February 2011-August 2012

29 August 2011

August 29, 2011 The Infernal Pit and Catching Fire

Wow. I don't know any other way to describe how HOTTTTTT it is here right now. But other than that, it has been an awesome week!

Hermana Erickson is delightful. SUCH a relief to be myself with her. We are working HARD, and we both have some pretty lofty visions of what we think we can do here in an area that most people in the mission have considered a "dead zone" for awhile. Well, this week we did our best to literally talk to EVERYONE. And we knocked. A. LOT. of. Doors. For hours. haha After hours of knocking in 105+ degrees everyday, we actually have 4 new investigators, and we are stoked. Our brains are fried and our bones feel like jelly, but we are STOKED to keep working hard! haha Don't worry mom, we're drinking as much water as we can. Everyone in the mission who knows me calls me the water police... a habit I have retained from being on an archaeology team. haha So we're going to go pick up some packets today to put in our water to help us out with the electrolytes because we both feel it. But it's all good. :)

So we met this one man who passed us on the street and he is an alcoholic and homeless but wants to change so badly. We prayed with him right there and the Spirit was so strong he started sobbing. We have taught him once since then and we gave him a Book of Mormon to read and he was SO excited. He says he loves to read (but obviously living on the street he doesn't own any books). He's hard to track down sometimes because well, he can just wander away from his usually stoop he calls home. But on the way to emailing we passed his stoop and he was there so I looked in my mirror and HE WAS READING THE BOOK OF MORMON!!!!! So cool. Yeah I am so happy about that right now. :) So we're going to probably stop by on the way home if he's still there.

Lucia is still amazing, bearing her testimony left and right to her family and friends when they start picking on her. We also knocked into this 80yr old woman named Licha (leeecha). We witnessed her receive her own testimony of the Restoration of Christ's gospel through Joseph Smith, and the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon right there during our lesson which was AWESOME. But she has some memory problems and some fear of water, so we'll have to see if she remembers anything we taught her or how she felt last time when we see her tonight... Oh the mission. :) I just love people. Really, I LOVE these people.

So last night we had a baptism in our ward, and then I was asked to go up and help out with the baptism for Hector Alanis, the father of the kids that were baptized a couple weeks ago. I really hadn't thought that I was going to be able to go up there for his baptism, so I was SUPER happy that I was able to make it. It was wonderful! I played the piano and botched all the songs, but afterwards everyone was so impressed... probably b/c none of them can carry a tune let alone play the piano. haha So I guess it doesn't really matter. For things like that, serving in Spanish units is REALLY good for the soul. ;) haha Oh, and the Monrroys were there, too and I was SOOOO happy to see them it just made my day!!!

Oh, Saturday night we were going to see a sister in our ward who just went through the temple, and I was pulling up alongside a curb to park and there was this LOUD noise and the car stopped suddenly... like I had hit something. But I was still FEET away from the curb. I was super confused and a little stressed about what I had just done to God's car! haha So I get out, and look at the damage and there's nothing... then I look closer and I realize that we got a FLAT TIRE. Apparently this crazy old man hates when people park in front of his house, so he puts these sharpened little bricks in the middle of the road to give people flat tires. :( HOW RUDE! Anyway, we called the elders and then went and got a neighbor of the member to help us out. So the elders came and with the help of the jack and flashlight from Yuri, were able to put the spare tire on. But seriously, never in my life have I experienced an EXPLOSIVE flat tire. hahaha Anyway, now I know exactly what to do. But I'm just so grateful for elders! And a companion who is willing to laugh at things like that!

So all in all it has been a really great week of working HARD, sweating LOTS, and laughing and smiling A LOT with my new companion! Thank you all for your love and prayers! You are continually in mine!

Loves loves loves!!!
Hermana Blackburn

22 August 2011

August 22, 2011 Grandes pelotes de fuego! (Great balls of fire!!)

Well, We have definitely been feeling those fiery darts of the adversary this week. But God is so mindful of me that still nothing yet could harm me, no matter what Satan did to prevent our baptism yesterday. What a miracle!

