Monday, December 31, 2012

Feliz navidad :)

Bueno, this week was wonderful. Ya know why? Cuz I talked with all of you guys!!!
 
I loved talking with you guys Christmas Eve. All of you make me so happy. Everyone in our family is just so cool. Man. Grandpa, Grandma, Krissy, and Kory too. It was so good to talk to everyone. I`m glad you liked your presents too. Mom, I`m gonna try to find another nativity when I go back to the city.
 

Well my Christmas was wonderful. I loved my package so much - I opened it at midnight, according to panamanian tradition :) The tie and ´Stand a little taller´ were among my favorites. Thank you so much!! Christmas Day, we passed the whole day with members - no one wants to hear the missionaries on Christmas Day. We also wore santa hats all day :) My Christmas Eve was sweet too - besides talking to you guys, we had district meeting, and spent the evening with the Quiros family - they give us lunch. They called Pte. Ward to see if we could stay at their house with them till midnight to celebrate Christmas panamanian style, and Pte. gave us permission!! So cool. So me, y elderes Aguirre, Kniff, y Carrillo had a memorable Christmas Eve.

I just wanted to mention that this Christmas season what we`ve been doing a lot lately in lessons is sharing Luke 2 - I got the idea from Grandpa - that`s what we always do as a family Christmas eve! It`s been really successful, and I never realized how many lessons can be applied in Luke 2. Almost every lesson we`ve ended up talking about something different.

Ok, because I didn`t write last week, I should probly introduce my new companion. Elder Aguirre from Equador! I am training for the second time. He is the bomb. Probly one of the best prepared missionaries I`ve seen out here. I`ve been so blessed to train great missionaries filled with The Spirit and animo. I have much to learn from him and we have got some big goals to accomplish in our time together.

Some happenings this week. We had interviews with Pte. on Saturday - they were great. He is doing somethin really cool - asking all the missionaries for their favorite scripture and writing it in his triple. When he asked me for mine, I gave him D&C 130:20-21. Also during interviews, Hermana Ward broke some breaking news: because of all the new missionaries worldwide, and also the huge increase of missionaries in our mission, the departure dates have all been changed - set back or set forward. Lucky for me, my date got set back! I`ll have the blessing of serving almost 25 months! I`ll come home in early December. December 7 or something like that. Lastly, Mom, I must tell you. Hermana ward made................ peanut butter chocolate rice krispies. WHA?! It sent me into a whole other world. They tasted exactly like yours!!!! It reallllly made me miss home for a few moments.

Ok, great news with investigators! We`ve got an entire family of 5 investigating. La familia Sotto. Dang. We had the most spiritual restoration lesson with them. The dad at the end of the lesson wanted to read the Book of Mormon, and he said he has lots of questions for next time. The kids are sweeet and all wanna get baptized. Eric, age 20, Anajansi, age 17, and Daira, age 14. The mom is blind. Can you say cool? If we get dad on board, this family will soon be eternal (Give it a couple years with temple sealing.) This is probly my best full-family I`ve ever taught in the mission.

Well, I`m gonna wrap up but I wanna say a couple scriptures I loved this week: 2 Nefi 9, and 3 Nefi 18:32. I hope you all have a happy new year - tonight we are staying the night in Kniff`s and Carrillo`s house. 2013!!!!! Wow! I was born in 1992! Time is flying!

Love you all,

Elder Clarke

P.S.....Dave, I`m gonna tell you the same thing I told you last year: Kiss someone at midnight!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Elder Clarke's Christmas!

This post is being written by Elder Clarke's Mom--Sister Clarke.  The only email we got from Elder Clarke last Monday, December 24th was a few words to set up our skype.  We ended up skyping on Christmas Eve and it was SO WONDERFUL to talk to him and see him!  He looks and sounds GREAT!!!  He said repeatedly how much he LOVES being a missionary!  He seemed very happy.  He did send a picture of his new companion, Elder Augirre, who is from Equador.  He and his companion were spending Christmas Eve with another set of missionaries who serve in their same town along with Ward family who feeds them everyday.  Elder Clarke told us that the Christmas tradition in Panama is to stay up until midnight on Christmas Eve and then to immediately open gifts, and that people light fireworks and the big celebration starts at midnight.  His mission president gave the 4 elders permission to stay with the members at their home until midnight and then to celebrate with them for a little while before going back to their house.  Since the other missionaries live further away, they were going to spend the night at Elder Clarke's house with him and his companion.

Here is a picture we took of Elder Clarke while we were skyping with him on Christmas Eve:

I asked each person in our family to write down 3 things they learned this past year to include in our family Christmas letter.  This is what Elder Clarke sent to me to share in our letter:

1.  I`ve seen miracles on a daily/weekly basis, and I know God`s hand has played a part in it. I have also arrived to truly comprehend the principle of faith. Faith can truly work miracles. It`s a divine power we can use, given from our Heavenly Father. Faith = power.
2.  I have come to consider and appreciate my family - especially my parents - as one of my greatest blessings in this life.
3.  I`m currently working on developing true Christ-like love for everyone, and being more humble.   I have loved and learned from every one of my companions. Elder Roger Whitcomb and Elder Anderson Rich have especially made a big impact on me and are heroes of mine.
 
Foods I`ve grown to love: Chiceme, patacones, piña panameña, maracuyà, guanabana, avena, and ojaldres. :)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Feliz navidad.... prospero año y felicidad.

Bueno pues.

This week has been so great. I love being a missionary. This week was FILLED with service. We didn`t spend one morning in the house. We went and served or did something every single morning. So sweet (except for the downside that we didn`t get to study too much). The gran mayoría of our service projects included PAINTING. An awesome Christmas tradicion panamanians have that I really love is that everyone paints their house once a year at Christmastime. Isn`t that awesome?? I love it - so we helped a lot of people paint their houses. We have one more painting project left tomorrow and then maybe I`m thinking we`ll take up the tradicion ourselves and paint our own house! Tal vez Christmas Eve. The other great service project we did a few days ago was go help an old man member in the branch clean up his yard - cut his grass, yardwork, etc. (Ya don`t worry there`s no sign of snow anytime soon). This guy lives like 45 - 50 minutes away from the chapel and he`s made the trip every Sunday in bus or on foot for the past 20 years!!! He is so dang cool. I sported his sombrero while working. Short experience with the service I`d like to share: so for some time I was assigned to cut down all the weeds in his yard with a machete.... (yes, my new favorite yard work tool of choice). I just started hacking away, and I was loving every second! Then, it occurred to me what I was really doing. Using a machete to cut down weeds....... in Panamà. I was in Panamà!! Using a machete instead of a lawnmower! I was doing the kind of thing that I`d dreamed of doing on my mission my whole life. It then occurred to me that I was living the dream. I was so so very grateful in that moment to be able to be a missionary. To express my joy, I started singing out loud "I hope they call me on a mission" while hacking away with the machete. It brought back a lifetime worth of dreaming about my mission. Once again - I love being a missionary.

So apart from the service-filled mornings, I`ve had some great experiences this week. I`d also like to say I received much personal revelation and answers to prayers. The Lord has helped me quite a lot this week. I wanna tell ya all real quick about a great lesson we had this week with Agustin. He is the father of a family we are trying to help, and he was a missionary for a different church in his youth. He is an AWESOME man, and his family is really great too. Everytime I go there I just see them as a member family. Pray for the Rodriguez family if you can. Anyway, in this lesson we taught The Restoration. I loved it - the high point of the lesson was when we quoted The First Vision and bore testimony. I totally felt The Spirit working through me as I testified. And The Spirit was felt so strong!!! It made an impact on Agustin too, and he said he`s gonna pray about the message of The Restoration. We`ll see what happens :)

Allright well I`m wrappin` up here but two things I wanted to share from personal study this week. 1) Luke 6:26 made an impact on me this week and helped me realize that it doesn`t matter whether or not people talk "good" of you, but rather that you do the right thing. and also 2) a quote that I REALLY liked this week in my quote book. "We will change the world. For the better. For this journey to great heights isn`t any ordinary journey, any more than was Sariah`s. Ours is a quest to change ourselves, to become even truer disciples of our Lord and Savior. We will lift our eyes to the mountains and move ceaselessly toward exaltation." - Elaine L. Jack.

