Tuesday, March 26, 2013

"Diligence and Faith = Many Miracles" 3/18/13

 Good morning!

To start off, thank you so much for your words of patience...there are a lot of things that I think about in my mission that are changing. It seems with every companion that I have, I change a little here, and a little there. Sometimes this change is uncomfortable and not wanted...but if we take the time to see that God should be in 1st place in our lives and not ourselves, we will realize that any excuse we have is just relying on our own abilities and not the Lord's.
I'm doing pretty good this week with no exciting new in regards to transfers. I'm staying with my companion for another and am grateful. I need to grow a lot to be a good leader, and my companion helps me quite a bit with that. There are going to be 8 new elders and 1 sister today coming in and next transfer about 9 sisters come in. Then after that another huge number of sisters. The mission is going to have a lot of sisters to say the least. Its good too, because sisters are always the examples. ;) As far as I know, in our mission we can only email immediate family, but those who wish can email me...hand written might be the best because then I'm not super behind in writing back. Hand written post gives me the time I need.
Yes, our acting president does speak only Russian, and I love him and his wife to death. His wife is the district relief society president and just to give you a view of the two, we were at the church building doing studies and a Relief Society activity was in the preparations. President Podvodov told us to keep studying while the rest set up because of the importance of studies...later after the activity we had an investigator meeting to go to, but Sister Podvodova was wanting us to eat refreshments. I said "Sorry we cant, we need to go save someone." She responded "Gotta save yourself first, so go eat!" Those moments just make you laugh ;)

 Speaking of Lord Apong (investigator from Africa), he's doing alright. He came to church a week ago, but then didn't come. He's a 19 year old young man who admits he really doesn't follow commitments. The last lesson we had with him was about the Plan of Salvation and he was a little shaken with the idea of 3 degrees of glory. It is a beautiful doctrine that just didn't make sense to him.  Then (and this is mainly my fault) we talked about the authority of baptism. He wasn't ready to learn this. I learned-- If we try to teach by anything else but the Spirit it doesn't work...He closed up after that lesson. We'll help him though. I just feel bad that I relied on what I thought and not on what the Lord would want me to say to him.
Our investigators in general aren't making must progress this week, but there are many miracles happening right now in our mission and it's because of our faith and diligence...however, we need more faith and hard work though. A miracle last Saturday in the mission was we had 5 baptisms in one day! A man, who I had the opportunity to interview, was baptized in the morning, and (as a testimony of the power of a baptismal service) an investigator's dad was at the baptism and gave permision to his daughter to be baptized. We had to run over there, do the interview, and later that day she was also baptized. Amazing!
Last Sunday we were having a really rough day. We had translated almost all 3 hours, were tired, hadn't eaten and were on the streets after a lesson that wasn't that good. We were about to cross the street when an impression came to me to go down the street we were on. We did so and after a few rejections, a mom and daughter and granddaughter stopped. We asked a bit about them and they said they were baptized in our church. When they said the names of the missionaries starting off with 'elder' and a last name like 'Olsen' we thought "NO WAY!!?!?!" But they were less actives not on our records from Siberia. The Lord led us to them. That wasn't the end, not even the beginning. We then walked passed a group of people who then stopped us with the words "You're Mormon right?!" answering yes, they said they had been searching for us for ever, lived about 2 hours away, and were praying to find us. They found us. We took them to the church immediately and did a tour. They asked so many questions and just were so prepared. Within 15 minutes of the tour of the church she was asking what she needed to do to become a member of our church. Then after that a random member popped her head out the office door, and said "I can answer that" in regards to a question. That's the kind of members that missionaries need: Willing ones. We've met with them now every day for the last four days. They have just soaked in everything, forgotten a lot, but they are literally the start of the church in this city without missionaries and members. We don't know where this is going to go, but we'll be able to drive up to her, teach her and those that she gathers to try to start the church there. It is absolutely amazing that though there are so many teachings in the world today, the Lord still is preparing those who are kept from the truth only because they know not where to find it. We need to be ready to help all find it. If a member or full-time missionary, we just have to follow the Spirit, live right, and we will be in the right places at the right times. This work is absolutely the work and glory of God. In no other work can you say miracles are a daily thing. I am so grateful to God for all that He gives us and all we can receive. But if we are only willing to give a part-time effort, we can only receive a portion of the blessings. We literally determine everything, for everything is determined by our  individual choices. Be miracle seekers! We're asking our missionaries and ourselves the question every day: What made your day miraculous? Amazing how many answers you can come up with.

 President Campero (our Donetsk mission president) had been in America for a while (as you know). He has been diagnosed with prostrate cancer. We don't know what it is going to amount to, but we'll probably have a new mission president in July. Keep him in your prayers.

As for Natalia and her meeting with the Professors, it went very well. It was a very open discussion, but was still amazing. She wants to help us find more people, but really just doesn't get that she needs to progress.  We'll work with her of course.

The work continues.

