Tuesday, December 29, 2009

December 29 - Christmas recap and picutres

Group of sisters

Hna Clark with Hna Ghan

Raking leaves

Fransisco's baptism


Hello family that I love and got to talk to on Friday! I am sorry I talked to much! I feel like I hardly heard what is going on with you besides the fact Costco was crazy at Christmas .... NYC is still in need of lawyers that are honest and speak Spanish ... Abby's dating BYU campus ... you know ... MACKENZIE'S HAVING ANOTHER BABY .... (i'm guessing it's going to be a boy!) .... It was so fun to hear your voices! It made the day a grand one!

Besides that we spent the morning at Sis. Houston's and ate delicious breakfast food and told stories, then relaxed! We saw lots of other missionaries at a member of the mission presidency's house for a brunch. We made plans for a dinner that night, which is a story to tell.

In Arizona there are BILLIONS of members. Missionaries are definitely WELL taken care of here. Well we were way excited for our Christmas morning, but to tell you the truth we didn't have plans for a Christmas dinner. We didn't really think anything of it until everyone the week of Christmas kept saying "I'm sure you have plans for Christmas" and we just kind of nod and say uhuh and wonder if anyone will really invite us over. For no reason did we feel we needed to fish for invitations. While contacting Bishops in our area (talk about that later), we were warmly welcomed by one, Bishop Shreeve, and they asked the question, "Do you have somehwere to go for Christmas." We did the usual nod and muttered something while walking out and stopped us and said "No really ... do you have somewhere to go ... because we'd love to have you." We burst out laughing after a few moments of silence admitting we didn't have any plans for the night of Christmas and gladly accepted the invitation. What I didn't mention was that when we drove up to their house we knew they'd be a fun family to talk to because they had a big sign saying WELCOME HOME ELDER SHREEVE. Their son was still in the mission home that night and was delayed from coming home until the 26th. They also have another son in the MTC right now ... they love missionaries! Anyway, so Christmas night we go and don't really know what to expect ... don't know them very well. Hna Ghan's mom had said something to the extent of "I hope people treat you well and give you as much love as we would on Christmas." That was definitely how we felt all of Christmas day, with Sis. Houston and with the Shreeves. We felt completely spoiled! By the end of the night we were driving home with a backseat full of food and treats and gifts! Anyway yeah, Christmas was a great day on the mission. We spent it with missionaries and members we love!

So today is transfers and I now have a new companion! Her name is Hna Nielson and she is from Michigan .... I wish I could tell you more ... but I only picked her up right before coming to the library! She's been out for 3 transfers and .... yeah! I'm excited! It'll be different but who doesn't like a little change?

Yesterday we saw the full extent and impact of Hna Ghan. She said goodbye to some conversos recentes and menos activos and we all just cried. She's been here for 6 months. She has been an angel for soooo many people here and it is daunting to think I'm the one they now know. Ay! Hna Ghan just has a way with so many people. Oh how I will miss her, as well as the ward!

This last week today we managed to contact all of the Bishops and the Stake President in the Mesa Central Stake. To meet them, tell them we are here, ask them how we can help, if they have any referrals. This will be SUCH a huge blessing eating in this stake from now on. I don't know if I already wrote about some of it but even just in the short while we've been eating in the stake we've received 3 referrals and we've eating Peruvian, Columbian, and tonight is Brazilian food! The Bishops though, have been an incredible wealth of knowledge and it is good to finally coordinate things with them. Most of them had no idea spanish speaking missionaries covered their area!

Man there is so much to write about this week!!! Fransisco got baptized! Wahoo! All of his neighbors (who we're teaching now ...) came as well as his brother and nephew. What a wonderful experience that was to see Fransisco take this step in his life! (picture attached)Now when we go to see Fransisco, we see his friend Carlow (who's real name is Raynaldo we found out this week ... don't ask) and his girlfriend Erin and their roommate Isadoro. All three of them are supposibly (is that a word?) moving but until then ... we are continuing to teach them. At this point it's like having a class. I think we've taught the specific message of the restoration 3 times for each one individually. They're enjoying it though and love asking questions and learning more!

