Monday, December 31, 2012

December Letters

December 12, 2012

Thanks, Mom, for finding shoes.  I got my Christmas package but not the flat package.  Tell dad that the fudge was delicious.  

I am not really surprised that Liz was called to Moscow, Russia. I always told her that she would become a Russian spy so this is just the beginning....

Man, I don’t know what I will do with all that money that people sent me.  I don’t really buy things a lot here and I already have a lot of weight to lug around because of all the books.  I think that maybe I will send some books home because I don’t use a lot of them.  

I found a member family that will let me use Skype at their house for Christmas.  What time would be best for me to call?

You know, Mom, I really want to minor in 2 things when I get back.  The first one is Portuguese and maybe Italian (Italian is close to Portuguese and might help when I look for a job if I work specifically with cars) and the other is music.  So there is a very good chance that I will join a choir when I get back.

I love you Mom!!

Your son, Ben

Another letter, still December 12, 2012:

I’m so sorry I didn´t write a letter last p-day.  We had to go to the mission office and so our p-day was pretty lame.  But we helped a member get married to her non member husband and her husband is preparing to be baptized this Saturday.  This will be a challenge because he needs to stop smoking. We will help him with this.  

So when we got back to our area we went to the LAN house and the internet was down so we got permission to send emails today.

Being a zone leader is interesting.  I think the work load lightened up a bit but there is a whole lot of responsibility.  I interview the district leaders and their comps and give talks and train the missionaries.  And every week I report to the assistants about our zone.

This past week our zone (which is the largest in the mission with 20 missionaries) brought very few people to church which was really sad.  And we only had 2 baptisms this last week in the zone.  So that was not good.  The zone had a really hard time being effective in the work.  So we prepared a zone meeting to help the missionaries start working harder.  

I think it worked.

Last night at about 8:30 we were walking home from a lesson that fell through and we saw a family moving clay shingles into their house.  So we stopped to help (there were a lot of shingles to move) it was really nice we worked hard for about an hour and moved a butt load of shingles inside the wall of the property.  That was pretty fun and we marked an appointment to come back and take them to church and teach them.  The father tried to give us $40 realis which is a lot of money here. Obviously we refused to take the money.  It was a good experience. We got home really late but it was worth it.

I love you guys and hope that your week is wonderful!

Elder Clark

December 18, 2012

Arggg. I wrote a letter and was almost done but the computer froze and erased the whole thing. 
So, starting over …

This week was good started slow but got better and better.  I feel like me and Elder Carvalho are working better together.  We had some really powerful lessons with people this week and we got 8 people to come to church this week.  Unfortunately, I was waiting for 17 people to come and 9 of these people didn't come.  But we are counting our blessings and we will work with these others so that they can come to church next week.  

We went caroling with a family from the ward. We piled into their car and visited a bunch of members.  We sang for them and left a short Christmas message with them.  I played my harmonica in some of the arrangements it turned out pretty well 

Oh, Mom, can you see if you can find instructions on how to bend notes on the harmonica? I have yet to figure out how to do that on the harmonica.  The stuff you sent me about bending was great but didn't explain how to actually bend notes.

We also sang a song in sacrament meeting (I used my harmonica again and it turned out great, but I don't know if the manual would have agreed with the use of a harmonica during a sacrament meeting). I figured it would slip by because we sang with the First Counselor of the Stake President.

I also gave a talk in Sacrament Meeting that turned out really well despite the lack of prep time. I prepared during the sacrament because the talk I had prepared before the meeting wasn't coming together in my head.  It would have been about faith using stories about clouds and cairns a you know those piles of rocks that people use to mark trails usually in sub-alpine areas.  But I ended up talking about service in missionary work.  I used three scriptures: Mosiah 2 (serving others is serving God), Mosiah 4 (to maintain a remission of sins we need to serve others with material goods as well as spiritual and emotional nurturing), and the last was 4 Nephi 1-3 about the results of applying Christ’s teachings (peace, happiness, equality).  It was one of the best talks I have given.

I am great and I love you guys!!!

Merry Christmas I can’t wait to talk to you all!!!

Elder Clark

p.s.  I haven’t gotten the flat package yet but I think that it will get passed to me at the Zone Conference Thursday.

December 24, 2012

So first of all, Happy Birthday Mom and Emma!!  Man, you two are getting really old.

