Monday, May 27, 2013

The Eternal Perspective


Hello, My Family!!!! :)
 
How is everybody doing?! I was SO glad to be able to talk with Mom at the airport last week, and also to receive emails from you and Dad. Dad, seriously, you nailed it with your email. Really, that's exactly what I need right now. So thank you so much!!! So. Oregon is the best mission ever!!! (so far) It is absolutely beautiful, really! I have enjoyed being here so so much. I know I am here for a reason, that I am going to learn lots of good stuff, and many opportunities to use my faith during difficult times to increase it and help others. There are a LOT of people to help here - it's like a foreign country compared to Utah.

So I live in a pretty ghetto area. But don't worry!! I am sending a picture of me and my companion, and when you see how big his muscles are, you won't be worried anymore. Haha. He is Elder Fernandez, from the Dominican Republic!! He is fluent in Spanish, and speaks inCREdibly fast. It's insane. He has lived in Ohio too, so he's fluent in English, and everything. He is the best companion I could have asked for right now; if there's anybody Mom should feel safe that I am companion's with here in the field in Oregon, it's this guy right here. I am so grateful we are companions. Actually, he began his mission the same day as me though, April 10. Because he's fluent, he was in the MTC for 2 weeks (like one and a half..) and he's been here for like 4 weeks. Haha...yeah. So it's sort of hard because neither of us have had much experience at all. We share an apartment with Elder Bromley (YEEEAAHHH!!!!!) and Elder Ketchum, who has been here for like 22 months now. He was Elder Fernandez' trainer before we got here..now he's kinda co-supervising/training all of us. It's great haha. Other than us, there's only two other Spanish elders in the mission that I know of, and they are pretty far away I'm guessing. All of the area around where we live is covered by English missionaries, and we are only over the Hispanics in basically all the area haha. For this reason, we have two cars, one per companionship, and there are actually quite a bit of Hispanic people that live around in this area. It is fantastic!!! I love it :) I was SOOOO happy that I got to stay with Elder Bromley though!!! Haha, we are never gonna get away from each other. It's pretty awesome. I have many blessings here in Oregon, no need to worry! President Young is awesome too.

So...haha funny story about my first plane/airport experience ever. I don't know if Mom already told everyone else, but right when I got to the airport, apparently I lost my driver's license somewhere at the MTC or something, I have no idea where it could have gone, but it wasn't in my wallet. I was very worried, and calling the Church Travel Office people and stuff, and very worried I was giong to have to go back to the MTC. That's what the situation looked like at the time. And then one of the ladies there asked what else I had in my wallet. And apparently, my Eagle Scout card is recognized by the government, and that's what saved me!!! On my first flight ever. It was not a fun situation at the time, but now it seems pretty funny. I can't even believe that happened still. I had to have a ton of extra screening though, to do a full body check on me to see if I had any weapons or anything on me..haha it was an interesting experience. I am glad I made it through. For the next flight I won't have to worry because I will be sent my passport along with my visa, which will be sufficient to get by. So I'm all good, I just don't have an ID anymore. Haha. I guess I will get one later sometime. The airplane was a GREAT experience too!!! It was so much fun, I absolutely loved it. We flew to Portland, and had a two hour layover, then flew to Eugene from there. We talked to a lot of people in the Portland airport, having a goal of being very friendly and talking about the gospel, and Elder Bromley and I gave away our first Book of Mormon and contact info! It was awesome. It is crazy though how basically everybody here at least knows about the LDS church. Not saying that they all have a correct perception of the Church...but like everyone knows about it. It's great. :)

