As usual, we sent a few questions to Elder Blackford:
Q: Do you eat coconut there? Do you even like coconut?
A: Yeah people eat a LOT of coconut for desert stuff. You eat it every day in the MTC but out in the field at least once a week you have a desert with coconut. As a kid I never liked coconut, but the last few years I started to like it, and now I love it.
Q: Are clothing styles very different?
A: Clothing styles as a general rule, nope. The only difference is every wears flip flops almost 24/7 and lots of soccer jerseys, but neither is strange in the US so it’s pretty normal I guess. But the standard t-shirt and jeans or shorts or whatever is what they wear here.
Q: Besides the language, what’s been the biggest adjustment you’ve had to make?
A: Keeping everything noted in a planner. If we didn’t have a planner, we would be lost, confused, and unsuccessful. So keeping accurate notes, writing down commitments we gave to people, marking appointments, and putting down ideas and thing you need to bring with you and what lessons you’re teaching to whom. Really, most of that is not required, but it’s what gets the job done better; the more you work to doing it, the better your teaching will be.
Elder Blackford also told us about watching General Conference down there:
Conference was great, as a missionary you just soak it all up. I was alert, awake and rapidly taking notes like the entire time. I watched it in English (our president said that all Americans should watch in English to understand it better plus when you don’t have a translator you also get the voice inflection and stuff. Count it in your blessings you speak English!)
He also kept us posted on some of the investigators and cool experiences he has with some of the groups he’s teaching.
Remember that whole chain reaction group? Yeah we had 2 more explosions. So this last week we were teaching Pamela and everyone at that house, when their friend Luis showed up too and we left the first pamphlet with him. He lives next door. We had seen him around before but never taught or were able to talk to him. When we showed up the next day, just passing by, he was home. We asked him what he thought and he had already read the entire pamphlet, remembered it all, and basically asked "So can I read the book of Mormon now?"
He is very devoted to his other church, but he went to conference and is praying and reading to know if he should join our church. When we talked about authority and baptism and we asked him “Who baptized you”? He thought about it and said “Some deacon or priest guy I think...but now that were talking about he probably didn’t have authority, huh?” It was a great moment.
They say that people telling their friends about the gospel is the best way for it to spread, and I think this chain reaction group proves it true. Whether or not any of these people join the Church, a whole group of people have been introduced to the gospel through their connections with friends. Elder Blackford continues the story with a new group—the neighbors of the original group.
Then across the street from Luis, Pamela and Gislíne, we have Joseph, Jane and Johnie. They were not very interested, but Thursday when passing by I felt that we should knock on their door and see what’s up, so we turned around and went to their door. I knocked and someone was about to leave. It was Joyce (who we had seen around before.) She said (I’ll translate for you) “There you guys are! I have been wanting to talk to you guys; can you come back and teach us?” We were like “Uhhh... sure?” And then her friend Vanessa came up the stairs to the door and was like “Ooh the Mormons right?” We knew Joyce had a little baby of a few months, so we asked her how stuff was going and we asked her how old she was...and she was like “Oh in June I’ll turn 17.” Hahaha we were like “Oooh...uhh...wow your young.” Anyways so she was very pumped for us to come back, but Vanessa (who is 22) was just joking around and was like “Oh yeah sure I guess I’ll come tomorrow for the visit.” We thought she was clearly joking and being sarcastic. So we show up the next day and knock. Jane yells at us the Joyce was sleeping but we were like its ok…anyways she said to come back later. As we walked away, like a minute later we heard this "psst pssst psst" behind us. We turn around and it was Vanessa and she was like “Where are you going? You gotta come teach us!” We went back, but Joyce told us she was super sick because she just got some wisdom teeth taken out. They said we could pass by that night (it being Friday). We come back, and Joyce lets us in along with her "husband" David, who is the brother of Johnie and Joseph and is 18. Joyce called Vanessa and told her to come over because we were there, so she showed up and we talked with them for a little to get to know them because it was late we couldn’t do a full lesson. We just talked about what authority is…and that only through baptism with authority you can be saved. Nothing about Book of Mormon or Joseph Smith, and then we challenged them for baptism. Because David and Joyce aren’t married, we can’t mark them for baptism, but Vanessa accepted, and Joyce was like “Really?” She said “Yes, I will learn more and be baptized.” Because it was late, we left it at that and went home. We didn’t talk to her about going to church, or conference or nothing. So we had her marked but didn’t know really how serious she was about it. While at conference we were shocked when we saw Luis walk in with Vanessa. They are all friends and he told them he was off to go hear our church, she was like “Oh I’ll go too!” She came Saturday and Sunday for the first sessions, but Sunday she got really sick, so afterwards she went home. But wow it was crazy! She loved conference, loved the church, and we don’t even know what she even really understood. Imagine watching conference and not knowing what the Book of Mormon is or who Joseph Smith is. Yeah its kinda nuts.
Although I can’t imagine watching General Conference not knowing very much about church, I’m sure the reason Vanessa loved it so much was because she could feel the Spirit. It’s amazing how this one little street has turned into a whole pile of investigators!
My favorite part of the letter was this one little sentence at the end of his letter:
“I was kinda sad today was Pday, cause after all those talks at conference I just wanted to keep working, but that’s ok, thank goodness I still got 20 more months to keep doing this work!”