Elder Brigham Blake

Email: Brigham.Blake@myldsmail.net

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Last of 2014

Dear family and friends,

Can't really describe how great this week has been. Lo empanzo (it started with) with an amazing hour and a half with Isaac and the Family, and then another 30 with Nick the Peretti. I feel awful at how poorly I described the purpose of  missionary work, but my excuse is that I was feeling guilty for how long I skyped...gotta repent!
Talking in Spanish with Isaac and hearing Dad's prayer and watching Mom start Christmas dinner was with out a doubt the highlight of Christmas. Da me six months and I'll be a straight up Dominican thug Isaac. Man Spanish is gonna be epic.
Anyway, I have very limited time, the one thing I have really learned this week is that happiness is a choice. To really enjoy any hard situation in life it is imperative to focus on the things we can fix, turn outward like Christ would. A few examples:
My Comp. He's a goof ball. He really only does the bare minimum requirements as a missionary. For the first transfer I was with him this really bugged me, he never does the dishes, studies language with me etc. The things he does are very self-centered, totally fine but it was really hard at first. We would fight because I would try to force him to be more obedient...doesn't work! Service and submitting to his will has really helped. 
The people. Being the only gringo in a place like here has its challenges, especially me being so new to the mission. I've gotten to the Rubio comments and the comments about my hideous accent etc. I can't control how the people treat me but I can control how I respond. As I have thought (in Spanish Isaac) this past week, to be a representative of Jesucristo is very hard, but I will only change here on the mission if I try to be a representative of him. Wearing the the name tag isn't enough. To be a missionary means to live in a way that Jesus Christ would live.
I can't even begin to express how grateful I am for this mission and for my family. Yeah, there are a lot of problems here, it's dangerous at times and I don't agree with my comp a veces. But I can't control that.  As I have come to enjoy this people, country, comp, it's only been through turning outward in love and service. 
D&C 24 v 8 Be patient in afflictions, for thou shalt have many; but endure them, for, lo, I am with thee, even unto the end of thy days.
D&C 121 v 7   My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;
John 15 v 13  Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
Sorry for no pics, I promise I'm still beautiful. Jajajaja
Con Amor, 
Elder Blake

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Family and friends!
This has with out a doubt been one of the best weeks of the mission. It terms of teaching, we really lacked this week though. On Saturday day we had a flash mob in the only mall, in all of San Francisco and Salcedo. It would have been awesome if there were people in the mall. Sadly, I think everyone here is too poor to shop in places like malls. Anyways our dance was awesome, but we didn't have an audience. But on Sunday we had all three of our progressing investigators at church! After much prayer, Milagros was finally able to come to church. You should have seen my smile when she walked in to the chapel. It was unreal! 
We are teaching Edwin, Azdri and Milagros regularly. They have all prayed about the church and have a testimony of the restoration, its awesome. We're hoping and expecting to baptize all three of them in January. We're working hard and I know that through fasting and prayer it'll become a reality.
This week this, something elder rod and I have really tried to focus on is letting the Holy Ghost guide through prayer. I don't really know why but I have always been a very nervous person. Before football games, dates, tests literally everything that has weight to it, I am nervous. However, something I've learned in football, and here on the mission is:
First, prepare. Preparation is sooo vitally important for missionary work. Every night and week, as a companionship we prepare for what we our going to teach. Realamente without preparation, teaching meaningful lessons is impossible. Aveces I was nervous before dates, maybe because I didn't brush my teeth haha, or before tests because I didn't study everything in the study guide, quein sabe!, realamente it's soo important to prepare.
Secondly, and probably more important is to pray. I have really seen a difference in my Spanish, and the way I communicate this week because I have cried unto the Lord to deliver me. Sure that sounds weird and Bible-y, but read Ether 1, The brother of Jared is an amazing example of someone who prayed to God with all his heart.  

When I have done these two things, I have really seen a positive difference in my life. I have a testimony that when we work as though everything depends on us, and then pray as if everything depends on God, we will be sooo blessed.  

I know that my grammar is bad, but I blame it on a lack of time. I love this gospel with all of my heart. I know that my brother is doing work down in Argentina. 
Merry Christmas to all!
Love Elder Blake
1. Me and Elder Merlow. Classic Honduran!
2. Elder Rod, Me, Ray and Robsioins, goofin after our stake Christmas devotional on Sunday
3. Routa picture, the taxis here in the DR have a max capacity of 7 people. four people in the back, two in the front not including the drivier. This is probably the nicest routa I've take, it actually has cushioning!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Family y Friends!!!

Family y Friends!!!
This week's letter is going to be on the shorter side because I've used half of my time sharing the amazing video 'He is the Gift'. I haven't had a chance to watch it in English, but I know the message is just as powerful as it is in Spanish.
As for this week, Elder Rod and I worked hardddd, easily the best week in terms of lessons and feeling the spirit. We're still trying to work on our teaching dynamic, but now that we have a few solid investigators to teach, I know everything will fall into place!
This week, we've really cracked down and been teaching Edwin, the Son of Pablo and Enilda every other day. He's the second investigator we've had that actually reads and is progressing, were pumped. His baptism is set for the 20 so pray for him and us that he'll be ready! He tells us he feels the spirit every lesson and wants to be baptized, now the hard part is trying to get his parents to get married! Then we'll have a new family in the ward!
In other news on Tuesday we had a big conferece in La Vega for Christmas. Our zone did a hilarious dance and President gave an awesome capacitaion about how we should be more like Peter. Watch the movie 'Son of God' and you'll know what I mean. I love Peter's example because of his undeniable testimony and faith in Jesucristo, but also because he wasn't perfect.
None of us are perfect, and even an apostle of Christ, who had seen all his mercies, denied him three times, cut off a guards ear and lacked faith as he walked on water. Like Peter we all have moments when we doubt our faith, loose our patience and deny God. But what I love most about Peter is that he was willing to change and become a true disciple of Christ.
Sorry for such a short letter. 
I absolutely love this gospel and this people. As Christmas is coming closer, try to remember what we are celebrating, the birth of Christ.
Con Amor,
Elder Blake

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Hola a todos

Hola a todos,
Holy cow, just finished my first transfer! Time flies when you're on the Lord's errand. This week has been great, tal vez the best week I've had so far. I've really seen the Lord's hand in this work and things come my way as I diligently live the gospel.

