Monday, October 29, 2012

Another Baptism...and another six weeks in AR

"Well, transfer calls came on Saturday and I am here for another 6 weeks. No change in companion either so we are excited!  I think after this next transfer I will leave. So on Saturday we had another baptism! And I forgot to bring my camera here to the library so, I don't have the picture with me but it was so special. It was amazing and gosh, missionary work has it's ups and downs but this just made it all better. So the sister we baptized has had a long road to the font and I was just so darn proud of her. It just shows how the spirit and gospel takes time and it does change people. I will try to explain the story. She has a super less active husband and we met with them a lot my first transfer here in July and I thought wow, this might take longer than expected but overtime I've been able to watch the whole family progress and her son is being baptized in two weeks! At first the spirit in the home was of chaos, kids were being crazy, they were frustrated and it just seemed like a problem always arose to stop them from progressing. But after consistent lessons and never giving up, and suddenly their countenances started to change. The lessons started to sink in. It was nothing short of a miracle! Now the spirit in there home is calmer and loving. I told them, "Wow, the Spirit in your home is so nice! I love it!" Her son said the closing prayer at the Baptism and he was so nervous but he did such a great job and it was really special. These precious moments are the diamonds of the missionary mine I like to say. After tons and tons and tons of digging and coming up with nothing but a growing pile of dirt and rocks you finally come across a beautiful diamond. (It can go more in depth too because a diamond has to undergo a lot of time and pressure or in a spiritual sense trials or acts of faith first, so early missionaries start the process and some get to mine them up kind of a different spin on the sower analogy) I will always hold their family close to my heart and I am so happy I was here to see this whole experience. I don't have much to say today, just that no matter how low you think you are or how lost you think you may be the gospel and the Atonement of Christ can always find you and pull you back up or put you back on track. When I talk to people tracting or investigators I just picture in my head that they are already members! It makes it fun and replaces the doubts you have. I don't think I have ever been happier and sadder in my life then on my mission. At times you feel you have no one to teach and it seems all your investigators are falling away and you just throw yourself on your bed and cry because you love them and know that the gospel can change them but they just don't try or they don't listen or don't believe in what you are telling them. But when you see an investigator work through trials and enter those waters of baptism you can't be happier! Your heart is "brim with joy" as Ammon says of his own missionary experiences with the Lamanites. All these moments brought to us because of the Atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ. I am so grateful for that sacrifice. I often ask myself why did he do it? Why? Why put yourself through so much for us? For me? He loves us. He loves me. He wants us to return. He knows our potential and wants us to reach it. He knew we had fallen but with his help we can rise! His experience was incredibly horrifying but he went through with it. He pleaded with the Father to take this cup from me. Please don't make me do it, find another way, please! But an angel came and probably told him you must go through with it but it is your choice, Heavenly Father knew you could do it and that's why he chose you and ordained you, if you don't everything you helped create will go back to outer chaos, you are the only one who can save your Father's children. So Jesus made that choice that he would go through with it and he did. Thy will be done and he took that bitter cup and drank it all. It wasn't a mere kneeling prayer, he threw himself across the ground and fell on his face, so much blood was going through his circulatory system that it was forced through his sweat glands and great drops of blood fell from his pores...That pure, innocent lamb, a harsh word never left his mouth, nor a bad thought enter into his mind and he went through so much and after that Atonement he then went through torture and was treated like a vile criminal...Heavenly Father's little boy, his Son, smitten, striped, slapped, spat on, and for what? He never fought back or spoke back, he took it all and after being striped by a cat of nine tails he was given his cross and forced to march. He was so kind, so gentle, he spent his days healing the blind, the sick, the diseased, the people no one wanted to be around or care about. Upon the cross, to make the total experience complete Heavenly Father had to with draw his presence from his Son to see if Jesus would finish the task. Christ asked in agony why have you forsaken me? But he took it and said it is finished. He had done it and he did do it, Christ has atoned for our sins. He won! Christ has won death and overcome the world! Believe it!"

