Tuesday, April 27, 2010

2 in 1 (April 27 and April 20)

 Bueno! This week was super wierd and we didn't have any day that was a "normal" one, whatever normal means anymore. Zone Development, a split preparation day, temple, exchanges, etc. Muy loco!

This week a state law passed in Arizona saying that the police will ask for identification and if they are illegal ... they'll get deported. Ok I don't know exactly the legalities of it (trying to stay away from it as a missionary .....) but something to that extent. People are honestly ... very frightened about it. The truth of the matter though, is that it is the same law the nation has ... now just in the state. The state, really, just wants to scare people. They're trying to make it harder and harder to send illegal kids to school here. Ay. I still don't know what to think about all this. We ate at a families house (who we absolutely just LOVE!) and they are in full support of it. It was the very next day we went to PEC and for an hour we talked about the ley and what to do in the branch. Wow it was so cool to see the leaders in our branch discuss this (half are from Mexico or South America, half are American, I don't think any of them are illegal but I'm not quite sure). It pretty much came down to the fact that we need to, more than ever, keep the commandments of God and we know we will be happy. Whatever happens ... be worthy of the Lord's blessings. We are going to prepare and be faithful. It was all said out of love and the spirit was there. I was glad we were in that meeting. In Sacrament, the Stake President came and got up there and just said, "we cannot be angry. We must pray from our leaders, pray for our enemies, and be faithful." WOW. The night before he'd had a dream of a family in the branch (a very active family) but said they'd lost the light in their eyes.  He was completely devastated having that dream.
He did not want to see that happen! Neither do we! Very powerful and spiritual Sunday.  God will provide and protect us.

We went by Juan Ferrer's home yesterday because he did not come to church with his 4 children. We talked to him (by that I mean he talked to us .....) for an hour and a half. He is ONLY in the United States for his 4 children.  He just got custody of them 4 days a week a month ago, and now his exwife wants to move to Oregon ... next week. AYYY. Juan has no friends here, he has no money, now he's going to lose his kids too? Does he follow them to Oregon? Oh my this man has so much he has to deal with from decisions from others.  He has lost a lot of faith and hope. Why me? Why this? Why me? Oh my heart just broke listening to him.  For the moment, I really didn't like being a sister missionary and I wanted to be a 50 or 60 year old man and help him see through this.  But ... I am a sister missionary. Oh how much grief! He wants to be with his children! He really wants to be with all of his children ... all over the world ... but he can't be. Before a month ago, he hadn't seen his children (the ones here) for over a year because his exwife didn't want them to see him. Oh my goodness. Prayer is about the only thing we can do for him.  It is a shame he works pretty much every night ... because it really limits the people in the branch who can be his friend. Everyone in this world needs a friend. We are his friends and yet he knows we don't really understand what we are going through. We are not fathers who have lost their children, whether they live somewhere else in the world, or have died. Oh my! That is exactly, why we are representatives of Jesus Christ. I asked myself what He would have done standing there listening to a grown man just weep and desire more than anything to be with his children, in a family. We cried with him. We listened.  We prayed. We pray for him. I have faith our God will provide and give him the strength and paz he needs.

We were referred to some Jehovah's Witnesses this week (the Elder's couldn't understand what he was saying in spanish .... ). They were quite pleasant but wanted to see what our stance was on some things. As the man began to bring up some things and in a way, attack us, I had the distinct impression, "do not be worried, they will be confounded."  We stood there and bore testimony and declared that we have a living prophet on the earth and the only way a man can know that is by asking God with a humble heart.  We were there for quite a bit.  I knew to keep a smile on my face.  Quite interesting, especially that we had the whole thing in Spanish. I certainly understanding more than ever!

