February 2011-August 2012

31 October 2011

October 31, 2011 Increased Obedience=​Increased Miracles

It has been a great week here in Sylmar, and Hermana Erickson and I have been working diligently to increase our obedience. As a result, we've seen several miracles. Lesson learned? The Lord CARES about our efforts to better ourselves, no matter how small they may be. Let me give an example.

Remember that Exact Obedience test that I made a couple weeks ago? And How I realized that studying the Missionary Health Guide was a rule, and I didn't even have a copy of it? haha Well, this week I received my copy from the Mission Office. There was a slight mixup and I received it in Spanish... Good thing I know Spanish now! But also, it has pictures to show we what the exercises are when I don't understand the Spanish. PHEW. haha Anyway, So I started doing the exercises and stretches in there every morning at 6:30. One day I got up, and my companion was already up and making her bed. This is rare. I'm almost ALWAYS the first one out of bed. haha Anyway, after I get up from saying my prayers, I go out into the living room and she is doing sit-ups! I almost fell over I was so surprised! I thought something had happened and she was angry and just trying to get out her emotions. I couldn't think of what else it could be... So I asked her if she was ok and she replied that she had just decided she wanted to be obedient that day. I was pleasantly surprised, and grateful for the faith that she was demonstrating with her desire to be more obedient. So the result of our efforts?

We went all day long with people canceling appointments and not being home. We were a bit discouraged. We show up for our last appointment of the night with a new couple we'd taught once before. We had invited a member to come with us, but he was 30 min late (though at least he came!). We show up, and they had invited a friend, who started drilling us with questions. As missionaries, we LOVE questions. But we don't like people asking questions in a "Prove it to me" kind of attitude. So we braced ourselves. A few minutes later, two more women showed up. From the Word of Wisdom to Polygamy, they were asking it all. And thanks to the help of Hermano Garcia, we answered their questions as best as we could. And conveniently, all the answers go back to the Restoration. So we started teaching them the first lesson, about the Restoration. When we got to the part about Joseph Smith, we watched the movie. Afterwards, Hermano Garcia talked to them about the Book of Mormon, read with them 3 Nephi 11:3-15, and bore his testimony of its truthfulness. Then we taught them about how to know for themselves if these things are true. The Spirit was palpable in that little room with the 8 of us. He was testifying to each one of them. I wish I could say that I experience this in every single lesson I teach. That is a worthy goal I'm working towards. But in all honesty, that is not the case. Since I was set apart as a missionary, I've studied and pondered the idea of how to teach with the power and authority of my calling as a representative of Jesus Christ. I've learned many things, but I still felt like there was something I was missing. This last week, however, I got it. It clicked in my head and my heart. I understand what it takes. And this lesson was the culminating event of this lesson. I taught with power and authority, not because of anything I did or said, but because the Spirit was there. I taught true doctrine as simply and sincerely as I could, and He testified to their hearts it was true.

So what's the lesson? That from the simple act of faith in striving to be more obedient, God worked a marvelous miracle for the Hermanas in Sylmar. A powerful lesson. 3 new investigators. A member present in that lesson. See! God really DOES reward us for even our smallest efforts. When He says "by small and simple things great things are brought to pass," He really MEANS IT!! :)

On another note, Antonio came to church again this week--wearing the white shirt and tie we got him from Elders who went home. I was pretty bold with him this week and told him that if he still wanted to get baptized on Nov. 27th that he would have to stop drinking for at least 2 weeks if not more. I told him that he had two weeks to practice not drinking before he really couldn't drink anymore. Ever. He has a goal, and he is working hard for it. I'm grateful for my life experience that helps me have the love and patience to help this man get over a debilitating addiction.  He was sober yesterday when he came to church. That's a step in the right direction! One day at a time.

And I took my Obedience Test again this morning: I've increased by 15%. I'm not at a 100% yet, but I at least am in the A range, so I feel pretty good about that! :) More miracles, here we come!

