Monday, March 10, 2014

To the youth of the Church -

To all who read this:

If you are a youth in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints I plead with you to prepare yourself to serve a mission, it is your duty young men to give these two short years to the Lord who has given us so much. I make a promise that if you serve faithfully and work hard that you will experience miracles, have a mighty change of heart, grow at an incredible rate (spiritually, mentally, emotionally, physically), and come closer to the Savior then you have ever been in your life. The only thing that can save peoples lives and help the world become a better place is by you preaching the gospel. There are members, companions, mission presidents, investigators, less actives, that the Lord has in store for you to meet and for you to learn from. There are people out there waiting for the gospel that only you can touch. You can take part in bringing them to our Heavenly Father and watch their conversion. You have a fail-proof message that will continue to be spread until it has "penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear", you can either take part in this great harvest of souls and reap blessings "that you will not have room enough to receive" or watch from the side as the work moves on, which it will with or without you. Change your life and change the world, serve a mission.

Elder Hayden T. Blackburn
Oklahoma Tulsa Mission
March 2012-2014

This is thoughts from the Elder

2 years gone by, they seemed to fly,
at first I thought I'm gonna die,
scared and alone in the MTC,
but hey everyone here is just like me,
the spirit so strong we learned how to teach,
we practiced all day and learned how to preach,
some of us had to learn dignified speech,
we learned about the joy of mail,
and how MTC food leftovers can become rather stale,
excited we waited to leave for the field,
but first we had to learn to His will we yield,
we stepped on the plane our hearts beating fast,
this mission things fun in fact its a blast,
we arrive in Tulsa and meet the President and his wife,
shoot, they are nice, this could be the life!
assigned to a trainer he doesn't seem like a meanie,
well here I am the official new 'greenie',
we study and pray, he shows me the way,
I'm kinda nervous at first, what should I say?
I open my mouth the words seem to flow,
as I invite them to read and pray, then they'll know,
Moroni's promise, the Restoration,
the Book of Mormon, the Plan of Salvation,
this teaching stuffs fun if only they'll listen,
finish the day, exhausted and tired,
wake up in the morning feeling re-fired,
knock on some doors and try to get in,
most slammed in my face good ol' rejection,
dang where's the glory?
Uh, oh I think it's time for another inventory,
I learn to love the people I serve,
the road to baptism sometimes takes a curve,
work through the troubles, the rules obey,
it always gets better with each coming day,
trust in the Lord, in his footsteps tread,
I hope and pray that my investigators read,
sometimes its hard, to the Lord I cry,
and wonder with tears, 'Heavenly Father, why?'
why can't we find a family to teach,
I feel like to the wall that I preach,
I crashed my bike, I got no mail,
I feel like there's no wind in my sails,
But oh there's a person lets talk to that guy,
"Hello we're missionaries, my companion and I,
we have a message for you about the Book of Mormon"
"Well, how 'bout you'ins come on back in the mornin',
I feel something good about what you have to say,
but let me first feed my cows some hay"
he seems promising, that was awesome,
oh! look out...roadkill possum,
the members here are wonderful and kind,
I wonder who the Lord sent me here to find,
you teach a referral and they are ready,
to accept baptism and then stay steady,
there's no greater feeling then testifying,
and know they feel the spirit, and you both start crying,
some family oppose, some trials await,
until their scheduled baptismal date,
the day comes and they are washed clean,
there is no better scene,
after the weeks you count the years,
so many good experiences compensate the tears,
soon the time comes that you are called back to your family,
I can't describe the feeling inside of me,
my hearts been changed, my mind enlightened,
my spirit enlarged my horizon heightened,
all these experiences have helped me grow,
it's crazy how fast these two years go...

Elder Hayden T. Blackburn

Short emails over the past three weeks...everyone is getting excited for Elder Blackburn's return!

The past three weeks:

March 3rd:
Hey this email will be pretty quick...I plan on making the last one nice 'n long. It snowed like 8 inches last was getting so nice but now plunged back into the arctic...

