Elder Isaac Blake

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

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Familia and amigos,

Wow. This week has been really hard, not gonna sugarcoat it. Probably my hardest week since I started and was adapting and all. The people are hard hearted - members, investigators, neighbors, bus-drivers etc. Even the dogs (comp took one for the team in his behind). 

I'll start with what was to be the highlight - Lila. As a refresher, shes 69, lives alone, and is genuinely awesome. We had been preparing her baptism for 22 de Feb. Tuesday, we reviewed the baptismal interview questions. Her testimony is strong, and she just had a small problem with the Word of Wisdom - giving up tea and wine tasting. However, she offered a heartfelt, amazing prayer that went like this: "God, thanks for the misioneros. We learned today that we shouldn't drink tea or wine, even if we don't understand why, and hmmmm, well, we're gonna do it! Amen, amen, amen"

We left feeling uplifted and optimistic and full of hope. 

Thursday, we had part 2 of the pre-interview. This time, she told us that she did not agree with the Law of Chastity, which prohibits sexual relations before marriage, the Law of Tithing, in which we give 10% of our income to the Lord's Church, and the Word of Wisdom. We'd taught each commandment 2 or 3 times, and she committed to live them every time, without problem. So that came as a bit of a surprise. Turns out that in her widow's state she has a secret boyfriend (yeah) that comes over every once in a while to spend the night. She says she's a free spirit. 

Man. I really love her. We've been teaching her for almost 2 months, watching her grow and progress and get serious, and we've grown really close. It killed me to have her tell the truth, that she doesn't believe she is sinning. I can't say she has been lying, because I think she genuinely just doesn't understand. Honestly, I think we suck as teachers, because this happens a lot. They progress, and then all of a sudden, they have problems with all of the little things, looking at the commandments like burdens, unnecessary changes that contradict their culture. 

Thursday, when she light-heartedly talked about these "cultural differences," I felt over-powered with the Spirit. I straight up said - "Lila, we love you, but you are sinning. You need to repent." I don't know if it entered her hard heart, but I thought it did. As she said the prayer, she broke down at the end and started to cry. 

We haven't really seen or heard from her since, because she got sick and couldn't come to church. I'd like to think she feels the Spirit testifying of her wary ways, but I really don't know if she just felt sad that she "disappointed us."

The other points of the week worth noting is the 2 investigators that came to church: Aldana and 'Lady,' as well as the 2 that came last week, Julian and Cynthia (weren't able to track them down at all this week). Once again, searching for silver linings. 

We found Aldana tracting. She's 17 and does typical 17 year old girl things. Last Sunday, we arranged to have her come to church with a member, but she went dancing all night and crashed at 6 am or something, and didn't get the door. We arranged the same thing this Sunday, and she came! I had to give a talk literally last minute, so I didn't get to talk to her til after. 

Hmmm. The initial outlook was - yeah!! No one comes to church at 9am here. The members show up at 9:15 or 9:30, and the investigators almost ALWAYS just come at 11 for sac meeting. Yeah, she came for all 3 hours!!! Well, here's the thing. We taught her 3 times this week (4 or 5 in total). Every time, we taught and reinforced the Book of Mormon and the importance of the Sacrament. We hammered down so clearly that the beauty of the Sacrament is that anyone can take it. As we take it, we promise to be willing to remember and represent Jesus Christ, and keep His commandments. We are all promised that we will have His Spirit with us, which guides us and sanctifies us. She knew this by heart. 

So - fresh investigator - 17 years old, likes to go dancing and all that entails, doesn't know anything about the church, but comes because she's willing to see how it is. Well, Sunday School and Young Women's talked about 3 things - The Word of Wisdom, Law of Chastity, and listening to wholesome music. 3 headed knockout for a budding investigator. The general pattern is always to build the foundation of faith before the commandments. She got the reverse. She decided not to take the Sacrament, and told me "she's gonna think about baptism." This came after she's accepted a date for Mar 9 like five times. She seemed pretty taken aback by it all, realizing that it's a bigger commitment than she thought. I'll slip this in - she actually went dancing again and only slept 2 hours, but still came.. 

