Monday, September 28, 2015

(week 34) Plan of Happiness

Hey everybody! How are you guys? Hope all is well :)

Ok, where do I start? To be honest a lot has happened this week, but it seems like such a blur because of how fast time goes in the mission. However, one thing sticks out. I'm not sure how many of you know already or not, but this past Friday, my beautiful Grandma, Judy, passed away. She was one of the most selfless people I've ever known and loved, and she has kept me laughing and smiling all the way until her final breaths. For those of you that had the privilege of knowing her, you already know she has a very unique, but priceless sense of humor. Her jokes were so original, I loved every single one of them. Though she had a solid 55+ years on me, she could often joke with me like we were of the same age. She spent countless hours of her life dedicated to helping raise me along with my parents, and for this I had a very special and close relationship with her. She was and is my grandma, but she played a much higher role than that in my life. I can't even begin to count how many times she secretly slid some cash into my shirt pocket, or spontaneously drove to my house to pick me up and treat me to some sort of amazing meal, or when she would give me a random gift on a random day of something out of the blue, simply because she thought I'd like it. And most importantly, the pure love she showed me and my family in ways indescribable. The years before my mission, I'd venture to say that she was at my house more than she was at her own most days. Whether it be for a visit, or to help the family accomplish several of our many "to-do's" for the day. She always served, loved, laughed, and made others laugh. I could go on and on for days about her; she's an amazing woman, really.
Amongst the sadness that accompanies the death of a more-than-loved one, there's a silver lining. Some of you, or maybe many of you may be wondering how there is such a silver lining, or what it is. Well, I can tell you right now with 3 words--Plan of Happiness.
Many of you that read this may be religious, or at least believe in God. Some of you may not. I'm here to tell you today that the ONLY reason I'm writing today is because there is a God. It's because He exists that I'm having fun, and laughing and smiling today, rather than laying in my bed depressed at the death of my beloved Grandma. It's because He exists that I know I will see my Grandma again.
The Plan of Happiness, or the Plan of Salvation, is a simple but beautiful plan that our loving Father in Heaven has given all of us. It was "prepared...from the foundation of the world, through Christ, for all whosoever would believe on His name." [Alma 22:13] It answers many questions of the soul, such as "where did I come from?", "What the purpose of my life on earth?", or in this case, "where will I go after this life?" As a missionary, I could talk for hours on each point, but I'll save us both some time and share a quick story to address just one of the questions...
Where do we go after this life? Well I could give the very detailed explanation, but I don't have the time, so here's the reader's digest version--
I was sitting in a chair at the beginning of a lesson we were having with our buddy that wants to know more about our church and our beliefs. We were teaching the plan of salvation, and were about 5 minutes or so into the lesson. As I pulled out my iPad to open up to a scripture, I saw a couple notifications pop up. A message from my sister and a message from my dad. I tried to ignore them and get on with the lesson, but I couldn't help but notice the subject line of my dad's message, "Urgent Message." So I read the first couple lines, and quickly understood that he was informing me of my grandma's passing. I immediately put away my iPad and used all of my strength to resist from breaking down in the middle of a lesson. About 3 minutes later, I couldn't really hold it in much longer and I quickly left the room and walked into the bathroom for time alone. My "companion/colleague" was beyond confused, and ran out as well to see what was happening. I did my best to tell him of the news between my tears. He looked right at me and told me he had went through the same thing but with his grandpa on the third day of his mission. He then told me some other things, and then before he returned to the lesson, he recommended that I pray. So he left and returned to the lesson with our friend and another member of our church ward. Meanwhile, I went in a bathroom stall, and in my head said one of the most meaningful yet brief prayers I have ever offered in my life. Amongst the few things I asked for, I asked for help to keep myself together, finish the lesson well, and be able to carry on with my missionary work the rest of the day. As soon as I finished, I was done crying and had no more desire to cry. I quickly cleaned up and returned to the lesson. Time goes on, we teach the lesson, and then get to the home stretch--the afterlife. Anziano Ponce then asked me if I could explain what happens after death. After explaining the first few events that occur, I then arrived at the point of the "Kingdoms of Glory." 
For those of you who aren't familiar with this, it's quite simply Heaven. However, as it explains in the Bible [1 Corinthians 15:41; 2 Corinthians 12:2], the Heavens are divided into three distinct grades, or kingdoms of glory. Telestial, Terrestrial, and finally the highest, the Celestial Kingdom.
After having explained the first 2 as very well being kingdoms of glory, a.k.a exponentially better than conditions here on earth, I then began to explain the highest and most glorious kingdom--that of the Celestial. Simply put, all you must do to get there is be baptized of water by someone who holds the Priesthood authority of God [John 3:5], follow the commandments God has given us (for our own good), and repent of all your wrongdoings. By following these simple but necessary guidelines God has given us, we may inherit not just eternal life, but eternal life in the presence of God Himself, as well as our families that have followed these same guidelines. After having explained this to our friend [unnamed], i couldn't help but remember the news I had received via email only 20 minutes or so beforehand. And I immediately realized, now clearer than ever, that this very plan was meant for me. It's meant for every single one of us. I didn't have to grieve over the loss of my grandma, because 1. She is in fact in a better place, much happier, and 2. I willsee her again. I then began to express to [unnamed] that this plan has, and still does bring me joy, peace, and happiness, because of the sure knowledge and understanding it gives me that my grandma, who has died 8 months into my mission, and I will surely see each other and be united once more in the Celestial Kingdom. I could hardly do it without tears of happiness pouring out. Our friend we were teaching could notice this and kept expressing the remorse he had for me and my situation, but I quickly stopped him and reminded him of the good news I had just shared with him. I repeated myself by saying there really is no need to grieve or mourn, because these 70 or so years of life are nothing but preparation for the eternal life to come.
This experience that I had on Friday was like none other I've ever experienced. Anticipating the death of my grandma made me sick, and knowing it was near, I was sure it would wreck me beyond repair. But, from this experience, I learned that God is there, and he does hear our prayers. I learned that this plan He created for us is very real, and that it alone can help us to maintain an eternal perspective, and overcome and brush off many of our minor and common trials and worries we face in this earthly life. I learned that God has His timing, and works only on His timing. He knew I would be teaching that exact lesson at that exact moment, and He knew that it was the best point I could have possibly been at in my life when receiving such tragic news. He knows I'm a missionary and I have to help other people, and have the energy to walk and teach all day and endure rejection after rejection. And He definitely knows that in order to do that successfully and happily, this burden of grief over the death of my grandma cannot be felt. I truly experienced the Lord lightening my burdens SO much, as to the point that "[I] could no longer feel them upon my shoulders...so that [I] may stand as a witness to Him. [Mosiah 24:13-14]" God is real, there is no denying it. He loves us and watches over us, and will help us through every single problem we face. I'm so grateful for Him, and for the sacrifice made by His Son, Jesus Christ. Because it is through Him and only Him, that we can return to the presence of God in the Celestial Kingdom of Heaven with our families, forever. Jesus Christ is our advocate, and will be begging and pleading for every single one of us at the last day. Take it, use it. Accept His help, and live for eternity, happier than one could possibly imagine. I love my mission and all the blessings it's brought me thus far, specifically the knowledge and growth it has given me. 
I love you all, and hope you have the best week of your life. Until next week. ❤️

