Monday, July 29, 2013

This week stunk.... then it ended good with a baptism.

Man... this week was one of the hardest I've had in a while. I really don`t have too much to recount besides the baptism, because I was stuck in the house the whole dang week. This week I found the principle to be totally true that if you don`t work, you get homesick and you don`t wanna work anymore. Working is the only remedy!!! And when you can't work cuz you're stuck on your bed, that's when things get really tough.

Right after I wrote you guys last week, we went to go play basketball and soccer. Well, we were warming up with soccer and I 
jumped up to head the ball, and when I came down my whole ankle popped out of place! Fetch, I don`t wanna sound like I`m exaggerating, but it was one of the most painful things that I've experienced in recent memory. I popped it back into place myself! Afterward, we went to the hospital that night to take an x-ray to make sure nothing was broken or fractured or anything, and thank goodness it wasn't. But dang, it sure felt like it - they put a soft cast on it and that night getting into the house was really hard, cuz we live on a big hill. 

And that`s pretty much my whole week - I stayed in the house until Saturday afternoon when we went to prepare Michael`s baptism. BIG props given to my comp, Elder Atuake, for constantly going on divisions during the week and keeping the work going. I love that guy, for real. I stayed with Elder Aguare and Quico mas during the week - Hermana Alvarado (member that lives above us) is a blessed woman and made us dinner and breakfast almost every day cuz I couldn't leave the house.

Michael's baptism was really cool though - it made the week awesome. He got confirmed yesterday, and I really feel he'll make a great missionary and member. The cool thing is both his father and mother came, who aren't members, and we planted that seed with them as they witnessed the baptism. The father had a lot of questions about Joseph Smith and everything so it'd be great to start teaching him a little. Blessed be Michael's grandma, Beatriz. She's a VERY strong member and we see God helping her so much in growth in the gospel! I admire her desire and willingness to do/learn whatever it takes.

Well, I'm gonna wrap this up, but I wanna share a quote I found by Gordon B. Hinckley this week that almost exactly describes the way I need to feel now in the mission: "The older I grow the less concerned I become with quotes and statistics and percentages, and the more I become concerned with the kind of experience that the soul of man has in the Lord`s church, and particularly in the Lord`s holy temple." Isn't that awesome?! Being a leader here in the mission, I've seen how important numbers are - it's kind of like a business. But the PROPHET, of all people, having to deal with all the numbers in the church, doesn't worry about it! He`s much more interested in the PEOPLE, not the numbers. Every number is a person. That`s how I need to become here in the mission. I need to perfect that. 

Well, that`s it for this week. I love you all!!!! Much! Have a great week.
Elder Clarke

Monday, July 22, 2013

Another week has gone...

Bueno folks. Another week has passed, and I am loving being a missionary. I am coming to a close on the Book of Mormon, and I`m learning better how to "listen by The Spirit" to my investigators in the lessons. We had some disappointments this week, as Vladimir has fallen through on his baptismal date - he is the grandson of a member, but his parents (which only one is a less-active member) simply do not support him and don't let him go to church with his grandparents. It really saddens me. It also makes me really glad though, de nuevo, for the amazing family that I was born into. I've said it time and again, but if there's anything I've learned to love and have a testimony of out here in the mission, its of the FAMILY. 

Speaking of family, last Monday night we went to a family home evening with a old member that had invited a partial member family over for the night. The members? Maria, Ana, and Anthony, 19, 13, and 10 years old. They are all recently active in the church, but their parents, no. They don't receive much support either! But anyway, by default for having been less active for a good amount of years, they don`t  know a whole ton about the basic gospel principles. So, we taught them about the Plan of Salvation, and about prayer.... things I've been learning about since I was 3! Or before. Anyway, I just found such great joy in teaching these young people the basic gospel principles, and more than anything, got me so excited to teach my own kids someday! In various blessings I've received throughout my life, I've noticed they've always mentioned a lot about teaching my kids the gospel someday in my own home. I just can`t wait!!! I just want my kids to be strong in the church. 

