Sunday, July 25, 2010

Weekly Letter: July 13-19th, 2010

This week went.......well, it could have been better. Thanks to conflicts with work, Hermana Zavaleta was unable to be baptized, and Hermano Uriel Orea, wasn´t able to either, because his grandmother was sick. This next sunday looks good though. We´re going to keep better contact with them this week. We had a goal of having three baptisms this week, them and a new investigator that has come to church three times, but up until yesterday after the services, we hadn´t taught her a thing. She contacted us actually and asked where our church was and when we met, and she has gone every sunday since. It´s difficult to get a contact of her because she is often with her grandchildren in another part of DF for most of the week. But we were able to teach her basically all we could at once. We then invited her to be baptized and she accepted to be baptized this Saturday.....only it´s going to be difficult to keep in contact with her this week....I just hope it all pans out.

Oh, and from what I see in the Liahona, there have been a lot of changes in mission presidents in the world. With these changes, we have a few more technical changes that came from the first presidency. One of them is the use of the phrase "desafío a bautizarse" changed to "invitación a bautizarse." Basically, there are no longer baptismal challenges, only invitations. The other changes have to do with Zone Conferences and interviews, but since I´ve only got one complete transfer period in the field, it shouldn´t be hard the adjust, and I don´t exactly know the differences anyway, because they don´t really matter to me.

Anyway, yeah. So with these changes, I hope the work....well, works! I´m sure it will, because these changes came from the first presidency. But I´m really excited to work with these new president. He has a great deal of energy for the work and expresses his love very easily. President Fuentes also loved us deeply, and I came to feel that too, but he expressed it in a different way. Even though I had basically no time with President Fuentes, I have a great admiration for him. That being said, after my interview with President Villarreal, I have absolutely no reserves in serving with him. I´m really excited actually to take everything he´s put in front of us and apply it to the work.

But sometimes work goes slow. It´s funny, our numbers were basically the same as last week (in some areas better), but I felt so much better about how the work was going last week. However, that said, I am really excited about this next week. That´s the thing with missionary work, and I suspect with life, if one week doesn´t go well, I learn from the experiences we had, and apply what we learned to make the next week better. I´m really grateful for my companion Elder Childers. My other companion was a little more reserved and was completely serious during the lessons(in the house and with me, however, that´s another story). It was difficult for me much of the time because I felt awkward because no one was talking many times during the lessons, and without a grasp of the language I had no hope to do anything about it, except offer a few laughs(which was not appropriate in some ocasions).

However, with Elder Childers, I feel that we teach very well together. He has a great grasp of the spanish language, which is invaluable for me. He has a great focus in the work. In fact, whenever people ask how much time he has in the mission, it gives him a great deal of pain to say 22 months, knowing that they´re going to say, "You´re basically done!" I´m really grateful how well this companionship has turned out, I´ve learned so much from him, and I really want to be a lot like him when I´m where he is.

Well, I´m sorry that I couldn´t say more about the week. Really, I think this week was a lesson in patience. It was funny because I realized that in the chapel just before the person giving the talk said, "I´ve decided to talk about patience." I think the Lord was definitely sending me a message saying, "Don´t worry. This is my work, and I will make sure that my children get the opportunity to get what they need. Just be humble, be patient, and let me do my work through you." I think every missionary feels that they can work on that. We´re reminded everyday that our personal efforts are nothing without the Lord´s miracles in the lives of His children. We can try to sell the gospel to people, but that will never work the change of heart that they need to truly accept it in their lives.

Anyway, thank you all for everything you do, for the letters you give, and for the support that I feel through your prayers. Please pray for us. Missionary work is the lifeblood of the church, we need it, and we, as missionaries, need your prayers. Also, please look for opportunities to share and give references to the missionaries. I don´t think you guys least I didn´t until now....that it really doesn´t matter to us if they aren´t exactly prepared to be baptized right now. That preparation can only come through the workings of the Holy Ghost, and we as missionaries have the calling to teach them how to experience the Spirit more in their lives. I think I speak for all the missionaries when I say that receiving a bunch of references that, may not want the gospel in their lives is better than knocking on doors. At least when someone is referred to the missionaries, they become aware that the gospel isn´t just for us members, but for everyone of God´s children.

Even if they slam the door in our face, at least they have this seed planted in their heart, and who knows who will see it grow, but while there is that seed, there is that hope. The missionaries don´t mind rejection, they´re used to it. And often the friend´s of members, even if they are interested, will listen to us to not be rude, or simply reject us more politely than other contacts. The family Orea Zavaleta had a bunch of problems when we first met them, following a reference of their friends that are in the ward. And they have turned out to be some of our most golden investigators. It´s true references work, do them. (Here I am near the end of my time on the computer, and I´ve just realized that the term for the word reference is "referral" in English. Oh well, I don´t have the time or patience to go back and change every word, but I don´t think it matters much anyway, it´s basically the same thing.)

