Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Weekly Letter: April 21-27

Para todos uds:

As promised, I sent some pics with this email. Most of them are from the MTC, but I did send a few from the field. I´ll send more next week.

Life in Mexico is....different. The people are awesome and really friendly, sometimes too much so. Whenever we contact anyone and we make an appointment with them, we have to take it with a grain of salt, because pretty everyone you talk to is going to look like their interested and will want to make another appointment, but will never be there when you pass by. I´m not sure that being rejected hard straight-up would be worse than getting your hopes up only to find that the investigators went ¨chafa¨ on you.

That being said, reopening an area is pretty difficult at the start, because you starting from scratch...which means your walking....a lot. However, things have started looking up lately. We´ve got several new investigators now, including two families that we've taught at least twice, both of them are reading and doing their commitments. They both have doubts, but that´s to be expected at first. One member of one of these families, Hermana Ábrego, came to church yesterday! Her daughter and husband were not able to, but she did! She´s been have hard times lately, so I hope she felt loved by the members.

The other family is very spiritual and really like to talk, but that´s good thing....when you don´t have another appointment directly after them. We learned after the first lesson to set aside a good two hours after the appointment before setting another!

Other aspects of life here in Mexico: the food is great!....just different, so your body has to make certain adjustments,(I won´t go too far in detail about these adjustments, but I just hope I´m almost done). They like stuff really spicy. I thought I liked spicy before my mission (my family can attest to the fact that I basically drank salsa), but, man, my mouth was not made to handle this kind of spice. Maybe that´s why they talk so fast down here, they've got stronger mouths than us gringos. Also they like lime, my companion especially. I like lime too, so that isn't a bad thing, it´s only that he puts it on EVERYTHING he eats! Whatever he eats, he either puts lime or honey on it....and sometimes both.....it´s a little weird, but I´m getting used to it.

Of course, he´s probably writing home right now about how his Gringo companion basically has a love affair with leche. This also shouldn't be a surprise to my family. I love milk, and I've really had to tone it down here in Mexico because milk is a lot more expensive down here than it is in the U.S.(of course, everything else is a lot cheaper to buy here. For example: we bought 3 avocados for about $5.60 Pesos....or the equivalent of about 43 U.S. cents)

Don´t worry all of you, I haven´t drank the water yet. What I didn't realize is that the people here in Mexico don´t really drink it either. They usually boil it and then add fruit juice and sugar (usually lime). So I should be okay during my mission, because everyone here seems to be aware that the water here isn't good to drink. Last week, after playing soccer non-stop for about an hour-and-a-half as a district, I wanted more than anything to drink the water from the kitchen sink in the chapel, but my companion told me that that was not a good idea. He told me he was thirsty too, but that we would wait until after the district meeting to buy refrescos.
Speaking of soccer, it´s funny, at every chapel, there is an outdoor cement field for soccer. So churchball here is basically football. Every friday night, the Plateros and the Puerta Grande wards meet at the chapel to play soccer. It´s actually a way cool tool to meet people and invite investigators to come to the chapel and do the same.

Anyway, time is short, I better get off soon. Thanks for all your prayers and support. I hear that my brother posted my pouch mail info on the blog, go ahead and use it, it´s very reliable because it´s sponsored by the church. There´s about a week delay, but it will get to me.

Con Amor,
Elder Blackham

Monday, April 19, 2010

Weekly Letter: April 13-19 (In Mexico)

Para todos ustedes:

Well, this is me, ¡En México! It´s been a great experience so far. My mission president, Presidente Fuentes speaks very little English. When he first walked in to welcome us new elders, he apologized because his English wasn´t good, but was quick to add that our Spanish wasn´t too hot either. He laughed and promised us that if we were faithful that Spanish would come.

My trainer is Elder Javier, from Southern Mexico. I can´t remember exactly what city he´s from because he talks way too fast when I ask him. The name of the city is pretty long, but it has Azul and Cruz in the name... (anyone want to send me a dearelder to help me?) I met him late Friday night, and he has apparently been waiting for a companion as long as I had been waiting on my visa.

Anyway, so the Spanish I learned in the MTC amounts to very little more than just a small background here in the field. You pick up about half the words they say and you end up getting about half of the meaning that was intended. It is getting better, though. I´ve already been blessed to see the gift of tongues working in my life. First of all, people seem to understand me when I do start talking in Spanish, and in Church yesterday, I actually understood a lot of the talks that were given.

