Monday, April 27, 2015

I have seen, heard, and shaken the hand of a true Apostle

I really don't know where to begin.  Such a good week!

Unfortunately, we lost a lot of investigatores, but we finally found a family -- the Romeros -- that is listening to us. A family! We've taught them about 4 times now. The parents are married, and they have 4 kids. They like what we teach and everything, but they live super far from the church :p So that is the hard part; we now have to get them to go to church. :p

Tender Mercies
Tender Mercies bag
We had 2 tender mercies happen to us yesterday and today. Because of the visit of Elder Oaks, the office has basically stopped fulfilling its normal responsibilities and is preparing for his visit. So because of this we haven't been reimbursed for all of the church expenses we pay with our personal money.  And so, we're broke ...hard core broke. I have at this moment $4 pesos in my pocket :-(  So we have been trying to ration ourselves on rice this week ...and we've been starving as a result.

But last night we went to visit a member to ask for some references, and obviously seeing the hunger in our eyes, she gave us a cake and some media lunas (bread things).  We ate everything ...literally everything (I think we may have eaten the plastic bag). It was a feast of pure joy. I was really happy.

And then today, out of nowhere a member sent us a message saying that she was outside of our apartment. When we opened the door, she had a giant bag full of food!!! FOOD!!! I was so happy! It had milanesas, a bag of cookies, fruits, potatoes, etc. The Lord understands :) We have been so hungry this week!

Apostle Dallin H Oaks
So now the best part......ELDER OAKS CAME TO VISIT US THIS WEEK!!!! BAHHH!!!  The entire mission came together for this unique opportunity.  It was incredible!  Sooo spiritual ...and also hilarious; he's a funny guy!

I've still got a part of my heart in Mexico from the beginning
of my mission. Elder Sibaja (left) and Elder De La Peña.
As he started out his talk, he was telling us about his wife, Kristen, and how she was a single adult for a long time. He was like "Now when we got married, Kristen was a single adult...she was an OLD single adult  ...she was a VERY OLD single adult." Just the way he said it was hilarious, haha. She was like 50 something when they got married.

My 2 sons!!! Elder Conway y Elder Caceres
Also, as he was presenting his wife, he complimented her a lot. So she got up and took the mic and said "Elder Oaks is being really nice today ...he isn't always this nice!" We all started dying of laughter at that 'cause she made it sound like he wasn't always so nice.  And then he said "In English, there is a saying: 'condemn with kindness'. I believe that is what just happened. It seems to Kristen that I am not always that nice to her." Bahahahaha, that was just one of the best!

At one point during his talk, his wife got up and gave him a note saying that some volcanoes in Chile had erupted, and that flights through Buenos Aires had been cancelled.  Her note said the church needed their passports and money "now." He then chuckled, turned to us, and said "Elders, when you're married, you're going to understand that when your wife asks you for money, she's going to want it now!" Hahaha, just so funny! At that point, his assistant got up to get the money and passports, and take care of things.  And as he was walking out of the room, Elder Oaks pointed to him and said "And when your wife wants money 'now,' sometimes you're going to have to visit a banker to get that money." Bahaha sooo funny!!!

I can well imagine that just reading about his jokes doesn't make them sound too funny.  But trust me, he was hilarious the entire time. Simply hilarious.

Elder León goes home this Wednesday :-(

But besides being funny, it was also an incredibly spiritual talk. He started off like this, "I am full of truth and light. I could talk to you for hours, but I am limited to only 45 minutes and must depend on the Spirit to prioritize what I say." When he said that, we all buckled up and prepared for his important words.

He started out by talking about the Sabbath Day. He said that it was the center of our worship as Latter-day Saints. That it was a principle of Eternal importance, and that no one can be faithful to the church and God if they can't sanctify this day.

He then shared with us, Alma 26:22:

Yea, he that repenteth and exerciseth faith, and bringeth forth good works, and prayeth continually without ceasing—unto such it is given to know the mysteries of God; yea, unto such it shall be given to reveal things which never have been revealed; yea, and it shall be given unto such to bring thousands of souls to repentance, even as it has been given unto us to bring these our brethren to repentance.

He pointed out that this scripture says thousands would be converted to the Lord, but nothing about baptizing thousands. He suggested the first message we should share with our investigators is that of repentance, baptism is 2nd. He acknowledged that we probably can't each baptize thousands of people, but we can certainly proclaim the message of repentance to thousands. And that is the success of a missionary.

