Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Weekly Letter: August 22-28, 2011

para todos uds:

This week was a great...but challenging week. Elder Price and I are getting along with each other very well. We can relate to each other pretty well. He is about to complete a year mark this Thursday, which is way crazy because I remember when he was "born" in Toluca, when I was in Centro. I realized that in this Change I will complete a year since I was in Centro in Toluca. It might sound random, but it´s really hitting me. Right now I can say that a year ago I was in Plateros, my first area. So I don´t feel like I´ve been out so long, however, thinking about how I went to Toluca a year ago.....that´s just incredible.

I´m working hard with my companion right now to get his confidence up. He´s really learned a lot since he was in La Crespa in Toluca. However, his last area in Santa Monica was not a great experience for him. He didn´t get along very well with his first companion. However, when another District Leader arrived in his place and became his companion, he began to wish that his first companion was there. The companion that was with him before didn´t work very well...and he was getting pretty discouraged with that companion. So right now he is taking everything really slow. Actually, one time we were teaching the plan of Salvation and he told me he couldn´t teach a principle that I left for him to teach. I just whispered really quickly that he could do it in Toluca, so that he better do it now...and then I shut up(a not-so-popular tactic to use on non confident missionaries. He was good about it, and then began to teach the principle, and did quite well.

But yeah, we were able to get many new investigators this week. One of the highlights was a lesson we had with Inés and her family. We had invited her to invite others to also be there to listen to us. We were able to talk with her family, another family that lives next door and has a store really close by too. We were able to talk pretty well with them. I don´t know how well they´ll progress, because they´re pretty active in their church. But they accepted everything we were teaching them, and we have an appointment with them this week to talk more. The mother went to church yesterday, and she liked it. However, her kids couldn´t do so because they had commitments in their church...but that´s okay. We´ll see what they say this week.

And that brings us to Sunday. We got there Sunday and we were surprised to see that Lluvia had gotten there before everybody else. Lluvia is the wife(but not married) to a less active member, who has wanted to get baptized since I first knew her. But they haven´t gotten married yet. However, we hope to be able to animate them to do it quickly, because it´s been a long time. However, that´s not the best thing. She arrived with her 9-year-old son Jorge, who had been going with his father(not her husband, but another relationship she had) and going to Catholic Mass. He went to see if he would like to be baptized in the church. We talked a little with him, and we mentioned that there was a baptism that same day at the end of the service. He decided to attend.

So yeah, we were able to baptize Sofia who had a baptismal date since last week. And it was really a great experience. So I was pretty excited that Jorge was able to be there. So we´re thinking of him as another potential baptism for this week, which may inspire some action on the part of his mom and his step-father. So yeah. I have to go right now. We have to help Sofia move from where she was living(behind the Church) to another street about four blocks away (not so close, but still close to the church.) Thanks for everything!

Please pray for me and my companion in this area. There is a lot of success waiting for us!


Elder Blackham

Weekly Letter: August 15-21, 2011

para todos uds:

I will now talk about about this week.

Tuesday we had interviews with the President. It was a great experience, because I was able to give him a great report about the progress my companion has made in the three months we´ve been together. I am truly thankful to be serving under such an inspired man. I wish I knew how he does it, but I don´t, but somehow he can animate a whole room of missionaries to do things that they wouldn´t normally do, but at the same time, do the same thing with a single missionary one on one. I really feel that I have so much to learn from him, especially in my responsibilities with other missionaries and their investigators. I definitely recognize it as the spirit. So I am going to try to do what the Anti-Nephi-Lehis did, and bury old weapons of rebellion, that would otherwise inhibit my receptiveness to the spirit.

We were lucky to have our interviews as one of the first ones, so then we went directly from there to our house, where the Sister Villarreal inspected our house (which was clean!), but she told us to look for another house because she didn´t like the quality of it. So then it was to work. It was pretty awesome day because several things worked out very well. We had our food appointment with Judith....a recent convert, and we talked pretty well with her son Eduardo, who had just been laid off from his job. However, we set an appointment to go on Thursday to talk to him...because we had to hurry and go to another appointment afterward.....which fell through...but oh well.

