Monday, October 28, 2013

VISA !!!!!

Well, the time has come ...MY VISA IS HERE!!! :D
I just received the call last night. I was so extremely happy and excited.

I don't really know anything that is happening though, all I know is that this Monday I have to be up at the mission office by 8:30 am.

I have mixed feelings of course. I was just saying yesterday how much I have grown to love the people here, and how I didn't want to leave. :p But that was probably God's plan all along. I'm sad to leave, but still thrilled to go. :)

It's a whole new mission, culture, language, and adventure down there! :) I'm totally excited! :D

I'm an Argentine ;)


Editor's note (Monday):

Travis called us this afternoon around 4:30.  Turns out he was already in Atlanta on a layover on his way to Buenos Aires by 7:00am, then Resistencia thereafter.

We asked him if he was travelling with other missionaries, and he said there were about 30 or so of them travelling together!! ...including all of his MTC district.

By the way, we also learned that Travis was referring to a "tourist" visa.  Looks like the entire group of missionaries is in that same boat ...hoping to get their permanent visas within the next 90 days.

One last point, Travis didn't get his letters or packages as he normally does on Saturdays (2 days ago) because it appears the "zone leaders car was running low on miles."  And now that he's left his California mission, looks like he may never get those.  Just FYI...

Monday, October 21, 2013

It just feels like everything good that could've happened, didn't ...and everything bad, did

Hello Everyone!
So this was my first trial week in the mission. I'm sure every missionary has multiple weeks like this, and probably for their benefit ;-)
We had so much potential success this week, but at every single opportunity, we met failure. We set very high goals, goals that our area hasn't seen for a long time. We set tons of appointments and had members scheduled to attend with us to every one.  Everything was set, and we were well prepared for success.
But when we showed up to our appointments -- with our members -- not a single person was home. In fact, we ended up with the lowest number of lessons the entire time I've been here. That was super frustrating -- hour after hour after hour -- day after day -- taking time away from members just to have them face failure along with us. It really was extremely disappointing. 
Even our contacting was low. We had high expectations, but missed severely. It feels like everyone had a disrespectful vibe towards us this week. We couldn't invite just about anybody to do anything.
We also had no investigators come to Church this week. Even Gabriel didn't come to church, and he wasn't present for the two lessons we had prepared for him. :(
It just feels like everything good that could've happened, didn't, and everything bad, did.

But I know that every missionary has these kinds of weeks. Satan will always try to halt the work of the Lord and bring down the hearts of His missionaries. I know that things often get worse before they get better. And the sun ultimately always rises again. I believe that this week was a test from God to see if we would accept failure or stand up and try again. Well I can promise you that I will not accept mediocrity. I will always strive to stretch myself and work to the end of everyday. I understand that God will only bless those who show Him that they want success. We will continue to set high expectations, and despite setbacks, we'll strive to achieve them. We will show God that we want success, by going out in search of it, by planning for it, by expecting it, by reaching for it.
But despite even the darkest hour, light will always pierce the night. We were still blessed with success. We picked up a former investigator. Her name is Fernanda. She studied with the missionaries about 6 months ago, and even had a baptismal interview and passed it. The problem then was her step-dad. Her mom loves us to death, loves us, loves us, loves us. She even said that she knows she will one day be a Mormon. The problem is the step-dad. He is understandably worried about his family. He did allow Fernanda's brother, Alexis, to be baptized into the church, but once Fernanda was about to get baptized, decided he didn't want a split-religion family, stopped her baptism, and wouldn't let Alexis attend Church anymore. 
Understandably, the father didn't want conflicts to arise because of religion, but as time passed after Alexis' baptism, he went "down hill" really fast. After he stopped affiliating with the church, he made some bad decisions. Elder Jensen and I have persistently returned to their house the entire time I've been here; we've never gotten in, but we have had opportunities to talk. And now, Alexis is coming back to church, and making some better decisions again. And his family has noticed ...and we've been allowed to teach them once again. The wife even invited us to her son's Catholic baptism ...which was actually a little weird, or different I should say. SUPER loud music and dancing. But it was cool to see. The wife even asked us to bless her baby. It felt a little out of place; but we took the baby and step-dad outside and said a sweet little prayer. We were then allowed to return the next day to teach Fernanda. :)  So I think with more time, we might even be privileged to teach the father.
Another blessing we had this week was with Pedro, Gabriel's father-in-law. He loves us so much. His beliefs have completely changed since we've been teaching. He absolutely knows that the church is true, and has gone from hard-core Catholic to dedicated Mormon. :)  And as an emblem of his care for us ...he bought us real leather jackets!!! :D  Brand new, sweet Italian jackets!!   Well over $100 each! He also bought us some ties!! How cool is that! It was so exciting. When we came to teach him and Gabriel this last week, he gave us these presents.  We then taught our lesson, went home, and opened them up! We were awe struck. So kind and loving.  I will forever LOVE this jacket! I feel so cool! I just need to buy some matching pants ;) THRIFT SHOP! :D
This week was tough, I'm not going to lie. I hope I don't come across another week like this one in a long, long time. But I know there are lessons to be learned even from really tough weeks.
Patience and Hope. :)
I will never stop trying. As long as I give my full effort, I can never regret my work. :) I worked hard, and so I'm proud of last week ...but hopeful for the coming week. :)
I love you all and miss you tons!
Love Elder Clemons
Last Wednesday we had "Middle Part Miericoles!"  So fun and funny. We all had to wear our hair parted in the middle to our district meeting. And we all got prizes at the end for our parts! It was so funny! Enjoy! :D

