Monday, April 20, 2015

Tell the World I'm Coming Home

Hello everyone!

I cannot believe I am sitting here typing out my last email! I feel like I should have something really profound and spiritual to say, but right now my mind is completely blank. I just don't want to believe this is real.

This last week was pretty awesome - nothing out of the ordinary, but I sure seem to appreciate everything more than I did a few months ago. I'm so happy to be out doing any form of missionary work at this point. I'll miss tracting believe it or not.

We're still working towards the baptism on the 27th (I think last I said 22nd, but we had to move it so their dad could come) and it looks like everything is a go! The girls are so excited and we just really hope we can help them stay active, because this family has a history of getting active long enough for the kids to get baptized and then just falling away again. We're turning the focus to the temple though so that we can help them start to see a little bit of a bigger picture.

We had missionary homecoming talks in both of our wards yesterday, which was way cool! I love seeing the ward freak out about how much people change on their missions. Especially the guys.

I got to go to Sierra Vista on exchanges last week for one last visit there. It's funny because although that was never my area, I visited so many times that I actually can pretty well find my way around. And I know quite a few of the people they work with!

This Friday is Brother Orton's baptism, and I am so excited to go! I feel really blessed because so many people have made huge steps right before I go home - I just heard from Hermana Baum that one of the people we reactivated went to the temple to do baptisms for the first time last week! It's comforting to know that my time has not been wasted and I have been able to help people come closer to Christ.

Wow I really can't think of anything to say. I think I'm kind of in shock that the mission is coming to a close. This has been the best (and hardest) 18 months of my life! It's a scary thought to think about needing to transition to home life, but I know I'm going to be able to apply so many of the things I learned out here.

I think one of the biggest changes I've seen in myself is actually shown by the fact that I don't want to leave. The reason is because I have learned to love people. Not half-heartedly, but with everything I have. I LOVE the people here in the Arizona Tucson Mission, and they have stolen my heart. I never realized how selfish and self-centered I was (and probably still am more than I should be) until coming out here and I've met people that I would literally do anything for. I think

of the scripture John 15:13 "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." I can say with surety that there are people for who I would lay down my life. There's so much more for me to learn and I know I still need to continue to develop this charity, but there is nothing more beautiful than having a small glimpse of the way Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ view us. I hope and pray I never lose that perspective.

I want to close with the scripture that I chose to put on my plaque when I left. This comes from Alma 26:12 (in the Book of Mormon). Ammon, his friends, and his brothers have just returned from serving 14 year missions. Thousands of people were converted and they changed the lives of the people of an entire nation. This is what Ammon says,

 Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever.

I wanted this to be the way I felt when I came home, and I feel this way now. Everything that happens is according to the will and power of God. I am just a tool in His hands, and will do everything I can to always be His instrument. And you can do the same! When you pray, make sure to ask what He needs you to do. When the will of the son becomes the will of the Father, miracles happen.

Love you all, see you soon!

Hermana Blackford


Monday, April 13, 2015

Yay for Missionary Work!

Hola familia y amigos!
Happy birthday Keagan and Kiera! I know Kiera's was earlier this month but I can't remember if I told her happy birthday or not...sorry if I didn't!
Does Keagan have her first date planned yet? I can't believe she's 16!!
Let me start with the most exciting news: we have a baptism coming up on the 22nd of this month!!! Well..kind of two. It's a 10 year old and her 8 year old sister from a part member family. They've been coming to church, but their mom hasn't (she's a member) and we wanted to wait until she was more involved before setting a date. When the girls found out they could be baptized so soon, they were ecstatic. We're running around like chickens with our heads cut off to get everything ready in time, but the bishop is on board and all is well! They were all at church yesterday and it was so cute to see them there together!
Saturday we did a district blitz and we went to the other sisters' area and knocked for like 2 hours with us, them, and the elders. I actually kind of like knocking, it's not very productive, but always gives us some laughs. We met quite a few nice people and passed on 4 addresses for the sisters to go visit, so hopefully that turns into something!
Thursday was MLC, and some guys from Salt Lake (like the Missionary Department or something) came down to train. COOLEST TRAINING EVER!! They actually trained on planning, which sounds horribly boring and long, which planning does tend to be, but they taught us how to be better planners and more thorough to plan for the progression of our investigators and recent converts. It was awesome! I was so excited to put it into application, so I came back and Friday during planning I explained it all to Sis. Moe-Tufaga, and we set our baptismal date that night. Not a coincidence!
I have learned to appreciate the little things way more during my mission. I know before people would laugh because I get excited about everything, but I feel like now I've developed the ability to appreciate little spiritual experiences and tender mercies from the Lord. Every week it seems like I have a super small experience that has a huge impact on me. So here's mine from this week. Maybe it isn't super small, but in the big scheme of things it isn't a huge event.
This last week was super hard, and I'm totally hitting that panic mode where people bring up that I'm going home and I nearly start crying because I'm not ready. I felt better after General Conference, but then MLC on Thursday was the best and just made me want to stay even more. I mentioned that to Sister Passey during the meeting, and told her how my extension request was rejected, to which she responded, "Do you know what President does when he has to tell you that you can't stay?" I told her no, and she said, "He goes in his office, shuts the door, and cries. When he signed you and Sister Sutherland's release letters, he cried. We would keep you the rest of our mission if they would let us, but it just can't happen." I love the Passeys SO much. And would happily stay here another 2 years and serve with them. In some ways it's helpful to know that I'm not the only one sad that I am going home in 2 weeks, but it breaks my heart because I would give anything to stay longer.
Anyway, I was feeling so bummed to be leaving, that by Saturday night I asked President Passey for permission to get a blessing. He of course said I could, and Sunday evening the elders gave me a blessing. Maybe this is more personal than I would normally post on a blog, but this was such an incredible spiritual experience that I can't not share it.
To me, priesthood blessings are a very sacred experience, and I am always reluctant to get one from anyone other than Dad, simply because they are so special to me. I've had a few on my mission, but have always asked for them from an elder that I know at least fairly well. I had thought about getting a blessing at the beginning of this transfer, but didn't feel like I could ask those that I was serving around, even though they're awesome people and great missionaries. So I didn't get one. But my district leader Elder Davies (the one who gave me the "hug") is just awesome (I decided to adopt him as my little brother just so you know) and so I felt totally comfortable asking him to give me a blessing. Nothing particularly different or significant was said in my blessing - it was all things that I already knew for the most part - but the Spirit that accompanied was the strongest I think I've felt since receiving my patriarchal blessing. I felt so much love from Heavenly Father. I know that He is so proud of me for serving a mission and knows how hard I've worked and how much I love the people here in the Arizona Tucson Mission. And He wants me to feel peace as I come home and move on with my life. I'm not to the point where I feel completely at peace yet, but this blessing was a little miracle to me. I am SO grateful for worthy priesthood holders. I'm also so grateful for the awesome missionaries I get to serve with because they have helped me and taught me so much!
Have an awesome week!
Hermana Blackford

