Monday, April 25, 2011

Monday, April 25th 2011

Oí Família!!!

Live from sunny São Paulo, Brazil, Elder Steven Brent Clark here ready to tell you folks at home that everything is absolutely amazing and beautiful here in the world famous Brazil São Paulo East mission. Haha! What a great week it was! We had an amazing training with our mission president this week about planning. He said that when we plan, we show the Lord that we are ready to receive revelation in the work we do. If we don´t plan, we don´t deserve the confidence of the Lord in our daily work. How is it that He can trust us with His precious children´s lives if we, His missionaries, don´t even know how to run our own?! This is serious stuff and I never really looked at planning in such a way. He also gave us an example of the confidence that we need to have. We have the Holy Priesthood of God, but we don´t know how to use it yet. We need to be confident in EVERYTHING we do. When we set a goal, we need to already believe that we will accomplish it. This isn´t arrogance... it´s confidence that you have in yourself because the Lord has already given you the power and ability to do such a thing (1 Nephi 3:7). President Moreira, when he was 19 years-old, told his girlfriend (now his wife) that she could date whoever she wanted while he was on his mission... but he would be the one that would marry her when he got home. I am trying to gain this type of confidence every day.

So this weekend we baptized two of God´s awesome children. One of them is Dora. Dora is an older lady who had a stroke six years ago which left her right side of her body paralyzed. She has been abandoned by her family and only her neighbors visit her now, and us. When we took her to Church for the first time last week, she told us that she LOVED the Church! She had always thought it was only for the super rich people, but she saw that it´s for everyone and wanted to be baptized! She needed two people to baptize her, but it was one of the most beautiful things I´ve ever seen as a missionary so far. To see this old woman, depressed, without friends and family, change into such a lively and happy person after the baptism. Almost ALL of the members stayed to watch and I was extremely convinced that Dora would come to be a very special member of the Church.

The other woman that was baptized is the mom of the three young men we baptized last week. She had stopped drinking and showed a lot of interest in the Church this week. When we passed by her house to pick her up on Sunday, she wasn´t there. We got really confused and upset, thinking that another person had ran away from the baptism. When we got back to the Church, they were already there, sitting on the bench waiting for class to start. They had all come on their bikes! I was extremely relieved. Her oldest son will be baptized this next Sunday! He is quite large, so it will be a challenge lifting him up out of the water, but I am sure that it will be no problem. I will just have to do a lot more push-ups this week to preare! haha

That was basically all that happened here. I am about ready for another adventure here pretty soon. Oh! I just got back from playing basketball and soccer with a few members! I am no good at either sport now... I may have to stay out here a little longer to improve my game ;) I love you all! I have the best family and friends in the world! I hope you all have an amazing week!

Elder Clark

Monday, April 18, 2011

Monday, April 18th (Tax Day)

Oí Família!!!

What to say, what to say, what to say?... This week was extremely tyring!!! Just to give you all a quick run-through of what happened this week, let´s just say that I slept in my own bed three times during the week. From Tuesday until Friday I was doing companion exchanges with my district to see how they were all doing in their respective areas. I stayed in Guaratinguetá 2 the first night and had a blast with the new missionary who works there, Elder Rocha. Then fromt there, I switched with Guaratinguetá 1 and stayed with my good ol´ friend Elder Richins from Plain City. We found a woman that they had been teaching and she told us that we were the men of her dreams. I know that this sounds super spiritual and I wish that it was, but the woman was actually a 14 year-old girl who had a huge crush on us... it was a funny experience because we got all excited to start teaching her. Then from there on Thursday, I grabbed the bus and went to Cruzeiro. It was an hour and a half trip all alone on the bus again! Cruzeiro is the very last area of our mission before you hit Rio de Janeiro, another mission here in Brazil. There in Cruzeiro, we taught a less-active family about the Restoration with the Branch President. My friend Elder Bugre asked a simple question, "who are some of the prophets in the Bible?" The son of the family quickly said, "Joseph Smith!" And Elder Bugre said, "very good, but he was born way after the time of the Bible. I am talking about Moses, and Abraham, and Noah." Then the mom got all confused and a little upset. She then answered, "I am pretty sure Joseph Smith was born before Moses and Noah." I wanted to laugh because I thought she was joking with us... but she had the most serious look on her face. It was a funny night. Then on Friday I finally came back home and enjoyed my wonderful area.

