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

Monday, March 26, 2012

Monday, March 26th 2012

Oi Família!

Everything is going swell here in São Paulo. After an extremely eventful week last week, this one was rather slow and... well, boring. Let´s be honest, not every week is great lol. We are having a lot of difficulty right now in finding new people to teach and take to Church. The place that we always work in is extremely big. Imagine the little town of Spring Lake with a population of over 500,000! Just picture this... You are walking on a busy avenue with a bunch of little outlet shops, kind of like Spanish Fork´s main street. Then you take a right turn onto one road and start going down... and down... and down. This place is like a valley of curvy roads and houses built on top of other houses up to three or four stories high and alley-ways that lead to other curvy roads. The place is so big and the roads and alley-ways are so unorganized that they don´t even appear on the map! When you look at the map, you only see a big white spot that says, "Heliópolis Community". It´s crazy in there! Everyone has a motorcycle and everyone sits out side their houses playing loud music and drinking! It´s great because there are always new people to find and teach, but it´s also pretty difficult because a lot of people don´t like to give up the ways of the world. We are getting pretty famous in this place and everyone gives us high-fives and tells us to come to their parties... ugh... ;) We don´t ever go, but we tell them that we´ll try just to not hurt their feelings. I love this place and it really feels like home to me now. I know just about ever secret passage-way in the alleys now because I have lived here for seven months now. It´s going to be rough leaving this place. I remember back at the start of my mission I was dying to see green and forest and pretty scenery, but I realized that the more green there is the less people as well. So now I prefer the cement and loud music and crowd of people because it´s a lot easier to teach and BAPTIZE!

I really find it hard to believe still that my time on the mission is so close to ending. We are praying really hard here so that we can find more families to teach and baptize before the end of April. In my house, we have two dying missionaries (me and Elder Mielke) and we need to occupy ourselves to the max so we don´t think about home. We are doing a great job so far, I think, but Satan is being really annoying. We found a family this week and the dad´s name is John the Baptist! He went to Church this week and loved it! We are going to help them all get baptized either this week or the next. We have an investigator who is helping us out a lot with these fathers whom we are teaching. This investigator and his wife are waiting for their legal marriage to come through so they can get baptized. They have a rough past of drinking, depression, unemployment, and whatnot, so they are the perfect couple to help us out with new investigators. This John the Baptist went to Church and made friends with this husband and he said, "This Church is so good! It isn´t like all the others! I am totally going to bring my whole family next week!" The greatest thing in this ward really is the quantity of recent-converts. They are able to help the new people come into the Church and feel welcome.

Well, I am going back to work. Thanks for the updates in the family! I can´t wait to see everyone again!

Elder Clark

Monday, March 19, 2012

Monday, March 19th 2012

Oi Família!

This Monday was a great experience for all of us here in the ward. Remember how we baptized a man in a wheelchair last Sunday? Well, the Saturday before the baptism, there was an extremely heavy rain shower. It even started to hail with these cubes of ice the size of a Reese´s candy. The roof of their house got destroyed by the rain because the guy who built their house didn´t do a very good job. They were all getting discouraged and didn´t think that it was the right time for him to be baptized, but my companion and I thought quickly and told them that we would come by on our day-off to fix the roof. Well, he was baptized on Sunday and the next day, we went to his house to fix the roof. We were up there for about three hours, but it was great because we fixed it and the look on their face was so great! The wife got so happy that it seemed as if she had just took a million pounds of stress off her back. We talked with the family yesterday about eternal families and they got all excited to make the goals and the plans for them all to be sealed one year from now in the temple now that the entire family are members of the Church. I love being to be a part of this process. Seeing a family be completed is something so gratifying and there really isn´t any other substitute. You have to go on a mission to have these experiences. A man who never wanted to be a part of religion and complained every day about his health is now encouraging his family to go to Church every Sunday and participates in the lessons that we give them and doesn´t say anything about his health anymore. It really is the power of the priesthood. It really is the True Church of Jesus Christ.

I had a good experience while reading the scriptures the other day. I was reading about when Christ was starting His mortal ministry here on the Earth. After His baptism, He went out to the desert and fasted for 40 days and 40 nights. During these days of fasting, He was learning a lot from Heavenly Father. He was being instructed in the way that He needed to fulfill His mission here on Earth. After these days, the devil appeared and started to tempt Him. Something that I realized right off the bat is that immediately after being instructed from on high, He was tempted. It´s the same way with us nowadays. We have very spiritual experiences every now and again in our lives that edify us and bring us closer to God, but exactly when we are being spiritually lifted, Satan is there waiting for us to show a weakness. He wants to tear away every good feeling that we have, so he will always be around us when we are being instructed from on high. One thing that Jesus shows us in this example is that He had the Holy Spirit of God with Him, the Holy Ghost, to guide Him away from temptation. We, members of the Church, have the Holy Ghost with us if we go to Church and patake of the Sacrament to cleanse our soul. We, too, can drive away Satan and keep our spiritual experiences if we always strive to have the Holy Ghost at our side. I know that the Church is true and I know that without the Holy Spirit, I would be lost in my life. The work I am doing right now wouldn´t have meaning if I didn´t do it by the way of the Spirit.

