Monday, February 20, 2012

February 20, 2012

PANAMA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! AH. I. love. it. here. It is crazy crazy nuts but I love it! I don´t know where to start - so much has happened in the last week. Probly the most eventful week of my life - bar none.

So it´s really hot here. Like - people weren´t joking when they said you sweat all day every day. I even sweat in my sleep at night. I arrived here in the dry season (the hottest part of the year) so I pretty much sweat my meals off in like an hour. Speaking of meals, we have a cocinera here! It turns out every area out here has one. They are church members who get paid by the mission to feed us once a day. Sister Carmen and her daughter (Itzel) are so nice to us, and they help me so much with my spanish. Itzel knows a bit of english from school (it´s a required class here in panama) so she is especially helpful - I help her with her english too so it´s awesome!

My first day here (Wednesday) was crazzzzzy. Elder Rich and President picked me up late late Tuesday night at the airport so we just slept at the mission home that night. Oh! Speaking of which, AmericanAirlines left one of my luggage bags in Miami on accident, so I had to wait a few days to get it. But I have it now, it´s all good.... Anyway, Wednesday morning President, E´ Rich and I walked across downtown Panama City to the mission office to fill out paperwork and such. It had to be one of the most memorable experiences of my life. Panama is the most civilized country in central america, but it was still so so so different than the states. A lot of the houses are tin and everyone and everything is just really... Idk how to say it. It´s just different here. Haha. So at the office, they gave me my mailing address for here to Panama. All missionaries here in the mission have the same address - it´s really nice cuz my mailing address won´t change the whole mission. It´ll be the same for the whole two years.

So a little bit about my comp - Elder Rich. He is waaaaaay chill. Bien prity (means ¨super tight¨ here in Panama. haha.) He is from Hurricane, UT and played.... you guessed it, bball and football in high school. We´re kinda like the same person. Haha. He is soooo sweet! Idk how I lucked out like this, but he is awesome. Like really, he is a good missionary and we have so much in common! I´m really lucky I got a gringo for my trainer because usually greenies get natives for trainers so that they can learn the language faster. But it´s really nice because he helps me with spanish a lot and after a long, hard day of working and speaking spanish, english is like my comfort. It´s really nice to get a break from it at night with him. Haha. His other companion - Elder Caal from Guatemala - went home early the EXACT SAME day that I arrived. Can you believe that??? Maybe this is the reason I was held back in the MTC - so I could be his companion. Who knows. Sweet though eh? I´m real blessed to have him.

Allright so my first plane ride....... what?!?! It was LEGIT. I loved it. We flew out of SLC at 6AM and so the plane was only half full. I had a window seat and I was just loving it the whole time. I think the guy in front of me thought I was crazy cuz I just stared out the window in pure utter amazement the whole 3 hours to Dallas. Hahah. I even used the plane toilet just to say I did! Another experience I´ll never forget. Oh and random! Michelle Lunt (a girl from HS) was on my plane all the way to Miami! She was going to visit her sister in Puerto Rico I think? It was the biggest coinsidence ever haha. We thought it was funny though and we took a picture. Airplanes..... changed my life, people.

So you know how I was gonna place 3 BOM´s? I was only able to place one.... :( BUT! The one was super super super good. So I was waiting at the departure gate in Miami - just sitting there, kind of sad cuz the payphones wouldn´t work (I´m REALLY sorry and sad about that btw!!! I was wanting to talk to Dad and Dave so bad :() Anyway, I got talking to a group of these people at the departure gate. Just small talk at first - particularly with a guy named Mario. We got talking and he told me he´s a native from Panama but he currently lives in Florida. I then started to ask him some gospel-centered questions after a while... he told me he´s recently recieved a lot of help from praying. He´s had a hard life and he´s recently gotten into Cristianity and he said he really likes The Bible. Entonces, I then taught him the short version of the first lesson - we discussed Jose Smith and The Book of Mormon. I especially focused in on the Book of Mormon. I had one with me so I showed him the introduction, showed him Moroni, and got straight to the point. I bore my testimony to him and told him he needed to read it. I promised him if he would, he would know The Book was true. I told him after he knew it was true (because I know he will), to find some missionaries like us - because they´re all over the world. I gave him the number to the mission home and gave him a flyer for Then, I saw him reading 1st Nephi on the plane!! I was so happy. I reallllly really hope he hits up the missionaries - he was a great man. Great man. If we don´t baptize him here in Panama, I´m leavin it up to my bro in Talahassee to find him. Go find him, Elder Farnsworth. Haha.