Last week we heard of the young women activity of stake volleyball. We have two young women (actually 3 but 2 in one family) who we're teaching and they were super excited to hear we were playing volleyball.  We went to their house, they found a ride, and we went. Well we got to the park (baseball/softball/volleyball, surrounded by 2 iglesias, there's Arizona for you :)  ) and called the YW president about 3 times saying "donde estan?" Turns out we were in the wrong place. Their ride had dropped them off and we cannot drive investigators ... so ... problem.  There were softball/soccer/volleyball activities going on. Classic youth night! So I walked up to a random group of women who were just watching and asked if one of them could give us a ride to another park just 5 minutes away. Boy do I love nice people! We got a ride, played volleyball! Life was good! Our team, because we're joined with an english ward, had a billion people on our team and so it was just kind of a bunch of girls. Plus .... it's YW so it was a bunch of screaming and trying not to get hit by the ball (that was mean ... but it was just a lot of girls, hard to play real volleyball).  Hna Nielsen and I though were ready to play and to help Jenni and Melissa play we tried to get involved. One time the ball went to Hna Nielsen and she bumped it and I spiked it over and the girls on our team just looked at us like "who is that??" That's the beauty of a nametag. Anyone in the church loves a missionary. It was fun to play with them. One time Hna Nielsen served it and just scared them all. She played volleyball before and loves it! We tried to play .... pretty mellow. :) Melissa though LOVED the activity. Even Jenni knew a lot of the people who were there! Wahoo! Success! Yay for helping young women! Before this activity, both were pretty shy and wouldn't ever talk. Things are slowly changing! :) This week we're hoping to bring them to a baptism in the Liahona 4th ward and to a missionary fireside to help them see the huge blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

This morning we went hiking to Camelback mountain! We met at 530 and it took us an hour to get up the mountain! It was a HIKE. Reminded me a lot of life and the life of a missionary. So many times I looked up at this giant hill or huge boulders/rocks and just asked myself how the heck am I going to get up that? Some parts even had an iron rod to help you make your way up. I was glad for that :) Great to think about though and just realize we're somewhere along the path and there's always going to be bumps and bruises along the way, but all is well. Keep going forward! Eternal perspective! Anyway, we made it to the top and it was an incredible view! Panoramic view of ... lots of Arizona! Beautiful!

That was this week! Last week of the transfer! I .... really hope and pray I'm not transferred! I want to stay here with Hermana Nielsen and in this area! So many great things happening!!!!

Mother's day in 2 weeks! Or 1? Not sure. LOVE BYE

(LAST WEEK'S LETTER - do you think she likes her mission president??!!??)

Ayyy so many things to say each week! I'll start with yesterday and go backwards .... or try. We'll see.

We had interviews yesterday with President. As opposed to other transfers (that word just flows off the tip of my tongue now ... before I'd always start with semester ....), I walked into President office wondering what we were going to talk about. Oh man I just LOVE President Bassett! Where do I begin? We talked a lot about unity. We're focusing on this a lot this transfer.  Zone Conference was all about sacrifice/law of consecration and unity with the Lord, our companion.  Hna Nielsen and I have an incredible way of working together that has taught me a LOT about unity. I think before the mission, I thought unity was a lot of 50/50 in all aspects. Ummmm yes I was completely wrong! There are so many aspects of missionary work that unity simply means both of you are on the same page and moving forward in the work. That could mean one of you is a little more apt for doing a certain area of the work, and the other has other strengths. President talked about how important it is to compare ourselves with others (not in the Relief Society, I'm so bad and you are so great ..... you know what I mean way) and not let it become competitive, but rather look at their strengths and find out how they are so successful. Especially in missionary work, it's somewhat easier to do that in terms of numbers ... you had a lot of baptisms, you had a lot of investigators at church .... etc. Anyway, with a companion (mission or in marriage) you work together to accomplish your goals and do everything you can in your power, with them, to accomplish it and cross the "finish line" together. Unity, having hearts knit together. Sacrificing or consecrating our wants and needs for what God wants, which hopefully is what our companion wants.

We talked about other things but I can't remember them right now. I couldn't hold back just smiling! Oh President is just amazing! I can't even imagine what it would be like to do interviews for 5 hours a day for a week straight. Then the next week is interviews for missionaries going home, sending them off, and getting a whole new batch of missionaries that day to interview and excite for the next year and a half or two years of their life!

