Saturday, October 23, 2010

Finally Here!

WOOHOOOO!!!! I am FINALLY here! No- really- I am!

After I wrote my graphic tale this last monday.... I went to my specialist- for the last time! I had been doing great, it looked great, felt great... and it was time to go. I went straight to my District President- and we made a plane ticket- my 6th or 7th..... haha... but it was FINAL and FOR REAL this time. (Salt Lake joked that they weren´t going to make it until I was physically at the airport that morning to ensure that it would be a done deal. )

I was SO SO SO SO excited. I was already basically packed... not that I had much to pack.... I said my goodbyes (it was definately bitter sweet parting from so many kindred Spirits from all around the world that I can assume I will not see again until the next life)- and I was off!!! When I got to the Dallas airport... wandered around lost for a while... looking for my terminal... and turned a corner- and knew I was at the right place. The waiting area was full of the most beautiful and wonderful El Salvadorian people- and I was ready to get to work! Hahaha.... I was even laughing at myself in the moment... but I laugh especially hard now (Not in embarrassment... but because I was a real life scene out of ¨The Best Two Years¨- just as my family had predicted)... because I was out of control! I sat by everyone... talked to everyone... totally unashamed of my ridiculously pathetic spanish- not caring that I sounded like a delayed five year old.... saying, "It´s my first time to El Salvador! Hi Hi Hi! How are you? Oh, WHY am I going? Let me tell YOU!!"- I was rejected many a time... but I did end up with 4 contacts and many new friends by the end. :)

I arrived in the airport... just totally on cloud nine- SO happy after 7 weeks of trying to leave the states..... to be finally right where the Lord has called me. It was so fantastic to be wandering around... moderately lost... unable to speak the language I was swimming (actually.. drowning is a more accurate term) in... in a 3rd world foriegn country... trying to find my bags... and having a completely euphorical, celestial, and blissful experience in my head!! So... I´m waiting for my lugage... waiting... waiting some more... about 20 minutes go by... everyone else from my flight is gone... and I have memorized every physical characteristic of the 2 bags left on the belt...-that are assuredly not mine. Yet... no one spoke english... and I no spanish... but... nonetheless! No worries! I am here- that´s all that mattered! I seriously did not care about my bag... haha.. but I assumed I would later. So... I started asking where it was... saying I couldn´t find it, asking for help... all in my silly spanish. They took my information and the President´s number and said they´d find it later. So... I walked (more like floated...) out and found the President´s assistants waiting for me.

We went straight to a stake center where they were having a big fireside with the area general authority Elder Martino. I was in HEAVEN. Afterwards... people were so kind and excited to meet me... and even their laughter at my spanish was sweet and understanding! :) I finally met President Lopez and his wife and they are the dearest. (sidenote: For some reason Provo didn´t call Prez Lopez about my hemmoraging and canceled plane ticket- so he waited for me at the airport for THREE HOURS) I had cake and hung out with Elder Martino and his wife, and President Lopez and his wife... and then we went back to the President´s house to find clothes for me. I just got my luggage today... so for the last 3 days... I´ve been wearing the clothes of Hermana Lopez and my companion- both little Guatamalan women! Somehow it worked though... and I didn´t care about anything- I was just SO green and SO SO SO EXCITED! hahaha My Mission President is a native Guatamalan... and he speaks some english... but spanish is easier... so even our first interview was in complete spanish- and it went... great? I was amazed that I could understand and respond to him... and we were talking about real things... goals, life experiences, family, purpose here... nursing... it was great!

Speaking of my companion.... I have 2. Sister Bush from Colorado and Sister Ramirez from Guatamala. I love them. We´ve been getting along great. I definately have the best of both worlds.. I get to listen to and talk with a native... and I have a gringo to translate and explain to me. Sister Bush speaks great spanish- she even started the MTC in the intermediate class... and she´s been here for 11 months. They´re so patient with me and my complications, spanish, and overwhelming zeal. They´ve been great. They just opened this area 3 weeks ago... so the people and the area is kind of new to them- but I am impressed by how much and well they know the people here and are in the loop.

