February 2011-August 2012

30 March 2011

Week 6

So first of all, thanks for the letters I got this week--I'm glad that a couple of you are finally using the DearElder for me! :) I love hearing from you all! Although a warning... DearElder doesn't print out the Spanish accents correctly... just a heads up for those who write me in Spanish. And even though I had to look up about one in 10 words that Sister Chipman wrote me, I understood the jist of it all on my own! I think THAT is PROGRESS!!! :)

So this week... LOTS of excellent meetings. Saturday we had Mission Conference, where we had some incredible talks. Our mission president spoke about the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and it was wonderful to remember so vividly my experiences and lessons learned in Jerusalem. Speaking of Jerusalem, someone told me it got bombed... is that true? Just curious... I still have so many friends there... :( ANYWHO, God is good, and I'm too busy to worry about it. But will someone please send me a debriefing on that? Bob is probably a good candidate... haha ;)

We also had a wonderful fireside on Sunday with Stephen B. Allen again, the managing director of the Missionary Dept. His wife spoke about being a "finisher," based on a talk President Monson gave a couple years ago. He then spoke all about our expectations as missionaries. He discussed how we need to make our expectations the Lord's expectations, because we are on HIS mission, and we are doing HIS work. How do we do that you ask? Well 2 Ne. 31 explains to us what Heavenly Father's expectations for each of us individually, and us as missionaries are: the Doctrine of Christ. When I know the Doctrine of Christ so well that it becomes who I am and what I expect, then my Will will be aligned with the Will of the Father and I will be successful in whatever I do. I think it's safe to say that the same goes for each of you. It's also really helpful that the Doctrine of Christ IS my purpose as a missionary. So you should all study Preach My Gospel and read 2 Nephi 31. :)

Our devotional on Tuesday night fit really well into this. It was Elder and Sister James M. Dunn, Emeritus Seventy. There were some really wonderful things shared by each of them, but the three things that are coming to my mind most right now are these: 1. Do God's Work in God's Way. Don't think that you have a better way to do it. You don't. He's God. (I may have put this into my own words... haha). So how do I learn His way of doing missionary work? Study the Bible and the Book of Mormon and find out! So that's exactly what I'm going to do! 2. Don't take people for granted. Share your message with them without judgment, and let them exercise their agency to choose whether or not they'll accept it. This is an important lesson that I learned several years while working for Simon... that if I knew someone well enough, I couldn't help but love them. And if I love them, I want to share the gospel with them. Well, God DOES know them. Perfectly. And HE wants me to share the gospel with them. So who am I to question if that's right? Yeah, I'm nobody... that's who! So BE BOLD BLACKBURN!!! (I have to remind myself of this occassionally... but I'm getting better! haha) 3. Be a 24/7 Missionary. There are no lunch breaks as a servant of the Lord. I should always be doing what a missionary should be doing, when I should be doing it. If I am obedient, the Lord will work miracles in my life as a missionary. The same goes for each of us. If you are obedient, you will see the Lord work miracles in your life. So how can we be obedient? 1. Have faith in Jesus Christ. 2. Repent of and abandon our sins. 3. Be baptized into the LORD'S true church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, by someone having the proper priesthood authority of Jesus Christ--which authority God restored to the earth through Joseph Smith. 4. Receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost. 5. Endure to the End Happily by continuing to be obedient to the commandments of God which He reveals through His prophets, serve well, love much, and follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost as you remain worthy of that constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. 5 Easy Steps to be able to live with God, Jesus Christ, and our families in eternity. Sign me up PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!

Ok, so for any of you that are thinking I'm way too preachy... that might be true. However, I have been set apart to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to all who will listen. I take my calling very seriously, because I am on the Lord's time here!! And I couldn't be happier! I love this gospel with my whole heart. I've been studying this week about various aspects of the Atonement... particularly the Redeeming and the Enabling powers of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. How they differ, how they apply to me in my life, and also how I can apply them to my friends I get to teach about the gospel--currently David, Mike, Angel, Brendon, and Susannah... I have LOVED studying redemption and grace this week. I've learned a ton!

My Spanish is definitely coming along. We started playing a game called "El Nativo." One missionary in my district--we don't know who-- is supposed to be the native Spanish speaker this week, meaning they speak only Spanish. However, the rest of us are trying to speak as much/more Spanish than the unknown native so that by the end of the week our district will vote that we were the native. Does that make sense? Basically I'm just only speaking Spanish now... so my vocabulary is limited, but it's coming along. And I'm practicing asking better and more questions... Inspired Questions as Hermano Gillis calls them. So good. Not too much to share aside from that. My time is almost up. I love you all!!