This was the point when his wife interrupted him with the note about the cancelled flights. Then he continued saying "In life, there will always be interruptions. One of these is death. It is always with us, and at any moment it can take us."  He continued, "Death is just that, an interruption. It is not an end, but a gateway to continue our eternal lives." He bore powerful testimony of the resurrection and how all of us will see our loved ones again. This was a powerful moment. His words were clear and powerful ...piercing to our minds and soul. Without any doubt, with all the confidence in the world, "We will see them again."  So simple.  But when I heard it, in person, from an Apostle of the Lord, it became so real and simple to me.  Death is just an interruption, and we will see our loved ones again.

Elder Oaks left us with a "Spirit Hand" to help us teach about the Holy Ghost.
He then moved onto personal revelation. He talked about what we can do to receive it. He said it clearly helps to be in the temple. Revelation often comes in the morning before things get too busy, when we are physically and spiritually alert, when we are studying the scriptures, when we follow the advice of our leaders, and when we believe that we will receive it.

Ways to recognize it are when we feel happy and joyous, or when the inspiration received invites us to do something that we don't want to do. As an example, if we are tired but wake up at 4am and receive the inspiration to stay in bed, that is probably our own thoughts. But if we receive the inspiration to get up out of bed to check on something, then that is probably from the Lord, and we would be wise to follow it. Elder Oaks said it is very common to receive a strong feeling to not do something, or to do something that we haven't done before.

Revelation can come in many forms; for example, in a dream. We can tell if a dream is revelation if it is clear, not confusing, and we receive the interpretation of it. It there is no interpretation, it is just a dream.

For people with a northern-American culture, Elder Oaks explained that revelation often comes in the form of words written on the backboard of our minds ...we see and read the words rather than have visions or dreams.

In all cases, the Lord will communicate to us (assuming we're listening) in ways that are familiar to us. He gave the example of a native American Indian who was called to be a patriarch. When he gave blessings, he would see simple events in his mind and interpret them into English. This patriarch gave a blessing during the time of the Iron Curtain in which he told the young man receiving the blessing that he was as a plant growing up on one side of a fence, and that a strong wind would blow over the seeds of the plant to land on the other side of the fence, and sprout and also grow to be strong plants. As this young man got older, he had opportunity to cross the Iron Curtain and preach the gospel, and had much success.

The bottom line is revelation comes in forms that are simple and familiar to our culture. Really cool and profound doctrine.

Personal Witness
As he was leaving the sacrament room, I had a really powerful experience that I won't ever forget. As is customary, we stand when a Prophet or Apostle of the Lord enters or leaves the room. And so, as he was leaving, we stood as a sign of respect. He turned back to wave goodbye. At this instant, I had the words "There is a man of God" strongly pierce my mind ...just as he explained sometimes happens. I saw the words written on the back of my mind, and they spoke strongly to me. I read them in my mind's eye, and then softly spoke them to myself, "There is a man of God." As I said the words, the spirit warmly testified to me that it was true. I felt so much joy and was so sure at that moment. I have never had an experience like this before.  Those words came so clearly and powerfully to my mind. He is a man of God are the other 11 and the First Presidency.

I know even more now than ever before that we have true prophets and apostles here on the earth today. I have always believed this, but I have now seen one face to face, and was able to feel his strong spiritual influence. I testify that God loves us, and for this reason sends us prophets and apostles to guide us. My experience with Elder Oaks really fortified my testimony of the church and the importance of the work that we are doing.

It also really strengthened my relationship with God. I know He loves me, and that I am his son. I really felt His love for me during this opportunity to meet a true Apostle of the Lord. I am so grateful for the privilege to have seen, heard, and shaken the hand of an Apostle.

God Loves us, and humbly, we are members of His true church. I know it.

Love you all!!

Elder Clemons

Subway sandwiches after the mission conference with Elder Dallin H Oaks !!!

Monday, April 20, 2015

An Apostle is coming to visit our mission!!!

Right now in Reconquista it is voting time...and they are crazy with this. Everyone and their dog is trying out. Cars are driving around blasting music with the little jingles of each candidate and there are posters everywhere!! Like literally everywhere!!

Lucia Lopez (from Goya) knitted the hat and gave me the flag :D

Soooo this week was very similar to last week ...we lost all of our existing investigatores, but found a bunch of new ones.

We have some people who let us come in, but don't keep their commitments. There's plenty of work to do, so we just move on to new people who show more interest. Maybe the next time missionaries knock on their door, they'll be more receptive to the restored gospel. We had one lady who when we knocked on her door, opened it, but when she saw it was us, just slammed the door in our faces without saying anything. So we took that to mean that she doesn't want us to come by anymore, haha.

But we have also found 2 super incredible families this week! We found them by "clapping" houses (kinda' like knocking on the door to announce your arrival). The first family is the Nuñuz familia. There are 3 family members. The dad is a member from long long ago.  He was baptized in Goya and loooves the missionaries. But he lost contact with them when he moved to Reconquista. He and his family are members of a local Evangelica church, but they are inactive in this church. They have tons of potential please pray for them.

