Monday, March 28, 2011

Monday, March 28th 2011

Oí Família!

As you can all tell from the headline of this e-mail... it´s kind of hot right now. This week was pretty difficult to keep working in the hot sun all day and listen to people not want to hear the message, but I was able to take another bath in the baptismal font on Sunday, so it was all worth it! I am so overly joyed at what took place this week. Yesterday was one of the most fulfilling moments I have ever had as a missionary. We helped bring FOUR of God´s Children to baptism! As I stood in the font, waiting for them to descend into the water, I saw the happy look on each of their faces. I want to tell the story of Douglas, an 18 year-old who was baptized yesterday.

Douglas is a friend of the less-active member who stopped us on the street two weeks ago. Douglas has had a pretty rough life. His uncle killed his dad when he was a little baby and was raised by his aunt for the majority of his life. He has gone through some pretty rough stages in his life and experimented with just about everything the world has to offer. Despite all of these things, Douglas is one of the most optimistic and open-minded people I have ever met. From the first time we taught him, he accepted the challenge to ask God if everything we taught was true. The next day, I asked him how his prayer went. He said, "I asked, but He did answer me yet. I think it´s because I didn´t really ask with much desire to know... because I think I already know it´s true." From that day on, he dedicated himself to prepare for baptism. When he passed his baptismal interview, he asked us if he had to take out his gauges that he uses in his ears. We told him that if he felt comfortable to take them out already, he could, but if he needed more time to remove them, he could wait a while. He immediately took them out and threw them away. As I was waiting for him to enter the water yesterday, I sawa huge smile on his face. When I placed his hand on my wrist, I felt him squeeze tightly and close his eyes just as tight. I knew that he was thinking a lot about what he was about to do. As I said the prayer, I could feel the Spirit testifying to me that I was about to baptize a truly repentant soul. He came straight out of the water and had an even bigger smile than before. I know that repentance is true. I know that God forgives all of His children who humble themselves. Douglas left a mark on me, that´s for sure.

We went back to work on the house we were building last week. I find that I am always looking forward to doing hard manual labor during the week. I think it´s because I get to use normal, comfortable clothes. I never used to get so much joy in serving others that I do right now. When I was a kid, I used to HATE getting up to haul hay, or lay sod, or do anything that involved sweating for no reason that would help ME personally. I am now seeing the selfish person that I was and still am. I saw the look on the face of the member whom we are helping and I know that all of this effort is going to make his and his wife´s life easier. Building the house is fun because I get to really talk with our bishop in this ward. We talk about less-active families and people whom he thinks could be possible candidates for baptism. We have gaines SO much trust from the bishop and other members through this service project and now it´s going to be that much harder to leave this area.

Oh one piece of news for you all back at home... As of this month, Brazil São Paulo East is the highest baptizing mission in Brazil. And Brazil is the highest baptizing country in the world! I am so extremely grateful to be a part of such a great work here in this mission. My mission president is such an ispired man and I am so lucky to have him here. He works us to death and I am pretty sure that if he could he would take away our P-day, but he knows how to work and I have learned a lot about setting high goal because of him. He told us that when we set a goal for baptizing people in one month, we need to, firstly, pray and ask God if that is what He wants, and then we need to go looking for those people. He said that the goal we set during the month is JUST as important as the covenants we made in the temple. God revealed to us that we need to baptize x people, so He has already prepare x people, we just need to find them. This is true in everything we do in life. We promised that we would keep the commandments, so we need to find a way to keep them because God has already prepared the way for us.

I am so very grateful for my family and all that you do for me! Know that I am doing extremely well out here and this mission is litterally changing my life. I hope you all have a great week and that everyone is able to recognize the little blessings we have when it seems that everything is going wrong. I love you all!


Elder Clark

Monday, March 21, 2011

Monday, March 21 2011

Oí Família!