I had a really stressful week but it was good.  I attached a photo of the caroling (I found a cousin here in Brazil.  I call the blond kid in the picture “primo” or “cousin”).  We had the Christmas conference here and it was really great.  We got to play soccer which was fun but it took a few days for my muscles to stop hurting.  I got to see a lot of old companions and it was especially great to see Elder Gonzalez, who is a really good friend.  My soccer team was pretty good.  I was called to be a team captain and we took 2nd, only losing to the mission office team (they stacked the team).  I played keeper and made a goal as well.  I got a soccer jersey for a secret Santa gift and gave a moto taxi shirt to elder Souza (I was his secret Santa)  

We had to help some of the sisters in our zone because one of the new sisters had a grand mal seizure. So we went to the hospital that is really worthless, picked them up and took them to a private hospital that helped and took a MRI.  She was completely recovered when she was released from the hospital at 12:00 at night.  I had to pay for the taxi going to Belém and it was 80 reais.  So there goes my Christmas present.  But it was nice to help.

We had 4 baptisms this week: 3 little girls (Fernanda 9, Raynara 10, and Clivia 11 years old) and a 48 year old man Renê.  We helped Renê get married a few weeks ago.  We had 6 people in potential at the start of the week but one left town and the other didn’t pass the interview (needs a little more repenting to do).

That was a bit sad for us that our baptisms fell through, but we will continue to help them.  Our zone is having a lot of problems as well, but we are resolving them.

I will talk more Tuesday!!!

Love you guys!!!

December 31, 2012

Hey Dad,

It was really great to talk with the fam for Christmas.  I didn’t feel home sick afterwards, just a bit sad because I don’t think I said goodbye very well.  

We didn’t have very much success here this week getting people to church or baptizing but we had a few miracles.  The other day, Magno from Laranjeiras saw us and stopped to talk and that was really great. 
I’m sorry, but I am really short on time and will have to compensate by writing a long letter today.  

I think that I will buy running shoes for Elder Carvalho as a Christmas present so that we can run in the mornings (thanks, Grandparents).  I am also attaching pics from Christmas and an apple pie I made that was really delicious.  Oh dad, how do you make a pie crust? I just improvised and used margarine and flour, but it wasn’t perfect.

I love you guys and hope that the holidays are being spent well.  


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

3 Weeks of Letters & Ben gets transferred

November 19, 2012

Hey, Fam,

So, I have been thinking about what you said in your letter about the ward’s reluctance to set a goal for baptisms.  I would like to know how many convert baptisms the ward has had in the last few years.  In all my time in the ward I can remember only a few convert baptisms like Stephen Hoobler and there was a couple that was baptized and then went inactive.  Anyway on the mish we set goals depending on the circumstances in our area and our faith.  For example, for this month I had a goal to baptize 5 people and in my district we made a goal of 13.  So first of all we didn’t have 5 people in my area that would for sure be baptized but we had 5 people in mind.  But I am sure that there are people prepared in my area I just have to find them and do my part.  In the ward it would be a bit harder because of the culture (it's harder to find people)  but as a leader of the ward you should pray to see through the Lord’s eyes and comprehend the potential of the ward and our area in Moscow.  There are a lot of people that God is preparing.  We just need the faith to find them.  Clearly everyone has a choice to say yes or no but if we do our part God will bless us.  I believe that if I teach with the Spirit and do my part to the people I teach will have to choose between being sons of perdition or latter-day saints.  I believe that the majority of people are not rotten deep down so when we work hard, being a friend (teaching and serving them) they will accept baptism and stay active in the church.  So in the end, to make a good goal you need to understand the ward’s potential with the Lord’s eyes.

So this week we had the baptism of João-Paulo, 18 years old.  It was great.  I think it was the best baptism I have had during the mish.  There were a lot of members there, and a lot of the less actives and investigators we invited came!  I am doing a lot better with Elder S.  This morning we went running a close to the beach. There is a side walk and road that spans a big stretch of the beach here in Outeiro.  It is really great running in the morning, especially here.  It’s really calm and there are very few people on the beach in the mornings. The tide was out and there were a few men preparing small fishing boats on the beach.  Our apartment is really close to the beach.  We have transfers here next week and I am hoping that I get to stay here in Outeiro. 

Oh and I would like to say I’m sorry because it has been a long time sense I have written a paper letter to the fam.  It’s a bit hard for me because during the week I can’t write only on p-day and we don’t have a bank or post office in Outeiro, so I will talk with some other elders I’m my zone and see if they can send them for me.

I love you guys a lot.  And am missing the Christmas spirit that is in Moscow this time of year. 


