Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Different strengths and weaknesses, but singularity in purpose...

Here we are again, Elder Riddle and I, writing the best families in the whole universe on our p-day. Time flies so fast here at the MTC and i can hardly believe that it is the start of our fourth week here! How are you all doing? Summer break going well? Brazil? How about running the hill? The twins and Korm are doing that I assume, which is more than I can say seeing as the MTC food is starting to get to waist that is ;) I pray for you guys every day and love you so much!

Korm, thank you for your note and I'm glad to see your doing good. I also can really empathize with you about missing school. Though we all like to play and relax, those who truly are relaxed are those who work the hardest. ;) Twins, I'm glad you've been having missionary experiences and Kayla I think you'll be fine when it comes to staying alive from getting your shots. Plus, that just means you'll be extra healthy! Mom, I hope your calling is going wonderful and that you know how much I appreciate your comments about non-members. They truly are great in the sight of God and deserve our equal attention. Dad, hope Brazil is going marvelously and that you know I did try to give the prophet a hug...okay I really couldn't but if I could I would of for you ;)

MTC life is wonderful, amazing, and better than ever. Besides eating my weight in food every meal, the learning lessons i have been able to have has been incredible. Elder Riddle and I have had quite a few companionship inventories due to some disagreements that are starting to come from being together and being together on lessons. We plan differently, have different strengths and weaknesses, and are just completely different people. The love that we have for each other and the singularity of purpose that we have has kept us together though ;) In our lessons with Vladimir and Vova (aka its weird spelling these names in English ;), we have had some major successes and major plummets. One reason that we did not do as well for some of the lessons was because we weren't paying attention to the Spirit or the investigator. With a language that we don't know very well and having to be able to not only give a lessons but answer questions and converse with them, we tend to be confined to our lesson plans and do not deviate or really include them. Its like reading a script per se. This led to lack of unity, stumbling with the language, not really feeling the Spirit, having little success, and just ending frustrated. However, during our lessons we have been focusing on simplicity and the Spirit. Those two things. I can testify that simplicity is what brings both the Spirit and Salvation. Just like Nephi is always big on expressing, the mysteries of God are given in plainness. When we seek the deep and dark unknown of what we find intriguing as members of the church who are "so past the normal primary stuff" we fall into the same pit hole as the Jews of old who faulted by "looking beyond the mark" as Jacob describes in the Book of Mormon. The Gospel is plain, the Gospel is precious, and it is through simplicity we can receive the eternal depth that comes as a converted disciple of Christ.

As you know, this week was jammed packed with Apostles, prophets, seers, and revelators that have pretty much the same job as I do. Though they are special witnesses, we all are representatives of Christ and bear the title of Elder to reflect such a calling. As a choir we were able to sing every day since Sunday literally standing inches away from the apostles and prophets we so greatly revere and sustain. Sunday night, I watched Elder Bednar's fireside entitled "Character of Christ;" Monday morning I stood 3 feet in front of Him. This morning I read a talk by President Packer from conference and this morning sang for him standing in front of Elders Holland and Bednar. In total, over the last four days, I have sung for and stood with in arms length of nearly every member of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. Though I have been able to see them in person and feel of their presence, I know no more now than I did then that these men are called of God and have been prepared to fulfill these callings from the foundations of the Earth. These men, hand selected and chosen by Jesus Christ and the The Father themselves, are our mouthpieces of God today. In teaching investigators who have not or have had religion in their lives, simple truths such as God is our Loving Heavenly father and we can communicate with him through prayer, Christ leads his church today through prophets and Apostles, and that we all through the Atonement of Jesus Christ can receive every blessing the Father could possible give as we live forever with him, are all truths that warm the heart, remind the soul, and bring hope to the otherwise hopeless. This is His work and His Glory. Every day I learn more of what it means to be a disciple of Christ and become converted to Him. As an authorized Representative of Christ I invite all of you to partake of this pathway beginning with renewing your covenants and obligations to God. To you who have strayed or have not yet discovered in full this man we call Jesus of Nazareth, I invite you to read of His words and experience His Grace in your life. He commands none to depart from Him, he allows all to partake of his goodness, and he stands with outstretched-pierced hands to all who are willing to take hold of his hands and let him take hold of your life. This I know to be true, but more importantly, so can all of you. "Ask and ye shall receive, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you." I promise this.
Elder Claypool

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Here is the link to Elder Eric Sande who is serving in Minnesota on his mission.  Check out how awesome he is doing and how much growth he has experienced!

Week 2 MTC! Language of the Spirit...