I was so excited my first night... that I fell so in love with our nasty, sketchy, getto ¨casa¨ ( I don´t know what to call it. It´s not a house... not even an apartment... it.... a hole inbetween two other buildings... surrounded by barbedwire with hardly any amenities). My president was so apologetic that it was so sad... but I wouldn´t trade it. :) I was still on cloud nine the next morning... that the freezing shower was wonderfully refreshing, the shard of glass for a bathroom mirror was exactly what I wanted... The stale air of rotting trash was so sweet... .. even the cockroaches scurrying around and over my feet as I washed my clothes by hand had a sweet charm to them. :)

The buses are a dangerous and confusing experience for me... but such a great opportunity to contact. Granted... my contacts have not been the most effective... - even when I get them to write their address and number for us to visit them... the bus is so bumpy and loud... that I can neither hear them... nor read what they wrote later on. BUT- I´ll get it. :) It really is so different here... but nothing that is too shocking, scary, or disgusting. Granted, I am still on cloud nine- but I intend to never come down.

We had a zone conference with the General Authority Elder Martino- all in spanish. I think about 75% of the missionaries I met were natives... and I am SO impressed with them. They were so pure, radient, focused, kind, stalwart- wow. So... ALL morning... about 7 hours of talks and discussions- all in spanish. I CANNOT believe how much I understood. ONLY through the Holy Ghost could I understand what was going on, what was being said, and what was being taught. Wow wow wow. It is exhausting though. Working so hard for the Spirit, listening so hard to the Spirit, then listening intensly to the language, translating it in my mind, and then listening to the Spirit again to obtain the Spiritual langauge and message from it.... my little flabby brain was SO tired by the end- but very contenta.

We´ve been teaching lessons and contacting- visiting investigators, less active memebers, and new people. I´m usually lost. We´re in a corner of the city... and I just feel like we´re jumping on random buses.. hoping off... flying back on to another overcrowded, bumpy and noisy bus- full of children of God that need to hear the gospel. :) I am finding that one of the many gifts I need to pray for and work for... is not just the gift of tongues- but the gift of dicernment- especially with maps and directions. I still get lost in SPOKANE...and I would get lost all the time in Idaho FAlls and Rexburg....... I can and will get lost any and everywhere- and that´s in America with legible maps, road signs, stop lights, and a language I can understand. It´s hard for me to ever imagine myself being able to manuever myself around all of this chaos with confidence, clarity, and accuracy. - It´s such a crazy dream. Yet... I am doing more right now than is naturally possible... and I know that if I do my part of obeying and being dilligent... the Lord will surely complete me... and give me the power and gifts needed to complete and do His work for His children.

Wow... giving me more than 30 minutes on e-mail is not a good idea--- I write WAY TOO much. We can only e-mail our families and the President. Since I have to write the President in spanish... it didn´t take very long. :)

A few times I´ve gotten borderline frustrated and impatient that I am not able to express myself fully when I teach the gospel... but I am learning that it does not fully matter. Though I can only speak simply, humbly, blunt and true..... that is what is required. Truly, the gospel is simple, blunt, true, and understood and taught only by the humble. I will work SO hard to learn this language and teach in the fullness... but this is my greatest lesson this week, that:

The gospel is simple, blunt, and true. We have a loving Heavenly Father who has given us the opportunity to learn and grow in this life. We can return to Him after this life by following the example of His Son- Jesus Christ. We come to truly know our Savior Jesus Christ through the words of the Prophets in the Bible, Book of Mormon, and the Prophet today- Thomas S. Monson.

This is a message of simplicity, clarity, and soul penetrating truth.

-Hermana Clark

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

This should go after Yet another set Back , sorry operation error!

I am alive! I mean, like, SO ALIVE!!!

