Elder Isaac Blake

Elder Isaac Blake
Email: isaac.blake@myldsmail.net

Monday, October 28, 2013

October 28, 2013

Dearest friends and family,

I´ll start with our investigators:

Victoria - gonna baptize her Saturday. Golden investigator. Reading the LdM (Libre de Mormon) on her own (randomly chose Jacob 5 as her first chapter ever hahahah). Super prepared.

Emmanuel - 15 year old kid who is super friendly and willing to act, at least it seems. He was on a fast track for the 9th of Nov until we saw him smoking something a little stronger than your average cigarette on Sat. He´s been hiding from us ever since and didn´t come to church yesterday. Pray for him. We´re gonna find him and help him, but we need all the help we can get!

Maxi - Boss. Hog. Got out of jail 3 weeks ago and is practically jumping into the waters of baptism. Problem is he works basically 10000 hours a week and we didn´t find him this week until Saturday, just randomly walking on the street. Nov. 16 is his date. Super willing and shows a lot of faith. Maybe not the most educated in the world and I wonder at times if he understands what we´re teaching him. 

These are our big three. Now brief story time. We received a reference and went and clapped this family's door at 9pm (1/2 hour before we call it a night - side note, our schedule is 30 minutes later than the standard missionary 6:30-10:30 because the culture here is one of laziness. Everyone lives like a teenager - stay up all night, sleep in, take a 2 hour nap in the afternoon. Best part, we missionaries still have to get up early and don´t get to nap). Anyway, someone opened the door and motioned to us to wait, so we did. 5 minutes pass and I give another super strong clap. Out walks a 40 or so year old man with his 1 year old son walking in one of those circular baby things (walker) behind him. Seems normal until he pulls out a 10 inch David Bowie hunting knife and starts to unsheath it. "Se va" he says (Directly translated - you leave. What he really meant - get lost before I stab you). Honestly, I was pretty scared, and then pretty embarrassed afterwards. My initial reaction was just to walk away, and I started to back away. My comp, however, asked him if we could share a message about Jesus Christ. "se VA." As I walked away, I regretted not standing stronger. I´m a servant and representative of Jesus Christ. Faith and fear cannot coexist. I wish I would have told him "no va a hacer nada. Sabemos que usted es un hijo de Dios, y estamos aqui a ayudarle a vivir con su Papá otra vez." Well, I didn´t. Lesson learned. Authority comes with the calling, but power comes with faith. Watch. It´s coming. 

S/o to Rory for the email. Keep doing your thing. Love hearing from you.
Everyone else that I haven't been able to write back, I'm thinking about you and your letters are MUCH appreciated.

Also s/o to Jesse Dimick for everything. You rock.

My message for this week comes from 1 Nephi 16, (Book of Mormon) and comes from an intense study I have commenced to help me reconcile and pack away thoughts and yearning for you all, my home land. I encourage ALL to read this chapter. Basically, the conclusion I reached (surface level) is that we all must enter our own personal "wildernesses" in order to really grow and progress. This takes many forms, mine being the mission. Don´t get me wrong, I love this work. But I'd be lying if I said I wouldn't be more comfortable in the good old USA . Nephi and his family embark into the literal wilderness. It sucks. In the wilderness, we have 2 choices. Good attitude or bad attitude. Attitude is altitude. Because you know what? It´s almost certainly gonna get worse before it gets better. Adversity is inevitable. For Nephi, it was a broken bow. and thus now way to feed his family. Right now for me, its the knowledge that my brother and best friend is suffering. Literally, ACL surgery is the most pain I've ever experienced. But the benefit of a good attitude, coupled with the lesson of Nephi's eventual victory, is that with the help of our Father in Heaven, our wilderness will be bearable, and the result of having endured: indescribable joy. That's what I'm working for right now. Literally, it's to bring this knowledge and assurance to the people of Limache, Salta, Argentina. Long term, I'm working towards that day in 2 years when I see ya'll again, and 3 years when I see 52 again. "There must needs be opposition in all things." If we don't know pain and discomfort, how can we recognize bliss?

Now for some logistics:
P-day (preparation day - every Monday) is a literal renewal of motivation and energy. To be able to hear about how things are in my other life is incredibly satisfying. 

I'm gonna buy sunscreen, but its way expensive. Might need some more money later. 

Could you email me some family pictures?

Also, could you try hard to find some different pictures/paintings of Isaac and Abraham at the alter and email them to me?

Please specify to everyone that I print my emails and read them throughout the day before I write!! Don´t hold back. Email is the fastest and easiest way to communicate!!!

I'll send you a list of stuff I'd like in a package next week.

Wall next to my bed with dope quote and my boys. Family pics are bookmarks in my scrips :)Inline image 1

Love ya'll,

Gang love
Go Raiders
Keep the Faith

Elder Blake
Julia here: Here's the quote from the pic.  Jeffrey R. Holland is one of our church leaders (one of our 12 Apostles, to be more precise).  He gives the MOST amazing talks.  Look him up on youtube or your favorite search engine.  It will be worth your time!) : 

“The past is to be learned from but not lived in. We look back to claim the embers from glowing experiences but not the ashes. And when we have learned what we need to learn and have brought with us the best that we have experienced, then we look ahead; we remember that faith is always pointed toward the future.”

Jeffrey R. Holland, Created for Greater Things

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

October 21, 2013

Family and Friends,

Life is great. I'm adjusting perfectly fine to the newness of it all. There are dogs everywhere you look (in fact, there is one climbing on my back in this cyber cafe as I write!) but in general they aren't bad. Also, its not an uncommon occurence for someone to scream ¨hello¨or ¨how are you¨ immediatley upon seeing my white skin and light brown hair. Quite fun. The only thing right now, apart from the language of course, is the killer heat. Must have hit 100 yesterday. I'm sure you aren't loving the cool fall air but know I miss it dearly! I can't say I'm looking forward to spending Christmas in a puddle of sweat!

As for the Raider Card story Mom, you'd be surprised how similar Raider Cards and the mission is! Let's just say I get rejected my fair share! Side note, s/o to the Superkos for hooking Brigham up!

Your questions:
1. I would love if Brigham used my PFs! Write a 40 and 52 or something on them!

2. I´m looking in to contacts here. It's unsurprising very difficult to talk prescription and length of supply in Spanish and in pesos! I'm gonna hold up but I'll let you know when I get around to it.