Elder Clark

November 26, 2012
Hey, Mom,

 I just wanted to ask for some things specifically.  First, can you send about 4 pairs of dress socks (the kind that are a little thick but not winter socks) and I was wondering if you could send another pair of shoes to get me through the last few months of my mission?   I have destroyed 2 pairs of shoes (Merrill world Ramblers 8 1/2 wide). I really liked those shoes.  I am using the Doc Martins, but it looks like they will wear out fast.  If it’s going to be a chore to find shoes then tell me and I will just buy shoes here when my current options run out.  I don’t really have tons of options to buy shoes they sell good shoes here but the shoe stores that are good are hard to find or really far and hard to get to.  I did get a pair of construction boots from a member here that are ok to proselyte in but they are not good quality (my feet slip around in them and they would wear out socks really fast).  I have yet to find good socks here. The shoes I got from the member I can find for like 20 bucks

Hello everyone!
So I found out today that I will be transferred to Satelite and I have been called to be zone leader of the zone that I am serving in right now.  I think that will be interesting.  I have been feeling a bit down lately because things have not been going super well here.  I have been strengthening my companionship with Elder S., and that has been rewarding.  But the family we had prepared for baptism could not be baptized because the wife is sick with pneumonia.  She is in the hospital right now and the family is having a bunch of difficulties.  We worked really hard to get the help of the branch and funds to help our investigator pay for an exam but because of some bad things that members have done here in the past (being dishonest with church funds) the Branch President does not have the power to decide and he has to go through the Stake President to get permission to use fast offerings to help people.  So because of the system being slow, our investigator borrowed money from a loan shark that was sad to see.  One really nice thing happened this week though.  We have helped a less active family return to church and they are really excited about it.  They even brought us to friends of theirs to teach!!

News update: our rich investigator isn’t really rich, he is actually the grounds keeper for the rich guy.  It’s kind of hard to tell here in Brazil because generally no one uses a shirt so there is not much to distinguish the rich from the poor in terms of clothing most of the time.  Unfortunately Celho's wife is Catholic and doesn’t want to change religions (Celho really wants to, so I think she got a bit upset about that).  We will try to talk to her and help her feel more secure about us and what we teach.

Oh, this week we were invited to eat dinner with the Mission President for Thanksgiving.  That was cool, but I feel like some of the missionaries here would complain because he invited Americans that have more than one year on the mission and their companions. I felt a bit bad about that.  Oh, and I ate a whole lot and had to recuperate for a few days, I will have to repent for breaking my Word of Wisdom.

Well I’ve got to go pack for the transfer.

Thanks for the letters!

Elder Clark

December 3, 2012
So this week was good we had a baptism (Gilmara).  She is 12 and pretty shy, but I could tell that she was really happy to be baptized and confirmed.  I had an interesting experience teaching the Restoration with a young man in the ward.  We taught 4 children with some other member children after the Sacrament Meeting.  I decided that I still like children, but in that kind of group setting it’s a challenge.  I guess that’s why Sunday School teachers sometimes go inactive (just kidding).  We have a lot of young people here that have potential for baptism.  I think that’s great.  I really like working with youth because they are the future of the church.  They (at times) are harder to work with, but have so much potential. 

Our ward is really big and organized. I thought that was cool.  It’s similar to our ward at home.  I think it’s interesting here there are a lot of members of the middle class that live in our area but there are a lot of poor people that live here as well.

Satelite is part of Belém, about 30 minutes from Outeiro and an hour from the city center.  It is a conjunto, which is like a suburb that only has a few exits.  

My new companion is Elder Carvalho. He was my zone leader a few transfers back in Laranjeiras and for this last transfer.  He served in the Brazilian Air Force as an electrician and is 23 years old.  He is already engaged and his fiancé is in the MTC right now.  Elder C. has almost 1 year on the mission and was trained by Elder B. Anderson from Burly, Idaho who was trained by Elder R. Silva, my trainador.  So we are family.  He is the twin of Hayden.  It’s really funny -- when he gets frustrated, he acts just like Hayden did.  This transfer will be good.  We are working hard and I’m getting to know the area better. 

I hope all is well there and that your December is amazing.  

I think that we will go caroling and that I will play the harmonica for people.  

Oh hey dad can you send me a few Christmas recipes   like peanut brittle and chocolate covered toffee. And maybe sugar cookies.  Oh and a recipe for chocolate chip cookies.  I wanted to make some of these goodies and give them to members and investigators to help invite the Christmas spirit.  I think that I will have to work really hard to bring the Christmas cheer to Satelite because they don’t have snow, real Christmas trees and a lack of Christmas lights.

I love you guys; Dan and Emma don’t worry 3 weeks passes really fast! 

