Saturday, February 22, 2014

Best Day Ever

Dearest Family,

I am so grateful to write you this afternoon!! It has been so good to hear from each one of you, sounds like you´re all doing very well! Thanks for writing me Scotty! That guy is growing up so quickly it´s insane. Keep up the good work everybody, and I am going to be praying and fasting for Mother for sure! I hope you get that job you want, and also that everything goes well in all of the spiritual activities/events/conferences coming up soon! Congrats to Scotty for making yearbook! That´s really super cool, that´ll be such a great experience. And Katie for Chamber call-backs!! That´s way good, and also that you get to see Steve every weekend. :) Hope it gets warm over there in Utah! I´m still sweating here every day...haha it´s awesome. :)

You ask the best questions, Mother! So specific. I will answer them :) No, we do not cook our
food, we eat with the members dinner on saturdays, and lunch and dinner on sundays, and then the rest...we´re just kinda on our own, find what we can. We go out to eat a lot...get subway sandwiches which is really close by, there´s like a pensionist lady who brings food to the office building and we just go down and buy food from her, buy stuff at Wong´s grocery store really close by, and do what we can. Cereal, fruits, bread, yogurt for breakfast, and I´m starting to get supplies to make tacos for dinners. It´s good! I use my water filter-bottle every single day, fill it up like 4-5 times a day! I drink so much water. I don´t get sick anymore..sometimes feel a little queezy of the stomach, but I don´t have any problems. Everything´s pretty americanized where I am! I´ll probably be here in the office until like at least June...mayyyybe July, but probably not. Health secretaries are usually in the office like 6-7 months, Elder Hartvigsen was here for 8! So, it is unknown. I do like it here, it´s really nice and I like working hard - there´s a lot of work. I really miss the set schedule that we had doesn´t really work like that for us in the office, but we do the best we can. We had an excellent companionship study/inventory with all of us, secretaries and assistants in our room. It was so good, what we needed! Elder Henostroza seriously inspires me so much. He´s amazing. He´s the senior assistant, and goes home in two months! But he´s on fire, and is helping me improve my teaching abilities, which is still a little hard for me. I really wish we could be working more in our area, and we are going to! We´re gonna start leaving an hour earlier every day to be more focused. It´s gonna mean a lot of work though! 

This past week, we found an awesome family that we´re starting to teach! The family of Mirtha's sister, our convert of last week, and we started with William Marcos, the father of the family,
who has been a member like 15 years, but moved and because of work went inactive for a long time. We started teaching his children, with Mirtha, and then found him and got him really excited to come back to church. The mother is still not super excited, but we had a family night with all of them, Mirtha and her son, and the sister missionaries in our ward, and got everybody super excited. We´re hoping and praying to see all of them tomorrow! The bishop already had an interview with him, and he seems pretty committed. We´ll rescue him, then baptize his wife and children, and get them all sealed in the temple. I´m so grateful for the excitement of the father, the head of the family, really trying to get his family back in the church; he has a strong testimony and knows what´s good, he just had a really hard time with work and got discouraged. But God loves him, and wants him to come back, and it´s a blessing to help in that sacred kind of work. Thank you so much for the quote from Pte. Uchtdorf, Mother Dear, it reminds me a lot of missionary work, just pondering in how much our Savior really loves us. 

Anyways, our baptism last week went perfectly, and the confirmation as well, and our convert is looking strong! The ward is doing great as well. We´re planning a big ward activity for april, we're looking to really unite the ward, it was inspired by the bishop. We're gonna try to make it like a mini- EFY kind of a thing. Everyone's super excited! Well, I think we´re gonna go to a cool museum today and then leave to proselyte early, hope you all have the best day ever! I love you all so much!!! :)


Elder Clarke

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Happy Birthday Grandma! and Hello Family!!!