Ok so I think that's all for this week. What an incredible last week with Hna Ghan! She was an amazing trainer! For an extra bonus last night her trainer (who was in AZ for her sisters wedding) came to see us, so I got to meet my grandma (lingo on the mission), Hna Lopez. She is a professional singer and so we listened to her music a lot so it was fun to hear/see her and put a face to this voice I always hear in the car!

New Years Eve (I think I told you this?) we're singing at the Christmas lights so I really excited for that! You would love the lights and the concerts every night!

Anyway, love you all. I am so appreciative of your letters and love and prayers! Missionary work certainly isn't easy but it is soooo rewarding! Wow how we see miracles in the Lord's work! I started the Book of Mormon again a week or two ago and how far have I gotten? Ohhhhh I think 6 verses. There is too much to cross reference and put together. This might take a while but I am loving it! The Book of Mormon really is truth! I love sharing the scripture Mormon 8:16 and how it will shine through the darkness! It is so true!!!! Love you love you! Now I'll send some pictures! Happy New Year!

Love always, Hermana Clark
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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

December 22 - Feliz Navidad!

these two boys are the sons of Fransisco (investigator ... baptism Saturday) and a recent convert, Armando, who is awesome! Their boys are hilarious and after this night they literally wouldn't let go because we had so much fun with them!!!

a small milk accident

The infamous 'trick' bike we've all heard so much about
not exactly your typical sister missionary bike


Today is our half Preparation Day so we can enjoy Christmas Day as well! My time today is shortened but I wanted to tell you about one thing.

Oh, but before that. We are going to a single mom's house for Christmas morning. By Christmas morning, I mean Christmas morning! We're going to her house around 6am! She has two really cute kids but they're going to be at their fathers house so we're bringing our presents, with the English sisters in the area, and all of us are having a Christmas morning together! Hna Ghan loves her and we've eaten at their house twice in the short month I've been here! And hopefully I'll have my voice back by Friday - as of right night I am just getting it back from losing it the past week (I guess I talk too much or something? Who would've thought .... as a missionary ....)

Anyway, we worked the Christmas lights again this week. Tonight is our last night working there. Everytime we have the opportunity to serve there, we talk about how people come and will be touched by the words we have to say. Specific people. We have been selected certain nights. It is all by inspiration. Anyway, most of the time that is referring to finding more people we can teach and who can enjoy the blessings of the gospel in their lives. This past Saturday though, for me, it had to do with a conversation with a man who was very familiar with the church.

He was walking by himself and I approached him and asked him if he'd been here before. He pointed to the temple and said he'd been sealed there 7 years ago to his wife. They now have 3 children. I asked him what blessings he's received in his life from having the opportunity to be sealed to his family. He began. He told me he'd be frank with me and that he had just been excommunicated from the church from his own actions and would probably be going through a divorce very shortly. He walked on the temple grounds and had to call his wife when he saw the temple again because of how sorry he was for all the grief he had and is causing her. His eyes told the pain that he was feeling in his life. They were piercing. He told me, as a missionary, to keep a journal. Remember the miracles, the feelings, the knowledge; review it often and prevent myself from letting Satan have any grasp on my thoughts, words, or actions. He continued to bear his soul to me of the grief and the consequences he had to deal with because he simply let in, little by little. After a few minutes of him expressing the pain and the complete mess he knew he'd made in his life, we spoke of the Atonement.

