Teaching Faith, Repentance, and Baptism

Hey everyone,

Well, I feel like my week was about like Aaron’s. We were super busy all week but didn’t really have that much time to work in our area. We had the leadership council and the zone meeting and then we just did divisions with some elders from our zone after the meeting because we were going to do a baptismal interview for one of their investigators in a few hours and it didn’t really make sense to travel all the way back to our own area. That baptismal interview was super cool! I hadn’t realized this before, but the investigator, Jonatan, was someone that Elder Almanza and I had found a month and a half ago on an exchange we did! I was super happy for Jonatan! I got to do his baptismal interview and he is a super good convert! We also went to his baptism on Saturday because one of our investigators, Viviana, really wanted to see a baptism. She actually didn’t show up though right after she said she would be there, and she wasn’t answering her phone when we called her, so we were kind of disappointed with that. (We would have liked to have just gone with her but we can’t because of the mission rules, so we just went over in public transport and waited for her). It was cool to see the baptism though. Also, we had to finish moving all the stuff out of the other elders house and into ours. That was quite the project. We ended up throwing away a ton of stuff but we still had to make a bunch of trips carrying furniture and books and stuff up a big hill to get to our house. We’re all finished now though, so that’s nice to have out of the way.

Also, sorry I forgot to mention last week about the worldwide transmission (broadcast) for missionaries. It was pretty cool to learn  and relearn a few things about how to do missionary work. I had always kind of imagined I would pretty much be an expert by the time I had this much experience in the mission, but there are still so many things I need to work on and improve. I have changed my teaching a bit since that transmission and have started inviting people to repent and putting a lot more emphasis in that. One thing that was said is that we sometimes get so excited about having a baptism that we forget that faith in Christ and repentance have to come first. We are putting that into practice a lot with our investigators to help them have meaningful spiritual experiences with the atonement, and we are seeing really good results. Quite a few of our investigators right now have problems with the word of wisdom, but they are willing to give up what they are doing for something better. One investigator, Berenicia accepted a baptismal date for March 6 and stopped drinking coffee and has almost completely given up smoking this week! We are also teaching a couple named Jasmín and Lisandro who are super cool. Both of them speak Spanish and English and Lisandro also speaks French, so our lessons are kind of interesting because Lisandro just randomly switches back and forth between English and Spanish haha! They came to church on Sunday and we are hoping that Jasmín can get a schedule change at work so she can come to church every Sunday. If she gets that schedule change its very likely that she gets baptized soon.

This Wednesday will be pretty exciting because Elder Mendoza, an area 70, is coming to give a special training as a follow up to the worldwide missionary broadcast. Afterward, we are going to have a special leadership training meeting where we will get to eat and then he will teach the leaders of the mission a bit about how we can improve. I feel like that is something we really need and I’m excited for all the revelation that I will have the opportunity to receive! I love you lots and hope you all have a great week!

Love,

Elder Black

A Solid Week

Hey everyone,

Happy birthday last Thursday Dad!! Looks like it was a pretty good one! We went to Sam’s Club on Monday and bought an apple pie and vanilla ice cream for my birthday!! That is the only place in Mexico where they sell pie! It was super good, although probably doesn’t match up with Mom´s homemade pie! Other than that, this week was just a pretty normal average week for me. We are still having trouble getting people to wake up early enough to go to church at 8:00, although we did have one investigator go, María, with her daughters that are already members but hadn’t come for a while. 

We are working hard to pick up the area though, and it actually is a lot better than it was a couple months ago as far as investigators go. We have really awesome investigators, it’s just hard for them to get up on Sunday morning. We will see what we can do about that this week though. Well I guess I don’t really know what else to write. We walked a lot, taught some appointments and got some good future investigators for this coming week. It was a pretty solid week. Thanks for the pictures, I really enjoyed seeing you all! I hope you have a good week!

Love,

Elder Black

Happy in Mexico

Hey everyone!

