Thursday, May 24, 2012

Speaking in Church on Short Notice

Hey, sorry this letter will be really short.  I have been working through lots of problems with a member here and I used a lot of time to write the President of the Mission.  
I thought I would forget all of this crazy stuff that's happening here, and write a short letter about last Sunday.  So we had quite a few people at church with us -- a family that we will marry/baptize these next few weeks, and a bunch of other really promising investigators.
When I got to church, the Secretary told me that I had a talk to give --  Speaker #3 and I had to fill 20 minutes.  Yeah, so that was a surprise.  My talk didn't end up being spectacular, and it didnt help that the mic in that chapel is really scratchy and hard to understand.  During my talk the 3 year old son of the familly that will get married and baptized started to hand me all my books and my bag over the pulpit.  So that was pretty funny.  I love you all.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Paper Letter Home, March-April 2012

March 26, 2012

I've really started to love missionary work.  I get to see people's lives change, start over, and become a part of a big family.  I feel like I have come to understand myself and my purpose in life.  Before my mission, I wasn't certain about a lot of my beliefs, but now more and more of my doubts have left.  I know that God is our loving Father in Heaven.  He has a plan for each of us, a plan of happiness.  I'm far from home in a strange country where it's hot and people don't speak my language, studying, teaching, working 12 hours a day.  But I feel good about it.  When I work and share my happiness with others, and teach the gospel, I feel happy, loved.  It's tough sometimes when people don't understand or don't want what I have to give or when I just can't seem to explain in a way that they understand.  But every one in a while, I find someone that is prepared to hear, that wants to learn, and it's priceless.

I have been teaching a 30 year old man (Edson).  He is separated from his wife (they weren't married, but had 3 kids).  He had problems with drugs, poverty, and lack of opportunities, but he is really intelligent.  His two sons, Joemerson and Endleson, I got to baptize.  He is still preparing.  But, I have seen him change.  When I met him he was a bit rough, would only listen at times.  Now he is excited to learn more and make a better life for his family.  During one of our lessons he was talking about his plans for his sons, to start a new like, build a house, get baptized, and he started to cry.  I couldn't hold it back completely either.  (Picture a stocky construction worker -- Edson.) I've been blessed to be able to serve here.  I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior, that God is a god of miracles, and that Jesus Christ restored his church to the earth. 

April 2, 2012

Dear Family,

Today has been pretty crazy.  P-days, I think should be days more relaxing, but somehow they never work out like that.  We study like normal, then 10:30 we go to the bank and the internet cafe.  We usually eat lunch with a member family then go back to the apartment.  There at the apartment I clean, wash dishes, mop the floor, clean the bathroom, wash my clothes by hand (we have a washing machine but it doesn't really wash clothes), then use the washer, and write letters.  I'm doing this stuff while my comp sleeps.  It's nice just to think about family, without distractions.

Today is a bit different, we are going to Villa dos Cobanos to have a zone p-day.  We will watch a movie and eat lunch and then return to Abaetetuba.  The problem is Villa is 1 1/2 hours away.  I don't think that this p-day will be very productive.

I did get to read a few of the e-mails you all sent me (I will read the rest a bit later).  Wow!  Ellis, you're getting married?  That's crazy!  I wish you two the best!  Our family is changing.  I'm excited to see how our family will change and adapt, meet and overcome challenges.  Sorry about my writing.  I'm riding on a bus half on the road because there are pot holes everywhere.

The other day, I ran into an old family of investigators.  We had stopped visiting them because they never went to church.  I shared with them Ether 12:16 where Moroni talks about faith.  Faith in Christ will allow us to hope for a better world with an assurance that it will arrive.  I have read this verse a lot in Portuguese.  It's interesting how verses at times give slightly different meanings in Portuguese.  The verse reads (vs. 4) "Por tanto todos os que crem em Deus podem, com seguranza, esperar por um mundo melhor, sim, vem pela fe e e uma aneora para a Alma dos homens...."  [alot of accent marks, etc... missing -- my fault (Sue)].  Esperar means to hope OR to wait in Portuguese.  I thought that was interesting.  It makes you think about it more and in a slightly different light.  I think it's the same in our situations.  I'm on a mission, Ellis is getting hitched, Eliza is going to leave for college!  All these things can be scary or challenging, but if we do all these things with faith in Christ we can hope/wait for a better world to come.

A few of you asked about my Portuguese and how it's coming along.  Well, it's getting tons better.  And I have been much more confident when speaking to people.  I don't really dream with words very often, but yes I have dreamed in Portuguese.  I think a lot in Portuguese.  When I write, I translate from Portuguese to English at times.

April 16, 2012

Well, yesterday I had a frightening experience.  I was walking down the street with Elielson during a split (almost 9 p.m.) heading towards the pad.  We were walking by an entrance to some sort of rave/party/concert (really horrible music) and some woman walks by us and grabbed/stroked my shoulder and made indescribable you-know-you-want-it gestures.  AAAhhhhh!  Needless to say we got out of there fast.  That is definitely an area that I will not walk at night again.

Well that's my scary story for today.  I have been really engulfed in Jesus the Christ by Talmage.  I read it every chance I get at the apartment.  I really love how he explains everything that the Lord says many times in church or seminary when I came across some of the sayings of Christ, I feel like he is too harsh or I understand the meaning of his words in the wrong way.  But in the book, Talmage explains the contexts, everything, and I find it much easier to understand and grow from Christ's words rather than be offended.  I think that it is really important (understanding).  At one point in Christ's ministry, he reproved John the Baptist who was at that point in prison; he said, "Blessed is he who is not offended in me."  A quick glance at the words Christ used may give the impression of disconcern, but he meant consolation, support and loving correction.

