Emergency Transfer and a New Zone Leader

Hey Everyone!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY NATHAN!!!! Do you have some good plans for what you’re going to do? I hope you pass it good! Congratulations about the Breakfast of champions Tanya!  Actually, time has been passing by so fast that I didn’t even notice that today was the 25th until I read your email!

Well, I think this has been about the craziest week I’ve had so far in my mission! I’m back in Hidalgo again, in an city called Tepeji. On Thursday morning a little after 8:00, the zone leaders called me and told me that there were emergency transfers. They said that I was going to be the new zone leader of Tula and I needed to be in Tepeji at 1:00 in the afternoon! Well, as you can imagine, that was a bit of a surprise! We had to leave at about 11:30 to get there on time, so I had to throw all my stuff in my suitcases and move in just a couple of hours. Good thing I don’t have much stuff! My new companion is Elder Alvarez from Oaxaca, but from a different part of Oaxaca than Elder Garcia. He got here to the mission at the same time as me but he went to the MTC in Mexico, so I didn’t know him, but he is a pretty cool companion! When I got here and asked him how much time he had as a zone leader and in the area, and he told me 3 weeks! So, we are practically opening area and we are both new zone leaders. I think we are going to have some good adventures haha! This area is pretty cool and I can already tell that there are a lot of prepared people here. On Friday we had to go to Tula, about a 45 minute bus ride, to help organize a stake activity of family history and then we went back on Saturday to help out during the activity. These have been some very busy days. Well, I guess we’ll see how this week goes! Have a good birthday Nathan! Send me some pictures next week!

Love,

Elder Black

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It got pretty flooded a week ago Saturday!

Learning From An Apostle

Hey Everyone!

This week we got the once in a lifetime privilege of having Elder Bednar, one of the 12 apostles, come to visit our mission! That was probably one of the coolest experiences I have had in my life. (I’m in the second to last row in the top right corner in the picture). The main theme of the meeting was about patterns of revelation. I learned more in those three hours than I could possibly put in one email, so I’ll just talk a little bit about what I liked the most. He talked a lot about agency. Most people think that agency is just the ability to choose between right and wrong, but it is a lot more than that. It is the ability to choose between being agents and objects. For example, if we are in a church meeting and we are really bored because we were expecting the speakers to entertain us or make us be interested in the topic, we are being objects because we are assuming that we can do nothing besides sit there and let other people act on us. On the other hand, we can choose to be receptive to the Holy Spirit and receive revelation. I decided to try that in church on Sunday and it was a really spiritual experience. I noticed that it didn’t matter if the teacher was well prepared or not, or if a talk was really interesting or not, it all just depended on what I was doing. I also learned a lot about how to ask good questions. A lot of times when one of the missionaries asked him a question, instead of just coming right out with a response, he would ask them a question to make them think about it a little bit. Those are the types of questions that invite revelation. He also talked about a game that we sometimes play in the classes at church or in our teaching as missionaries called “Guess what’s in my head”. He said that a lot of times, in a misguided attempt to invite participation, the teacher asks a question like, “What are all the different parts of the baptismal covenant?”. Then the person gets nervous and can’t remember, or they don’t know the answer and get offended or embarrassed. One thing that he said that really called my attention is that those types of questions, just asking for information, will never invite the Holy Spirit. He told us that he was never going to ask us a question with a response already in his head that he is looking for. He always asked questions that made us reflect or think more deeply. In one part of the meeting, he opened it up for questions and he called on me, so I got to talk directly with Elder Bednar! I have always really admired his teaching style, so I asked him how he goes about preparing to teach. I learned a lot from his answer. He told me that he has spent 62 years preparing for this moment and talked about how if a missionary needs to “write a talk” then he hasn’t become a missionary. He said that he just spends some time pondering and meditating about the needs of the people that he is going to teach and then just stands up and starts talking to them. He also talked about that there is to much “performing” in the church and not enough real preaching. When people are so worried about giving a good performance and write down every word they are going to say or write detailed notes about everything they want to talk about, they are impeding the Holy Spirit. He told us about something that Boyd K. Packer used to do when he went to stake conference. He would be sitting there on the stand with the stake president and ask him if he had notes. The stake president would confidently take out his notes to show him, and President Packer would take them, fold them up, and put them in his pocket! Then he would tell them that this meeting would be guided by the Holy Spirit. I learned that if we are true disciples of Jesus Christ, we will never need to worry about what to say because it will be given to us in the moment that we open our mouth (D&C 84:85). I think one of my favorite parts was at the end when Elder Bednar shared his testimony. When he said “In the authority of the Holy Apostleship, I bare my special witness that Jesus Christ is our Savior” there was so much power in that room that nobody would have been able to deny that witness. I know that Elder Bednar is an apostle of Jesus Christ. He has more spiritual power than I have ever seen in any man I have ever met. I know that Jesus Christ lives and that He guides and directs The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints through His living apostles and prophets in our day. I want all of you to know that I know that these things are true and I share them with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Con mucho amor,