3. PLEASE make a binder of my emails!

4. Keep the blog open! It will be far more effictive that way. 

5. Doug sent me an email that I need you to help me with. I'll forward it to you!

Side note for DJ - Still haven't had a traditional steak. Only thing I've really had is milanesa, chicken breast, empanadas, potato salad, and rice. Every meal is some combo of that.

Hardest thing right now is not the language. I can communicate and understand well enough in lessons. On the street, its coming. The hardest thing these last few days has been motivation/distraction. Nothing major but this p-day has already been a huge blessing in terms of getting some real world info and putting my purpose back in perspective. Will admit though, knowing Brigham is under the knife as we speak and will be suffering these next few weeks isn't easy. I'll address that in his email.

Last side note, love the sports updates! Go Sox! Perfect amount of info, though I would like to know how the Pats are doing. 
Not a lot of time but I wanna share some experiences from this week. I read a talk from Elder Bednar, in Spanish, in the Liahona (a church magazine in Spanish). We have every Liahona from this last decade! Anyway, the theme was that through the healing power of the atonement, we can be lifted to overcome and withstand anything. God isn't gonna lift our burdens, but rather strengthen us so that we can lift them! How great a knowledge! There were some great scrips from Mosiah and Alma but I don't remember them! Brigham - *D&C 103:36 - recovery will be tough but you can get through it!
*Doctrine and Coventants (Mormon scripture) 'All victory and glory is brought to pass unto you through your diligence, faithfulness, and prayers of faith.'

Mom and Dad, very cool experience you had with Michelle L. Had a very similar one with an investigator named Victoria. We've been teaching her for only a week now. She is super golden and willing, but doesn't feel prepared or sufficiently changed to be baptized. I shared Alma 7:15-16  with her and she accepted a date for this Saturday!  
(from the Book of Mormon) Alma 7:15-16
15 Yea, I say unto you come and fear not, and lay aside every sin which doth easily beset you, which doth bind you down to destruction, yea, come and go forth, and show unto your God that ye are willing to repent of your sins and enter into a covenant with him to keep his commandments, and witness if unto him this day by going into the waters of baptism.
16 And whosoever doeth this, and keepeth the commandments of God from thenceforth, the same will remember that I say unto him, yea, he will remember that I said unto him, he shall have eternal life, according to the testimony of the Holy Spirit, which testifieth in me.
Not a lot of time, but the Spirit was strong! Michelle, you are ready now!
Looking Sunburned :(

Sorry - I can't figure out how to rotate this.



Study Area
See 2 Nephi 26:24 'He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the , even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him. Wherefore, he commandeth none that they shall not be partakers of his salvation.'

Finally, as you can see from the pics, I had my first baptism Saturday! Sadly the attendence consisted of 6 missionaries, 1st counseler of the bishopric, and the relief society pres. Regardless, it was a really cool experience! 

Hopefully I haven't set the bar too high for deep, profound emails! Can't think of much else to say. I've reached the end of the honeymoon stage - time to roll up my sleeves and get to work for the next 22 months!

Love you

Raider Pride and Gang Love for life

Elder Blake

Monday, October 14, 2013

First Week in Argentina October 14, 2013

Ok Familia and friends - here goes! I have sooooo much I could say but I obviously only have an hour (45 mins now that I've finished printing my 10000 emails - thanks!!!)

Details first - I've been assigned to labor in Limache, a neighborhood in the very south of Salta Capital, only 20 minutes from the offices and mission home. My comp is Elder Ramirez, from Sonora Mexico. He's been out 10 months and mas que nada, an answer to much prayer. He's honestly the best trainer I could have asked for. Barely speaks English so I have to speak Spanish but he knows enough that he can help me out with new words. He's a super hard worker! Doesn't dilly dally and really knows his stuff. I'm in a pension (apt) with him and two other elders - Elder Alvarez de Honduras and Elder Durrant from Idaho. Both are great. 

Here´s the scoop on the mission: I was skeptical before about how this could be any harder that preseason in football or some strenuous task like that - only took 2 days to realize I was dead wrong! This is and is going to be the hardest 2 years of my life, up to this point, hands down. I'm talking physically, emotionally, spiritually - the whole nine yards all in one 2 year marathon of WORK. But, the good news is this - I know without a doubt that it easily has the potential to be the best 2 years, just as the movie goes, IF everyday, I work harder than the day before. If everyday, I am more obedient than the day before.  It´s how the mission works, its how life works.

One really cool thing I´ve been able to see already is the coming to fruition of the blessings and necessity of basically every piece of advice I received as I´ve been preparing. Work hard, be obedient, trust in the Lord - the keys that everyone says are imperative for success, I´ve really been able to see that they´re true.

Another realization, one a little more powerful and a liiittttllleeee more important, is the impact of these last 7 days on my testimony of the Book of Mormon, The Atonement, the Church. Honestly, I was laying in bed my first night in the pension, window open and dogs barking, cars, motos roaring, and people yelling, pretty down emotionally. It was the most lost I´ve felt in years. I started to question for the first time sincerely - why am I here, do I really wanna do this for 2 whole years, without rest, can I even do it. I was scared. I was, quite simply, sad. But, there´s also hope to this story. I said a prayer, quite simply (in Spanish of course), and asked Heavenly Father for a firm witness of the veracity of these things, the work I will be doing these two years. I didn´t doubt my faith, but I basically told myself - if by any means possible its not true, I´m freaking getting out of this strange place. If it is true, I vow to work my tail off to bring this message to as many people as I can in two years, setting aside all other worries and fears. The next few days, in the midst of constant walking (feels like 10+`miles a day), talking (trying) with people in the street, and more than anything, listening (most of this insane Argentine Spanish flying right over my head), I´ve received my answer. Little by little, I´ve been able to feel the truth of my words as they come out of my mouth in broken, Gringo Spanish. I KNOW these things are true. I EXHORT every single person that reads this email to give them a shot, ask God if the Book of Mormon isn´t His word, that it isn´t true. This is what I spend my days doing, bearing my testimony and inviting others to ask for themselves. I promise you all, as I promise these people in Limache, that this is true, that this is the path to ultimate happiness.

