Monday, May 24, 2010

Weekly Letter: May 19-24

Para todos uds.:

So another week has gone! This week was a little different. It´s funny, we had a whole lot less time to tract and have appointments this week, but somehow our numbers didn´t indicate it. This last Monday was, of course P-day, (as it always is) and then Tuesday was the missionary changes, which took up about all of the day all the way until the comida at 3:00pm, and we also had a Zone-district meeting on Thursday morning for two hours(we usually have those on Mondays, but this week was different with the changes) So we had a lot less time actually teaching and contacting people.

That being said, our numbers for this week are close to double what they were last week. I didn´t even realize how much work we were doing until Saturday night I realized how many lessons we had taught and how many people we had invited to church. I attribute all the improvement to our Zone´s renewed focus on reading the Book of Mormon in one transfer.

Yeah, this is going to be intense, but basically every companion in personal study, after we´ve planned and gotten ready for short every spare moment in the day(of which there isn´t much) we´re reading in the Book of Mormon. This time, our District leader decided that we´re going to read it chronologically, which means we are to have Ether and 1 Nephi done by today....and when I talked to my District leader, Elder Steed(who also went to Alta), he told me that pretty much all the District and the Zone is in good shape, and that all the numbers and the success have measurably increased.

It is crazy how many times the Lord sees fit to guide you in certain paths. Out of what may seem pure circumstance, we encountered a great help in the ward....named Manuel Piña. He´s a relatively recent convert(about three years or so) who is of missionary age. On account of some mix-up in paperwork, he wasn´t able to go on a mission when he wanted to, and now he is in school. But he had been going out and helping the Missionaries for about 6 months(sometimes basically living as a missionary without a call), but then went inactive after the trouble with the paperwork, and had been inactive for about three months.

That´s when we entered the scene, opening the area up after one and a half transfers without missionaries, and starting literally from scratch. We basically relied on the Area book and found a former investigator that lived down the street in an apartment complex. The investigator wasn´t there, but as we were getting ready to leave, I saw a picture of Jesus on the door of one of the apartments upstairs(only this was an LDS publication, so I recognized it right away). There we found the Piña family, and to make a long story short, we have now acquired his help at least once or twice every week to find former investigators, recent converts, and inactives. In short, his help has been invaluable. It´s truly interesting to see how the Lord truly knows his children and guides us to where we need to be, even without knowing it.

Unfortunately, this week, we kind of ended on a bad note. We invited tons to the chapel on Sunday, but had a very poor showing (that being 0 investigators, and 4 inactives). It was a little discouraging to see all that work that we did in what really was about half a week go to waste. But, we´re still working hard with the members, especially the references that we received last week, and we´re going to work hard to get more references this week. I just hope that we can get more people to the chapel.

Hermana Ábrego, still has problems with work on Sundays, but she is still going at it strong. We had a dinner appointment with her and her sister(who is also having us over for the lessons), and we had left her a Book of Mormon about two weeks ago and asked her to read a certain chapter, which she had completed by the time we talked to her last week. We then encouraged her to read from the introduction, and if she felt good about it, to keep going....well she must have felt pretty good about it, because when we talked to her last Tuesday, she was already half-way through 1 Nephi, already reading all of introductions, witnesses, testimonies, all of that. And, she understands and loves it. She talked about how beautiful Lehi´s vision was, and how powerful it was for her when she read about Nephi seeing Christ's condescension to come to the earth and complete his mission on the earth.

Wow! What an experience! Anyway, this week was great week, and I´m hoping for an even better following week. I don´t have really anytime right now because I´ve got to go to the District Meeting in about 20minutes, which is in another area. So I will talk to all of you next week. Take care you guys!

Con Amor,

Elder Thomas Blackham

Weekly Letter: May 11-18

Para todos uds:

Another week in Mexico! I don´t think I´ll ever get tired of saying that! Some times I can´t believe that I´m here on my mission, in Mexico City! Tomorrow morning is the ¨cambios¨ or changes in the mission. I´ve already found out that I´m going to stay in the area of Plateros with my companion, not only for this cambio (which is the final cambio of my mission president, President Fuentes) but for the next one as well, and maybe longer. So I´m pretty excited that I didn´t get changed, I didn´t expect that I would be, because I´ve only been here in this area for like four weeks or so.

This week for P-day was pretty cool. Because tomorrow is the cambio, we don´t have district meetings, so we were able to get permission to spend today in another area and take pictures of some places in the Mixcoac-Olivar area. My companion and I, with the two Elders posted in Mixcoac-Olivar, were able to travel to furthest reaches of their area, our zone, and our mission, which is the plaza at Zocalo, the central-most point of both the Modern and Ancient Aztec City. I´ve attached a few pictures of the Church at Zocalo, as well as some less-than-impressive ruins of what used to be the Aztec pyramids in Central Tenochitlan. (There are other, more impressive pyramids in the city, but, unfortunately, they are not in our mission, let alone our zone, so we weren´t able to visit them.) So I hope you enjoy are able to see these pictures and enjoy them!