The 2nd family we found is the familia Romero. They are inactive Catholics who are really nice. We have taught them about 3 times now, and they are progressing. But they need to go to church. SO pray for them as well!

We are dying to have some success here!!!

On a happy note, Andres Micheli taught the class in priesthood yesterday! Ohhhhh, I was soooo happy! It was an awesome lesson! He and his whole family have come so far!! It was really something to see such a huuuuge guy being soooo nervous to teach the class. But he did great! Oh my goodness was just so awesome!

New Mission Rules
So, here's some news for you guys! President Franco has instituted a bunch of new health rules here:
  1. We can't drink the water any more (...sshhhh I still do.)
  2. We can't eat with the members anymore :(  This one makes me very sad I'm sure  you can tell, I love eating haha
  3. We have to carry hand sanitizer around everywhere we go.
  4. We've got a bunch of new rules about keeping the apartments very clean

I'm District Leader now
So randomly, Presidente Franco decided to make some unscheduled changes here in Reconquista. I don't know why, but my district leader got emergency transferred yesterday during Church. And then last night, I was made the new District Leader for this half of Reconquista. Needless to say, that came as somewhat of a surprise to me. I have never been a district leader before, so I am kinda' nervous about that.  But I assume it's similar to being a Zone Leader; so I suspect it'll all work out. Hope so!!

So after 22 months of being a tourist in Argentina, I am finally now a legal visitor!! Woot!!  I've been doing paperwork (from Monday to Thursday of this week) in Corrientes. It was fun and adventurous to get away from Reconquista for a little bit ...but being away for so long just killed the work in our area :p

I stayed with the mission secretaries in their apartment these past few day.  Holy cats! ...they live in a mansion!! It's huge and soooo super nice!  So unfair!  We celebrated an Elder's birthday while I was there, so we all sang, had cake, ate Doritos (haven't seen those in forever), and played some simple games. It was a lot of fun.

An Apostle is coming to visit us!!! 
All right, here is the biggest news of the week ...AN APOSTLE IS COMING TO VISIT THE MISSION THIS FRIDAY!!! BAAAAHHHHH!!!  It's Elder Oaks!!!  BAAAAAHHHH!!!  I am soooo excited! Super excited!!  It is going to be such a huge spiritual experience! 

I know the church is true.  I know that Thomas S. Monson is the prophet of the Lord.  I also know that the 12 Apostles are His special witnesses on the earth.  I know that Elder Oaks is going to teach us vital truths.  I can't wait!!

I love the mission and I love what I do!

Elder Clemons

My comp is from a country that has the siesta.... :p

Monday, April 13, 2015

Success is not about the # of people you baptize, but the person you become

Thanks for being the only person in my whole inbox dad, Love you. :)

So I don't really take pictures.....  you have already seen everything here in Reconquista. :P

The Work
This week was actually extremely difficult for us. But I don't really understand why. I feel like I am a better missionary than the last time I was here ...I have more experience, more knowledge, more ability, and I already have the trust of the members.  I have been fasting every week for the past 3 months ...all of which should help to set us up for success, but we've had no success of late :-(

We have two semi-progressing investigators named Giselda y Luciana. But we weren't able to talk with Giselda much this week; I one point I think she "wasn't home." So we'll pass by next week and see how she's doing. Everything with Luciana was going great, but she didn't make it to church last week, and we don`t know why.

Sigh.  As a result, we contacted a ton this week!  I have never seen soooo much rejection before, haha.  I even had a few random people ask me why I came back, hahaha, so that's pretty funny.

But I have sufficient knowledge and experience in the mission to understand that sometimes you have good weeks, and sometimes bad; it's normal. But I continue to have faith, I'm not slacking, I'm motivated, and I continue to put my hand to the plow.  In time, I'm sure success will come. Maybe not in the form of baptisms, but success will come as the Lord harvests His field. I always told my zone back in Goya that success isn't about the number of people you baptize, but about the person you become. You`re your first convert, right? Just gotta buck up and go.

District Conference
So I have been in this District (before it became a stake) for over a year. We recently had District (stake) conference. Presidente y Hermana Franco came down to Goya for it. The last time we had District Conference was when Presidente Heyman was here ...just shows how long I've been here. The conference followed the theme of General Conference; the roles of men and women, the importance of marriage, the eternal nature of temples, etc. It was really good, I liked it. It was hard to understand at times because we were watching through Skype, and it crashed like 4 times. :P But either way, it was good! At the end we got to say hello to everyone in Goya, so I got to see all the members in Goya again! :D WOOT!

