Thursday, January 26, 2012

Still chuggin . . . 1/26/12

Hello fam!
So good news! At my appointment yesterday, Dr. Darley told me they have identified what was growing in my ear - it was a growth called Aural Mucosal Polyp. Benign, and non-cancerous!! How great :) He also took out the staples in my ear, so thats nice. I have one heck of a scar. I'll send some pictures! The doctors also want to make sure I'm completely healed before I leave the country, so I will now be leaving on the 15th of Feb....... man. I think I'll be the first Elder ever to be here from Thanksgiving to Valentines. Haha. It's ok though. Thanks again everyone for your prayers and thoughts! Really, I appreciate it. I even recieved some letters from the webelos? (I think it was the webelos) in our ward! Thanks Karlinseys - that was real nice of you to send those :) And the Harris family!!! What studs. I plan on writing them back today. Thanks again.

So what'd you all think of snow finally falling (and sticking) this week eh?? Finally! I laughed when I heard you guys still hadn't taken down the Christmas tree :) Good for you. But I actually hadn't taken mine down either until I moved into a different room this week! Which brings me to my next point.....After my district left this past week, I got a new room, district and new companion! His name is Elder Anderson. He's from Mesa, Arizona and he's 21 years old. He's got such a willing heart. He's headed to Buenos Aires, Argentina next week and he's gonna be GREAT! We only get to be companions for a week but I'm grateful - it's been a good experience. I'm kind of a floater right now... I'll be moving into my third district next week.... haha.

Allright so now for somethin wicked sweet. Ready? This past Tuesday, we had Jose L. Alonso and his wife come speak to us for a devotional - he was recently called to the first quorum of the seventy. They're both hispanic and his wife can't speak English! So she had a translator. But the cool thing? I didn't need it! I seriously understood about 90% of everything she said!! I was so pleased with myself. It was good to know all the work is paying off :)

So I've been studying the topic of faith lately. Like, dedicating all my study time to learning more about faith and trying to improve my faith. And I've found some GEMS. Gems I tell you. (Aside from Enos of course - who can beat that? Jk haha) Have you ever read James chapter 1?! I'm not just talking about verse 5 - but the whole chapter?! Dang!!! No WONDER Joseph Smith prayed afterward! Verses 22-27 are my favorite: "But be ye DOERS of the word, and not hearers only...." I always knew faith was a principle of action, but dang! It gave me new perspective. and verse 27, talking about "pure religion"? Brilliance. I encourage you all to read James 1.

Secondly, Hebrews 11. Wooow. Such a great discourse on faith. Paul goes on to give countless examples of faith from prophets and stories in the Bible and why it's essential to 1) have faith centered on Christ, and 2) how we'll understand the work of God/work miracles. Amazing. Next on my list, I'm planning to read Alma 32 again :) Faith, people. Out of all the things an All-Perfect God could've based His gospel and His plan around, He chose to base it on faith. Why do you think that is? Ponder that. It is such a simple concept - but amazingly deep as well. Just think of it - it is by FAITH we work miracles, and by FAITH we use our priesthood effectively. It's a great thing. You could study and try to perfect your faith your whole life and not know everything. Study faith!

This letter is getting long so I should wrap it up, but Mom I just wanna say thanks for your encouraging words and sending me that scripture in John! It's so true - God will make manifest to me why the things that happen to me happen to me, and what to learn from them. I'm just excited to continue being an example to those around me while I'm still here at the MTC, and helping each of my companions come closer to Christ, and realize their purpose here as missionaries. I can't wait to find out the reason I've been kept here longer! Even if I don't figure it out for 20 years, it'll be so sweet when it all comes together :)

I love you all so much and I'm happy to hear you're all doing well!! I'm relieved Dad finally got his boot off!! Even walked home from church eh? Good for you! And Adam..... why are you so cool? Already reading the BOM at the age of 7? Really? Hero. And I just know Dave killed it when he sang the National Anthem at the bball game too - way to go brother. Usted es un jefe.

Have a great week and keep reading and praying!

-Elder Clarke

P.S..... Congrats Elder Rellaford! I now have two friends serving in Florida. Missions are so dang cool.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

On the road to recovery . . . 1/21/12

Hola again!

Today is Saturday and this is the first day since my surgery where I've actually been able to get up and do stuff - the anethesia took a real hard toll on me this time. I've currently got staples holding my ear in place, and I have an appointment with Dr. Darley this upcoming Wednesday. Things seem to be progressing. Thanks so much for all the prayers and fasting! I know they're helping :) I'll be out in Panama soon enough - I know it! Also, thanks for the balloons and cookies Mom! You are so thoughtful :) And don't worry about me too much, I'll be fine.

Also, seeing as Elder Paskett and the rest of my district is leaving on Monday, tomorrow in church I will be assigned a new companion, new district, and perhaps even a new room! Exciting, eh? I think so. I'm excited to move into a younger district and really show them the ropes. I want to be the best example I can be to them and really make sure they're ready for the field. Whoever my new companion is, I'm going to plan on really emphasizing how to plan well, how to make goals, stress speaking spanish as much as possible, and also to make sure we are being obedient in every way possible. It's almost like I'm gonna be a trainer already :) haha. I'm excited.

