Our lessons this last week have been SO GOOD. I LOVE THE SPIRIT! And I LOVE teaching after HIS manner. It's a skill that will serve me for the rest of my life. I've seen so many miracles happen--one heart at a time--this week as individuals have been touched by the Spirit and have recognized and accepted to do what God WANTS them to do. Leticia and Adriana are stoked about their baptisms on Sunday! A recent convert family came to church for the first time in 2 months! A former investigator recognized how much harder his life is without the gospel and the Spirit! Youth understanding that God KNOWS THEM--personally--and that He LOVES them unconditionally! All of these things are so small to the world, but that is how the Spirit works. One kind act, one lesson learned, one true doctrine finally understood, one heart finally changed to DO the Lord's will. This is how God "brings to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." This is how the Gospel of Jesus Christ works. One miraculously changed life at a time. And how grateful I am to finally understand that!
Speaking of which, I got some REALLY exciting news this week. Kevin, a 14 yr old that I found knocking back in JULY, is FINALLY getting baptized on the 29 April! And I get to be there for it!! This kid has been through SO much. He's such a good example to his family, even though a few of them are inactive members. He's had to work so hard over the last 9 months to finally get the permission from his mother to be baptized. I look up to him so much. And I'm so excited that this special day will finally come true for him! :)
I don't have much else to say about last week. On Wednesday I get to go back up to Sylmar for exchanges with Hermana White and I'm SO excited! How I miss it! How I miss her! And that is a big blessing for me, too, since I'll have an opportunity to get some pics with people before I go home. :) So I love you all! And I hope that you have a great week!!
Whelp, after even more of a decline in health over the last few weeks, and lots of hours of prayer, President Martin, the Lord, and I decided it was time for me to go home. There are LOTS of emotions, obviously. But mostly, I just feel at peace. The decision is right. And every time I've panicked about it and started doubting myself, the answer has come again clearly. I know that my mission is over. I have accomplished the things the Lord had prepared for me. I have given my heart to Him, and He has changed me. I have overcome myself. And that is nothing short of a miracle! I have been used by the Lord to help change other people's lives, and that has been the greatest gift of all. I will be forever grateful for the chance I had to officially represent the Savior and His true church to my Spanish-speaking brothers and sisters here in San Fernando. I love them so much! And it will be SO hard to leave them! But the Lord has made it clear that He has accepted my mission. I have fulfilled His purposes here. And I have no regrets. So, at the end of this transfer I will finish my mission honorably (2 May). Thank you so much for all of your love and support. It has meant so much to me!! Thank you for all your prayers on my behalf! There is no way I would have been able to make it this long without all of you! I love you all!!
Ok, so that being said... since I've made that decision, things have been going much better in our area. The weight of decision has been removed, and we have been full of power and authority as we've been teaching. In particular, we set 2 baptismal dates with Leticia and her 10yr old granddaughter, Adriana. They will get baptized on the 22nd of April and they are soooo excited! Leticia came to a baptism last night (and thankfully it was a really beautiful, reverent service) and she was almost giddy with excitement for her own baptism. This woman is amazing! And I feel SOOO blessed to be able to teach another family who is so ready for the gospel as I finish up my mission. She has had such a hard life, and she's just so happy despite it all. We taught her the Plan of Salvation on Friday and her sweet soul was just filled with the light of truth. She couldn't believe how she'd lived her whole life without knowing God's Plan for her! It's such a wonderful blessing to teach people who are PREPARED to receive the gospel rather than trying to convince people to know for themselves!
Anyway, I think those are the only things I really wanted to tell you all this week. Just know how much I love you and how grateful I am for you all in my life!!
I would never be able to put into words how grateful I am for General Conference... for living prophets and apostles who lead and guide us in this crazy world. I am SO grateful for the Restoration of the FULNESS of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I took some pretty hefty questions into General Conference regarding my future, and I know that my answers are all in there somewhere. I just need several more hours of studying the talks and listening to the Holy Ghost to decipher them. But I'm grateful that God loves me enough to GIVE me personal revelation so that I know exactly what HE wants for ME to do!
I wish I had something more to share from the last week... my new companion is pretty oblivious to just how much PAIN I am working through, but it has been a blessing so far because she just keeps pushing me and pushing me. I think I've definitely found my limits though over the last couple weeks. And my absolute 200% is probably her 75%, so she feels bad for not working harder and I feel bad that I just really have nothing left to give. So we'll see what the Spirit leads me to do at the end of this transfer. But she really is SO patient with me, because I know being my companion has not been easy for her. So I'm really grateful that God is teaching us both the things that we need to shape us into better disciples of Christ, better wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters.