Firstly, I would like to start this email off by saying WHAT AN AWESOME WEEK THIS HAS BEEN! Does that express my feelings suficiently? We ended up baptizing THREE people yesterday! There were two boys and one girl. The cool story behind the two boys goes like this... We baptized their cousin last week and they were there at the baptism. They liked it so much that they dedicated themselves to prepare to be baptized this week. We went to their house every night this past week talking with them and following up with what that had been reading in the Book of Mormon. They both are under the age of 12 so we have to be SUPER sure that this is what they want to do; you can´t go on and baptized little kids like that. Turns out that during our visits in their house, their mom really started to like our messages and the way my companion and I acted as two young men. She told us that we were extremely different from all of the other churched that she used to go to. The day before the baptism, she was sitting on the couch with her husband and oldest son. We finished teaching them about the law of Chastity and confirmed everything for the next day. This woman was so excited and happy because of the way her two boys were preparing themselves to be baptized that she asked us something really special. "So... after boys are baptized, can I be baptized, too?" I looked at my companion and we said, "Not only CAN you be baptized, but you SHOULD be baptized next week!" She cried at her sons´ baptism and she and her oldest son will be baptized as well this next Sunday. What an awesome family!

Thus far, my companion and I have baptized for the fifth week in a row. I have never seen so many blessings fall from the sky in my entire life! We work really hard everyday knocking on doors and inviting everyone to be baptized to try to find the elect children of God, and He has been putting them in our path. I have learned something very helpful here on the mission. Heavenly Father has prepared many people to accept the Gospel. Many, many people are just waiting to be baptized and receive the Holy Ghost, but if they aren´t invited to be baptized, they may never realize this saving ordenance. We need to invite EVERY single person to enter the waters of baptism because this is the way Christ showed us to return to live with God. Ever since I have learned this, I have found much more people to teach and baptize... and I am having A LOT more fun!

One day this week, we were walking down the road when, out of nowhere, some 21 year-old guy stopped us and told us to come into his house. Turns out he was a really inactive member who was wanting to come back to the Church. I am hesitant to tell you all what happened this week because Mom will grab the next flight to São Paulo, but it will help the story. Someone was shot and killed in the area that we are working everyday and this person was a good friend of this member. He didn´t want to end up like him with the drugs and stuff like that. He told us that he was just about to leave his house to do something really stupid, he didn´t specify what exactly, but he saw us first and called us into his house instead. He came back to Church this week and is going to talk to the bishop about serving a mission! He said that we had a light around us amidst the nonsense that was going on in the street. Imagine what would have happened if we hadn´t have been there... The Church is true.

This Saturday we finally started building a house for our converted pastor of our ward here. He bought a piece of land and now we are going to town on it to build it for this member. We worked for about five hours straight and now we are ready to fill in the foundation of the house. Brazilians build their houses way differently than us because they don´t have to worry about earthquakes, so their foundations aren´t nearly as deep as ours, but if I ever wanted to build my own house here, I now know what it takes! This member said something to me that was really impressive. He told me that he was going to put a big giant rock underneath the foundation. I looked at him all confused. He noticed my look and rephrased his sentence, "The Gospel Rapaz!" The wise man built his house upon the rock, the foolish man built his house upon the sand. It was a life lesson that I was able to learn that day; my life is like my house. Today, I am choosing to build my house upon the rock of my Redeemer. For the rest of my life, I will be putting up the walls and decorating my house, but it will be firm and steadfast because of my foundation. I hope that my whole family puts this little message into practice. We may face a lot of problems in our lives, that is one thing that is for sure in everything, but with Christ as our foundation, NOTHING can knock us completely down. Some of us have already laid the foundation and just need a little bit of remodeling in the house, and others need to remove everything and start over, but one thing is for sure; Christ will be right by our side as we are working hard to do things that He asks (1 Nephi 3:7). I know that this Gospel is true. I know that the plan of God is true because through it I can live with my family forever in mansions above. Heaven wouldn´t be heaven if I didn´t have my WHOLE family with me.

Have a great week everyone! Know that I am doing great and I am at a good and healthy weight ;). I love you all and am overly grateful for the help that you all give me. Thanks so much Grandma and Grandpa; know that the money will go to a great cause... and I won´t come home looking like a pole :) I love you all! Tchau! Beijinho!

Elder Steven Brent Clark

Monday, March 14, 2011

Monday, March 14th 2011

Oí Família!!!