Well, I had a pretty good birthday! Thanks for the package! I especially enjoyed reading the family history stories and everything, thanks for sending that! Haha I was actually in bed when I opened the package because we had been so busy all day long and then some missionaries in my zone called me at night to get some help and I only had time to just get ready for bed before 10:30. It was good though, we taught a few lessons, found some new investigators and I did some reports, so it was a pretty full day!  I probably would have forgotten about my birthday too if I hadn’t written the day before, because that is when I noticed that it was going to be my birthday the next day haha! This week was super good except for Sunday. We were teaching lessons pretty much all week, went to the temple, and found 8 new investigators. But nobody came to church on Sunday. I think that mostly has to do with the fact that church starts at 8:00 in the morning and we’re in Mexico. Not the greatest combination, especially since Sunday is most people’s only day off.  We have been making an extra effort to work with the members lately though, and we are seeing a good response from them. They are even more willing to help now that we are the only companionship in the ward. I think they feel a little bit more urgency and a bigger sense of responsibility now, which is super awesome! One cool thing that did happen on Sunday though. We were just sitting in the ward council meeting when we got a knock on the door and a man came in and said that there was a new person in the hall. We went out to meet him and it was an inactive guy that had just moved here came to church on Sunday and brought his nonmember girlfriend! He went to the other ward though because he didn’t know what ward he was in, but we got an appointment to go visit them tonight! He even asked us where he could pay his tithing! Anyway, I’m super happy right now! I learned a ton in the temple and things are going well in our area and in our zone! If it has been a while since you have attended the temple, make it a priority to go often and regularly worship in the temple. It is a huge blessing, both before, during, and after a trip to the temple! I love you lots and hope you have a great week!

Love,

Elder Black

Temple Trip and Finding People to Teach

Hey Everyone!

Thanks for the birthday wishes!! It’s kind of crazy to think that I turn 21 tomorrow, that makes me feel kind of old haha!!! I must look old too I guess because one of our new investigators this week guessed that I was 25 or 26!! I think the mission kind of does that to you, but in a good way. Well, it has been a while since last P-Day, so I’ll try to get you updated between today and Monday. Sorry I forgot to tell you, but yeah everything stayed the same for me this transfer except for that my area is twice as big now because they took out the other companionship that was in our ward. That is kind of an adventure getting to know the other part of the ward now. The only bad part is that we have to move all the stuff from their house into ours to store it, so we’ve been working on that a little bit lately. Well we have had a ton of stuff going on lately in our area. Remember Diego, the guy that had an epileptic attack and we helped him get home after? Well we had contacted a man named Daniel to see if he knew who the guy was and he invited us to come by sometime. When we went his grandson Ramses came over to listen and really liked it. We had been trying to visit him with his family for the last few weeks and we finally got to go teach them on Monday morning! It is a family of 5 and they are very good, people! We’re super excited to be teaching them! It’s kind of interesting the sequence of events that led to us finding them. We were walking down the street on Sunday afternoon and someone flagged us down from all the way down the street. It was a member from another ward who gave us a reference of a sister named Berenicia who is super prepared to hear the gospel. It was kind of funny because she actually lives directly across the street from us! Now she is reading and progressing super well, and the brother who gave us the reference is coming to all the appointments to help us out! On last week Tuesday, January 5, we had something kind of cool happen. All of our appointments had fallen that day and at the very end of the day we realized that Elder Van Tassell and I had a little discrepancy in our agendas about if an appointment we had was the next day or in 2 days. So we decided to head over to the person´s house and get that figured out. While we were on the way over there we had to pass through a tianguis (open air market) that was super packed with people buying toys for King’s day. We were pushing our way through huge crowds of people when someone called out to us and said “Hey remember me?” We turned around and there was Valentín, our investigator we were teaching while he was in an addiction recovery facility! He had escaped from the facility a couple weeks before and we hadn’t been able to contact him since, but there he was with his wife and kids!! He had stopped smoking and drinking and doing drugs and was starting in on a new life!!! We were so happy to see him! So, we got his phone number and everything. It turns out that he lives just outside our area now, which is in a different mission, but we are just working on getting his address from his parents so we can send over the reference. It was really cool to see the huge change he made in his life because of what he learned about the gospel! We congratulated him and said goodbye, then took 2 steps and this lady asked us if we had a card or something we could give her. She said that her and her husband were looking for a religion and they had just felt like they should talk to us and she asked us what we believed in. We explained briefly about the Restoration and some of our basic beliefs and they asked if we could come by and teach them! The best part is that they even live in our area, in the new part that we had just acquired when they took the other elders out. It is interesting to see how God puts us where we need to be to find those who are prepared to hear the gospel. I will let you know what happens with those people (their names are César y Thelma). Today we had the opportunity to attend the temple! For me that was the first time I had been in about a year and a half and it was incredible! I learned so much and would like to be able to go all the time! It was a great reminder of the temple covenants that have a lot deeper meaning for me than they did last time because my understanding has deepened a bit in the last little while. I remember that Dad told me that you can learn something new every time you go to the temple, but back then I didn’t really understand how that could happen since it was the same thing every time. Now I get it a little better though, and I was able to receive some really cool personal revelation! I encourage you all to worship in the temple often. It is such a huge blessing to be able to do that so easily. There is a really good talk from Elder Bednar called “Holding a name and a standing” that talks about the difference between temple worship and just going to the temple every once in a while. Also from Elder Ballard there is a cool one from the March 2002 Liahona called “the law of sacrifice” that I read to prepare for the temple. Maybe you could check those out. Well I’m out of time but I love you lots and I guess I’ll write a little more on Monday!