Elder Blackburn

Monday, October 22, 2012

Arkansas October

Hello Family and Friends,
"This week was...better. We have a baptism this Saturday which should be a great experience. I'm glad my words were able to touch the hearts of those in the ward. That means a lot due to most of the time I feel like my words reach no one...I have become even more determined in my studies, I love to sit in my little "office" desk I have with a notebook, my scriptures, and ensigns. I could spend the rest of my mission studying as I have developed a hunger for knowledge.
One of my absolute favorite talks is by Elder Boyd K. Packer, I'm sure you've heard it or heard references to it, it is his "Spiritual Crocodiles" talk. I think by now I can recite it by memory but I just love the way he tells it and the great message behind his story of traveling to Africa. He tells how he always dreamed of going on safaris as a kid as other boys played cowboy he was pretending to hunt wild safari animals. His dream of going on a safari came as he was assigned to dedicate 8 chapels in South Africa. One of the days spent there was September the 10, his birthday, and he was given the opportunity to tour a game preserve. (he says they are rather odd because the people are put in cages and the animals left to run free ha ha) He was with a ranger and came across some muddy elephant tracks that were filled with a little bit of water that animals were nervously trying to drink from. (it was a dry year and water was found mostly in muddy elephant tracks as they stepped in the mud water would sink in the depression left) He asked the ranger why the animals were so nervous and he responded "Crocodiles." Elder Packer knew he must be joking and said "No, really what is it?" the Ranger answered again "Crocodiles", "Nonsense" Elder Packer replied. Elder Packer was not uninformed he had read many books on the animals and besides everyone knows you can't hid a crocodile in an elephant track! The ranger saw he did not believe him so he drove up to an embankment and peered down and the muddy track. He didn't see any crocodile and then all of the sudden he could see the big reptile settled in the mud waiting for an unexpected gazelle or wildebeest to take a sip. Elder Packer explains the lesson he learned, around us are many spiritual crocodiles camouflaged even better than those reptiles of Africa and can hide in the smallest of things, and they are far more dangerous than real ones, they could mutilate or kill your soul. He says sometimes in life we must depend fully on the words of guides who have been around longer and who have probed the holes and can warn us of the danger. Although they don't go by "guides" they go by Mother, Father, Church Leader, and Bishop. His know-it-all attitude could have proved fateful had the ranger said "Go out and see for yourself!" He learned that yes, you can hide a crocodile in an elephant track and to trust those that know better. We too must listen and follow the counsel of those that know better. Often times the attitude I had at home was "I know better, in fact I think I know more than my parents and other leaders do." That attitude wasn't worthy of me, I hope you know better than I did. I since have learned that one of the safest and most simplest ways to make it back to Heavenly Father is to do what your parents tell you to do. Had I fully followed that I think I would have not been nipped and bit by a few crocodiles I stumbled into earlier in life. Luckily there is first aid in the Atonement of Christ and we can be healed from the injuries left by those celestial carnivores.

Yesterday I had a family in the ward call my family and tell them hello and that I love them for me. They are an awesome family that are always helping us out. They are converts and have been members for four years. After the phone call they said your father sounded so happy! And were impressed with his fluency in Espanol ;) on my way back to the apartment I reflected on how my father was probably beaming after that unexpected call. It struck me then how I am a son to a father. I have been studying so much about The Father and The Son that I forgot that I am a son to a father too! I felt a glimpse of what it must be like to have a son of my own, part of me in a little boy that resembles me and how hard it would be to send that little one on a mission. I felt the love I would have for that little one and suddenly felt not only how much love my Father in Heaven has for me but how much my Earthly father loves me. I believe I have the best parents in the world and am so grateful to be their son. How amazing it is that we as humans have the ability to make an earthly tabernacle for Heavenly Fathers spirit children and through those powers we can invite little boys and little girls to come and live with us, in the image of both Heavenly and Mortal parentage. I am proud to be who I am, and often times that fact alone helps me get through a lot. The sweet inspired words of the children's song "I am a Child of God" often is enough to pull tears out of this Missionary serving in Arkansas. The line "I am a Child of God and he has sent me here has given me an Earthly home with Parents kind and dear lead me, guide me, walk beside me, help me find the way, teach me all that I must do to live with him some day."

He has sent me to an Earthly home and to Parents kind a dear, he's leading me, he's guiding me, he is walking beside and showing me the way, he's teaching me all that I must do to live with him someday.

Heavenly Father loves us so much that he gave up his own little boy for our sake.
For that I am eternally grateful."

Elder Blackburn

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A Tender Mercy...