When I think of interviews I imagine talking to God. I can pray and literally talk to God and receive answers through various ways every single day. On days of interviews, I keep praying, and I can speak to and hear counsel from President Bassett, a representative of Him. It's quite wonderful. He answers my prayers.  I guess if I wasn't a missionary it's like the Bishop/Branch President if you were seeking counsel.  "We believe that man must be called of God by authority to preach the gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof." President Bassett has been called and ordained by God!

Well .... I start every paragraph with a W ..... So just like I love President Bassett, Sister Bassett is right there with him! She helped us in a training with our district yesterday and we were teaching in Spanish! She taught in Spanish as well! Wahoo Sister Bassett! While watching her teach and testify, it made me wonder why I've ever been afraid to teach in Spanish. All that is required is the Spirit. Her words were deliberate and slow (She's learning Spanish! Didn't know it before the mission! I can't imagine she gets to practice all that often), but boy did they bring the Spirit! After our meeting we talked a bit and she is just wonderful! Ay! You can't help but walk away smiling after talking to Sister Bassett!

The two of them together have decided to dedicate their lives of the Lord and will do whatever He asks. I think of them and you, mom and dad, in particular, as the answer to why the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is continuing to be build and will not be stopped (besides the fact in D&C it says it won't be stopped).  More and more are joining the ranks of doing the Lord's work on the earth.  These times really aren't that different than in the days of the pioneers. Whether we're called on full-time missions or are serving in our wards/branches/stakes -> it's all to build the kingdom of God on the earth and help prepare for the Second Coming.

Can you tell we went to the temple this morning? Oh wow I cannot even say how much I gained from the temple this morning. I've never felt more alive, in terms of my mind, as this morning. Hna Nielsen and I didn't want to leave the Celestial room! It was more beautiful than ever! Oh how wonderful to be able to go to the Lord's house while living here on earth. Escape from so much .... grime and grossness!

Now that there is only 6 minutes left .... Marta and her daughter, Melissa, came to church this week! WAHOO! And they want to come back next week! Oh man I have never been so excited to see someone at church! We've been teaching them for about 2 months and every week they say, "we'll be there" and something comes up. We have sooooo much work right now and are being blessed! People are coming out of the wood works and we're just amazed at how people are progressing! We're trying to focus on the needs of the investigators (I guess we always are ....) but it seems to be changing how we're doing things. We contacted another Easter Pageant referral that just ..... there is something different about them (that is said in a really really good way).  They were very receptive to us and excited for us to come back.

Yesterday we had an appointment fall through with someone we're trying to teach and so we went to a few homes of people we're always trying to teach. We talked to a lot of kids.  Literally in each of them, I saw that light of Christ. It is kind of sad to then meet their parents and see they've lost some of that. Really neat to meet these kids though and be able to envision them being so receptive to the Restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Whether now or down the road, they will learn of their divine heritage as a child of God and what He wants for each of us!

Last week we had a zone activity and we played softball! Lamanites vs Nephites. Naturally, I was on the Lamanite team! One of the innings I pitched and one of them ended up coming straight back to me. My reflexes are not quite like they used to be ..... or maybe I've just always been slow, but I got pegged right below my collar bone. Nothing happened, I just got hit, but most of them thought I'd been hit in the face.  I have to tell you my first thought though. Whenever you watch movies of something scary happening, they always put you into the mind of the main character and you hear their first thought, words of desperation, usually. I had one of those experiences and it made me so happy because guess what .... UNA PALABRA EN ESPANOL! Mi pecho ..... mi pecho. (My chest .... my chest). It hit pretty hard and it hurt. When I heard complete silence, after mi pecho, all I could think of was, I'm fine! I even did a little thumbs up to them. Game was suspended for a little bit. The cool things as well was it actually hit my nametag! Kind of a John Taylor experience ... except I wasn't shot at and saved from death (good thing!). Quite funny. Only left a little bruise, hardly noticeable. Mi pecho and the nametag made it pretty memorable!