Love,

Elder Black

SAM_3040

Temple Trip (January 15th)

DSCN0625

Sister Roa from our ward and her family brought us a ton of food on New year´s Eve!!!

DSCN0621

New Year´s Eve Party at 10:00!!!! (with Elder Van Tassell)

DSCN0572

Merry Christmas!

DSCN0581

Christmas Morning

DSCN0593

DSCN0596

Christmas Day Service Project

DSCN0598

Having fun with his companion (Elder Van Tassell) after the project.

Fireworks and the Importance of the Book of Mormon

Hey everyone!

I’m glad the new years celebrations went well! We just had to be home at 7:00, but a family in our ward brought us a sweet dinner and dessert!! I’ll try to send pictures next week because the computer is being really slow right now and it´s taking way to long to load. This week was super crazy for us. On Thursday we taught the leadership council meeting, and it went pretty well we feel like. We taught about how to help an investigator receive and recognize a testimony of the Book of Mormon. While I was preparing to teach I decided to renew my testimony of the Book of Mormon and ask God again if it is true. I learned something very important. It is not so much just the knowledge that the book is true that is important. The most important thing is a testimony that the teachings found in the Book of Mormon are true. There is so much there that we would just not know without the Restoration. Anyway, this week I renewed my testimony of the converting power of the Book of Mormon combined with the Spirit. I was able to recognize the book’s influence in the person I have become and I know that it comes from God. Well, on New Year´s we just went to bed early so we didn’t even hear the fireworks at midnight. The next day we heard that things went pretty crazy though. I’ve never seen so many fireworks in my life as I have here during December and January. I guess that´s what happens when you live right next to one of the world´s largest firework factories! They have a cool tradition here that they listen to the church bells ring 12 times at midnight and they eat a grape on every ring and make a wish each time for the new year. I thought that was kind of interesting. I didn’t really make any New Year´s resolutions for the year. I do make resolutions on a regular basis though. Actually, during the sacrament is a great time to think about what we lack to be a better disciple of Christ and resolve to be better. So I think that every week we should make resolutions to come closer to Christ. I couldn’t really think of any other huge resolutions for the year though. I think it’s interesting how the Spirit works with us gradually and I’m actually grateful that he doesn’t tell us everything we need to change for the whole year all at once. He gives us a small portion every time we make progress in something and then report back to God, he then gives us the next step (Jacob 4:13 and 2 Nephi 28:30). On Friday we taught the zone meeting. That was the first time that I taught a big meeting like that without having anything planned about what to teach. There are 2 teaching segments and we taught about giving accounts of your stewardship and then about the Book of Mormon like in the Leadership council. It was really cool how the first part about stewardship went after taking only 5 seconds to get on the same page before we started talking. In one moment I felt impressed to share a quote from Preach my Gospel that I hadn’t thought of before and I know that that quote impacted deeply 2 specific elders and actually  changed the way they were acting a little bit. I’m glad we decided to just teach the meeting like that. I wasn’t nervous at all because I felt like I had the doctrine inside me and a lot of scriptures and Preach my Gospel quotes kind of stored up in my brain, so the Spirit was able to guide us in teaching and bringing to our remembrance the things we needed to say. It was a pretty cool experience, I just really like teaching zone meetings and ministering to the missionaries. On Sunday I ate the hottest pepper I’ve ever tasted. It’s called the Mira Cielo pepper, maybe you can look it up on one of those chile ranking scales. It made me cry a lot though, it had a pretty good kick! They videoed me though so I´m sure that will be on Facebook eventually. I guess this family always gives one of these peppers to every missionary that passes through here, so it´s a pretty funny tradition haha! Anyway, I love  you all lots. I hope you get better soon Tanya, get some good rest .