1) My companion runs a lot of yellow/orange/red lights. And well, my life has flashed before my eyes a couple times this week as other cars try to go at the same time she is still going. Thank goodness Dad is doing his job up there as my guardian angel!! I couldn't ask for a better one, that's for sure! I know Skylar probably thinks that he has dibs on dad as his guardian angel, but I'm pretty sure that daughters always win out, right? haha ;)

2) While in a lesson this week, one of those huge 4ft box speakers "fell"/jumped off the wall BARELY missing me. There was also a bunch of glass on top and all the glass shattered at my feet but I wasn't hurt at all. We had all just been sitting there. NOTHING happened to provoke it from falling. WEIRD. But I guess one time when this same family was learning about the word of wisdom, the coffee pot in the kitchen just randomly shattered into hundreds of pieces without anyone around. So... I'm not sure how talking about the Iron Rod and the Tree of Life has anything to do with a speaker, but I'm really grateful I wasn't seriously hurt!

3) Satan was doing EVERYTHING he could this week to prevent Lucia from being baptized. But she is amazing and way stronger than Satan. :) She was baptized yesterday in one of the most beautiful services I've been to. The Spirit was so strong and everyone there felt it, but especially Lucia. Hna. Williams and I played "I Know that My Redeemer Lives" on the piano and flute as a special musical number and it went pretty well. Just after that, Lucia went to be baptized and she just hugged us for several minutes because she was sobbing. The Spirit was incredible. And I'm SOOOOOO happy for her!! She is a part of my family now and I'm so grateful that I get to be here and teach her!

4) So from the beginning of this transfer, I knew that there was one person I was supposed to teach, one person I was supposed to find, but that my primary responsibility was to help my companion through her hard time. Well that being said, every time we were going tracting I kept feeling impressed to go to Chatsworth Ave. but nothing really has ever come from it. Until last week when the Elders gave us this address on Chatsworth and all they would tell us is that they "received further revelation about our impressions to look on Chatsworth." So we went and knocked on this house that was just beyond the last place we'd stopped knocking last time. Well, as we knocked on the door, this girl gets out of a truck and comes up to us and invites us in, without even asking who we are. So once we're inside we introduce ourselves and who we are and what we're doing there and she starts telling us how she's been feeling impressed the last few days like she was going to meet someone new that would really help her but she didn't know with what. (Coincidence? I THINK NOT.) So we share a little bit of "How to Begin Teaching" and How to recognize the Holy Ghost and His role in testifying of Truth with her and she is so excited because she's realizing that what she is feeling is the Holy Ghost. Her name is Arianna, and turns out that she used to date this boy in our ward who is preparing to go on his mission (which is why they stopped dating), but she has come to church a few times to the English ward and she really liked it. He had given her a Gospel Principles manual and she found it a couple days before we found her and she said she felt like she should read it but didn't know why... hmmmm. I KNOW!!! PICK ME!!! PICK ME!!!!! haha Anyway, we sing "Our Savior's Love" for her and she was crying because the Spirit was SO strong. It was great. When I left her house I knew that I had found that person this transfer that I was supposed to. Don't worry, she ended up giving us a ride to the chiropractor the next morning for my appointment (30min away)... not even 24hrs after meeting us. haha She's awesome. The tragic part of it all? She doesn't speak Spanish. So we can't teach her. But the English elders here are great so it will be ok... just sad for me... pero asi es en la mision...

5) We have transfers today. Hna. Williams is going to North Hollywood and I'm staying here. My new companion will be Hna. Erickson who came out at the same time as Hna. Williams... 6 weeks before I did. She has been serving up in the desert since she came out, so Sylmar is going to be VERY different for her. But she's from Boston, so I think she can handle it. :) haha I'm excited to have a companion from the East Coast! Anywhere east of the Mississippi river is RARE... haha. So on to my 4th tansfer, my 4th companion, and my 3rd area. Finally ONE thing stays the same for me! haha

6) TANNER!!!!! You're GOING TO SOUTH DAKOTA!!!!!!!! I'm SO excited for you!!!! I'm bummed you have to wait so long to leave, though at least November isn't 5 months away like Skylar had to wait! It's going to be crazy to have all three of us out for 7 months, but just think of all the blessings that mom and our family will receive because of us! I'm so proud of you! Congratulations!!