So rewind a few days before surgery..... last Sunday night my district and I watched a phenomonal talk given by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland here at the MTC, entitled "Missions are Forever". I wrote down so many notes and it got me sooo pumped to leave!!! I will share more insights about that later - I'm planning on keeping those notes with me my entire mission.

And then later in the week (Wednesday) before I had surgery on Thursday, I got to be a host when the new missionaries came in! I got to introduce a brand-new missionary to his bedroom and classroom - he's speaking madrin chinese! So that was kind of fun :)

Also, this week I had a few incredible lessons with both Hno. Toone and Hno. Wiest. I'll start with Hno. Toone first.... this past week he gave us an incredible lesson on the importance of baptism and really helped us come to grips with our purpose as missionaries - and that's to baptize!!! I know it sounds like common sense, but I just saw the whole principle in a different light after he taught us. It was awesome :) Since that lesson and especially with all my surgeries too, Hno. Toone has continually checked up on me and has tried to be as helpful as he can to me in helping me continuing to improve here at the MTC.

Now on Wednesday night (the night before surgery) we had a incredible lesson on The Atonement with Hno. Wiest. If any of you have ever heard of the hands-on activity that goes along with this, you'll know what I mean. Hno. Wiest asked for a volunteer, and so naturally, I volunteered. We went out in the hall for a brief time and was told that I would be representing The Savior in this activity. As we entered the room, my teacher was handing out little "smartie" candies to everyone in my district. These "smarties" represented sins, and in order for their "sins" to be taken away, I had to do 3 push-ups for every "smartie" eaten. To make a long story short, I ended up doing 169 push-ups! It was completely exhausting. My body still hurts from it! Haha. But it was an amazing way to relate to Our Savior and the sacrifices he had to make for us. We finished that class period first by having a mini testimony meeting, and finally ended by watching "Finding Faith in Christ" in spanish - it was just an incredible night all around.

Lastly, I met another Panamanian! He is from Florida and is headed to Panama on his mission with my district. His name is Elder Mendez and he's originally from Puerto Rico, so he's pretty much fluent in spanish. It was fun to meet with him though :) I talked in spanish with him and he told me he was really impressed with my spanish! So I think that's a good thing :) I'll see him again down in Panama in a few weeks once my ear heals up :)

This email is getting really long but I just wanted to congratulate a couple friends! First of all the Maddix family on Mitchell's baptism!! It's SUPER cool that Matt got to baptize him :) What a cool thing. I'm sure it was just awesome. And also Jared Hall!! Goin to Tokyo Japan?!? Crazzzzy. What studs. I have the coolest friends in the world.

Well I hope everyone is doing well with everything, and good luck with school Mom and kids! Dad, I hope your foot is doin better too. I love you all!!!

Your son,

-Elder Clarke

Thursday, January 12, 2012

An interesting week.... 1/12/12

It has been an interesting week......
So first things first - you're probably all wondering how my surgery went yesterday. Well..... I know it's depressing but.... I still can't hear. Yep, that's right. The surgery didn't fix the problem. As it turns out, when the surgeons went in to drain my ear, they found lots of extra soft skin tissue which has grown over my ear - and they hadn't seen it before!! So it was way unexpected. They said they "think" it's extra tissue... but they don't really know what it is. So they took a piece of it out during surgery and are running tests on it right now to make sure it's not cancerous or anything. So I might end up having to get another surgery once they find out what the tissue is. It's super lame..... but ya know. God puts us through trials only to bring us higher. (On the bright side, I woke up from surgery and subconciously started talking in spanish to the nurse!!! Soo sweet hahah)

So now for some fun stuff!! (sorry if the surgery stuff is at all depressing)

Before I begin, I want to wish 1) Grandpa (the 4th), 2) Dad (the 8th), and 3) Mom (yesterday) a happy happy birthday!!!!!! I hope they were great. And I hope Grandpa enjoyed his letters from everyone :) Feliz cumpleanos, todos personas.

So this past Monday, our district had a GREAT lesson at night with Hno. Warburton. He shared with us some more of his missionary stories - He served in Long Beach, California, spanish speaking. He was an INCREDIBLE missionary!! I got me SO excited so leave. So pumped. He also challenged us to make and complete one goal every day until we leave, and we will continue to progress.

Then yesterday as I was studying Enos and his short account, realized what a STUD he is! Like really, Enos? What a man. What a man. He showed such faith and charity! He wanted his bretheren the Lamanites to be saved! And he had such faith!! If I had more time, I would go deeper into why he is the man. But really, if you're ever having trouble with your faith or prayers, look no farther than Enos. He is a great example of faith.

Next, I think I found my life motto. It's a quote by David O. McKay. I've shared it with Dad already, but I love it. "The Spirit compels us to want to be great. We can't have The Spirit and be content with being average." Isn't that crazy sweet?! I have decided I'm basing my life around that quote right there. It's perfect.

