Monday, May 14, 2012

The Final Email from Steven (Monday, May 14, 2012

Oi Família!!! Not much to say really right now. This is officially my last e-mail that I will be sending as "Elder Clark". I really have enjoyed writing these e-mails every week and sending them to you all to read. I have tried my best to write about the good stuff that I experienced throughout my weeks. I have a terrible memory and I am glad that I have these e-mails saved so that I can always come back and read about my own experiences. I am also extremely grateful for my dad having encouraged me to write in my journal every night. I have often gone back to my journal to relive some of the good times I had on the mission. Often times I would end up with a huge difficulty in the work or a personal problem and I was able to go back in time through my journal to find out how I dealt with a similar situation in the past. How I was able to come out of the problem, or how my feelings were about that certain subject. I am able to compare and contrast the differences in my attitude in each problem that I faced in the mission. I am also very lucky because I recorded the most spiritual experiences I had during the days. I wrote in this journal EVERY SINGLE DAY of the mission! I wanted to be just like my dad, and I was able to do it! I am so excited to one day show my kids the journals that I kept. I´d like to give a very special thanks to my Grandma and Grandpa Stevens who helped me so much financially while I´ve been out here serving. There was a time in my mission when my companion was very irresponsible with money and I ended up having to pay for almost double the normal costs. That extra money that you guys put into my account every month saved my life out here! I am also so glad that I have been able to save up a lot of that money to show that I really am grateful for the sacrifice you made for me. I didn´t spend the money unwisely because I knew that it represented the love that you two have for me. That goes for everyone who ever put a little extra money into my bank account during these two years. I know that they were donations from the heart, so I treated them that way. Thanks to all who wrote me letters and sent me e-mails throughout the mission. I always seemed to get a letter in the times that I needed a little pick-me-up. It was nice to hear about news from home (braces, got taller, won an a election, got MARRIED, and etc...) and I always loved to read about the testimonies of so many friends and family. I loved the letters that Grandma Clark would send because I always got the low-down on the weather, the entire family, the Jazz, Grandpa Clark, and the ward. I´ll admit that I didn´t always have the dilligence to write back, but I appreciated every letter that she sent. And a very special thanks to my mom, dad, and brothers and sisters who were very good at sending me an e-mail every week. There are so many missionaries whose parents don´t even send them e-mail anymore and I am so grateful that mine always sent me something. I am so blessed for being able to serve specifically in this mission. I can´t believe how great the hand of the Lord is on the Earth, and I know that I wouldn´t ever recognize it as often in my life if it weren´t for the mission. I will take home with me a whole bunch of trinkets and souvenirs from Brazil, but the most precious thing that I will take home with me is the testimony that I gained while I was working here. I owe it all to my great parents that I have. My earthly parents AND especially my celestial parents, whom I know love me so much. Good-bye everyone! I´ll see you all on the other side! Love, Elder Clark

