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,