Dearest Wonderful Family of mine, 

Thank you so much for writing me today, Mother Dear! I was so excited to read about how you are doing and the family. It's good that everyone's keeping busy!! How's Dad's new calling going? Yeah, I was pumped to hear about the new stake presidency! I don't really know President Miller too well, but I am sure they are inspired and will serve this stake fabulously. I sent emails of appreciation to Pres. Welch, Sermon and Judd - those men have inspired me so much over these years. Oh and hey, please wish Grandma a happy birthday for me!! And remind her to wait for the birthday card I sent her, and to look at the birthday email I sent her yesterday! I am glad it was all very fun. I loved seeing the pictures :) We have the best family ever!!!!!!

Also thanks Mother for sending me emails of my friends! Do you have any from Elder Stucki? Also, about meeting Sister Douglas, I think that's a great idea! Sounds awesome, I might even be able to send a package home with her. Who knows :) But she is super awesome, like my mission Mom here I'm on the phone with every day, so it would be cool to meet her. She´s really nice and loves to talk forever, just like you! :) It´s a good thing :) And, yeah the Douglas kids are very good at tennis! We're all about the same level, and President actually was kinda beating us for a while! He's way good. Anyway, it was super fun.

It was very interesting to hear about your week! Especially Katie - hope everything is going alright there!! Please take it easy. How is Steve hanging in there with school? How are the Grampsters, Kriss, Kor, Kev and Ken? Ha, wow, lots of K´s there. I would love to hear how they are doing as well. Mother, that's so cool your job!!! I am jealous. That seems so fun, inspiring, and rewarding, helping kids plan for their futures. You are amazing!! Maybe you should help me after the mission, figure out what I want to do in life. Haha. 

This week has been a super good one! I have been super dedicated and focused to cleaning up and organizing every part of my life! In our the office, my big desk I don´t even know half the stuff inside of it...and it´s just a mess that doesn't seem to end. But, I have become so efficient of cleaning and getting things organized and under control. Ha, but not really. Just super clean and organized, it is the way to live. I am going to be like that for the rest of my life, I promise. And planning and goals have become so important to me! It is a fantastic way to live. 

I am learning now, the importance of being focused on THE WORK. Having nothing in my head, but the will and vision to save souls, through faith, repentance, baptism, the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. Always relying on the power of the Atonement, and developing Christ-like attributes. I just...want to be SO focused on the mission purpose, and think about it non-stop. I think this deep desire has planted in me because it is so hard to do here in the office. Cuz I have to worry about so many other things rather than the health of missionaries, appointments and schedules, travel itineraries and taking care of people´s temporal needs. If something is hard for me to do, it's like I automatically want to do it, and I feel extra divine power to help me reach that potencial I see with the hope of faith. Just think about the modern-day prophets, who literally worry about the salvation of souls until the end of their lives. Their diligence in striving to keep every commandment with exactness and bring about the Church of God completely purifies them, and they are one with the Spirit, the Son, and the Father's will. It's just an amazing, incredible Plan and Work God has for us, because it is so hard. It just makes me want to do it all the days of my life! And serve with all my heart, might, mind and strength. I have been feasting upon the words that Christ spake to the early latter-day saints in Doctrine and Covenants 1-30. It's just incredible!! I love reading, and trying to visualize and hear, the literal voice of Jesus Christ as He directs His church in the latter-days. It's magnificent, and there is so much Doctrine, it's insane. I testify that if we lose ourself in this work, we will be ready, worthy, and much more desirious to partake of eternal life when it comes, because it's the same work we´ll be doing for the rest of eternity, just as it has it has become the work of the Son, the will given from the Father. Anyways, just try thinking about this great and marvellous work every second of the day, and see how much more Spirit you have in your life. I know that the Spirit guides this work. 