So about the work here in Panama. INCREDIBLE. You remember how I told you I was preparing to see miracles??? I wasn´t lying. I already saw one. Something that is It is out-of-this-world. I´m serious. Unfortunately it´s a long story so I´m gonna have to tell you about it next week. But prepare yourself - it is LEGIT LEGIT. Joshua 3:5. I am so lucky to be a missionary.

Another cool thing that happened in the work this week is I put down my first fecha (bap. commit)!!!! My second day here, we were teaching this kid named Javier (otherwise known as ¨Chookie¨ - his whole family calls him that.) Chookie is 13 yrs. old and he´s gonna get baptized!!!! Now we´re just working on getting him to come to church. But ya! My second day here, asked the bap. question in spanish and everything! I´m gonna baptize someone!!!!

Speaking of church, it is super cool here. It´s just like it is in the states - another testament that the church is true (except no Mom, I didn´t have to wear my suit - they never wear them here.). Haha. We got Chookie´s whole family to come to church! It was really exciting. E´ Rich and I are working miracles, I tell you.

Well I´ve gone way over time today so I gotta end this email!!! But I absolutely love it here. I love you guys and I´m so sad I didn´t get to talk to you!!!! There´s always Mother´s Day, right? :) Prepare yourselves for story time next week - crazy missionary miracle.

Love you!

Elder Clarke

Friday, February 17, 2012

Elder Clarke arrives in Panama! on 2/14/12

Elder Clarke arriving at the airport meeting President Ward.
Elder Clarke at the airport with his first companion--Elder Rich from Hurricane, UT.
Elder Clarke and Elder Rich at the Panama City, Panama Temple.
 Elder Clarke & Elder Rich using a machete to open fruit.  These pictures were sent to me by a woman named Carmen Diaz who described herself as Elder Clarke's Panamanian "cooker."  As his mother, I'm a little disappointed that he gets a "cooker" right off the bat!  I was hoping he'd have to cook for himself!
They succeeded!  Now they can eat the fruit!

We haven't received an email from Elder Clarke yet, but the mission president's wife sent us an email with pictures, letting us know he arrived safely.  His first companion is Elder Rich from Hurricane, UT.  I believe his p-days will be on Mondays.  Notice the new address posted to the blog.

Friday, February 10, 2012

FINALMENTE!!! 2/9/12

Voy a salir!!!!! Finalmente!!!! I recieved my flight plans a couple days ago!!!!!! I am SO stoked!! I leave the MTC Valentines Day at 3:00 AM :) :) I will be traveling with a group of 7 other Elders for part of my flight - they are headed somewhere else in central america and I haven't had a chance to meet them yet. I'll be accompaning them on my first flight of the day - to the Dallas/Fort Worth airport - where I will arrive at about 10 AM. But once I get to Dallas, I'm on my own! A solo missionary for the rest of the day. I will depart from Dallas on my own and fly to Miami, Florida for my second layover. I should arrive in Miami around 4 PM. And then finally I board my third and final flight (still by myself) to Panama City, and I'll arrive in Panama at about 10 PM that night. Crrrrrrrazy day right?! My first flight is gonna be a totally crazy adventure. All by myself :) I can't wait!!! I have about 4 hours of layover, and I'm planning on using a bunch of time just to go talk to pple and pass out BOMS. I'm gonna buy a whole bunch here at the bookstore to pass out at the airports. I CAN'T WAIT!!! I need to place at least threee. And I can't wait to talk to you guys too!! I can spend as much time as I want on the phone at the airport (as long as I make it to my flight early of course). I'll probly try calling at both airports if I have time. What a great day.
Ok so now for some good stuff :) I've had another great week. The Lord has been so merciful in blessing me and revealing to me things I needed to learn. First, a few days ago, Bishop Richard C. Edgely - first counseler in the presiding bishopric - came and spoke to us. It was fantastic. He spoke on enduring to the end, but more importantly The Spirit spoke to my heart telling me the things I needed to hear from his talk. It was such a good spiritual experience. Secondly, I had SUCH a good experience at the temple last week. I had been trying to do all the right things, be obedient, seek guidance, etc., but I just didn't really feel in tune at all. I went to the temple with a certain question in mind, and tried to focus as much as I could. Coming out of the temple, I didn't feel like I had gotten out of the session what I wanted - and to be honest I was a bit disappointed in myself. But later that night, The Lord answered my prayer and question in a way I wasn't expecting at all. It was beautiful though!!! I was so grateful. The Lord is really so merciful to us. All he wants/asks of us is to have faith and put our faith into action, and he will bless us. He WANTS to bless us - so badly (for further insight on that, look up "Prayer" in the bible dictionary)! We just have to show him first that we're willing to put forth the work. Just tender tender mercies from The Lord this week. I love it.