Monday, May 7, 2012

Monday, May 7th 2012

Oi Família!!! I must say that I did not ask for the weeks to pass by so quickly. It´s kind of catching me off guard. This week was quite the week of good times. I decided to spend this week doing companion splits with the zone leaders in a zone that I had already worked. I don´t know if you all remember that city that had the big ol´ name of Itaquaquecetuba, but I went back there to pay a visit to a few special people and give my last good-bye to them all. I especially wanted to see the family that my companion and I completed while we were there. The couple´s names are Sidney and Adriana. My companion and I baptized Sidney while were there about 10 months ago. He was pretty hard to convince in the beginning but now he is super strong in the ward and is serving as the secretary in the elders´ quorum. He baptized his 8 year-old daughter since then and they even gave me some special news... their family will be getting sealed this year in August! I couldn´t help but cry and laugh and do all sorts of unmanly things when I heard them say that. I love that family so much and I am so glad that they are learning how to "endure to the end!" I´m just sad that I won´t be here anymore to see the sealing, but that is the least of my worries right now. I just have a good feeling of fulfillment now in my life. This was one of my biggest goals as a missionary and I am so happy that I was able to accomplish it. Like I´ve said so many times, I don´t know what I did to deserve such great experiences or be around such great people, but I am in debt eternally to my Heavenly Father. Another cool story of the week! In that same area, two complete families were baptized the week before I went to visit again. Just a little background info... ten months ago while I was still working in that ward, I was climbing up a huge hill on an extremely HOT afternoon! My companion and I decided to stop at a random house to ask for a glass of water. We knocked on the door and a woman came out and offered ice-cold water to my companion and I. We took advantage of the opportunity to talk to her about the Gospel. She would´ve let us into her house that instant but her husband wasn´t at home yet, so we marked to pass by another day. We left a booklet of the Plan of Salvation with her and went on our way. I completely forgot about her and we never went back to that house and soon after I was transferred to the area that I am in right now. Well, what happened with that family and that booklet that we left with that woman? That woman waited for our visit and we never came. Her sister, who lived in the same house as she did, was hospitalized. That woman gave the booklet to her sister and started to read it. They all got interested in the message of the Church but the missionaries never came by. Ten months went by and finally the Elders came by their house again through a street contact. They fell in love with the Church, and were baptized! Two couples and their kids were baptized into the Church, and it all started because my comp and I were really thirsty. I didn´t know that it was them who were baptized and I asked the Elder to show me were they lived. When I saw the house, I was a little taken aback. When I saw the woman, I went crazy. I asked her if she remembered me. She looked at me and said, "You were the first Elder to come to our house!" Normally, when I feel the Spirit in my life, it´s a small and simple feeling. But as I was talking with that family, my heart felt like it was ready to jump out of my chest. You really don´t find these types of experiences in any other place than when you´re on a mission. It seems like a story straight out of the Ensign, but to me it really could only be the Lord´s hand that does these types of miracles. Well, it´s my last full week of work here on the mission. But no one has to worry. The trunkiness is at a minimum :) These really awesome experiences are helping me keep my focus. Love you all! We´ll all talk soon on Skype this Sunday! Elder Clark

