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

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