Oh Mom! We got two new districts in our zone! And guess what? Some of them are going to McAllen, Texas - spanish speaking!! I thought of you :)

Speaking of you, Mother, it was so great to be able to call you about the surgery :) I hope you weren't too freaked out when you picked up the phone and heard my voice. Really though, it was wonderful to talk with you :) Also, thank you for all the important info about insurance, new phone #, etc. I will check out the deal with my 3rd suitcase, and no.... I don't need any more treats :) You are so nice though, thank you.

Well I'm out of time for today, I'm sorry I couldn't write much! I've got to go prepare for el templo! Things are real busy these days - we're getting ready to leave!! Yay! Thank you all so much for your prayers! They really do help me! I love you all so much and I pray for you all too, every night :) Have a wonderful week!! Keep reading and praying! The church is true!

- Elder Clarke

Oh P.S.... I got an email from Elder Farnsworth this week! What a guy. He's doing great and we'll probly email eachother every week from here on out.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


Well, another week has passed. I am starting to become anxious here I think..... I want to go to Panama!! Hah.

This week has gone all right. My language progression has started to slow down though, and that is not good. I have been trying to speak Spanish with my District full-time, but at times I really have struggled lately. But as I rely on The Lord moving forward, I know he can help me. Under "Prayer" in the bible dictionary, it tells us that He is waiting to bless me - all I have to do is ask... and then DO. Never forget the DO part. Faith is a principle of action. I am continuing to learn through the scriptures, PMG, and most importantly, turn to my Father in Heaven for help every day! I am just happy I get to go to the Temple today and refocus. It's been closed the past two weeks!! (Because of Christmas and such) So I have been itching to go back :)

I want to tell you about an AMAZING experience I had on Monday. So Elder Paskett and I were teaching an investigator named Martha. Martha (about 17) had read the BOM, and knew she needed to get baptized, but was really struggling to commit to it. So we were in the midst of a lesson trying to help her recognize why she needed to take that "leap of faith", so to speak, and come unto Christ through baptism. She finally agreed that she knew she needed to get baptized, and said she would - but then the real concern came out. She was worried about her family and friends accepting her and what people would think of her at school. As she was explaining this, I had the impression to flip open to D&C 122. I then proceeded to share a portion of the last verse of that chapter with her which states: "Fear not what man can do....". As I read these last few lines of a chapter that talks all about Joseph Smith and his experiences in Liberty Jail, The Spirit poured over the room!! It was so incredible. She even started crying! It was EXACTLY the scripture she needed to hear, and she shortly thereafter committed to a date for baptism. How incredible The Spirit is. If we are open to It, and listen to It's promptings, He will guide the lesson, and help the investigators hear what they need to hear. It was a perfect confirmation to me that I am doing the right things out here, and that I am worthy of The Spirit's promptings. I am so glad The Lord trusts me enough to have His Spirit work through me. It was special, folks.

Now a few fun things that have happened. Me and my fellow Panamanians found a native!! From Panama! He grew up there and his family is there. He is a teacher here at the MTC, and served his mission in Phoenix. His name is Hermano Reading, but has lots of family back in Panama by the last name of Lezcano. It was so fun to talk to him. He told us a whole bunch of stuff about what to expect, he showed us pictures, and ya. Just a sweet guy. This past week I also saw Elder Garrison Elliott! He was in my study group in Sociology at BYU. I saw him at a devotional from across the room, and went up and talked to him! It was kind of a cool reunion :) Another Elder, Elder Zack Gillies arrived at the MTC this week. Football guy from AF. He's goin to Anaheim, and he's super-excited to be here. Lastly, I saw Daniel Rellaford! What a guy. He works here, and I saw him on my way to lunch a few days ago. He said he'd say hi to you guys for me :)

Oh!! I almost forgot!! Last Saturday while I was playing ball at gym, Elder Ralph and I head-butted by accident, and my head got sliced open. To make a long story short, I GOT TO GO GET STITCHES!! Four stitches above my left eyebrow. It was super-fun :) I think Satan is trying to annoy me by hurting me. But it doesn't phase me. I like scars. I will send a picture :)

Thanks for sending me that excerpt from Elder Alley, Mom. I can't wait to go!!! I think it's cool The Amazing Race was in Panama too! Thanks for watching it for me, everyone :)

Sorry that this email isn't longer, but I'm all out of time! Hope you are all doing well and I love you all!!! So much! Keep reading the scriptures and praying fervently! Personally and as a family! They are the base of living the gospel.

- Elder Clarke

P.S..... I found out that when I leave for Panama, they only allow me two suitcases, not three. So before I leave I will send the littlest one home with Sis. Belliston with some stuff I won't need in Panama. Speaking of her, thank you for sending my watch!!!! Mom and Dad, you're the best :) Also, the sweats are sweet. And the medicine. Thanks so much guys - really!

P.S.S...... I almost forgot to mention New Years! Sorry haha. I just went to bed at 10:30 - it wasn't anything too special. Hope yours was great! I hope Dave got a New Years kiss, and I can't believe it's already 2012!!