I don´t think I have ever had a week on the mission where I was so tired at the end. This week we had a ton of people who were possibilities for being baptized, so we really worked hard to make our appointments on time and really teach and clear their doubts or worries. It gets really hard to be punctual when you are always waiting for a bus or depending on your own two legs to get anywhere.

We met a boy named Gabriel last week while knocking on some doors. He is 14 years-old and really doesn´t like to leave the house and make friends. He has always been the type of person who never liked religion because they all said the same things and they just made him confused. We asked if he´d been baptized and he said no. We began to teach him and by the end of the first visit, he was wanting to be baptized. Now comes for the coolest thing that I have yet to see from one of my investigators. We taught him about the Book of Mormon and challenged him to read it everyday before his baptism. Well, to make a long story short, he was baptized yesterday and in a week and a half he is already halfway through the book of Mosiah! He reads extremely fast, but he understands EVERYTHING! We asked him to quickly review everything that he´d learned and he almost quoted word-for-word what happens in 1 and 2 Nephi. There is even a part in 2 Nephi where Joseph (Joseph from Egypt, the one from the Technicolor Dreamcoat) is quoted in 2 Nephi Chapter 3. Joseph prophesies that there will be another prophet raised in our last days before the coming of the Lord. He gives the smallest little hints that this new prophet would be Joseph Smith, but never says it clearly; you really have to be studying to catch it. Well, one night Gabriel was telling us something that he learned and he said that he learned that the prophet Joseph of Egypt foresaw Joseph Smith as the prophet of the Restoration! I sat there at the edge of the table with my mouth wide open, almost drueling. I asked him how he found that out and he just said, "I don´t know... I just read it and understood that it was Joseph Smith." This truly was one of the strongest manifestations of the Spirit giving revelation to someone that I have ever seen. Just as when Christ asked the Apostles whom they thought He was. Peter stood up and said, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of God." Peter did not know this for sure until that moment when the Spirit revealed it to him. This is what the Church of Jesus Christ is founded upon... Revelation! The Spirit really does teach us. We just need to be worthy enough to listen and Gabriel has really been an example to me. He will be an OUTSTANDING missionary.

When we got to Sunday, almost all of the other people who could have been baptized fell through. Satan really entered into their minds and affected their decisions. There is a parable that Jesus teaches called the Sower. He talks about three cases of planting seeds. The first is when the sower sows a seed upon the stony surface. At first glance, the seed is excited to hear the word and willing to follow the example of Christ by being baptized, but soon after the first excitement it doesn´t have the means to create good roots in its rocky soil, so it withers away. The second case is that the seed is planted in a patch of thorns. The seed catches and begins to grow, but all of the sudden there are weeds and thorns that come up and choke the plant from progressing. These thorns could be addictions, neighbors, pastors from other churches who just their tithing money, etc... The other case is when you plant the seed and it takes root, grows, and spreads! A person hears the word, takes it in, and shares it with all his or her friends. There are so many people whom we are teaching who exemplify this parable that Christ taught. We had three other people to baptize yesterday, but addictions and plain old bad soil came inbetween the people and their opportunity to be baptized and forgiven of all sin. It´s sad, but we just have to keep working and finding more people in the good, fertile soil.

This was a rough week, but we still found and baptized this Gabriel and I know that he was one of God´s elect children. The Lord is helping us so much in this hard world. I love this work and I am very happy. Very happy because I know that I have a family here on earth who loves me and always wants the best for me. I see so many parents who could care less for their children here and they are bad examples for their kids. I have been extremley blessed and I know that the only way that I can repay my Heavenly Father for these blessings is by being obedient and bringing more of His children back home. I love you all and I know that the scriptures are true. I know that The Church of Jesus Christ is once again here on the earth and we have a prophet of God who loves us dearly. I hope you all have a great week and that the Spirit of the Lord stays with you. Tchau! Eu os amo muito!

Elder Clark

Monday, March 7, 2011

Monday, March 7th 2011

Oí Família!!!