Running out of time so I´ll plan to disperse my thousand thoughts among the coming weeks. I´ll finish with some logistics/weird details:

1. The address my mom sent out for letters will work great! Please send stuff by pouch or whatever. 

2. Saw Leah Fessler (don´t know her but recognized her from WHS ´11) in the Buenos Aires airport. Super weird. 

3. Ned, Matt, and Dario - heard an Argentine version of Another Day in Paradise straight bumping from this run down slum house made out of cinder blocks and tin roofing. I´ll try to get a pic.

4. Can´t send very many pics today - this pc stinks

I know I can be a bit over the top at times with my emails and my love for this Gospel and this work, but I plead with you to understand that the only reason for my overbearance is that I KNOW its true and at times, I just feel like finding some higher ground and screaming for all to hear.

Love y´all

Go Raiders
Go Pats
Go Bs
Go Sox
Go Cougars
The Church is True!

Elder Blake (40)

 PS - Elder Ramirez just made the best tacos I´ve ever had. My cup runneth over!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Pictures from Salta

With President and Sister Levrino
Isaac and his first companion
Dinner with the new missionaries and their companions

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

October 9, 2013

First pic from Salta!

Isaac left for Argentina Monday morning.  We got to talk to him while he was in the SLC and Atlanta airports.  We are so happy that Facebook allowed us to get this picture because now we know that he made it to his destination (or at least to the Mission Home).  Salta is 1000 miles from Buenos Aires and he didn't know how he was making that last leg of the trip. He'll likely not be in his first area until tomorrow.  Waiting is like watching grass grow.  We can tell he's happy though! 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

October 5, 2013

Isaac received an email that Wellesley football lost to Walpole.  This email came right after that:

I bought a phone card that I'm hoping will work in ATL. I'll call in SLC for sure and I'm sure El Senor will provide a way in ATL.  I can deliver a message for sure. Also, make sure EVERYONE stays awake tomorrow (for General Conference). I received a ton of revelation from today's 6 hours (and through the power of prayer, despite getting up at 5:45 to do service, was awake for all 6). There were a number of talks that gave specific direction to Brigham's current trial, especially both Uchtdorfs. Make sure he studies those!  But tomorrow is gonna be awesome I'm sure. I wish I would have taken notes and gone in with specific questions I had in mind in the past. Pass along my strong exhortation to all please! 

Can't wait to hear your voices!

Elder Blake

October 4, 2013

Family (Brigham),

Devastating to hear about the injury. 52, hope you got my letter that I sent off Monday morning, where I said most of what I've been thinking and feeling. It was torture from Sunday afternoon when I found out via Thira Christensen and fam who I "bumped into" at the Temple clear till Tuesday night when they finally delivered my first DearElders (for some reason they didn't print them Monday). I had been on a bit of a small-scale, slow decline, which culminated in one of the worst talks I've ever heard at the Tuesday Devo. Luckily, I got to read your letters right afterwards. Brigham - that was the single greatest thing I've ever read. Every prayer from Sunday-Tuesday was answered through that letter. I really can't put it into words. There's something about the combination of brotherhood, football, and the Gospel that goes into our bond that I could never give enough thanks for to our Heavenly Father. It doesn't seem fair and honestly, it probably flat out is not fair at all that it happened to you, but like Adam said to you, (thank you!!) there really is so much more to life than football. I promise that everything ahead of you is better than what's behind. As much as it sucks to lose your senior season, I believe that you will come to know that the introspection and new perspectives that come from a (seemingly) life-altering event like a torn ACL are a tremendous blessing. At a certain point in everyone's career, they won't be able to go back and rewrite even a single sentence of their story (unless you're in the movie Touchback, more on that later). It's the one thing about high school sports that is both glorious and heart-breaking at the same time. However, you will gradually come to find more and more blessings that will come out of that early ending. As for another thing Adam said - cherish the relationships you have on the team. It sounds like there was an overwhelming amount of support from the BoB last weekend. That's one thing no one will ever be able to take from you. Ask anyone on last year's team; very few of us hung out much outside of football, but those guys will always be some of my best friends. On the field or not, you are still a leader and still a Raider. Keep your head up and do always those things that please Him. There isn't a play we can't make.

As for Touchback, I'm sure Matt is gonna crack up at this reference. There's this low budget film about a dude in a similar situation as you. I will admit it was one of the cheesiest, poorly made movies I've ever seen, but the message is golden. I'd check it out in the next little while. Pay attention to the things most important in life.

I have little time to answer everyone individually, so I'm gonna send some quick s/os. Hope you understand!

Ned - Brotha! So good to hear from you! Sounds like life is great and you're starting to sort out the most important things in life. Keep doing your thing - proud of you!

Brian - s/o to the most consistent writer! Seems like life is great with you too. Thanks for always letting me know whats up and whats down. Means the world to hear from you (all of you!)

Riley - Love getting the BYU low-down from you. Did you honestly expect things would even be kinda the same without half the DRC? C'bannn. We got to go to the JKB on BYU campus to get fingerprints this past Monday. We stood on the sidewalk between Helaman and the HSFB for close to 20 minutes waiting for the shuttle but no dice! Didn't see anyone I even recognized. Good and a bad thing I guess. Thanks for writing me though - best of luck with Rugby. Sounds... interesting. 

Hugh - write me bro

Before I sign off, just wanna share a few scriptures with Brigham, first and foremost, but everyone really: 

1 Nephi 11:17, Nephi says "I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things."

          Pretend like I'm saying this. I KNOW God loves you bro. I know He loves all of us. Every single person that reads this letter is a child of God. Think about how much your own parents love you, and then know that's not even close to how much God loves you. That being said, I certainly don't know the meaning of even some things. I have no clue why a torn ACL had to be in your story. But, I know He loves you and there IS a reason for it. 

1 Nephi 20:10 10 For, behold, I have refined thee, I have chosen thee in the furnace of aaffliction.

I wrote something like this on the outside of the envelope I sent you, and coincidentally, that was before I came across this verse in my study. I said, "Don't let it define you. Let it refine you." I think we often view trials and afflictions as "the end of the world" type events. We let them weigh us down and oppress us, convincing ourselves that nothing could make it better. We let them 'define' us. I think if we were to change one letter in that word, flipping to 'refine,' and in the process change our perspective and attitudes, we would see that afflictions are merely just Heavenly Father tossing us in His furnace, heating and cooking us so that we can emerge out the other side a perfected gem or precious metal. It takes time and a lot of patience to acquire the perspective that will allow us to embrace the furnaces were are all tossed in every now and then. They really stink. If we persevere, though, I testify that we will be able to look God in the eyes after this life and hear him say about each one of us, "I have refined THEE."