We ended up baptizing THREE people this Sunday! It was supposed to be four, but the mom of these three young men was feeling a little unprepared because she had broken the word of wisdom that week, so this week we are going to help her stop drinking so that she can be baptized with her oldest son as well. During this whole week, she always gave praises to her oldest son. She said that he is only 20 years old but doesn´t date because he always works to support her and his little brothers. She said that he is the greatest blessing that God has given her because he is such a great help to her. Then she said that no matter how old or big he gets (he is 6'4" and 250 lbs.) he will always be her little baby. The way she spoke of her son made me remember the way that Mom always said that I will always be her little baby :) Brought back a lot of great memories.

I am sorry I don´t have any really amazingly uplifting story for the week. This week was really just a big hurry. It goes to show that when you don´t settle down from all the work you´re doing to realize the miracles the Lord is doing around you, you could end up missing a lot. Sometimes I get so wound up in the work that I don´t feel the Spirit, and that is when I know that something about my work needs to change. This week I will try to remember more about the gift of eternal life that my Savior has granted me because of his Ressurection. This Easter will be one to help me strengthen my testimony of the wonderful plan of Salvation. Let us all remember that Christ payed for our sins in the Garden of Gethsemane, was tortured by the people whom He loved, died on the cross... but three days later arose again with a perfect body that would never die again. Because this great and marvelous ressurection, we all will live again as He lives right now. This is the meaning of Easter and we should all remember that Christ has already done the hard part, now it is up to us to show Him that we are grateful for what He did. Are we keeping ALL of the Lord´s commandments? Are we going to Church and taking the sacrament to renew our baptismal covenants? Everytime we fail to do one of these things, we are showing ingratitude for that great suffering He went through. Let us all remember Christ this week and strive to be better people. I love this Church. I love my Savior. I love being His servant here on the mission. I am not perfect, I have many flaws, but I know that He forgives me because I am trying my best. Have an amazing week my family! I love you all!

Elder Clark

Monday, April 11, 2011

Monday, April 11th 2011

Oí Família!

What a week! You guys will never believe what happened to me this week. So as the district leader, one of my jobs is to do companion exchanges with the elders in my district to see how they are doing in their area and what specific help they need. The only tricky thing out here is that it is literally the "boonies" out here. We are so far spread out from all the other areas in the district that it costs a fortune to pay for the bus. Our mission president told us that we could travel alone when we do splits like that because it doesn´t make sense for both elders to pay for the bus, switch companions, and then have him pay for ANOTHER bus pass, so we have to travel alone. As I got on the bus (alone), I sat down at the back of the bus and began to feel extremely weird. It was the first time being alone in 11 months! I actually started to get a little scared at first, but then I calmed down and I was normal again. I don´t like being alone; it´s extremely odd now. But do you know what´s even more funny? When you are with your companion, it seems like people are intimidated by you two. But when you are alone, you are like their prey! I had SO many people start to talk to me on the bus, asking where I was from and what I was doing (I got a lot of references that day) and why I speak so funny. When I finally got off the bus and met up with my companion again, I told him that I would prefer to never have to go through that again. He laughed and patted me on the back and told me "good job Elder."

Well this week my leg started to hurt a bunch. I think it´s shin splints, but I don´t know for sure, but what I do know is that it hurts a lot to walk. I remember that I had the same kind of pain when I played basketball. I hurts everytime I take a step and there was even one day this week where I thought that I wouldn´t be able to make it the rest of the day. We stopped by a member´s house to rest a bit and I saw a roll of black electric tape. I remembered that when I got hurt like this in basketball, the personal trainer did a little thing with the tape where he wrapped it around my leg, just a little above my ankle, and pulled the muscle more the front of my leg. It took the pressure off when I stepped and made it so it didn´t hurt as much. So I grabbed this black electric tape and tried doing the same thing. My companion and the members were laughing at my extremely white and hairy legs... and the crazy thing that I was doing with the tape, but I didn´t care because we had a bunch of appointments and I didn´t want to miss them. Then came the miracle... it worked. When I left the house, the pain went away and I was able to walk again without problems. I know that the Lord helped me a lot with my leg because I know I didn´t wrap it up exactly like my trainer used to when I played ball, but the Savior is a better doctor :)

This weeked was a little frustrating because we had three baptisms marked for this Sunday, but they all disappeared on Saturday and Sunday. One thing that I don´t like is when people show SO much interest in being baptized and accept a date and everything, but at the last minute they run away. One of them even hid herself in the bathroom when we passed by her house to take her to Church. I got a little annoyed with them yesterday, but my companion and I talked about it and we know that there are many other people who are better prepared to be brought to the Gospel. I am not the type of missionary who sits there begging people to be baptized; if they show me that desire, I will help them and push them to accomplish that goal. I know that the Lord has a bigger and better plan for His other children here in this area and I don´t need to waste the Lord´s time running after people who don´t want to be blessed when there´s millions of others who DO want to be blessed and be baptized.