I have been on the mend for surgery... and I am so overwhelmed with gratitude and in awe of how FAST I am healing. The doctor estimated a 3-4 week recovery... but it has been a week and a half... and I am feeling SO good. I am still sore and am dependent on pain medication... but I can talk, and I have energy again, and I can see my scabs- and they look great. (When I say great... I mean, severely disgusting and disturbing, but medically encouraging!! :) )

As fortold by the doctor, days 4-6 after surgery are the worst. As the scabs develop... it gets tight and SO painful. Day 6 was definately my hardest. It started at 3:30am with a dreamsicle and a big dose of Lortab. I stayed in my residence hall ALL day and slept almost all day. Definately the hardest part of this whole experience has not been the pain, having to stay, or not being able to eat.... it is how useless I have been. As I was praying for patience.... I can see in SO many ways how this is my blessed opportunity to develop it. It is not a natural or easy priniciple for me to practice. (Those that know me the best don't need to be told...) On Day 6... I hit my lowest. I have waited my whole life to be a set apart missionary for the Lord... and I promised to work hard with everything I had with complete obedience and dilligence. As I layed in bed in partial conscience... I wondered.." what IN THE WORLD AM I DOING!? What kind of missionary am I sitting in bed all day!? WHAT?!" - So often I feel like Peter on the Sea of Galilee- everytime I seem to have big spurts of faith and make those miraculous steps on the water.... I allow my natural man to overcome me with doubts... and I sink. - I even started to question if I could speak any of the spanish I had obtained- if I would be worthy of the Gift of Tongues with my lack of recent dilligent study.
That night... as I was feeling better... I sauntered out into the hall to seek yet another popsicle. (I HATE HATE HATE popsicles by this point. This surgery has been more effective than gastro-bypass- since I eat less than they can eat after surgery. Popsicles are the most physically soothing to eat... but I swear... if I have to eat anything that is pure sugar anymore... ahh!!! ) I bumped into dear Sister Penaflores from Peru. I croaked out asking her how her day was and what her favorite part was in spanish. She was SO excited and happy and the events of her day and proceeded to enthusiastically splurt out all the exciting details of class, what they studied, what she learned and felt and wanted to do....... - ALL in Spanish and the FASTEST and most slurred spanish I have yet heard. (and I talk to A LOT of natives here) At first I was overwhelmed, but quickly said a prayer in my heart to understand.... and I did. I understood EVERY word of that rapid, slurred, girly enthusiastic and slang spanish monologue- like it was all english. THE ONLY way I can explain such an ability- is a very clear, tender, and powerful moment in which the Gift of Tongues was given to me. When she finished, smiling, and waiting for a response..... I started to cry. haha... she was so confused. I was humbled... and corrected from my lack of confidence in the Lord. I know that I needed to heal... and that I will be able to be an effective missionary despite my 2 days in bed. :)
I constantly reflect on my surgical experience- how the Lord knew that I had that abcess and guided me through the Holy Ghost to do the things that would help me be healed from it- despite the Doctor's current oblivion. Though this has been a situation of "physical" crisis... I have been spiritually edified and renenwed through it. I think about how I have "spiritual abcesses"- that only the Lord knows about. Like the one in my throat that prevented me from progressing in my physical travels to my next stage of my mission.. I have parts of my natural man or Spirit that hinder my spiritual progression. The Lord has helped guide me to find those abcesses.... and allow the Ultimate Surgeon- Jesus Christ apply the surgerical cure- the Atonement- to free me from these abcesses. (I hope this makes sense!) This experience with tonsilitis and this tonselectomy has helped me better understand and apply the Atonement in my life.
I feel like the Leper that has been healed. When he returned to Christ and thanked Him, Christ said, "go. Thy faith hath made thee whole". Though I have part of my body gone ( :) ), I feel so much more whole. Like the Apostle Bruce R. McConkie said, " All of the ten were cleansed of their affliction, but it is evident that one grateful recipient of the Lord's favor was blessed in a spiritual manor, perhaps being made whoe spiritually also". As I have tried to apply my little seed of faith throughout this experience... I testify that my spiritual healing has been the greatest miracle of all.