Ok, so by way of logistics: Family, please be by the phone between (all east coast times) 11 AM-1 PM and 5 PM-11 PM. At these times, I will be in the Salt Lake and Atlanta airports!! En route to, guess where?!?!? BUENOS AIRES! Yep, that's right! Last night, our whole zone, minus poor Elder Padgett (heading to Colombia - Robin represent!) got the pleasant surprise of travel plans in our mail boxes. I guess they didn't stop the wave of tourist visas after all! 

I will be leading Rogue Squadron 7 (Me, and 6 West Campus Elders going to Salta as well) as we embark from SLC to ATL and ATL to EZE. We're flying from 11-5 to ATL and then 9 PM - 8AM to Argentina! Gonna conk out on some sleeping pills. We're supposed to meet the Mission Pres in BA, but after that, I have no clue how we're getting to Salta. After having my expectations bounce all around like a beach ball at a Nickleback concert, they've settled on the original plan all along. 2 days of General Conference (yee yee!) and then just like that, I'm off. Peace out America! 

What does this mean?

1. Totally forgot up till now - Mom, can you order me some more contacts and send them to the address in my call packet? I have enough for about 6 months but I'd love to get a stimulus package when I run out. 

2. No more DearElders! That site only works for the MTC (or at least I'm pretty sure it doesn't work for my mission). Please don't send anything through there, cause the only one who's gonna get to read them are by buddy Padgett. From here on out, I'm banking on email as being the only source of communication. I think letters take about 4+ weeks between ARG and the USA. To be completely honest, I'll probably only ever be able to make time for this family email and maybe one other. It would mean the world to me if y'all would continue to fill me in on your lives via quick emails, even though I probably won't be able to respond to most!

Before I forget, a few requests:

Mom/Dad: could you email me a list of the best conference talks ever, or something along those lines? You can probably find something on google or something. I don't know how it will be in the field, but we can use LDS.org through our missionary login so I love listening to talks when I can. 

If possible, could you send me any/all info you have on G-Pa Donkey Wonkey's life? I can also go on familysearch.org and it's pretty cool to see who I come from.

I think that's all for now!

Cuanto más cuesta, cuanto más vale! 

Love, Elder Blake

September 27, 2013


Gonna be short(er) this week. I decided to write Brigham a personal email this week and that took up about half my time. Not regretting that at all!

Ok I'll start with the only thing worth reporting this week. I didn't get my visa. They stopped the travel visa trial period 1 week before we leave! At first I was mad, but I realized that was hypocritical and counter-intuitive. I've been telling myself all summer that I'd get reassigned, and I've been fine. "I'll go where you want me to go." Now I'm just praying (literally) He doesn't want me to go to SLC or Idaho hahah. And especially that I'll get to speak Spanish. 

Ok S/Os before I give my thought.

S/o to KSox!!! Congrats on the commitment to G-Town! I didn't even put it together until Brian wrote me that you too will be together. That's huge. Also, I'm not surprised that Tim was fully supportive. Nothing like playing on the same field and your brother, I know, but as the older brother, that's ultimately not the most important thing. I'm super pumped to hear about each of your journey's as you continue to improve!

S/o to Brian for converting to the Lumineers

S/o to Fadule grabbing life by the horns and playing nose tackle.

S/o to Mike Dowling! So sick that you were in the clubhouse after they won! 

S/o to Coach Mag, Brendaen Makechnie, Boyd Bringhurst + fam, Gma and Gpa Bringhurst, and everyone else that Dear Eldered me this week! Sorry if I forgot any. It's tough to remember them all and I've become to envy of everyone in the zone, as most people average 1/week while I'm raking in something like 3/day. You all rock!

I had a wicked cool experience bearing my testimony this week. Every tuesday night after the devotional, we meet as a zone and each share something we liked about the devo. Usually, it's pretty cool, but this Tuesday, it was like a full blown YC testimony meeting. Tears (mostly just me) and everything! I had the privilege of going last, which was a huge blessing. From the get go, I was just gonna get up for 30 seconds and point out a cool story that Elder Don R. Clarke shared and then call it quits. However, as each person shared and it started getting more and more personal, and more and more spiritual, I just got this really strong prompting that I should talk about something completely different. The problem was, I really wanted to share this story. Anyways, I stand up and at this point, I'm already a little overcome with emotion. One elder bore his testimony about how the zone has changed his life forever, in just one week. He's 24 and only weighs about 100 pounds, kinda awkward, but a great Spirit. He talked about how he's never really been able to make friends but that he already considers everyone in the zone a friend. Friendships stronger than he's ever had. I felt kinda bad cause I've been nice, but I haven't gone out of my way or done anything in particular to show love. Not to mention, you all know how much friendship means to me, and to imagine that people he's only know for a week are already his best friends just goes to show how lucky I am. Then his companion talked about his parents almost divorced 4 weeks before he left on his mission, but that the fact that he left to serve the Lord, left to be an example, helped them work things out. Finally, another new elder talked about his Dad had a heart attack and very well may pass within the next 2 years. Every day, he hold's his breath at mail time, praying he's not getting a funeral date. You can fill in the details and imagine how these three examples of friends and family trials hit me like a Mack truck. I basically got up and said "I was gonna share a cute story, but the Spirit is prompting me to change directions. I've never felt such a strong impression, push in a different direction, and I'm just gonna go with it. It was incredible though - I know the Spirit took over. I bore one of the most eloquent, logical testimonies of my life. I was really nervous the whole time that I'd get it across how I wanted, and I honestly don't even remember half of what I said. I somehow quoted, from memory, Psalm 23 (probably my favorite Scripture of all time), tied that into each of the 3 previous testimonies, and then expounded on how that's shaped my decision to serve a mission. Halfway through, I even found the perfect way to share that cute little story that sincerely did mean a lot. I know without a shadow of a doubt that I, Isaac Blake, couldn't have done that on my own. Everyone in the room could attest to that as well. I'm not trying to brag. I know in that moment, I truly was an instrument in the hands of the Lord, touching the hearts of each of my fellow missionaries. 