Sutherland, Blackford Budge
Outing to the Air Force Base

Monday, April 6, 2015

General Conference = the Best Weekend EVER

Hey everyone!

Apparently my emails are not long enough, so here we go. I will neglect responding to all the other emails I have so Mom isn't disappointed in this one.

Easter was so great! Thanks for the package Mom! I love General Conference so so much and I felt like I had so many concerns and questions answered. As much as I hate to think about going home, at least now I feel prepared. I swear some of those talks were just for me to know what I need to be focused on when I go home. Like going to the temple! I am so excited to be able to go more frequently. 

We watched conference at the stake center with some of the elders - it's easiest to focus there because no one really goes and there are no kids running around or people talking to distract us.

My companion is the best! She's super funny but really chill. It's a quieter person that I've had my whole mission, but I really like her. We have lots of funny moments, let me tell you about some later! 

The weather is heating up - we get to about 90 every day now. But honestly that's nothing, so within the next few weeks it'll be the mid-90s, and then I escape before it gets bad.

The transfer is definitely flying by...I can't believe it's halfway done! Learning a new place makes it go fast, at least for me, since it seems like there's a million things I need to do or learn and not enough time. 

I learned some sign language because they have a class every Thursday. This way we can try to help the elders in the deaf branch find new investigators!

Tuesday was zone conference, and we went to Sierra Vista for that. Hermana Sutherland and I trained together about using the Book of Mormon to answer doubts and questions, which was nerve-wracking because President was there and 2 zones! But it went well, and I loved the conference. We also got a Tiwi box installed in all the cars - it has a GPS system and it tracks where you go, what time you drive and if you speed or drive aggressively. I guess it's supposed to help reduce damage to mission vehicles. Honestly hasn't changed the way I drive at all, but I know it's helped a lot of missionaries slow down :) 

I spent Wednesday in Saint David with Sis. Charles, and it was so cool! Do you remember Bro. Orton, the one whose wife joined the church like 30 years ago and I asked if we could practice the lessons on him? Yeah he's getting baptized at the end of the month. I was so excited! It was totally inspiration! I got to see him on exchanges too and he talked about how he decided to be baptized. And I will be able to go to his baptism!

Friday I went down to Saint David again, and then ended up with a migraine by the time we got back to Rincon. We worked some, but then I couldn't handle it anymore so I went to bed at like 8:30. I was almost asleep at 9 when I realized I could hear voices and so I got up and the elders had showed up and brought us ice cream, just because! It was perfect, and I'm 99% sure it helped the migraine. Haha also one of the elders (actually it was my district leader, Elder Davies) was like, "Sister Blackford, I heard you were sick so I wanted to give you a hug!" I stared at him for a second and took a couple steps backwards because I was thinking, " you won't." Once it was sufficiently awkward he pulls out this little...I don't even know what to call it I'll have to send a picture next week...but a little thing that says "I wanted to give you something special but how in the world do you send a hug?" and he just starts laughing. So now he can say he gave me a hug. Elders are so weird. But since I know Elder Davies is probably going to stalk my blog next week to see what I wrote about him, I should at least tell you that he's actually super awesome and it's fun serving around him :) 

Conference was just incredible, and I can't think of a better way to have spent Easter!

This morning I got to play tennis!! One of the elders (his name is Elder Hepworth, but no as far as we know he's not related to the Hepworths in our ward) is actually pretty good, so for exercise this morning we played tennis. I miss playing so much, and was pretty hyped up for 6am just because I wanted to play. 

We went and toured the Air Force Base today too! Lots and lots of planes. It was pretty cool. But you know me, anything like museums and tours and stuff is totally something I love. Even though I don't know that I'll remember anything I learned a week from now.

It's just nonstop here! We are working hard to build this area and find more people to teach, but for now it's still slow-going. It will get there though, I know it! 

I have no clue if this is any longer than normal, but I tried! Does that count? 

Have a great week!

Hermana Blackford

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Happy Easter!

Buenas tardes!

I am finally finding my way around a little better! I know most of the main streets and can find a few important places. Pretty good for only 2 weeks!

I also learned how to say a prayer in sign language. Heck yeah! One of these days I'll be tri-lingual. That's the goal at least.

It's already in the 90s here. Hot. Yuck. No me gusta por NADA. At least I peace out before the real heat hits. I am so not cut out for hot weather.

This area is SO WEIRD. I like that there are so many people, but it's different. And the active members get all weird if we ask to visit them and just stop by. Like they think they're on a list of some sort. And it's like what the heck, we have no work because all we do is knock because we don't have many investigators or less-actives to work with and so when that happens you go to the actives to figure out what to do. But they don't seem to be a fan of that. We're going to try to meet with some of the auxiliaries this week to see if we can get the wards more excited to do missionary work.

