Monday, December 30, 2013

Feliz Ano Nuevo!!

Buenos dias!!!

This week was so weird...both good and bad. I was SO excited to Skype home and talk to you guys of course, but the bad side of the holidays is that no one is home and so there isn't exactly a ton of work to do...which was frustrating when Thursday and Friday we were so stoked to work and like no one was home and stuff fell through.

Anyway...the Christmas conference with the whole mission on the 24th was super fun! Like I told you when I Skyped we were kinda late because the Rio Rico elders ran out of gas and we had to go get them some...but still it was awesome! We had tamales with a member and then went to the Tumacacori Mission to see the light-thingys. Also Midnight Mass! That was...interesting. I was super tired after that. And it built my testimony of La Iglesia de Jesucristo de Los Santos de Los Ultimos Dias ;)

Christmas we had breakfast with all 8 of us missionaries at a members, we Skyped, and then Hna Johnson and I were writing letters and resting in our room while the other elders (Elder Call and Elder Roney were with us at the Allens for Christmas) Skyped their families. We went and said hi to their families too! Elder Roney is 1 of 12 kids, so there was just like....people EVERYWHERE haha. Elder Call's family was super nice and his mom asked us questions and then they wanted us to tell them some of the funny stories we have about Elder Call. Haha :) Then we had dinner with the Allens (yay for ham!) and that night we had a district meeting with all 8 of us.

Cool mini-miracle for the week...yesterday morning we were getting ready to leave for church and Hna. Johnson said, "Hey I'm going to bring your loaf of bread with us just in case the elders forget to bring lunch," because we had district Spanish study after church. I was like "Okay" and so we did. As we were greeting people coming into church, I overheard some brethren talking and said they didn't have enough bread for the sacrament. I turned to them and said, "Oh, well we have a whole loaf of bread in the car! You can have it!" And I ran to the car and got it for them. They were a little confused and said, "Sisters....why do you have bread in your car?" And I was like "Honestly I don't know, we just brought it today in case we needed it for lunch, but we don't normally have it with us." It was such a little thing, but it made it so no one had to run home to get bread. They were super grateful, and we just smiled because as missionaries, little blessings like that happen all the time, and they are so cool :)

Saturday I went on an exchange up in Tucson (the Sahuaro branch), and it was way awesome! The sister I was with is super bold and I learned a lot from her. She's ridiculously nice too. I like exchanges to learn new ways to teach and stuff, but it does disrupt the flow of the week a little. I guess I better get used to it though, because there's a chance that next transfer my comp will be sister training leader too...

I'd give you an update on investigators...but we barely saw any this week. We have one that texted us this morning though and wants to meet with the bishop!

I have not seen any snakes except one little dead one...just a little garter snake though.

Love and miss everyone! Happy New Year!!!

Hermana Blackford

Monday, December 23, 2013

Feliz Navidad!!

Hey everyone!!
It's gonna be a short email today because of Skype and because I have the attention span of a goldfish today.

 But I have EXCITING news!! So did I tell you how our district is like super pumped up this transfer?? Well it's showing! In about a week and a half we (the district) found like 30 new investigators (normally we find like...10) and we had SEVEN investigators and church yesterday (compared to the normal "we're lucky to have one")!!! The Rio Rico elders hit standards, and Hna Johnson and I were 3 member present lessons short of standards. Just so you know, THAT NEVER HAPPENS! Nogie is tearing it up right now!!! The whole district is doing so boss. Hna Johnson had to call President this morning because she's sister training leader, and even he said he's seen the numbers and is impressed! We're known for being one of the slowest areas in the mission, but right now we're blowing the zone out of the water! There's a lot of energy and the Lord is blessing us for working hard and focusing on our goals we set in district meeting. This was the coolest week! We set a record for our area - as far as we can tell there haven't been that many lessons for at least 6 months, but probably more! Blessings blessings blessings!!

 We went to find this less active guy that the Elder's Quorum president asked us to, and when we got there he was like "How did you find me!?!? You're like the CIA!!" Apparently missionaries track him down wherever he moves too. Sad day though, because he doesn't want anything to do with the Church.
Miss you and love you all!!! Can't wait to Skype on Christmas :)


 Hermana Blackford

Monday, December 16, 2013

Merry Almost Christmas!

Hola everyone!!

This week was another busy week...we did 11 hours of service! Two families in the ward were moving, so it kept us busy.
Sister Baird is leaving!? That's so sad, though it will be good for her. It's hard to stay in an area for too long. Change keeps us missionaries focused and working hard :)

Okay so questions...
1) LOVE the new elders. Elder Roney is the new Rio Rico elder, and he's super cool and so funny. Elder Westra is in South Nogie and he's a ginger and says the funniest things. So random. And he makes fun of himself for being a ginger. And Elder Graham is in North Nogie, and he's cool too.

2) Holidays are definitely easier to connect with people. Everyone feels a little nicer and is more open, and even people who are already religious are more willing to talk to us.
3) We attend both the English and the Spanish branch, but it's 9-1:30 because they have Sunday School and Relief Society at the same time.

4) animals? We see coyotes and javelinas a lot. We saw javelinas once while we were walking and it was super scary because they can be really aggressive. I see lizards on our window too. And a black widow took a shower with me once....
We had our ward Christmas party on Saturday! It was combined ward and branch and they had a cute little program and then food. We had some less actives and nonmembers come, so that was awesome!!

Today I turned 2!!! Yay!! I am so young it's weird...but that's okay. I learn so much every week.
I'm learning a lot about how directly obedience influences our blessings. Especially as missionaries, we have to be as obedient as possible. The big rules aren't too hard, but it's so hard to be good with all the little ones. Poco a poco though...if we want our investigators to progress we have to be obedient. The same goes for everyone though...if you want blessings you have to be exactly obedient.

