Monday, March 25, 2013

Changing lives, including my own!

Hey hey hey! 

Family, you guys are so dang great. I loved Adam´s and Dad´s pinewood derby car..... most realistic. Nice. Also, that foto of the basketball court made me miss home almost more than I´ve missed home in my entire mission! Mannnn. What a great foto. Also Katie, CONGRATS on your young womenhood recognitions award!!! Wear that medallion with pride..... it makes you girls look more attractive, trust me. You´ll get the guys.

                So this week was seriously a great one. We had some more divisions with Elder Gonzalez earlier in the week, and later (Thursday) we all went to Chorrera (!) for a multi-zone conference to hear from Elder Duncan. Man! Some good stuff. Elder Larsen and I sang a special musical number "A Poor-wayfaring Man of Grief" - half spanish/half english, and that was pretty cool. Elder Duncan also shared some AWESOME stuff. Two things I wanted to expand on: 1) he said the church did a study and it resulted that, on average, a church convert, previous to their baptism, had had 8 prior experiences with the church, or with missionaries. 8 times! 8 times before the time to get baptized finally comes. Elder Duncan talked about how God has a mini-plan for each one of His children, and that the baptism - the actual baptismal ordinance - is just one moment in that plan, that journey through this life, and that we as missionaries shouldn´t ever be discouraged because when we aren´t helping others with baptism, we are always helping them move along in their "plan" and God has put for them. I also saw this to be true recently, Mom, when you told me about how Dad had had so many previous experiences with the church before his conversion. It was a pretty awesome lesson learned. The other thing that he said to us was "Four years ago.... you always thought about yourselves (teenage years)..... and now today, where are you?" Ponder that question - it´s pretty great.

                 Allright well my time is flying fast, but I wanted to talk about our baptism this week!!!! It was super awesome :) Abdianis got baptized by Elder Aguirre. It was a really really great day for her and her family as well. Not being members and all, they LOVED the service, and her little cousins left the service begging their parents to get baptized.... hahah :) It was awesome. We went and visited her yesterday night after she´d received The Holy Ghost, and she was so happy!!!! Pure smiles. I really feel like she had a real change when she received The Holy Ghost. So beautiful what The Lord can do for us. He can change us!

                 Allright well I´ll write more next week, but for this week, have a wonderful one! Hope you all enjoy spring break! 

Love you all!

-Elder Clarke

Monday, March 18, 2013

Olvídate de Ti Mismo

Bueno. This week has been a good one. Family, I´m glad to hear you´re doing well :) I´ve got the best family of all. 

                  So this week for the second time in 3 weeks, our member lessons beat our "other" lessons! We have been working so dang much with the members..... I don´t even wanna think about leaving in a few weeks. This week we also reactivated Hno. Victor Cárcamos by involving him with our fecha, José. Killing two birds with one stone. Our goal is to have him baptize him. I'm gonna miss Penonomé so much. If I ever move when I´m retired and old, I´m moving to Penonomé, Panamá without a doubt. Elder Aguirre took a beautiful picture for me with his camera of the river here in El Potrero (division of Penonomé)... I´ll try to find a way to send it to you. I think I´m gonna buy a new camera, cuz I couldn´t handle a full week without it. I love love love this place. 

                  Some other happenings in the week was 1) Saturday sport day - it´s becoming a hit FAST. Ever since school started, the Thursday group nights have been dying off.... so we replaced it with Saturday sport day.... the young men and all their friends are coming by the FLOCKS to play soccer on the outside church court. Man. What a great influence we´re making on these young men - even if it´s just through soccer. Another really special experience was baptizing Ángel. Ángel Moisés Martin Morán. Again, I wasn´t able to take a picture, but Elder Aguirre´s got one. What an honor to stand in the place of his father and baptize him a member of the only true church with the proper authority. That guy will be a leader here someday - he´s got the best mother in the whole ward - Araselis. Anyway, we´ll be returning to the baptismal font soon cuz Abdianis is getting baptized this Saturday! I really want E´ Aguirre to baptize him - I don´t know if you remember but every time I train it´s my goal to get the newbies in the water and perform the ordinance. I´ll make sure I get a picture. 

                  So before I tell you a great story about José - our other fecha, I want to just say that I´m currently reading "Our Legacy" (part of the missionary library) and I could't put it down this morning!! I read it for a long while on the bus this morning to Chitré. Reading about the trials the early saints had in strengthening the church has really been making an impact on me. Unbelievable some of the things there! Their faith and diligence is something I don´t know if I would've been able to maintain! Especially the early missionaries who went to England, Scotland, etc. Wow - those guys are my missionary heroes. 