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Tough Week in Outeiro

So this week has been really tough.  We worked out the marriage of José and Lourdes but unfortunately Irmã Lourdes got really sick with a super high fever on Saturday and so the batismo was cancelled. That caused a few problems and the Assistants and my Zone Leaders where thinking seriously about closing our area!  That was not good so I had to explain to them the situation and all that.  I will have to work really hard to help this area stay open and progress.  My comp is having some problems.  I think that a lot of these problems originate with me.  Unfortunately, his first companions didn't not train him effectively and he is really stubborn and doesn't accept a lot of my ideas or counsel from the local leaders of the church or our zone leaders.  I am pretty frustrated with him.  I think that he has good intentions but he thinks that he knows everything already.  I have started to actively move my comportment [Portuguese translation "for change my behavior"] for example, if I'm really mad at him I don't pout or walk around looking sad or angry, I try to smile more, say hi to people in the street and act more happy.  I have found that this helps me be more happy.  Depression is a choice,  I have chosen to be a happy person especially when in difficult times. We are now going to church at a chapel that is a half hour bus ride from Outeiro.  That is a bummer.  Our attendance in the sacrament meeting was about 36 people, with 4 missionaries and representatives from the stake.  Many of the members don't have money to pay the bus fare for everyone so a bunch of people didn't come. I have been talking to the mission president to resolve a few of the problems here with the location of the branch, but it looks like there is a fault of money [Portuguese translation for "lack of funds"] to reform [Portuguese translation for "renovate/fix"] the new location or God is testing the members here in Outeiro.  It has been hard to invite people to church, especially with the location moving all the time.  

I love you guys a lot,  I really wanted to say that.

I have found a lot of help in the lessons that have been given in Sunday School and the Elders Quorum.  It's like God is talking to me through these lessons.  I have tried to pay more attention during talks and the lessons in Church meetings.  I have received a lot of inspiration from the speakers.  This last Sunday we had a lesson about how we need to correct people in a way that they will feel loved and change.  Afterwards, there were a few scriptures shared from Proverbs 15, Matthew 6, and Ephesians 4,  I think, that talked about how we should act towards others and how we should not judge or be hypocritical in our corrections, always applying the things we say to ourselves first. I'm trying to apply these things in my work and especially in my companionship.  I was raised like this and I am really thankful for that influence in my life.  I am amazingly lucky to have been born into our family in the gospel.  This gives me a lot of responsibility to work and share these blessings with others.  

Thanks for the letters

Elder Clark

P.S. Oh I was a bit surprised when Obama won.  I thought that more people were going to vote for Romney.  I really had no bias towards one or the other because I don't know what they want to do.  Here in Brazil, people were a bit interested in the election.  But a lot of people here wanted Obama to win because Brazil has good relations with Obama already.  It looks like a lot of the world likes Obama.  

P.P.S. Today I made pancakes and maple syrup and improvised chocolate chip cookies for José and Lourdes and Gabriele.  They really liked my cooking!  I think that cooking will be a great life long hobby of mine.  Mom can you send me a recipe for chocolate chip cookies?  

Love you all again!

Elder Clark

Monday, November 5, 2012

Teaching in a Island Paradise

October 29, 2012

Hey, Everybody,

So this week was interesting.  We walked a lot and we found a bunch of people to teach.  This area is really weak but we are helping the members get back on their feet.  There is some sort of problem here with organizing the move to the new branch location, but that won't stop us from baptizing people.  A lot of members say that they won't go to church until they move to the other building.  I think it's really sad because the location should have nothing to do with whether you go to church or not.  In the history of the Church the members were persecuted and at times killed for their beliefs.  We should develop the faith to overcome these challenges.  Do you think that at home if the church buildings in town all caught fire and were destroyed, the members would be strong enough to keep supporting each other, and continue functioning even without the buildings?  I hope so.  If not, we should prepare ourselves.  In Mosiah there is a very interesting story about Alma (the father) who organized the Church in the forest and baptized them in the waters of Mormon.  The small group of saints leave the area because of persecution and build a city in another area.  They follow all of the commandments and have "peace for a season."  But then, they are found by the Lamanites and they become slaves.  Even though they were doing everything right, they had a great trial.  They were put to death if they where caught praying.  But after they proved their faith and received strength from the Lord, they were set free.  I think this is a story that we can apply frequently in our lives and especially in my area right now.  We should not let things of the world interfere with our spirituality. 
I had an interview with President Scisci this week.  It was pretty good.  He gave some really good advice about how I can have a good relationship with my companions.  Oh, and he said that he has been bragging about me to the rest of the mission.  So, I will have to keep on working hard.  Overall, it was a good interview.
So this week has been better with Elder Sotomayor.  I have gotten to know him better.  Almost his whole family are members of the church, but his dad and step-dad are inactive and they serve in the Bolivian military.  He has never had a job but was spoiled by his hard working mom, step-dad, and father.  He had a souped-up Toyota Celica and did street races like the Fast and Furious.  I'm not sure if i understood correctly, but I think he was part of some sort of gang (but not a violent one).  He works hard and is a nice guy.  I will try to send pics of Outeiro soon.
But I love you guys!!! 
Elder Clark
P.S.  If you haven't sent the packages yet, could you send a lot of peanut butter and honey?