Sorry this is short but I'm drawing a blank on stories this week....

Love and miss you!

Hermana Blackford

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Transfer Week!

Buenos Dias!!!

So yes Mom, it was transfer week. Hence P-day is Tuesday. Before I answer questions and talk about my week, let me give you the low-down on what has happen here in good ol' Nogie:

Hermana Johnson and I are staying together, and she's also the new sister training leader!

The ZLs (Elders Call and Fairbanks) are no longer a ZL area (they moved the ZL area to Tucson)! Fairbanks left to be ZL in another zone and Call stepped down, but stayed in Rio Rico (heck yeah!). Elder Call is now the district leader (we have decided to call him Ex-Zone-Leader-District-Leader-Senior-Companion-Elder Call) with an Elder Roney who I met around 45 min ago when we arrived at the lab to email.

Elder Preciado (who was the DL) left, and we have some new elder who I have not yet met.
Elder Whitman left. I want to cry. We LOVE him so much, it is way sad. Things will not be the same without him. And he didn't even stay in the zone. Luckily we'll see him in two weeks at the Christmas conference. Elder Harper stayed and has a companion who I also have not met.

1) Box knocking is like if you were going to a house, and then you knocked all the houses around it (like boxed it in). It's a way to do a little tracting when you are limited on time.
2) I don't have my cord with me today...but I can send some next week. Also, did you get the picture from Sis. Bake on Dad's phone (we texted it) and an email from Sis. Astrain last night? We made cookies with the Bakes and learned how to make emapanadas with the Astrains.

3) We have a mini fridge. Though basically all we eat at home is breakfast. As of late members have been feeding us at lunch and 2-3 days we end up going out to lunch because we're gone, so we'll meet up with the elders.
4) Referrals are most definitely encouraged!!! Holy crap yes we need them. No one has any. That's the issue...not that we don't want them. We hate that we don't get any. We've gotten 2 since I got her...because we got one more last night. Haha

5) Worst thing: Elder Whitman left

Best thing: I got to bake Christmas cookies and help a less-active decorate her tree. It finally starts to feel like Navidad.
So I sorta had a lot of other people to email this week so not lots of time, but let me think of a couple quick stories.

Oh! We've been working with this less-active, and last week when we showed up, she was like "This week I want to give you guys a spiritual thought!" We were like sweet! And she reads a couple little thoughts she read online about forgiveness and how it frees yourself. The reason she had become less-active was due to offense she had taken from some things members had done. We were astounded as she shared how she had realized that she needed to forgive and that it was holding her down. She had even talked to the bishop about it! We didn't even know what to say. We are so excited for her. She has been pretty active for a couple months, and now has some amazing visiting teachers and is making friends in the ward. And her whole demeanor has changed. She looks healthier, and has a bit of a glow. It's amazing.
Another cool thing is so a week before every transfer is over, we have "The Day." Everyone in the entire mission goes on exchanges and there is a focus for "The Day." I went up to Los Reales in south Tucson (actually where I went last time) but this time with Sister Hale. The focus was on finding. And we had an AMAZING day. We found 6 new investigators, and 4 of them accepted a baptismal date. At least 3 of the news were solid, so that's cool. Plus Sister Hale is a boss missionary, so it was just a great "The Day."

Mom, I LOVED hearing about you reaching out to that sister in our ward. That is one of the most important things a member can do, is reach out to other members, especially those who are struggling. Way to be!!!
Miss you and love you all!

Hermana Blackford

P.S. I was talking about the movie Hot Rod with our ZLs like a week ago, and when they sent out a zone text it ended with a "and don't let your dads eat pie!" I laughed because Braden would say that at the end of his emails. Then Elder Call told me he put it on the text just for me, and I laughed harder. Sister Johnson and I are accepted as elders these days. We're excluded from all the negative sister generalizations made by elders. Win!

Making empanadas
Finished empanadas!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Thanksgiving Report


So weird to think that Braden is home. It actually made me a little sad last Wednesday. I guess I mostly just felt left out. But I happened to get the package and two letters that day, so my sadness was rather short-lived. Haha typical me.
Thanksgiving was good! We had American Thanksgiving with everyone at the Dukes in the afternoon, followed by second Dia de Pavo with a family in the branch. The seasoning was very Mexican, so it was super funny, but delicious. I ate a little turkey and a little stuffing, just to be polite. But I mostly just like mashed potatoes. And I am quickly learning that you always under-eat at every meal. Because it is a guarantee they will do one of two things:
1) Pull out another dish or dessert

2) Be offended if you don't have seconds.

If I don't want to weigh 1000 lbs, I have to eat super small portions. And the rare times we get fruits and rarer times we get veggies, I load up on those. Haha.

I am so jealous that I won't get to see Matt!!! Plus someone should yell at him. He has not emailed me once!
So to answer Grandma's questions:

1) The number of referrals we've received since I got here? 0. ZERO. ZILCH. NADA. It's the worst. We don't go tracting very often (never since I've been here) because our area is spread out. The best way for us to find right now is through former investigators and box-knocking.
2) I forgot to take pictures of the apartment...dang. It's one room. Well it's one room with a mini kitchen (as in a mini fridge and a microwave and a sink), a bathroom, and a walk in closet. And that's it. We don't need anything else though.
3) Laundry - we are lucky! The Allens' are super nice and let us use their washer and dryer, so we just go into the main part of the house and do laundry. They love it when we come in to the house and chat with them actually. So it's really cool.
4) We live in Tubac, which is no where. So it's like 30 or 25 minutes to Nogie. Which is fine, because technically that's not our area. But even Rio Rico is a bit of a drive, which sucks because we keep going over our mile limit. But we can't do work if we don't drive so...
5) We do 0 cooking because we don't have a real kitchen. The members feed us dinner every day, so it's not a problem. Yesterday was the first time we didn't have dinner, so all 8 of us missionaries brought whatever we had to the church and made food there.
6) Mexican food here is just real Mexican food. Like it's what you would typically think of, but it doesn't taste the same as a restaurant. Plus restaurants have WAY more variety than what we get here.

