Monday, December 31, 2012

December Letters

December 12, 2012

Thanks, Mom, for finding shoes.  I got my Christmas package but not the flat package.  Tell dad that the fudge was delicious.  

I am not really surprised that Liz was called to Moscow, Russia. I always told her that she would become a Russian spy so this is just the beginning....

Man, I don’t know what I will do with all that money that people sent me.  I don’t really buy things a lot here and I already have a lot of weight to lug around because of all the books.  I think that maybe I will send some books home because I don’t use a lot of them.  

I found a member family that will let me use Skype at their house for Christmas.  What time would be best for me to call?

You know, Mom, I really want to minor in 2 things when I get back.  The first one is Portuguese and maybe Italian (Italian is close to Portuguese and might help when I look for a job if I work specifically with cars) and the other is music.  So there is a very good chance that I will join a choir when I get back.

I love you Mom!!

Your son, Ben

Another letter, still December 12, 2012:

I’m so sorry I didn´t write a letter last p-day.  We had to go to the mission office and so our p-day was pretty lame.  But we helped a member get married to her non member husband and her husband is preparing to be baptized this Saturday.  This will be a challenge because he needs to stop smoking. We will help him with this.  

So when we got back to our area we went to the LAN house and the internet was down so we got permission to send emails today.

Being a zone leader is interesting.  I think the work load lightened up a bit but there is a whole lot of responsibility.  I interview the district leaders and their comps and give talks and train the missionaries.  And every week I report to the assistants about our zone.

This past week our zone (which is the largest in the mission with 20 missionaries) brought very few people to church which was really sad.  And we only had 2 baptisms this last week in the zone.  So that was not good.  The zone had a really hard time being effective in the work.  So we prepared a zone meeting to help the missionaries start working harder.  

I think it worked.

Last night at about 8:30 we were walking home from a lesson that fell through and we saw a family moving clay shingles into their house.  So we stopped to help (there were a lot of shingles to move) it was really nice we worked hard for about an hour and moved a butt load of shingles inside the wall of the property.  That was pretty fun and we marked an appointment to come back and take them to church and teach them.  The father tried to give us $40 realis which is a lot of money here. Obviously we refused to take the money.  It was a good experience. We got home really late but it was worth it.

I love you guys and hope that your week is wonderful!

Elder Clark

December 18, 2012

Arggg. I wrote a letter and was almost done but the computer froze and erased the whole thing. 
So, starting over …

This week was good started slow but got better and better.  I feel like me and Elder Carvalho are working better together.  We had some really powerful lessons with people this week and we got 8 people to come to church this week.  Unfortunately, I was waiting for 17 people to come and 9 of these people didn't come.  But we are counting our blessings and we will work with these others so that they can come to church next week.  

We went caroling with a family from the ward. We piled into their car and visited a bunch of members.  We sang for them and left a short Christmas message with them.  I played my harmonica in some of the arrangements it turned out pretty well 

Oh, Mom, can you see if you can find instructions on how to bend notes on the harmonica? I have yet to figure out how to do that on the harmonica.  The stuff you sent me about bending was great but didn't explain how to actually bend notes.

We also sang a song in sacrament meeting (I used my harmonica again and it turned out great, but I don't know if the manual would have agreed with the use of a harmonica during a sacrament meeting). I figured it would slip by because we sang with the First Counselor of the Stake President.

I also gave a talk in Sacrament Meeting that turned out really well despite the lack of prep time. I prepared during the sacrament because the talk I had prepared before the meeting wasn't coming together in my head.  It would have been about faith using stories about clouds and cairns a you know those piles of rocks that people use to mark trails usually in sub-alpine areas.  But I ended up talking about service in missionary work.  I used three scriptures: Mosiah 2 (serving others is serving God), Mosiah 4 (to maintain a remission of sins we need to serve others with material goods as well as spiritual and emotional nurturing), and the last was 4 Nephi 1-3 about the results of applying Christ’s teachings (peace, happiness, equality).  It was one of the best talks I have given.

I am great and I love you guys!!!

Merry Christmas I can’t wait to talk to you all!!!

Elder Clark

p.s.  I haven’t gotten the flat package yet but I think that it will get passed to me at the Zone Conference Thursday.

December 24, 2012

So first of all, Happy Birthday Mom and Emma!!  Man, you two are getting really old.

