Friday, June 24, 2011

Weekly Letter June 14-20, 2011

para todos uds:

How many things do I have to tell you guys this week? First of all, I'm kind of bummed that it hasn't rained this summer....not just because the sun is really strong this time of year when it doesn't rain, but also because it has an unexpected effect on our baptisms(more on that later). It's pretty weird because this time of year it should be raining a ton. In May, June, and July is when the rainy season really hits its peak here. However, this year, after a few big psyche-out rains that occurred in March and April, we've been completely dry until this past week, in which it sprinkled rather undramatically. Everybody here is worried about the rain, because it really has a big effect on everything, especially the water supply and price of fruits in the markets. We've heard the there is a hurricane coming in on Oaxaca, and I hope it's true....not because I wish this harm for the Oaxaqueños, but because I hope some of that rain gets here.

So yeah, we were a little disappointed this week because Rosa, Maria Elena´s daughter that was a big baptismal prospect for this week, started to work again....and she has to work Sundays. She's way excited though. After talking about the Restoration with her(because she hadn't heard it before...once again because of her work), and we had seen the movie of the Restoration, she was really excited to be baptized. We explained a little bit about Faith in that moment, taking advantage of the spirit to motivate her to be baptized. We explained that if we ask with faith, the Lord will provide the means through which we can obey the commandments. She seemed excited to pray for the words to say to her boss to ask for Sundays'll be hard because she just barely found this job after quitting her other job last week and going to church Sunday.

We also had a great experience with Lluvia this week. She seems to be a little discouraged because of how long it´s going to take for them to get married so she can be baptized. Also, she has son from a previous relationship who stays with them during the week, but then on the weekends goes with his father and his paternal grandparents . His grandparents, being Catholic, take advantage of the situation and take him to Catholic mass every Sunday. However, we gave them a copy of the movie Testaments, and they've already seen it twice! And he really likes it! She's hoping to talk to the father so that he can stay with her and her inactive-member-husband-to-be so they can go to the visitor's center by the temple on Saturday, and then to church on Sunday. So we're praying that it'll happen!

And...we baptized in spite of all the challenges we had. First of all....apparently our church has an alarm system. Even if a missionary is opening the church with a legitimate key and legitimate intentions, if he doesn't enter in a code on entering, the alarm starts to sound. And that problem intensifies when neither he nor his companion know the code for their key...and the missionary that was there last and knows it is in Toluca right now. Finally, we were able to enter the code for the bishopric(which might be called cheating...but at least the police didn't come to arrest us), and started filling the font Saturday at 4:00 for the 7:00 baptism that night. We left for some appointments and came back about an hour and a half later to check up on things.

Thus entered fate, in which, due to the little rain we have received, Tlalnepantla shuts off the water supply from Friday night until Sunday night....hmmm, not very effective for a Saturday night baptism. The font was able to fill up about halfway before the water reserve in the church shut off....and then Judith who was going to be baptized arrived ready and excited at 7:00 on the dot with all her family(which are also investigators), and there was nobody but us, and a half-way filled baptismal font.

The ward mission leader and one other member did eventually show up (the bishop had to leave due to emergency health problems of his children, and his only counselor couldn't show up). So we had a short baptismal service. My companion baptized Judith kneeling (and she had to sit in the font to make sure that she got completely submerged), while the Ward Mission Leader and I acted as witnesses. So yeah, it was not the best baptismal service I've had, however, the whole family felt great there. Eduardo, her grown son told us that he also had the same faith as his mother, and hoped to be able to take the same decision that she had taken.(Only I hope with a full font because he is BIG). And then he and his wife and young son showed up early Sunday morning for the confirmation. They had to leave after the second hour because they had commitments with a party for the Fathers in their family. We set an appointment to see them this week, and invited them to come for the three hours the next week, and they accepted eagerly the invitation....So we're hoping to baptize them this week.

Well, that isn't even close to everything that I was going to write, but the time has flown by and we have go. Thanks for the prayers and support. Keep praying for us here in Mexico!


