Thursday, December 19, 2013

Made it home safely!

Bueno folks, I made it home safely. It was close though - Elder Nielson, Hermana Shumaucher, and I all almost died on our layover in Dallas because of 1) the COLD!!! Snow in Texas? It was weird, and 2) the price of a soda?! A 600 ml bottle of soda for $2.50?! We were astounded.

Anyway, since having arrived home last week, my mother has mostly stuck with me as a companion, taking me to long-overdue medical appointments, shopping, and out to lunch (current favorite kid treatment I suppose)! It's been kinda fun and all, but I'm really just missing Panama. I've been trying my best to keep myself busy and stick to the morning study schedule, but it's just not the same sometimes. I start school in January at BYU, and I'm hoping that all goes well, and I can adjust pretty well. For now, I'll just kinda take it slow, looking around for job possibilities (I already went and applied at the MTC to be a teacher.), and ENJOY CHRISTMAS! It's taken me a few days just to get back into normal life, and I'm now realizing that Christmas is just right around the corner! I'm pretty stoked about it - listening to 100.3 Christmas music every time I get in the car.

Well, I just wanted to make this last entry on the blog before closing it for good. My mission has ended, and I'm SO stoked to face a new stage of life. The things I learned on my mission are things I'll never forget and always cherish. This may be kind of cheesy, but it truly was the time of my life. God has been so merciful with me to prepare me and give me enough blessings to help me get out on a mission - I have only learned how to better serve him and am now committed to a life full of service in His name. I'm so excited to be a missionary for life! I've still got a whole life ahead of me! I know that if I keep myself worthy and am constantly asking and looking, God will continue to give me those missionary and serving opportunities. I love being a member of the true, restored church of Jesus Christ, and will just close bearing my testimony that I know that I am in the truth and that that truth was restored by God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, themselves, and that they appeared to the 14-year-old Joseph Smith and called him as a prophet, and he was a tool in Their hands to bring to pass the perfect restoration of Christ's church. They also gave him power to translate The Book of Mormon, which would and now does serve as physical evidence of that divine restoration. I know that the Plan of Salvation is real, and that at the center of that plan is our Savior, Jesus Christ, that His Atonement is saving and redempting. I know that we're sons and daughters of our loving Heavenly Father, and wants so badly that we return to live again with him someday. For that reason, He let His Son die for us. The Plan is perfect and was executed perfectly. I know that the church is currently directed by a true prophet here on earth, Thomas S. Monson, and that he, along with the apostles and other general authorities direct this church according to how CHRIST wants it run, and they do it through revelation. I also have a strong testimony particularly in taking the sacrament and renewing my baptismal covenant, as well as the law of tithing. I love my Savior, my Father, and my earthly family. So much. Thank you!

-Steve Clarke

Monday, December 9, 2013

Last time...

It is so crazy to me that before I get another chance to write you guys I`ll be talking to you in person. I`m STOKED!!!

This past week was a good one - we had a sick mother`s day celebration here on Wednesday night with the branch (here mother`s day is the 8th of December). We had a menos activa, Idalis, show up that we`d been visiting and she brought all her extended family!! They all told us straight up they wanna get baptized!! Teichert`s gonna have a million baptisms next change! Two of the guys specifically, are so sweet - Chicho y Chaveto, as we call them. We walked home with them that night and just talked to them all about missions the whole way home, seeing as they`re 16 and 17, we were trying to animate them to go after their baptisms. 

We also had to do a lot of traveling again, like going to the city to get Elder Teichert`s carnet so he can be legal. We visited the Marín family in Juan Diaz too! It`s been so fun to go around and see people for the last time. I also spent a day packing my bags - I hope everything is underweight and I can get everything home safe and sound! We left Santiago yesterday for the last time after church. Last night we ate here in Chorrera with Hna. Carmen, and today and tomorrow I`m gonna visit some peeps in San Miguelito y the city before changes on Wednesday. PUMPED!