So did anyone else catch that bit in General Conference about writing missionaries REAL LETTERS? Yeah... I just want to say AMEN to that! I will anxiously await a REAL LETTER from all of you! :) haha
The Gospel is true. God LOVES us. And He is ALWAYS watching out for us, even when we don't recognize it. Happy Easter!! CHRIST LIVES!!!!!!!!
Who the heck is Cesar Chavez? Can someone google that and get back to me? I want to know why the state of California made up a holiday for him and closed the library yesterday! haha Anyway, things in North Hollywood are... REALLY DIFFERENT. It's only 15 min away from my old area but wow. It feels like a completely different world. I don't have much time to write about our experiences, but I can tell you a bit about my new companion, Hermana Tara Prince. She's from St. George, Utah, and she's been out on for about 9 months. Her Spanish is really good, thank goodness. She is a rockstar missionary. She's really different from all the other companions I've had, but I'm learning a lot from her.
We did have one experience on Sunday where we had asked the Bishop if there was anyone in the ward he had been thinking about or wanted us to visit. He named a family that has been active-ish, but much less so recently. They've only been members for a year and the husband still isn't a member. They actually live in the Elders area but when the Bishop asks, we can visit anyone in the ward. So after searching for their house in the POURING RAIN and having no luck, the hermana finally called us back and told us how to get to her house. We visited with her for awhile and then she opened up and had said that just a couple hours earlier she had prayed to know if she should stop going to church altogether for awhile. Turns out she's having some problems with a couple other hermanas gossiping really hurtful things about her and her family and it has just caused her to feel so uncomfortable at church that she doesn't want to go anymore. Luckily she saw our very timely visit as God's answer so she's determined to not quit on coming to church. We had a good heart to heart with her and truely gave her counsel as the Spirit directed. Such a neat experience.
So... GOD LOVES YOU. He DOES answer prayers. So pray harder. And don't gossip.
Love you all! Have a great week!
P.S. In my reading I am now in the Book of Joshua in the Old Testament and in the middle of Mosiah in the Book of Mormon... SO COOL. I LOVE THE SCRIPTURES!!!!!!!!! And I hope I never act like the Children of Israel... haha. ;)
Well so much has happened in the last week that I don't even know where to begin. But I won't bore you with all the ridiculous details. I'll just tell you that it was one of the best weeks Hna. White and I had as far as the work goes here in Sylmar. We were able to start teaching Natalia--a referral from other elders. And she has a baptismal date now! We're stoked about that! Heavenly Father has blessed us a lot with finding new investigators. We have done ZERO finding. They have all come to us. Randomly showing up at members' homes or even at the church... I am really grateful that I get to leave Sylmar on an upswing!
Because I'm getting transferred!!!! Yep, that's right folks. After 6 transfers and 9 months--half of my entire mission!--in Sylmar, it is finally my turn to leave. Of course I'm REALLY going to miss everyone here, but they deserve to have someone else serve here for awhile. And our area is getting split as well, because we are getting too many new missionaries this transfer so President had to make room for them somewhere. Speaking of new missionaries, Hna. White is going to train again! She'll be great! :)
I'm not going very far. I'll still be in the same zone, and in the same stake, here in the San Fernando Valley. I'm going to be in the North Hollywood 4th ward though, covering a chunk of the ghetto of North Hollywood. It'll be a nice to change. And I'm exciting to work in one the very few Spanish wards that actually REALLY functions like it's supposed to. They are super supportive of the missionaries and the work of sharing the gospel, and I'm STOKED to experience that big blessing as a missionary. Because that has definitely NOT been my experience neither in Sylmar nor in Canyon Country.
My new companion will be Hna. Prince, from St. George. She's a sweetheart so I hope she'll be just as patient with me as Hna. White has been. I'm going to need a lot. She's been out for 5 transfers, so her Spanish is really good. Probably better than mine, let's be honest. So I'm a little bit terrified about all these changes, but I'm stoked for a change. If that makes any sense. Good thing I'm a pro at moving. This will be my 27th move in 6 years. So it's my 9th (out of 12) transfers, 4th area, and 6th companion in the mission. Time keeps moving doesn't it. Wow! This has been and still is such a wonderful time in my life--in spite of all the REALLY HARD THINGS about being a missionary.
Ok anyway, that's all I have time for today, but hopefully you can all finally see the pictures of the Liahona I made. I know making you wait for a month has been almost too much to bear. ;) haha Anyway I love you all! Have a great week!