As I said last week I've been having comp problems, we don't talk and he doesn't really seem to enjoy the mission. After a long Friday morning, I took initiative and asked to have a comp inventory, basicamente el me dijo que he hasn't felt ready to train and that he's a bad missionary. He only has nine months in the mission and doesn't know why Pres Douglas asked him to train. He told me that he wanted to change and it's made all the difference. We teach with the spirit and let the spirit guide; we still have our differences but when you teach and study by the spirit the rest will fall in place.
1st Nephi 4:6 is a perfect example of being lead by the spirit. I'm really grateful for Elder Rodriguez because he's helped me exercise my patience and charity. We need opposition in all things and even though he's hard to get a long with, finding things we have in common is a huge win.
In other news, I have been thinking a lot about the Raiders. Thanksgiving just isn't the same here in the DR. I did eat turkey and potatoes but there was no Raider football. My heart goes out to the boys of fall - sounds like it was a hard loss. Shout out to Dolan for his commitment to tufts though.
The coolest experience I had this week had to be our lesson with Martin. Martin is a dope menos activo who is always very enthusiastic to talk and learn. It's hard because he always says he will come to church but hasn't since I've been here. On Saturday we had planned to teach him about the plan of salvation but we could tell something was wrong with him. He just looked so sad and wouldn't really talk. Out of no where he started crying his eyes out and telling us he needed to change his life. In all honesty for me it was really awkward at first, but my comp did something really cool, he stood up and just gave him a hug. We didn't teach anything but it was the first time I'd felt the love Christ has for us. Sadly Martin didn't make it to church Sunday. I kept asking myself why, but I know somethings take time. We have a lesson with him tonight and hopefully we can help him on his path to change.
I know this gospel is true, and Im so greatful for my time here in San Fran. All is going well at the end of my first transfer!
Isaac, hook me up with some dope ties, and congrats on the 9 baptisims, do what you can to help them stay active!
Mom, sadly I haven't gotten your packages yet. I was ticked, some Idaho kid who has one more transfer than me got six this week. Hopefully they'll come before Christmas!
Con Amor,
Elder Blake


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Ayyy family, no tengo mucho tiempo, necesito escribir muyyyy rapido!

Man this week flew by! 
Life is still going well in the greatest city on earth. Man I don't know where to start!
Thursday I was having a tough day with my comp, I think he's a little frustrated he dosn't have a Latino comp y a veces yo quiero un gringo comp! I told Oldroyd my MTC comp in a letter before I left that I knew I was going to have problems like this with my first comp. Anyway I called it! And know that I am supposed to learn something with Elder Rod. He's great, but we just have our differences. 
It was cool though, Friday night our zone leaders  called and told us we were going to have an inter combio Friday. They just felt inspired to let us know. It was muchhhhhh needed, I love working with Elder Zotello, he only has three years in the church and is testimony is so strong. We taught a blind man named Pablo Friday who knew the New Testament forwards and back; we would teach something about the restoration and he would give us a scrip and recite it...it was awesome.
As for the rest of this week, Pablo and Enilda didn't show up to church on Sunday which was tough, however their boys have come every Sunday and are progressing. Were still hoping for their baptisms this December!

 Okay, Ill add a quick spiritual thought. We taught one of our less active members this week Alma 17 through 19. Each chapter was another lesson. I can't remember the verse but I think is was Alma 17:9 and 10 when Ammon told the king that we was with there in his kingdom to serve. I love this scripture not because Ammon is basically this biggest savage missionary ever, but because his purpose was so simple. Service. Service, is basically the key to our work as missionaries and I believe it's just as important for non missionaries to serve as well. Mosiah 2:17, when you're in the service of your fellowman, you're only in the service of God. Keeping this perspective has helped me to further dedicate myself to this work.

I know that ive been called here to San Francisco, with my comp for a reason. At times it is hard to get along, but as Ammon told the king, my purpose is to serve. Servicio es la clave!
Before I sign off, have to give a big shout out to the Raiders. Best of luck this week! Kick some Rocket butt and enjoy the turkey!
Con Amor,
Elder Blake
Elder Sotello from Arg

Some members who walked us home Sunday night, we didn't have light and they were worried about our safety.

​My zone leader's USA baseball jersey!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Eyyyyy! All is well.