The other thing that's different is that people here aren't as friendly. Which everyone said city people aren't. It's true. They can be kinda (or really) rude sometimes. I definitely liked the outskirts much better. Not that I would choose to leave though, because the Lord wants me here to do something. Not sure what yet, but I'll figure it out!

When is Keago taking the test for her license? Because...if I'm working for Dad when I get home and she's driving, then I have no car to use. Which is fine. On second thought, can you have Dad fix up my bike? I want to bike to work. Because I really need to get in shape!

Here's a cool story! Mom, remember how you emailed me a couple weeks ago and told me that you made the sister missionaries a sack dinner? I kid you not, less than a week later we had a dinner that was cancelled and we had stopped at the church to use the bathroom when the Farrs, who are in one of our wards and have a son on a mission, asked us if we had dinner. We sheepishly said no, and then they made us a sack dinner! BUT WAIT. Here's the catch. Their son is serving in the Tacoma mission. WHAT!?!? Not a coincidence. So thanks for feeding the sisters Mom, because it meant I got fed too!

I had MLC this week, and Hermana Sutherland and I got to go together. It's like an hour away, and we talked nonstop all the way there, all the way back, and during every break at the meeting. Yup, best friends. It's funny because when we walked in half the elders were like, "No WAY are you two companions!?!?" We told them sadly no, but we're in the same zone.
Everyone said it would have been crazy if we were since we both are always just so happy to see each other and talk about each other all the time. Being in the same zone is pretty sweet though.

Well...that's all I got for now. Love y'all!

Hermana Blackford

Hermana Blackford and Sister Moe-Tufaga


Monday, March 23, 2015

The City is...Big

Hey everyone!

So this was quite the interesting week since it was my first week in a new area, with a new companion, and in the city for the first time.

Sister Moe-Tufaga is pronounced Moy (like boy) Tufanga. Not as hard as it looks.
To say I am starting to learn my way around would be an overstatement. If I'm lucky I can find my way back to our apartment. And I drive all the time so you'd think I'd learn, but learning streets in the city is a totally different animal. I can learn a small town in no time, but a city? No thanks! And we even have the outskirts....and I STILL can't learn it! I started studying the map a little though and that seems to be helping.

I'd love to tell you about all the people I met but frankly, I only met a few people. We have a handful of investigators we teach, and that's it. No less-actives, nothing. Now I know why I got sent here! I talked to President and he was suprised when I told him what the work was like. The wards are AWESOME so I'm not sure what the disconnect is. We got some names from ward council yesterday, but other than that we knock, and knock, and knock, and try to find people that the ward doesn't know who they are. Which means more knocking. Good thing I like it! It's tough though because I got used to teaching 30ish lessons a week and to cut that in half....I just feel really unproductive.

We go to the gym every morning around 6! Wohoo! Since missionaries aren't allowed to go to public gyms, a member gave us a key to an apartment gym, and Hermanas Sutherland and Budge come with us. It's fun! It's actually in some of the elders' apartment complex, so now they complain they "can't use their gym" because we're there. I told them they could come. They said nah. Haha

Nothing too exciting or crazy for this week. I'll try to have some better stories next week!

Love y'all!

Hermana Blackford

Hermana Blackford with the Busby family
Hermana Blackford & Loretta

Hermana Blackford and the Merrills

Hermana Blackford on St. Patrick's Day - Green skirt!

Hermana Blackford & Sharlane

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

One More Time!

Familia y amigos!

I can't believe I'm starting my last transfer! This has gone by so much faster than I had ever expected. I still feel greenie fire!!

Since I know you're all dying to know, I am getting transferred to the Rincon stake! Tanke Verde and Bear Canyon are my wards. Yes, it's English, but I was sad for about 5 minutes, then I realized I really didn't care that it wasn't Spanish. Haha. The Rincon zone has a reputation for being a tough zone. It's a wealthier area, in the outer suburbs and into the foothills. and finding people to teach presents a bit of a challenge. Which I think is why I'm so excited to go there! I feel like this last transfer I will get to put everything I've ever learned as a missionary to the test.

My companion will be Sis. Moe-Tafata (I think that's how it's spelled) and she's Hawaiian! Everything I hear about her is that she's awesome, but I'm still waiting for the transfer van to come get me so I haven't met her yet.

More good news - I will still be the sister training leader for Sierra Vista zone, which means I get to come back on exchanges and keep all my sisters! I love them so much and am excited to continue working with them and see the progress over the next 6 weeks. It means a lot of driving time for exchanges, but President felt that it would be beneficial for me to keep working with them since we've gotten so close over the last few months.

This week was CRAZY! We taught the same number of lessons, but did tons of service on top of it. Saturday we spent about 5 hours helping plant pecan trees, and finally today my back and shoulders aren't sore from all the digging. It was super fun though! We had quite the crew (including us and the elders) and planted 550 pecan trees!

Thursday we went and started doing this sweet old lady's yard - her name is Jean. She has some good friends that are LDS, and she's on oxygen so she stays at home 99% of the time. When our member gave us to her as a referral, she told us, "Jean has come to church a couple times before but has never really been interested in learning more, but you could probably do some service for her!" Well it turns out, that although Jean hadn't been interested in the past, she'd also never met sister missionaries before, only elders. So we showed up, scheduled a time to do yard work, and went this past Thursday. About 40 minutes in the weed-eater ran out of gas, and Hermana Baum and I cleaned up what we'd finished, looked at each other and were like, "Well, let's go ask her if we can teach her!" We sat down, began getting a little bit more of her religious background and experiences with the Church, and then I said, "Jean, have the missionaries ever taught you about what it is we believe?" She said they hadn't, but that the people from our church are so wonderful that it must be something good. "It is!" I said, "Can we teach you more about it?" She readily agreed, and we taught her about the Book of Mormon, and then she said, "Well next time you come back you can finish the yard and then we can talk some more!" Turns out this time, Jean was ready.