This week was weird. With the holidays, everyone is either with family or in Mexico, so Thursday - Saturday honestly were more like P-days.

Tuesday and Wednesday we worked like bosses and got 8 lessons in 2 days! That's insane for us. We're studs.
Thursday started off with the Branch softball game (I'll send pics). It's their tradition here. It was fun to spend time with them. Then we had a little down time and we changed and stuff for dinner numero uno. We were there from like 1:30 to almost 4:00, then we went home for naps (or in my case, to sew the hole in Elder Call's favorite sweater...He had called the night before at like10:00 freaking out about it. It was hilarious.) Then we went to our Mexican Thanksgiving, and were there from like 6-8. Then, we had to go to the church to practice music.
Friday we had been invited to go on a hike (will also send a pic) with a family in the ward, and supposedly their non-member friends were coming. But there was only members there so...yeah. Fail. But we literally had nothing to do because of dumb Black Friday, so we went and had a blast. Our district is so close. And we wished we had work, but since we didn't it was super fun to "hang out" (mas o menos). Then we had to go to the funeral for this lady in the branch. That's what the music practice was for...on Wednesday the branch president asked us to do a musical number. Elder Whitman has a beautiful voice so he and I did a duet - acapella "How Great Thou Art" in Spanish. It turned out well. Then Friday night we went home for weekly planning.

Saturday we helped our ward mission leader paint in his new house. Which was good! Except we sorta had a paint fight and then had to shower. And Elder Call learned that putting paint in a girl's hair is a bad idea. I am still peeling paint out of my hair today. It was super fun though. And we actually did get a lot of painting done.
Oh and yesterday my companion got hit by a door and it kinda split her heel open a little. Luckily there is a nurse practitioner in the ward and so we went to see him and he cleaned it and glued her back together.
That's all I can think of this este momento. So I'm going to send lots of pictures now. Love y'all!

-Hermana Blackford
Branch Thanksgiving softball game

Hermana Blackford y Johnson at the softball game
District hike to a cave with a few members
Mexico border in Nogales

Traditional Jumping picture in District in Rio Rico/Nogales

District in standing pose
Harper, Fairbanks, Blackford, Johnson, Call, Whitman, Preciado, Anderson

Monday, November 25, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hello hello!

What a semana this has been! I feel like by the time Mondays roll around so much has happened! But at the same time I'm like 6/7 sure that Monday was yesterday. The mission has the weirdest time warps.

Okay so here is the answer to your preguntas:

1) I am not cold, my companion is freezing. But I did pull out sweaters. It's chilly at night, nice during the day. It will get colder, but that's okay. I kinda like it. Also it rained for 2 days, which is super weird for here but made me feel at home.

2) We haven't seen Blanca yet, but hopefully we will catch her this week. No church, but we didn't have high expectations.
2) Presidente Estren = the branch president (remember I have an English ward and a Spanish branch?)
3) We live in like a back room. I'll take a little video this week and send it next week and give you the grand tour. We come in a back entrance, but it's connected to the rest of the house.
4) Like a million people invited us for Thanksgiving, but we are going to the Duke's house. I actually haven't really met them...but I've heard they're cool. We had two dinners and then they combined, thank goodness!

 5) This wasn't a question, but the answer to more of what I want you to send for Christmas:

-Nutella (again)
-my orange sunglasses
-Walmart gift card (we live off $130 a's rough)
-chocolate :)
-tape (like packaging tape, duct tape, and scotch tape)

 Miracle numero uno from last week:

Last Monday after P-day was over we had a whole list of people we were going to try to see (but we had 0 appointments set). Literally every single person wasn't home. It was around 8:00, and we were wondering if we should just call it a day and go home to study. But both of us just felt like there was someone we needed to see. I didn't know of anyone else that lived close to where we were at, but Hna. Johnson was like "Oh let's see if Hna. Hernandez is home from work!" So we drove to her house. She wasn't home, but much to our surprise, her inactive daughter, Pamela, opened the door and told us to come in. Let me explain: she normally won't even answer the door to missionaries. Flabbergasted, we went inside and began chatting with her. It turns out she was feeling super sick from a toothache and was dealing with an infection before she could have surgery. We asked if she wanted a blessing, and she said yes! We called the ZLs (aka the Rio Rico elders - Elder Call and Elder Fairbanks) and asked them to come. While we waited for them, we asked if we could share a message and so we taught lesson one with cups. Which was way amazing. The elders got there, and before the blessing Elder Call told us the story that made this whole thing possible. As they were leaving their house after P-day, Elder Call saw his oil sitting on his desk, but left it there and was going to leave. He had an impression that he was going to need it that night, so he ran back to his desk to grab it. The Zls had the same problem as us this evening - no one was home - and were wondering where to go next when we called and asked if they had time to come give a blessing. Both our evenings had worked out perfectly to help this sister. Now whether or not this brings her back, we all know that the Lord was looking out for her, and she knows it too. Elder Fairbanks gave her one of the most beautiful blessings I've ever heard. Miracle!
Miracle number two happened on Saturday night. We had planned on going to a lesson with the ZLs that evening, and were meeting at 7 to go to the house. I had been feeling really sick all day, and it had gotten to the point where I asked Hna. Johnson to switch with me and drive because I couldn't. I haven't exactly been sleeping very well lately (shock right?) and I think my body was just starting to shut down from lack of REM cycles (just like senior year). Our investigator texted and said they needed to move the appointment to 8, so when the ZLs arrived I asked if in the mean time they would give me a blessing. We drove to the home where they live to ask they member if we could come inside for the blessing, and they were more than happy to let us in. Elder Call gave me a blessing that I would be able to continue doing missionary work and that sleep would come easier. He also gave me a Snickers bar and DayQuil and said that they would help too, haha. Anyway, so we went to the appointment after that, and then went home. By the time I got home, I felt 100% fine. I was starving from not eating much, but I felt fine. I slept better Saturday night than I had in over two weeks. I woke up Sunday morning feeling super hyper and was so grateful.