Elder Blackham

Weekly Letter: June 7-13, 2011

para todos uds:

So, another week in the mission. I feel like this week literally flew by...and here I am again, writing about how our week went. Thinking about our week, the whole thing was like a blur. Elder García and I are getting along pretty well. Unfortunately, this week, we decided to drop some investigators that really are just taking up time and don´t progress. This is the hardest part of the mission, because it´s so much easier making plans for old investigators than to find new investigators(and we never know how many of them are going to say no and slam the door in our face)

The situation with Norma is complicated as usual. She still hasn´t prayed, and every time we pass by to ask her about it, she thinks we´re coming to ask that she return the Book of Mormon. I feel like she has received her answer, she´s just afraid of what that means. However, she hardly has time to let us in the house...because her family does say a bunch of things about us. She does want to be baptized because she wants to help her children, but when these same children she wants to help don´t want her to be baptized, it´s a little discouraging. Once again she said that she would pray the last time we saw her, and that she would call us afterward...but, of course, she hasn´t called and didn´t go to church yesterday.

However, we have two prospects for this week to be baptized. One is the daughter of Maria Elena, who got confirmed yesterday. The daughter came to church for the first time this week to see the confirmation and she liked what she saw. However, before it had been difficult to see her because she worked every day of the week except one weekday that they gave her off. However, she told us that she wants to hear all the lessons and be we are obliged to do so.

The other prospect is Judith. She was one of the people that was going to be baptized two weeks ago, but never got interviewed. However, we have an appointment for her interview tomorrow, and she really wants to be baptized. Her grown son also wants to be baptized, and her granddaughter who´s 15 years old (but her dad doesn´t even let her go to church)...and maybe her daughter(who is the mom of her granddaughter). However, because of complications with family issues, her daughter and granddaughter haven´t been able to go to church, and her son because he´s a Football Coach(yeah, and that´s American, huh?), and so he´s been having games with his team lately, so he hasn´t gone either. However, the last time we talked to Judith, we explained how this decision could affect the lives of everyone in her family...for the good. So yeah, we hope to have 2 baptisms this week, and if Norma(who already got interviewed) decides to be baptized too...they could be three. However, I think we will need more than a few miracles for that to happen.

Well, time is short. I feel like this hour really flew by, but oh well. We´ve got to go to the Zone activity at 11:00 and it´s already 11:00...but it´s cool. Thanks for your prayers and support.


Elder Blackham

Weekly Letter: May 31-June 6, 2011

para todos uds:

I think I´m going to like this area. Tlalli is a really supportive ward for missionary work. And, if we can take advantage of that, things can start to fly over here. This last week, I got to know a reference source in the ward...and she´s not even a member! That´s not because she doesn´t want to be baptized, it´s because her husband doesn´t want to get married with her so she can be baptized. But she feels like some of the difficulties that he´s been having in his life is softening his heart. Actually, we had two lessons with him this week, which is the first time since they knew the missionaries about year ago, that he´s accepted to listen to us.

Actually the baptism we had this week was a reference that this sister gave the missionaries two week ago. She went to church these two weeks and got baptized yesterday after the services. Her name is Maria Elena. I basically got to harvest from the fruits of others´ labors this time. I only got to know her two times before her baptism...and basically just was there as a motivator so that she got baptized, but she was already prepared to be baptized this week.

We had three other people lined up to be baptized this last week, but they all fell through. We have to verify that one actually got married like she said she did; Another one was not there when the Zone Leaders went to do the interview and we won´t be able to talk to her until the next week; and the last one was the one that made us feel the worst. Her name is Norma, and when I got there the first time, she hardly didn´t have time, so we just talked quickly, and set up an interview with her the next day, which she passed to the point that the Zone Leader told me that she was a sure-baptism this week. The next day in the morning she called us in an appointment we had to tell us that she was no longer going to be baptized...or even going to church, because her adult sons are against it. We set an appointment the same day in the afternoon, but when we went she asked if we could pass by the next day at the same hour because she had visitors. We went the next day and wasn´t there, we then called her and she said the same thing over again, and told us that she would call us when she could talk to us.

However, Yesterday in the afternoon, we tried to pass by with her, but two men were outside the door, and told us that she wasn´t there(even though we saw a woman watching tv inside), my companion then asked if he could ring the door bell to see if she would come, and one the men got angry and told us "No! Try later!" and then shut the door hard in our face. My companion doesn´t have too much time in the mission, so that upset him quite a bit, and I think the only reason why I didn´t get angry too was that I was too busy trying to make sure that my companion wasn´t going to do something that we would regret.