Ok, last thing. GREAT story. So last Sunday, a gringo couple visited our branch for Sunday meetings. Seeing as this never happens, I went over and asked them what they were doing here. They are an elderly couple from St. George, Utah, and came here to Panamà on a vacation. (something I`d love to do someday with my elderly wife) Anyway, after talking un ratito with them, they told me they are currently preparing to go serve a mission. When I asked them where they were going.... you`ll never believe what they told me? The BULGARIA mission!!!! I then proceeded to tell them that my very best friend was currently serving there, and I wrote down my name so that they could tell Matt hi for me. Isn`t that sweet?!? One in a million chance. The mormon world is a small one.

Well, that is all for the week. I am SOOOO excited to talk to you guys this weekend. I`d love to use Skype again if we can. My preference, pues. I am also willing to call on Christmas Eve instead if it would be more convenient for everyone. I think Christmas Eve might be easier for me to locate a computer too. But we will see. I get really excited thinking that I`ll be home next Christmas. Have a wonderful week, everyone. Que pasen una Navidad increìble y inolvidable. :)

-Elder Steve Clarke

Monday, December 10, 2012

Christmas is coming!

Bueno,
 
This week has been kind of a difficult one. I don`t really know why. But at the same time, I am learning mucho. The great thing I have to report this week is that we had 3 people in church yesterday! Hermana Edelsy, Carlos, and Abdianis. I was sad that Abdianis` mom - Lina, didn`t come. We have seen miracles with her this week, and it was so sad to not see it end in her first church attendance.

So while we`re talking about her, cool story to tell. At the beginning of the week, we asked Lina to start praying for an answer to when and if she should get baptized. When we went back, she began to tell us about how she had had dreams that week about us! After she explained what she`s been feeling and such, we talked and helped her know that those dreams she had had about us were an answer from God! Telling her that she should yes, indeed, get baptized. She seems fixed on the idea, but now we just have to help her get married, come to church, and complete with the commandments. What really matters is we have the goal in view. It really strengthened my testimony that God really will answer our prayers. I feel that He has really prepared Lina and her daughter. Meanwhile, Edelsy hasn`t missed an activity in two weeks! She is a single mother of two young boys, and we want to help them so much! We are really close to putting a fecha baptismal with her.

I don`t really have a ton more to report. I am working on my personal reading goals of reading Preach My Gospel, and the Bible. Just started Luke this morning, and there couldn`t be a better time to read about the birth of The Savior. I must say I am getting excited for Christmas, and loving my Christmas music - thanks so much. I`ll let you know when I get my package - I still haven`t recieved it. I don`t think I`m gonna get it before Christmas, because they gave out all the packages at the Christmas zone conference and mine wasn`t there! So we will see. Speaking of the zone conference though, it was SUPER sweet to step foot back in Chorrera. I loved it.

I feel bad that I don`t have much more to say.... ha. It`s been a melo week. Changes are the 20th of this month - no one knows if Elder Castejòn will stay another change with me or if I will recieve a new companion. I`m glad that you are all doing so well - Mom, congrats on finishing the semester :) Take a well-deserved break. Well my time is up......... Hope you all have a wonderful week! And be safe. Love you!

-Elder Clarke

Monday, December 3, 2012

Wahoo

Man! Family! How`re we doin`? Listen, because of the problems with the computer last week, I have SO much I want to tell you all about. So much, in fact, that I decided I`m just gonna write briefly about each thing, in list format. Hope that`s ok :)

- So Thanksgiving..... Pte. Ward sent out a mission-wide email for Thanksgiving inviting us all to give a night, and then morning prayer of pure gratitude. He promised us that if we`d do it, we`d have a wonderful day that day. So, I did it, and sure enough, it was a great day! I just felt happy all day! Good ole` Pte. Ward.

- Before I forget I just wanted to say that I got Sis. Garner`s letter in the mail and I loved it! It made me laugh. So, tell her thanks :) (Oh also... Gpa and Gma, I thought I already told you but I also recieved my birthday letter recently - a couple weeks ago - I loved it! Thank you so much... although I always feel very spoiled when I recieve your letters.)

- Since arriving in Penonomè... we`ve taken up some AWESOME service projects. Like, really. Two weeks ago I cut down a full tree trunk with a machete, and then last week we showed up to a less actives house ready to work, and she taught us how to mow her lawn with a machete.... yep, lawnmowers practically don`t exist here. After the two machete projects, I had some ugly blisters, but they`ve all healed up now. So don`t worry... now when I get home, I can show you all how to cut the grass with a machete :)
 
- We`ve found some awesome new families. In total, we`ve got about 12-13 investigators (baptism prospects) listening to us right now. That is a TON! I am so pleased :) Also, Elder Castejòn is the bomb.

- Last week, we did divisions with the assistants! Elder Echeverría and Elder Bentz. It was awesome.

- Also last week, I consumed 1586 calories in one McDonald`s lunch. Kinda crazy....we went and celebrated for the mini-missionary`s (Elder Plummer) birthday.

- Lastly, I just wanted to share something super cool that I learned in Preach My Gospel this past week. Apostasy is an individual thing. Apostasy takes place when one disobeys/chooses to not follow what God has asked of us. It pushes them farther away from God. Apostasy is taking place on a personal scale all around us, everyday, all the time. However, the thing that causes a worldly or wide-spread apostasy is when the individual number of "apostasies" becomes so large that it "overtakes", so to speak, those who want to follow God and His teachings. It is in that moment that God decides to withdraw His authority and power from the earth, and the apostasy is made complete. Daaang. Lesson learned: don`t be one of those that brings the world closer to a wide-spread apostasy.

Well, that is the past two weeks in very little words. I just want you all to know that I am loving my time out here. In the past couple weeks especially, I have been feeling so much joy! Every day! Just happy to be alive. Just loving what I`m doing. I`m so blessed. Anyway, I love you all a LOT and think about you more now that Christmas is coming around :) May you all have a great week and be safe!

Love,

Elder Clarke

P.S.. . . Tomorrow is the Christmas multi-zone conference... I couldn`t be more excited. Wanna know why? The conference is being held in CHORRERA! Whooohoo! First time back stepping foot in that place since I left. I`m pumped. :) Love you all!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Bueno!

Bueno family,

because of a SUPER ghetto internet cafe...... I wasn´t able to do as much on my internet time this week.... the computer was just waaaay too slow. But I did answer your questions Mom! :) Yesterday I had another baptism... Manuel! He´s so awesome. He´s 22. I wasn´t able to get to know him as well cuz I got here while he was being taught, but after his bap. interview he suggested that I baptize him! Such an honor. Super cool dude. I´m sending a few pictures. I had a great thanksgiving.... just working. Haha. Nothing special happened here :) I love you all and hope you all have a wonderful week!
 
Love,

Elder Steve Clarke

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

¡Penonomè!

 ¡Hola familia!
How`re we all doin this week? I sure have missed you guys. This week has been great. Week of cambios, and lots of changes. First of all, I`ve been transferred to Penonomè, Chitrè! I love it so much. It`s in the country.... far far away from the city. Like 3 hours away. Ahhh... so much better. Here, the people are much more friendly and I can feel The Spirit more! In the four days I`ve been here, it hasn`t been hot once! It`s always a cool breeze - think summertime after the sun has gone down. I love it - I think I wanna stay here for a long time.

I sent a picture of my new comp. and I - Elder Castejòn. He is from Tegulcigalpa, Honduras. Sweeeeet :) He is an awesome elder and I`m excited to help him. Also, in the ward there is two more elders - Elder Kniff from San Diego, CA, and (Elder) Plummer - a panamanian serving a mini-mission. He`s an 18 year old that just recently put his papers in and is out here in Penonome with us for about a month preparing to serve his mission while he awaits his call. This ward has got SO much potential. Man. We gotta get this place transformed for long term. The branch president (yes, it`s a branch) was called about 4 months ago and is ready to work! We`ve got some solid members. I`ve recieved mas references here in 4 days than I did in almost 5 months in the city. Really, people here out in the country are so much better. I finally understand why Dad wants to move to the country. Out here, we`re closer to God I think.