Monday, April 30, 2012

Monday, April 30th 2012

Oi Família!!! Yet another eventful and exciting week here in São Paulo! My companion and I went to the upstate of the mission again to do splits with the missionaries out there. These journeys are always a big sacrifice because we have to stay three days out of our own area. That´s three days of good working time to find families to baptize! But we have two other great missionaries who work with us in this ward, so we are able to leave them with a heavy work-load and they always come through! But these trips are costly as well. We don´t receive a lot of money as it is, and when we have to travel like this we end up spending at least 120 Reais (the local currency). I am so grateful that Dad taught me how important it is to save money because I think I am one of the only missionaries who has never had problems with money. One more blessing that I will be able to use after the mission! We had a few good experiences during these splits. We did all them as a surprise. We didn´t tell anyone that we were coming and just kind of showed up at their doorstep on the morning of the split. My companion worked with one of the Elders and I worked with the other for the day. It was really interesting to see because when you do it as a surprise, you can catch a missionary not being so dilligent. We got to a house in one of the branches on the beach, who happen to be leaders on the mission, and knocked on their door about 9 in the morning. What did we see? The two of them were sitting at their desks... studying the scriptures. I was so pleased to see them doing that. Even though they weren´t doing anything beyond what they were supposed to, I was still happy to see that they were being dilligent without having to ask them. These are two missionaries who will be very well off now on the mission AND afterwards as well at home. When I got back from the trip, I woke up with a terrible pain in my foot! I had gotten an ingrown toenail about... 9 or 10 months ago when I was still in Itaquaquecetuba, but I never had the courage to go to a foot doctor to take care of it. So I just let it keep growing... and growing... and growing, and I kept cutting it and cutting it the wrong way! haha So by the time I finallly went to the doctor to take care of it, my toe was almost a complete disaster. Thankfully, the woman who took care of me was extremely kind and friendly and more or less gentle while taking out my ingrown toenail. The place that I went to was a beauty salon full of women! Did I mention that I do not like the feeling of beauty salons? I always feel super awkward, ever since I was a little kid even. So I sat there in the little room and I swear every single woman in that salon came in to watch me squirm over my toenail! They all tried chatting with me while the doctor was in a full-time surgery! "Wow! That´s a lot of blood!" "Where are you from again?" "Your accent is funny." "Is your family here, too?" All the while I was almost crying from the pain, so I tried my best to be polite while answering all of their questions. I even started talking about the Book of Mormon and invited one of the ladies to come to Church. I figured that I had better make good use of the suffering! The doctor was pretty doubtful that I would stand the pain. She asked me so many times if I wanted to quit, but I knew that if I quit that I would never fix the problem. It really was one of the worst pains I´ve ever felt, but the relief was so great afterwards. She told me that the majority of the people whom she´d operated on usually pass out because of the pain. We got to talking about Jesus Christ´s suffering as well. She said, "I wanted to take care of Christ´s feet, too, but He didn´t wait for me. So I am grateful to take care of the feet of one of His servants." She looked at me and smiled. Even after so much pain, I could feel the Spirit in that room so strongly. I even wrote what she said in my journal. Thinking back on the experience that I had with my ingrown toenail, I was able to relate it to a very good Gospel principle... Repentance. Ten months ago, my toenail started to grow into my skin because I cut my toenail the WRONG way, and relating to the Gospel, this could be sin. I was afraid of going to the foot doctor at the beginning because of the pain that I thought I would feel, so I became stubborn and selfish and thought I could take care of the toenail by myself. When we sin, we avoid repenting or going to the bishop because we are afraid of the pain we think we will feel, so we wait and think we can fix things by ourselves and we forget that we need the power of the Holy Priesthood to truly repent of our sins. I let my toenail grow and each time the problem started to show, I went and cut it out myself, and the problem would go away for a few weeks, but would always come back even worse. When we sin, we try to take care of the problem and it may even appear that the problem has gone away, but it always come back worse than before. Finally, when the pain of my ingrown toenail was so unbareable that I couldn´t wait any longer and I went to the person who KNEW how to fix my problem for good. With our sins, we wait until the absolute last minute to finally go to the person who KNOWS how to fix our relationship with Heavenly Father... Jesus Christ and one of His authorized servants. The pain that is felt after a toenail is ingrown and infected is immense, even makes a person faint, but if it is taken care of in the early stages, the pain is very, very little. After a sin has become "ingrown" and "infected" the pain that we feel when we take it out is very intense as well, but if we take care of it in the very moment that we sin the pain is minimal. The relief that is felt after taking out the ingrown toenail is so great! The recovery process is a little longer but at least you don´t feel the jabbing pain anymore. The relief that is felt after repenting through the authority of the priesthood is even greater! I know that sometimes we are afraid of repentance, or that our toenail is so far ingrown that you´d rather amputate the entire toe and get rid of the problem that way. Christ is the best doctor. He is able to fix ANY sin! I know that the Atonement is real and that when we repent we are showing Christ that we are GRATEFUL that He died for us! Not repenting is ingratitude and a makes His sacrifice vain! I love the Lord. I love what He has allowed me to do on this mission. I love the knowledge that I have gained through scripture study and prayer. Everything in this life can be compared to a Gospel principle. Even an ingrown toenail. Love, Elder Clark

