February 2011-August 2012

27 June 2011

June 27: A Six Flags kind of week.

So it's definitely been one of those weeks where you feel like you're on a terrible roller coaster ride and all you want to do is get off. But when you get off the sick feeling doesn't really leave until your organs all return to their correct place. haha I know that might sound a bit dramatic, but that's really how I felt. The week started out... well... ROUGH. EVERYWHERE we went we saw and felt Satan at work destroying families. And it felt like everyone. Members... LOTS of member families crumbling here in this ward as one or both spouses decide to let go of the iron rod and walk toward the great and spacious building of the world. And Investigators... LOTS of investigators stumbling in the mist of darkness as they try to figure out where to go and who to go with. Satan is so sneaky. I hate him. The first half of the week we literally felt like we were wading into deep swamps of sin trying to rescue people. Some of them calling out for us to help them. Some of them rejecting our offer to help pull them out and even becoming offended that we had offered. And all the while trying not to get bogged down or stuck in the swamp yourself. Yeah, does that paint a good enough picture for you of how the first few days felt? It wasn't despair, because that would mean I didn't have hope, and I always have hope in Jesus Christ. But it was definitely a time of "sorrowing for the sins of the world" as Christ warned His disciples about. Yeah that was rough.

And then I got a letter on Wednesday night. TENDER MERCY. This letter was from my dear friend and teacher Richard Rust who is an incredible scholar on the Book of Mormon and gratefully followed the promptings from the Spirit to send me this letter. Well he talked about how I was in the middle of a war between good and evil, a continuation of the War in Heaven. And he sent me some scriptures and the lyrics to the hymn "Let Us All Press On." It was EXACTLY what I needed to hear. I immediately got on my knees and pleaded with Heavenly Father to help me press on with the steadfastness He needs from me. At least I know I'm on the winning team!! Anyway, THANK YOU to Brother Rust for helping me out this week. Just another testimony, too, that God REALLY does know me and He is going to help me in whatever way He can, and sometimes that means using some of YOU. So be obedient and FOLLOW the promptings of the Spirit.

Well, that letter was the turning point of the week. That's when my organs started return to their rightful places... first and foremost, MY HEART returned to be how it SHOULD. And on Thursday we had our weekly planning. Well, my companion decided that we should set a goal to set one more baptismal date by the end of this week. That was Sunday... yesterday. I was quiet and just looked at her, but in my head I was thinking "WHO?!?!?! NO ONE WANTS GOD'S HELP. WE HAVE TO START ALL OVER!" But I didn't say anything. But she knew what I was thinking. haha She said, "Compa, don't even ask me who, but we're going to set a goal, and we're going to WORK. Only God knows who it's gonna be, but we can be excited to find out!" Well, I thought back to the words of the hymn I had read the night before and so I agreed. We set the goal. And then we made some plans to start all over with the work in our area and with the ward.

So now I have to tell you just "how great the tender mercies of Lord are unto all those that believe in His name." They aren't just great. They are AWESOME!!!

This woman, Marta Martinez called our number asking about English class. Just before the other Hermanas left their area last transfer, they had made a flyer for English class and put it I don't even know where. But Marta saw it. And she called. Well, we set an appointment to see her on Saturday and we were actually able to find a member to come with us (another miracle in and of itself) and we did "How to Begin Teaching" with her and her 3 children (Daniel 12, Oswaldo 10, & Karen 8). (It's a section in PMG ch.10, Tanner, and you should DEFINITELY LEARN IT WELL!!) Well they live in one room of an apartment, that might be 11x14ft if they are lucky. The most humble circumstances I've seen yet. They have bunk beds, a microwave, a little shelf, and a little tv. That is it. And the 4 of them live in there all together. Well we also taught them how to pray, and the Spirit was SO STRONG. Oh my goodness, I seriously can't even tell you how much Heavenly Father loves this family. I feel it SO STRONGLY for them. We invited them to church and they were so happy and excited to come. We found them a ride (another miracle!) and they CAME TO CHURCH. We taught them again yesterday after church (again with a member!) about the Atonement and we watched "Finding Faith in Christ" with them on our little dvd player. Both Hna. Garcia and I felt we should extend a baptismal date to them, but we hadn't talked about it with each other. And then each on our own, we came to the same conclusion--24 July. And so as I was getting ready to just go with the Spirit, even though I hadn't talked to my compa about it, I was going to just invite them. And then my companion starts talking and she invites them to be baptized. On the 24th of July. Coincidence? Absolutely not. INSPIRATION. Let the Holy Spirit Guide. Yep... that's how missionary work SHOULD BE. So within 2 days of meeting us, Marta and her son Daniel accepted the invitation to be baptized. Oswaldo had fallen asleep from the heat and Karen had left, but we'll definitely invite them when we see them on Wednesday. We are so stoked. So of course, awhile later I realize that miracle of all miracles, we REACHED OUR GOAL. And we EXCEEDED OUR GOAL. 2 MORE baptismal dates by Sunday. Yeah. God is REALLY good to us. Because this is HIS work. HIS CHILDREN and Their eternal salvation. And He wants them back even MORE than we do!!!

