February 2011-August 2012

30 May 2011

May 30

Well, Hermana Kiewra leaves me tomorrow morning, and I'm getting my new companion tonight. Her name is Hermana Garcia and she's from El Salvador!!! She's been out about a year, so I will learn a lot from her! I'm especially hoping that my Spanish will finally have a chance to improve one hundredfold. It needs it. Bad. So I'm super stoked. I haven't met her yet, but I'm excited! This is going to be an answer to all those prayers you've been saying for my Spanish. ;)

Oh, our areas are also being combined because the mission is losing 20 Spanish speakers this week and not getting any in until about August. President Martin has had to combine 6 areas, and our ward is two of those. So we're losing 4 of the 8 missionaries that normally serve in our ward. It is now just going to be me and Hermana Garcia and Elders Camacho and 'Otuafi that you have pictures of. So now we will be covering half of the entire Santa Clarita Valley and the Elders will cover the other half. That's a lot of ground to cover so I'm ready to hit the ground running!! And we're going to have to run in order to keep this place going!

Seriously, this has been SUCH a BUSY week!!! Most importantly, we threw a wedding for some friends that have been coming to church for the last year and were only waiting on 1) a divorce to be finalized and 2) to get married so that they could be baptized. Well, they got married on Saturday and got baptized yesterday. So good. So fun! SO MUCH WORK. I did all the flowers for the wedding... so that was fun. Considering I haven't been practicing at all for a year, the bouquet wasn't a disaster. :) God DOES work miracles! haha Oh and in preparation for the wedding, I got to SIFT DIRT for someone's garden!! OH YEAH. Not as great without the prospect of finding an arrowhead or ancient Nabataean glass, but still really fun to do something I'm actually GOOD at!! haha So that was definitely another highlight.

The baptism yesterday... so beautiful. SO many people were there to support them, it was so great! And guess what?! DAVID WAS THERE!!! Yeah, I was super excited about that. AND I gave the missionary moment while everyone wasn't getting changed after the baptism. In Spanish. And it wasn't a complete disaster!! YAY!!!! And what more? I talked to David after for at least 30 minutes... all on my own... IN SPANISH. Granted, I didn't understand everything he said, but I understood enough that I felt like we actually made some progress. We had a good heart to heart and it turns out he just doesn't have a testimony yet. THAT is the reason he "wants a bit more time"... Good reason, don't you think? So now we can hopefully move forward and help him with that. It's A LOT easier to help people work through their concerns when you KNOW what they are. Sheesh. So the Spirit was really powerful there and he WANTS to know. So that's a perfect condition for his testimony to grow in.

Melissa's dad now is showing interest and has met with us a few times. But they have lots of family issues, so we feel a little lost as to how to help them. Melissa wants to get baptised but her dad has pressured her about having her Quincinera by the Catholic church, which would mean waiting 4 years to get baptized. No bueno. Luckily with the help of the Spirit, we will know what to do... it just might take awhile. I love this family so very much and I just WANT to help them. And the gospel WILL help them. But they have to want it as much as God wants them to have it. That's the key.

The Tovar Family is making a bit of progress too, especially now that Carlos, the father, loves us and wants to listen to us. He's reading the Book of Mormon, and I'm not even sure if Leonor is doing that! So I would die happy if I could see this beautiful family be sealed for eternity in the temple. They have 6 kids. I love them. And I just can't stop picturing them in the temple. So that's good, cuz it might take awhile. :)
Did I mention that Gabriel got the Priesthood?! So I don't know if I've ever mentioned him before... but he's a convert of about 2 years and has just become active within the last couple months. So we've been meeting with him and teaching him about things like the Priesthood, tithing, etc. And encouraging him especially to talk to the Bishop about getting the Aaronic Priesthood. And then I look up during the Sacrament yesterday, and HE'S PASSING IT!! WHAAA????? HE GOT THE PRIESTHOOD?!?!!!! YEEEEEAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!!!!!! Seriously I wanted to jump up and down I was SO happy! And why am I so happy? Because I know the incredible blessings that will come his way as a worthy Priesthood holder. I know how much MY life has been blessed from my father and brothers being worthy priesthood holders and I want that for EVERY family. And so does God. So I am REALLY HAPPY! :)

Well, I wish I had more time, but I gotta run. So until next week! I love you all so very much!