This week was up and down for us. There were some unbelievable highs, and some unbelievable lows. The thing is, whenever we experienced a low, whether it be an appointment falling through or something like that, we would stop what we were doing, read in El Libro de Mormón outloud and pray to know where we needed to go. One of these times, after praying, I told my companion that we were going to pass the house of some family that we contacted before but never were there when we passed by. My companion questioned why we were going to pass by them, saying they were ¨Chafa¨ or unreliable....or slackers. I told him, with slight tongue in cheek (but all the while hoping that it was true) that all was well, that we were going to find una persona escogida (chosen person) that was ready to receive us.

When we finally passed by that family, they, once again, weren´t there, but on the way to this family we encountered this lady, gave her a picture of Christ coming to the Americas and explained a little bit about our message. When we asked her if she was willing to listen to this message, she asked us quite frankly ¨Are you mormons?¨ As a missionary, at least in this area, you pretty much brace yourself to hear all about the rumors about the mormons as soon as the word ¨Mormon¨ is mentioned. This time, however, she told us that she had a brother in the United States, who had just been baptized recently and who had told her to look up the Mormon church. She told us that she had already tried to visit the chapel several times, but that it was never open. We told her that our worship services were on Sundays at 10:00am, and she said she would be there. We also taught her two lessons, unfortunately, she has a daughter with many doubts and a propensity to ¨planchar¨ or bible bash. In both of our appointments, she just contradicted pretty much everything we said, and we got a little discouraged because the mother didn´t say anything during any of our lessons, so we have know idea how she is receiving it. On friday, she told us again that she would go to church on Sunday, but she never showed(that was one of the lows) so we´re going to try to contact her again this week, because we were going to set another appointment with her in the chapel.

Another high of this week was when we contacted a referral from another group of missionaries. We were able to contact them and teach them the first lesson in the same visit, and we´re going to contact them again as soon as the husband knows what his work schedule is. We also received a member referral from a family who has a son on a mission right now. We also contacted them and taught them the plan of salvation, we set another appointment with them for Saturday, but when passed by, they weren´t there. We called the husband´s cellular and he told us that he was in the hospital with his grandmother who is deathly ill(one of the reasons we taught him the Plan of Salvation), and told us to call him back this week to set another appointment. To add to the list of referral miracles, when we went to the chapel Sunday, we encountered a mother and her teenage sons at the chapel. We had contacted them the week before, and she had told us that she lived in Queso (yes that´s a name of neighborhood) and that she was interested in our message, we told her that Queso was not in our area, but that there were missionaries in Puerta Grande, who would contact her. We then sent her name and address to Elder Fajardo and Elder Mendoza, the Elders in Puerta Grande (and our Zone and District Leader, respectively) and really didn´t think much about her....until we encountered her again in the chapel. She told us that she and her three sons all have a baptismal date set for this next Sunday!

All these "Referral miracles" really strengthened my testimony in the power and the efficacy of working with the members, with missionaries in our zone, and in our mission. Surely, the Lord is working miracles in this area. I only hope that we can do the Lord´s will.

Well, I´m about out of time, so I better go. Thank you all for your love and support. Thank you for your prayers, they really do help!

Con Amor,

Elder Blackham

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Weekly Letter: May 4-10, 2010

Para todos uds:

Another week in Mexico. Wow! I thought time in the MTC was weird, but it seems to be a weird thing during the entire mission. At times, it felt like the day was lasting forever, but this week really flew by! What they told me in the MTC still rings true here, ¨the days feel like weeks and the weeks feel like days.¨ My companion also says that the months feel like days too, but I have yet to experience that in the field. Speaking of my companion, it´s kind of weird, even though we haven´t been together an entire transfer, I think this is the longest amount of time so far in my mission that I've been in the same companionship. It´s pretty wild.

Things in this area are....coming. As of yet, we're still working on finding investigators. Right now we really only have three families that I would consider consistent investigators, and maybe only one of the three as progressing as of yet. So right now we are finding lots of people, trying to find/contact them, often without consistent success. It's kind of weird that you can be teaching a person for three times, be setting an appointment and still not be sure if they'll be there at the time you set. We have been visiting many members of the ward here, many of which are inactive. We have been giving them copies of the Book of Mormon and a ¿reference card? (pass-along card) We then challenge them to pray to know which person they know that they can share this book with. They have received the challenge pretty well, a few of them are understandably shy, but in the end they agreed to do it. We´re going to make rounds again with the same members during this next week and hopefully we´ll have some references.

Now, regarding our investigators. Hermana Ábrego attended church for the third time this week, and brought her daughter with her. She really enjoyed the service, which was fast and testimony meeting (It got moved back one week because last week was Stake conference) and we challenged her to be baptized. She said she didn't feel ready, so we left her something to read, and we´re going to contact her during this week. (We don't know when she can be baptized, because she works the following Sundays, and we have no clue when she'll have another descanso on Sunday) Still, I feel like the message of the gospel has really helped her. She´s been having some hard times with her family, but she seems to be progressively happier every week, which, of course, is the gospel working in her life. She really enjoys the lessons, the people in the ward, and everything. She even signed up in Relief Society to have us over for dinner next week! I just hope that she recognizes this happiness for what it is and decides to get baptized.

