Monday, August 16, 2010

Weekly Letter: August 10-16, 2010

So my first week with a new companion in Plateros. I cannot explain how blessed I have been with companions. When I told a bunch of people that I had Elder Gamez, the following happened: 1) they didn´t know him 2) they didn´t know him, but knew of him, that he was a good guy 3) they knew him and told me he was a good guy. So I was a little nervous but not too much. Manuel was more nervous than I was about "his" new companion. (It´s funny, but he literally is like a third companion for us....except he can go on "splits" with girls, because he isn´t subject to mission rules yet.) However, from the beginning, we´ve been working hard. We could have done better, for example, we had a baptism fall through, and we don´t know what happened because we couldn´t be in contact Saturday, because we were in the Visitor´s Center by the temple. However, Elder Gamez has a different kind of energy for the work. I don´t know if it´s a better energy than that which Javier and Childers had, it´s just different. It´s really hard to compare my companions, so I won´t. But I will say that I learned a lot from Elder Childers, more than I thought I would, he´s a masterful teacher of the gospel, a great missionary, and an incredible friend.

But with this change, I´m really excited to work with Elder Gamez, it seems like he was a born learner. He has learned the area really fast that sometimes I forget that he´s only been here a week. He´s already very familiar with our investigators, our area of proselyting(I don´t have a clue if I spelled that right), and he´s getting to know the member really well. He and Manuel have become good friends, and it feels like we´re a trio again.

About Elder Gamez, he is from Monterrey, Monterrey, México, although like a year before his mission, he and his family moved to Tabasco. So he´s from the North. The North is a different culture than here in the south....and different food. I shouldn´t say that Mexico City is Southern culture, because it´s not, it´s different from that of Tabasco or of Oaxaca, but it´s a lot more southern than Northern. This being said, his tastes for food a little more American....or maybe just different. Not only has he heard of Root Beer, but he also likes it.(Root beer hardly is found around here) He also knows a great deal more of English than Elder Javier.(Not quite as much as Childers, but he´s getting there). He loves Burritos(which are also a scarcity in DF) and he likes his tacos with flour tortillas and not with corn tortillas.

Anyway, we´ve really gotten along really well. He´s incredibly obedient, which has woken me up to the fact that I can improve in that respect. In fact, I had an awesome experience this week with my personal study. My personal study probably had been lacking a little bit since I was in the field. I was often really tired, and wanted to read in my bed....and you guys can probably guess what that would lead to. This change, thanks to a stirring talk from President Villarreal, I was moved to improve in every aspect of my study this change and strive to be perfectly obedient.

With this desire, I was blessed with a beautiful experience the first day. In the MTC, I not only enjoyed personal study, but looked forward to it every day. I really had the opportunity to feast on the scriptures. However, as I mentioned, maybe my study was a bit lacking before here in the field. This time I decided to study in my desk, with a study journal. As I was studying, Elder Gamez put some music on from his mp3 player....hymn arrangements on piano. This music, with the study journal brought in a spirit that I didn´t realize I was missing. If I needed to, I couldn´t tell you which hymns were playing, which one touched me so, or what I learned in my study that I wrote down. I just remember the feeling, I felt like I was in the MTC again. I didn´t realize how strong the spirit was in that place until this week, when I got a taste of it again. I don´t often weep, not out of shame of shedding tears, but more because my emotions usually don´t cause such a reaction, but I will admit to you all that I was weeping profoundly that first day. Thanking my comp(who either thought I was weird or really emotional) and God for such an experience.

I also had a gratifying experience with a priesthood blessing this week. We´re teaching this family, who has two teen-age daughters, the older of which has not been very open about the church, she´s been willing to listen, but never has accepted any commitment, because she only wants to hear our beliefs. This said daughter, has been trying to pass an exam for years, but she has always been nervous for the said exam, and hasn´t passed it yet. She was going to take the exam this Friday, and was again very nervous about it, which she admitted openly, was her problem more than the fact that she didn´t know the material. Both Elder Gamez and I, who have historically done well in our exams in the past both gave some advice, and offered to give her a priesthood blessing. She accepted this blessing, and we gave her the blessing Thursday, the night before this exam.

I was chosen to be voice for this blessing. I have always been nervous to give blessings, even in English. In Spanish, I´ve got a few more challenges to overcome. Along with the lack of vocabulary, I have to use the "Tú"-form for "you" in these blessings, of which I am not so familiar with, since in the street, we use the "usted"-form for "you." However, this time, the words flowed out of my mouth with a fluidity that I didn´t think was possible. During the blessing, words would come to my mind, in written form(I can pronounce more accurately when I see who a word is spelled, than from hearing the word from a native mouth). Also during the blessing, another piece of advice came to my mind that he had not yet mentioned. I finished the blessing, and after a moment told her the piece of advice. We wished her luck with her exam.