All is well in the great city of San Fran!
Man this week has flown by, I cant remember much, but ill throw down some highlights.
We had appoyo on Friday (I racked in my 4000 pesos and bought a ton of eggs) This week I've been eating 6 eggs for breakfast and doing 100 burpees and 15 minutes of running stairs. Man it feels great.
On Thursday I went to La Vega, approx 45 minute bus ride for a multi-zone conference. It was dope and got me pumped up to work. I cant remember any specifics but its always awesome to hear from President and Hermana Douglas. However the best part was talking with my Mtc Comp Elder Oldroyd, he's just a huge savage and absolutely killing his mission. He was really blessed to get the ex AP as his trainer and I guess he works him to death, but their area is suffering. On Sunday they only had 16 adults in church, even for the DR that's bad. Our church is pretty average and we only have about 60 active members, right now we´re just really trying to strengthen the members and inactives we have. However, Elder Rod and I are pumped because we have two solid families with baptismal Fechas.
Milagros and her daughter already know the church is true and she told us this week that shes excited for us to baptize her. She has classes Sunday morning until December so her date is for the 3rd week of December.
Pablo And Enlida are also doing great, we talked about their goals a few nights ago and both of them said they want to keep the sabbath day holy. Its hard for them because they both work on Sunday and haven't had time to attend church.
As for a thought this week, I have really been thinking about how important it is to be fully dedicated to this work. The Santiago mission has a slight problem with disobedient missionaries and one ¨´tiger¨(disobedient) elder on Friday night told me something interesting. He said that he breaks the rules, does what he wants basicamente because the elders he's seen that try and act like Christ seem miserable. I tried not to laugh at him because I think he has it all wrong. Yes being 100 percent obedient is difficult, but we wear a tag that states we are representatives of Christ. This work isn't supposed to be fun in a worldly sense, but I have experience real joy inviting others to come unto Christ when I have lived in a manera like Christ. I'm not prefect, but I know that when we try to be like Christ, and obtain Christ-like attributes (chapter 6 PMG) we´ll be uber blessed. 
I love this work, and I love putting on my tag every morning. I tell my comp almost everyday that this still doesn't feel real; I feel like Im living a dream, its so awesome.
Con Amor from San Fran
Elder Blake
My breakfast a few days ago. Isaac my buddy Elder Sotello from Arg told me you´d be eating this a lot. Mate and Fried Bread, I ate the break with a little frosting and it tasted like toaster strudel.

Grilled this morning with my Buddy Jose

View from my roof, san fran is dope!

Another dope pic of the sky, The sky is absolutley gorgeous ever night from 6 to 7, I love it!

Elder Rod, Jose and I, I'm kind of embarrassed of these pictures but this is the only one I have with Jose

Elder Rod and I are rock stars  

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Much better week

AYYYY Amigos y Familia!

Man, I think I have a bipolar disorder or something because this week was 1,000 times better than last week. And I think it all boils down to relying on the Spirit.
Every day this week before I left the house, I would get on my knees and pour my heart out, and oh my goodness it made all the difference. 
My comp is either lazy or has faith in me because he had me lead basically all our lessons this week. I tried not to worry about my dirty Spanish and just listen to the Spirit. 
Wednesday night we taught a dope lesson to Pablo Y Enlida acerca de the apostasy and Joseph Smith. I had a Juliablakeart moment where I got a little over emotional and started crying when I bore my testimony =) Solo Broma! 
Anyways after I bore my testimony they said they could just feel an overwhelming sense of peace. DOPEE. Both of them work and we haven't had an opportunity to teach them since. But we talked to their son Elumine ayer and he basically asked after his baptism if he could go to the temple, this kid is Anna's age and an absolute savage.
On Saturday we had a miracle with one of our investis Milagros (the joke is milagros means miracle in English). Mil is an antiugo investi but hasn't talked with the missionaries in a few months. She straight up told us that she wants elder Rod to baptize her and her daughter and she wants to go to church on Sunday. We have a cita with her tonight so pray for us!
Those were definitely the two highlights from this week. A few times menos activos and investis complimented me on my Spanish and told me that I've definitely improved. However this doesn't matter, I care too much about what other people think of me.
My motto for this week going forward is let the Holy Spirit Guide. 
All is well in the DR 
Con Amor

PS - I would love Kodak pictures of everything, football, the family, the house etc. (Julia here - friends and family - feel free to send pics to him).

San Fran - one of the safer neighborhoods

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Second Week in San Fran

 Holy Cow. One of the hardest weeks of my life in every aspect! I would be lying if I said I wasn't homesick right now. This week has had its highs and then some extreme lows. But hey that's how the life of a missionary is supposed to be. 
Elder Rod and I projected this day to be dope. We had a appointments set up with 5 investigators and were planning on having 3 new investigators. Long story short either they weren't home, avoided us or just straight up didn't want to talk. But hey that's life! 
Happy Halloween! Man this had to have been the hardest day this week and one of the hardest days of my life. I thought too much about home and thought a lot about everyone at home trick or treating etc. At night we had a small ward activity called hallowhite and it bombed. Long story short a ward member was giving me a hard time about my Spanish. I ended up going back to the apartment and crying myself to sleep. 
Things finally started to turn around on Saturday. We had a service activity and then committed a family to baptism. They gave us about 20 pounds of bananas and oranges so i think its safe to say they were pretty pumped. Pray for Pablo y Enilda!
We had seven investigators at church on Sunday. All of them Anna's age (16) it was awesome. After church they were playing baseball in the street and we had a quick lesson with them. We talked about our goals and for all of them it was to go to the states for sports. I talked about how I wanted to learn Spanish and through the help of God we can accomplish our goals. They all seemed pretty fired up
Basically this week started out really hard and got a lot better. Yesterday we had a meeting with all the new missionaries in Santiago and talked about our experiences. Many of the other trainers came up after and complimented me on my Spanish and asked if i had taken it before. Man how I needed that confirmation! This week I just felt that I wasn't progressing but to hear that really brightened my spirits.
My favorite talk given yesterday was Hermana Douglas's She talked about the importance of keeping a gratitude journal. Here is my entry from last night:
1. I am grateful for my health. There are many people here with deformities and illness. I have been so blessed with good health and have an amazing opportunity to serve the Lord. If it weren't for my health I wouldn't be able to serve
2. My Family. If it weren't for my parents' testimonies there is no way I would have one of my own. I have been so blessed to be born into a house with two loving parents who are strong in the gospel.
3. Football. Football has taught me so many lessons that I have been able to apply to my mission. This week I've been thinking that football was really a way to practice and get ready for my mission. The lessons about adversity and brotherly love are so closely tied in missionary work and football. 
4. Book of Mormon. Man seriously my best friend here in the field.
5. My brother Isaac. Isaac has been my role model since day one. I have a collection of letters he has written me in the past year that I read weekly. I call them the epistle of Isaac. Because every time I go back and read one I find something that I can apply to my life right now. 
Wow I have so much to be grateful for and I want to close that I know this work is hard. It's hard for a reason. Elder Holland in MTC devotional to Mission Presidents said this about the difficulty of missionary work: "I am convinced that missionary work is not easy because salvation is not a cheap experience. Salvation never was easy. We  are the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, this is true, and he is our great eternal head. How could we believe it would be easy for us when it was never easy for him. It seems to me that missionaries and mission leaders have to spend at least a few moments in Gethsemane."
I am so grateful for this work and Grateful for this opportunity to serve. Even though I am, at times, homesick and get teased because of my Spanish, its nice to remember that I am trying to stand shoulder to shoulder with the greatest missionary who has ever walked this earth. The only way to salvation is through Gethsemane.
I love you all 
Con Amor Elder Blake
Q&A with mom during the time Brigham was online:
Brig: I'm on. Oh man this was the hardest week of my life. I seriously have missed home like crazy.
Mom:  Oh my goodness!!! What has happened??
Brig:  Just a really hard time with Spanish. I had a few ward members give me a hard time this week. My comp was telling me that they all assume Americans know Spanish already. And that kind of just sparked a wicked bad anxiety attack Friday night. It was tough but I'm better now!
Mom: Can you ever go on splits with Americans??? From your zone? I know there are none in your district.

