Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Feliz Natal

Hey everyone!
I´m doing great and working hard.  Me and my companion are meeting more of our goals (except baptisms -- working on that).  We have been teaching lessons like crazy.  This last week we had a meeting in Belém for Christmas.  All the missionaries from the state Pará were there and it was cool to talk to other missionaries.  I got to talk to some Americans, and that was nice.  I don't get to speak English here and when members or investigators ask me to speak in English, I don't know what to say (they don't understand anyway so I feel kind of weird doing it).  It's funny how much thinking it takes now to speak English.  The language is coming along, and I can communicate with people a lot better.  But people still get hung up on my accent from time to time.  I'll say something and they won't understand.  My companion will repeat what I said (I hear the same sounds) and they will understand.  A bit frustrating, but it's getting better with time.  
Right now all the mangoes are turning ripe so I'm getting pretty excited to pick more in the street. Speaking of adventures food-wise: as of today I have eaten alligator, shark, and what I understood when it was described to me (after I ate it ) as a R.O.U.S. (Rodent of Unusual Size).   
Transfers are coming up soon and that's kind of scary for me because it is more than likely that my comp will be moved (he has been in this area for 5 months) and I will have to carry a lot more weight in the companionship with planning and remembering names and all that stuff.  But that's all right.  It will be an adventure. 
So I'm out of time but it was great to talk to you guys (family) on Sunday and I hope everyone has a happy and safe holiday!
Elder Clark

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Good Week

Today has been crazy. The internet wasn't working this morning so this is the second attempt. First of all Happy b-day Mom! and Emma happy Birthday early!

This past week has been good. I have really started to build a friendship with Elder Silva.  It's tons better and it wasn´t fast, but I guess some things just take time. 

We didnt have any baptisms this week.  I feel like we are doing much better though we are meeting more
and more of our goals each week and we have a few good looking baptismal dates (with investigators). Unfortunately we have 4 investigators that have problems with getting permission from their parents.  We have been praying and fasting but I want to do more.  I really want to show the families that our church is not super wierd, we are not devil worshipers, we are christians, and the goal of everything we do is to bring families eternal happiness. 

The only bad part about this past week was the dvisions we did.  I went to Barcarena and worked for a day with Elder Miranda, an elder from São Paulo who is a bit chubby (he is very particular about his food).  It
was fun but I didnt know what I could eat over there in the other elders' apartment and didn't really want to ask so I didnt really eat unless something was offered (that wasnt much).  The funny thing was I had bought a bunch of really good food and it was just waiting for me back at my apartment.  And when I got back my district leader had eaten half of my loaf of bread and opened my mild and doce de leite.  Grrrr.  but I got over it.  There are tons of mangos here they are all green and some are turning yellow.  I've been walking under them for a few weeks now willing them to turn yellow so i can eat some. 

Well I'm super excited for Christmas but also not.  It won't really be the same and after Christmas we can't teach any lessons with Mundo Feliz  (joy to the world video).

Oh I went running with Elder Silva again and it was better.  I still have to teach him about building endurance. I think we went about 4 km but I'm not sure it's hard to tell.  He apparently has a week cardiovascular system because of all the painting he did before his mission (he worked as a car painter).  I'll try to get him up to par by the next transfer.  Oh, and running at sea level is worlds easier.  We also don't have sidewalks here.  It's all random without any rules so I make running into somesort of obstacle race, I like to think of it as urban trail

Well, that's my week.  I hope everything is going great!

Merry Christmas!

Elder Clark

Friday, December 16, 2011

Working with Investigators in Abaetetuba

Dear Family,
Well, this week was pretty good.  Still no baptisms and 0 progressing investigators.  We have a problem here and I'm not sure exactly what it is.  It's been hard to get our investigators to come to church and keep their commitments.  It's actually a bit funny because the investigators that come don't want to get baptized and the ones that seem really promising in lessons either can't come or don't get around to it.  But, we do have some really cool investigators even though they are not progressing.  We have been teaching a 42 year old man named VanHilson.  He was in a really severe motor cycle accident a few years ago and had to have part of his skull reconstructed and a bunch of other surgeries done.  The doctors told his family that he wouldn´t recover (wouldn´t walk, talk, remember...) but he did recover and now he seems pretty normal to me.  He has a bit of a problem remembering stuff (he tries to show us the x-rays and CAT scans of his brain almost every visit).  But with repetition he retains the important things from our lessons about the Word of Wisdom,and he reads and prays (sometimes he forgets).  Well I hope we can baptize him.  He has a really cool past -- really good musician... well was, now I don't really know.
I went running with Elder R. Silva the other morning.  It was pretty funny for me to watch.  He is pretty tall with super long legs and when he runs its kind of like road runner -- really straight-looking legs with super long strides.  He runs pretty fast but doesn't have much stamina.  We ran about 2 miles maybe and he had to stop about 5 times.  I think I'll tell him to run my speed and then it won't hurt as much.  (Not much formal athletic training).
Well I found honey here ("mel") and its really different.  A liter is about $3.50.  The honey is really dark but good.  I have been experimenting with smoothies.  I make a pretty mean avocado smoothy.  Health-wise I'm doing pretty good --  a little bit of a runny nose, but its getting better.  And mom, you wouldn´t believe how hard it is to get a lot of vegetables.  Members don't prepare them much.
I hope the ward switches are working out from the little bit of your letters that I read, it sounded like they are pretty good.
Dear Mom & Dad:
Hey, can you tell Ricki Martin thanks for her letter, it was great.  And if you talk to Uncle Dan [Clark] tell him the letter was great and that I want to go ice climbing with him when I get back.
So, I had some thoughts this week about faith.  Some of our investigators had questions about Adam and Eve and how their kids had to marry each other and they wanted to know how this worked because that's breaking the law of chastity.  Well, when i was talking about this with Elder R Silva, I brought up evolution and how I think there is a lot about the story of Adam and Eve that we don't know.  God gave us this story to teach us about the plan of salvation, and choices, good and evil, and a bunch of other stuff.  This story is true, however it does not tell us how God created man or the earth or a bunch of other sciency things.  This is where faith comes in.  We need to understand that the world is bigger than some magical event where God snaps his fingers and things happen.  There are eternal laws that govern God and man.
Well that's about it.
Love you guys and ill try to send another letter today!
Love you and thanks for being great parents.
your son,