A few days ago, we were walking down the street, and Elder Teichert asked me how I felt to be ending, and what I was thinking about. And ya know, I told him that I feel content. Honestly, I feel good and happy, and pretty much feel like I completed with everything I was sent here to do. I`m really sad sometimes, but I realize the time has come and it`s time for a new stage of life! I`m way excited for it - let me tell you why!

So last week one day as we traveled to Chitré to do a baptismal interview (like a 1 1/2 hour bus ride), some peace core workers came and sat down next to Elder Teichert and I. Well, taking advantage of the opportunity as we don`t see other gringos around here too often, we started just conversing with them, speaking english and what not, asking them about what they do (by the way I`m now a big fan of the peace core - cool organization). Anyway, they had tons of questions for us! It`s not often that we teach other north-americans, and I was suprised to see how much they knew about our church - they knew about Joseph Smith and everything. But anyway, the great part was as they gave us opportunity to answer questions and explain to them our beliefs, it was just so different but satisfying to be able to bear testimony to them! It was super weird for me at first cuz I never just bear my testimony like that in english, but as we taught and answered questions, it came out naturally, and it felt so good! More than anything, it got me so excited to be able to come home and do the same thing. You don`t need to be on a mission to bear your testimony! As part of our baptismal covenant, we promise to take upon ourselves and stand as a witness of Christ in ALL TIMES. Thankfully, that means I'll always be able to share my testimony. I believe God put those troops in our path for a reason, and that God wanted me to know that teaching the gospel/bearing testimony is just as great AFTER the mission as it is DURING. 

Last week Mom had me read a Thanksgiving assignment that had to do with gratitude. As I read the scriptures and pondered them, I came to the simple conclusion that God would have NEVER blessed me with all the things He`s given me if He didn`t expect me to share them. Most importantly, I have the restored gospel! But on top of all that, I have a functioning family! I am (for the moment) financially secure! I get to go to college! I have a body and brain without limitations! God has literally given me every tool I need to live a comfortable life so that I can.... what? Just live a comfortable life? No! He wants me to SHARE what I have! That`s the point! If I don`t share the restored gospel, it`s very possible that God won`t have any need for me to have everything I have. What motivation! Even as we taught one of the peace core dudes - Tyler, was his name - I asked myself - what`s the difference between me and him? Really not much! He seems to be pretty well off, have a good family, he`s smart. But.... he doesn`t have the restored gospel. Ok, so why did God let me be born into this and not Tyler? The only logical conclusion I can think of is because God knew and trusted in me that I would SHARE what I have. If this is not motive enough, I don`t know what is. I`m SO grateful for all that I have, and especially grateful that I have a whole life to live in the service of God and share His gospel until the day that this life ends! I feel that it`s my duty to God, and I can`t let him down. 

Bueno, that`s all I have time for today. I`m SO DANG excited to see you all! Until Thursday!