Love,

Elder Black

image

image

Christmas time with Elder Van Tassell at an investigator’s plant store.

A Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Dear Family,

Happy New Years!!!! I really enjoyed seeing you and talking to all of you on Christmas! That was definitely the highlight this week! I was pretty impressed by your musical talents Nathan and Tanya! Keep up the practicing! Maybe you can teach me a little bit when I get home! Also, thanks a ton for the Christmas presents you sent! Well, I`m glad you made it out of the hospital in time for Christmas Eve Tanya. That doesn’t look too fun. I`m glad you had some good support though. I hope you keep recovering fast. What else are you guys going to do over the break?

This week has been kind of tough as far as missionary work goes. The holidays are kind of tough as a missionary because a lot of people leave on vacation. Actually, almost all our investigators left for the holidays and most people we contact just tell us to come by in mid January. The holidays are a bit longer here too, because the Kings day is January 6th and that is when the kids here get their toys, not really that much on Christmas. We are working hard to find more people though and we always have a super busy schedule. Hopefully all our work will pay off soon with some new progressing investigators. God has a way of rewarding your efforts, even though sometimes it comes after an extended trial of your faith. Other than that, we are working hard to get prepared to teach the leadership council on Thursday and then the zone meeting on Friday. And we’re doing exchanges with some elders in our zone on Tuesday and Wednesday, so it`s looking like another super packed week. It’s good to be busy though. I can’t believe how fast this transfer has gone by. Next week I’ll let you know if Elder Van Tassell and I have transfers or are staying here together for 6 more weeks. I love you lots, have a great New Year’s!

Love,

Elder Black

Importance of Testimony

Dear Family,

¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

Sorry I don’t have too much time to write because there was a system error in myldsmail and I couldn’t log in. This week wasn’t too terribly exciting I guess, but we did find a new family to teach! It is a married couple and two girls almost 9 and 10 years old. It was kind of tough on Sunday though because we didn’t have anyone make it to church. We were going to maybe have a baptism this coming Saturday for Mari, but I guess we’ll see if that happens. We´re not sure if that will be possible or not because she left town for work last week and we haven’t been able to contact her in the last few days. We have still been contacting a lot and talking to quite  a few people though, so hopefully we can find some new investigators. I feel like we’ve been working super hard all day every day though, so it’s just a matter of time before God leads us to someone He has been preparing for the gospel. Me and my companion got assigned to teach the training during the leadership council in a week and a half, so hopefully that goes well. We decided to teach about the Book of Mormon and praying to gain a testimony of it´s truthfulness. I’ve found in my mission that the majority of people who gain a testimony will do everything necessary to be baptized, so I think it is super important that we help people gain that testimony. Anyway, I’m excited to get to talk to all of you on Skype on Christmas! If you have any questions you might want to write them down because I won’t get a ton of time to talk, and most of the Mexico culture is pretty normal to me now, so I might not even think about that stuff. Well, that’ll be pretty cool to have a white Christmas! Down here in Mexico it’s still pretty hot during the day. It gets pretty cold at night and in the morning though, but it’s all good. Sorry Mom, I couldn’t find a Nativity. I don´t even know where I would begin to look for something like that. Actually most of the cool stuff people buy comes from the Federal District center, outside our mission, so most people just go down there to buy stuff and the stuff in the tianguis (market) here is mostly just junk. We are going to have a Christmas devotional with 4 zones together on Christmas Eve, so I’m pretty excited about that! Also a family that has there only son in the mission right now invited us over for dinner on Christmas Eve, so that will be pretty cool. We will also be going to their house on the 25th to Skype. I’ll get on at 5:00 also so we can have a video conference with Aaron too! Hopefully it all works ok. Love you all lots, have a good Christmas and send lots of pictures next week!!! Also, get some money out of my account and get something for Tanya. I don’t know if she feels up to reading or watching a movie there in the hospital, but you can ask her what she feels up to and go ahead and get her something. Love you lots!

