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!

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


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!


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!