February 2011-August 2012

25 April 2011

Week 9

Ok, so I know that you all have been anxiously awaiting to hear about my transfer IN THE FIELD!!! Well the long awaited hour has come!! AAAHHHHH!!!!!!!!!! I LLLLLLLLOOOOOOOOOOOOVVVVVVVVVV
VEEEEEEEEE it here!!!!!!!

Fer rills.

1) I'm serving in the Santa Clarita 1st Ward, which is the Spanish ward that covers the entire Santa Clarita Valley... big area. My companion and I are one of four missionary companionships that serve in our ward, and we still have huge areas. Good news? Plenty of work to do! So my area is called Canyon Country East, just for your future reference. :) Oh, and did I mention that we are "whitewashing the area" together? Which means that we are both brand new to the area and pretty much have to start all over on our own. It's awesome. It is GORGEOUS HERE!!!! Seriously... I love it. It has mountains like Utah, but it is green like Indiana. And there are tropical flowers everywhere, like Hawaii. Think Garden of Eden mixed with Sodom and Gomorrah... that pretty much sums up where I live. haha I'm so excited to be here, though!

Oh, here is my new address:
27310 N. Sara St. Apt. 103
Canyon Country, CA 91387

Use it!!!

2) My trainer's name is Hermana Kiewra, as in (Key-ra). She's from Syracuse, New York. She is truly fantastic!! I love her so much!! She goes home June 1, so I only get this transfer with her, which is really sad, but I'm super excited that I at least have the opportunity to learn from her for that long. Her Spanish is incredible, which is good... REALLY GOOD. haha We live with two other Hermanas that also serve in our ward--Hermanas Stander (from Ogden) and Walton (from American Fork). They're great too. Last night for Easter we decorated eggs with stickers and crayons, and then had an egg crashing contest. haha... I lost. haha But we all really enjoy each other!

3) My district is the eight of us missionaries that cover the Santa Clarita 1st ward--four sisters and 4 elders. Our district leader is E. Camacho, from Mexico. His companion is E. Rowley, from Utah I think. Then E. Pastor is from Spain, and his companion is E. 'Otuafi, who is Tongan, but from Hawaii... I know what you're all thinking. That he probably knows Hna. Ponaveitongo... but he doesn't. Tragic, huh? Anyway, I'm still stoked that I get to practice my Tongan eyebrow gestures that I've been perfecting over the last 10 weeks in the MTC! haha My Zone is the Valencia stake, and we are the only Spanish speaking district.

4) The adjustment: it's going well! To be honest, the hardest part has been adjusting to the very different culture of the missionaries here than in the MTC or in Tim & Jan's mission, or even in Indiana. I've had obedience to 100% of the rules drilled in to my head for so long, that I guess I kind of forgot that you can choose not to be obedient. haha Does that sound weird? This mission is one that just is a bit lax I guess. And I'm certainly not here to judge anyone... it has just been a bit of a culture shock coming right out of the MTC if you know what I mean? But just because no one else is 100% obedient doesn't mean that I can't reap the blessings of being so. So don't worry, I'm not going to go AWOL on you! ;) haha

5) The language: Well... hahahahahaha. I'm not COMPLETELY lost. Most of the time. ;) But I also only know half of what's going on normally. It'll get there. I speak as much as I can, but I realize more and more every day what a long long road I have ahead before I'll be able to really communicate everything I know and feel. Baby steps though. I just have to keep reminding myself that. In reality, I can now understand about 70%ish of what people say... unfortunately sometimes it's that 30% that is lost in translation which contains the really crucial words that give me understanding to the whole story. hahaha Aye well. Just keep praying for me. :)

6) The people: Amazing. I love them all. They are so great. Really. We are teaching several people, and I wanted to tell you a bit about each of them.

David Martinez, we taught our first night here. We taught him again on Saturday about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He has a desire to get baptized but doesn't feel quite ready yet to accept a date. And we're working with him to give up coffee, which I think is actually is main concern about getting baptized. So pray for him. He can do it! He's awesome, and is truly being prepared by the Lord to accept the truth in his life. He just needs the faith to trust the Lord and reap the blessings of doing so!

Melissa is 11. Her mom is an inactive member, and her dad is Catholic. Melissa told us when we met her that she has not had a good life, wants a better one, and has already decided that the way to do that is to follow Jesus Christ. Can you say PREPARED or what?! Seriously. We invited her to be baptized on May 8, and she accepted, so hopefully we can help her prepare to start following Christ.

