Monday, November 28, 2011

Weekly Letter: November 15-21, 2011

Alright, if this letter is missing a few c´s I hope you can decipher the hidden message. The c key is one where you have to hit it several times for it to work.

I got my package. I did get it intact...I think. I got several Butterfingers (which I´ve almost eaten all with a Halloween message that I got on November 15...sigh.) A teryaki beef jerky. Several slim jims....and HUGE box of Cheezit(which I am already half way through with.) I also got my shoes/army boots.(which is cool because half of the military camp is in my area), and two pairs of socks. (The two intact pairs of socks came as a relief to the now four "saintly" pairs I have...but I guess I can´t send any pictures anymore.)

My son is named Elder Granados. He is from Chihuaha, Chihuaha. And he´s feeling a little bit of home sickness. His father passed away about 2 or three years ago... and when he came on his mission he left his mother and thirteen year-old sister alone...and from what he´s telling me, Chihuaha is not the safest place right now. He´s talked about how they used to follow him home to know where he lived...and how some people would threaten him, telling him that they knew where his sister went to school. So he´s more worried about his family than homesick actually.

This week, we committed someone to get baptized yesterday. Her name is Lourdes Sanchez, and she really is golden. She accepted the date and everything, the only thing is that she wasn´t able to get to church for some reason. Her phone has been off the hook for quite a while, so there was very little that we could do. She was going to get to church late, but also had to leave early to go to Puebla. But I think that she took longer than she thought in the morning, and because of that it was impossible to get to church. Since her phone is still not paid, she couldn't tell us, and we couldn't get a hold of her. She should be coming home today in the we´ll see if we can find her.

Also, we were able to find a new family in an area of the ward that we haven´t worked very much. His name is Manuel Santiago and Luz Rios. They looked at us in such a way that I was like...."we have to contact them." They told us that they had seen us several times and wanted to talk to us but later they were never able to talk to us because we were always too far away from them. So we went Friday and we talked to them about baptism and they both accepted. The only thing is that they weren´t able to go to church this week because he got really sick and they had to go to the hospital to get him checked up. He´s had several strokes (I don´t know if that´s exactly the translation, but its "infarto cerebral" in Spanish.), so they wanted to make sure everything was okay.

Also, we´ve been having problems with Esmeralda again, but I think we´re just going to focus more on her mom and see if she follows. She seems to get to the point that she knows this is true, but doesn´t want to commit because of her "Virgin de Guadalupe." Every time she mentions it, we tell her that her issue isn´t about that, rather whether or not God has called a prophet. Yesterday, she told us to come for her at 9 so she could go to the earlier services. But when we got there, she told us that she was very sorry that she was not going to accompany us because her mom was sick...she said that she might be able to go to our services at 11:00 and to pass by for her. We went and nobody was home. We called her and she said that she went with her God-father and would not return until late.

We passed by late, and she finally told us that she loved the going to church, but that she would no longer be going. I think she expected me to get angry at her or something, but when I didn´t say anything, she started asking me to say something. I wasn´t speaking for two reasons: one, my companion needed practice, and two: I´m so bull-headed that I would have gotten into another discussion. But yeah, I don´t know if it made an impression on her, because I think it did bother her that I´m usually the talkative one and the one that´s laughing and everything, but that in that experience I was just silent. I did learn that my companion is much more capable of teaching than I had initially considered. So I guess this week I will be trying to adjust more so he can learn. I feel like he gained confidence in the time he talked to her, so I guess, even if it didn´t help her, that maybe it helped us as a companionship.

Well, time is short I have to go now. Thanks for everything that you´ve done for me. Thank you for your prayers and support. Keep praying for us so that we´ll have more success.


Elder Blackham

Weekly Letter: November 8-14, 2011

Yes, it did come, I´m going to pick it up at the offices tomorrow. I´m pretty excited to see what came. It´s been a long last few weeks. It´s rained a little bit and my shoes are doing their best to hold up, but it´s just not quite enough, you know with holes all in the soles. I´m also excited for the other things that could be coming in the mail. This will be my last package in the mission I bet...(because the Christmas season is always really really slow in the mail.), so I´m pretty excited for it, just as if it were Christmas.

