Elder Isaac Blake

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

Monday, March 31, 2014

March 30, 2014

Hey whats up fam,

This week has gone by pretty fast. The truth is its been a little tough, personally more than anything. I'd describe it with a paraphrase from Elder Bednar - "What we do doesn't always reflect what we know." I know what I need to do to be successful and be happy, but I sometimes give in to the natural man within me and lose a bit of the fire I started out with. I don't know exactly - perhaps its being in the same place with the same people for so much time, not really sure. 

It was great to hear about Brig's patriarchal blessing - super cool stuff. Also, I forgot to thank Anna for the letter that was in the package. I loved the story and its interesting how Satan works in subtle ways.

Well, the theme for this week and this transfer has been/will be charity. Mom, you talked about Moroni 7 (one of the best scriptures ever - you should read it) the other week, and I decided to study it and throw some of the verses on the back of my new planner. We're making it a matter of prayer personally and in our comp to be given more charity. A few cool experiences:

Feeling a bit overwhelmed Monday after the shocking surprise that we'd have another 6 weeks together and I'd be staying in Limache, I decided I needed to change some things. Herm and I don't talk all that much in the apt - we're both kinda quiet, keep to ourselves. Well, I don't want to be confined to my own thoughts so much, and I've been feeling that I can't really love anyone here if I don't love my comp, so I decided to just tell him I like him and that I'm happy to be working with him again. I did, even though I was kinda second-guessing if he's take it weirdly, and it was great. He opened up and we just talked about about how we were feeling etc. 

A few days later, we hit up one of our constant investigators - Antonio. I don't remember if I described him last week; he's about 50, been an alcoholic most of his life, and is going to an accelerated elementary school for adults. He's dope, but he relapsed with the wine this week, and it's been tough to carry a conversation. Anyways, we stopped by. He got super pumped to see us, and repeatedly told me he was so proud that I'm staying in Limache etc - classic drunk guy. Well, we started talking outside his house, and about 3 mins later, he started to break down and cry. Hard. He's had a really hard life, and I think he's got a lot of problems that he doesn't talk about. I decided to just give him a hug. He put his runny nose in my nice old white shirt, and just cried. Then, he went to Herm. Herm doesn't really show love/affection much, but he gave him a big bear hug too. Antonio kept telling us that he trusts us and knows we're gonna help him sort his life out. I felt genuine love for him, and although its tough to see him succumb to the wine, and basically impossible to teach him anything under the influence, he's getting better. He's a real, just innocently awesome guy. 

We've seen lately that we're increasingly dividing the difference between ourselves and being missionaries. Like, there's 40 and then there's Elder Blake. Man, Elder Blake sucks. He's boring, no fun, and just dryly teaches doctrine from Preach My Gospel. Nobody wants to come unto Christ through such a dud. We're both trying to eliminate this difference, and preach and teach being ourselves. Trying to focus on getting to know the people we talk with (not to or at) and letting them see that we're normal. I think this will be a key to success going forward. Not being a freaking robot, and making the work fun. 

I'd love any advice you normal people have to be more friendly, warm, and engaging when we're talking to people in the bus or the street or a taxi. Hahahaha basically, what makes you want to talk with a stranger? What are some spiritual pick-up lines we could use? Hit me up with your answers.
Love yall tons. Keep sending letters - they're the bomb. Go to Church.

Elder Blake
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Monday, March 24, 2014

Staying in Limache for yet another transfer

Switching things up this week.  I got the two packages from the fam on Wed and inside was a real treasure, a handwritten letter from Lincoln. I'm gonna type it up word for word:

Dear Isaac, 

I'm haveing some tough times and some good times. Struguls with techers can you mabey you have some advice? Know that I am baptized and am older, I understand more I feel more power in the holy ghost when I was yonger I did not understand my acshins that much now I do. How is the eyst (I think he meant best) way to not disobay and stuff like that? I mite also ask mom or dad or both. If you have any gwasinge (no idea, perhaps questions) abuot anything? in you next letter you can tell me. I'm have thotghs about my futcher, can give me idus? (I'm thinking I mite not make some relly spesol job or something).

