February 2011-August 2012

16 April 2012

April 16, 2012 One at a Time

Our lessons this last week have been SO GOOD. I LOVE THE SPIRIT! And I LOVE teaching after HIS manner. It's a skill that will serve me for the rest of my life. I've seen so many miracles happen--one heart at a time--this week as individuals have been touched by the Spirit and have recognized and accepted to do what God WANTS them to do. Leticia and Adriana are stoked about their baptisms on Sunday! A recent convert family came to church for the first time in 2 months! A former investigator recognized how much harder his life is without the gospel and the Spirit! Youth understanding that God KNOWS THEM--personally--and that He LOVES them unconditionally! All of these things are so small to the world, but that is how the Spirit works. One kind act, one lesson learned, one true doctrine finally understood, one heart finally changed to DO the Lord's will. This is how God "brings to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." This is how the Gospel of Jesus Christ works. One miraculously changed life at a time. And how grateful I am to finally understand that!
Speaking of which, I got some REALLY exciting news this week. Kevin, a 14 yr old that I found knocking back in JULY, is FINALLY getting baptized on the 29 April! And I get to be there for it!! This kid has been through SO much. He's such a good example to his family, even though a few of them are inactive members. He's had to work so hard over the last 9 months to finally get the permission from his mother to be baptized. I look up to him so much. And I'm so excited that this special day will finally come true for him! :)
I don't have much else to say about last week. On Wednesday I get to go back up to Sylmar for exchanges with Hermana White and I'm SO excited! How I miss it! How I miss her! And that is a big blessing for me, too, since I'll have an opportunity to get some pics with people before I go home. :) So I love you all! And I hope that you have a great week!!
Hermana Blackburn

09 April 2012

April 9, 2012 I fought the good fight...

Whelp, after even more of a decline in health over the last few weeks, and lots of hours of prayer, President Martin, the Lord, and I decided it was time for me to go home. There are LOTS of emotions, obviously. But mostly, I just feel at peace. The decision is right. And every time I've panicked about it and started doubting myself, the answer has come again clearly. I know that my mission is over. I have accomplished the things the Lord had prepared for me. I have given my heart to Him, and He has changed me. I have overcome myself. And that is nothing short of a miracle! I have been used by the Lord to help change other people's lives, and that has been the greatest gift of all. I will be forever grateful for the chance I had to officially represent the Savior and His true church to my Spanish-speaking brothers and sisters here in San Fernando. I love them so much! And it will be SO hard to leave them! But the Lord has made it clear that He has accepted my mission. I have fulfilled His purposes here. And I have no regrets. So, at the end of this transfer I will finish my mission honorably (2 May). Thank you so much for all of your love and support. It has meant so much to me!! Thank you for all your prayers on my behalf! There is no way I would have been able to make it this long without all of you! I love you all!!
Ok, so that being said... since I've made that decision, things have been going much better in our area. The weight of decision has been removed, and we have been full of power and authority as we've been teaching. In particular, we set 2 baptismal dates with Leticia and her 10yr old granddaughter, Adriana. They will get baptized on the 22nd of April and they are soooo excited! Leticia came to a baptism last night (and thankfully it was a really beautiful, reverent service) and she was almost giddy with excitement for her own baptism. This woman is amazing! And I feel SOOO blessed to be able to teach another family who is so ready for the gospel as I finish up my mission. She has had such a hard life, and she's just so happy despite it all. We taught her the Plan of Salvation on Friday and her sweet soul was just filled with the light of truth. She couldn't believe how she'd lived her whole life without knowing God's Plan for her! It's such a wonderful blessing to teach people who are PREPARED to receive the gospel rather than trying to convince people to know for themselves!
Anyway, I think those are the only things I really wanted to tell you all this week. Just know how much I love you and how grateful I am for you all in my life!!
Hermana Blackburn

