Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Here are pictures of what I see almost every day. They blast music in the street... and the kids run out and just dance and dance their punta dances. It's sweet! It nearly kills me from stopping myself from jumping in. I'm learning such discipline on the mission. :)

Where has it gone?

....wasn't I just sitting here writing a letter... like... yesterday? Since when it did become a week later? What is happening with my sense of time?

I realized what is so familiar about this place. I feel like I’m living the play, “Our Town” almost every day. The streets.. the houses, stores, people… sometimes remind me of that era… but the quiet erriness… the daily rhythm… some parts of the culture… but especially.. the things I’m learning.. or the way I’m starting to view the world here, or, life in general… I can almost here Anna’s voice narrating the scenes that I see as we’re flying on our bikes. It’s… really weird, but really great at the same time. Part of this production that I’m living… is witnessing and participating steps in the progression of life. Like the picture that I sent last week… we got to be with Shawna- the sister that has is reactivating- the day she had her baby. It was so sweet and tender to teach her the plan of salvation in the hospital room with her new precious angel… hot and fresh out of the veil. We have had 2 baptisms… and have been able to see our brother and sister complete/ start a big part of their purpose in this life… and they were so tender. Then.. just in this last week.. we have played the piano at two funerals- a celebration of the continuation after this life.

One funeral was of a young man that had died of AIDS.. and the other was of a brother that I came to know even before I saw him- Brother Nicholas. As we’ve been visiting many many many members that were baptized in the 80’s and on… Brother Nicholas’ name has come up… A LOT. SO many people have told us.. “ Brother Nicholas taught me this..” or, “Brother Nicholas visited me all the time..” or, “Brother Nicholas was there for me when this happened…”…. And so on. His fingerprints… or, better said, little parts of his heart are strewn over this city… and though I’m new here… so quickly we have seen that… this Brother Nicholas made a real difference. Even before meeting him… I knew that he was a man of faith, and had truly been faithful to his baptismal and temple covenants TO THE END. I have been so touched by this stranger’s example of Christ-like service and teaching… and and true faith. I finally met him as he had come back from the hospital to die at home. As we sang hymns with him… he became the most conscious that he had been in weeks… and tried to hum “ High on a Mountain Top”. I came to respect, admire, love, and hope to emulate this great man even before meeting him. Sitting this with his BIG black hand in mine… I felt like I was someone from my own family that I had always known. His funeral was over 2 hours long.. and was beautiful. As I listened to so many differnet people speak, members and nonmembers, from so many different walks of life.. I started to understand that I had been misunderstanding this people… and that I lack so much understanding still. Yet… I learned that day that their natural man is so visibly exposed… because they’ve been rubbed so wrong and so hard for so many generations. They’re not just angry… they are PASSIONATE. Watching a woman in her beautiful african dress, nose ring, and dreds pulled on top of her head in bright fabric… ranting from the podium Krioel that I did not understand… peppered with colored words that I did not expect or want to hear…. I realized… that they just feel hard. It’s like… they have more emotion and passion than they know what or how to deal with it. They’re like children… easily provoked… but tender and vulnerable… and so sweet deep down. The death of Brother Nicholas woke a lot of people up. So many have said with such sweet confidence that he is in Spirit Paradise… and now we’re jumping into his family to try to help them do their part to be with him and his wife again. My love and appreciation for this perfect perfect PERFECT plan of Salvation just about exploded that rainy thursday afternoon.

Our sister Samantha was baptized on Saturday.. and it was a unique baptism. We joined with the Elders… and we had unfortunate miscomunications.. and when we got there just a little early.. we realized that the baptismal font hadn’t been started. So.. this pictures are of the investigators and I grabbing hoses and filling up buckets to try to fill the font faster. Haha… investigators filling their own baptismal font. I just had to remember to be thankful, as we waited for 2 hours.. that at least we weren’t having to break through ice. I hardly remember what ice is anymore.

Our experiences have been so sweet with Samantha.. and just last night we had a family home evening with Shawna and her… and Shawna gave the lesson… and it was SO SO SO great! Just remembering 1.5 months ago Shawna hardly talking, so depressed… frustrated, confused… wanting to give up…. Testifying to Samantha of the power of reading the scriptures… and the importance of them as single mothers of young boys to read the scriptures with their children EVERY DAY and prepare them for missions. It was SO SO SO beautiful.

I’m loving Belize.. and my mission all around. It’s taken so many turns and twists.. and I love it. I have been seeing the promise from President Hinckley when he said that the Book of Mormon would give strength to keep the commandments of God. As so many inactive people, new converts, and investigators have been truly diving into the scriptures… they have learned too to love the commandments… and are learning to keep them… and the windows of heaven are being opened and the blessings are being poured out. I love being a witness to it.