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

This week was a lot better

Hey everyone,
I was really excited to hear about the new callings and stuff.  I really don't have time, but I think about you guys all the time -- probably a little too much.  But the family is my motivation for my work here and I'm trying to channel that into baptisms and strengthening the church here and the members.  Please tell Aunt Lauren thanks and that it's a lot harder than you would think not to eat poop here!  I got the test result back and I don't have a parasite, but if something comes up again the doctor told me to come back.  I feel pretty good health-wise but really weak fitness-wise.  It's hard to workout and stay awake during study and lessons, so I'm trying to find a balance.
This week was a lot better than they have been for a while.  I am not sick anymore, all my stomach problems are gone (but I'm still afraid to eat açai which I think was giving me some problems).  I´m getting along with Elder R. Silva much better and I've decided it's all about attitude.  So, I decided to jump in and it's getting a lot better --  not all at once, little by little. 
Big events.  We had a meetinghouse dedication in Vila Descobanos last week that was pretty cool.   The whole district was there helping out, giving tours, and contacting people on the street.  I contacted all day in the sun and got pretty red (but not burned really bad).  I went and talked to a guy walking down the street and introduced myself and invited him to the dedication that night.  And when I asked him his name, after a mumbled response he said he didn't know and walked off.  I think he had mental problems.  The funny thing is its hard for me to tell here because I don't know Portuguese very well, and it's easy for me to miss changes in speech patterns and stuff.  I have a super hard time identifing drunks (that's a story for another time.)
We have a bunch of investigators but we have a super hard time getting them to progress or even finding them to teach.  This last week was pretty sad: 12 lessons total and 0 progressing.  We had a lot of zeros this week, but we are hopeful for this month.  Our goal for baptisms is 12, yeah, thats right, 12.  That's a lot of work.  We are going to have to study and focus really hard on helping our investigators. 
We did service last week cleaning out what may be an apartment for another set of missionaries in Abaete. 
I lost my voice and have the craziest runny nose you can imagine. But, I think it's getting a bit better.
Well, I got a ton of letters this week and the flat package for Natal!  Thanks, everyone, for sending letters!
Love you all.  I'm really sending 2 letters today.  I got letters up to 23 of November.  Well, out of time.
Elder Clark

Monday, November 28, 2011

Parasites and Gratitude

I hope my letter last week was not too horrifying!  But this week was for the most part a lot better. After I wrote my letter a week ago we had almoso [mid-day meal] with a member family (Famila de Claudio).  They are really nice we have almoso with them twice a week.  Well, I finished writing my paper letter to the family and we went to the post office to mail it, and when we left I felt a bit of nausea.  Well, I knew it was just a matter of time and while we were waiting for things to start working at the post office, I couldn't hold it back. I set my stuff down on the chair next to me and walked calmly outside to the sidewalk where I doubled over and threw up everything that was in my stomach, right in front of a little girl and her mom.  I could hear everyone in the street going "oooh aaah" like the spectacle was some sort of fireworks show or exotic foreign show at a circus.  funny.  Well, I felt a lot better and a man that works washing motorcycles right next to the post office was kind enough to clean it up (wash it into the street) with a few buckets of water.  The bummer was the computers at the post office were not working so I didn't get to mail my letter.  Hopefully, I will have better luck this afternoon ; )

Well the day after Tuesday we spent all day in Neucleo, a city about 45-ish minutes away by bus at the hospital there.  We waited for the whole day and finally talked to a doctor that said in Portuguese that I probably had some sort of parasite and that I needed to give them a stool sample to figure out what it was for sure.  Unfortunately, I had not eaten much for the last week and I had thrown up most of what I had eaten recently so it took me a few days to come up with this sample.  (Mom, Dad, see other letter for more details). Well that's pretty much it.  They said that I need to go back and talk to them again before I get some medication.

