Thursday, December 19, 2013

Made it home safely!

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

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

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

-Steve Clarke


Monday, December 9, 2013

Last time...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love,

Elder Clarke

Monday, December 2, 2013

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

Love,
Elder Clarke

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

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



Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Tough but good week. Gotta stay humble.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love, 

Elder Clarke

Monday, November 18, 2013

Sumamente Agradecido

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

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

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

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

Love you all :)
-Elder Clarke

Monday, November 11, 2013

¡Que semana!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 4, 2013

Whoo!!!

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


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

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

-Elder Clarke

Flag Day Celebration in Santiago


Monday, October 28, 2013

Whoo!

Dang. I spent a while going over some of Dave`s letters this afternoon. They are so inspiring! He is such a great missionary - you can tell from his letters! Already so much better than I've ever been. I also appreciate all the thoughts and emails from you Mom and Dad. You guys are stud parents - you both deserve trophies. If they had parent contests...

Anyway, this week was BALLIN!! Time has never flown so fast, really. I feel like I was JUST writing you guys. We spent this whole week just workin' our tails off! We found 18 new investigators this week!! I felt like the first couple weeks were slow opening an area and all, but we're now in the full swing of things! Ready to see some miracles. Changes are this week, but Elder Teichert and I are obviously stayin' together! Going into my last 6-week transfer.  My hermanas here in Santiago have changes, though, which I'm kinda sad about. I've become such good friends here fast with Hermana Torres, from Honduras. As well as Hermana Cuyán, from Guatemala! I will miss 'em, but we should have a sick district with some new peeps for my last change.

Anyway, like I said, this week was just great. Good news of the week? We had 4 people in church!! Bad news of the week? Israel was not one of them..... dang it. We had a miscommunication for our Saturday lesson and we ended up not being able to get him to come to church with his wife. Darn it all. But? I'd like to tell you about 3 young men that came to church - Galileo, José, and Miguel. They are SO sweet!! They are all brothers - ages 18, 14, and 12. And they walked almost an HOUR to get to church!! Their parents are also really sweet and quite prepared! We've just gotta get 'em married. Since arriving here in Santiago, Elder Teichert and I have already fasted 3 times to be able to find the people God has prepared for us, as well as a family. And as of right now, we really think this Acosta family could be the one. Pray for these guys with us. This family has got so much potential if they all become converted. I can't wait to see how The Lord is gonna help us with these folks. Keep praying for Israel too! I'm confident we'll see success here.

Amongst other news, for the first time in my whole mission, I used a LAWN MOWER on Saturday!! What?! It kinda made me trunky, not gonna lie. Man I forgot how much I missed mowing the lawn..... our church building here has a nice lawn so they have a lawn-mower! Elder Teichert and I helped out the Hermana Morales clean up the church on Saturday - she's goin' through a really rough time right now. We actually had a super powerful spiritual experience with her last week that I'll have to write about soon when I've got time. I just love being an instrument in The Lord's hands out here, as well as being able to use the power of the priesthood to bless other's lives - like the Hermana Morales.

Well, that's really all I've got time to write about for today, but I hope ya'll have a great day and I love you all!
-Elder Clarke

Monday, October 21, 2013

Bueno...

Elders Teichert & Clarke
Bueno pues. Today is a great day! Every day is here in Santiago! I really love being a missionary and it's gonna really stink not being one anymore. I am loving life! And loving Santiago!! Elder Teichert is SUCH a boss. He's made me laugh harder in the past few days than I've laughed in a long time. Such a stud-muffin. Cool fact? His birthday is on the 4th of November, and mine the 9th. We are gonna have to go buy a gallon of ice cream of somethin'.

Shopping for items for their new home.
So I'm gonna be honest, the first week here was really slow. I mean, really slow. I always felt like I wasn't doing anything. We had to dedícate days to just furbishing the house. We also didn't technically have an área for almost a week cuz it took a while to be able to divide up the áreas again with the hermanas (the hermanas here are so great - they have helped me so much and we make a sick district). Anyway though, in the past few days we've finally gotten settled in and there is WORK TO DO, FELLAS!! We're hittin it hard, Elder Teichert and I. He's a super good motivation - he reminds me a lot of myself when I was a newbie in the mish. That's why I love training - it always reanimates you to the max. Gives you a boost in faith and hope. He's such a stud and I know he's gonna be a great missionary. He was only in the MTC for 2 weeks! The same week I completed 23 months in the misión, he completed 1 :) Cabal.