I love you all and thank you all for the support that I have. Hope you all can have a great week, full of the Spirit!

Elder Clark

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Monday, March 12, 2012

Oi Família!!!

Let´s just say that I have a lot to tell you guys about this week. Last week we had quite a few new people visiting the ward so we had a lot of visits to make this week. For starts, Elder Mielke was taking role in the Sunday School class when he came to a young woman who wasn´t on the role but was a cousin of another member. Her name is Yngrid and she invited us to visit her this week. We got to her house and we saw that her grandma was one of the strongest members in the ward. We also found out what had happened last Sunday. That Yngrid lived with her mom and dad, but her mom had a nervous breakdown on Sunday morning and left the family. She was so sad that she just decided to go to Church with her grandma. When we got there on Monday to teach her, she told us that she had always wanted to be baptized because she always knew that the Church was true but her mom never allowed her to be baptized. We taught her throughout the week and she studied all of the material that we gave her. She is almost done with the Book of Mormon and her dad signed the paper for her to be baptized without any problems. This young woman had been going to Church ever since she was three years old and now she is 12. The bishop had already gone there, the primary president, a lot of family friends, and countless missionaries to help her get baptized. Her grandma asked us in the last visit on Saturday how it was that so many people had come by to baptize her and only we were able to get her baptized. Her other grandson who is preparing to serve a mission looked at her and said, "Grandma, it needed to be THEM!"

There was another man named Erivaldo. He is a friend of another member of the ward and he has been coming to Church for about two months now. We passed by his house this week a few times because he is a truck-driver and only got home early when the traffic was nice, other than that he only got home at about midnight. He already got an answer that this is the true Church and now he was just wanting to wait a little more to be a little more sure. But we went there with a member who helped him understand the reason why he needed to be baptized as fast as possible. Then at Church today a sister was giving a talk when she was telling the story about how she was baptized. She prayed to God so that He could give her that answer she needed so that she could be baptized as fast as possible. She told the story with so much enthusiasm and happiness that he told us after the meeting that he, too, wanted to be baptized today. It was litterally one of the best talks I have ever heard in my life!

The third person was an even greater story for me. There is another family that was baptized about two and a half years ago, but the father wasn´t baptized because he suffered a stroke, is over-weight, is in a wheelchair, and has always been a little stubborn. He came to Church for the first time last week and we took advantage of the situation and went to his house to talk to him about baptism. He was extremely blunt when he told us that he didn´t want to hear anything about this "baptism business!" But we didn´t give up. We went back the next day and taught him again about baptism. He said the same thing and about swore at us and told us to not come back. He got sick the next day and we gave him a blessing and told him that if he promised to prepare for baptism that Heavenly Father would bless him with the strength that he needed in his legs and the health to keep going strong with the family. He looked at us and said that he would do his best. The next day we saw an amazing difference in his voice and in his attitude. He was happy to see us and was even waiting for us to arrive. He asked, "What took you guys so long!" Every day he seemed as if he was getting more and more excited for the baptism. He even started saying prayers and making comments in the messages. When we got there this morning with the car to take him to Church, we saw that there was a whole bunch of other missionaries from another church trying to get him to not get baptized. We were walking up to the door when we heard good ol´ José say "I´m getting baptized in the Church of Jesus Christ today!" We got to his door and the other missionaries went away with a mad look on their face as they looked at us. José said, "What took you guys so long!" :) We took him to Church and everything went smoothly.

At the baptism, we needed three people to help baptized José because he is so big and doesn´t have very much strength in his legs. He got into the font without any problems and I said the prayer. When I said "amen" the three of us helped him go down. I was so afraid of him falling that I was practically down in the water with him to help lift him up afterwards, but I had an extremely wierd feeling as he came out of the water. I saw a big smile on Jose´s face and I saw how he was trully happy. I really felt the old José leave him and the new reborn man come out of the water.

I left the Church today feeling something so bright within my heart. During the sacrament meeting, I cried again because of all the joy I have felt and all the success that the Lord has given us here in this ward. I see so many people happy because of the gospel in their homes now. I really cannot explain how happy I am that I have been called to this part of the world. My patriarchal blessing says that I would be called to a place where I would be uniquely accepted. I trully do know that this is true. I feel extremely at home here. I know that everything has an end, but I would rather not leave now. I love this Church. I love being a missionary. I love the Lord. I love my familiy too :) Hope you all have a great week!

