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.