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