Thursday, December 29, 2011

Weekly Letter: December 20-26, 2011

para mi familia:

It was great to talk to you guys yesterday. Just one thing of business that I think would be good to resolve. Right now, pouch mail doesn´t come in too much. So it may be a good idea to send Seth´s letters by email...I´ll just print them out and read them later. I think that it would not be the best idea that I keep on receiving letters from him even when we´re both home. I don´t know how DearElder will handle the letters. I just think that in mid January would be good to stop sending me dearelders to avoid the whole situation. (not that a lot of people write me apart from you guys....)

I really feel like the Lord is preparing all of his children, Mexican or otherwise, to accept the gospel. I love every one of you guys....thanks for taking the time to talk to me....and, Mom, just so you know for when other missionaries are in the field: the part where you start crying makes it sooo hard for us to hang up. I love you so much! Elder Granados seemed to notice me more pensive the other day, and he said "Come on, lighten up! You´ll see them in two months!" Little did he know that his saying that really only put lemon juice on a open wound.

Well, you already know my changes. Elder Granados left early in the morning to go to Argentina...and I got to Atlatlahuaca about three hours ago. My companion is Elder González from Tuxpan, yet again I get a "jaracho" as a companion. Elder Javier, Elder Quiroga and Elder González all are from Veracruz. He is pretty cool from what I´ve seen. We actually live in a town called San Bimas which is about 20 minutes away from the Chapel in Atlatlahuaca...and our area consists of some 12 different this will be interesting. I have no idea what any of them are called except San Bimas, Atlatlahuaca, and Tenango...other than that, I don´t know what my area consists of. In the Area book there are maps, but they are simply of the different pueblos and none of them show their relation to one I hope I won´t get lost.

I had first heard of Atlatlahuaca from a companion I had almost a year ago in Independencia. His name is Elder Perez, and I was his last companion in the mission. He talked about Atla a lot, I think it was one of his first areas, so I think that explains it. I´ll be honest, Plateros wasn´t my easiest area, but it still has a special place in my heart because it was my first area. So I´ve heard quite a bit about this place, both good and bad. I guess this change I will be able to distinguish what is true and what is not. I have a relatively new missionary as a companion, and I haven´t heard much about him, which is good because when someone starts the transfer after hearing loads of rumors about the guy, it´s really had to start the change well. I´ve found that with several of my companions, a lot of people said a bunch of things about them, but I ended up getting along with them pretty well. I think that´s why I like to train so much, you don´t get down on your companion for some small prejudices that could keep you from working your best together.

I really can honestly say that I wish I had more time. It hurt so bad when my companion would say that he wished to be in my shoes, and I often told him that I wished to be in his shoes, but I don´t think he believed me....then again, when I started the mission I didn´t believe the missionaries that told me they wished they had more time in the mission. I was like: "You want to go back to not knowing the language, not knowing how to teach, not knowing how to contact? You want to stay another 2 years away from family and friends? You must be crazy! You´re just saying that to not look trunky!"

Well, I regretted those thoughts when Elder Granados verbalized them to me last change. I can honestly say that I have been happier in these two years than in my life. It´s not that I don´t miss my family or anything that I used to do´s not that I don´t want to have learned Spanish. It´s just that I love what I´m doing. I have a well defined purpose here...and I do all I can to fulfill it. Whenever I catch myself thinking into the future, it´s distressing, it´s so full of uncertainty. Am I able to get a job? Am I able to get my foot operated on? Am I able to keep contact with the friends I made here without wasting my time? Will there be any of my friends still single when I get back? What am I going to study when I get back? I am here in Atlatlahuca and I´m pretty full of uncertainty. I don´t even know where the chapel is! But it´s completely different. I come here, I know what I have to do and more or less how to get along with it. I love this place.

Don´t think I´m trunky... I´m not. This time is too precious to become trunky...but I am pretty solemn before the idea that 6 short weeks are between me and home.(and a pretty long plane ride) I love you all.

I love you all. Keep praying for me!


Elder Blackham

Weekly Letter: December 13-19, 2011

para mi familia:

Thank you all for the letters that you gave me. As far as I know next Monday will be a normal preparation day. Here, the big deal is really the 24th going into the 25th. Kind of like New years in the U.S. They wait until midnight to welcome the Christ child. It seems that the Catholic Church is totally against the idea that the 25th isn´t actually the day the Jesus was born as the many scholars (and modern-day prophets) say. But I feel that it is a nice tradition.