We have a baptism tonight! In about an hour and a half. Mirtha is her name, she's about 40 years old and has children that we have also been teaching, who have been reading the Book of Mormon consistently (very impressive for 9-10 year olds) and coming to church and praying. She is separated and single, but she is so converted already. This has really been just the perfect story of member-missionary work in the ward, it was all them!! First off, our ward council lately is just nailing it, and the Bishop is on fire. Bishop Jorge Negrete - I will never forget this man and how he is stepping up to the plate with the Work of Salvation. It is SO inspiring! His love and dedication is unmatched, that I have yet seen in Perú. So, it was a perfect reference of Maritza, member of the ward council, who is a very, very nice and Christ-like lady, she took us to the house of her son´s kindergarten teacher, Mirtha, and we had the first lesson, and the shining example of the member is what inspired the investigator to really be interested and put forth the faith necesary to become converted to this church. She was so excited and touched by the spirit that day, and up until now has not broken a single commitment we've extended to her. We found her like 3 weeks ago! And she is such an elect, and ready to be baptized tonight. Every lesson we had with her was accompanied by members, she was very well fellow-shipped the Sundays she went to church, and another ward council member, Pedro Granados, who lives close by her and accompanied us to a lesson with her, has known her since childhood, and she wants him to baptize her. It´s just incredible to me. We are honestly just helpers here in this work, teachers, and the ward does the rest to keep her in the fold. I am so grateful to be apart of this work. 

I don't remember in which section I read it in D&C, but it was my favorite so far. Christ tells us, and makes it very clear, that this is His work; Our work, right now in this life and this special and oportune time, is to Keep His Commandments. And we are promised with the blessings, Spirit to guide, and unique joy that only comes from saving souls. I love my life, and I bear my testimony of this Church and sacred work, that they are both directed by Jesus Christ, He lives, and is our Savior. 

I hope you have had the best week ever, and keep having the best week ever, with all the energy to do what is right. 

Love you all so much!!!

Elder Clarke

Monday, February 10, 2014

Good Afternoon, lovely Family!!!

Dear Family,

I hope you've all been doing so well!! Thank you so much for the kind, loving email Mother Dear, it made me happy!! I've got the best family ever. And, thank you Mother, for the interesting
picture of the week and for trying to make me feel old!! I am still new as new in the mission, and have tons of time ahead to look forward to. Ha ;) Man,,that just hit me. 10 months? It´s been a long time. But, I feel like new. 

I loved reading about your Relief Society lesson about the plan of salvation and how it relates with the first 5 principles of the gospel! That was beautiful, and brightened my soul. About the plan of salvation puzzle..I actually haven´t used it in a lesson yet, but my companions and I do play with it and they love it! I am so glad to hear that everything is going well in work!! Lots of work, that is good:) 

Happy Birthday to Aunt Monica!!!!!! It sounds like it was such a fun time with all the family having dinner at the country club!! I´m so glad everyone got to go and had a fun time, please say hi to Uncle Kevin and Aunt Stephanie as well. I´m excited to hear about the new stake presidency! Please tell me all about it! :)

Things have been better here in the office. We went and played tennis with President and his kids today and it was the funnest thing in the whole world!!! Man. It was incredible. It´s so hot and sunny here in Perú as well!! It´s been a beautiful day. I am also gonna send some pictures from a couple weeks ago! We went to the highest hilltop in all of Lima called Cerro San Cristóbol, and it´s an amazing view!! Lima´s SO big. 