Guys, the power of the priesthood is so real. I am forever grateful to men that are worthy to hold and exercise the priesthood. We tell the elders after every blessing they give how grateful we are that they are worthy and willing to use their priesthood. Don't forget how blessed we are!

With Thanksgiving this week and Christmas just around the corner, take a little extra time to look around you and lift someone. We all have the responsibility to help bring others closer to Christ. This doesn't mean they have to get baptized, but it does mean we have to invite. A speaker in the MTC told us, "Once you invite, it's the Lord's battle." We are failures only if we don't invite. If someone declines an invitation of any kind, that doesn't mean we failed. It just means they aren't ready yet. But the only way to know who's ready is to invite everyone.
I love you all! Write me more letters!


Hermana Blackford

Monday, November 18, 2013

About the area and the work - plus pictures!

Voy a empezar con las preguntas porque son mas faciles.
1) I haven't eaten anything super weird that I can think I had pazole for the first time but that's just Mexican soup. Oh wait!! Yeah so Sister Bake is this crazy cool lady from Puerto Rico, and I had fried bread fruit and platanos! SO good. Especially the bread fruit. But other than that it's just Mexican food and regular white people food.
2) The schedule is fine. Getting up at 6:25 isn't that early. I go to bed like right at 10:30, but Hna. Johnson is usually completely out by 9:45. So I clean, write in my journal, occasionally write letters, and as of late, have been doing some mending for our elders once she goes to bed.
3) I'm boss at Spanish and never make mistakes. Just kidding I do all the time. I haven't said anything too bad, except one time this kid told me to say something and then lied to me about what it meant. Turns out it was a bad word. Ooops. Well now I know.
4) Members here feed us all the time! The sisters always have dinner, the elders have a few days a month they don't have people signed up though. So usually we will ask who we're eating with if they can feed 2 or 4 elders as well. But as sisters, we also get lunch fed to us a lot. Shh don't tell the elders! They never get that.
5) So my area = Tubac, Tumacori, and that side of the freeway in Rio Rico down to San Xaiver. South of that and the other side of the freeway in Rio Rico is the ZLs area.
6) The picture looks sorta like our I think it is. It looks a little different now though...
Renee's questions!
1) Highlight of the week was exchanges! I went up to Los Reales (south Tucson) with the sister training leader, Hna, U. She and I became like insta-bestfriends. We have a lot in common. Too bad she dies in 3 weeks. We just had awesome conversations and although like all our appointments fell through, we had a productive day. My face hurt from smiling afterwards haha.
2) Goals my companion and I have...well we're always trying to get more members to come out with us. It's hard for us. But it's getting better. We also try to speak more Spanish amongst ourselves, but it like never happens. Except I text the Zls in Spanish a lot.
3) Our less active work is moving, but of course slowly. We have a couple LAs who will let us visit but won't come to church, so the most important thing to do is to find out what's holding them back. Every single one of them says they know the Church is true, so now we have to push beyond all the lame excuses.
That reminds me of a cool story!! Miracle time. So we went down to the far south end of our area to see if we could find a less active and a former investigator who live on the same street. Turns out neither of them were home, so then we were like "Okay who else lives down in this area?" because we are already over our mile limit and we have a week left. And then Hna. Johnson was like "Oh well this one Hna. named Blanca that Presidente Estren told us to visit lives around here I think!" So we whipped out our map, found her house, and drove there. We knocked, but no answer. Just when we were about to leave, she pulls in! She works for animal control (and has awesome stories) and was still on duty, but had brought home a little bird that they were going to release because she wanted to keep it instead. Blanca let us in and we chatted with her while she got the little guy all situated in a cage. She is my favorite. She was straight up. She asked us why we came, told us her situation and that she knows she needs to come to church, and said "You can teach me whatever. I know all the answers, it's just a matter of doing something about it." And it's true. She really does know the gospel super well, and even said that the timing of her coming home and our visit was a sign. I guess some elders had stopped by a couple transfers ago at a miraculous time as well. But when all was said and done, unlike in times past, she said it would be fine if we visit and gave us her number, both cell phone and work (so we can call her when crazy dogs chase us). It was seriously a miracle. Perfect timing, and Hna. Johnson and I were the perfect missionaries to go, because we could just laugh and chat with her as a friend in a way that elders wouldn't have been able to. The Lord knows what He's doing!
Let's see...que mas. Speaking only in English or only in Spanish is really hard right now. It's weird how often we switch and some words are just always better in the other language. We are pro Spanglish speakers here in Nogie.
Ooh! I'll attach photos of our kids! I love love love them. I think I talked about them last week - Dominic, Stoney, and Judy? They are 10, 14 and 17 and all three came to church yesterday! It's super fun to teach kids, because they are so open and honest. Stoney isn't as on board as his sisters, so we asked the ZLs to come with us to an appointment with them and help him be more excited. He loves the elders (of course) so that helped a lot. You know, just to see that Mormons are cool people too.
Que mas (not too be confused with quemas) se. Well that's all I got right now. What day does Braden come home again?
Love and miss y'all!