Brig: No not really there are three Americans in my zone. I'm fine, its just hard. Missionary work has always been hard. Especially for someone a lot greater than I. Jesucristo. I just need to stop worrying and turn outward!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Okay time for a bigggg mail dump. This week has been dope.

First and foremost, it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. Every night I would get back to my apartment and just think, wow is it really time to go to bed?Ttime flies when you work hard.
Life is great in San Fran, We have about 6 investigators but right now only about half are progressing. We have four baptismal dates set and if we can work hard I know that we'll seal the deal and help the barrio grow!
But there is a HUGE problem of inactive members here and over half our days are spent trying to reactivate. I guess this area has had a problem of baptizing for numbers and we have a lot of inactives. Everyone is super nice but Dominicans are freakin stubborn!
As for my Spanish, it has definitely improved but I try not to think about it whatsoever. Trying to mark your progress everyday is like trying to watch grass grow. So I don't even try to think bout it.
We had a zone meeting on Monday and I talked to an elder who has been out for one more transfer than me. He lives with three other Americans and he says he hasn't felt like his espanol has improved whatsoever. So I'm wicked grateful for Elder Rodriguez.
In other news this place in sooo dirty. We walk past this river every day and its legit filled with trash and it's a different color everyday. People just dump their crap in the streets and it all flows down, if it weren't so peligroso I'd take a picture. But my camera will get stolen if I take it out of the apartment.
I don't have much else to really say!
The ward has about 70 active members and we have a few great member missionaries.
Whenever we go to someone's house they feed us either coke or jugo. I'm kind of bummed about that because I hate sugared drinks. But I cant be rude! I don't really eat much though. We have a big meal at 1 and if no one feeds us throughout the day I'll eat like an orange before bed - that's it.
This work is great and once I leave the house at three for the day I just get sooo pumped. I'm a gosh darn missionary and puedo combiar peoples lives! Its awesome.
We had a dope lesson last Wednesday night with a family and I didn't say anything until the end and I bore my testimony that I knew these things were true. I started crying because I was so overcome with everything. The spirit really took over. 
If I've learned one thing this week it's to never be afraid of anyone. Once I let go of the fact that I can't speak great Spanish and just started loving,  that's when I have been able to speak my mind and heart. 
Be obedient
Move your feet 
Open your mouth
Never be afraid and always love
where I get huge

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

No English Speakers to be found

Familia ya Amigos,

Oh my goodness it has been such a wonderful and sad week. These past two days have been extremely chaotic. First and foremost I am serving in the great city of San Francisco! It's the third largest city in the DR and my area has been the highest baptizing mission for the past two weeks (11). Santiago and San Fran are much smaller and nicer than Santo Domingo. However it's still just as crazy and wild. I can tell my companion o padre is freaking awesome even though I have only known him for about five hours haha. His name is Elder Rodriguez y es de Costa Rica. He doesn't speak a word of English! And on top of that no one in my district speaks English. Haha Isaac I'm coming for ya! I'll be fluent before you know it.

It was such a cool experience though. I have never received such a strong answer to prayer in my life. I prayed and fasted in the CCM to have a Spanish speaking companion. Last night during my interview with President Douglas (who's a savage) asked me if my dream companion would speak Spanish or English. Obviously I said Spanish because I know it'll help me to better communicate. Entoncesss out of our group of nine elders, I was the ONLY one to get a native trainer. Heavenly Father knows me and knows my needs. My heart sank when President told me because I knew that I'll be in for a long twelve weeks. But at the same time I just felt so at peace.