Speaking of Christmas. I will be spending Christmas in the Molinito....and probably until the end of my mission. Elder Riches and I got our changes yesterday, and he´s going to El Oro, Estado de Mexico. It´s part of the Toluca Zone and stake, but if you look on a map, it´s in the middle of nowhere. He was a little bummed because we wanted to spend Christmas together, but I think it will be a good change for him. He loves the outdoors and being here in the city he feels a little claustrophobic. I mean, he´s from Grantsville and now he finds himself in one of the biggest cities in the world. I didn´t think myself to be a real camping kind of guy, but here in the city, I´m about ready for a week of camping just to get away from it all. Oh well, I guess it will have to wait until later...there will be plenty of time for camping and all that.

I have not got a clue of who is going to be coming here with me. I just know that I´m training these last two changes. President called me Saturday in the afternoon, and when he does that the Saturday before changes, it means something is going to happen the next change. He called me and told me that I was going to have a shift of responsibility from being a district leader to a trainer. He explained that he wanted me to focus on training this new missionary, and for such he was going give me that responsibility. I don´t know if he wanted to avoid whatever outburst that I imagine he could have gotten from other missionaries, but I just told him that I would be more than willing to do so. Really, I´d much rather have another son than to be a district leader or a zone leader. So yeah, I will get to meet my kid tomorrow at the offices(so I´ll be balancing my package and the luggage of my new companion in the metro...funnnn!)

But yeah, we had some success this week, but not near to what we should have had. Our baptismal date fell through. We saw her Monday, and then we couldn´t find her until Friday. Then we weren´t able to make plans with her about when she was going to get baptized on Sunday because she was going out of town for Saturday. But she never got that fell through pretty hard. But that´s okay because the rest of her family looks pretty interested too. We have an appointment with them on Wednesday, and hopefully we´ll find Carmen too.

So yeah, I´m excited for this week. Plus, we had a bunch of people go to church. One is Esmeralda who had fallen through hard last week because she didn´t want to leave behind certain traditions of her fathers. However, when we found her this week she apologized several times and said she wanted to go to church on Sunday. She went, and her mom also went, but when she found out that Riches was leaving she almost cried. However, she felt very good in church and several people talked to her about their own experiences before baptism, so that she came out of church completely different. Her mom also liked church and attended another baptism(she´s the one that has had dreams about the temple.) Last night when we visited them we were about to share a message about why the Lord calls us to other places. Esmeralda and her brother were there, but the Mom was outside. We asked if she could call her mom in and she muttered something about how her mom didn´t want to change religion. So we didn´t dig too deep in there, but it seems like she´s thinking about baptism right now. So when we visit her on Wednesday we will be inviting her to be baptized this week.

We also have another family that we are planning to invite to baptism on Tuesday, and another family we are visiting on Wednesday that went to church and that we are going to invite to baptism. In all there could be 8 baptisms between those three families, but we have to have some miracles for that to happen, but that would sure be a great way to welcome a new missionary here.

I love the mission. I hate to think what my life would have been without it. I really feel like who I am, I became in the mission. When we train missionaries, we are put in a 12 week study cycle so that we can more easily show them the ropes. Sometimes the two missionaries are changed from the area after the first transfer, but probably this means that I will be here until the end of my mission. I don´t want to think about it, but I feel like my time is up to my neck. I hate the feeling, especially when I see people from my generation and they remind me how much time we have left. When members ask me how long I have in the mission I have been answering "I´ve got a year and a half in Mexico" which is true. I have...unless my calculations are incorrect 19 and half months here in Mexico. They always say "there isn´t much time left," but at least they don´t try to trunk me out like they did to Childers and Perez. However, my generation is pretty big, I don´t think I´ve ever been in a zone without at least two people from my generation in my zone. It´s an unpleasant reminder of all that I have yet to do, and how little time I have to do it.