Ok, well that is all the time I really have. I love you all!! Have a great week! Know that I love you all so very much and pray for you continually!

Hermana Blackburn

Picture 1: The Martinez family that I taught up in Canyon Country, baptized 24 July!
Picture 2: Jenny and Daniel Alanis that I taught up in Canyon Country and their step-sister Marlena Carillo. They were baptized 14 August! Their father is getting baptized the 28th of August because their parents are getting married on the the 27th! :)
Picture 3: Lucia with Beverly (8) and Bridjette (3) along with Elder Verive who baptized her. He learned some Spanish just so he could baptize her!

I tried to send more but it was taking way too long!

15 August 2011

August 15, 2011

Well, I felt REALLY loved this week. I got FOUR letters on one day this week!!! THAT NEVER HAPPENS!!! haha But it made my day! So thank you! thank you! thank you! to everyone who sent me love and encouragement by mail this week!! And thanks a ton to everyone who sent them via prayers on my behalf. They are really making a difference. Thank you!!!

Well I had some few exciting events this week:

1) Exchanges with Hermana Schegel!! Do you all remember my trainer, Hna. Kiewra? Well Hna. Schegel served with Kiewra for 6 months, so they are really great friends, and I met her a couple times during my first transfer and loved her. She is super bubbly and easy-going, and a really hard worker. I've had the chance to work in a trio with her a couple times over the last few months, but this last Thursday she and I had an exchange together here in my area. And it was AWESOME. We taught 5 lessons in 1 day. It was really so so great. It was nice to feel like I could be myself for a few hours with her. It was definitely a BIG blessing in my life!

2) We had a combined district meeting (with the whole zone) at The Rock... which is this place in Calabases, CA... just at the very edge of our mission where you can look out and see the ocean... on a clear day. haha Well, it was far from being a clear day, but some of the smog burned off as the day went on. It was a really awesome day and I was able to help Hna. Williams self-discover a little bit more, which was good.

3) Yesterday, Tanner turned 19. Holy mole [moe-lay], Batman! (haha... get it... mole...? ok Logan is probably the only one who will get that. nevermind. just a dumb Latino joke...haha) But I digress. NINETEEN. WOW MOM!!!!! I can hardly even believe that...

4) Guess what else happened yesterday? That's right! A BAPTISM!!!!!! Well TWO BAPTISMS!!!!! A part member family that I was teaching up in Canyon Country. The two kids--Jenny and Daniel (17 and 15) got baptized yesterday and I got to go. It was so great to be there! The parents are getting married on Aug. 27th and then their father will be baptized on the 28th. I probably won't get permission to go up for that one, but I was so excited to get to be there for Jenny and Daniel. This family is so great. What brought them mom and her daughter back to activity and got the rest of the family interested was the fact that the parents just had a little baby a couple months ago, Jocelyn, who has down syndrome. She is so precious. It is amazing what miracles God works even through His tiniest children. It's so interesting to me that I'm teaching all these families with special needs children. I'm trying to gird up my loins for whatever that might mean for my future... :).

5) Hna. Williams and I sang "Dearest Children, God is Near You" in Spanish for the baptismal service. It actually went really well. I don't think I've mentioned my singing at all... but it turns out that in general, Latinos are terrible singers. And I definitely don't have a spectacular voice, but well, better than anyone else here. So I've even sang in Sacrament mtg. And almost every lesson we have I'm asked to sing with or for people... haha I bet you never thought you'd see the day did you Mom? I guess all it took was for me to become a missionary and serve in Latino wards... hahaha.

6) Lucia is still getting baptized this coming Sunday, despite everything that Satan is putting her through right now. She is ready and knows she's ready and is not willing to back down for anything. Pray it stays that way! haha I am so happy for her and so proud of all the changes she's made in her life. Seriously, it's been an incredible blessing to observe in participate in at times. It is moments like this that make everything else you deal with as a missionary completely worth it!