On another note, the doctor put me on some steroids for the week to help with my lungs since my allergies were getting a little out of control, and the medicine made my sugar levels totally weird! My sugar would spike and then plummet, so I was a little loopy all week. Sometimes I would shake (like how older people's hands shake when they hold stuff) and other times I would be so exhausted I physically couldn't stay awake. It was crazy! Hermana Baum asked me a couple times if I needed to go home for a while, but I was like ,"No!! Let's go!" I only have a few weeks left, so I need to make them count. I'm done with the medicine now, so I'm back to normal, but there were like 3 days that were rough.

It's been so sad to say goodbye to everyone in Saint David! I've seen so many miracles here (one of the less-actives who I helped come back got her temple recommend yesterday!) and have seen so many lives change, but I know that now it's someone else's turn to do that, and there are people in Rincon that need me. Saint David will always have a piece of my heart!

Have a great week!

Hermana Blackford 

P.S. I forgot my camera cord today so I will have to send pictures next week!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Spring is Here!


This week was a little crazy, but good! I spent two days in Sierra Vista on exchanges. We went up Monday for a hike (it was raining and cold and I was like what the heck!? I thought this was Arizona!), and I stayed until zone meeting on Wednesday. Zone meeting was super fun though, we did this activity where we all had a piece of cardboard and we had to get from one end of the gym to the other, but we couldn't talk and you couldn't just slide on your cardboard. Then they would do things like blindfold us, take away cardboard, add rules, it was crazy. Everyone had to cross, and so we made it across and then Hermana Baum and I went back a few times to get some other people. A super fun activity on unity though!

Just a reminder, next week is transfers so I won't be emailing until Tuesday!

We did some service this week - yay for yard work! We've got more service this week, because right now the weather is perfect for it. Not too hot yet.

We contacted a handful of referrals, but no luck. We're really struggling on the investigator end right now, but on the plus side lots of our returning members are doing great! We've had a big focus on patriarchal blessings, and off the top of my head I can think of 4 people that will be getting theirs over the next couple months.

The only story that is coming to my mind right now was while on exchanges, Sister Goodwin and I went off to contact a referral for Robert, a less-active, and his non-member girlfriend, Brianna. We show up and Brianna tells us that "He no longer lives here." Awkward! They had totally broken up. But we start talking to her, and we realize she started the lessons before and says she would love to meet with missionaries again! Got her info, boom, new potential investigator for the sisters. Then she gave us Robert's address. We get in the car and pause, because the address is in the elders' area. We debated just passing it to them, but then I had the feeling that we should go. So we drove over and Robert seemed a little surprised. We started talking with him, and even though we were just standing on the porch, the Spirit was so strong. He questions if there is even a God at all because he feels that he's had to go through all the hard things in his life by himself. Sister Goodwin piped up, "Well Robert, why do you think we showed up when we did? Isn't that God's way of saying He's aware of you?" He dismissed it as coincidence, but there was no doubt he felt the Spirit as we testified to him that he is a son of God and that He truly does answer prayers. I hope someday he feels that too, and remembers the two sister missionaries who "coincidentally" showed up when he was going through a tough time.

I love that the Spirit can prompt us anytime, anywhere.

Have a great week!

Hermana Blackford

Monday, March 2, 2015

This is the Way I Live

Wow am I tired! Something about this week was just exhausting. It was actually tough to get up by 6:15 this week. Sometimes we slept until 6:25 instead. Haha 6:30 isn't too bad, but earlier than that has gotten tough!
So if you want some early transfer news...I'm 99% sure I'm leaving St. David! It's sad, but strangely enough the reason I'll leave is for health reasons. Everyone and their dog in Saint David owns a horse, and with the wind picking up this time of year and the horses shedding as we head into spring, it's getting a little bit more difficult to breathe. Not to the point that I have to get moved out before transfers, but I talked to President last night and he agreed that I can probably function better if I can breathe. Who knew my random allergies to horses would affect transfers? But hey, it is what it is.
I had MLC and an STL conference this week, so I went up Thursday afternoon to Tucson and came back Friday afternoon from those. I love meeting with President Passey! And staying at their house is always fun, especially because the beds there are SO much better than ours that I sleep a lot better. Our mission has a gap between the missionaries that have been out longer and everyone else, and all the old missionaries pretty much go home by June. So our new focus is training the younger missionaries to take over, because it's going to happen fast!
Last week on pday we were planning to go to Sierra Vista to play sports after stopping by Target and Ross...yeah we didn't make it to sports. We spent the whole day shopping! Not that we got much, but it's nice to find a couple new things every once in a while. Plus I had to be stylin' for MLC. Haha...or maybe I am just so sick of my clothes that I kind of want to burn them so I never have to look at them again.
We had a cool experience this week with Personal Progress! We've started working with a few (and we're picking up more) YW on their Personal Progress. Some are active, some aren't, but they all need some help. Then in testimony meeting yesterday several of them bore their testimonies about how much it helps them when the missionaries come to do Personal Progress with them! I just remember how much I idolized the sisters (both in BG and on BI) and am so grateful to have the opportunity to pass that on by working with the YW here.
This week we got to do lots of service. With the weather being fairly mild, everyone wants to get stuff done before it gets hot. On Saturday, this less-active out in Tombstone needed help moving. It was an older lady, and we tried to get people to come help but there was a youth temple trip and someone else moving in and so all but one of the brethren weren't able to come. So we headed out, and lucky for us nothing was too heavy and we loaded the whole truck, and fast too! My arms were a little sore yesterday, but thank you to Heavenly Father for probably literally giving us strength to lift that stuff!
Nothing else too exciting this week, just lots of meetings. That's just kinda how life goes on the mission sometimes. Thanks for all your love and support! 
Love y'all!
Hermana Blackford
P.S. Mom that quote you sent me from President Packer is in PMG. Did you know that?