Sunday, we are just having one sacrament meeting at 9:00, we are hoping to have a white Christmas....but in the baptismal regard. So my companion is going to have his parents call him at 11:00, so I guess you could call me at 12:30, to make sure we don´t get tangled up in phone lines. I hope that his parents know how to call DF!!! I guess we´ll call you if something happens and I need you to call me later.

Sounds like a lot of people are getting married!!! Haha, I think I´m not going to be able to though! That is pretty weird, but it´s pretty interesting hearing about it. I have had very few writers in the mission...just Seth....or rather whoever it is that sends me his letters, Jason Brown my roommate from BYU(that was my hometeaching companion...the one from England), but they´re both missionaries so I haven't been really expecting hearing about them getting married anytime soon. So far, just the marriages that you mentioned last week, and of Betilee, who got married quite a while ago. But other than that, I haven´t really been in touch with anybody, but I guess in a few months that will change.

Anyway, instead of dwelling on that unpleasant subject, I will tell you about my week. I can´t remember if I told you guys last week, but this week we decided to leave EVERYBODY. We had had a lot of troubles with a lot of investigators. We decided to let things cool off for a while and see if later they´ll want to progress. Meanwhile, we decide to begin the search for the chosen! We met it with some great success...but mixed success as of this Sunday. We found this family that wants to get baptized and wants to move on with their lives. We want to marry them to get them baptized, but only the mom went to church :(.... We also have another good family, the daughter had been through a very bad accident, and the dad wants to kick everybody out of the house as soon as she heals up....but the mom smokes, and didn´t go to church like she committed to do...I think for shame of not being able to meet the goals we set.

We also found out that one of the families we thought of leaving doesn't want us to give up on them. They showed up to the ward Christmas activity, had a great time, but then Sunday.....nothing. My companion and I are obviously wondering what we´re doing wrong...what we have to do to be able to get more success going on. However, in these Christmas dates, Christ is usually the last thing on their mind.

However, this week we found out that just putting in our best, we can find several families that are ready for the gospel. So I guess that in that way, we will be put this to the test in these next few weeks between Christmas and New Years. It´s been hard to get people to commit to go to Church on those two days because they have several plans as a family to do things. However, we are not discouraged... we know that there are people waiting for us to knock on their door, to stop them in the street, or sit next to them in the bus. We just have to be ready to recognize those moments and take advantage of them.

Time is short...I will have to thank every single one of you for what you have done for me, for the support that you´ve given me. It´s greatly appreciated. Please keep praying for us! We need some help to have white Christmas and New Years.

Love you all, take care and Merry Christmas... We´ll be talking at 12:30pm (that´s my time)!


Elder Blackham

Weekly Letter: December 6-12, 2011

para mi familia:

Alright so first of all...I don´t know if you heard about the earthquake in was SWEET!!! It was 6.8 on the ricter´s scale, but the epicenter was in Zumpango, Guerrrero, which is somewhat far here it was about a minute in which things were shaking. I was actually talking on the phone at the time and suddenly I felt like I got dizzy. We were in the street though, so we couldn´t see anything happening, but the zone leaders were telling me that it was earthquaking....and I was like What!? I then looked around and saw this parked car shaking like crazy, and I was like "Wow! I´m in an earthquake!" but it only lasted a minute here.

Then for Christmas.... We will also only have a sacramental service on the 25th at 9:00 (only it would be an hour in difference, but I forget if it´s an hour earlier or later than you guys figure it out.)

Well, now to business. This week was way that we are going to leave a lot of investigators that we have. They just seem to not progress, and so we are going to be exercising the faith in what Elder Johnson said and simply leave them so that we can get to the chosen investigators. Some of them are really cool and have accepted baptism...but they just don´t want to progress...and we are just wasting time with them because while we keep going to their house they are content. It is going to be hard to leave many of them behind, but looking at the success that we´ve had in finding cool investigators, I feel that the Lord has been trying prepare us for this. He knows that I have a hard time leaving investigators, especially if there isn´t anybody to replace them with, so this is a good thing. We had 6 investigators in church this week, and they all loved it. 3 had already gone, and just have to get the marriage worked out so that one couple and the wife of another couple can be baptized. The other three are also needing some rings so they can be baptized.... speaking of which, I wonder if we will still be able to get people married in these next weeks...I hope the Lawyer that helps us out doesn´t bail on us these weeks...because we want a WHITE in baptizing, snow does not exist here. (actually, I explained what icicles were to a member and she understood what I was talking about because she saw them in photos or movies, but neither she, her husband, her mom, nor anybody else knows what they´re called!)