With a member from Brazil.
So we've fasted a couple times already for member help and to find the prepared people for us here in Santiago, including a family. The member help has come on so strong and I KNOW those escogidos are coming soon! Fasting works, man. I can't wait to help this branch grow. Santiago has got so much potential! But anyway, we put a sweet fecha last night with an awesome man named Israel. A husband of an endowed wife. We're thinking a sealing! He's such an awesome dude, and we had a great lesson last night about the restoration of the priesthood. He understood and we're thinkin he'll get baptized here this next month! I dunno why I'm so lucky and The Lord just gives us these prepared people. Anyway. I have a lot to write but I just don't have the time today.... mi querida mama me estaba escribiendo buko y no me dejaba escribirles :) No mentira.... te quiero, mama - mucho :)

Also, can I just say how nice it is to not be a zone leader anymore? So nice. So much relief. Anyway. I love you all so much!! So much. Have a great week and cuídense mucho! 
 
Con mucho cariño,
Elder Clarke

Monday, October 14, 2013

"Elder, you ready for an adventure?"

FAMILY!!!! How`s it goin?!? Man I've been thinking about you guys lately. Mom talking to me so much about everything at home has really got me missin' you all! But? I now know after this week for sure that there's a WHOLE bunch of work to do before I come home! A whole bunch. As one of many testimony builders, this week was just another reminder of how much God really must love me.

The reason? Well, it started Monday night after we had gotten home from P-day and everything when Elder Saavedra and I are just gettin' ready to plan, when we get a call from Pte. Carmack. This was expected, as we had called him a few days earlier about a marriage/divorce problem we were trying to fix. But anyway, Elder Saavedra answers the phone, and Pte. asked for me. Why me? That was kinda weird - he usually just talks to whoever answers. So, I get on the phone and he says something that I don't think I'll forget for a while.
 
"Elder, you ready for an adventure?"
 
I was kinda surprised cuz I thought he was calling for the divorce deal, but nope! He proceeded to tell me that I was gonna have emergency changes!! What? People have had e-changes before in the mission, but never me! It`s kind of a rare occurrence. I didn't know what to expect, but I could not be more THRILLED!!!!! with what has happened.

So I was asked to leave Bocas and come open an area here in Santiago, Veraguas - it's in the zone of Chitrè!! So I`m actually really close to Penonome again. Also, he asked me to come here and serve as DL again and I`m TRAINING again!! What?! I could NOT be more thrilled. So so so happy. I guess an elder got here late from the MTC, (kinda like I did) and they didn't have anyone to train him and they needed to open up a new area. Of all elders, me?! I`m thrilled and so excited. My new "baby boy" is Elder Teichert from Cokeville, Wyoming. He`s a cattle-rancher!!! What? Hahah he's so dang legit. I`m already picking up his western country drawl. He's still 18 and he's a few months younger than Dave! We're here starting literally from zero, nada. We don't have any investigators or anything and we're having to furnish our own brand new house! It's such a tight experience. Sadly, I'm having troubles with my camera so I'll try to send you a pic next week. But it's LEGIT!!

My time is all up but I'll write y'all tons next week! I am so excited to finish my mission this way. It's exactly what I needed and The Lord knew it. He's got GREAT things planned for us here in Santiago. This is where I've got to find my family. He loves me so much - I'm so dang grateful.
 
Love yoU!
 
-Elder Clarke

Monday, October 7, 2013

What a week, eh?

Bueno folks, it´s been another week. I don´t have too many of these left?

You guys are famiiliar with the hymn "I Stand All Amazed". This week, and in the past few days, that hymn has become quite a reality for me - I am truly amazed by the love our Savior Jesus Christ offers us. We can be lost in sin, living in the world, or be one of the "best missionaries", and the love our Savior has for both parties is the same! Mom, you always told me you loved all your children equally - I´m not sure if I currently comprehend that, but I hope to be able to one day when I have my own kids. I feel like it´ll help me understand a bit more the love that God has for us as His children. I hope I can love them all equally too. I can´t wait! 
 