Elder Clarke

Monday, December 2, 2013

Dang. Fam, I don't know. The mission life is pretty DANG good. I think I just came off one of the best weeks of my mission. Such a CRAZY week. But so many incredible things. In one week, I was in Santiago, Penonomé, Chitré, Chorrera, and the city. Holy cow. So many unbelieveable blessings. Just a tiny example of this - last Monday (I wasn't able to write it last week), I went to visit Monica in Penonomé I don't know if you remember her but I taught her for like 5 months and she never got baptized)? Anyway I was estatic to find out that she's now preparing for a mission and her entire family is attending church and her parents are getting married soon to get baptized. WOW! The branch too just in general out there is growing so much! The weekly attendance is now like 110-120.... when Elder Aguirre were there it was like 60! So incredible to see the church grow. They'll be getting that long-awaited new building before they know it.
Another fun thing I was able to do on Wednesday was go to Chorrera for a leadership conference, and I visited Hna. Carmen, la flia. Lou and Bonilla and the rest. So dang fun. 
Thursday: Thanksgiving!! Great day for me. We had two baptismal interviews with some buddies from Aguadulce - Elderes Fisher and Peterson. I also sent home a pic of our Thanksgiving lunch - idea courtsy of Hermana Lesher! We had it with the hermanas. To finish the night after the interviews, we all went and ate our Thanksgiving dinner at KFC to celebrate!!! Whoooo. Hahah. 
Friday was perhaps the weirdest day of all. We did two service projects - one in the morning cleaning up trash and stuff and the other cutting down a HUGE tree with an AXE. Yes. Elder Teichert and I switched off, made a great team, and took out that tree. TIMBER......boom! Then, we headed off to Chitré to do an interview for a SICK man - Davis. 23 years old. I loved interviewing him. What a guy. Then we came home, and Elder Teichert and I were able to go on a youth sleep-over activity!! Got special permission from Pte. Carmack and everything with our mission leader. It was so sweet - we slept in the back of a storage truck.
Then, Saturday, you know what´s coming...... pool party!!!! (Aka Miguel's and Artemio's baptisms) It was so dang sweet. I think we might possibly baptize Miguel's bro, Galileo, this weekend. Pray for us! It felt so good to get some baptisms like this, opening an area. I love Santiago and Elder Teichert and I'm gonna miss them both. I kind of don't want to come home! But I do at the same time. It's a win-lose kind of thing. Those two young men were confirmed yesterday and also received the Aaronic priesthood! And the leaders already showed them how to pass the sacrament for next week. So stoked. Seriously, pray for Galileo for us for this weekend.
Elder Clarke with Emilvia at the Panama City Temple
So yesterday, I left after church to come to the city. The reason? Hna. Emilvia Castillo de Binns, from Juan Diaz, that I baptized last year with Elder Whitcomb, received her endowment this morning, and I had the privilage to accompany her in the session. It was also my first time to see first-hand the changes that have gone on in the temple. WOW. Wow wow wow. I couldn't contain myself this morning. I can't express the joy I felt as I watched Emilvia there in the temple, and talked to her in the celestial room. DyC 18:14-16. Temple ordinances are the greatest salvation attainable. I am so grateful The Lord let me be part of her life. I was simply a tool in His hands. She even has a niece attending BYU! I'm anxious to meet her and talk with the rest of Emilvia's family over the phone that live in Ohio. After we left the session, Emilvia just bore the sweetest testimony as we talked there outside. I love her so much, and admire her. She talked to me about how the gospel has given her an identity and purpose in life - a compass. She also said something after leaving the temple that I want to quote her on - something like "la pobreza mas grande en el mundo no es la de dinero ni niguna otra cosa, sino la de conocimiento." Translated: The greatest poverty in the world is not that of money or any other thing. The greatest poverty found in the world is the poverty of knowledge among us. Really think about that. Even for those that have gone through the temple, there is SOO much we don't know. The new changes in the temple really opened my eyes and helped me see many new things in a different light. I love life. 
I also had a super spiritual experience on Friday as we rode to Chitré, and Mom, it has everything to do with the scriptures you left me to read for Thanksgiving. I bore my testimony about this yesterday in fast and testimony meeting, and I cried like a baby! Last time bearing it in Spanish like that made me SO SAD!! You don't have any idea. I don't wanna leave this! I must come back to Panama again. 
Anyway, I did the activity though, Mom, thank you so much. I'll tell you all about the experience next week. I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving. I love you all so much!!! So dang much. Have a good week and see you in TEN DAYS!

Elder Clarke

P.S... last awesome blessing was last night I met a mini-missionary who has been working in Marcasa lately, where Elder Whitcomb and I worked to baptize Ruth and her daughter, Sofia. Well, they (and her comp.) have been visiting them for a time now. I guess they had gone a little inactive, but she told me that yesterday they went to church and bore testimony and everything! So dang awesome. 

P.S.S... I wish I had heard Dad bear his testimony yesterday.... I´m so stoked to spend time with him. Love you Dad!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Tough but good week. Gotta stay humble.

