Monday, September 13, 2010

Weekly Letter: September 7-13, 2010

Another week. I won´t bore you guys in talking the time really flies. Unfortunately, I wasn´t able to have the opportunity to enjoy many fruits this week. The ones I did have I will try to talk about, but I think this week was a week of learning more than anything. I want to tell you guys that I´m not down on myself, never had been. If I sound like I´m a little disappointed in my letters, it probably means that I am a little disappointed, but I´ve never felt like this isn´t where I should be or that I´m wasting time. In fact, everyday, I realize that this is exactly where I need to be, and that time is short and should make the most of it, because for these two years, none of it is mine.

This week, I received a great testimony about the revelation of the Mission President and his Assistants. In our Zone Conference in the las Change, another Model Lesson was introduced. This lesson was designed by the Assistants and the president in order to receive more referrals. It includes a letter with a talk by L. Tom Perry called "Bring Souls to Me"(from April 2009 conference)and other short quotes from Gordon B. Hinckley and Joseph Smith about the necesity of missionary work with the members. At first, I, knowing much of the members thought about each one of them and thought, "I don´t know who would have references." We didn´t teach it very well.

Then came Elder Gamez who already tried and had a testimony about this. We read the letter with several members this week and had more fruits than I thought we would get. One person after the final prayer gave us the list. It had 18 names on it! This came as a surprise because whenever we passed by her house we asked for references and she would say: "I think the other Elders have knocked on all the doors around here and no one has accepted." But this conference talk brought in the right spirit and she chose to give us the references.

I´ve also learned a lot about my teaching. I mentioned in my other letter about an experience with a confirmation after almost "Bible bashing" them. What I have come realize more and more that it wasn´t that at all. It was pure doctrine explained with clarity. We weren´t apologists for the doctrine, the doctrine is black and white. I´ve come to realize that I have been a sort of apologist in the past for the doctrine. I thought I was expressing love to the investigators, but I wasn´t doing that. I was trying to explain the doctrine for something that I saw they were having troubles with in a way that didn´t hurt their feelings...and what do I see? People who love having us around because we talk pretty, but don´t complete their commitments.

So I realized a little bit too late what I was doing. I also tried to spoon feed doctrine to some people. I would take a scripture and try to apply every part of it to their lives exactly....what ended up happening was I ended up blabbing on for a long time, and they just looked at me. That isn´t how the work should be. They need to teach themselves. We explain the doctrine cleanly, purely, plainly, and then let them apply it to their lives....let them see what they need to do in order to apply to their lives.

I continue to marvel at the patience of my companion Elder Gamez with me. I had one such lesson on Saturday where I basically blabbed and blabbed. Afterwards, I realized what I was doing, and tried to get him to save the lesson. He simply bore his testimony on what I said and set another appointment. After the appointment he told me quickly, quietly, but clear as ever that I need to study the doctrine and teach it clear and pure. He said that I would learn soon enough as senior companion(he believes that I´m going to transfer to another area as senior comp....I think it´s wishful-thinking because he doesn´t want to be transferred and become District Leader like everyone says he will be.) that I can´t always rely on my companion to know what to say. I need to study the doctrine to know for myself what I need to say.

Anyway, I think that he´s completely right, and I´m going to take care to study not only from the Book of Mormon, but also from Preach My Gospel and the pamphlets for the lessons that we have.

So I have no time, but thank you all for your prayers and support. Love you all!


Elder Thomas Blackham

Friday, September 10, 2010

Weekly Letter: August 31-September 6, 2010

Another week....and another month....and almost another transfer.

I haven´t a clue what´s happened with August. It was here just a moment ago. I was just thinking of the date and realized.....I´ve completed 7 months in the mission. If I could express the joy and horror that come from that phrase. 7 months! I´m not green anymore! and 7 months: and what have I done with these seven months? I don´t know what I´ve done with this much of the Lord´s time, but I doubt it´s enough! I don´t know, I was still getting over the fact that I had 6 months in the mission, and then this had to happen! Oh well, I guess we keep going and try to make the best of the time I have here.

This week we had a few changes for us. First of all, Hermano Zepeda was released as the Ward Mission Leader. It came about a month or so later than it should have. Hermano Zepeda had been called as a counselor in the Stake Young Men´s presidency, which is calling where is basically assisting every ward but his own throughout the month. So he was basically out of action, even though he was very supportive and kept asking the bishop to call another ward mission Leader. And yesterday we got a new one. His name is Santiago, he´s recently moved in to the ward with his wife who had been in Plateros her whole life. However, I´m really excited to work with him. He´s not Hermano Zepeda, but I feel that he´s going to support us and help us as much as he can.