I´m also amazed at the love that God has for us to forgive us over and over again. To let us come to earth, make mistakes, suffer. He sent His own only begotton son to die for the rest of us so we could make all those mistakes and still be ok if we repented. What class of love and patience must He have with us? I´m just grateful He does, for now. I am so imperfect and so badly need The Atonement in my life daily! We´re lucky he´s willing to forgive us time and again. 
 
So like I mentioned last week, this week came and went in a blink of an eye. Going to consejos in Panama feels like a dream, but I really enjoyed it. I think it was my last consejos meeting - I´m kinda sad about that. I liked voicing my opinion on how to better the mission. The mission as a whole has been struggling as of late with baptisms. I don´t know why this is happening, seeing that we now have more missionaries than ever! I sometimes question our example that we´re giving to the mission as leaders - me personally and the rest of the leaders, too. I sometimes feel like I could do better. I haven´t done divisions in a while, and I think we´re gonna start doing that more now. Helping these newer missionaries learn how to teach.
 
Now..... Conference!!! Man! What a general conference, eh? I was gonna write a whole lot about my favorite talks and everything, but I forgot my journal at home before coming to write ya´ll! But man. Wanna know my favorite talk? It was in the very first session by Elder Bednar, about tithing and the blessings we can recieve. He took paying tithing to a whole next level for me!! He went DEEP into the blessings that we can really recieve by paying an honest tithe with a willing heart. I REALLY liked it. The best was when he said that paying tithing helps us in the life-long process of personal sanctification. Anyway. There were so many dang good talks though. Elder Maynes, Elder Uchtdorf´s, Elder Scott´s, and Elder Perry´s in the priesthood session. I loved how he based it around the 13 articles of faith! I want to memorize them. 
 
Well, some great news is that Daniel came to church again! He totally showed up to the Saturday morning session in a white shirt. Elder Saavedra and I are thinking baptism. I love him! Him, with a few others, have a baptismal date for the 19th of this month. Which reminds me! 
 
Quick story. Yesterday after conference, (about 5:30-6 PM) I found myself without ganas to do anything! I don´t know why, but conference had just worn me out, and I had no desire to go anywhere. Just wanted to lay down and not have to interact with anyone. I don´t know why! Anyway, we had a family night with a less active family planned, and I just wasn't looking forward to it. So, on the 20 minute walk there, I just didn´t know what to do! I haven't found myself like that that many times in the mission, but I finally decided to just say a little prayer in my heart, asking God to help me have desire to go teach and feel love and charity for these people, and want to help them. Well, to make a long story short, the lesson, although the flow was somewhat hard to control with the member help we had, ended up turning out fabulous!! I mean, truly great. We animated the father, Hno. Cantule, for the first time since I´ve been here, to commit to coming to church next week. He works, but he´s gonna get his shift covered. That is saying A LOT for this guy, seeing as he hasn´t been to church in years. Also, with the help from my companion, we were able to put a baptismal date with his littlest 8 year old daughter who´s not baptized! Marlenis :) The best part about it was definately the STRONG spirit that was felt at the end of the lesson. And I felt so much LOVE for them!! God granted me exactly what I had asked for in my prayer! Now are you seeing why I´m amazed sometimes at the love He has for us? He helps us SO much! We are nothing without Him or His help.
I love being a missionary and I´m gonna miss it so much. I love you all! Have a great week! 
 
-Elder Clarke

Monday, September 30, 2013

La hora para esforzarme

Bueno, pues.