Hermana Blackford
Art work...not sure for what...

Dominic (10) Stoney (14) Judy (17) - investigators

Hermana Blackford and Hermana U

The MTC District
Sunset the first night in Tucson

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Country Life in the Desert

Hola hola!
So familia y amigos, before I tell all my stories here's the scoop. La Hermana Johnson and I are in desperate need of your help. We need new music! So my mission allows Disney music....WHAT!? Best thing I learned. Madre, if you/Keagan would burn copies of my Tangled CD and also my EFY one (it's in a DVD case in the stack in my room) and send them would be so grateful. Then get a ton of Disney music, make like 50 mix CDs, and send them to us! Por favor! We live out in the middle of nowhere and spend a lot of time driving, so we need some new uplifting music.
 To answer all the questions:
1) Yes all mail goes to the mission office. Always and forever!
2) I don't know my house number, but I live on Cielito in Tubac, the last house on the street.
3) We actually don't see the members that often, we are in a side part of the house and use our own back entrance. But we do chat with them a couple times a week! I love them. Sis. Allen is super awesome and does so much more for us than we need. She lets us use her washer/dryer, buys stuff to fix up our room, etc. Last week she cleaned our room/bathroom entirely for us, and was like "It was really fun!"
4) Yeah we have both Nogales ward (English) and the Valle Verde branch (Spanish). They cover the same geographical area. We have 1/4 of that area, since there are also 3 sets of elders. We teach whoever lives in our area, regardless of whether they attend the ward or branch. Does that make sense? Kinda hard to explain...
5) The work here is building...slowly. Last week was a rough week for the whole mission, and our district (minus us actually) had a super hard time. We did great...sorta. 15 lessons, which is awesome for this area! But we can always do more. The poor ZLs got told to never come back by a couple of their investigators, one of which was super solid. It's a struggle here. But we have our kids with baptismal dates of the 30th! I say kids because they are 10 and 14, girl (Dominique and Stoney) and boy. We love them! They came to church again on Sunday, and the elders reached out to Stoney and we're going to bring the ZLs (they're the other Rio Rico missionaries) with us to meet with the kids and their dad (parents are split, mom lives in our area and dad lives in theirs, so it will be a joint teaching effort with the dad, who drove the kids to church and said we could come visit him and the kids this weekend!).
A solid 50% or more of what we do is work with inactives. There are like 150 inactive FAMILIES in the branch, and a bunch in the ward. We can't bring new converts to a place where the members aren't strong, so right now we teach tons of inactives and are working on training/strengthening members.
6) (This was April's question) The most awkward moment of the week was when we went to visit a less active family. The husband had been super friendly and so we set up an appointment, but when we went he was sick so we just taught the wife and the grown daughter who was there visiting. Talk about awkward! They clearly did not want us there and converstation was super forced. I was supposed to give a spiritual thought or mini lesson, but the Spirit just wasn't there so we had to make it brief. Hopefully next time it goes better....
Story time! So P-day was yesterday, but because of the holiday we couldn't email until today. But we went on like a 10 mile hike through the desert to a lake. We expected this to be like a much shorter and hour and a half or so...but no. We were gone 3 hours and went all the way to this lake - not what we planned! It was insane. So fun. We were climbing these rocky mountains and it was super hot (like 85) and we did not have enough water, but that's okay! It was so ridiculously fun. I'll attach some pics. I'm a little sore today though...but it was worth it! It was us, the 6 elders from our district, and 5 young men from the branch. I learned all sorts of Spanish slang...and some things I won't repeat. Haha at least now I know what people are saying!
Hermana Johnson and I get along so well. We're boss companions, so I hope she gets to stay with me the whole 12 weeks! We just work well together in teaching, and we like to be silly and have fun sometimes too, especially like on p-day with our elders.
Out of time, but love you and miss you! Please send music ASAP....I'm dying here. Haha. And keep asking questions! So helpful :)
 Hermana Blackford
Hermana Blackford hiking in the Arizona desert
Hermanas Blackford y Johnson 

They hiked to this

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

It's Been One Week (plus pictures)

Hello hello!
So hopefully Keagan laughs when she reads the title of this email. That was just for her.
Let me start out by saying, I'm FREE! As much as I loved the MTC, it was seriously prison. Way too many rules and restrictions. Here I can breathe. The field is 5465161645641x better.
I may have only been here a week, but I seriously already love it so much. To answer your questions, this is how my area works. Hermana Johnson, along with 3 sets of elders cover the Valle Verde Rama as well as the Nogales Ward. The area is just divided into 4 sections, and we each are assigned a piece. Which means we are all Spanish speaking missionaries but we teach in both English and Spanish. Rio Rico is pretty desert-y, but the mountains are pretty awesome. And since we are in Nogales like almost every day I see Mexico all the time. It's pretty freakin' awesome. It cools down here at night, but it's still like upper 70s during the day.
Time to introduce you to my new family! We see them pretty much every day. It's the best.
-The DL is Elder Presciado, the only Mexican in our district. He is seriously one of the sweetest people ever. He always checks in to make sure I'm doing okay, because I'm the only greenie (though there are 2 elders new to the area).
-His comp. is Elder Anderson, who is a fellow Pacific Islander (except he's from Hawaii, but he's white). He's super awesome too!

