Monday, June 25, 2012

President Campos' last goodbye, June 25, 2012

June 25, 2012

Hey, Dad, thanks for the emails.  Today was a bit interesting because we went to Belém for President Campos´ last goodbye/hurrah.  We got back just a little bit ago. 

I have been having an interesting week. My companion is a bit fubeca and that has been a little bit trying. 

I have become more and more acquainted with Macumba -- some sort of devil-worshiping African religion.   And a bunch of our investigators are starting to reveal problems that are really beyond my capacity to deal with.  I am trying to better my studies and prayers because I feel like everything is falling through and I can’t do it all alone. 

But today has been great.   The dispedido da president [president’s farewell] was pretty good.  He is a very inspired man and I will definitely apply what he has taught me throughout my life.  When I got into the field in California I was confronted with all this “deep doctrine” -- you know, when people talk about where the three Nephites are or if Cain is Bigfoot.  I really didn’t like that, and thankfully Pres. Campos has been able to help me direct my studies of the gospel,  find more purpose and meaning to the basic principles of the gospel.  I always liked the simple parts of the gospel more than the other stuff.  Today Sister Campos said something really cool today about the Book of Mormon.  You all should read the Intro to the Book of Mormon as a family.  There is a paragraph that I like a lot.  Joseph Smith bore his testimony about the Book of Mormon and said that it was more correct than any other book on the face of the earth and that by following its precepts we will come closer to God than following teaching from any other book.  It made me remember something that a visiting branch president said in the MTC.  He told us to focus on the Book of Mormon because it is the most effective tool in conversion.  He told us that we should send our Bibles home because during the mission the Book of Mormon is the converting tool.  So we should give more attention to the Book of Mormon.  Here we read 2 chapters a day in the Book of Mormon.  It’s something I really like.  It has been strengthening my testimony. 

I hope everything is going well there in Moscow and that your summer will be nice and relaxing.  Iwill read your letters later today and try to respond with a written letter.  I love you guys and hope all your wildest dreams come true!

I really am starting to like my area.  It’s very pretty  and the members are becoming more helpful and friendly.

Love you Dad!

P.S. If you see Liz again before she leaves, tell her I said hi and wish that her Russian spy endeavors turn out well for her!

Love, Ben

Golden Investigators and Skin Allergies, June 18, 2012

June 18, 2012

Hey mom,

This transfer has been really interesting.  I was supposed to be with an American (Elder Harris), but an Argentine elder in the MTC gave up and so there was some confusion during the transfer.  I’m with Elder Vale who is from Belém.  He is serving here for about a month because he had to return from Chile to have surgery on his knee.  He will be returning to the mission soon.  We are working a lot with less active members and trying to help the ward make some really big changes.  The bishop works on Sunday, and only comes every once and a while when he isn’t working, his first councilor in from the sticks has a super thick accent and combined with poor reading skills doesn’t really work to direct the meeting.  And the second councilor’s mom is sick and he stays with her in the hospital almost every Sunday.  So without the leaders setting a good example, the ward’s attendance is low and people are starting to let the kids go wild and almost everyone is getting up in the middle of the meeting to leave or talk to others...  Yeah, so we are changing that.  

Good news. We have a ton of golden investigators!!! I’ll send another email latter today because I am going to see a dermatologist today about a possible staph infection!!

Love you!!!

A little later that day….

Thanks, Dad, for the email.  I just got back from Belém.  I saw a dermatologist about this weird rash that I have had for almost two months now.  It’s red and itches.  I thought it was a bacteria but the dermatologist said that it was some sort of allergy and that my clothes (specifically garments)  were not helping because the climate is really hot.  So I’m going to trade soaps and see what happens.  She also prescribed a whole bunch of anti allergy and healing skin creams that turned out to be really expensive.  So I’m not sure if I will buy them or not.  She also said that where I work there are quite a few cases of leprosy!  She recommended that I stay healthy and maybe get a vaccination.  It was interesting. 

We had tons of miracles this week at church.  We had four families that are super excited about church.  They all want to get baptized and stay, and they all want to get married.  We had 9 investigators that are of baptismal age at church!   The only problem is that it will take at least a month to marry each one in the Cartolio (civil).  That stinks.  We are going to have to learn how to work with the Cartolios. 

I’m working hard and love you all!!!


Finishing a transfer, June 11, 2012

June 11, 2012

Hey dad,

So, I wrote a little this morning and attached the photo of the letter [transcribed below].  As you will read, I will stay here this transfer and Elder S. will leave.  (He is sitting next to me looking at pictures of anime characters right now because no one sent him an email).  So, I’m ready to deal with a different problem.  I’m ready for a transfer.  I won’t have much time the rest of the day because Elder S. wants to visit some members here.  

I did remember that it was your B-day.  I hope it turned out great. Did you get any cool presents? The B-day “cake” sounded really good -- I miss pies.

Today we made lunch for Magno, Marilene, Kezia and Cristian.  I attached a picture of them.  I made oatmeal pancakes and made maple syrup.   They were really good, but surprisingly Kezia and Cristian didn’t like the pancakes (too sweet!).  But, that was fun.  Unfortunately, the Mapleine that I had left after Elder A. stole some spilled because the lid was not screwed on tight, so I only had enough to make the syrup for the pancakes today.   

Oh, I will be paired with an American that is finishing up his mission.  I hope he is hard working because I feel like I need some help learning more about how to be an effective missionary.    

