Saturday, June 26, 2010

Weekly Letter: June 15-21

So, another week in Mexico. Wow! They really pass by! What really weirded me out was realizing that we have changes again in a week! Our President Fuentes leaves with this change, and we´re going to welcome President Villareal. I´m sorry to see Presidente Fuentes leave, but I´m also excited to see what this new president will bring to this mission. I´m also concerned about the changes because I don´t want to be changed, I want to stay, it looks like I probably will stay where I am....with the new mission president, he won´t make many changes unless they´re necessary(like someone who´s leaving or coming into the mission), but who knows! I will know for sure this Monday, I really hope that I get to stay in Plateros, we´re just barely starting to enjoy the fruits of labors of these two changes. It looks like Irene is only going to be the start of our investigators that are going to take a baptism.

Speaking of Irene, she´s still going strong. Her brother lives in Orange County, CA, close to the Newport Beach Temple. He was already baptized and is really strong in the gospel When we ate with her this last Sunday, he called her, and talked to each of us individually. He thanked both of us for helping his sister take a baptism. We also took her and Bety Ábrego to Visitor´s Center by the Mexico City Temple. Both of them really enjoyed the experience. Irene is already talking about going again to buy more stuff from the Distribution Center.

Her daughter really really wants to hear the message....which is one of the biggest miracles I´ve ever seen. I´ve never seen someone change like this. She wanted to come with us to the Visitor´s Center, but couldn´t because she already had family commitments. But we´re planning another trip in the coming weeks. She has to work slowly so that her husband doesn´t cut her off. He is Cristiano(I have no idea what that means other than another type of sect of Christian), and he doesn´t want her to change religions. We don´t know exactly to do, but we´re going to work little by little until her husband will allow the missionaries to visit them in their house in Puerta Grande(the neighboring area), but right now we´re just teaching her in the house of her mother, Irene.

The family Orea Zavaleta. Due to a misunderstanding between them, we weren´t able to visit them as much as we wanted to. He was a little more than annoyed with her, and wanted to put the blame on the church. We did visit him alone on Thursday, and he was really polite, he looked for opportunities to avoid listening to us, but when he actually sat down and listened to our message, he was really attentive and still wanted to be baptized. Also his grandmother´s health is improving dramatically. She actually sat in on our message, she told us she wanted to be baptized too, but wanted to learn more about our Church first. We were going to have Family night with them and the ward mission leader, but we weren´t able to pass by. I think he´s afraid of the members of the ward, but we´re working with Jorge Montes, his long-time friend who is a member of this ward, to set-up a family night with them this week. I just hope that we can work with them little by little until they can both be baptized. Unfortunately due to this difficulty, we may have to postpone their baptisms, but if all goes as previously planned, they will be baptized this Sunday with Bety Ábrego and Rebeca Sánchez.

Rebeca is the daughter of an eternal investigator. Her mother wants to get baptized but has something against this ward...and the bishop. She loves listening to us and always says she will get baptized in Mixcoac or in Las Aguilas, but in Plateros no. We´ve already taught her about the doctrine about why she needs to attend the ward that she lives in, that the bishop in Mixcoac, even though is a bishop called of God, doesn´t have the right to receive revelation for her and her family. However, she doesn´t seem to be progressing. We hope that her daughter Rebeca(who already has made friends in Plateros and wants to be baptized there) will be a help for her, and also be a stepping stone for Graciela(the mother) and Mauricio(the son of Graciela) to also take this step.

Jesús Islas also is turning out to be quite the golden investigator. He has told us that his life has visibly improved upon starting to listen to us. At first, when we started teaching him, he was uncomfortable praying, but right now his prayers our powerful. It really is something specially to hear an investigator thanking God for the missionaries. He really is feasting on the introduction and the witnesses of the Book of Mormon. At first he was a little concerned about it because it wasn´t the Bible. He told us that he felt it was good, but felt that without the Bible, something was missing. We explained that the Book of Mormon was merely another testament of Jesus Christ a complement to the Bible, not a substitute. He seemed to understand really well, and I think it resolved his concerns.

We were going to plan on having the Assistants bring their van to Plateros this Saturday or Sunday, so that Jesús, los Orea Zavalet, Graciela and her children, and Marí-Tere(the daughter of Irene) could go to the Visitors Center. But with the Changes this Tuesday, the Assistants are going to be busy, especially since one of them goes home this Monday. So, hopefully we will be able to do it, if not this week, in the weeks to come. All of them really want to make the trip, it´s just a matter of transportation. We can´t pay for the bus fare for all of them(and we don´t want them to pay for themselves), and we can´t all fit in the Hno. Zepeda´s SUV like we did this other time. But the Assistants aren´t going to be able to do it, I don´t think, so it looks like we´re going to have to wait....but I´m way excited!