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Ya, I knew members were important, but I didn't realize how much...

Howdy! :D
So I forgot to tell you, but since yesterday was a holiday, our P-day is today. So just in case I forget to write in the future, it's probably because it's a holiday. ;)
So mom, you're not going to like this, but since my visa application has been out so long, it has "expired" and Argentina has asked for a new, updated one. I'm not going to lie, I was a bit unhappy about that seeing we were as on top of that as you can be, but I got it taken care of and have already sent everything off to the Church. But here's some good news! MTC companion has apparently already received his about 2 weeks ago.   So, it appears, good things happen to those who procrastinate ;-)   But for unknown reasons the president here is holding his visa. But at least the visa's are coming now ;)
I just barely got back from the Temple! :D  Oh wow, it was so beautiful and peaceful! :)  I love being around the temple; no one can deny the spiritual power that is found there. Without a doubt, I know that it is God's house here on earth. You just feel pure, uplifted, guided, happy, and as cheesy as it sounds -- heavenly. But that's just it. The feelings and presence felt at the temple are directly from God, it's a feeling that one cannot express, just experience. It's incredible and unique, found only at the House of God. (Oh, and the new film was absolutely spectacular! Loved it! So much more emotion. And I loved the awesome "Satan rules this kingdom" scene. I felt like I was in a legit movie.)
So what's up with our government? We've heard that it has shut down? Just some useful information and updates on that please. :)  (editor's note:  done!)
We met this cool black karate dude. We were knocking doors, and he was moving out.  We offered our help, and to our surprise (since everyone says no) he said yes. So we helped him move, and we learned that he was quite a character ...very friendly and talkative. He loved to show us his "karate" moves such as random kicks and backhand slaps. A very different style of karate, but useful....I guess.
We also met a self-proclaimed reincarnated Jesus ...which was quite interesting. While we were in the middle of a fairly basic conversation, he stopped us and said, "Sorry, but I have some more suffering I need to endure" and then rode off on his bike :-)
I have come to learn that when people commit to being baptized, it doesn't mean they actually mean it. I've seen a lot of our "commitments" fall away. It's so sad to see the spirit testify to people and for them to accept baptism, but then not do anything to nurture the beginning of that testimony. We are only going to baptize those people who desire it, and prove to God that they desire it through their efforts. I guess to a certain degree baptism is earned, not given.
So we have two new investigators that we have been working with. I don't recall if I mentioned them last week, but they are Jose y Javier. We had an incredible lesson with both of these men. Javier is really familiar with the Bible and is firm in his own personal beliefs.  Sometimes I feel that he invites us over just to bash and criticize, but his beliefs essentially match our message, so we stick with him. Last Tuesday we had a lesson with him and brought a recent convert -- Hermano Adolfo -- with us. He has such a strong testimony. Our lesson centered on the importance of the Book of Mormon and how to receive revelation. Hermano Adolfo's testimony was perfect. He talked about his own experiences and how his answer came as he was reading. I believe Javier was touched and promised he would read and pray ...we'll find out tonight. ;)
From this and other experiences, I have really learned the importance of members.  Ya, I knew they were important, but I didn't realize how much we needed their help until this lesson. Javier and Adolfo really clicked, and Adolfo's testimony was perfectly geared to Javier's needs.