However, all is well. Just as Paul, we try to glory in the afflictions we suffer for bearing the name of Jesus Christ. However, it is hard. It gets easier with time and experience, but it was definitely not my companion´s favorite experience this week. We just hope to be able to reach our goals that we´ve made to baptize these three people that were going to get baptized this week. However, it will have to require several miracles.

Well, time is short. Thanks for all your support. Keep praying for us!


Elder Blackham

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Weekly Letter: May 24-30, 2011

para todos uds:

Well, this letter will be a little more newsy. Our investigators have been progressing really well. We are really excited because we´ve been able to find several families that are really good at listening to us. Miguel Torres got confirmed this Sunday, and then the Bishop asked him to bear his testimony about his experience in conference. His testimony was powerful, also Brother Piña(whom Elder Perez and I baptized his last week in the mission) shared a really powerful testimony. Several people commented how they saw the both of the brothers as future leaders in the ward. Andrés, our Ward Mission Leader said about Miguel Torres "At least a Bishop, if not Seventy." I just had to laugh, but yeah, just to give an idea of how lucky we were to find him.

We also were able to baptize this week. She is girl of about 10 years, and her mother had gotten baptized over a year ago, but the father was living in another country at the time. We talked to the family as a whole on saturday. (We wanted to talk earlier, but couldn´t find them). The Father, who isn´t member, had no problems that Mari Carmen was baptized, but the mother, who is member, felt like it wasn´t time. The thing is that they have family problems ever since Gabriel got home from Panama a year ago, and Lorena(the mom) wanted their family to be good before taking that step. But Mari Carmen really wanted to be baptized and understood very well what was the baptism and everything, so we took some time to talk to the mom about how the Lord blesses the families that are true to the commandments, we explained that Baptism was one of those, and although it wasn´t going to be like magic that everything was going to go better as a family, it was going to be a good step forward. She finally agreed, and Mari Carmen was baptized with Vicente Piña(Brother Piña´s 8-year-old son) on Sunday. It was a great experience, especially because of the spirit of the children there. Truly, "of such is the Kingdom of God."

It is always hard to say goodbye. Sunday night I had to pass by quickly with a recent convert named Enrique, and he´s convinced that if I don´t come back to Mexico that he´ll go to Utah. Also, we passed by with Monica, her son Jovani, and her mother(who still hasn´t gotten baptized) Guadalupe. We tried to animate Guadalupe to get baptized, but she´s still firm that she will get baptized in the least-expected moment....I think because she´s afraid that the neighbors are going to say a lot of things like they´ve been doing to Monica. I was pretty surprised when Jovani, when I finally said goodbye, hugged me and began to bawl. I had no idea that I had affected him in that way, however, I was able to talk to him a little bit and said that everything was going to be okay, that the new missionary that was going to come was a good missionary....and I challenged him to be a missionary too...and he nodded.

So yeah, Elder Rosales is still in Independencia in Toluca, and they changed me over here in Tlalli in the Lomas Verdes Zone. Where I´m at is the basically the Center of Tlalnepantla...another city right next to Mexico(actually the same urban zone). My new companion is Elder García from Chihuahua(or as he says it in his accent: Shihuhua) he has about four months in the mission and about three weeks we´re going to be learning the area pretty well, but he says that we´ve got four investigators with Baptismal date, so it looks like we´ll have some success here.

The district that I´m in is only two companionships, mine and two Hermanas. It´ll be interesting working with Hermanas, I haven´t really gotten to know any Sister-missionaries in all my mission, so it´ll be interesting getting to know them tomorrow. I really don´t have much else to say because I really don´t know what else is going on over here, but I´m excited because I´ve already learned who are my Zone Leaders, and I know both of them really well. Tomorrow we have the District meetings as a Zone in the morning, so I´ll get to know my Zone and District really well.

This is pretty random, but when I got to the church to meet my companion, another missionary asked me if I knew a Mari Tere from Plateros(my first area), I replied "Yeah!" And then he told me that she got baptized this last week. She Irene Sanchez´s daughter that was really difficult at first, but turned golden with Childers and me. So she finally got baptized! I asked quickly about Irene, and she´s still firm...actually, they say that she´s like full of referrals right now. I´ve got to write her, because she´ll probably be entering the Temple soon, and I want to be there when she does!