-Anziano Carter Blaise

My beautiful Grandma a couple weeks ago :)

Rome, Italy Temple 

Picture of when we taught a mini Spanish Course to a cool guy we met. I love Spanish haha #3rdLanguage?


Sunday, September 27, 2015

(week 33) Weekly letter finally :-)

Ciao, everybody!

This week has been a good one. There's always ups and downs to every
week, but the trick is to just focus on the ups...it works ;) we've
definitely had some downs this week, mainly with the work, but
honestly it doesn't erase the good things that we've been blessed
with. I have several stories, but I only have time to share one.
8 days ago on Sunday was fast Sunday, and so we fasted, of course. I
fasted for several motives, but one in particular was for another
investigator to teach. Classic missionary, wanting more investigators
haha. But anyway, I fasted for that. The day after (last p-day), we
received a text on our phone from potential that we've been trying to
meet with ever since we got blown-in here and she just hasn't been
willing to. However, in the text she sent us, she asked us if we "take
out vows" in our church. For lack of a better translation into
English. Basically referring to how priests and nuns do so in the
Catholic Church. Then she proceeded to express how she's looking to
make a big change in her life...wow. So what'd we do? We called and
asked if we could meet right then (p-day had just finished by then)
she said to meet her at a bus stop at 8. Long story short, we met her
there, she was 30 mins late (Classic Italian) and we had a nice talk
on our way walking to the church. We taught a 25 min lesson due to
time restrictions, and in short we spent the time asking her questions
about her goals and intentions, briefly explained part of the
restoration, the story of the Book of Mormon, and then invited her to
read the introduction and the first chapter and to pray about it, just
as Moroni invites us (Moroni 10:3-5). And then, we boldly invited her
to baptism on October 3rd. She said yes. It was amazing. Can't really
explain it, but it was a great feeling to see this process happen
within a matter of a few hours.
We've had a couple other small miracles this week. And we have trials
too as missionaries. It's easy to get down and give up and think
you're worthless or doing something wrong because of having trials in
your work, but we need to remember that people have their agency, and
that there's no growth without friction. A couple of our investigators
for some reason have dropped off the face of the earth, and it stinks,
but really we can't get worked up about it. It's just an obstacle. And
plus, who knows, maybe it just isn't their time yet, maybe they aren't
ready.
Anyway, guys, these experiences I encounter constantly are here for my
growth and I'm grateful. Just as it says in Hebrews 12:6, the Lord
loveth whom He chasteneth. And in D&C 136:31, it tells us that we must
be tested and tried in all things, in order to be fit for the Kingdom
of God, to live in His presence. So the moral of the story is--don't
let trials get you down. If we follow the commandments and action plan
the Lord has given all of us, we will be blessed in the end, and
throughout the process be able to conquer and overcome any trial
that's thrown at us. Don't blame God for bad things happening. God
loves all of us. Remember that and don't forget it. He hears our
prayers and knows the feelings of our hearts. I love it, the mission
is so sick. You learn so much. I feel like I've been blinded my whole
life and just now my eyes are being opened. Better late than never ;)
Hey, I love you all. Miss you guys. I pray for you guys too. God bless
and God speed, eh?