This is the work of the Lord! WOAH! Each day I come home and give an accounting to the Lord through prayer and ask for strength for tomorrow. I love being a missionary! I love my God! It is He who I will glory in!

Thank you for the prayers and love and letters and pictures! I love each of you! Love always, Hermana Clark

(picture of Liz with Sister Bassett)

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

April 13

Another week in the mission!

I got sick .... from something this week and had a pleasant time throwing up one night this week. The next day I felt more weak than ever but knew we had to go out to work. The Elders in our area came over and gave me a blessing and it was amazing how it is simple act of faith of asking for a blessing, along with the will of God, that we were able to go out and work all day without any problems.

We had Zone Conference this week and I wish I had recorded President Bassett speaking to us.  We spoke about sacrifice. Something that I know I've wanted to understand more.  For me, his words boiled down to this: IT IS A PRIVILEGE TO SACRIFICE BECAUSE WE GET TO KNOW OUR GOD. There was a quote from a man named Benjamin ... something. an incredible violin player who sacrificed his violin to serve a mission. He says: "The greatest decision I ever made was to give up something I dearly loved to the God I loved even more....  He has never forgotten me for it."  Oh it was incredible. President went through a long list of scriptures linking together the eternal law of sacrifice to Jesus Christ's sacrifice to coming to know the Savior. That quote from Elder Maxwell about sacrificing the animal within us.  Allow our hearts to change. It will hurt, but it will be molded by the Savior, personally. WOW. This week Hna Nielsen and I talked a lot about being representatives of the Savior ... always.

A few weeks about we had a lesson with an investigator that ... wasn't a lesson but rather they were mad about something and upset/frustrated. I struggled to understand what was really going on and was doubting what in the world we (especially I) could say not understand the situation and all.  I remember sitting there though and realizing I am a representative of the Savior. I asked myself, what would He do, sitting here, instead of me. At that moment a story from the Bible popped in my head and I read her the Savior's words to a woman in another situation. I don't remember what that story even is, and I don't know how our investigator took it, but I know in that moment, that is what the Savior would've said.

I have been thinking of that and desiring to say His words much more. Not saying any of my repeated spanish phrases or what we've always said in the past. It's brought a lot of new teaching and new lessons.  I've seen my companion, Hermana Nielsen, teach with God's power. I've seen us teach with that power. WOW. This work is real and by no means is it ours. It is the Lord's.

La familia Sanchez works a lot and we are struggling to get enough time with them, but we will see. The kids are way excited and we're hoping to get more members in their home to get the parents to recognize what a blessing it is to grab the Iron Rod and not let go.

Sunday was fast/testimony week. I was thinking about conference and how a lot was about families. Many times, especially after dinner with members, we will share 2 Nephi 25:26 about teaching your children about Christ. I had a thought Sunday.  As parents, we teach our children (obviously I am not....) the best we can.  As missionaries, we are teaching children of God who's earthy parents didn't know about these truths. They taught them what they knew, very very good things. We are just filling in the gaps. I realized on Sunday that parents are SOOO CRUCIAL and as missionaries (well ... the church ... teachers) we are just filling in the gaps for maybe those that didn't have parents who taught them this. This led me to think how important it is for those parents to keep up the missionary work in their own homes. It is crucial, vital! Way to go mothers and fathers!

Ayer, we taught our investigator fransisca and her 2 kids and her sister and her 6 kids! We made an iron rod out of tape and they thought it was fun. I hope they learned ... something. I need to work on being a better teacher! I have a long way to go ... with adults and especially children! Ay!

Love you all! Thank you for your prayers and helping this work move forward wherever you are! Love always, Hermana Clark

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

April 6

This week, just like last week, was crazy and hilarious and filled with many many miracles. I don't even know where to begin! Last night Hermana Nielsen and I thought of these letters we're writing now and just LAUGHED .... CRYING. We had so many funny things happen this week.