Elder Clark

Monday, March 5, 2012

Monday, March 5th 2012

Oi Família!

This week was pretty crazy! We had a crazy time with the transfers and I also thought that I could have been transfered from my caling as Assistant. Well, first of all, I have already served in this area for six months which is usually the maximum amount of time that a missionary stays in each area, and the other thing was that there are few other missionaries who I thought would do a great job as assistant. Neither of my hypothesis were right. I stayed here as Assistant and looks like I will finish the mission here in this area. It´ll be nine months in the same ward! It´s a great thing that I love this place!

We have a couple here in the ward that we are going to help get married this month! They are so great and they call us their two new sons! The lady´s name is Raquel and she suffered a serious burn accident about three months ago. She was extremely depressed one day and was drinking heavily when she grabbed a cigarette lighter and set her clothes on fire with alcohol all over her. We had baptized her neighbor the week before and so we found out about her and went to visit her during her recovery from her third-degree burns. She and her husband told us that they knew that this was the Church they needed to be baptized in because of the way we treated them. I am so happy to be able to help them. And they make amazing food! :)

I had a very special experience yesterday at the bus station. I was walking down a big busy hallway to grab another bus to go to the mission office when I passed someone who seemed really familiar to me. I was on the phone talking with another Elder when something in my mind told me to stop and turn around. I hung up on the other missionary and turned on a dime! Just as I turned, the other guy turned around as well. It was Mardson! My first baptism on the mission! I ran towards him and gave him a huge hug! He was the very first person I ever taught on the mission and we got to be really close friends in my first area that I worked in. Unfortunately, he moved away without being able to get a hold of his address or anything and I lost contact with him completely. The strangest thing is that where he lives now and where I met up with him yesterday is completely out of the way for him to travel. So it really was luck that we ran into each other again. He is studying and working every Sunday and he lost a lot of contact with the members of the Church so he fell inactive during this time, but he is still the happy guy that I met when I was knocking on doors for the first time here in Brazil. I know that he gained a good testimony of the Church when he was baptized, so I know that one day he will come back! It was a very good experience for me.

Other than this, I had a smooth week. I am learning patience and love every day. After almost two years of service, you hear just about every excuse in the book that people give for not wanting to follow the Gospel. So I have to learn how to work harder each day so that I can find the people who are actually searching for the truth. If I want spiritual experiences, I´m not going to sit on my butt and wait for them to fall in front of me. I am going to work harder so that I can find them faster. That is what I have learned on the mission. If I want good experiences, I need to work for them! Love you all!

Elder Clark

Monday, February 27, 2012

Monday, Feb 27th 2012

Oi Família!!!

I am sorry for not sending an email last week! I sat at the computer just replying to all of the personal emails that I actually forgot to send a letter to you all! So last week was pretty interesting. I had just passed the entire week before traveling through the upstate of São Paulo doing exchanges, so when I got back to my actual ward, I didn´t know any of the investigators that we were teaching and I even had to find more people to bring to Church that next Sunday. So I went to work like a mad man and we found a few people who were interested. Just as I was getting into a groove and finding new people, I got a call from my mission president. "Elder Clark, we need your help in another stake." He told me that he was going to send me to work with another zone leader because they were having difficulties in finding new investigators and taking them to Church. I thought, well that´s all right. I´ve already done a lot of exchanges, one more won´t hurt. But little did I know that my president would put me there for the entire week! I got there on Monday and didn´t come back until Sunday! It was a long time away from my area, but I actually enjoyed everything that we accomplished. Right on the first day of work, we were walking down the street and we saw a man walking his dog with his two kids. We stopped to talk with him and he said that we could come over to his house. We went there and they fell in love with all of the things that we taught them. They started reading the Book of Mormon and got really excited to go to Church with us that Sunday. His wife told us that it had to be God who put us in their path because usually her husband doesn´t like church. haha There was another man whom we found and he was willing to give up his job on Sunday so that he could go to Church. He was very easy to teach because he always asked us questions and always read the Book of Mormon. The best part about all these people is that they will all be baptized this next Sunday. Even though I won´t be there to see the baptism, I am still very happy that I was able to be a part of their first few steps into the Gospel.