02 April 2012

April 2, 2012

I would never be able to put into words how grateful I am for General Conference... for living prophets and apostles who lead and guide us in this crazy world. I am SO grateful for the Restoration of the FULNESS of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I took some pretty hefty questions into General Conference regarding my future, and I know that my answers are all in there somewhere. I just need several more hours of studying the talks and listening to the Holy Ghost to decipher them. But I'm grateful that God loves me enough to GIVE me personal revelation so that I know exactly what HE wants for ME to do!
I wish I had something more to share from the last week... my new companion is pretty oblivious to just how much PAIN I am working through, but it has been a blessing so far because she just keeps pushing me and pushing me. I think I've definitely found my limits though over the last couple weeks. And my absolute 200% is probably her 75%, so she feels bad for not working harder and I feel bad that I just really have nothing left to give. So we'll see what the Spirit leads me to do at the end of this transfer. But she really is SO patient with me, because I know being my companion has not been easy for her. So I'm really grateful that God is teaching us both the things that we need to shape us into better disciples of Christ, better wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters.
So did anyone else catch that bit in General Conference about writing missionaries REAL LETTERS? Yeah... I just want to say AMEN to that! I will anxiously await a REAL LETTER from all of you! :) haha
The Gospel is true. God LOVES us. And He is ALWAYS watching out for us, even when we don't recognize it. Happy Easter!! CHRIST LIVES!!!!!!!!
Hermana Blackburn

27 March 2012

March 27, 2012 Cesar Chavez' Day?!

Who the heck is Cesar Chavez? Can someone google that and get back to me? I want to know why the state of California made up a holiday for him and closed the library yesterday! haha Anyway, things in North Hollywood are... REALLY DIFFERENT. It's only 15 min away from my old area but wow. It feels like a completely different world. I don't have much time to write about our experiences, but I can tell you a bit about my new companion, Hermana Tara Prince. She's from St. George, Utah, and she's been out on for about 9 months. Her Spanish is really good, thank goodness. She is a rockstar missionary. She's really different from all the other companions I've had, but I'm learning a lot from her.
We did have one experience on Sunday where we had asked the Bishop if there was anyone in the ward he had been thinking about or wanted us to visit. He named a family that has been active-ish, but  much less so recently. They've only been members for a year and the husband still isn't a member. They actually live in the Elders area but when the Bishop asks, we can visit anyone in the ward. So after searching for their house in the POURING RAIN and having no luck, the hermana finally called us back and told us how to get to her house. We visited with her for awhile and then she opened up and had said that just a couple hours earlier she had prayed to know if she should stop going to church altogether for awhile. Turns out she's having some problems with a couple other hermanas gossiping really hurtful things about her and her family and it has just caused her to feel so uncomfortable at church that she doesn't want to go anymore. Luckily she saw our very timely visit as God's answer so she's determined to not quit on coming to church. We had a good heart to heart with her and truely gave her counsel as the Spirit directed. Such a neat experience.
So... GOD LOVES YOU. He DOES answer prayers. So pray harder. And don't gossip.
Love you all! Have a great week!
Hermana Blackburn
P.S. In my reading I am now in the Book of Joshua in the Old Testament and in the middle of Mosiah in the Book of Mormon... SO COOL. I LOVE THE SCRIPTURES!!!!!!!!! And I hope I never act like the Children of Israel... haha. ;)

19 March 2012

March 19, 2012 Me toca! It's my turn!

Well so much has happened in the last week that I don't even know where to begin. But I won't bore you with all the ridiculous details. I'll just tell you that it was one of the best weeks Hna. White and I had as far as the work goes here in Sylmar. We were able to start teaching Natalia--a referral from other elders. And she has a baptismal date now! We're stoked about that! Heavenly Father has blessed us a lot with finding new investigators. We have done ZERO finding. They have all come to us. Randomly showing up at members' homes or even at the church... I am really grateful that I get to leave Sylmar on an upswing!

Because I'm getting transferred!!!! Yep, that's right folks. After 6 transfers and 9 months--half of my entire mission!--in Sylmar, it is finally my turn to leave. Of course I'm REALLY going to miss everyone here, but they deserve to have someone else serve here for awhile. And our area is getting split as well, because we are getting too many new missionaries this transfer so President had to make room for them somewhere. Speaking of new missionaries, Hna. White is going to train again! She'll be great! :)

I'm not going very far. I'll still be in the same zone, and in the same stake, here in the San Fernando Valley. I'm going to be in the North Hollywood 4th ward though, covering a chunk of the ghetto of North Hollywood. It'll be a nice to change. And I'm exciting to work in one the very few Spanish wards that actually REALLY functions like it's supposed to. They are super supportive of the missionaries and the work of sharing the gospel, and I'm STOKED to experience that big blessing as a missionary. Because that has definitely NOT been my experience neither in Sylmar nor in Canyon Country.