That Saturday, we went with both daughters, Manuel, and Antonio Sandoval(a recent convert) to the Visitor´s Center by the Temple. And this daughter thanked us for the blessing and told us that she felt unnaturally peaceful during the exam, and had put in practice the advice I had shared with her at the last minute, which also helped a lot with her nerves. Anyway, the Visitor´s center is another story of it´s own, and I have no time now, but I think they both had a good experience.

Anyway, thank you so much for your prayers, and help for me. I need them. We all, as missionaries in the world, need them. This isn´t our work, it´s the Lord´s. It should never be anyone else´s, because when it is some else´s work, it ceases to have the power that we have seen. I hope you all can have such an experience in you life to be made an instrument in this work, it´s a humbling thing.


Elder Blackham

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Weekly Letter: August 3-9, 2010

The cambios have come again, and with them come....change. I was in quite the situation last week. Whenever I thought of the cambios, I dreaded the change, but also looked forward to it. It´s hard to explain, I tried to explain it last week, but I think I failed to do so adequately. I would try again this week, but I know I´ll just waste time and energy only to fail again. Oh well. One of the changes that I wasn´t looking forward to was saying good-bye to my District Leader, Elder Steed.

This last week was surreal to see him leave. We had both gone to Alta together, but hadn´t really gotten to know each other very well because of difference in age, but I had known and been friends with his younger brother, Russell, and they look very similar to each other, so I recognized him instantly to be his brother. It was a great experience having him as a district leader these last two transfers. He basically was smiling every moment for those 12 weeks. I bet he even smiles when asleep! So it´s really weird to think that he´s right now on the airplane ride home. But I know that he served honorably and I´m very grateful for the opportunity that I had to get to know him here in the Mission.

But this was only of the changes that came. I´m going to receive another companion here in Plateros. So I get to stay here with the people I knew and got to love these last 3 and a half months....but I lose my companion (well, one of them, Manuel is basically the third Elder). Elder Childers is actually returning to the area he was in before he came to Plateros, but this time as District Leader. There, he is going to complete his mission. So my Stepfather(in the mission) is going to die(in the mission) in Camarones.(it´s a place, but it´s named after a shrimp---yeah, the fish in the ocean. Why? I have no idea. No one does.) [Basically I just used some lingo from the mission which sounds really weird in English, I imagine that it does in Spanish too, but all the elders that I talk to understand what I mean when I use it, so I don´t think it´s so weird. So if any of you don´t understand what I said, just skip that sentence because I was basically repeating myself in Mission lingo.]

So I´m going to receive Elder Gamez here in plateros. Once again, I´m going to have to teach him the area, but it´s okay, at least I´m not senior companion. Right now, I think that would be too much of a headache for me. I guess I haven´t learned all I could from this area, because I´ll be here another 6 weeks. That´s actually okay, what I was hoping for actually, because we were going to have a lot of baptisms this Sunday, but all but one fell through at the last minute.

The only one that got baptized was a member from a less-active family that had been baptized a year before. The bishop had given us this name because the daughter had been baptized a year before, but went to Canada the week after for 6 months without being confirmed. Elder Javier and I had worked hard in finding her, but she had been busy because she was preparing to be married. When she got married, she then went on a honeymoon, but these last two week she had returned again. When we finally had an appointment with her last week we explained that because it had been a long time since her baptism that she had to repeat the ordinance. She accepted the idea pretty easily, since she had already made the decision once. We then asked her when she would be baptized, and she asked if she could this sunday. We were like... "Ummm.....YEAH!" She got interviewed two days latter, and, even though she was a little sick, she came to church and got baptized after the services.

So yeah, I was a little sad that the other 6 baptisms that we had set for that date fell through, but during that one baptism, I forgot everything. I definitely need to work on the other 6 that weren´t able to. The Orea Zavaleta family, had to do a lot of paperwork with the house(which they are to inherit from Uriel´s grandmother who passed away recently), Carolina and Fernanda weren´t able to go because of a family commitment for their father´s birthday, and Guillermo and Socorro couldn´t get interviewed and didn´t go to church. So we had one baptism this week, but we still have a lot of work to do. I wonder how my companion is going to react when I tell him that we had 7 set for baptism this week and only one got baptized. He´s probably going think, "Oh, we have some work to do here." I think I´m still learning patience daily, and I´m learning a lot about the agency of others. We can only do so much, it´s their decision. But we´re going to work hard on having a lot of baptisms the next week....especially if the other family we challenged to baptism this last week follows through on their commitment.

