Monday, June 30, 2014

Best Week Ever!!!

Dear Family,

You are the best family in the world!! Thank you for inspiring me so much, being such good examples to all of our family and our ward and stake. Thank you for not conforming to mediocrity, thank you for going the extra mile and give everything to God. I love you more than you know. Thank you for your support while I'm on the mission, and for writing me such great emails! 

I...man, last Sunday, I really had the BEST birthday ever!! The greatest present from Heavenly Father is that the Spirit was with me so, so strongly...ALL DAY LONG. It was one of those good days. We found a family of 6 and had the most incredibly perfect first lesson with them...nothing could have made my life better. I've never had such a spiritual lesson in all of my life! I think it was because we were focused exactly on the principle Steve taught me in his email, taking advantage of the Spirit in the moment to invite to commit to the gospel, especially baptism! That is so funny that you shared that with me, because it's exactly what we learned in our multi-zone from President Douglas as well!! The Spirit is guiding us to learn and share what the people around us are in need of. I also testify that people will be more willing to live, accept, and commit to the gospel if they feel the Spirit. If they don't...there's no point in teaching them! It is the clave!!! (the key)

The members in our ward are sooo kind...and they went crazy for my birthday for some reason. About four different families made me a cake and invited us over for dinner..no joke! That's basically about what you need to expect here in Perú, just learn to keep putting the food down. Seriously, we ate four dinners that night! I promise you mother I'm getting enough to eat!! I'm not sure why I'm getting skinnier, but I've noticed it too. I think it's because I'm beginning to understand the doctrine of health. Anyways. I loved so much every single thing in the package!!!! It was the BEST EVER!! My favorite, and also the most surprising and random thing, was the harmonica!! Super cool! I figured out how to do it and it's fun. :) I loved the photo, all of the candy and stuff I shared with my companions, etc! We had a fun little party that night in our room...I'll have to show you the photos. I love all of these elders in our little office, it's such a blessing. We work hard, and have fun. Thank you so much again!!!!! :) Oh...something funny as well, the lady who headed up the party the ward threw for me was our investigator Rosario who will soon be getting married with and their whole family will be getting baptized! The date is July 12. Rosio also talked with her husband and they also put a goal to be baptized and get sealed a year later, so we're helping her again. We're having a lot more spiritual lessons now -- I'm learning so much! 

This whole week I am learning SOO much about the Holy Ghost. This week we found some very good new investigators and focus on our missionary purpose and it brings out their spiritual needs, and we feed them. That's what gives you so much joy as a missionary. One investigator with a baptismal date named Yaco is very humble and desirious to change his life, working with goals to overcome smoking and drinking. The gospel applies so perfectly it's amazing. 

