A Little Slow, But Off to a Good Start

Hey Everyone!

This week has been good. We’re still battling to gain the confidence of the ward leaders here. They seem to not be that interested in working with us. We had ward council this week and it wasn’t great. They just asked for our report, listened for a few minutes and then told us thank you and that we could leave now. Not a lot of coordinating going on. Anyway, it’s a bit discouraging because they have refused to give us a ward directory and we don’t know where the members live so it´s been a struggle to try to get to know them and work with them. Thankfully there are a handful of member who help us out a ton and are willing to go with us everywhere. On Wednesday in the district meeting it was kind of funny because we were going to set up a Skype link with the elders in Huichápan but the bishop’s ipad wasn’t working so we had to just call them on our cell phone and put them on speaker haha! Not the greatest but at least they were able to hear what was going on. They don’t come to the meeting every week because their area is so far away. The highlight this week was that we had 3 investigators with a baptismal date at church this week, and one other investigator also came. The 3 with a baptismal date are Demian (17 years old), Valentina (9) and Yitzhak(18). They are some kids from a less active family that lives close to us who are just barely starting to reactivate. They are super cool and have been reading the Book of Mormon and came to church this week and last week to general conference! We have been teaching with a lot of examples and object lessons and they are understanding super well! Other than that, I did a couple baptismal interviews, walked a lot, and I don´t really know what else to write. I´m getting kind of tired haha but other than that I´m doing pretty well. Love you lots and hope you have a good week!

Love,

Elder Black

A new Area and Companion

Well, I’m super happy to be training and opening area to finish off my mission! We had a pretty good first week, full of miracles, and we’re mostly getting to know the area. It´s really nice here and we always see ruins and cool stuff while we’re walking around too, so that’s kind of cool! My new companion is Elder Ayala from Tamaulipas and he is pretty cool. We get along well. I’m also enjoying being a district leader again. I feel like I’m a lot closer to the action. It’s getting pretty hot around here. I haven’t used a blanket most nights since I got here and we’ve been showering with cold water on purpose most days! This is getting to be about the hottest time of the year right before the rainy season. We didn’t have a whole lot of lessons last week but we were still able to find several new investigators and 5 people came to church this week! General conference was good, but I didn’t get to see all of Elder Holland’s talk because the internet was being slow and then I had to do the reports and then we had to go to a lesson, but I want to see it later. Our area is huge and includes the center of Tula and a bunch of small pueblos north of the city. It is pretty cool. We have an old cathedral and the pyramid of the Atlantes warriors. It’s pretty cool to see stuff like that just walking around the area. There is a member named Iván who basically just comes with us everywhere every day so he is helping us out a lot to learn the area. I am really happy to be here and keeping busy all the time. Love you lots!

Love,

Elder Black

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A bowling activity a few weeks ago.

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Tula Zone meeting

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With his new companion, Elder Ayala

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With Elder Van Tassell – Both will be trainers

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Eating Tacos on exchanges

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A view from the balcony in his previous area.

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zone meeting in Tepalcapa!

Heading to Tula and Training

Well, sounds like you all had a busy week! Sebastian still wants to get baptized but he still has a couple doubts he needs to resolve. I’m sure he’ll get baptized soon though. Angel is a super strong convert to the gospel, although he is unable to be baptized right now because there is a woman who lives in his house and even though she just lives there and sleeps on his couch, the area presidency has a policy that he can’t get baptized if they live under the same roof. He is working hard to resolve that situation though and he keeps reading and praying a lot. He has read almost 200 pages of the Book of Mormon now since we started teaching him and he always comes to church, so he’s doing great and he will be baptized as soon as that situation is resolved. Yesterday at church someone told me that some sisters were looking for me and I went out to see what they needed and I got quite a surprise! Marsela and Diana from Cuautitlán came to the church to visit me before changes because they knew I was here in Ciudad Labor and wanted to come visit haha! I had a good conversation with them and they told me that they haven´t missed a single day of church since their baptism and Marsela told me that in the last 4 months she has read the whole Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, and the Miracle of Forgiveness!!! I was pretty amazed by that because she always said she wasn’t much of a reader haha! I guess she is now though! Anyway, I was really happy to see them and see how strong of converts they are. That was a good boost. We got the changes yesterday and I think I got the best change in the whole mission! I am going to train a new missionary, open area, and be a district leader up in Tula!!! I am super excited!! That is exactly what I was hoping to be able to do at the end of my mission! I’m determined to be the best trainer I can possibly be because a missionary’s trainer has the biggest influence out of everyone in a new missionary´s mission. Also it will be cool because Elder Huxford is going to be my zone leader, so I’ll be talking to him again and I’ll probably do exchanges in Tepeji del Río, where I started out as a zone leader! That’s going to be pretty cool I think! Anyway, I love you lots and I hope you have an awesome week! I’m sure I’ll have some good experiences to share next week about training and opening area! Also, don´t forget to prepare yourselves for General Conference and write down some questions so you can receive more personal revelation.