We are really focusing on getting the ward animated about some of the people we are teaching. We are working with a few references that they gave us, and they look like they could be a lot of work to get them progress in comparison to some of the investigators that we´ve been finding, but I think it will be worth the effort if we can show the ward that their efforts to give references will be valued by the missionaries...and so we will have MORE references.

So our focus these weeks will be to get a lot of inactives or new members and investigators to the ward Christmas party, and hopefully work to get some of the more excited members to help us out in visiting them. We´ve been kind of waiting for something to happen in the ward, but I realize that while we are waiting for these things to happen nothing will happen.

Well I got to go now. Talk to you next week about Christmas.

Love you all


Elder Blackham

Weekly Letter: November 29-December 5, 2011

para mi familia:

I guess I´ve been a rebel before now. My president has always told us to count the days we have left in our mission from the very start, with hopes that we will work every day out to its extreme. I´ve always been too lazy to count them. It is only now that I have just completely 22 months in the mission that I realize that counting the days would not be a taxing effort....but it is not something that I want to do all the same. Next week maybe I´ll repent and tell you the day-count...but I feel uncomfortable doing so now.

This week has been one of my hardest in the mission, but with it comes a lot of promise for this and the coming weeks. It seems like God is always having me make adjustments in the way I work, and I always seem to go too far and have to make the adjustments over again. I feel like I´m working harder than I ever had, but we´re not having the fruits that we desire. This is maybe the last week that my companion is here in Mexico (he signed his Argentine visa last week.). I really feel that I have been an inadequate trainer. He talked to the president about some issues that he felt he hadn´t resolved.The president assured him of his worthiness and sent us on our way. Then, he starts to feel bad because he doesn´t feel the spirit, and hurls all the teaching on me. He´s a great missionary with several of the feelings that many missionaries have when they first start out, but he refuses to be consoled.

I don´t know. It was a really rough week....a really humbling week. I realized this week that I don´t have all the answers. (I bet you all are thinking, "well duh!") I realized that I like to have control over the situations. I realized that I don´t want this missionary to take a year and half like I did fighting to do what the Lord wants instead of what I want to do, when submitting to the Lord´s will really is the much easier way. (I´m still struggling with the personal sanctification, but it really does help.)

We had a great meeting with Elder Johnson this week. It was very humbling hearing what he had to say to us. I felt that I had more or less an idea of how to work in the mission. But I realized after the reunion with him that I had been working wrong. We are here to find the people that are already ready for the gospel....we are not to be working constantly with people that are nice enough to open the doors and listen to us, but really aren´t willing to make the changes in their lives. He fundamentalized the form in which we should contact the people. We are not here to sell the gospel, anyone in any church can do that. We are here to testify.

We had such an experience with Esmeralda last night. Getting there, we were talking, and I felt that we weren´t getting anywhere, that we were just going in circles around the question of baptism. We decided to talk about obedience, and then we talked about the first commandment. It was good up until the point we started talking about baptism. She started shutting herself to the conversation, and suddenly I realized that I was testifying and my companion gave some testimony, but then would immediately give me back the word. It was not like him. I felt like suddenly I was alone. Finally she started to open up to us, and she described that her mother and several family members haven´t really been saying things, but have implied their disdain for the decision to go to our church. I don´t know how much I believe her about her mom, because she seems much more open than Esmeralda (and she had a vision that had many temple connections!), but finally she was starting to open to us. We extended the invitation that she pray and ask what the Lord wanted, and then to make the decision based on that. She did not want to say the closing prayer, but we told her that it would help her more than our prayer in her behalf. Finally she consented, and she was crying at the end of the prayer. We left her house reminding her to always remember what she was feeling and to make the decision quickly. She is going to be praying all this week...and I hope to be able to help her.