MAN! What a crazy week. It was kind of a roller-coaster week with a lot of mixed feelings, some logros (3 days straight we left with members this week - 13 lessons with member!), but also, curiously, a great deal of inner struggle, apart from my ear acting up again. But we came out on top and we should be having a couple baptisms this weekend! Miguel is so ready to get baptized and we`re excited to have the whole family coming to see :) They`re about to get a sucker-punch from The Spirit and they don`t even know it! They don`t even know what`s comin. Artemio is gonna get baptized too! We`re so pumped. We`re doing everything we can to get some baptisms on the 7th too. 

So like I said before, I really went through some tough personal struggles this week. It was almost as if Satan was attackin` me - doin` everything he could to depress me and try to ruin my impression of my mission before I came home. Lots of feelings of inadequecy and stuff, but I know it was all for my good. God has always got the one-up on Satan, it`s really funny. I so grateful I passed through all that cuz I came out learning such an important lesson that I know God wanted me to learn before I came home. Gordon B. Hinckley sums it up almost perfectly in this quote, addressing parents throughout the world:

"Never forget that these little ones are the sons and daughters of God and that yours is a custodial relationship to them, that He was a parent before you were parents and that He has not relinquished His parental rights or interest in these His little ones."

Call me crazy, but I feel like I learned a lot about parenthood this week. I really feel like The Spirit was comunicating to me this topic. During this past week, we had a baby-shower for a couple in the ward (which never happens), a ward member gave me some advice, and just yesterday I was able to hold a one month old little panamanian girl. What a precious gift to the world children are.
On top of all this, much of my worries this week stemmed from me wondering if I had taught Elder Teichert everything I was supposed to teach him before I go home - I know he`s going to be an unbelievable missionary - unbelievable. So much better than me. And I just want to help him with everything God sent me here to teach him. As you might already know, here in the mission when someone trains, the trainer is called the "father" or "mother", and the trainee, "hijo", or the child. The Spirit just confirmed to me so strong that here in the mission, it`s like a practice run in a way. We teach these new missionaries, and the goal is to teach them everything we know, and help them become better than us. And what happens if we don`t? I questioned this many times this week. And well, I guess you just gotta hope they somehow learn it on their own or someone else will teach it to them along the way. But what happens when you go home and have a real child? Are you going to put your HEART and SOUL into raising that child? EVERYTHING you do counts. I want my children to someday be so much better than me and know everything I know plus more. I don`t wanna mess up, and I've convinced Heavenly Father helped me understand this principle this week so that I could use it in the future.

With all that being said, let us refer to the quote by Pres. Hinckley - when we have children, they aren`t completely ours. They were FIRST our Heavenly Father`s children, and He has entrusted them to us, so that we care for them and do everything in our power to help them return to their spirit father someday. If nothing else, let us do it for God. I don`t think I`ll ever be fully prepared to take on that conquest, but when the day comes I`ll just plead with my Heavenly Father that he`ll help me, and I`ll give my very best. What a sacred calling, parenthood. I don`t know HOW my parents have answered the call in such magnificent manner, but for all eternity I`ll be grateful for my parents, and great job they`ve done in raising me. I can only hope to be like them someday.

I LOVE the mission. Gotta live it up while I can! Love you guys and I`ll see you soon!


Elder Clarke

Monday, November 18, 2013

Sumamente Agradecido

Hey!! How's the family doing?! I love you guys so much. I loved reading all your emails - especially Dave's. He is such an amazing example to me. I hope you are all doing well :)

This week has been a great one for me. Elder Teichert and I were able to go hard at it all week - finding new parts of our area too that we still hadn't found, and helping investigators and menos activos. We had a SUPER tough trial this weekend when we found out that investigators apparently aren`t allowed to stay overnight at the casa de huespedes at the temple..... so we had to tell the Acosta family they couldn`t come. We spent like an hour trying to find members in the city that would take them in, but in the end the only place we could find was kinda dangerous and the Hermano turned the offer down - I feel like they were really disappointed... he had gotten off work and everything. It was really hard for me cuz they declined our next visit, and I feel like they had been so positive! But, then miracles passed as they always do, and Miguel showed up to church!! Whoo! We are gettin' him and his bros baptized - it`s gotta happen. Another miracle, GABRIEL showed up to church!! He's the father of a member, and is like 70 years old. He went to the temple a few months ago to see his granddaughter get sealed and apparently ever since then he's been interested in the church. Well, he stayed after the investigator class on Sunday for a little bit and we put a fecha with him for the 7th of December!! Whoo! We also had a cool dude named Angel show up to church with a less active girl - we haven't taught him at all yet but we talked to him, got his number, and who knows what'll happen! I really feel like The Lord will recompense us for the good work we've been doing here. We're going to visit the Acosta's tomorrow too, wish us luck!