Love,

Elder Black

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La Avenida de las Torres, a really long steep hill in our area that we walk up and down every day!

 

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Service Project

Impromptu Speaking

Wow, that sounds like it was a pretty powerful temple dedication! I have had the opportunity to go to 2 temple dedications here and it is always a powerful spiritual experience. I really liked listening to their talks in Spanish too, because in the temple dedications they do live translations so you can hear it first in English and then again in Spanish. It´s kind of cool like that. That sounds like an awesome missionary experience Mom! I think I might end up doing the same thing and translating my Spanish scriptures when I get home too haha! I’ve gotten fairly attached to them after carrying them around and reading them all the time for nearly 2 years! I feel like it´s going to be more difficult to use the scriptures in English. Well, I had an interesting experience on Sunday. I was sitting in sacrament meeting and after the first 2 speakers, a sister from my ward, and my companion, there was still about 20 minutes left before we were supposed to sing the closing hymn. So I looked up at the stand and the second counselor looked at me and pointed at the pulpit haha! Well, I was more than happy to take up the whole rest of the time I guess, because I had been studying kind of a cool topic that week about “sleeping during the atonement”. I thought it was interesting to read the accounts of when Jesus went to pray and he came back three times to find that His disciples were sleeping during the most important moment in the history of the world. I think we can learn a good lesson from that. Also, the profet Lehi tells his rebellious sons to “wake up” 4 times in 2 Nefi 1. In Alma 5:7, the people of Limhi “woke up concerning the things of God”. Something to think about. One of my favorite moments during my talk is when I asked everyone to think of ways they might be sleeping during the atonement. I gave them a couple examples like playing on electronic devices during sacrament meeting. (When I said that one I noticed one young man who immediately turned of his cell phone and looked up haha!) Anyway, we had a good week. We did exchanges twice and found a ton of people to teach! Ismael, Fabiola, and Angel all went to church this week, so we had a few people there. On Sunday morning, we got ready for church super fast so that we could make it all the way over to Ismael’s house and take him to church with us, and we had a member go get Fabiola. Anyway, we had some really cool experiences and were able to find 12 new investigators and 4 more yesterday! We are super excited about them and I don’t really have time to tell you about all of them, but there have been some really cool people coming out of the wood works! There have been many miracles this week, and most of them have come from opening our mouths to talk to people. One in particular was a man named Pedro that we contacted in the street while going to contact a reference. We gave him a card and explained a bit about the Easter iniciative and then he looked at us for a second and started crying and said that God must have sent us because he was struggling with some severe financial problems and needed something to anchor him. We passed by to teach him and his family and showed them how to pray. A few days later we went back and he was a lot better and had been praying and reading his Book of Mormon. He said that he will be baptized when he knows that it´s true. On Sunday we had the opportunity to teach most of his immediate and extended family, so that was kind of cool! I love you lots, I love the work of salvation, and I’m very happy and excited to be a missionary! I hope you have an awesome week!

Love,

Elder Black

Enjoying Missionary Service

Hey everyone!