Love, Lincoln 

Dearest Lincoln, 

Bro, your letter was the best thing I've gotten in a long time. I love you so much dude. Don't worry about the struggles, God has His plan for you! I know He loves you so much and all of the struggles will be there to help you grow and be a better Lincoln. Here's some advice though - be a friend. Be as nice as you can be to all your classmates and friends, and your teachers. Love them. Try to be like Jesus and I'm sure everything will get better. 

I love that you have learned so much about baptism! I used your letter to explain the wonderful gift that baptism is, because you explained it so simply. When we get baptized, we receive the Holy Ghost - He is our constant companion, and helps us make correct choices. It makes me so happy that you are learning to choose the right thanks to such a gift. As for some advice on obeying - Lincoln, it all starts with the desire to obey! I can see so clearly that you want to choose the right. You want to not disobey, and that's so fantastic. Always ask yourself if you think you are about to obey, "What would Jesus do?" And bro, for sure you should ask mom or dad OR both! They love you so much and will always help you to choose the right and obey. 

Now, for your future. Lincoln, you have such a bright future. You're smart, hilarious, nice, and cool. I know you're gonna make some special job. You're gonna be a great man. Lincoln, one of the very best parts about reading emails is when Dad tells me about your latest adventures and fun - like playing knee hockey all day after the Olympics, or watching A Football Life and playing catch with dad. Try to play all the sports you can, but especially football. Eat healthy and exercise, and one day you'll be even better than me and Brigham when you play for the Wellesley Raiders and Coach Davis. 

I do have some questions - write me and email next week. How are things going with your friends? How about your scripture reading and prayers? Are you doing them every day? Are you being a peacemaker at home? 

I hope you know how much I love you, and our family loves you, and most importantly, God loves you. Never give up hope, even when you feel sad. You will always have our Heavenly Father available to talk to. Just keep praying. 

Love you so much Lincoln, you're a boss,

Your bro, Isaac.

Alright, as for some details etc. This week has been sooo long, and honestly a tough trial, in a different way. I succumbed a bit to the natural man in me, thinking I'd get transferred. I may have lost focus for a good majority of the time. I think it all started when I got the two Blake fam care packages. I got homesick with the first, and I'd say it was even worse this time. Basically, the Wellesley Football yearbook killed me. Man. All the pictures, the newspaper articles, everything. Reading about Thanksgiving. Thinking about Brigham and how much he missed. I miss football so much. I miss you guys, and I miss the past. I thought a lot about the success the team had this year and how good it was to see young guys step up and work together. Idk, it threw me off. Thursday night, we brought L and A to the English class the other ward offers. It was mostly so A could have her baptismal interview, but they learned too. Well, we got a huge answer to prayers in a unexpected way. I mentioned in passing to L that it was a shame I was gonna leave before she got baptized. Really didn't think much of it, but she said basically, "what are we waiting for?" Hahaha so I tell her to talk to our DL and she had an interview too. Well, Elder Durrant comes in and asks for a pen, and they emerge 10 mins later with the baptismal form all filled out and signed, with the date set for Sat 22. Wow. He said she was willing to live all the commandments. A passed too, but her mom didn't end up signing her form. Anyways, out of the blue in supposedly my last week in Limache, I baptized her Saturday morning. We had a hiccup with the font at 7 am, and at one point it looked like we'd have to postpone for the next week. I was bummed, but prayed and everything was sorted out. I battled a lot with personal pride - thinking maybe I was selfishly pushing them towards Saturday for me, not for them. I prayed and studied to kill my pride, and I think it worked. 

Whatever, I'm all over the place and the comp is way slow so I'll get to the point. It turns out I'm staying - Hermansen too. We were both way caught off guard and a bit bummed. We thought Elder Durrant was kidding. Turns out our whole district is staying, at least for now. I called back, and Elder Durrant told us that President is planning something with our district, he said something like 4 new missionaries here or something. Pres comes tomorrow so next week I'll be able to fill you in. For now, looks like I'll have almost 8 months in Limache which is insane. Need to get back at it and keep baptizing in this tough area. I'm grateful. I know that this will be good for me - gonna work on strengthening my companionship and really need to maintain the fire I had at the beginning of my mission - maintain humility and charity. 

