Monday, April 23, 2012

Thinking about "Prestar Contas"

So this week was interesting.  My comp is pretty sick right now.  His symptoms are about the same as mine when I got here and was sick.  So, he has spent the past two days in the apartment, only leaving for church. 

We did a split with young men in the ward.  We have also made a bunch of progress with a few of the families we are teaching.  I am a bit bummed though, because a few of the people I baptized are having difficulty going to church.  But over all, I think that I'm making a difference here. 

Thanks for the letters.  I got about 5 this last week!  Thanks Grandma Campbell, Katherine, Mom and Dad, and Dan your interview was great ; ).   

I was thinking about the story of your life, Mom, and was wondering did you finish?  [no!] And, Dad, I think it would be way cool if you could write some letters about your youth, events that sculpted your character.  Just a thought.

I have been noticing my work here changing, sometimes for good, and sometimes for worse.  I have been thinking a lot about how I need to "prestar contas," self-evaluate daily in order to continue improving.  Daily scripture study and prayer are two ways we need to self-evaluate and report our progress with our Heavenly Father.  When we forget to self-evaluate each day, we fall, and at times find ourselves at the bottom of hole with a lot of work ahead.  I have been sharing a scripture with the members here after we eat with them about this: Ether 2:4-6, I can't remember exactly.  But the brother of Jared forgot to pray, and for 4 years his people stayed in the mediocre land and didn't get direction from the Lord to continue on to the promised land.  When the brother of Jared started to pray again after the Lord corrected him, they got help and direction again to obtain their promised land and blessings.

Love you all!!!!

Elder Clark

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Excerpts from Letters to Home (2/20/12 to 3/19/12)

February 20, 2012

Something I have noticed is that I don't feel as constrained.  I feel more confident speaking with people, contacting and asking people for directions.  I know all the members pretty well, so I feel like its a lot easier for me to plan visits and take control in those situations.  We have had a lack of effort I feel in regards to work with members.  I want to teach more lessons with active members, families, and members of the Quorum, not just less actives or young men.  With the companion change, I think it will be easy to change some of those things for the better.

I really enjoy all of your letters.  I hope I get more now that I don't have to compete for letter writing time  with Ellis.  It's way cool to get updates from you guys about your weeks, I especially like the updates with information about big events like Eliza!  Congrats with the BYU acceptance!  Will you go to school there?  Ellis, remember the wise words of Brother Dan and I think another sibling to "Choose Wisely."  Even though that quote was originally used in respect to leaky sacrament cups, I think it does well in various applications.

I think that my spelling is getting worse and worse.  I am slipping more and more into phonetic (sp?)  [you spelled that right] spelling.  Spelling in Portuguese is easier because it doesn't have crazy rools : ) rules like English.

Oh, I almost forgot.  I gave a talk on Sunday on missionary work.  I feel like I was a little more direct and .... I don't know.  I was kind of upset about how none of our investigators come to church and how there were so few members at church.  But, whatever.  Usually when people listen to me they take into account the language block and don't take it personally.  I guess you could say I did some exhorting.  Oh, and I was remembering an experience with a member who was almost rude to me... Well, she snapped at me when I brought one of our investigators to her house (our investigators don't have any money or food and they have 3 kids).  She asked harshly, "Which one of you two is the senior companion?"  then turned to my comp and said, "Teach him how these things work.  You need to talk to the President of the Branch."  I was frustrated because the branch president was her husband and that's why we came to her house in the first place (finding him not there, I asked for her help).  Also, I guess I skipped the day in seminary where they talked about needing authorization from the bishop to give your neighbor a bag of rice or a cup of sugar.  Yeah, maybe I was justified in being a bit up front about searching for opportunities to serve.

So, I need to go teach a lesson right now.  Love you guys!!!!

Elder Clark

February 27, 2012

Crazy story of the day.  I ate raw worms.  Yup, that's right.  Apparently, they are a delicacy here.  Here's how you get them:  throw a specific type of log into a river.... wait a few weeks, listen to the log and when you hear stuff moving around inside, pull the log out of the water, open it up, and remove the worms!  They look like octopus legs or squid, and have a head.  The head is kind of like an eyeball with bone eyelids.  I guess you could describe the head as just jaws.  They are about the size of Dan's pinky finger.  You eat them with limes and hot peppers.  Apparently, they taste like clam or oyster, but I couldn't say.  I liked them.

It's pretty interesting being in the same area for more than 4 months.  I know every street, I can remember all the big stores and most of the little ones.  I've also taught a butt-load of people here, too [:  ) sorry man, I don't get to talk in English much, got to let it out somehow].  Oh, and Dan, I'm sorry but I haven't seen any Brazilian dragons, but I have seen a few Brazilians practicing some sort of Brazilian martial art.  It's pretty cool -- a lot like break dancing, but more with the arms supporting the body, less with the head.