Thank you all for your prayers and faith on my behalf. I bear my witness that I have experienced the power of them everyday. I am undeniably healing VERY rapidly- and I know it because of the prayers, faith, power of the priesthood, and the Lord's mercy on me. Thank you. I meet with the Doctor again tomorrow- 10/12. He will give me the stay or go- but I had made him promise that if I wasn't bleeding to death by 2 weeks after- he'd let me go!! SO- I anticipate leaving to El Salvador by the end of this week!!! Thursday, friday, or saturday!!!!! WOOHOOOO! THIS IS REAL LIFE!!!!!!!

I have so much more to tell about the Sister from Jordan and other tender miracles and mercy here... but those tangents are for another time!!!

Love you all! Next time I write- I'll be in El Salvador!!1
-Hermana Clark

Yet another set back

!!!!!WARNING: This episode may contain graphic material. Viewer descretion advised!!!!!!!!

Hahaha.... I really don't even know how to start this letter... now that I vaguely recall how I ended the last one... something about... "next time I write- I'll be in El Salvador!" - ya... umm... despite my previous aspirations.... the idiosyncratic drama and complications of my life... continue. I swear- if I don't stop praying for patience- I may NEVER get out of here!

I spent all week saying my goodbyes... relishing my last moments at the MTC... saying stuff like, "This is my last fantastic devotional... "- and such. Until... wedensday afternoon when I randomly had a few mouthfuls of blood. I ignored it... knowing very well where it came from... but knowing even better the consequences of bringing attention to it: ANOTHER canceled plane ticket. Then... I remembered what I had been praying for: to have the humility and patience to let my body heal... and to listen to the guidance of the Spirit to know how to best take care of it. Ignoring bleeding did not seem to fit into those intents... SO... I went to our little health clinic... snuck in the back... and had the nurse peek at it since she had a better angle. We both agreed that it had mostly stopped bleeding... and I was ok. So... I continued on my way!
Then later... in class... as we started to pray.... I started to swallow- a lot. I realized what was going on... and my stomach sunk. I really struggled not to continually question: "WHY? WHY?"- but... I grabbed some Elders... and we went back to the clinic- this time to see the doctor. I started getting nausious from swallowing the blood and was SO nervous to vomit and rip everything open and get an immediate ticket to the OR. Yet... once the doctor saw me... the bleeding was slowing down... and as he went to call my specialist who had done my surgery... he said something about the ER. "Nope. NO NO NO ER!!" I thought. :) So... I snuck into the freezers and started stacking ice cubes and downing a popsicle to vasoconstrict to stop the bleeding. Dr. Brown popped around the door and said, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?"- I felt like a guilty little child that snuck into the cookies in the middle of the night as I turned around like a dog with it's tail between it's legs knowing it's in trouble and said.... " umm... vasoconstricting?"- and he said, "DON'T EAT ANYTHING in case you go to surgery". grrr..... So I went to the ER... and by then I really wasn't bleeding anymore... and the doctor had the brilliant idea... "suck on ice, drink cold things... maybe a popsicle? That'll help you vasoconstrict." Fantastic idea! So... I left.
Three hours later at 9 at night... I was up in the residence hall with a sister that was sick and had gone to bed early. It was so nice and quiet and I was enjoying reading the scriptures in such tranquility.... when I started swallowing- A LOT. " NO NO NO NO"... so... I grabbed the ice and started chewing as fast as I could... but I couldn't deny it- I was bleeding bad. I ran to the sink... and started POURING blood. I was very very angry. :( The sister I was watching CANNOT handle blood. (She came with me to my surgery and we had to lay her down and get her sugar when she saw me get a finger prick- she did not need to see me hemmoraging.) But... I didn't know of anyone else on the floor. I covered my mouth and darted to my room- grabbed a huge cup... and starting opening doors- just praying to find someone- anyone. 15 or so doors later... I found a room with 3 brand-new sisters unpacking. I covered my mouth (so as to not shock anyone) and said, feeling very guilty for the fright I was about to give someone on their already stressful first day... "sisters... I sorry.. I know it's your first day *spit into the cup*...... who here can handle blood?" - and a sweet and confused sister tentitively raised her hand and I gestered her out. I was standing over the sink POURING out blood and trying to explain that I was seriously ok and that she needed to use the phone to tell the front desk to get a car ready to take us to the ER. (If I had seen myself with not previous knowledge... I would have seriously thought that I was having esophogeal varices and about to die.) Sister Hyde- bless her heart- was a champ.
My specialist came and we decided to try to suction out my blood clot... hemorrage again... and see where the bleeding was coming from so that he could try to cauterize me with silver nitrate- and if that didn't work and we couldn't stop the bleeding... go straight into another surgery. I was so glad I had take a Lortab before all this... because it was super awkward having suction and being burned. I was so blessed though- I cannot deny that the Spirit was so strong as sister Hyde and I prayed that I this could work and surgery wouldn't be necessary. I meditated and prayed the whole time- having no sedative during such an awkward procedure. He almost didn't get it... and it would be another few hours until the OR opened up- and I was still bleeding. He kept burning... and it started to slow down... and I prayed harder and harder... and the bleeding stopped. I stayed another few hours to make sure I didn't open up again. We returned at 2:00am.