Case in point. We went to a members home (wonderful, love her to death!) to eat who's in our branch. She made a delicious meal: chicken cordon blue .... I don't remember how to say it in spanish. Well she dished it and put lots of cuzcuz to the side and then a salad. We start eating and my companion is kind of eyeing me and then she asks, "tiene un microwave?" My first thought is .... we haven't been sitting here this long ..... she's so rude! She just told Hermana her food isn't hot enough! Well then I put the two together ... a microwave cooks the food. Her food was NOT done .... at all. Oh my gosh, we hope she didn't catch on that's why she wanted to use a microwave. Hermana Nielsen had this look of (how I interpreted it) .... I am a missionary so I will not get sick ... but just to be safe .... I really don't want to be eating all this pink stuff that should be white. I was so close to losing it so many times while at the dinner table. Having a big picture of freshly squeezed lemonade inbetween Hermana and I helped :)

Anyway, just one example. I need to tell you the Walmart story too. That was the MOST AWKWARD MOMENT ON MY MISSION. It's never good when someone (a man ...) walks up to you and asks "Are you married?" More ... later but today I'm going to run out.

We contacted a referral from the Easter Pageant and they are GOLDEN. Tuesday I woke up, sort of still dreaming, and remembered I had a dream we were teaching a family. We were teaching them very powerfully .... something I've really wondered how to do while in Spanish (where is my faith?) All I could think of Tuesday morning was "we need to find them!" I don't know if this is who I had a dream about, but it was the next day we taught them and WOW we have never taught a lesson like that.  As missionaries we have authority and power. We receive authority when we're set apart but we don't have power unless we are worthy of it (I don't know how to explain that really well right now).  We hardly got to teach them because we were getting to know them but what we did teach was prayer. When we said "cruzamos nuestros brazos" ALL 4 OF THEM PROMPTLY FOLDED THEIR ARMS, out of excitement! I had never seen anything like it! They had family that joined in the branch next to ours who grabbed the gospel and have never looked back. We are excited! Renato and Juana and their kids, Denisse and Renato. We went to teach them again and brought a recent convert, Cecy and it turns out Cecy's daughter, Dianna, is in Denisse classes at school and Denisse was more than excited to find this out. Anyway, they haven't found a church they like here, but you can tell they are THIRSTING for the gospel. Unfortunately this Easter weekend was crazy for them but we are super excited to teach them and introduce them to the gospel. Ohhhhh boy some people are prepared and ready! And a family! We went home and didn't know how to control our GOZO!

We watched all of Conference in spanish! Fun but I know I didn't understand everything. Oh the Spirit was strong though. Watching it in spanish reminded me of how the most important thing is to listen to the whisperings of the Spirit.  An overall thing I got from it, especially Sunday morning, was "I'm Trying to be Like Jesus" as the Primary song says it. He is "the way, the truth, the light, no man cometh unto the Father but by Him" (or however that scripture says it exactly). 

One more funny story. The Brysons (we live with them!) went to Conference so we had a mansion to ourselves for the weekend! Ralphy - the dog, got a hold of one of my dryer sheets and was chewing on it. Well, we saw that and so we tried to get him away from it .... in the end .... Hermana Nielsen got bit! Big puncture wound on her middle finger in 3 places! Blood! Ok so it wasn't completely horrible, but ayyyy! Kind of scary! Only continues the fear Hermana Nielsen has of dogs. Not completely, but enough. Something about missionary just breeds fear in the dogs. Everytime we walk in the trailers it's a choir of dogs barking ... kind of like my 5th grade special community band thing I went to. The director would say we're going to play something special for our parents (at the end of our practice one night) so then he'd direct us and we'd all play any note we'd like as loud as we could ..... it was quite .... ugly!

Ok that's all the time today! Zone Conference tomorrow! We have incredible leaders in the mission from President and Sister Bassett to our Zone Leaders to District Leader to my amazing companion, Hermana Nielsen! We are so blessed!

Thank you for the love, the prayers, and the faith! Happy Easter (I forgot to write about that....)! LOVE LOVE LOVE Love always, Hermana Clark