Well, to share a spiritual thought, I'll share what I wrote to Steve. The principle of the doctrine and gospel that has been in my mind for weeks is the ability that we have all been given to discernir el bien del mal. It is a crucial part of God´s eternal plan of salvation, and also for us to be able to apply the doctrine to our lives. 2 Ne. 2:5, and Moroni 7:12-13, 15-17, 19-21. I memorize and recite these scriptures in my mind, and it gives me incredible strength. It is so clear, that in this, God´s plan, He gives men the ability to discern good and evil, and he explains clearly in the scriptures that He has and He does, and there are no exceptions. To some, he doesn't give the ability to discern good and evil (like maybe the guys from house 19 sometimes). But, with every opportunity or trial we are given, we are to keep His commandments and do every possible thing to change our surroundings to fulfill more His will and heavenly standards. As we do, we are given more of the Spirit, and more ability to discern the good and evil. I feel like having more ability to discern the good and evil might have to do with leaders who have keys, and are on a different plane to make decisions to bring about good in this world, because they have cancelled out many of the adversary´s temptations by fulfilling the word of God. God is a
personage who makes decisions. We must always choose the right, and use every tool given us to take advantage of this life and bring to pass God´s heavenly purpose. Tools such as goals and planning are fantastic if we combine them with the basic principles of the gospel. And, when the power of the adversary is bound, it will be an incredible thing - I cannot wait for that day. I picture it as a race car revving its engine a few seconds before the race, using so much energy to fight against the opposition to push forward, but the brakes hold it back. And then when the opposition is taken away, it just explodes at unimaginable speeding down the track towards the prize. That´s how it seems sometimes here on earth, we almost feel we´re making no progress, but we are learning how to apply the true principles to see true progress and make a change, and in the millenium it will just be an incredible sight of how we´ll come to be like God without any brakes. I know that the plan of salvation is true, and that God loves us more than we can imagine. I know there is a purpose for everything, and that every moment and decision we make in our lives matter. It all starts with the small things, to bring to pass great things. I know that the only true source of power is through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and I know that He also humbly follows the plan of our Heavenly Father, and is our exemplary loving leader, and older Brother. I testify of these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen!

I love you all so much family!!! Have the best week ever! Happy Birthday to Grandma this coming Friday! I hope the card I sent gets to you on time!! :)

Much love,

Elder Clarke

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Querida Familia!!!

Dearest Family!

I hope you are all having the best day of your LIFE!!! I want to sincerely apologize for not writing last week. I really feel bad, I´ve humbled myself down to the dust, and repented. I know that just having a lot of work to do isn´t a very good excuse. I should have been more diligent and not getting discouraged to get the really important things done. I hope you all realize how much I love you, with all my heart, and that you are always in my prayers and concern. I pray every day for your well-being. I definitely have the very best family there is, without question. I LOVE YOU. 

Last week was changes...and I thought things would get a little slower, but not really. There have been so many missionaries going home for health reasons it is incredible. It just hurts me! Last saturday when I didn´t write was because of an elder who had to go home on emergency because of health reasons which I found out about the night before, and then 15 minutes after when the chouffeur was supposed to come, he called and said his car broke down, so we had to take him to the airport in taxi and got him through just in time. Man. And there have been 3 more missionaries go home for health reasons since then, on top of all the transfers monday and tuesday. It´s ridiculous! It adds up to 10 missionaries in this past month, and we´ve got one more on the way. That hasn´t happened like...ever! I don´t know what´s going on. The Lord is like trying to send us a message or something. There´s also just a lot of missionaries who come to the mission really unprepared, and find out when they get here, and it becomes a pain to make all the changes. Seeing some of these missionaries go really kinda made me sad, and I just could't believe it all happen so fast in front of my eyes. I know that the Lord has a reason and a purpose for everything. 

Reflecting on all that is going on, it made me really appreciate the sacred and rare opportunity to serve the Lord with all our heart, might, mind, and strength in the way that He has called and desires His missionaries to serve in His marvellous work, and in this precious and prophetic time in the last days. It´s incredible, the Lord´s high standards, and His abundant care in this great labor of love. Like, if you are not well or suitable to serve within the mission rules and guidelines of health and everything, you get sent home. And what a costly labor! Being the one to buy all the plane tickets and all the travel and hotels to get missionaries around and changed, I just know it's an incredible amount. The Lord has such great patience with us, faith, diligence, love, and requires us to keep His commandments with Excellence. Anyways, we were going to go to the temple today, we had like a couple hour wait and were eating breakfast there, then President called me and told me to buy a plane ticket for tomorrow and make the plans for a missionary to go home, and I couldn't make it in the session today. But, it's OK, I did get to fix my watch at Wong's! (a nearby grocery store that´s the bomb). The wristband part broke for a week, but it's good as new now.