Sorry, it’s going to be a quick one today. We went to the bowling in Valle Dorado and there were a ton of errors in their system, so it took twice as long as it should have and we’re just getting back. It was super fun though, I pretty much dominated haha! We also went and bought a couple Costco pizzas, which was really good! We didn’t know you have to have a membership to buy food because you don’t in Sam`s here, but you actually do. Luckily  though, there was  a nice lady right behind us that overheard and said she would lend us her card! So that was kind of  cool. This week was pretty busy with the monthly zone report and exchanges with the assistants. We both went over to their area which is super small, but it was cool. Me and Elder Andrus contacted a ton of people and I remembered a member who had a reference for the missionaries when I was there last time 5 months ago with Elder Huxford. So we were able to teach 3 appointments and find 2 new investigators even though we didn’t have any set appointments when we left the house in the morning. It was kind of funny because me and Elder Andrus are the same height, so there we were 2 big white guys walking around in Mexico intimidating everyone into hearing the gospel haha! (And probably also scaring a few people because we got several doors in a row slammed in our face haha!) We’re working hard to get people to come to church but sometimes it’s a bit frustrating because we had 10 investigators tell us that they were for sure coming to church and only  2 of them went. Hopefully we’ll have Angel’s baptism this Sunday though and Sebastian’s on Monday. Anyway, things are going well, and we’re having some good success. The members are helping us out a lot and we are going to try to work with them even more. Have you guys worked with the missionaries up there at all? I know it’s a bit harder because there’s a lot less of them up there, but maybe there would be some way to help them out. I love you lots and hope you all have an awesome week! 

Love,

Elder Black

Striving for Unity

Hey everyone,

Things are going well with my companion this week. We had the zone meeting this week and I didn’t know how I was going to teach it with my companion because we had been struggling with unity. On Tuesday morning during my study time, I was thinking about what to do. Interestingly, the teaching skill for the zone meeting was teaching with unity, and I read a lot about how to become more unified. It has a lot to do with developing Christlike attributes. That is why the Godhead is so united, because of their perfect attributes. Anyway, I was a bit annoyed with my companion, but instead of blowing up like I might have done in a different time in my life, I decided to talk to him sincerely about the problems we were having. I also came across a verse in Isaiah 58:12, where it is talking about the blessings of the fast. One of those blessings is “and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in”. Studying that and my patriarchal blessing, I decided that that was something we needed in our companionship, so I suggested the idea that we do a companionship fast. We did, and I saw a lot of changes in my companion, but also in myself. I stopped getting frustrated and angry so easily and I have made an effort to understand him a bit better. Things aren’t perfect yet, but we are improving a lot and we are getting to be better friends. Anyway, the zone meeting actually came out pretty well. We talked about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and how we can become a living letter of Christ (2 Cor. 3:3). Our zone is doing awesome lately and everyone is working super hard, so we have been seeing some amazing results. We have at least 2 investigators coming to church every week now, Angel and Yasmin, but the others are still pretty hit and miss. We worked hard this week, but we didn’t have a ton of time to work in our area because of the leadership council, the zone meeting, and interviews with President Titensor. We went with Sister Titensor to do cleaning checks on all the houses, so that took a while too. This week should be a bit more normal though. I love you all lots and I hope you have a great week!

Love,

Elder Black

Striving for Excellence

Hey Everyone!

Well, sounds like a successful week! Wow Nathan, that`s some pretty impressive running! I’ve been doing a bunch of jump roping and ab workouts in the mornings to try to get in better shape before I get home. Yes Mom, they do use maple syrup here, but they also use a lot of jam and lechera, sweetened condensed milk. That stuff is super good! Don’t worry, I’m not getting trunky. (Here in Mexico it is trunky, I’ve never heard the Word baggy before). There are some missionaries who get toward the end and stop working hard, but if anything, realizing how little time I have left is motivating me to work even harder. I don’t think there has been a time in my whole misión that I have been working as hard and effectively as I am now. I still have a lot of room to improve though. We are working on achieving the standards of excellence to develop more faith. I was still with Elder Van Tassell when I contacted Ismael but I told that story a week later because I didn’t know he was going to turn into such a good investigator until later.

I actually did get a new companion this change, sorry I forgot to mention that last week. His name is Elder Servin and he is from Cuahuila. 

Our area is improving a lot though. We had a Ward family night yesterday in the church, and a few of our investigators came. It actually turned out really cool! We were in charge of it and we talked about faith in Christ. We did an activity where we separated everyone in two groups and one person was blindfolded and one was the guide and they had to lead them up the stairs and down the hall to the primary room. We had put a bunch of chairs and tables in the way and assigned 2 of the Young men to be tempters and give the people wrong instructions during the activity. It turned out super well and I really liked the conversation we had after about what we learned about faith. I especially liked one part I saw where Nefi’s 3 year old daughter Natalia saw that her dad was about to run into a table and she ran over and moved it out of his way haha! I thought that was super cool to think about how we can do the same thing with our loved ones if we see a potential obstacle in their way. Angel is going to get married in a month, and his family is starting to get curious about what he is learning so we might get to start teaching them soon. Angel has a ton of faith and he reads a ton the Book of Mormon. He is going to be a super strong convert! Anyway, that’s about it for this week. I hope you’re all doing well and have a great week!