We had a meeting in Belem Wednesday, a mission tour thing with a member of the 70 for Brazil.  Did you know last year in Brazil 37,000 people were baptized and only 3,800 are active of those converts?  That number is pretty bad.  I hope we can do better with that.  I wonder if we baptize too quickly or if we just need to work harder with the members to keep people active.  

Well, this week we didn't do a lot of proselyting.  Hopefully this week will be better.   

I hope you all had a better Thanksgiving than I did.  Mine wasn't bad, it just wasn't Thanksgiving.  But, I did give a pretty good talk on gratitude in church on Sunday. I used two scriptures: the story about the ten lepers in Luke 17, I think; and a part of King Benjamin's speech about how we can do everything in our power to be grateful to God but compared to what he has given us, it really isn't much.  At least that's how I interpret the scripture.  Like the widow giving tithes and the rich man, sometimes it's not what we give, but what we sacrifice to give what we do.  I think God knows that, and is still super grateful for our gratitude.

Well, I haven't had time to read your emails yet.  I'll do that after I send this but I hope all of you are doing great and feel free to write more emails.  I read them after I use my hour to write!
love you all

Monday, November 21, 2011

I love my mission even though its super hard

Hey everyone! 
My week has been not the greatest.  I had zone conference on Tuesday and after we traveled there (a weird story in and of itself), I got super sick and had diarrhea like I never had before.  So I slept on a pew in the back of the chapel for most of zone conference with stomach pains and about every hour leaving the room for a trip to the bathroom.  Not fun.  Sister campos was very nice, but everyone spoke Portuguese, and describing my symptoms and them describing things I should do to get better was a real pain.  So, once we got back to Abaetetuba we rested for a few days and apparently I overdosed on Imosec (anti-diarrhia medication) and got yet another record for the worst constipation of my life.  
We didn't get back to work until Friday, but my stomach was still feeling pretty bad.  I just didn't want to stay in the apartment.  We have been doing a lot of walking and I have not been eating very much at all.  This last week I barely ate anything and now I don't have a big appetite which is probably good because I was getting fat.  But now I'm 65.5 kilos as of Tuesday morning you guys can do the conversing to pounds i think its 166.1 pounds, but I'm not quite sure [he might have meant 75.5 kilos then].  
Oh, and Dad, the picture from the balcony [I sent last week] is not in our apartment.  It's in our apartment building in the laundry area that we share with the other tenants. But, I still like to think of the underwear as Buddhist flags.  The flight of stairs to our apartment is the most elevation change you can get around here. 
Story about President Campos:  President Campos is a really cool, spiritual man.  I think that he is a great mission president, but as all people he has a fault and this is driving.  On Monday night we took a bus to a different city and then met President Campos and caught a ride with him to Belem for the zone conference.  (The chapels here are different, but very cool, by the way).  Every second the car moves, I pray.  He kind of treats the gas as a "wawa pedal:"  slams on the gas, slams on the brake.  Picture Ellis' driving when she started and then combine that with a lack of defensive driving, and some strange subconsious thought that God will protect you in any circumstance because you are serving a mission.  Scary.  The funny thing is here they have speed limits but no one follows them and the main thing that dictates how fast you go is the condition of the road --  how rough it is and speed bumps that are substantial in size.  A few times I swear we caught air because President didn't see them in time.  Well needless to say, I was happy to take the ferry and bus back to Abaetetuba.
Last story.  Yesterday we did divisions and I went to visit some investigators with a member named David.  We went to see Naiani, a teenage girl who has had all the lessons but didn't have a desire to be baptised even though she said she had a testimony of the BOM.  We stopped visiting about 3 weeks ago because she wasn't progressing, but yesterday she came to church, so I made a visit.  We walked in and started talking.  I had no idea what I wanted to teach.  Eventually I gave her some options and she chose the gospel of Jesus Christ:  faith, repentance, baptism, gift of the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end.  I thought it went well.  I struggled a bit to communicate my feelings and my testimony about these things but I got most of it across OK.  At the end it looked like she was fighting tears or something.  She never cried but she seemed different than before.  I gave her instructions to read 3 Nephi 12 and think about how what Jesus teaches here can be applied in her life, then immediately after, pray about baptism.  I told her to do this in a place where there were no distractions.  She was really willing, and then when it was time to close with a prayer I looked at her.  She knew exactly what I was thinking and she laughed a bit, and said the closing prayer with no argument (usually there is a small conversation because the investigator doesn't want to pray).  I have a lot of hope for her.
Afterward, when I was telling Elder Silva he cut me off in the middle of my recollection and started telling me how I should have done things different -- used the Bible more because she already had a testimony of the Book of Mormon.  I kind of flipped out in the member's home we were in because the Book of Mormon is the thing that I think converts people with the Spirit.  I'm out of time.  I'll talk more about this later, but I know that if someone has a testimony of the BOM and doesn't want to prepare for baptism, that testimony is not strong enough. 
Well, I'm doing good.  Sorry I don't have time to talk about more happy things, and sorry for ranting.  I really love my mission even though it's super hard.  I'm working hard, keep doing the same!
Love Ben