Also, in other news, in the last transfers a new Elder came to the office!! Elder Cajo, from Lima Perú! He literally lives just a little less than an hour and a half from the office. Haha. He´s like, ´´You see that bus passing by? Yeah, that totally would take me right to my house.´´ It´s funny, haha. But seriously, this guy is like such an awesome cool guy and I´m SO excited. I´ll be honest, I didn´t know at ALL it was going to happen before, and I wasn´t very excited, and President helped me come to repentance, and now I understand what great need it is to have him in the office. He got called to work with the visas, which means he´ll help all the missionaries go to immigrations, or he´ll go for them, and keep all the carnets de extranjería updated, and all that good stuff so that our missionaries have legal residence here in Perú. All that has seriously been lacking for the last few years, it´s not good at all. The area presidency is kinda cracking down on us, and we´re getting it together now. The area presidency is also cracking down on tracking the progress of learning english for every latino missionary! Which is kinda cool. I´m so excited to see things change, seriously!! My love for repentance has grown so great. I love seeing change! Anyways, Elder Cajo actually just got baptized when he was 18, two years ago, and he´s like super strong in gospel knowledge and conversion. He´s a fantastic example. He speaks english really well. He is a very studious guy, studied accounting before the mission, and is very well-educated and smart. He´s gonna be a great help here in the office - it helps a lot that he´s Peruvian. He´s from Los Olivos, which is the north part of Lima. Elder Valencia is training him on all of the suministros stuff, materials and supplies for rooms and the packages and letters, so he will do all of that and immigrations. And Elder Valencia is leaving the office these next transfers in March 11! Nobody saw that coming, it´s kinda sad. I thought we were gonna be together for a while. Not anymore! Anyways, me and Elder Cajo go running every morning, first we run all the way down the stairs, do our 20 min. route around a nice-looking park here in San Isidro, and then run back up all the 17 floors of stairs. Haha. He pushes me so hard, and I´m getting in great shape! I drink like 5 bottles of water a day, and sweat SOOO much! I come back from the run, drenched in sweat, and take a cold shower, and start sweating again, uncontrollably. It´s great haha. 

Anyways, I´m sorry I´m not sharing a lot of spiritual experiences or stories about investigators. We found a super awesome investigator this past week and she has a fecha and already came to church and progresses really well! I´m excited to get things more organized and clean, and work hard to get our area into shape as well. 

Thank you for all of the support and prayers, and for still writing me even when I don´t write you. You´re the best family ever. Congrats to Katie for getting asked to the Hero´s dance!! I was so happy to see that, sounds like it´ll be tons of fun. Scotty´s rockin it up, have him take the honors biology! Honors everything´s the only way to go!! Steve´s the bomb for rocking the Chrysalis and byu, love you man. Adam, keep collecting those good Pokemon cards, and you can totally have mine for a while! You´re the man! Thank you so much for writing me Dad, you´re amazing, and I love you. I could never thank you enough for all that you do. You´re an amazing example of a converted disciple of Christ who lives and applies His gospel. Keep at the job and school! And, Mother Dear, I hope you never forget the love and never-ending gratitude I have for always having cared for me every moment of my life, spiritual and temporal needs - there is no greater gift that could have been given, and nothing I could ever do to pay you back. Just always remember how much I love you, and that I will never depart from the divine knowledge I have received from God because of all you have helped me with. I love you all, precious family! Have the greatest week you´ve ever had!!

Grandma, happy birthday in 13 days!! I totally bought you the coolest happy birthday abuelita card today, and will probably be sending it on monday. I love you a ton, and hope Grandpa and Krissy, Kory, Ken and Monica, and Kevin and Steph are all doing super well!! I feel so so bad for not keeping in touch with you all regularly, but want you all to know my love extends to you, and you are seriously in my prayers just as much if not more than my family. I will write you all very soon!!

Have the greatest day ever!!

Much love, 

Elder Clarke