Love, Elder Black

Working Hard and Learning About Barbacoa

Well, sounds like everyone is doing well! I´m really excited for Christmas and to be able to talk to you on Skype! It doesn’t feel that wintery around here though, it´s actually pretty hot during the day! It does get pretty cold in the house in the morning though, so I’m glad to have a coat and some gloves. This week was pretty cool because on Sunday was the dedication of the Tijauna temple, the 13th temple in México! We got to attend 2 sessions and it was pretty cool! President Uchtdorf and Elder Oaks came down to dedicate the temple. I thought it was cool how President Uchtdorf related the spirit of Christmas and the spirit of the temple, that they are the same! I think that is very true. One thing that makes Christmas special is that most people start being a little more Christ like all at the same time to celebrate the birth of the Savior. It would be great if we could keep doing that always! We are working hard on the Christmas iniciative of the Church called A Savior is Born. I don´t know if you’ve seen the website christmas.mormon.org, but there are some videos there that talk about Christ. They gave us 250 contacting cards for each companionship and my companion and I have the goal to give away all of them this month. We´re doing pretty good so far, we gave away 75 cards last week. We got really motivated to do that because we read a talk about becoming a consecrated missionary, and we knew that we needed to talk to everyone we can if we want to be completely consecrated. We get rejected a lot, but it´s only a matter of time until we find someone who is looking for the truth. We had something kind of crazy happen on exchanges this week. On Tuesday I stayed here and we did exchanges with the assistants. Elder Buitrago came here with me and I still don´t know the whole area super well, so we got kind of lost looking for one of the houses. We stopped for a minute to think about where to go and we looked up and saw a man laying in the middle of the road next to his bike and he was convulsing. We ran over to help him out and he had a big gash in his head from hitting the pavement. We helped him out and went back to his house with him to make sure he got there ok. His wife told us that he gets epilepsy attacks. Anyway, we contacted her and explained who we were and she invited us over on Saturday. Her husband wasn’t there when we went though, so we didn’t get to teach them, but maybe this week we will. We contacted one of the bystanders though that was standing in his door watching the whole scene and he said we could come over later. His name is Daniel, and we went by the other day and met his family and got a set appointment with them. They were making barbacoa, which is a whole sheep cooked in a pit oven, and he showed us all the butchered up parts, the head, the guts, and everything all ready to throw in the pit. It was kind of cool. Then, later a member was doing the same thing and showed us how everything goes together to cook it. Anyway, that was kind of interesting. Well, we’re working super hard and getting super tired, so I guess we’re doing our job haha! We´re hoping to find lots of new investigators this week with all the people we´re contacting. I love you lots and hope you all have a great week!

Love,

Elder Black

A Week Full of Activities

Sounds like a pretty good fun filled week! Keep practicing backing up the trailer Nathan! That’s cool quote about controlling your temper. {I will control my temper so my temper doesn’t control me.} It would be good to study that in the context of being an agent. That is the eternal principle behind controlling your temper. I really love thinking about everything in the context of being an agent or being an object. When Elder Bednar came, he taught us a lot about that. Nathan and Tanya, if you really want to prepare yourselves for your missions, don’t just read the scriptures, study them. Chapter 2 of Preach my Gospel will help you to learn how to study. I pretty much just read the scriptures before my mission instead of getting out a study journal, opening up the scriptures and Preach my Gospel, and choosing a specific principle or doctrine to learn about. Also, there’s a good article in the Liahona this month about asking good questions and it talks about the difference between just an inspirational verse of scripture and the additional light and knowledge that can be received if we ask questions and learn what that verse really means on a deeper level. Try that out this week and let me know how it goes!