That being said, I still need your prayers because I can barely teach a thing in the language, and whenever I ask a question and they answer....I´m not even sure what they just said. Things are a little difficult right now, since Elder Javier and I are reopening an area called Plateros that had no missionaries in it since last transfer about two months ago, so we kind of have to start over from scratch. Yesterday we went through the entire area book and picked out a few investigators to begin teaching again. So we´ll start trying to contact those people.

I did teach a couple lessons on Saturday while on a split with the Zone Leader in his area. I was not able to teach much, but it felt good talking about the gospel...which is the only thing in Spanish that I feel remotely confident in speaking.

We also had dinner at the home of the Ward Mission leader of the Plateros Ward. His name is Hermano Zepeda and he served in Veracruz Mexico on his mission. It was great to hear that. I then asked him if he knew an Elder Jensen that served there. (Hermano Jensen is a teacher in the MTC that really helped our district the last week in the MTC.) I knew it was a long shot, since I had no idea how long it had been since either one of them served missions. So I was pleasantly surprised when Hermano Zepeda brightened and went on a stream of rapid Spanish about how good of an Elder he was (and that is about all I was able to pick out). So I felt pretty happy that I had been part of the conversation during dinner, and even happier that I was able to make that connection on my first meeting with the Ward Mission Leader in my first area.

Anyway, everything is cool here. The city is HUGE. It was a little daunting when I first saw it from the window of the airplane, but it´s all good. I like it, there are a lot of people to talk to....as soon as I can talk to them, that is. I was going to attach some photos of the MTC and also some of the city, but the USB cord isn´t working and the memory card isn´t registering on this computer, but I´ll probably get it to work on another computer next week, since I just helped Elder Javier do the same thing on his computer, and it worked fine there. But look forward to getting a whole bunch of MTC and DF pics next week!

Love you all and I´m so thankful for your prayers, they really have helped.

I've got to go now to a Zone meeting (which will include playing a little soccer!), so I guess I better go and start speaking Spanish, which will be all the harder now that I´ve been thinking solely in English this last half'-an-hour.

¡Nos Vemos!

Con Amor,

Elder Thomas Blackham

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Update on Letters to Elder Blackham

Dear Family and friends,

Since Thomas is flying to Mexico today, it is time to give instructions on how to write to him while he serves in Mexico. His letters should be sent via pouch mail. The following are the instructions that came in his mission packet:

Pouch Mail Instructions:

To prevent possible fines, only postcards and letters that are single sheet, folded into three-panels, and taped at the top only (no envelopes) may be sent through the pouch.

Packages cannot be sent through pouch mail.

Elder Thomas James Blackham
Mexico Mexico City West Mission
POB 30150
Salt Lake City, UT 84130-0150

To clarify:
If you want to write to Thomas, you will write on one side of sheet of paper, fold that paper into thirds and tape it shut on the top. Then you will address the outside of the sheet of paper, attach the stamp and mail it.

Another option is to write Thomas via www.dearelder.com. On that site you can write letters to him and they take care of the mailing. Dearelder.com provides this service for free, but does ask for donations.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Thomas called us tonight (April 13th) at 8:30 p.m. His visa has arrived! He will be flying to Mexico on Thursday (April 15th) at 12.45 p.m. He will be on a direct flight from Salt Lake City to Mexico City. He sounded very excited.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Weekly Letter: April 6-12

Para todos ustedes:

This is Elder Blackham, still in the MTC, ready to leave, but not having any idea when he will. So, yeah I'm trying to make the best of this situation, I certainly can say I didn't expect to be delayed this long. It's funny, on our walk to the temple this morning, me and my new companions were musing how we were talking last week that it would be our last trip to the Provo temple for two years....only to be doing the same thing a week later. Oh well.

That being said we certainly have had a very different MTC experience the last few days. We still have time set aside for instruction, but because we have already "learned" (I use this term loosely) all the grammar for Spanish, we don't really have any set lessons from the teachers, it usually ends up being a question and answer session. We also do a lot more practicing teaching and contacting here in the MTC, and we got a baptism on Saturday!

Obviously it was not a real baptism, but our progressing investigator...or rather, the progressing investigator of Elder Larson and Elder Bylund who got delayed here with me(I joined their companionship after Elder Jensen and Elder Davis left on Wednesday to Mexico)...she received all the lessons and felt ready to be baptized. We organized the entire baptism program(aside from the actual ordinance, where we watched a movie instead.) We actually picked up another investigator/teacher during the baptismal service, so we're getting a lot of "field" experience without being the field, but it's still not quite the same.