This week . . . . what a fast one.  SO fast!  I am really starting to get nervous about my mission ending.  I'm now down to 10 P-days and counting!  That's . . . . nothing.  Oh man.  Such a good week though.  Oh how I will miss the mission.  Something that Elder Whitcomb once tried explaining to me that I didn't understand until recently was how great the mission really is.  In what sense?  let's think about it . . . . when I go home, I have to start worrying about money, work, school, homework, church callings, college "life" (girls and dates and such), buying gas for the car, etc, etc, etc.  The list is endless.  Here in the mission?  All you've got to worry about is your investigators and your zone.  Punto.  QUE FACIL!!!  I'm by no means saying the mission is easy, cuz it's not, but, dang.  The mission just seems so much easier and better than life back at home.  All I have to do here is worry about other people.  When I go home, it seems I'll have to be worrying about myself a lot of the time.  I've gotta value this time.  I'm sad it's ending!  So, I just wanna say real quick: 1) Adam, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!  9 anos!!!  Dang, man!  How do you fell?  I'm so excited to see you, go on bike rides and play ball with you and Scotty.  Also, 2) Dave, CONGRATS on training!! Dang, bro! I've never seen a gringo train that fast here in my mission.  How are you such a good missionary already?  I look up to you so much.  You're gonna have to teach me Spanish when you get home.  So this week blew by -- I think I already mentioned that.  But it's cuz we did so much service this week! Man! We also put 4 fechas.  Elder Saavedra is a blessing fallen from heaven.  He is SUCH a tight guy!!  He's already turning into one of my favorite comps.  Such a stud, and more than anything, he's motivating me so much! He was exactly who I needed. It's great how God just helps you out, giving you exactly who you need.

Elders Saavedra and Clarke at Jeny's baptism

The two huge services we did was one in El Silencio, El Empalme on Wednesday with Elderes Aguirre and Serna (helping a family move into their newly purchased home) and then Saturday en las 30's.  Allright, ya'll gotta understand how much I love this place -- Las 30's. It's a part of my area that's like 30 minutes hidden into the banana fields.  Those that live there are pure indians, and it's so dang sweet!  Mom, Dad, we're totally coming to Las 30's when we come to visit. Hermano Bonilla, one of the coolest members in our ward, lives out there, so we helped him help one of his neighbors move a GIGANTE pile of dirt with shovels.  It took us from 9 AM - 2 PM.  Just pure dirt and shovels -- I felt like I was in the movie HOLES.  Elder Seegmiller and I even started singing the song.  Hahah. Hermano Bonilla is so sweet though.  He is Dad's latin twin.  When I get my camera back, you best believe I'm sending ya'll a foto of Hermano Bonilla.  He reminds me so much of Dad.  His personality, his laugh, his stature, everything.  He's even a convert that went on a mission!  Can't wait for you guys to meet each other.

So, for our fechas, we should have a couple baptisms come from out there in Las 30's -- the Bonilla family is doing their job out there and is befriending people and bringing them to church.  One of our greatest difficulties in our area is that we're so dang far from the chapel, and a lot of our area is poor natives, they don't have money for a taxi and don't want to walk.  It makes things tough.  But, in the morning yesterday we woke up super early to go find Daniel and we walked to church together.  He stayed all three hours!  He's 16 and such a good guy!  Not like most teenagers.  Definately a escogido.  Our two most positives right now and probly him and Lorenzo, a friend of Hno. Bonilla.  Things are looking up!  Even if I don't have any more baptisms here in this area, I know Elder Saavedra will after I leave.  He deserves them too.  The im,portant thing is that we're finally jumpstarting this area after it having been dead for so long!  Like Alma, I give thanks to my Heavenly Father for letting me be an instrument in His hands to do good work here among His children.  Well, this next week should be the fastest one of my life!  We're traveling to Panama this week for consejos, we get back Thursday, work for two days, and then . . . . GENERAL CONFERENCE!!!! It's like the NBA finals.  I'm so dang pumped.  The hours for the sessions here are weird though this time!  Here is Bocas Saturday the first session starts at noon, the second at 4, and the Priesthood session goes from 8-10 at night!  Crazy!  Party!  I love the mission.

Love you all so much and hope you're all safe and sound this week.

Love,

Elder Clarke

P.S. . . . Elder Seegmiller and I planned a double date we're gonna do back at Provo someday . . . . . it includes seronading mexicans outside the mexican stores with our spanish music solos, and then using the money to go buy plantains and cook patacones with our dates.  Ya!

Monday, September 23, 2013

What a week!! New companion and baptism.