Few other quick thoughts before I have to sign off:

John Wilson - so sorry to hear about your shoulder. Injuries are no fun, but I'm sure you know that it could be a lot worse. In fact, that's one of the best cases, in my opinion, in terms of a serious football injury. I want to share two scriptures that I think apply perfectly to your situation. Everyone else that's still reading: 1. Thank you. 2. Take note, these apply to us all.

(These are from memory so excuse any errors)

1. Isaiah 40:31 - "But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings and eagles. They shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint"

2. (Book of Mormon) - Alma 26:27 - "But when their hearts were depressed and they were about to turn back, Behold the Lord comforted them, and said: go amongst thy brethren the Lamanites and bear with patience thine afflictions, and I will give unto you success"

These two scriptures touch on the power of God in our lives in times of trial. He will bless those that trust him and are patient. He will also reward those who turn out and serve others in the midst of their own problems. 

Finally, M. J. said something to me in a letter this week like: "I'm still the same old guy you know, even if religion might be becoming a part of me." I want everyone that reads this letter to know that religion doesn't have to define you. For some, it does. They like it that way. That's how it is for me. But I want you to know that giving religion a shot and testing it out for yourself does not have to change who you are. We are all children of God. I haven't been able to communicate this last thought exactly how I wanted, and I'm out of time, but just some food for thought. 
Bumped into our amazing Boston friends who now live in Provo!

September 20, 2013

Hope everything is going great. As the days turn into weeks, I'm starting to receive fewer and fewer letters. Despite this decline, there remain two constants: Mom and Dad! You guys are awesome!

Stinks to hear about Brigham's shoulder. Sounds like you're quickly turning into the classic Blake mold I set the standard for: bad shoulders, no contact, just games. It has its pros and cons. Know this: I know with certainty that God answers prayers. I'm praying for you and the team multiple times a day. I'm sure you all at home are too. The motto for the mission my mission prep teacher gave when times get tough: "Trust in God and WORK!' The same applies to football. The same applies to life. I know God has a plan for you. Trust Him. 

This reminds me: just got the package. Not really sure why I'm gonna need the fleece blanket but I appreciate it! The football stuff, on the other hand, is the best gift I've gotten in a while. These socks! Vaca santa! (Holy cow). Sooooo cool. Where did they come from? And the article? AWESOME. So proud of you 52. Stay humble though. And the program book and t-shirt were great surprises that put a huge smile on my face! On the same note, thanks so much Mom and Grandma and Grandpa Bringhurst for the baked good packages! You never appreciate how good Mom/Dad's oatmeal fudgies and Grandma/Grandpa's handmade cookies are until they have to be shipped to you. I'm rationing them so as to stretch out the intake of love as long as possible - one bite of OF after dinner and 1 cookie after lunch. At this rate, I'll get a little taste of my favorite people until I leave the MTC! 

Ok, so my relationships are improving substantially. One of my companions is still driving me (and everyone else in the room) nuts. Just working on seeing the positive and ignoring his stupid comment. I've been praying for charity, unconditional love, and for more patience, and I'd like to share 2 really cool answers I've gotten to my prayers. I've been way too self-centered and thinking back, last week's email was kind of embarrassing. I've learned before the lesson to give everyone the benefit of the doubt in all regards, but these past few weeks, I've forgotten it.

The 1st Example: One of my two companions. The other one was on a temp split with a different missionary all day, so we got to teach one of our mock-investigators just us two. The lesson was going alright, but we could both feel that we were doing too much talking and he wasn't feeling much. Well, my companion just out of nowhere, in Spanish, bore his testimony of the comforting power of the Holy Ghost in his life. He shared the story of how 2 years ago, his mom passed away of stomach cancer and the only reason he's still standing today is the Holy Ghost. Then, knowing he dropped a big life story that I had no clue of, told me the rest of the story in English. He described his life the last 3 years. Wasn't planning on a mission, then his Mom was diagnosed. He watched her slowly deteriorate for about a year until she finally passed one summer. The next summer? His best friend committed suicide out of the blue...

I was overcome with sympathy and grief, yet deep respect and admiration at the same time. I can't imagine a 1-2 punch like that. No words. But then he said this: "That's why I'm on a mission. My mom wanted me to be here. I know I'm gonna see them again." 

It never occurred to me that this Elder was carrying any baggage. He's always studied hard, but at times his shy, quiet nature has irked me a little. He doesn't take too much initiative. Man! How could I emphasize these "defectos" when he's got so much he's put behind him. 

2nd Example: Elder Teio. Elder Teio arrived from Tahiti on Tuesday and will be serving in Tucson, AZ, speaking Spanish. The best part? He doesn't speak English. I've been worrying a bit about my Spanish ability, yet praying for charity and selflessness, and look who the Lord sends to cross my path. He can barely communicate with us, let alone with his investigators. That night, we have a mini testimony meeting after the devotional. Everyone in the room was thinking "What is he gonna do?" as we got closer to his turn. Well, he got up, stood there for about 10 seconds, and said "My dad served mission. My grand pa served mission. Uncle served mission. Its commandment. Why I serve mission." He is just such a strong example of faith, strength, and obedience. He's got the most positive attitude and I just have this feeling I've met a life-long friend. We've already seen improvement, and I have no doubt that he will finish the mission fluent in both Spanish and English - the Gift of Tongues is real!

I hope the examples of these two missionaries will help you all re-appreciate your many blessings, as they've helped me do. Whenever you get down, just know that there are millions of people who have it much worse. With that being said, "worse" isn't a great word. I have a firm testimony that God allows us to endure trials, affliction, and heartache because He loves us. They serve to shift our perspective on life. They serve to strengthen us physically, mentally, and spiritually. One of my absolute all-time favorite scriptures is Psalm 23: "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear NO evil, for Thou art with me." I don't have my Bible with me, but I think that's right. We all walk through our own "valley of the shadow of death" everyday. In the moment, it's pretty dang dark. About the worst I can draw upon would be a mild case of depression - feeling that there was just no one out there that I could really call a friend. That was in 5th/6th grade and I'm happy to say things turned out just fine. The only other? Tearing my ACL 2 weeks before Needham. Thats NOTHING, compared to poverty, compared to sickness/death, compared to seeing a loved one endure something hard. "My cup runneth over." I'm soooo blessed. In reality, everyone is going to have their own challenges. I know that as you fight them, fight through the "valley of the shadow of death," you will emerge a better person; a stronger person, a better friend, a better husband/wife, a better whatever you are! I also know that God has not forgotten us. He has sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to take upon every single sin, weakness, imperfection, injury, and trial, of every single person that will walk this earth. He has drawn up the most perfect playbook: The Plan of Salvation. The Plan of Happiness. As we follow Jesus Christ and allow Him to lift our burdens, as we exercise faith in Him and endure through our trials, we will truly find happiness. If you are of this same belief, what are you doing to grow closer to Him? If you aren't, I'll challenge you again, this time a little differently: God loves you. He wants to hear from you, individually, about these problems. He wants to help you with them. Pray to Him. Talk to Him. And if the prospect just seems ridiculous, I would plead for you to find a Bible and open up James 1:5. This is the verse that Joseph Smith, a mere 14 year-old boy, read when he doubted. Earnestly seeking truth, we only need to do but one thing - pray. 