This week was pretty full of activities. We went to the leadership council on Wednesday, taught the zone meeting on Thursday, had interviews with the mission president on Friday, had a ward mission activity on Saturday, and had our monthly meeting with the stake and mission presidents and the Christmas devotional on Sunday! It was a great week, but really really busy! We taught about consecration in the zone meeting for one of the teaching segments, and I have been studying a great talk lately about becoming a consecrated missionary. I realized that there was a lot more I could do, so Elder Van Tassell and I decided to start talking to everyone! They gave us about 250 Christmas contacting cards, and we set a goal to give away every last one of them. Since then we have been talking to people in the streets, and every time we get in a bus or a combi we have been contacting the person next to us, just trying to talk to everyone possible! Honestly it’s kind of hard sometimes because people don’t really talk to each other on public transport here, and some people don’t want to be talked to but the majority are actually really nice and we have gotten quite a few addresses and phone numbers! It’s kind of hard to write while you’re sitting in a super bouncy bus though haha, but somehow we manage to do it! We made some huge progress with Mari this week! She was going to get baptized a few weeks ago but it didn’t happen because the elders didn’t feel like she was ready. We went to her house this week though and we explained to her in very clear terms what she needed to do to be baptized and that we needed to go visit her a certain number of times and she needed to keep all her commitments and everything, and then she could be baptized on December 19th. She understood well and agreed to everything and we have seen a good change in her. She started keeping her commitments, came to church yesterday, and we have a plan that we are following to visit her enough times in order to prepare her for her baptism. We are really excited and hoping that she can make it to her baptism on the 19th! Well, this week should be a little less busy as far as meetings and activities, so it will be good to get to focus 100% on working in the area! I hope you all have a great week and that the Christmas preparations go well! I´m pretty excited because we actually have a Christmas tree that we found under Elder Van Tassell´s bed!! Love you lots!

Love,

Elder Black

New Area New Companion

Hey everyone!

Well, my new companion is pretty awesome! (Elder Van Tassell) We get along really well. Thanks for the package! It’s the one with the flip flops in it right? I guess it must have gotten here really fast because I got it a few weeks ago. To answer your question Mom,  there are always 2 zone leaders together as far as I know. Maybe that elder was a district leader, or I guess they might have the zone leaders separated over there. A companionship of zone leaders works as a council though, the same as in every other companionship or presidency in the church. It´s pretty cool because the doctrine found in D&C 88:77-78 and 80 also applies to a companionship. A lot of times we receive revelation for the zone as we are talking together about the needs of the missionaries.

There are a ton of good investigators here! Most of them just have had a hard time actually getting baptized for various reasons but they are all willing and we just need to do a little bit more work to help them progress a little more. There are a TON of hills here!! Most of them are also extremely steep. Our area is basically a giant hill and we live at the top. I’ve never really been in an area with hills before, so I´m definitely a bit out of shape haha! I’m sure I’ll get used to it quick though, and if nothing else I’ll get in a lot better shape! I got news that Diana and Marcela got baptized on Sunday!! Brother Mendez did the baptisms and I am super excited for them! They are going to be great converts!

Thanksgiving was pretty much just a normal day around here. We studied, did weekly planning,  went and taught some lessons. It was a good day, although I can’t say that it was overly festive. Make sure to send me some pictures next week so I can at least vicariously celebrate Thanksgiving haha! I don’t feel nearly as bad about missing the holidays this year as I did last year, it’s kind of just normal now because they have other holidays here that we don´t have in the United States and it’s kind of fun to see some different traditions! I’m getting pretty used to the Mexican traditions now so it’s pretty fun! Well, that’s about all for this week. I hope you all have a great week! Love you lots!

Love,

Elder Black