-Old Man Blaise
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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

(week 31) Good week :)

Ciao Belli!! :)

I hope you guys have had a great week, because I have. I could go day
by day and tell you everything that happened that was awesome, but
that would take way too long and I am tired as heck haha. So here's
the highlight reel haha.

Alright so English course was great both Tuesday and Thursday. We have
a pretty big size course, it's sick. Me and my comp teach
intermediate, which is perfect! I love intermediate. They're so nice
too. Honestly every English course I've ever taught is so nice. Here I
am a 20 year old American with no teaching background, and I'm
teaching an English course to a bunch of Italians lol. My comp helps
too but it's limited since he's still learning English. But they told
me that they love me as a teacher, which made my day because I don't
know what the heck I'm doing haha and to hear that was awesome. But
anyway, we got three new investigators this week from our English
course. We only invited two of them to baptism this week though :/
....but they both said yes to it!
Sorry I'm kinda skipping stuff. But in short, me and my comp have come
to the conclusion that if we wanna revolutionize this area (Foggia) we
gotta go above and beyond. First, it starts with obedience. We've made
goals and commitments this transfer to follow all the rules. For
example, waking up by 6:30, and WORKING OUT (hardest part for me),
getting home on time at night, and many other little things. Also,
we've decided to put much more effort into our work and finding. So we
aren't doing anymore of that unoriginal thoughtless finding. We've decided that if 
we put more thought and effort into our finding that we'll see more miracles and
success. We only get out what we put in! So we're trying some new
stuff, and it's working. God works in mysterious ways, and blesses us
indirectly. Though we may be working hard and trying hard in one part
of our life, God may bless us in other ways and other aspects of our
life. We've been doing a lot of area book and work with
ex-investigators and trying to be creative with finding, and here we
are...we get blessed with 3 new investigators and 2 new bap dates (one
is super firm), and they all came from our English course! God sees
our efforts and rewards us openly. Just like it says in Matthew 6 ;)
by the way I'm studying the New Testament a lot, and I just love it.
It's amazing. I could go on and rave about the cool things I've
learned, but you all should just go study it yourselves, you'll see
why :) it especially helps out here in Italy, with all these Catholics
and their bible knowledge, now I can relate to them and have better
and more constructive conversations with them now that I'm more
educated on the bible!
All this hard work and fun we've been having has been killing me
physically lol. I'm happy and love what we're doing, but I am SOOO
tired holy cow. And the members have actually invited US over for food
so that's super sick. Yeah I know it doesn't sound cool but it's like
super #rare out in Italy haha.
Sorry for how lame my letter is this week haha I apologize. I do have
some more good stories, but it's difficult to type on iPads (first
world problems), and plus, I wanna save some cool stories for when I
get home ;)
Just know that I love life right now more than I ever have, and I love
seeing people come into Christ. I've never been happier than when I
see someone be touched by the Holy Spirit of God, and recognize this
church as the true and same church Christ established. Their lives
change forever, you can see it in their face. It's awesome, I can't
describe it. After hearing about the family I taught in Caserta get
baptized, and how happy they are, it honestly made my mission. If they
are they only people I even affect on my mission, it would still be
worth it (D&C 18:15).
Guys, I love you all and miss you all. I hope you are enjoying every
second of your life, because it is precious time. I know I am. Until
next time guys.

-Anziano Carter Blaise

Angelo, amazing guy.  We had our first lesson with him last week.  Knew him from English course.  He's now committed to get baptized October 3rd ( but it will be in Milano up north since that's where he'll be for school:/) still awesome!

My Favorite family from my first city,Caserta, entered into the waters of baptism Saturday.  I can't believe how amazing it is to see this happen with a family I actually taught.  They personally told me about their decision to get baptized before anyone else and I felt so touched.  My mission is already worth the 2 year sacrifice just from this decision by this family.


By the way the dark kid next to me is
my comp ;) super sick guy

Love my zone!! And kebab haha

sooo yeah me and my comp missed the train thanks to very unreliable Italian transportation, and thus got stuck waiting a couple hours for the next train in order to get to our zone conference/specialized training....long story short we got there 2 hours late and I was quite upset ..lol but it all worked out
me and my boy Anziano Stanley playing some intense games of Scopa..it's an Italian card game with Italian cards..well, napoletano/siciliano cards. I lost 19-21 so that was a bummer