Anyway, this week was a week FULL of divisions - I did divisions with Elder Velez, from Argentina, Elder Aguare, from Guatemala, and Elder Quico (again), from Peru. Those Peruvians really are different. I`d like to go visit someday with Dave. I really like going on divisions and helping these guys, especially the younger ones, develop, and realize why they're here. I just try to be a good example to them, and help them to become better teachers. Man, it's so hard to be a good teacher out here - I`d say one of the hardest things to develop. I`m still not where I wanna be as a teacher, but that's why I've got 4 months left! Improve until the end, baby. 

In other news, our now one solo progressing investigator, Michael, should be baptized this Saturday. He is so chosen. Now that I have more time in the mission, it is much easier to discern when and/or whether it is an investigators time to get baptized. Because everything just works! The mission life is so crazy and constantly busy, especially as a leader, that when things go like they should, you know it`s because God has His hand in it. Michael is the grandson of Beatriz, the lady that Elder Paskett taught in Tocumen. Awesome.

One more little bit of consejo I wanna share before parting is the reality and the power of fasting. I know you guys don`t have the Spanish version of the scriptures, but in the index under fasting, it explains that one of the main purposes of the fast is to be able to KNOW and COMPREHEND God`s will during the fast. I am gaining such a strong testimony of this aspect of the fast - it`s becoming more and more obvious to me when I fast which investigators will progress, which ones won't, etc. It's awesome, and I plan on utilizing it after the mission as well. In order to be able to comprehend the will of God in the fast, we must be humble, and pray and ask for it in prayer during the fast. Anyway, I don't know what it says in English but study up on fasting and the purpose behind it in your scriptures, next time you fast. It`s great.

Well, I`m gonna end this now. Elder Atuake and I are doing well - he's such a cool guy - I'm learning lots from him. Changes are coming soon though, and I have a feeling I'll finally be sent to the interior. Chiriqui or Concepcion would be cool. Perhaps the last area of my mission! Crazy. Well, I love you guys. Thanks for all the uplifting emails - this week especially was great to hear from you all, and you definitely lifted my spirits :) ¡Chao!

Elder Steve Clarke
P.S.... Happy Birthday Krissy!!!!!!
          ..... and Happy Birthday Katie next week!!!!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Maloelele (Tongan for "hello")

Man :) I think Dave is the only one who understands right now what joy it brings me to write you guys every week. I love you all! How was your week? Mine was pretty good. It felt long though... first time that`s happened in a while. Mom, I hope you have a good week at girls camp, and Krissy, your birthday is in 1 week!!! And Katie, yours in 2!! So crazy. Something even more crazy are the pictures I received this morning: Justin Brockbank.... a married man?!? No puede ser. And P-Diddy Farnsworth back from the mission?!? So crazy. Life is crazy, I tell ya. 

Well, I`m gonna write down a few scattered thoughts today. I've been doing a lot of thinking this week - a lot of thinking about how I want to finish my mission. And I realized just how much I lack to become the person I want to be. I still have so many faults! But going into these last 4 months, I want to become better at following spiritual impressions AL INSTANTE (right away). This was something President Ward talked about a lot and something I'm sad to say I don't think I've perfected yet. In order to be able to, I also realize I need to know with a surety how to recognize promptings. In my last interview with Pte. Ward, he gave me a blessing and told me in the last 6 months of my mission, that is what I was going to improve. I told him I am determined to find a baptize a complete family, seeing as I still haven't been able to do that yet. I am also determined to put to the test the wisdom of Grandpa in 1. Study 2. Ponder, and 3. Prayer, in order to receive personal revelation of how I can better recognize and follow spiritual promptings al instante.  It's such a scary thought I'm going home so soon - I have so much to improve!

