Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Flour Game

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Like Elder Clark said.... "What a week!" We just heard that we are staying together in Belize City with the same assignment for another change! I think I will end my mission here working with inactives... and I think I would just loooove that. Though people aren't making the instant changes that pray and would hope that they would make... we are seeing daily tender mercies that keep us running (pedaling?) every day.
I added pictures of the Smith family. We were visiting a sister, and she told us of the Smith family down the road that hadn't been to church in.... far too long. We get so excited with such "references"- because for us right now- they are as golden as new investigators! We went to the door... to be greeted by a very unhappy women and an immediate, "no. Nope. No no no. I do not have time for this, I do not want you here, I am not ready for this. Nope". I said a quick prayer... and opened my mouth... and as we talked a little more... she continued to hard... and we had no idea why... but by the end.. she softened a bit, and agreed to think about talking to us in 2 weeks. We left her our number (totally assuming she would burn it afterwards…) and told her to please call us if she ever needed help. We returned 2 weeks later, and she wouldn’t answer the door. We kept praying for her… and passed by many times… with no success. Then.. weeks later… we received a phonecall… from Sister Smith. When she said who it was.. I saw the heavens open… and I tried not to start dancing and shouting! She asked us to visit them the following night. These are pictures of the sweet FHE that we had- and we played the classic flour game. Turns out that this family is INCREDIBLE- that they still have testimonies, but Sister Smith is frustrated because she only has every 7th Sunday off of work… so she packed up the scriptures and put them away. They are such a beautiful family and I have fallen in love.

The family that I had told about before with the 6 beautiful and hungry children and tormented parents… continues keep us running. The father came back… and the mother took off. The father is so broken and hurt…and started talking about doing things that one should never think of… and it was scaring us. We starting leaving him BIG BIG BIG reading assignments… since he doesn’t have work or anything to do… we’ve been leaving him to absorb himself in the scriptures. We have seen such changes in him. I love the scriptures SO much. He finally came to church this Sunday- after months of praying, working, and fasting. I love fasting. I KNOW it works. Sunday was a huge triumph with him and a number of people that came back on Sunday.

Last P-day we had a zone activity and went to the ruins of Lamoni. It was SO neat to the see the work of the posterity of the Lamanites. I feel like I personally know the people in the scriptures… and I was living the dream out there. I added pictures of the Mennonites in their buggies. We passed through their land to get out there. It was in the jungle, so Morgan, I took clips and pictures of the howling monkeys we saw. You would have LOVED it. We saw other tourists and took the opportunity to teach them about the people of the Lamanites and explain to them how important such sites are to us. They were all very interested in the Book of Mormon. I love being a missionary.

I could go on forever more... but time is short and I still need to file nursing stuff. Hardly anyone came to church this last sunday- only the forever devoted ones (I put in a picture of beautiful Brother Wallace Bellgrave- he is a celestial man and deserves a whole seperate letter with what I could rant about him and all that he's taught me)- and our baptismal dates and the ones that are starting to return to church. It was frustrating, because we taught the most lessons in the whole zone, and of my whole mission- we ran ran ran and had so many great lessons and saw progress...... and then I just learn more and more about... hope. I hope to make a difference here. I imagine I'll have another 6 months... so I've been doing a lot of reflecting of how much I need to change and what more I can give to these wonderful people here. Oh how much I love this time of my life. How continually precious it is to me.
Love you all!
Sister Clark

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Oh boy how I love this place.

I suddenly noticed that my planner is heading towards the last few pages... which brings me to the cold and painful realization.. that ANOTHER transfer has nearly flown and ended... and it just getting out of control.

It has been a total roller coaster-week... and I, as usual, have so many mixed feelings and thoughts.. that have been stewing and blending in my mind... and might come out a little.... mixed. Belize is such a beautiful place, so unique in SO many ways... the kind of place that no one will understand until has personally and fully experienced it- no matter the attempts I make to paint it out... the colors are too vibrant, exotic, and bizarre to fully capture in any way besides one's personal eyes. I feel like serving here as a missionary has only 2 possible and strong effects. It can complete smash one's testimony.... or it can build it to be unbreakable and eternal. I feel like every day... my experiences are carving my heart.. sometimes I wonder if the carver is applying a little too much pressure, that the tender heart might be penetrated too hard and break.... but I have faith that in the end... through the expertise of the Carver's hand... that as long as I make my heart available to His work... it will eventually become the masterpiece He had initially imagined and intended to make.