My Visa
Oh so this coming week I am heading up to Corrientes to do some paperwork for my visa. Hahahaha ...I am still illegal!  I will go up on Tuesday, sleep over with the assistants, finish the paper work Wednesday, and hopefully come back Wed night. I am super excited to go travel up there ...buuuuut then again, I don't want to loose 2 days of work in our area. :P So we'll see what happens. :p

Oh, a funny story and after I spiritual one.

So, well, by now I think we've contacted everyone in Reconquista. We found this one women that said she had a "gift". Anything that she touches she "knows and understands perfectly." So I immediately stuck out my hand and asked her to read it. She grabbed it, started humming, and then said I had really good energy and was a great person. Eh? :) Oh well, I guess I was pretty happy with that. Afterwards my companion, Elder Caceres, did the same. When she took his hand she immediately gasped, "Oh how cold!!! You have such a dark, angry energy!" Bahahaha, oh fetch, I almost fell over laughing.  That made him so mad, and he was in a bad mood for the rest of the night. But I was laughing my head off all day. No, we take no stock in it, we were just being polite. So funny!!

The Familia Micheli is doing soooooo good! The are seriously gospel bosses! We showed the kids, Leo y Mikaela the new church video "He Lives" and asked them for references. Leo gave us one, and he even set up an appointment for us with him. Two days later, we went over and taught his friend. The whole Micheli family was there to support us, and each one bore powerful testimony. I felt so much peace and joy as I sat there listening to their testimonies. :) Each one is sooo faithful and firm in the gospel. I feel privileged to have been a part of their conversion. Each one explained how they received their answer about the Church; Mikaela and Leo received theirs after going to church, Miriam the mom received hers after Elder Conway and I gave her daughter a priesthood blessing and the words that were pronounced really hit her. And Andres, the dad, received his answer after seeing the happiness that was entering his home. It is just incredible to be able to see how far this family has progressed in the gospel. :)  Nothing can beat being a missionary. :)

Well, that is all I got for today! Love you all so much! :)

Love Elder Clemóns!

P.S  Mom, I love you!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

I kinda' had a duh moment when I realized...

Happy Easter :-)
Hey, sorry I didn't write yesterday ...we had interviews with Presidente Franco. He came down to Reconquista yesterday. My interview was pretty chill, we just basically talked about our families. I asked him a couple of simple questions, and that was that.

So conference was pretty awesome.  It got me to start thinking about life after the mission, but I still got my mission to think about for now. But all in all, conference was really nice.  I must say, I've really learned to love conference as a missionary.  It is so helpful and inspiring, and it also really helps our investigatores overcome their obstaculos.  Of the many awesome talks, the one that I liked the most was Elder Bednar's talk about overcoming fear.  And it's soooo applicable to missionaries since we often naturally fear talking with people.  But we obviously have to let go of that fear, and reply upon our deep reverence and respect for God to help us overcome that fear and talk with people. Clearly, it's only when we open our mouths that people can hear the truth.  If we are always too scared to talk to them, they will never have the chance to accept or reject the message of the restored gospel.  And I suspect on final judgement day, if I could have shared my testimony, but didn't, I'll be at least a little bit culpable for not opening my mouth.

Yup, absolutely loved Bednar's talk's the one I can best liken to myself at this moment.
Bednar video      Bednar audio

He Lives
So I don't know if you have seen the new church video about Easter?  I'm sure you have, it is called "él vive"  ("He Lives"):
 He Lives video

It is incredible. We just barely received it yesterday, and my companion and I went crazy showing it to everyone we could.  We have a little portable DVD player in the apartment, and with permission of Presidente Franco, we took it out with us and showed it to everyone we could.

We did a bunch of contacts and set a lot of appointments for later in the week, but we were also able to actually have 3 lessons yesterday. We started out by testifying that our purpose was to bring people to Christ, and how when we come close to Him, He can help us.  We then showed the video and talked about what Christ can do for them in their lives.  We then transitioned into the Restauración of Christ's church upon the earth.  It was very effective.

I kinda' had a duh moment when I realized our message isn't so much the restoration of the gospel as it is that He Lives and loves us.  What a great and simple message!!

So our investigator situation is a little sad.  We don't have a lot of prospects right now, but we are working with a women named Giselda. And she even went to conference, but her little girl was going so crazy that she was forced to leave :p  But she came, so that's what counts!  She's been reading the scriptures daily and wants to get baptized. We plan on seeing her tomorrow to show her the video; I hope it motivates her and can bring her some comfort.

We may have also found some others this week that could progress, I'll let you know next week.

Love you all!

Elder Clemons

Thought you'd like this evening shot from our apartment window