I miss ya'll so much, keep being awesome. Here are some of my farewell pics that again, aren't so farewell. It'll be great fun (sarcastic) to see all the members and investigators etc that I said goodbye for life to. 

Love you so much,
Elder Blake

Found the Sequoia!! So rare - all the cars here are different. 
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Us and L!
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Me and F C. He's not a member and likes to smoke, drink, and try to teach me bad words. I always tell him he's gonna get baptized some day, but he doesn't believe me. I know.
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Me killing it with S, A's nephew
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Me, A, her niece and nephew
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Monday, March 17, 2014

March 17, 2014

What's up everybody,

First off, super pumped for my boy 52. Atta pep. Gonna be dope to hit Provo with you in a couple years. 

The theme for my letter today will be the family. The last 36 hours, I've been thinking a lot about families in general (truthfully, more the families of Salta than my own). Sunday morning, after a firm commitment the night before, R C sent us a text saying she wasn't coming to church because her "sister was right, she doesn't fit in." That would be her younger sister T. Keep in mind this is the C familiy, 6 daughters and a son living with their single dad and aunt and uncle. Most of the family, apart from F (dad) are at some lesser level of church activity, whether members or not. They're all struggling to participate (wake up in time Sunday). Long story short, there's just a lot of contention in the house. R and T don't get along well, and there are just a lot of rifts. I think kinda as a result, R spends time with 17 year old Franco (boss hog, a bit lost). He supports R, albiet in making bad decisions like smoking and drinking. R knows she shouldn't do that kind of stuff, and wants to stop, but we saw Sunday morning a manifestation of this rift in her decisions. 

We went to try and convince her, but she wouldn't budge. She cried a bit, and what I could make out in her tear-soaked Spanish was that she thinks her family hates her, they don't support her, and that shes forgiven them one too many times. I just felt sad. She wouldn't get up and come to church simply because her sister was there. 

I decided to look for a Gen Conf. talk in my pile of Spanish Conference editions. I read a talk by Elder Bednar in' 09 - "More Diligent and Concerned at Home." His take-aways are that the little things done consistently, like express and show love, and bear testimony of simple truths, are the keys to a more loving home. I'd encourage ALL to read it.
Anyway, then I read a letter this morning from pop. He said simply at the end that he's kinda jealous of the gang, because they got to spend sooo much time with me, while the family sincerely just kinda took a backseat. He said he wasn't trying to make me feel bad, and that we can't change the past. Whatever. I love my family. So much. I miss you guys, and I sometimes think about how sweet it'll be to do the little things, the things I took for granted. Going to Maine and putting away the cell phones and computers, reading the scriptures together, Family Night, going out to eat. I miss more than anything the time. Hahahah I was so stupid. I laughed at the expression "forced family fun" because I didn't understand the importance of the family. I regret not spending so much time at home, and I will for sure make up for it going forward. 

I can't describe very well my feelings, but I'll try. I've seen a lot of families in my life and in my mission. I've seen the ways parents discipline and even just talk to their children. I also recognize that every single family I know, including ESPECIALLY my own, has their problems. What I've observed is that when love prevails, unconditional, unquestioning (albeit perhaps deeply rooted and not waving on a flagpole in the yard) makes all the difference in the emotional/spiritual well-being, and general happiness in a person. There is no substitute. Love your brothers, love your mothers, love your fathers, love your sisters. It's the best way. 

We'll see how it goes with the C family. They're definitely my little family here in Salta. Regardless, I know that God loves us all and he's given us our families as a supreme gift, as well as test. They can and will be the source of the ultimate happiness. 

As for the rest of the week, things are going alright. We taught a ton of lessons this week (getting after it), but the spiritual progression hits plateaus or brick walls. I've got one last week in this forsaken land full of challenges, and I'm gonna make the best of it. I strive to not think selfishly about the timing of baptisms. In my experience, this mission focuses a lot on numbers, like who is baptizing and how often. While motivated in some way for the eternal well-being of souls, I don't see x number of baptisms from Elder Blake as a very good indicator of success. A is ready to be baptized any day now, but she lacks a strong desire because she still isn't 100% sure the church is true etc. I say "Hey, I wasn't 100% sure until I became a missionary. I'd lie if I said I am 100% right now. With such surety, it's impossible to have faith. I believe with all my being, but you sure don't have to KNOW to show your faith in the waters of baptism." My conclusion: I'd love to be a part of her baptism, but I'll respect the Lord's timing. She has repented of a lot of things, and has really turned her life around. Pressuring her out of my own personal ambition is foolish. I'll do all I can to help her take the step, but it will be out of a desire to help her and to please God.