Hey family!!!!! I love you guys so much! Can you believe that it has already been two weeks that I've been here in the MTC! It is going by way too fast!
To catch you up to speed with how I've been, the answer is absolutely fantastic! My companion Elder Riddle and I are getting along so wonderfully...we're very different but we are still becoming the best of friends! Our investigator, Mihael, isnt actually an investigator but a teacher here in the MTC and just served in Moscow about a year ago. What makes it more awkward is that not only does he speak fluent English and knew how bad we were doing grammatically etc, but he is now one of our teachers. We have three teachers: Brot Adams, Brot Gallo, and Brot Hollingshead (Mihael). They are the best teachers and all make me want to be so much better as a missionary! Brot Adams (and i saw brot because thats the closest I can get to the russian translation ;) is very wise, well versed in the scriptures, hilarious and asks the perfect piercing questions to get you to answer your own questions. Brot Gallo served in Russia as well and he is literally the most loving person I have ever met! He, to me is the epitome of what a person full to the brim of charity is exactly like. Brot Hollingshead is...well he's just him. He is very much so...well i dont know how to describe him. He's just one of those people who are increadibly hilarious because they try to be serious all the time as a joke. The first time we had him as our teacher, we walked around outside and he pointed things out and their Russian word with his he's pretty much a super cool Brot Wonka ;) my district is also incredible! We have 6 elders and 4 sisters in our district and we're fast becoming a family. Its funny because a lot of them seem so familiar and do remind me of a few people. We have also been doing really well getting along and setting spiritual and language goals. I didn't realize this before hand, but in the mtc they dont actually teach you the language persay....we actually learn most of it on our own. We have about 7 hours of classroom time every day (only 3-4 on sundays) but only a small portion of that is actually involved in being taught by one of our amazing teachers. Vocabulary, our lessons every other day, our 3 minute talks every sunday (we all prepare since they call on two randomly), or anything else that we need in Russian (ie memorizing passages of scripture, phrases, etc) is all memorized and learned on our own. The idea behind it is that the missionaries need to learn how to study on their own so that in the mission field they can continue with the same methods of language study that they had developed in the MTC. I really do love the language tho and am so greatful to be a part of it!
I am in fact singing in the choir! We meet every Sunday and Tuesday to sing at the Tuesday devotional (we actually have a fireside on Sunday - last Sunday was sister dew - and a devotional on Tuesday nights, kinda like at BYU). I also auditioned...kinda...and got into a choir that is responsible for all the mission president training meetings this next week. What is super cool about that is that we are the singing group that actually is performing at all those meetings which are being taught and presided over by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. Sunday well sing for President Monson; Monday, President Eyring; Tuesday, President Utchdorf; Wednesday, President Packer. We'll be about an arms length away from them all as the rooms aren't that big and they'll be right behind us on the stand. Crazy right! It's quite a blessing! But is is hard leaving my companions, and missing time with them. I already feel not right if i dont have Elder Riddle at my side ;)
As you have probably guessed too, the MTC is a place of serious growth. Now I hope that I am growing for the better, which I think I am (height wise too Korm ;) but there is no doubt that I am being taught in so many ways. Whether it be in writting lessons, learning Russian, or being taught from the Spirit, all these things are working for my benefit and I am so grateful! Lately, I have been really focusing on the spirit and being able to teach and recognize it. I haven't really ever felt I recognized the Spirit very well in my life and so I had ofcourse been thinking of how to be better at it. The lord is mindful. I can testify to that. The last three devotional/firesides have been on receiving, recognizing, and acting upon revelation and have helped me bit by bit. Sister Dew posed an incredible question that I have never thought of before: have you ever asked the Lord to teach you how you personally recognize the Spirit? As it says in 2 Ne 31, the lord speaks to all men in their own language and unto their own understanding. So I continue to pray that the lord will continue to teach me and help me to become more reliant on him. Russian is only the secondary language I am learning in the MTC,- yes though it is the most prevalent of languages I am learning, I am seeking to understand and gain fluency in the language that will shape the rest of my life: the language of the Spirit. Even the Lord used mycompainon to chastise me when it came to sitting around and waiting for revelations rather than doing what I knew was best and listening for the spirit, that strengthened my humility!
I love you all so much! I have been receiving your letters on dear elder, but I would also like to hear from every one too! Not every week neccessarily, but I still want to keep in touch. I only have 30 minutes every Wednesday to send emails, so if there are spelling errors or puncuation errors, know that I dont have a ton of time and would appreciate a spell check before it goes on to the blog. I have such a testimony of this work and of the lord's hand in my life. I try harder every day to be the best missionary I can and pray for you all every day. I can't even tell you how much I have a testimony and know this is true! I'm just trying to be true to what i know now.
Dad, I'm sending you a package this week. happy fathers day!
Love Elder Claypool

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

First P-day in MTC!