Our Lesson with Jose was about the differences of our Church. We focused on Authority, Prophets, and the Book of Mormon. It was going great, things were flowing well. But then Jose asked the perfect off-topic question: "What happens after this life?" Well obviously we had the answer: Spirit World, Resurrection, Judgment, and the 3 kingdoms. We were able to testify of it using the Bible, and then finished up with some BoM references. It was very strong, and he was essentially blown away. We then bore testimony of the Plan of Salvation, and how in this plan God has given us "guides" to help us return (meaning prophets, Book of Mormon, Light of Christ, personal revelation, etc). We then asked him if he could see any importance in reading the Book of Mormon. And he answered perfectly, "Because I need to gain a personal witness of the truthfulness of this book, and if I do, then everything you have taught me is true." I was ecstatic to hear that answer. It feels so good to feel the spirit testifying through you.  And then when the investigator understands it, the spirit just grows. :)
We had another incredible lesson last night with Gabriel and Pedro. They both had questions about Joseph Smith's life, and so we decided to watch the history of Joseph Smith. I have seen this movie many times, but this night was different ...much more powerful. Being out in the mission and  testifying daily of Joseph Smith, makes this movie so much more personal. I could feel the spirit being poured on me during the first vision.  I felt angry (but also proud) at the tarring and feathering of Joseph Smith.  And I felt power as Joseph Smith, in jail and shackles, commanded those "fiends of the infernal pit" to be silent. This story, and Christ's church that he helped restore, have become so much more a part of me while I've been on my mission these few short months. I literally felt my testimony growing as a watch the movie, and I can declare to the world that Joseph Smith is a true prophet called of God as was Moses. His dieing testimony stands as a witness to the world of the truthfulness of the Restoration.
Anyways, the movie also really touched Gabriel and Pedro. Gabriel was silent, and Pedro bore testimony to us. He told us, "When you first started coming here, I didn't believe at all in Joseph Smith or the Book of Mormon.  But now, seeing the living prophet last week and seeing this movie, now I know. I know modern day prophets and revelation exists." It was really powerful and touching. He then went on to explain that the trials and death of Joseph Smith prove the restoration true ...just as the apostles of old died for truth, so did this prophet Joseph Smith.  Gabriel then agreed with Pedro and said that he was ready for baptism. I think, in reality, he may be.  We just need to invite him to stay for all of church and finish up the lessons. So we will have to push his date back, but I do believe he will be baptized. He reads and prays daily about the BoM, and he knows it's true. The only thing left is to go to church all 3 hours and wait. :)
Well that's about all I have to say today. I'm growing daily in my testimony. I read this cool talk called the "17 Points of the True Church" which identifies the traits of the true church as identified in the Bible. It's a story of a convert who found his way to the church. Very touching and interesting. 
I know the Church and the Gospel it teaches are true.  I am a servant of our Lord, and I know I am on His errand. I will never deny the truth that this is the Lord's church, for as truth will always remain, so will my testimony. I know Christ is our Lord and Savior. I know it.
With Love,
Elder Clemons
P.S.  Thank you so much for the package! It is greatly appreciated! The only thing I can think of that would still be helpful would be to get a copy of my "line of authority" card. That would be cool to have. :)
Love you and miss you tons!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Wow, I feel like the investigator at this point...