So I think I`ve said this before recently, but it`s really quite interesting to be finishing the mission and look at all that you still need to improve. In some ways it`s kind of depressing... haha. The mission has helped me change and improve SO much. But man.... I would need to be in the mission for another 10 years to get where I want to. There is SO much I still need to change. I guess that`s why God gave us a whole lifetime to improve though. When looking back at the most significant changes in the past two years, I`m still kind of the same person. My personality hasn't changed too much I don't think. I'm still impatient sometimes, prideful, and I still get stressed. But the one thing that has changed so much is just my personal testimony. They say that if you don't convert anyone on your mission at least convert yourself, and I know that I've at least accomplished that much. If that's all the mission is supposed to do - set us on the right course for the rest of our lives - mine has definitely done that for me. I feel like I KNOW my Savior now - our personal relationship and my appreciation for Him. I`ve come to know that this is the only true church on the earth because of The Book of Mormon. This is IT! I can forever thank my mission for teaching me these things.

I don't have a whole ton more to say this week, other than I've got the best family ever! It's hard for me to imagine seeing you all so soon - I'm trying to stay focused here, but it'll be a great/sad day! 

Love you all :)
-Elder Clarke

Monday, November 11, 2013

¡Que semana!

Bueno pues..... que semana ha sido. A mision buddy of mine wrote me this week and told me to soak in all the spanish I could while I can - cuz I'm gonna miss it. I feel like not just with the language, but with everything, it's gonna be like that. Heck, I get to preach the TRUE gospel - the RESTORED gospel - to these people. Not just anyone can do that. I'm gonna take advantage of every opportunity I can to work right up till the end!

Family Night with a member family and the four Hermanas in the District too.
So I had an epiphany/revelation a few days ago in the shower as I was thinking about our investigators and how to help them progress and also just how to have some success to show for before I leave. And later, my revelation was confirmed as I read in True to the Faith and Preach My Gospel.... Basically, I had just been thinking so much about different things or ideas I could do to help my area, and I was way stressed about it! I was starting to worry if I was doing enough, and about all the things I might be doing wrong. And while I was getting all worked about about that, I realized: This work doesn't entirely depend on ME and what I do. Quite a big chunk of it also depends on my companion and most importantly, THE LORD. In Preach My Gospel it says: "Confide in (The Lord) and in The Spirit, and not in your own talents and abilities. In True to the Faith, it says: When you are humble, you recognize your dependence on The Lord. Man. It is really interesting to see when you get to the end of your mission in what you've improved on and what weaknesses you still - even after 2 years - haven't been able to develop. I am completely convinced that pride - at least for me - is one of the hardest things to conquer. Being a truly humble person - I admire those people. Just simple things like not judging. Confiding in The Lord way more than in yourself and in your own abilities. At least I know this is one of my weaknesses so I can work on developing it more (Ether 12:6). But anyway, I have currently changed my mindset and am just trying to do my very best here with Elder Teichert and we're confident The Lord will bless us. Elder Teichert is SUCH a stud - truly. He already knows TEN TIMES more than I did as a newbie. Not to mention his spanish is ridiculously good for only having been here a month. This guy is a champ - gonna be such a good missionary. So much better than me. I guess that's the goal when you`re training, right?