I had a cool spiritual experience on the airplane. I felt a lot closer to God than I usually do. I just looked straight up into space, in the clear blue sky, and felt deep in my heart there's something else out there. Not just planets out there orbiting around stars for so long until they blow up, and new stars form....but something with a much, much deeper purpose and meaning. Something of Eternal significance. I can't explain how it felt. I know that there is a purpose and a meaning for life, and that it is NOT just to be wasted by things that only last for this life. I know that gospel principles are eternal, and that the good that we do lasts forever. I am so grateful for the time I have here on earth, and I am going to consecrate my whole life to doing good, and making an eternal difference. I am so grateful for the opportunity and the many blessings God has given me. I am Eternally grateful. My heart is full of joy, and love. When I was flying, the song "Child's Prayer" was stuck in my head, cuz we sang it in Spanish as a district in our ward last Sunday in the MTC. When I was up there high in the air, and pondering on the Eternal Perspective, I could hear it being sung in my head. It was an incredible feeling and communication with the Spirit. It is something I could spiritually hear, if that makes any sense, something I still had to believe in, like all promptings of the Spirit. I know, that there were angels singing that sweet song to me as I was beginning my Eternal journey of serving the Lord, and it was one of the sweetest feelings of peace I have ever known. I know that this work is bigger than just me, but it's just me that can act in a mortal body on earth right now, and I need to have a lot of faith. But I know there are people on the other side who need my help, people here in Oregon, and Peru too. I am excited to keep working at it to serve with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. DC 4:2 has become my favorite scripture lately.
 
I love you all so much!!! I got to play piano just barely!! :) it was funny, I couldn't really play them that well when I was looking at the music trying to sight read songs I already knew, and so I just put the music aside and just went by feeling, and it all came back to me. It was an amazing feeling. If we just rely on our feelings, we will be directed in the right paths we need to in our lives. I am SOOO grateful for the Spirit.
 
I love you all SOOOO MUCH!!! Have the best week EVER. :)
 
Love, Elder Clarke

Friday, May 24, 2013

Pictures from Eugene, Oregon!

Elder David Clarke left the MTC in Provo on May 22, with his MTC companion Elder Bromley, and they flew to the Eugene, Oregon mission.  He was able to call from the airport, and said he is doing really well, and has never been happier.  He said he was grateful for his MTC experience and all that he learned, but was so excited to be entering the mission field.  There were 35 new missionaries that arrived that day, and a picture of them is below.  The GREATEST blessing of all is that Elder Clarke and Elder Bromley are in the same apartment, but both with new companions.  The four of them are the Spanish-speaking missionaries, and have been assigned to labor in Medford, Oregon.  There is a temple in Medford that was dedicated in April 2000.  His new p-day is Monday, and we are looking forward to hearing from him then.

Elder Clarke with President & Sister Young



Elder Clarke & Elder Fernandez
35 new missionaries sent to Eugene, OR on 5-22-13!

Medford, Oregon Temple

Saturday, May 18, 2013

iiiReassigned to Eugene, Oregon!!!


Familia!!!!
HOW ARE YOU ALL DOING!!! I love you all SO much. Ahh, man. I'm happy just to email you.
I just want to say, HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Scotty!!! ...yesterday. I am really sorry I didn't send anything! But you seriously are the best, little man. I can't believe you're a teenager now - it's crazy!!! Always keep your life in abundance of doing good activities - the opportunities just get better the older you get! Love you so much, Scotty. I hope you had the best birthday ever, seriously!!! I love how kind and genuinely caring you are for people; that is an AMAZING ability, and attribute of Jesus Christ. That's something I've been working on lately. You're a good example, and I love ya. Keep fulfilling your Priesthood responsibilities like a boss!!

Also, CONGRATS to Mom for getting your internship finally!! PG is SUCH a good school too - seriously, there are a lot of genuinely good people there, just like AF. I'm so happy for ya. You're gonna be great! :) And...Mother, I am super sorry I missed getting to talk with you and Dad, and Scotty and Adam. I was super sad, but SUPER happy to get to talk with Katie!! :) Love you, Kates! Thanks for absolutely making my whole day. Hopefully I will be able to talk with my parents on Wednesday - that would really mean the WORLD to me. I miss you tons, Mom and Dad. I actually just love you SO MUCH. Thanks for being the Best parents Ever.