Oh man. This has been one of the greatest weeks in recent memory!! La verdad que si.
So, first of all, changes were this week and I've got a new comp! Elder Saavedra from Nicaragua! He's my first Nicaraguan comp in the mish! Such a sweet dude. He is one of those dudes that I know was the top dog of his high school. I was his ZL in Paraiso, and we already knew each other. I miss Elder Olivas, too. He went to go be comps in Tocumen with Elder Kniff! Elder Saavedra goes home in December with me, so that really lowers my chances of being able to finish here in Bocas... man.  I'm entering my last 12 weeks of the mission, can you believe it?!? 80 days. 

Anyway, Saturday something monumental happened: Changuinola 3 had its first baptism ever!!!! What?! Yah buddy :) Hermana Jenny entered the waters of baptism after having investigated the church for nearly 3 years. It really just blows me away sometimes, really, how The Lord does almost all the work out here in the mission field. Just a little thought.... In Jacob 5, it talks about how The Lord of the vineyard comes down to work WITH His servants, right? I kinda feel like it's more like He comes down and just shows us how to do everything, meanwhile practically doing a lot of the work for us himself. I relate this a little bit to my own dad. My whole life, he was always teaching me how to do stuff, whether it was yard work, teaching me how to fix the car tire, or how to tie my shoes (I still remember that, by the way). What ended up happening on most of these teaching occasions is that my dad ended up doing most of the work himself. I truly feel like this is similar to the mission field. Our Heavenly Father knows SO MUCH that we don't know, and is constantly trying to help us and teach us. He has called us as His servants to help Him in His great work, but really, that's all we are - servants. I feel like His hand is so involved. It's practically all Him! We just walk around, obey His orders, wear a nifty badge, and wa-la! He works miracles through us. I feel SO grateful that The Lord provided this baptism for us here, and hope He will continue to let us be part of His work, (and come down from His vineyard and help us out) :).

Well I'm practically out of time for today but I must comment on President Carmack's visit here to Bocas this past weekend. He came for District conference, and meanwhile gave the zone their interviews while he was here. Man! What a great interview we had! For real, just a great conversation. He helped me out a lot, too. I left that office feeling 'aliviado'. He`s a great man - I wanna learn as much as I can out here from him before I leave. The conference was great too - everyone spoke well, and I was especially impressed with Pte. Brown's talks in all the sessions (he's Carmack's counseler). The priesthood session was in the morning, and was great. Elder Saavedra and I are excited to start working with menos activos.

Well, I'm gonna wrap this up for now. Hope you all have a wonderful week! Say hi to the german girl for me in german please, Katie. :) Love you all!
-Elder Clarke
P.S... just so ya`ll know..... I`ve been taking HOT SHOWERS for the past couple days for the first time in my mission. The reason? Elder Barnett. The new guy in the house (Elder Seegmiller`s comp) is a genious from Layton, Utah who TOTALLY hooked us up by going and buying and installing a shower water heater. Just preppin` myself to get back home :) Oh how that shower is glorious.
P.S.S.... guess who else is in the new zone? Elder Aguirre!! The one I trained in Penonome! So fun to have him around again :)

Monday, September 16, 2013

22 months!!



Man... I can't believe I left home 22 months ago....I'm so glad they're giving me an extra month - I'm definitely gonna need it.

So this week was a pretty good one - we didn't have a whole lot of time in the area because of travel, but it was a good week of reflexion and helping me prepare for this upcoming change. I only have 2 left!! We got the news on Saturday that my comp. has changes and will be leaving Tuesday afternoon to Panama.... I'm grateful I get to stay behind and wait for my new comp. with Elder Seegmiller. That bus ride is brutal. This could possibly be my last comp. of the mission! Crazy.

So, when we went to Panama, while waiting all day for the bus and meeting to start, I aprovechared the opportunity to go to.... Barrio Centro! Yep! I went and visited with Hna. Carmen again. Man how I love that lady. Really, I do - when I went back, I felt like that was my home here in Panama! I most definately will go again before I leave. 