Sister Clark

P.S. Interesting note that I found in a phonebook – The main population of Belize consists of Creoles, Garifunas, Mestizos, Maya, english, mennonite, lebanses, chinese, eastern indians, and europeans. I love this place! I just sat with a man from Spain… and as he insisted that we shared his juice (he’d take a sip.. then insist that I take a sip… then he’d take another.. and make me take another… so against my religion…but I’ll probably live this time.)… he told me he believed in nothing. If he couldn’t see it.. he didn’t believe it existed. There is no God.. we end after this life… ect, ect. I just can’t believe that anyone believes that. I swear we have a deep down spiritual memory… and that everyone has to know deeeeeep down… that we are truly… children of God.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Same ole same ole amazing mission

How beautiful was Elder Clark's letter? He is changing and growing so much... it's like... I'm hearing the person I have always eternally known and loved... and I'm getting to meet him all over again as he is coming out again. Does that make any sense? Let's just say... that singing " Families Can Be Together Forever" has a whole new flavor and feeling to me.

It was a beatiful week. Not without mess ups... frustrations... dissapointment... but sprinkled.. or, soaked, with tender mercies and miracles. Our brother Dion was baptized this week. He is the x-brother-in-law of a sister, Desiree, that had been inactive for 15 years and is living with her. As we began visiting Desiree, we found Dion! Even before teaching him.. the first time I met him... I felt inspired to invite him to be baptized... like... as I was first shaking his hand. - and he said he would pray about it! He was so so so ready for the gospel... it was too easy. He has been studying the scriptures so dilligently EVERY day... and has totally left alcohol and lots of dark parts of his life... and has joyfully stepped into the light. He is so happy. In the process, Desiree has come back to church.. but I mean...she has COME BACK! She is on FIRE! She has totally left alcohol and smoking... and is reading the scriptures and working crazy hard to keep all the commandments. We just baptized her daughter too. They're so happy. In the process of working with them... we found her sister, Rose, who has also been in the traps of smoking and drinking and hardly wanted to see us the first time we visited 6 weeks ago. Yet... it doesn't bother us when people are a bit annoyed at first... we just... keep dropping by... more and more... and... we've started seeing miracles in our Rose. She and her two sisters were like Laman and Lamuel, when it says that they were "past feeling"... but the Lord truly guided us... and after 6 weeks of working with them.... They came this sunday.
We were talking with Rose yesterday... and she said she feels a huge change within herself. She said that as she was sitting in church... that she felt something SO good and SO powerful... and declared that she KNOWS this is the true church (after years of fighting against it...)... and that NOTHING will stop her now. She told her innactive daughters that came that they will start preparing their clothes on friday, and they will cook everything saturday... so that they can stay for all the classes... and that there will be NO excuse or reason not to go. I was in shock...but not that surprised. I know the Lord works miracles. To hear this once darkened and hardened woman say that... is a true miracle. We love them so much.
We are finding so many people...and they tell us... "it's so weird that you would come today... I just told my husband that I we should starting going back to church... do you think the Lord heard me?" ... and we yell, "YES!"

Sister Rodas and I have at least another change here... and we're so glad. Belize is becoming home more and more to me. My perspective is changing... and that is my own personal miracle.
Thank you family for your beautiful letters. I love you all.
Sister Clark

Friday, July 15, 2011

"Sniff" Only 7 more months

I can't believe it's writing time again. This mission is going way too fast. My heart broke a lot yesterday as my companion notified me it was my 11 month mark. I don't know how I'll handle next month. Yet... the beautiful thing about this experience is the little time we have to reflect on such harsh realities when there are a million more important tasks at hand.

It has been a sweet week. The Lord has been giving me so many painful, tender, humbling, wonderful, and perfect experiences to help me learn some really important lessons.... sometimes I feel like the slowest learner. Every day I realize a little better the incomprehensible patience that the Lord has...especially for me. As I see more and more how far I am from where He needs and wants me to be...the more I start to internalize how desperately I need His mercy every day...and how pathetically helpless I am without Him taking me by the hand.... every moment of every day. When we say we are Children of God...I am seeing myself more and more like that child... but too often in an obstinate, temperamental, and naive way. Like... our Father is trying to take our hand to help us cross the road to avoid danger... but we refuse to take His hand, or yank our hands out of His.. and run for the street... alone...with a blind determination to do it "our way". Oh how much better is His way.
He never makes us do anything. Yet... He continually invites us to do the Right thing... and receive eternal life. This transfer I've been noticing that just as there are TONS of invitations from Christ to come unto Him...that perhaps there are nearly as many to Return. I love and use so often 3 Nephi 9:13-14. What a merciful and forgiving invitation and plead from Christ...for us to return, repent, and be converted... so that He can do as He desires for us... which is... to heal us.
How can we refuse such an offer?