-Then there's the ZLs! First is Elder Call, who goes home in April. He's so funny, and definitely is not what I had originally expected from a ZL. Let's just say that he works super hard but is all about having fun.
-Other ZL is Elder Fairbanks, and he's so cool! He's from Mesa (had to stay in state for health reasons) and says hilarious side comments but you have to listen or you might miss it.
-Elder Whitman is way cool! Super tall, he's been out for a year. I'm not sure that words can describe him, but he's one of my favorites.
-His comp. is Elder Harper, who is way too quiet but is becoming increasingly more talkative.
And that's my family!! I love them SO much. The elders must have thought that I was hardcore Molly Mormon because every time we talk about like music or sports or whatever they're like "What!? Really? No way!" I gained some respect to say the least. Which is good because Elder Call usually is not a fan of sister missionaries, but he likes Hermana Johnson so I hope to keep that tradition going and that he likes me too! But yeah my whole district is super tight, and they are totally all over giving advice and Spanish vocab, some of which I probably don't even need to know. Like the verb entamalar (or something like that) means like to put someone in a bag and stab them to death. Thanks Elder Call, definitely needed to know that one.
Hermana Johnson has been here for one transfer, and before that the sister missionaries were teaching 0 investigators and visiting 0 less actives. "What were they doing?" you ask? Offroading with our little car out in the desert and causing thousands of dollars of damage to the car. Yup, I'm not joking. Hermana Johnson worked hard to get stuff built up las transfer, but we have a lot of work to do and we are ready to work ourselves to death to re-establish the reputation of the sisters in this area (no wonder Elder Call hates sisters, right?).
Everyone asks me what the hardest thing about being in the field is, but honestly the MTC was harder than this haha. I can handle this. It's more fun than I expected though! I guess I sorta forgot that missionaries are people too. We have so much fun as a district and work hard too! Great unity.
Well let's see...pretty much yeah for the most part this is kinda what I expected. We do lots of service trying to get the members to trust us. Bishop moved on Saturday and we helped out there for hours. And we have a lot of service lined up for this week.
Oh so sad! So you know how I'm like on the border and see Mexico all the time? Yeah they won't let you touch the fence. One day, I will touch it. Border patrol might shoot me or something though. I understand why Braden always wanted us to send questions. Because you get here and 10 million things have happened so you aren't sure what to even talk about. So people should email me questions! Haha.

Lots of love,

Hermana Blackford


Hermana Blackford with Sister and President Killpack
New Batch of Missionaries at the Mormon Battalion Monument
Hermana Blackford and Hermana Johnson

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

I Was Born to Be Hispanic

Hello world!!

So crazy crazy CRAZY week. My last week in the CCM was AMAZING. Seriously, that place is the best. Except the food sucks. But other than that, it's awesome. By the way, before I forget, Hermana Williams (my favorite teacher in the world) knows Alayna!! They used to work together. It's such a small world in Provo.

I am surprised I am super hyper right now because I was up for 20 hours yesterday and got like 7 hours of sleep and have had training all morning. So if this is all over the place I apologize.

My second week in the CCM was so fun/spiritual. West Campus = not as cool as Main Campus, except the beach volleyball court. That was awesome. And let's just say I understand why we aren't allowed to keep score, because my zone might have been slightly ridiculously competitive. Anyway, so we kept teaching our "investigators" and I spoke more and more in the lessons. My teacher Hermano Henderson said my Spanish improved SO much during those two weeks. Word. Let's see....oh yeah! I sang in Sacrament Meeting Sunday. That was fun! Just the first and last verse of Yo Se Que Vive Mi Senor, but it was good. My barrio is all Hispanic, so most people couldn't really sing so everyone was excited about a special music number. Plus it meant they wouldn't call on me to speak, so a double win! Though honestly I speak pretty well now. Speaking English these last couple days has been a little weird...normally I don't speak it this much.
I got one of the biggest compliments from my zone last week. They told me I was born to be Hispanic. Why? Just because I love Spanish and was beginnning to fit in with the latinos. One time I actually forgot I was white. Like for real. Elder Ramos made some joke about white people and like 10 minutes later I was like, "Hey!! I'm white!" and he was like "I was wondering when you were going to realize that..." So basially they accepted me into their culture and hopefully it will be like that in my first area.

Random side note...basically everyone I meet now asks me about my eyes. No one can tell for sure if they're hazel or green and so people always ask. It's kinda weird. Hermana Orantes said that most days they're such a bright green that it almost freaks her out if I hold eye contact for too long. Hahaha she's silly. But really...what is up with my eyes? I swear this isn't normal.

I already miss some of the missionaries from the CCM. There are two Elders from another district in my zone that I got to know really well last week, and they are the best. Super sweet. They're headed to Mexico, but they have my email so hopefully we keep in touch. One of them might be going to BYU post mission, so if he does I'm sure we'll meet up at some point. He's my favorite (shhh!). Totally cute, super mature for an elder, and helpful with my Spanish. My CCM companion leaves tomorrow for San Jose. So crazy!

For coming to Tucson I was assigned as the travel leader, which is funny because I was traveling with 5 elders. It was weird to be with elders without my companion. But they were awesome. We got to Tucson no problem (and my bags weighed 49 and 50 lbs, with my carry on being probably like 35, yikes!) and they said that this is the smallest group of new missionaries they've had in over a year. I guess usually they have 30-35 missionaries, and we had 8. Since I was the only sister, I rode with President and Sister Killpack for most of the driving (we stopped at the Mormon Battalion monument), which is cool because that means I got to spend like an extra hour or so getting to know them. They're awesome. The APs, who have been helping with all the training, are super great too. Elder Hansen, who is a Spanish speaking elder, chatted with me a ton about Spanish and all sorts of stuff, and told me he thinks I'm the most prepared missionary he's ever met. It was like the biggest compliment I've ever gotten.