Hey Family! I can't believe I've already been here a week! I can truly say that it has been a challenging week at that, but I have grown a ton! As you can guess, my p-day is wednesday's and that's when I can email you! I love you guys so much and  I am so grateful for your love and support with me. While we were walking back from the temple today (me and three other amazing Elders from our residence room, Elders Grant, Worthington, and my companion Riddle), we were able to see the new missionaries coming in, saying goodbye to their families, and the tender moments that we were watching. I hope each of you know how much I love and care for you all with all my heart, and I hope you know that I am where I am supposed to be; I know that. The first week was incredibly difficult as not even an hour into being at the MTC I was struggling to understand what my Russian Teacher was saying to me as he was speaking nothing but. (He's actually Liz Adams's older brother as if the world wasn't small enough). By day two, we were teaching our first investigator in Russian and rather haltingly at that. However hard it was, and however frustrating it was, it is so worth it! I can testify that the programs here at the MTC are so inspired that there is no wonder why we always succeed as missionaries. One thing Elder Riddle and I have had the opportunity to do is teach a man from Russia named Mihael every day for the past week except for Sunday and today. We've learned so many lessons from these experiences that are helping us become better missionaries. As I learn more Russian, I am so grateful that I have to think out and plan a lesson first with a language I do not know because if all this were in english, I wouldn't have come to learn a little more just what it means to rely on the Lord and the Spirit. In our prayers everyday, aside from praying for each of your welfare, we always ask for the gift of tongues and the gift of understanding. The gifts of the Spirit are real and available to fulfill the neccessary requirements to receive the blessings and then ask for such gifts. It never ceases to amaze me how much I feel these two specific gifts in my life this last week as we were able to understand this investigator that spoke zero english and were able to bring the Spirit into the lesson through the simple things we knew how to do: bear testimony, pray, make promises, and have him read the things we didnt know how to say (For all those Elders and Sisters going foreign speaking, don't forget that pamphlets, the scriptures, and even Preach My Gospel are great tools for your investigator to read when you have no clue how to explain things).

Here at the MTC, there is an incredible Spirit here as you look around and realize that every single Elder and Sister here has been set apart as an authorized representative of Jesus Christ...probably one of Satan's least favorite places ;) The food is plentiful, but not as good as mom's; the people are incredible and make me want to be better, and once again, the Lord manifest His hand steadily in my life.

Remember how I had said one of the hardest parts about my mission would be being able to communicate...well I was pretty right. Russian is an incredible beautiful and wonderful language but also incredibly difficult. I am so greatful for the gifts of the Spirit or else I would have absolutely no hope and be done with it all ;) Oh, and remember how I had mentioned that one of the most foreign thoughts for me was that I would be fluent in a foreign language? Well in seeing the examples of the Elders and Sisters that have been here for 6 weeks ahead of me, it gives me great hope. And remember how I had said that one of the hardest thoughts for me was to be able to bear my testimony in Russian as I didn't really view it as a language that was condusive to the Spirit? Wrong again!!! As we bear testimony frequently (only in Russian), say our prayers (only in Russian), give sacrament meeting talks that have to be prepared every week as they select random individuals (only in Russian), and even singing hymns (And ONLY IN RUSSIAN!!!!) , the Holy Ghost has manifested to me in so many was the fulfillment of the Lord's words when He says that He will speak to every people in their own tongue and in their own ways. And as I am here for two weeks to learn the language of Russian only to teach using the language of the Spirit, I have a firm testimony that the Spirit works incredibly well through Russian and in conveying to hearts, and not only understanding, the truthfulness of our message.

The last thing I wish to do I to encourage you all to look for ways to turn out in love and charity as the Savior Jesus Christ did and does, rather than focusing on yourself and turning inwards as the normal person would. focus on building Zion and lose your life in the real Life that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I love you all so much! Mom, thank you for being so absolutely incredible and the best mom I could ever ask for. Dad, I cant even tell you how much you are an example to me and how much I talk about and ponder your attributes in trying to be like you! I love you! Korm, you are my best friend and I want nothing more for you than to get out here in the mission field and serve the Lord one day. I love you MaKormick. Twins, thank you for bringing so muych joy into my life and know how sorry I am I missed your birthday.
Elder MaKade Claypool 

Monday, June 4, 2012

"Oh, how I'm going to miss you..."

