Elder Brigham Blake

Email: Brigham.Blake@myldsmail.net

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