So wanna here something sweet?? We`ve got a baptism this Sunday!! Manuel - Elder Castejòn and the other elder who was here have been preparing him for awhile. He is a 22 year old and was a reference from a member. I love our members :) I can`t wait to spend Christmas with them. Also, the house we live in we just recently moved there. So, we are teaching our neighbor - a 19 year old girl - Isabel. She is way intelligent and is studying english in the university. She speaks pretty fluently. She came to church yesterday along with Manuel. Yessss :)

Lastly, we contacted a family this past week and they were way positive! They didn`t come to church, but we can do some work there. I see SUCCESS here in the future. I love being a missionary more than ever. I was kinda sad on my one year anniversary - this year has gone by so dang fast. It seems like months ago I was in the MTC. Mom, I`ve totally taking your challenge by the horns. I still have a TON to learn. I plan on learning more this next year than in the past year.

Bueno, I love you all and hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving! I miss you guys. Eat a bunch of turkey for me, eh? :) The dark turkey - that`s always the part I liked.

Love, Elder Clarke

P.S... I miss Elder Stegelmeier. He sure is gonna be a great elder.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Whoo!

Man. I just love reading your guy´s emails. Mom´s and Grandma´s especially - you two are the nicest women. (although Dad´s email kind of depressed me and made me want to stay here and live in Panamá forever...ha). Please tell Grandma that I haven´t recieved any letter yet but I should soon :)
So this week was kinda crazy but it finished just the way it should - with a baptism. :) Ariel was baptized, and he chose E´ Stegelmeier to do the ordinance!! I was so happy. One of my goals for this change was to get my comp. in the water to baptize someone in his first change, just like I did. Cha-ching. Now we´re working on getting Ariel involved in the ward activities and getting to know the bishop better so that he can leave on a mission in a couple years!! That would be so amazing.

Allright so you all wanna know about my birthday.... man. I hate to break it to you all, but it was a pretty normal day. I will confess right now that I opened my birthday package a week early..... hahaha. Man, family!!!! I LOVED loved loved my package!!! I feel so dang spoiled. Way too spoiled. The Nutella, the reeses, THE IPOD?!? Wow. I don´t deserve anything for the rest of my mission. That package was life changing. Thank you all so so very much :) I now jam out to Josh Groban and listen to one of my favorite songs - ¨Thankful¨. I don´t know if you remember but we all used to sing that song in the car every year at Christmas time. I love that song so much and it reminds me so much of you guys!! Thank you guys so so much. Really. Mom, I ask your forgiveness for opening the package early cuz I know how much of a to-the-day person you are, but I will say that I saved the Reeses Puffs for my birthday breakfast to keep the tradition going. Elder Stegelmeier and I enjoyed them together. Thank you so much :)
 
So I was saying last week how I finished the Book of Mormon. (Mom, to answer your question, yes I read it in spanish). I have now started over and read one chapter a day in the BOM, while now focusing the bulk of my time on the New Testament. Fetch. I couldn´t be loving it more. Just reading about the daily happenings in Jesus Christ´s life. I´m only in chapter 14 of Matthew, and my testimony has already grown of Him so much. My favorite is when he reprends all the fariseos. He ran that town in Jeruselem. He didn´t let anyone mess around with Him or His ministry. Also, his discourse from The Sermon on the Mount (also found in 3rd Nefi) is quite possibly some of my favorite scripture ever. Having just recently read it in 3rd Nefi, and now again in Matthew, it´s just wonderful. Jesus Christ. Wow. My admiration has gone to a whole new level reading about Him in the New Testament.

Well, now that I know that I will for sure be changing areas (I found out today) this week, my main goal is to finish strong here in Juan Díaz and get some good fechas for E´ Stegelmeier for next change. We had an investigator in church yesterday that stayed for all 3 hours!! I think that´ll be the next top prospect. I´m leaving Juan Díaz in much better condition than the way I found it (in large part due to the help of Elder Whitcomb), but de todos modos. That´s what the goal is for my next area as well.


Allright well that´s enough for today. I´m excited to get to work in a new area! I will surely miss my son - Elder Stegelmeier. He is such a great companion.
We´ll definately be life-long friends.

You all have a wonderful week! I love you all!

Love, Elder Steve Clarke

P.S..... I got sick yesterday for the first time in the mission! Huge headache and stomach problems. After the baptism, we came home and I took an hour long nap. But I am feeling great today :)

Monday, November 5, 2012

LIMA PERU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 My goodness!! LIMA PERU?!? YES!!!!!! Digo, sì!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Dave and I will be speaking spanish together the rest of our lives!!!!!!!!!!!!! Oh I am so pleased. So so pleased. Dave, congratulations. I feel like I have such a connection to Peru all of a sudden. I will tell you that, because Panama is such an international country, there are members here in almost every ward from all over central and south america. And you know what? The peruvians are always so strong and faithful!! Always in the bishoprics here. Their families are always so knit and wonderful. The church is very strong there in Lima. Ah that is fantastic. I am so happy for you. Elder Huallanca will be happy too - I`ll have to tell him at changes :) Who is your mission president? Where`s he from? Dave. Again - CONGRATULATIONS! Now I know for sure I`ll never forget spanish! I`ll have a buddy to chat with forever! We`ll talk behind everyone`s backs and everything.... hahah :) I`m so happy for ya.
So as for me, I had a pretty good week. We worked super super hard. Didn`t have much success finding new investigators, and we had a couple of family group nights fall through, but hey - no worries. We`ve got another baptism next week! I have got to dedicate myself to working super hard this week to find some good, positive news. I am learning that your attitude makes all the difference in the work. If you have a faithless attitude, The Lord will not give you people to help - because He knows you won`t be much of a help to them with a faithless attitude! Sometimes in the mission, it`s difficult to maintain that Spirit 24/7, every day, every hour. I`m not super human! But if we continue to humble ourselves daily, and ask for help, The Lord can and will help us do super human things. I feel like the mission is stretching me so much right now. But I love being stretched - because that`s when I grow!
So about our baptism - Ariel - he is super sweet. He`s gonna be a priest. Yes. Talk about priesthood help for the ward. He has been progressing right along, and will be baptized on the 11th after church. He asks a lot of questions, but knows a ton because of it. In church yesterday, the teacher said he knew everything!! Yes :) His parents are now beginning to show interest, and I know that will be a full-member family someday. It will be huge if we can get them to come to their son`s baptism next week. His grandma - Emilvia - is doing awesome as ever. Such a good example for the family.

 



Ah! I`m totally out of time. I wanted to talk about the BOM - I finished it this week. BUt I`ll save it for another week. I love you guys so much and I`m so excited for Dave!!!! I hope you enjoyed the pics. Love you!

-Elder Clarke

Monday, October 29, 2012

Panama is becoming my home.

Ah man. If you guys only knew how much I love reading your emails. It just makes me so grateful for all the blessings The Lord is blessing our family with. It´s awesome to think that pretty soon our family will recieve twice the blessings!! DAVE! I´m so dang pumped. You ready for my guess? Japan. I really feel like you´re gonna be a 12 weeker in the MTC - if it´s not japanese or chinese, it´ll be some other hard language. You´ve got brains for a reason, my man. Anyway. I can´t wait to find out this upcoming week.

So anyway. I´ve just gotta tell you guys first thing. Panama is becoming my home. Last night we were out visiting with a member in the cool night, and it just felt homey!! It reminded me so much of a peaceful sunday night walk back in American Fork. Except the members like my friends and family. The neighborhood just like my neighborhood at home. Man. It was weird but it just helped me realize how much I am loving this place! Being a missionary is the best.


Allright so best news of the week - we had a baptism Saturday!! Síria. The other fecha - Ariel - we had him postponed till the 10th of November cuz he wasn´t quite ready... and the 3rd of November - this upcoming Saturday - is indepence day here in Panama. Their celebrations are crazy too - just like the 4th of July. Sooo.... we figured no one would really show up to a baptism that day. Haha. But anway... the baptism of Síria was awesome!!! Elder Stegelmeier´s first in the mission :) Him and I sang ¨I like to look for rainbows¨ (Cuando me bautice) for the special musical number, and Síria chose me to baptize her. It was a great service.
Also. I don´t know if you guys heard or anything...... but recently there has been a lot of issues here in Panama. The government had temporarily passed a law to sell of all the extra land of the panama canal.... and the people went bonkers. Protests, food hoards, robbings, etc, and even a couple deaths broke out throughout the country, but mostly just in Colon - the city closest to the canal. Anyway. as a result, the missionaries in Colon were pulled out for safety, and dispersed throughout the rest of the mission. We were lucky enough to have 2 more Elders accompany us this week in the house as a result!! Elder Olivas and Elder Mendez - from El Salvador and Honduras, respectively. We did splits and stuff and it was really awesome. We also had a huge noche de hogar (multi-family night) this past Thursday and it was a huge success. The work is going wonderfully here, and I´m focusing in on trying to find some new investigators for Elder Stegelmeier and his new comp.... I think I´m leaving the area the 14th of November. But knock on wood.... who knows... maybe I´ll stay! That´s pretty much all the news I have for you guys. Oh! Actually... I got my birthday package :) I sent a pic of it waiting in my closet..... haha. Super excited. Lastly, I would just like to say that I love my bishop. Obispo Sanjur. What a man.