Another story now... When I was in Lorena, a city WAY far away from São Paulo, about 10 months ago, there was a family who treated my companion and I extremely well. In fact it was that family that spoke to uncle Jeff on Mother´s day last year. Well, the dad of the family is not a member but always goes to Church and everyone loves him. He and I had a really good friendship but he never committed to be baptized. Well, I went back there two weeks ago and I saw him again. I invited him to be baptized once more and that time he actually accepted to at least try. I put his date as February 25th. Well, I received a phone call this last week from his wife telling me that I needed to buy a bus ticket for this Saturday because I would be baptizing her husband. My heart dropped and I got this feeling as if finally a huge prayer had been answered. I went back out to this little town to see my big friend Sérgio all dressed in white waiting for the baptism. I also saw the support that he had because half the stake was there to see the baptism. It was something that truly marked my mission and I will never forget this family I will keep in touch with them forever now. In all of my areas that I have passed through I have been blessed to have at least one of my converts stay strong in the Gospel, except in Lorena. In spite of the work we did there and the people we baptized, none of them were able to stay active. But now I know that Sérgio will stay strong forever!

I am so grateful to be a missionary. These are experiences that no one else will have. It feels like 30 years of experience all jam-packed into two short years. Today is transfer day again and now I only have two more. Three more months to find more families!!! I love you all! Thanks for the support and love and prayers that I receive from you all every day. It is such a help that I don´t even stop to recognize it as much as I should. Have a great week!

Elder Clark

Monday, February 13, 2012

Monday, Feb 13th 2012

Oi Família!!!

What a week it was! I had a lot of fun this week to tell you all the truth. My companion and I work in a ward here in the middle of the big city of São Paulo, and here in São Paulo the public transportation is amazing! There are buses that go to every corner of the city and you can get to where you want, when you want, for just three reals (the money here is called "real"). So we are able to do a lot of exchanges with the mission leaders really easily here in the city, but when it comes to the missionaries in the upperstate of São Paulo, it gets a little more complicated. It´s really expensive and really far away. But we needed to do some training out there so my companion and I went together for a tour of the mission.

On Tuesday we went to a city called São José dos Campos. This is one of the bigger cities outside of the huge metropolis of São Paulo. Usually the cities outside of São Paulo are known to be really underdeveloped and slow. Not necessarily poor, but the style of the people is really outdated and there is much less movement throughout the city. But this city was really nice actually. It had the feel of a big city, but it wasn´t nearly as crazy as São Paulo. I looked around and saw a lot of parks and GRASS and I thought to myself that this would be a great place to live. We worked well there with the zone leaders and then grabbed the next bus to Lorena! I don´t know if anyone has been keeping track of the areas that I´ve worked in, but Lorena was my third area on the mission. It´s an extremely tiny city out in the middle of nowhere! Well, I went back to help the district leader out there and I saw all the members and I even saw this guy whom I helped build a house. This guy isn´t a member, but the rest of his family is. I looked at him and told him, "I bet you never thought I would be back, but I am back to call you to baptism my friend!" He looked at me and actually said, "You know, I was actually thinking about this already." I marked his baptism for the end of this month and he told me that he´d call me to come back out there to watch the baptism. I hope it all goes well! This guy is one of my best friends from the mission and I would be so happy if he were to be baptized right now. Then the next day was even better. Until last Thursday, I had never seen the beaches here in Brazil... no more!!! I went to a city called Caraguatatuba and worked with the zone leader there. The air was hot and humid, but I LOVED it!!! It really was a great thing for me to be there and breathe that ocean air. The best part was that to get there, you have to go through this big ol´ canyon that kind of reminded me of the roads to get to Payson Canyon. When you come out at the top, you just look right out into the ocean! It´s soooo beautiful! I will try to find a picture to send to you all.

The work is still going extremely well out here. Our ward is extremely happy with all the recent-converts and the way that they are all working in the organizations. I am really happy because the majority of our recent-converts are going on the youth camp-out this weekend! I know that once they go, they will remain in the Church forever! The youth conferences that they have are perfect because they are like EFY. All the youth go and come back with a stronger testimony.

This Sunday was pretty funny. Our ward is great, but sometimes they forget to plan our lunches, so we have to always keep track of what´s going on with lunch or else we go without eating for the day. Sunday morning, the sister that was going to give us lunch did not remember and told us that we had to find another place to eat. Well, we couldn´t necessarily BUY anything to eat that day, so we went hunting for another sister in the ward. I remembered that we baptized a single mom and her kids on Christmas and she now calls me her son :) I went up to her and asked if she would be willing to feed her sons, and just so happens that she is a professional cook!!! Score! I love the Gospel because it unites us all in the love of Christ and great food!

I love you all and I hope you are all enjoying the sun while it lasts! It was about 110 degrees down here this whole week so I am praying for snow! haha Love you all!

Elder Clark

Monday, February 6, 2012

Monday, Feb6th 2012

Oi Família!!!