This week was chalk-full of tiny little blessings that all lead up to one big emotional Sunday. Well, to start it all off we met a woman this week who has a really cool story. She had seen us walking in her neighborhood because we baptized her neighbor. She walked into the house of her neighbor and asked extremely politely if she could sit-in on our discussion. We "almost" screamed YES!!! with a lot of excitement. After the lesson, she admitted to us that she had seen us the week before and really wanted to talk to us, but didn´t have the courage and felt embarrassed. She said that she could feel something different about us. The next time we talked with her, she left in the middle of our lesson and went to the bar to drink. We left the house and saw her in the bar with the beer in her hand and I could feel the embarrassment she was feeling. She asked for our forgiveness and went inside her house crying. The next day, we presented the Word of Wisdom to her and how it would literally improve her life in SO many aspects. We challenged her to stop drinking that night, and guess what happened... We got to her house the next day and she had thrown out ALL of her alcohol! She said that she had really repented and want to know the God that we know. We taught her the rest of the lessons and she accepted to be baptized on the 13th of March! The only thing that absolutely had to happen this week is that she had to go to Church. When we got to her house, she wasn´t ready and was claiming that she wouldn´t go with us that day. She was dead set on staying at home and everything, but her 6 year-old boy looked at her and said, "but Mom, you promised." She sat there looking at her son and started to smile and said, "let me take a quick shower and we´ll go." I got extremely happy for the little extra help that Heavenly Father gave her.

We also met two teenage boys, brothers, while we were knocking on doors. We got in their house and we started right off frank with them. We asked if they had been baptized with God´s divine authority. They answered that they had never been baptized yet. I then told them that that was our purpose for being in their house that day. They, too, got really excited to learn about this Gospel that we were teaching. We left the Book of Mormon with them and they have already read 1 Nephi together! We then marked to pass by and teach their mom as well. At first, she was really hesitant because she had never seen us before and that she has always been pretty protective of her two boys. I could see a lot of my own mom in this woman. A woman who absolutely loves her kids and even works to death to try to help them have an excellent life. I looked at her and told her that she had my word that I would never let anything happen to her sons. She took a step back, and said that they could go with us! They went to Church and loved it! They, too, will be baptized this next Sunday.

We have a recent-convert here in this area who we baptized two weeks ago. Her name is Michele and she is an excellent example of someone who has been converted to the Gospel. Michele loves going to Church with us and she loves introducing us to her friends, family, people on the street whom she doesn´t even know! She doesn´t have school this week because of Carnaval, so she will take us to all her friends´ houses. She has so much joy and happiness from the things she´s learning at Church and she is the type of person who likes to encourage people to do things. She always tells our recent converts that they need to start reading the Book of Mormon and pray every night. I really cannot tell you how happy I get when I see the people who I baptized start to spread the Gospel as well.

Well, with all these great people I met this week and brought to Church, I realized that Sunday was Fast and Testimony meeting. I saw all the other recent-converts of this ward get up and bare their testimonies. I just kept having this feeling that I needed to get up there and say something. I had never born my testimony while on my mission during fast and testimony meeting because usually there are so many members who want to bare theirs that there isn´t enough time. But I went up there and I told everyone that I had remembered why I was a missionary that day. When I see someone new in the Church, bareing his or her testimony of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, my testimony is strengthened. When I see the light and life of the Gospel within someone who I taught and baptized, my testimony is strengthened. I work everyday in the rain, in the heat, in dog-poop infested streets of Brazil just to find the people who will be touched forever by the happiness that I have felt so much in my life that comes from the Church of Jesus Christ. When I see someone else catch this fever, I know that the Lord is using me as a tool in His hands. I am SO imperfect, yet He still trusts me to guide His children back to His presence. I know that my full and everlasting joy will come when it´s all said and done and we´re standing in God´s presence and I see the people who I taught the Gospel, standing there with the exact same joy as me.

To top the day off, we had a night baptism. His name is André and he is the older brother of one of the first person I baptized here in this area. He went straight from work to the chapel and was baptized. The funny story of the week was that when the elders went to turn on the heater to heat up the baptismal font, they turned it on the setting they wanted and then left it. When André entered the water, it was practically ice! The elders had accidentally put it on the COLD