So hello everyone!
No visa news yet, but it's not my time, it's God's ;)
So I would like to tell about my week before I get to the glorious conference!
De hecho (editor: "in fact"), nothing really super happened, but we did make great strides with Gabriel and some new investigators.  Essentially, Gabriel was already prepared for us prior to us contacting him. He is essentially doing everything on his own, he is building his own faith, he doesn't need us as a guide. He is nearly done with the Book of Mormon, he told me that he constantly prays for understanding and a testimony over it. It's incredible to see a man have faith, and show it. I prepared a really scripture heavy lesson on the Plan of Salvation (it went great!) and he already understood most of it with but a few questions. I really learned from this lesson the importance of using scriptures, because if you can backup the doctrines that you teach with the scriptures, people are more likely to believe it :) Without the scriptures, we're just a bunch of teenagers sharing our opinions. When we share scriptures with the Spirit, it reinforces the doctrines.

As in weeks past, Elder Jensen was in the other room teaching Pedro so me and Gabriel had some time to chat. It was really spiritual. This man was so prepared for the gospel. He was asking me about the temple, and why only members are allowed in. I explained to him how it's a sacred place of the Lord, His literal house. He completely understood the difference between secrecy and sacredness. This lead us into a conversation about worthiness, and he shared with me how he used to be an alcoholic, and his battle to overcome it. It was really touching to see a man just express his heart to me ...I'm just a kid. He told me that when he drank, he would feel depressed, unworthy, guilty; but when he would read the Bible, he would be filled with power, enough power to overcome his addiction. He then explained that when he reads the BoM, he is filled with even more power and desire. He told me that prayer and reading are God's way of protecting us. :) Amen brother! Wow, I feel like the investigator at this point. He then started asking questions about Joseph Smith, his story. He was shocked to hear that such a great man, and prophet of God, was martyred for his testimony. I then took this opportunity to bear my testimony about Joseph Smith, and how I KNOW that he was a true prophet, and that he brought forth the BoM, another Testament of Jesus Christ. And that Joseph Smith would not likely die for a false book, but that it was true, and that he with his last words died praising God. This really touched Gabriel; he agreed that no man would die for such a book unless it was true. I then invited him to come and view the living prophet. I encouraged him to write down some of the questions of his soul, pray about them, and the prophets and apostles would answer them. And guess what, Gabriel came and said his questions were answered. :) These prophets are of God, and speak nothing but His words for our benefit and guidance.
So as I said in my last email we have been praying and hoping for some new people to teach ...we'll we found 6 :) And this coming week we should be expecting about 8 more. :) It really is touching to see how the Lord blesses you when you simply ask, and act. I have been pondering the idea that "God isn't going to answer your prayers unless you show Him that you want them answered." So we prayed to find some new people, and we went searching, and look how the Lord blessed us. :)
It is so much more fun and enlightening when you are a missionary. One, because all the missionaries get into it and are gasping and oohing and taking notes like crazy. Two, because not only do you go into conference with questions of your own, but you are listening to every bit of helpful information you can use to help your investigators. The spiritual power of conference really increases when you go in thinking about others.
So of course I loved all the speakers. I also noticed some themes: missionary work, family and marriage values, enduring hardships, standing up for standards, "God's law is higher than Man's." I will just share a few that I really loved and can remember (I left my notes at home :p).  Editors note: Holy cats ...what would this email have been like if he had remembered to bring his notes!! :)
I loved Uchtdorf's Saturday morning talk, it's perfect for one of our new investigators. About how many things are church does, and why we as members participate so much. I loved how he testified that the authority of God is found in the church.  This talk is perfect for investigators, because Uchtdorf was explaining it from the eyes from someone looking from the outside in.
Elder Bednar! I love how articulate and intellectual he speaks. Siempre he disfrutado sus palabras (editor's note: "I always love his words"). He was an answer to my "unwritten question" although it wasn't a question that I felt I needed answering; but of course, God knows me better than I know myself. I have really been worrying about teaching the law of tithing to investigators, and this talk really calmed me down and made me confident of the privilege it is to pay tithing and the many resulting blessings. God is so mercifully that He answered a question I didn't even know to ask. 
Elder Dube's got an awesome accent, and gave an even awesomer talk! I loved how the theme was to be grateful for what you have accomplished in life, but to focus on what life you have left. I loved the quote he used (from Elder Holland) "The past is to be learned from, not lived in." Powerful statement huh? So true though. If we are constantly reminiscing of our past, we won't have all of our power to make a better future. There will always be work for us to do in the Kingdom of God, and when one finds himself in the work of the Lord, it doesn't feel like work, but a joyous privilege.
Elder Richard G Scott's talk was uplifting and powerful. We can draw personal power from the atonement. And from that sacrifice, Christ knows PERFECTLY how to comfort us. And knows PERFECTLY where to fortify us.
I loved President Monson's talk on Sunday morning. So touching. His feelings about his wife were so pure. I kinda' got teary eyed. He was expressing true pain to us, but followed up with a powerful testimony of the enduring power we are capable of if we focus on Christ. This man, this prophet, was expressing one of the most painful spiritual experiences I'm sure he has ever had to endure, and he turned his pain into a beautiful and touching testimony of the mercy and power of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We can endure any hardship, if we endure it through Christ.
I am fortified each and every day out here in the mission. And witnessing these words of real modern-day prophets just again testified to me of the validity of the Lord's true gospel and the authority that this church posses. I know that these prophets are just men, but God has chose them to be His powerful servants and our leaders at this time. These men hold all the keys and authority of His church. I am proud to have sustained such noble men of God. I know they are true prophets of the Lord. I cannot deny the witness I received during Conference. My faith will never falter.
I love it out here, and love you all! :D
-Elder Clemons