Hermana Blackford in St. David

Monday, February 23, 2015

Book of Mormon Stories


So this week I am drawing a little bit more of a blank on stories, but I guess if every week I had crazy cool stories they'd be less crazy cool because they wouldn't be as unique.

We had an awesome week though! Tuesday we had interviews with President Passey, which I always look forward too. He's such a cool guy and always helps me see how I can improve and how I have improved.

Hermana Baum and I can't believe how fast the transfer is going! Even though President told me before that I'll probably go back to Spanish for my last transfer, I wouldn't be too sad if he changed his mind and left me here with her!

As some of you may have read on Facebook, I got to call Courtney!! It was so cool! I had shared a little bit of her story with my mission president and asked if I could have special permission to call to check in. He gave me up to 30 minutes to call! I was so excited! It was so cool to hear her voice and see how much she has grown. I'm so proud of her! It was really a blessing and a bit of a miracle that President allowed me to call. Usually any sort of visit or phone call with a friend is highly discouraged.

I got Kiera's letter and bracelet! Thank you!!

I was able to finish the Book of Mormon this week! My theme was promised blessings, so every time there was some sort of "if you...then..." kind of promise I highlighted it. It's amazing how much our Heavenly Father wants to bless us! My favorite though was Alma 26:22 (bold added)

Yea, he that repenteth and exerciseth faith, and bringeth forth good works, and prayeth continually without ceasing—unto such it is given to know the mysteries of God; yea, unto such it shall be given to reveal things which never have been revealed; yea, and it shall be given unto such to bring thousands of souls to repentance, even as it has been given unto us to bring these our brethren to repentance.

How cool is that! If we repent, exercise faith, do go works, and pray continually, we will be able to bring thousands of souls to Christ! I read this and it served as a reminder that numbers on your mission don't matter because you can never count the number of lives that you will touch.

My new theme is personal revelation: how people prepared to receive it and then how it came. It's a neat story on how I chose this topic. I was thinking about what I wanted to do, but wasn't sure. I asked Sister Passey and she told me to pray and go at it with an open mind, then to start reading. She said within the first few chapters I would know. That, coupled with President Passey's advice that it be something to help me with my transition from missionary to home life, lead to the inspiration for this theme! I am halfway through 1 Nefi and I love it. There is so much to be learned, and I know that it will help me prepare to make decisions on school and things like that when I get home.

If you haven't tried reading the Book of Mormon looking for a specific topic (or if you haven't read the Book of Mormon at all) you should try it! It will change your perspective on everything!

Love y'all, have a great week!

Hermana Blackford


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Good Ol' Saint David

Hola a todos!

I am really liking this new 90 minute thing...I actually have time to write emails! Not that many people write to me anymore. It seems like the longer you're on your mission the less people think about you. Not to be all depressing or anything. I don't mind it's just funny that now I have time and not people to write to and before I had people to write to but no time.

I did get the box!! Thank you so much!! No letter from Kiera though, maybe that will come tomorrow.

And to answer the question that you all are asking (or should be asking), YES Jeff was baptized! Better yet he was confirmed yesterday at church! He was just beaming, as was his wife. And with the exception of Courtney's baptisms, Jeff's was the one where I have felt the Spirit the strongest. One thing I loved that he said in his testimony afterwards was, "God is still in the business of miracles because I'm standing here today." It really was a miracle! I was almost in tears during his testimony (which is saying something because I don't cry).

As for another continuation, that family (the Watsons) that just moved in and the guy came for the first time since he was 17? Yeah the ENTIRE family came to church yesterday, they've already made some friends in the ward. We're seeing them Wednesday, so pray we can set a baptismal date with the wife!

Hermana Baum and I are like a dynamic duo. It's hilarious. She's shy (well..until it's just the two of us in the car or at the house and then she is not quiet. At all.) but knows the gospel really well and is not afraid to talk in lessons. Which is so cool. We laugh so hard together. This transfer is going by wayyyy too fast!

New things for this week: Saturday was awesome! We got up early and played basketball - just 3 on 3 which is means the elders have to include us - and then got ready for the day at the other sisters' place because they live next to the stake cenere where we had the baptism. We did studies at the church, filled the font (we stole the elders' key after basketball and decided we would do it ourselves instead of making them fill the font), and got everything all ready. The baptism went great! Afterwards we heart-attacked the sisters' door before heading back to Saint David to do some service. 'Tis the season to put my gardening skills to use here! We helped begin prepping the ground for some raised beds at our ward mission leader's house. Anyway, after that, we went with Hermana Baum's bomb idea for the afternoon. Friday we made a ton of cupcakes and some brownies (thanks for the cake mix Mom!) and decided that since most people didn't want to see us on Valentine's Day, we'd go and bring cupcakes and share a little message with all the widows we could! It was so much fun and many of them were almost in tears. Everyone needs reminders that they are loved, especially on Valentine's Day!

Oh my goodness. One of the scariest moments of my life! Picture this: it's 8:00 at night in the teeny tiny town of St. David, which like Bainbridge Island, shuts down pretty early. We decide to go try a less-active member who we briefly met once while we were helping out with the blood drive. As we're standing on the porch after having knocked, we hear snarling, crashing and growling in nearby bushes that starts getting closer. You know in the movies where people are being chased and they start pounding on a door for someone to open it and then all of a sudden it gets quiet because whatever it is got them? Well that's what's playing through my head and both of us were so scared that Hermana Baum later told me she was about to just open the door and go in! In this moment of terror, the door opens, and we both jump about a mile high. The dog must have gone the other direction, because we couldn't hear it anymore. We tried to explain why we were acting so weird, but the member just gave us a funny look. I guess she couldn't see the movie that was playing in my head. 