Allright well you guys have a wonderful week! I love you all and can´t wait to hear about Dave´s mission call!!! Chou!

-Elder Clarke

Monday, October 22, 2012

Convertido al Senor

Man. I love Lunes. I have the best family ever!! I hope everyone is doing well. Dave, I can`t BELIEVE your getting your mission call already!! Man! It will change your life. One word of advice: before you head out, talk to Dad about his mission. That is one thing I most definately would have done before coming out. Such a mistake on my part.
Allright, well this week I have grown quite a lot I feel like. Lots of things that will help me in the future. Numero uno? All the worldly and godly things in this world and in heaven are too astoundingly big to comprehend. I say this because I spent a couple days trying to...... haha. The conclusion I came too is something I`ve always heard. Do your very best - because there is no way you can come close to comprehending the things of God (think of If you could Hie to Kolob). We are all in debt to Him. We are His children, and as such, he knows everything we can and can`t do. All he asks of us is to do our very best - obey him and try our hardest to truly become converted to Him. Converted. That`s a hefty goal, but it`s what it`s what I`ve got in my sights. Truly converted to The Lord. I heard a talk by David A. Bednar about this once in the MTC, and at the time didn`t comprehend it. But I was enlightened a bit more yesterday in our stake conference of Panamà City. (By the way, our stake conference was incredible - I`ve never seen so many LDS members in Panama in one place in my life.) Anyway, what I was saying: a testimony alone will not save us. A testimony can be shaken, forgotten, and eventually can leave you if you do not attend to it. However, what will never leave you is a true conversion to THE LORD. Jesus Christ. It is something hard to obtain - it might take me awhile. But ya. They don`t say Christ is the center of the gospel for nothing. He is the way. That was the biggest lesson I learned this week.

Real quick, I just wanna say I have found my favorite person in Panama I think. Her name is Ruby, and she is a 75 year old grandmother in our ward. She helped me realize this whole revelation of conversion. She is truly converted. I am going to take a picture of her and send it to you guys. I love Hermana Ruby.

Ok, lastly, cool finding this week: we were contacting yesterday and ran into an awesome menos activo. Paula is her name, and she has such a sweet 12 year old named Luis Antonio who is not baptized. Our plan is to activate the mom and baptize the kid. Yesssss. Meanwhile, our other two fechas are progressing very well. Sìria should be baptized this Saturday. Ariel is doing awesome. Tomorrow is our multi zone conference. I love it. I hope you all have a wonderful week. Adam`s socks are awesome. And... is Scotty really as tall as Krissy says he is? That`s crazy. Love you all!

-Elder Clarke

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Bueno, pues.

Bueno pues. That´s usually how I start all my journal entries. It just means like ¨well.....¨ Haha.

So this week has been crazy. Kind of a hard week, won´t lie. But, really, I have reason to be happy about that. Trials help us grow - we all know that. One thing that happened for the first time in my mission this week was we were actually thrown out of a house..... yikes. Kind of scary. We were having a wonderful spiritual lesson with a middle-aged lady, when about half-way through, her old grouchy ¨proclaimed devout catholic¨ husband came out of another room and demanded, shouted at us that we leave his house that instant. Man.... so sad. It really just made me sad. But at the same time, The Lord prepares His people in their own time and place. We saw that guy a few days later in the street and went up to him, shook his hand, asked him how he was doing. Ya know. You gotta treat em how Christ would´ve.


Allright so Elder Stegelmeier is awesome. He is teaching me so much. I love how much you can learn from every companion. He is fresh out of the MTC and has The Spirit with him so strong!! I love having him as my comp to bring back some of that MTC goodness. :) We have put lots of baptismal fechas - and a lot have fallen. But, we will continue to work until The Lord puts people in our path. One thing that is so obvious here is that it´s The Lord´s work - not ours. We just do what we´re supposed to, and The Lord blesses us - with or without baptisms. It´s all about what The Lord needs or wants in that moment. I´m so lucky to be a missionary. Our two strongest bap. prospects right now are Ariel - a 16 year old grandson of Emílvia, and Síria - a 14 year old niece of a less-active member. Looking for more. :)

Well I really didn´t have too much time to write today, and I apologize, but I´m doing well, learning and growing. I loved so much and appreciate the letters from Mom, Dad, and Dave this week. Dave, I am seriously so excited for you. Wow. Sorry about your tooth problem though. Mom, I´m glad Elder Whitcomb was able to speak with you. He is the best. May you all have a wonderful week! Love you all.

-Elder Clarke

P.S.... I´m sending a pic of one of my recent trials..... my first pair of shoes is officially wasted. Don´t worry about sending me any more pairs though - I´ve still got two more to bust up :)
 

P.S.S..... Another fun trial this week: hardly any water in the house the past 4 days. The running water hardly runs... if you get what I´m saying.

look for more pictures added to the last 2 posts below!

Monday, October 8, 2012

I´ve never felt more joy. 10/8/12

Family,

I have so many feelings going on right now and so many things to say - I can honestly say I don´t think I´ve ever had a more joyful time in my life. True joy. Not temporary pleasure, no, but pure joy. More than anything, however, before I start, I just want you all to know that I love each and every one of you so so much.

AHHHHHHH. Ok. So I cannot write anything else before saying that I AM SOOOOOOO HAPPPY and EXCITED FOR DAVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WoW!!!!! My goodness. When Pres. Monson got up and started talking about missionaries, like Mom, I already knew what was coming. All of us missionaries all felt it coming, and we were hanging on to every word, like it was the last thing the Prophet would ever say. Maaaaaaaaaaannn. When he finally said it, the first thought turned to Dave. I wanted to cry!! I couldn´t even say anything. My heart was so full of joy. Dave, I truly am so excited for you to join the ranks as a representative of Jesus Christ. It´s not easy - but worth every minute. I´m also so proud to have a brother - such an example to me - that was so willing to answer the call right away. I love you, and I know The Lord will bless you in your mission. I can´t wait to hear where you´re going!!!!!!! Ah!!!!!!!!! (p.s... if you came to Panamá, I wouldn´t be disappointed. And if you don´t come to Panamá - sorry - it´s the best mission in the world :))

Allright so this week has been wild. But like I said before - probably one of the most truly joy-filled weeks of my whole life. So I waved goodbye to Elder Whitcomb on Wednesday. He´s now at home in Boston with his family. Congrats to him - he baptized his 8 year old brother this past Saturday. How cool.

So Tuesday morning I got some suprising news in a phone call from my ZL´s - they informed me that I´d be training this change. Crazy right?! So Wednesday morning, I was introduced to my new companion - Elder Stegelmeier - fresh out of the MTC. He´s awesome! He´s from Dayton, Idaho, and was a potato farmer. AKA..... super hard worker. I LOVE it! He has already taught me alot. We are gonna see miracles together. I only hope I can teach him as much as Elder Rich taught me. But more importantly, I hope I can teach him what God needs him to learn.

Anyway, back to conference. I LOVED it!! Wow! Conference just keeps getting better and better. With the big announcement and all, and even all the talks afterward as well, it suddenly became so much more apparent and inspiring to me at the rapid pace the Church is now moving. This IS the last days. There are battles to fight against Satan. There are people to inform, souls to save. Satan has made great strides in the past little bit, and now we see the Church making their move. The reality of the fight against Satan in the last days is really starting to roll. I love it and I´m so grateful and blessed to be alive at this time. I will fight until the end for truth. I will step up to the challenge. And there are so many more who are willing as well. I know we will not lose this battle.

Ok, so conference. My favorite session was by far the Sunday afternoon session. I´m sorry, but I just could not decide on a favorite. Every single talk in the last session was my favorite. Ruth was able to come, and I accompanied her in the spanish session Sunday morning. So awesome.

Anyway, I have SOOO much more to write, but I´m sadly out of time. I love you all and hope you all have an awesome week.

