Monday, December 20, 2010

Weekly Letter: December 14-20, 2010

Well, this week, I got to know my companion´s name and all of that. His name is Elder Lauritzen, he´s from Conneticut(I think I spelled that right), and he has about three weeks here in Mexico. He also arrived late from the MTC due to problems with the visa, but he did arrive two weeks before changes. So he was with one of the Zone Leaders for two weeks in Puerta Grande(sound familiar?) So yeah, I've basically adopted him as my son(in the mission, of course), but it is a really interesting experience having an American almost never happens. However, his spanish is already really good, in fact he knows the names of many objects better than I do...which made me realize that I need to take out that good old dictionary and do some studying.

It´s funny, many times when I don´t understand words in the scriptures, I look it up in the dictionary, only to find that I don't know what the word means in English either. So I might have to invest in a spanish dictionary, because the Spanish-English dictionary doesn't always help me as well as I would like.

Yeah, but being American, I had to put my foot down and tell him we weren´t going to speak in English. But, he seemed totally okay with that. I thought it would be hard because of the lack of ability in Spanish, but he does understand and speak pretty well. However, that said, one time in the Comida I decided that I wasn´t going to talk to the members, that my companion had gotten comfortable hearing me talk and not saying anything himself. So it was a very silent conversation, and I wanted to talk to the members so bad, but I couldn't. However, I think he's realized that and he's working harder on that.

Well, the work goes on. It's something really interesting, teaching with someone with limited use of the language. People actually listen to my companion more than they listen to me, because it's a lot harder to understand him, and they have to pay more attention(haha, I'm asking my companion to help me with my English, I had no idea how to say that sentence). Also, we knocked on some doors, and I realized that the people are more honest with him than they are with me. We knocked on the doors, and they told him "I´m really not interested sorry, but thanks for your time." But when it was my turn to make the contact, they said "Not right now, but some other day." I would then make an appointment with them, to which they readily agreed to, and then we would return for the appointment one! So there are a lot of blessings with the fact that my companion is harder to understand.

This week we worked hard, but we had very little fruits. However, what I love about my companion is that he came to work, and hasn't lost sight of that. He doesn't get discouraged, which encourages me to improve myself in my attitude. This week, we weren't able to obtain any references, and we had a lot of appointments fall on us, but I know that our efforts were organized and diligent, and I have no doubt that the fruits will come if we continue working like this. I'm actually starting to see some fruits already, this ward is beginning to trust us more. I don't know how many times yesterday the brothers and sisters talked to us about how they had seen us in the street talking to someone, and how they loved seeing us working.

So, I believe that we'll have more success this week. It'll be interesting working on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, already, we've see some people try to avoid setting appointments for this week due to the holidays, but we just have to keep working on it, because the miracles only come by faith...and faith means we have to ACT!! For example, if we believe that God answers prayers, but we never pray....what happens? Nothing! And this faith begins to die slowly because we can't obtain a testimony if we haven't lived it. So we have to have faith that work brings miracles....and then we have to WORK!

Well, that's basically it for this week. I hope you all have a great Christmas and that you remember why we celebrate this day. I can't remember who said it but someone once said "there wouldn't be a Christmas if it weren't for Easter."

Thank you all for everything. Please continue praying for my companion and me. We need those prayers.


Elder Blackham

Weekly Letter: December 7-13, 2010

Another week, another cambio, another companion, and another experience in the mission field. Yeah, today we have changes again. I can hardly believe that Elder Mendoza and I already have had a month and a half together. I seems like the time has just flown by. However, I'm incredibly excited, because we've seen the area grow quite a bit while we were working together. However, Elder Mendoza got changed to Mexico, to the Zone Tacubaya(where I was the first six months in the field.) I get to stay here in Toluca-Centro. It's pretty interesting, it seems like neither one of my mission presidents is in any hurry to change me from area to area. I was in my first area for six months, and now I have about 3 months in this area....and at least another month and a half more...

