Sunday, May 18, 2014

Elder MaKade Claypool home safe from Ukraine April 29, 2014

"Love to serve those around you" April 21, 2014 Final letter from Ukraine

 Hello all my family!

It has been just an incredible week for me this last week for various reasons :) but it has been yet another week filled with learning.

We have over 200 missionaries right now in our mission here in Kiev and that means a whole lot of missionary work is getting done. Very exciting. Personally for us, we weren't able to see a whole lot this week, but we are doing our best to take care of what the Lord has given us.

I love this thought--  'those placed in our path and those the Father gives us to love'. All of them are for us to grow! And if we have a hard time doing so, my counsel reflects the words of the Prophet Joseph Smith: Enlarge your heart towards all men until you feel of necessity to take them upon your shoulders.

Isn't that so true?  We need to love all those around us.  Like Isaiah wrote (but I will share it in my own words so bare with me) -- we will carry our brothers and sisters upon our shoulders and be their nursing kings and nursing queens -- in otherwords we will serve with love.

That is really the theme of all Christ-like discipleship. Yes, there is sacrifice, there are callings to fulfill, there are commandments to obey; but, when it all comes down to it all our good works really do stream from our Love to God and then accordingly to ourselves and our fellowmen.

Even in our Savior's last week He continued to serve until the end.  He never stopped serving.

The following scriptural passage really touched my heart this week as I thought about my love towards my fellowmen all around the world and my service towards them as a natural result of my love: "Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end...Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; (in other words, having received all things and really being set in the eternal scheme of things, understanding that he was the literal Son of God and was soon to be above all things...) He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded" (John 13:1-5).

Ok, now stop and take a minute to just think about what kind of man our Savior really is. He was and is not ever far from the experiences that we have. I find solace and comfort in His life story because I see just what He did when was faced with a situation that I may now (or will someday) be in. Whether that be keeping His peace, testifying with boldness, taking a break because he was hungry (I like that one), true weeping, desiring to let His trials pass from Him, and His faithfulness in completely and utterly serving to the end. Our Master is "the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6).

In this Easter season, I want to thank you for helping me come to better know my Savior because of your wonderful examples.  And as dad says and I totally agree and express my heart that you (mom) for me are an example of Christ-like love and service. I can't even express how many times that I am awed by your example of Christ. I love you so much!

Can you imagine it that my farewell was given nearly two years ago on Mother's Day? There's no doubt in my mind why Christ's mother was extremely important to Him. So I try to emulate His example.
He lives. And because of Him we will again.

I think Ukraine is the only place on the planet that instead of saying "Hello....or Happy Easter" on Easter, the Ukrainians instead say: "Christ is risen!" and in response you say to them "Yes of truth, He is risen!"

I love my Savior so much and am so grateful that I have such a Savior, Teacher, Master, Friend, and Brother.  (I guess I do have an older brother so I am the middle child MaKormick! Smile).

Strengthen your relationship with Him and then share the results.

Pray for the people of Ukraine.

Elder Claypool

Letter received from mom of a missionary in Kiev - April 19, 2014

Dear Brother and Sister Claypool,
My son is a missionary in the Kyiv Ukraine missionary, and is the district leader in the area of Kyiv where your son is now serving. In his letter home on Monday, our son spoke of your son and I was so impressed that I wanted to share his comments with you.