So, I have officially finished the Book of Mormon in Portuguese.  At first I didn't read the Book of Mormon in Portuguese exclusively, but after a while I got into it.  My mission president told me that if I read the Book of Mormon in Portuguese, I would be able to speak it.  After I finished (remember prophet promised that), I think it is true.  [underline and cross out original to Ben's letter]  When I finished the transfer a few weeks ago something clicked.  I think part of it was Elder R. Silva [trainer transferred, and new responsibilities to keep area going with companion who was content to let Ben take charge], and part of it was that I had reached a point in my language development that allowed me to explain things better and ask questions that people understand.  I think it's way cool.  I still think Portuguese sounds a bit weird, but it's getting better.

I read about the "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" prank.  [Dan hates the cover of this book, which features Elizabeth Bennett with part of her face stripped away to reveal a skeletal leer. So, Eliza wanted some good-natured fun (well... maybe her intentions weren't all that pure), put it face down on his pillow so that when he would pick it up he would freak out -- and he did. ]  It sounded pretty funny.  Dan, I hope it dind't freak you out too bad, but be thankful it wasn't my life guard training manual opened up to the real life injuries section.  Ohhh my!  Maybe you should try playing Eliza's game, but keep the pranks simple, easy to clean up and light-hearted.  Remember, we tease because we love  :  )

March 5, 2012

So, I have really been stepping it up lately.  These past few weeks I have been learning to love the people I teach.  I think that sort of stuff gets easier and easier as I learn how to communicate with others.  People have been commenting lately that my Portuguese is getting a lot better.  I feel much more comfortable talking with people and teaching.  Right now I am making a cake for a less active member and an investigator (they need to get married).  I've talked about the law of chastity with them and the woman (Nete) has joked with me about them getting married.  It's been pretty funny.  But, I told her that I would make them a cake when they get married and that I would bring them one today for FHE to test.  I think she thinks I'm still joking, but I'm actually serious.

March 12, 2012

So, these last few days have been interesting for me.  I feel like there is an urgency in the mission for baptisms... well, there IS an urgency for baptisms.  We have a goal of 250 baptisms this month.  That's 5 per companionship or at least one baptism a week.  The mission is working really hard to prepare for the announcement of a temple here in Belem.  We are working hard and encouraging the members here to work and pray for the temple to be announced during this next general conference.

It's interesting ... before my mission I had decided I wouldn't get discouraged if I didn't baptize a lot of people.   Growing up in Moscow were convert baptisms are relatively uncommon, I didn't really have high hopes.  But here I can see how it doesn't have to be that way.  I think this is true in any mission that if you are doing what's right you will get results.  So, that's my goal:  work super hard and baptize weekly.  Oh, and pray for a lot of new temples to be announced (including a temple in Belem).

Fun story.  I was walking in the rain a few days ago with my zone leader during a division.  I had an old Book of Mormon in my hand, and it was getting wet, but the mission rule is to always walk with a Book of Mormon in your hand  :  ) so people know who you are.  My zone leader asked if I wanted to stop to put it in my bag, but before I could respond, lightning struck in a field we were walking next to....  After we recovered our hearing, I told him that it was fine, that I'll keep walking with it in my hand.

March 19, 2012

Dear Daniel,

So, Dan, I got a letter from you today and it was super nice to hear from you.  Have you tried a mango there in Moscow?  I know that they have them in WinCo.  You should have Mom buy some and have her help you make an amazing mango shake.  Ingredients:
      2 medium mangoes (yellow/red)
      2 scoops vanilla ice cream
      1 banana
      If you want it to stick with you, add straight-up oatmeal
Blend the whole thing.

I have been having some culinary successes lately.  I have made corn bread, pancakes, and syrup, egg sandwiches, and some super good shakes.  Have you cooked anything lately?

I've been excited to hear about your reading.  You are reading Harry Potter?  What else have you read lately?  I read the scriptures, that's about it.  I also have another book "Jesus the Christ."  I really enjoy reading about our Savior's life, how he taught and why he did the things he did.

I have a short story to tell.  I was going to visit an inactive member the other day and when I got there, a bunch of police (they look like soldiers here) drove up and capture two drug dealers right in the middle of the street.  All this stuff was going on and I'm pretty sure that one of the guys was the member I was going to visit, but I'm not sure.  Then, we went to visit another member and the same thing was happening across the street from this member's house.  Yep, so that was pretty exciting.  I just hope that the police are doing their jobs well and for the right reason!

Love you, Dan

Your Brother, Ben

"I Ate Cow Tongue" & Random Advice to Siblings

So, I'm here in an internet cafe and the key board I am using has problems with the "a" and "d" keys.  [Sue:  I'm doing a lot of editing of stray a's and d's here.]  It's pretty annoying. I'm glad that you all got my letters. I have a few more that I hope to send this week. 

I am doing much better with Elder A.  We are much more comfortable with each other now.  We can give constructive criticism, and that is important.  It is interesting.... he had an interesting experience in the church (converted at 11 years, and went inactive, then returned).  It's a bit more juicy than that, but I won't say much more. 