Maybe I'll end up the same way as Elder Leavitt, who started his mission in Plateros about a year before I did, six months later, he came to Centro, and was there for another six months. Who knows? I know it's pretty weird that I'm going to be in my second area in the mission for Christmas and my birthday....and maybe when I complete a year too! Wow, a year in the mission, and two areas? I didn't think that would happen.

Here in Centro, I'm going to receive an Elder.....something. He's an American, but because my Mexican companion received the changes by phone from my Mexican District Leader, they didn't get the last name of my new companion very well. Oh well, so I have no idea if I know my companion or not. My companion told me about 7 last names that could be my companion's last name, but to spare you guys all the drama and everything of which of the seven(if any of them) is indeed my companion, I will just send it in the email next week.

Anyway, I'm pretty excited, I don't know how it'll be working with a "gringo," all of my other companions have been Mexican....except Elder Childers, but he's half Peruvian, and had almost finished his mission, so in all aspects: culture, language, hair color, everyone always thought he was Mexican. Anyway, I'm excited, but nervous. However, I think it will be a good experience.

So yeah, we also had a baptism yesterday. Elder Mendoza baptized Javier, a sixteen year-old who is a cousin of some of the members in our ward. His mom and nephew are also coming to church, and they both want to be baptized, but the mom wants to wait until January, and we haven't really talked to the nephew outside of church because he's always with his mom because he's only 8. But, yeah, we're starting to have some work here in Centro. We just have to find more. That's the thing with missionary work, you can never be too pleased with everything that has happened in an area, or else, the area begins to die. I think I learned that too late in Plateros, but I´ve learned that we have to focus every week in the area, as if we were opening the area, because the majority of the people you find aren't going to progress really fast, or they aren't going to want to listen after a while. Like the mission president says, you have to be constantly filling the tank, and if we do that, the fruits will come on their own.

So, we finished the change on a good note with the baptism. The only thing that Elder Mendoza doesn´t like about leaving right now is that he never got to activate his family. We visited them a lot...maybe too much, but they don't seem to be motivated to go to church. I'll see what I can do with my other companion, but I think that if a family member-missionary couldn't do it, I better not waste too much time going with them day after day. But, I can't just leave them either. So we'll see how it goes.

Anyway, it's getting late, and I've got to go to Metepec in like thirty minutes.

Thanks for everything! See you all next week!(not literally, but in email format)


Elder Blackham

Weekly Letter: November 30-December 6, 2010

It´s official, I´m old in the mission field. Friday, we were going to have a baptismal interview (it fell through), and when the District Leader arrived(who´s from my same generation of missionaries...but is Mexican so he has more time in the field than I do), Elder Loya congratulated me. I was like "what?! Our appointment fell through and you´re congratulating me?" He laughed and said, "No, not that, congratulations! We completed 10 months in the mission today."

Wow. How weird, huh? It is so weird to think that I´m near to being halfway done with my missionary service. Everyone says that the second year goes faster than the first, and if that´s true, I´m in trouble! It´s going way too fast as it is. The months seem to fly by. Yesterday when a member mentioned the Christmas devotional, I was like, "Oh yeah, I guess it´s December." It´s really weird reading about home and how there is a bunch of snow and all that stuff. Here in Toluca, it´s pretty calm. November gave us a scare when it reached like 34 degrees Farenheit or something like that, I though it was going to get COLD, but it´s pretty warm now, and basically nothing like what I´m used to this time of the year.

Well, the time keeps going and all you can do is 1) look at the marvel of it, or 2) get to work!

This week, we could have done better on option two. I don´t what happens, but every appointment we have with investigators seems to fall through....including the baptismal interview we were going to have Friday, and a trip to the temple on Saturday. This week could have gone a lot better, and unfortunately, my companion got quite a bit discouraged because of it. I tried not to, but when your companion is discouraged, it´s hard to keep your head up. When you´re discouraged, that´s when the adversary works harder on you, because you are already likely to look at your failures, and your inadequacies. (which are multiplied when you're in another country and speaking another language.)