As for day one with Elder Rodriguez. He speaks REALLY fast. And for the first hour or so as I put away mi ropa he seemed not to like me whatsoever. Basically not asking me any questions etc, which is totally fine. I just got the wrong vibe. But then he told me he wanted to take me out to meet our investigators and some ward members and to share a quick message with each of them. Yo dice Caldo! As we left he told me that he saw us as equals. There is no senior or junior companion. He's a really funny and hard working missionary. As I practiced teaching he was impressed with my accent and the speed at which I spoke. (I tend to work better when people have confidence in me) Basically I'm so exited for this opportunity. I'm grateful for Elder Rodriguez, he seems very diligent and obedient - couldn't ask for anything more.

Now yo voy a predicad el evangelio de Jesucristo. Orara por mi por favor?
Muchas Gracias. Yo se que esta iglesia es verdad. Y estoy muy animado por esta semana. Dios nos ama. Y por medio trabajar, diligencia, paciencia y obediencia yo puedo hacer bueno cosas. (Google translate: Now I'm going to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. Pray for me please?
Thank you very much. I know this church is true. And I'm very encouraged by this week. God loves us. And by work, diligence, patience and obedience I can do good things.)
As Pres. told me last night.
Be obedient 
Move your feet 
And open your mouth
Con Amor,

Elder Blake   
(Mom all these computers are in Spanish so my spelling really sucks this week) Julia's note - I spell check and do minor edits.

Arrived in Santiago - with President and Sister Douglas

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Oct 16 - One week left in the CCM

First and Foremost I want to better explain my purpose as a missionary. I regret at how poorly I explained the purpose of a mission to people that were genuinely interested. I missed a lot of missionary opportunities! My purpose for the next two years is to simply invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and his atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. It's awesome how simple my purpose is and how simple my life will be for the next two years.

Okay now that I got that off my chest lemme fill y'all in on my week! As I mentioned last week (I think) I went went on splits all day Friday. It was my first true test as a missionary and I got those pre-game butterflies that I miss so much. (Hope the raiders are doing well) I met up with my companion, Elder Riviera, a savage from Guatemala who doesn't speak a lick of English at a church in Santo Domingo at around 1:30 and took a forty five minute metro ride to the middle of no where. By the time we got to our area it was raining buckets, hardest rain I've ever seen in my life. I went to pull out my umbrella but Riviera digo, "No necesite" haha so I said okay and walked through this small town in the pouring rain, I got soaked but it was sweet. The roads turned into rivers and the sidewalks into streams. Everyone threw their trash out of their houses on to the streets. No one cleans up the road and its dang gross. We walked five minutes and then took a "taxi" it was a tiny little truck to our real area. I haven't been able to think of a way to describe it that does this town justice. The closest I have gotten to is it was like the hedge maze in Harry Potter Four but with cement and tin houses. There was one main road and if you took a left or right you enter a labyrinth of cement and tin....talk about humbling. My companion and I had three appointments that went really well. We talked about 1st Nephi in two of the lessons and prophets in the third. In between lessons Elder Riv had me lead contacts. In the labyrinth people don't have doors. So as we walked I would just yell into peoples shacks "Saludo! Comó esta! Tiene una minuto por un cuarto mensaje?" And whatever else I needed to say to get into these peoples "houses".
Of the six contacts I led we got into four houses and taught four thirty minute lessons and set up five appointments for this week. Dang these people are awesome! I couldn't really understand everything that people said but I understood basically all of our lessons and was able to help teach a little. But my duty was primarily to bear testimony and pray. It was dope. I can't wait to go out tomorrow and then start the real deal on Tuesday!

Okay other news. Everyone in my district has just been counting down the days to the field. Our teachers have kind of cooled down and we've had every grammar lesson so basically we just review grammar and teach all day long. The CCM has taught me a lot, but it's time to move on to bigger and better things.

Sunday we had two awesome tape-delayed devotionals from Elders Holland and Bednar. Two of the biggest spiritual savages in the league. Bednarz devo was basically a big Question and Answer. I forgot the notes in my room, but take my word for it. It was dang awesome. But Holland's was wicked awesome. He took us through our missionary objective word by word. He is like the Ron Artest of Apostles. He'll throw some spiritual elbows and get in your face.

Other weird tid bit of info. Dominicans are really weird when it comes to holidays. They don't celebrate Halloween because they're afraid of evil spirits or something. And obviously they don't have Thanksgiving so people are already getting ready for Christmas. At the store last Tuesday about half of the store was dedicated to Christmas decorations. Haha it is ridiculous. I miss the United States and our holidays. As nice as it is to walk outside every waking second of the day and be hot, I miss the New England fall! 

Gosh I don't really have much else to write about. I know every week it sounds like I'm homesick and miss home. But I'm sorry, I really don't. I love this gospel and this work so much.
Also, huge shout out to Earthworm Dean for the mission call. San Antonio Tejas! My home town, you're going to love it.

I know this next week will be one of the hardest weeks of my life. I get to take the training wheels off and just ride. I know that I'll fall down a few times, get a few cuts but it's all about getting back on the bike. This might be a bad analogy because I learned how to ride a bike in one day. And I think it'll take a few more days to adjust to Spanish and Santiago. But hey I'm ready! 

Love you all and hope you have wonderful week.
Con Amor, Elder Blake       
​Me and Oldroyd, best CCM companion I could have asked for
Me and my Jamaican friend Elder Banton. I don't know if I'm throwing up gang signs. But he said if I do this I'll be a "true Jamaican"

Friday, October 10, 2014

Feeling ready to go up the big leagues!