Hermana Blackburn

23 May 2011

May 23

Wow. I only have one more week with my trainer. I'm trying not to panic... but I feel like I'm about to jump off a cliff into ice cold water... **DEEP BREATHS** haha... ok So that might be a little dramatic, but when I really take time to think about it, that's really how I feel!

This last week was full of many... learning experiences... haha. Well, it just really felt like Satan is having way more success with the friends we are teaching than we are. Good thing I know I signed up to play for the winning team. But it's just SO sad to watch people figuratively sit down on their own road to Damascus for various excuses and not want to commit. It's not a testimony thing. It's not an understanding thing. It's a "this might be hard to do good things with my life, and I don't think I want to put in the effort right now" thing. The quotes that Skylar shared in his email from Elder Holland and President Lee about discipleship... SO TRUE. Is it easy to do good? Sometimes no. Is it easy to stand up to your family and be the example for them? Many times no. Is it easy to change things in your life in order to come closer to the Savior? Definitely not. But isn't having your Family with you FOREVER way more important than upsetting some of them right now? Isn't getting to live with God and progress throughout eternity way more appealing than being addicted to coffee or tobacco? OF COURSE IT IS PEOPLE. THINK OF THE BLESSINGS YOU'RE REJECTING!!! But sadly, too many people get caught up in only what they can see right now, and they don't care about anything else beyond that... even people who HAVE the gospel in their lives.

But we had 3 major miracles yesterday! Three less-active families that we've been working with... Las Familias Ceja, Lopez, y Vegas... They ALL came to church yesterday!!! AAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!! YAAAAAYYYYY!!!!!! Why am I so excited? This is something seemingly so insignificant. But yet I KNOW that this is one of the things that will help each of their families become more united and successful in every aspect of their lives. If I had understood before coming on my mission just how important attending church is for me, I would crawl on my hands and knees every Sunday to be able to partake of the Sacrament each week. I am ashamed that I ever approached it casually. What a sacred opportunity to partake and be made clean every week through the power of the Atonement and the covenants I have made with my Heavenly Father at Baptism and in the Holy Temple. So what does this mean for these families if they continue? It means that their children will begin to develop an understanding of who they really are in a world that would have them believe anything else but that we are children of God. It means that they will be able to withstand more temptations and strengthen their testimonies of the Love that God has for them and that ANYTHING is possible with God. It means that they will have less contention and more love and harmony in their homes. It means that they will know who they can turn to in times of need. It means that they can work together as a family to enter the Temple and be sealed together for all eternity by someone possessing the proper authority of God. And what more could anyone really want in this life? I really don't know! I can't think of anything else that would ever take precedence over the peace I've received from knowing that my family is together forever! So dear family, if nothing else, do THESE things: Go to church. Read your scriptures. And Pray. ALL TOGETHER. 10 minutes every day. That leaves 23 hours and 50 minutes of every day for you to do whatever else you want. Just 10 minutes. Deal?

Ok well we did have some major breakthroughs with a couple people we are teaching... namely, that THEY PRAYED. Miracles happen when people pray. Seriously. I've seen them happen this week! It's incredible! Especially last night as Carlos Tovar, a husband and father of 6 children, prayed out loud in front of and for his family. Precious. Experiences like that make everything else we go through as missionaries totally worth it!
So mom, thank you for all of the times we ever prayed together. And thank you for your diligence and patience any time we ever tried to read our scriptures or have Family Home Evening. They truly are the threads that have helped turn our family into a rope that can pull through anything. And that is the most precious gift you could've given me aside from being sealed to dad for forever! So THANK YOU!!

Yesterday our district leader showed us a movie, "Facing the Giants." Wow. Incredible. It's a football movie so I know you'll all LOVE it. But seriously, I don't have enough time or enough words to tell you how incredible this movie is. Find it. Watch it. Love it. Live it.

