Tuesday, January 31, 2012

My Shoes are Wearing Out

So, Howdie!

This past week has been an adventure.  I've been getting a lot better with Portuguese, but it's still a struggle at times to understand exactly what people are saying.  There are a lot of meanings and feelings that I miss when people ask me questions of talk in general.  Usually it is worse with questions directed at me because it really shows how much I understand.

Big news.  We found out that one of our investigators was...is? a drug trafficker. And it started to make a lot more sense how he was always hard to find at home or not occupied with traveling.  But we have been working hard. 

My shoes are almost destroyed completely.  I think they have maybe a month left to live.  We walk a lot on sand, pavement, dirt, the equivalent to gravel/dirt roads here are really hard on shoes.  I think we walked more than 8 miles a day. Oh, and we went running twice this last week and our goal this week is to run 3 times this next week.   I am getting really fat.  The members here are too nice to missionaries.   I eat and eat and feel guilty for not eating as much as they expect me to (which is significantly more than I would eat back home).   I weigh 171 lbs -- that is a new record for me, unfortunately its not all muscle in fact I think that I have lost a significant amount of muscle.   So I'm working harder in the mornings to exercise.

I was really excited last week to get letters.  I got a big old stack.  It was great.  I also got a package from Barbara Nielson for x-mas that was a treat.  Tell her thanks a ton for me!!!  I sent a letter today for real, and I'm out of time now. I love you all, keep working hard!


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Three Baptisms in Abaetetuba

Hey Everyone, 
Big news! We had 3 baptisms this last week!!!  I've attached some pics.  There is one with my birthday brownies; Jessica, Larissa and Dulçe (their inactive mother), and one with Ilan and his family.  We walked a lot this week and had zone training, so we walked and road the bus a lot.  I also had divisions this week with Elder V. Martins.  That was fun too.  Elder V. Martins is my zone leader and he has a different style, talking to people like they are real.  He is friendly and helps people open up to our message by talking about their families, sharing experiences, talking about his family, and stuff like that.  I thought it was really cool.  I applied that strategy more when I taught, and it made it a lot easier to tailor lessons to people's needs and help them open up and accept invitations.  I feel better talking to people when they accept me more as a friend, than as some robot that talks about Christ.  So, that's my major advance for this week.  I don't really know what to write.
I received the hymnal from Grandma and I love it. I haven't received any other letters yet. Hopefully, I will tomorrow.  I love your emails, and thanks for the music, Mom.  If you can find more of the Tabernacle Choir, that would be great (I'm not really crazy about EFY music).  I love the letters (emails) I've been getting from you all.  It's been great.
It's been super rainy and I was even a little cold the other day -- 75 degrees and rainy.  Oh, and the thermometer and compass is awesome.  I'm going to get a letter off today for sure.  Dan, thanks for the interview!  
I'm about out of time. I love you guys.  And, Mom, can you start forwarding mail and stuff that I send through mission ties to other people to like Josh, Katherine, Amanda, and Hayden? 
Love, Ben

Monday, January 16, 2012

Hey! I'm 20 Whaaaaat!

So, this week was pretty good.  The beginning was a little stressful.  We have been getting a fair amount of pressure from our leaders (I think it's deserved) because our zone has a goal to divide two branches and construct a stake here.  This means a lot of reactivation and baptisms.  Right now we have about 100 people that come to church each week.  Our goal is 150.  We haven't had a baptism in about 3 months and that is not cool -- almost unheard of, even with missionaries that don't follow the rules.  So I've been thinking why haven't we baptized anyone?  Am I unworthy or disobedient, is God holding back blessings because every once and a while I brush my teeth at 10:31?  Well, I've decided it's not that.  Our small rules are really important but there is more to converting people than being perfect with our schedule in our apartment.  It's more about showing God's love through our actions.  This week I´ve been focusing on my relationships with members and investigators.  It has helped a lot.  I feel more happy and this week we had more results.  I'm not perfect, but I try and that is what counts.  
Our baptism fell through because our investigator (Larissa) didn't tell us she had a problem with drinking coffee.  We found out after the baptismal interview.  It was kind of a shock because we had talked about it quite a few times and taught it clearly.  Just one of those things, I guess, that keeps you on your toes.  The cool thing though is that she understands now and everything will work out this week, and her sister Jessica is going to get baptized too.  It was like it was all planned so that they could get baptized together.
We also had a unmarried family come to church.  Whoot!  Now the members can help them get married and then baptized!!  I was super happy when they walked in.
House keeping. I got my Christmas package with Grandpa´s tie (everyone made a comment when I wore it for my b-day) and that light and thermometer -- that was way cool.  Thanks.  I also got dad's reflections on his mission.  That was really cool to read.  Dad, I laughed when you mentioned the breast feeding being uncomfortable.  That's a very common thing here --  during lessons, church, in the street.  The population here is really young too.  A lot of people having kids.  We have quite a few investigators that are under 18 with a kid or 2.    I haven't received those letters from mission ties yet.  They are probably in the mission office and I'll get them this week.  I got the hammocks -- I got a blue one, pretty cool.  I'll try those recipes this week --  thanks, mom.  And Dan, your picture was great.  Emma, your letter is super long.  Thanks.  Unfortunately, I haven't had time to read it yet. 
For my b-day I had a fruit cake that Elder Silva got in a Christmas package.  It was actually pretty good.  I'm not sure how Grandma Campbell's would compare, but you definitely would not pay a lot for it in a restaurant.   A few people sang to me (pesquisadores and members).  I even ate a Clif Bar to celebrate.
So, that's all I've got time for right now.  I sent a letter last week and will try to send one today!
Love you all!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Ben Meets Marcelo