Ohhhmegershhh, I left for the DR one month ago tomorrow. Where does the time go?
I guess the saying "time flies when you're having fun" still applies on a mission. I wake up every day so excited to aprender mas sobre espanol y el evangelio de Jesucristo. But holy cow, I spiritually feasted this week. I think my testimony gained like fifteen pounds. Even though I had enjoyed watching conference in the past, this session was really, really special. The spirit came over me so strongly and I learned so much. Saturday morning during president Monson's sustaining the spirit came over me so strongly. I have always taken for granted that we have a living prophet today. When I really thought about it I was overcome with love for President Monson. He's a living Ammon, Captain Moroni, Nephi etc...that's freaking awesome. So basically on Saturday and Sunday was personal study and conference all day. I'm sure that sounds like it would get boring but I love it. Other than General Conference this week has been very boring and I don't have much to report on. I'm ready to hit the field at this point. Simon and a few other people have told me that you can really only learn and practice in the CCM so much. I've drilled grammar and mock lessons 24/7 for the past month and I am ready to go up the big leagues! Hey patience is a virtue and I'll get called up two weeks from today.

Alright lemme give you some of my highlights:
I was reading in 1st Nephi 2:16 through 1st Nephi 4:31 which is basically the story of Nephi going and getting the plates from Laban. Even though I've read these chapters probably 20 times I was struck by something I had never noticed before. In 2:16, before he gets the plates Nephi describes himself as someone who is young and large in stature. In 4:31 after he has killed Laban and received the plates describes himself as a man who's large in stature. Pretty cool stuff. I think this is how we all change on our missions. Before we go, we are young and inexperienced. But as our faith is stretched and as we trust in the Lord we grow we become men. Right now I am young but also not very large in stature. I can't wait to grow and stretch doing the Lord's work. 
On Friday we went contacting for the second time at the university. The campus is about as big as BYU but has a 1984, Dis-Utopian feel to it. There are trash, garbage and feral dogs everywhere. In some of the alley ways it smells strongly of gasoline and poop. Just trying to set the scene for ya'll. As Elder Oldroyd and I are walking and old man wearing a construction hat yells "Ay! Gringos" at us and waves at us to come over. He is surrounded by like six people and I could tell that he was calling us over to make fun of us. I have no idea what he was saying but he yelled at us for about five minutes and all the other people were laughing at what he was saying. I could hear him say "Soy el presidente de la republica" and "enseñar el diablo" or something like that. Basically I think this guy was claiming that we teach satanic principles. We really didn't know what to say to him so we just told him to have a good day with a smile and walked away. In that moment I wish I had the vocab to tell that man the truth about our message, and that our Heavenly Father loves him...I think I'll go looking for him in two years right before I leave. But what's crazy is that this was the first negative experience I've had with a Dominican. Every other person has either been so polite or interested in the gospel. Meastro Rameriz told us that people in Santiago will seriously came up to us and asked us what the Book of Mormon is and if they can have one. So basically the moral of this story is that for every crazy person I meet, there will be ten more open and loving people ready to hear the gospel.
Dang! I don't really have much else to write about! Spanish is coming along really well. I can read the Book of Mormon in Spanish now and really understand what is is saying. I don't know every single word or phrase but I can understand the message. I can give lessons without any notes and can take promptings from the Spirit to meet the needs of my "investigators" Keep praying for me though!
Also, Bummer to hear that Taysom pulled an Adam Farina and Brigham Blake. Elder Hutchins (savage) woke up early to get a few extra minutes of emailing time and announced the news at breakfast. Half of the Elders were pumped and the other half were devastated. I'm sure BYU will bounce back, and I know God has a plan for Taysom. Find the silver linings in every situation, right Isaac?
Shout out to Earthworm Dean, "Celeste" and Gabby Heroux for the unexpected emails this week. Also shout out to Zach Cox for the mission call. Guatemala is gonna be dope.  Emily Mullin, Nick Peretti and Noah Blake I'm calling you guys out. I expect an email next week!
Con Amor 
Elder Blake

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Week three

What?!? I've already been in the crazy country for three weeks? Insane. I know I haven't hit the field yet but I felt like I just wrote home yesterday! Oh how I miss you all and the cold chilly New England fall. There is two types of weather here, blisteringly hot and sunny or blisteringly (is this a word?) hot and raining buckets.