Sunday, October 6, 2013

I have never seen so much faith and love in a family before

Hello everyone!
So this week was a great one! is every week in the mission ;)
So I'll start off with the more comical things this week:  The Covenant Hole.
When we accidently killed the bat a few weeks back, we buried it outside of our apartment. But due to the curiosity of male minds, Elder Lloyd (an apartment roommate) decided to dig it up like 2 days after it died. (So this happened a while ago) was gone! Completely gone! We couldn't find it or any part of it! So we were all a little creeped out at that! But anyways, we soon learned that anything you put into this "hole" disappears. Like legit. It is totally weird. But it's kinda' fun as well. We started writing notes with our weekly goals on them, buried them in the hole, and the next morning, GONE! BOOM! So we've now call it the Covenant Hole. It's just something fun, I'm sure it's just some neighbor kid or dog that is digging it up. ;)  But its still hilarious.
So I have a lot of people convinced that Lori is married to Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye). Brent just looks so much like him! Bahahah. Every missionary and investigator asks me what it's like to be related to a movie star. It's sooo funny! I just show them the family picture and they just stand in shock. It is golden. Bahahaha. Brent is one good looking man, and very blessed to be married to my wonderful, perfect, caring sister Lori. :)  Treat her right Jeremy. ;)
Ok, so some quick updates on our investigators.
So, unfortunately, we have officially dropped Florencio and Ofelia. So sad they are out. :( We really cared about them too. And we haven't found any new investigators to teach. :( So that is a bummer, but I'm hopeful this week we can find some more.

Mama y Papa Barba are progressing, but Papa is still afraid to pray. He said last time that he would pray next time, which is tonight. So I'm not leaving without a prayer out of him. We also bought these two a grande Libro de Mormon, so now they can start reading. :) Also the hard part is getting them to church. She won't come without him, and he always works Sunday mornings. So our invitation tonight is going to be for him to request work off for the 13th so he can come! :)

Joel is actually now progressing! He really surprised us. He never keeps commitments, and we've learned that when he says, "I'll attend church" it actually means "I'm too scared to tell you no." But he actually came! What!??! :D  We spotted him in the parking lot, and so I sprinted towards him and showed him in. Woot! :) He really enjoyed it and even stayed for the clases after sacrament. :) Sweet! But we still need to get him reading, so we will have a BOLD lesson on that this jueves (editor: Thursday).
All in all, Gabriel is a boss really. We have only been working with him for a little less than a month... and he has read up to Ether 7!!! And that was just last Thursday, so who knows where he is at now! Goodness! He knows our lessons already! Bah! We were teaching the first half of the Plan of Salvation, and he understood it all because of what Nephi and Alma had said! Awesome. Like really awesome. He is such an understanding open man. We invited him to come watch a baptism and church. And he came to both!! Both I say!! :D He really enjoyed it and really likes our doctrine on baptism. Just wow. I can't wait to baptize this man. WOOT! :D
Oh, and Pedro is his Suegro (Father in Law). Remember how I said that he was a lesson highjacker, but that Elder Jensen cleared that up? Well he is still confused, so sadly we have to split teach again so we can both correct Pedro's understanding of Christ's Gospel, and still have meaningful opportunity to teach Gabriel. That lesson is tonight, but I'm totally pumped for it. Elder Jensen has been preparing to help Pedro, and I'm prepared to teach Gabriel :)