Monday, April 23, 2012

Monday, April 23 2012

Oi Família, Let me just tell you all that I absolutely loved this week! We had a pretty neat experience with a family that we are teaching. We found an amazing family last week in our search for souls that absolutely loved the Church. They went last week and said that they want to stay here. There is a dad, a mom, two kids, aunt and uncle, and grandma! Unfortunately, the parents and aunt and uncle aren´t married yet, so they aren´t able to be baptized yet, but we are working with them so they can be baptized as well! But we invited the grandma and the grandkids to be baptized this weekend and they accepted! They all got their hair cut on Saturday night to go to Church on Sunday morning! When they showed up at the Church, we all got into the van that we rented to take them all to Stake Conference. My companion, Elder Torres, and I looked at the van full of about 15 investigators and we got a big ol´ smile on our face. It seemed that after so much work and effort we were being blessed by the Lord. And it really wasn´t us who were being blessed but the people who we were taking to Church. But that is a funny thing about the mission. We often think that blessings from the Lord in our life are only things that benefit OUR own lives, but on the mission I have witnessed that when my investigators keep the commandments and go to Church or get baptized, I AM THE ONE WHO IS BLESSED! I haven´t perfected it yet, but I have learned how to be more unselfish here on the mission. I really think that in helping others repent and perfect their weaknesses God has slowly been chizzling away my imperfections... and I haven´t even been noticing it until now. We showed up to the conference and filled up three complete rows with our investigators and their families! And it couldn´t have happened on a better day because who was presiding the conference was Elder Clayton of the Seventy Presidency. :) Something hit me really strongly in our mission conference with Elder Holland and Elder Clayton this Saturday. There were so many great talks! One that really touched my heart was the conversion story of Elder Godoy from the Brazil Area Presidency. He said that when he was taught by the sister missionaries he was baptized at 16 years-old without his parents and with long rocker hair. One week after his baptism, both of the sisters were transfered from the area. What were the odds that that 16 year-old rocker kid would stay strong in the Church? Not much. Well, he went on a mission, came back, got married in the temple, had four kids, served as a bishop and at 32 years-old he had the opportunity to go the U.S. to study. While he was there he accidentally came across one of the sisters that had taught him 16 years ago. He saw her and started to thank her. "Sister, I stayed strong in the Church! I have a testimony! I know that the Church is true! I´ve been a bishop! I am sealed in the temple! Thank-you!" When Elder Godoy was called as a mission president, that sister was there to see him set-apart, but the best thing was when he was called a general authority. That sister´s youngest son was about to be sealed in the Salt Lake Temple when she called and asked Elder Godoy to do the sealing. What great of a feeling that must have been. To see someone you taught the Gospel SO many years ago sealing your youngest child in the temple. Well that only BEGAN the conference. Elder Clayton gave us three steps for us to be successful after the mission. First, don´t stop obeying the mission rules once you get back from the mission field. They don´t automatically stop applying to you once you take off the nametag, they are just slightly adapted to fit your life at home. They should be a standard for us to live the rest of our life. Second, don´t stop studying! Always strive to get a better education. The world is changing and the future is going to be VERY difficult and if we don´t get the best education that´s possible, we won´t be able to sustain our family. Third, never stop having companion study. Once we get home, we should look for marriage, and once we are married we should never stop studying with our companion. Helaman 5:12 says that if we build our faith on this rock, that is Christ, we CANNOT fall. In Portuguese, it says that we WILL NOT fall. Both are great promises! Then came Elder Holland´s turn. He took a little bit from Elder Godoy´s story and said to us, "What kind of person do your converts deserve to see in you here in 20 years?" Imagine how many people we have taught and baptized down here? How many will remain firm and faithful in the Gospel? We don´t know, but how would you feel if one of the people whom you taught and worked so hard to baptize saw you 20 years after the mission and you weren´t even living the Gospel anymore? That you, who brought the truth into their lives, have forgotten everything that you had learned in those two years experience. Elder Holland said, "You can´t have a million dollar experience like Elder Godoy with only 25 cents worth of effort!... You can bet that at the end of your missionary service that God will demand at least one convert from your mission. He will reach through the veil and thump you in chest and say, 'I demand at least one!'" Can you all imagine WHO is that one convert that God will demand that stays strong in the Church? It´s you. The world is a sad a strange place, but at least we, who KNOW the truth, can show that we KNOW BETTER! We are God´s investigators. Just how we want our investigators here on the mission to pray a little more earnestly, or to read and study the scriptures with more dilligence, or to try to be more like Christ, God wants the EXACT SAME THING FOR US! Just how we get happy in seeing someone we helped enter into the Gospel progress spiritually, God gets even happier when He sees His children fulfilling their duty here on Earth. He said that his mission reorganized his life. He didn´t know what a mission was. But now, 50 years down the road, there hasn´t been a single day that has passed by that he hasn´t thought about his mission. What kinds of things do I want to remember when I get back home? I want to remember the sad times, the good times, the spiritual times, and the funny times. I am so glad that I didn´t waste my time nor the Lord´s time in these two VERY short years. I know that if I had been disobedient in these two years, I would be coming back home extremely regretful and wanting to do it over again. I don´t know what I did to deserve such great experiences during my mission, but I thank my Heavenly Father so much for the opportunity. I hope to remember my mission just how Elder Holland does. I love my mission and my Savior. Thanks Family! You´re my world and my future. Love, Elder Clark

Monday, April 16, 2012

Monday, April 16th 2012

Oi Família!!!