The Atonement being not simply something we think about on Sundays or near the holidays. But how it can be involved in our lives each and everyday. How it makes it possible for EVERY. SINGLE. PERSON. to become clean. I testified to him that through the Atonement we have hope in a better tomorrow. Clean. Is that not what we all seek? To be clean and free from nagging worries and impatience and unclean things that clutter our lives? We spoke of the word hope and how for him, he has to ask the question everyday, "is there really hope for me?" I felt the love that God has for this man and it was unmistakable. I promised him he could be forgiven if he continues to repent and becomes worthy of the blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ, once again. It is all in the timetable of the Lord though. It is not anywhere near easy and we must live with the consequences of our actions. We spoke of the first great commandment we are given to "love God with all our heart, might, mind, and strength" (or something like that). If we do that, we can be made clean through the power and grace of God.

Oh I do not know how to express these feelings I felt while speaking to this man except to say there is hope for each of us. No matter where we are in our relationship with God, there is hope for us through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Did I mention last week President Utchdorf's talk on Love from this last conference? Marvelous.

I loved hearing about caroling and all that! Fun fun fun! What a great time of the year this is! Thank you for your letters, pictures, love, and prayers. Fransisco is getting baptized this week and we are more excited than ever!

FELIZ NAVIDAD! Siempre, Hermana Clark

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

December 15 - pictures, funny bike story and christmas lights contacting

cleaning with Hermana Ghan

in her own words, "I dropped my camera and planner in the dumpster...need I say more?"
Nope, pretty sure the picture shows it all!

With Brittany Burby Barrett - they played lacrosse together at BYU


This week was incredible. We worked harder than ever and the Lord blessed us richly with the energy to keep going. We talked to literally every person we saw. That included stopping and talking to people we saw on the side of the road while driving. Sometimes that seems awkward but in reality it wasn't at all. People search for a message of hope and a sense of belonging. Knowing we are all children of God is something not everyone realizes.

Friday night and afternoon we rode bikes again. The nights here can get cold so we made sure to wear all of our warm clothes and clothes! I had a good laugh though when I pulled up to a red light next to a man on a really nice motorcycle. He didn't have a helmet, but had a hat and face mask with a skeleton on it. When I turned to him and saw his "face" I had to repeat in my head, "I am not afraid ... I am not afriad .... haha and somewhere within me I had the guts to turn to him and say, "my bike is almost as cool as yours." Hahahaha He responded very quickly, I think with a smile, saying "Almost." It made for a good laugh.

Ok now to the work. We ate dinner with a family this week named the Odoms. I must say, we eat dinner with the most incredible people. From young couples who just got married and are scraping by to families in mansions who have lots of stories of their kids and grandkids to single women who have 5 dogs and are more talented than anyone you've ever met before. Anyway, we LOVE the members here. In our ward and in our stake. Soooo we ate with this family and literally you walk in the door and love just hits you, HARD. Their Christmas decorations were up, my favorite ones: snowflakes. They had snowflakes hanging in all of their main rooms and they were beautiful! They had made them years ago and had continued adding to them every year until they had this many and not simply put them up every year now! We had a delicious dinner and talked about the mission field. Their son had just come back from his mission last week and the father teaches mission prep. We discussed one topic that we all decided was MUCHO IMPORTANTE in missionary work: LOVE. You must love the people. Granted, there are so many things to work on as a disciple of Christ, but as it says in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 "if ye have not charity, ye are nothing" (or something like that ....). It was so incredible to be with that family though and not only discuss the topic, but see that love in action. You could see how much they treasured their own family members, how much they loved their neighbor who had just moved who we had worked with a lot, how much their son loved his mission in Ghana, the list goes on. We are so blessed to get to know so many members here in Mesa and it certainly buoys us up and provides a support system for new members. Wow was I wrong in thinking as missionaries we would be uplifting the members; so many times it is their example and their experiences that provide tremendous examples of faith and miracles to us.

We worked the Christmas lights again and saw so many miracles. Ok I must make a comment. The first day I got here, we ate dinner with our new all the new missionaries and their companions. Elder Coffman, on of the APs, sat near Hna Ghan and I and we began talking about miracles. We left the conversation in a desire to notice the miracles everyday in missionary work. In our heads, we thought of simply meeting people who were ready to learn and live the gospel of Jesus Christ. O ye of little faith. Those these miracles certainly do happen, there are so many other miracles that happen everyday that when missed could make a day very bland. We began to notice these miracles everyday, such as someone being home when generally they are not, someone being receptive to learning more when before they hadn't been, knocking on someone's door that needed a friend, etc. The list could go on. We've noticed miracles all around us. The more we've noticed, we feel the more often they come.