So, this week I've been flying through the BOM - I'm now in Mormon! I think I wanna read it again one more time in the last few months I have. That will require a lot of studying, but hey! I feel like I'm really feasting on the Book of Mormon right now. Every night after we come home and plan, I go straight to reading! I really look forward to it. Mormon was such a good leader, and I can't imagine what it must've been like for him to live during the beginnings of the apostasy in the Americas. What I admire is that it says in chapter 3 (I think) that regardless of their iniquidades, he still loved them with all the love of God he could muster. Also, I loved how he was told of and entrusted with the responsibility of the sacred record as young as 10 years of age! And he was asked to be the Nephite captain at the age of 16! Really awesome how through the oracles of time, God has always called jovenes in their youth (Joseph Smith, King David, etc).
As for our investigators, we only had 2 in the reunion :( But, the good news is we should be saving at least 2 more souls at the end of the month (perhaps more). One  of them is quite the miracle story - his name is Michol - grandson of the lady that Elder Paskett baptized! I marvel, truly, at the faith of that lady - Beatriz - in helping her grandson come for the lessons, getting to church every week. I had the opportunity to interview her for her baptism, and she told me about how she came to the conviction of the truthfulness of this church - it was a long story and I totally regret not writing it down. But her testimony is so strong of the Profet Joseph Smith! We should be getting her grandson baptized on the 27. It`s awesome, but also kind of sad, how many miracles and testimonys I've seen out here in the field, that it almost doesn't even faze me anymore! It's a beautiful thing to be out here in the field. 

This past week we had multi-zone conference, where the rest of the zone/mission met the new mission pres. We also met his kids for the first time - they are so cool!  One of them - Sam - just got back from the Tokyo mission and knew of Jared Hall there! Awesome. President Carmack is so awesome though, really. I know he was called by revelation to come here - he's exactly what we need here! I was talking with un Elder Garnica - an ex-assistant who's going home at the end of the month, and we were talking about how we wish we got to stay here longer under President Carmack's reign. This mission is gonna completely change and it's gonna be awesome! 

Also, we've been leaving with the young men recently to do visits on Saturday, first with Demetrio - getting ready to leave on his mission, and also this past Saturday with Raul (who we baptized). He's already talking with the bishop about getting ready to go on the mish!! Who! I really wish there were missionaries in AF and that I would've left to do visits with them before my mission - I could tell to Demetrio especially it was a big help, and we all felt The Spirit strong! 
Well, I'm gonna end this email - it's been extra long I know. But I love the mission! Wanna keep working and improving so that I can finish my mission feeling good about what I did here. Love you all!! Have a great week!


Elder Clarke

Monday, July 8, 2013

I was a Lamanite this week...

Well, this week was a good one. I think probly the best thing in the mission in the amount of lessons learned through trial and experience. I feel like it`s something I won't be able to recognize as easily when I go home. Today has been a good P-day so far: we just got back from el Templo Bahaiia (?). It is the world's second largest religion after Christianity I guess? It was pretty cool though - I was surprised to hear that their belief about revelation and prophets is very similar to ours and Joseph Smith. They have 8 temples in the world - one on every continent I think. And one of the 8 is stationed right here in Panama! Ha! Anyway. 

So I'm almost embarrassed to write this, but God totally humbled me this week. In the past little while, I'd had more success than I'd had almost in any other point in my mission. With that, I got a little prideful I think. Literally prideful, no, but, I don't know. I just got lackadaisical with stuff. This past Sunday when I didn't have any baptisms, I think I realized: I've gotta go out and WORK again to get them. I don't think lazy is the right word, but I had let up a bit. Haha. We read about the Lamanites/Nephites that go through the cycle of obedience, blessings, falling into wickedness and temptations, etc, and I feel like I fell right into that hole. And to think, I just finished reading Alma! You'd think I would've learned something.... ha. Anyway, now I'm back on track and Elder Atuake and I are ready to go out and baptize the world! We already put the goal of 4 baptisms in July and we are gonna do it! We are fasting every Saturday and into Sunday for it. I love my comp - he`s such a boss. 