Hermana Blackburn

p.s. Eryn, SO glad you survived the surgery!! Thanks for all the pictures!!
Tanner-what the heck?! WRITE ME!!
Erika... I only got half of your dearelder, which was really tragic b/c it ended not so well... :( Write me!
Mom, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I'll try to send some pictures home next week. I have to get a shot today. :( Ok... loves loves loves!!!

24 March 2011

Week 5

So, this week has been even CRAZIER than the last if you can imagine that, but so much better in a lot of ways! I still can't really say much in Spanish, but I am having lots of opportunities to serve. I was assigned to be the new coordinating sister for my zone. This means I'm in charge of making sure all the other sisters in my zone are happy, healthy, etc... I have 10 sisters in my zone, 3 leave next week. But their have been some issues with a couple of them so I've spent a lot of my time this week helping them with their own individual struggles. This has taken me out of class several times, so my Spanish is really suffering. But Like Aunt Jan wrote me, when I'm on the Lord's errand, I cannot fail. So I'm going to take that one to the bank. :) We were assigned a solo sister for a couple days, and we had to accompany her to a doctor's appt. off campus yesterday... yeah. You heard me. THE REAL WORLD. It was so great! We practiced contacting all sorts of people in the dr. office, made lots of new friends, and even practiced our Spanish on a few people. I read a book to a 4 yr old named Santiago... yeah, it was a Dora and Diego book. :) hahaha So great! Anyway, this was all a great experience, but I realized I still have a LONG way to go... and only 3 1/2 weeks to do it! So I really need to buckle down. As mom so thoughtfully said, "Work harder!!!!!!!" hahaha... I'll see what I can do... And more good news, I finally got Hermana Ponaveitongo to sleep through the night and keep all her food down for 2 days straight!!! I consider that quite an accomplishment! She is doing much better. Hermana Randall and I wore all black with her for a week to help honor her family and cultural traditions. But yesterday she gave us permission to wear color again. Good thing, too. I hardly have any black clothes. And I was REALLY missing my bright colors!! Thanks for all your prayers on her behalf. We had Elder and Sister Claudio Costa of the presidency of the Seventy speak to us at our devotional on Tuesday. It was so great. He shared his experience of joining the church when he was 28 years old, and how he's allowed the Lord to use him in his life ever since. He said something that really struck me: "When someone is truly converted by the SPIRIT, he will do ANYTHING to serve the Lord." We have definitely seen this to be true with our investigators this week. Remember how I told you about Mike and David last week? Well Mike is still progressing. He was able to witness the power of the priesthood work in his life and in his family. He now has a testimony for himself that God really has restored this power to the earth because He LOVES US. It's incredible to watch someone come to a personal understanding and begin to have experiences with the Spirit on their own. He hasn't finished hearing the lessons yet, but he is determined to still be baptized on April 1 like we originally planned. He want to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost in his life, and he wants to receive the priesthood so that he can help his family. He is truly being converted to the Lord by the Spirit, not us, and it is miraculous to watch his mighty change of heart as the prophet Alma teaches about in Alma 5. David is going home for Springbreak this week, and we'll see how things go with his mom (who has threatened to cut him off financially if he joins the church). But he, too, is experiencing a mighty change of heart. He loves his family so much and would do anything for them. But he is starting to recognize that perhaps the best thing he could do for them is to go ahead and be baptized on April 10 as planned and be that light and example to his family. He wants an eternal family, and he is realizing that he can only have that if he acts in faith on the things he's learning by being baptized, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end happily. He now understands that by him doing these things, he can one day help to bring his family to the gospel and eventually have this eternal family that he wants so deeply. We gave him Ether 12 to read, all about faith. When we taught him earlier in the week, I thought it was great that his favorite verse was verse 4 (sorry you'll have to look it up on your own...), because he DOES hope for a better world, and he needs a solid anchor in his life. This kid is only 19 years old. Wisdom beyond his years! How much we ALL NEED an anchor in our lives, which we find in our Savior Jesus Christ, and the true gospel which He has blessed us with to help us all return to live with Him and our Heavenly Father!!!! The most important thing I have to say to anyone is to become and remain worthy to keep the Holy Ghost with you at all times. It is the most precious gift we could ask for in this life... a member of the Godhead to be with us CONSTANTLY... There are not words in the English language for me to be able to emphasize enough how crucial this is. The gospel is true, and Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. All we have to do is turn our hearts to Him, repent, be baptized, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end happily. Then, we will get to live with God and our families forever. It really is just that simple. I love you all!!! Be good. Love, Hermana Blackburn

17 March 2011

Week 4

So. PHEW. Where do I even begin? I guess at the beginning...

What would I ever do without the Gospel of Jesus Christ in my life? Because I know the truth, I can get through anything! I can DO HARD THINGS! I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. And so can all of you!