It´s burning up down here! I can just tell you that I am just about as tan as I can get right now. Just to give you all an idea of how I feel while walking under the hot sun here, one night I was fast asleep with one elder snoring louder than Grandpa Clark´s tractor and 90 degrees in our room. I started to dream, and it was one of the best dreams of my entire life! I was walking on the street with my companion on yet another hot day in the dream. It was so miserably hot in our room that even in my dream I was feeling the heat. In the dream, I was looking around desperately for some sort of refuge when I saw a giant mound of beautiful white snow out of nowhere! I ran and jumped into the snow pile and then... I woke up. Good stuff huh...But it was good for a few seconds, right.

Looks like my former companion, Elder Fassini, the one whose dad passed aways a month ago, is already working at a newspaper as the general manager of distribution! He sent me an e-mail telling me that the mission really is blessing him at home. He is already the manager!!! I got really happy for him because he really does deserve all the blessings he receives because he was the hardest workers I have ever seen! I have been blessed so much with my companions. Looks like this companion I have right now, Elder Torres, will be my last companion according to the words of my mission president. He is really great as well because he is humble, but really good at squeezing the best out of the missionaries. The best part is that he really respects my opinions knowing that I am the senior assistent. We work super well together and the mission is going perfectly. I love all of my companions and I can honestly say that every single one of them are my friends still to this day and I never had a companion who I can say that I did not like. I think this is something extremely important for me when I get home. My relationships with my friends, co-workers, family members, should be this way too. Sometimes we may argue and fight, but it takes a lot of humility and patience to work with them so that you can still show your love and work together.

I read something very interesting in the book of Mosiah this last Friday. I absolutely love King Benjamin. His example is perfect for all families because he talks so much about service and love and raising your children correctly. I coud really tell that King Benjamin was a fantastic father because his children were great men as well. I started to think a little about what Elder Ballard had told us at that conference that we had with him. He told us that we needed to study with our companions everyday because we will start the habit of reading the scriptures with our family and having family night and saying a family prayer. If we don´t study with our companions it is very unlikely that we will study with our family. I was reading in Mosiah 1:2 where it tells us how King Benjamin always taught his sons in the language of their fathers so they, too, could understand the scriptures. Then in verse 4 he states that he taught the scriptures to his sons so that they, too, were able to teach their sons. I saw that in this scripture that even King Benjamin´s time the Lord had established Family Home Evening. Then we can see in verse 5 that the Lamanites did not practice these things and they turned into a wicked and hard-hearted people, not wanting to know about God. I know that the Book of Mormon is true because I was able to learn this little bit of truth about Family Home Evening. I know that the Church is true because this book is true! I love the little things that we can learn when we read it.

I love you all for everything you all do for me! Thanks for all the love and support that I have received! Take care this week and I will pray for more snow! haha

Elder Clark

Monday, January 30, 2012

Monday, Jan 30, 2012

Oi Família!!!

I have just realized that my e-mails have been losing their luster a little bit. I need to focus a little more throughout the week so I can remember all the cool experiences that I had so I can share them with you all. So I will do better now.

So we had a huge surprise this week when both Elder Andersen AND Elder Ballard from the Quorum of the 12 Apostles came and talked with us. It was an amazing Spirit that they brought to that conference because you could just feel something so strong about them. When they entered into the chapel with their wives, it was something really different. Sometimes we treat them as celebrities and think that they are these big time movie stars because we only see them on the TV every six months, but when they entered the chapel, I looked at Elder Ballard and I just saw a very simple old man with a great big smile helping his little wife walk into the room. They aren´t celebrities at all, they are the Lord´s chosen disciples. I loved the words that they shared with us.

Elder Mazzagardi, a Seventy, burned us all for something very interesting. He said that as they shook our hands, a lot of us did not take the advantage of the opportunity to look directly into their eyes. He said that our worty priesthood leaders can see exactly what is wrong with our live and how our soul is doing just by looking into our eyes. The eyes are the doorway to the soul is what he said. If we want the right help from our priesthood leaders, we need to look at them with our eyes.

Elder Andersen was next and he talked with us about apples... You can count the seeds in an apple, but you can´t count the apples in a seed. We need to talk with absolutely EVERYONE about the Gospel because we don´t know what our influence can do for one single person, and then for generations. Most of the time, the biggest problems in the mission that we often find are the very missionaries. You will only have the great experiences on the mission if you work hard and talk with as many people as possible. He then started explaining the difference between testimony and conversion. Then his wife shared her testimony about how she came to know that Christ was her Redeemer. She was a little girl when she was memorizing a talk that she was about to give in Primary that Sunday. She said very simple words: "He lived and died for us, and now I can live with him forever." It was something like that. She repeated it over and over and after the fifth or sixth time rehearsing, she started to cry and didn´t really know why. Her mom stopped washing the dishes and held her in her arms and bore her testimony of Jesus Christ to her little daughter. We gain a testimony through little, yet powerful, experiences like Sister Andersen, but we are only converted to the Gospel when we put into practice what we learned from our testimony and make it becomes a part of our lives.