Anyway, time is short. Thank you for the support. Please continue praying for me. I know it would be a mistake to say that I´m completely ready for what will come this cambio, because if I had already learned the lessons, why would I have to experience it again? Pray for me to learn and improve daily.


Elder Blackham

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Pictures for July 27-August 2, 2010

First of all, I attached a few photos from the baptisms we had last week. The taller lady is Marisela and the shorter one is Bety. I also attached a photo of Irene, Bety, and Marisela we took after the baptism of Bety. (who is smiling! A Mexican smiling in a photo? No way!) I debated attaching other photos of a photo duel that Manuel and I had one night. We both have cameras that have a low-light setting. So we turned of the lights and had flash wars(on P-day of course). A lot of them are pretty meaningless, because we were focusing more on having the camera flash in the eyes of the other, but I´ve attached a few, most of them because I won (I took the picture first).....and you can tell because in the pictures you can see his camera warming up to flash at me.

Weekly Letter: July 27-August 2

Another week has gone by. I cannot believe that transfers are coming up again. This is the last week before transfers, and so I´m in a little spot. I don´t want to change. I love my companion, I love the people here, and I've still got a lot of work to do here. However, I realized last week how much time I have in this area, and I would like to get to know more of the city. It would be perfect if I could bring my companion and all the people here to another place in the city.

Anyway, I´m getting ahead of myself. It´s not my decision. It´s the Lord´s. It´s out of my hands, and all I can do is live in the here and now, and do the things that are in my hands, and leave the other things in the hands of the Lord. He knows what I need to do, and whatever that may be, I better do the best I can to do it.

This week could have gone better in many respects. We didn't have any of the 6 baptisms we had as a goal follow through yesterday. (Coincidentally, we now have 6 people with a date for next Sunday....I hope everything goes through) First of all, the family Orea Zavaleta was unable to get baptized this week, because they still have people in their house Reciting Prayers and all that stuff in respect of the death in their family, and they didn´t feel very comfortable leaving so many people in their house for about four and half hours(during all the services and then their baptismal service). However, they seem to be coping well with everything. I was able to talk to Uriel a little bit while my companion and I took a short walk with the two of them Saturday night. I does seem a little hurt, but he continues strong, and he still has a lot of desires to get baptized. So they told us that this next week they will be baptized.

Two other people were Carolina Ábrego and her daughter Fernanda. Carolina is the sister of Bety that has been in teaching almost as long as her sister, but didn´t seem to be going anywhere. They just liked having us around. When we committed them to be baptized last week, they looked at us like "Is that what you wanted this entire time?" So they weren´t certain. That is, until Bety got baptized last Sunday, Fernanda, upon hearing of her experience(they weren´t able to go to church that sunday) suddenly got lit up with desires to get baptized, Carolina was a little less sure, but she was also bolstered by the example of her sister. As much as hearing of the baptism of Bety bolstered their desires, going to the Visitor´s Center by the Temple multiplied about fifty times. We went Friday with Irene, Marisela, and the two of them (Mari Tere was going to come with her son, but they had commitments). Irene and Marisela enjoyed themselves a great deal, but had to leave after a couple hours due to problems with the little girls they brought along(their granddaughters.) Meanwhile, Carolina and Fernanda seemed aloof in respect of time, especially when they were looking at all the temples, and when they listened to a few short messages from President Monson. That night after everything, Carolina finally opened up and begged us to put her baptism for the next Sunday, and not for yesterday, because she wasn´t sure she could convince her husband. We told her to pray about it and to make her decision. Before we left, Fernanda whispered that she would convince Carolina to be baptized that Sunday. So both of them now have the desire, the only thing that impeded them was the fact that her husband was away in a trip for work until well after the services on Sunday, and she never got to talk to him. However, I don´t have doubts that they will get baptized.

The final two people is an elderly couple, whose nephew recently was baptized and confirmed in the ward in Santa Fe(it´s a Colonia in Mexico City, kind of like Plateros, Mixcoac, Tacubaya, or Puerta Grande). They only problem is they haven´t ever come to the ward in Plateros, but have gone to the ward in Santa Fe two or three times already. That said, I think that if they do go to Plateros this Sunday, that will be able to baptize them after the services. Both of them really wanted to get baptized this week, but had already agreed to go to the ward in Santa Fe, to watch their nephew bless the sacrament for the first time. The only thing I´m concerned about is that the Elders in Santa Fe(who are in our Zone), are going to try to steal them and baptize them there. But I don´t think it would make much sense, because the Elders were the ones that gave them to us as a referral, but who knows what could happen!

