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