My new companion will be Hna. Prince, from St. George. She's a sweetheart so I hope she'll be just as patient with me as Hna. White has been. I'm going to need a lot. She's been out for 5 transfers, so her Spanish is really good. Probably better than mine, let's be honest. So I'm a little bit terrified about all these changes, but I'm stoked for a change. If that makes any sense. Good thing I'm a pro at moving. This will be my 27th move in 6 years. So it's my 9th (out of 12) transfers, 4th area, and 6th companion in the mission. Time keeps moving doesn't it. Wow! This has been and still is such a wonderful time in my life--in spite of all the REALLY HARD THINGS about being a missionary. 

Ok anyway, that's all I have time for today, but hopefully you can all finally see the pictures of the Liahona I made. I know making you wait for a month has been almost too much to bear. ;) haha Anyway I love you all! Have a great week!

Hermana Blackburn

P.S. Here's my new address:
6835 Laurel Canyon Blvd #408
North Hollywood, CA 91605

13 March 2012

March 13, 2012 Sweet Hour of Prayer

There comes a time in every area when you have to drop everyone and start from scratch. Go back to the drawing board, the area book, and the members, and start finding again. That's where Sylmar's at. It can be a really fun and exciting time in an area, because the possibilities are all unknown, and therefore limitless! But this last week has been anything but really fun and exciting as far as the work goes... lots of cancelled appointments, unkept commitments, and unavailable members; more than 200 phone calls--and zero success; a blitz in our area where our whole district went knocking for us... nada. We didn't even have dinner appointments to help us get in ANYWHERE... haha. Even the Getty Museum was CLOSED when we tried to go there last week! hahaha But that's ok. I actually REALLY am grateful for the weeks like that, because they are what make the good weeks really GREAT!

But don't let that paragraph get you down, because even though the work here last week was REALLY slooooooowwww, we had some really fantastic experiences!
  • We met some new less actives who were so receptive to us... turns out they stopped coming because of health reasons and not testimony or social issues like most people. And health issues? I'm pretty sure we can convince them to come anyway... especially if we take Hna. Murillo with us to visit them. She has to be on oxygen all the time and had a stroke 3 weeks ago and STILL has not missed a Sunday at church. I'm grateful for the examples of the many people in my life who, just like Hna. Murillo, sacrifice comfort and pleasure to keep their sacred covenants with the Lord.
  • We watched the Restoration with Alicia and the girls, and the WHOLE family ended up joining us for the movie! Husband and all! We hadn't even met him yet, so that was super exciting! Even if he did run out of the room immediately after so we couldn't talk to him... at least he felt the Spirit for 20 min and now has an experience that can press on his mind for awhile. ;)
  • We had a beautiful stake fireside on Sunday night for the recent converts. I really wish more people had gone, considering we had so many people promise us they would attend. But I know that it was a great blessing in the lives of all those who DID attend, and I'm really proud of them for coming!
  • I finished the books of Exodus and Leviticus this week... What a cool experience it is to read and study SO much in such a short amount of time. I've received A LOT of personal revelation this week. The Spirit I've felt has been wonderful. The answers I've found and the questions I've thought of have helped me progress spiritually as my understanding of my Heavenly Father and His plan for me increases. I'm so very grateful for a living prophet, and for the personal witness from the Holy Ghost that Pres. Monson IS truly God's prophet on the earth today. How very much I love that man and the righteous life, FULL of service, that he has lived!
  • Yesterday we were privileged to have a special meeting with Elder L. Tom Perry of the Twelve Apostles, as well as President Richard J. Maynes of the Presidency of the Seventy. Their wives also joined us which is always a special treat! :) They greeted each of us personally. In the 5-10 second personal interaction I had with each of them, I felt of their love, their testimony, and the power and authority of their sacred callings. They taught us by and with the Spirit. I learned a lot, and certainly was edified and rejoiced upon the things I learned. They spoke about FINDING, the Spirit, and the pattern in which the Lord has restored his church in every dispensation. I'm so grateful for that experience and I will cherish it forever!
Well, those are just some of the special experiences we've had over the last week that are coming to mind. But in reality I think that the sweetest experiences of the whole week have been while on bended knee, pouring my heart out to God. I TREASURE my time talking with my Heavenly Father. He loves me SO MUCH. He knows me PERFECTLY. He is so wise, so loving, and so patient with me. He knows when to listen. He's REALLY good at it. And He knows when to chime in and give me some support, comfort, excitement, answers, etc. The better I pray... meaning the more sincerely I speak with my FATHER... the better I feel about everything. Prayer IS the key that unlocks the door to invite the Lord into our lives. I have always had a testimony of prayer, but too often I forgot how much I NEEEEEEEED prayer. Satan is really good at trying to make us forget that. Because that's how POWERFUL prayer is. So, what can YOU do to make your prayers more meaningful, more heartfelt, more sincere? Do you feel like you get answers on a regular basis? Because if not, you should probably do a prayer check. It's not that God isn't there or not listening. It's probably that YOU aren't really "there" when you pray and that YOU aren't really listening. Pray with your whole heart and mind and strength. Really BE THERE when you talk to our Heavenly Father. And then LISTEN. I promise you it will change your life for the better! Because mine has! I am so grateful for the miracle and blessing of prayer in my life, and I hope that this week each of you can come to feel the same!