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Drinking coconuts, committing to baptism, sign language for "I have to vomit"

Man, this week was crazy.
We have a new investigator who is married to a member, and they live way far away so we have walked for miles and miles every day this week. Crazy.  I am getting better at my Portuguese but I still get frustrated when I don't understand what is going on.  I have to try really hard to keep paying attentions instead of zoning out when I am listening to people.  Well that's just the normal stuff.  Here's some more interesting stuff that happened this week. 
I was attacked by a ferocious dog.  Picture a 6-inch tall, scruffy looking poodle with fangs too big for its head... Well, the true story is it snapped at my heal and then I noticed it.  Not much of a threat.  Most of the dogs here are actually really mello and they are generally scruffy and dirty, and they like to lounge around in the street and in the shade.  It's pretty hot here for them I think.  They do a lot more at night. 
I harvested my first coconut and it was delicious.  After watching Elder Bearnson try to open one and fail miserably, I decided to use my handy dandy pocket knife, and that worked much better for us.
I got to teach a lesson with Elder Silva that turned out awesome.  This investigator (Consuelo) was really cool she was very interested and wanted us to talk to her daughter and share our message with her too.  In this lesson I got to do a lot more talking, and I felt like even though Consuelo didn´t understand everything I said, she understood the jist of what I was saying and I commited her to baptism.  Whoot!  Unfortunately, here it's not that hard to get people to commit to baptism.  Most of them do, and then don't follow through later down the line.  A lot of the time people don´t come to church and that is why we drop them.  There is a lot of partying here every night and especially on the weekends, and that makes it hard for people that aren't super dedicated to come to church.
In a fireside last night we had after stake conference, President Campos talked and anounced two things.  After his really great talk on members being involved in missionary work (the best part was when he used video clips from mormon.org that were in English with subtitles) he announced that we where going to get another set of missionaries in Abaetetuba and that the construction of a chapel is going to start at the end of the year!  Everyone was really happy and it took my a bit to understand what was going to happen.  It was great.  A lot of people were crying (for joy) and it was amazing to see.
I get to brag about my Mormon heritage a lot.  Everyone here is a convert and they always ask me how long I've been a member.  Funny, no one asks that in the U.S.
Oh yeah, and on Saturday I got really sick.  We were in Janaina's house (our recent convert) teaching her, her mom, and her sister, when it started raining.  Right about this time I started feeling like I was going to throwup but I didn't want to say anything and I didn't know how.  I was going to wait it out but the rain kept coming down really hard so I ended up asking where I could throw up in Portuguese and international sign language.  We rested the rest of the day.  I'm better now.
Well, I'm out of time.
Love you all!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

What Happens Before You Get Fluent in a Language

Hey everyone!

I have received one letter from you, Mom, and another from Grandma Campbell.  Both were sent to Cali. I was really excited to get your letters.  I'm really happy for all of you.  Emma, keep working hard and having fun.  Eliza, I love getting your letters even if I don´t have time to respond.  I'll try to write some more thoughts for all of you in paper letters, but I am not supposed to write letters during the week, only on p-day.  I miss you all a lot!  Dan are you still going to do karate?

I don't really know how to write with Mission Ties.  I'll try to work it out in this next week, but I don't have much time.  My companion has a bit of a weird perspective of schedules.  We don't start p-day at 10:30, or he´ll try to switch study to the afternoon. I will be spending the rest of my day doing laundry.

Portuguese is coming along pretty well, but it's still tough to understand what is going on and I have a hard time keeping really focused on understanding when people aren't talking directly with me.  Sometimes a lot of time I really don't enjoy walking around and not being able to understand, but it gets a lot better during lessons.  I have a hard time talking a lot though mostly because I don't understand much that is not church-related.  It's getting better though slowly.  I'm in one of those spots where I don't know what to study language-wise because I have too much as an option.

This week has been interesting.  At the beginning, I was about ready to strangle my companion, but I didn't because (1) I'm a nice guy,  and (2) it wasn't really his fault.  I just have a hard time communicating with him.  He talks to me about things that I'm already working on or things I already know.  But I have a hard time saying, "no, that's not my problem, I need to work on this," or "I think you misunderstood because that has nothing to do with what I'm saying!"

Well, it got a lot better as the week went on.  I got the whole walking-like-a-mad-man thing worked out mostly.  I told Elder Silva in very broken Portuguese that people will think we are crazy and not want to talk to us if we walk super fast all the time and especially if we aren't walking together.  He would walk fast and I wouldn't be able to keep up right next to him without jogging sporadically (it was ridiculous).  Moral of the story: someone is watching all the time even if you don't think they are and your actions are leaving an impression on them.  If I look like I don't have enough time to talk to someone they are not going to be as inclined to talk.  Or, if we don't look unified it is very hard to teach unity in a family, church, or community.  I think it helped.  There was a cool quote in Preach my Gospel about this (at least I applied it to walking fast), something about it not being needful for missionaries to journey with much speed because we lose people on the way, opportunities to talk.