Thank you all for your prayers and support. I love you all. Please pray for me. Having a kid when you´re finishing up is likely to revive the dead elder or kill the new-born. I hope it will be a Rogers-Calhoun experience for me. I know these are probably going to be my hardest changes in my mission...but bring it on! Please help me first, and then bring it on!


Elder Blackham

Weekly Letter: November 1-7, 2011

This week was the trial by fire period. We had really good days, and horrible days. Horrible days like with Margarita and with Esmeralda. I will mention each experience separately.

Margarita´s adult daughter, Nancy, got baptized in August. She hadn´t wanted to get baptized until about four weeks ago, when she wanted to get baptized as a surprise for her daughter Nancy. However, she was not able to get baptized that day because she had to go with her brother to resolve some papers for her trip the next week to the Mediterranean. So we had to cancel her surprise baptism until a month later when she would be getting home.

Well, she got home this week, and we went to visit her, and she smelled like smoke. We asked her what she thought about baptism and she told us this: "I´m sorry, I will no longer be baptized." We tried to see where she was having resistance...we tried seeing if it was the smoking habit or something else. But she said that it wasn´t a problem, that she hadn´t smoked at all the whole month on the Mediterranean and had felt fine. We got to the point where we would explain to her that God wanted her to get baptized, but she kept firm and said the following: "I know God wants me to get baptized, and I know that he wants me to be baptized this week, but I will not do it....but I´ll apologize to him later." At that point, it was pretty late and I could see that we were not making progress, so frustrated and distracted we went home.

Then Esmeralda. She was the investigator that had been waiting for us last week to go to church, but never called us so we didn´t go. This week she felt really bad, so she committed to go to the dance activity that Friday, and then go to church on Sunday. She went to the dance on Friday, but then didn´t want to go to church on Sunday, and completely did a dead stop in her progression. We´re stilling trying to figure out what happened, because she said that she had a great time at the dance. She said that she wanted to attend her Catholic church on Sunday. We invited her to go to both meetings, and she was going to do so, but then out of nowhere she asked about images and the virgin of Guadalupe. I told her straight at that moment, that that question was not relevant in that moment. I told her to go to the chapel, she would have some questions and we could answer them more directly (it was Saturday night and we had an important appointment at 8:00 on the other side of the area). That was the worst thing I could have said, because she just stopped and said, that she would no longer go to Church. I guess we may be leaving her after all. On Sunday morning when we stopped by, she reaffirmed that she was not going to go to church, but that we could stop by in the week. Frankly I´m doubting that it would be of much use.

But in the darkest of moments, that´s when miracles occur. We contacted a lady in the street on Wednesday named Carmen, and she stopped everything to talk to us. She wanted us to go to her house that same day so we did our best to get there at 6:00. We got there very late and she had already gone. Her mom answered and told us that she had mentioned specifically that we were going to come by. If we came late, she was to set an appointment for the next day and tell her when the appointment was to be.

There are several times that I have invited someone to baptism in the first appointment, but very few times that we put a date the same appointment. Due to the rules set by the president, we need only two times in the church before baptizing an investigator. So when she accepted baptism we then proceeded to the date for the next Sunday. She accepted it very well...and then we explained that we wanted her to get to know the church before getting baptized, so we invited her to church.

Then on Sunday, we passed by, but she wasn´t there. We were really worried despite the fact that her family said that she left for the church on her own. We got to the church with another family we had invited, and nobody was there...just members. I think my companion and I were both praying that she would show up...and right before the prayer, she shows up with her two young daughters and her ex husband(which actually was never her husband because they never got married legally, but now they are separated.) We were a little concerned they may have been living together, even though she had said that she lived alone with her daughters. The husband said that he had attended church in Tenayo(the stake next to Tlalnepantla), and wanted to start attending again. We verified that they were indeed separated...and living in different places. He does live in our boundaries, but it´s far away enough that it doesn´t cause too much concern. We definitely have to explain the Law of Chastity this week.