So, this week was pretty good, but our baptism fell through.  Our investigator left town and apparently had a relapse so we couldn´t finish teaching him.  But we are hopeful that he will be ready this week.  We also have a daughter of an inactive member (inactive for 15 some odd years).  Well, both of them love church so it looks like we will baptize her this week too. 

Last week I was kind of freaking out internally, but we had a zone training from President Campos and the
AP's.  It was really good.  I realized that I was a little preocupied with me and I wasn't loving the people as much as I should.  So, I've been focusing on my relationships with members and pesquisadores (investigators).  I feel a lot better and am much more happy. 

On our way back from the training, we were on the bus (its about an hour from Vila, where we had the training, to Abaetetuba) when we passed the mill (the huge industrial part between the cities that produce aluminum products).  A man sat down next to me.  He works at the mill.  I did a contact with him.  His name is Marcelo, and I ended up talking to him for the rest of the bus ride -- a good 45 minutes.  I invited him to church and said that we would stop by to see him and his family and teach them.  It was really cool.  He was pretty interested and had gone to church a few times years ago.  So, after that, I stopped by his house this last Sunday with a member while we were doing divisions and talked with his mom.  That was really great.  Marcelo wasn't there but he apparently had tried to go to church but things came up.  His mom said that Marcelo had told her about me and how great I was (that was super cool).  She has a known missionaries before and has a really high opinion of them.  So I hope this ends up going somewhere. So that is what has been happening.

Mom, can you send a corn bread recipe and another for oatmeal pancakes?  I love you guys and will try super hard to send a letter today.  Oh, Mom, can you start forwarding my weekly letters to Katherine? Well, I think that's about it.  Oh, Eliza and Emma, you two are in charge of finding good instrumentals and Tabernacle Choir music to send to me via email.  You can attach one or two songs at a time and I can play
them in my apartment with these nifty speakers that play music mp3's from thumb drives!

Love you, Dan, Emma, Eliza, Ellis, Dad, and Mom!!!!!

Thanks for the Happy B-Days!!

Monday, January 2, 2012

My Weekly Report

Well I'm doing well here.  We just got transfers yesterday and I'm staying here in Abaetetuba with Elder R. Silva for another 6 weeks.  This is not what I expected but I think it will be good.  I get kind of annoyed with him sometimes and I think that part of that is because I am too serious a lot of the time.  Mom,  I'm sure you will remember, when I would be upset with something at home, feeling a lot of pressure and stress, I would kind of close up and just be kind of moody.  Well, I feel like that's the way I have been for the last 5 months.  I guess a lot of it is this huge change, and a new language.  It's hard to be out-going and really involved and animated when you don't understand (or when you do understand but don't know how to respond).  I also think another part of the moodiness is that I understand that missionary work is a big deal and that I am inviting people to make serious covenants with God.  The funny thing is that what I'm doing is serious business, but actually doing missionary work is not supposed to be really serious and moody, it's supposed to be unified with love and happiness.  My message is about peace, eternal families, and joy.  I often find myself walking through the streets struggling with something (i.e., trying to look unified when I walk with my comp because he is hard to walk with, or trying to figure out how to express my feelings in a foreign language, and remembering names which is really hard for me).  But then I'll think hey, snap out of it,  people are watching you and that's when I slap a smile on my face.  I really find a lot more joy in missionary work when I spend more time thinking about my investigators and how I can help them learn and grow.  So I guess those are my thoughts for you guys.  I´m really thankful for all of your letters and support and I hope you both have an amazing new year and anniversary in a week!
So this is my weekly report:
We had way more lessons this last week and found a lot of new people to teach. We worked super hard during the week to help our investigators come to church, but none of them came.  I hope we can do better this week.  We have one baptism planned for this Saturday: Ronildo, he is 19, married to a member and has a 5-month old baby boy.  He has been hard to teach because he travels for work for a few days at a time and it's kind of sporadic, but he has a problem with drinking.  The cool thing is he didn't drink this last weekend which is super good he has a lot of pressure from friends and older brothers.  Woot!  
So another funny story.  We went to see an investigator Saturday afternoon and Naiana (18) and her Mom (Nazare) where there.  Across the street there were two houses right next to each other playing pretty horrible music.  Both had big speakers and where having a little bit of a battle seeing whose speakers were louder.   Well after a little bit, it became apparent that Naiana was drunk.  She was giving me that weird look, you know, when someone is just looking into your eyes and its just uncomfortable.  Well, it was getting weird and we left real quick (she even tried to hug me, can you believe it? Ahhhh ... scary!)   So that was my first up close and personal encounter with a "snake" here in Brazil.

Well that's about all I have time for.  Emma, Ellis thanks for the emails.
I love you guys,
Elder Clark