Today was super cool because we went to the temple! It was stake temple day so we got special permission to go. A recent convert drove us out there, and it was amazing. I couldn't come up with a better way to spend a pday! The temple was PACKED. It was so cool. And we bumped into the Willcox elders at lunch! They got moved out of our zone so that was fun to see them.

This week should be good! We have lots of appointments, interviews with President tomorrow, exchanges at the end of the week. Ready, set, go!!

Love y'all!

Hermana Blackford

Monday, February 9, 2015

This Might Be the Longest Email I've Ever Sent Home

Hola familia!

Holy cow do I have so many things to share this week! This has probably been one of the top 5 most incredible weeks of my mission. Hermana Baum, is the bomb. I keep saying that. It never gets old.

Hermana Baum is from Spanish Fork Utah, been out for like 5 months, goes to BYU, and is a top-notch missionary. Super humble so she has no clue, but hands down one of the best sisters in the mission. Like the fact that we will probably only be together one transfer is beyond sad for both of us.

We not only get along well, we get along SUPER well. Haha we're a lot alike except she's kinda shy. But not when it's just the two of us! We do zumba in the morning, except Friday we went to crossfit and I'm still feeling the effects of that workout, and run, we sing and get excited easily, and we love to tell stories. It reminds me a lot of how Hermana Sutherland and I were when we were companions. Up early, running all day, and loving every second of it.

The zone being closed changes pday for us too...and our district is different. It's not a big deal, but honestly the work is the same so not that much changes in the big scheme of things.

Haven't seen Ruth yet but we will sometime this week!

Okay miracle time. You ready for this?

Let's start with our investigator Jeff. He's getting baptized on Saturday! Happy Valentine's day!! I don't think I've talked about Jeff much, probably because he is the perfect example of a golden investigator, but there have been a couple little hiccups in getting the baptism done, but we finally got it and we're so excited for him! His wife is an active member and he mostly wants to get baptized so the countdown starts for them to get sealed. They are so happy they just glow!

Now as for our investigator Seth - he's an interesting fellow. He had this attitude of "I don't have to pray and ask if the Book of Mormon is true because if I study God will just tell me." And as many times as I told him the scripture says "ASK and ye shall receive," he wouldn't. This past Thursday though, we brought our stellar new ward missionary, Sister Ray, with us to go see Seth. To our surprise, she threw down with one of the most incredible testimonies I've ever heard and at then end I asked if he would pray right then to know if the Book of Mormon was true and he did! One of the most sincere prayers I've ever heard. Now I have no doubts he'll be ready for his baptism by March 7th! 

The next miracle would be the Watson family. About a week ago, the Watson family moved to Saint David. Bro. Watson is a member, and some guys from the ward helped them move in. They found out he's pretty less active, but friendly so they told us we should go by. We were at our ward mission leader's house and decided that since our appointment after dinner fell through we'd go see them right away. I made some comment along the lines of, "Man we need like cookies or something to bring them. People have to like you when you bring them food!" to which our ward mission leader's wife said, "Well hey let's make something really quick!" So we did (yummy popcorn with almond bark melted all over it) and went over. We chatted with the couple and their kids for around 10 minutes or so, gave them the treat, offered help painting/cleaning/moving stuff, asked if we could come by again (to which they said yes) exchanged numbers, and left. Smooth contact, right? Well Bro. Watson shows up at church 2 days later. Turns out a few other ward members stopped by to welcome them to Saint David, and he came to church for the first time since he was 17 years old. The guy is probably around 35. Not only that, but he comes up to us after sacrament meeting and says, "Sisters I can't stay because my kids are sick and I need to go help take care of them, but my wife wants to take the discussions. Once the kids get better we'll have you over." It took all my self control to not do a happy dance right then and there.

But oh the miracles don't stop there! On Thursday we stopped by the bishop's house to see if we could meet, but the cub scouts had been there and their activity ran a little late so we couldn't. But they had lots of leftover food, so they gave us an entire Little Caesar's pizza and a ton of veggies. We wanted the veggies, but not the pizza (we're on this health kick). Our next appointment was with a family who is semi-not-really active where the mom is home with the 4 girls during the week by herself because the dad works in Phoenix. "Let's take the pizza to them!" I told Hermana Baum. She agreed, and we brought it in and said,"Surprise! We hope you're hungry because we brought you a pizza!" The girls - the oldest is 13 or 14 - were so excited. The sister goes on to tell us that the little 4 year old has been telling her all week that she wanted pizza, so this was an answer to her prayers. This sister says we were definitely listen to the Spirit, and in my head I thought, "Woah. I didn't know the Spirit spoke through the scale in our room." Turns out even desires to eat healthy can secretly be promptings!

Wait! That's not all! (Just like those annoying commercials on TV haha.) We also received what I believe may be the most referrals I've ever received in a single week on my mission, and had some new people to teach (both investigators and less actives) fall out of the sky. It was crazy. Every day Hermana Baum and I would just look at each other and say, "Can you believe this!?" Here's a funny story that came from one of the referrals.

Our ward mission leader gave us a referral for Brother Orton during church. His wife is an active member and he's not a member at all. Trying to be good little missionaries, we took off after dinner last night to go meet the Ortons, who let us right in and we began chatting. Within a few minutes it was quite clear that Brother Orton is not currently interested in taking the lessons, although he does come to church fairly regularly with his wife. But I don't really like to take no for an answer, and something was telling me we need to teach this brother. "Okay," I thought. "If You want us to teach him, You gotta tell me what I need to say to get him to say yes!" We shared a little message on charity since it's Valentine's Day this week, closed with a prayer, and asked if we could do anything for them. We got the usual "Nope, we're good!" and then it hit me. "Well we have a little favor to ask of you," I said. I could feel my companion listening intently because she had no idea what I was about to say. "Sister Baum is pretty new in the mission, and could really use some practice teaching the lessons. Can we come practice with you? We thought this would be perfect since Sister Orton is a convert and Brother Orton isn't a member. We both grew up in the Church so we don't know what it's like to be on the other side, but you do!" Sister Orton quickly agreed, and Brother Orton thought it over, and then agreed as well. We set an appointment for later that week, and left. I apologized to Hermana Baum (who really doesn't actually need to "practice" the lessons because she teaches very well) for throwing her under the bus, but she replied, "Oh no hermana you can throw me under the bus like that whenever. That was perfect!"