Afterward, we had the consejos meeting in Cardenas by the temple - it was a good meeting. It's amazing to me how much and how fast Pte. Carmack is changing this mission. His authority here is so obvious - it's a testimony builder to me that he was called by revelation. He's beginning to implement exactly the changes that this mission needs to grow and become more successful - the thought even crossed my mind that it's kind of a bummer I won't be here too much longer to see Pte. Carmack's vision totally come to pass! He's a great guy. He's also coming this weekend to Bocas for our district conference, as well as renew my temple recommend that expired last month, and interview Jenny for her baptism! Should be good.

So, after the meeting in Cardenas, we drove back to the other end of the country (the other zone leaders flew by plane - we're special like that) with the assistants, Elder Hawks and Elder Laurino. They are both great. Elder Hawks, you guys know, was in my MTC district, and we continue to be really good friends. I actually look up to him quite a lot. He's a very humble person that I'd like to be like someday. We all enjoyed the all-night drive before arriving in DAVID at 2 am (Yes, Mom, I finally went to David) only to sleep a few hours before the multi-zone conference at 9 am. It was pretty amazing as well! Elder Ochoa came, and he counseled us all so well. Also a very obvious servant of God, called by revelation. 

Multi-Zone Conference with Elder Ochoa

Well, that is all I think. If all goes how it should, Jenny should get baptized this weekend. Pray for her please! I'll let ya'll know how everything goes. I'll miss Elder Olivas and Elder Houghton (Elder Seegmiller's comp.), but at the same time I'm definately ready to get crankin with my new comp. Hope you all have a good week!

Love,
Elder Clarke

P.S.... this morning was reading Alma... man! Too good. 38:5,14 39:12-19, 40:9. The Book of Mormon is so dang true.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Una semana de aprendizaje

Guys, isn't Dave the best?? I just got done reading his weekly email - he`s such an awesome missionary. He inspires me, for real. You guys are all so great, too. Dad sent me possibly the best letter I've ever received today. I don't know what the heck I did to deserve you guys as family, but I feel like God has spoiled me a little bit. 

So this week has been kind of a tough one, mainly because we've been a little uptight about all the conferences, interviews, zone baptisms, and leadership meetings that are coming our way. When you're 13 hours from the city, things get a little stressful when you have to travel - a little bit of pre-planning is required. Haha. But it's good. As for our investigators, we weren't able to find too many this week, but we made progress with both Jenny and Maria. Maria won't be getting baptized now for a while longer than we thought.... the reason? Her "spouse" turned up out of no-where (he'd been missing for a month) and they are set on continuing to live together. So, we're going to have to go through a long process of divorcing and marrying them first. But hey, it's all good! They both came to church yesterday!! They want it - it'll just take a while. Jenny also came to church - she seems to be on the right track for the 21st. It'll be harder to be there to support her with this crazy week ahead, but I feel like if The Lord permits it, she'll be prepared for that day. I can't even tell you guys how bad I wanna baptize in this area. 

So I've come to a conclusion.... looking back on my mission, I have learned QUITE a few things. After now having read what Dad wrote to me, I know (and was reminded of the fact) that God has sent me here to Panama for a purpose. It's because the things I've learned here, I don't think I would've been able to learn them in any other place - Panama was the designated place for me to learn them. He had things prepared for me here to learn. Now, these things I've learned are obviously supposed to help me later on down the road in life. But you know what? If I don't APPLY them and make them part of me here on the mission, what good are they gonna do me back at home? From now until I leave, I need to review all the things I've learned and put them into practice here - now! I feel like I've now been here for so long I sometimes just fall into routine. I`m talking mainly about Christlike attributes. Charity and love, patience, and humility. I have to work to make them part of me before I arrive home, so that God can use me how he has always intended to after the mission. I just wanna be the best prepared I can be after the mission to serve Him and help His fellow children here on earth. 

Well, I know I didn't write a whole lot today, but my time's up. I`m excited for another week! Buying our tickets to go to the city today - we leave tomorrow! Being a leader is fun, but it's hard to do a good job at it. I'm always trying to do better!
Have a wonderful week!
-Elder Clarke

Monday, September 2, 2013

Bueno

This week was a good one - I really feel good about what we`re doing here in Bocas. The area is finally starting to show some investigators and I'm confident we'll have the area's first baptism soon (this area has never baptized since opening). 

