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!