Hermana Erickson and I were asked to give a training to our zone this Friday at our combined District meeting, and I think that's what we're going to talk about: The QUEST for obedience, not a destination of being obedient. I'll let you know how it goes. :)

So will you all accept an invitation to DO something this week? Will you talk to the missionaries in your ward and set up a time for you to accompany them to a teaching appointment? We need your help to do the work of the Lord. And you will be so greatly blessed for your sacrifice and efforts, that I can promise you! For those of you who will commit to this, despite your VERY busy lives, I know that you won't ever regret it. None of our efforts are lost. Ever.

So I hope you all have an awesome Halloween! We were asked to not go out tonight here in our area... haha. But be safe and be good. I love you all!

Hermana Blackburn

24 October 2011

October 24, 2011 Small and Simple Things

Hello family! Sounds like things are crazy getting unpacked in Utah, getting Logan settled in Denver, and getting Tanner ready for the mission in just a couple weeks! But I'm glad that you are taking time for the little things and studying your scriptures. Though a seemingly small act every day, we know that God always works His miracles by small and simple things. So keep it up!

The week in Sylmar has been one of the least bizarre we've had over the last 3 months... so I don't have too much to really share. We invited Antonio to not drink Alcohol for one whole day last Wednesday. And you know what? HE DID IT!!! He only drank water for one whole day. We invited him to do it again yesterday, so we'll see when we follow up with him if he was able to do it. He was supposed to come to church again yesterday, but when we got there with his ride, he was no where to be found. But I did find out more about him this week. He's only 50 years old, turning 51 this Sunday. He's been living in the streets for 15 years. Oh how my heart broke! I've wept a lot of tears in the last few days. My Book of Mormon reading has corresponded well this week... I'm in Mosiah and was reading King Benjamin's sermon on Serving others, especially those who are so impoverished. "Are we not all beggars before God?" he asks. And oh how I've felt that way! I beg for His Spirit, His mercy, His patience, and His love every day. It has been a very humbling week as I've truly recognized my own nothingness. And yet, I am confident that my Savior loves me; that I am a daughter of God; that I can't help everyone, but I can maybe help someone. And my testimony of the restored gospel is growing stronger everyday.

I've been thinking a lot about the small and simple things in life, and I've come to the understanding that this is hos God works. His way is small and simple. His plan for us is simple and beautiful. The steps required of us to return to Him--Baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and the Temple ordinances--are as Elder Nelson says, "beautifully simple, and simply beautiful." We teach to people all the time the commandments of CPR--Church, Pray, Read--and the more I teach it the more I KNOW that this truly is how we will be happy. Just as when someone is physically dying and someone administers CPR they can be brought back to a fulness of life, the same goes for Spiritual CPR. Going to church every Sunday, Praying every day, and Reading the scriptures every day can bring someone back from Spiritual death into the fulness of life and even eternal life with God one day. Why is it that these 3 simple things have such a powerful effect on us? They are SO SMALL. AND SO SIMPLE. But that's how God works. Isn't that so wonderful!?! Sometimes I think I'm too much like Naaman in the Old Testament, wanting to do some grand act to show my faith or obedience or love for the Lord, but resistant to just do these 3 simple things. Dipping yourself in a filthy river 7 times is NOT a grand gesture of faith. But following whatever counsel the Prophet gives you... THAT is the grand gesture of faith, even when they are asking you to do something simple. So I'm committing myself to be more diligent about the small and simple things. Happily. :)

Well, one example of small and simple things... Our investigator David who is getting baptized soon, brought his wife and 9 yr old daughter to church yesterday. He and his wife are in the process of a divorce, and the last time he talked to her about the church and asked if we could pass by to talk with her [side note: what an awesome missionary and he's not even a member yet!!] and she was adamantly against having anything to do with us or his "new church." Well, when we met them on Sunday she was nothing but pleasant, and afterward she was happy and talking about the next time she'll see us... So that was exciting and unexpected, small and simple in every way. But yet it has the potential to change 3 lives... to maybe even save a marriage if they so choose. I love this gospel, and I love witnessing these small and simple things every day.