-Elder Clarke

Goal completed! from 10-1-12

Family!!!
 
Man, I´ve been missing you guys. First and most important, I want to congratulate ADAM!! Yes!! Your baptism on Saturday!! Way to go dude :) It is a saving ordinance, and one of the most important things we can do in this life. You have now taken upon you the promise to be a witness of Jesus Christ at all times, in all things, and in all places - as well as keep his commandments and honor Him through your obedience to His commandments. Maybe you could read Mosiah 18 with Mom or Dad one of these days, and read about those who made those same promises at the waters of Mormon with Alma! Congratulations dude :) I can now say that everyone is my family is a member of the church! That makes me so so happy. Nothing makes me happier! Again Adam, congrats. Your party looked super sweet too. Isn´t Mom amazing? Not to mention Dave is The Man. The only thing is um... where are the pictures of the baptism? The white clothing? The font? :(
 
Well, I am pleased to say I had quite a great weekend too. Elder Whitcomb and I completed our goal for the change of 4 baptisms!! Just like Adam - Sophía, Ruth, Emílvia, and Rachel made the covenant of baptism. So awesome. We held the service at 8 AM before the sacrament meeting - that way they could be confirmed as well, instead of waiting two weeks because of General Conference (I´ll get back to that). So Ruth asked me to baptize her, and we also had E´ Whitcomb, Bishop Sanjur, and Rachel´s big brother baptize. I helped make the program too. It was just a great thing to see our goals realized after so much hard work and hard times. I was hungry for a baptism!! I hadn´t had one in a really long time. I´m just grateful The Lord was confident enough to leave 4 of His children in our hands to teach and help to perform their saving ordinance. Unfortunately, I wasn´t able to get a picture of Rachel in her white gown, but perhaps I´ll send a pic on another occasion.

 
So I´m actually really really sad to say goodbye to Elder Whitcomb - he has taught me so much, and we´ve grown so much together. I am really happy for him though - he will be landing in Boston to see his family this upcoming Thursday. I love that guy. I´m looking forward to chilling with him at BYU. Double dates and such. Don´t worry Mom, I´ll make sure to give him our phone number. :) I will say though, with changes this Wednesday, I am super excited to get a new comp. - I am fully expecting another latin comp. - which will be awesome for my Spanish. President has also told me he´s bringing in two more elders into the Ward to help us with our gargantuin area. So I´ll be showing them around the area a little bit too. I can smell good things comin´. Haha. Lastly, I just wanna say I'm SUUUUUPER excited for General Conference this weekend. I can hardly wait!! I wish the whole world would watch it - it would do the world a whole lot of good. I´m way excited to get counsel from all the church´s leaders on what I can improve and such. You can bet I´ll be bringing a few questions to the meetings too.
 
Well, I´m gonna end this letter now, but I hope you enjoy the pictures and that you all have a fantastic week.
 
Love, Elder Clarke
 
P.S.... Ah almost forgot! I got my package this week!! I LOVED it! All the reeses and cookies are already long gone. And the socks? Fetch they are nice. Thanks soooo much!! :) Also, someone please tell Bro. Scott Harris I recieved his letter and give him much thanks. I loved it - I keep his coin in my right pocket every day now.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Book of Mormon is the key.

Whoo!

Hello wonderful family. I sure hope you´re doing great! I am doing awesome. It´s a great day here in Panamá. Nice, rainy, cool morning we had. This week has been a sanctified one, I feel like. I am learning so much :) But hey, before I get goin´ here, let me answer a few urgent questions for Mom :) 1) my favorite P-day in the past little while was when we went bowling!! Here in the city, Albrook Mall is the place for everything - and bowling is the hot thing to do lately. Hah. 2) the craziest food I´ve eaten is called mondongo - it is the insides of a cow. It´s really gross. When members ask me if there is anything they shouldn´t give us, that is the only thing I insist on them not feeding us. Hahah. Lastly, I wanted to tell you that I recieved your letter from August 8th this past week!! It was so nice. I told Elder Whitcomb that he has to give you a hug for me for that letter - it was exactly what I needed and it´s still sitting on the desk by my bed - I´ve read it a couple times. Thanks again :)

So I was reading through my journal this morning to get some ideas of what I should write to you all, and I realized that I learn so much every day! I wish I could write it all - but just know that every day this week has been awesome. Great week of learning. I feel like now, comes the trial of diligence - of putting all these lessons into practice, keeping them a part of my daily routine throughout my whole mission and whole life. Of course it won´t be easy - Satanás is always there buggin us. But I love the challenge.

Allright first I told you that I´d tell you about our temple trip last week with Pte. Ward. It was so good! We went two Friday nights ago with the Rodriguez family and they even brought Aerton - their autistic son. It was special. Elder Whitcomb and I stayed with him just outside the temple grounds while Pte. Ward and Roberto and Heidi went on a walk around the temple and talked about what we do there. He is so amazing. Man - when it was time to leave, Aerton didn´t want to leave - it was so great. He wanted to go into the temple so bad and even tried to walk in a few times! I know it´s because he is a special child of God and could feel the love of his Savior there. The Spirit there we felt - the three of us - was so beautiful. There was hardly any talking - just sitting there, looking at the temple :) The love of God is special. Afterwards, Pte. Ward took my comp. and I to Dairy Queen - haha. He has gotta be the best mission president ever.

This week we´ve seen a lot of our investigators continue to progress - our baptisms are looking more and more secure! Knock on wood. Ruth, Sofía, Emilivia, and Rachel. The only problem there is we are missing men - missing priesthood. We´ve gotta find some men to baptize. Pero no importa, we are changing lives and saving people in the kingdom of God!! How sweet. Isn´t it cool I get to be the tool through which God works to bring people into His kingdom? Best job in the world!

Well, my time is just about up, but I just wanna let you guys know that I love the Book of Mormon. It is the physical evidence of God´s love for us in these latter days!! It was saved by the hand of God up until now to be a guide to us in THESE LATTER DAYS! More than anything else, it helps people to draw closer to Christ and become converted. Since bringing people to Christ is my purpose, I need to make sure I always help them understand the importance of the BOM. I am amazed how after just reading a chapter or two in the morning changes my whole perspective on the day - it just makes me happy. It gives me The Spirit. I know The Book of Mormon is true.

Allright well I hope you guys have a great week and READ THE BOM! Love you all.

-Elder Clarke

P.S...... my comp. and I spoke in church yesterday with the stake president of the Panamá stake. It was so sweet. I spoke about becoming unified as a ward through missionary work.

P.S.S...... I forgot to mention... um.. I think our baptisms now are actually going to be the 30th of September, and not the 29th... :( Adam, I´m so sorry!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Que xopa!

Family! How are we doin´? I am doing great. I have had a wonderful week. Another week of learning and growing - best part of the mission. The rate at which I learn out here is unbelievable. Elder Whitcomb is a great example too.
 

So this week has been a huge testimony builder to me of the concept ¨testimony doesn´t come until after the trial of your faith¨. As you all know, we´ve been working with a TON of people this change - and all have been mas o menos positive. Sometimes they come to church, sometimes no. Sometimes they keep their commitments, sometimes no. And really it had been like that the whole change up until this week when we found 3 people who truly are positive. Committed to learning and finding their own testimony. This week was the last week to find news before the limit of times someone would need to attend church to get baptized would end. So, it was kind of like do-or-die. Anyway, we found Hna. Emelvia last Sunday, who I previously mentioned, who is so dang prepared. This week, we also found a single mother of 4 named Sofía. We were contacting in an apartment complex, and when we got to her house, she told us she had been praying for direction and guidance from God for the past month or so. Well, I guess in that apartment complex soliciting isn´t allowed, and no one like that had ever ever knocked on her door in all the time that she had lived there. Well, when we showed up and told her that we were representitives of Christ, she took us as an answer from God, and has already accepted a fecha! Her mom has since then gotten on board, and we had 3 people at church yesterday! It was such a testimony builder to me that God was just pushing us every week with those so-so investigators to see how hard we would push ourselves to find those he had truly prepared for us to find. If we hadn´t continued to push ourselves though, we wouldn´t have been worthy or prepared to teach those who are truly prepared.

Dang it... I have alot more to write but I just got talkin´ with Elder Rich here.... he´s here visiting in the city. My time is all out! Next week I´ll write about our temple visit with Pte. Ward and my revelation about the BOM. I love you all so much and hope you have a great week!