Last night we had MaKade's open house.  He had so many wonderful family and friends come to see him and show their love and support for him and our family.  We appreciate all who came. We took lots of wonderful pictures that I hopefully can get on here at some point, but I couldn't help but put this one on now.  This is Kade and one of his sweet nieces that love him and will miss him.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Further Mailing Instructions for the Ukraine Donetsk Mission

Sending Mail to Ukraine Donetsk Missionaries:

Letters.  There are two ways to send letters.  You can use the pouch or you can send through regular surface mail.
  • If you choose the pouch, you have to follow the new “tri-fold” rules.  So you can’t include anything, like pictures, money, or credit cards with your letter.  This is the major disadvantage of the pouch.  You mail your letter to the pouch address, and the Church office in Salt Lake takes care of getting the letter to Ukraine.  The letters are delivered once a week to the Donetsk mission office.  The advantages of this system are that it’s dependable.  You know it will get here.  Also it’s cheaper—only the cost of a stamp to Salt Lake.  It takes 1-2 weeks.  Letters can’t be sent this way from the mission. (See the following attachment about pouch mail.)
  • If you choose surface mail, you still need to send the letter to the mission office address.  By the time the letter gets to Ukraine, your missionary may have been transferred to another area. There are a couple of post offices that get mail addressed to the mission office, and every week it is picked up and brought to the mission office. We get both letters and packages this way.  Surface mail is often opened and is not always  reliable. 
Packages.  There are two basic ways to send packages:
  • Surface mail.  The same process and problems described above under “letters” apply to packages. The advantage here is that it costs less to send packages by surface mail than through other companies described below.  But there is a major disadvantage:  Ukrainian customs opens many of the surface mail packages we get.  Usually items are removed from the packages that are opened.  You take that risk when you use surface mail.  Packages can take 2 months or more to get here.  Put the missionary’s name on the package along with the address.
  • Businesses set up to handle mailing packages.  Roxolana is the one used by Ukrainian missionaries.  It is definitely more costly, but we have never seen a package opened and things removed.   You do have to wrap the packages carefully and securely.  You do have to declare all that goes into the package. Packages sent this way usually take one to two months to arrive.  If you are shipping something really valuable (as opposed to, say, snacks), you should consider this method or Meest .  (See attachment on Roxolana and Meest)
Instructions for shipping through Roxolana:

Roxolana is the company most often used by parents of missionaries, as well as the missionary couples serving here.  It is a Ukrainian company based in New Jersey.  For instructions, call the Roxolana number and ask for someone who speaks English.  Tell them the number of packages you wish to send and the approximate weight of each.  They will then send you the shipping labels with the weight indicated on them, along with other mailing instructions.

Boxing your things:  Use a very sturdy box that will hold up with rough handling.   Place the box on a scale.  Then put items you are sending in the box until it weighs the amount you requested on its label.  When the box is the right weight, pack the items inside carefully so they will not be damaged during transit.  Be especially careful with liquids, placing them in a ziploc bag to prevent leakage if their packaging is damaged.  Close and tape the box securely.  Then wrap the box in brown wrapping paper and tape it securely again with duct tape or strong mailing tape.  Use tape liberally. If the box is taped, covered and retaped in this way, it will probably not be opened during shipment and all items will arrive!   Keep a list of what you have sent for your records.

Roxolana requires that you include a list of items you are sending in an envelope outside of the package.  The company will then fill out a shipping declaration form.  Your description of contents can be fairly general with minimized value stated to lessen chance of theft.  (For example, “dried food”)  Address the box according to the instructions from Roxolana.  Take the box to a UPS pickup point or arrange online or by phone to have UPS pick up the package at your home.

UPS will ship the package to the Roxolana address in New Jersey.  You will then receive a call from Roxolana indicating the cost of shipping, including the UPS fee. After you have paid this by credit card over the phone, your package is on its way to your missionary in Ukraine!   It may take 3 months to get here.

How much time it takes for your missionary to get a package also depends on where he or she is serving.   It is necessary to send all packages to the mission office (Bogdana Khmelnitskogo 67a, Donetsk, Ukraine, 83087).  If your missionary is currently serving in or close to Donetsk, he/she will get the package within a few days after its arrival.   Missionaries in Kharkov or Sumy receive their packages as quickly as missionaries or leaders will be traveling to those cities.  Because of the length of time required to receive a package, be careful not to send perishable items such as home-baked goods.  Also, plan far in advance for birthdays and holidays!