The Lopez Family. Rigo and Balbina aren't married, which is actually the main obstacle right now. Rigo is a straight up former thug from Mexico. (To everyone from the MTC, think WILLIAM.) But he has completely changed his life around. He loves the gospel, he loves church. He wants to be baptized. He is ready to be baptized. We just have to help them get married first. They have 3 children: Alma (11), Rigo (9), and Robert (5). Robert is autistic, which has been very trying on the family, and has been difficult for them to come to church of because someone always has to sit outside with him. Balbina originally liked the church, and then she hated the church. She wanted to get married, and then her family made a big stink about wanting a big party, which they can't afford... so then she didn't want to get married. So we are hoping that with prayers and fasting her heart will soften and she'll let us talk to her about it. They all came to church yesterday, so that was a step in the right direction! Pray for them. :)

Meliton Alvarez. He has a 3 yr old son from his first wife, and he shares custody of him. He is remarried to a woman who only speaks English, so hopefully we'll get to meet her soon. We had an awesome lesson with him on Friday night about the Book of Mormon. He has been taught before, but has struggled being able to accept the Book of Mormon as the word of God. I didn't say a whole lot during most of the lesson, but when I did finally say something, it was by the Spirit. It was powerful, and I KNOW he felt that even in my terrible Spanish that I just KNOW that the Book of Mormon is true and that all I want for him is to know for himself. It was then that his heart opened and softened and he accepted the invitation to pray sincerely about it. So pray for him to know. He is such a good man and is trying so hard to be a good father. I read 2 Ne. 25:26 to him and explained that that is exactly WHY the Book of Mormon was written and preserved for us in this day.

There are a few others that we've taught or will teach later this week, but I'm out of time. SO... I hope this will satisfy your curiosity for now!

Happy Easter to you all! I had the awesome opportunity to bear my testimony yesterday in church. In Spanish. I shared with them Omni 1:26, which has become one of my favorite verses in the mission, because it pretty much sums up exactly why I am here running around all day every day trying to invite people to come closer to Christ. Because Christ IS the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE. And This Gospel which was restored by Joseph Smith and is contained in both the Bible and the Book of Mormon is the ONLY way in which we can return to live with our Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and to live with our families for eternity! I'm so grateful that Jesus Christ lives. The truth that Jesus Christ really was victorious over sin and death, and that He really was resurrected so that we could do so one day is one of the cornerstones of my faith and testimony in Him. I hope that you were all able to remember that and also that you'll continue to remember that!

I love you all!!

Hermana Blackburn

20 April 2011

Pictures from the MTC

Hermana Blackburn

A trip to the BYU Health Center for shots (and Hermana Blackburn's first chance to speak Spanish outside the MTC)

Hermana Blackburn and her companions

Hermana Blackburn and Sister Willis (Sister Willis is from Blackburn England and knew Elder Blackburn while he was serving there! SO COOL!)

Hermana Blackburn and her District

14 April 2011

Week 8

Ok... so this is my LAST email I get to send you from the MTC!!!!!!!!!!!! AAAAHHHHHHH!!!!! I head to California on Tuesday, 19 April! This last week has been incredible so far, and it's not even over. It's been a crazy schedule since all of our Elders had to take trips to Seattle to get their visas for Mexico. AND we've had lots of different meetings in preparation for our departure. Oh, yeah, and we got a new teacher this week, Hermano Cragun. We all miss Hno. Gillis, but Hno. Cragun is just as awesome, so we can't complain!

So have I told you about how my district is so fantastic?! Cuz they are! They make me feel right at home... I still my my brothers, but they definitely take the sting away! They may or may not call me Hermama Blackburn sometimes... hmmm... and there is this running joke about the generation gap between us... which actually doesn't exist, but it's still so hilarious! But it gives them a creative outlet that they don't do anything stupid with, AND it makes me feel right at home. It's a win-win. I wouldn't let them say anything, even in jest, if I didn't already have the confidence that they respect me as a woman and as a fellow servant of God... but they do. So I told them to not apologize and to bring it on. Anyway... they've had some awesome comments this week, and we've pretty much laughed our way through our stress... SO GREAT. Laughter really is the best medicine!!

Our devotional this week was incredible. Elder and Sister Ronald A. Rasband of the presidency of the Seventy... he gave us a formula on how to always keep the companionship of the Holy Ghost with us... are you sensing a theme here at the MTC? Yeah... that's because it is KEY AND CORE to EVERYTHING we do. This really has NOTHING to do with me. This is GOD'S work!!! And thank goodness it it, because otherwise all 52,250 some missionaries world-wide would FAIL. MISERABLY. Anyway, the formula is this:
1) Bridle all your passions.
to bridle our passions is to learn to yield to God, to go where He directs, and to not give way to the natural man which is in each of us.
We are all asked to give up things that we love, our passions. Leave them behind while you are a missionary.
2) Let Virtue Garnish your thoughts unceasingly. (D&C 121:45)
Garnish: to make beautiful with an adornment...
Article of Faith 13
Alma 31:5
Quote by President Hinckley: "We cannot lift others to higher ground if we are not there ourselves!"
3) We must ask for the Spirit by the prayer of faith!
D&C 63:64
ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS ask for the power of the Spirit

Ok that's a pretty good summary of that devotional. There is one other thing I wanted to share with you though mom. I know you and Bob have been thinking about going on a mission. DO IT. From the same experience that Elder Rasband shared in Priesthood session a couple general conferences ago, it was asked to President Eyring if he had time to assign some senior couples to missions. He asked, " How may do we need to assign?" --"30."-- "How many do we need?" --"300."-- Seriously. You are so needed. And so valued. GO!!!! :)

Oh yeah, and mom, thanks for passing that information on about all of our loved ones. All their names have been added to the prayer roll in the Temple.