We then went to the church because we had an appointment with Margarita and her kids (two of which were baptized the last week, and one that had just turned eight). We talked first off about the confirmation, and then Dana (the 8-year-old) asked if she could be baptized that Sunday....obviously we obliged. (Both of her parents are non members, but her mom is really interested in getting´s just that she isn´t married with the father of her children and they live together.) So then we set another appointment to fill out the baptismal form, and have the interview with the Zone Leaders.

Then, we went to another appointment with Sofia, which was such a powerful lesson. She was opening up more and more. If it weren´t for the fact that we had to move to another appointment afterward, we would have invited her to be baptized right then and there. (As it was, we did finish the Plan of Salvation on Friday and invited her to be baptized next Sunday...and she accepted!) And those were the three people we focused in this week. We found several new investigators, but really, we have to work with all of them so that they can progress well.

That then brings us to Thursday, when we had the appointment with Margarita and her kids in the church (her house is really small and it´s hard to teach her there, so we´ve been meeting with her in the church lately. Dana passed her interview, we filled out the forms, and ¡vámonos! We had to run to our appointment with Eduardo. We still ended up getting there late, but they were waiting for us. We were able to share a message about the Atonement, and then we invited all present to be baptized. Danae(Eduardo´s wife) didn´t accept because she felt that his losing his job was maybe a sign that she shouldn´t join the church (he had acquired that job with help from the church´s job search), Hadassa(Eduardo´s niece) did accept, but said she wanted to wait, but didn´t say why (she had already told my companion and I that her dad is against her going to and baptizing in the church). So then we got to Eduardo, who said "I´m ready. I know that there are a lot commandments that I need to complete, but I feel I´m ready for my baptism."

Luckily Elder Lindstrom was still with me in interchanges of companions, and as a Zone Leader, he could interview him right then. So, he passed the interview and we put the date to be baptized on Sunday. The only thing is that he is an offensive lineman in an American football team....that is, HE IS A REALLY BIG GUY.....and he wanted me to baptize him. So I repented and started to exercise daily in the morning like I should do everyday anyway....but even doing fifty push-ups a day for three days was not quite enough. I had to re-baptize him four times.....but it´s a small miracle that I actually got him out of the water four times. But yeah, he finally got submerged completely the fourth yeah, I baptized like a 300 pound guy yesterday....! Yeah!

And that pretty much brings us to the now....which are the changes. My companion Elder Garcia went to an area that´s called Valle Ceylan, which is part of the same stake but a different zone in the mission (they divided the Tlalnepantla stake between Lomas Verdes and Tenayo), so it´ll be interesting, but I guess I´ll still see him in General Conference. I also received Elder Price here in my area. He is from Laverkin, Utah (really close to Hurricane), and we have already met and we know ourselves pretty well....I was his District Leader in Toluca when he was in the La Crespa. So I´m pretty excited about this week. So we´re going to work hard to get two or three baptisms this week to start the change rolling. So please pray for us!


Elder Blackham

Weekly Letter: August 8-14, 2011

para todos uds:

I´m going to have to apologize. I have like no time to write anything. We still have to eat quickly....and then go to an appointment....all of that before 7:00, when the sister closes her laundromat. The president has made new rules(or maybe they`re not so new) due to the increasing problems with the houses being left messy after we had some major cleaning to do in the morning....and that took away a lot of time....but lesson learned, we`re going to clean everyday our apartment.

Anyway, this week went better than the last...however, we aren`t having as much success as we would like. The two kids did get baptized yesterday. I think it helped a lot that they went to the visitors` center near the temple the day before. They were way excited. The mom, Margarita also wants to get baptized...but the husband isn`t sure if he wants to get married with her....and his mother definitely doesn`t want him to get married to her....sigh.

However, it looks like her third oldest kid is going to turn 8 this week and wants to get baptized too....and because she would get baptized before any of her parents we also have to take charge in organizing the interview for her...and all the stuff. I just hope that the Dad is still okay. They mentioned four or five times that they were going to get baptized that week...and he didn`t say anything. Then we found him in the street twice and talked to him about it and he didn`t say anything either. So we had his passive consent...but then I think his mother who is really Catholic is starting to get involved and that`s not good.

Well...time is up. Please pray for us so we can have more miracles!