I had a really stressful week but it was good.  I attached a photo of the caroling (I found a cousin here in Brazil.  I call the blond kid in the picture “primo” or “cousin”).  We had the Christmas conference here and it was really great.  We got to play soccer which was fun but it took a few days for my muscles to stop hurting.  I got to see a lot of old companions and it was especially great to see Elder Gonzalez, who is a really good friend.  My soccer team was pretty good.  I was called to be a team captain and we took 2nd, only losing to the mission office team (they stacked the team).  I played keeper and made a goal as well.  I got a soccer jersey for a secret Santa gift and gave a moto taxi shirt to elder Souza (I was his secret Santa)  

We had to help some of the sisters in our zone because one of the new sisters had a grand mal seizure. So we went to the hospital that is really worthless, picked them up and took them to a private hospital that helped and took a MRI.  She was completely recovered when she was released from the hospital at 12:00 at night.  I had to pay for the taxi going to Belém and it was 80 reais.  So there goes my Christmas present.  But it was nice to help.

We had 4 baptisms this week: 3 little girls (Fernanda 9, Raynara 10, and Clivia 11 years old) and a 48 year old man Renê.  We helped Renê get married a few weeks ago.  We had 6 people in potential at the start of the week but one left town and the other didn’t pass the interview (needs a little more repenting to do).

That was a bit sad for us that our baptisms fell through, but we will continue to help them.  Our zone is having a lot of problems as well, but we are resolving them.

I will talk more Tuesday!!!

Love you guys!!!

December 31, 2012

Hey Dad,

It was really great to talk with the fam for Christmas.  I didn’t feel home sick afterwards, just a bit sad because I don’t think I said goodbye very well.  

We didn’t have very much success here this week getting people to church or baptizing but we had a few miracles.  The other day, Magno from Laranjeiras saw us and stopped to talk and that was really great. 
I’m sorry, but I am really short on time and will have to compensate by writing a long letter today.  

I think that I will buy running shoes for Elder Carvalho as a Christmas present so that we can run in the mornings (thanks, Grandparents).  I am also attaching pics from Christmas and an apple pie I made that was really delicious.  Oh dad, how do you make a pie crust? I just improvised and used margarine and flour, but it wasn’t perfect.

I love you guys and hope that the holidays are being spent well.  


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

3 Weeks of Letters & Ben gets transferred

November 19, 2012

Hey, Fam,

So, I have been thinking about what you said in your letter about the ward’s reluctance to set a goal for baptisms.  I would like to know how many convert baptisms the ward has had in the last few years.  In all my time in the ward I can remember only a few convert baptisms like Stephen Hoobler and there was a couple that was baptized and then went inactive.  Anyway on the mish we set goals depending on the circumstances in our area and our faith.  For example, for this month I had a goal to baptize 5 people and in my district we made a goal of 13.  So first of all we didn’t have 5 people in my area that would for sure be baptized but we had 5 people in mind.  But I am sure that there are people prepared in my area I just have to find them and do my part.  In the ward it would be a bit harder because of the culture (it's harder to find people)  but as a leader of the ward you should pray to see through the Lord’s eyes and comprehend the potential of the ward and our area in Moscow.  There are a lot of people that God is preparing.  We just need the faith to find them.  Clearly everyone has a choice to say yes or no but if we do our part God will bless us.  I believe that if I teach with the Spirit and do my part to the people I teach will have to choose between being sons of perdition or latter-day saints.  I believe that the majority of people are not rotten deep down so when we work hard, being a friend (teaching and serving them) they will accept baptism and stay active in the church.  So in the end, to make a good goal you need to understand the ward’s potential with the Lord’s eyes.

So this week we had the baptism of João-Paulo, 18 years old.  It was great.  I think it was the best baptism I have had during the mish.  There were a lot of members there, and a lot of the less actives and investigators we invited came!  I am doing a lot better with Elder S.  This morning we went running a close to the beach. There is a side walk and road that spans a big stretch of the beach here in Outeiro.  It is really great running in the morning, especially here.  It’s really calm and there are very few people on the beach in the mornings. The tide was out and there were a few men preparing small fishing boats on the beach.  Our apartment is really close to the beach.  We have transfers here next week and I am hoping that I get to stay here in Outeiro. 

Oh and I would like to say I’m sorry because it has been a long time sense I have written a paper letter to the fam.  It’s a bit hard for me because during the week I can’t write only on p-day and we don’t have a bank or post office in Outeiro, so I will talk with some other elders I’m my zone and see if they can send them for me.

I love you guys a lot.  And am missing the Christmas spirit that is in Moscow this time of year. 