This week I was reminded of my favorite math equation: faith + obedience = miracles. I know there is work to be done and have faith that Heavenly Father will put it in our paths. I am doing my best to be as obedient as I physically possibly can to each and every rule, and we're seeing miracles on the daily because of it. I know that it takes 2 to make this happen, and I'm grateful to be equally yoked with my companion so that it can happen.

Happy Valentine's day! I love y'all!

Hermana Blackford

Hermanas Martin & Blackford, Elders Harris, George & Messinger

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Rain Rain, Go Away

Buenos Dias!!

Wow was this a crazy week - so much to tell! And President now is giving us up to 90 minutes on the computer which means I totally have no excuse for lame emails home anymore.

Hermana Martin and I just started tearing it up this time for transfers.Today I'm getting Hermana Baum (like bomb)! She took my spot in Deming when I left, so yes she speaks Spanish, yes we will talk about how much we love Deming all the time, and yes I am excited! I don't know anything else about her yet.

So this last week was MLC, which meant I spent the night at President's house again on Thursday and had the meeting on Friday. There are a ton of new zone leaders and so the meeting was huge! But as always so good! Our little Saint David zone is being district goes to Sierra Vista now and Willcox to the Gila Valley. So we're in for a few changes! I love sitting in MLC and getting stoked for all the positive changes we're trying to make in the mission. I feel like the Passeys are just what the Arizona Tucson Mission needed!

This week we did a mini-MTC for the San Pedro ward (Dad do you remember when we did something like that back in Maple Grove?) for mutual. It was AWESOME! So we brought all the youth together, role-played street contacting, brought in Bro. Bailey (the now-seminary teacher who used to teach at the MTC) and had him do a language training and he taught them how to pray in Spanish, talked about prepping for missions and then gave them a Book of Mormon to write their testimonies in! It was great. Several of the laurels have come up to us since and asked about doing mini-missions :) And even better, the next day the YW leader texted us asking if we could get her some Plan of Salvation pamphlets for Sunday because as part of her lesson she wanted the girls to roleplay teaching it to a friend. We are going to have the most prepared youth ever coming out of this ward!

We finally got in touch and had a lesson with our investigator Kathy again! Once we started teaching her she had a friend end up with some health issues and she goes to Tucson every day to help her so it's been tough. Honestly she's so golden that I think it's just Satan working to do anything he can to keep her from meeting with us and reading the Book of Mormon. But we're seeing her tonight!!

It rained A TON last week and my shoes and our car got all muddy. Such a bummer.

Oh yeah! I got the funniest text from President yesterday. It said, "Ecclesiastical endorsement is done. Mom knows. And wow, the two of you sound alike. BTW, it's raining at home." I love President Passey. I burst out laughing when I saw it! I am so grateful that Mom is on top of things, and love that as busy as my mission president is that he took time to give Mom a call and let her know that it got done. I also love that he said btw. Haha :)

Cool miracle! So we got a referral for a lady named Ruth from her brother who lives in Texas. We didn't have an address, so we called the brother and got instructions on how to find her house. We showed up on Sunday night and when she first got to the door she said, "Oh girls, I'm Presbyterian. I could feel the I'm-not-interested glare coming, and quickly said, "That's great! How has your faith helped you in your life?" which began a 10 or 15 minute conversation about miracles that she has seen in her life. I then bore my testimony about God being a God of miracles and asked if I could share a scripture. She said "Sure" and as I opened the Book of Mormon in her dim porch light, she said, "Why don't you come in? It's probably getting cold." Although we only stood in her hallway, I read some verses from Mormon 9, and we were able to bear our testimonies to her. She then surprised us by saying she's actually a member! She just hasn't gone to our church in years. We asked if we could come back, and she said we could. We prayed and left with the Spirit strong. I know that when we bear our testimonies and share what we know with others, hearts are softened! It was incredible to watch her demeanor changed as she felt the Spirit.

Love you all! Have a great week!!

Hermana Blackford

Monday, January 26, 2015

To the Mountains!

Hey everyone!

I'm emailing later today because we went out and did a hike today! Some national park like almost an hour outside of Willcox! It was way cool. I will send pictures either today or next week! We hiked around for a couple hours and nothing makes me happier than being up in the mountains with my buddies!

This week we just started tearing it up! We had lots of lessons with active and less-active members because currently we don't have a whole lot going on the investigator front, but we're working on it.

I got sick on Saturday with a migraine (yuck!) and ended up sleeping for a while, which is unfortunate but then I felt better and now I feel great! Haha all caught up on sleep for a couple weeks.

I can't believe it's the last week of the transfer! I have no idea what will happen to Hermana Martin and I, so next Tuesday I'm sure we'll have some interesting news!!

Here's a funny story! Last pday we went up to Sierra Vista to hang out with the sisters up there. We were playing sports/games with their zone. Have you ever played Ghost in the Graveyard? Well it was basically the equivalent of that, except we were in the church. Anyway, we went to leave the gym (the stage was the home base or whatever it's called) and Hna. Martin was a little scared to push open the door, so she kicked it open and it turns out there was an elder standing right behind it! He ended up with a pretty good bump on his head. It was so funny, but my companion spent the rest of the day apologizing to him!

This will have to be a kind of short email since I'm trying to get classes figured out with Mom for the summer...I can't believe it's time to start thinking about this already! My brain still rejects the fact that some day I will have to come home from my mission...