Love you guys.  I'm really focused but I think of you all often!

Love, Ben

April 23, 2012

Dear Family,

I have been reading your weekly letters and trying to think of things to say but its getting tough.  I've decided that I don't want to live in a place that is really hot and humid.  Mold grows surprisingly well here.  Almost all of my companion's clothes have mold growing on them (his garments are gray), and with time the smell spreads

I am multitasking right now watching Joy to the World and writing.  You know, it is really entertaining for a missionary on P-day.

So, I just remembered a story.  I was taking a shortcut with my comp and the short cut was through a deserted lot, a street that is almost never used and in front of a "Boca de Fumo" (mouth of smoke), a drug trafficker's house/establishment.  So, it was super raining they day before and one of the streets had become more like a lake of mud.  I had dried on top so it looked safe to walk on.  I went, and before I knew it, I was sinking.  I ended up covering my shoes with mud.  Amazingly, I didn't get mud on my socks.  We had to walk through first an overgrown deserted lot, then the section of road that was more like a lake of mud.  When we got half way through the lake of mud we discovered a man hidden in the vines next to the brick wall on our left.  Yeah.  That was freaky.  It's almost for sure that he was doing drugs back there.  So, after that experience we decided to take the longer routes, and not use the sketchy shortcuts.

I will be doing an exchange this week with another American who has less time here in Brazil than I do! in Barcarena.  I think it will be fun and interesting, even though I don't like sleeping in other people's beds.  I think I'll bring my hammock.  Wow, I've been using a hammock for almost 4 months now.

Mom, lots of exciting things are happening over there.  Ellis, maybe you are right.  I can now accept that Brandon reminds you of me a little.  I would just like to put it on the record that I have had the idea to craft a ring for my future bride for years.  Yeah, rosewood and maple sound nice.  I imagine some sort of yin-yang effect.  Be careful not to break it!!! It's good that he did a "take 2" on the proposal [proposed twice, once over the phone, and a second time in person with a ring].

Well, I've been getting super fat.  You know when I used to say that at home?  Well, if you didn't believe me then you should believe me now.  "Zuko, your hair!  It's out of control!"  "But Uncle, your belly!  It's out of control!!!"  Yeah.  That's how I feel.  I think I need to pull an Uncle Iro and start doing crazy workouts.  i even have a metal gate/grill outside our door that I can use to help set the mental scene.  [references to anime series, Avatar, the Last Airbender]

I'm so proud of what you all are doing.  Emma, great job on the ISATs and track (7:16!!! that's pretty fast).  I want to go running with you when I get back.  Keep training!  Eliza, I haven't heard too much from you personally, but I hope you have tons of fun with the cousins and I hope you are showing Hightower who's boss.  Ellis, don't stress, just go with the flow.  Dad, keep winning those hearings.  Mom, keep being one good woman.  Daniel, keep playing hard and I hope that your egg hatches a swan [referring to an abandoned "goose egg?" Dan found at Spring Valley Reservoir].

With love, Elder Clark

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

My New Area -- Larangeira

I was transferred and my new area is Larangeira (orange tree).  Yeah.  So we have a real chapel here, which is new to me.  And the members are crazy here.  One member has decided that she is the surrogate mother for every missionary she sees, and washes our white shirts, and insists that we visit her and teach about the Book of Mormon each day.  I about lost it with her.  You know when people decide they are your friend before you do, and you don't want to hurt their feelings by saying, "I can't be the friend you are looking for?"  Yeah, it's interesting here. 
Oh, and my comp doesn't really know what is going on.  He just finished training and he doesn't keep good track of the investigators.  So, that was frustrating.  He keeps leaving the apartment when I am showering to talk to some lady that lives across the street.  I don't think he is doing anything bad over there, but I gave him a talk about it anyway.  I'm really stressed right now.  But I'm getting over it.  It will get better.
Sorry it's short.
Love you all!!!
[a second short letter to Paul]
I hope you all had a lot of fun in Hawaii and sorry again for the short letter.  I had to write a long one to President Campos about my area.
I love you all and I'm doing fine.  I'm trying to help the members here grow and I'm being patient.
Love you, Dad.
Your son, Ben

Last Letter from Abaetetuba, April 30, 2012

So, I've been doing pretty well.  I said a lot of goodbyes yesterday and gave a talk, and taught the Gospel Principles class.  It's kind of sad that I'm leaving right now because my comp and I have started to click with our lessons and they have been pretty good.

I gave a tie to an investigator yesterday.  I baptized his two sons a few months ago.  The sad thing is he is not progressing and he is on the verge of falling back into his old life.  When I talked to him yesterday he was with his new girlfriend (bad news!!!) and I think he was a little drunk.  You know, when people just start to drink and they act just a little more talkative and are a little more touchy.  Yeah.  I hope the tie will motivate him to keep learning and go to church and especially help his sons have a better life.

I taught a drug addict that works in the marketplace gutting fish (he is really good with a knife).

We baptized Thiago, a grandson of a member here, Irmão Antonio.  I taught him how to baptize (he is a priest) but he forgot during the baptism and Thiago ended up being baptized 5 time until he got it right.  It turned out well though.

I am so thankful for your letters.  Keep them coming.  One letter to you all should get sent today.  I have been swamped with packing and stuff today but I will try to write a letter or today.

I will be transfered to the Cuidade Nova Zone and my new comp will be Elder S.  I think the area is close to Belem and has a very large chapel (big switch!).

I'll try to send pics next week.  I love you all and hope that the Hawaii trip turns out great!  If you could set up a skype account and info, I can talk to you all with skype on Mother's Day, but I'll see what happens in the
[letter cut off here]