Elder Blackford has been busy, busy the last few weeks finishing up his time in the MTC. He’s been able to hear from general authorities, including Elder Anderson and Elder Ballard. It made me smile to hear him so excited about hearing them speak. A couple days before the apostles were scheduled to arrive he said, “We are all pretty stoked here for it to happen. I cannot wait!” The next email we received from him told us that they lived up to his expectations. “So the talks from Ballard and Anderson were AMAZING! I mean seriously good,” is what the letter said. He also was freaking out a little bit because he got to shake their hands. Sometimes it amazes me how he still really appreciates the little things in life like that. His optimism and enthusiasm is contagious. Elder Blackford’s emails are also always full of all the spiritual growth that he is experiencing through his classes, firesides, church, and the special speakers he gets to hear. He loves to go to church every Sunday, and tells us that it has become an awesome spiritual experience that he looks forward to every week.
Of course, with his hyper and energetic personality, Elder Blackford has also been finding fun ways to occupy his down time. He has been really developing his talent for music. Although he has always enjoyed singing, it wasn’t until the last few years that Elder Blackford really began to sing a lot more. He has become part of the “in crowd” (as he calls it) for special musical numbers in sacrament meeting. Along with a handful of other missionaries, Elder Blackford has been helping the MTC choir practice and prepare songs to sing as special musical numbers! He has even had the opportunity to conduct the choir! What I think is most impressive is that he’s began to work on playing the piano a little (something he never really did at home). He tells us, “I decided I would learn to play a hymn. I can officially play God Speed the Right—with both of my hands—and I think next week I am playing it in sacrament meeting!”
We can’t forget that even though these young men are out working hard to bring others the light of the gospel, that they are still young men. They do silly things sometimes, but all in good sport. Elder Blackford shared one of those moments of “boys being boys:”
Also, as far as supper funny moments go, we stole the wooden frame that holds your mattress on it from Elder Gublers bed, replaced the mattress, and got it to look normal. When he came in and sat down on it, his mattress went straight to the floor. The look of pure terror on his face was hilarious. He was like “Oh no I broke my bed!” and was scared he was going to be in huge trouble. Priceless.
As for the actual training to be a missionary paying off, Elder Blackford had his first opportunity to put those skills to the test a couple weeks before leaving the MTC. He and his companion, Elder Bresciano, had the chance to go proselyting. Elder Blackford says:
We talked to like 6 people—4 of them accepted a Book of Mormon, and the other 2 we talked to for a long time. We talked to a Muslim guy from the Middle East, a hippy, a guy who is recently married and was really interested in the family stuff, and an older lady with a parrot! Which totally pecked at my shoe! When we came up and said “Oi! Tudo bem?” it responded "Tudo!" …Also a man who was in his car…had a slight tear in his eye [when we were done talking to him], got out of the car to shake our hands and told us he was so grateful for our message and that he really needed to hear it right then. It was a really amazing moment. And obviously all of this was in Portuguese! It was hard. Some things we had no idea so we just smiled and nodded, but at other times we totally got it. It was super amazing.
Yesterday, Elder Blackford officially completed his training in the MTC! Today he left to head to his first area—though we aren’t quite sure where because he didn’t mention it in the 60 seconds he had to leave a phone message for us early this morning. He did let us know that he is doing well and is pumped to finally go into the field. And we know he’s ready.
I am loving the spirit of the MTC. There are so many things to be learned here it’s so crazy—the opportunity here to learn is above that I have ever experienced before…My MTC time feels like forever and nothing at the same time. I am looking forward to getting out in the field, and teaching real investigators.