After a really rough beginning of the week, we ended up exceeding almost every single one of our goals. I have no idea how it happened, but I know that God did it. God helped get 10 investigators to church yesterday. TEN! We're normally lucky if we can get ONE. But TEN. And we now have TEN investigators progressing toward Baptism. And oh I can't even find the words to express the incredible blessings that await them after baptism!!!! SO EXCITED. And the ward... starting to see miracles, there, too. We started calling literally every single member on our ward roster that lives in our area. We're doing a lot of clean-up, but in the end, we will be leaving the area a thousand times better than we found it. Just like we should.

The Monrroy family is still incredible! Still the great light throughout our week. Still getting baptized this Sunday. Oh sweet JOY!!!

So moral of the story, God works miracles when we BELIEVE and WORK. James says that "faith without works is dead." But have you ever thought about how faith WITH works is so very much ALIVE?! Because it is. Seriously. So "do not doubt. BUT BE BELIEVING." And have a great week! I love you all!!!

Hermana Blackburn

20 June 2011

June 20:The Best is Yet to Be... but we came pretty darn close.

So thanks to the Spirit, a well-prepared and patient family, and an adventurous companion we were able to have a really fantastic lesson about the Plan of Salvation with the Monrroy family. We set up their apartment like the Plan of Salvation, with each room being a different phase of God's plan for us. It was really intense. And involved. And both Hna Garcia and I were afraid that we were crazy, and that this family was going to get so confused because the idea perhaps was just in my head and not from the Spirit. Especially when we showed up 30 min early for our appointment to "set-up" and they were watching us run all around taping scriptures and pictures to the walls, etc. hahaha So funny. But it totally paid off. The Spirit was incredible. We invited them to be baptized on 3 July. They accepted. Without hesitating. Seriously, every day Hna Garcia and I thank Heavenly Father for the privilege and blessing of teaching this family, because this situation as a missionary... NOT NORMAL. Not even "among the Lamanites" here in California as Skylar would say. Neither of us know what we've ever done to deserve them in our lives, but we are so very thankful, and we're SO excited!! We love them so much!!!!

Yesterday an 8 yr old from the ward, Gabriel Lopez, whose family Hna. Kiewra and I helped to reactivate a little bit, was baptized by his father. So great. And even though as missionaries we don't have any sort of "responsibility" in the baptism of children from member families, Hna Garcia and I 1) filled up the font, 2) set up the room, 3) I played the prelude, 4) we gave the special musical number as a surprise to us, and 5) shared the missionary moment. hahaha I seriously felt like I was a one-woman circus running around. Such is life in a Spanish ward though. And plus it was all worth it because 1) Gabriel got baptized!! and 2) The Monrroy family were there. And they loved it. They are all so excited for their own in a couple weeks. AAAAHHHHH SO HAPPY!!!!!!!!!!!

So I had to "drop" my first investigator yesterday. Meliton Alvarez. Made me so sad to know that he just doesn't want to know the truth for himself. He's a good man, but he has no desire to know for himself, and he doesn't believe or want to believe that what we're teaching is true. This is a normal missionary situation I know. But it still broke my heart. Sigh. I just hope one day in heaven when he is tempted to ask me why I didn't do more to MAKE him understand, that instead he'll recognize that I literally did everything I could to INVITE him to come unto Christ. And that is all I can do. Because everyone can choose for himself.

So have I mentioned how much I love my companion? Or how many miracles we're seeing together? Even just little ones make all the difference when your spirit is sucked dry every day from trying to help deal with everyone else's problems... Such is life as a missionary. As Eryn writes, "SOOOOOOOO EXHAUSTING," but in answer to Tanner's question, oh, so very very worth it! The Ward members are slowly changing. And we finally have the trust of the Bishop so hopefully we'll only be able to work harder and more effectively from here on out.

For those of you who are members and read this, I invite you to set aside some time in your schedule this week to offer to the missionaries in order to accompany them to lessons? Please. We need you. YOU make all the difference in our lessons. And to those of you who aren't members and are reading this, I invite you to pick 30-60 min sometime this week in order to meet with the missionaries who have been called by a living prophet on the earth today to teach YOU and your neighbors the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If you don't feel good after they leave, then you never have to have them back. But if what we teach really can help change your life for the better, what have you got to lose? Maybe only 30-60 min out of your entire life...So why not?