In other news, we are now participating in the..... WARD CHOIR!!! What?! The men are actually non-existent. It was practically an all relief-society choir, until my comp and I offered our talents! Haha! The practice yesterday after church was long and kind of boring, not to mention we had been fasting, but it's great. Now more than ever I regret not knowing how to play piano and read music. A lady asked me to go play the piano yesterday, assuming I knew how because I'm from America.... I had to sadly tell her I don't know how to play. Grandma.... 100 points. You were always right. 
Pariaso Zone wearing their "Dream Team" t-shirts

Oh! We also had a baptismal service for the sisters here in the ward on Saturday. It's kind of a long story, but it was really a baptism of Elder Paskett's (Mom, I'm sure he explained it in his weekly letter if you wanna check it out)! He had been transferred to Chorrera and came to the ghetto to perform the baptism in our capilla Saturday night! It was way fun to see him. I'd love to finish my mission being comps with him.

Also, I did divisions with an Elder Quico this week - he's from Peru! It's so funny how all the Peruvians talk - they all have the same way of talking. I thought of Dave :) I tried to help him understand how to teach PEOPLE, not lessons. He's a new guy in the mission still. I feel like we as leaders have such a big carga now more than ever with so many new missionaries. To be honest, I don't know if they really know too well how to teach and be missionaries! It falls on us to help teach them. 

Anyway, that's all I have time for this week. I love you all and hope you all have an awesome week!
-Elder Clarke
P.S.... Happy 4th of July this past week! Ether 2:12.... our country needs to continue to follow God!

Monday, July 1, 2013

New baptism! New companion! New mission president!

Yes!!! Life is so good! For real! This week there's been a lot of changes, but all for the good! Not even getting sick could put a damper on my week (I've been sick for like 3 days now, and currently my voice is gone. I like talking in Spanish when my voice is gone :)) I will miss speaking Spanish every day when I come home. But before I say anything about my awesome week, I must comment on how dang good looking Dad's new truck is. Man :) It's perfect. Congrats, Dad.
OK so I'm gonna have to make this kind of a short email, so I'll cut it straight to the chase.  First of all, we FINALLY got GUSTAVO baptized!!! Yes!! He was the guy that got married 3 months ago, remember? We've been working with him since the first week I arrived here in Paraíso back in April. Such a good baptism - him and his wife now will be able to progress toward an eternal marriage. I'd like to come back and visit someday when they get sealed :) It was definitely a special baptism. 

So, we had changes this past Wednesday, and I must admit I was way sad to say goodbye to Elder Follette. I love that guy a lot. One of my best comps., definitely. But.... he just possibly might've been replaced by a candidate for coolest comp. ever. Welcome to Elder Paea
'Atu'ake, straight from the island of TONGA!!!!! Ya man. 100% Tongan. SUCH a sick man. When he started his mission, he didn't really speak English or Spanish..... now he knows both! This guy came straight from the islands, and is SOO dang cool. I can't get it the point across over email. Anyway, this is his first change as a zone leader and I am training him. He has 20 months in the mission, about a month more than me, and this will probably be his last area of the mission. This guy is the man. Funny story about him just to show you how humble he is..... so it just so happens that the very first day of us being companions was his birthday! The catch? He didn't even tell me until 4:00 in the afternoon, and he didn't even tell me! He told a pinche investigator! Haha! It blew me away, and I didn't believe him. Hahah. Anyway, that night after we got done with all the citas, I went and spent the last 5 dollars I had and bought us a big gallon of ice cream and little muffins :) We pigged out - especially him, as you can imagine. Being from Tonga, he eats more and faster than like anyone I've ever seen.

Well that's all I'm gonna be able to write this week.... Pte. Ward se fue :( And Pte. Carmack looks cool - I've just seen a picture of him so far. We'll meet him this Wednesday though in the leadership meeting! I'm stoked. 

Allright well I hope you all have an awesome week! Mom, I love the photo of you at girls camp :) You guys are all great :) Chao!

-Elder Clarke