So, the GOOD NEWS, I got reassigned to Eugene, Oregon!!! I am suuuuper excited, seriously. It's a much better option than just staying extra weeks here in the MTC. I'm very, very excited for the experiences and opportunities that will come out in the field. Yesterday we had our In-Field Orientation all
day long, learning how to contact people and work with ward leaders, etc. I am very excited to serve! :) I have been incredibly blessed already with the opportunity to serve as a zone leader and practice being a Christlike leader. Christ turns outward when the natural response of man is to turn inward. I have been learning a LOT the last few days about this, and how I need to give up my whole self in order to love people the way Christ does. Elder Calder shared a scripture with me in DC 75:2-3; we even give up our own NAMES (first names), so that I can be distinguished as a representative of Jesus Christ rather than be distinguished as David. I now get the opportunity to be called Elder, even as Jesus Christ is our Elder brother. This is not my work, it's His. I am so touched and blessed as I continue to deepen my understanding in the promise given us by the Lord that "he who loses his life for My sake shall find it". I KNOW that if I give up  my whole self, and all the personal little things in my life I like to hold on to, than I will be more able to love people as Jesus Christ does. I always think about those people in the movie "The Other Side of Heaven", and how they have virtually nothing, in terms of temporal things, yet they have EVERYTHING, only because they have an unbreakable relationship with their Father in Heaven, and Jesus Christ. It is absolutely incredible - all the worldly things there are in the world, we don't even need ANY of it. I have also learned, that I will build a relationship with God MUCH faster by actually going out serving people, loving them, and looking into their eyes as I truly care for them, than if I were to rather read in the scriptures all day long, or pray all day. There is something special that is felt from serving other people, and really taking the time to FOCUS on them, instead of myself. It is absolutely incredible, and I want more than ANYTHING in this world to love people with greater care. So I've been making changes in my every day life as I'm getting ready to go out and serve in the field, to only take the bare minimum I need to be a missionary, and over-simplify my life. Because I know then I will be more focused on loving people, and making a change that LASTS. Acts of service, according to those things which are spiritual and most important to the lives of people, last a LOT longer than any kind of journal, or anything we try to KEEP. I have been focusing on writing too much down, but I learn that I'll learn more if I just lose myself and give my whole self away. It's funny, how that works - Things that we GIVE of ourselves last a lot longer than things we try to KEEP for ourselves. I encourage you all to focus on others rather than yourselves. I think of the Savior during His ministry, and also like many of the old prophets, they probably had little to no personal possessions, but it didn't really matter. The only thing that mattered was the truths they declared, and the righteousness they gave. I am going to try to be like them, and like Him, to focus ONLY on serving, and loving other people. I KNOW with all my heart this will bring blessings. I absolutely do not care about worldly possessions I try to keep in life and on the mission and stuff, because I am perfectly content with my OWN knowledge, and testimony of my one and only, living Redeemer - Jesus Christ. That is ALL I need in my life, and I am NOT ashamed.

Anyways, wow I guess that's it for today, that was a long paragraph! Haha, sorry. Those principles are really churning deep down in my soul right now, and I felt important for them to come out. I love you all. I have learned SO many other incredible things about the gospel this week, but simply just do not have the time to tell you all. According to our needs, we will be taught. I am SUPER, super grateful for the MTC experience I have had here in Provo - I wouldn't trade it for anything. I feel prepared, and ready to serve the Lord, according to His will.
I love you all so much, and I guess I'll see you all later!! :) thank you for being the best family EVER!!!!!!
Love,
Elder Clarke
PS: I got to be a host missionary on Wednesday, and I saw the Hoddy's family drive by! It was really awesome - they stopped and rolled down the window, and Cary said some funny things--it was great to see them! I haven't seen Elder Hoddy yet; but I have seen Elder Payne!!! That was AWESOME. I love missionaries. Anyways. Dad: I'm going to write you a letter today! Adam: I love you a WHOLE bunch too - keep being the most amazing little man in the world!! :) love you SO much :)