Needless to say... I did not leave to El Salvador on Friday. This has truly been a week of temptation. I have been severely tempted to be frustrated, ungrateful, and impatient. I wish I could say that I dominated satan every time he tried to tempt me... but I cannot honestly say that I have been victor every time. Yet... I cannot deny that I have been SO blessed with big surges of the spirit... and I can honestly say that right now... I am SO grateful to be here and that this happened in America. I KNOW the Lord is watching out for me and that as promised- I WILL teach the people of El Salvador the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Saturday night... my favorite room full of 6 latino sisters from all over south and central america... called me in to their room. We knelt in a circle... and they told me that they were starting a fast for me. I had fasted the day before and didn't think it wise to do it again... and I was SO humbled. They went around the circle and offered up the most faithful, pure, humble, and spanish prayers that I could ever imagine- on my behalf. I am SO grateful for those sisters. They are SO Christ-like and have touched me in many ways. Yesterday... knowing that I had the power of their faith behind me- I packed. I am packed and ready to go. My district prez and my mission prez and I tentatively planned for Tuesday- tomorrow. I am going to the doctor this afternoon to see what he says. I KNOW I am leaving to El Salvador. I feel just as Paul said in Romans 1:15-16:
" For as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the Gospel of Christ. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ"

No... my spanish is not yet sufficient... and I will be so awkward traveling alone.... and I do not know all..... but if it is the Lord's will that I leave tomorrow or sometime this week.... every thing within me is ready to go and trying to leave. I need more patience... and the Lord has granted more than I have ever had before... but I am DYING to teach real people the true plan of happiness.

Thank you all for your prayers and faith during my journey here. Please believe me when I testify that I have felt them every single day here. I know this has been what I needed to go through... and I am so thankful for such beautiful opportunities to come unto Christ.

Love you all!
Hermana Clark

Getting Closer to Elsalvador!

Hola mi familia y amigos!!!

It's been almost 2 weeks since I've been off the antibiotics... and no tonsilitis!! WOOHOOO!!! Hopefully I am cured and it will no longer be a factor. Even if that is not the reason why I stayed.... I can see many possible reasons I was supposed to stay here... and have experienced many blessings. (I'm sorry if my letters are cliche missionary sermons.... I really don't know what else to write! As Alma said, "this is my life, my light, my joy and salvation"- I have nothing else to talk about- and I LOVE it!! )

I have been feeling better and better about leaving in a week. Sometimes the reality of cutting my language study 2.5 weeks shorter than the training that everyone else gets... gives me a jolt of nerves.... but then I am reminded of the scripture in Doctrine and Covenants 67:10 that talks about fear and pride. My fear comes from my pride- relying on myself and my own abilities. No- I CANNOT naturally speak spanish right now... but I am gradually learning to trust in the Lord... and have faith that I will be able to be a competent productive missionary in the field as long as I am obedient. ....but too often my pride creeps back in.... and I fear.

