Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Weekly Letter: March 23-29

Para todos ustedes:

So, the visa situation for Mexico is a little iffy right now, but if all goes well, I will be heading to Mexico a week from now!!! What is really killing me now isn't so much the idea that I might be delayed in the MTC a little bit before the visas come, it's more the fact that I have honestly no idea what's going on. If I knew I was going to be delayed for two weeks like some elders have been, I would prepare for that, but right now, we could be called down at any moment to get our visas finalized and leave next week. I've found that I don't do well with uncertainty. But maybe it's a trial of my faith. All I can do is hope, pray, and have faith the God knows what's going on and that he'll make sure I'll go to the right place.

That aside, the prospect of leaving the MTC in a week is crazy! It's so hard to believe that it has been nearly 8 weeks since I first entered the MTC. It's also really weird to think that in 8 days I could be proselyting in Mexico City! I'm not too nervous about Mexico, not because I feel qualified...in fact I know that I'm the exact opposite. It's going to be hard. I know that as much as I've learned about Spanish in the MTC, once I get there and starting talking to the Chilangos(people from Mexico City)....it's a whole different thing. But I find comfort in reading the mission stories in the Book of Mormon.

Ammon, Alma, Amulek, Nephi, Lehi, you name it, they all had great missions, all of them were able to bring many to the truth and to the waters of baptism....but that doesn't mean that their missions were easy. In fact, the most successful missions in the Book of Mormon all started with great hardship. Every single one of the missionaries listed above were imprisoned and mistreated by the people they were teaching at the beginning of their missions.

That being said, I don't think I will have that rough of a start to my mission, but something that I learn from these stories is that the Lord visits us in the hard times, during the times of uncertainty. I'm sure Ammon and his brethren would laugh at me being worked up about maybe staying in the comfortable MTC for another extra few weeks, or otherwise not being ready with the language if I do head in a week...meanwhile he and his brethren had to face the uncertainty of walking into the Lamanite lands, inherited by people that probably would like to kill them on sight.

So, I'm not worried...unsure, a little anxious, but not worried. What will happen will happen...it's in the Lord's hands, not in mine.

I've seen Elder Sell quite a few times this week. I think I must be coming across as picture happy because every time I see him, I always say, "we're gonna have to get a picture some time." I don't think he realized until today that I'm scheduled to leave in a week. So hopefully I'll be able to find a time to take a picture on Sunday around packing and getting ready and stuff.

Anyway, I don't want to write a novel right now, and don't have nearly enough time to write one even if I did, so I'm gonna have to go.

Thank you all again for your prayers and letters. They really do help!

Con Amor,

Elder Thomas Blackham

Monday, March 22, 2010

Weekly Letter: March 16-22

para todos ustedes:

Another week! Man, time just keeps on going! Time is such a weird thing here at the MTC, It's kind of weird that life keeps on going outside of the MTC. We are so isolated from everything here, we have no idea what's going on in the world. We didn't know about the earthquakes in Chile and other areas in the world until a teacher mentioned it in passing....BIG MISTAKE!! As soon as they said that, every single one of the missionaries within earshot began pelting him with questions about everything that's going on over there. Also, it was weird to think that yesterday was the first day of spring....I didn't believe it until we went on our temple walk. It was so hot! I'm so glad I'm gonna be able to go without a suitcoat in Mexico, I think I would probably die!

For some reason or another, my email didn't send through last week, but Elder Bradshaw left for Maryland a week ago as a temporary reassignment until he gets the paperwork done for his Argentine visa. After he left, my District leader (and one of my former companions) jokingly put forth the idea of maybe assigning me with yet another trio of missionaries, so as to make the number of companions I've had in the MTC even bigger. But I went back to Elder Jensen and Davis, so I'm still at 6, but I am absolutely okay with that. I really enjoy my companions, they're way cool, and way funny.

The other day, Elder Jensen was just walking into the shower before I pointed out that he had his scriptures in his hand. He didn't even realize it. I later suggested maybe he could take it to the MTC copy center to get every page laminated....that way he could study in the shower as much as he wanted.