I haven´t come even close to doing justice to this week, but everything has its time, and this time is almost done! Thank you, like always for your prayers and support. I hope that you all will receive the blessings that the Lord has in store for you by living His gospel!

Con amor,

Elder Thomas Blackham

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Weekly Letter: June 8-14

The highlight of this week definitely was the baptism this last Saturday. We definitely had to work hard to get everything organized for the baptism, but in the end everything was worth it! The one thing that we didn't have to get ready was the investigator....the Lord did that from the beginning. From the moment we found her, she was already ready to receive the gospel in her life. She still had problems, she still had to change, but she never faulted in her faith. It didn't matter what we taught her, whenever we left a commitment, we had no doubts that she would say yes, and she always did.

I had the grand experience of baptizing her this first baptism in the field. Because of this, I was more than a little concerned. Thanks to my potent imagination, I kept on worrying about things such as not being able to remember the prayer in Spanish, forgetting her full name(believe me, with Latin-American names, it´s pretty easy), and, of course, not being able to lift her up again out of the water.

Unfortunately, we were a little late arriving for the service....thanks to a special meeting we had on Saturday in the afternoon. So, as we were rushing to arrive there for the service, I had all these concerns swimming in my head, and, on top of that, we were late for the service! However, upon arriving, and seeing the joy on her face, everything was okay. I was still a little nervous about the ordinance, but I prayed during the service for the comfort and the ability to do the ordinance.

The water was cold...of course. But Irene told me as she entered the font that it didn't matter, that she had waited long enough. Upon realizing this ordinance, she came out of the water, basically crying with joy saying: ¨I´m baptized! I´m baptized!¨ At first, I wasn't sure if she was upset because the water was so cold, but when she said that, I realized how sacred this ordinance is. The next day, Sunday, in the sacrament meeting, she was confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My companion had the opportunity to pronounce the blessing while I and the members of the bishopric stood in the circle.

After the services yesterday, we were actually able to eat at her house. She had signed up to have us for the Comida last week, knowing that it would be after her confirmation. It was beautiful what she described about her feeling and thoughts about the service. Later, one of her daughters was able to join us for the Comida. Irene has two adult daughters, the younger doesn't want anything with God or Religion, and the other has had a lot of experiences with Religions and is a hardened also, but much more open than the other.

The last time we had seen this older daughter was about three weeks before the baptism, when we first found Irene. During that visit, she basically bashed us up and almost yelled at us. However, Irene invited her to the baptism and to the Comida with us on Sunday.....we were a little nervous to say the least about how she was going to react with both. However, in the baptism, she was more than polite and actually was receptive to the messages in the service. But that was in public, so we were a little concerned what was going to happen during the Comida.

We were pleasantly surprised to find that she couldn´t stop talking about how well-organized and spiritual the Baptismal Service was. That was news for us, after arriving about 15 minutes late to the service. Thankfully our Ward-mission leader Hermano. Zepeda had prepared a great program, we really need to thank him, because I think that was the reason why she had such a good experience. We talked with Irene and her daughter about the Liahona magazine and read the article by Thomas S. Monson to the two of them. Both had a good experience with the message. Irene was receptive as usual, but so was her daughter! The only problem she has right now is that her husband, although he is allowing her to listen to us, isn´t allowing her to receive the missionaries in her home, or be baptized. But we keep our faith and keep trying, but I really believe that we´ve seen a miracle with her.

Speaking of miracles, I think the biggest miracles are the ones of the heart. Along with Mari-Teri(the daughter of Irene), we have also seen a great miracle with Gabriela Zavaleta de Orea. She and her husband have been more than receptive to the lessons and our messages. She loves going to church, and went to the baptism service this Saturday and really enjoyed it. Due to questions of the health of his grandmother, her husband has not been able to go to church and wasn´t able to go to the baptism either. He still is receptive and willing to be baptized, but I think his wife is light-years ahead of him in her desires to be a member.

After not being able to go to church last week, Gabriela asked her boss to give her all the Sundays off of work indefinitely....and he gave her permission! She was more than a little excited about the baptismal service and had a great time. Unfortunately, she caught a cold due to the rain, and had to stay home from church yesterday, but we contacted her after church and we´re going to keep visiting her this week. Even though she hasn't been baptized yet, people at work are already telling her that there´s a big change in her. When asked about the change at work, she attributed it to her new religion, the Mormon religion. She also attributes the change in her oldest son, to the gospel in her life. When we contacted them, both of them were heavy smokers, sometimes as many as six a day. But in this last week, she smoke less than that the entire week, and had two days when she didn't smoke at all...including Saturday, when she told us that she´s done smoking, and is getting ready to be baptised in two weeks.