Hugs, Elder Claypool

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Pictures - Companions fighting over bread stick, Natalia and her husband Maxim, the apartment - good boy for making your bed Kade!

"Set high goals- The Gospel of Jesus Christ is for All Languages and is Truth" - March 11, 2013

Hey! Well, thanks for asking. I think I am doing great! There's a lot of growth happening this transfer and if nothing else, I am seeing how a diligent desire and attitude of gaining a testimony really does strengthen your testimony so much more.

I love your idea for Family Home Evening! You're doing what we do on the mission in finding questions and concerns of our investigators and then studying for them to help them come closer to Jesus Christ. Some of the most amazing studies I have had on my mission were not for me, but were for others in me helping them search for answers.

Our Zone is doing great with so many wonderful miracles happening! We had another zone leaders council again this last week with President Podvodov, our acting mission president. Because he doesn't speak Russian and because our mission is taking a turn in the direction really improving our Russian, the whole meeting, trainings, everything was in Russian. It was pretty difficult, but was amazing to see what direction this mission is headed. When we are ready to sacrifice everything, then the Lord will be able to give us everything. We are really focusing on the family in our mission and also working with members...not just working with them, but teaching and training them. The members here are incredible and we have a special privilege to sit on the district meetings of the to-be-donestk stake. The District President, President Cheban, is a visionary man who not only fulfills his duties, but fulfills his responsibilities to the Lord. Yesterday in our meeting when we were translating, he asked what the goal of our area was? I thought to build a stake. Not him though...his goal, a temple. Yes, we are still not quite at a stake level until we get more members, but he is already planning for the future. This is an incredible principle of life. That which we set our goals for, we will be likely to acheive. The Lord wants us to have success in life. He has promised us that we can. Now, we need to, hoping for the obtaining of the promise, move forward with action, or faith, letting charity be our motive for it never faileth. This is a huge thing that just clicked last Saturday: Hope is our direction. Faith is the action. Charity is the Motivation. The Gospel is just becoming more clear.

This last week was good with less faith than last week, but I'm grateful to have challenges. Everyone has challenges that either become stumbling blocks or stepping stones. Hopefully we use our challenges as stepping stones.

As for our service, we found a pretty amazing investigator this last week named Lord Apong from Ghana. He's 19 and just a wonderful, humble, and spiritual example to us. He even came to churh after meeting just once with him. It's special to know that soon we should have an African branch here in Donest'k.

Earnest, a young man that we found and taught the gospel to in my last area, was just baptized and confirmed this last week. Isn't that wonderful? We've already had almost 15 baptisms in this calendar year and are still going on. More importantly, the missionaries are changing for the better and I'm grateful to lead them and for how they lead me. I know that when we teach true doctrine, it really does change people.

Also, we had a wonderful lesson with Natalia the yoga teacher who was so kind in inviting more friends for us to teach. In just teaching about the simple truths of the Book of Mormon, it really changes everything. The Book of Mormon is a powerful tool in the hands of the missionary and in the lives of God's children. And if the Book of Mormon is in the hands of the missionary, he is a powerful insturmment in the hands of the Lord. I am grateful to know the Bible and Book of Mormon were written by prophets of old and those sacred records help mold us to understand truth.

I love you all so much and have a strong testimony that we can learn from the scriptures. Though it is always easier to have a teacher teach us, I know that if we start our study of the scriptures with a prayer pleading for the opportyunity to learn, with pen and paper in hand ready to receive revelation, we will be taught. No one can teach deeper than the Spirit either.

Elder Claypool

PS. I think that I am doing great with things...chapstick is something that I don't really have that is really rare here... If you cannot send it then don't worry about it.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

"Just Go Serve a Mission! You will love it!" -March 4, 2013

Hi family,

Thank you for your letters and your prayers. I don't have a lot of time again...but I just wanted to share with you a miracle that happened this last week. We have found an investigator who is super excited in sharing the gospel and actually set up a meeting with us and 5 professors from a University to take part in their discussion group. We were able to discuss the gospel and the restoration opening with these people who will then influence so many more. It was incredible! We were able to bear solemn testimony of the truths that make us happy and were reinforced that they really do make us happy.

President Campero (our mission president here in Donets'k) is actually in America right now because of health issues, but we're moving forward while he's gone. Pray for him though.

The Lord is doing an incredible work here in gathering Israel. We will be opening an African branch ("branch" is a term used for a group of members, because there aren't enough members to form a 'ward' yet).  We are baptizing so many from Africa that live in Ukraine. Also, we need 120 more Melchizedek priesthood holders to make a stake (many wards make up a stake). Pray for Zion here!

I love you! Keep being the amazing people you are at work and home. And I would eat dad's cooking any day ;)

Elder Claypool

PS This really is the best time of my life and is my life.  Everyone should serve.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

"Great Success in the Work" - February 25, 2013

If there is something that I have learned it is that we are commanded to do all things in the name of Jesus Christ. I've taken this is stride and really try.  As you know I have kept a journal every day for the past 6 years.  Now I start even my journal writing with a prayer. If there is anyone to thank, it's the One who gives me the inspiration. 

