Sunday, June 5, 2016

On the Road from Ithaca to Jesus Christ

Sorry it has taken me so long to write again, but things have been amazing over here and we are seeing the Lord's hand in all we do.

I will try and cover the two weeks of material best I can. And I can't believe how fast this transfer has gone by! With all the things we do day to day it just flies by. We went on two exchanges this last week and had meeting with President Snow and had to prepare a training for a meeting we have this upcoming week, as well as take care of some emergency transfers. So we are staying very, very busy and all the while trying to set the example in our area. I have learned a lot about how to take on a lot and not get stressed, but to just focus on the task at hand. President Snow is very good at thinking things through and trying to get the whole picture. It has been a great experience learning more about leadership, and it is very humbling to learn from mistakes.

A cool experience we had a couple weeks ago was with a family ward in our stake who was wanting their young men to go out with the elders in the area and so we took out two young men but one happened to not even be a member. One of his friends had just invited him that night. And it was so cool to see how this nonmember was brave and talked to more people on the street about the Book of Mormon then the member we had with us. It must have been a wake-up call for that member. As we were walking and talking to people, we would teach the nonmember. He said he really enjoyed the experience, and he didn't really know if God existed but that this was a positive experience. At one door a lady opened up and said in a harsh tone "I am an atheist" and then the nonmember chimed back "Me Too!" Haha He said he would be a good mediator for the people we talked to! The missionaries took down his info and so hopefully he will accept the gospel and go be an awesome missionary.

We have recently started teaching this really cool guy! His mom is from Madagascar! Which is pretty unique. When we first met him it was a referral from a family ward missionaries for his younger brother, but we ran into him instead. And when I talked to him the first time he said he was agnostic and not that interested. But we were able to give him a Book of Mormon and he said we could come back and from them on it was game over. He is so solid and loves everything we share. He had a job on Sunday and so we started helping him look for a new job. We took him to a job fair and he got some good leads, but later that week he texted us and said he had called his supervisor and just told him that he wasn't going to be able to work on Sundays. And then he also got a new job, so the Lord blessed him. We also took him to the temple yesterday morning and that was very neat. He is getting baptized at the end of the month.

Last night we had two amazing baptisms. One was Michael; he was the one who was being taught by an area seventy. We actually had a lesson with Elder Larkin, the area seventy, and his wife with Michael this past week. That was really neat. Elder Larkin knew the scriptures very well. Michael is awesome. He has a Christian background and knew the Bible very well. He just grew so much as he studied the Book of Mormon. His baptism was awesome. He had a lot of people from the west side of Vegas drive over for his baptism. Elder Larkin was able to baptize him and it was just a great service!

And then right after that service we had Teddy's baptism. Teddy is just an awesome guy. He is very logical and he had asked me some very interesting questions which he wanted to learn about and get answers to in my talk I was to give about baptism. He has always been intrigued his whole life with the physical state of Israel and so he wanted to know how his baptism would help him gather physically and spiritually the house of Israel. It's not many people who have that in depth understanding at their baptism. But the best part and most spiritual part of the whole service was at the very end when he bore his testimony about his conversion process. I will take a few moments to recount what he said because it was so very powerful and it was the most emotion I have ever seen him show, and his testimony was solely based on his free will to follow Christ. The spirit overwhelmed me and the entire room as he spoke.

This is his story:
I was raised a Catholic and went to church every Sunday and went to a Catholic school, but none of it was my choice and so at the age 17 I began to fall away from my belief in a God and make choices that were not correct. I eventually went to Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. I didn't know then how close I was to where the church began. The liberal atmosphere at that school taught me much and my intelligence grew as I studied. But all the while I continued to make sub optimal decisions and I did not have true agency and control over my thoughts and actions and lusts. Eventually, I moved too Dolan Springs Arizona and started working in the medical marijuana industry. I felt my actions were justified as I was helping others receive medicine. But as I watched more and more bad people come through and to not even use it for its correct purposes I decided to leave and I made my way back up to New York. Eventually, I decided to travel Israel. I have always been interested in the physical state of Israel and didn't learn much about the spiritual until now. But as I was there I tried to cross the border into Israel and I was denied as I had no real time period or purpose. That was a wake-up call for me. And so eventually I made my way back to Dolan Springs and the first week I was there the missionaries came to my door. Just earlier that week I had written a paper on faith for school, so I was open to listening to them. But I found a job and then moved the Vegas where I met the missionaries here and continued to grow and get back to my Father in Heaven. This time though, it was my choice. I used my agency to pray and read and come to church. One lesson, the elders told me I needed to pray every single day and to read as well. So I committed to read and start the Book of Mormon over. As I was walking to the bus stop listening to the first chapter of Nephi and praying about if the book was true I saw a New Testament laying on the ground. I thought that was ironic and then a few hours later my sister who was going to need surgery and my family had no health insurance texted me and said that she didn't need any surgery. I have made my choice to follow Christ this day. I know the Book of Mormon to be true, it has filled me. But I still always had doubts and a questions I was considering was how I could combine my liberal knowledge I had gained at the university with the things I have learned in this institution. This past week I was reading about the founder of Cornell University and in the 1800s he had traveled to Russia and spoke with a very renowned philosopher, [can’t remember name], and the philosopher asked the founder what he thought of Mormonism, and the Founder responded saying many negative things and how they were polygamist. Then the philosopher responded saying " I am saddened to hear of someone of your stature to feel such a way, because Mormonism has the purest religion and if the members of its church abide by the principles beings taught there it will go forth and fill the earth. If it makes it past three or four generations it will never fall as other nations have before but it will fill the earth." That was the last thing I needed to know In order to continue this path I have chosen to take. I know Joseph Smith is a true prophet of God and that this is the Lord’s church.

That is a rough paraphrasing of what he said, but I wanted to share because it was one of the most powerful moments in my mission. I will have Teddy write up his conversion story for me. I know God prepares people.

Elder Clark

Only 119 degrees on June 5th!

Teddy's Baptism

Michael's Baptism

Ross's Baptism

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