Uriel, her husband, also has lowered his cigarette intake, he had a goal to be clean by this Sunday, but because he wasn't at church and was asleep when we passed by their house on Sunday, we weren't able to verify how it went. He also has a lot of desire to be baptized, but I think the fact that he wasn't able to go to church these last three weeks has been his weakness. Even though the reason is very noble, to take care of his grandmother, I know that the chapel can really multiply his progress, as it has with Gabriela. Right now, our Ward-mission leader, Hermano. Zepeda is trying to obtain a wheelchair so that the entire family, including the grandmother can go to church together.

I don´t have like any time now to write about the other investigators, and I haven´t been able to justice to how good this week went. I´ll try to write more about the others next week. Including a new-old investigator that we found by what appears to be sheer circumstance (but wasn't), who has had trouble committing to baptism in the past, but we´re working on helping her and her daughter to be baptized, and both of them have desires to be baptized.

But, like I said, I don´t have any more time, so I will have to leave it from here and try to explain more next week. Thanks for your prayers and support. The Lord truly is working miracles in Mexico City!

Con Amor,

Elder Blackham

Weekly Letter: June 1-7

Another week in the mission field. I´m going to go out on a limb and say that it was our most effective week in the mission so far. I think the turning point was Monday at the Meeting. Elder Steed, our District leader, made a District goal this week to have at least two lessons, one new investigator, and one referral received before the Comida at 2:00. We worked harder than ever to meet this goal, and although we often fell short on the goal, we still made a huge stride in our work.

This week, we focused on Baptism....we didn´t even realize it until we looked at our numbers, but we committed all but three investigators to baptism. First, we committed Irene to be baptized and she accepted to be baptized yesterday. Unfortunately, due to a special stake conference we weren´t able to realize the baptism, but she said she would be baptized this Saturday! This is actually better, because she has a greater opportunity to invite her daughters, one of which doesn´t believe in God, and the other is a little hardened because of experiences with religion in the past. However, in talking to Irene, she told us that both of her daughters wanted to attend her baptism, but weren´t able to on Sunday. She said that maybe God is giving them an opportunity to attend by changing it to Saturday. I could give you all the details about how the daughters´ hearts are being softened, but it´s not possible to give all the details. However, when Irene explained to one of her daughters about the Word of Wisdom, and how it was like the 6th of the ten commandments ¨Thou shalt not kill(thyself)¨ her daughter said that it made a lot of sense. How I am glad for modern-day prophets that help understand the doctrine more fully!

Also, the other family that attended church last week. They weren´t able to receive us in their home until Saturday night, and because of work and the grandmother, neither of them could go to Church. However, we contacted them the Friday night, invited them to the baptism that we were going to have on Sunday(but subsequently got canceled). Uriel(the father) told us that he wanted to go on Sunday, but he wasn´t sure if he could. However, the next day, when we had the appointment, Gabriela(who went to church last week with her kids) basically commanded us to talk about baptism. So we taught them the third lesson. After doing so, we extended the invitation to be baptized, and both of them said yes.

They only have the obstacle of a real addiction to smoking, but both of them expressed their willingness to comply with the Word of Wisdom. Without our help, they had already made the goal to be completely clean of smoking by next Sunday, when they anticipate that they will be able to attend church together as a family. They truly have incredible faith. They already have friends in the church....actually, their friends were the ones that referred us to them. And really have the desire to be baptized!

It´s been a while since I mentioned Bety Ábrego. That´s because, due to her work schedule, we have only been able to visit her once a week, and she hasn´t been able to go to church on Sundays. However, she continues to amaze us in her faithfulness in reading and praying, even though she was pretty sick this week, she still read a good 10 chapters in the Book of Mormon! I think she´s read more in the BOM than about half of the members in the ward! We decided as companionship to read with her in one of the Chapters she had already read(because we´ve already taught her all she needs for baptism). Both of us felt inspired to read 2 Nephi 2. As we were reading about the Atonement of Jesus Christ, my companion began explaining to her that in order for the Atonement to work in our lives, we need to be baptized. By this time, we had already taught baptism several times, and I thought for a moment where this was going, and I had a feeling to go with it, to commit her to baptism.

She accepted to be baptized on the first Sunday that she has off work and can return to church(she´s already attended church three times previous), the last Sunday of June and of the transfer period. What´s more, she went on to tell us that she actually had a dream where there was a baptism with lots of people, in a font that she described perfectly, even though she hasn´t seen a baptismal font in our church before. It was a marvelous experience. She has already described several dreams to us. She to us that the week before we contacted her on the street, she had a dream about angels in white(I don´t remember everything she described because I didn´t understand all of it), but wow! Truly this is one of God´s chosen daughters, ready for the gospel in her life.