Another thing I've been thinking about recently is this world we live in. In a couple of experiences as of late, I've learned that we can't get too comfortable in this world. The statement "Be in the world - but not of the world" is so true!! So true. Let's not forget who has dominion over this world. Satan! This is his world and we can't forget that. It says in 1Peter 5:8 that the adversary is lurking about, trying to snap at ANY opportunity he has to bring us down. He knows this world so very well - better than any of us. We're living on his playground. So.... watch out! Haha.

The last thing I'm trying to do before I leave for Panama is edify myself. Joshua 3:5 is quickly becoming one of my favorite scriptures. I want to do miracles in Panama - literally. And I know with The Lord's help I can! Miracles and great things can be wrought - but I must edify myself beforehand. A modern example of this is also in D&C 43:16 when He encourages Elders in this dispensation to do the same thing. Edification. It's the goal.

As for my companions Elders Fenn and Atherton, we continue to learn every day together. Our lessons have improved and we're currently stressing the importance of obedience and hard work. I am just trying to do everything I can to leave a lasting impression with them before I leave. I pray for them too. They'll be good :)

I hope you got my package from Sis. Belliston and everything. Thanks again so much for that money deposit - I have had to spend a lot on co-pays and prescriptions and such. You guys are the best :)

Glad to hear everyone is doing well! Good to know Dave is still tearin' it up with choir - and the ladies ;) And Dad will be happy to hear that when Russell M. Nelson came last week he formally announced to all of us that Mitt Romney is doing well. He seems to be a fan. Haha :) I heard he won the republican vote for Florida or somethin? Awesome! Speaking of family...... would it be ok if someone emailed me all your email addresses? Even for Katie, Scotty, Dave, Dad, etc., so that I can still write them back in Panama? I think I'll be mostly communicating through email from here on out :)

Well, I have loved my time here in the MTC, pero estoy listo salir!! No puedo esperar. I have stuck to Alma 17:11 through the hard times here (Thanks Dad for suggesting it - I'm planning to write you back when I find time). I'm happy to let you all know that during my stay, I set the new 2012 basketball records for the MTC gym. My name is on the wall and everything. 9 three's in a row and 16 free-throws. Hehe :) It made me feel cool.

Love you alll!!!!!!

-Elder Clarke

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Best week so far!!!! 2/2/12

BEST WEEK OF MY MISSION SO FAR!! Seriously, like wow! This week has been so amazing. So much has happened. So much to write!!

Lets just start with this past weekend - especially Saturday and Sunday. I had the BEST personal study sessions of my life! Elder Anderson and I really got serious with the scriptures. It's amazing how if you're doing the right things and praying for the guidance of The Spirit, The Spirit can lead you during your studies and reveal so much truth!! There is SO much to learn though. I don't have enough time to study! A whole lifetime isn't enough to dedicate your life to the gospel - let alone two years!! I can already tell it's gonna be hard coming home and having to make time for things other than the scriptures.

So I have been continuing to study faith right? Well, I have started highlighting in yellow every time faith, or an action/thought of faith is mentioned. My pages are filling up so quick!! Like I said last week, on the principal of faith alone rests the entire gospel and everything that we have! EVERY principal of this church can be related to faith. Try it yourself! Faith is so intregal. Check out this quote: "He does not believe that does not live according to his belief." -Thomas Fuller. I found this in the first presidency message from Thomas S. Monson in the January 2012 Ensign. Crazy no? I thought it was good. Like you all know, faith without works is dead (James 2:17). I wish I could share more about it!! Ah. Just study faith, people. If you've got some time, look at the relation between Alma 32: v. 36 (our work has barely begun!), v. 38 (neglecting), and v. 40-41 (contridiction between the two results).