Another funny thing that happens in the MTC when you've been delayed is that they give your mailbox to new missionaries. So we didn't get our mail the first few days after the newest missionaries came in, because they would check the mail before us and any letters for us they would put in the "wrong mail" bin. We figured out the situation and found all our letters in that bin that day...or, at least, I hope so.

Then, we put a note in our box to let the other elders know that we're still here and that we're sharing each other's mail box. The next day all that got left behind was a letter for Elder Haynie....who left for Mexico already. So we put that letter in the "wrong mail" bin and didn't think anymore of it.... that is, until we got the same letter in the mail for the next three days.Hopefully now, the mail has got things figured out. I would feel sorry for Elder Haynie that he hasn't gotten his letter from this girl yet...if it weren't for the fact that it has been one of the few things we've gotten the last few days.

What's more, one of the new missionaries that shares our mailbox is named Elder Braden Blackham. So, this Elder Blackham is pretty popular, because Elder Bylund is telling me that I got 6 dear elders in the mail, and then he says "Wait a minute..." reads the addresses on all of them and starts laughing because everyone of them are addressed to an "Elder BRADEN Blackham" going to the "Mexico LEON Mission". So there just happens to be another Elder Blackham in the MTC going Mexico Leon, who just happens to be sharing my same exact Mailbox right now...bummer.

Oh well, we laugh and go on. I hope that some time I will be able to write you from an internet cafe in Mexico City, but for now, it looks like I might be here a while...hopefully not too long.

Thanks for the prayers and support.

Con amor,

Elder THOMAS Blackham

Monday, April 5, 2010

Weekly Letter: March 30-April 5

Para todos ustedes:

Wow! I thought I would never say this but General Conference in the MTC was definitely one of the coolest things that I've ever experienced! How blessed are we to have a living prophet to guide us in all we need to know! Truly the Lord knows everything that we need and reveals His will through the prophets. I have never experienced such a personal and powerful conference before in my life. Every talk seemed to apply to me in some way or the other. Whenever I was tempted to not take careful note of what people were saying (because they were talking about something I thought didn't apply to me) something would suddenly pop into my head, sometimes not even from what they said during the entire talk, but something that helped me apply what they were saying to my life.

There are few things as awe-inspiring as having an entire assembly of missionaries stand up in unison and watch in respectful silence as the prophet enters the Conference- Center on the screen. I think the only place more spiritually impressive would have probably been the Conference Center itself, but even then I'm not so sure. As missionaries, we are told that we are the arms and hands of the apostles in carrying out the ministry to the entire world, so to an extent, when we see the prophet, the chief servant of God, walk in, we stand in solemn respect for our fellow servant. It makes my heart exclaim at the thought that I am in engaged in the work of apostles, prophets, and angels. Truly, the calling of a missionary is great!

Now, I have been delayed for a little while before I can head out to Mexico. But, whenever I'm tempted to be discouraged our disappointed, I try to remember that God is in all the details. I'm not sure how much another week in the MTC will help me help the people in Mexico, but God does know the end from the beginning, and all I can do is put my trust in Him and His plan. That being said, I'm trying my best to make the best of my situation. I'm really looking forward to this week of instruction. My teachers said that they're going to teach us some of the last thoughts they have that can help us in our missions. Who can complain about such an opportunity?

As always, the uncertainty is the most concerning thing about it all, but it's much more bearable. I'm much more at peace. I'm just trying to slowly prepare for the day that I get called to go and fly out to Mexico. I'm not as distracted and anxious as I was even last week....I'm still anxious and I want to go out in the field as soon as I can, but I'm much more at peace with the idea that I could be here for another week or two....but hopefully not more than that.

I thank you all for your letters and your support. They really do help so much. I'd ask for more, but I'm afraid that I may not get any letters that would be sent to the MTC in the next few days. I'm just thankful for all your support for me in the past and will trust that you will continue to keep me in your prayers as I engage in this work. The power of prayers is real. I know that, I've seen it just in my experiences here in the MTC. The fact that I'm at peace with being in the MTC right now is a no small miracle, and I know that the power of prayer had great and significant impact on that.

I love you all, and keep you in my prayers. Thank you again for all you do!

Con Amor,

Elder Thomas Blackham