Anyway, the last thing I have to say... I'm happy to report that in one week I've increased my "exact obedience" percentage by 3%! YEAH!!!! haha... Remember, small and simple things. ;) I love you all and I hope you have a great week!

Hermana Blackburn

P.S. If you want to see pictures of Antonio, you can go to my companion's blog: lindsayannerickson.blogspot.com. haha... You're going to love it! Though I'll warn you... He was a little tipsy when we took the picture... hahaha
Oh MY LIFE!!!! Love you all!!!!

17 October 2011

October 17, 2011 Being a missionary is FUN!

Well, we had quite the week if we were normal people, but as a missionary, it was a pretty average week. I lost my voice and was super sick. But that didn't stop us from setting a baptismal date with Antonio, the homeless alcoholic man we have taught a couple times. So what was I doing yesterday morning before church? Waiting outside a Miss K Donuts shop for the member to show up to give a slightly tipsy Antonio a ride to church. hahaha... I LOVE BEING A MISSIONARY!!!! When else in my life am I going to arrange rides for homeless people to church? Well, now that I know how FUN it is, maybe I'll try and make an effort for the rest of my life... but it won't ever be the same. I've been RACKING my brain on how to help Antonio. When we taught him on Saturday he was really upset because someone had stolen from him. WHO STEALS FROM A HOMELESS MAN???? I mean seriously. RUDE. So anyway, we haven't really gotten any specific answers, but for now we're just following the steps in Preach My Gospel and are going to try and receive more inspiration as to how he can successfully overcome his addiction. But I love this man, so I'm not going to give up!

Well, I know that my area here is one of the more... colorful areas of our mission, but I have never really noticed too much. Because I just work with PEOPLE everywhere I go, and there are colorful people EVERYWHERE I've ever lived... haha. Anyway, this last week though it seems like Hna. Erickson and I are finding more and more of these eccentric individuals here in our area. The Elders always look forward to our stories every time we see them... Maybe it is because we are women, and the Elders are oftentimes mistaken for the FBI around here... haha. Or maybe it is because Hna. Erickson and I are also a little bit crazy so we attract people like us? haha I don't know, but we sure do have fun here! And seriously, being a missionary IS FUN! Though the canceled appointments, slammed doors, and phone hang-ups aren't always enjoyable, it is FUN to work with Heavenly Father to help His children and build his kingdom, even in Sylmar, California. I just can't wait to see Halloween here... hahahaha!

I have realized over the last couple weeks though what a very LONG way I have to go on a personal level. I decided to make an obedience test for myself. So I went through the Missionary Handbook and wrote down EVERY SINGLE rule I could find. I found 260 (though I combined some of them together, and there are repeats). Well, I went through and checked off all the ones I was obeying EXACTLY. But if I wasn't obeying it exactly, I couldn't mark it off. Well some rules like "Don't call Church Headquarters" are easy to keep exactly. But then there are rules like "Frequently study the Missionary Health Guide" which, to be perfectly honest, I don't even have! haha... Well,so I realized that I have a LONG way to go before I am 100% exactly obedient, but I'm working on it, a few things at a time. It was definitely a good wake-up call for me though, and it's bound to be a good growing experience!

Well, I love you all and I hope you have a great week! Keep smiling and praying!

Hermana Blackburn

10 October 2011

October 10, 2011 "Trust in Moroni's Promise."

Well my dear family, I am glad to hear that after a marathon weekend that everyone had a wonderful experience in the Temple with Tanner, that the house was packed up, and that everything went through on the close of the house. As sad as I am to be homeless, I'm grateful that the Lord has provided the miracles for each of you needed. And I hope that you took a family picture for me while Erika and John were there because I don't have ANY with me!

The Lord is continuing to work His miracles here in Sylmar, too... Let me share one from the last week with you.

