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 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