Well, that's all I really have time for this week. But I love you all so very much. Have a great week!!

Hermana Blackburn

15 June 2011

June 15

Sorry that I didn't get to write on Monday, but at least now you only have to wait 5 days to hear from me again!! As usual, SO much to say and no time to say it. Thanks so much for all of the emails from everyone! When I opened up my email today I had 19 emails to read!!! Made my day. Especially since I haven't gotten any mail the last few days! **HINT HINT**
Well, the main thing I want to write about is the Monrroy Family: Sergio and Maria, and their two children Vannessa (13) and Jhair (10). They are amazing. I hate the term golden investigator, because all of God's children are golden in His eyes... but they ARE PREPARED. And Why are they prepared? Because they have lived among many members while living in Nampa, Idaho and West Valley, Utah and they have SEEN your examples. They have FELT of your love and goodness. And now they WANT to KNOW for themselves and have all these good things for their children. When I was in the MTC, I had a lot of really great lessons, but I also knew that real life lessons are never "MTC perfect." Well, now I know that they CAN EXIST in the real world. Because we've had THREE of them with the Monrroy family. Every time all four of them are sincerely wanting to hear what we have to say. All four of them participate, even when it might be especially hard for Jhair because he doesn't speak Spanish. (He and I click really well because I don't really speak Spanish, either! haha So I go over things in English with him to make sure he's understanding everything.) This family has asked us to come every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at 4:30pm. And they are always there... waiting for us. They READ the scriptures we invite them to read. They are praying. They have cleared their schedules completely on Sunday so that they will never have an issue coming to church (except they need a ride, which is totally different story). All 4 of them loved church last Sunday. A member at church gave them a copy of the Gospel Principles manual and Sergio and Maria are reading it together, and they love it. Sergio asked us about tithing because he wants to pay it. Seriously, THIS NEVER HAPPENS. Part of me is amazed at the miracles Heavenly Father is allowing me to witness with this family because they are just so prepared. Because of good and faithful members like YOU. I wonder if the members ever knew that this family would look up the church when they moved away. Probably not. So I hope you are all being that kind of friendly, loving, powerful example for good in the lives of your family, friends, and neighbors who don't yet enjoy the blessings of the Gospel in their lives. Part of me is also saying, "This is too good to be true. It can't be THIS easy. What's going to be their hang up?" haha But seriously, I really don't think they are going to have one. Because they are so prepared for these blessings in their lives!
Well, as for everyone else we are teaching, no one else really seems to be progressing because just like Amulek, "they know, but would not know... they hear, but would not hear." We are going to have an awesome lesson with David tonight though. He's going to understand tonight more fully just how ready he really is to make a covenant with God in baptism. And the Espinoza family... Melissa no longer wants to have anything to do with going to church really. Can't figure out what happened, but her attitude is one of... perhaps jealousy? now that we are teaching her father... Not sure. We are going to start working with the Hermano and Hermana Espinoza alone once a week though to help them learn how to mend their relationship and maybe hopefully get married one day... PRAY FOR US. I know if we teach them the doctrine of the Atonement though according to their understanding, that it can have a powerful influence on their hearts to soften and change. We watched "Fireproof" as a district yesterday. Incredible. Seriously, you should all watch it.
Well I'm just about out of time! I love you all so very much! Happy Father's Day to all the incredible men in my life. I'm so grateful to each one of you!
Tanner, GET THOSE PAPERS IN!!!! What are you waiting for?!?! You only have one interview left! Hurry up dude!
Loves loves loves!
Herman Blackburn

06 June 2011

June 6: Revelation. Love it.

Wow, I really have SO much I want to say right now!! First, my new companion, Hermana Garcia, is INCREDIBLE!!! Everyone keeps asking me if I'm sad to not be with Hermana Kiewra anymore. Well, I love her SO MUCH, but she's done everything here that God needed her to, and now it's time she gets to move forward in her life. So I'm really happy for her and her future! And I LOVE Hermana Garcia... so NO. I'm NOT SAD. Life is good. God is great. She is from El Salvador, a convert of 3 years, and the only member in her family. She graduated with a degree in journalism and worked for a year at a newspaper and for a year at a TV station... so she knows really how to communicate and relate to people, and especially how to follow up with people. In just a few days we've seen more miracles together than I did all of last transfer combined probably. Seriously. I'm not even exaggerating. I give the credit to Heavenly Father blessing us for working hard and being exactly obedient and just putting all we have in trusting Him. So where to begin...