There comes a time in every area when you have to drop everyone and start from scratch. Go back to the drawing board, the area book, and the members, and start finding again. That's where Sylmar's at. It can be a really fun and exciting time in an area, because the possibilities are all unknown, and therefore limitless! But this last week has been anything but really fun and exciting as far as the work goes... lots of cancelled appointments, unkept commitments, and unavailable members; more than 200 phone calls--and zero success; a blitz in our area where our whole district went knocking for us... nada. We didn't even have dinner appointments to help us get in ANYWHERE... haha. Even the Getty Museum was CLOSED when we tried to go there last week! hahaha But that's ok. I actually REALLY am grateful for the weeks like that, because they are what make the good weeks really GREAT!
But don't let that paragraph get you down, because even though the work here last week was REALLY slooooooowwww, we had some really fantastic experiences!
We met some new less actives who were so receptive to us... turns out they stopped coming because of health reasons and not testimony or social issues like most people. And health issues? I'm pretty sure we can convince them to come anyway... especially if we take Hna. Murillo with us to visit them. She has to be on oxygen all the time and had a stroke 3 weeks ago and STILL has not missed a Sunday at church. I'm grateful for the examples of the many people in my life who, just like Hna. Murillo, sacrifice comfort and pleasure to keep their sacred covenants with the Lord.
We watched the Restoration with Alicia and the girls, and the WHOLE family ended up joining us for the movie! Husband and all! We hadn't even met him yet, so that was super exciting! Even if he did run out of the room immediately after so we couldn't talk to him... at least he felt the Spirit for 20 min and now has an experience that can press on his mind for awhile. ;)
We had a beautiful stake fireside on Sunday night for the recent converts. I really wish more people had gone, considering we had so many people promise us they would attend. But I know that it was a great blessing in the lives of all those who DID attend, and I'm really proud of them for coming!
I finished the books of Exodus and Leviticus this week... What a cool experience it is to read and study SO much in such a short amount of time. I've received A LOT of personal revelation this week. The Spirit I've felt has been wonderful. The answers I've found and the questions I've thought of have helped me progress spiritually as my understanding of my Heavenly Father and His plan for me increases. I'm so very grateful for a living prophet, and for the personal witness from the Holy Ghost that Pres. Monson IS truly God's prophet on the earth today. How very much I love that man and the righteous life, FULL of service, that he has lived!
Yesterday we were privileged to have a special meeting with Elder L. Tom Perry of the Twelve Apostles, as well as President Richard J. Maynes of the Presidency of the Seventy. Their wives also joined us which is always a special treat! :) They greeted each of us personally. In the 5-10 second personal interaction I had with each of them, I felt of their love, their testimony, and the power and authority of their sacred callings. They taught us by and with the Spirit. I learned a lot, and certainly was edified and rejoiced upon the things I learned. They spoke about FINDING, the Spirit, and the pattern in which the Lord has restored his church in every dispensation. I'm so grateful for that experience and I will cherish it forever!
Well, those are just some of the special experiences we've had over the last week that are coming to mind. But in reality I think that the sweetest experiences of the whole week have been while on bended knee, pouring my heart out to God. I TREASURE my time talking with my Heavenly Father. He loves me SO MUCH. He knows me PERFECTLY. He is so wise, so loving, and so patient with me. He knows when to listen. He's REALLY good at it. And He knows when to chime in and give me some support, comfort, excitement, answers, etc. The better I pray... meaning the more sincerely I speak with my FATHER... the better I feel about everything. Prayer IS the key that unlocks the door to invite the Lord into our lives. I have always had a testimony of prayer, but too often I forgot how much I NEEEEEEEED prayer. Satan is really good at trying to make us forget that. Because that's how POWERFUL prayer is. So, what can YOU do to make your prayers more meaningful, more heartfelt, more sincere? Do you feel like you get answers on a regular basis? Because if not, you should probably do a prayer check. It's not that God isn't there or not listening. It's probably that YOU aren't really "there" when you pray and that YOU aren't really listening. Pray with your whole heart and mind and strength. Really BE THERE when you talk to our Heavenly Father. And then LISTEN. I promise you it will change your life for the better! Because mine has! I am so grateful for the miracle and blessing of prayer in my life, and I hope that this week each of you can come to feel the same!
I love you all, and I'm grateful for your continued love and support! Keep smiling and have a great week!
Well we have A LOT going on today so I don't have much time to write, but I'll try to give just a quick rundown of the past week.
NEW INVESTIGATORS!!!! Jose; Alicia, Alondra, Melyn, and Alejandra. The last 3 are ages 12 and 8... All of them are referrals from Wladimir! He might have a long way to go in accepting certain doctrinal truths, but he is one of the best member missionaries I know! He literally talks to EVERYONE about the gospel. Just a couple days ago we got another referral from him for a guy he met while eating at McDonald's. Oh my happy, grateful heart! I hope you ALL look for, pray for, and TAKE the opportunities to talk to people about the gospel! :) Mom, I'm really proud of you for always being such a great example of this to me, even if it was embarrassing as a kid. haha
San Fernando ward... making improvements. It's been some long hard months here trying to put the ward back together, and I'm so grateful that I've been able to be here long enough to see improvements! I'm SO grateful for having grown up understanding how the church is supposed to and CAN be when there are such things are friendship, unity, and charity among the members of a ward. And I have a feeling that I've been serving in terribly dysfunctional wards my whole mission for a reason... but I'm not even going to try and guess what that reason might be right now. I just FEEL like I'm being prepared for something terrifying later on down the road... haha.