Before I tell you why I'm confident, I need to first tell you all of the EXCELLENT news I received this past week. 1) I don't know if you guys remember when I always used to talk about Monica? She was an investigator I had in Penonome..... well, she got baptized!!! And her little brothers have fechas, too!! It made me so dang happy. Also just a testimony builder to me that God's children get baptized on His time, not ours, and that also, we missionaries are sent here especially to help certain people. Cuz dang! I did everything in my power to get that family in the water w/ Elderes Castejon and Aguirre, and to no avail! Then, President put Hermanas in that area, and BAM! They decide to get baptized. Everyone has got there special time and situation. I was really happy to see the fruits of our labors finally blossom...... secondly 2) Do you remember la Hermana Emilvia?? From Juan Diaz? That made that Indian dress I sent home?? Well, I called her this past week, and....... she's getting ready to take out her ENDOWMENTS!!!! She is waiting to complete her one year mark in the church so that she can take out her endowments!! It's coming up soon, too! Within the next month! I REALLY wanna be able to attend the session with her if I can, but I'm currently on the other side of the country, so that makes things a little tough. Also, her grandson, Ariel (baptized him with Elder Stegelmeier) is very active in the church is thinking about a mission within the next year or two!! MAN! Isn't all of this so great?! I was jumping for joy, I tell you.

Allright so I gotta tell y'all right quick about la hermana Maria. She is so great!! We got a baptismal date with her this week for the 22nd of September!! We originally talked about it for the 14th, but then she asked if she could change it cuz her birthday is the 22nd!!! Ah! She's been investigating the church for almost 2 years now, and she's finally going forward with the decision to get baptized!! Again, every missionary is sent to help certain people. God is so good to permit us to help His children in special ways! In the lesson where we put the fecha especially, I completely felt the whole thing guided by The Spirit. I felt that when I talked, it was just the power of The Spirit of God working through me - like I was literally just the instrument. Being a tool in The Lord's hands really is an incredible thing. So ya, keep your eyes peeled for Changuinola 3's first baptism come September! Si Dios quiere, pasará. You've always gotta remember to approach every baptismal date humbly - cuz it's not you that is getting the baptism - it's all on The Lord`s time! Humility.

Among other news, we met and visited a guy this week who's inactive in our area.... man it was the saddest thing. Such a great guy, who has simply let go of the iron rod of faith, so to speak. He's having a hard time believing the basic principles of the doctrine such as José Smith, Libro de Mormon, etc. It's so sad! We`re tryin' to help the guy. Dear Eduardo Williams. We gotta utilize the gift of faith!! 

Well, I would write more if I could, but I'm all out of time today. I was thrilled to see you guys had a fun time at Timp. Such a great memory I have with you and Dave, Mom. I'm gonna take my wife there too. Also, Katie, I can`t believe you've got your driving permit. ¡¡¡TEN CUIDADO!!! (Be careful)

Love you all! Have a great week. 

Love, 

Elder Clarke

P.S.... attached some pics of our P-day today.


Monday, August 26, 2013

Dios es bueno.

Man, if you guys knew how much I love receiving your emails sometimes.... I feel so spoiled with blessings a lot of the time. I can't wait to come home and see you all, along with my good friends. But until then, I am growing here in the mission! Mom, I loved that quote you sent me today - thanks. I wanna share one with you, too, that made quite a big impact on me - and it came from your own husband! Dad recently said to me: "Usually, continual charity is given as a gift from God when asked for by righteous individuals for the purpose of blessing God's children." You guys are bomb parents.



Okay so I gotta do this letter quick cuz it's almost time for the zone to get together for lunch. SO..... in case I never mentioned before, Bocas is BANANA CENTRAL. I guess from here in Bocas they produce and supply all bananas to all of Europe! Crazy?! Ya. Let's just say I'm eating a lot of bananas - they only cost 5 cents! And they are so dang good - sin preservatives!