I gotta run! We are going to the Hollywood sign today!!!! :) Well I love you all so very much! I apologize for a more preachy email, but that's what happens when a missionary has a hard week. No one else will listen so we make our families and friends listen instead! :)

Loves loves loves!
Hermana Blackburn

16 May 2011

May 16

Ok so I really don't have much time today, but thanks for all the really fantastic emails everyone!!! Ok so here are the highlights from the week:
1) David accepted a baptismal date for the 22 May... and then a few days later got all wishy washy again. So we'll see.
2) Melissa's dad doesn't want her to be baptized on the 22... so we're working on that one too. Just keep them both in your prayers, please!
3) We painted a whole house in about 5 hours. I love service!
4) We went to a Swap Meet (Mexican style) and a Mexican bakery in the San Fernando Valley on Saturday. Afterwards we went to the LA Temple with our district. SO SO SO GREAT to be back there again!! The Temple was incredible and a renewed eternal perspective was exactly what I needed to come back and have another exhausting lesson with David that night! haha The grounds were gorgeous. I took a picture by where the mission home used to be and where I have so many great memories with Tim & Jan... I met an Elder Nelson (blonde, curly hair if that rings a bell)who was one of their missionaries... he says Hi to you both!! :)
5) Yesterday I ate some interesting things... menudo (cow's stomach), pig feet, and pork rind (fresh pig skin). Oh yeah, and cactus... but that was normal compared to everything else! haha... Yeah... the pig foot was the worst. It tasted like, well, terrible. But it was the texture that really got me... like meat jello... it jiggled. haha SICK. Anyway, I survived. And I'm sending you pictures to prove it! haha
6) Had interviews with President Martin this week. He pretty much talked all 10 minutes of it, so it was good. He told me he REALLY needs me to learn Spanish as quickly as possible... because well, he's not getting any Spanish sisters in for a long while so he's going to have to use me. Like REALLY use me sooner than he would otherwise. So I could REALLY use all your prayers! haha... No pressure or anything...
This week we again saw lots of tender mercies. We have two new investigators, and it turns out they just HAPPEN to be sisters-in law. COINCIDENCE? I THINK NOT!!! And a man, Meliton, that we had dropped a few weeks ago because he kept standing us up and not returning our phone calls... well, my companion literally RAN into him one morning and he asked where we've been... he wants us to come back... So we had a lesson with him that night. He likes the Book of Mormon but doesn't want it to be true so he's afraid to pray about it. TUrns out though, he LOVES THE OLD TESTAMENT. Guess what?! SO DO I!!!! I was SO excited. I asked him what his favorite story was... turns out it's Joseph in Egypt. So what did I do? I invited him to read what Joseph of Egypt had to say about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon in 2 Nephi 3... He was stoked to read it. If there's anyone I can relate to, it's someone that LOVES the Bible. :) If only I understand more than 70% of what he was saying... haha Shoot. Well one day! :) But the most important thing is that I keep following the promptings of the Spirit and acting on them to the best of my ability.
Well, I gotta go! But I love you all so very much! Have a great week!
Hermana Blackburn
P.S. Tiffinie, Mark Gantt was in my MTC district! Tell Tayt that for me please!
P.P.S. Tanner, are your papers in yet?! You only have 6 more days until 22 May! haha ;)