It was a crazy week. We finally got done with the transfers this week and now all the oldies are gone and now I am officially the oldest missionary in the mission! No one has been out for more time that I have! That truly is a weird thing to say. I almost don´t believe that it is all coming to an end. Everyone in my ward here is asking me if my mission president has forgoten me here because I have been here for so much time. I am also the missionary who stayed the most time in one area! I am just shattering records everywhere! I am really excited to finish out this last transfer with a bang! we have a couple that we are going to baptize either at the end of the month or the beginning of May. We also are seeing a lot of our recent-converts getting stronger each week in the Gospel as well.

This week we are going to be planning yet another mission conference. In January, we were priviledged enough to have Elder Ballard and Elder Andersen visit our mission to talk with all of us missionaries, but now who do you think they are sending to us? Well, either we didn´t get understand the first message they sent us, or the Quorum of 12 Apostles just likes our mission a lot because Elder Holland will be visiting us this Saturday! I am really excited to hear what he will tell us. I will give a better report about it next week!

I am studying the last week of Jesus Christ in my personal study now. I needed to see how Christ handled his last few moments here on the Earth so that I can somehow finish the mission the same way. Christ did so many things in his last week or ministry and it seems like the He saved His best performance for the end. Usually on the mission, as we get closer to the end, we all get a little more tired and start to drag a little more. But it should never be this way. We should always save our best for last and not "DIE" before our time runs out. It´s a great lesson of enduring to the end. I am really enjoying this type of study.

That´s about it for this week! I will have more juicy information about Elder Holland next week! Love you all! Thanks!

Elder Clark

Monday, April 9, 2012

Monday, April 9th 2012

Oi Família!

Well, it´s transfers once again. This phrase is starting to be like a broken record. This is my last transfer! Unlike the other transfers, this one is only five weeks long, different from the usual six weeks. So the time is going to start to fly really quickly now! My best friend from the mission will be going home tomorrow. His name is Elder Erich Mielke. When I got on the mission two years ago, we lived in the same house. When we were transferred from that house we never saw each other again. When I was called as an assistant to got to start helping our president with arranging the new companionships and whatnot, and I saw an open spot in the house that I was living in, so I suggested to President Moreira to put him in my house again. So we started and ended the mission together and we baptized some pretty awesome families together. He never was technically my companion, but we did so many splits together that he might as well have been my companion. He probably got ticked off at how many times I told him to ditch BYU and go to Utah State, but I think it worked because I think I convinced him enough! haha

This week was Easter! Easter here is actually a pretty funny sight down here in Brazil. It is an extremely Catholic country, so on Good Friday you see a lot of reenactments of the crucifixion of Christ... on the streets! It´s not too rare to see a huge crowd in the middle of the road with horseman and a man in loin cloth carrying a cross on his back. Then in the background you see a bunch of kids dragging a stuffed Judas doll on the ground screaming "We want candy!" We have Halloween and they have Good Friday here lol. And on Good Friday no one eats meat, only fish (I love lunch on Good Friday!) and the passover is completely ignored here because no one likes nor respects the jews. And on Easter Sunday everyone just drinks and eats candy. There is an Easter Bunny but he doesn´t come and put eggs everywhere. He is more of just a figure of Easter. Everyone thought I was strange because our family always has an Easter Egg Hunt. It´s pretty awesome around this time of year because they all make this type of crushed peanut mixture that you can eat with bananas and other types of fruit and it is like a peanut butter but with out the butter... I don´t know if that makes sense but oh well! lol
I am really excited for the future! I am really excited to finish the mission with a bang! Our mission is still in first place in all of Brazil in the work and I plan on keeping it this way! It´s not that I like being better than other people, but I love giving my best and my all and helping others reach their potential. When you are doing what the Lord asks, you become an example to others. When you are an example to others, you have the obligation as a child of God to help others around you to do what the Lord asks as well. We have a very good work system here in the mission. The leaders are the example to everyone in the mission. They are the most obedient and are the ones who work the hardest. This way, the younger missionaries work harder to become the leaders of the future. I love this mission! Really, I am so happy the way things are going and I just pray that Heavenly Father will continue to bless us with these great families and people we are baptizing! We are going to be blessed once again this month... Elder Holland will hold a conference with our mission! This will be the third Apostle that I met here on the mission! This will be the second time that Elder Holland visits this mission with President Moreira. He came about two months before I got on the mission. I am really excited!