Well, time is short, so I will say goodbye. But I hope each of you take an initiative and work in sharing the gospel with all the world wherever you guys are. Thank you so much for your faithfulness and support.


Elder Blackham

Monday, July 12, 2010

Weekly Letter: July 6-12

Wow, what a week! I didn´t realize how fast it went until it was Saturday! We were able to find a lot of new investigators this week, and I don´t have time or means to describe every single one, but Plateros is looking pretty good. We´re pretty busy here. We´ve also been working hard on several people to help them, sometimes our efforts have been rewarded, sometimes not yet, but we have faith that our efforts are being recorded and will not be in vain.

The mission is literally a twenty-four hour business. I read a scripture this week that made me realized that. In Alma 37: 36-37 it reads: "Yea, and cry unto God for all thy support; yea, let all thy doings be unto the Lord, and whithersoever thou goest let it be in the Lord; yea, let all thy thoughts be directed unto the Lord; yea, let the affections of thy heart be placed upon the Lord forever.

"Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good; yea, when thou liest down at night lie down unto the Lord, that he may watch over you in your sleep; and when thou risest in the morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God; and if ye do these things, ye shall be lifted up at the last day." (from didn´t expect me to type the whole reference, did you?)

I realized, even in our thoughts before sleeping, we need to direct our minds to the Lord. I´m still working hard on that, because it´s easy for a mind to wander after a long day....luckily after a good night-time lesson with an investigator and a planning session, it´s much easier. But wow, I literally felt that that scripture was written for missionaries. Truly, as missionaries we need him to "direct[us] for good" how else can we find his children that are ready for the truth.

My family has asked about my language skills. I literally cannot say that I feel like I´m speaking like a Mexican. But, I think it´s more important that I´m seeing progress. More, I think I´m seeing a deterioration of my English skills, especially spoken. I don´t know if this email sounds awkward, I don´t think so, because I have much more time to think about what I´m writing than when I speak. But there are several gringo missionaries that only speak English with others. I usually try to speak Spanish with them when I´m with them, but one time I decided to humor myself and spoke English with this guy, and it came out so weird, I could tell that it sounded weird, but, for the life of me, I couldn´t think of how it should be.

With a gringo comp, I have the luxury to ask him "¿Cómo se dice....?" (something I never could do with Javier, because he didn´t know the english word I was saying). However, some times I start to say "How do you say....." and then realize that I don´t even know the English word for the concept I have in my head. So basically, my language skills right now are both Spanish and English.

Anyway, right now I need to talk more about the investigators and other experiences of this week. We had another baptism this last Saturday. Once again, I was the one that realized the ordinance(my companion said I needed more practice). The name of the investigator is Antonio Sandoval. In finding him, at first, I had very little faith in him. His son had gotten baptized before, but had troubles with drugs and stuff like that and right now is in rehab or something like that, and the father had problems with cigarettes too. But this last week, I don´t know what Elder Childers did, but he suddenly started moving in warp speed toward baptism. He was baptized this Saturday and confirmed yesterday.

The bishop commented to us that this is a greater miracle than we know. When Antonio Jr. was listening to the gospel, no one else in his family wanted to listen, especially his father, who was Catholic, but was listening to the Jehovah´s witnesses(his wife is a JW), and actually identified himself as JW, and was completely closed off to listen to anything about the Mormons. But about a month and a half ago, he contacted Elder Javier and me in the street, and we began teaching him, but we didn´t think of him as a progressing investigator, only a link to hear how his son was doing.

But, yeah, he got baptized (twice, because I forgot to say a word in the prayer, and the bishop didn´t stop me before trying to baptize him) And his testimony was one of the most simplest, but beautiful things I´ve ever heard. He is a pretty aged man, he will turn 71 this August, and his mind isn´t always easily focused on the things at hand. But his testimony was....complete, I don´t know how else to put it. It was special.

Well, I have like no time, but I would like to put something in about Bety Ábrego and the family Orea Zavaleta. Bety, we haven´t been able to contact this last week because she only had Sunday and Monday off work, and her husband didn´t let her go to church, because he isn´t in agreement with her baptism. So it´s been a while, but Irene Sanchez has been keeping in contact by phone,(the two of them met and are pretty good friends, because they both work in the same thing...more or less). She´s continued reading in the Book of Mormon, and probably is in Mosiah right now, we´ll see tomorrow when we have an appointment with her and her husband. But she keeps going strong. I have no doubt that she will get baptized, it´s only a question of when.