We watched the dedication of the temple in El Salvador, and I have so much to try to say about it... but... even in the little chapel in Belize... I felt a taste of the temple. It's true as they explain, that in the broadcasting of this sacred ceremony, that the chapel becomes an extension of the temple. I can testify of that. I wept with such relief to feel the familiar security and warm of the temple... like we had our own oasis of Heaven here. It was so beautiful. I think sometimes the missionaries here are a little tempted to feel a little alone, or that they're carrying a huge load. Like the Elders that serve on the far out islands or as branch presidents in other areas of Belize... because the church is still so new here.. and Satan's presence is so strong. He's becoming more and more obvious and dummy to me... and doesn't strike me with fear.. but with a big tweak of frustration to see his deceitful and relentless work with the leadership here. He is constantly busy. We are so busy too, trying to do clean-up work, and build up the "fortifications" stronger. It reminds me of the hurricanes here... but that's another theme. Anyways... to be able to participate in the dedication yesterday what just what this weak little missionary needed. It was just as an angel was telling Sister Clark personally," lift up your head, be of good cheer, turn back, and get to work!!" It refined and broadened my perspective, and was such a tender mercy to me at this time when so much is happening here.

We were blessed to watch the big cultural celebration on saturday night and then the 3 dedication sessions. I fell in love with the people of El Salvador all over again. Oh how I loved them. Watching these youth in their costumes, performing the dances that they had labored for about a year to organize and perfect... I saw a big part of my heart in that stadium on the big screen. These people are so happy, and SO grateful for their temple. The dances they performed told their history, starting from the Lamanites to today. Watching the light beaming from their faces, the happy tears they shed, and the joy they expressed in their dance... the words of the prophecy of Doctrine and Covenants 49 floated in from my memory, that the Lamanites would "blossom like a rose in the desert"... and we are so clearly seeing that revelation coming to pass. They are such a chosen people. Listening to the promises completed and more given to them in the dedication, I could almost feel and hear my good friends Mormon, Moroni, Nephi, and Enos... who had all so fervently prayed that these people would again come to the fullness of truth and would again be a "delightsome people"- I know they were rejoicing and celebrating with us to see so clearly the completion of the promises God made to them because of their faith and prayers on behalf of their people. They truly are once again, a delightsome people... and will continue and blossom and grow more than we can imagine right now.

There are so many things that have happened this week that would just be too hard to try to explain... and I feel like prophets when they say, "I was going to write more.. but..." .... so we'll just leave it there. :) I love this gospel so much. It truly is my life. Not just because I'm a missionary... but it has become who I will always be. I realize every day how much I needed to be out here... and I just hope and try to give even it everything- even if it's just a fragment in comparison of what I have ultimately received.

I love you all! Thanks for all your support and good work over there!
Sister Clark

They were playing baseball with sticks and a flat basket ball.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Time? I know not of what you speak of!

What? Another week has flown by...AGAIN? Wha' happened?

Someday I will write a letter in Kreole. I'm still trying to learn. Someone tried to teach me.. and told me not to form any consonants, and then to just not think before I spoke. Ya... I'll keep practicing. People just think I'm from England and always tell me what a funky accent I have. haha.

We have had such a great week. What week in this last year has not had contained something ridiculously great and beautiful? Ya.. the mission is hard.. but it is out of control sweet. I love what I get to do every day. ....will I ever get tired of declaring that? :) This week I was was dancing behind the piano to see the big Usher family come in. They're a huge inactive family... and when we finally found them... Brother Usher was drunk, smoking... the wife wasn't talking to him, the kids were happy to see us, but had such sadness in their eyes... and it was a rough sight. We've been working so hard with them.. trying to help Brother Usher understand the Atonement (he, like so many people say, "I'm just not worthy to go back to church yet." - oh that gets me going! We shouldn't wait to loose weight before going to the gym, right?) and get everyone excited again.... and they came this week! They were SO happy... and though the fight isn't over... we definitely won this round against satan this week. Also, one of our past and fallen branch presidents came to church this week- after almost 2 months of working with him.... he came. HE CAME! It's been so wonderful to work with him... these kind of men.. when they let satan in just a little in their lives... it's more destructive than these famous hurricanes here. This brother had fallen into some hard things- being a sea captain and out in sea for weeks with a dark dark social atmosphere... made it so so so hard. I have learned so much with working with him... trying to help him believe in, understand, and apply the Atonement in his life... has brought so much personal healing in my own. We are starting to see true fruits of repentance with him... and sunday was a joyous occasion.