In the afternoon, we saw her in the street. She said she was going to buy some wine to celebrate her boyfriend's birthday (he's turning....24!).

As for Julian, we passed by his house and his Dad (lives somewhere else) told us we couldn't teach him because he wants his family to be Catholic. 

Yeah so this week we've taken some punches. In an attempt to find some new, willing investigators, we tracted a bit more. To give you and idea of how it went: doorbell.  20 seconds later, I knock. Woman comes to the door furious: "Hey, if I don't come to the door the 1st time, I don't want you here!!" (SLAM)

I'll close with something I want make extremely clear. The restored Gospel of Jesus Christ and ALL the commandments, rules, or customs that it entails, is true. I know it. I know that these commandments that define us to the world, and which I'm sure many of you think are insane, freedom-limiting boundaries, have been given by God to man for our supreme benefit. The more doors slammed in my face and the more knives shoved in my back, the stronger my testimony grows: "Wickedness never was happiness." I know that happiness comes by living the way Christ has demonstrated and demanded. No matter what you think of the church and our "rules," know that I have made the truth clear and known. I can't tell you what to believe, and I won't tell you what to believe, but I will never cease to tell you what I believe, and that is what I KNOW. God the Father lives. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for us. He established HIS Church, with the organization of a living prophet and 12 apostles. This church fell after He died, but was restored by the boy prophet Joseph Smith. The Book of Mormon, translated by Joseph Smith, is true. All the truths - doctrine, principles, or commandments, that God has at one point revealed, have been restored for our eternal knowledge and happiness. These things I know, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

I love each and every person reading this letter with all of my heart. You are all my brothers. 

Elder Blake

Dear Mom, Brigham and Dad,

 Sounds like your week has been tooo dope. I miss you, but I'd never trade your weeks for mine. This work is hard, and at time it stinks on ice, but it's true. Thank you for your prayers, your letters, your stories, and your love.

Elder Blake

Monday, February 17, 2014

Feb 17, 2014

Fam and Friends,

¿Como va todo? I hope you're all enjoying the frigid North American winter. Not sure I miss it. 

This week, we lost the light in our apartment. My old companion always paid the bills and it kinda slipped my mind. So yeah, we were just straight studying and I get up to turn the light on and boom, nothing. Hahaha so we go down to the owner of the building, and she asks if we've checked the mail. "Uhhh, no." Turns out we had gas and electric dating back to Dec. 600 pesos. That, we went to RapiPago, a place to pay bills. Not sure there's an American equiv because we pay by mail or internet. Here, its straight cash. Well, the RapiPago in our area wasn't able to reinstate the light, and they sent us to the RapiPago downtown. Anyways, 2 days later, after losing an afternoon of teaching, let there be light! 

The 2 days sans luz were pretty crummy. The freezer and fridge died obviously, and now thanks to the various perishables we were keeping that have since gone nice and warm, the whole apt smells like Brigham (j/k - Brigham only stinks after football). When we planned for the following day, we had to use the piece of junk flashlights we brought. Wasn't really that bad, but the combo of a bad day of teaching and no light, I was kinda down Thursday

Another brief, seemingly unrelated exp: We taught Rita Wayar and her fam 2 times this week. We'd basically given up on her for now, even tho she's come to church 4 times, because shes so freakin hard hearted and knows it. She wants to know "why." Why do we have to suffer? Why did we have to come to earth if we lived with God before? We helped her guide herself to some answers, concluding with the preposition that the Church is true and exists to guide us back to God better than we were before and that she must know for herself. 