We also had an interesting experience. Elder Javier, Elder Childers, Elder Gamez, and I have been working for months to get some of the people we baptized confirmed. There were two that have put quite a bit of resistance of being confirmed, and had the longest time without being confirmed. The bishop told us that if someone passes 3 months after their baptism without being confirmed, they have to repeat the ordinance. So we did all we could to help make this step, but they didn´t want to.....or rather, they kept saying that they were working on it, but never gave the signals of progress. I think they were one of the reasons that I have stayed in this area. I really didn´t want to leave this work unfinished, like Javier and Childers were unfortunately obligated to do. Especially with these people, because if I went, that would mean that neither one of us that had baptized them (Javier and I) would have been there for their confirmation.

Unfortunately, the whole time with Childers, they made little progress, and became a lesser priority with all the work we had. But with Elder Gamez, we made them a higher priority from the start. And finally after almost three months without being confirmed, the two of them came to church yesterday and were confirmed members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It really thrilled me to see them, I still don´t know what we did to help them, but I think it had to do with our lesson on Friday.

Friday, we passed by like we often do before another appointment. We´ve found out from hard experience that it´s better that way because they´re almost always home in the afternoon EXCEPT whenever we´ve made an appointment for that afternoon. Mysteriously, they always seem to have urgent business somewhere else that they hadn´t a clue about until two hours before the appointment. Anyway, so we didn´t make that mistake again. We passed by, they welcomed us warmly, told us they were doing marvelously(like always) and had us sit down and put their attention for us. We had brought a seminary video for the Book of Mormon and were going to talk about faith, but our plans went down another road when she asked: "Has the bishop asked about me?" My companion was inspired to say that he was worried about her, and said that we would explain why in the lesson after the prayer.

In hindsight, I should have been worried, because I had no idea where he was going with this, but I had a great trust in him, and more than that, in the Spirit that was directing him to say what he needed to say. After the prayer, my companion and I described what was a covenant, and that we were concerned because of what the scriptures said about not fulfilling a covenant. My companion just happened to flip to Mosiah 5 where it describes the woe to those who don´t fulfill covenants. It was funny, I thought it was just a normal lesson, until my companion read one scripture in 2 Nephi 31 that was really hard...but neither one of us realized until we looked at the face of the Sister that was strangely quieted, (she has a habit of giving lengthy, wordy answers that really have very little feeling or comprehension behind them) I then muttered "Wow!" to my companion, who at that point realized that he had "planchado" or "bible-bashed" them.

So yeah, we ended the lesson quickly after that, not even committing them to go to church. We both left, marvelling about how hard we had been on them. I hadn´t been as hard on them as he was....or at least I don´t think so...but the more I thought about the things I taught them and how I taught them, I couldn´t believe it. I also bible bashed them....or rather, described the doctrine clearly without compromise. We actually felt really bad, because the family was very hospitable, but never wanted to put in practice the stuff they said they knew was true. We didn´t even follow up the next day on what had happened. So we were really surprised to see them in Church yesterday, and even more so that they didn´t put any resistance in getting confirmed.

I still haven´t a clue what we did that friday. I don´t know if this will be the final challenge that they´ll have with the church, but at least the convenant is complete, and we can ease the work more to the members of the ward. Anyway, I´m just glad that they could have been confirmed, they were ready for it, but I don´t have clue why it took so long.

Well I´m out of time right now so I´d better go.

Thanks for everything!


Elder Blackham

Weekly Letter: August 24-30, 2010

So another week has gone by. It was funny, it seems like yesterday that my companion was like "ummm, what happened to the second week of the change?" and I was like, "oh, yeah, this is crazy. Time is moving so fast!" And guess what? We just finished week three! What happened?! The thing is, that every week, my companion and I are motivating each other to work harder, faster, and more effectively with the time we have. The thing is, when we do that, the time passes even faster. I literally can´t believe how fast this week has gone. I feel like nothing has happened since the last time I wrote but then I think about all things we did day by day, I can´t believe how we were able to do all this in one week.

Even though this week didn´t have the fruits that I thought we would have, we worked harder than we have before in the mission. The thing is, we couldn´t find very many new people this week because we had so many appointments with so many people. We´re going to make some hard decisions this week, and deciding who isn´t progressing and leaving them. We literally had so many appointments this week, that we weren´t able to keep in good contact with someone who was going to get baptized this week, but because we were so busy we weren´t able to get everything ready for them. So, yeah, we had a hard lesson in learning to put priorities, but got to learn in some way, right?