Love, Elder Blake

Bonus pic - from Elder Hermanson's mom :)

Monday, March 10, 2014

Last couple of weeks in Limache

familia and friends

this week, like with all weeks, was full of its ups and downs. More ups than downs. 

We had zone conference Thursday. Pres Levrino has a reputation for really harsh, direct conferences, calling us all out for performance and things we can improve. I was surprised by the tone of the conference and not once did it feel like he was reprimanding. It was very humble, yet powerful. The theme: urgency. 

We're striving to integrate ourselves much more with the members, changing the culture of "missionary work" from members helping missionaries to missionaries helping members. Well, we can't make any of the members do anything, but he gave some great council on how to excite all, in the name of "hastening the work." He said the missionaries need to have fire in their eyes. It doesn't matter what we say or how demanding we are with the members, we need to be fully committed to the work and more than that, really AMPED to save souls. 

Other than that, he spent a lot of time talking about the quality of teaching (teaching for understanding) and talking to everyone. The whole conference was inspired by a visit from Elder Ballard last week. My own personal conclusion: Elder Ballard's dying words for the missionaries will be: "hablar con todos (talk to everyone)." Easy to do for a couple of days (I'm almost out of pages in my planner for more addresses of people we've contacted, the majority being in this last week alone), much harder to maintain. I'll do it though. 

I'll fill ya'll in on the ever present investigators Lila, Aldana, and Rocio. 

Lila came to church at 9 am (a miracle for any Argentine non member). She was half asleep until Sac Meeting, but I think she had a great experience. We had lunch with her and the Flores family (old bishop, super nice). It was kinda (really) awkward though, with Hna Flores trying to make small talk that turned into a sly disagreement about sexual freedom (keep in mind this is the 69 year old widow who has a weekend boyfriend). We'll see with her. The truth is we're just praying hard for a change of heart like she's showed before. 

Aldana came to church for the 3rd time. We taught the law of chastity I think 4 times this week and each time she made a little progress. At first she said "no, that's wierd," then "maybe, Ill talk to my boyfriend," then "waiting for his answer" to finally "he said he'll support me, but I still don't know. I'll tel you tomorrow." Tomorrow is today so we'll see tonight. The thing with her that has been rare in my experience is that I can see an evident conversion process. Many people get baptized here for who knows what reason and the missionaries dont question it because we're really pressured to baptize anyone that meets the interview. Not that its a bad thing, just that its cool to see someone evidently change their life in the weeks that they meet with us. 

Finally Rocio. We had an impromtu fast with her Wed night (we fasted awkwardly during the big ZC lunch) to Thurs night to help her quit smoking. I was actually really surprised that she did it, but all was well. Unfortunatley, she's been with her mom since Friday and didn'0t come back for church even tho she said she would. Also, her sister said she saw her smoking. Not really sure what'll happen but we'll see. 

As for me, 2 weeks left in Limache. It's been good, but tough. Getting excited to see another province, although it sounds like weather and foodwise, they're all downgrades. 

I have another package waiting now - I'm assuming its your second one with sunscreen etc. 

Just wanna let you know I'm always thinking of you and praying for you. I love picturing Lincoln playing or watching football.

I havent read anything yet because we're both writing now. We have Marcelo, a member who's leaving for Brazil in 6 weeks. He says hi (speaks english). Let me know if there's any business to take care of.

Do your duty to love all those around you. Pray for and look for chances to serve. Be an example in word and in deed. Never forget your divine potential and calling as a child of God. 
Shout out to those who wrote to me this week.  Thank you!

Love y'all, 

Elder Blake
PS -  Can you find emails for Kris Koerper and Dix Densley (those dope missionaries in our ward some years back)?
PPS - I'll found out where I'm going at district asado today!!!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Sunday will come.