7) I had an experience last night when I was filled with so much anguish on behalf of someone else. I was so worried and sad and yet I knew that there was nothing I could do to help this individual except pray for them. I grabbed my scriptures to find peace and solace, but I didn't know where to read, so instead I just prayed and prayed and prayed. This calm, peaceful assurance washed over me and I knew everything would be ok and that this person was known and loved by God and that the situation was in God's hands. Then, a scripture came to my mind. Jacob 2:3. Now, I'll admit that I'm normally pretty good with scriptures, but I had NO IDEA what to expect from Jacob 2:3. haha Well I decided that if it was just a random idea that it certainly couldn't HURT anything to look it up anyway... And it didn't necessarily answer or remove any of my concerns, but I knew that other missionaries before have experienced similar situations and suddenly I realized that it is just part of my calling to feel anguish on behalf of other people. And that it's a GIFT to help me love them and to help motivate me to serve them with everything I have. God knows each of us. He knows our circumstances. Living the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only way to find true and lasting happiness on earth and in eternity, but He will always love us, know matter WHAT we choose to do. He loves us for WHO WE ARE. So remember that. :)

I love you all and I hope you have a great week!! The Gospel is true! This is God's work! Let's DO IT!

Hermana Blackburn

08 August 2011

August 8, 2011

Ok, well I just have to thank everyone for all the LOVE and PRAYERS on my behalf the last couple of weeks. Thanks for the packages, the letters, and the emails! Seriously, they have all helped me so much!! It's a shame that as usual I only have a few minutes to write. But let me just say that the last week has been so much better in a LOT of ways. Mostly with my companion. She is finally accepting that I love her and letting me show her that. PHEW. :) It's a lesson Heavenly Father continues to show me over and over again: LOVE ALWAYS WORKS. When in doubt, just love. I'm really grateful that He helped me stick with it because I know that it has the power to change her life forever if she lets it. Love is JUST that POWERFUL. :)

Also, we are teaching all of Lucia's family right now and have been having some great experiences with them. Lucia is getting baptized on 21 August, and we hope that with her example, the rest of her family will follow in a couple months. :)

Well, that's all I really have right now. Thanks again for all the love and prayers and support! Keep them coming! ;)

Ether 12:6, 27--words to LIVE BY :)

Loves loves loves,
Hermana Blackburn

Thanks to Uncle Tim and Jan for sending me those excerpts from Grandma's journal!!

Also, Logan, do you know an Elder Michael Boswell who's serving in Riverside-Spanish speaking right now? He's about to go home, so I thought you might know him. And I reread one of the letters you sent me from YOUR mission that you had written all in Spanish... so fun to be able to read it on my own now! haha

01 August 2011

August 1, 2011

Ok Well this week has been one of the slowest weeks of my mission. And this transfer is definitely the slowest, too... But I think that perception is because we've lost almost everyone we were teaching so we're pretty much starting from scratch here in Sylmar. Lots of finding. Lots of knocking. Asking everyone for referrals. Trying to make use of all the resources which we have, like the Family History Center, church tours, the Temple Visitors Center, etc. We've found a few more people, but I feel really strongly that we haven't yet met the person or family we are supposed to... I don't know if that makes sense, but it's how I feel.

I wish I had something really inspiring or uplifting to share with you all, but this week was just a week that I can proudly say I survived, even if I didn't thrive. Did any of you read that article in the Ensign a few months ago about the Dandelion and the Prison? It was about how dandelions can thrive in even the harshest conditions, like a crack in the sidewalk. Well, I think for much of my life I have been transformed from a fragile orchid into a hearty marigold... but I'm definitely not yet at the stage of being a dandelion. haha I'm working on it. And I'm trying to allow this transfer to help me out with that... but being squeezed between two cement slabs so to speak is rather uncomfortable, even for a dandelion, don't you think? haha Ok well that's pretty much all I have to say...

Although I did an activity this last week that I STRONGLY encourage all of you to do. Go through your Patriarchal Blessing specifically looking for all the things that Heavenly Father expects or requires of you. Wow... yeah I took 4 pages of notes, and my blessing is only 2 pages long... I've always read my blessing looking for the things that I've been "blessed with" but just this week did I realize that most of the time when my blessing says "You are blessed to be..." that it really is listing an expectation that Heavenly Father has for me. WOW. Talk about mind-boggling. And Uplifting and encouraging. And a bit chastening... Well you should all do that this week. It took me a few days, but it was totally worth it.

God is good. I love you all!!

Hermana Blackburn

Reflections of Christ