Your pictures were incredible and I'm so glad to hear that you had a good trip in Japan. I eat fish very very rarely here, but when I do....it is an incredible delicacy!

I also was able to have a little taste of how your Sundays are because we were asked to translate the high council meeting for the few senior Russian couple missionaries and members who are serving in district callings who don't speak English. There were a lot of words I did not know since I'm still learning Russian, but it was super amazing to be a part of the growth of the church here in Ukraine. We had two baptisms this last Sunday, and we will have 4 baptisms next week.  There are currently 24 investigators ready for baptism all around our mission with a baptismal date. 

Nina's baptism was amazing from what I heard! She was baptized by Elder Lukashuk and had to be baptized 5 times because her elbow kept coming up... :) I wasnt able to be there, but I wrote her a letter, talked to her on the phone afterwards, and she was confirmed Sunday. How incredible and blessed I feel mom! Her husband wasnt baptized and still is having a ton of issues, but we still hope and pray!

Cool story for the week:
We have an investigator named Natalia who is a professor, super smart, and read the entire book of mormon already. She shares the Gospel with everyone. She believes the Book of Mormon is true and this last tuesday we had the oportunity to come over, learn a lot about the ukrainian culture, (they cooked for us, sang, told history) and then we got to sit in a circle on the ground with 10 other people and just talk about the restoration and book of mormon. What a blessing! Thisnext friday, we have an appointment in a university here to give a presentation infront of about 20 professors about our missions and why we are here. Amazing! 

A large part of our missionary work is self-contacting on the streets. The average per comapnionship is 10 new people teaching per week, there is one companionship in my zone who I think are some of the best missionaries in this mission, and they got 47 new interested people to teach in one week!! There are miracles happening!

The paper that I sent you in Russian is called "roots and branches" and maybe it would be a good way to help members get excited in temple work and missiorary work in saving their own families to be together forever. They need to understand the eternal doctrine of the family better found in the Bible by the prophet Malachi, the last verses of the Old Testament.

This last week I wasn't great with exchanges. We didn't wisely use all the time we could, but I'm starting to realize this one thing: Those who fight for a cause greater than themselves are going to have a greater strength, desire, and capability. The cause of God's work and glory is the greatest. Building Zion is our goal. However, the only way we will be able to become "one heart, of one mind" (Moses 7:18) and dwell in rigtheousness, we have to have charity. Charity is the driving force that allows the disciple of Christ to press-forward and work beyond his own abilities. (see 2 Nephi 26:29-31).

Seek The Zion!

I love you.

Elder Claypool

Church building in Elder Claypool's area

Go and Do The Things The Lord Commands - Feb. 18,2013

I'm so glad that your week was well and that you are having some wonderful learning experiences as parents with Korm.  Both of you seriously did so well in raising me and I still attribute so much to you. 

Our new area is wonderful and there is a whole new side of missionary work that I see now. There is a lot more to do with numbers, follow-ups, exchanges (exchanges means when missionaries trade companions for a day to learn from each other and learn areas), but I am so grateful for my companion (reminder: he is from Germany). He is a wonderful example to me and teaches me so much. We were able to have an inspiring district leader's council and zone meetings too with all these hard-working and dedicated missionaries. It felt strange that here I am sitting at the head of a table to lead them when all the other missionaries sitting in front of me are all more experienced...needless to say, when they spoke, I was taking notes as I knew I could learn from them too.  A good leader needs to realize he or she has much to learn from the people they associate with.

One thing that I was thinking about a lot lately was just my duty and who I am. In our Zone Meeting we talked about who we are as missionaries. I thought about just what it meant to represent Jesus Christ. Elder Southam, a senior couple missionary, shared a powerful metaphor between the military uniform and our missoinary uniform in relation to our calling. When a person salutes in the military, it means three things: I understand; I will go and do; I will return and report. This simply explains missionary work. We need to understand our duty first. When Jacob, a prophet in the Book of Mormon talks about his duty, he feels guilty before God to think that those for whom he has stewardship are so guilty in sin. I want that kind of duty rooted in my soul. Then it's the actual doing that makes such a difference. I really want to become a person that is not driven by whimsical desires and acted upon, but a person who sets goals and moves forward for the benefit of others. Then, the idea of returning and reporting is more meaningful.  Accountability is a principle of heaven that as missionaries and members we often don't put enough thought into. In a way, I am giving an account to you, my patriarchal leader of my family. Also, I write a letter to my mission president every week (Pres. Camperos from Bolivia), and in my prayers every night, I should be providing an accounting to the Lord. These principles help us fulfill our roles and responsibilities in life and the callings we have been foreordained to fulfill. 

I love you all very much. I really do have a testimony that all of this is true. It changes my life and helps me to move forward. 

Elder Claypool