A follow-up on last P-day: the quiches, key lime pie, and baklava we made were all D-LISH! Good thing I'm learning how to cook so many new and fun things... we have ZERO meals this week. Hopefully we'll be able to beg a few, but at least I have some new found favorite recipes! :) We also took a pit-stop at the old Catholic San Fernando mission--did you know Bob hope is buried in their cemetery? Who knew?! Well, actually I guess thousands of people know because they visit his grave every year... haha. We didn't pay to go in b/c it was raining last week, but we're hoping to have time to go back in a couple weeks.
Today we're going to the Getty Museum! I'm SOOOOO excited!! Art and archaeology... can't get much better than that! ;)
Next Monday we're having a special mission meeting with Elder L. Tom Perry and Richard J. Maynes of the Seventy... so if I don't email on Monday that's why. But we're all super excited to meet together as a mission--first time ever--and to hear from Elders Perry and Maynes. :)
Oh, I almost forgot: I gave the training in District Meeting on Friday. I did it on Charity... I have lots of deep and profound thoughts on the subject... maybe I'll have time to share some of them next week. :)
Sorry I don't have time to respond to all of your individual emails this week! Thanks so much for writing me though! I love hearing from all of you! And I'm glad you are doing well for those of you who DID write me! ;) Keep smiling and praying!
Well last week was a really good week. It started on Tuesday with a trip to the chiropractor... turns out I was almost 2" out of alignment. haha... And I had strict orders to take it easy on all fronts. Apparently my body isn't quite as healed as I think it should be. Oops. So what did I do that day instead of walking the streets of Sylmar? I made a Liahona. Yep. It's off the hook--if I do say so myself. I'm sad I forgot my camera cord b/c I was going to send pictures of it. Just imagine a hamster ball+broach+clock hands... We had planned a lesson on the liahona/scripture study (read 1 Ne 16 and Alma 37) for some less actives so I thought this would be a fun way to grab their attention. haha Oh if only people KNEW the lengths that missionaries go to for them sometimes. How'd the lesson go? Well, when we got there, the lesson actually ended up going in a very different direction and so we never even taught what we'd planned. But that's ok. That's what happens when you follow the Spirit. And now I have a liahona! haha
Wednesday was Zone Conference, and this might've been one of the best I've ever had. I got a lot of good food for thought. I love President Martin. And The APs gave a great training... theirs was actually my favorite. They showed us a clip from The Lion King--when Rafiki tries to help Simba understand WHO HE IS, and he sees his father, for those of you who will remember that part. Wow... when you watch that with your spiritual eyes and ears... Talk about personal revelation. In a lot of ways I'm like Simba and I need to REMEMBER WHO I AM. But in other ways, as a missionary, I play the role of Rafiki helping others realize WHO THEY ARE. What a cool job. I love being a missionary! Anyway, it was really help for me personally as well as for our investigators right now.
Thursday we had a jam-packed day of appointments... with NEW PEOPLE! Jose, Alicia, Alondra, Abelinda, and then with Lucia, and dinner with David. Man! What a great day! I really hope that our days this week are a lot more like Thursday than Tuesday of last week! haha
Today we are going to go to the San Fernando Mission... the old Spanish, Catholic mission that is, b/c clearly I'm IN the San Fernando Mission. haha But I'm excited! I've been here for almost 9 months and I still haven't been to see it! And then I'm going to try my hand at making a quiche. We'll see how that goes. :)
Oh and for all those who are curious about the roaches... they've decreased substantially. Thanks! Operation Extermination is still in full effect though. As I finished the Pearl of Great Price last week, I came across the part about all the blood of animals we've killed being required at our hands when we're judged by God. Do you think cockroaches count as animals in that instance? Sure hope not! haha Yikes!
Anyway, I hope you all have a great week! Keep smiling and serving!