Love,

Elder Black

Miracles Are Happening

Well I`m glad everyone had a good week! Good job winning your basketball game Tanya! Well I got an email today asking me which airport I want to fly home to. Should I tell them Salt Lake City, or Honolulu, Hawaii? Haha. that makes me feel pretty old! I feel like I have finally figured out how to do good effective missionary work. I guess it’s about time after 20 months haha! This week has been really good! Things are going super well for us here. God has blessed us with a lot of miracles, and I don’t have time to tell you about the half of them, but we have been able to find a lot of prepared people. One new investigator, Ismael, we found because some less actives we were going to visit didn’t hear us knock. We left and I decided to contact everyone that was wearing a blue shirt between there and the next house. We turned the corner and there was a man with his wife and daughter, so I told Elder Van Tassell,  “This guy is wearing a blue shirt. Let’s contact him!” So I walked up to him and we started talking to him. He told us that he would love for us to come by and that he was looking for a Christian church to join!! He was very receptive and accepted a baptismal date! We had three investigators come to church on Sunday. Angel is the next to be baptized, which should happen in 2 weeks as long as he can get married quick. Sebastian also came for the 2nd week in a row, and he will be baptized on March 21st. Yasmin is progressing super well and she already knows a ton of stuff! As part of our teaching model we always tell our investigators what we are going to talk about next time and Yasmin takes it to the next level, like it was a college class. We got to her house on Friday to talk about temples and Family history and she pulled out a sheet of paper with a 4 generation chart of names! We hadn’t even asked her to do that, so she is doing very well! The only problem is that she needs to get married before she gets baptized. Hopefully that will be soon.

I had a bit of a difficult time for a few days this week because I almost completely lost my voice! It’s kind of hard to be a missionary when you can’t talk haha! But we kept working super hard anyway. On Thursday we did divisions with Helamàn and Nefi, 2 brothers that are former missionaries. We had 4 appointments that night, 2 at 6:30 and 2 at 8:00, so we split up to be able to go to all the appointments. That was the first time that I’ve ever done that to go teach a lesson, but it worked really well. We are trying a lot of different things like that here and the members are starting to help us out a ton and have more confidence in us. I am super excited to keep lifting my area and keep seeing miracles happen as we do our part! I love you lots and I hope you all have a great week!

Love,

Elder Black

Ministering with Pancakes

Hey Everyone!

Sounds like everyone’s been busy! Good job winning your basketball game Tanya! I’m glad you’re having fun! That sounds like kind of an interesting project Dad. So you finally got it worked out then? That’s cool that Elder Flores and Sister Galbraith passed by. I had seen her a little bit in the mission but I never really talked to her. Yeah, they definitely have Valentines day in Mexico. They take advantage of just about every opportunity they get to have a party around here! Elder Van Tassell got asked to speak in church too haha! I was also a runner up for if the other speaker didn’t make it to church but luckily she came!  It was kind of funny because the only people in the street all day were either couples or drunk guys that were just super wasted and stumbling around the streets saying stupid stuff. I guess those must have been all the single guys haha! It was kind of pathetic though.

Well we got the changes yesterday and I am staying here in Ciudad Labor and getting a new companion, Elder Servín. This will be the 3rd time I have trained a new zone leader, so it should be fun to do it again. I’m excited to have a Latin companion again because I’ve spent the last 7 months with American companions and my Spanish has been suffering a little bit. It will be nice to get back to speaking Spanish better than I speak English haha! This week has been pretty cool. We taught a lot of lessons and we have 5 investigators come to church on Sunday, and they were from 4 different families, so it’s quite a bit of work! It was really fun getting so many of our investigators together in one class and teaching them all at once because they are all so different! They range from 19 to 60 years in age and they all have different levels of understanding and education but it was cool to have them ask questions and then see them teach each other! Also something cool happened with Jasmín. She has been progressing great lately, studying the pamphlets and the scriptures, praying. She has had a recurring dream where she gets baptized and she knows that she needs to do it but there has been one major obstacle: she was working every Sunday. They wouldn’t give her a schedule change, so she quit her job and decided to take a massage therapy course that is Tuesday to Friday, so she will be able to come to church every week now! We are really excited about that and she should be able to get baptized pretty soon!