The Book of Mormon is the chief support God has sent us to overcome our problems. Read it. Pray to God and ask if it's not true. He will confirm the truth to you, if you go to Him with a sincere, open heart.

This is the message I will be devoting the next 2 years of my life to sharing. I share what I know to be true. I share it because I know that it will bless the life of every single person that lets it. I know.

A few logisticalities: 1. Dad - keep preaching. I love hearing advice about the mission and about life. You are the number one example to me of righteousness, consecration, sacrifice, charity, perseverance, responsibility, attitude etc. Nothing you could ever tell me would come off as preachy; I'm soaking up any advice you have that will help me emulate you better and sooner! Robin started as a cool coincidence but you really are a superhero in my eyes.

2. Thank Beth Shedd for me! It feels awesome to know that what I'm doing is making people more curious.

September 13, 2013

Isaac ran into Elder Zenger
Great to hear from you all. There's some sort of computer bug here and we almost didn't get to email you but I found one of 10 computers that works!
I can't think of much of anything exciting to reports. I got called as a Zone Leader effective sometime early next week when the two Mexican districts leave. I'm also gonna stay DL (District Leader) since there are only 5 in the District. That's gonna be weird, but whatever the Lord needs me to do, I'm doing! The biggest thing that stood out was/is some internal struggle I'm having with my companions/the whole zone. Motivation. It seems like I'm one of the only missionaries in the zone who really wants to put their shoulder to the wheel and really work as hard as I can. There are varying degrees, some being worse than others, but most of the people seem to have this constant need for socializing, distractions, and all-in-all worldly things. I guarantee I'm turning soft and making it out way worse than it is, but I just value these 2 years of pure, absolutely-no-need-to-worry-about-myself, dedicated 2 years where I am called to help others improve their lives through Jesus Christ. At times it's been discouraging and down-right saddening. I'm trying to just worry about myself but that goes against everything that has to do with charity, which is the point of the mission. This concern made itself most obvious when my comps and I tried to teach one of our investigators (played by our teacher). We didn't really prepare much because we'd all been just reading the Book of Mormon during personal study. I'd barely even cracked PMG (Preach My Gospel). We tried to go in and just "teach about the BoM" (Book of Mormon) and boy did we fail miserably. Our teacher could tell we weren't prepared and just fired us with tough questions. By the time we got to the end, I started to break down a little. I bore my testimony of the power of the gospel and I pictured my best friends, as if I was teaching to them. It hit me so hard that the investigators I'm going to be teaching will have (or have had in the pre-existence) best friends that would do anything to help them receive the gospel and the ultimate happiness. How I would feel if I wasted even one lesson on someone, and then had to explain to their best friend that I just didn't feel like preparing, made me sick.
I've made it my resolve to do close to nothing for myself. When I read the Scrips, I read from an investigator's perspective. When I pray, I pray for my investigators and companions. Now, if only I could help my fellow missionaries understand the grave importance and responsibility in our hands. When Elder M studies, he reads Jesus the Christ (a great book) and the Book of Mormon (the best book), but I can tell it's for his own learning. He himself is a completely different story for another email, but let's just say that until I met him, I'd only ever heard of the self-righteous, self-centered Utah Mormon. Drives the whole room CRAZY. I'm just trying to love both my companions.

As part of my resolve, I found a fantastic scrip, D&C (Doctrine & Covenants) 38:30, whcih says "if ye are prepared ye shall not fear." After that train-wreck of a lesson, I sincerely feared for the first time about my mission. I'm by far the best Spanish speaker in the two districts, but I still couldn't teach effectively without prep and study of the doctrine. It's way hard to picture the first month of my mission and having success - Argentines speak super fast in a slurred accent. BUT, my message is of hope! The lesson in class after our horrible lesson was about the importance of prayer. That night, I prayed for quite some time, just pleading for peace of mind and confidence, for the assurance that I can be effective in demonstrating love - for the gospel and for my investigators. about 2 minutes after I finished, laying in bed, I had a prompting to read my patriarchal blessing. My prayer was answered: right then and there. In my blessing it basically says that if I work hard and trust in the Lord, I will become and instrument in his hands. It was a powerful reassurance, needless to say.
It can be tough at times being with the same people all the time, literally. I've always had that problem. Whether family, friends, or random people, almost anyone will drive me nuts after spending an extended, unbroken period of time with them. I strive to be an example of not being light-minded, worldly, of studying hard yet still having fun and being happy. I don't say this to brag or anything, just to vent. These guys put me on a pedestal: "When I'm in a lesson and don't know what to say, I just think 'what would Elder Blake say,' " or "if only I could speak spanish as well as Elder Blake I'd be a great teacher!" The worst thing ever happened after a TRC lesson (basically old people from Utah Valley volunteer to have us teach them a Home Evening lesson). My comps didn't say much b/c they didn't prepare and they can't speak too much, so I pulled out a great scrip from Alma 7ish about the importance of trials and delivered that as our message. I was able to get the message across pretty well and the husband we were teaching happened to be a retired AP Spanish teacher and Mexico RM (returned missionary). He pulled me aside, albeit in front of my comps, after the lesson, and said (loud enough for them to hear) "You're gonna be an AP - I can feel it." It was a great compliment, but I could just feel that pedestal rising. I'm no better than anyone in this MTC, but because I work hard and trust in the Lord, people think I am. It's just frustrating. And if it sounds like I'm complaining, I'm sorry. Life is great. And this is nothing compared to the complaints I hear every day.
I'm super grateful for the examples in my life, all of you that have helped me feel the Spirit, and realize the need and responsibility we have to consecrate our lives in the service of our God. I honestly haven't felt an inkling of homesickness or separation anxiety. (Ok that's not entirely true. When I get a DearElder or email from friends, I miss home a tiny bit. AND, yesterday when I looked at my watch and realized Brigham in the middle of pre-game, my heart sunk. I miss you so much man. For a few minutes, I missed football and the 781 fall breeze and WHS. Then I snapped out of it and went to class, but I do still miss it). I know I'm in the right place, doing the right things. Love you all! I'm so blessed!
OK, Here are the logistical things I wrote first so I wouldn't forget:

Brigham, so bummed to hear about the tough loss. Keep your head up though. Sounds like a lot you can take out of the game to build off of and improve on. You know you're always in my prayers. Now's the most vital time to keep stepping up and be an example of positivity and work-ethic. Just be a beast and you guys will be just fine!

S/o to Isaac Catch! Congrats on the mission call! So pumped for you; I know you'll do great things!
So I got 3 shots yesterday which I think means I'm either set or close to it. They cost $190.00 and they told me to have you call 801 422 8940 to pay. Thanks!!!
Can you send me the Ainge's address?
Pictures aren't working today. Don't know if you guys even want them. I haven't taken many anyways but I can if you want.
Love you!
Elder Blake
Reppin Lehigh - Ya tu sabes! (You already know)

September 6, 2013

Estoy muy animado to email you all. Thanks to everyone who is DearEldering/emailing! The highlight of the day is after dinner when I get to check the mail box. I'm the envy of the whole zone. I've set a record with 10 DearElder's in 2 days, and it's all thanks to you! Thanks for your love and prayers!

MTC life is going great. I'm gonna skip boring day to day stuff and get to the highlights. Our zone had the great chance to have an Elder by the name of McWhorter who was waiting for his flight info to Madrid, Spain. He was he for my first week. Spiritual giant, stud, and hilarious dude all around. My favorite thing: He claimed that a previous district had passed down the power of the "Chamen" to him - the being that assigns spirit animals. Every night he was here, we squeezed in our room and watched him/ helped connect with the Chamen. We would all close our eyes and run with some descriptions until we narrowed down to some sort of exotic animal. That's why I asked for the field guide of exotic animals - any luck? Some examples have been the hammerhead shark, albino python, poison dart frog, North American Moose, silverback gorilla, and mine, the wild boar (don't ask me why). Tons of fun and a great way to connect as a zone. The night before he left, he passed down the connection tom Elder Padgett, and by extension me as his companion. 

The new companionship! (Moody, Bradshaw, then Me)
However, we are unfortunately no longer companions. They finally split the district in half: a beginner and an intermediate district. My new companions are Elder Bradshaw and Elder Moody. They're both way cool and we're learning a lot faster now that we're closer in level. I'm learning super fast, all thanks to the Holy Ghost and el don de lenguas! 

The old District. Left to right: Elders Goar, Bradshaw, Valdez, Padgett, and Moody
The other highlight is this ongoing joke I have with Elder Lund (coincidentally knows Tiffany, I found out - chevere!). We pretend to talk in english as if we were learning. We'll say something like: "Well evening! I see you of the morning," making mistakes like those that we make in Spanish! Hopefully I conveyed that in a way that can be appreciated, but its muy divertido!

I'll end with some spiritual thoughts. It'll be tough to keep this short, and for that, estoy muuuuuyyyyy agradecido! Sunday night, we got to watch a recording of an MTC devotion Elder Bednar gave a few Christmas' ago titled "Character of Christ". Unfortunately, I don't know if MTC devotionals are online, but if they are, WATCH IT! I think I can safely say it was the best talk I've ever seen. I felt the Spirit soooo strongly and was moved to tears on multiple occasions. The take-away: There is a difference between having a testimony and being converted. Anyone can have a testimony and feel the Spirit, but until they are converted, they are always susceptible to Satan's power and could always fall away from activity. On the contrary, if we strive to and become converted, we will always have too strong a foundation to fall away. The road-map he gave to becoming converted is in Mosiah 3, specifically verse 19! Que una escritura marvillosa!
To overcome the Natural Man, we must repent. The definition he gave of repentance was to "turn out, or turn to Christ." Two defs, both of which we must do. In turning out, we need to put others before ourselves, to put their needs before our own. Easier said than done, but the blessings are remarkable. It's kinda paradoxical, but he said that in order to become converted, we must forget about our own needs and conversions and help others become converted. About a mission (which we are all on, cada dia), he said something like: "The most important convert on your mission is you, but that won't happen if it's what you're trying to do."

The second incredible experience I've had this week was a phenomenally powerful temple session this morning. While waiting to perform proxy ordinances, I had casi un hora to read the Scriptures. In a place as holy and sacred as the temple, one hour of scripture study is opportunity to receive a ton of revelation and peace. That's exactly what happened. I've had some emphases of study lately pertaining to sharing the gospel, specifically how to share it with friends and investigators with boldness but not overbearance. I had collected about 5 chapters spanning both the BoM and the Bible: Psalm 23, Isaiah 49, Matthew 28 (S/o to Robin!!!), Alma 38, and Ether 12. EACH book of scripture helped to answer my questions and assuage my fears/anxieties. I felt such a strong presence of the Spirit the entire time, and I even had a random fellow Elder thank me "for my Spirit." I say this not to brag, but to remind you all that we are always being watched! Member or not, we have the responsibility to be examples of righteousness and good works to everyone that sees us. 

I've probably forgotten some stuff, but I've gotten down what's important. Just 10 days on the mission has increased my faith across the board immensely. I know that Christ is the ultimate example of good, the only way through which salvation comes! I'm grateful for everyone that has been an example to me and allowed me to come closer to Him. Y'all rock!

Until next week,
Elder Blake

PS - a lot of these computers stink when it comes to pics. I'm gonna go try and find one that works and send em! 

August 31, 2013

Repping WHS with his tie - saying good bye at Boston Logan Airport

Saying good bye

Last photo from the 'outside world' Thanks Aunt Tamela for picking up at the airport, lunch, etc.