Anyway, I´m pretty excited! Keep praying for me. We cannot do this work alone. We need Angels to help.


Elder Blackham

Weekly Letter: May 17-23, 2011

para todos uds:

Wow! What a great week! First of all, we had a baptism; second, we had two meetings with Elder Oaks; and third, I think we have some good fruits for the next week.

Our numbers were a little lower, because we didn´t have the chance to work on Monday because we were in interviews with the president the whole afternoon in our church, which meant we had to open and close the church, so we were in the church basically all the day. Also, we had to sleep in the church in Metepec Tuesday night to arrive early for the mission conference with Elder Oaks, and the same conference with Elder Oaks took away the whole morning of Wednesday.....(not that I´m complaining, the conference was sooo good!) But yeah, time was limited, but we worked hard with the hours we had at our disposal, and we did good work.

The conference as a mission was really awesome. It was good to see so many other companions that I hadn´t seen for a long time. We arrived early in Naucalpan for the conference, so we had some time to catch up quickly before we sat down to study before the Apostle came. When Elder Oaks arrived, every missionary stood up where they were. In the little spanish he knew he told us "Gracias" and seated us. Without delay, he took time to shake every one of our hands. Being about 200 missionaries, I bet it wasn´t an easy task, and it did take some time to do so. His talk was very good, and when he gave his testimony, everyone of us, regardless of their language felt the power of the spirit seconding his witness.

We left that day, but I had to check up on the companions in my district, so Elder Talamilla went with my companion Elder Rosales, and I went with Elder Price to his area in La Crespa. We checked up on a couple that was going to be baptized this week, but had to get married first. We got there almost at the same time, because it had taken the whole day to get married. But they did it! We set an appointment for their baptismal interviews, and left really excited for La Crespa...and hoping that we would have a baptism in Independencia the same day.

The next day we had an appointment with Miguel Torres, who had helped clean the stake center for the conference with Elder Oaks in the Toluca Stake. He had a great experience doing so, getting to know several people, and got even more excited for Sunday. When we talked to him, we expected that we would have to remind him of Baptism, and how it is important to make the decision as soon as possible. But we got there and when we mentioned the baptismal service on Sunday, he said "So who will baptize me?" I almost laughed with joy, but I didn´t and suggested that my companion could baptize him, so that he could have his first baptismal experience in the font with Miguel. Everything went through as planned, and I´ve sent the pictures with this message so you can see Miguel in white. We are still hoping that his family can come to accept this message too. His wife is still scared to even go to church because of the opposition of her family, but Miguel has the confidence that her time will also come...and sooner than we think.

Then on Friday we talked to the Frías family (I think I mentioned them last week), we had only talked to the father of the family Gabriel several ocasions, and we didn´t realize that the wife was already baptized, and that her daughter also knew us. The situation with the family is that when Mari Carmen was about 2 years old, Gabriel left on a work-related trip to Panama, however, he was detained there on inaccurate charges for 7 years. Meanwhile, the wife had raised their daughter alone for 7 years, trying to hire lawyers so that he could return home. However, they had no success until about a year ago when Gabriel was finally released. However, Mari Carmen does not relate very well to her father, because in comparison to her mom and her grandpa(on her mother´s side) he is very reserved. Anyway, it is a weird situation.

However, Friday we were able to talke to the mom and the daughter....she really wants to get baptized, and we explained everything about the baptism so well that the mom almost wanted to be rebaptized (and then we taught the sacrament). The only obstacle will be that the daughter will have to ask permission from her father, not because he won´t give it(he already knows that his wife got baptized in the church, and he likes talking to us), but because Mari Carmen tries to avoid conversation with her father...but the mother said, and we agreed, that this would be a good opportunity to talk openly to her father.

Anway, then came Sunday. It was hard to allow all of our investigators to be in the chapel with the Apostle, because they arrived later(like an hour early), and the seats were already taken. Miguel was able to be in the front, however. But the other family had to be in another room with a television to see what was going on in the chapel...and we had to be outside in a tent with screens displaying what was going on, and with a lot of disgruntled and loud children.