If I had more time, I would write a lot more, but this is the most important thing I learned this week that has really changed my whole way of thinking about...everything. Moroni 10:4 ´´Í would exhort you to ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, if these things are not true.´´ ....why would we ever ask Him if these things are NOT true? Is there a reason for that part? It's a very specific and powerful invitation from a prophet of the Lord. To receive a real, powerful, and strong testimony that the things of the gospel are true, we must ask God if they are NOT true. Why?? ...because you have ALREADY FELT that these things are true. If you were ever taught the truth of these things correctly, taught by the Holy Ghost, you would already feel that these things are true. If not, the teacher did not do a good enough job bringing the Spirit to testify the truth of those things. The Holy Ghost ALWAYS testifies of the truth. That's its job, and it's a principle that never fails; the Spirit testifies of the truth, but it is just so crucially important that the teacher helps the learner RECOGNIZE the Holy Ghost, explaining to them that it's testifying of this truth being taught. Now, if you have already personally felt that these things are true, even at least a feeling, why would you ask God if these things are true? It doesn't make sense. God wants us and needs us to come to our own conclusions, make our own decisions, and for us to take our own responsibility in this life. He wants us to RELY on the Holy Ghost. Why do you think he leaves us out here in this world so far away from His presence in the middle of all of these challenges that come to be so difficult, so difficult for some that they fall into sin? What's the catch? What does He want us to learn? He knows that if we don't come to be self-sufficient, to be guided personally by the Holy Ghost every day, the greatest Gift that He delivered to dwell with us every second of life, then we won't be able to come like Him. We must learn to act for ourselves - He can't do everything for us to receive eternal life. We must take our own decisions. So, when people learn of the gospel, they must feel the Spirit that it is true. Then, they must ask God if those things they have learned and felt are NOT true, and they will receive a very strong witness that it IS true. We ask God if it's not true, and what happens is all of those very same feelings of the Spirit that we felt in that moment of being taught those principles of the gospel, those very same feelings will return into our hearts, burning, testifying that...no, this actually IS true. It is true. And if we were to ask if something else were not true, and it wasn't the will of God, we would have a stupor of thought, and not good feelings at all would return to us if we had felt them before. We must first study it out in our mind, use our agency to decide and act with faith to what WE FEEL is right, and then ask God if that thing WE FEEL is NOT right, and we will either have a stupor of thought, or the same feelings of the Holy Ghost will return, testifying that yes, it is true. God answers our prayers in this way if we do all we can before asking Him, taking responsibility and using our faith. It's a principle that always works. I personally testify of it! Please, share this with Uncle Ken, Uncle Kevin, and Uncle Kor, and the rest. I think of them all the time. And I know they have felt once before that these things are true. Invite them to ask God if those things are NOT true, and I promise that if they ask with a sincere heart, and with real intent, wanting to know if those things are true, with the intention of repenting and returning with full-purpose of heart...that those same feelings they once felt will rush back into their hearts to motivate and help them in their journey of repentance and making right all that has happened. You have no idea how much they mean to me. Really...throughout my mission I've always pondered about what in the world could help them in the gospel..what to do, and when I learned this principle so clearly this week I immediately knew it was the thing they should do. It all depends on their intention, if they do it with full purpose of heart, to return to God, and repent. If that is the desire of their hearts, it shall be given unto them. I know that God lives, He answers prayers, He loves us and wants us. He wants us to return and wants our will. I testify of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, that He can heal any would, any sin, any damage done, there is nothing that competes with the matchless power of His Atonement. I know that His gospel is true, and it is the only way to receive true happiness in this life, and eternal joy and salvation in the world to come. 

Have the best week ever!!! I love you with all of my heart!

Sincerely,

Elder Clarke

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Sacrifice brings forth the Blessings of Heaven

Dear Family,

Thank you all so much for all of your birthday greetings!!! I am so grateful for such a beautiful and encouraging family. I love you all so very much - EVERY DAY!! I love my family. Thank you for being you. I am excited to open my package tomorrow night and to respond to a lot of your emails, I am sorry I have been slacking lately. I can't express to you Dad, the gratitude I feel for each email you write me, the last one you wrote me on Easter was the spiritual highlight of my month. Also, I like the spanish emails from Steve. :) your jerga panameña me gusta!! ´´mi frencito´´

I am sorry to hear about Grandma Almond passing away this week. I cherish and will always admire Grandma Almond. She had so much light and so much fuego; you can tell people have a passion for life if they shake your hand with a very firm grip even up until the last year of their life. I'm so grateful for her example in this life and know she will accept the fulness of the gospel in the one to come. I thank her for always having loved us great-grandchildren so sincerely. I was happy to hear that Mother had a great experience at her Young Women's camp! You are so great with everyone in the stake!! Also Dad is just an amazing example and I love you two to death for making a difference in the world around you. As I drove through the south of Perú today, I pondered deeply about all of the incredible blessings I've had in my life, and most of that is due to the solid family that I've been raised in, because of the blessings of the Lord brought about by the great faith and diligence of my lovely parents. I hope you recognize the great faith that you have, lovely parents, and that you take courage to do even more to serve in this world. You have such a great light and I would NOT rather have anybody else as parents. No, not one, in the whole world. You're perfect. :)