But Pedro is serisouly one of the coolest guys I know.  He has just had a lot of other Churches and differing doctrines confuse him. He comes to church every week and is pressuring his grandchildren to come as well, so our success is because of him. :) And he is super funny! Like seriously the funniest guy I know. Love him! He is just a little confused about the doctrine ;) Jehovah is the God of the Old Testament; and Christ is that Jehovah, and was born as the Messiah of the New Testament.  Our Heavenly Father is Christ's (and our) Father in Heaven.  We pray to our Father in Heaven in the name of Jesus Christ since Christ is our intermediary with the Father.
So we just found out the Juan and Belen aren't married....awkward. And for some reason they can't get married until after she becomes a citizen because if they got married now, she would have to restart her waiting time for her to become a citizen. I don't really understand it, but we still teach them as we wait, and still have their kids that may wish to be baptized. :) We have a great power lesson planned for tonight as well.   ...hmmm, all of our lessons are tonight.  Haha, guess you'll have to wait for a week to hear about them!
Jorge y Daniella. :( So we never got to visit with Daniella this week, she works too much, and returns home after 10pm each night.  So we didn't get to check up on her. And I feel like Jorge is not progressing very well. We met with him 3 times last week, and each time he has been out (drunk out). It's really quite frustrating, so we don't know what to do with him. But he loves us so much, we are his family he always says. He says his work friends are bad influences (which they are).  And he's sad that he never see's his family because they all work different hours. That leaves us. :( It's so sad to see a man so lonely, and so deep in his addiction. :(
So I would like to talk about a family that I really admire: the Gonzalez family. I think I mentioned them in a previous letter.  They are the members that feed us every Friday. I have never seen so much faith and love in a family before. It's shocking. I have really come to love this family. Last Thursday we were called by Hermano Gonzalez to give his wife a blessing. He holds the priesthood, but prefers the missionaries bless his family (guess he thinks we're somehow better ...which we're not!). Her mother is in the hospital in Mexico on her death bed. :( They're both really worried about her. Hermana Gonzalez was going to leave that night to Mexico -- illegally, for she doesn't have her papers yet. Elder Jensen and I gave her a blessing of comfort, and wow, that room was hit hard with the spirit. It is always touching that I get to hold the power of God and use it to bless others. The blessing was very personal and tender hearted.
But when the time came to make the final decision, Hermana Gonzalez decided to stay at home. She just had a prompting that she needed to stay with her family. And guess what happened. The very next morning, her sister called and told her that her mother had made a miraculous recovery and was leaving the hospital completely healed! :D  How incredible is that! Hermana Gonzalez was about to go to Mexico, but had enough faith to follow her promptings. She was blessed even more that same day as she got a call from the government who cleared her for papers! :D She is going to become a US citizen, and she doesn't have to pay a thing!!! :D Blessings! This is proof that when you rely on the Lord for answers and guidance, He'll always bless you for your obedience. She said she put my name and Elder Jensen's name in her journal because we have now become her favorite missionaries ;)  Thank God for His tender mercies.
So that's about all I have. The longer I stay out here, the more often I feel God's hand in my life, and witness it in others. It is incredible. I never noticed how obvious God's hand was. While I have always believed that He played a role in my daily life, I had noticed it only a couple of times. But now I notice it every day! We are constantly being blessed by His love and guidance. I can testify that God is here. He isn't a being that rules only from on high, but one that guides us by the hand. He is a personal God, who cares for billions of His children, but also pays attention and cares for each and every individual child. I know God loves us, and we can return to Him by following the teachings of His son Jesus Christ. It is only through Him, that true love, happiness, and eternal life are found.

I know this is the true church, and I'm privileged to serve in it. :)
Love Elder Clemons