Allright so first off, I'll just say real quick that I bid farewell to Elder Anderson and the rest of the Argentenian district - they're in Buenos Aires now. What an amazing week I had with Elder Anderson. He has the best heart - I know he's gonna be a great missionary. When they left Tuesday morning, I got put into my third and final district here - a trio!! I'm now with Elders Fenn and Atherton. E. Fenn is from Mesa, Arizona as well (He and E. Anderson knew eachother), and E. Atherton is from St. George. And guess where they're going?? McAllen, Texas! Crazy, no? I hope they love it, just like you did, Mom. Haha :) President Wilkins told me he's stuck me with these two to help balance out their struggling companionship. Elder Atherton has severe ADHD and moderate learning disorder, and so it's really hard to work/get things done with him. Even in only two days so far, I know it's gonna take a lot of patience.

I visited Dr. Darley yesterday. It was a real quick checkup - he said everything is healing just fine and I'm on track to leave on Valentines Day! My hearing has doubled in about the past week, and my hearing isn't near as muffled! Great news eh :) So now we've just gotta make sure we get a medical clearance from him and I'll be headed to Panama soon enough!! Mom, thanks for lettin me know about Pres. Ward and the whole mix-up down there. I informed the MTC too just in case and it looks like everything's gonna be just fine. Not gonna lie, I'm a bit nervous to fly by myself for the first time, but I'll say a prayer first. Haha :) I'll be ok. The airplane experience I've been waiting for all my life! It'll be fun :)

Speaking of Panama and all the fanfare goin on down there (Thanks for the letter from Elder Alley Mom), you'll be happy to know that I didn't miss out too much on Elder Nelson..... I don't know if you heard or not but this past Tuesday the Provo MTC celebrated their 50th anniversary here! And guess who came and spoke? Oh don't worry... Not only did Elder Nelson come and speak to us, but uh - Elder JEFFREY R. HOLLAND came!!!!! Yep. Be jealous. I have now seen two of my favorite apostles here while at the MTC (along with Elder Bednar). It was such a good meeting. Just like Elder Alley said - it's amazing The Spirit those apostles carry with them. They had such a presence! And although Elder Holland didn't get to speak for very long, it was powerful (like always). He spoke of our "obligation" to uphold our sacred calling and honor those who have gone before us. Dang peeps, it was just too good. Elder Nelson then proceeded to dedicate and re-dedicate some buildings here on the MTC campus. Also Dad, he talked about "What'eere thou art - act well thy part". And the dedication prayer - it was beautiful. I was SO lucky to be here for that! It almost kinda makes me happy I was delayed. Ha :)

Katie!!! What the! That is SUCH cool news about you singing in the Young Womens conference! Way to go!! That will be such an amazing experience for you. Elaine S. Dalton came and spoke to us a couple months ago and it's still one of my favorite talks I've heard while I've been here. If anyone deserves to sing, it's you Katie. Haha. Seriously - bienhecho.

So I just wanna thank you guys for that awesome package!! It was so so great. The letters from Scotty and Adam especially :) You guys are such studs. Thanks for the oreos, the V8, but most of all, a copy of my mission call. Mom, you wanna know something so great about you sending me that? Just a couple days earlier, we were all encouraged to "take another look at our mission calls" and re-look over the promises and blessings our calls contain. I didn't have one with me! I was disappointed. But sure enough, you sent me one without me even asking :) Thank you for following that prompting and sending me exactly what The Lord wanted me to read! It was perfect timing. So thanks again :) (P.S.... who's that quote by that you shared with me?)

I have continued to recieve tons of good wishes/letters from friends family and such and it's just overwhelming! I feel so loved and blessed. Seriously. Thank you everyone. I wish I had more time but my time is up!! Got stuff to do today :)

Love you!!!

-Elder Clarke

P.S.... my mailbox number has been permanently switched to mailbox #305 for the duration of my stay here.

P.S.... Big man Spencer Vernon. Poland!!!! What a champ. Felicidades, mi amigo. Bienvenidos a la obra. :)