The Lord has continued to put people in our path... and our prayerful pleas are repeatedly answered. We were lost the other day.. and we heard, "Hermanas!!" .... and to our surprise we found a man with crutches calling out to us from the other side of the road. He was one of THE FIRST baptisms in Belize in 1982, and was the first branch president of one of the branches here. Many tragic things happened to him that were out of his control... but the depression influenced him into a big and dangerous fall... and he's one of the most broken men.. I have ever seen. He still remembers his covenants, knows and truly believes the doctrine..... and hardly lives any of it... and it has brought him nothing but misery. Also living with him is member that too still has a testimony... and the both want to return.. but are in such a weakened state from years of sin. I am so grateful for the cleansing, purifying, and edifying power of the Atonement in my own life... that has helped me enter these homes with such confidence and surety that no matter how far one has fallen...that the Atonement can reach way down there. I continually ponder Christ's order to His disciples to "cast into the deep"- and I feel like that applies perfectly to what we are doing here... every single day. We are seeing so clearly the results of sincere repentance... and the sweet joys of when one has been truly forgiven..and the healing and hope it brings to the lives of these families.

The young women of the spanish branch have been working and saving their "shillings" for months and months to be able to go to the Guatamala temple- 9 hours away- to do baptisms for the dead. Many adults went for their first time... and sunday all that had gone shared their testimonies. It reminded me of when the Jaredites finally made it to land, and they fell to the ground and wept with joy and gratitude. I feel like Belize is so much like what it may have been like crammed in and tossed about in those tiny little boats- with the temptations, depression, poverty, anger... you name it- it's here. - So... the experiences that these saints had in going to this heaven on earth- was like when the Jaredites hit land- they were finally safe, comfortable...and most of all... in the place the Lord had prepared for them. The gratitude and overwhelming joy that these sweet members tried to express on sunday was so touching..and it made me homesick- but for the temple. I love love love teaching these temple preparation classes- I would LOVE to have this calling after my mission. Though it's almost been a year since I've been in that sacred place... my understanding, appreciation, and love has blossomed. Sometimes I think about how if I were still El Salvador I'd have taken investigators to the open house... we'd be participating in the cultural celebration and the dedication... but I hardly affects me.. because I am constantly reminded that HERE is where my Heavenly Father wants me- and it's far more important to me to prepare these families to get there.. than that I be there myself right now. We will watch the dedication of the El Salvador temple this sunday... and I am SO SO SO stoked- for myself, but especially the members and recent converts here. We're counting the days! :)

Having hit my one year mark has brought a lot of reflection of the incredible year the Lord has blessed me with. I really couldn't dream of anything better. I am excited for the next 6 months. I feel like I've grown, experienced, and changed so much in the last 6 months... I'm so anxious to see what the next 6 bring.. and what I can bring to them. I got a call from El Salvador yesterday.. giving me the option of ending my mission the transfer before, since my 18 months ends in the middle of a change. I burst out laughing... and nothing more to say but, "What kind of question is that?". :) I will be staying. I love this work. There's no possible way to describe it. I think the closest is what Nephi said when he stated that God had filled him with such love even to the "consuming of my flesh". - I often feel like that.
- Sister Clark

Sunday, August 14, 2011

I Love My Mission!

What a difficult and delightfully blissful week. Can my life always have such a balance?

We had so many tender mercies and saw such huge miracles this week.... I am so overwhelmed with gratitude.. I don't even know where to begin. I think I'm the most excited to talk about how about 30 people came back to church this sunday! It all started on entering the chapel and finding a guy that has been inactive for like, 8 years that we have been having mildly frustrating visits with... who has been so hard, stubborn, difficult to understand, and impossible to focus.. and the unthinkable dream... happened- he came. He even bore his testimony in fast and testimony meeting... I, for one of the few times in my life, was totally speechless. woah. Three huge families came- ALL of the members of this families... like.. the parents got up, got them ready, and they all came and loved it!! It was so satisfying peeking out at the congregation from behind the piano... and seeing these families that we have been visiting and working with for months.... sitting so cozy and happy together on the pews... I even giggled with delight to see Brother Nolberto with his arm around his wife... just after he had told us days ago that there was no hope for her of coming back.. she was just too hard. Hope is so understated in the world today. It is not an idealistic, outdated, or oblivious state of mind..... with faith in the Lord... it is perfectly logical and valid... and I received a million more reasons on sunday.. to be filled with a "brightness of hope". Happy happy happy.