So we had an awesome Sunday Fireside by the administrative director of the MTC here... it was about the journey of conversion. So good. Monday night I had a pow wow with my two wonderful Jerusalem friends--Kelsey Berrett, who will be serving in Brazil, and Michelle Neeley who will be serving in Guatemala City. Sister Neeley left on Tuesday for the Guatemala MTC, so we spent her last night together enjoying each other's company. SO good to be with these wonderful sisters and catch some glimpses of my life "before" haha. It sounds so cheesy, but it's really hard to even remember it some days! Tuesday night we had a fantastic devotional by Elder and Sister Richard Maynes of the 1st Quorum of the Seventy. SO good. One thing that really stuck out to me that I can recall in this moment was to "be the missionary your mother imagines you are..." and I extend that to "be the missionary that everyone you touch imagines you are..." That means all of you. So thanks for all of your encouragement and for giving me a reason to try even harder to be even better.

This week has been a huge rollercoaster ride though, as I imagine many of the next 18 months will be...

Monday my companions and I were able to grow ever more united during a fantastic companionship inventory... which is like a DTR for our companionship. haha But seriously... SO GOOD. The Spirit was so powerful and it was exactly what we needed to grow even closer. We decided to change our teaching tactics in order to facilitate the Spirit better. Monday afternoon we go to teach a man named Mike, and he doesn't want to let us in. He is crying and asks us to come back in a few days. We asked to pray with him before we left--he let us in, and after we prayed, he began to unload his burdens onto us. His son and grandson were in a car accident and aren't expected to live. After my two companions bore their testimonies about God's Plan for us, I was able to bear my testimony of Jesus Christ. I read to him Alma 7:11-12, and I told him of how I personally knew that Christ could fix anything if we let Him, and if we did what He asked us to do, such as being baptised by the proper priesthood authority which is once again on the earth, and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost to be our constant companion and comforter. I prayed again with him before we left and he accepted my invitation to have a couple priesthood holders come and give him and his son and grandson blessings. The Spirit was so powerful as we bore witness to these eternal truths and the hope that we can all find in coming unto Christ. All three of us sisters left bawling...

Tuesday we show up to teach David, a 19 year old college student who is living away from home, and he says he doesn't want to meet with us anymore. We inquire about what happened, and he says his mom has threatened to cut him off financially if he continues to meet with us. Then, my dear sweet companion, who has faced similar family challenges but over came them, bore her testimony. He allowed us in to pray with him, and after we prayed we each bore our testimonies and we gave him Ether 12 to read and to pray about how he could apply it to his life. Again, the Spirit was very powerful, and we all left crying...

So why should it come as ANY surprise that Wednesday would hold its own challenge? It shouldn't have... Hermana Ponaveitongo got called to the office to call home.... never a good sign. She calls home and talks to her mom, and she is told that her grandfather passed away. For some this might not be a big deal, but it definitely is different in the Tongan culture. She is the oldest grandchild, so she is supposed to be in charge of the funeral... her not going home for the funeral is the biggest dishonor that she could give to the man who raised her. Heartbreaking for her. As the only member in her family, her mom just screamed at her telling her she's living in a fantasy land thinking that she will ever see her grandfather again. She also said that if she didn't come home for the funeral (April 1), that she would be cut off from her family forever. She just kept bearing her testimony to her mom. This young woman is so strong, and as her faith is being tried, the Lord continues to strengthen her. It is customary for them to grow out their hair and cut it when someone dies... So last night she had me chop all of her hair off... If I've sent you pictures then you can see how long and gorgeous her hair used to be... I'll send more pictures later so you can see the difference. So hard for her, and for us to watch her grieve. Not only for her grandfather who raised her, but also for her whole family who truly might not ever talk to her again. But Luke 9:57-60 has given her strength to keep her resolve of staying here. What an incredible example she is. I love her! Please pray for her and her family though!

The temple was amazing and definitely much needed today. 16 family names all received initiatories... such a wonderful experience.

Mom, Dearelder DID work. Write me more!!

Well, it's flashing only 1:25 left, so I better send this off. I love you all so very much!!

Hermana Blackburn

12 March 2011

Week 3

So I tried to cheat and type up my email in the TALL program and copy/paste it... but it was a no go... soo this will still probably be pretty short. Send me emails throughout the week on Dearelder.com though and I will have more time to respond on email! ;)

Ok so this last week was probably the most significant one I've had so far. I was really sick so that was lame, but I kept on going. I did everything but go to gym and the temple since they don't want you spreading germs... Needless to say, that get well package from mom was heaven-sent. Thank you so very very much!!! Everything was absolutely perfect!! I am proud to say that I am now getting 8 hrs of sleep every night with my new fancy pink earplugs!!! :) haha But seriously... it makes life SO much easier when you're trying to learn a new language 12 hrs a day on a full night's rest.