Anyway, so this week could have gone better, but I´ve got high hopes for this next week!

Thank you so much for the prayers and support!


Elder Blackham

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Weekly Letter: July 20-26, 2010

Another week, eh? I´m not sure what happened. It has gone by so fast, but at the same time we have done so much this week. We were able to have our first Zone conference with the new Mission president. I really enjoy learning and working with him. He is very loving and expresses it well. We had a chance, Elder Childers and I, to talk to him a little. He first asked how much time we had in the mission. Childers told him about 22 months, and I told him 5. He laughed and told us that he had 3 weeks. It´s interesting that his approach is different from the other president. He told us that we should count the days of our mission. We were like "huh?" I thought it would make us trunky, but he clarified saying. "I´m counting the days of my mission....every. single. one." How true this is. Everyday is a gift, especially in this work, and if we don´t make every one count, we really aren´t treasuring the gift we have. I still haven´t been able to do this, but I´m working on it. It´s hard to think that I´ve already got 5 months, almost a quarter of my mission already under my belt. And what have I done? Not enough.

That being said, we had a pretty good week. The highlights were the two baptismal services we had on Saturday and Sunday. Marisela Valdés got baptized on Saturday. The service was very beautiful, but the only thing that I regret is that there wasn´t a lot of people, I think, due to the rain. However, her testimony was sweet and we all had a special moment with her that day.

She was then confirmed yesterday in the services. After that, Bety Ábrego was baptized after the services! She was able to finally convince her family to let her get baptized. It was a marvelous experience. We had challenged her to get baptized that thursday, but on friday, when we visited her, she hadn´t still talked to her family. I thought that this was going to be a challenge for her, especially with her husband, so I didn´t have a lot of faith. What´s more, I felt really bad in the stomach that morning and we were late to church. However, I now have a testimony of the power of priesthood blessings. Manuel Piña and my companion Elder Childers were able to give me one before the services. In Manuel´s spoken blessing (his first time giving one), he gave me the promise that I would be able to accomplish all that I needed to do and keep the sabbath day holy. This was before I knew that Bety was going to ask me to baptize her.

So, during the services, I felt almost normal, and I was marveling why. That is, until Hermana Ábrego asked me to baptize her. What a grand experience it was to baptize her. I was no longer distracted by my fatigue and discomfort and was able to do the ordinance well in the eyes of God. I have seldom seen such faith as I have with her. She actually quit her job this week,(so that she doesn´t need to work on Sundays) and is waiting with faith for the blessings of her baptism. She went to church, alone, even though her sister Carolina was going to come, but couldn´t, even though we were going to pass by in the car of Hermano Zepeda, but were a about an hour late(due to my sickness). She took the initiative and I have no doubts that she will be blessed for it.

It´s a tender mercy to have witnessed this miracle in her life. I don´t know if I wrote this before, but she told Elder Javier and me earlier about a dream of her baptism, she explained the baptismal font perfectly and told me there was a lot of people there to support her. Well, both of these came to pass yesterday. Because it was after the services, everyone that could from the ward came to her baptism, to the point that there were people standing in the back. In addition, Irene Sánchez and Maricela Valdés(the three of which had become good friends) were there to support her in her decision. I didn´t realize until Hermano Zepeda mentioned something about fulfilled promises that she had perfectly seen this baptism about a month before in her dreams.

In respect of her work, Hermano Zepeda commented something to Elder Childers that I think is an answer to her prayers(but we haven´t able to give her the information yet.) He commented that the distribution center needs people that can work in making clothes(Neither I nor my companion know how to say this in English: "Sewery? I don´t think that´s right.") This is what she has worked in in her other work, it will pay well, and it´s by the church, so she will rest the weekends(including Sundays!) We still have a lot to do to make sure everything fits out for this job, but I know that our Father in Heaven is very well aware of the needs of His daughter.

Well, those were the two baptisms that we had. The only ones we missed were the family Orea Zavaleta. They´re still continuing strong. But were unable to be baptized or attend church because his grandmother died on friday. Her funeral services were yesterday, so that made things difficult, but I no longer have doubts that they will get baptized. We just have to continue helping them with their concerns. He no longer has the reservations that he had before about being baptized, in fact he was telling every one of his friends about his baptism in the week. Right now, they are facing the challenges with more strength and faith. Of course, they´re a little sad about this challenge, but neither one have doubts that they´ll see her again. We also talked to them about baptisms for the dead, especially because the grandmother also wanted to get baptized when we talked to her. So I expect that as soon as they can get a temple recommend she´ll get baptized for the grandmother of her husband.

Anyway, I literally have no time to write more, but this week was a good one, and I´m looking forward to an even better one.


Elder Blackham