With that hope, must come the patience. I am trying to take more personally the commandment that the Lord gave the sons of Mosiah, to be patient in their difficulties with Lamanites... and to keep showing them for good examples.. and He promises them they'll be the means of bring salvation to them. Being here... has really helped me understand the way the Lamanites are described in the Book of Mormon... because the culture here is so eroded with such vile fast traditions. Just as the Sons of Mosiah went out to change such traditions... we are learning that that is a big part of our role here... is help incorporate celestial traditions into the culture. It's not easy... but cultivating my personal faith has blossomed within me an inextinguishable hope that carries me everyday. I am trying to keep the ultimate vision of actual wards in Belize...return missionaries...strong families in the gospel... a Stake... then multiple stakes... and a temple. Sometimes it's tempting to question if these little sprouts will bring forth fruit when the ground is so dry and lacking in nutrition... but I love the commandment in Jacob 5:22 when the Lord says, "Counsel me not; I knew that it was a poor spot of ground... I have nourished it this long time, and though beholdest that it hath brought for much fruit." I didn't realize how much this hope had grown within me until President Cordon and Sister Cordon came again this week... but this time to really get to know Belize. We took Sister Cordon to meet the families... and she was really shocked and deeply touched by the incredibly difficult situations here. Seeing her so overcome.. made me question if I had become more than acclimated to these circumstances... that maybe I had become... hardened. I had to really analyze myself... and I realized that I wasn't in emotional shambles every day because I don't see or feel the reality around me... but because the Lord has heard my cries... and has truly given me the hope and ability to endure these things that we hear and see every day. I am so grateful for the changes in vision and enlargening of heart and soul that He gives me every day. I know that I could not do this every day without the miraculous interventions that he has had within me.

Earlier this week... we were riding along... and struck with the impression to change plans and visit a sister that has been reactivated and has been doing so well... that we still visit.... but had no logical reason to race to her home that night... more than just.. a clear inspiration. We got there... and felt to teach her the Word of Wisdom... though I mentally assumed there was no problem. Her mother started texting us at 5 in the morning the next day... telling us that she had been praying all day yesterday that we would come... but we had no appointment and her phone didn't work at that time to call us. She said that there were big temptations coming for her daughter...with the Word of Wisdom... and that every time we have come over to their house.. we have taught just the thing that she had been wanting her daughter to hear. It was such a beautiful reminder that this is the Lord's work for HIS children. He knows their needs. I am SO grateful for the Holy Ghost. We would be so useless without it.

Something difficult that we face every day that I don't think I've mentioned... is racism. I didn't think it would be so big... but it really is. Many don't want to talk to me...because I'm white. Many yell things out in the street... and we often hear that it's the "white people's church"... but our investigators have been puzzled and said, "woah... almost everyone is black in here"- well ya- we're in BELIZE! I didn't really understand or know what racism was before my mission... and know I know it better and understand it less. I echo the declaration of Nephi in 2 Nephi 26:33, that God invites ALL to come unto Him and partake of his goodness, and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female." I know that is not remotely racist... so why would people think it's ok that we would be?

I have been thinking a lot about children. They flock to us. They LOVE us. I have been thinking about how... they are THE FIRST ones in the family to recognize that we are sent by their Heavenly Father. As I have been pondering this... replaying so many sweet moments and conversations I've had with these children...... seeing their faces and eyes in my mind... the way they look at us...I realized..... maybe they're not just communicating with us... they're connecting and associating with our guardian angels that they can see and only I can feel.

I love you all. Love this work... and I love my Saviour. Let's try to be a little, or, a LOT more like Him this week!
Sister Clark

Thanks for the Birthday Wishes!

Thank you so much for the birthday wishes!! They totally made me smile, and even tear up a bit. I have such beautiful people in my life. Thank you!!