Feb 24th:
Well, the day is coming soon...I don't know how it keeps coming faster but it does. This week was awesome and I am doing great. I have been reading the "Infinite Atonement" by Tad R. Callister and I highly recommend that book to anyone who would like to learn more on the Atonement. Today we are going "cave-ing" so I'm excited...
Elder Blackburn

Feb 18th:
Hey Family and friends,
So yesterday was Presidents' Day so that's why you didn't receive an email...this past week was sooo good. We are doin' work down here in West Plains and seeing many miracles. I'm just trying to work as hard as I can...but guess what? President just let us know that Elder Callister of the seventy is coming March 14th so I am going to try and see him before coming home...I hope he will either do a little mini-devotional for us missionaries going home (because he'll have to spend the night with us too March 13th) or something because Elder Callister is one of my favorites...
anyways I'm doing great...and feeling old...
Elder Blackburn

Monday, February 10, 2014

Snow and Ice

Last Monday (Feb 3rd) we did not receive an email from Elder Blackburn - it turns out he was back in Tulsa (probably at a meeting or to pick up other missionaries) plus the weather shut down a lot of the public buildings throughout the mid-west.  We had heard that many families went without the weekly email, but that everyone was safe.  None-the-less, we were very grateful to hear from him today and that everything was okay in the OTM.

32 days left and just figuring things out :)

Hey Everybody,

How are ya? I'm doing great. Just enjoying this new area... last week we weren't able to email because we drove to Tulsa and on the way back it was super icy and snowy, so we stayed and drove home the next day... it's like 7 hours of driving to Tulsa from here...This new area is awesome we live in an old bed and breakfast members own and we live in the servant's quarters or as I say with an english accent (servants qo'tas) its like a small apartment on the roof of this big old house. We had a very cool experience yesterday and I will share it with ya'll when I get back. But as I am reading the scriptures and PMG everything is starting to make sense. The phrase most elders share when they get home of, "Right as you start to get missionary work, they send you home." IS SO TRUE...I was pondering why now at the end of my mission I am starting to truly learn all of these lessons. Why didn't the lessons sink in at the MTC? Why hadn't anyone taught me these lessons or warned me or prepared me? But then I got an answer. Perhaps I had been taught at the MTC these lessons and had been warned and prepared but these lessons can only be learned by experience...the same reason we have the veil, how else can we learn important lessons then by trial and error and by experience. That is why the Savior's Atonement is so crucial, it allows us to learn and grow and become clean, if we couldn't make mistakes we couldn't learn and overcome. No matter how much our spirits were prepped and taught by Heavenly Father in our premortal past, those lessons couldn't be totally understood or learned but by going to earth with no memory of our past and being able to be tested and tried, in turn the holy spirit would help us remember those lessons we once learned by testifying truth to us. The only way we can truly learn about our Savior is by acting as he would, no matter how much we read about Christ, those lessons in the scriptures can only be learned by application. It is so cool that now I am starting to understand everything.

Elder Blackburn

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The last transfer

Well, I got my last transfer calls yesterday night and they are switching the Zone Leader area from Mountain Grove to West Plains so I will be moving down there Thursday...pretty exciting, I knew they were going to do that (since it's central to all the areas). So West Plains Missouri will be my final Mission destination. So with packing this week I will be sending home anything that is not necessary for these last 6 weeks...It is pretty hard to say goodbye to this ward and Elder Holyoak, it has been a wonderful two transfers here and the ward was pretty devastated we were both headed out. Elder Holyoak's going to Ft. Smith, AR.

The thought I'm sharing with the friends I have made here in MG is based off a talk by Elder Ballard:

"Oftentimes we are like the young merchant from Boston, who in 1849, as the story goes, was caught up in the fervor of the California gold rush. He sold all of his possessions to seek his fortune in the California rivers, which he was told were filled with gold nuggets so big that one could hardly carry them.

Day after endless day, the young man dipped his pan into the river and came up empty. His only reward was a growing pile of rocks. Discouraged and broke, he was ready to quit until one day an old, experienced prospector said to him, “That’s quite a pile of rocks you are getting there, my boy.”

The young man replied, “There’s no gold here. I’m going back home.”

Walking over to the pile of rocks, the old prospector said, “Oh, there is gold all right. You just have to know where to find it.” He picked two rocks up in his hands and crashed them together. One of the rocks split open, revealing several flecks of gold sparkling in the sunlight.

Noticing a bulging leather pouch fastened to the prospector’s waist, the young man said, “I’m looking for nuggets like the ones in your pouch, not just tiny flecks.”

The old prospector extended his pouch toward the young man, who looked inside, expecting to see several large nuggets. He was stunned to see that the pouch was filled with thousands of flecks of gold.

The old prospector said, “Son, it seems to me you are so busy looking for large nuggets that you’re missing filling your pouch with these precious flecks of gold. The patient accumulation of these little flecks has brought me great wealth.”

This story illustrates the spiritual truth that Alma taught his son Helaman:

“By small and simple things are great things brought to pass. …

“… And by very small means the Lord … bringeth about the salvation of many souls” (Alma 37:6–7).

Brothers and sisters, the gospel of Jesus Christ is simple, no matter how much we try to make it complicated. We should strive to keep our lives similarly simple, unencumbered by extraneous influences, focused on those things that matter most.

