Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Visiting Joplin one year later

"Good Morning! Thanks for the emails. We weren't able to email yesterday...due to the holiday so pretty much all day yesterday there was nothing to do. But that was alright for me because I am trying to read all the standard works in 6 weeks! Pretty crazy goal but I just finished up the Book of Mormon yesterday. Wow what a spiritual adventure, I was glued to the book. I can't believe how a book can be so amazing. It should be called the "The Tragedy of the Nephite Nation" It is so sad how they go through the pride cycle...Last week we had the opportunity to go down to Joplin, MO for the walk they did down the tornadoes' path. It was crazy there were like 10,000 people. We saw the destruction it left and the hospital that was moved off of its foundation 6 inches! The path hit our stake center and so part of the walk was watching the steeple be put back onto the almost finished building. We walked with the people in our suits (which was hot...) and it was pretty humbling. I took a lot of pictures and video. Then on Wednesday a less active in the Ward passed away, and the family asked the Bishop if he would conduct the service. He asked us to help and so we did and I had to dedicate the grave, it was a pretty neat experience. The bishop didn't know the guy and either did we... but we were glad to help, all of his family were not members and so the Bishop gave a good talk on the Plan of Salvation. After the service was over our day was pretty much spent and we were exhausted...we stood in the sun that whole funeral. The next day we had to drive to Carthage, MO for meetings and that's where I got a lot of reading done :) but man, I tell ya last week was tough, a lot of our appointments fell through and it seemed like we knocked on only mad people's doors. Enjoy your cold weather because it is hot and humid which makes it feel super hot, Utah hot is better. Take the Elder Blackburn challenge and read the Book of Mormon! It'll change your life. Pray before you read that you can understand what is being said. It works!"

Talk to ya later,
Elder Blackburn
PS our water heater got repaired and we are blessed with the warmth of the waters! Ah...such a blessing. ha ha

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A busy week in the mission field

Hello, Hello!

"How's everybody doing? Good, good. Alright well this week has been busy! So prepare yourselves for an emotional roller coaster, buckle up. I'll have you laughin' and cryin'. (well probably not but I'll try) So to start off I am allergy free thanks to the medicine my Mom sent...(big deep breath in through my nose) ahhhh... First off I love fireflies! They are the coolest bugs ever! Truly marvelous how they light up, I love seeing patches of them glow in the twilight air. I caught one in a jar but once you catch them I don't think they like to light up...earlier in the week we decided to clean up the area book and contact old contacts that Elders had ran into. We found a new investigator this way and she holds a lot of promise! It was a blessing. I learned that praying specifically will bring miracles, on a mission you basically need to expect miracles. We prayed one of the mornings "Heavenly Father please bless us with two new investigators..." Later as we went out I got the urge to knock on a door as we were traveling through, a young mom opened the door with her baby and let us come in. She told us how her mom was LDS but she wasn't and her husband and his family are Catholic and she doesn't know what to do and which church is true but wants her kids to have religion. We gave her the first lesson and hope to check on her tomorrow. Then later that day we met a former and she wanted us to teach her and so we did and we will be checking on her tomorrow as well. 2 new! It was awesome. A big miracle happened yesterday at church as well...A family we have been working with came to church! I could not believe it.  I am ashamed to say at times I felt it was a hopeless cause. They haven't been in over a year or so and they came yesterday! The spirit has truly been working on them and I felt a slice of Heavenly joy as I saw him and his family enter into the chapel. One of the speakers gave a great talk too and I hope they will continue to come! This week we haven't had the car and we have been working hard and we have walked about 12 miles and biked about 8. So these past few days I have been exhausted. I am slowly feeling myself get lost in this work and it feels amazing. The days zoom by and two years is not that long! My time is ticking to work in the vineyard so I am using every minute. If you want good scripture reading read from 2 Nephi 20 to Omni. The Isaiah chapters are a little rough but once you get to Chapters 25 through 33 in 2 Nephi, oh my goodness they are filled with such good doctrine! I can't believe we are blessed to have such knowledge. 