We were also able to find a great new investigator in the water purifier. His name is Jesus, and he was a referral from the other Elders, because he actually lives more at his work than he is able to be at home with his family(the work here is very hard, people work so hard to support their family.) So we entered the purifier and asked a man if he knew Jesus. The man looked at us and asked ¨You mean the one that´s up there?¨ both of us misunderstood, thinking that he meant that Jesus was on the floor above. But then he smiled and said ¨he´s in heaven, right?¨ Both of us, finally getting the joke laughed, and then asked if there was Jesus working there. He told us to wait, went into the back room for a minute and returned and told us, pointing upwards ¨Yeah, I don´t know him very well.¨ Again, we laughed, and I said, ¨Well, we can help you with that.¨ He laughed and told us that he was Jesus, the man that the other Elders had contacted.

Jesus has been having problems with his family, and wants to find a faith, something so he can change and improve his relations with his family. We promised him that the gospel blesses families, taught him about the Restoration and committed him pray about Joseph Smith....and, when he asked about the baptism(which we also invited him to, but also couldn´t go to), we taught him a little about baptism, and committed him to be baptism....and he accepted, but said he wanted to make sure that it was the right decision before doing it right away, he wanted to be ready. We told him that we were there to help him reach that goal and that we were going to teach him more about this message. He expressed interest in the message and we´re going to pass by tomorrow.

I wish I could tell you guys about everything that´s going on, but there is just too much to talk about. This week, I hope will also be an effective week. Thank you for your prayers and your faith, they really do help!

Con Amor,
Elder Blackham

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Weekly Letter: May 25-31, 2010

Wow! What happened? It´s Monday again, and here I am! I can´t believe how fast this week went. Already, I´m in the third week of this transfer....which means I´m already halfway done. It certainly doesn´t feel like that at all! I realized that I´m going to complete my fourth month in the mission this week! To me, that´s just crazy! But, at the same time, when I allow myself to think about the day I entered the MTC, it feels like I was a different person.

As far as this week went, I felt pretty good by the end of it....(mostly because we had two investigators come to church, one with her family!) We really worked hard on getting these people to go to church. It was difficult because one of them, Irene, works at home and was swamped with her work the last two weeks. Each time, we committed her to go to church, and she said she would, but she wasn't able to because of her work. When we passed by, we thought we were going to have to teach about keeping the Sabbath day, but she told us already that she felt bad that she worked on the Lord´s day, and she would work harder the next week. Unfortunately, that next week the same thing happened. This last week, as a companionship, Elder Javier and I prayed and fasted to know what we could do. We promised her that this week she could finish her work early, the Saturday, in order to worship appropriately that Sunday. After promising this, she nodded solemnly and promised us she would come this Sunday.......which she did!

What´s even better is that she was able to talk with the bishop personally and make quite a few friends in the Relief society. After the meetings, the bishop talked to us privately and told us that he felt Irene was ready to be baptized. I think we already knew that as companionship before, but hearing the bishop say that really confirmed that. We have an appointment with her tomorrow, and we´re going to challenge her to be baptized! What a tender mercy it was to find her!

The other investigator, Gabriela Orea, was also able to attend all of the meetings this Sunday. This was great because she sometimes works Sundays and so we had been preparing her to go to the chapel for a couple weeks with her family. Her husband had to stay with his grandmother, who is ill, although he also wanted to go, but both of her young children were able to go! In fact, she told before Sunday School started that her children actually asked her to allow them to go with her to church! They´re really small, the oldest is six, and the other is only two, but both of them are learning already from the parents, a lot of what we´ve taught them. Hermana Orea also told me, if I understood her right (it seemed almost too good to be true) that she was going to start asking all the Sundays off of work! The only struggle both she and her husband have is the Word of Wisdom. But we taught them earlier this week about the word of wisdom, we helped them make a some goals for the next appointment on Friday on how many cigarettes they were going to smoke....both of them were able lower the amount of cigarettes this week and meet that goal! However, they both told us that it was difficult and that they felt something was lacking. Luckily we have a brother from the church who worked with addicts as his career coming to our stake to give a discourse about how to overcome these addictions.

Well, it´s already late. This P-day was quite the busy day. My companion had to go to the hospital to get an eye infection checked out. We arrived about 7 in the morning, and we didn´t get back home until about 4:30 in the afternoon. By that time, it was all we could do to eat something really quick, grab our stuff and head to the district meeting in Mixcoac at 6:00 (which we were still late for). After being up since about 5:00 this morning I´m dead tired, so I´m going to call it a day and head to bed, in order to be refreshed for this next week of missionary work!

Love you all, thank you so much for your prayers and support. It really does help. Please continue praying for my behalf, and I will update you all next week.

Con Amor,

Elder Blackham