So yeah, we´re actually going to head over there pretty soon to reaffirm the baptismal date for this week and set an appointment for an interview. Plus we have several possible people to get baptized this week that have gone to church these last two weeks and have accepted baptism, just not a date...yet. So please pray for us! We´re getting things moving here in the Molinito finally, and we got to keep it moving!


Elder Blackham

Friday, November 4, 2011

Weekly Letter: October 25-31, 2011

para mi familia:

So yeah, sorry about that. I bet you guys freaked out yesterday because I didn´t write. What happened is that the zone leaders had a council meeting with the pres yesterday, so they changed yesterday to be an all work day. Then today, Tuesday, we had our district meeting, and then the rest of the day we have to be able to do the p-day stuff. So that is why I am writing you guys right now. So we went to the Centro of Mexico. It was way cool. We got to see the cathedral of Mexico which is amazing. It´s huge. I had already seen it another time when I was in Tacubaya when it was still in my zone. But this time I really had a bigger appreciation for the architecture and size of it.

They did allow us to take pictures with the flashes turned off, so I did get some pictures of it. You will probably see what I mean by that it is awesome architecturally, but spiritually, one feels...turned off, for lack of a better term. It seems empty when you go into it, even when they´re doing a Mass...actually I felt more of that feeling when the mass started as we left. Call it what you will, that I am unaccustomed to the way they worship, that I´m not used to the images. I have been here longer than a year and a half. Every street corner has Virgin de Guadalupe. I am so used to entering into a house with walls adorned with Saints. I am pretty familiar with the way they worship and everything...and I go to get an appreciation of the architecture of a people that built that place out of their faith in Christ....but I still did not feel comfortable. I do not base my testimony on this, but the only two Christian churches that claim to have the authority of God to do His will here on Earth are our church and the Catholic Church, and judging by the way I felt in that just strengthens my testimony even more of the truthfulness of this church.

But yeah, it was a great experience being there to see a little bit of that. Now, as for these last two weeks, several things have happened that really get my hopes up for this week. These last four weeks we have had NO ONE in Church...that´s right, no one. And I have to admit, I was getting discouraged on my sanctification because it didn´t seem to make a difference. We kept finding people, they looked very good....they said they would go to church, and we go for them, and....nope! They´re either not there, or they´re leaving at that moment, or they tell us straight that they don´t want to hear anything else from´s like ARRGHH! It was more frustrating than anything. In Tlalli, we didn´t have to work too hard to get people to church, they showed up on being invited...but here, the Molinito (what is known in the whole mission as the promised land, where the only risk in the mission is pneumonia from being soaking wet all day and all night in the baptismal font) here we were working harder than I have ever worked to get people in church, and NOBODY WAS GOING TO CHURCH!!!!

I guess I got a hard lesson on humility. I have learned not to compare my success with others, but to use it as a motivation to get things moving where I am at. If it weren´t for all the rumors and legends of all-star Molinito with two sets of missionaries in every ward because one pair isn´t enough to baptize and visit everyone that wants to be baptized... If it weren´t for that and I had gotten here and everything had fallen through time and time again...maybe I would have just given up. But I didn´t. I found that I could be more diligent than I thought. I found that I could be more obedient than I thought, I learned that I could have my "eye single to the glory of God" more than I had did before. And I am so grateful for it.

I love Elder Riches, I wish he would have had a better mission than he has had. I am one of 7 companions he has had on the mission so far, and I am 1 of only 3, that haven´t been sent home early for disobedience. One is Elder Loya that was here before I was, the other one was no other than our Elder Long from the Draper Eastridge Stake. Elder Riches mentioned that he has only baptized one person every change...but I hope that we change that this week. We have one so far, and 3 possibles for this week...we are going to work harder than ever so that we can get them baptized.