09 May 2011

May 9

So first of all, it was SOOOOOOOO wonderful to talk to my wonderful family last night!! Thanks for the laughs and all the encouragement. Mom, I'm still repenting for that crack I made about dad. ;) haha But I really do love you all and I'm so grateful for all your prayers! I still need them!!!
So I promised that I would write in my weekly update about some of the miracles and tender mercies that I've experienced this last week, because it felt like there were SO MANY!!! So here are just a couple of highlights:
Remember Melissa, the 11 year old we're teaching? Well she is just so fantastic! She is getting baptized 22 May, and she is SO excited! I love her like my own little sister. Well we taught her on Friday night, and when she let us in, her dog (a chiuahua OF COURSE haha) Blackie got out. He normally comes back within a couple hours, but he never did. So we got a text from her Saturday morning saying that he never came home and asked if we could come help her look for him. So we started off with a prayer, and then wandered around pretty much aimlessly for the next 30 minutes until she said we should just go back to her house because we weren't going to find him. Back at her house we shared Alma 32:21-22 about what it means to have faith, and how God is MERCIFUL to everyone that believes on His word. I told her that God's word was that He would answer our prayers, if it be His will, but it would be in His time and in His way. We told her to keep praying and we'd do the same. We prayed with her again before we left, and I was 100% confident that God was trying to teach this little girl about Faith. So that's what I told her. And I found myself promising her that if she would have faith and pray, that God would help her get Blackie back. I walked out of there thinking to myself, "WHAT HAVE I DONE?! I CAN'T PROMISE HER THAT!!" haha So Before I started to panic, I just remembered that if the Spirit was telling me to promise her that, then I could show some faith too. Well, On our way back home, we hear some dog barking, so I started following the noise and calling Blackie's name. A woman was getting out of her car and asked us if we had lost a dog. We said that we had and it was a little black chiuahua. She said, "I have him! I was just coming to report that I'd found him!" NO WAY. God is SO COOL. So we walk back to her apartment with her while she tells us how her son found him the night before while walking their dogs and thought he was a stray because he didn't have a collar on. And then she says, "By the way, I'm a member [of the church]!" WHAT?! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! Seriously. God is SO SO SO GREAT sometimes. Not only does He work miracles, but He does it in such a way to teach us lessons and build our faith. I've never seen a little girl so grateful to God for anything as when we gave her Blackie. I made her promise that she'd go home and kneel down and pray to thank God for this miracle in her life. And now she really does know that Heavenly Father answers our prayers. Seriously, it was so wonderful!
Another miracle, well I don't have much time left to go into too much detail. But we found this Honduran woman, Maria, digging through the dumpster looking for things she could recycle--that's how a lot of people earn money here. We miraculously found a bottle to give her, and so we were able to start talking to her really easily. Turns out her husband's coworker had just told him about the Book of Mormon a couple days ago. Coincidence? I think not! God really wants to bless this family's life with the gospel and He's hitting them with it on all sides! :) That's just how merciful God is to us. I love it! Anyway, turns out her son was murdered in Honduras a few years ago... when Ryland says it's dangerous there, he's not kidding! So we start telling her about how we know where her son is right now and what he's doing--learning about the same things that we'd like to teach her about! So we ask if we can come back and teach her about how her family can be together forever, and she gladly accepted. Before we left, the Spirit prompted me so strongly to sing her a hymn. By the dumptser. In the parking lot. But hey, who am I to go against the Spirit? haha So I pulled out my hymn book and said a quick prayer to know what to sing her. The Spirit very clearly told me "Nearer My God To Thee." So I open it up, show my companion, ask the woman if we could sing with her, and we just start singing to her right then and there. And you know what? The Spirit was so very powerful. When we were done, we all had tears streaming down our faces because the love of God for that woman was so palpable through the Spirit. I only understood about 40% of what she said, but in that moment, singing to her, our spirits communicated and I really could feel the overwhelming love of God for Maria. Incredible.
Don't worry. We had a lesson with her on Saturday and it was just as amazing. She is such an incredible woman and I pray that God will continue to touch her heart through the Holy Ghost. Because God is trying to show her His mercy through Hermana Kiewra and I. In fact, He's trying to extend His arm of mercy to ALL of His children in our area through us. It's so sad to see people rejecting that mercy so much. But when they accept it and welcome it into their lives and do the things and make the changes necessary to feel it more, it's an incredible experience!
Ok so those are just a couple highlights from this last week. But there have been so very many tender mercies because God really is directing His work here on the earth. He really does invite ALL of His children to come to Him through His Son Jesus Christ. But in order to fully come, we have to do 5 simple things: 1) Faith 2) Repent 3) Baptism by immersion by someone authorized by God 4) Receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost, which is only one of the greatest gifts God can give us--a member of the Godhead to ALWAYS be with me?! YES PLEASE!!!! And 5) Endure to the End (Happily!) by continuining to follow Christ in our daily actions.
For everything we all go through in our lives, these 5 things really are very simple. It's hard for me to learn just how many of God's children don't want to hear, don't want to know, don't want to do these 5 simple things because of one excuse or another. That's why Melissa is such a bright spot in my day when we teach her. Because she doesn't care that it will be hard to have to be the example to her family. She doesn't care what people might think of her for making good choices. She only cares about what God thinks and what He wants for her. And she's humble enough to ask God really and truly to know for herself what He would have her do. And she's also humble enough to accept that answer and act on it. I hope I can always have the faith of a child like Melissa. Because, really, in the end, what God thinks of us and what He would have us do is the only opinion that really matters. So I encourage you all to think of how YOU can try and cultivate this child-like faith in our Heavenly Father.
I love you all!! Look for a miracle today. I promise if you look, you'll find one. I do EVERY TIME. God is always there for us!
Hermana Blackburn