About 7PM this evening (Sunday) the phone rang, it was an odd area code so Todd went in the other room thinking it was a political ad or something.  The lady on the other end said "habla espaƱol" and mentioned she was calling from Arkansas.  Todd realized this was a family that Elder Blackburn has mentioned several times in his letters - they frequently take the Elders to fun places on p-day, feed them dinner and has them over for holiday's and other occasions.  It seems like in every mission there is a family that loves the Elders and becomes their "home away from home".  These are always special people, because they continue to give this service even though the missionaries come and go in and out of their lives.  It takes a commitment to the gospel and service that few of us obtain.  After brushing the rust off of his brain, Todd conversed in Spanish and could hear Hayden in the background...we learned that they are converts of about four years from El Salvador - the father grew up in the states.  Their two-year old daughter loves Hayden and they said we should be proud of him - he works hard, is engaged in the work and is very well behaved...needless to say, this makes us very proud.  Just today, Jonia gave a missionary report in Sacrament meeting, so to hear from his mission was a tender mercy on this nice beautiful fall day.

Monday, October 15, 2012

A long week in the field

"Well, this week was a long one...but we taught a lot of lessons which is always a boost. I also went on exchanges with the Zone Leaders in Little Flock and had a good experience there. We taught a guy (around 20 yrs old) and he said he had some "notes" for us to look at. Upon seeing his notes me and the other Elder realized it was just Anti-Mormon media copy and pasted to a word document. We proceeded in answering all of the questions and one after another he deleted the questions by the end he just deleted the whole document and said, "Wow, it must be true." He promised he wouldn't look up any Anti anymore and to stay on and, Anti just clouds peoples minds and puts doubts and bad seeds into their soul. It was a testimony builder for me because it just showed how true and correct our church and doctrine really is. We belong to Jesus Christ's Church, our doctrine is plain and precious and simple. It just makes sense! What I don't get is how people who profess to be well versed in scripture still believe in their way after a couple of 19 yr. old boys counter the attacks they throw and can explain hard doctrine so simply and purely that they can't but not understand what we teach. Our minds as missionaries are expanded and enlightened as we have modern day revelation to study as well as the Book of Mormon, our knowledge increases with the help of the Holy Ghost that we can have with us at all times to help bring things to our remembrance when we need it. (D&C 100:6) No one can stop this work from progressing! The true church can rely on 19 and now 18 year old boys because it is true! If it weren't the church would have crashed and burned many years ago. Isn't it remarkable and awe inspiring how 18-21 year olds are the ones who spread the Gospel around the world and put everything on hold to do it, and pay for it themselves? The growth of the Church rests upon the shoulders of teenagers? It does because it is true! And lead by a Prophet of God who receives revelation for the Church. Just by those facts someone should be able to sense something special about our Church. No other church can do that. 

Some days it can be really hard as a missionary, we as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints hold the knowledge of how to truly have a happy life and the real truth but often times people don't want to hear it and it is really difficult to see people turn down what you know can change their lives. We have a product that doesn't fail! It is free! Life Eternal is FREE! The only cost is our agency, that is, to turn over the one thing we can give to our Heavenly Father: our will. If we make His will our will we are promised amazing blessings and will have rewards waiting for us in the next life that are incomprehensible and unfathomably magnificent. We are promised to become "joint heirs with Christ"! You can realize how sad it truly is as a missionary when you knock on someone's door and someone answers who you know and can tell is having a hard time and tells us "Sorry, I am not interested." This man has no idea he can be sealed to his family for eternity, that he has a plethora of blessings waiting on command for him if he does but pray, read the Book of Mormon, get baptized and join himself with the Kingdom of God on Earth! All the questions he has asked himself that he can't find answers to, are found in our Church. We are so blessed. Never take for granted the knowledge, the blessings, the joy we have as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints."

Elder Blackburn

Monday, October 8, 2012

Meet the newest member of the Church

Elder Blackburn is so good when working with younger kids, they simply seem drawn to his spirit.  Many of you may not remember, but Hayden baptized his little sister when he was a recently ordained Priest - so this is actually his second baptism.  We are very proud of his sister for making her choice and for the young man in this picture, who has an eternal buddy in Elder Blackburn.

A great weekend!

"Well, well, well, so they change the age! Oh, my goodness! I cannot believe sisters can leave so much earlier! That is pretty amazing...That was such a good conference, the sessions went by WAY too absolute favorite talk was by Elder Holland. I was surprised how many talks were around Peter's ministry, it is pretty coincidental because I just read all that in Jesus the Christ (only 70 pages left) Also, I had my very first baptism on Friday :) it was amazing, to work so hard and see him enter the waters of baptism was just icing on the cake. I was asked to confirm him. As I was confirming him the spirit manifested to me that one day I will be doing this for my own kids. We sang "When I am Baptized". The scripture in D&C 18:5 is so true. My joy is so great. On Saturday we watched the sessions at a member's house...we watched the talks while on comfy couches and they have a cute little dog named Sodie.  It has been really cold here, like 40 degrees as the high! So weird to go from so hot to so cold.