The stuff that didn't fit in the suitcases


P-Day is Friday so I get the special privilege of writing to you after only 48 hours! Here goes. My companion, Elder P____ (from San Bernadino area, CA) is a boss. We get along super well and while we have a lot in common, there are enough differences that we compliment each other nicely. Branch President Tyler told us last night as a District (11-E and 11-F) that all companionships are assigned through divine inspiration and that our strengths and weaknesses will mesh together to help us more adequately serve each other. So true! He struggles with the Spanish a little more than I do, as does the rest of the district, so I help them all out. Sorry -  I have an hour to write but I'm frantically typing so there's no chance I waste any time. Be warned, I'm gonna be all over the place. P____ tore his ACL and meniscus his junior year (he's a year older) so we've decided we're bone brothers. The rest of the Elders in my district are the 5 that I share a room with: Elders P____ (going to Medellin, Colombia), and Elders V____, M____, G___, and B_____ (all going to Argentina Neuquen). Las hermanas in my district are all going to Neuquen as well. Yep, I STILL haven't met anyone going to Salta! Not to worry though. We all get along great and our teachers are way cool too. 

OK, so my initial preconceptions of the MTC were that this place was basically gonna be a Spanish/Gospel prison. I was under the impression that everyone is SUPER strict and that we can't have any fun. Not true at all! I've basically been thrown in to the swing of things (I was technically 2 hours late) and left to find my way with my roommates and the Zone Leaders. hahaha that reminds me: Our ZLs are Elder K_____ and Elder B_____. Knighton  literally is a Mormon Brendan Brooks. Same face; same stalwart leadership, yet really cool, personable, demeanor. Elder B____ is from Canada and actually looks EXACTLY like Justin Bieber, only with a missionary haircut. He doesn't act like him at all though. He has an Australian sounding accent and is way cool. Just remembered as well - Elder P____ reminds me slightly of Evan Callaghan in the way he looks and especially talks. Yeah so we have a strict schedule, which I'm gonna try and email you a pic of, that is actually way more helpful that restrictive. Other than that, we have a lot more freedom than I thought we'd have and there's really been no rule crazies or anything of the like. I think the best way to describe it would be to liken it to summer term at BYU, only I have to wake up and go to bed 6 hours earlier, and I have to attend a little bit more class. 

It is awesome here! I'm just always happy and everyone is so friendly and nice. You can clearly tell everyone here is to do the work. The rest of our zone is made up of a room or two of Elders right next door to us that are mostly going to Mexico City or some other Mexican mission. They've all been here about 4 weeks, but I've developed a theory on that. 1 week in here is akin to about 1 year of wisdom and experience in the real world. Time just slows down to a crawl in terms of experience and knowledge gained. Ergo, these guys next door are seasoned veterans. They've been here only 3 more weeks, and its likely I'm even older than a couple of them, but MAN, do they know way more about the language and the MTC culture etc. than we do. Our room has probably asked them about 2000 questions the last few days and it makes me feel so young ahahha. Then i sit and think, and in about 3 weeks, Our room is going to be holding the hand of some new district and we'll be the seasoned veterans!

2 side notes: the toilet seats are phenomenal! They are perfectly contoured to the human figure and it makes for some amazing relaxation when we get some spare time. 2nd: "ay caramba! There are some hermanas muy bonitas here! This might be a weird perspective, but I think the sure beauty of some of these sisters is a testament to the reality of Satan and his hand in tempting missionaries. Elder Padgett and I will subtly communicate to each other when we see una hermana bonita in passing between buildings or in the lunch room, turn the other way so as to not make eye contact or even look upon such a beautiful daughter of God and be tempted, and then wallow in despair for a few seconds. It's especially hard when they are teachers, or even worse, an unmarried cashier in the bookstore. Tough stuff man, tough stuff. Anyways, tha'ts more of just a little running joke than an actual temptation, but it keeps us sane. 

Some other stuff before I take off, and I apologize for hypocritically sending a super long letter. We get access to a legit fitness center 4 times a week that I can do pretty much any workout I like, which is a great added bonus. We are actually teaching a mock investigator tonight, in SPANISH. I'm not worried at all but everyone else in class is kinda freaking out. Tonight is gonna be way fun. Also, I was named district leader of both 11-E and 11-F last night. Technically, 11-F is just me and Sister Gonzales. We were the only two who tested into the intermediate Spanish over the phone. About half the district never called in though so they took a test yesterday and they might shuffle us around. Nobody knows when we'll find out about that though. In the meantime, I'm basically responsible for getting our mail everyday and not exactly sure what else. I'll find out soon enough. 

Me and Elder Padgett

THANK YOU so much for the Dear Elders. Right after I got the calling, I got our first batch of letters and I had 5! Big shout out to the summer crew 22s! They made up 3 of the 5. I definitely felt bad cause some Elders didn't even get any, but at the same time, it was great to hear from you guys. Please write me on Dear Elder, even if it's just a few sentences. Mom - broadcast how to do that, especially to my Wellesley friends! Thanks!

Also, Mom - do you think you could put together a package with lots of stamps, a box of Cliff bars (dinner is at 4:40 so I get super hungry at night), my trusty khaki pants (I can't find them, I think they're somewhere at home. I also can't find my other long sleeve white shirt that I got, not the Nordstrom one), and if possible, a resistance pull-up band. Jesse Dimick will know what I'm talking about. You could also just search on Amazon for something like "CrossFit resistance pull-up band." That would be fantastic. I hope I didn't forget anything but I probably did. Ask me questions if you have them so I cover all my bases next week.

Also note that my address slightly changed when I got here. New one is:

Elder Isaac Blake
2007 N 900 E Unit 2
Provo UT 84602

I'll close with a spiritual thought. We sang the hymn "We Are All Enlisted" last night and it made me think of all my friends and family back home. Everyone is a missionary, whether a member or not. We all have control over our works and our countenances, which are tremendous influences on the people around us. Just because you might not have a name tag doesn't mean people aren't watching you or that you don't have the power to change someone's life. Be cheerful and happy, kind and courteous - ALWAYS!

I love you all so much, 
Elder Blake

PS - it STILL hasn't hit me that I'm a missionary hahah. Not sure it ever will (counting on that being a good thing).
PPS - can't figure the camera and computer connection out. Next week! Don't worry, I really haven't had the time to take any pics though