I love how much I have learned from Elder Riches. He really is the one that made the work go forward. He taught me of love and humility. I was to the point where if an investigator gave us another appointment and fell through, or if they were going to church and didn´t show up, I was to the point where I said. "Well that didn´t work, let´s look for somebody else." He was the one that said "Wait, let us prune one more time and dung it one more time and maybe we´ll have fruit." I had a hard lesson on Sunday night, when we visited one such family that completely fell through on us the Sunday before to go to church. We went back to what I thought would be the last "seed planting" before putting them in the Area book. However, we get there and they said "Why didn´t you come for us? We were waiting for you guys!" I felt so bad. They had told us that they would call us to let us know if we were to pass by for them or not....but they didn´t call.

However, the mom was able to accompany us for the baptism that the other elders had that night, and we´re hoping that that will make a difference in her progress as an investigator.

Well, I got to go. Love you so much for all you´ve done and everything. One last thing can you track down what happened to the package you sent me, a lot of packages in those dates have already arrived, and mine hasn´t. What was the date that you sent it? Do you have the package number or something for the secretaries to track it down?

Love you lots!

Elder Blackham

Weekly Letter: October 18-24, 2011

para mi familia:

Well, we went to the Zocalo today. We got special permission to do so, but we got back later than we thought, and were not able to write before because we had to wash with a sister that later leaves. I got special permission to write you to tell you guys I´m fine, in a little bit of hurry, but all is well. I´ll print your letter you sent me, and then next week I´ll write about these two weeks.


Elder Blackham

Weekly Letter: October 11-17, 2011

para solo mi familia:

So, as requested by my mission president. I am sending you a calendar that he sent to us at the beginning of the change. In these two changes we are going to be reading the Book of Mormon as a Mission. And he wants you to have the opportunity to do so as well. President Villarreal is really into this unity as a mission thing. That´s why he´s doing all this stuff, and that´s why he´s trying to include you guys too. The DVD he sent, the Book of Mormon reading schedule (notice it is LibEro de Mormón and no Libro de Mormón. I still haven´t found the Libero de Mormón in my missionary resource Library, so I´ll read the Libro de Mormón instead.) I´m truly blessed to be serving under such a visionary man called of God. He has the goal for this month of 400 baptisms. Literally he has scooped the mission from the dumps and apostasy to being the best baptizing mission in Mexico, and usually the world.

The mission in December last year had a whole 98 baptisms in the whole month. And ever since, things have been changing. May we had 5 sundays in the month, and for the first time in mission history we broke the 300 mark with 319. In less than 6 months he´s turned everything around. Another two months later we hit the same 319 mark in July which also was a month with 5 Sundays. Then came last month, september, a regular four week month. We reached 303 baptisms...baptizing 98 on the last week of the month! It is a stark contrast from what we have ever seen before in the mission. So when he speaks of October and baptizing 400...I look at the calendar, and I´m like...."another 5 sunday month" and I say "Let´s do it!"

The President has said that he acclaims our success to the new-found focus on obedience, diligence, and desire. My companion and I are trying really hard to achieve the last two attributes. To do so, we have decided to do a santification challenge. You may have heard of it because it seems to be quite popular in the mission. It includes fasting and while in the attitude of fasting, writing a list of activities or distractions that impede you from being 100% focused in the work. We decided to do so, because we literally have the promised land under our hoz(what´s the English word for that? Scythe?), and we´re not reaping what we should be doing. In Mexico it is quite a challenge because of several distraccions that we see everyday.

One, the busses and combies(little vans that are public transport) always have music playing, and many times you get to here cool songs from artists that you knew before the mission. You later have incomplete families in the church, or inactive families who give you food and they leave the television running with a pirated version of a movie that just came out in Theaters. You have several distractions that will kill the spirit and you in your missionary desires, if you don´t do anything about. Then you have a missionary companion from the same state as you, and of course, it is so easy to get distracted when you´re talking because you relate to much. (If anyone has said that you get along too well with someone, has not gone foreign on a mission where most of your companions come from a completely different culture, and very rarely you find yourself with a companion that is basically what your best friend would have been before the mission.)