Lately I have been wondering why I have not seen a big change in who I am, my actions, etc. and so I did some studying. I came to the conclusion that although my knowledge was improving, knowledge alone can't change me, it has to be applied. I realized that I have merely been changing my behaviors while being out but my nature is still what I call the "old Hayden" well, the reason I loved Elder Holland's talk was because I saw Peter as me, after tarrying with the Lord and after his crucifixion he returned to being a fishermen, to what he knew best. I saw that if I just finished my mission and went home and wasn't truly converted I would do what I knew best which is being well... a bum basically (excuse the bluntness) When Elder Holland quoted the Savior asking, "Peter, do you love me?" I heard "Hayden, do you love me?".....I'd answer "Yea Lord, thou knowest that I love thee I am on a mission for thee."...."Hayden, do you love me?" After reflecting on the talk later during the day I knew that I have a lot to work on. If I really love the lord how am I showing it? Do my actions show that I love the lord? Do my thoughts reflect my love for the lord? Do I serve like I love the lord? I realized I must become converted or I will come home the same and I do NOT want that and either does Heavenly Father. I want them proud of who I became because I thrusted my sickle in with all my heart, might, mind, and strength. I put it all on the table and grabbed that plough and pushed forward not looking back. How can I change my nature? Well, I must apply the principles the scriptures teach. I must have charity, I must have love, I must have patience, I must have humility, I must give my will over to the Father and give myself to His will. That is how I will change. I have embarked on a journey within a journey and this one is to become the person Heavenly Father knows I can become, the Priesthood holder he created me to become. I have ALL the tools I need and 17 months to get started on this journey that will never end, this time isn't just to change others lives it is to change my own. Perhaps that is why I was sent here, I hardly see successes, I don't have to learn a language, I don't see exotic things, I just needed hard work because I needed to be humbled. Heavenly Father is probably thinking, "Whoo, I thought he'd never get it." My goal is to make my will, his will."

Elder Blackburn
Alma 5:12

Monday, October 1, 2012

Another weeeeeeeeeek...

"Well, just another week down here in Arkansas... not much to report...let me see here. My companion and I have just been working like usual, but while tracting last week I was just like "Man, this stinks, I have been tracting for 6 1/2 months and haven't had any success!" I'm just so used to doors slammed in my face that it doesn't even phase me, I'm a seasoned tracter you could say... So that night we prayed hard that we could receive some success from all the hard work we've been doing. Surprisingly the next day a member from another ward called us and said they had someone to teach, we went to the address and sure enough there was a guy waiting for us and accepted all commitments and even asked when's the soonest him and his daughter could be baptized ha I was like whoa, whoa we gotta teach ya the doctrine a little first ha ha. We'll see if he is golden or not in our next visit with him. I sure hope so. We can't believe another Conference is here, as a missionary this is like our Superbowl. ha ha It's crazy that we were at the MTC to watch Conference and next week it will be 6 months and 3 weeks since that experience. Only two more sessions to go and I'll be back home. Weird, isn't it? 2 years, so short yet so long yet so short ha. 

I'm almost done with Jesus the Christ - man I love that book- I feel like I've come to know my Savior much more deeply than before. James E. Talmage does a tremendous job at informing you on the geography of his life, chronology of the events, and the circumstances leading up to his crucifixion and why the pharisees and Sadducees were so hostile towards him. I think my favorite months are March/April and September/October reasons for that: nice weather, and fun things are going on. (also conference ha ha) Seriously to a missionary Conference is the World Cup to us. Man, I'm excited. I'm giddy with excitement really. We have a baptism is this Friday so I will take lots of pics for you guys..he is like our little brother now. He is such a good kid. We've taught him so much that we are running out of things to teach him so we made up this really fun game for him. I'll have to take a picture of it because it will take forever to explain. Do you remember that John Tvednes guy I talked about a few emails ago? Well, he is coming to our District Meeting on Wednesday! Yahoo! So this week is just going to be awesome!"
Elder Blackburn