Anyway, Christmas lights. I spoke with a couple who had found each other and couldn't be happier. He works for the airlines but has done a lot in the peace core and mission work in Africa. She works with the homeless and helping people get back on their feet. They were not members of the church but have great faith in the love that God has for all of his children and feel very fortunate to share what they have (time, talents, etc) with others. Though they have no interest in learning more about the gospel, I loved learning what instruments they've been in the hands of God. I ran into another woman who had just moved to Mesa from Michigan who was looking for a church to attend. I taught her about the First Vision and how because God loves us, He called a prophet to guide the church on this earth. She was intrigued and very believing in modern day revelation.

I must say, life is so different than it ever has been before. I am involved in something way beyond my capacity to understand, yet what I do understand I know is very beneficial to all of God's children.

I think I have said this before, but more than ever I am learning how we can be instruments in the hands of God. It is not us, it is the power of God. There are days you wonder if anyone knows you're there. Heck, yesterday, I talked .... haha by that I mean TRIED to talk to some people. Two people in a row completely ignored me. Didn't even look at me. My first thought was ... "am I invisible?" (The image of this on numerous movies flashed through my mind .... ) But then you run into someone whose eyes light up when you say something they desire in their life - more than anything. I am simply the messanger. It is humbling, yet overwhelming to recognize the great influence that God's love can have on others. One 17 year old completely changed his life. He was .... doing pretty much everything you could to get into trouble. He went to church one week, invited by his basketball coach, and felt this love that he wanted in his life, ALL THE TIME.

I don't know if you've noticed, but a lot of this week has been about love. Not sure why, but it has made a huge difference in the work. And one thing I have loved is it's not on focusing on loving the people, it's focusing on loving God (this is the first commandment, no?) and naturally we desire to be filled with His love to share that with others.

Ok that is the report for this week. Christmas is soon! The work in Mesa is moving forward, even if sometimes we wonder if it is.
Thank you for your letters and love! I am going to send some pictures now! I love you all and though I miss the first 21 years of my life, this is where the Lord needs me right now. It is a privilege to be serving.

Love, Hermana Clark

PS there is so much more I could write in here. Every night I come home and try to capture emotions/events that occured that day and it just is not possible.

Elder Walter F. Gonzalez came to our stake for stake conference and to begin his talk he called up the man who was his missionary. He confirmed him a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He didn't baptize one person, he baptized now thousands. And now Elder Gonzalez is in the Presidency of the 70. In the same theme of love ... President Utchdorf's talk in Conference and the scipture Isaiah 61:1. Ok bye . picture time
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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

December 8

Another week is Mesa! For living in Mesa, I would say it's actually getting pretty cold. Apparently the other day it was 40! Yay for cold weather! The past few days have actually been pretty cloudy (usually it's a perfect fall day with the sun shining) and it's been raining. One man we talked to called a soggy day so we've adopted that name too! Today is the first non-soggy day since maybe Friday!

First I'll start with Christmas lights. I think I mentioned it last week, but the Christmas lights are BEAUTIFUL here in Mesa. The Bishop yesterday told us it was the #1 place to go for Christmas decorations on a main TV station (we wouldn't know :) ) Anyway, we had the chance to go last Tuesday. We're way excited and all and meet with our zone and prepare and make goals. Then it hits me ... I have to talk to people and have real conversations in Spanish! And I won't have my companion next to me! I knew it would be that way but scary to think it was right then. So anyway, we're assigned a general area and just talk to people - in English and Spanish. Soooo I go and I get up the courage to start talking to a family. What do you know we start speaking in Spanish and they were not familiar with the church. I was able to share my testimony with them of the blessings and joy that had come into my life from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. They expressed interest in learning more and accepted missionaries to come into their home.  I was able to talk to 5 more people (actually mostly families) who wanted to know more. One man literally asked where can I go to your church? I really like it here. Another man expressed interest in coming back to the church. He'd been a foster child in his teens and joined the church while living with an LDS family but in the last year was being drawn back to the church. I challenged him to go to church this week and go and talk to the Bishop. Anyway, that evening was wonderful. It was a joy to share my testimony with so many people who were not busy doing other things but were there to see the lights. 