-Elder Clarke


P.S... yes mom, I miss your haircuts :(

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Whohoo Con Pics


Whoo!! I loved the letters today fam :) You guys are the best. Mom, the pictures were great too! Except dang.... Adam is getting way too big! He´s not a little kid anymore! Adam, I hope I can still throw you around when I get home. But, just so you know, I throw the little panamanian kids around out here (members little kids and such - haha). Glad to hear that Grandpa´s doin´ better, that Dave is liking school, that Utah lost to Utah State, that Scotty is a beast at football, and that Katie is goin crazy with flag twirling. You guys are the best.


Elder Whitcomb

Anyway, as for me, it´s been a great week. Such a great week of learning and growing. Elder Whitcomb and I learn so much together - but mostly he just teaches me. He´s the best missionary I´ve ever known out here. So perdon if I don´t write a ton this week, but it was a great week. Our investigators are coming right along! Some slower, some faster, but they´re all progressing. We´ve set goals with God about the baptisms we want to see this month, and it´s looking like we reap the fruits - only if we continue to work hard. Zariyet, Shelby, the familia Rodriguez, and a new great newbie - Emelivia. Wow - what a gift from God. She was a reference from Balboa and has already gone to church in a different ward more than once! We contacted her yesterday, and set a fecha for the end of the month. What a prepared gift that God has entrusted us with. I am so lucky to be able to teach God´s prepared people. Something great that has been happening recently is The Spirit I´ve been able to feel more in lessons. I have started to study the ¨How to recognize The Spirit¨ chapter in Preach My Gospel and wow, paying dividends. There is nothing funner than teaching a Spirit-guided lesson when you and your companion are both in tune.
Well, I told ya the letter was gonna be short today. I just wanna end with a scripture that I really liked in my personal reading this week - Alma 60:21. This is when Moroni is ripping apart Pacumeni unknowingly, but I love the principle behind it. Do we really think God will free or protect us if we just sit around and do nothing? It is quite the contrario - the adversary will take us as his. We must always remember to do our part if we are expecting God to help us with our daily tasks. What is our part? Reading and praying daily, fullfilling our church calling, and being a witness of Christ at all times - completing with the covenants we have made with The Lord.
 
Allright well that´s it for today. I hope you like the photos :) I love you guys so much!! Be safe.
-Elder Clarke
P.S... sorry the letter is a day late - we went to the temple today!!! Man. When I go home I wanna go every morning.

P.S.S.... Tell grandpa I got his letter - He is the best - such an example to me. Mom, I got your sweet post-card too!! From the Utah Railway! Hope you guys had a fun time out there.

Monday, September 3, 2012

''God is in you''

Family!!! How are you! I love P-day's, just so I can hear what´s goin on with you guys. I´m glad to hear that Grandpa is back home and that everyone got my letters! The trek pictures were super cool too - Dave needs to look into modeling. The Jordans were the perfect touch. I have had such an amazing week - truly a rewarding week to be a missionary. Can´t wait to tell you about it!

           First of all, Mom, Doctor Castillo is one of the best doctors in the whole country - he was educated in the U.S. and recieved his degrees from St. John´s University. He speaks perfect english, and if it makes you feel better, he personally attended to Pres. Ward a few months ago with a big sinus infection. I´m happy to tell you that the antibiotic that he gave me has worked wonderfully - my ear is already back to normal. He did tell me the same thing though - that these types of ear infections have a high probability of happening throughout the rest of my life, and that I need to be really conscious of colds, sicknesses, etc. Thanks for sending the pills - you are so nice. 
           So I´m dying to tell you about so many of the miracles I´ve seen this week - especially Saturday. The hard times in the mission are SO worth it when you get the reward of seeing and being a part of God´s work among His children, seeing The Spirit change people, etc. Definately the biggest lesson/reminder I learned this week was that this is GOD´S work, not ours as missionaries. If we always maintain that train of thought, the work runs so much smoother and stress-free. Sometimes as a missionary, I begin to think that it´s my fault if I´m not having success, and I feel sad and stuff like I´m not a good missionary. However, the reality is that it´s nobody´s fault, rather that God, for whatever reason, maybe just isn´t putting prepared people in our path in that moment. I always have to remember that He is the one in charge. If I will submit to His will humbly and recognize that I am only a servant, only a tool in His hands, things are much better. 
           Allright, so. The Lord has blessed us so much this week - we were able to put 6 fechas, including the completion of 3 families!! The downside? Only one showed up to church. But no worries!! All in The Lord´s time. First of all, I´ll continue telling you guys about Jorge and Shelby who came to church last week. Well, they´ve been having a lot of relationship problems, and it´s been mas o menos ugly as of late. Anyway, Saturday, we go over there, asking God in prayer beforehand for help, and we sit em down real good, and just start to talk like, straight-to-the-point with them. Just about what they are looking for in a marriage, what they want for their kids, etc. The super sweet part is in part of the lesson, I found myself talking uncharacteristicly stern and straight-forward with them, like something that I would´ve never done on my own. I felt myself working, truly, as a mouthpiece for God. The words and ideas just came to me as I talked, and it ended up being exactly what they needed! They looked at each other after we spoke to them and agreed to ¨start over¨, and make sacrifices to put one before the other in their marriage. It was so cool. When we came out of the lesson, Elder Whitcomb and I both knew the lesson was completely guided by The Spirit, and us talking in there was really just us working through The Spirit. Although it seemed a little stern to talk to them in such a manner, I know God knew it was exactly what they needed to hear, and it helped them so much! We continuing to work toward getting them married and baptized. 
           Ok, another cool story that happened the same day. We went to the Rodriguez home to talk to the parents. They have had contact with the church for many, many years, but have never taken the leap of faith to get baptized. They have a very difficult life with their children - they have a daughter that is deaf and a son with Autism. They live close to the church, but it´s very hard for them to go on a regular basis. Well, E. Whitcomb and I taught them a lesson mas o menos about following spiritual impressions, and how to recieve answers to prayers. The coolest part of the lesson was at the end as we were about to say the prayer. I felt The Spirit so so so strong!! That´s another great thing about being out here on the mission - The Spirit you are able to feel on a more frequent basis is great. Before we said the prayer (I knew they felt The Spirit too), Roberto turned to us, and after a bit a thought, said to us sincerely: ¨You guys have God in you. God is in you.¨ Ah!! It was so sweet. To have someone actually tell us that was such a testimony-builder to me. I felt like Ammon - I wanted to boast of my God! Needless to say, they weren´t able to come to church yesterday, but I´ll keep you posted. 
           In other news, Zariyet has decided to get married to Adrian, and they came to church with the whole family! We were even able to have them sit down and talk with the bishop. Sweeeet. Also, we had a super sweet contact Sat. night named Cesar Selva. From Nicaragua. He looks golden - he said when we came to his door it was an answer to his prayer. Can´t wait to go meet with him this week. 
          Well, that´s all I have time for this week, but I want you to know I love you all!! Very much! Have a great week. 

-Elder Clarke

P.S.... guess what?! I´m in the war chapters too!! Alma 55 - around there. All I can say is they need to make a hollywood film of the lamanite/nephite wars. It would be epic. Mom, thanks for your awesome insight on the stratigies used by the armies - I´ll be paying closer attention to that now.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Whoo! Family, I love ya all.

What a crazy week. Last week started off with a scare when I woke up and couldn't hear anything out of my right ear! Again! What the heck right?! I was so so scared I would have to undertake another surgery, be sent home, or something crazy like that... I didn't know what to think! It was a very tough few days for me until I could get into a doctor's appointment here in the city. On Tuesday, I was able to meet with Doctor Castillo, who informed me I just had a very bad ear infection, and it had disabled my eardrum de nuevo! Also, the little ear "tube" they put in my ear in the MTC was coming out. Dr. Castillo took that out too. I am currently taking a big anti-biotic and my ear should be back to normal again in about a week. Gah... thank goodness. Let´s hope I don´t have anymore scares like that.
So, a day later, I recieved my new comp!! I don´t know if you guys remember me mentioning an Elder Whitcomb (picture is attached) a few weeks back?? My old zone leader from Boston, who´s friends with the Parson family? Well, HE is my new companion. Am I the luckiest elder in the world or what?? Elder Whitcomb is going home October 4 - he currently has 23 months in the mission. This will be the second elder I´ve sent home in such a fashion, if you remember Elder Hill back in Chorrera. I feel so blessed to be able to learn from him (as well as I learned from Elder Hill). It is also a bit odd that thus far, I´ve had more gringo comps. than latins - that hardly ever happens. I should be expecting many more latin comps in the future. Elder Whitcomb is known by many as the best missionary in the whole mission. He previously shared a house with the assistants in the heart of the city, and is coming from one of the strongest wards in all of the country. The Lord has blessed me so greatly to have him as a companion - I´ve already learned so much! And I´m so excited to be able to learn all his tips and tricks. Pres. told us he was excited to send two good elders to this tough area - I know together, we can see miracles.