The other investigators....still welcome us to their houses, and are really receptive to the messages, but one isn't willing to fulfill commitments consistently and the other gets caught up in his own beliefs (which are pretty close to the truth), and doesn't see the need to attend our meetings on Sunday. He says that his religion is his personal relationship with God. We've been really working hard with both of them, for them to make connections that if the Book of Mormon is true and if Joseph Smith was a true prophet, that this church is true. However, you cannot force anyone to believe anything, it´s all done by the spirit.

So that´s more or less this last week. Sunday, by far, was the best day of the week, so going into this week, things are looking up! Thank you all for your love and support.

Con Amor,

Elder Blackham

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Weekly Letter: April 27-May 3

Para todos uds.:

Another week in Mexico! Things are looking up a little. We had our first baptism yesterday. Samantha and Antonio Negrete were baptized(they´re cousins). Antonio´s 8 years old, and most of his family are members, so his baptism was done through the ward and the bishop because it was member baptism. Samantha, on the other hand, is from a part-member family and is 9 years old. Because of that, technically it was a convert baptism, but it really didn´t take much work on our part. We have been teaching Antonio´s mom a lot this week. She already knows pretty much everything that most members do...and then some, but for some reason, even though she knows it´s important to be baptized, she doesn´t feel ready to take that step.

Some things in Mexico are a bit.....interesting. For one thing, I found out this week that my companion occasionally screams in his sleep. Earlier this week, I woke up to him yelling on the top of his lungs....only it was Spanish, and I didn´t understand a thing, but it did wake me up. I got a little angry and started yelling back at him for waking me up, but then realized that I was speaking English and he wasn´t going to understand me. So I had stop and formulate Spanish sentences at 12:00 a.m. in order to complain to my companion that he woke me up. I finally gave up, merely telling him in Spanish not to do that again.

The next day, I asked him about his yelling and he just laughed and said that he does that sometimes, but that he didn´t remember doing it that night. Luckily, I had cooled off by that point, so I just repeated my plea to not do it again. He nodded and smiled, saying that he would try.....but apparently it was in vain because last night it happened again. This time, though, he didn´t yell in Spanish, he just, well, yelled....and yelled.....and yelled. If it weren´t for the fact that it was about 2 in the morning, I might have been impressed by his lung capacity!

The work is difficult at times. It´s the hot season right now, (which means it´s a whole 89 degrees farenheit ¨whew!¨) and knocking on doors and having appointments fall through on you is not much of an encouragement. However, the rainy season is supposed to start in June. I´m not sure if that will cool things up a bit, or if it will merely compound humidity to the heat that is already here, but it is a change, and for that I´m pretty excited. Also, the pollution is said to clear up quite a bit during the rainy season, so I should be able to send better city pictures.

The food here is great! .....aside from the papaya. I really didn´t enjoy my experience with papaya last week, and from that point on, papaya has not been my friend. I do enjoy the rest of the food down here. Tacos al Pastor in DF are some of the greatest foods known to, I´m almost drooling just thinking of them!

Also, the water here is great! Just kidding!!! No, but really, it´s kind of weird, but everything you drink down here is called ¨water¨ or ¨refresco¨ for example. Orange juice anyone....? Nope! But there is water of orange. Everything is ¨agua de something¨ So the first time someone offered me ¨agua¨ I was a little nervous, but everything´s fine as long as it isn´t water from the sink.

As far as refresco goes....people drink more of it here than in the States, but not nearly as much as most people let on....most households prefer the ¨waters¨ to refresco, because it´s cheaper and healthier. That being said, I think I just met my new favorite soda (I realize that I´ve been writing ¨refresco¨ a lot and some of you might not know that that means soda). My new favorite soda is Sangría de Uva. It´s basically grape soda but a million times better than whatever you find in the United States. It tastes so fresh! basically, if there were a sparkling grape cider....this is it. I sent a couple pictures of it to my family so hopefully you can see that it´s coloring is like fresh grape juice, but with bubbles!!!!

The work is coming. We are currently teaching someone who has attended church twice already and plans to go this next week too. She´s great, already she´s reading in the pamphlets that we give her and the Book of Mormon. She´s sharing it with her friends at work already and she´s praying to know if it´s all true, and she tells us she feels good about it. The only thing that is really holding her back is her work. She works really heavy, pretty much all throughout the day everyday except for the two days of descanso every week. So we can´t ever find her to teach her.

For example, this week, we won´t be able to teach at all because she works from 9am-10pm everyday except her two days of descanso yesterday (Sunday) and today (our p-day). Also after next week, her Sunday descansos, which have allowed her to attend church these past three weeks, will come to end for a period of time. And with that, it doesn´t matter how much a person may know this church is true, you can´t baptize them if they´re not going to church. I´m afraid that we won´t be able to baptize her before changes in two weeks.

Oh well, we keep praying and working, contacting and hoping for the best. I don´t have anymore time, so I better get off! Thanks for your prayers and support!

Con amor,

Elder Thomas Blackham