I am so grateful for this opportunity to carry this open invitation to the children of God in Belize. There is so much hurt here. We see it everywhere... every moment of every day. Such anger, selfishness, addiction, ignorance.... and it makes for a whole lot of pain. Every time we find more people that have not been keeping the commandments and their covenants...we are destined to witness the consequences of the child ripping their hand out of our Father's grip and running into the busy road alone.... they get hurt. I have had so many experiences like Alma when he goes to the Zoramites and finds the persecuted being so harshly humbled... but consequently receptive to the gospel and willing to repent. I hate to see all the heart breaking things that have happened... but the humility that they have... how readily they admit and accept that they are stuck and lost... and need help. Like in Alma 32:6...I behold them with joy...and get so excited to be able to testify to them... that it is not too late. Trying to help my brothers and sisters understand the Lord's unextinguishable love for them... has planted and nourished an ever growing love within myself for them. I see where and who they are right now... they tell me what they have far it's gone... and yet it somehow doesn't tarnish the view of the divine potential within them that God has blessed me to see. Hearing their frustration and self-loathing... their guilt and pain of sin... sometimes it's like I'm hearing and seeing myself in them. Studying the scriptures and the Atonement with them... has rejuvenated within myself that "brightness of hope"... and I have never been so happy in my life. I know that if the Lord has and can forgive me of my own pride and rebellion... there is not one soul in Belize that the He is not willing and anxious to forgive and heal. - as long as they complete the conditions of repentence... the power of the Redeemer is all for them.
We are seeing little changes everywhere...and the hand of the Lord is so evident. No... not everyone ran back to church this sunday... but many sauntered in eventually...and our excitement couldn't be greater. As these people are reading and feasting upon the words of Christ in the scriptures again... the "scales are falling from their eyes"... and they are starting to remember these precious truths that satan had spent years trying to erase. The power of the Lord is being manifest in them every day... and I feel so blessed to be a witness to it.
The Lord just keeps blessing more and more...I can't keep up with it! Just as I'm in the middle of counting them... he dumps on a new day full of tender mercies... and I loose track all over again. I just got news from the zone that we gave to the East mission... that after a tearful and very spiritual goodbye to Andrea Dias in Las Palmeras...Andrea read in Heleman 5 that the Spirit is a voice of perfect mildness... and the Spirit hit her... and she realized without question that she had her answer...and she was baptized the very next week!! She is now in the YW presidency and is helping with the open house of the temple! Jim was baptized, and David Sandoval was baptized and the rest of Sandoval is starting to go to church regularly and they're hoping for baptism soon too. This is definitely the highlight of my day. The Lord is so patient... and he truly does hear our prayers and fasts....and without doubt.. He answers them.
We are hearing news and stories of the heavens opening and the administering of angels and the miracles that are happening in El Salvador with the open house and preparations for the dedication of the temple. The missionaries are sprinting to keep up with all the referrals that they're receiving.... the Lord is doing His work. I love El Salvador... and He certainly does too.
The other day we were biking down the road.. and I heard, " hey! I want to hang out with you guys! " ... we are always haunted and taunted by creepers... so as I was going to ignore it... the Spirit hit me... and I hit my brakes. As we started talking to this man... he started to explain to us that he has a show on the biggest national radio station...and wants us to talk on it. Well... ok! So.. this monday we'll be on national radio...just... telling the whole country that the gospel has been restored!! This DJ even came to church on sunday... the Lord is doing his work.
We keep on finding new people to teach.. and we're working with the greatest elders to meet our baptizing and reactivating goals. I am really enjoying our zone. I feel so inspired and so much power in the strength of these young men... and humbled to work with them. We saw a serious miracle this sunday and had 18 investigators in church. Maybe many have seen that in their mission.. but that was a big first in mine. We are finding friends and families of these inactive families that are ready for the gospel. We'll have a baptism this week and next. The Lord is working His miracles.
The promises and blessing in D&C 109 are real. I see it more and more every day. I know I'm still blind to most of what the Lord has done and is doing... but I can hardly grasp and fathom all that I have seen thus far. Some day my eyes will adjust to such powerful light... I'm in the process.
Sista Clark

P.S. Banana...I love you so so so so so so so much.