As for the work here, it has already started to improve! My last change was definately the hardest of my mission, but I feel as if a few of the trials I was having have past and I´ve now come out stronger and having learned so much. I am a strong believer that if we show to The Lord that we´re willing to sacrifice and willing to work, as well as if we´re capable of bringing people to Christ through teaching, The Lord will put people in our path to help. Elder Whitcomb and I have already fasted once that we can meet our high goals for the change - we are looking for baptisms, and more specifically, families. I am soo hungry for a baptism. Right now, we are currently working to reactivate less-actives, and looking for part-member families (including menos-activos as well). Some great news is that on Saturday, we contacted a reference from Penonome, and it was a family!! Jorge and Shelby - wow. So awesome!! They have been together 3 years and already have 3 children - Nuemi (2 years old), Elísa (1), and Jorge Jr. (15 days old). We have already been able to meet with them thrice and they came to church with us yesterday!!! YES :) We will be talking to them soon about marriage, seeing as they are not legally married. I am super excited to see what´s up ahead :)

One thing that I thought was cool was we had ward conference yesterday too!! How sweet is that?? We had a meeting with the bishop after church and we plan on working with the bishop and the ward mission leader like this ward has never before seen.

That is pretty much all for this week, but some awesome bonus news!! You ready? I got a call from Hna. Carmen (Chorrera) this morning and she told me she is getting sealed to her husband and daughter in the temple tomorrow!!! YESSS!! Made my day. I love that family.

Anyway, I hope you all have a good week, I love you and pray for you. My prayers are with Grandpa as well. I know he´ll be allright. I sent him a letter a little while ago - it should be arriving in the mail soon.

 
Love you!

 
-Elder Clarke

Monday, August 20, 2012

por fin.... fotos para ustedes :)

Man... family!
This week has been a really long one with a lot of changes and challenges, but I think I came out on top. Changes are this Wednesday, and I will be getting a new companion. Right now, I´m just trying real hard to re-focus back in on being a representative of Christ in everything I do, think, and say.
The biggest change of all is that midway through the week, Elder Ramos and I recieved a third companion! Elder Loaisiga from Nicaragua. We were put into a trio for the last week of the change because Elder Loaisiga´s companion went home with a bad illness. Elder Loaisiga was our district leader and was in the area right next to us. However, he is also leaving his area Wednesday (changes), which means my new companion and I will be in charge of both areas. This is a very tough assignment, because the our area essentially doubled in size. We´ve spent a couple of days there having Elder Loaisiga just try to teach me part of the new area, where his investigators live, etc. Our workload is MORE than enough now, besides the fact that neither I or my new companion will know the new part of the area, nor the members that live in that part of the area. We will definately have our hands full.

Another cool thing was this week, I did divisions in Bella Vista with the zone leader, Elder Guerrero de Mexico. What a great missionary he is, and the advice he gave me was great. Someday, I hope I can become a great missionary like him. I know the key is just to forget about myself and work, work, work. There is no satisfactory substitute.

One miracle that happened yesterday is that a new ward mission leader was called, and we had a two-hour long meeting with him! Hermano Santos seems like the real deal. We are so excited to present the new ward mission plan to the ward with my new companion - I can´t wait.
Well, that is kind of it for today. I just want to bear my testimony to you guys that I know Heavenly Father and our brother, Jesus Christ, love us more than we can possibly imagine. They have created this Plan of Salvation to help us all reach our divine destiny, and it is through obedience to the gospel that we will obtain that. I also know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the only church on earth with all the keys, power, authority and rights of the priesthood of God. I know that the same church of Jesus Christ that existed when Christ himself walked on the earth was restored by the hand of God through the prophet Joseph Smith. I know that the Book of Mormon is latter-day evidence of God´s love for us, and that the book is completely true. I am so grateful for all the blessings and knowledge I have, and I know I can only be saved with the help of my Savior, Jesus Christ.
I hope you all have a wonderful week!
-Elder Clarke
P.S.... The news about Grandma! Give her a big hug for me. I really hope she gets better soon. Also Mom, I´m so glad to hear that your wrist will heal on it´s own! :)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Man...

Man, what a long week it has been. I really needed this P-day. This week has been pretty difficult for me personally, but I know I´ve just gotta put that aside and work. Work is the best formula to make myself happy, and forget about myself.

So perdoname if the letter is kinda short this week, it´s just that not too much has happened. This week, we´ve tried to apply the new mission emphasis on placing baptisimal dates and bringing people to church, and it´s gone.... ok. We didn´t have anyone with us at church yesterday, and that made me real sad. However, we did find a few people this week who are decently interested with our message! One is a mother of 2 named Elizabeth - she is a baptist lady but she is really enjoying learning about our church, and even committed to read the BOM and pray for an answer! We haven´t been able to get a hold of her in about half a week though, so we´ll see what happens.
Another cool dude we met is named Carlos, and we´re pretty sure he used to be a drug addict, cuz he´s a little bit on the crazy side. The important thing though, is he has shown real desire to change his life around, and we told him the way to do that was through baptism (trying to apply the new emphasis). He told us he wants to get baptized, but then he didn´t show up to church yesterday :(
So I don´t know if I´ve mentioned Ester before, but she´s an older lady who had previously come to church twice, and wanted to get baptized, but she was going to have to divorce herself. Anyway, talking with the zone leaders and such, she may not have to divorce herself because the man no longer lives with her. So.... if we re-teach her all the lessons and she still has desire, we may have a baptism coming up quick with her! :)
Well, I´ve almost told everything for this week, but I just wanna talk about a SUPER sweet part-member family that we´ve met with a couple times this week. The dad and one of the kids are inactive members, and the mom isn´t a member. Anyway, a few years back, the mom attended church by herself and wanted to get baptized, but couldn´t because her inactive member husband didn´t want to get married to her (sidenote - if you haven´t noticed, legal marriage is kind of the biggest problem here in Panamá... no one is married. And if they´re married, they wanna get divorced. Haha.). Well..... now, the husband is coming back to church and wants to marry and baptize his wife!! Hno. Ruíz. He is such a freaking stud. The hard part is now the mom doesn´t really wanna go to church or get baptized. But this is an eternal family we´ve got on the line here!! Elder Ramos and I have got some big dog work comin´ our way to try and help this señora. If you could pray for her, that would be awesome.
Well that´s pretty much it for this week. Mom and Dad, I want to congratulate you on 22 years of marriage. Good job for entering into the most important covenant possible here on Earth. I love you both so much :)
P.S... Congratulate Ryan Kitchen for me on his farewell talk and wish him luck! He´s a good hero of mine.
P.S.S... Favorite scripture for the week: Alma 37: 44-46

Monday, August 6, 2012

Good week I think

Hey hey hey!

 Allright so I think this week was a good turn for the better. We´ve found some great newbies to share the gospel with, and I think The Lord is starting to trust us more as we work harder and teach with more true love and concern. Something great this week has been that I have found such strength and power in sharing specifically the message of the Restoration. Sometimes when teaching and contacting, we get all wrapped up in trying to teach the person a gospel principle according to their ¨needs¨ or something that relates to what they´ve told us. But (more specifically in contacting), I have found lately that as we share and testify specifically that the restored church of Jesus Christ is again upon the earth, with the same prophets, apostles, and authority that Christ possessed when on the earth, The Spirit is so present! Holy cow! It´s something that has helped me this week.

 Ok, so a couple cool experiences this week: we contacted and taught a really wonderful woman named Betty. She was actually very knowledgeable with the things of the Bible, and very intelligent (by the way Mom, she works in a call-center - haha). Anyway, we taught her the message of the Restoration, and when we got to the part about the Book of Mormon, she proceeded to ask us ¨how much would a Book of Mormon cost me if I wanted to buy one?¨ Like, what?! That was the sweetest music my ears have heard in a very long time. I happily handed her the book and told her that for her, it was free. Haha :) We have yet to been able to visit her again, but I´m excited for our return appointment this week.