What are the precious, simple things of the gospel that bring clarity and purpose to our lives? What are the flecks of gospel gold whose patient accumulation over the course of our lifetime will reward us with the ultimate treasure—the precious gift of eternal life?" This lesson changed my mission because at the beginning I, like the young merchant, thought that if I just went out tracting I would find "nuggets"(example of a "nugget": a family that would have had a dream where they met me and their family of 8 people were all ready to join the church)...well, that's not exactly how missionary work goes. It takes patience, endurance, and lots of faith. I realized that while I was searching for those "nugget" experiences I was missing the"tiny flecks of gold" (example of "flecks": handing out a Book of Mormon, testifying to someone, teaching someone, having an investigator come to church, going on exchanges with a member, working with a less-active, making relationships with members) After I learned this I began to cherish each little fleck of gold and now as I near the end of this magnificent journey I have a pouch of flecks that I can reflect upon the rest of my life. I then like to explain that the opportunity to have met them and teach them has been one of those flecks that I will cherish forever. :)

Love all ya'll,

Elder Blackburn

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

52 days...

The following email was sent Jan 21st - due to the MLK holiday, he was unable to get to a public computer.

Hey just a quick email on Tuesday, yesterday we spent all day "logging"...we had a woodcut for people in the ward who are low on wood so us and 4 other guys spent from 12 - 5 cutting up wood, splitting, rolling logs, etc. we were both wasted and crashed when we got home after unloading at about 8...tough work, that's for sure. Then like zombies we arose this morning and went and milked the cows ha feels great though to be tired because that means you're doing something, plus it makes falling asleep a snap.
I received a portion of my "trunky papers" and part of it I had to write almost an essay of "My most memorable spiritual experience" and then send it back to the mission office for President. I pretty much just said that my mission has been my life's most memorable spiritual experience and without it I know I would have had a very hard time in life...I can't imagine my life without my mission for now I feel like I have finally found myself...Christ's statement: Matt. 16:25 "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it." I think that's why the Lord allows us 18-19 year olds be full-time representatives for two years. We learn who we are and in this state of heightened righteousness we make goals for our future and have a desire to be the best we can be the rest of our lives. I also wrote how one of the most important lessons I've learned while being on my mission is that the Lord KNOWS me. He actually knows me...and hears me. I have wondered oft times why in the world I was sent to this mission...and I've learned that the members out here, the mission president, the companions, the people I've met...have all be placed in my path because Heavenly Father knew they would influence me the best and shape me and point me in the direction to achieve my highest potential. I am so grateful to have such a loving Heavenly Father and family, and to have a testimony of the true gospel, and have this priceless opportunity to serve for two years our Savior Jesus Christ and help brings souls to him. I entered the MTC a boy with a testimony and now will leave the mission field a man converted.

Elder Blackburn

This email came on Jan 13th - 

Well, looks like Austin J. made it home okay! That is crazy...I can't believe were all going home now...he's probably already up at USU, back doing school work...that was fast. I'm just enjoying these last months and have had a good week. Not much to report other than last week was MLC so we drove to Tulsa and it was like -6 without the wind chill factored in. MLC was great, we watched "Ephraim's Rescue" <---which I highly recommend, and learned a lot from President Shumway as usual. Yesterday evening we met with the Stake President and his counselor and a member of our Mission Presidency and discussed how the zone is doing, it was a lot of fun and we have great men in the Stake Presidency. I love working in the Church, there is nothing like it and it is so great to serve amongst such high caliber people.

Elder Blackburn
p.s. short and sweet today

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Christmas call and counting down the days...

Sorry for not getting an update on here sooner...

First off, Christmas day was great - we thought the call would come in early afternoon but he didn't get to a computer until 5:45PM.  His excuse..."I had to help milk 170 head of cows".

So apparently he has learned the valuable lesson that farmers never get a day off as the missionaries help a local dairy once a week (and on holidays).

The best news was that they had a baptism the day after Christmas!


Since the Skype-call, we have been talking with the OTM mission home because his release date is Friday March 14th.  Not counting today, that leaves 64 days until we see him in person.  This is very exciting - he already has several friends that have returned home and one flying in from Washington D.C. today.  Time truly flies by the last six months or so - we are sure proud of what Elder Blackburn has accomplished and he has discovered his farmer DNA.

Today his email was mainly going over travel plans and such - but he did have one very interesting comment:

Hey btw I've successfully castrated --a ram and a calf with a pocketknife and my bare hands and so I'm pretty much a Wayne county sheepherder now.

How many missionaries can say that?  Wow.