Sorry dad for the delay and confusion. We do have our P-days on monday, but we plan to write on tuesdays because that's when we're together as a zone for our weekly meetings- and it takes some missionaries 3.5 hours to meet us, or other that are out on the islands and it just costs so much to take the boat in... so with many factors.. sometimes it doesn't always go as planned. Yet... I should usually be writing tuesdays.
Have I mentioned we have just gotten a new mission president? It was a sweet and emotional goodbye to President Lopez. It's ridiculous and so beautiful the relationship one develops with their President- the trust, respect, mild temor, and reverence that one quickly develops for these leaders called and inspired of God. The way they can read your souls, pierce the most dormant parts of you...and help you see the person that you want to and CAN become... it's surprisingly hard to let them go. Yet... it was so neat to meet our new President Cordon and his family... and feel all the same things- because now he has the exact same keys, authority, and power to lead the mission and receive revelation. President Cordon is also from Guatamala and served in the El Salvador mission. He started out in Miramonte like I did, and served in Santla Tecla too. He is very intellectual- speaks english, spanish, and mandarine- but most of all... he is very humble and driven. I am so excited to learn from him...but a little saddened that I may only see him a few more times.
I loved loved loved Joel's letter... and am determined to have the best family home evenings with nonmember families with him after the mission! woohoo!! I am still just relishing my assignment.. and as I explained it to President Cordon, he got really excited too and they're waiting to see our results to see if they'll start similar programs in other areas of need. I feel like, and hope and pray... that I will be given a lot more time here in Belize City. We are finding SO many people teach and so many needs... and we are teaching almost 40 lessons a week- and pushing to do more. The thing about Belize is that it's still so new to the gospel. There are cultural and economic factors that really fight and challenge the priesthood leadership... and I am amazed by the triumph of the few solid priesthood leaders here... and have so much hope in the future. My appreciation and understanding of the vitality of the priesthood has really grown. I have seen that despite the obstacles with the people here... that the capacity to have the priesthood is truly in the divine nature of every single man- that is their calling and duty to have it... and through the Atonement of Jesus Christ... they can become worthy and able to use it. I am learning so much from one of our branch presidents that can't read... but through his humility, diligence, and love of the Lord... is serving and leading the branch so wonderfully. I have met some the most mighty men... that are so humble and so meek.. they have no idea how great they are in my eyes. I have heard prayers of such great faith, intimacy, reverence, and awe with the Lord... that I feel like we can just close the meetings and leave just with that one prayer. They leaving me so deeply touched, emotional... and in greater realization of my own pride and inadequacies. They are teaching me every week what it truly means to be like a child and to come unto Christ. I am learning so much.
I know I'm supposed to be here. We have been having so many awesome experiences- people finding US on the street and saying, " Hey! I'm a member, but things have happened and I haven't been for a long time... and..." .... and we started teaching them... reminding them... and they're coming back. No... we won't break any baptizing records... but this is still defiantly soul saving work. As the church was being started here... many people recognized the truth, made the right choice... but the understanding of the gospel and the programs were so new and undeveloped... with the raging drugs, immorality, and violence here.... they got caught up again. It opens up such a perfect opportunity to truly dive into the importance, purpose, and application of the Atonement... and my appreciation for Jesus Christ as my Savior and advocate is really starting to develop. There is so much abut the Atonement that I don't know and so much real understanding that I lack...... but a surety of it's reality... I will never deny or forget. There are so many invitations from the Savior in the scriptures to "come unto Him"... and maybe just as many to "come back". We mess up all the time. We are nothing without Him. I love love love how it is put in Helaman 12- that even the dust is greater than us... because at least the dust obeys the Lord's command.... but we so often refuse to do so. As I have worked with teaching others about the commandments, the importance of obeying and turning our will to the Lord... I am feeling changes and miracles in myself... and realizing how far I personally have to go to really succeeding in this eternal principle.
I am totally with Joel on the home teaching and visiting teaching. I am so grateful for parents that showed the example of obedience to this commandment of God... and the love of service and of our brothers and sisters. I know that we will not be able become a Zion people....without diligence to these inspired programs. We are working on really teaching the members how to do it... as we're doing divisions and starting trainings to get these programs functioning. This church is so perfect... everything is so inspired.... and it all works... as long as we as the members don't get in the Lord's way. :)
Another focus we have been hitting hard with families... is celestial traditions. I love and we so a lot... the conference talk on having a "Christ-Centered Home". It helps me appreciate where I come from, understand the home I want to have... but also regret things that I have done to impede my family from always having a Christ-Centered Home. As we work with these families on having family prayer and scripture study every night and family home evening every week... I promise over and over again to my Heavenly Father not to become a hypocrite... and my excitement to establish these celestial traditions with my own family just takes off!!
Did I mention how awesome Sister Rodas is? She has helped me SO much with my spanish- she is an elementary school teacher and totally knows her grammar. Just to clarify mom... we still teach in spanish- it's about half 'n half- thank goodness. I really do understand and am understood better in spanish than their english here. It's a struggle sometimes. I've been having a random run of people asking me if I'm from Nicaragua, Honduras, Puerto Rico, and many guesses from El Salvador. It's totally the tan. haha... I love love love my latins. I feel so at home with them. Still trying to figure out Belizians... but love them so much all the same. They really are so special.

Welp... I love the mission. May never come home. Hope that's ok!
Hermana\Sista Clark