Because of the lights and so many people going each night we receive many referrals of people who want to learn more. We received maybe 10 this week and then go talk to these people. This week's miracle was that we were able to contact these people. Most of their addresses and phone numbers were wrong, yet somehow we were able to meet/talk on the phone and set up appointments to meet them and teach them more about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We've realized there are miracles in our lives each and everyday - there is no such thing as a coincidence.

Tuesdays are our preparation days.  Today we decided we wanted to do a little service project.  We lent our car to the Elders and took their bikes. We rode back our apartment and waited for them to go shopping. We waited ... and waited (we had our ways of knowing when they left) ... and finally .... we were able to go in their apartment and do some cleaning. We did our homework before and knew they had very ltitle cleaning supplies so our bike ride to their apartment included a bag of rags, cleaning stuff, a mop bucket, soap, and even a mop! Hahah it was quite a site seeing us on the bikes. Speaking of ... we had pictures but I forgot the cables. For next week then!

Que mas? WOW how did I forget. We had Zone Conference this week and were able to go to the Mesa Temple with President Bassett and his wife. One thing that really hit Hna Ghan and I was that it is Christmas everyday as a missionary because we give people hope in our Savior, Jesus Christ.  A lot was learned that day and it was great to be fed spiritually by President and Sister Bassett and the Holy Ghost. Oh what a grand day! After completing the session, Pre and Sis Bassett shook our hands as we came into the Celestial Room and I am pretty sure that is what heaven is going to be like. It was marvelous! What more could I say? The temple is majestic inside and is filled with so much history.

This week I've been reading the Book of Mormon, beginning with the Introduction.  I love the Book of Mormon. My love for it grows each and everyday. It is true! I am trying to read it and apply everything I read to either how I can better as well as how I can help others reach their full potential.

I love being a missionary! It is hard work. Oh man ... I am just forgetting so much today. PLUS. We didn't check mail for ... maybe a week ... and were surprised to find we had 3 packages!!!! I would imagine it was like seeing us as 5 year olds on Christmas morning, never having known what the traditions of Christmas and opening presents were. We were ... pretty excited .... to say the least. Our apartment now is decked out with snowflakes, calenders, tablecloths, a Christmas tree, and lights! Nevertheless, we are reminded of the reason we celebrate this holiday and turn to the Savior. HE LIVES! Like I said before, it's Christmas everyday as a missionary! Maybe not the opening presents everyday, but the "Christmas miracles" part that seem impossible yet occur when we have faith, pray, and are obedient to God's commandments. We're still counting on having a WHITE CHRISTMAS here in Mesa!

Anyway ... we need to run. If you wonder why I always address myself as "we" it is because Hna Ghan and I are a companionship. When something good happens to Hna Ghan, we celebrate. When I mess up and say a bad word in Spanish, we both laugh. We're in it together. Even when the chair broke one night this week, we burst out laughing. Tears strolling down MY face. Ok that differentiates us ... I cry more. Unless we're reading stories from the Ensign about Christmas miracles ... then we're both gonners. Balling.

As Grandma hoped for, "our digs are now decorated".  We are stoked for this holiday season! We continue to share the message of Jesus Christ with others. Love love love. Thank you for your prayers!

Love, Hermana Clark

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

December 1 - Temple Lights are Up!

