Tuesday, April 18, 2017

How quickly two years go...

Marvic´s baptism!
Well every one...
This will be my last letter as a full time missionary in Sweden.. Crazy to think how fast two years has flown by! At the same time there has been a lot that has happened and it really has been a concentrated two years of service and growth in ways that aren’t possible to be a part of in any other way. In these two years, I have lived in 6 different cities in Sweden and have had 11 companions that have all taught me a lot, as well the people I have been blessed to teach and help come to really know God and find more peace and guidance in there lives. It didn’t just bless them but it blessed me. I have had the chance to actively search for my weaknesses and how I can improve myself as well as experiencing miracles and experiences that I will never forget. 
A few from our district at out last district meeting
President Petersson. Our Branch President.

This week was actually a killer last week! The day before Marvic's baptism, we all had dinner together that she cooked for us. Some good Phillipino food... and then probably the worst thing I have ever had in my life. Haha! No joke. 
 Had the chance to go to Stockholm late at night to hand out Books of Mormon after the Book of Mormon musical.. Then it turned out there was no play that night because of Easter weekend haha..
So there is this Phillipino "sauteed shrimp paste.” It's pretty much just ground up shrimp in a pasty form that tastes like cat food smells. She brought it just for us to try as an experience and the normal way you eat it is just a little bit on a piece of mango.. It was not super bad but still pretty gross. THEN we thought it would be funny if each of us ate a spoon full of it and video taped it. hahaha   So we did and I threw up pretty bad. I sent a video to my family but there is a lot of gagging so be prepared haha. My companion and Marvic did a good job at keeping it in but the other three of us didn’t take it too well. The food she made us for dinner was really good! 
Stig-Åke! He is a cool man.

The next day was her baptism which was so good. Elder Barnes and I played a special musical number. I played the guitar and he played the piano and we both sang. I had the opportunity to baptize her which was an awesome opportunity on the last week of my mission after teaching her from the beginning. She was in tears during the service and she bore her testimony after the baptism. It was so good! The branch here loves her. She talked about how much God has helped and guided her to this church and how she now feels so clean and happy. Yesterday, Marvic was confirmed in church by my companion Elder Barnes, and she was so happy. She was practically glowing! haha.
Marvic is now confirmed a member of Jesu Kristi Kyrka av Sista Dagars Heliga.
Yesterday in church, Elder Barnes and I both also gave 15 minute talks and a musical number. I sang "Savior Redeemer of my Soul." Elder Barnes is also transferring (leaving this city) to Lund which is in the far south of Sweden so we both said our goodbyes. It was a good Sunday and I talked about the Holy Ghost and some experiences I have had on my mission with it. It was weird to think that would be my last talk in Swedish... at least for a while.
Saying good bye to my Finnish friend, Elder Murtonen.
Earlier this week there were several fun things that happened but I will share one real quick as my last story....
So Elder Barnes and I went to the library to teach a lesson to someone, but they didn’t show up :( So we had a back up plan to call a few people for a few minutes. We sat down on these little couches next to these group meeting rooms with glass walls so you can see in them. As we sat down, we noticed three girls sitting in one of the rooms and were all looking at us and chatting about something. We made eye contact and they kind of laughed and such. We continued to call people when one of them came out and asked us, "Hey.. are you two Jehovas Witnesses?" and we said… "No.. we’re Mormons! :)” and I gave her a card with the Easter video link on it and told her she could look up this web sight to learn more about it. She took the card as she was walking away. 
Saying goodbye to my companion! Elder Barnes
She came back out and told us they had some questions and asked if we could come in and answer them. So we went in there and taught them about how our church is different than some other churches. We then went on to explain about the restoration of the gospel and we taught them about the Book of Mormon. They thought it was pretty interesting from what we saw and we even gave one of them a Book of Mormon. We also pulled up the Easter video on one of their computers and watched it with them. We took one of their numbers and are going to try to meet her soon! After we walked out, right out side the door a man waved at us and said he had talked with us on the bus a few months back and he said he would like to meet with us. He even said he would like to come to church with his two boys and thought our message sounded interesting. 
The coolest things happen that aren’t necessarily planned but that are prepared for us. We just have to be worthy and willing to act. 

I want you all to know that I love my family and especially my Mom, and for her taking care of my blog for the time I have been on my mission. I am also grateful for all my leaders that helped me take the steps in building my testimony and helping me come on my mission. Especially my Bishop, Michael Childs, Jared Beal, Steve Hymas, Marc Anderson, Pete Hedrick, Marc Coumbs, Michael Ferrara, Pam Fowers, my Asian Dad Joe Kwan, my Dad Lawrence Blackburn. There are many more, and you know who you are but my fingers are getting tired of typing haha. In all honesty, you have made a big impact on me so thank you!
I want you all to know I know that God is real. He loves us personally, and he loves us enough to guide us though Prophets and personal revelation. The gospel is simple and beautiful. Follow it and you will have joy. The Book of Mormon is scripture together with the Bible and both witness about the truth of Christ and what he went through for all of us. Dont forget to read and pray. If you dont forget, and read with real intent and a desire to know if it true... God will tell you it’s true. 

