Wednesday, May 9, 2012

5 Months!

It amazes me how quickly it has become apparent that Elder Blackford sometimes has to translate his letters back into English! The phrasing of his sentences has become so out of the order we say things in that reading his letter took me a little more thought than usual!

So the first exciting thing is the change in the “phone call” we will get from Elder Blackford on Mother’s Day. “So Sunday I will call. Here’s how it is: according to my knowledge we are at a 5 hour time zone difference. So I will call at 6 p.m. my time here, which I believe is 1 p.m. your time, on Sunday. IT WILL BE A SKYPE CALL!!! This means that the whole family should be together!” I’m so excited! We were unaware that he would be able to do this, and our whole family will be anxiously waiting for the call this Sunday.

Here are some of the questions from our usual Q&A:

Q: Do you meet in a school?
A: Yeah…We meet in the school João da Silva (which is about as generic of a name as John Smith) and it’s about as ghetto as it gets.

Q: Will a chapel be built or some building converted to a church building?
A: The chapel already existed, and has for more than 20 years. That’s why it’s being reformed, and it was supposed to open in July. It is 100% finished and now it’s 2 stories and not 1 and nice and beautiful. I’ll send pictures next week, but it’s all done, just has to have all the government clearances, and this is why we will wait for forever.

Q: Is the bairro tough or do you feel ok being out and about the neighborhood?
A: Well we have a favella, which the house of Genilda and is right next to this corner of massive drugs. I have literally watched as wads of cash got switched out for marijuana, cocaine, and we pass there often with people lighting up spoons and injecting themselves with curious substances. But I don’t feel really threatened, we pass there all the time and they always say hi to us! But as a whole the area is very safe, only like 3 people have been shot (and killed) in our bairro since I showed up, so pretty chill.

Last week their investigator Vanessa was baptized, so Elder Blackford gave us the update on the new convert:
Vanessa is doing well. We are re-teaching a bunch of stuff, and yeah we have had various activities with the people in our ward to help her have more friends. She is already hanging out with Nángela, who lives nearby and has 18 years of age and wow that is totally Portuguese reverse translated my bad I’m going to underline it, haha. But it’s going really well with her. Yesterday we got her a triple BOM thingy and a Bible.

Elder Blackford does say that now he and Elder Crandall are looking for new people to begin teaching, but they still have a couple of people they are teaching the lessons to currently.
Erlan (pronounced air-lung) is the son of Genilda, who was baptized back in December. He is our newest #1 investigator. He never had interest when she had the lessons. He worked, and was just not interested. He dated a member but broke up so he really lost any possible interest then. But it’s been some time, and he has become a really good friend of ours, and one day he just asked like a ton of questions. We ended up teaching the first lesson and then came back the next day to explain more, marked him for baptism and all and now he’s progressing a ton. He already read in a week up to like 2 Nephi chapter 2, then decided he wanted to re-read to understand, started over and now is in 1 Nephi 13 or something. He is 21, and has desire to serve a mission as well. He has more knowledge of the bible then some "pastors" I’ve met.
So Genilda’s husband had an accident like 5 years back at work and hurt his back so he can’t really lift. He can still walk and function fine, but the government is paying for his injury. Since then he has not worked, and he drinks/smokes/all other fun stuff 24/7. He is really a pain…Genilda [has] 4 kids, 21, 17, 10, 8 and their life is really rough. She works Mon.-Sat. and has 0 time to really do much at home. Their "house" is a [very small] kitchen… as well as a bedroom, where sleeps everyone + the girlfriend of the 17 year old son, so 7 people and is the size of [a medium-sized bedroom] with the bathroom which is just a toilet and a showerhead in a 3x3ft room. Because of this Genilda gets tired a lot, and doesn’t make it to church. So it’s a real struggle to help her keep coming, but she is strong and has a testimony, but life wears down on her. No one went to church [Sunday], so we went over there yesterday to invite them to go to a 7 p.m. session at the stake center to listen to a talk given by the assistants to the president of our mission. Erlan was really sick with a headache which caused him to sleep only 2 hours. He wanted to go but he really couldn’t walk that much. Genilda explained to him about priesthood blessings, and he decided he wanted one. We gave him a blessing, and he went and took a shower to get ready to go (which to take a shower means you heat up a bucket of water and bring it into the toilet room to rinse off) and then we left. He was talking with us and with people on the street chipper as could be. He still had a headache but he had a great time; he knows a lot of members and was talking with them and he was completely fine. It was amazing and I hope he serves a mission.

I usually would shorten a story like this, but I thought this one deserved the full length posted here. It is really an amazing story. If you stop to think about how difficult Genilda’s life is, I think it is an example of how having a testimony can really be helpful through difficult times. Her life is far from perfect (as is every one of ours), yet she does try to keep her testimony strong—even though she doesn’t always make it to church. Clearly she had faith in priesthood blessings as well.

In case you forgot, Elder Blackford and Elder Crandall had another girl, Maria, scheduled for baptism. It fell through when she became sick and then she decided to wait until summer, but now Elder Blackford informed us, “Maria Aparacida is doing well, and will be baptized next week. So yeah super excited! We have worked a lot with her and she has such a strong testimony she will be a great help for the ward.”

I know that here at the Blackford house we miss Elder Blackford a lot and look forward to hearing from him this weekend! My apologies for falling so far behind with these posts; hopefully I can stay more current from here on out (including the call we get to have with Elder Blackford!). Thanks for your support of Elder Blackford (and patience with me)!

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