04 May 2011

Week 10

Well, I really don't have much time to write, but I obviously had to say SOMETHING, right? :)

1. My companion is still awesome.
2. Our area... well, we have lots of work to do. :)
3. My Spanish... starting tomorrow I'm going to go on an English fast except for when we teach youth in English. Hopefully that will help. It's just really hard to improve your Spanish when you're immersed in English. So keep those prayers coming! :)
4. Our investigators. We had 4 of them at church yesterday!!! Such a great day!! Melissa is still incredible. And still planning on getting baptized May 22. David is still good... still progressing, but he rejected the invitation to be baptized on May 22... he doesn't want to put a date to work towards. But he does want to be baptized. Will you all just pray that his heart will be touched with the urgency of baptism? It's not the end goal... just the first step! But Hna. Kiewra and I both left our lesson on Thursday with this overwhelming comfort from the Spirit that we literally have done everything we can to do our part for David, and now it's up to him. But here's the great thing... the Spirit taught us both that it is now His job to work with David. When we invited David last week to live the word of wisdom and to not drink coffee for a week, he said he wouldn't promise that. Then we said 3 days. Then we said one day. He said, "I'll try." That's as far as he would commit. haha But guess what? Yeah... he hasn't drunk coffee in over a week! So after we left on Thursday the Spirit just reassured us both that now that we got that date stuck in his head, the Spirit could work on him. So just keep him in your prayers! The Lopez family is receiving some blessings... after two years of being unemployed, RIgo has finally had some construction jobs the last couple weeks. So great!! However, that does mean that we only have been able to teach them once this last week. But Rigo and Balbina both came to church on Sunday, so that's awesome! Pray for them... specifically that Balbina will feel the desire to get married ASAP. Cuz that is the only thing holding them back right now.
5. MOM!!!! YOUR PACKAGES WERE AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!! Thanks you so so so so so so much!!! They made my whole week. And my roommate is obsessed with the water bottle. She presses it every time she walks by my desk so I constantly hear hoops & yoyo. I love it! haha And Aunt Jan & Uncle Tim, thanks so much for your letter!! So fun to hear from you again!! I'm SO glad that Clay is home safe and sound! Sounds like he got back just in time! Hope things start to look up for them and that they'll be able to find a house in FL quickly! And yes, I can email all family and friends, so whatever you decide. I love your letters, but I love emails, too. :)
6. I get to call home on Sunday. I don't know exactly when I'll be calling, because I can't really call from our apartment. We don't get a signal on our phone very often. haha Lame. So it will be between 4-7 my time... which I guess is between 7-10 your time right? PM of course. Sorry I can't be more specific than that. We have a lunch appointment that is way far away, so I don't really know how long it will take for us to get home... But Erika, I'm going to try and call you for a few minutes, too. So don't leave your phone from 4-7pm PT on Sunday. Capiche? Ok good!
7. Happy Belated birthday to Anna!! Look for something in the mail. I didn't forget you, I promise!!! Loves
8. Logan and Liz, I can't to find out if you're having a boy or a girl!! I think it's a girl though. ;) And 2 pounds? Seriously... that's ridiculous.
9. Honduran food makes me really really sick. I can' even imagine how Ryland has survived the last two years! haha Oh yeah, and I can't understand a single word that comes out of Hondurans' mouths, either. Stellar. I love that feeling. :) haha
10. Eryn Sinclair, I can't wait to hear all about your new trainer-life! WRITE ME!!!

Ok really, the most important thing I have to say is that the Church is still true. I still love the Lord. And I love you all so very much. You're all in my prayers!

Loves loves loves
Hermana Blackburn

Reflections of Christ