There has been quite an adventure with the missionaries in my district, so I didn't really know who was going to be my permanent companion until Sunday. My companion is Elder Beau Palmer, who is from Sandy as well, but he went to Brighton High School and I went to Alta...but that's okay.
Everyone has been telling me that these first few days until the first Sunday (yesterday) are the slowest and the hardest. I certainly found them extremely slow, but I still enjoyed the experience. However, I am very happy to say that I think I've finally gotten the feel about how things in the MTC are supposed to go, so that's good!
I've already seen a lot of missionaries I knew before. Elder Skyler Taylor, who went to Alta as well, is in my district at the MTC and is going the Mexico City North mission. Elder Dallin Jackman who was in my BYU ward is in my zone/branch here. Plus I've run into Elder Seth Boyakin, from high school, Elder Spencer Sutton and Elder Phil Jones (former BYU roommates) and many others these last few days.
It is so fun to see all these Elders here at the MTC. It kind of gives me a taste of what Alma felt when he was reunited with the sons of Mosiah (Alma 17). It is such a good feeling to see these people I knew before and to see that they are "still [my] bretheren in the Lord."
The language is coming pretty well, I think the study I did before heading out to the MTC really gave me a head start on it. However, I'm still pretty overwhelmed by the idea of learning to master the language. I did understand most of the missionaries' Spanish testimonies in our fast and testimony meeting yesterday, but mostly because they spoke really slow, and used many of the same phrases I learned in my Spanish classes.
I love my district in the MTC and it was really weird because when I first met them, a lot of them seemed REALLY familiar to me, and all the elders said the same thing. So here's the list of who's in district, where they're from and where they're going on a mission.

Elder Palmer (my companion)
Sandy, UT (Brighton HS)
Peru, Lima Central

Elder Jensen
Central Utah, somewhere
Mexico Mexico City North

Elder Davis
Reno, NV
Mexico Mexico City North

Elder Larson
Bountiful, UT
Mexico City West

Elder Bylund
St. George, UT
Mexico City West

Elder Haynie
Sandy, UT (Hillcrest HS)
Mexico City North

Elder Colegrove
Mexico City North

Elder Sutherland
Manasseh(?) Colorado
Mexico City North

Elder Taylor
Draper, UT (Alta HS)
Mexico City North

So as you can see, there are a lot of local kids in my district, but the only one I've met before was Elder Taylor, and even then, we might have had a few classes together and seen each other in the halls some times, but really didn't know each other well.

Well, I'm about out of time. Sorry if I wasn't able to answer all your questions, but I'll write letters back to those who have written me (if I have your address)

I love you guys and I want you to know that I know this church is true and this is the greatest work in the world. I encourage all of you who are even considering going on mission to go. It will really be the best experience in your life. I've been here less than a week and I already know that these next two years are going to be the best of my life.


Elder Thomas Blackham
Mexico City West Mission

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Short Note from Thomas

We received a letter in the mail today from Thomas. He referred to his e-mail from Monday, but we never got it. So the following is an excerpt from his letter.
Dad, I didn't have a "Silent Sunday." (What Paul called his first Sunday in the MTC when he was supposed to only speak Dutch) I just had a "I don't know enough Spanish to bear my testimony in Spanish Branch" Sunday. The rest of the day we could speak English. I'm looking forward to SYL, though, because I often surprise myself by how much I can say in Spanish. (SYL=Speak Your Language)
Anyway, the work goes well so far. I love my companion, my roommates, my District Leader, My District as a whole, my Zone Leaders, and my Teachers....and the MTC!!! Am I happy? How could I not be?!
Love you all!!
Elder Thomas James Blackham

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Elder Blackham's MTC Mailing Address

Here is Thomas' mailing address while he is at the MTC. Please write him. He would love to hear from you!!!!

Thomas James Blackham
MTC Mailbox # 223
2005 N 900 E
Provo, UT 84604-1793