Why couldn't we have just stayed with God? The answer: we wanted a body so we could live like God lives. (When this doesn't make sense, call the local missionaries - they'll fill in the gaps because they're not typing this profound doctrine on a crappy Argentine keyboard with 27 mins left on the email clock). We knew it was gonna stink on ice at times, but also that it'd be necessary to learn and grow. We also knew that we would each be sent to a different apartment with a different degree of light, but that these circumstances and knowledge of the Plan would shape the person we'd become for the best. 

The great challenge of life, the great blessing of the Plan, is that we are given our agency to decide what we want, what we'll do, where we'll go, and who we'll be. 

We often go along sitting in our apartments, subconsciously enjoying the light. We take it for granted and really don't even think about it. Life is good. The challenge, thus, is that we really don't comprehend that we have the ability and opportunity to have so much more light. Perhaps for some, we've just never been to Home Depot and seen the dope 50000w light bulbs marketed by God Inc. Maybe it doesn't matter to us what kind of light it is, as long as there's light. Perhaps we're just content with the light bulbs we have now. The point is, unfortunately we almost always wait for our lights to go out to go to Home Depot or RapiPago to get it back on. We only then realize how freakin lost we are. When times get tough and we can't see, we then go to the source. In reality, this fall or trial really stinks. It humbles us, changes our perspective, and opens the door to much more light. 

So in the grand scheme of God's Plan, where are you? Who cares right now. Don't wait for the lights to go out, whether for your own ignorance or forgetfulness, or for some natural consequences. Trust me, if they aren't already flickering or out now, they will be pretty soon. We all pass thru our own personal "valley of the shadow of death." Don't wait to go to Home Depot. Don't wait to go to the light. 

Jesus said:

"I am the alight of the world: he that followeth me shall not bwalk in cdarkness, but shall have the light of life." - John 8:12

Jesus Christ established his church, but it was lost when he was crucified by man. This Church has been restored again in our time, by Jesus himself. Joseph Smith is the prophet that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ chose to organize this restoration. He received and translated ancient plates written by American prophets into the Book of Mormon. This Church is the only true way to receive all the light God has for us. 

That sounds kinda far-fetched; I recognize that. It's either true or its not. I know it's true, and I invite all to get to know all that the Church has to offer, and then go to the source, asking with faith if it's true. Don't wait for your light to go out. 

I love all of you. Thanks for the many emails I got today. Keep fighting and go to the light!
Elder Blake

Monday, February 10, 2014


Its great to be able to write ya'll today on my half b-day and official 25% completion date of my mission. Wow. How freakin wierd it is that I'm already 1/4 done. It feels like just yesterday that I got here. 

This past week was the last of the transfer. The norm for this mission is 3 transfers in your first area, so I was ready to get shipped somewhere else. I said goodbye to some converts and members and snapped some good pics. However, when the time came for transfers last night, surprise! -- I'm staying. My letter will be largely comprised of the premature farewells I gave yesterday, as well as some personal growth from the thinking I've been doing about perhaps leaving my birthland.

Yesterday, I said goodbye to Cesar Miguel Palma, and his mom, Patricia. She has been inactive for 10 years, but has started to come back since we baptized Miguel Dec 15. However, it has been and will continue to be a rocky climb back to full activity for both. Miguel is a semi rebellious, popular 12 year old kid. He feels like she pressured him into being baptized, even though we witnessed that it was all his choice. Anyways, I went there yesterday to make sure that whatever happens with the missionaries, he will strive to be active. I gave a bit of a sermon about how important the commandments and the church is for a kid between the ages of 12 and 18. I felt the Spirit strongly as I testified and warned him of the time ahead. 

He and his mom have grown a special place in my heart. Apparently, he looks up to me a lot, although he's your typical 12 year old punk and doesn't show much affection. Anyway, I left off with a contract. The terms: he will pray, read the BoM daily, and go to church every Sunday, with the promise that he would grow to become a strong, faithful Priesthood holder, and would be the happiest he's ever been. I left my address etc, and my signature, but told him to sign in when he feels ready. I told him to make a decision between him and the Lord, and no one else.