Spanish is coming. We've almost learned all the tenses, so, in theory, I should be able to say whatever I want...but that's in theory only. I also realize that I'm having a hard time understanding Spanish when it's spoken to me, especially by native speakers. Yesterday, I was walking back from watching the Joseph Smith movie and I saw a group of Mexican elders that I had met my first day here. They had jokingly agreed to teach us Spanish if we taught them English the last time we saw them, but that was a good four weeks ago.

Arrogant as I was about having learned so much in these last few weeks, I tried talking to him in Spanish. After we got the "Hola, Como esta"s out of the way....I was in trouble. I had to apologize and say that I didn't understand what he said(in Spanish, which, gratefully, he understood). Then we had a bilingual chat between each other, and I left him saying in the best Spanish I could muster that his English was so much better than my Spanish. He thanked me but denied it...I thought about jokingly accusing him as a liar, but I didn't know if he would misunderstand my intent and take offense...so I just said goodbye, and thought upon how much trouble I'm going to be in when I'm in Mexico and can't fall back on English.

Anyway...time is short, but that's pretty much my week so far. MTC is great, I want to head out in the field, but I'm scared at the same time. Time seems to drag on throughout the day...but the weeks fly by faster than should be natural. Just know that I'm enjoying my mission so far and working my hardest....hoping that it will be enough to help the people in Mexico.

Con Amor,
Elder Thomas Blackham

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

March 9-15, 2010

We have not yet received an e-mail today from Thomas. I'm guessing we won't get one. If we get a letter in the mail later in the week, I'll let you know.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Weekly Letter: March 2-8

Para todos ustedes:
Hola! This week has been another week of change. Just literally 24 hours ago I found out that I would get another companion. He was scheduled to depart for Argentina with the rest of his district this morning, but found out Saturday that his visa hasn't gone through. So the branch presidency decided to break up the trio I was in and put me in the companionship with Elder Bradshaw.
So far, I think we've been getting along pretty well. He's got about a month more of experience here and I'm looking forward to learning from him. I'm just worried that he might feel left out and a little awkward around our district, but so far everything has been going pretty well.
Anyway, with Elder Bradshaw, I will have had 6 missionaries as companions during these 5 weeks at the MTC....wow! Yeah, that's pretty insane. I'm starting to consider asking the MTC president if I'm breaking any kind of records here.
MTC life goes on. Sometimes it's hard to realize that I have been here over a month, but then I think about the first day at the MTC and that feels like an eternity ago. I literally am having a hard time remembering what I did with my life when I wasn't a missionary.
So I'm starting to get anxious to get out in the field, but I'm also loving it here. I'm thriving in this atmosphere of continual gospel study and growth. As much as I want to go to Mexico, I realize that once I'm out in the field, I won't have near as much time to really feast in the scriptures like I am now.
That being said, here at the MTC, it's hard to think that life continues to go on. I'm glad to be getting some letters from some of you that keeps me somewhat updated on some of the things going on in your lives, but at the same time, it's weird not knowing(and not necessarily being concerned about) what is going on in the world.
For example, when we had a MTC fireside last week, and the speaker talked about some of the things going on in the Olympics I was like: "Oh yeah, there is stuff going on right now....not everyone is putting their life on hold." Then we learned about the earthquake(s) in Chile, (mostly from the Elder's whose departure dates were delayed), and I realized how weird it is being so isolated from the world.
A couple things that happen in the MTC remind us how truly isolated we are from the world. We were walking to lunch one day and there was a truck parked in the middle of our path. We don't think much of it, because we're hungry and it's raining and we just want to get to lunch. However, Elder Taylor momentarily loses his footing on a puddle and manages to steady himself by touching the truck. We don't think about it too much until Elder Taylor doesn't move for a moment. We then asked what was going on and he says "I just realized that this is the first time I've touched a car in a month!" (of course, each of us were blown away by the same realization and each took a turn to touch the truck).
Also, nothing catches our district's attention more than when one of the elders cries: "¡Niños!" Immediately, every spanish-speaking elder stops what they're doing to see for themselves if these young children, truly, still exist.
Yeah, MTC life is great, but I'm starting to see how much of a bubble it is. People joke around about how it is like a prison (except you get no visitors or telephone calls), but the truth is, everyone one of us volunteered for this, and I, for one, am enjoying every moment of this spiritual feast.
The reason why I feel this time here is so precious is because of a talk someone gave in an LGM last week. They told us that our time is precious to the Lord...it is his time, so who are we to waste it? In Preach My Gospel it tells you to take an accounting every night of how you used your time that day and report it to the Lord and your mission president weekly.
I never thought that the cliche "time is money" would apply so much in the mission field.