November 5, 2012

Hey, so this past week was very interesting, Happy and stressful.  

So, I got a call from the assistants to the president on Monday and they asked how many people I would baptize in Laranjeiras the next day.  I was a bit surprised and informed them that I had no idea because I was in a tropical island paradise.  So they got a little confused and then said that my zone leader would call me later.  So, it turns out that the mission was trying to close the month with a few more baptisms and the president sent me to Laranjeiras to baptize Katia, a single mom I taught before I was transferred.  It was really nice to see people I knew and taught get baptized and it was an honor to be able to baptize Katia.  I also got to see Elder Gonzalez again which was nice.  He is a really good missionary.  

We slept in Laranjeiras and the next day I went to Belém with the elder that replaced me (Elder F. Lopes).  We went to a training meeting for leaders.  It was really nice to see other elders I have worked with and especially Elder R. Silva my trainer.  He is going home at the end of the transfer. Oh, and he already has plans to get married in January.

So, we were away from our area for two whole days and that was hard.  But we did have a miracle happen.  We taught a guy that lives in a super big, super nice house close to the beach.  His name is Celho and he is Catholic (but not for long).  Before I got here, Elder Sotomayor rang his doorbell and contacted him.  We finally got to teach him Sunday and it was really great.  He understood everything really well and accepted my invitation to be baptized.  He said that he wanted us to talk to his wife as well!!!  Unfortunately, they are not married.  He is really cool and intelligent.  I think it is interesting to see a lot of missionaries work in areas that are very poor.  This is great, but that is not all we should do as missionaries.  Our priority should not be either poor or rich but to help the society as a whole receive the gospel.  When Elder Mazagardi (the 70 in charge of our mission) talked to us last, he said that we should search for the rich the educated, and the people in positions of power to teach.  He shared a scripture with us in Doctrine and Covenants that says exactly that when referring to the infant Church's missionary efforts.  We also see this with Paul and Agrippa and Ammon in the Book of Mormon.  So, we are applying this in our area.

Outeiro is interesting because it has a lot of rich people and poor people super close together.  We frequently walk close to the sea shore, but we only walk close to the beach early in the morning because the beach is a really bad place to be if there are a lot of people here.  There are a lot of people that come to visit Outeiro and go to the beach on holidays and at the end of the week.  In all, it is a nice place to work but at the same time a bit difficult because of the tourism and the beach.  

Dad, last week you sent a letter talking about the birth rate in Brasil dropping from a lot to 1.6 (or maybe it was mom that sent the letter I don't remember), but I  was thinking about this and thought that that was definitely not the impression I have had in the last year I have lived here.  That is because the population here is very young.  Unfortunately, when I started to think about it more, I started to realize why the population is so young.  It is really hard to find a woman here that is between 25 and 35 that is pregnant.  That's because almost everyone that has a baby is between 12 and 20 years old.  Almost all of them are single moms.  It is super hard to find a couple that is married.  This shows a great need for the gospel here and some other political and social reforms (for example more focus and incentive for education and careers, rethinking family stimuli from the government, education and incentives for married and practices that support and strengthen families).

I think it's a huge blessing to be able to work here in Brasil to help these people through the Gospel.  I love it here despite its imperfections!  Oh, and the next time you see Andy Carmen tell him that ``Eu Estou Ajudando Brasil Vai Para Frente!!``

Elder Clark

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Ben is Transferred to the Island of Otiero

October 15, 2012


This week I will tell a little more about what is happening here.  