Family and friends,

After reading your emails this week, I honestly don't know what I want to say. Some bad news, but reasons to be optistic. With that said, "come what may, and love it."

I listened to 8 or so Joseph B Wirthlin talks this week during my exercise/shower time. That quote was one of his great talks, as well as another that I loved, "Sunday Will Come."

It honestly seems to me that for a lot of us, the last 2 weeks, or couple of months, have kinda stunk. Full of much happiness, but for sure balanced by disappointments and challenges. Such days are a lot like (yet not even close to) the Friday in which Christ was crucified. Fridays are dark, lonely, and suffocating. I'll let him take over:

Each of us will have our own Fridays—those days when the universe itself seems shattered and the shards of our world lie littered about us in pieces. Wall will experience those broken times when it seems we can never be put together again. We will all have our Fridays.

But testify tyou in the name of the One who conquered death—Sunday will come. In the darkness of our sorrow, Sunday will come.
Brig - Sunday will come. Mack - Sunday will come. Mom and Dad - Sunday will come. Everyone else that reads this letter - Sunday will come.

Sundays are freakin' awesome. The Sabbath Day. Translation from Spanish - "The Day of Rest." Haahahah although "rest" is literally the opposite of how we spend Sundays here in the mission, for the rest of you, it's fantastic. I can't even imagine being able to spend a whole day drinking the water of life, reading the scrips, napping, and just straight chillin' with the Blake Zoo. I won't get into doctrine, but the active "rest" we enjoy, doing things differently on Sundays, is a tremendous blessing, a time to wind down and recharge. I've gained much appreciation for the cleansing power of the Sacrament in my 6 months here, and anticipate (though not too much) the time in which I'll be able to rest from my labors. 

Our week was pretty good. I don't really remember much (feels like we just finished last p-day, the days are flying so fast), but for sure it was better than last week. Right now, our 3 main investigators are doing pretty good. I'd love if you would all pray for these 3 - that they can abandon their sins and embrace the Gospel. 1: Lila. She's 69, and progressing slowly after she said she wouldn't live the Law of Chastity. We'll see with her. 2: Aldana. She came to church again which is rare for Limache (2 weeks in a row) and liked it. However, came to another ward's baptism Sat and said she didn't like the whole immersion thing because she's scared she'll drown. She has a ton of doubts, but said firmly: "If I feel the church is true, I'll get baptized." Finally, we're now teaching a 20 year old, Rocio, who lives with her member family, the Correas. Hno. Correa is a legend - I'll attach another pic. He gave up a strong addiction to booze about 2 years ago and has literally turned his life around since his baptism. He has like 12 daughters, a mix of active, less active, or nonmembers. Rocio wants to quit smoking, and approached us to do so. She has a date for the 15th. 

Hermansen and I talk alot about what it means to be successful and really what we want out of our missions. The truth is, this mission baptizes a lot. The standard of excellence is 2 per month, but the adage is "bautizar CADA SEMANA" (every week). Many missionaries kill themselves for numbers, and as a result, there are a lot of kids between 9 and 16 baptized, only to be abandoned when they have no family support to get to church. Personally, I'm just trying my very best to open my freakin' mouth and find the FAMILIES that are looking for the truth. The attendance in the stake is at 25%, meaning that 75% of the members in West Salta are inactive. Not sure how it is in the States, but sounds pathetic to me. Forget working for numbers, I'm here to change lives. While I certainly won't ever loosen up in my work ethic, I won't conform to sacrifice quality of conversion for a "pat on the back" from the ZLs (Zone Leaders). The Gospel serves to "make bad men good and good men better, and to change human nature." I've seen this power a handful of times, and it's incredible. 

Well, this letter's been all over the place. I'm feeling kinda weird today, but nothing a little evening preaching can't fix. 

Lastly, I wanna throw a huge shout out to Drew Kelton. I got your 2 packages Tuesday. Luckily for us all, it's actually kinda cold sometimes, so I throw on the 2013 sweatshirt. The new ties are sweet. However, words don't do my gratitude justice. Thanks for your love. 

Also, thank you to David and Stephanie who certainly know a good missionary care package, as well as the YAG (Young Adult Group at Church) for the package. Thank you all for the letters, emails, and packages.

Love ya'll, 
Elder Blake