Anyway, I´ve been learning a lot from Elder Gamez. I´m really lucky to have him as a companion. There are a lot of Elderes in this mission that are focused in different thing, such as leadership and stuff like that. However, he is perfectly content how he is. He says that leadership is just a bunch of responsibility and less time to focus on the people. I agree completely with his way of thinking. The thing is, I´m really happy to see other people I know getting leadership positions, both Javier and Childers are District leaders in their respective areas, and I´m so happy to hear that. Also some people that arrived at the same time I did have become senior companions, and one is District leader. I´m really happy for them, but whenever people tell me that I´m going to be raised up, too, I get nervous, and my head starts thinking in things that are not my current responsibility. Whenever I catch myself thinking like that I get angry at myself and try to think of the people I have in my area. That´s the thing that I always fall back on in the mission, when I think too much of home or whatever, I think about the people in my area.

So yeah, neither one of us likes the idea of being a leader, which is funny because Gamez is the senior companion, and he´s always asking me to make the decisions, and I´m always like "You know the area as well as I do, you tell me what you think." Anyway, I might sound a little lazy, but I really don´t like the idea of having to split my time between taking care of both the investigators and the missionaries, being that I don´t have that much time as it is for our investigators.

Anyway, that being said, Elder Gamez really shows the capacity of being a really good leader. He´s really humble, he has a lot of knowledge, and he gets along with people very well because of his patience. I really admire these qualities and I´m working on developing them more like him...not because I want to be a leader, but a better missionary.

It´s truly a great experience the mission. We learn so much from our study. We learn so much from the people we meet, even more from those we teach, and even more from our companions. I really haven´t learned this much in my life! I´m really glad for this opportunity to serve the mission, and even more so when I think about for whom I´m doing this service. I´ve said this before, but the Lord doesn´t need us to do His work, it´s a gift to work for Him in bringing blessings to His children.

Thanks for all the love and support. Truly I´m so grateful that I have help in this work, if it weren´t that way, I would only be wasting time, but as it is, with the help I have, I´m able to see miracles.


Elder Thomas Blackham

Weekly Letter: August 17-23, 2010

Wow, what a week! I don´t even know how to start this off! First of all, it rained....a lot! I had thought that the rainy season would be finishing up right now, since it started in well in June, it should be ending right now, but basically like clockwork, every afternoon, it rained a ton! it was pretty cool, except that our house didn´t like it too much. Our apartment complex, like many others here in DF, has an open center where we can hang our laundry to dry. It was way cool because we literally had to go down a waterfall to get down stairs! Then we opened the door and the street was basically a river! But being DF, the traffic was heavy as usual, it was way cool to see the cars passing through knee-level water. The small cars literally looked like boats because you couldn´t see the wheels!

So yeah, this all happened while we were waiting for the Zone Leaders to do a baptismal interview with two of our investigators. They had already been interviewed before by Elder Steed, but that was two months ago, so Elder Cardenas and Elder Cabrera wanted to check that everything was good. When we arrived at the house of Uriel and Gabriela, Gaby basically chewed me out. She said that some of her friends in the church were saying that they weren´t being fair to us as missionaries, that they kept saying they were going to get baptized, but never followed through. She told me that she had told me when Javier left, that this month was going to be difficult to be baptized because it is the busiest time at her work. She then told me, "I told you I´m going to get baptized! Okay? So don´t act all sad and everything in front of the members."

I can honestly say that this was the first time I enjoyed getting chewed out. I can honestly say that I was starting to doubt that I would see them get baptized, I knew they would be baptized, but every week something else would happen that made it difficult. However, after the interviews, they said that this Sunday for sure they would get baptized.

Sunday came, and so did they! Actually, Gabriela skipped out on her work to be there. She said that they were going to reprimand her, but she wanted to get baptized so much that it didn´t matter. She said that because the busy season at her work was now going to calm down that she shouldn´t have problems anymore with going to church on Sundays. Uriel also received a job that is only Monday through Saturdays everyday from 9 am until 6 pm. That may not sound very ideal, but here in DF, that´s a real blessing.

So the Lord provided the way that the two of them could be baptized. Elder Childers was able to get permission to be there for their baptism, (because Gabriela had made him promise to baptize her). So it was a beautiful experience, and the two of them were really happy and excited. Even the cold water didn´t deter them....even though Uriel gave me a hard time about the water. He told me afterwards "You didn´t even give me time to prepare myself you just dunked me as soon as you said the prayer." I told him it was better to get it over with and get out of the cold water, and, shivering, he laughed and agreed.

Well, I was only able to write about this experience, and although it was the crowning experience of the week, it wasn´t the only thing I wanted to write about, but right now I am out of time. So I´ll have to close with that and save the rest for next week.

Thank you all for the love and the support. It really means a lot!


Elder Blackham