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Happy Mother's Day, Mom!!! :)


iHELLO FAMILY!
Elder Bromley & Elder Clarke
Ohhh mann. I am SO happy right now!!! I love my family so much, and am so grateful to write you all a short letter for a week! Anyways, but really it's been the best week ever.
Congratulations to Aunt Monica!!!!! That sounds like SO much fun you all got to go to her graduation party and all! I just want to give her my personal congratulations now. :) And I love you! Also, I'm so thankful for the notes that my family sent me in a letter this last week - they all made me so happy! And Mom, I sent you a little Mother's Day gift in the mail yesterday hoping it would reach you in time before Sunday...but you're not allowed to open it til Sunday! Haha ;) Happy Mother's Day!!!! I am so sorry I don't get to call you, but I hope you just know how much I love you and how you are such an amazing mother. Love you tons. :) Also today, I have been finally able to write back to some letters - so they'll be coming soon! And I am glad to hear you all got to have a fun Family Home Evening service/cleaning night at Grandpa & Grandma's house this past Monday; I am so proud of you family! You are always doing great things. Keep it up ;) Seriously though!!!



Elder Clarke & his District at the Provo Temple
So, I don't have as much time today, but I will explain some questions and share a spiritual thought for the week. So Mom asked about how the investigators at the MTC work. So they are really the teachers of the MTC acting as REAL people. Usually they are real investigators that the returned-missionary teachers taught on their missions, and the circumstances they were in, or just anybody they know who is really investigating the church and stuff. Although the teachers are acting, it is REALLY still a powerful experience, and it's like real - because these are real people in the world that have real needs, and we teach it that way. We are still entitled to the personal revelation to teach these people, and the Spirit can be there so strong. At times, the teachers have actually shared the things they were taught by the missionaries to their real investigators they know, and there have come about baptisms from it before. So it is a wonderful way to be able to practice.

Elder Bromley & Elder Clarke
Also, there was a new district that came into the zone this week and that has been very fun to get to know them and befriend them and such! Everything has been going very well. The mission conference last Sunday was AMAZING, and the musical number went well. It was so fun :) All the talks were on the Doctrine of Christ. It is amazing; the more we come to understand that, the better missionaries we will be. Pres. Nally invited us to look up 2 Ne. 31:2-21, 3 Ne. 11:21-41, 3 Ne. 27:13-22, and Matthew 3:13-17 w/JST. I promise that will be a revelatory experience, as it was promised to me. I can testify! Take time to really ponder the Saving Power of the Atonement.

So, District Meeting last Sunday was amazing. It's what I'd like to talk about today, about DESIRES. I have a "Pregunta del D'ia", or Question of the Day, every day at the bottom of my planner, and I seek an answer through the Spirit throughout the day. The one for Sunday was, "What will we receive due to our faith?" the answer: We will receive whatever we desire most, whether good or bad.

If we desire to accomplish our own will over God's, we will be granted that wish so that we can experience and understand that God knows what's best for us. God is the most loving being...ever!! He allows us to fall, so that we might humble ourselves and come unto Him. We MUST submit to His will, follow HIS Plan, and accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, to be able to become like Him someday. This is the Plan and the Will of the Father - Jesus submitted to it, and accomplished His will by carrying out the Atonement; and because Jesus suffered the Atonement for us it is the gospel of Jesus Christ. God truly wants what is best for us because He loves us so much, and because of this He has provided a Savior and a way for us to make it back to His presence, and receive all that He hath. But we can only do that His way, so we must submit to His will. We must truly desire for ourselves to do His will - and we will be humbled to that decision through much trial and affliction. If we so much as have a desire to become converted to the gospel, He will strengthen us through our faith and action to becoming so - converted to the gospel. He will help us in whatever thing we need. What really helped me understand all of this was the scripture in Alma 29:4. It's amazing. The Plan of Salvation is all about Agency because God is all about love. His Love is Justice. If we desired to do evil, we would be happier in the Telestial kingdom than to rather live in God's presence for eternity with our never-ending guilt. All of His judgments are just, and out of love. I know that this is true!
I love all of you, and hope that you have the best week ever!!