Erika, thanks for all those notes from your students!!! It made me SO HAPPY!!!



Love you all so very very much!!!The Church is so very very true! God is so very good and merciful to all of His children!!!

Hermana Blackburn

08 April 2011

Week 7


General Conference: AMAZING. Every single question or concern I wrote down before the first session began was answered either directly by a speaker OR by the Spirit while someone was talking. Either way, I learned so very much. Do any of us realize how incredible it is to HEAR A LIVING PROPHET SPEAK?!?! God is SO GOOD to us!! I hope that any of you who missed any sliver of conference will take the opportunity to go back and watch what you missed online at www.lds.org and also to study the Ensign when you get it next month! If you aren't currently receiving the Ensign, lucky for you it's online, too!! Seriously, what a miraculous blessing in our lives to hear the words of God from living prophets and apostles, just as in times of old! There is a talk by Elder Holland from a few years ago, where he testifies that God's words have not ceased. I want to add my testimony to his... A few things that I feel like I should point out specifically and invite my dear family and anyone else who reads this to try:

Elder L. Tom Perry, living Apostle of Jesus Christ: Keep the Sabbath Day holy. I invite you all to evaluate how you are doing in this... I want you to try to be exactly obedient in keeping the Sabbath Day holy for ONE MONTH. That means FOUR CONSECUTIVE SUNDAYS... don't do the things that you do during the rest of the week. Find activities to do with your family that will invite the Spirit into your home. Starting this next Sunday, and for the three Sundays following. I invite you, as does an Apostle of the Lord, to TRY THE WORD OF GOD. See if you aren't blessed for your obedience. I dare you! ;) Because I can promise you that you will be so very blessed!! Elder Perry also encouraged us to study the New Testament where we can read about the life of Jesus Christ during His mortal ministry. I have started this with my companions. Every morning before our personal study, we have a mini-devotional where we will discuss one story from the NT and how it applies to us and our investigators. We have been SO blessed from this. Just do it!! It's AWESOME!!! :)

Elder Walter F. Gonzalez: Followers of Jesus Christ are 1) those that Love the Lord, and 2) MAKE AND KEEP sacred covenants with Him. Namely, Baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and other sacred covenants that we make within the Temple. And we do make all these covenants with him by someone holding the proper priesthood authority of God, which was restored to the earth in 1829 to the Prophet Joseph Smith. If we make covenants with God in ANY other way, they ARE NOT valid. They don't count, on earth OR in heaven. THIS is the way that God has established. This talk was incredible to me. I want every one of you to go back and read this talk carefully. So many gems of wisdom for each of us! I want all of my friends that I get to teach in California to be able to read this talk and truly FEEL for themselves the power of making and keeping your covenants with the Lord!! AHHH!!! SO AWESOME!!!!

Of course, our living prophet, Thomas S. Monson: I love HIM!!! I KNOW without a doubt in my mind that he is called of God to be the prophet on the earth at this time. For me. For you. For ALL OF US!!! How cool is that?!?! Do I sound stoked about this knowledge? CUZ I TOTALLY AM!!! Seriously, this is even GREATER THAN an ICE CREAM SUNDAE!!! And for a Blackburn, well that's REALLY GREAT!!!!! :) I loved his talk on Temples. Read it. Love it. Live it. Especially all of you in Indiana who are about to get you own temple. The more you share the good news of the gospel with your friends and family and anyone you meet, the more miracles God will bring about in getting us that temple in a timely manner. I promise you that. I feel that so very strongly from the Spirit, so as a servant of Jesus Christ, I PROMISE you this. OPEN YOUR MOUTHS!!! :)

Ok, well there isn't much time left, and there is still SO much that I learned about in General Conference. If you aren't a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, don't worry... these messages are for you just as much as they are for me! The prophet and apostles speak TO THE WORLD!!! :) Pretty darn cool, huh?!

Erika, to clarify for you... my companions and I are teaching people her at the MTC... they are roles played by Elders or teachers in our district and zone, but they are real people that each of them knows... So I have a REAL relationship with Mike, and David, and Brendon, and Angel, and Susannah... even though I also have a real relationship with Elder Beatty, Elder Christensen, Hno. Hill, Hno. Gillis, and Hna. Salisbury... does that clarify? They are really our progressing investigators though. And I think of them as REAL people... so I talk about them like they are real people. Because they are real to me! ;)

Ok, I love you all!!! Have a great week! Thanks so very much for all your letters and dearelders!!! I LOOOOVVVEEE them!!!! You are all in my prayers!!!

Con amor,
Hermana Dana Blackburn

P.S. I did sealings for a couple of our family names today in the temple. WOW. I can't even begin to describe how special that was. They were SO happy! A couple of them had waited for 400+ years to be sealed to them families for eternity. So full of the Spirit!!! So full of love, joy, and gratitude for such a merciful God to provide a way for ALL of His children to be happy and return to live with Him! The GOSPEL IS TRUE!!!! I LOOOOOOOOOOOOVVVVVVVVVVVVEEEEEEEEEE Being a missionary!!!!! Loves loves loves!!!

Reflections of Christ