Here's a funny story, the other day we were service tracting where we ask "Hey we are doing service in your area is there anything we can do for you"... and we knocked on a door and two dogs came running around the corner, ran right past me and bit my companion! Ha not bad just a nip on the leg but it left a mark! The owner said the dog is up to date on his rabies so no worries. Also as we were normal tracting we ran into a minister of another church and once we found out in our heads went "Oh no...here comes a bible bash session..." Sure enough he told us that "You young men need to reevaluate your foundations..." I thought to myself "Really? My foundation is built upon Faith in Jesus Christ and his Atonement, Repentance, Baptism, the Gift of the Holy Ghost, Prophets, the Book of Mormon, Temples, Temple Work, Apostles, Tithing, Fasting, Prayer, The Plan of Salvation, and the Priesthood!" What's yours sir?" But we took the remarks he threw at us shook his hand and left, feeling gratitude for the sure foundations we are built upon. We as members of the Church have the most sure foundation you can have here on earth so if you don't know what your built upon take a look at that list of principles and tell yourself you have THE strongest foundation and make it tough as titanium as you go to church regularly, read daily, pray daily, pay tithing regularly, etc. That's the formula for unshaken faith! Anyways that's all for now, pretty fun week! Hope you all are doing well and we'll see ya next time!"

Elder Blackburn

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mother's Day phone call & more

Yesterday on Mother's Day, missionaries are allowed to call home - this is one of two times that we get to speak to him each year - the other is on Christmas Day.  Hayden called us at 4PM and we spoke for over an hour.  We had him on speaker phone for about 30 mins and then each person that was there spent some personal time with him.  
Apparently a lot of people suffer from allergies due to all of the trees, grass and vegetation in that part of the country and Hayden is no exception...he sounded a little stuffy - so his mom is working feverishly on an "allergy-relief" package.
He told us about the work and how difficult it can be - he and his companion are very hard workers - they tract, ride their bikes miles and miles, investigate far-flung small towns and talk to people on the street.  He wishes the population was more dense so that they could create more opportunities. 
In the short time he as been in the field, we see his success - his influence on the people of that region (and at home) is noticeable to us even though baptisms are hard to come by - he has settled in to the missionary lifestyle (cooking, cleaning, studying and learning how to be organized) and today marks exactly two months that he has been gone...so time does go by quickly!  We couldn't be more proud of what he is doing or the character and testimony he possesses.  Below is his latest email:

Howdy Ya'll!

"Yes yesterday was wonderful being able to talk to my family. That was totally a "boost"! Just what I needed. The weather has been so nice out here right now and hasn't had a thunderstorm for a while (knock on wood). It was good to hear you are all doing well. I couldn't imagine learning the lessons I am learning here on a mission, outside of a mission but here are some of the lessons I am learning.
1. How absolutely amazing the Gospel is and how lucky we are to have it in it's fulness at this time
2. How key the Book of Mormon is in conversion and how if you read it, it will testify that this church is true and Joseph Smith is a prophet and the Priesthood is restored (it truly is the keystone to our religion)
3. How incredible it is to have temples once again! No where else on Earth can you feel our Savior's Spirit so strongly and be sealed as a family for time and eternity and perform other necessary ordinances (We are so blessed!)
4. How hard mission work is (especially in the Bible Belt ha ha)
5. How much I love my family
6. How Prayer is real (before my mission I tried to take my prayers seriously but out here I have learned how in prayer you truly are talking to/with your Heavenly Father)
7. People are going to be rude but people were rude to the Savior so I feel privileged to be in his stead as a representative for him.
8. How uncomprehendable the atoning sacrifice of our Savior was.

Anywho that list will definitely grow as I grow but that's all I can think of... This week we are hoping to commit a young mom to a baptismal date! So that is exciting. The town is definitely different with the college students gone, a lot quieter ha ha. Once we were walking past some and I could hear one saying "hey ask them if they want a beer, it'll be funny" and the other saying "no don't be stupid" ha ha or some were chilling in this little pool and they were like "hey! come cool off dudes" (mockingly) and I was like "I wish I could!" or they'll taunt us "hey how many wives ya got?" ha just smile and wave Elder. Here is a quote from Elder Holland's Conference address, study those talks they were so amazing! "It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ's Atonement shines...His concern is for the faith at which you finally arrive, not the hour of the day in which you got there...It is never to late so long as the Master of the Vineyard says there is time." Amazing right? I love you all."

Elder Blackburn

Monday, May 7, 2012

Kansas, MO Temple Dedication & more...