Elder Black

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Well I’m glad everyone is doing well. This was a super busy week, but the visit from Elder Bednar was definitely the highlight of the week. Hopefully you can all learn something new from the email I sent. I learned a lot about how Jesus teaches from the way Elder Bednar teaches. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to shake his hand because we ran out of time, but I got to talk directly with him and ask him a question, so that was really cool. That is an experience I will never forget. There was one moment during his response where I’m 100% sure he was looking inside my mind and reading my thoughts to decide how to best respond my question. That was probably the coolest experience I’ve ever had. Elder Bednar is super powerful and it was an incredible experience just to be in his presence. He radiates pure spiritual power and I have no doubt that the elements would obey his command. I am trying to teach a little bit more like Elder Bednar, even though I know I’ve got a long way to go. I love you all lots and hope you have a great week!

Love you,

Elder Black

A Short Note

Well I can’t really think of anything more to say since we got to talk on Skype yesterday. It was really good to see everyone. I can’t believe how much everyone has changed! I can’t believe I’ve been gone for almost a year now! Nathan and Tanya have grown up a lot since I left. Time is going by a lot more quickly now that I’m used to being in Mexico and speaking Spanish and everything.  I’m glad everyone is doing well back home. I’ll try to get a written letter sent sometime soon also. I hope you had a great Mothers Day Mom! I found a cool scripture for you in Proverbios 31:29 (You have to look it up in Spanish and translate it because it says something different in the English King James version). Actually the Bible in Spanish is not the King James version just translated, it is a different version of the Bible called La Reina Valera who was the queen of Spain I think. Anyway, the Bible is a lot easier to understand in Spanish than it is in English! Thanks for all that you’ve done for me Mom. I know I would be a really different person if it weren’t for you. Well, I was going to send some pictures, but this computer isn’t recognizing my memory card so it’ll have to be next week I guess. Don{t worry about putting my letter on the blog Mom, since it’s not really relevant to other people. I love you lots and hope you have a great week!

Love,

Elder Black

A New Companion

Hey Everyone!

This week has been pretty good. My new companion, Elder Flores, is from Monterrey, Mexico and he is pretty cool! He is really outgoing and we are always joking around, so it has been pretty fun to work with him! He has 18 months in the mission. It has been pretty fun having my trainer come back and be my zone leader. I had forgotten how short he is haha! Wow, I didn’t realize that Ryan was already coming home from his mission so soon! I thought he still had a few weeks left. Time flies by really fast, I can’t even believe it! I’m really excited to Skype on Sunday! It will be really good to hear from you all. You might want to start thinking of some questions you have and write them down or something so you don’t forget. Everything seems pretty normal to me now so I don’t really know what kinds of things you would be interested in knowing. I really hope I will be able to speak English this time. I think my English has actually improved since the last time I talked with you because I have been able to use it a little more here in the state of Mexico. But it has always been Spanglish, never just pure English, so we’ll see how it goes I guess! This week, Veronica and her mom came to church for the first time in years. Veronica is the daughter with depression that I mentioned last week. On Sunday afternoon we went to visit her and her family and it was pretty incredible to note the difference in her countenance. I could see that she looked a little more happy and peaceful and the lesson that afternoon was really powerful. The Spirit came really strongly and I recognized that and told them all that I knew they were feeling the same thing. Everyone said that that was true, that they could feel a feeling of peace and happiness in spite of all their problems. Also, the husband of one of the less active sisters in our ward came to church when he thought he was going to have to work. It was his first time there and it was really cool to see their whole family there. His wife has had a lot of strong health problems lately so I think that has made him realize that he needs to start investigating the church a lot more seriously. He is not a member and told us one time in a lesson that he wants to have an eternal family but that he couldn’t come to church. We are going to start teaching them a lot more and helping them to progress. One think a little frustrating is that we had found about 23 new people to teach in the last month and a half and almost none of them are going to progress because they can’t come to church or they just don’t want to keep learning about the gospel. That’s kind of sad but we decided that we need to just put ourselves to work finding new people to teach because someone somewhere in our area has to be ready for the gospel. Elder Flores has a really cool philosophy that we need to use our talents to find and help people. He was telling me that in one of his areas they started playing volleyball to get to know people and that helped them out a ton to be able to find people to teach. We decided to try that in this area, so the other day when we saw a guy playing basketball we went over to play a little bit and get to know some more people. Then we went back the next 2 days and by the third day there were like 50 kids playing and then were all asking us for our autographs haha! It was pretty sweet, and I think we’re going to get some good teaching opportunities out of that too. We’re thinking about offering English classes because that seems to be a pretty common interest. I never really thought that I would use basketball in my mission haha! Anyway I look forward to seeing you all on Sunday! I’ll probably call at about 5:00, but I think between 4:00 and 6:00 for sure. Love you all!

Love,

Elder Black