And then yesterday my companion set up splits, apparently without me knowing until a few minutes before.  I ended up teaching a family the plan of salvation (before birth, after birth, purpose of this life, judgment, Adam and Eve, creation, and three kingdoms of glory) with the help of a member named Bob.  He is about to put in his papers for a mission.

Well, I got my hair cut today and it's nice.  A lot less hot.  Great news: my feet are not hurting much anymore.

Well, I'm out of time but I love you guys a lot!  I  hope you are all doing well.

Love you guys!
Elder Clark

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

#'s: baptisms (1), baths (2/day), sweat (24/7), miles walked (7/day)

Sent: Monday, October 31, 2011 9:48 AM
Subject: my week

I was really excited to get all of your letters last week and today! Keep writing and don´t be worried about if I will be able to read all of them.  I take pictures and read them after if I don´t have time.  If you have things that you want me to respond to that can't wait one week, put it in bold.  
The bees and and the running, braces and everything else makes me homesick.   I really love to hear about it though, so keep it coming.  How are the Carmans doing?  Does Andy have a job lined up yet?  Emma stick it out with those braces and making friends at school!  Eliza work hard in school, don´t forget to have fun and good luck on your ACT scores!  Danny keep writing I know you can write more than that.  Could you send me your story about tomatoes?  Mom, Dad, thanks for the updates about everything.
I love you all!
OK, my companion.  I don´t know what to think.   I don't really understand him because he can't speak English.  Most of the time he's cool, but sometimes he gets it in his head that we are in a speed walking race with some unseen competitors,  and that doesn´t work out very well for me when his legs are significantly longer than mine.  It's funny because normally its no big deal.  But I don't know how to say,  "Hey, slow down and here's why" in Portuguese very well at all.  Other than that, he is cool.  We pray about 50 times a day and sometimes I feel like it's overkill, but that's not something that I feel like is much of a problem.
The people.  Everyone here is pretty nice and people have a lot of respect for missionaries.  Most everyone we talk to is open to hear our message, and when we share one with people they for the most part are willing to try it out and make small changes in their lives.  There is a very strong belief in God here, and I really like it.  Most people I have met are really clean and organized.  I can't figure out if it's because that's who they are or if that's just because they don't have much stuff.  Brazilians are great and I think that I will continue to love them more and more.
Culture.  The people as individuals are organized but as a whole it's kind of a dump.  The street is one big trash can.  People have construction waste in the street.  Traffic laws are more like suggestions.   It seems like the people have a lot of potential, but the infrastructure is not there.  Me and my companion waited in line to get a power bill worked out for more than 2 hours this morning.  And we complain about the DMV!
I have been walking for miles each day.  I don´t know how far yet because I don´t know the area very well yet, but I would estimate an average day would be more than 7.  I wash all my clothes by hand and its a mission rule that we take a shower twice a day!  The showers are cold at first --  it takes me about 10 seconds to get used to the 80 degree water.  It's great to cool off.  I sweat 24/7.  At night its not dripping, but I still sweat.   During the day, it pores off of me.  There is lightning every few days around the city, but I never hear it.  And sometimes when we walk, I see vultures eyeing us from trees and circling.
We had a baptism this last week and it was cool to see Janaina baptized.  I think she will get a lot of support from the ward.  It's cool because the whole ward is made up of converts.  I don´t really know what to think because I didn't understand what was going on.  But we didn´t do a very good job of planning and organizing the baptism, so it wasn´t on time or as smooth as it should have been.  The branch president pulled my companion aside and told him that we needed to do better.  I understood the jist of what he said.  Baptism is very important and should be something that should be remembered.  We should make it special.  My companion kind of rushed it.  I think he recomitted her to this last Saturday on Thursday after he had told our branch president that we wouldn´t have a baptism this Saturday
Moral of the story:  I'm learning, and we are going to do better in the future!
I love you guys!
Elder Benjamin Clark

Monday, October 24, 2011

This place is way cool: it's dirty, hot, & poor, but everyone's happy & wants to hear our message