Elder Blackham

Weekly Letter: August 1-7, 2011

para todos uds:

Without mentioning the ever-passing time, I will start to tell you about this week. There cannot be anything more that I can say that is not already said.

So this week was a challenging one for us. In my district the Elders in Viveros have had some troubles for three or four weeks in getting the success they wanted. Last week, they had the hardest week ever, and I made them the promise that the next week would be full of miracles...but I never thought that in the week I would be receiving similar comments from the Zone Leaders. In the whole week we had 1 new investigator...yeah, that would be O-N-E---one. And that is simply because she didn`t slam the door in our face and accepted that we could go back. She is really closed minded and doesn`t keep her commitments, so really we didn`t have any real new investigators. This week we tried hard to work with the members to give us member did give us a really good reference...and he was a gringo! But then we found out that he was only here for vacations. We left him with an English and Spanish copy of the pamphlets for the first three lessons so that he could also look up the church we he gets back home in Wisconsin.

The other members mention people that they want us to teach, but they don´t know their address or anything. We keep reminding them, but to little avail. Sigh. Then, we invited 6 people to be baptized this week.......but only two accepted.....and then didn`t go to church so they didn`t get baptized. Sigh. The other four are members of a family that looked golden up until halfway through last week. My companion went there on exchanges and tried to invite them to be baptized, but they didn`t accept. And then when I went there on Friday to do the same, they looked like lions trying to attack us. I´ve never seen people get so worked up about baptism. No matter how many times I tried to explain we invite people to get baptized, they kept trying to give counterattacks, which is really frustrating because we weren`t even attacking in the first place. We ended up promising them that if they really wanted to know if this was the correct decision for them, that they would pray everyday and every night until Sunday(when we were going to go over there to go to church together), and that in the church they were going to feel the answer for certain. But when we went on Sunday at the hour that they told us to, nobody answered. We passed by later that day, and saw at least two members of that family, but then they hid from us and sent another person to tell us that nobody was home.

And then in church, Jose Luis got there without any sleep, and, being the first time at church, and being fast and testimony meeting, he was angry at the end. He kept saying, "These aren`t testimonies! This isn`t the love of Christ that I know!" I guess he was expecting what he had seen in very many churches where he has gone. We tried explaining everything afterward, and I think he was beginning to understand a little bit. But right now we`re going to see how it goes in our appointment with him at 6:00.

And then our golden investigator Lluvia was going to finally get married to her less-active member husband/boyfriend, so that she could finally be baptized. The husband got cold feet, and decided they would in a month. We offered to help economically if that was his concern....which it ended up being. But he being the head of the family, was not prepared to accept money to help get married. That is too bad because there is a member that marries people here pretty easily and just for 500 pesos (less than 50 U.S. dollars), however, they didn`t accept the offer.

Oh well....but I have faith that this week will be the week of miracles that we have hoped for. But we have to keep up the excitement because I´ve always said that discouragement is Satan´s first weapon, and it´s true, so we´ve got to work hard to not fall in that trap.

I love you all. Please, pray for us. We need help in this work!


Elder Blackham

July 25-31, 2011

para todos uds:

Well, it´s another week in the mission. Another week has gone, but now is another chance to start again. I doubt I´ve said sufficiently how much I love the mission. I have often at night started to think a lot about the people we´re teaching, and sometimes it´s so stressing that I can´t sleep...and then I think to myself "Isn´t this mission thing so great?" I think there are few times in the life of someone that what they most worry about are other people´s choices, other people´s answers to prayers, and other people´s experiences. I love it! Whenever I get tempted to be discouraged, I remember that.

This week was such a week. We have been working so hard these last few weeks to find new investigators...however, without any success. The last two weeks, it wasn´t so hard because we still had a baptizing pool. (or rather, a bunch of people that could be baptized.) But this week, everybody EVERYBODY was out of town.....or baptized :) so we didn´t have as much work as we had had in past we really got down working hard with the area book and ward to find more people to teach....and NOPE! We had four new investigators this week, and none of them went to church this week....sigh.