Elder Ballard then congratulated us on our hard work. He told us that we are one of the highest baptizing missions in all the Church. He then started to expand on what Elder Andersen had taught. We are baptizing a lot of people, but our work after the baptism isn´t over as missionaries, it doesn´t even end after we finish our mission. Our investigators and recent-converts are new to the Gospel, but received a testimony that the Church is true through prayer and scripture study and OUR testimony. They are very new and fragile, so we, as their missionaries, need to nourish them and help them stay strong so that they as well can be converted to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We need to keep sending e-mails and letters and calling them so that they can stay strong. We need to make sure that the ward knows them and is aware of their needs. We as missionaries need to help our converts really be converted after baptism.

I reflected a lot on my own conversion. I was baptized at 8 years-old and finished seminary and all that good stuff, but I couldn´t really remember when I actually converted to the Gospel. I remember that I had a lot of testimonies in seminary and with my great group of friends that I had, but I really never tried to put into practice all the great experiences that God had given me. Even throughout my mission, I received little glimpes of what I thought could have been a REAL conversion, but I still wasn´t convinced that I had been converted yet. Then, just yesterday, I was on the bus going to the mission office like we do every Sunday night, when I started thinking about all of my converts. I started thinking the wards that I have already worked in and rememberd about a family that will be sealed this upcoming August. I thought about a husband who just received the Melchizidek Priesthood. I thought about a young man who is so poor that he can´t afford the bus to go to Church, so he walks more than an hour to go to Church. Then I started thinking about this ward that I am in right now. I see two converts blessing the sacrament, and the majority of the deacons and teachers are converts as well. I see converts baptizing their friends every Sunday. I see young women whom I baptized going to the stake center to watch a fireside about seminary. I see two single mothers and all their children going to Church every Sunday with a huge smile. I see how all 20 of our ward missionaries are 80% recent-converts. I see young men getting ready to go on a mission. Before I knew it, I was crying on the bus and my companion probably thought I was going crazy or turning into a sister missionary (just kidding). But looking back on all the blessings that have happened here on the mission I really couldn´t help but cry. I was really converted last night because I saw how the Gospel has become a part of my life because of the mission. Working is no longer a chore, but a joy. I am so sad that I didn´t realize this sooner in the mission, but I am so glad that I am a part of something so much bigger than I. If there are any young men, especially my little brothers, reading this e-mail, do not let the opportunity to serve a mission pass by! It´s so rewarding to know that something that is improving my own life is also improving the life of others as well. There is nothing better than this and I am not too excited to see the end.

I love you all and hope you all have a wonderful week! Congrats to Dave and Chalese for the baby!!! I am so excited to see you all again.

Elder Clark

Monday, January 23, 2012

Monday, January 23 2012

Oi Família!!!

I have my new companion now and we are having a great time here in the best mission in the world. We are even more excited to see that we will be receiving a very special visit from Elder Neil L. Andersen. I am extremely excited to meet him and be able to talk with him and hears his words. I really have no idea what he is going to talk about, but I am really excited to hear him!

The work here is going well and I am quite happy about the things that are going on here in the mission. We are baptizing a lot of men nowadays and Salt Lake is telling President Moreira a lot of good things lately. I feel very grateful for being a part of such a great work.

Nothing too exciting happened this week really. I will have a lot of good things to share next week, I promise! Love you all!

Elder Clark

Yeah my companion was from the state of Paraná here in Brazil. It´s the neighboring state to São Paulo so it wasn´t too long of a drive for him to get home, but it still took 9 or 10 hours to get there. Now my companion is Elder Torres and he is also Brazilian. He is from the state of Rio Grande do Norte. It´s way up at the top of Brazil where it is extremely hot! It is the João Pessoa mission. He is brand spankin´ new to being the AP so I am just going to show him the ropes a little bit haha. I think the most important thing for us to do as AP´s is always be the example in the work. If we want to demand better work from the missionaries, we have to show that we are working harder than everyone else. For example, we have gone 21 weeks now with at least two baptisms or more in our area. It´s a record in all of the mission´s history. We also baptized 44 people last transfer. I had an example of this last night while I was following up with a couple of zone leaders. Their zone didn´t baptize anyone this week, not even in their area. I told them that they needed to pick up the slack in their area because they weren´t working the way they should be. They got all mad and said that they were focusing more in helping the other areas in the zone than in their own area. I told them that there really is no argument here because my companion and I do three-day exchanges with the entire mission and we are still able to get the results that we need. Imagine how this conversation would have gone if in my own work they saw that I was slacking off as well... So my new companion is catching on really quickly. Normally, with my mission president, the AP´s finish their mission as the AP. But I was called with a year and three months so I am the youngest AP ever in the mission. I think I will be released at the end of February because President Moreira wants to do a test and put me to train a new missionary in my last two transfers. It´s gonna be a big change going from AP to senior companion, but I think it´ll be good for me. Usually you stay for about 4 transfers as AP, but if I were to stay til the end I would stay for 6 transfers! So I think I need to leave! lol