Last Friday I had an interview with one of my teachers (like every week), and as I was explaining my frustrations with myself of not being able to comprehend let alone remember anything I was learning, he told me he'd been watching me closely from the beginning and he was 100% positive that I was doing everything in my power to learn and speak Spanish. He promised me that if I kept doing exactly what I was doing, then God would step in and make up the difference. He told me that God was not going to ask any more of me and to just keep going and wait on Him. That made me feel so much better because I really have been working as hard as I can and doing everything I can think of to understand and remember Spanish. Well, his promise is coming true, and my prayers are being answered. I'm understanding, I'm learning more, I'm REMEMBERING the Spanish I'm learning! Seriously, I went from being able to maybe say a few sentences in Spanish last week, to now having contacted and taught 3 lessons in complete Spanish. In a week. God is so good and so very merciful. I know He's answering my prayers and all of yours. So thank you!!!

On Tuesday our devotional speakers were Elder and Sister Kent F. RIchards, from the 2nd Quorum of Seventy. Sister RIchards shared a scripture with us--Hebrews 12:2-- where it talks about how everything Christ did for us was "for the JOY" and then went on to talk about how we can find joy in anything and everything. She said the two words that she hopes will characterize every one of our missions is "hard and Happy." I'm sure she'll be right! Elder Richards also had an awesome talk about how we are to teach by the Spirit, to the understanding, with the tongues of angels, in order to invite everyone we meet to come unto Christ and receive the blessings of the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. It was absolutely fantastic, but I don't have time to get into it. Lo siento.

I am so grateful for the gospel in my life. On Sunday, our district leader, Elder Mark Gantt, found out that his mother was diagnosed with cancer last week. Boy, did that those words take me back in the blink of an eye to how my life changed forever the day I was told about dad's cancer. We held a district fast for them and I just ask each of you to please keep them in your prayers. I know that God will bless his family the same way He has ours!

Today I got to go to the temple and do baptisms and confirmations for family names. 15 more family members received the opportunity to accept the restored gospel and progress in eternity. I can't even begin to tell you what a powerful experience it was to help them with that today. I promise that as we each use the resources the church has for us to do family history, we will know greater joy than we've ever comprehended before. I love the temple and the promise that families are sealed together forever inside. That promise alone makes everything worth living righteously for!

I know that IF we open our mouths more and have that same love and respect for our family and friends in our lives right now to share with them that we KNOW God has a living prophet on the earth today, that We KNOW Jesus IS the Christ because the Book of Mormon is another testament of it, and that we KNOW we can be with our families together forever through making covenants and living the restored gospel, THEN God will bless us with peace and joy. He will bless those of you in the Indianapolis area with the promise of a temple to be built swiftly, without delay. But those blessings are up to whether or not we will share. So OPEN YOUR MOUTHS!!!! Go to the temple! Do family history work! BE GOOD!

The Gospel is true, and Jesus is the Christ. I love you all!!!

Hermana Blackburn

p.s. Tricia Saylor... please get me some addresses for you all in Mississippi so I can write to you! Loves!

03 March 2011

Week 2

Ok, well, I have even more emails to read than last week, so I'm going to keep this short. So this is why you should write me on DearElder.com... so I get it the SAME day and can respond to you all! ;)

Our devotional speaker this week was Bishop Richard C. Edgley and his wife, of the presiding bishopric. It was fantastic.

Our RS speaker was Sister Ann M. Dibb of the General Young Women's presidency and the daughter of President Thomas S. Monson... you know... the prophet. Yeah Her talk was awesome. And afterwards, she opened up a Q&A session for all the sisters to ask anything about her parents. So fun.

My Spanish is still coming slow... very slow. But I am making progress! Yesterday my companions and I contacted in total Spanish... that's like a 5 minute conversation all in Spanish. And I understood about 80% of what the contactee said back! hahaha... I guess since 2 weeks ago I could understand 0% of anything in Spanish, that's pretty good! I'm still accidentally spewing German when I go to say something in Spanish, so that's irritating. Hopefully it will stop soon. I'm seriously remembering all sorts of German I never even knew that I knew... WEIRD.

2 of Our roommates went to the Spain MTC last week, and the other one moved into a new room to be with her new companion. So we got 2 new sisters yesterday. They are both going to the Philippines, so they're learning Tagalog. One of them is also Tongan (but from SLC), so Hermana Ponaveitongo is having fun speaking Tongan in her own room!

I'm sick. So is Hermana Randall. So we didn't get to go to the Temple today. I basically have no voice. And I spent most of the day yesterday in class trying not to vomit all over my dear companions. So that's fun. But I'll get better soon. Just pray harder for me! ;)

Well, that's pretty much all I'm going to say. I love you all. The church is true. The Spirit is powerful. Get in your life and keep it there.

Loves loves loves!!!
Hermana Blackburn

Reflections of Christ