We did, however, have a miracle with Lucio. He was not able to be baptized last week, because he still hadn´t left the habit of smoking. However, we visited him everyday at the same time to see how he was doing, and shared a small message. It really encouraged him. When we saw him Friday we already were programed and ready for the baptism on Sunday....but when we didn´t see him Saturday(our appointment fell through) and then neither he nor his family showed on Sunday at church....we were a little worried that he had fallen again.

However, he arrived with his family at 6:00 ready to be baptized. José Luis Alvarado, a blind member of the ward baptized him. I had foreseen several problems that could have happened. Jose Luis had to repeat the ordinance like three times, but finally he got him submerged the third time. Actually Lucio got down on his knees and basically lied down on the font floor the last time to submerge himself. When finally he was baptized and the two of them went to get changed, Inés, his wife (who got baptized with their two sons three weeks earlier) told me that Lucio was hydrophobic. I am continually astonished by the faith and desires of this people!

So yeah, that was a great way to end the week. We didn´t have the success that we wanted in all the Goals of Excellence...however we did have a Baptismal service, and have another one planned for this Sunday. So at least we´re doing okay with the goal to baptize every week.

Please pray for us so that we can have even more success here! Thanks for everything!


Elder Blackham

July 18-24, 2011

para todos uds:

Another week in Mexico....isn´t that so weird? I think it just has gotten normal to be here. There are few times that it really hits me that I haven´t always been a missionary in Mexico, and that this is pretty cool! I´m reminded of the talk of President Uchtdorf in Priesthood Meeting this last Conference when he talks about some pilots that always were so excited to fly even though they did it everyday. I remember how I always looked into some distant future in which I could have a badge on my chest with my family´s and Lord´s name, walking around, preaching the gospel...maybe in another language...knocking doors, and just being a missionary.

How cruel that putting on the badge has become a daily habit like combing my hair(then again, I never did comb my hair much before the mission, did I?). I love moments in my mission when I really realize that what we´re doing isn´t normal....that it isn´t a tedious thing we do every day, but a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I´m living right now. It´s a solemn thought that there are thousands or maybe millions of youth that waiting to do exactly what I´m doing, and millions of returned missionaries who do anything to go back and do what I´m doing right now, and many other people that don´t fall on those lists who join in prayers for the missionaries like me in all the world everyday. I feel horrible when I realize that this has come to be something normal for me. So I am so grateful that the Lord is so merciful to give that Elder Blackham a chance to scope out his surroundings again and realize the magnitude of it.

Such an experience happened on Thursday during the Zone Conference we had. I remember how one of the assistants began to weep, when he told the struggles he was having with his humility. I doubt that it came as a surprise to anyone present that that was something that he needed to work on. Everyone in the mission knows him, they know he´s a good teacher, and they also know that he knows that he´s a good teacher. However, seeing him talk about it, it surprised me that such an Elder with the success he has had in his mission, could allow himself to penetrate his soul and accept that he needed to work on something.

This is something that hit me hard...because I have the same problem that he has...the only thing is that not everyone knows that I have this problem. I think a lot of my companions have come to know, and have tried hit me hard in the head to get it through to me....but it wasn´t until I pondered on everything I heard in that conference that I was able to accept....I´m working on the second step of the repentance process...stop doing it...and it´s hard. It´s so ingrained into who I am, what I´m like, that trying to remove it is like a major surgical operation. I´ve always worried about my image, how people see me...but what a difference the focus makes in the life of somebody. There´s a difference in doing things so that people see you like a good missionary, and when somebody does the same things to become that good missionary. The difference in simply doing and becoming is astonishing. It may not have a great change of outward motions and actions, but what a change of heart!

There are several things I want to change...but it is going to be so hard. However, I cannot overlook it anymore. I´m sorry that I was not able to tell you more about my week, but we can see a parable in this, can´t we? If I cannot change these things, I will not be able to recieve the information that God wants me to recieve for the investigators, for my companion, for the companionships in my district, or whatever....a good shovel doesn´t have to be taken into a shop every day to see why it isn´t digging correctly. To be a good instrument in the hands of the Lord, I have to get these actions and thoughts out of me to be able make use of my efforts in His work.

I love you all...especially my family for there prayers and support. Help me out in this okay? We need some help in this area and with these people. But yeah, I guess I better forget myself and get to work, but not work so that I can look good, but to work to feel good about what I´ve become.


Elder Blackham