1. When we dropped off Hna. Kiewra, President Martin talked to Hna. Garcia and I and told us that he wanted us to have 75 baptisms in this ward over the next 7 months. SAY WHAAAAAT? That's more than our ward has had in five years combined. Is it possible? Well I firmly believe that President Martin is an inspired man. And all week long Hna. Garcia and I have just had this overwhelming feeling of anticipation and excitement for all the miracles we are going to see together. We can literally FEEL the incredible amount of miracles and blessings Heavenly Father has in store for the people in this area and in this ward and so we just have to chip away at the rocks holding back the flood gates... So that's what we're going to do! I can't even tell you how excited I am to be here in this place right now, working with these wonderful children of Heavenly Father. I love them SO much! And we're ready to hit the ground running!!

2. Tuesday morning... the first personal study of the transfer... The windows of heaven opened and I received buckets full of revelation on what we need to do to work these miracles in Canyon Country. Read Ether 2-3 and apply it to missionary work. It's AWESOME. But just to summarize, here's a bit of our game plan:
  • (2:14-15) In order to be allowed to enter the promised land, the Brother of Jared had to 1) repent, 2) sin no more, 3) remember to keep the Spirit with him, and 4) pray. We want to "enter the promised land" and reach our goals... so that's what we're going to do!
  • (2:16) "Go to work and build..." Pretty self-explanatory. haha
  • (2:17) "Tight like unto a dish"=UNITY. In everything. The ward. Our companionship. With our investigators. EVERYTHING. :)
  • (2:22-23) We have to present possible solutions to the Lord whenever we ask Him to help us with our problems.
  • (2:24-25) The Lord is PREPARING us. For something BIG. :)
  • (3:1) We have to WORK before we can expect the Lord to answer our prayers and help us perform miracles!
  • (3:5,9) The brother of Jared asked in complete faith because 1) he believed that the Lord COULD do it, 2) He believed that the Lord WOULD do it, and 3) He had already put in some serious effort not knowing the outcome of his labors. This is how we're going to be able to work miracles here. We need to have THIS kind of Faith.
  • (3:26) All we have to do is BELIEVE. That's all. And God will show us all things.
Those are just some of the highlights... but seriously, I have like 3 pages of notes from those chapters all on the things that Hna. Garcia and I can do here in our area to help God work His miracles. So that's what we've been doing and it's been incredible!

Our biggest miracles this week have been with the Espinoza family... remember Melissa, the 11 year old girl we're teaching? Well, her mom is a member but hasn't been to the church in... YEARS. And guess what? We're now teaching her father!!!! Remember all the family issues I mentioned? Well this week, the parents actually HUGGED. I don't care if it was fake. They did it. And they were both smiling WHILE hugging. God is SO GOOD. And what's more??? We brought a couple with us to our lesson on Saturday night--Hna. and Hno. Jaimes. We taught the first lesson to Melissa's dad and it went really well thanks to them. AND GUESS WHAT?! THEY ALL CAME TO CHURCH YESTERDAY!!!!! Maria (the mom), Vacilio (the dad), AND Melissa. I can't understate what an incredible miracle this is. And tonight the Jaimes family invited them and us over for Family Home Evening and dinner... Yeah... keep praying for the Espinozas because God is really changing their family. :)

We've had a lot of other incredible experiences like that this week and yet we know that this is ONLY THE BEGINNING. :)

Well, I'm almost out of time... but before I go I have to at least mention the 4 year anniversary of dad's death this Wednesday. I'm really not sure how I'll actually feel on Wednesday, but right now, my heart and my mind are filled with peace and gratitude because I KNOW where he is and that he's also anxiously engaged in this marvelous work of bringing souls unto Christ, just on the other side of the veil. I know that our family is receiving so many blessings from having Dad, Skylar, and I all on missions right now... and soon to be Tanner! 4 missionaries in one family!! WOW. I kind of feel like a blessing hog, but I'm not going to complain because we can definitely use them! haha I'm so grateful that I can look back on those extremely trying years as being such a sacred experience. And what made it so sacred? Being united as a family and really feeling and relying on the redeeming AND enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ every single day. It is hard to live without dad here with us, but it would have been an even more tragic experience in our family to have not been able to grow as we have--individually and as a family. I wouldn't change that for anything. And I know our family can be together forever if we all just stay close to Christ and stay close together. And I'm so grateful to really KNOW that!

I love you all so very much and I'm so grateful for the chance to share this peace and happiness with those who will listen. Truly, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints contains the FULNESS of Christ's gospel, all of His truth, on the earth today. He leads and guides us through his living prophet, Thomas S. Monson, and through the scriptures, the Bible and the Book of Mormon, and all of the other revelations which have been received in our time. Keep the faith.

"Be not overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good." -Romans 12:21

Hermana Blackburn

Reflections of Christ