My companion's name is Hermana Johnson! She is from Virginia, turns 22 on Thursday, and has been on her mission for 10 months. I might speak more Spanish than her, but that's okay. As far as I can tell (from the 5 hours I've known her) she is very sweet and cheery. So we'll probably get along just fine. I'm her second daughter in a row. So she's good with the whole training thing.

Now for the big reveal! My first area will be....drum roll please....RIO RICO!!! It's just north of Nogales. Which yes, means I will be spending plenty of time in Nogales on the border. They're sending me right down to Mexcio-town. My area includes a huge Spanish branch and a small English ward. Apparently the work down there is exploding, so I am stoked. I've been told we live in a member's home too, so that will be interesting. Currently I'm still in Tucson, so I don't have a lot to say about my area since I sort of haven't been there yet...but yeah. I'm pumped! So ready to teach!

Alright I'm about out of time, so here's the new spiritual challenge of the week. (By the way what's the report on the 1 Nefi reading?) Say your personal prayers morning and night, and make the morning one ONLY be a prayer of thanks. I promise if you do, you will have amazing days. It'll make you 65465416514654x happier.

Love you all!

Hermana Blackford



Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The CCM is the Happiest Place on Earth...Not Disneyland

Hola Familia!

So guess what!! I'm a missionary!! For realz. Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, OH MY GOSH do I love the CCM (MTC)!!!!!!! It's the weirdest experience because it's kinda stressful since there is so much to do, but at the same time the Spirit is so strong here that it's okay. I want to cry, laugh, and scream all at the same time. Mostly I just laugh though. I haven't cried yet, which is good. Definitely 0% of me wants to go home. The people who can't handle it here take things too seriously. Relax. We're learning. No one will be angry if you mess up. It's a place full of the Spirit and love of God.

Advice to sisters coming to the CCM (like Shannon and Sidney and McKenzie) is that close enough is not okay. Skirts need to COMPLETELY cover your knee when you sit (so glad mine all are good). Close enough doesn't fly. You'll feel super awkward. Also, DO NOT dress casual. Skirt does not equal dressy. Again, so grateful for the clothes I brought. The better you look, the better you'll feel, and more people will take you seriously.

My companion is Hermana Arias. I seriously love her. We're different, but we help each other so much and get along really well. I push her to be on time and to be organized, she helps me with Spanish and pushes me to be more serious and focused. (But come on, me distracted? Haha never.) She was born in Guatemala and moved to Rhode Island when she was 8. She's knows more English than Spanish, but still is like 97% fluent. I'm at like 70% fluent. Haha.
I have the best district and zone in the entire world. I LOVE them all. We're seriously like a family. We do everything together - even the things we don't have to. We eat together, pray together, study together, sing together (well mostly me singing), went to the temple together, and just are best friends. So much love for these people.
So super hilarious, not only am I the only gringa in my district, but I'm the only white person AND the only person who didn't grow up in a bilingual home in my entire ZONE. Since I'm the only one who doesn't have a Spanish last name, everyone knows my name and who I am. My first day here everyone kept asking me how I learned Spanish and my teachers looked shocked the first time they saw me, a gringa, in class. But everyone says I speak really well, especially for never really speaking it outside of 3 months in Spain. I don't talk a lot in class (we speak English often at meals and such) because for the first time in my life, I am totally insecure about my Spanish. Which is silly, but it's hard when I'm with people that are all Hispanic and speak faster and don't have American accents.
Okay let me give you the low down on my district. We have:
Hermana Blackford - that's my name (Arizona Tucson)
Hermana Arias - mi companera (California San Jose)
Hermana Orantes - SUPER awesome, is almost done at BYU, is a great leader. She's from Texas but she's mitad mitad mexicana y salvadoranian (California Oakland)
Hermana Sosa - So cute! She's from La Republica Dominicana and she talks SO FAST and at first I couldn't keep up but I'm okay now. (Salt Lake Central)
Elder Lopez - Convert of 3 years, born in Mexico and grew up in Nueva York. Really quiet, but is so amazingly spiritual when he talks. (California Bakersfield)
Elder Ruiz - Also born in Mexico but raised in Vegas. He's a bro. Super chill. (California Bakersfield)
Elder Carranco - Born in Ecuador, raised mostly in Utah. He is also quiet, but seriously says hilarious things if you listen closely. He's really sweet and I wish I knew him better. He's also our district leader. (California San Jose)
Elder Ramos - Oh man...where to start. SO many stories about this elder. He was born and raised in Honduras, and moved to Virginia at age 14. He speaks English really well (had ESL in high school). Better English than my Spanish actually. He's crazy. He jokes around all the time and reminds me of what Braden was probably like in the CCM. So the first few days he kept laughing when I would speak Spanish, especially when one time I went to say 137 and I couldn't remember how to say numbers. I was sort of offended and this is probably where some of my insecurity stems from, but finally on Saturday I was like "Why do you laugh!? I'm trying so hard and I know I speak slowly but at least I know another language unlike most Americans!!" And he basically didn't realize that it was hurting my feelings a little and was like "I laugh because it's so cute!" Which then he was like "We aren't supposed to say stuff like that so I never said anything, but I'm not laughing at you, you speak really well!" So then I felt better. He and I joke around all the time. Seriously he's a lot like Braden. I'm super grateful, because as much as we want to strangle him and make him focus sometimes, the humor is much needed and we all love him anyway.
So yesterday my district decided that I need to speak more in Spanish, and when I try to talk to them in English for things that I could say in Spanish, they pretend they can't hear me or that they don't speak English. Super frustrating, but very helpful.
We also learned yesterday that I am Hispanic at heart. I think my zone often forgets I'm white, because they make so many jokes about white people, and when I'm like "Hey!" they tell me I don't count. It's super weird being a minority. Haha but I love it.
So...I'm moving!!! I leave for West Campus in like an hour. They're creating basically a mini Mexico CCM over there and putting all the Spanish speakers there. My zone jokes that they just want to get the Hispanics out of Main Campus. My address is the same for letters (they'll forward it).
I have three of the most amazing teachers in the world. Hermana Williams is my favorite. She's like a General Authority and everything she says is like revelation. Hermano Ackerson and Henderson are great too, and have taught me so much. I LOVE being a missionary, I LOVE the gospel, and I LOVE the CCM. I can't believe I'm halfway through with my time here. I have so realized though that the Lord really knew that this was the exact time I needed to be here. My district is so great and I couldn't ask for a better companion. I just feel so much love for everyone. Everyone loves having the hyper peppy gringa around too, so I feel very loved and accepted. The worst thing is that I can't hug everybody. I seriously want to hug people, but can only hug sisters so...yeah. Elder Carranco was sharing his testimony yesterday at a district teaching appointment yesterday and I was practically crying and wanted to just hug him. Instead I just told him I wanted to hug him.
I wish I could make everyone in the whole world feel the Spirit. It CHANGES LIVES. Every day. There is no way you can deny the truthfulness of the gospel. It's the best thing in the entire world.
Love you all! Make sure to pray morning and night!