The other powerful farewell was with Lila. She's 69 and we've taught her everything. She has accepted and completed every requistie to be baptized, but has denied many invitations to be baptized because she has already been baptized 2 times. She changes a lot, but ultimaltely has an incredible heart. We've grown super close this transfer, and is so fun to be around. Bueno, last week she basically told us - no, I've made my choice. However, she said she'd come to church and told us to come get her. She's slept thru the last 2 Sundays and always resisted us coming to fetch her. Suddenly, she's giving the orders. Boom! Sunday morning she's up and waiting for us. She loved the service and many members were chatting with her. She even asked a sister when the baptisms are. We snapped some pics becuase I said I might be leaving, and she told me "hey I might actually get baptized." Here enters one of the most powerful moments of my mission. So it's clear, we almost always are light'heartedly joking around with her, always laughing. Well, when she said this, I got really serious. I didn't say much,  but IMMEDIATELY felt the Spirit say thru me really powerfully, "Lila, I don't know if I'll be here to see it happen, but I know you'll get baptized. I KNOW this Church is TRUE." Nothing more. 
Elder Hermanson, Lila and Isaac

It's truly a priveledge to be a vessel in the hands of the Lord. We've STRUGGLED this transfer. The people here are hard. We had 8 people in these 6 weeks prepared/or willing to be baptized that for some reason or another all basically became eliminated as options. There is hope for a few (like Lila), but Hermansen says he's never seen so many people fall off or back away after being so willing or prepared. People don't want to come to church becuase Sunday morning is sleep time or drink time or time to go on vacation. Man. We consistently teach the most lessons in the zone, have good numbers, but FIGHT to baptize. 

My 2 big takeaways: Man, I'm so blessed. 1st off, Vanessa was a tender mercy of the Lord. We were blessed to take part in her conversion, and really didn't do anything. 2nd, Limache is such a blessing. I've been thinking about how much agency has to do with progression. We all have problems, and can make decisions. For us here, God could either take away our problems (give us baptisms), or could test us, lift us up to be able to meet them (make us labor to be more capable in His hands). Either way, the problems will be taken care of and the baptisms will eventually come, but the difference lies in the personal growth. Man. I have learned sooooo much, grown soooo much, because of this blessed area. We have improved our quality of teaching soooo much, and still are striving to improve. I've learned to live in the fire. I know the God is making a precious gem out of the stubborn, ugly piece of coal that is the natural man inside of me. I can't be grateful enough. 

Finally, I've always had trouble reconciling the selfisness that it seems to focus on what my mission can do for me. However, the conc I'm slowly reaching is that because of the nature of agency, the only person I can really be responsible for is myself. HOWEVER, the key to self improvement will always be the selfless striving to help others along their own journies. I hope I have touched you in some way thru these letters, and my prayer is always to grow more and more worthy of transmitting the Spirit of God to my fellow man. 

Godspeed this week,

Elder Blake

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Feb 3rd, 2014


Keeping it real?? Let's hope so. We're cooking down here in good ol Limache. Had a nice break from the sun Tues - Thurs with a fantastic cats and dogs rainstorm Tuesday. What made it even more fun is that the people that saved us from the rain!! We were running through the streets (rivers), sharing a borrowed umbrella, when were arrived at the house of Ariel and Gabriela. They're a young couple who we've been teaching 3 or 4 weeks now. Elder Hermansen found them on splits with the subtle impression to clap their door no mas. They let us in and we taught them a really powerful lesson. I bore my testimony at the beginning, sharing an experience I had in the Sacred Grove a few years back when it started to pour amidst a solitary moment. Attached are some pics of us after we arrived at the apt. It was actually kinda cold (I'm sure nothing like what ya'll have now).