This week we had a pretty cool experience.  We have had a referral for more than a month from this guy who teaches karate at the Stake Center here.  The street that he lives on doesn’t show up on the map and so we have been looking for his villa in the wrong spot off and on for a month now.  Yesterday I said to Elder Souza that we should look for his house again because an appointment fell through.  Somehow we found his house about a mile away from where we thought he lived and in a place that I didn’t know existed.  We ended up teaching him about the Book of Mormon (the introduction) and he stopped at the end of the second paragraph and asked, “but what do I have to gain from this book.  What does it teach?”  I said, “Let’s find out.”  And we read the third paragraph with him.  At the end he said, “Wow, that’s exactly what I need in my life: peace.”  He is a really cool investigator and I hope that he will continue to learn and grow.  I think it’s interesting how the Spirit works to guide us.  I was ready to give up looking for him, but in the right moment it all worked out.  

I love you, Dad, and happy belated B-day!

Oh, and about the rock rings, I will do without or I was thinking that I could pay an investigator of ours that has his own wood shop to make me some out of wood.  But that’s about it.

I love you all and thanks so much for your letters and e-mails!!!  Eliza, Emma, and Dan, thanks for your e-mails!!!

Mom, you’re awesome!

Ben’s handwritten letter, 6/11/12 

Dear Family,

This past week has been interesting.  I am really glad the transfer got here.  Elder S. has been hard to work with.  He has been waking up in the mornings grumpy and hard to be around, and apparently he has some eye problem that gives him headaches when he reads (this started to develop when we started to not get along real well).  So this week he has been sleeping during comp study.  That’s been frustrating but easier because I can just continue my studies and not have to do everything in the comp study.  I am going to stay here this transfer and Elder S. will go to the next zone over.  I will get my new comp tomorrow his name is Elder Harris, he is finishing his mission here in the next few months.  I really hope that this transfer works out better.  But it will be strange having an American comp.  I really hope he isn’t trunky and lazy, that drives me nuts.  I’m going to work hard to be a good comp for him.  I also feel like I’ve hit a wall here, its been super tough working with Elder S.  But I think I have learned a lot too. 

Happy B-day Dad!!!  Sorry -- it was yesterday.  Did it snow there in Moscow?  I hope you’re planning some crazy adventures for us when I get back.  Did you do anything special yesterday or where you swamped with church stuff? 

You know I’ve been wondering, do the missionaries in our ward have lots of lessons with members?  Maybe you guys could plan a family night invite a family and the missionaries.  That is something we do frequently here and it is pretty nice something low key, an activity, short message about families with the missionaries.  Then at the end, the missionaries can explain what they do and mark another day to visit them again (with the help of the family).  Just a thought.  It’s really frustrating here when families don’t help much in the work because without the members, missionary work is almost impossible. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Two Very Challenging Weeks

May 28, 2012
Blast! you already sent the package?  That's funny.  Well, for the next one I only wanted to ask for the following: rock rings, with cordlet, and two simple carabiners to hang them; and music of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Oh, and I already have a lot of office supplies.  Next time I don´t think you will need to send any. 
This week has been super crazy.  We had a lot of investigators give up.  One seniora we have been teaching lied to us about smoking and didn't come to church.  But, the good news is that we are working with the members much better and that we have a family to marry and baptize!  Magno and Marilene!  They are doing super well!  Magno worked the night shift Saturday night and he still went to church!  Things are going pretty well here.  I'm learning a lot and working through problems with my comp and pretty much everyone else.
I've decided that we should have a lot of respect for teachers at church and anywhere else. It's super hard to teach when people don't understand, but I have also found that teaching is super rewarding and fun when you actually help people to learn.  Moral of the story: be teachable, and teach others with love and patience.
"I am a man, and I can change if i have to, I guess.....
We're all in this together!"
Love, Elder Clark
Happy b-day, Dan!!!!!  Good luck, Ellis!!!!!!

June 4, 2012
Hey. Liza!
Sorry I haven't been able to get a letter off lately.  I like to write for as long as I can, and then p-day ends and I get stuck with a letter that didn't get sent.  You all will get a huge one in the next few weeks though.  This transfer has been super stressful, but I have lost a lot of weight too, so that's a plus.  (Did you know that if you eat food with a lot of lemon its harder to gain weight?)  I have been making a lot of fresh lemonade in the mornings and I've also been eating oatmeal.    
I hope the marriage worked out well and that you weren't too upset.  Change is rough.  
I have been thinking a lot lately about loving people and how I can do my job better as a missionary.  My comp has decided that I'm a heartless robot, but I think he is wrong.  The whole thing has become a problem in our relationship.  The problem is that I am not completely right or wrong, and we both need to change.  It's hard to find a balance between efficiency and caring individually for people, giving people help and letting them stand on their own two feet.  
Well, that's about it for today.

I love you, Liza.
June 4, 2012
Dear Family,
So this week has been interesting.  It started out great, then Tuesday we had a big disagreement in our companionship.  We both got sick (sick to the stomach -- feeling really weak and achy and we had colds).  In fact, I don't have much good news, but I did learn a lot.  I had an epiphany when I was washing dishes to cool down because I was mad at my comp.  Damnation and damming a river.  When you dam a river you stop or slow its progression, and don't allow it to be a part of something greater than itself (the ocean).  Damnation in the scriptures is kind of like that progress is stopped and those that are damned are prohibited from being a part of Zion.  So, I decided that that's not what I want to do, so I will try to be cool and do my best to work things out with my comp.  
Oh boy, Ellis really got married.  You know that is super weird and exciting, but unfortunately I feel really disconnected from my life there, so I think it will have to sink in when I get home in a year and 3 months. 
Out of time.
Love you all.  I'll finish the story next week
Love, Ben