Holy MOLY! I had my ONE YEAR mark this last week. How did that happen? I have NO IDEA. haha Anyway, it's hard to believe that I've been on my mission for more than a year now. I still have such a LONG WAY TO GO. Personally, I mean. It's kinda overwhelming. But I am grateful to know that I can keep changing and growing for the rest of my life as I continue to love and serve and share the gospel with others! PHEW!!! My mission doesn't REALLY end after my mission. Good thing! Because I LOVE my mission. So now I just have to learn to love my life's mission... once I figure out what that might be... haha. But I don't have to think about that for another 7 months! ;)
Well it was a pretty busy week, and yet I feel like we got nothing done. I hate it when that happens. But I just have to remember that not all missionary work is visible when we report numbers at the end of the week. And actually, MOST missionary work is not visible in numbers. But we had lots of meetings, lots of planning, lots of tracking down people who weren't there. I'm trying to pace myself and still allow my body to recover, but there is SO MUCH WORK to do, and it's both overwhelming me, and pushing me to just work even when I don't feel great. haha Just don't tell Sister Martin that. ;) But this is my SIXTH transfer here in Sylmar. And for those who don't know what that means, it means I've been here since JULY. That's 8 months now. And so I'll probably be leaving at the end of this transfer, and knowing that is just pushing me to work as hard as I can to leave it on an upswing. Anyway, for not having been able to work a ton the last couple months, our area has definitely suffered... and I take FULL responsibility for that. But I don't want to leave it how it is right now. My goal has always been to leave each of my areas better than when I found it. So we have A LOT of work to do, and not very much time to do it. We are already halfway through the transfer! Anyway, this stress is all self-inflicted, but very much real for me right now. So we just got pray hard, and work even harder. :)
As for Hna. White and I, we are great. We laugh ALL THE TIME. And that DEFINITELY helps everything! I'm SO grateful to have a companion who is so patient and loving with me, who is a rock-star Spanish speaker, and a great gospel teacher. I love her a lot! We never thought we'd be able to be companions, because we're both so old in the mission now, and that normally doesn't happen. So we are both just cherishing this time together.
We do have a problem though. Cockroaches. SICK. We've always had them in this apartment, no matter how clean we keep it. But it hasn't been too bad. But as it's been getting colder here, they've been growing in both size and number. We bombed it the day of my surgery, thinking that would help. It's made it worse. So we're going to bomb it again on Wednesday when we have Zone Conference... this is REALLY DUMB, considering all of the other things I SHOULD be praying for, like PROGRESSING INVESTIGATORS, but this morning I reached my limit. So I'm asking for those of you who will remember me in your prayers anyway, to just add in an extra note about getting rid of the cockroaches in our apartment. *Shudder* haha Thanks! :)
Well, that's all I have time for. I love you all! Thanks for all your love and support! Have a great week! And Happy President's Day!
I have exciting news to share with you. Brother Kenneth T. Hall and Sister Dianna M. Hall have been called to succeed myself and Sister Martin as the new mission president and wife on or about July 1, 2012. The Hall's have already been highlighted in the Church News as a new mission president but without a specific mission assignment. The new mission president assignments will be published in the Church News on March 3rd. Below is the article that appeared in the Church News. The Hall's have four children. Two daughters age 18 and 13 and two sons, age 15 and 7. I had the pleasure of speaking to the Hall's this weekend. They are bubbling with excitement to serve in this great mission alongside each of you. They were fun to speak to. The Halls have a very deep faith in the gospel of Christ. They are people of capacity. You can trust them to lead you well and lift the mission to even greater levels. Sister Martin and I already feel a great love for the Halls. Now with that said, I want you each to know that Sister Martin and I will serve to our capacity to the last moment of our mission. We have much work to still complete here. We have many missionaries to teach, many seekers of truth to baptize, much work to do with the stakes, wards and branches, many miracles to still experience. We will finish our course until the Lord says: "Your work is done here." In this tender moment, we realize even more how precious each of you are to us. We are all fellow servants in the work of the Lord to bring about his great purpose which is to "bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." So let's remember whose errand we are on and get back to work!
With heartfelt love,
Kenneth Troy Hall and Dianna McConkie Hall
Kenneth Troy Hall, 43, and Dianna McConkie Hall, four children, Arrowhead Ranch Ward, Glendale Arizona North Stake. Brother Hall serves as a gospel doctrine teacher and as a stake strengthening marriage instructor and is a former stake mission president, stake Young Men president, high councilor, bishop, high priest group leader and missionary in the Argentina Buenos Aires North Mission. Former senior vice president, PetSmart, Inc. Born in Richland, Wash., to Troy Edward and Lucille Yancey Hall.
Sister Hall serves as a Relief Society president and as a stake strengthening marriage instructor and is a former counselor in a Relief Society presidency, counselor in a Primary presidency, institute teacher and gospel doctrine teacher. Born in Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., to Stanford Smith and Kathleen Ann Sorensen McConkie.