Elder Bromley & Elder Clarke
MTC Companions Reunited
I just got back from a 3-day trip to the south of the mission with President Douglas, I went on a little intercambio yesterday and I drove up alone with him all day! (like a 7 hour drive). It was such an incredible experience!  So what happened is the night before at 9:30pm President invited me, and we left at 7:00am the next day. Elder Fiallos the assistant, was still sick,  so I went with Elder Dahle. We went to Chincha to do multi-zones and trainings, and they told me 30 minutes before that I would be teaching some of the ´´tallers´´....how do you say that in english..workshops, or training sessions of about half an hour each. President did it the first time and told me to watch very closely and that I'd be doing it the next 5 times to each group of missionaries in the 5 zones we trained. I was so very nervous the first time!!! I was sweating. But President was there kind of training me to do the training..and after I got over the initial fear, I started getting better at it. Normally just the assistants and President train at those conferences, and invite zone leaders when there's an opportunity. I was so blessed for that opportunity to learn how to teach and train well in big groups! It has always been my desire to adquire that skill..I had shared it with President, and he's helped me grow into a great leader. We went and proselyted with the missionaries that night in intercambios helping them in their areas, and that night me and Elder Dahle stayed with Elder Durfey and Elder Amador, the zone leaders. Then early in the morning we went to Ica for another multi-zone and I did the trainings all by myself, and a lot better, bringing the Spirit. Then that night Elder Dahle went back up to Lima and me and the Nazca leaders and President went down to Nazca for a training with the branch and district councils down there until late, which was very good. Nazca reminded me of Utah..the south is very different from Lima! It's wide-open spaces, and just very different. I saw stars at night for the first time in over a year! I was amazed that President talks with everybody he comes across; hotel waiter, gas stations, drive-up windows, people at shops or restaurants, and talks to them all so naturally about the gospel and the church and you see their willingness and attitude just completely change right in front of you and they are desirous to receive missionaries. It's amazing! He's such a great example of what all of us missionaries need to do. 

Elder Groves, Elder Cajo & Elder Clarke
I've learned so many impactful things the last few days from President Douglas' trainings. The principle that has sunk deeeeply into my heart this week, that I will be committed to applying every single day for the rest of my mission, is the principle of sacrifice. ´¨Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven.´´ and President told me that ´´sacrifice is the demonstration of our faith.´´ We cannot have faith without sacrificing something. Just because you have doesn't mean you should take...if you rather give you will be spiritually filled, and receive more to give more, and be a mighty instrument in the Lord's hands. The Lord will always provide for our needs, temporal and spiritual, and will also let us enjoy life -- it is the design of His plan. We will always have happy and joyful moments. But if we follow the Spirit to sacrifice for the more important cause, magnify our callings and fulfill His will, serving others and preparing for others' benefit, we will have a much greater joy. We will truly be experiencing life, making the right decisions in our time of probation, and will be LIVING the gospel of Jesus Christ. To live the gospel means to make the decision to follow the example of Jesus Christ or to not. We must accept Him as our Savior and Redeemer, sacrifice our own natural man and humbly obey His commandments, and this is the only way to truly increase our faith - there is no other way. Accept Him into our life, no matter by what influence it comes from. His light is in many places of this world today, and many feel it. Accept it into your life first, and then persuade your fellowmen to follow this Great Plan. 

I am very sad for our baptism last week, Rosio told us 5 days before that she still doesn't want to be baptized yet. It is so difficult and sad to see people who do not want to exercise their faith - many do not comprehend the blessings they are losing. But if they are not willing to make the first little change, they will not be able to endure to the end, because repentance is a necessary part of enduring to the end. The Duran family that we are teaching should have all of the marriage papers done and settled already this week, and are very desirous to be baptized. They are a wonderful and beautiful family, and I am excited for their future.

I love you all and hope you have the very best week of your whole life!!! Birthday shout-outs to Uncle Ken, who I already emailed, and hope you all follow the example of the Savior this week in every decision you make. Please follow the Spirit and bless someone's life! Bring a soul to church this week!!!

LOVE,

Elder Clarke

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Happy Father´s Day!

Dear Family,

I want you all to know that I love you!! I am grateful for you wonderful family. I pray for you and wish your success in all that you do - I know you are all being very blessed. Thank you for your support, for sending your prayers and love. It pleases me so much to hear of the fun family activities you are doing together. Like the Cheesecake Factory! Wow, I'm sure that was the best cake any of you kids have tried before. That's great that Scotty's doing Ivory Ridge tennis camp, that's amazing experience, and Adam in competition soccer as well. You are wonderful boys! Keep studying the scriptures every single day. Not so much to learn, but to exercise your faith in the promises of the Lord - you will be richly, greatly blessed if you read the Book of Mormon every day. Just trust in the Lord in that way. Katie is going to rock the ACT tomorrow!! I am excited for you, .. I just paused in my email and said a quick prayer for you, because you're probably doing it as I speak. I pray the Spirit will enlighten your mind to be able to reach your highest potential; the Holy Ghost quickens the mind, I can personally testify of that time and time again being here in the office as a missionary. Anyways, I hope you received a blessing before taking the test to give your very best. Hey, Happy Father's Day!!! Right??! I think it's tomorrow. I'm going to buy a nice card for Dad and send it to him today! Hopefully the mail will arrive in 24 hours. :) I really hope you have a nice day, and remember how much I love you. You mean a lot to me, I always remember the good example you've set for me!