The family Orea Zavaleta has also been harder to contact these last weeks. Due to a misunderstanding that is very detailed and difficult to explain (and understand), both of them were about to stop listening to us. He was because of the misunderstanding and his concerns about the Virgin Mary. She was, mostly because she didn´t want to harm their marriage. However, two Saturdays ago, we contacted them. They had a great deal of doubts, and we were there in their house for a long time, but I think we helped them out a ton. However, as we know that the adversary always works on people when they´re about to take a good decision, we had no idea how they would feel the next day.

We actually didn´t get the opportunity to talk with them until after the baptism on Saturday. To our surprise, they had both been keeping strong. He had been reading more in the Book of Mormon, which helped him, and she had been relying more on her prayers(due to her heavy work schedule, it´s hard to read much in the Book of Mormon). Elder Childers and I both felt impressed to challenge them to baptism this Saturday. They both accepted! (he did first, which really surprised us). What a tender mercy to have had this opportunity to enjoy this journey with this family. I hope and pray that all will go as the Lord wants, and will enter the waters of baptism this week!

Anyway, I better go! Thanks for your prayers and support!

Elder Blackham

Monday, July 5, 2010

Weekly Letter: June 29-July 5

So yeah, my first week in another change. That makes it the third change in the field. Wow! where does the time go?! First of all, my new companion is Elder Childers. He is from Virginia....but, his family moved to Chicago during his mission, so he´s going to return to an unfamiliar home. He´s got 21 months in the mission already, but as far as I can see, he isn´t trunky. In some ways, he has more of a focus than Javier did....that being said, I wouldn´t say either one is better than the other, just with different strengths.

It was funny, I was pretty worried about a gringo companion here in the field. I had learned so much Spanish with Javier and I didn´t want to lose it with my new companion. Basically, when we met, I told him that I didn´t have much time in the mission and needed help with my Spanish. Without hesitation, he told me that it was okay, that he would speak to me in Spanish! When we had an appointment with a member later that day, they asked if we spoke English to each other. He said no, that I had asked him to speak Spanish with me....and that he actually didn´t like to speak English with other gringos in the mission. So that was a relief. Also, because his mother is from Peru, and his father served a mission Spanish speaking, he´s heard a lot of Spanish and has a good accent.(he didn´t, however, learn to speak Spanish before his mission....though he more or less understood it) Anyway, I´ve been blessed profoundly with this companion.

Teaching your companion about an area is a little bit difficult. Even though Elder Childers has a great deal more time in the mission than I do, I felt like a senior companion this entire week. More or less, he now knows the area pretty well, so I feel less like a senior companion, but man, I got a look into the future....and I didn´t like it at all! So many decisions!

We´re working hard here in Plateros, and are being rewarded with some fruits. It´s unfortunate that some of our investigators that we had with Javier have fallen through, but we are encountering a great deal of new investigators, and some of our older investigators that were getting disillusioned with the baptism have renewed the fire and desire to be baptized!

This includes the family Orea Zavaleta. It had been close to two or three weeks since we last contacted them....let alone had an appointment with them. But we were able to pass by on Saturday and have an appointment with them....and it was a good one. We saw that they definitely needed it, that they had been attacked with a great deal of persecution for their decision to listen to us. But we were able to talk through their concerns and I think they´re getting back on the right track....especially Uriel, the father. It´s true what the scriptures say, that there is opposition in all things, and when people are about to take a step in the right direction, the adversary works harder than ever on them.

Anyway, I wish I could write more, but right now time is extremely short. But please know that the work is moving forward, not only in this area of Plateros, but in the world! Please continue praying for all the missionaries. We need the help. We can´t do this alone, but with the Lord, there isn´t anything we can´t do!


Elder Blackham

Friday, July 2, 2010

Weekly Letter: June 22-28

Yeah, so the changes are back. We found out yesterday what´s going to happen tomorrow during the changes. Hopefully our new president arrives well. We´ve been praying and fasting for him so that he can get his visa and arrive in time (hmmm.....sound familiar?) But even without the new president, there were a lot of least in my zone, I don´t know about the others, I imagine that it was about the same, but who knows, huh?

But first things first.... this week was probably our most effective week up to date in the mission. We taught so many people, found many new investigators and had a couple baptisms this week(I attached some pictures of this baptism). That being said, Elder Javier and I have definitely learned that when things are really going well....we receive the most opposition. Truly, as Lehi said, there is opposition in all things.

Irene is still going strong....and is turning into a Mama Galleta (Literally means Cookie mom, it basically means that the missionaries can drop in whenever they want and she´ll accept them and offer them a bunch of food.) She really amazes me sometimes. She really is a testimony that the work is the Lord´s, not our own. We really didn´t do anything special with her to make her into this strong member, I know that the spirit worked this change in her and in her daughter, and I will be happy to hear in a year from now when she enters the temple.