Elder Clark

November 26, 2012
Hey, Mom,

 I just wanted to ask for some things specifically.  First, can you send about 4 pairs of dress socks (the kind that are a little thick but not winter socks) and I was wondering if you could send another pair of shoes to get me through the last few months of my mission?   I have destroyed 2 pairs of shoes (Merrill world Ramblers 8 1/2 wide). I really liked those shoes.  I am using the Doc Martins, but it looks like they will wear out fast.  If it’s going to be a chore to find shoes then tell me and I will just buy shoes here when my current options run out.  I don’t really have tons of options to buy shoes they sell good shoes here but the shoe stores that are good are hard to find or really far and hard to get to.  I did get a pair of construction boots from a member here that are ok to proselyte in but they are not good quality (my feet slip around in them and they would wear out socks really fast).  I have yet to find good socks here. The shoes I got from the member I can find for like 20 bucks

Hello everyone!
So I found out today that I will be transferred to Satelite and I have been called to be zone leader of the zone that I am serving in right now.  I think that will be interesting.  I have been feeling a bit down lately because things have not been going super well here.  I have been strengthening my companionship with Elder S., and that has been rewarding.  But the family we had prepared for baptism could not be baptized because the wife is sick with pneumonia.  She is in the hospital right now and the family is having a bunch of difficulties.  We worked really hard to get the help of the branch and funds to help our investigator pay for an exam but because of some bad things that members have done here in the past (being dishonest with church funds) the Branch President does not have the power to decide and he has to go through the Stake President to get permission to use fast offerings to help people.  So because of the system being slow, our investigator borrowed money from a loan shark that was sad to see.  One really nice thing happened this week though.  We have helped a less active family return to church and they are really excited about it.  They even brought us to friends of theirs to teach!!

News update: our rich investigator isn’t really rich, he is actually the grounds keeper for the rich guy.  It’s kind of hard to tell here in Brazil because generally no one uses a shirt so there is not much to distinguish the rich from the poor in terms of clothing most of the time.  Unfortunately Celho's wife is Catholic and doesn’t want to change religions (Celho really wants to, so I think she got a bit upset about that).  We will try to talk to her and help her feel more secure about us and what we teach.

Oh, this week we were invited to eat dinner with the Mission President for Thanksgiving.  That was cool, but I feel like some of the missionaries here would complain because he invited Americans that have more than one year on the mission and their companions. I felt a bit bad about that.  Oh, and I ate a whole lot and had to recuperate for a few days, I will have to repent for breaking my Word of Wisdom.

Well I’ve got to go pack for the transfer.

Thanks for the letters!

Elder Clark

December 3, 2012
So this week was good we had a baptism (Gilmara).  She is 12 and pretty shy, but I could tell that she was really happy to be baptized and confirmed.  I had an interesting experience teaching the Restoration with a young man in the ward.  We taught 4 children with some other member children after the Sacrament Meeting.  I decided that I still like children, but in that kind of group setting it’s a challenge.  I guess that’s why Sunday School teachers sometimes go inactive (just kidding).  We have a lot of young people here that have potential for baptism.  I think that’s great.  I really like working with youth because they are the future of the church.  They (at times) are harder to work with, but have so much potential. 

Our ward is really big and organized. I thought that was cool.  It’s similar to our ward at home.  I think it’s interesting here there are a lot of members of the middle class that live in our area but there are a lot of poor people that live here as well.

Satelite is part of Belém, about 30 minutes from Outeiro and an hour from the city center.  It is a conjunto, which is like a suburb that only has a few exits.  

My new companion is Elder Carvalho. He was my zone leader a few transfers back in Laranjeiras and for this last transfer.  He served in the Brazilian Air Force as an electrician and is 23 years old.  He is already engaged and his fiancé is in the MTC right now.  Elder C. has almost 1 year on the mission and was trained by Elder B. Anderson from Burly, Idaho who was trained by Elder R. Silva, my trainador.  So we are family.  He is the twin of Hayden.  It’s really funny -- when he gets frustrated, he acts just like Hayden did.  This transfer will be good.  We are working hard and I’m getting to know the area better. 

I hope all is well there and that your December is amazing.  

I think that we will go caroling and that I will play the harmonica for people.  

Oh hey dad can you send me a few Christmas recipes   like peanut brittle and chocolate covered toffee. And maybe sugar cookies.  Oh and a recipe for chocolate chip cookies.  I wanted to make some of these goodies and give them to members and investigators to help invite the Christmas spirit.  I think that I will have to work really hard to bring the Christmas cheer to Satelite because they don’t have snow, real Christmas trees and a lack of Christmas lights.

I love you guys; Dan and Emma don’t worry 3 weeks passes really fast!