Dad: Your personal note to me touched me so much. I'm going to write you a letter today if I can!

Mom: I LOVE you!!! Have the BEST Mother's Day EVER!

Steve: You are the MAN, and such an amazing example of a good missionary to me.

Katie: You better be careful on the roads, sista! Haha good luck with the license! :) I'm glad you love those headphones - and that new verse of Called to Serve that someone wrote is super cool!

Scotty: I absolutely LOVED the strange picture of smiley faces you wrote on the back of your note. I have it hanging up in my room ;) Good job for being such an awesome Priesthood holder! Love you!

Adam: Thanks so much for the note! I am glad you had a fun Harry Potter party with your friends. Sounds super fun :) Make Gryffendor proud!
Have the Best Day Ever!!!
Love,
Elder David Clarke

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Change of Heart

Hey Family! :)

How is everybody doing?! I am sorry I didn't email on Thursday, our P-Day got switched to Saturday! Our whole schedule was rearranged this past week, it has been crazy and good. Last week we got a new district in our zone! That has been very fun to befriend them and such. I found out last night that there's a couple more districts coming this Wednesday, and I saw one of them is Hyrum Arnesen is coming to my zone!! He's the one friend from BYU that I saw in the BYU men's chorus at Devo. last week! I'm super excited for that. Also, estaba poco enfermo this last week... but I'm totally fine now! There was a cold going around in our district, and once somebody gets it we all go down! Haha it's kind of funny actually. Also, I was so happy to receive so many packages and letters from family and other people!! It made me so happy. :) Thank you for the muffins, mother! They were so good, and I shared them with my district. If you wanted to send anything else, my only request would be chips and homemade salsa. Haha :) Also, I just barely picked up a package this morning from Krissy! That was the most amazing care package ever!! I'm still finding contents inside of it as I speak, so thank you Krissy! I will write to everyone as soon as I can. And Senora Collier sent me a small package of candy and a letter too! That was very nice. Also, I was SO thankful to receive a letter from Grandpa this week - it really helped me so much. I have been studying in the Book of Mormon a lot more because of it, and I have seen so many blessings in my life. Also the letter from Katie! and Krissy. I love everyone in my family a lot! And it is Mother's Day next Sunday!!! I am suuuper excited to send mom a letter. :)  Anyways, to answer some questions, yes mom everything is going fine with washing my clothes. There's just buttons on the washer and dryer that tell me what to do, so I don't worry about it a whole lot. Also me and Sister Sandholtz, the violinist, tried out for a musical number on Thursday and we found out yesterday we made it!! The arrangement is "More Holiness Give Me" by Marshall McDonald, and we'll be playing at the Mission Conference tomorrow for Fast Sunday! Like in front of the whole MTC..I think, I'm not quite sure yet. It's going to be awesome, I'm excited. Also, I have been seeing Elder Stucki quite often lately and have had the chance to talk with him a lot, which was awesome! Our districts have the same service assignment, so we can chat a little bit. His companion is like Chinese...it's awesome. Haha. Anyways, I am doing just great here! The only thing more that I would really need is knee-pads, because we pray so much!! Haha seriously though, it's great. Also you asked about the language, and it is coming along just great! We've been able to understand pretty much everything the teachers say since like the second day here, and we practice speaking all the time so I don't really feel any problems or barriers in that regard. The only hard part is learning to teach effectively, and make all of our lessons count! At times this can be difficult, but we just practice teaching all the time and practice finding the needs of our investigators to teach accordingly. 