We have been working hard and helped an investigator, Ronildo, build his house.  I already talked about him a few months ago (19, married to a member, 1 baby boy).  He is pretty close to baptism now. 

Sorry, this will be really short.  I'll write a big letter today.  I'm glad things are working out there and it makes me so happy to read your letters and about your lives.  Keep working hard.

I ate cow tongue yesterday.  That was interesting.  Unfortunately, I saw it being prepared, so that put a damper on the experience. ( ;

I'm working hard.  It's not easy here, but that's part of the blessing.

Ellis, good luck!!

Emma, destroy those ISAT's!!

Dan, keep working out and don't play video games!!

Eliza, show calc who's boss!!

Mom, Dad, you're the best!!!

I love you all!!!


Monday, April 9, 2012

Letters to Dad and Mom from Abaetetuba after Holy Week

Hey Dad,

I'm doing pretty well here.  We have kind of had a slow past few weeks because of Semana Santa [Holy Week].  We have had appointments fall through day after day.  But, things are doing better.  I am working better with Elder A. and my Portuguese is doing a lot better.  

I frequently go on divisions with a priest in the ward (Elielson).  We have become pretty good friends.  He is 17 and likes to talk and tell stories.  He helps a lot with pronunciation and some small grammar things that I mess up frequently.  We were doing a split yesterday and a man on a bike stopped to talk with us.  He was interesting and he gave me a ring -- it was kind of weird -- he told me not to throw it away, but later that night I gave it to the other priest that was helping with the splits.  

I also had a pretty great experience this Sunday.  I had invited a couple to come to church and they came.  They have been "dropped investigators" for a whole transfer, but I ended up talking to them last Sunday and gave a nice lesson on faith based on Ether.  The wife told the Relief Society that the only reason why she came was because I was so persistent with them.  I think it is nice how I have been able to develop good relationships with people.  I hope they with visit again, but this time because they liked church not just because of me!

Well, I'm out of time.  Love you, Dad!


Hey Mom,

Sorry.  Last week the time ran out on the computer a few minutes before I thought it should have, and I only had time to click "send."  I was a little worried that it didn't get sent.  

I'm glad things are working out for everyone.  I think that it will be an adventure for Ellis and Brandon.  I think they will make do with some sort of improvised furniture.  In fact, I look forward to making furniture for my future abodes.  

Eliza talked to me a few weeks ago about how she would love it if I attended BYU with her when I get back.  I thought about that a bit and I think it sounds great. I don't know how I should apply though.  I think that I need to be smart about the application (maybe use the hockey team as a bit of leverage).  But, I don't have to waste too much time thinking about that for a while.  Speaking of things that are a long way off, when you said last week that you would like to pick me up, I thought that sounded really great.  And, traveling to Manaus by boat sounds great.  In about a year, I will talk to the Mission President about it. 

Love you!


Thursday, April 5, 2012

P-day in Villa Dos Cabanos

So, this past week was pretty good.  I have been frustrated off and on, but I feel like things are getting better.  Lots of ward members were happy that I was not transferred.  In fact some of the ward members told me that they have wanted other elders to be transferred because they have been annoying.  Well, that's something I hope they never say about me.  I want people to remember my name when leave here and have good memories of me.  I hear about other missionaries that served here and the stories aren't always the best.  It makes me sad to see some missionaries not working hard and sometimes setting a bad example for others.

Ellis! Getting married, eh?  Good luck.  I hope that everything works out and doesn't end up being something super stressful.  I'm bummed that I wont be able to be there for the wedding.  But that's alright.  Where will you guys get married?  I wonder how Dan is taking it.

I got the package today.  We had a zone p-day today where we went to Villa Dos Cabanos.  That's why this letter is late.  It wasn't planned very well and started late, and the highway was closed for construction so the bus ride turned out to be longer than usual.  But, there we watched the Book of Mormon, the movie.  It was super bad -- you know, when people are trying to be serious, but it just turns out to be ridiculous and a little bit uncomfortable in a funny way.  It reminded me of Conan the Barbarian.  Then, we had a lunch that would have been better here in Abaete.  But, it was nice to spend time with other missionaries.  We now have 4 Americans in my zone including me!

So, last week was a bit sad because we didn't get a baptism, but it had good parts.  I planned a noite integração  (Wednesday night activity for the ward).  It was scripture charades.  It ended with my group who did a reenactment of King Benjamin's speech.  I bore a testimony afterwards about general conference and made a pretty good connection between the speech King Benjamin gave (the first general conference) and reminded the members that we should keep our tents facing the temple, or in this case, our families facing the temple always working with the goal of eternal families.  The goal of the mission is to create a temple district and have a temple in Belem.  Everyone was praying for a temple and our mission closed with 235 baptisms for the month over the past record by more than 50.  I had 6 of those.  As you all saw the temple w...  [message cuts off here.  I think he was about to say that a temple was NOT announced at General Conference.]