Hermana Blackford
P.S. Read 1 Nephi chapter 1. My challenge. Because if you think about it, there's a reason why it's the first chapter, the chapter everyone reads dozens of times. It took my district like 15 minutes to discuss the first three verses. So if you take less than 3 minutes per verse, you're missing something.
P.S. (again) Elder Carranco just gave me some sour gummy worms!! Told you I have the best district in the world. Haha we're all in the laundry room right now. Like I said...We do literally everything together.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Deciding to Serve

           In June of this year, I received my call to preach the gospel in the Arizona Tucson mission. And while this wasn't a surprise to many of my friends and members of my home ward, I've still had many people ask me why on earth I would “give up” a year and a half of my life, when I could be at college, having fun, dating, and enjoying having few obligations and responsibilities, to walk around in the hot desert and try to teach people about Jesus Christ. At first I wasn’t even sure how to respond to this question, not because I didn’t know, but because it is almost impossible for me to put my feelings into words. When my bishop asked me to share my experience on deciding to serve a mission as part of my farewell talk, I knew that I finally had to sit down and find a way to express this burning desire I have within me.
I grew up in the LDS or "Mormon" church. From the outside, I seem like the stereotypical Mormon girl. I was baptized at age eight, attended Primary, Young Women's, seminary, mutual, and attended BYU before serving a mission. I did well in school, was (mostly) obedient to my parents, and dressed modestly. So of course it seemed natural that someone like me would want to serve a mission. Some people thought my parents expected me to. Others thought I got caught up in the hype of the missionary age requirements being lowered and so many young men and women leaving. A few people even dared to suggest that I was going because the young man I had been dating left on his mission. All of those reasons are absolutely false. The question of why I chose to serve a mission goes back much farther and is much deeper than that. And the answer begins with how I gained a testimony of my Savior, Jesus Christ, and His restored gospel that is found in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
I never had an “Ah-ha!” experience where I suddenly knew this was the true church or the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I never had a vision. I never saw an angel. I never had a moment that I can trace the beginning of my testimony to. It just didn’t happen like that. My testimony grew with small moments and seeing the blessings that came into my life when I obeyed the commandments of God. I found that the best way to know if what I learned at church and from my parents was true was to try it for myself. And I did. I prayed, read my scriptures, paid my tithing and remained chaste.  Then, I looked at my life to see if these things made a difference. My findings were this: I was happy. I might be one of the happiest people alive - just ask anyone who knows me. And I don’t say that to brag, but because I honestly just feel happy 99% of the time. People frequently ask me how I am so happy so often. And I testify that I can directly trace my happiness to my efforts to follow the example of Jesus Christ. Once I realized that the gospel is what makes me happy, everything else began to fall into place.
 I think I started saying I was going to serve a mission when I was about 11 or 12 years old. Around that same time, I began having my first real missionary experiences. I remember talking to my friends in 7th and 8th grade, who were Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, Methodist, and atheist, about our different beliefs, and being excited when we found things that we had in common. I invited friends to my home, to church, mutual activities, stake dances, and basically any sort of church activity. I saw my older brother do the same with his friends. Each year, I saw my desire to share the gospel grow as my testimony grew. Why? Because I was happy! The gospel makes me so happy, and I want everyone else to be as happy as I am. This desire for others to be happy is what drives me to serve a mission. I didn’t just wake up one day and know that I wanted to serve. I woke up day after day feeling so happy and blessed and then I slowly realized that I can bring this joy to other people. And that is exactly what I want to do.
I chose to serve a full-time mission, to dedicate 18 months of my life because I believe. I believe that there is a God, who is our loving Heavenly Father. I believe we are His children. I believe in Jesus Christ, the Savior. I believe that The Book of Mormon and The Bible are the word of God. I believe that there are living prophets on the earth today. I believe that families can live together throughout time and all eternity. And I believe that I can share this message with others and change their lives for the better.