Elder Steve Clarke--21 years old!
In other news, Saturday was my birthday, and I was.... sick! Lame, eh? I can count the times I've been sick out here on one hand, and it just so happened on my birthday! I had a pretty bad headache and runny nose and stuff - '`m already gettin' over it though. Yesterday, we had two bday cakes! One from Hermanas Hanson and Lesher - they are great. Also, for my birthday, you won't believe what I got....... a.... KISS! Haha!! No but for real, someone tried to kiss me down at the parades. It's supposedly an investigator? Ya.... we're looking for new ones. She didn't get me though - I pulled away in time. It just so happens that November 9th is the same day as the independence of the province of Veraguas, where we're serving! So everyone celebrated my birthday with parades and such :)

In other news, we went on divisions this week! I stayed here in the area with Elder Arenas - my zone leader. He`s cool - from Argentina. Cool guy (I think he got me sick though... ha.).
Independence of the Province of Veraguas Parade
Also, how I mentioned Ether earlier, I just finished Ether this morning! I will probly finish the BOM again in the next few days. A couple nights ago, Elder Teichert and I were sharing spiritual experiences and conversion stories and stuff, and I realized just how intregal the BOM has been in my true conversion. I realized I've come to LOVE it out here in the mish.   I've read it so much (and I think it's so much better in spanish - I bought a hard-back spanish copy to bring home just to have.). Above all, I think if I ever have doubts or anything about the church, the BOM is the firm foundation I can always lean on - I KNOW it's true. It is the truest, and most marvelous book that's out there! And I know it was brought to light by divine revelation! And our church, practically being the only one who claims to believe in the book, must be the true church. Anyone can indulge himself in that book and know what I'm talking about.

Lastly, we are taking a branch temple trip this weekend! It'll be Elder Teichert`s first time here in Panama, and most importantly, Hno. Acosta and at least one of his sons, Miguel, will be coming with us!! I cannot WAIT for them to experience The Spirit you can feel just by being on the outside.The 3 sons are progressing quite well, and we're looking for more and more news siempre.

Allright well I think I've written enough for today - to make up for how little I wrote last week. I love you all so much and I love being a missionary! I gotta aprovechar every last moment!
Much love,
Elder Clarke

P.S.... Grandma y Grandpa, and Grandma Carol, thanks for the birthday money! Also, Adam, thanks for the picture of a hammock, and Scotty, thanks for the bday card :) I have the best family.

Monday, November 4, 2013


Man - this week. What a week. Last night when we went to eat dinner, we had been fasting and I was just DEAD from the week. I haven`t been so worn out in a long time. After we broke our fast and ate a good dinner, I just wanted to curl up in a ball, put my sweatshirt on, and go to sleep. Man this week was a hard week of work.

Panama Flag Day Parade
Well I really don`t have a whole lot of time these days on the compu.... I figure if I`m gonna see you all so soon I`ll just talk to you in person? That's why my letters are getting shorter I think. But truly, we had an awesome awesome week. I've REALLY gotta keep focused though. I just want baptisms so bad. I wanna finish with some baptisms with the Acosta family so bad. Pray for us tomorrow - we're going to teach them about marriage. Hope they accept to get married - apparently they've not wanted to before. This week we did a service project, celebrated Halloween by dressing up as missionaries (I tried sending fotos but it's not working today), and TODAY is FLAG DAY AND Elder Teichert`s B-DAY!!! So we're having a great time. Totally loving life, but just really wanting to work harder and have success here in Santiago.

Flag Day Celebration in Santiago
I'm pleased to hear that among Dad`s never-ending list of talents, he didn't lose one game as flag football coach. Man I love Dad. Can't wait to talk to him. I love all you guys!!! And thank you mom - that package was so so nice. THANK YOU - MUCHAS MUCHAS GRACIAS POR the magazines, rings, oil vials, byu mens cd, and everything else. My VERY VERY FAVORITE was the photo album. I look at it every day!! It nearly made me cry when I opened up to the back page and saw you and Dad smiling back at me :) I can't wait to visit Carmen and give her the necklace. Also Elder Paskett said he`s gonna stop by our house sometime this week and visit you for me :) Sorry I'm lame and am not writing more.  I'm busy ordering garments and stuff. Have a great week!!

-Elder Clarke

Flag Day Celebration in Santiago