Love you all and I am signing off for the last time!
Äldste Blackburn

Saying goodbyes to some members from the Middle East.
Easter! Lots of good swedish food.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Going hard and loving Sweden!!

Käre vänner, 

This week has been very smooth and had some cool little miracles happen. First I wanted to mention, some of you know that there was an attack in Stockholm. Just wanted to let you all know that no missionaries were hurt and we were all told to return home shortly after it happened. The next day we continued to work as usual. The four Elders in Västerås had the chance to go to Stockholm on Saturday for a temple trip with the congregation we serve in the day after it happened. We had a chance to stop through T central train station and it was so cool to see how fast the city reacts to something like that by getting together and comforting each other. Something you would never expect from a big city like Stockholm but there were thousands of people out on the street where it happened with flowers and candles lining the street. This is an amazing country and it will be sad to leave in a few weeks time. Elder Barnes and I aren’t letting off the throttle and we are going full speed as it comes to the end of this 12 weeks together in Västerås.

One of the girls we are teaching, Marvic, is getting baptized this Thursday! Super pumped :) 
None of the baptismal dresses actually fit her so there is a lady in our ward (congregation) that is making a white dress for her from scratch! Marvic is very excited and is making us Pilipino food on the evening before her baptism and is going to teach us how to make it. :)

Elder Nielsen
Elder Olson!
Other fun things, we traveled to Stockholm earlier in the week to have a Zone Conference. It was my LAST ONE! When missionaries are going home soon, they give there “farewell testimonies" at the conference. It was weird to finally stand up there saying my last goodbyes to the missionaries and bare my testimony in Swedish.  I talked about how much I have grown these two years and talked about some big things I have learned. A few things I mentioned is how important it is to take advantage of the time we have with our companions because we are supposed to learn and grow from this time on our missions. A companion is a good tool to see what you can change to become better. I also mentioned how fast the time goes and to remember who we really are because God wants us to be real people as missionaries, not just robots. He wants us to apply the good things about ourselves to the work. The zone conference its self was very good. I was able to say goodbye to some of my good friends in the mission. 
Elder Harrell

Last cool thing... Elder Anton and I were on splits this last week in Örebro and we went back to their apartment to eat some quick dinner and then we were going to head back out to teach two lessons that night. When we were on our way out, I saw a shelf with Books of Mormon on it in many languages. I only had a Swedish one with me, so I thought I should take another Swedish one and then I felt like I should grab one in Persian. So I grabbed it and we took about a 30 minute bus ride to teach a man we had an appointment with. When we knocked on the door of his apartment building no one answered. Tried calling him and there was no answer.  We thought there must be some reason why we traveled to the apartment. So we decided it would be a good idea to knock on the doors in that building. There were only 4 doors in the building and on the 4th door at the bottom of the stairs, a young woman opened the door and she invited us in to talk with her and her mom who didn’t speak any Swedish... but only Persian! So we went on to teach the young woman and her mom about the Restoration and the Book of Mormon. It turned out that the girl was very interested and took the Book of Mormon in Persian and we switched numbers with her and the missionaries in Örebro will hopefully be teaching her this week. God will lead us, I have seen it!  Not just this week, but specifically in these last two years.

Love you all and have a wonderful week!
Äldste Blackburn

Looks like Elder Barnes has found a new home

Monday, April 3, 2017

Time has flown by!

Hey er´body!
This week just flew by so quick. Not too much time today but weird to think I am only writing two more of these emails until my time is through as a full time missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Sweden. 

Time has flown by! We are preparing one of the girls we teach for baptism next week which is my last week. Her name is Marvic and I have written about her before but she is from the Philippines and she has such strong faith! She is so ready, and it is such a blessing to be able to work with someone like her from the beginning and be there as a guide and teacher in helping her find answers to her questions and help her come closer to God. 

Every time after watching General conference for these past two years, I have realized how awesome this church really is and how lucky we are to have what we have. Especially being in areas where the church isnt so strong with branches and wards in Sweden ranging between 150 members that come every Sunday to 4 members that come every Sunday. With the restored gospel in the world, there are so many things that are available to us and its a blessing to be a part of it! 

Hope everyone has a good week! I’m taking off now to go on a nice P day hike with the other Elders in Västerås. 

Love you all! 
Äldste Blackburn

 Elder Barnes and I doing some cleaning in the Baptismal font.

Watching the Saturday morning session of General conference at night here in Sweden.
Typing some letters on the fancy new church computers.