That is, discouragement is a downward spiral. Luckily, I was able to recognize that early on, and the next day, although, it wasn´t the best day, did get a lot better. I think I will start doing what Elder Javier and I did whenever we got discouraged. We would stop what we were doing, read a passage together in the Book of Mormon, say a prayer, and then get to work. After those moments, we were able to find investigators like Irene Sanchez, the Family Orea Zavaleta, and other golden investigators. I think the adversary really tries to get down on us when we are at the point of doing something important, the key is that we don´t get down on ourselves and find out what miracle is about to happen that Satan doesn´t want to happen.

We keep hearing stories of missionaries in the rain and deciding to knock on that last door, and finding investigators that want to be baptized in that last door that they were thinking about leaving unknocked. I don´t have experiences exactly like those....maybe I need to knock on more doors in the rain(and not a cloud in sight), but I believe it´s the same concept.

That said, I´m incredibly excited about this next week, I really feel like we´re filling the tank with new investigators. Finally, we are doing what we should have done all along, looking for new investigators. Only when we have people in teaching, can we be the best we can be.

Thank you all for your love, support, and prayers. Please continue praying for us. We need the help.


Elder Blackham

Friday, December 3, 2010

Weekly Letter: November 23-29, 2010

I think I´m going to have to write a little more news this week, because a lot has happened, and I didn´t write anything last week. This transfer from working in Almoloya all the time to working more in the Centro of Toluca has been hard and sometimes discouraging. However, I think we are starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Elder Mendoza and I basically decided early on that we were going to drop the investigators we had in the Centro. Nobody was progressing, they had been in teaching for over a year, and our appointments kept on falling through. It was truly a trying experience to decide to leave all of them, I hope they have a future chance to accept what we´ve been teaching them.

Meanwhile, we have been focusing a lot on getting references, and finding new investigators. There is an older Brother in the ward here that is basically looking to give us another reference....and some of his family is inactive. We have been working a lot with him and his family, and we have been able to find some prospective investigators thanks to his help. We´ve also been witnesses to daily miracles, where people start contacting us in the street, asking us if we can go to their home....which never happens normally.

We are far from out of the woods. We realized that we spent a lot of time with inactive members this week and almost didn´t teach investigators....or not as much as we could have. I´ve realized that we can´t be focusing on how much time we have until the next appointment. We have to be busy no matter what. Many times, when I´m looking at the clock all the time, I start looking for things we can do with that time. However, we many times end up spending 40 minutes doing what we could have done in 15, just to spend more time. That isn´t work, we feel better because we´re talking to people, but that isn´t the work that the Lord wants us to do.

We had a Seventy visit us on Saturday, Elder De Hoyos told us basically that. He gave us an example of what we can do. One companion is like "It´s 12:30, and our next appointment is at 1:00, what members live around here?" the other is like "Oh! Hermano So-and-so," they go to the appointment and members commit to go to church that Sunday. They offer something to eat(like the members always do), and they decline for another ocasion, saying they have work to do. They leave the house at 12:40, and one elder is like "We still have 20 minutes before the appointment," and the other responds "yeah, but they don't have to know that. Let´s see if we can do some contacts before the appointment."

The work is like that. We have to keep busy if we want to be blessed. Like the Lord said we have to be "anxiously engaged in a good cause." This week, we were always in engaged in a good cause, but we were far from anxious. However, this week with the investigators we have, we have a better head start than the other week, and I think we can work harder on being anxiously engaged in this work, and have more fruits this week.

Well, I´m out of time, I was going to write more specifics about some investigators that we had, but I didn´t get the chance. However, we've already challenged a family to be baptized, they've accepted, but we just have to encourage the mother to get baptized. She said that in January she would be baptized, but then her son looked at her and said "Mom, I thought we were going to get baptized sooner than that!" We´ll see if we can get to the temple this Saturday, it´s a little more complicated now that we´re in Toluca, but we´re going to see what we can do. But I know that that can help them get excited to be baptized!

Well, I got to go!


Elder Blackham