Well, I was a bit sad about conference last week.  It was really good, but there were not very many members that went.  I have been working hard with Elder Gonzalez, but unfortunately not very many people are progressing fast.  We have been teaching the sister of Ulisses (a recent convert here).  Her name is Marcilene she has been doing really well.  She has had a lot of doubts about the Plan of Salvation.  Fortunately now she understands that our lives don't just end when we die but there is a whole lot of other stuff that will happen.  Our lives are kind of just a beginning.  I love how the Plan of Salvation helps us better understand the relationship we have with our Heavenly Father and what our potential is.  It also gives the doctrine of Christ more meaning.  Unfortunately, Marcilene had something come up this Domingo and she didn't go to church.  We invited a whole lot of people to church -- I think it was more than 30 people Saturday.  But Sunday, only one less active member,  Jocilene (that i wasnt expecting), came.  We spent a few hours that morning trying to wake people up for church, trying to find people at home, but none of it went right.  I was a bit torn in our Sacrament Meeting because we were not having very much success where a few months ago we had a lot.  But I felt really good at the same time because someone I didn't expect came (Jocilene).  I hope that the ward here will start to wake up because if they don't soon, the work and success we have had in these last few months are going to slip away.  I know we have a few members in the ward that are working hard and it makes a whole lot of difference.  I have been pretty bummed because we haven´t baptized for the last three weeks.  But I think it is good that we haven't baptized more people because the ward is not strong enough to help and nurture the many more converts.  Fortunately, the ward mission plan should help and the Second Councelor Irmão Ataide is helping a lot.

Big news.  I will be transferred to Oteiro. It's an island a bit separated from Belem.  it was a big surprise when I found out.  We stopped in the house after church to drop off some books and I saw that  Pres. Scisci had called three times.  I thought that was a bit weird, so I called him back.  He said that he had a new calling for me and started to explain that there was an elder,  Elder Sotamaior  (I think that's how you spell it) that just finished his training in Oteiro and he hasn't baptized anyone yet.  He is feeling down about it and thinks that its his fault or that he is a bad missionary or something like that, and President wanted to help him out.  So Pres. Scisci wanted me to go there to "convertinate the people" and help Elder Sotamaior become a successful missionary.  I thought that was a lot of responsibility.  Pres. said that he was thinking about a missionary that could help and that he could count on to baptize, and thought of me.  I will need a lot of help from the Lord, and a lot of prayers.   I will go there and work hard.

it was a bit sad saying goodbye to some of the people in the ward that i have come to love and some of my investigators and converts.  Please pray for these people here.  They are really special.

October 22, 2012

Hey family! 

This week has been interesting.  I got to my new area Tuesday night and we just barely had time to visit a family that is going to get married and then baptized in the next few weeks.  The family consists of José (58), Lourdes (55), and their daughter Gabriele (9).  Gabriele was baptized this last Saturday on the beach.  This area does not have a chapel, just a house that is rented by the church.  Unfortunately the meeting house is right next to the beach in an area that does not have very much movement, because of this the meeting house has been robbed 9 times in the last 6 months  The last time was last Saturday.  They stole everything from the wire to the fans, cleaning products and toilet paper. they took everything and only left the benches (because they are a bit hard to move).  They broke a wall to get in.  So that has been a challenge for the branch, being a bit weak to begin with.  There were 44 people in our Sacrament Meeting, about half were infants or children under 8 years old.  Elder SotoMayor is from Bolivia.  He is pretty cool but I have to have a lot of patience with him.  He likes to teach and works hard.  He has finished his 12 weeks of training and I am here to help him complete the training that the other two missionaries started.  Elder Sotomayor had two different trainadores, and they did not like to work as much as he did.  But, things will start moving here now that both of us want to work.  

I have attached a pic of the family, Branch President, and Gabriele at her baptism

Funny story.  Gabriele, after her baptism, swam like a dolphin back to shore.  I thought it was funny.  Elder Sotomayor walked ; )

I am really tired because last night our neighbor that lives in the same apartment complex got super drunk and his wife moved out and took the kids without him knowing.  He got to the apartment and his family was already gone.  He was a bit angry and then calmed down when I talked to him and opened the the gate for him.  Last night I think he slept in the stair well because he lost his key and refused a mattress and fan we tried to lend him.  He talked for a long time and I didn't end up getting to shower and sleep until he left the apartment complex again.  So I got to sleep about 11:45  p.m.  That is something that is getting to me -- a lack of sleep -- because now I am a district leader for two companionships, one of sisters and the other elders.  So I have to call them every night and see if they are alive and interview them every week.  I guess I'm gathering a lot of treasures in Heaven...

I love you all!

Next week i will tell more about the area.  It's pretty cool.

Elder Clark

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Atonement is like an Infinite Wave Function

Monday, October 1, 2012 8:43 AM
Hey, so this week was interesting and it looks like it was a bit crazy there too.  Liza sorry you got hit by a car, well it's better than a bus.  You know that reminds me, one day I was getting off the bus and the bus driver shut the door as I was getting out and the door smacked my head.  Yeah, after that he opened the door. 