Well, I am still definitely on the mend, but the surgery was a success. God is so very good to me and poured out miracles upon me this week. Prayer is oh so very powerful. Thank you all for your love and prayers. I don't really have the time or energy to say much more than that. But thank you all so very much. I'm so grateful to be a missionary. The gospel of Jesus Christ is true. And the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true church which contains the fulness of that gospel. How very blessed I am to know that and share that with others. Don't forget, you can spread the word, too. :) Have a great week! Love, Hermana Blackburn
So the big news this week: Hna Erickson is leaving. I'm REALLY sad for me. And REALLY happy for her. She's going to open up a new area in the Young Single Adult Spanish branch, take over an Elders' area in Reseda, and train a new hermana... all at the same time! She definitely has her work cut out for her but she'll do great! I'm really proud of her. :)
I'm staying here for another 6 weeks... this will be my 6th transfer here in Sylmar. Yep. But I'm getting Hermana White, who is just delightful, so I'm excited about that! We'll have a great time together. :)
Wladimir was confirmed yesterday. And unbeknownst to us, he had already been interviewed by the Bishop and also received both the Aaronic Priesthood and a calling as the Assistant Ward Mission Leader! Cool, huh?! That's NEVER happened to me with a new convert. Especially in a Spanish Ward! He'll be well taken care of. He has lots to learn from the members about how to act appropriately, and about true, correct doctrine. But the ward has lots to learn from him about being ANXIOUSLY and zealously engaged in a good cause... the BEST cause! :)
On a very different front, something I specifically have NOT mentioned in my emails is that I actually have been having lots of health problems for the last several months and I'm actually having surgery tomorrow. Due to the risks involved with the surgery, my mission president requested that my mother be here with me for a couple days. What a HUGE tender mercy from the Lord. I'm so very grateful for her being here with me this week. I'm confident that all will go well in surgery. No matter what happens, the Lord is in charge. I'm just so grateful I've been able to stay here on my mission. So THAT is really the big news I have this week. And I wasn't planning on ever mentioning it, but my mom told me she'd already told the whole ward and all our family... haha. So much for me keeping it to myself. Anyway, thanks for all your continued love and support and prayers. I CERTAINLY appreciate it!
That's all I really have time for. Sure do love you all! Have a great week!
Hello! Hermana Erickson and I had a great week and finished it the best way possible--with Wladimir's baptism!! (Yeah turns out this old Mexican man spells his name as if he were German...hahaha!) So It was a really beautiful baptismal service. Wladimir bore his testimony afterwards and he even cried. He is just SO happy. And if there was any doubt left in his mind before he was baptized that this is the true church and that this baptism was FOR REAL this time, the Holy Ghost definitely testified to his heart while he was bearing his testimony. Truly, a testimony is found in the bearing of it. :) Anyway, I just NEVER thought I would be around to see this change of heart. I thought it would take years. But, thanks to some wonderful member missionaries and that marvelous Holy Ghost, we witnessed a miracle. And truly, Wladimir has had a complete change of heart and couldn't be happier! Even this morning, Hna. E. and I looked at each other and said, "Can you believe WLADIMIR GOT BAPTIZED?!?!" haha Yeah. It's just that cool. God is really good to us. And to all of His children. And guess who did the baptism! Sergio! He was baptized just a couple weeks before I got here to Sylmar, so about 7 months ago. SO COOL. I love it! :) We had our Sisters' Conference on Tuesday, which was fantastic. I'm grateful for such wonderful leaders and for the outpouring of the Spirit that we were able to feel. We were definitely all edified together and we certainly rejoiced (D&C 50). :) I was almost sad that the whole mission wasn't there to hear the very wise words of counsel, training, and encouragement that we sisters got to hear. Almost... haha. I started exchanges with Hna. Clayton after the conference and we had a great time. Minus the fact that we were both sick and I didn't have a voice until just yesterday! haha But we taught some great lessons together, focusing really hard on teaching BY the Spirit and asking inspired questions and LISTENING in an effort to find out what our investigators really need. We had some great experiences. Based on those experiences, I trained my district on Friday on the power and importance of teaching BY the Spirit rather than just with, next to, in front of, or behind it as Matthew Richardson taught us in October's General Conference. I didn't have much of a voice, so I made everyone else talk. It was great! haha We also sang for Ward Conference yesterday to help out our ward "choir" and for Wladimir's baptism. It was a miracle that I got enough of my voice back to be able to fulfill my commitments. God is just pouring out his blessings upon us. I really hope that each of you are able to count your blessings and see the multitude of the Lord's tender mercies in your lives. He really does LOVE YOU. And I love you! So have a great week!! Love, Hermana Blackburn P.S. The pictures attached: 1) All the Sisters and Hermanas in the California San Fernando Mission with President and Sister Martin 2) All the Hermanas 3) Us with Wladimir and Sergio 4) Me and Vladimir just before his baptism