However, I was impressed, because when Elder Oaks arrived, he ran to the microphone said once again "gracias" and then began to shake hands with as many people as he could....including with Miguel Torres (which we saw on the screen). The conference was also wonderful because his message centered on how the church is a family Church and the only church that puts so much emphasis in the family. For all of our investigators, we couldn´t have asked for a better talk to help them.

Well, my companion is telling me there is no more time. Thank you for all the support and prayers that you have done my behalf. I love you all!


Elder Blackham

Weekly Letter: May 10-16, 2011

Another week has gone by. I can really honestly say that this week was not as effective as we have had in the past. However, there are some bright spots in this week. For example, Miguel Torres I think has reached the point of unbaptized member status. He already volunteered to help clean the stake center for the coming of Elder Oaks this Sunday (it was kind of embarrassing that only he and another brother new to the ward volunteered quickly to help with it...but at least we can see that he´s going to be a great strength to the ward family)

Actually, yesterday in the class of Gospel Principles, he basically put his baptismal date for the next Sunday. So we will have at least one baptism this week. The only thing is that we will need to see if everybody else that we invited will follow through.

Enrique Guerra still hasn´t been able to go to church, but he says that his works looks to clear up a little. He works as a directing manager in a car factory, and due to troubles in Japan, they have a lot more contracts than they are used to do dealing with. However, we are going to give him and his family a tour of the inside of the church on Thursday... he already said that he is certain to be in the special conference on Sunday, he isn´t sure about his family, but we´ll see if we can get all of them excited to go.

We also have been visiting an investigator with a lot of potential in Tlaxomulco. Her name is Ana Patricia, she had before talked to the Jehovah´s Witnesses, but didn´t agree with a lot of what they were saying. She technically is Catholic, but after losing two babies due to birth complications, she became disillusioned with that religion and has simply studied the Bible for the last few years. She understood very well about the Restoration, and is already reading in the Book of Mormon, and likes what she reads. The only thing is when we explained the Sabbath Day on Saturday, she understood it really well, but when her husband had to work that day, she felt like she couldn´t go to church either. But we´re going to pray for her and her family. Her husband is a really reserved person, but doesn´t seem to be against us being there. One of her sons is also pretty reserved, but then we explained how things were done in the church. He seemed vaguely interested in learning more(vaguely interested because he hardly ever expresses himself) We´re going to see if we can invite her and her family to go to the Church on Thursday too, to get to know the church with Enrique´s family.

We´ve also gotten to know a man named Gabriel. He lives really close to the Church, and has a lot of interest in God, and in what we share with him. We´ve talked to him several times, and he accepts us really well. He is a little confused because about a year ago he finally got home after being detained 7 years in Panama without a charge. Before his time in Panama, he said he didn´t believe much in God. His mother is actually spiritualist or something really weird like that, and he had some of the same inclinations. However, in prison several people came to visit him from various religions....actually he´s been baptized several times in several congregations. He says that it was there that he met God.

He´s a really good person, but we thought he wasn´t really going to progress very well, that is, until we met his wife. We knocked on the door one day to see if Gabriel was there, even though we didn´t have much hope because his car wasn´t there. His daughter Mari Carmen answered the door and told us to come in. Caught off guard by her hospitality,(especially because we had never talked to anybody other than her dad), we asked if her dad or mom were there. She answered that her mom was, and called to her. Her mom asked who it was, and she hesitated, not knowing what we were called. I was about to tell her that we were missionaries when the Mom said "Is it the Elders?"

It turns out that while Gabriel was in Panama, Lorena was here, and had several struggles, including being cured of breast cancer, and trying to raise their daughter alone for 7 years....and she had gotten baptized about a year ago. Mari Carmen is about 10 years old, and was going to be baptized with her, but Lorena wanted her father to be there to approve of it. So we´ve been in contact with the three of them this whole week, and were going to go to church, but Gabriel got back at 9 o´clock in the morning from his work Sunday. He was going to go to church, when his wife reminded him that church had started an hour before, and Mari Carmen was still asleep. However, we talked to the mother and she´s really excited about the coming of an apostle to the Stake Center. So we´re hoping that not only she, but also all the family can go this Sunday.

Well, I´ve written a lot, and I have to go... Please pray for us, we need some help here with every single one of these people, and whole bunch more. Thanks for your support and prayers, they are truly answered!


Elder Blackham