As frustrating as this work gets, I am so extremely happy to be doing it. I have never gotten so much satisfaction from anything in my entire life. I think that baptizing is like a drug. The more I help people being baptized, the greater lack I feel if I don´t baptize that week. I feel so happy when someone actually accepts this great gift and starts to walk on the path of righteousness. I am actually quite addicted to this drug and I will have to baptize a lot of people this next week to make up for this past week.

I love you all and thank-you so much for all the letters and emails and support you give me. I am the luckiest person in the world because I have the best family! And Jacob... I am sorry, but I am in the best mission in world haha!!! Have a great week everyone! Enjoy the snow hahahahaha! Love you all!

Com amor e um beijinho,
Elder Clark

Monday, April 4, 2011

Monday, April 4th 2011

Oí Família!!!

You can now put an end to yet another chapter in my mission. I have been transferred yet again to another area here in good ol´ São Paulo. I have actually completely left the big city and now I am about an hour or two away from Rio de Janeiro, another state here in Brazil. The town´s name is Lorena and it is about the size of Logan or Spanish Fork (imagine walking all day long from one end of Spanish Fork to the other). This place is extremely pretty! In this town, all of the roads are cobblestone and the houses are well-kept and expensive. Sometimes I forget that I am on my mission in Brazil and think that I am at Downtown Disney because of all the little shops on the side and the small roads. The ward here is a lot smaller than the others I´ve already been in, but there are a lot of really strong members and a great bishop to help the ward grow. I was really sad to leave Presidente Dutra mainly because I had made so many strong relationships with the members and my converts. We were getting ready to really start working on that house I was telling you all about and we were ready to baptize a lot more people. I realized that my time had ended there and now I am needed in another area, but it´s still really hard. We helped a kid become active in the Church again and now he is getting ready to go on a mission. His cousin, who is the Young Women´s president, told me how much she appreciated our work with him and how it helped her family become stronger in the Gospel. I couldn´t have thought of a better way to leave that ward.

I received a calling in this new area. I am now the district leader out here in one of the hardest parts of the mission. My companion is Brazilian again (I am starting to think that Americans don´t exist anymore) and he is, yet again, from Manaus. This is my third Brazilian companion and all three of them have been from the same city. Now I have absolutely no reason to NOT visit Manaus when I come back. His name is Elder Rederson and he is awesome! He likes to goof around, but knows a lot about the Gospel and teaches very well. He has a guitar and he plays every night as I am talking with my district about their day. We get along super well and it looks like we will be baptizing the rest of this family they have been teaching before I got here. I am so blessed to have been called to serve in this mission. I am trying to not be biased, but I am in the best mission in the world :).

Something really funny happened as we were teaching this family as mentioned above. We marked their baptism for this Sunday, not yesterday but this upcoming Sunday, and the son had a little bit of doubts. Turns out he didn´t want to be baptized again because he had already been baptized before. We explained that Christ taught us about on certain baptism (Luke 12:50) and that when we find it, we need to go after it quickly. Then, out absolutely nowhere, the daughter of the family asked something really strange. "Do you believe in warewolves?" I said, "No." She then replied that there is a legend that warewolves come in the night and eat little children who haven´t been baptized yet... "That´s why the Catholic Church baptizes babies!" is what she explained to me. Turns out there is an old legend here in this tiny town about warewolves and babies and eating and yeah... I found it quite hilarious!

We broke a record out here in our first Sunday. We held a baptismal service and baptized a man in less than 13 minutes! One of the other areas was baptizing someone and with my new calling, I am the one who has to interview him first. Someone had forgotten the white clothes for this guy to wear for the baptism, so we had to hunt for them before the second session of conference started because he had to leave. We finally got a hold of the baptismal clothes, organized a meeting-to-go (said a prayer, read a scripture, threw him in the water, left another message, said another prayer) and made it back to hear the first hymn of conference still! I was impressed and the guy who was baptized was overly-filled with happiness.

I am having a blast out here and I have a very good feeling that I am just now entering into the best time of my mission! The homesickness doesn´t exist (just when someone starts to play music again) and I am having so much fun with the other missionaries out here. I love my family so much. You all are my motivation to keep trying my best. I am really proud of my brothers and sisters as well. You all are great examples to me and when I get home, no one will remember me and you all will have to teach me how to be cool again ;) as if I was cool BEFORE the mission haha. Have a great week everyone... OH and I hope everyone knows that it´s getting close to winter down here so it´s getting colder. Now it´s only 88 degrees instead of 98! Haha Love you all! Tchau!

Elder Clark