Winter is here in Southern California... It's raining. A lot. haha Hermana Erickson and I just count our blessings that we have a car! Anyway, it's been a pretty good week here in Sylmar. We had interviews with President and Stake Conference. And the biggest news I have to share is that Vladmir is ACTUALLY going to go through with his baptism on Sunday! Well, he still has to pass his interview tonight with Elder Ruiz, but if that goes well, then it's a go. It's been a long 6.5 months teaching that man, and I really wasn't sure if I would be around to see his baptism. But thanks to the miraculous work of the Spirit and some diligent members who have worked hard to befriend him on their own, he's come around. He is at EVERY meeting. Every class. Every activity. He just can't get enough of it now. What a beloved, quirky son of Our Heavenly Father... but I'm so very blessed to know him. I have had to stretch myself as a person and a missionary in order to teach him. So it's been a good... growing experience. haha But hopefully next week I'll be able to inform you that Vladmir ACTUALLY DID get baptized! haha Tomorrow we have a Sisters' Training... that should be VERY interesting to see what direction it goes. haha And then we're going on exchanges. Hermana Clayton is going to come here with me and Hermana Erickson gets to go be on bike with her MTC companion, Hermana Busch... which she's of course very excited about. It should be a pretty good week... definitely busy! I don't really have much time. But I love you all and I hope you have a great week. The Church is true. Trust the Spirit. Read the Book of Mormon. Love, Hermana Blackburn
So last week I reached my 6-month mark here in Sylmar! CRAZY! And the best part of that landmark day was setting a baptismal date with VLADMIR... Yep that cooky 63 yr old that I've been teaching for almost as long. He accepted the 29 January as his goal, so I guess we'll see if he follows through with it. But just the SETTING of the date is LANDMARK progress for this evangelical. I will rest in peace if I can see Vladmir baptized before I leave this area. We're just SO happy about this!
We also sang at a wedding and a baptism this week... and the more people that hear us sing, the more places we are requested... particularly at baptisms. haha Who would've thought that I would EVER be asked to sing so much? Man... it's a good thing that Latinos are mostly tone deaf I guess, because everything sounds good to them. haha
I don't really have much time to write about anything else. Sorry! I'm cruising through the D&C and the Book of Mormon... already on section 98 and finishing 1 Nephi, respectively. That's been reall fun to do actually. And I have also started studying landmark prophet-missionaries in the scriptures. I'm learning SO MUCH. Maybe next week I can expound a bit more on that. Until then, just know that I love you all. Thanks for all your prayers, love, and support. All three are still very much needed and appreciated!
I really don't have much to say this week. I really haven't been feeling very well, and I really felt like we did almost nothing all week long. But then when Sunday night comes around and we send in our numbers I've realized that we've done TWICE as much work as I had realized and that we met almost all our goals. How on EARTH did we do that??? Well, Duh, the answer is obvious. We did that on earth, because God and His angels were working overtime in HEAVEN to help us out. And really, I feel so very blessed and so very loved by Heavenly Father. So many nights this last week as I prayed He just enveloped me in love and with the Spirit. It's caused me to think a lot about the Gift of the Holy Ghost and how it is one of the COOLEST gifts God could EVER give us! I am convinced that if nonmembers could really grasp just ONE thing about the Gospel--the Gift of the Holy Ghost and what it REALLY means to have Him as our CONSTANT companion--that they would not ever hesitate or delay making a covenant with God through baptism, no matter what obstacles appeared in their way. So if you are a member or nonmember and DON'T currently understand the Gift of the Holy Ghost, I invite you to study this glorious gift that God wants to give all of His children, and to do all that is necessary for you to receive this gift in your life. If you want suggestions of where or how to learn more, email me. ;)
Well, since we spent so much time in last week, I did A LOT of studying. I'm a week ahead in my reading schedule! haha I'm in D&C 61 and 1 Nephi 15 already... so that's good. :) I took some time last night and sued the D&C dvds to help me in my studies. No matter how much I know things about the history of the church, I am still impressed more and more with the faith of those who gave up literally EVERYTHING to restore Christ's true church to the earth once more. Not only did they sacrifice their lives and die for the cause of truth, but even more of them consecrated their lives to LIVE for the cause of truth. I also finished reading "Daughters in My Kingdom-- the work and history of Relief Society" that we received a few months ago. It is full of accounts about faithful women who have honored their covenants, helped establish the church all around the world, and gone about doing good for their families, friends, and communities. It was a most inspiring experience to read about all these diligent and devoted women. I STRONGLY encourage all of you to read it, no matter your gender or membership in the church. It's SO COOL!!!!!!!!!! Seriously! :)
That pretty much sums up all I had to say this week. But my prayers are with you all. Keep reading the Book of Mormon! He's one of my best friends. Truly.