Dear Family,
I got here fine and didn´t even lose any of my luggage!  I traveled with a few elders but I wasn´t sitting next to them on the plane here.  My flight ended up being switched when I got to São Paulo and I had to wait for about 8 hours.  The airports here are really crazy!  I flew to Belem alone, but when I got here I was greated by Pres. Campos and his wife as well as the assistants.  One of the assistants was American and helped me understand more of what they where saying.  I traveled for a total of 65 hours to get from Cali to my area Abaetetuba.  Ahhh!  That was not super fun. I just want to sleep!  
Yesterday was cool.   We walked about 3 miles to pick up some investigators for church (none of them came) and then to church.  All the members are really nice and there is a joke with everyone about me being Superman (Clark).  And they pronounce my name "Clarky," they have trouble with the "k."  We walked all over and didn´t teach many lessons.  Elder Silva, my companion who is great, was a bit discouraged, but I told him that this was way more success than we have in America.  Elder Silva is from São Paulo.  He is about 6´ tall maybe 6´2",  and pretty dark.  He has learned a bit of English in the last year here on his mission (he just hit the year mark), so we speak all the time in a strange mix of English and Portuguese.  He mostly tries to respond in English and I only use English to explain English to him.  It works out pretty well.  
This place is way cool:  it's dirty everywhere, and super hot, and pretty poor, but everyone here is happy and wants to hear our message.   It's super easy to get contacts and set up appointments.  I´ve been frustrated with the language because I only understand when they speak about the gospel.  I don't know alot of the words for everyday things, and the accent is slightly different than what I have heard before.  I really love talking with creiancas (children).  I can't understand everything they say, but it's still fun.  There is a little boy that loves to come and sit between me and Elder Silva during lessons for his sister.  I show him pictures from the pamphlets I carry around.  He loves it.  It's so great to be in the field and the members are really nice and helpful!  Apparently, there is a party here just about every night but it gets bigger and bigger at the end of the week.  People like to blare music all over and hang out.  They like to sit in front of their houses and talk and watch the street.  A lot of times we will contact people outside of their houses.  My area is in the middle of nowhere and really, really hot.  The city covers a large area and all the houses are smashed together.  It rains, but not as much as I thought it would.  It's mostly just humid.  And I only get mosquito bites at night, mostly when I sleep.  I woke up with blood smears on my sheets this morning. It could be much worse, but our apartment is on the third story of our building, so there aren't as many as there would be on the ground!
I love you all and I'm doing great!
Love Ben

Thursday, October 20, 2011

One Week in California

October 11, 2011
Dear Family,

Today has been really crazy [this is the day Ben flew from the MTC in Provo to Arcadia, CA].  They lost my bag at the airport, so I don't have anything right now.  My bags are coming later today "hopefully."  

Well, I guess the bags just came.

I'm super tired, but I'm here safely.  President and Sister Barcetta are very nice.  
Love you all!!! 

P.S.  I just interviewed with the mission president and they told me that I received my visa!!! I leave in one week.  


October 17, 2011

I don't have much time at all so this may be a bit short.  I'm writing a paper letter so you should get that by the end of the week.  
The first week has been pretty good.  I feel like I would get super fat if I spent my entire mission here.  All we have to eat is junk food.  We went to China town today for p-day and met a convert of Elder Meeks' there for lunch.  That was cool, the food was great.  
Yesterday we went to an open house for the mosque here in Glendale.  It was nice to hear about what they believe.  It's very similar to us in many respects.  Other than the atonement, they have most of it right.  It's been really fun to actually serve people.  I have been able to participate a lot in our lessons.  It's pretty easy to teach with my companions.  
I didn't have time on this computer -- only 15 minutes -- so I took pictures of your letters with my camera.  I'll try to read them later today and respond.  
In case you haven't found out yet, I leave on Wednesday morning at 7 a.m.  I've really enjoyed it here in Glendale.  I really hope that I have made a difference in the lives of those I have taught.  I've got to get all my English out because I won't be speaking it for the next two years. Well, I'm really out of time.  I'll call in the airport either in Cali or on one of my two layovers.  If I don't catch you all, I'll try again.  
Love you,

Dear Family,                                                                                                      (mail received 10/21/11)
                The first week here in Glendale has been interesting.  The ward we are in is not very strong.  There were maybe 60 people in Sacrament Meeting and most of them were really old.  Just for some perspective there are 5 missionaries in this ward English speaking and in this same area there are also 3 Romanian elders and Filipino elders.  That’s a lot of missionaries in this area.  We spend a lot of time with less actives and recent converts.  There are a few we go and see in an assisted living home.  These sisters are pretty crazy.  Sister Parker (an old lady that is losing her memory) is super funny.  We go by about twice a week to read the Book of Mormon with her.  We explain what we read, too.  The other day we were there and we sang to her.  We sang “Nearer My God to Thee.”    We do this tricky 3-part harmony with me singing melody, Elder Meeks on tenor and Elder Wilding an octave down on the alto part.  We sound really good and blend really well.  After that, Sister Park was walking us out of the home and she totally flipped one of the workers off with her index finger.  They apparently don’t like the workers because they think they steal things from the residents. 
                There is another story about a less active member.  He lives off a very small income he gets from a part-time job, welfare benefits, and food from the church.  He is about 50 years old and has had a really rough life.  He started out with an abusive mothers and he was picked on a lot in high school.  He was homeless for about 25 years and has abused a lot of drugs.  Right now he only has a problem with cough syrup.  He is really bitter about his past and has an anger problem that goes along with that.  But he has come a long way.  His small one room apartment is surprisingly organized and fairly clean.  I can really tell that he wants to change and he says it every time we are over.  I gave him a bunch of advice about how he can overcome his addiction.  I told him he needed to do three things:  1) have a desire to change, 2) realize when he is weakest and avoid it, and 3) replace the addiction with something good like reading his scriptures, praying, wholesome music and handing out pass-a-long cards.  I hope he gets better.  I also shared with him a few scriptures about serving others (he wants to be a leader), so I compared King Benjamin and King Noah.  My point was the only kind of leadership that is important is leadership through love. 
                The only thing that has been really tough here has been having a car.  One of the elders has tendonitis, so he isn’t allowed to ride a bike (doesn’t make much sense to me given my knowledge of injuries and injury recovery), so we drive everywhere.  I think that we could contact more people and get some new investigators if we just talked to more people.
                Today we went to China town and had lunch with a convert of Elder Meeks’.  He was really cool.  Afterwards we went to the China town market.  I bought some aviator sunglasses and [hard to read writing here, does it say “Buddha”?].  I also got a t-shirt that says Puma, all for $7, super cheap.  After that we went and changed into regular clothes and bought Jones Soda from a liquor store.  The guy put all the soda in a wine card board box.  I felt pretty weird, but we got the soda without any problems.  We went bowling too.  This evening we had Family Home Evening with a less active family in the ward.  We all bore our testimonies.  They seemed like they all had pretty strong ones, they just don’t go to church.  I think there are problems with depression with the father and the two sons work and are about my age. 
                Well, that was pretty much my week!  I love you all.  I’ll try to read the letters you guys e-mailed me, but I’ll have to wait a bit because I left my camera in the car.
                Love,   Elder Clark (Ben)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Leaving the MTC for Temporary Reassignment in Arcadia, CA