Hermana Ghan, Fransisco, Carlos, and Hermana Clark at the Mesa Temple

Hola todos! Mesa is officially lit up by the temple lights that started the day after Thanksgiving! We get to go there once or twice a week from 6pm-10pm and talk to people and answer any questions and such. We live so close to the temple we are also able to go with some of our investigators! We have two investigators, named Fransisco and Carlos. They are both very excited to get baptized on December 26.  Carlos this week stunned us in telling us he got off work on Sunday and was able to come to church! We've been teaching them for a month and a half and this was the first time he was able to come!  The lights are stunning. It reminds me when we would go to the Washington DC temple and see the lights. As a child I didn't understand why I absolutely loved them so much. Now I understand it's because it was the feeling of the spirit while walking on the temple grounds.

We have another investigator named Fransisco who is a miracle. He has been diagnosed with a debilitating disease and is in his mid20s/early 30s.  He does not know how many days he has left and recognizes something he wants in the gospel of Jesus Christ. He can only be in his wheel chair for about 4 hours a day.  We taught him a very brief lesson this week and invited him to church. He was able to stay for 2 hours (half his entire time each day).  We are very excited to teach him more and see his life (this one and the next one) be blessed forever by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Oh, sorry about not saying where I am. I am serving IN MESA. My area is called the Liahona 4th East area. (We're in the Liahona 4th ward).  We cover a long skinny area mostly in the Mesa Central Stake. Most of our investigators/members are towards the very south of our area so we rarely go up north.  This week we did go to "our little town up north" that seems to be in the middle of nowhere, like its own little island. We knocked on some doors and very few people had any interest in hearing what we had to say. As a missionary, I definitely get to see the consequences (that word does not only mean bad) of God's gift of agency. It is one of the greatest gifts here on earth.

Most mornings we do our exercise in a cemetery and run around in circles. It is very interesting to be in a cemetery every morning right as the sun is coming up. Very humbling to realize how precious this life is and how important it is to tell those we love how much they mean to us. It's also nice to use the body that I have and get some exercise!

What else? Spanish ... is coming along. Working at the temple is fun becuase we are paired up with an English Sister so I talk to anyone who speaks Spanish!

Last night we made some study journals to help some recent converts write their feelings about what they read in the scriptures. It is fun to use whatever resources we have to help others in the ward.  The ward is great and very welcoming to a new Hermana who barely knows Spanish!

Que mas? We have many funny moments during the days. We were sitting with some former investigators in their home and had just eaten dinner with another family.  The food is delicious, though I do look forward to eating mexican food ... right now we're only with English speaking families. Anyway ... you never know how you're stomach is going to weather certain foods but what is put infront of us we eat (and love!) Anyway, we're sitting with this family and one of our stomachs rumbled. LOUD. The woman we were talking to started to get up from her seat and asked her husband "do you have something on the stove?" Oh man we laughed so hard after that! Hahaha It is so funny how the littlest things make us laugh and keep us entertained.

The work is hard and wonderful. I have been studying the conference talks and just loving them. We studied "Love and Law" by Elder Oaks last week and couldn't get enough of it. It applied to so many situations right now with investigators. Every night we go to bed exhausted. We are being given extra strength. It is a huge blessing.

Hna Ghan is such a great example to me! Oh ... Thanksgiving. We made sure to only have one dinner and it was plenty! Yummm! That morning we played ultimate and basketball and volleyball with lots of other missionaries. Fun to meet so many and play in the sun!

Last but not least I will tell you how we got here. Usually we drive, but the Elders were borrowing our car so we had their bikes. Hna Ghan's is ... a normal bike ... you know ... brakes, gears ... what not. The one I have is a trick bike. Pegs. And definitely no brakes. I'll take a picture for next week. Hilarious to ride, especially as a missionary.

Anyway, time is up. I love you all! I'm glad the family had a wonderful thanksgiving all together! Love love love! Thank you for your prayers and letters of encouragement!

Love always, Hermana Clark