So this past week was full of... well not very much progress.  We had a lot of trouble finding our investigators and I think that is a sign that a lot of them don't have much of  a desire to continue learning.  But we did end up finding a really great family the other day to teach.  The husband has a drinking problem, but they have a desire to change.  They both cried the first time we visited them, and we will try really hard to bring them to church this next week.  

I am out of time and promise to write a super long email next week!  Sorry.  I'm doing great and I will send a letter this week about all the adventures I have had in the last few weeks.


October 8, 2012

Hey Fam,

So this week I'm trying to repent and write a long letter to you all.  These last few weeks have been hard for me.  Our zone achieved our goal of 25 baptisms with 37 this last month (my area contributed 14 of those).  Unfortunately, these last few weeks have been really tough, finding people and getting them to progress.
We have met a number of people but unfortunately have not had much success bringing them to church.  I am trying to figure out what I can do to get things to start moving again.  

I have really been enjoying the insights I have been having about the gospel and especially about the atonement.  This was something I thought of.  At times I find people that say to me "I don't have sins" or "I never committed a sin in my life."  Well, that is always a lie unless you are younger than 8 years old.  And it got me thinking about how I can explain to people that they have sins and need Jesus Christ.  I didn't really like the idea of saying, "Hey, have you ever committed this sin?  Or, have you done this or that?"  It's not really that effective and can lead to hard feelings, so I decided to think about it a bit more.  Then when I was reading in 2 Nephi 9.  I was interested in the part that  says that the atonement was "infinite."  Well, I stopped to think about "infinite."  What does that mean?  Well, in mathematics it means without end, continuance for ever, something people have been trying to define for a long time.   In math they also talk about how there is an infinite number of fractions between any two given numbers.  And then, something clicked and I came up with an interesting way to explain consequences to our actions.  Here's how it goes.

Imagine a lake completely still.  If you drop a pebble in the water, what happens?  The one small disturbance sends ripples throughout the water that reach every bank and affect every point of the water's surface.  It is the same sort of thing with our actions.  When we do a good turn, we send ripples through the water affecting, in time, every person in the world, however small the effect is.  When I learned about waves (of sound, light, radiation, or water), but specifically sound, my teacher showed us a graph with squiggles above and below a horizontal line, at any given moment you have an inequality of energy above or below the line but silence is just a straight line without disturbances.  When you have two waves that are opposites with the same magnitude, they cancel each other out.    But if you have two waves that are of the same frequency, they strengthen each other, creating one wave of greater magnitude.  

I think of the atonement like a wave.  The sacrifice of Jesus Christ is like a wave that calms or cancels out the waves of a troubled sea leaving peace and calm.  Now remembering the infinite nature of the atonement, we see that the bank of the lake is not regular, but full of complexities.  And like the world we live in, there are a whole lot of people throwing pebbles, rocks, boulders, and even causing avalanches that disturb the face of the water.  In the end, you have a combination -- a wave equation that is infinitely complex and, in the case of our world, of a magnitude incomprehensible to the human mind.  That is where Christ enters with the atonement.  His sacrifice was infinite -- the wave that counteracts all the waves of trouble in the world.    We I think about the atonement like a wave, I feel like it is easier to repent and make that first step towards change because it was infinite and it's the only way we can calm the disturbances we have made.  We can also see that when we do good, the waves we send (with time) will reach everyone and that when we work together sending out the same good waves they combine and amplify each other.

I love you all.  Conference was great.  And I pray for you all daily.

-Elder Clark

Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Stress of Success

Hey, this week has been interesting.

It's actually been really stressful.  You know it shouldn't be that bad because we have been baptizing a lot of people, but I am stressed that we won't continue to baptize.  We have very few really promising investigators and its been hard to find new ones.  They aren't progressing very well.  The sad thing is the other 7 companionships in my zone have baptized fewer people than my area combined.  

I am sorry about the photos.  They are not cooperating with me these days.  

Rosa and Antonio were baptized this last week!!!  I ate cake.  And Rosa stopped smoking. It took her more than two months to stop but she finally made it.  

We had 6 recent converts receive the priesthood this Sunday !!!!  The confirmations and ordinations to the priesthood were fast and not personal at all.  I'm hoping to help change this in the future in this ward.  

I'm out of time, but I love you all!!!