Okay lemme take you through week three:
Spiritual highlights of this week have to be finishing the Book or Mormon, going to the temple this morning and contacting at the university on Friday.
I started reading el libro de Mormon the Wednesday I left and just finished it this morning. I could feel the Spirit so strongly when I read Moroni 10 3-5 and even though I already knew with all my heart that it is true, the confirmation of the Spirit was so strong. I especially loved reading this week in late Alma about Captain Moroni and the Stripling Warriors, but also Ether and the brother of Jared. (I'll probably name one of my kids Mohonri Moriancomer or however you spell it if my wife is down.) All of these men from the BofM are the greatest examples of spiritual savages and I pray daily to be more like them. As my Patriarchal blessing states, the BoM will be a great friend throughout my life. I seriously am so excited to wake up every day and dive in to this fountain of knowledge. I finished in English and gonna start it in Spanish tomorrow! Wish me luck!
Oh man, contacting at the university on Friday was insane! I was so nervous. We shared a brief message about the restoration and handed out pamphlets. The first woman we talked to was about 25 and asked us to sit down and she was sooo nice. Maybe it was our American charm, but she seemed seriously interested. About half way through it started dumping buckets and my companion and I were stuck inside a building with about 30 Dominicans haha we talked to all of them about the restoration! The best contact we had was with a woman we had inside the building. She spoke English and after we introduced ourselves she asked if we could just speak in English haha. Anyways, she believed in God and prayed but didn't feel the need to go to church (basically every Dominican) but wanted to know more about our church. I can't remember exactly what she asked but I felt prompted to tell her that the answer to any question she has would be in the Book of Mormon. I whipped one out and gave it to her and she promised she'd read it and call the mission office. DOPE! I didn't want to leave.
And Lastly this morning the temple was insanely spiritual. I got to see the film with Dallyn Bayles as Jesus and I freaking loved it. My mission has put my eternal worth into perspective and the desire to share what I know is true with everyone. I can't really explain why I felt the Spirit so strongly this morning but I don't really care haha. 
Okay lemme take you through some other highlights from this week. The phrases and things I say at home and with everyone have really caught on here in the CCM, its freaking awesome. Everyone is saying "My Boar!" "Farting" and answering phone calls from inanimate objects. Just imagine a district of 8 missionaries all yelling my boar before bed, its nuts. Another phrase I have coined here, thanks to 781 local rap sensation Cam Meekins is "Lamping" which basically just means chilling. The 45 minutes we have between lunch and class and from dinner and class are dedicated "lamp" sessions where me and my roomies (Elder Lester, Thayler and Oldroyd) will just chill and tell funny stories. They absolutely love Coach Tracy stories and I am considered the "funny" elder in my district. It's not true. Everyone is my district is just lame and not funny haha. But don't get the impression that we're always goofing off! When I'm in my classroom I am 100% dialed in and working my butt off. This week all my lamping will be in Spanish. As a district we have challenged each other to only speak Spanish this week. Spanish is going well and I can teach without a script but I know that this will help so much, and I know that Heavenly Father will bless us as we diligently work to better ourselves and the idioma!
Next, I have officially decided that the food here is gross! Elder Tippets confirmed yesterday that he has a tape worm, or some weird, sketchy kind of worm that he got from the meat we eat everyday. It's so boney and tastes off so that I kinda stopped eating it about a week ago, but this freaking sealed the deal. What's really scary though is that this is the CCM food! Probably the most sanitary food I am going to eat on my mission! So thankful for the trail mix and jerky I brought from home! 
Since Monday the three guys in my room and Elder Holbrook and tried to devise a plan on how to get to the McDonalds down the street. We thought up a prison break style escape and Holbrook was "planning" to go yesterday during gym time. Haha it was all hypothetical but then we asked this savage Meastro (teacher). "Jeac" this Haitian if he'd go and buy us food. He said "Clado!" (Dominican way of saying of course) and putting those oreos in my satchel was probably the closest we'll ever get to the feeling of buying drugs haha. None of our other teachers would get us stuff, but Jeac pulled through.
Okay before I sign off for the week I want to finish with an other great spiritual experience I had yesterday. I was sooo frustrated with the language lesson we were learning about "direct object pronouns" and my companion and I weren't getting it whatsoever. I guess I was visually frustrated and my favorite teacher Nuñez after class gave me a little paper star. He told me to go to my room, kneel down and pray and then open up the star. I did as he said and written on the paper was Joshua 1:9, I wish I had my scrips right now but the spirit hit me like a wall. To summarize I think the scrip says to fear not because Dios is with thee. I shed a tear or two as I read that in my bed. Mom and Dad when you come to pick me up in two years you're going to meet Nuñez. 
I'd love updates on everyone in the family. I'm so glad you're all doing well; I pray that you can feel my love every morning, meal and night. Continue to let the light of Christ shine. I regret not reading my scriptures more and not being a better example of Christ and challenge Anna and Noah to read in the BoM for 30 minutes a day. You'll thank me some day I promise! 
Anyways I love you all so much. Thank you for your kind letters. I'd love pictures of any and everything! Also hand written letters (find Mother Mary stamps because the people here are superstitious and there will be a better chance I get the letter haha. Shout out to Maddi Bishoff for the dope idea).
Until next week!
Love, Elder Blake #52
Our bunk bed is so loud that this week we decided that elder Lester will sleep on the ground. We move his bed down every night before we pray and move it back every morning before breakfast. I was tired and layed up there for some reason, not sure why.

Lamping on my bed

In front of the Temple, I wear dad's tag and my elephant tie every p-day. Gotta keep traditions here in the CCM to not go crazy.  

