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!


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


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