Oh, the water situation got fixed!!!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Ben Baptizes 7 Members and Attempts 3rd World Plumbing

September 10, 2012

Hey fam, 

So every thing is going well here. I am having a great time with Elder Gonzalez.  I havent learned much Spanish yet but I have read a bit and it's not very different.  

I sent some pics.  One is of the baptism of Magno, Marilene, and Kezia [see pictures at right].  The next is me and Elder Oliveira at the Mission President's apartment on the 19th story of an apartment sky scraper (the apartment is very nice).  The apartment overlooks Belém. We were there for a training meeting discussing our new callings as mission trainers.  The last is of me, Ulysses 18, Jean Tavares (my mini missionary from a week ago), and André 17, and Andrey 13 (brothers), and Elder Gonzalez at there baptism.  It was pretty funny but Jean was going to baptize them and he didn't bring a white shirt, so me and Elder G. ran back to our house to pick one up for him to use.  It turned out good, but I was super sweaty when I got done.  The two brothers that were baptized are our neighbors and they are really cool.  Their dad even came with them to church Sunday, which was nice.  

This week i have been bitten a lot by mosquitoes.  I think it's because Elder G. has new blood, because before it was not bad at all.  But now, the day he got here it started to get bad.  Interesting how that is.

I have been thinking a lot about reverence lately.  I feel like the Sacrament  Meeting in our ward is super rowdy, and some of our investigators seem like they weren't feeling the Spirit during the sacrament meeting.  I have had a few bad experiences with this ward, and what I think is irreverence.  I think that me and Elder G. will work something out to help the ward really understand what is going on during the Sacrament Meeting, and what importance the sacrament should have in our lives.  It's a bit tough to bring investigators to church to see bad examples of members.   But fortunately we have the best ward mission leader here in Laranjeiras (Irmão Ciçero).  He is always there to help us and he is super involved.  In fact, he just got back from the temple (his first time) about a month ago.  So, things are looking up.   I have a goal to help this area grow so that I can convince President Scisci to send 3 missionaries to replace me when I get transfered in 3 months.

Oh, I got my package --  the one-year-in-the-mish package!  Thanks for the information about harmonicas and the mints.  

Oh, we have a family that we are teaching -- Camila and Nilson -- that will get married this week and baptized on Saturday along with (depending how this week goes, 2 other couples).  And we taught a lesson de poder the other day with a member who made a contact on the bus!  That was sweet, and the couple promised to come to church this next Sunday.

I love you guys and your letters.  Keep sending them!!!

Love, Ben

September 17, 2012

Hey fam, thanks for all emails.

This week has been really interesting.  For a start, I sent a pic from the weddig of Magno and Marilene and another pic of the baptisms this last weekend [we didn't actually get these].  Two families, two men, a total of five.  We baptized Claudio, Helena, Vitoria (their daughter), Camila, and Edenilson.  I will send a letter this next week to fill you all in a bit better about these milagres!!  

So these next few weeks will be interesting because we don't have anyone that is 100% ready for baptism but we are praying.  In fact, I think that I am being tested a lot right now.  There are a lot of problems, a ton of things I'm trying to remember, and thankfully, a lot of blessings.  I think it would be good to start with the trials.  

So, I have not been able to plan my time well enough for over a month, so I have been getting to bed late and I'm really starting to feel it.  I'm super tired, and I think it's affecting my work.  I try to help my district, but I feel like I'm not doing it right.  And, things just have been stressful lately.  Yesterday the PVC pipe that goes to our well broke while we were trying to prime our pump.  So we were left without water.  So I haven't been able to shower since yesterday morning.  I fixed the pipe today (I designed a new better system to prime the pump).  I should get reimbursed, but it looks like I lost the receipt so I'm out $ 25.96.  That's a bummer and unfortunately there is a leak in one of the connections I made.  
When the water tank was filling, it fell. Our water tank is 500 liters and sits on some wood slats at the back wall of our patio out back.  The water tank is a bit old and was poorly placed, it sagged because of age and the weight of the water until it finally fell this afternoon when I was washing clothes (by hand).  Yeah, so all of the PVC water pipes broke and we are now using a jimmied system to use the pump to fill the broken water tank on the ground.  (I still haven't taken a shower.)  So that's my story.  Oh, and when I called the land lord, they hung up on me twice (because I said I was a missionary).  I got my neighbor to call them and that worked.  Unfortunately, they were not very helpful.

I am planning a lot of trainings of the members here about how they can help the ward grow and how they can help us doing missionary work.  They are a bit behind the game here.  We have 8 recent converts that have been waiting for a few weeks to be interviewed to receive the priesthood.  

I'm really tired but I'm really glad I'm here.  

Elder  Clark