For my letter, I'll recount yesterday - a wild Sabbath Day to say the least. We had so much stuff on the plate, and I on my mind, that I completely forgot the Superbowl was last night. Anyway, so we had planned and firmly committed an investigator, 18 year old Nico, to walk with us to church at 9 am. He said all week he knew he needed to come, and wanted to come. We were/kinda still are planning his baptism for Feb 9. Anyways, he wont get out of bed at 9. He supposedly worked from midnight to 7am and passed out an hour before we got there. We came back at 10:30, and he was up, but after 10 mins of back and forth, we couldn't convince him to come. He said he had to go to a back-to-school meeting.

At this point, we were sitting pretty with literally no one at church, and our most sure candidates out of the picture for some reason or another. The only ones left - Ariel and Gabriella. They had missed church the last 3 weeks for this, that, and every other excuse. I was standing there in Nico's door praying for guidance and understanding. It was a pretty low moment. We decided we'd walk to Ariel's and remind them. As we walked, I was a good mix of angry, frustrated, confused, and exhausted. We made it down about half a block when guess who rolls up on his motorcycle. Ariel, Gabriella, and their 3 children!!! (5 on a motorcycle doesn't turn any heads here -7 perhaps is out of the ordinary). Wow, talk about a powerful answer to prayer. I smiled so big man. We were overjoyed. 

Had a great great great fast and testimony meeting. I've been thinking this week about how I'd literally never gotten up a regular fast Sunday to bear my testimony, before I slapped on the title "Elder." Yesterday, I shared the influence my parents, especially Robin (Isaac and Brigham's nickname for Jonathan), have had on me through their public testimonies. Anyway, during the Sacrament, I got a little overwhelmed thinking just how freaking lucky I have been to be born of goodly parents, in a Gospel-centered home. I can't imagine accepting the Gospel growing up and any other circumstance, for the influences of the world that I've steered clear of as a result of the Gospel surely would have led me down a different path. Anyway, I was impressed to bear my testimony, and coincidentally (not coincidence, but inspired), had what sounds like a similar experience to you (Mom). Here's the Spark notes version:

There are varying degrees of happiness. Many worldly happinesses can blind us to the true happiness that is God's love. For me, this happiness manifests itself here on earth in the form of the relationships were cherish, our love for others. God gave us a way to have these relationships completely bonded together for time and eternity: Jesus Christ. He gave his life and comfort so that we can be happy. It's a simple, yet profound equation. I know that He lives, He loves, and He wants more than anything to cele with us as we accept His doctrine and reap the blessings.

As I walked up to the mic, I wasn't nervous at all. I had thought a bit about the words beforehand, but can say without a doubt that the Spirit spoke thru me and touched many people. In fact, a few members afterwards gave me some weirdly-worded Spanish farewells. I think they thought it was my last Sunday here or something. We'll see, next Sunday could be my last. 

The rest of the day, we taught some lessons and did the good old stuff. Overall, it was a dope dia de reposo, minus the reposo. (reposo means rest). 

S/o to Big Mac for being the only person besides my parents to write me this week. My faithful friend, you have shown me much love!!! I cherish your rich words and always laugh at your letters. I'm happy you're leaning towards English - I hope to join you in 18 months in the same studies, but who knows. 
 Mom - don't worry about my future. Just for you, I'll throw it in my prayers etc. Know that you and Dad will for sure be consulted. **Original Letter**

PLEASE SEND ME SOME JOURNAL PROMPTS. Send me some general missionary ones, but also some life** prep type deals. As your heart desires.

Dad - how do you make banana milk?

Mom - all good with the packages. Still haven't gotten number 2. The things you're sending are perfect. Will you and Dad please look for some good LDS music and put it on one of the flash drives? Dad - load up the other with your favorite talks and BYU speeches. 

As for the future packages - the best thing I can receive is photos and painting/drawings, plus handwritten notes. Can you send me hard copies of the snow, as well as a few of each of my baptisms?? As for other pics, send stuff that would be good/cool to show investigators.

Love Ya'll

Elder Blake