Wednesday, October 5, 2011 6:30 PM
Subject: reassignment

We got our reassignments.  I will be serving in Arcadia, California.  I guess I can call tomorrow about it.  I have class in the afternoon until the evening so I will probably call in the morning the (house) in the morning after 10.
Love you guys
Monday, October 10, 2011
Thanks for the email, and thanks for the letter, Dad!
I'm heading out tomorrow at 5 in the morning.  Hopefully it won't be too early when you get my call!  My last few days here have been pretty good.  I've been frustrated with my district not obeying the rules.  I'm not sure about how I should have handled things, but I feel like I said that they shouldn't be doing what they where doing (going on the internet -- not looking at anything bad, we just aren't supposed to be spending our time that way).  And then I left it up to them to decide if they wanted to break the rules or not.  I just hope if any of them get sent home for not working, it happens before they get their visas.  The only one seems to have a real problem.
I didn't have trouble getting my bags to weigh in.  My big bag is 47 lbs.  The stuff sack worked well.
I sent off a package to you all.  I put two pictures that I drew that Elder Wardrop laminated for me.  They are for Dan.  I also put in a lot of language books in there, too.  I hope all of you use them!  
Your trip to Spokane sounds like fun.  None of you have many good reasons to go to Spokane now because you won't have any soccer of hockey games to take me to. So, I hope you all are doing well!  I'm going to write a letter and send it out when I get to Arcadia.  Tell Brit "happy birthday" for me!
Love you all!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Conference and Thoughts about the Universe

Dear Family,

Conference was great.  It’s a lot easier to stay awake at the MTC.  I drew a lot of pictures while listening to stay awake and I think they are pretty good.  I’ll send some home soon.  Dan, here’ s some drawing advice: be patient and use an eraser almost as much as you use your pencil. 

My favorite talk from conference would have to be Elder Uchtdorf’s talk (I think it was in Priesthood, maybe not, I liked both).  I liked when he talked about flying and seeing millions of stars.  He illustrated the grandeur and beauty of the world and the universe, and though it is larger and even more beautiful than we can comprehend, God has a special and specific love for each of us his children.  We may be nothing compared to the universe through our eyes, but through God’s we are the most beautiful and precious creations of His.  Sometimes we have a hard time (at least I do) understanding how great God is.  Sometimes he is subconsciously played down in my mind because we are taught that we can become like God.  But this talk and a scripture in Moses helped me understand a little better.  I love the part in Moses when he speaks to God, he is transfigured and he sees the Lord’s beauty and majesty but not through earthly eyes, through spiritual eyes. 

Why do you think we are God’s greatest creations?  What makes our souls more precious than any other?  I think there are two reasons.  The first is that we are made in His image, we are of the same design, the same blood as God our Heavenly Father.  The second is because the purpose is to be happy and happiness is the product of a shared experience (thanks, Grandpa Clark) and God made us to be happy and wants us to be happy with him. 

Just like nature, it steps up in beauty when you step back and look at the whole thing.  Everything together makes beauty. 

Dad, I thought it was funny that President Monson used the same [New York Times] article you did [in your fireside talk].  I read it last week and thought it was pretty interesting.  During President Monson’s talk, some of my district looked over at me with a look like “is your dad for real? That’s the same article.”  (I had shown them the article after I finished reading it. )  My response was with another look like, “Yeah, that’s the same article and he is for real.”  : )  They keep asking me, how you’re not a General Authority. 

It sounds like everything is going well back home.  I weighed myself a week ago and I was 168 lbs with all my clothes.  That’s the most I have ever weighed.  There is just too much food here.

Well I’m all out of time.  I love you guys! 