So let´s just say that the Santification challenge is really hard....but I´m doing it with the hope the my desires will change. The missionary that first did the "fast" of forty days of such distractions said that at first he had such an ache for those distractions, and there were so many temptations that he could not even bare it. However, every night, applying the repentance process he would ask for more strength to go on. He then later says that about the last week of his "fast" he had found that he no longer had the desire to say those things. So that is my hope, that even though it kills me having plug my ears in the bus and sing a hymn, when really I´d rather listen to it, because I love the song and/or group that sings the son, eventually I´ll get to the point that I will no longer even want to listen to that stuff. I will be even happier than I am now because I will enjoy this fast, and I won´t feel guilty about it afterwards.

Well, I wrote about all that fast, so I hope it makes sense. Anyway, so we started that on Saturday, and so far, we´re working really hard. We fall a lot, but we keep picking ourselves up. I realize that the Lord doesn´t ask for perfection because he expects us to achieve it, he asks it of us expecting us to be repentant; and it is then that he blesses us. I wish I had more of chance to explain about the miracle famiy we found the very Saturday that we starting this Santification Challenge. I also wish I could tell you about Jorge, and how he worked so hard to be able to get baptized yesterday...even putting his job at stake...and being in the military, that´s a pretty big deal. It was such a beautiful miracle...and I know it is only the start if we keep work at this. I´m looking at this week, we don´t have anyone in teaching to get baptized this week. But I´m strangely calm. I know that if I am obedient, diligent, and keep trying to mold my desires to His desires, we will find someone to baptize this week.

Please pray for us. We need the support.

Thank you all. Love you all.


Elder Blackham

Weekly Letter: October 4-10, 2011

This week, it was pretty awesome. Elder Riches and I really got along pretty well. Like seriously, we were laughing so hard sometimes in planning that we got finished planning pretty late. But we figured out how to work efficiently together, so that´s a good thing.

We were able to work with several people this week that were progressing when we got there. And I tried to get Riches motivated to be able to do more contacting as I had learned the week before in Tlalli. He said that he and Elder Loya had done very few contacts and for such hadn´t had much success in the area.

So yeah, we found several investigators this week, some look like they´re going to progress others, don´t look as promising. One such family was the Ortiz Family. When we first talked to them, they were outside working on their electricity. We asked if we could help them out with something, but they declined. We then asked if we could share a short message with them, and they accepted. We entered into their home and taught a lesson about the Atonement and how it can be applied to our lives through baptism.

We sensed early on that they were hesitant about everything, but they accepted it pretty well...and we put another appointment. When we went for the other appointment, something had changed. They no longer wanted to listen to us. They said they didn´t want to be rude, but that they literally had no time left. We asked for just ten minutes to share a message. We shared the restoration and the spirit was very strong, possibly stronger than at any other point in my mission. Only then did they accept that they would pray about whether or not they should be baptized.

We still have to verify that, but we´ll see how it goes this week. They are a great family, and I hope they can recieve the answer and have the courage to do what they are told. So yeah, we are working on several people over there.

I´m sorry for not being able to write very much. I was in a internet cafe and the power went out, so I have to cut things pretty short. Basically, this week, the baptism that we had for fell through because at the last minute she had to go out of town with a brother. And she´s going out of town the next week so she can´t be baptized until after that. However, we do have an investigator that is named Jorge that really wants to get married to be baptized. They are supposed to be getting married this week so that he can get baptized on Saturday, his wife is already a member and is even more excited that he finally wants to be baptized. I really only got to know them once because she went out of town to get her birth certificate and voters license in Puebla so they can get married this week.

Well, I wish I could write more. Yeah, so things are great in Molinito 1. I´ll answer the rest of the questions next week!


Elder Blackham