So ya, this week was better than the last. We've still been trying to jump-start the area. I'd say it's been one of my toughest areas - it reminds me of Penonome in a lot of ways. The difference here though is that there is a very high population of native Indians here, the Ngobe Bugle tribe (they're the ones who wear that dress that I send home). And well, their Indian culture makes it a little more difficult to teach. But, it's cool cuz they're direct descendants of the Lamanites! As opposed to a lot of Panamanians in the city who come from Spain and what not. The population here is almost purely indians and jamaicans. Haha it's really sweet. 
We had a good meeting with our branch president, Pte. Vazquez, this week - he's such a stud. He's looking to find priesthood for the branch, cuz that's what we're really lacking. I want to find a family SO bad. It's always been my dream. I recently read an amazing talk by Gene R. Cook titled "Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ" (he actually gave the talk in Peru!) It really reminded me yet again of the power of faith and how I can utilize it here in the mission. I'm excited to be here.

Other happenings of the week: we spent almost half a day painting a fence for a service project! Fun. I'll try to tell you guys more about all that later. But for now, I have to go!! Love you all so so much. Hope you all have a GREAT week! 

Love,

Elder Clarke

Monday, August 19, 2013

Bueno

Bueno. This week was kind of a harder one. I figure it's about time I have more trials in the mission though, seeing as I went through quite a long streak of "good times" there in Paraíso. I think when we look at trials this way - with the eternal perspective - the trials aren't as much of a burden. Trials are temporary, they pass, and then we come out on top....stronger!

But anyway, our baptism didn't ever go through..... and then she didn't come to church! Dang it Yenni. I guess what happened is her ex-husband (who`s a long-time less active member) went to the bishopric during the week and accused Yenni of a whole bunch of crazy stuff to prevent her from getting baptized. So... we've gotta have her get interviewed by the bishop and stuff now. It could take a while longer than we thought. But she's really awesome! She's been investigating the church almost 4 years! Apart from that, our area is really kind of... dead? I dunno - we just don't really have any investigators. Heck, we hardly even have members in our area to help us! So the realization of that this week has been kind of tough, not to mention my ankle is still giving me problems. But, the Hna. Selva is a nurse here, and she's been helping me so much! Her and Pte. Vasquez. Hna. Selva works in the hospital and this morning help me set up therapy sessions to get the movement back in my ankle! That whole Selva family is so so awesome. I'm gonna try to send a pic of them - they are really a remarkable group. Former district president, and their son-in-law is our current branch president! Presidente Vasquez - man that guy is great. He's from Mexico! He has a really cool story - can't wait to tell you guys about him.

Anyway, in other news, the mission got a phone call this week from Salt Lake City concerning us missionaries here in Bocas. They called to see if we were all allright? Apparently in Costa Rica or on the coast or something there was an earthquake... but we didn't even feel anything! Everything "chillin" here. ("Chillin" is one of the many English words used out here in Bocas by the Jamaican people. They speak what's called "Wadi-wadi" - it's like Jamaican English. So sweet. I feel like a gangster when I talk to them. I`ll send pictures sometime of the famous Felix and his Jamaican restaurant :))

Also, Elder Seegmiller, Houghton, and I started the "push-up challenge" this week. Man it is gonna be brutal. But I think we'll finish the change lookin' fine. The first week isn't that bad, but it gets increasingly harder every week so, I'll keep you posted on that.

Well, I suppose I should end on a spiritual note. I am currently in Mosiah again in King Benjamin's discourse. That guy is so humble! I'm also trying to study how The Spirit works personally in my life - how I recognize it and such - to make sure I follow the promptings I receive. Cool connection I made: The Spirit testifies of all truth. Now, truth is all things that once were, how they currently are, or how they will be. So therefore, The Spirit knows of things how they will be, before they are. And THAT`S how He can warn us of things. Man, I gotta make sure I know how to heed to the whisperings of The Spirit. In my studies, I'm also gonna start studying a Christ-like attribute every week, cuz I feel I've been dropping in that.

Well guys, I love you all a whole ton!! I'm excited for the youngins (including Krissy) to start school! Katie, tell Mr. Lind hi for me - I think you'll like him a lot. Also, Scotty, keep playing hard in tackle. Football is the bomb. Parents, I hope you both have a good week as well and that Grandpa returns home soon to his house! Love you!!
 
-Elder Clarke