We´ve been trying to keep contact with the Orea Zavaleta family this week, Unfortunately, we weren´t able to coordinate our efforts with Jorge Montes to have a FHE in their house, and my companion and I didn´t feel comfortable setting an appointment without his help. Unfortunately, Uriel Orea has had some misunderstanding with the Ward Mission Leader, and he´s a little distant right now, and Gaby is working hard like always, and doesn´t want to cause a rift in their relationship. Luckily, both of them still are willing to accept us in their home and are interested in listening to us and eventually being baptized, but right now, they aren´t going to they weren´t baptized this week(which was their baptismal date).

I think I´ve already mentioned a bit about Mariel Graciela Sanchez, her daughter Rebeca, and her son Mauricio. The mother had been listening to the missionaries for a long time, but never had been baptized. She had some conflicts with the ward....and the bishop, and wanted to get baptized in another ward. Rebeca, on the other hand, didn´t have anything against the Ward of Plateros, and wanted to get baptized this Sunday. However, when we talked to Mariel, this week, she told us that she wanted to get baptized this week, but during the week. So we set the date for this Thursday!

It was an interesting experience, because Thursday morning, Hna. Sanchez was having second-thoughts about being baptized. We set an appointment with them that morning. (Also she had apparently not told her daughter Rebeca about the change of date and we ran into some resistance there.) I never thought for the entire world that I would commit(or recommit) someone to be baptized with these words ¨Hna Sanchez, will you be baptized at 8:00 tonight¨ However, all went well, both of them committed to be baptized that night. Elder Javier baptized the mother and I baptized Rebeca. Mauricio attended the service and liked it, but right now his focus is more on the deep doctrine(he keeps asking questions about spirits, Armegeddon and all of that), and less on finding out if the church is true. However we´re going to work harder with them, especially since, neither the daughter nor the mother showed up for their confirmation Sunday(there happened to be a World Cup Game at the same time as our meetings between Mexico and case you don´t know, Mexico lost 3-1, how do I know? How could I not?!) So that was a little blot on our good feelings that we had during the service on Thursday.

Another less than animating experience was Sunday, when Bety didn´t show up for her baptism. However, we were already somewhat aware that this might happen. We had an appointment on Saturday with her, she still was excited about being baptized, but all of her daughters...and her husband were against it. They all had concerns about how she was not going to be able to attend family gatherings, funerals, dance, and do a whole lot of stuff. Unfortunately for her, Bety didn´t know if that was true or not. We were able to resolve some of the doubts of one of her daughters, but her husband and other daughters weren´t there, so we recommitted her to be baptized the next day, hoping that all would go well with her husband.....apparently not. She never showed up, never answered the phone....except once when her husband answered saying that she wasn´t there and basically hung up. (Sigh) so we have a little more work with her.

However, we have been able to find a whole bunch of new investigators, one of them, Daniel Rodríguez, is actually a new/old investigator. He´s been in teaching for about a year off and on with the missionaries. We found his name and address in the area book and wrote them down a long time ago. One day when an appointment fell through, we looked up our list of people and found his name. We thought he was inactive, and when we asked him how long he´d been in the church he told us one year(thinking about how long he´s been in teaching) We then found out that he hadn´t been baptized, but still remembered a lot about our church, and understood a lot. He committed himself to be baptized in two weeks from our first visit, saying that he knew it was important to get it done soon, but wanted enough time to think it through. He has had some doubts changing his religion, but he does have an Aunt and some cousins that are members (so he has family support), and he really wants to find out if it´s true. Unfortunately, he lost his Book of Mormon, so we´re going to bring another one this Tuesday. So I´ve got good hopes for him!

Well, I´m basically our of time. I wish I could say more, but I need to tell you guys about the changes that are going to happen tomorrow. We received the news about the changes yesterday and.....Elder Javier is leaving the area. He´s going to be companions with Elder Beals(who was in the MTC with me, but we never really knew each other.) in Lermo, in the Toluca zone. So he´s leaving the Federal District, Mexico City, and going to Lermo in the State of Mexico. So he´s going be a little far away. And I´m going to get the opportunity to teach my new companion (I can´t remember his name, but he´s also a gringo) about the area of Plateros. Anyway, it will be quite the experience, it´s going to be difficult seeing my companion, trainer, and papi go, but that´s how the mission is, right? Changes happen and you´ve got to take what you got and run with it.

Anyway, that´s the news for this week. I look forward to letting you guys know what happened this week!

Thanks, like always for your prayers in my behalf.

Con Amor,

Elder Thomas Blackham