I love you all!
PS I just stumbled upon this, and I don't think it's by coincidence. Elder Jay E. Jensen spoke at the CES Devotional yesterday about the "Unspeakable Gift of the Holy Ghost." You should all go to www.lds.org and watch it!! :)
This week has been full and busy, but I don't actually know if it was productive... if that makes sense. Latinos love parties. Any excuse for a party... they'll have one. So most of the people we tried to visit with this week were too busy, not interested, or not coherent enough to meet with us. Hopefully this week will be more productive as far as moving the work forward. :)
There were some highlights though. We had a couple REALLY great, powerful lessons as we taught by the Spirit. One was with Sylvia, a sweet widow of a year who's living with her son's family who are members (but only her daughter-in-law is active). We retaught her about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, used the Book of Mormon to address many of her doubts and concerns, and invited her to be baptized... for like the 10th time. haha She finally agreed that she would pray about it and would be willing to act on whatever answer she gets. We'll see what happens...
The other awesome lesson was with Jose and Marta. We read Elder Dallin H. Oaks' talk from this October General Conference, "Teachings of Jesus." It's SUCH a good talk because it teaches us clearly and powerfully WHO Christ is and What He did, and therefore what WE need to DO. So good. And we were able to have a great discussion and answer many of their concerns along the way. The Spirit was so strong. We invited Jose to be baptized when Marta stepped out of the room. He's ready. He knows it. And he said he WANTS to get baptized but wants to do it with Marta. He almost said yes though. haha But seriously. So we invited her when she returned, and she said no. She's not ready, and doesn't understand the idea of setting GOALS and working TOWARDS it, no matter how clearly we've explained it. So what's the difference between this husband and wife who have all been in the same lessons, the same Church meetings, etc.? Why does one feel prepared and one doesn't? Because one has been reading the Book of Mormon and one hasn't. Really, that is the only outward difference between their actions. Obviously I'm sure they have some differences in their hearts too... but as far as going through the same motions, that is the ONLY difference. And in the end, that is the KEY. I'm not going to get on my Book of Mormon soapbox again right now... but seriously people, JUST READ IT!!!!! You're going to LOVE IT!!!!! :)
Speaking of the Book of Mormon, I reached my goal!! I finished reading the whole thing by the end of the year in Spanish. I started over in August, so it was really cool to read it all in such a short amount of time. And in Spanish. :) Yeah! So I decided to set a new goal, a harder goal for 2012/my mission: I want to read the whole standard works--The Old and New Testaments, The Book of Mormon, The Doctrine & Covenants, and the Peal of Great Price--all in Spanish by the end of my mission. Yikes! Not going to lie... that's going to be rough, but I'm stoked about it! I made reading calendars for myself yesterday and it's going to be great! I decided that I don't want to neglect reading the Book of Mormon though, so I'm going to read a chapter from that and then about 10-12 pages from the other scriptures assigned for each day. I'm starting with the Doctrine & Covenants and will end with the New Testament. Really, I'm SO PUMPED about it!!!! Anyone want to join me??? ;) haha
We had a funny experience this week... We showed up to teach our investigator Sebastian (9), and he started crying because he didn't want to come down and talk to us. hahahahahaha Oh man... Funny. And tragic. Didn't realize he felt so tortured by us! And his family are members! haha
Also for P-Day yesterday we found the COOLEST PLACE in all of Sylmar. It's a Cactus Farm! Decorated with international antiques... and cool sculptures made from horseshoes. I'm sure I'm doing a terrible job of describing it, so hopefully I can attach some pictures. But it was really cool. However, the COOLEST part was who we met while we were there. God is so cool. I love how He just orchestrates everything so beautifully to take care of His children. We scared this man, Bobby, who was working on a car and didn't know we were wandering around the grounds. So we introduced ourselves. We said,
And he said, "Oh, for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?"
"How can I start going there?"
"Just come! It's at 11 every Sunday!"
"I should write this down," as he leaves to find a pad of paper and pen...
Yeah. That REALLY HAPPENED. And so we talked to him for a really long time and he told us a good chunk about his life... like how he's been in and out of prison for the last 16 years and has now been out for 8 months... the longest chunk ever in those 16 years. What for you might ask? Well I didn't, but he told. Grand Theft Auto. haha I couldn't help but think of all those silly movies I always watched with the boys. Anyway, he is really cool, and is trying really hard to stay clean and felony-free and change his life around. So we exchanged contact info with him and hopefully the English Elders will stop by to see him pronto!
So that pretty much wraps things up... I still love you all! Hope you have a great first week of the new year!