I love working out here and São Paulo has become a second home for me. I know exactly where I am all the time, I can get wherever I want really easily, it´s great! I have a few more goals that I need to accomplish before coming home. I will tell you that my goal before coming home will be to baptize more than 150 people. I am getting really close already! I love setting goals now because I know how to accomplish them. I think that this will come in handy when I get home as well with college and whatnot. I also am putting all of my finance knowledge into practice here. I am probably one of the few missionaries who has saved his weekly allowance. I have about 300 bucks saved for those unexpected emergencies, when I see other missionaries beg for money from the secretaries because they spent it all too quickly. So I have a few good things going for me when I get home. I want to start working right from the start and start saving money.

Oh! And guess what is going to happen this week! Elder Andersen, the apostle, is coming to visit our mission! This Wednesday he´ll be coming to give a talk to us all and it´s going to be great! Two years ago, Elder Holland came here and usually one mission president will only get one visit from an apostle. But now we´ll be getting another visit and I think it´s going to some great news! Our mission is one of the highest baptizing and our attendance in sacrament meeting is increasing the fastest in Brazil! I am really excited for the meeting, but I am going to have to buy some new dress shoes because all I have are these ugly boots that I use to work in. You gotta look your best for an apostle, right? haha

I love my family so much and I am really excited to see you all again shortly.

Elder Clark

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Tuesday, Jan 17th 2012

Oi Família,

Unfortunately, my companion´s story of great faith did not have a fairytale ending. Last Wednesday, as we were leaving the temple, he got a phone call from his older brother that was at the hospital with his dad. We were walking on the sidewalk while he was on the phone when all of the sudden he stopped and just started crying. He told me later that his dad had died. He called up our mission president and told him that he was ready to go home. He only had one more week left on the mission and it ended in such a sad way. My companion was a great example of someone who worried more about the work than what was going on at home. Only when it reached the extreme did he finally decided to go home. He was a great help to me on the mission and I will tell anyone that this was the best time of my two years so far.

Now I have a new companion. His name is Elder Torres. He is also Brazilian, so that makes it seven straight Brazilian companions. It´s been over a year and a few months since I have had an American companion. I really like it that way actually. I will be living with Americans the rest of my life, so I will take advantage of my time with the Brazilian culture! He is from one of the hottest parts of Brazil and he is a convert to the Church, much like the majority of my companions have been. He is extremely humble and easy to work with. I am really excited for this next few months with him. We have a lot of big goals to reach, so it´s gonna be another stretch of tough work.

I was just at the temple this morning when I had a pleasant suprise. I walked in there and saw the MTC elders. I thought, how cool would it be if I saw someone that I knew from home here. Just as I thought of that, I saw some little blonde kid from Heber, UT. I went over to him and tapped on his shoulder and asked where he was from. He got all big-eyed and dropped his jaw. "Michael´s cousin!!!" Yup, I saw good ol´ Cameron King at the temple today. He´s been out for about three weeks in the MTC and his Portuguese was already really good! I didn´t get to see him after the session but it looks like he is going to be one great, excited missionary.

I love you all and hope those who went on the cruise enjoy the ride! It is extremely hot down here still and now it´s starting to rain everyday! Thanks for all the support and yes, I did get my package out! See ya!

Elder Clark

Monday, January 9, 2012

Tuesday, January 10th 2012

Oi Família!!!