I love you all, and I'm grateful for your continued love and support! Keep smiling and have a great week!

Hermana Blackburn

05 March 2012

March 5, 2012 March?!

Well we have A LOT going on today so I don't have much time to write, but I'll try to give just a quick rundown of the past week.

  • NEW INVESTIGATORS!!!! Jose; Alicia, Alondra, Melyn, and Alejandra. The last 3 are ages 12 and 8... All of them are referrals from Wladimir! He might have a long way to go in accepting certain doctrinal truths, but he is one of the best member missionaries I know! He literally talks to EVERYONE about the gospel. Just a couple days ago we got another referral from him for a guy he met while eating at McDonald's. Oh my happy, grateful heart! I hope you ALL look for, pray for, and TAKE the opportunities to talk to people about the gospel! :) Mom, I'm really proud of you for always being such a great example of this to me, even if it was embarrassing as a kid. haha
  • San Fernando ward... making improvements. It's been some long hard months here trying to put the ward back together, and I'm so grateful that I've been able to be here long enough to see improvements! I'm SO grateful for having grown up understanding how the church is supposed to and CAN be when there are such things are friendship, unity, and charity among the members of a ward. And I have a feeling that I've been serving in terribly dysfunctional wards my whole mission for a reason... but I'm not even going to try and guess what that reason might be right now. I just FEEL like I'm being prepared for something terrifying later on down the road... haha.
  • A follow-up on last P-day: the quiches, key lime pie, and baklava we made were all D-LISH! Good thing I'm learning how to cook so many new and fun things... we have ZERO meals this week. Hopefully we'll be able to beg a few, but at least I have some new found favorite recipes! :) We also took a pit-stop at the old Catholic San Fernando mission--did you know Bob hope is buried in their cemetery? Who knew?! Well, actually I guess thousands of people know because they visit his grave every year... haha. We didn't pay to go in b/c it was raining last week, but we're hoping to have time to go back in a couple weeks.
  • Today we're going to the Getty Museum! I'm SOOOOO excited!! Art and archaeology... can't get much better than that! ;) 
  • Next Monday we're having a special mission meeting with Elder L. Tom Perry and Richard J. Maynes of the Seventy... so if I don't email on Monday that's why. But we're all super excited to meet together as a mission--first time ever--and to hear from Elders Perry and Maynes. :)
  • Oh, I almost forgot: I gave the training in District Meeting on Friday. I did it on Charity... I have lots of deep and profound thoughts on the subject... maybe I'll have time to share some of them next week. :)
Sorry I don't have time to respond to all of your individual emails this week! Thanks so much for writing me though! I love hearing from all of you! And I'm glad you are doing well for those of you who DID write me! ;) Keep smiling and praying!

Hermana Blackburn

Reflections of Christ