So I had a very sweet experience Thursday night. Elder Ramos and I had just finished dinner at a member´s house, and it was around 8 o´ clock at night. Well, we were kind of discourged because we had nothing else planned, and when that happens, you´ve got to contact. Usually I wouldn´t have minded, but here in Panama, once it´s dark outside, you just don´t contact if you can help it. By that time, people have settled in for the night, and you hardly ever get into a door. Well, we could´ve easily just gone home early, but I suggested we go visit a weak investigador that we hadn´t seen in a while. It was kind of far, but whatever. So, we trudged over there not exactly with the most hopeful spirits. When we arrived, she wasn´t home. Mannnn. As we thanked the young man (a friend of someone else who also lives there - about 20 years old) at the door and were turning to leave to go home, he stopped us and asked ¨Hey um, I´ve got a question.... don´t you guys ever rest? Don´t you ever get tired? It´s 8 o´ clock at night.¨ My goodness. It may not sound like much, but I know with 100% certainty that it was The Lord´s way of telling me personally that he was grateful we decided to work until the end. As soon as he said it, I felt an enormous amount of The Savior´s love come into my heart, as if The Lord was just telling me ¨thank you.¨ It was beautiful, and an experience I won´t ever forget. Plus, we were actually able to have a decently positive lesson with him afterward. It helped me so much to gain a better testimony that The Lord is with us wherever we go, and is always watching over and helping us. He is the Head of this work, and is so grateful when we are willing to sacrifice.

Lastly, we had another investiagator (Jacolín) in church this week!! What?! We contacted her last Tuesday, and she agreed to come to church without us teaching her hardly anything! We were so happy. I was kind of nervous because yesterday was fast Sunday, and therefore the sacrament meeting is pure testimony-bearing. I don´t know why, but a lot of investigadores don´t like the fast Sundays too much. Anyway, during the meeting, one of the ward´s best young men - a wonderful 17 year old - got up to bear his testimony, and BAM!!! The Spirit immediantely was everywhere in the room. His testimony was so powerful!! Anyway, I looked over, and Jacolín was crying!! The Spirit was working within her so strongly!! Wow :) All I could do in that moment was look up at the heavens and say ¨thanks.¨ We are looking forward to our return appointment with her as well - we´ve hardly taught her anything yet!

Anyway, that´s kind of all I have time to write this week, but I want you guys to know I love you soooo much! I appreciate the letters of encouragement Mom and Dad, really. Thanks :) I hope you guys have fun at trek and have an amazing week!

Love, Elder Clarke
 
P.S... I read Elder Uchtdorf´s conference talk from this past conference again this week and chuso... that guy is fabulous. ¨The merciful shall obtain mercy.¨
 
P.S.S.... I splurged a little bit this week and bought a box of cereal and a liter of milk...... wow. Possibly the best breakfast decision I have made in my mission. ¨La Lechera¨ cereal. It brought back all my memories of eating cereal in the morning at home....

Monday, July 30, 2012

Tough Week!

Familia!! Les quiero demasiado.

Bueno, first I just wanna say FELIZ CUMPLEÄNOS to Katie!!! 15! Whoa!!! How do you feel, sister? I hope you had a splendid day, and I have a birthday letter that I´m writing you - expect it in the mail someday. Speaking of birthday´s... fam, I would really appreciate it if you´d wish my 4th brother - Matt - a very happy 19th birthday. I hope you guys have all had a great week. Mom, I just want to tell you again, that I am forever grateful for the shoes you sent me. I think now between the pairs, I might have enough to last the rest of my mission! You´re the best.

As for me here in Juan Diaz, it´s been kind of a hard week. Actually, a decently hard week. The rain season is comin´ on strong and as a result, I´ve been blessed with a cold and nasty foot problems.... my feet can never dry off! I have open sores and stuff, hurt´s to walk - it´s kinda gross. But I´m good. Haha. Also, the work here is moving so slow. It really makes me sad. It seems like nobody wants to hear us. And if by chance they let us in, they´re not willing or ready to change their lives. Alma 17:11 brought me comfort again this week - I know I´ve just gotta push through. Something that I know is that God blesses us with trials - they essentially are a gift, not a burden. Trials are a gift from God that help us learn, and ultimately, become better people. I know The Lord is preparing people for me here - I´ve got to continue to prepare myself for them.

A couple things we´ve been trying to implement this week is increase our faith, and put more emphasis on baptisimal dates - even putting baptisimal dates in the first contact or first lesson. It´s helping me I think. Pres. gave an amazing message in the zone conference about how faith, really, is power. We cannot even exercise our priesthood without faith. Faith, truly, is one of the greatest power´s there is. I am continuing to work on my faith.

So this week, I did divisiones with the zone leader´s here in the city - can you say sweet?! Dude, really. I stayed the night in Bella Vista in the assistants house with Elder Whitcomb (the assistants and ZL´s share a house). He´s a new missionary hero of mine. He´s a fantastic missionary. Anyway, in Bella Vista, we worked the day in part of their area that is in the straight up GHETTO. Two gringos - I was kinda scared. I did not feel like I was in the right place. I think it was the most poverty I´ve ever seen in my life, it made me so sad. I don´t know why those people live that way, and I wish I could help them. If we could all just live the law of consecration... man.

Well, my time is just about up, but I will say we had one investigador in church yesterday! She´s come the past two times - Esther is her name. She´s an old investigador from missionaries here before. She´s positive, but we´ve got to get her divorced before she can get baptized.

I hope you guys all have a great week :)

Love, Elder Clarke


Monday, July 23, 2012

Man!

Man, I just love you guys :) Mom and Dad, you are the best letter-writers in the world. I want you to know your letters are seriously a strength to me every week. I love them - thank you so so much. I wish I had time to respond to everything.

Allright, the highlight of my week? We had a big zone conference with all of the city missionaries as well as the missionaries in Colón, and guess who was the head speaker? Elder Carlos H. Amado, of the first presidency of the quorum of the seventy. WOW!! After hearing from him, I think (and hope) he will be an apostle someday. He´s been in the seventy for 20+ years, and his manner of teaching was truly incredible. He said all the right things to boost my enthusiasm, renew my spiritual side, and give me hope. A couple things he said that I really liked: "You can´t teach something by The Spirit unless you have learned it by The Spirit¨. Also, he asked us why we thought Christ was compared to ¨The Lamb¨. He went on to explain that the lamb, of all other animals, is the most indefensless animal. I thought it was so cool because of all people who have ever lived, Christ was the most powerful and defensible being. But yet, he humbly and willingly submitted himself, with all power to deliver himself out of the situation. What an incredible comparison. Elder Amado went on to teach us how to become better teachers, and then gave us advice for after the mission: get married, study, work, and fulfill church callings. It was the best conference of my whole mission, I think.

So here in Juan Diaz, this was a tough week - this place is totally dead - deader than I thought beforehand. Basically all we´ve done this week is contact and visit old investigators with little success. I am hoping for a miracle soon - I have gone awhile without a positive investigador. One fun thing, is now that I´m in the city, contacting is a little different. My new favorite thing to do is teach a lesson to whoever is sitting next to me on the bus. Get their name and number, and reference them to the missionaries whereever they live. We ride the bus a lot and for a long time. With traffic, it takes us two hours to get to the heart of the city (where we have district meeting), when in reality we only live about 30 min. away! Man. Oh! Before I forget, tell the Parson family in our ward that my zone leader is Roger Whitcomb from Massachussetts - he´s a friend of theirs.

Another cool thing is I spoke yesterday in sacrament meeting for about 15 min. They gave me the topic of ¨whatever I want¨ and so after talking with Hno. Marín (strongest member here in the ward I think - total stud.), I decided to talk about progression in the church, and enduring to the end - specifically the importance of family, fullfilling callings, and remaining worthy of the priesthood. I feel like it went ok, but I will deliver a better message next time.

Allright well I´m just about out of time for today, but I love you all so so much and hope you have a wonderful week. Mom, all that stuff in the package is for you guys - I kept all my stuff here with me :) That tie is for Dave. Did the navitity arrive in 1 piece?? Love you all.

-Elder Clarke

P.S... Wish Krissy a happy late-birthday for me :)