A family that we've been focusing on, the "Anderson Family", we shall call them... has totally taken my heart... and left with a few broken fragments. I love this family so so so so so much. One night, a few weeks ago... our plan A, B, C, D-Y had fallen through.... and as we driving down the road... we saw my dear Brother Wallace- a big strong dark humble kind charitable old man in the ward that I have become every so fond of- on his bike in the middle of the road. I stopped him and felt inspired to ask him who he knew that was inactive that we could visit. He got very serious... and said, " I know just the people you need to meet. FOLLOW ME."... and he took us to the broken home... of the "Anderson Family". Of Brother "Anderson" that was once upon a time a sad soul totally lost in the streets, drowning in drugs and immorality... until two sisters found him in an alleyway... and he accepted the gospel... and married a sister in the church... and had 6 BEAUTIFUL children- the oldest being only 9 years old. In the course of 9 years... Sister "Anderson" decided to stop going to church... and started doing many many things that one needn't do... and over time Brother Anderson also stopped loosing steam... and they fell apart from there. The lack of happiness, hope, or even feeling with that man and woman... was astounding. The children are so pure, sweet, and innocent... but have been cruely forced to grow up faster than any 9, 8,7....year olds should. The patience and preserverence of these children astound me. The economic situation is so dificult... with only the mother working... and so much of the income going to activities that are opposite of beneficial to the children... it's been difficult. We've been working with giving Brother Anderson the courage to come back to church... since he claimed to have the desire. He began reading the book of Mormon again... and we even had the mother listening to us. I wanted so badly for them to come to church this sunday... so so so so badly... we visited them saturday night with glowsticks, food... and a sweet lesson to give the kids some excitement... and more than anything hope to Brother Anderson. He expressed previous thoughts of leaving the whole situation... but as we read and talked.... and knelt with him in prayer... he thanked us for bringing this new light into his life again... and we promised to come by the next morning with a van to take them to church. I woke up my birthday... so so so excited to pile this family into the van and see them in church... and get them rolling again.... and when we showed up... brother Anderson was gone. He had left in the middle of the night with his few belongings... and when we got there, the mother was at work... and all the kids were home alone... with not a crumb in the house to eat. We got creative and found food... threw on slightly soiled clothes... and ran them to the church... where they began to sing and play and have a few hours of security. I can't explain all the details... but this may be one of the hardest experiences of my whole mission. I keep asking myself... what more could we have done? What did we do wrong? Yet I know that all have their agency... and now we focus on the kids. I love these children so so so much.... and they have such a hunger for love that I have never seen before. It makes me appreciate so much my parents... and fills me with a determination to love many many many children like this all my life.

One of our deaf investigators, Karl, is really progressing and it's been such a sweet experience! I do NOT speak sign... but the give of tongues is so real. I now read the promise of "open thy mouth and it shall be filled" to... just... start moving your hands.... and they will be led. It really is so marvelous that we have been able to communicate with him... and now we've started finding ways to watch the ASL videos online with him- that have all the gospel principle lessons on them. He LOVES them. He is eating the scriptures up- he's read up to 2 Nephi 26 and has prayed... and of course received an answer. He is preparing to be baptized the 20th of August. We are struggling to find a way to integrate him with the members... since only one person speaks a little bit of sign... and he's not able to come to lessons with us.. and translating in the meetings... is rough. The good thing is that Karl is learning and loving the solid doctrinal truths... but now he prefers staying at the computer watching the videos than going into sacrament meeting. So.. we're praying that the whole branch will have the gift of tongues... and that they will learn how to overcome these barriers. We would love to get some clips of you guys signing your testimonies- please please please!!! :) I keep wishing more and more that my mom and sisters could come help teach... he would love it.

My birthday was bitter sweet... lots of things happen... but the happy things were:
- I got to share it with Rose Renue- the sister that we've been working with that has returned to activity- it was her birthday too. So... I got to share it with my OTHER sister here... and we love each other so much... that it was a happy time.
- just as I had always dreamed of... we had a BAPTISM on my BIRTHDAY in the afternoon of our dear Sister Gloria that we found in the home of new converts from Guatamala... and she has changed so miraculously.. and was so so so happy... that I really couldn't ask for a better burfday present.
- I got to spend all morning with the Anderson children... playing mom and despite the recent events... feeling their love was a great and precious gift to me that day.
- I got to teach and testify all day with Sister Rodas... a powerful missionary and awesome companion.
- The Lord gave me another day in the mission. Could I wish for anything more?

I am more more grateful for my mission everyday. I'm glad it's not easy... and there are days when I start to realize how hot that refining fire really is... or, maybe it's just the Belizean weather... but I appreciate these refining experiences and opportunities to be molded in my sacred time here.
Thanks for all your support and all you do. I am proud of where I come from!!
Sister Clark