Dear Family and Friends,

"This week was exciting and seemed to have gone by in a blur! Last Wednesday we went down to PSU and had our white board that we use when OTM - ing there (Open Thy Mouth). And there happened to be a guy yelling at a people, who was attracting a large crowd, and he was preaching to them that they were all going to the place of fire and brimstone and so we sat away from him further up this path and the students who would get frustrated by him would come and then see our message that said "Smile - you are a child of God" and they would ask about what we believe and want to know more. We taught so many people that soon we had a crowd of our own and we were teaching the Restoration left and right and us being there preaching a good message even made it into the local paper! We handed out 6 Books of Mormon and lots of pamphlets ha. It was a neat experience. Later that week we committed an investigator to baptism but sadly she is moving away, so the lucky Elders in her area will finish the job. But we are close with another! On Saturday night @ 6 we watched the Cultural Celebration for the Kansas City, MS Temple and it was so amazing! The youth of this area did dances and songs and it was fabulous! The Prophet was there and enjoyed it so much...it was awesome. We only watched a broadcast but many of the youth from our Ward were there. On Sunday we drove down with a family to Carthage to watch the Dedication and oh my! President Monson and Elder Holland both gave such amazing talks, as they usually do, but for some reason I could feel the spirit so much stronger, probably because they were in the Temple and a Temple being built there, where the early saints had such struggles, was a big deal. At the end they combined the dedication of the Kirtland and Salt Lake Temple by singing Hosanna Anthem and Spirit of God it was sweet. The first thing I want to do when I get home is go and just marvel at the Salt Lake Temple, I am so sad that I took our Temples for granted, I yearn to get back and do Temple work. The Salt Lake Temple is such a miracle, I wish to just touch the outside stone and walk around the beautiful, holy structure. It means so much more to me now. Go to the Temple as often as you can and do the work for those who cannot do the work for themselves, who are passed on, such a blessing to live in Utah surrounded by the Temples and by so many latter-day saints. Such a blessing! Other saints must sacrifice so much to enjoy the blessings of the Temple whereas, we are blessed to have them in such abundance! Also thank you to family who wrote me this past week! You have no idea how much letters mean to an Elder ha (they mean a lot! :) Anyways that is about all I have got for this week, more to come! I love and pray for you all! Have a great week and remember you are a child of a Heavenly Father who loves you so much! Let us show him how much we love him by obeying his commandments and following the example of the Savior."


Elder Blackburn

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Tracting and working hard...

"Hello and Welcome to this weeks edition of Kansas Missionary Moments!My name is Elder Blackburn and I'll be updating you on the happenings of my neck of the woods... 

We now have 6 new investigators so we're hoping we can get them progressing. We found that taking a white board to the campus with "What is the purpose of life?" on it gets good responses and discussions from students, we picked up one new investigator that way....sometimes you have "Missionary Slaps" where you have moments where you realize you are actually on your mission and you're time is ticking to serve. It's so strange to think I am actually on my Mission. Sometimes it's like I have soooo long to go but other times it's like ahhh I don't have that much time! ha The other day we went tracting in this really old mining town called Arcadia, it is now pretty much a ghost town and really eery but a few members live out there so we were visiting them and oh my it is just creepy, a lot of run down homes and buildings from like 1890 and mining buildings that are in ruin. A lot of small towns like that but luckily we live in the biggest town around here. The small towns we have members to see are Cherokee, Arma, Arcadia, Walnut, Mulberry, Weir, and Scammon. Old towns but neat stories. These towns used to be nice towns back when the coal mining was good but now they are all pretty run down and just old. Yesterday we went to a choir concert at a Methodist church because one of our investigators is in the PSU choir so we watched it there, they sang different Psalms. You can definitely tell the difference of Spirit at the different churches, so interesting I think....there are some big thunderstorms that have happened so pretty loud. You know that giant tornado that destroyed Joplin? Well, I didn't know how bad it was but my goodness you should hear the stories of the folks from around here, Joplin isn't too far away, it's really close and it is scary how bad that tornado was! The One Year Anniversary for that tornado is May 22nd I believe. The winds reached 285 miles an hour. pretty much everything was obliterated, there is a picture of a garden house through the stump of a giant tree. Crazy! The picture of me and the kid that looks funny is and Elder in my District from Canada and really funny so we meet up once a week for District Meeting ha ha he has some funny stories. This Wednesday I have exchanges with the Zone Leaders....That's about all the news I've got so until next time, we'll see ya."

Elder Blackburn
(humidity sometimes is not fun ha also I'm getting really brown because it's really sunny somedays ha also we think our tiny water heater isn't working so we have had what we call "Glacier showers" so much fun!)