We had a cool experience ministering to some missionaries in our zone this week. There were a couple of elders that had been struggling a bit and things hadn’t really been improving much, so we decided to go over there and help them out. We got up at 4:30 in the morning on Friday and cruised on over to Hacienda del Parque. We jumped the fences to get into their apartment complex and showed up in front of their house at 6:30 in the morning! They were super confused but we just told them not to worry about it, just keep doing their stuff, and we put ourselves to work making pancakes (we brought all the stuff with us). We ate, and then we did our studies. After the studies we split up to interview them individually and I found out that the problem that we had gone there to help them with wasn’t really the problem, so I wasn’t really sure why we were there. I was sure that we needed to be there though. Anyway, I just started talking to the Elder and pretty soon I figured out why I was there.

Who we are goes a lot deeper than just being children of God. I have been learning a lot about this lately and it has a lot to do with foreordination and our lineage. It is actually really interesting to study that and it is a doctrine that can change your perspective a lot.

Anyway, things are going very well here in Ciudad Labor and I´m excited to keep going! I love you all lots and hope you have a great week!

Love,

Elder Black

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Ciudad Labor Zone

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With Elder Mendoza and President and Sister Titensor

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Surprise Pancakes for Some Missionaries in Our Zone

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A Big Elephant Tree in Our Area

Great Things in Ciudad Labor

Hey Everyone!

That is a cool opportunity to go to the temple open house! I saw the pictures on the church website and it looks pretty amazing! Dad I did what you said about studying the verses that talk about Sam and I thought that it was really interesting the difference between Sam and Lemuel in the Book of Mormon. Basically Laman and Nefi were the leaders among the brothers, but Nefi chose righteousness and Laman chose wickedness. For whatever reason, Lemuel decided to follow Laman, but Sam was humble enough to follow his younger brother Nefi and let himself be influenced for righteousness. I think there are some good lessons to be learned there. This past Wednesday we had the blessing of receiving a visit from Elder Mendoza, an area seventy here in Mexico. He talked to us a lot about the standards of excellence our president had set. They are really high and there was a lot of doubt as to whether or not we could even achieve them. But he talked about a similar experience when he was a mission president and he raised the expectations and a lot of the missionaries like Laman and Lemuel started murmuring and telling him that it was impossible. But there were others that had a positive mental attitude like Nefi and decided to go out and do what the Lord, through their mission president, had asked them to do and they had a lot of success. Then the missionaries who before had doubted, repented and did everything they could to fulfill. He also talked a lot about foreordination and the blessings of the birthright. We have been foreordained to be here and be doing this work, but like Esau,  we could sell our birthright blessings for a figurative plate of lentils. Also, we had a special leadership meeting with him afterward, so we ended up being at the stake center for 9 or 10 hours on Wednesday! But it was well worth it because I learned so much! I wish I could tell you a lot more about it than I have time for right now, but I guess that will have to wait for a bit. Ángel came to church for the first time yesterday and it was really good. We had been trying and trying to think of someone to come with us to the lessons with him and be his friend, but we couldn’t think of anyone who wasn’t working in the mornings, and we had asked before in priesthood meeting but no one was available. Yesterday though, Brother Mora came up to him and started talking to him and he mentioned that his work schedule had changed so he’s free in the mornings now! That may not seem like much but having a member friend is super critical to a strong convert. We saw that in Cuautitlán with Marsela and Diana. We got the Mendez family involved and they stepped up and did a great job helping them in their conversion process. I don’t know if I told you or not but they are doing great. Marsela is a counselor in the relief society and Diana is a counselor in the primary! They write me occasionally to tell me how things are going and how grateful they are for finding the gospel! Anyway, great things are happening here in Ciudad Labor and I’m really excited to be here as a missionary of Jesus Christ! I can’t think of anything better I could possibly be doing right now! I love you and I hope you have a great week!

Love,

Elder Black