After the appointment my companion got a little annoyed because he said that I was trying to pressure her, and that I got her to cry. It made me think about a lot of the things I was saying...but I know that I was just focused on testifying. I don´t remember how many times I told her "I know that Jesus wants you to get baptized, but don´t believe me, ask him yourself." and then "I know that you felt the spirit in the church, but pray to him for the courage to act on what you felt like you had to do in the baptismal service." I literally cannot remember me trying to push her to was all question based. She was doing most of the talking. My companion had mentioned some bad habits that I had in interrupting people, but this time I was specifically focused on listening and not talking. I tried to explain it to him, but I couldn´t find the right words. I couldn´t explain what was happening without feeling like I was being presumptuous our full of myself. The truth is that I was not pressuring her, the words I was saying would have had absolutely no influence on anyone else or in any different moment. I think his problem isn´t that he doesn´t feel the spirit, but that he doesn´t recognize it. (which is something that we have to learn throughout the mission and our life) I love him so much, and I desperately want him to know what he has to do...but I feel inadequate in teaching him.

Well, I´ve vented quite a bit. I love you all. Don´t think that my companion is not a good missionary. I had the same feelings at the beginning of my mission, and I´m sure I am not the only one...I feel that he is simply one of the few that admits it openly. Please pray for me and for him. Pray for his family, and pray for our investigators, because many are at the point where they can say either yes or no. They know it´s true, and for that I so desperately hope they say yes....because if they say no, it´s going to be a lot harder to say yes in the future.


Elder Blackham.

Weekly Letter: November 22-28, 2011

para mi familia:

Well, another week has just gone by and I have no idea how that has happened. Elder Granados is beginning to adjust well to the mission environment. Sometimes he still seems worried about his family at home, but really gets excited whenever we have success in our area.

Yesterday he was able to perform his first baptism in the was very special for him. We were going to have two baptisms, one was going to get baptized in the second hour of church because she had to leave, and the other one was going to watch the first baptism and then get baptized at 2:00...however, the second one didn´t show up, because she had to go to the doctor at the last second. We still don´t know what´s up, but we´re praying that everything is well with Maria Isabel. When we called Maria Isabel, it became evident that she was not going to get baptized this week My companion started insisting that I baptize Lourdes. We had arranged for that to happen because Lourdes was going to get baptized earlier, and then Maria Isabel afterwards, and so that my companion didn´t stay wet so long between the two baptisms, we agreed that I would baptize Maria Isabel, and he would baptize Lourdes.

I patiently told him that it didn´t matter to me who baptized the person, just that they get baptized. I explained that I wanted him to baptize Lourdes so that he could get a feel for his purpose before going to Argentina on his REAL mission. Also, I reminded him that Lourdes already knew that he was going to baptize her, so he finally agreed to do so. When he left the font, I could see on his face that he was pleased and happy for the decision that Lourdes made, and I think it really made a difference in the way he sees the mission.

Earlier in the week we had talked to this family, the Mata Gutierrez family, which is a really cool family with 3 members that can be baptized. They´re married legally (which is always a plus in Mexico), and they really seemed receptive to the message. However, when we began to speak on the subject of baptism, Aracely, the mom began to put up barriers. Literally, I didn´t understand how she could understand and feel so good about what we were saying and not want to do anything about it. However, we kept working with her so that she could pray to ask the Lord if she should get baptized...she was about to accept the challenge, but then the her mother entered in the house and began to say a whole bunch. She said "You can talk about whatever you want, but baptism NEVER." Technically this shouldn´t have been such a problem because Aracely is 28 years old, living with her husband and kids away from the family of her mom, but obviously, it was not very good timing. She began going backwards even more, not even wanting to commit to go to church when she had loved it that week before. So my companion I guess got spooked and said "Well, if you want we won´t insist about baptism anymore." Those aren´t exactly the words he said, but that´s how he intended it. Ever since then, the family hasn´t been able to progress very much.

I talked to my companion about why he said what he said, and he said that he felt that they were being pressured too much. We talked about it a little, trying to see when he felt that they were being pressured...or rather when we were pressuring them.(because he hadn´t felt that had been pressuring them) We had a good talk afterwards where we both saw something that we could do to improve it. For the meantime, it´s really hard because we´ve become really good friends with that family, but we´ve decided to let them alone for a while. However, after the baptism of Lourdes, my companion seemed completely changed when we talked about baptism with anyone. I think he really felt in the font how much the Lord wants these people to get baptized.

I´ve learned so much from Elder Granados. More than anything, I´ve learned that I don´t have all the answers.(which has been something really difficult to accept throughout my mission). I hope to be able to learn more from him every coming day of this week.

Thanks for the support and prayers in our behalf and in behalf of Elder Granados´s family. Please keep them in your prayers. And keep me in your prayers too, because it seems that the Lord has some changes and some lessons in store for me in the future!


Elder Blackham