                  OK, so what I´m about to explain happened a few weeks ago, but I haven´t had time to explain it until now..... a couple weeks ago E´ Aguirre and I had just finished a dinner appointment and were walking to a cita, when a man approached us in the street. As we were walking by, he stopped us, and introduced himself - José Antonio Fernandez Aguilar. Bueno, and he asked us if we could give him a Book of Mormon - we responded yes of course, gave him the book, and then asked why. Well, he explained to us that a couple months ago his mother passed away, and he was really discouraged and started praying for guidance - asking God what to do, and asking for comfort. He said that as he was praying, it came to his mind that he needed to read the Book of Mormon and start attending our church. WOW right? So we put a cita with him and went to go visit at his house a few days later. In the first cita, we asked him to explain how he knew about the church and what not, and he started to tell us about how he had attended the church many times about 10 years ago - he received missionary visits and everything. Well he said when the time for his baptism came 10 years ago, something happened that day where he wasn't able to get baptized, and the missionaries then got transferred and he stopped attending. So..... that´s how he knew so much about the church - it was from visits 10 years earlier. So, there and then we put a fecha for the end of the month, we've already helped him to drop the coffee, and he is preparing to be baptized the morning of Dave´s farewell talk..... 31 de March. Is that not sweet? It´s a huge testimony builder to me, that truly, sometimes as missionaries we are seed-planters, and sometimes we reap the goods of hard work and diligence. We are so excited to help José get baptized and get to the temple soon. Sometimes, God´s hand in this work is so obvious. I´m just so thankful to Him that He has allowed me and blessed me enough so that I can be a tool in his hands and help bring others into His fold.
                  Well, that´s all for today folks. I love you all soooo much and thank you for being the best. Hurrah for Israel! 

-Elder Clarke

Monday, March 11, 2013

Alma 43:45

Bueno pues. Ha sido otro semana muy buena en la obra y la viña del Señor.
                Today has been a good day so far. Earlier this morning in district meeting, we came upon this scripture and it really made an impact on me. It made me reflect.... "why am I a missionary?" Like my sweet Equatorian companion would say: "¡Chuso........!". No but really, I am such a blessed person to be a representative of The Lord Jesus Christ! Wow! In the scripture it talked about the sons of Mosiah and WHY and HOW they taught and preached. They did it for their families, for their Lord, and for the LOVE that they had for each of them. Man. What examples eh? I am continuing to read the BOM - I am now certain I will name a child Abinadi. That guy is so.... so incredible.

                So this week has been a good one. My companion is really a great strength to me - Elder Aguirre. I think there`s a reason we`ve been together so long - I needed to learn a lot from him. He`s always my strength when I need one. We worked hard all week, trying to help as many people as we could. In the end, we had 2 in church with us. Abdianis, and Norberto. What studs, these two. Estefany falted again!! We`ve got a lot of work ahead with her. Josè didn`t come either, but I guess that`s because yesterday was voting day here in Panamà... he had to go work at the polls. I`ve got a really incredible story coming up with them one of these weeks when I`ve got a little bit more time.

                 Ah, also. One of my favorite families in the ward, la familia Moràn, asked me to baptize their 8 year old - Angel. This guy is so sweet. I find it a big honor because the father in the family died 2 years ago. And since his dad isn`t here to baptize him, Angel wanted me to do it! He says I remind him of his dad. That`s this Friday - I`m way excited. I will send pictures? when I can find a way to fix my camera.

                 Well I know this is a way lame letter but I didn`t have too much time today. But, I`ll leave you all with a commitment to go read Alma 43:45 and try to connect it to your life. Maybe ask yourself WHY you are doing the things you do? I love you guys SOOOOO much and hope you all have an awesome week. ¡Chao!
Elder Steve Clarke

Monday, March 4, 2013

Todo cool frenes

Locos y locas, it`s been a great week in the service of The Lord.

                 First off, I have to start with quite an important announcement. I would like to announce that last P-day, I DUNKED THE BASKETBALL. Yep. Dunked it. First real throw-down in my life. On the mission. Sweetest thing.
                 Allright now we can continue. This week can probly be summed up with a few words. Working with members. This week, I had the most "with member" lessons I`ve ever had in my whole mission! Fourteen to be exact. We did visits with the members nearly every day that we were in the area, and man it REALLY paid dividends. Our investigadores became SO much more positive. Their fechas are like almost done deals now, because of this member help we've recieved. Specifically, with Abdianis, Estefany, and Norberto. Wow. I`ve also had fun helping train the members how to better involve themselves and more effectively participate in the lessons (you gotta remember the church is still new here and the members don`t come from super strong families where a lot of missions have been served). It`s been a great week with them, and we should see some fruits to our labors here at the end of March! Specifically, I have a unique respect for Brother Leonel Arrocha. That guy is an incredible disciple of Christ. I will take a picture with him one of these days and send it. Definately best member in the branch.

                 Something I`ve been remembering and reflecting on lately is how I as a missionary can "take a step back", so to speak, and really slow down and love these people I`m helping. To do it with the love of Christ. Being discouraged recently with the lack of progression among my investigators, I`ve just been focusing in their commitments and how they`re weren`t completing them.... but this week I really tried to look at people and understand them like Christ would, and it`s really helped me.


Last thing I wanna share is this past Friday, I had a REALLY powerful experience. While I was on a long bus ride (lots of them here in the interior), I read an article on the life of Pres. Thomas S. Monson. Incredible article. But afterward, I sat there meditating for a long while, and both in that moment, and later in the day on the way home, I began to feel intense, but really intense, feelings of gratitude. Burning in my heart, it even brought me to tears! Sacred feelings of gratitude for the living prophet we have today, for my family, for the restored gospel, and much more. It was unlike any gratitude I`d ever felt before. God is such a merciful being with me. I am SUCH a blessed child. Wow. I am forever grateful to my God. I know He lives. 

                 Well I hope you guys have a wonderful week! Love you all so much :) And if you can, give thanks to our great God who has given us so much.


Elder Steve Clarke