Anyways, I have learned quite a lot of touching and inspiring things this week from teachers, people, and pondering on everything I am doing and learning. I would just like to tell of one thing specifically I experienced this week, that changed everything for me! That thing is the principle of Repentance. It is SUCH a blessing, and it is one of the fundamental principles of the gospel for a reason. I learned that Repentance isn't just for the wicked persons, but it is for all of those who are trying to be better but sometimes come up short - like me this week. Basically, I was just being a little bit too hard on myself that I wasn't being the best missionary I could be, and I was down on myself. I realized where I went wrong, and I was focusing on myself too much when I should have been focusing on serving other people and the Lord. It took me a few days to keep asking for forgiveness and asking if there was any way I could get better, and not so down on myself. It was a difficult time for me, because I was truly feeling bad, and the desire to receive forgiveness grew in me as I was brought in the depths of humility. Then yesterday morning, at the climax of all of these feelings (when we gave a not-so-good lesson, difficult for me to learn how to teach better) we ended the class with a song, #138 "Senor, yo te seguire", (#220 Lord I would Follow Thee), and it was such a touching moment for me, because all the words in that song were the exact feelings of my heart at that time, but I still hadn't received that forgiveness yet. I learned I NEEDED to show faith by acting first, and try my best to love other people although it was really really hard because of how I felt, and I needed to just tell myself there CAN be hope, although at the time due to my feelings, it looked slim. Then as we ended, personal study began, and the whole time I was just praying and asking more sincerely than ever before for the forgiveness of my sins, and it was the most beautiful experience I have ever had. It was a monumental point of my day, mission, and life. In that moment, even as I was saying the words (in Spanish), I felt the Spirit act so strongly upon me, I am crying just typing this right now. When you receive that change of heart, you KNOW without a doubt when it happens. It is so powerful; in that moment the burden of all I was feeling was taken off of me, and I just felt the most amazing joy. The Lord truly changed my heart, Before, I was just tired with the work and wanted to just go home and sleep, it was hard for me to be patient with and love people (although I was sincerely trying my hardest), but after, I wasn't even tired! I was just filled with great joy, and I was cheerfully talking with people and showing pure love - charity. I felt the burden off of my shoulders. It was incredible, and it made me EXCITED for lessons and teaching people about this, because I know it happened to me. I've been excited for this email ever since. "When we come to truly understand Repentance, and the Atonement, we will have a desire to share the gospel with other people", as it says in PMG. The best way to describe the experience I had is found in the Second Paragraph of the First Chapter of PMG. Please read that. Please, I ask of anybody reading this, to seek once more this change of heart, and find the joy that comes from Repenting. I KNOW that this principle is for everybody, not just the wicked. In my early experiences with the gospel, I had the perception that Repentance was a usually pretty passive part of my prayer, when I just apologize for the wrong I did, but now I know it is a very Changing experience, and very powerful. Read Mosiah 2-5, and Enos 1. It took Enos ALL day, and ALL night to finally receive this change of heart and forgiveness of his sins, and he knew EXACTLY the moment when it was received. How powerful is that! It WILL take a few days. But I know, that if you want a better quality of life, you can USE the Atonement. No matter what it is, ask for forgiveness of our shortcomings (which we all have), and sincerely seek it, it will come. It is beautiful. No wonder the prophets tried calling repentance to people all the time. I am not even doing anything bad here at the MTC - heck, I am devoting my whole life to His cause!! But I STILL have shortcomings, and I KNOW and have a clear and pure testimony that I have had need of repentance during my stay here at the MTC, and that it has worked in my life. It has helped me so much more to fulfill my purpose, and right after the experience I was able to love other people so much more, and not worry about myself. Also read about Alma's experience. I promise if we come to understand this better we will have a GREATER desire to share the gospel with other people, in whatever way that may be. 
I am sorry, I am out of time. I want to share so much more! I have had lots of great learning and powerful experiences with giving Priesthood blessings, but don't have time to go into detail on them now. Just know I have a testimony that the Lord helps us in that way too, and it is His power. I am so grateful for each and every one of you!!

Love you all!

Elder Clarke