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Anticipating a Reassignment and Ivan the Spider


Family, thanks for the letters.  They are great.  I'm excited to get my visa or reassignment this week.  We have a chart up on the board in our classroom with everyone's guesses.  Sister Rust had a unanimous vote for Temple Square.  I on the other hand am personally hoping that I will be sent to New York City.  I think it would be a cool experience.  Plus, I told Elder Klem that if I ran into his girlfriend who lives there that I would convert her  ; ). I'm excited to leave the MTC and get out there in the field.  I get my reassignment tomorrow.  Cross your fingers for me!  
Well I hope everything is going well there.  This last weekend has been crazy with Conference.  I feel like I haven't done much in the last week because half the time I was just hanging out between sessions.  
Oh, you will probably enjoy this.  Me and my roommates captured a wolf spider and named it Ivan the Gravelord II.  This one is small compared to Ivan the Original, but this new one is pretty vicious.  We put a fly -- one of those longer ones --  in there and watched as Ivan climbed a twig and then deftly executed a leap from the top of the twig in the bottle onto the fly.  After grappling for a bit, Ivan put the fly (which was at least 3 times his size) in a death grip with his fangs imbedded in the fly's chest.  Tt was pretty sweet to watch.  After the fly finally died, Ivan removed the legs, wings, and head and started sucking the juices out of the fly's body.  It was an amazing spectacle of nature.
Mom, it sounds like tons of fun to teach one on one.  It's the Old Testament this year, right?  That was my least favorite subject in seminary, but I really enjoyed learning about it anyway.  I got your package yesterday.  It was great.  I also got a package of cookies from the Nielsons (M&B).  They were really good.  I don't know what to do with all of the food I have here.  I have 2 lbs of chocolate just sitting on my desk.  I really hope that my visa comes in soon because I need to go on a fish and fruit diet to lose some lbs.  The honey looks really good.  Thanks mom!  The shorts are great too, but maybe a tad to long.  I'll think about hemming them but probably won't ever get around to it.
I got a hair cut yesterday.  It looks pretty good, but I could be mistaken for a military officer.  Oh, and I saw Sarah Nielson in the laundry room this morning and gave her a very cheerful greeting!  

Well, I'm out of time, but I will send a paper letter today.  Oh and I hope you all like the story about the wolf spider, Ivan.  I will probably have many more horrific stories of spiders really soon!
Love you all!,  Ben

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Ton Going On, but that's the Same

Hey everyone!

I'm doing great here.  There is a ton going on.  We teach a lot of lessons and I've been trying to memorize D&C Section 4.  I've almost got the whole thing.   
The honey looks really good.  I was excited to hear all about Ellis's letter. I am really wanting to start teaching real people.  Thanks for the letters.  I'm glad to hear you all watched Adjustment Bureau.  I saw that movie with Katherine right before I left.  Super good.  I really like the idea that there is someone watching out for us and guiding us, but that we can choose our own paths and shape our own lives.  
Nothing really crazy has happened here in the last week.  Just the same old, same old.  I am practicing a song to perform in Sacrament Meeting the week after Conference. I'm supposed to sing tenor in a quartet with Elder Crook (bass), Sister Tiechert (piano), Sister Miles (soprano and also the grand-daughter of Elder Nelson, Quorum of the 12), and Sister Soh (alto).  I can't remember the name of the song but it sounds really good.  
I got to do sealings today in the temple.  That was really cool.  The old sealer was pretty funny and it was overall just a really nice experience.  I was a proxie for 7 sons and I was a witness for quite a few more names.  I forgot my recommend though, so Elder Childs and I had to go back and get it (a half-mile walk).  
I have more to say.  I'll write a paper letter in a day or two with more.  Apparently they are starting to get things moving with the Brazilian Consulate, so I may not get a temporary reassignment.
Well, talk to you all later!  Love you,

Thursday, September 22, 2011

My Crazy Day

Sent: Tuesday, September 20, 2011 5:23 PM

Hey Family,
I have a crazy story for today!  The Italians in our branch that have been here since we got here left this morning.  Last night we had a going away party for them where we had toasts with Martinelli's apple cider.   It was cool but sad.  So at 4:00 in the morning, the other room in my district got a call over the intercom.  They wanted Elder Higbee to report to the travel office.  When he got there they said, "Elder, where is your stuff?  Your shuttle leaves in half an hour to catch your flight to Brazil!!!"  No one had told us.  So, we helped him pack up all his stuff and sent him off all before it got light.  It was really sad.  All of us have grown really close and it was sad to have one of us leave.  I'm really excited for him though.  I know he will do great.  He is really good at Portuguese (our teachers told him that in lessons he could only bear his testimony so that the other two in his companionship,  Elders Klem and Josi, would get better at teaching and speaking).  Hayden also left this morning!  I got to say goodbye to him yesterday.  It was nice to talk with him for a bit.  It was a happy parting.  I have a bunch of good pictures to send all of you, but we can't do that with these computers (its all blocked)  So I will have to send them to you when I get out into the field. 
Mom can you send me:
  • a fleece poncho (its getting cold and i need something for that I don't have any sweatshirts or anything)
  • G harmonica
  • music for Come Thou Fount
  • and maybe a sweat shirt of mine (use your best judgment)
Thanks. Out of time. There is a letter coming for you all. 
With love,