Things are going well over here, Elder Groves is learning quickly. There's a lot of changes going on in the mission. I'm excited to just keep giving my VERY best every day, constantly trying to find the limit of my effort. Never stop giving! I've really come to appreciate scripture study this week, and can testify of its daily power. It is necessary here in Peru, or else the people get offended and inactivate from the church. If people don't have a personal relationship with God, they will struggle their whole life in the church and through life's trials, no matter how many friends they have. Also, I have had powerful experiences and can testify of the power of prayer; I know that it is real, that God is living, and that He hears every prayer. I know that He communicates with us according to our faith in Him. I testify that faith is real, it means trusting fully in God and His will. This life is NOT the time to fully comprehend everything in life, not even every reason or detail of the Plan of Salvation or the Gospel (although we have received the fullness in these latter days, all that we need), in this life we will not always understand why. That is NOT the purpose of this life. That is what God does, He understands ALL and is all-knowing. Our purpose in this life is to learn how to trust in Him, exercise our faith and bring about good works, always choosing the good before the evil, repenting, humbling ourselves, developing a character similar to that of Christ, and follow His example, ways, and Church until the End. I can promise that if we rely fully on the Holy Spirit in every decision we will not be led down a dangerous roads. The Spirit protects us, strengthens, comforts, and inspires to do good. 

I love you all, and invite you to make specific plans and goals to receive a greater portion of this Holy Spirit I speak of, and to follow- up rigorously on each and every plan, whether they be completed or not. If not, to repent, make more realistic plans and sub-plans to reach every little goal we put for ourselves. I promise that as you begin that short journey, you will find the Lord along the way, and encounter sacred experiences. I am very sorry to hear about the passing of Uncle Don. Do everything in your means to help comfort his family and show them your pure Christ-like love. Please send them mine, and let them know of my prayers for them. 

I'll send some more of the pictures that never arrived last week. I hope you have a wonderful week, the best one ever!! Be happy and I will write you letters! :)

Love,
Elder Clarke

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Seek Revelation

Dearest Family of mine!!!

It is so good to write you today!! I hope you´re all happy and having the best life ever. I was so happy to hear about you all and see the pictures of the week!! Scotty looks good in a scout uniform - man those are good, good days, up there in the mountains. I hope you enjoyed it a lot. I love you! And the whole family, That's awesome Adam ran a 5k too! I guess it's summer now and you've all got something going on. Mother, that missionary youth activity sounds like the coolest idea ever!! I'm glad it was so spiritual and a memorable experience. It's gotta help Katie get out on the mission! ha. :) How is Steve doing? I need to write him. I'm sorry I have not been writing a whole lot...it's because most of the time I'm just reading all the emails people send me! Anyways we had a fun p-day, I hope you got all the photos I sent! Which were a lot. I'm so glad to hear that Dad is working so hard with the stake center and the churches!! He inspires me so much. Really magnifying his calling, and I know he's receiving the spiritual blessings for it. 

I have a new companion!! His name is Elder Groves, from Kansas. He is a really good missionary and I'm happy he's here.
He's always happy and funny, and is good to be around. He'll be the new secretary, I'm training him to replace me, and then next cambio I'm out! That'll be July 14. I'm having good training experiences!

Our investigators with baptismal date are doing really good! Our investigator family finished reading The Words of Mormon last night, and they'll be starting on Mosiah now. Reading every night as a family. They are more active than the members here! Really inspiring examples. And our other investigator, Rosio, the wife of William Marcos and mother of Fabio (recent convert) has had a change and is really excited to be baptized this saturday. We're also doing good work finding lots of new investigators with referrals from less-actives and recent converts. Lots of contacting this week, and I'm excited to do more!

I don't have much more time left, I'll be brief. This week, I testify of personal revelation. I know it's real, and that we must prepare ourselves and our environment for it, acts of our faith and desires to understand and know him better, and his perfect ways. 

I hope you have the best day ever!!! We'll talk more later! :)

Love,

Elder Clarke