Love to all!

Hermana Blackford

Monday, January 19, 2015

Las Hermanas de San David

Hey y'all!!

I really do say y'all all the time now. It's funny. I say it and people are like, "Oh so where are you from?" and when I tell them Seattle they always look so confused! Haha. I guess my Virginia companions really rubbed off on me.

This week was insane! In the most amazing way possible.

So Hermana Martin is AWESOME. Love that girl. We already get along great and are working hard. It's fun to talk in Spanish a lot and to have someone who totally gets why white people seem so strange sometimes. It's been a whirlwind as she's trying to get the area down and we only have 2 more weeks in the transfer!

Thursday we did exchanges and I brought Sister Moon to my area. She is such a doll. Possibly one of the sweetest sisters I've ever met.

Saturday was THE COOLEST because we got to go to the temple! But this was not any temple session, we got to go to the Spanish session!!!!! Oh my gosh it was the most amazing thing ever. We were so excited all the way there. To make things better, as we were walking in, 4 of the hermanas from the branch that Hermana Martin just came from showed up! She was so happy and they took us out to lunch afterwards! How cool is that? #tendermercies

We also had stake conference this weekend, and it was good. Mostly I was super excited to see President and Sister Passey again because they came to speak. I have spent many hours with them recently, and I love it. That's the best part of being in a leadership position is getting to know the Passeys.

Hermana Martin and I were planning one day and we had this sudden realization: in our mission it is almost unheard of to have two Spanish missionaries in an English area. That means there is some very specific purpose to this! We are spending as much time possible visiting all our Spanish members because we know that at least one of them needs us or we wouldn't be here together! It's  been a lot of fun, and it's like we have a mission within the mission.

I feel like there was one more thing I was going to say...but I guess I'm getting old now and can't remember! I guess I'll have to save it for next week. And when I remember I'll write it down so I can remember next week. 

Have an awesome week!

Hermana Blackford


Monday, January 12, 2015

Surprise Transfers!!

Hey everyone!

Wow has this been a whirlwind week! Not exactly what I had planned, but it was really good. We found 2 new investigators (one of which who does not speak English) and we went to the temple!!

The temple was fantastic and just what we needed to rejuvenate. I also stopped by for a surprise visit to Veronica!! She and her family are doing really well and are back on track with church and the goal of being sealed in the temple. Aydenn, who is in sunbeams now, totally remembered me! I was worried that he had forgotten, but his little face lit up when I walked in and he excitedly nodded his head yes when I asked if he remembered me! It was so cool to stop in and get caught up for a few minutes.

BRADEN KNOWS SISTER LONGSTAFF!!! Oh my goodness. She is my idol!! I love her so much. She was such an amazing missionary and so much fun. I can't believe he met her! I went on exchanges with her once, but spent a few zone meetings, a temple trip, and p-days with her!

I have a new companion! Her name is Hermana Martin (and yes, she is a Spanish missionary too!!) and I just picked her up in Tucson this morning! She is from South Jordan, Utah! A tall redhead (kind of like Hna. Lunquist) and I can tell we're going to have a good time together! She's been out for about 7 months and everyone says she is just a top-notch missionary. I'm excited to speak Spanish a lot again.

P-day today will be just sports and games with the zone. Next week I'm going to Sierra Vista to be with my sisters out there! So that's something to look forward too.

I promise next week will be a better email...I'm just a little crunched on time today.

Love y'all!

Hermana Blackford

Zone Temple Trip

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Give 'em Heaven

Good morning-almost-afternoon!!

As we were walking out of a dinner appointment, this older sister told us "Give 'em heaven." I thought it was pretty funny! I chuckled all the way to our next appointment and then realized my companion wasn't laughing. I had to explain it....less funny then.

It turns out Saint David is pretty cold in the winter....I was wearing sandals and my feet were so cold! I guess it is usually only around 15 degrees when we get up in the morning and like 25-30 when we come home. I just don't like shoes or long sleeves. Not that I miss summer....I'll take this over 110 any day!

MUD WAS SO FUN!!! Oh my goodness I loved it. A little stressful because there were 230ish missionaries, but once the sports got going I grabbed a few friends and headed to the tennis courts. Which was a good choice. Apparently crowds still cause anxiety for me. So we ate breakfast, had a little "training" on some stuff like cleaning and stuff like that, played sports and games, ate Sonoran dogs, had a talent show, beat up 3 pinatas, and called it a day. I got to see all my buddies from around the mission and get caught up with people. It was great!!

MLC was the next day, so Hermana Dana (who I've served around a ton but never got to go on exchanges with her) and I stayed together in Tucson while our companions came back to Saint David. We stayed at the mission home (like with President Passey and his family) which was so cool! We were totally stressed that something would happen - like our alarm wouldn't go off so we'd accidentally sleep in - but nothing did. Whew! It was actually really fun. The meeting was AMAZING as always, and I'm super stoked about the progress we are making as a mission. Good things to come from the ATM!

Kathy did feed us dinner! And she's been telling everyone that she's been meeting with "the Mormon girls" and really likes it! Still no baptismal date, but she started reading the Book of Mormon and still raves about how all the Mormons she knows have such good family values and their kids are so polite. We must be doing something right! Haha

Bummer on the mini-mission; our laurel got super sick so she went home first thing in the morning. So it ended up just being a half day. She plans on trying again in the summer though!

Family! (And friends too if you have a burning desire) You should share your New Year's resolutions with me!

Here's mine (that I can remember off the top of my head):

Read the Book of Mormon 4 times
Read the Old Testament
Finish Jesus El Cristo before the end of my mission
Travel out of the country at least once
Lose 18 lbs

I had a hard time coming up with anything that was for the full year and not just to the end of my mission. My brain can't process past my mission.

Love you all and have a great week!

Hermana Blackford