Well time is short so I better get off and send this.

Elder Blackham

Monday, March 1, 2010

February 23-March 1, 2010

Por todos Ustedes:

Another Week! Wow! I really have hard time getting my mind around that fact! This part of my week, when writing weekly letters is a kind of an ironic mix of emotions. On one side, I love looking back on the week and reporting on what's going on in my mission. On the other...I hate having to rush and fit all I can on this email in these 30 short minutes.
I swear, I get my heart pumping faster when writing my weekly letter whilst the time ticks on in the right top corner of my screen than at any other time...including gym!! Maybe they should have daily email time instead of daily gym time, because this is really giving my a cardio-work-out!
Well, one of the counselors in my branch presidency said something that I feel is so true: "You know change is imminent when you start feeling comfortable in your calling." Well, that was this week. I was just starting to get used to this mtc thing with a great companion when I realized...oh yeah, he's going to the Peruvian MTC wednesday.
So I had to say good-bye to a great companion, friend, man, and (most importantly) missionary last Wednesday morning at 6:00 in the morning. I then was "transferred" into a trio-companionship with the two other elders that Elder Palmer and I had been sharing a room with. My new companions are Elder Jensen and Elder Davis. Both of them are great Elders who I've really enjoyed getting to know even more these past few days especially.
So, with Elder Palmer leaving Wednesday, we all had a District "Hasta Ver" send-off Tuesday night. I have only participated in two of these "Hasta Ver"s, but I can tell you that the spirit in these farewells is stronger than you can imagine. First we sing "Para Siempre Dios esté con Vos" (God be with you till we meet again), and then the departing missionary(ies) then shares his testimony and we close with a group prayer. You could ask for no better send off for a servant of the Lord. I haven't heard from Elder Palmer yet in the Peruvian MTC, but hopefully I will before next week!
The language is coming, I'm finally feeling somewhat confident in understanding, not only the gist of the scriptures, but a significant portion of the grammar principles found in el Libro de Mormón. However, I'm still a long shot from understanding the spoken language and being capable of expressing myself in the Spanish tongue...but it's getting there.
It's funny some of the experiences we have teaching/being taught by people in the MTC in Spanish. Once, we were being taught by missionaries who were having a difficult time with the language. To kind of explain their dilemma, one of them tried to tell us that it had been a bad day or "un malo día," however, she made an honest, but still somewhat amusing mistake in saying that she was having a "malo Dios" (which means "bad God"). The three of us Elders and her companion tried as hard as we could to correct the mistake without laughing, but I imagine that she was probably still a little embarrassed, which probably didn't help her day.
Anyway, there are lots of incidents like that in the MTC, and I've been guilty of some of them. I was trying to teach an "investigator"(a teacher posing as an investigator) about why Christ was baptized. I kind of didn't structure the sentence right and my investigator was trying so hard not to laugh aloud.
I asked the teacher later what I had said and he said that I said something like "Jesus Christ was baptized by God because God commanded God in God's commandments." I can't remember what I was trying to say but it was definitely that. My companions did mention later that I did say "Dios" a lot in the sentence, but were equally clueless about what I said.
Anyway, time is short. So I better close. I really appreciate the letters and prayers from you all!

Elder Blackham