Love you all! Thanks for the support and help that you all give me!

Elder Clark

Monday, April 2, 2012

Monday, April 2nd 2012

Oi Família!!!

There´s something really great to be said about General Conference. When I was little, I always thought that Conference was a "day-off" from Church, or the day that we watched Church on TV. I never really understood the importance of sitting down and paying attention to the words of the prophets and apostles. I think it all changed when I made a change in my group of friends. When I started hanging out more with all my friends, we all made a bigger effort to go to Priesthood session together and we also used to compare the notes we would take during the other sessions. I even remember when my "addiction" to General Conference got so bad that the guys from the baseball team planned a Home-run Derby at the ball park on the Saturday of Conference and I only joined them after the first session and I left just before the second was about to start. I don´t know what happened inside of me that made me start to like to hear these talks so much, but I am pretty sure that it all started when I heard a talk from President Hinckley. I don´t remember what he talked about, I don´t remember exactly which Priesthood Session he spoke in, but when he was talking I felt as if it were just him and me talking one-on-one. From that day on, I have made it a goal to always go into Conference weekend with a few questions to be answered. I always have something that I am looking for, even if I don´t know exactly what I am looking for specifically. And I am always answered.

This testimony that I gained about General Conference helped me out a lot this week in the work. Here in my area, we have over 40 recent-converts active and loving the Church. None of these converts had ever seen General Conference before and we had been talking so much about the prophet Thomas S. Monson that I think they were starting to doubt that this man actually existed! lol We visited every single one of these converts to invite them to go to Conference. My companion and I challenged each and every one of them to do exactly what helped me gain a testimony; go with a question in your heart that you want to be answered. Although not all of these converts were able to make the long journey to the stake center (because here in Brazil Conference doesn´t pass on channel 5), the ones that made the trip were extremely blessed. I´d like to tell you all the story about a woman named Ila (ee-la). We baptized her and her two kids. Her kids became extremely active very quickly, but she has been a little slower. When she was baptized, she was a very active member of another church, but she felt that she needed to keep her family together so she was baptized as well. Ever since her baptism, she has only received criticism from her co-workers, family members, and friends. Many people tell her that she is in the Devil´s church and that she needed to think twice about going again. She openly shares her concerns with us and we have always been trying to help her, but nothing ever seemed to take away her doubts about the Church. We took advantage of the opportunity to use General Conference to help her out. I thought that if President Monson isn´t able to help then I don´t know who else to call! We told her that if she went to Conference that she would receive an answer to her questions and she would feel that this really is the True Church. She accepted the challenge and went. At times I would look over at her on the other bench with her kids, and she was absolutely fixed on the screen! Then came Elder D. Todd Christopherson´s talk about the true doctrine of the Christ and of the Church. He said that the doctrine of the Church is this: That Christ lived, died, was buried, rose again, and ascended to heaven, and that through faith in Him, repentance of our sins, baptism by immersion, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end we will all be saved! The Church teaches nothing more than this! Then President Monson got up and gave a wonderful talk about having a firm foundation in Christ. When I spoke with her after the Conference, she told me, "I loved it. It was exactly what I was needing. I can´t wait for October to watch it again!" At that moment, I saw how our recent-convert had gained a testimony just as I had gained a testimony seven years ago.

I know that this Church is true. I know that President Monson is God´s prophet here on the Earth. No one can tell me otherwise because His Spirit has already engraved it on my heart. So many great mysteries from God are hidden inside these great talks from the prophets. I know that I will be set to face the next six months of my life because of the information I gained this last weekend. I´m in my last full month as a full-time missionary and I have to give my last sprint now as I go out. I love you all and I hope you all have a great week!


Elder Clark