The Birkenstocks I made from and old torn up pair of shoes I found in my room

Monday, September 29, 2014

Week 2 in the CCM

Eyyy familia y mis amigos! Merry Christmas! haha here in the CCM we call P-day and temple day (we go every Thursday morning, sorry I should have mentioned that last week) Christmas. We sing Christmas songs and it's hilarious. Anyway, this week has been AMAZING. Seriously eveything about it has been so great. Let me take you throuugh some of the highlights of Elder Blake's week!
First off, after the old elders left for the Santo Domingo East and West on Tuesday morning, Elder Oldroyd and I got called as APs to el presidente Freestone (Assistants to the President)! We are pumped and we didn't expect it at all, even though there were only sixteen elders and sisters here at the time to make the assignment. Seriously,  this place has been a ghost town for the last two days. Sixteen missionaries. It was awesome! But sadly its over, last night we got a huge shipment of new greenies. All going to Santo Domingo East or West. We're all pumped to no longer be the noobies! But basically as APs we conduct the nightly prayer in the chapel with all the missionaries. It really doesn't mean much but I'm pumped and it's gonna be dope. I love Pres y Hermana Freestone so much.
Sunday was probably the most spiritual day of my life. I went to bed literally exhausted from being spiritually drained. After sacrament meeting we had this dope lesson from President Freestone basically about teaching investigators from personal stories. He said teaching with a first hand experience really invites the spirit, I couldn't agree more! I try to do it in Spanish but I'm not quite there yet haha! Basically he asked us if we had any first hand experience of going to the sacred grove. At that moment my heart burned and I was just filled with the spirit. Out of nowhere half an hour before and during the sacrament I thought about my first time visiting the Sacred Grove and sitting on a park bench with mom. I remember I cried my eyes out because I knew that Joseph Smith had seen Dios y Jesucristo there in the grove. I felt a prompting during sacrament to later share that experience with my district but then President Freestone out of nowhere asked me basically to share that experience with everyone! Wow I can't even tell you what that did to me. I know it wasn't a coincidence. Later that afternoon we watched a dope David Bednar devotional, about how to know when it is the Spirit testifying to us, or just our own thoughts. It was the best talk I have ever heard in my life. He basically said to not worry about it because every good feeling, impression, thought is of the Spirit. There's no way to do it justice and I'm bummed because it was a CCM-only devotional. Only distributed to MTCs and strictly meant for missionaries. Dang I wish you all could have watched it! Walking out of the chapel and back to our classroom my companion described it as a "Heisman Trophy Winning worthy devotional" We had a good laugh about that. Also HUGE shoutout to Elder Ty Seipert for singing in the devotional Sunday night! I saw you buddy! You killed it!
Monday was another killer day. I think it was the first day my companion and I decided to teach without a written script. We prepared like it all depended on us and then prayed like it all depended on God. It was freaking awesome! We taught a 35 minute lesson with no notes whatsoever! The gift of tongues is real. Monday night was our last night with the old elders. And no doubt my favorite of them all were the Spanish speakers from Honduras. Oh my goodness they're all so humble. But my absolute favorite was this tiny little Elder Zaldanas. He was a spiritual savage and even though I couldn't understand 80% of what he said he seriously always put a smile on my face. Anyways Monday night during family prayer I saw him eying my watch a little bit. I could tell he came from a pretty poor family, his shoes were really tattered and maybe brought three ties with him. I felt the strongest prompting of my life to give me watch to him. Oh my goodness, I wish you could have seen his face. He lit up like a candle and started tearing up. I just gave him a big huge and told him I loved him. Later while I was lying on my bed he came in and kept thanking me and told me he couldn't believe I did that over and over again in Spanish. I still don't know exactly why I did it but I don't regret it at all. Because I have been given much I too must give.
Tuesday was weird! We woke up and ate breakfast but there was seriously only sixteen of us. La cocina was silent! Tuesday was special though because we got to walk to the store! We weren't allowed to bring our cameras but take my word for it, Santo Domingo is freaking nuts! The motorcycles seriously will just drive up on the sidewalk and go like 25 at red lights and during traffic jams. They aint scared! Everything is also soo dirty. It was seriously humbling; so humbling. But the crazy part is that we are in one of the richest parts of the city and it's still so dirty and run down. I'm amped to see what Santiago is like though! But holy cow I got a real taste of what the weather will be like for the next two years. Just a ten minute walk to the store and bank left me drenched in sweat. The humidity is absurd. Gotta get used to it though! What I do love, at least for right now is that we get huge lighting storms every few days. Last night I couldn't sleep because we had lighting strike after lightning strike over the CCM that set off car alarms. I think we had about ten or so strikes in an hour that just rocked the building. It was sweet.
Also, I had a crazyyyy trippy experience last Friday night. I fell asleep as normal at 10:30, but woke up in my classroom to the sound of the door shutting! I seriously had no idea where I was for like three minutes and thought I was still dreaming haha. When I realized I had slept walked down two flights of stairs I seriously laughed out loud and still half asleep walked back up to my dorm. It was about one thirty and it was SILENT oh my goodness. So I got to my room and realized I had shut the door behind me! I was locked out of my dorm at 1:30 in the morning in just my Gs! I pounded on my door for what seemed to be about thirty minutes. Two other Elders for different dorms came out pretty mad to see what was going on. When they realized I had slept walked outside they just laughed and told me to knock louder. So I did eventually get back into my room but only after practically breaking my hand on the door. Haha elders still give me crap about it. My roomies were so concerned then two nights after that they propped a chair against the door handle to keep me from escaping haha. Good times and a story I'll no doubt be telling for the rest of my life.
Other misc info. I absolutley love the meastros (teachers) they all Dominican and barely speak English but they're so fun. Most of them finished their missions less than a year ago and just want to teach to continue to have that "missionary feeling" I asked one of my teachers if he got bored of listening to young Elders struggle through there lessons as fake investigators and he said no. Even though our Spanish is bad, when we bear testimony he can feel the truth of the things we say and it builds his testimony stronger.

Sorry I had to send that, my hour time was up so I had to restart the browser.
One last story that is gonna pull your heartstrings and then im signing off. Yesterday we got this new missionary "Elder Bruno" from a tiny island about the size of Salt Lake City called "Granade" or something in the Caribean. Anyways he gets here and Elder Oldroyd and I tell him that he can use a computer to email home to his family. He told us that there was no one to write too. His parentes both died when he was five and he's the youngest of nine and not in concatct with any of his siblings. He moved to Granade to work on a nutmeg farm to pay for his mission. He has never used a shower before and Elder Tippits had to teach him last night how to turn it on. His story is truly remarkable. Keep Elder Bruno in your prayers though!
Alsoooo Huge shout out to Anna for passing your drivers test! I prayed every morning, night and meal that you would get it! Love you! Broah! I hope your feet are feeling okay. And Coop! Congrats on the tooth! And of course Linc,  love you bro! Love you all and miss you so much!
Love Elder Blake
Me and my favorite teacher Nunez
DR repping in the Classroom (everyone loves my flag)

Lunch erry day

Elder Reyes (Only speaks Spanish, biggest savage) and Elder Holbrook who's also going to Santiago

View of the Outside world from one of the very few windows that isn't tinted
Also can you give me Natalie Packard's email?

My beautiful view of Santo Domingo....