Sometimes I feel like I could jump on the plane TODAY... but when I look around as see all the beauties of this little compound... I know that I will miss many things about it. The missionaries here are SO inspiring. I meet people from all over the world- like just yesterday I met an Elder from Ecuador going to serve spanish speaking in Salt Lake Utah, and Elder from Brazil going to serve in Japan, a sister from Honduras going to serve in Arizona, Sisters from Russia going to serve in Russia..... - it is SO fun. Relief Society meetings (the meetings for all the women) are unbelievable. We get to hear from lots of people. Last week Sister Dalton, the president of the Young Women's Organization spoke to us. During her talk, she started saying the young women's theme... and one by one... sisters rose up and joined with her. Pretty soon there were nearly 500 sisters saying " We are daughters of a loving Heavenly Father, who loves us and we love Him. We will stand as witnesses of God at all times, in all things, in all places..." in many languages. I could see and hear the YW theme being said in Portuguese, spanish, english, indonesian, Korean, Japanese, Ukrainian, Russian, tagolog, and bulgarian. The spirit was SO powerful. The prophecy of the gospel being brought to all the corners of the earth was so tangibly manifested in that room at that moment. WOAH.

In relief society, we always have a convert sister share her story of how she found the gospel. This week, a bulgarian sister going to serve in Sweden gave an incredible story. She told of being raised in a good and strong Christian home, and going to school in Germany. She came back to her apartment one day and these elders were meeting with her roommate. She could barely speak German, and the Elders didn't speak that well anyways... and though she had never heard of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and was VERY skeptical... she could somehow understand everything they said. She said that she had NEVER spoke german that well as she did when she was talking about the gospel with them. She resisted... but the missionaries found her a Bulgarian Book of Mormon... and she started to study. She went to a fireside and the Apostle Elder Jeffrey R. Holland spoke- in english. She hardly knew any english- but she testified that at that meeting she could understand EVERYTHING Elder Holland said. She bore such a powerful witness of the Gift of Tongues and the reality of Holy Ghost in our lives. It was AWESOME.

Of course, I've been thinking a lot about the Gift of Tongues... as that is a huge quest in my life. My old roommate that was going to temple square told me an AWESOME story a while ago that has really stuck with me. The sisters visited Temple Square for a day to practice what they had been learning. My roommate, Sister Moore, was teamed up with a sister from Sweden. The sister had learned english here... and when they had started their day in prayer... This sister prayed for the gift of tongues. At that moment, sister Moore was confused... because this sister seemed totally competent in English now. Later on in the day... they were walking and saw a family from Guatamala... and this Swedish Sister said, "let's go talk to them." - and Sister Moore was like, "well... let's get the spanish speaking sisters..."- but the Swedish sister kept walking. She went right up to them and started speaking to them in...... spanish. This sister was from Sweden... English was her only other language.... but she felt, obeyed, and trusted in the Lord and was able to speak in SPANISH!! WOAH!!!

All insecurities aside... I am anxious to get out of here and get teaching. Even just meeting someone in the airport and being able to testify of Christ... gives me the chills. I am SO anxious to meet the people of El Salvador that I already love. I cannot wait to tell them of their ancestors- that they had prophets in their land... their ancestors knew of Christ... and that He did truly visit them after He was resurrected!!! I can't keep it to myself that our Loving Heavenly Father reveals all things to a living prophet TODAY... and that this joy and happiness can be given to EVERYONE.

I love love love being a missionary. I LOVE the peace and comfort of knowing that the Lord truly has guided me to be here right now and continually sustains me and can, has, and will, make all things possible.

Love you all!!!

-Hermana Clark