Hermana Erickson and I have had a great week working hard. A few referrals we've received are panning out. One man, named David actually referred himself and showed up at the church building last Tuesday for a tour. We had a mini-lesson with him about the Book of Mormon and how we can know it is true, and what it means if it IS TRUE. We gave him a copy, marked a couple things for him to read, and taught him how to pray, leaving with him of course the invitation that he start reading and praying about it for himself. Well, when he showed up on Thursday for our next appointment, he had already started reading and had prayed and knows it's true! HIJOLE!!! Seriously, as a missionary, this almost. NEVER. happens. We are so excited and incredibly grateful for the opportunity to teach him. He has a baptismal date for 30 October, and he is so humble and eager to learn. What a miracle! I have to confess that I actually thought I would never be so privileged to teach someone like this again, since I taught the incredible Monrroy family in Canyon Country with Hna. Garcia. They were like this as well, met and baptized in 5 weeks and being a strong, active addition to their ward in the months since all because of their great faith. I doubt that missionaries get a cap on how many truly prepared investigators they get to teach, but for some reason I thought that I would never experience that again as a missionary. And God keeps teaching me and showing me that HIS plans for my life, and my mission, are far more than I could ever imagine if I just let HIM be in control. So I've been humbled and taught by the Lord this week as I watch Him work all kinds of miracles that I never imagined. I LOVE being a missionary!

And when I compare those experiences with the myriad of others I've had just trying to help people have the desire to read and pray and KNOW for themselves... what is the difference between someone that will read, pray, and act on their answer and someone who won't? Well, I'm not really sure I've come up with a good answer to that one, but I think a lot of it has to do with faith and humility. Well Last week we taught Vladmir, who told us he believes the Book of Mormon is true, that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and that he was an instrument to restore the TRUE church of Christ to the earth. And yesterday when we met with him again, he had apparently forgotten all of that because he now refuses to accept the idea of more scripture or that there is any church with a fullness of truth on the earth. So WHAT HAPPENED??? Well, we still don't really know... haha. But because I have tested Moroni's promise to read and sincerely pray if the Book of Mormon is true, I KNOW it is true. And if David can receive a personal witness of the veracity of the Book of Mormon in just two days, then certainly someone like Vladmir can receive the same convincing witness from the Holy Ghost as he has been reading over the last couple months. But Vladmir refuses to pray about it, or act on the answer when he does pray. So he will never know for himself as long as he continues with that attitude. Isn't that so interesting? And sad, too. That a fullness of truth and happiness is literally in his hands, but he won't know it. I wonder if I ever act like that to the things the Lord is trying to teach me or give me... and what's the difference? Humility to ask, and faith to act. Well, I hope and pray that each of us will be more humble and faithful as we pray for answers and receive them step by step. I have 100% confidence in the promise of Moroni. If you don't know yet that the Book of Mormon is true, you REALLY CAN KNOW. You don't have to read the whole thing to pray and ask if it is true. But the key is that you have to ask in faith, having real intent... meaning that you will ACT on the answer you receive. Like eating a piece of cake... you don't have to eat the WHOLE cake to know if it's good or not. It really is one of the most miraculous tender mercies that God has given us in these latter-days. We don't have to try and convince ANYONE. God will do the convincing. All we have to do is INVITE! :)

Well, that sums up the most important happenings of the week, minus of course when a couple of parrots when BESERK during our lesson as we began the First Vision account (which isn't too surprising because something ALWAYS happens at this part of the lesson, which just means that Satan knows how powerful it can be for people!). hahaha... I now know that parrots can tell each other knock-knock jokes, laugh, bark like dogs, and scream "HERMANA" simultaneously if they know something important is going on... hahaha Maybe I can get a recording of them for you. But really, those birds have never said a WORD anytime we've been at that house over the last few months. haha I again repeat, I LOVE being a missionary! :)

And I love all of you! Have a great week. Know that God lives and loves you. Trust in His promises. Read the Book of Mormon, and renew your personal testimony in it by again testing Moroni's promise.

Love always,
Hermana Blackburn

Reflections of Christ