Well I can just tell you that I probably just experienced one of the hardest weeks on my mission thus far. Last Monday as I was writing my letter to you all, my companion received horrible news from home. His dad is a truck driver and has always been making extremely long and dangerous trips alone. Well, he suffered a terrible accident on Monday where he rolled the semi truck. His left arm needed to be amputated and he has been in critical condition and in-and-out of a coma ever since. It has been an absolute emotional roller-coaster for my companion, Elder Fassini, and I am feeling the aftershock as well. My companion is probably the most excited and hard-working missionaries that I will ever meet, but after a blow like this he was down and out. Instead of him being super spiritually focused on helping our investigators accept baptism, he just kept worrying if his dad would be okay. On Tuesday he received a call from his brother saying that his entire family wanted him to go home early. He only has one week left and he knew that the Lord would bless his dad if he completed his mission COMPLETELY. I saw him praying in our office that day and when he finished he popped up and said, "He´s going to be okay," and cancelled his flight home. When he did that, an absolute miracle happened. His brother called him almost immediately and said that his dad was waking up from the coma and was starting to respond. Although his dad is in extremely harsh conditions still, I truly saw a miracle that day. God loves His children, especially when they are obedient to His commandments and covenants. Elder Fassini could have forgotten all about the promise that we, missionaries, have as we are serving that He will protect our family while we are in His service. Elder Fassini showed his faith so much that his dad is being saved because of it. I know that we all have our difficulties and we want to give up sometimes, but it´s exactly in the rough moments when God wants to see in whom we trust more. If we choose to trust in God, He will bless us... always. I love this Gospel. I love my companion. I love my Savior and the miracles He´s given me. I love you all so much and I am so happy to be able to live with you all again after this life. Have a wonderful week.

Elder Clark

Monday, January 2, 2012

Monday, January 2, 2012

Oi Família!!!

Well, I have to apologize once again for not writing to anyone these past two weeks. I really have been running around with my head cut off trying to organize everything during the holiday weekend. My companion and I were put in charge of putting together the Mission´s Christmas Conference. We had to arrange all of the missionaries´ travel tickets and we had to plan the lunch and we had to plan all the pictures and whoa!!! It was a lot of work but very well worth it! At the end we all got to play around with President Moreira. He made a slide show presentation about Preach My Gospel. It was exactly like Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. The ask the audience was all the zone leaders, which was hilarious because none of them knew any of the answers. We had a good time.

I loved being able to talk to everyone on Skype this year. I can´t believe how big everyone has gotten. It was so wierd, you know? Here, in Brazil, I feel like time has gone so quickly and that I really haven´t changed too much in 1 year and 7 months, but when I saw all of you guys I realized that SO many things have changed. It´s like I´ve been asleep for the past year and a half and I had a huge awakening! This, to me, just means that the mission really has been great. I litterally have not been thinking about home for the longest time. I love my family and I pray for you all daily, but throughout the day I don´t think I have a single thing from home that goes through my mind. I have learned very well from great companions that if you love the people whom you teach, your mind will always be turned towards their needs and not your own. We have been teaching so many people that I haven´t even had time to think about home, and so when I saw you all I got a little weirded out! But it was great!

On Christmas we were blessed with a family to baptize and in total we baptized 11 on that day. Well, on New Year´s it was just about the same thing. We baptized 10 more people! We had a couple who was working on getting married and finally did! The whole ward was surprised when they saw them in white! Next week we have another father whose whole family we already baptized and his daughters have been begging him ever since for him to stop smoking. He came to Church and told us that he quit and would be baptized next week! The Lord has been pouring blessings on this ward. Just to give you an idea, on Christmas and New Year´s, a lot of members didn´t go to Church, but the Chapel was full every Sunday. More than half of the congregation is our recent-converts. They never miss Church! I am so proud of them and I am so extremely happy to be serving the Lord here in this ward. I have been so extremely blessed for being here. I can literally say that I love working, and I will never stop!

I also had a chance to revisit a few of my areas that I used to work in this week. I found out that a lot of the men we baptized are already Melchizidek Priesthood holders! And another ward I used to work in finally finished the chapel they had been building when I was there. The attendance when I was there was about 80 or 90, but now it doesn´t ever get lower than 130-140! I still remember having to take investigators to a broken down garage for Church, and now they have a beautiful chapel!

Now that the year has ended, we looked back at how the mission went this year. We ended up baptizing 2,700 people! We shattered our record from last year which was 2,000. The area presidency is going crazy about the work that is going on here and all of the Stake Presidents are amazed at how many changes have happened already. They always tell us that never in the history of the Church in São Paulo has anyone baptized more than this. I truly do look at the brothers of Mosiah as an example. They went about the Lamanite people and baptized over SEVEN cities! I have a dream to go to some city here in São Paulo that has never heard of the Church and just start from scratch there! I want to know what the brothers of Mosiah felt like after seeing the Lord´s blessing after so much hard work and suffering. The mission is the best thing in the world! There really isn´t a more fulfilling feeling seeing the people you teach accept the Gospel and be baptized unto repentance. There really isn´t anything that I´d rather be doing.

I love my family and I know that the Church is true. As for my New Year´s Resolution I will try not to miss another week in writing you all :). Love you all and wish you all a great year of 2012!

Elder Clark