This past week was a really good week.  It was without a doubt the most stressful week of my life, and I got almost zero sleep, but I saw the hand of the Lord in it incredibly powerfully!  So to start, I will answer a major question that I have been asked.  Yes, the Donetsk missionaries did evacuate to our mission, and yes, they are now serving in our mission.  To go into a little more detail about that, they have been integrated into our mission, and are serving around, and with, us.  Honestly, they are really great!
So yeah, that was probably the main part of this week.  Donetsk is now in Kiev.  I was also very blessed by the Lord to get really good missionaries!  A couple of them are struggling right now, understandably.  I know that I would be very distraught if I had to leave the place that I love so much and go somewhere else.  But they are making do.  I am trying my best to help them acclimate, and I think it is working pretty well.  They truly are very good missionaries, especially one.  This is another reason why I am super grateful to the Lord.  Elder Claypool is his name.  He is in his 15th transfer, and I have never in my entire life met a better missionary.  He is everything I could ever want to be.  He is smiling 24/7, and is ALWAYS happy, but I have never seen someone more focused on something than he is on missionary work.  He is the only person who is not down in the dumps right now, and he has the most reason to be.  Two days before he came here, he set three baptismal dates with people, and then, out of the blue, he found out that he would be leaving them to come here.  You know what he has done here?  He has talked to basically every person he has seen, and not let the move affect him one bit.  I don't know if I can put into words the amount of respect I have for him.  I have seen good, even great missionaries before-- our mission is filled with them-- but he is something special.  He is also great because he doesn't act like he is in his 15th transfer.  He is the most humble, modest person I have seen.  He was the AP at one point during his mission, and yet now, he acts as though he is just a normal missionary.  He doesn't try to take over and do things himself because he was an AP; he just silently helps and gives advice when asked.  I don't know how to explain it, but I can say honestly, I have never met a missionary that I respect more than I do Elder Claypool.  I hope that I can be half the missionary that he is by my 15th transfer. "

I'm sure your son must be saddened by having to leave his mission, but if he ever wonders, please let him know that he has already done a wonderful work in Kyiv by being such an example. I know an eighteen-year-old district leader  (and his parents) will be forever grateful to Elder Claypool. And thanks to you for rearing such a wonderful son.

Best wishes,
Mary Jensen

Kiev, Ukraine April 14, 2014 “Christ-like love is the key to Christ-like obedience.”

Yep, we are now in Kiev! Pretty crazy right? Less than one week ago we were in Kharkov just doing missionary work and then Tuesday morning we got a phone call from President and Sister Lochhead. It was at first kind of hard to swallow that I would be leaving my mission early - I didn't know if I would be staying or if they would be sending me home early, so I was a little nervous - but all things as usual are turning out to be the Lord's will - which is always the best. From that phone call we had about 24 hours to get all packed up, say goodbye to all our investigators, and hand them over to the members. Our mission was at an all time high in many areas and we were just having a wonderful time. We of course asked the question "why?" but the Lord really does know what He is doing. He has been preparing the mission for all the changes. When I was serving in the office our average weekly number of lessons with investigators that had a member present on them was 80 at its highest...and this last week before we were transferred we were almost to 140. Almost all of our key investigators in the mission had a member ready to take over. We were at first a little worried about our investigator, but as soon as we took time to plan out who was going to take care of who, our fears melted away as our faith increased in the wisdom of the Lord: All of our investigators have members that are ready to take over. What better way to get the members involved in missionary work and furthering their participation in the work of salvation, than taking all the full-time missionaries out and letting the members continue on. It will be a refining fire for our mission, but the members will become even better because of it. I just imagine what it will be like when the missionaries do return and their efforts are added to the efforts of missionary work of the members - the work will soar.

So we made it to Kiev safely (i didn't smell to good after a day and a half of traveling...but that's why you pack deodorant near the top of your suitcases :) ) Almost flawlessly we were able to get out of our varied cities in our mission and head to Kiev only to be met by smiling missionaries who were ready to help us with the tons and tons of luggage that we all had. It was pretty funny just how much we had and just how much we tried to fit in the individual coupes on our train...but it all worked out :). It is definitely different to be in Kiev...I always mistakenly say 'branch' instead of 'ward' and 'branch president' instead of 'bishop'...but it was a miraculous feeling and sight to see the Kiev temple. I haven't seen one of our temples in a long time, - but it was a wonderful spirit to feel just what that building means for thousands upon thousands of living and dead here in the Slavic lands. Their meetings here are in Ukrainian, so I am feeling like a really new missionary with a new area, new mission, and a new language. But in all of it, there is still a sacred feeling of peace that pervades it all. We are still missionaries, we are here to serve, and we expect to help those the Lord has called us to help here. There are now 16 missionaries in our ward, but with over 150 members it's a little less noticeable. :) 

We did have an opportunity to watch General Conference! I was just amazed by the immense Spirit that was carried during the testimonies of the Prophet, his counselors, and all the Quorum of the Twelve. Are we blessed to have  living prophet and apostles that literally speak the will of God for our day and time? ANY person can watch conference and truly feel such a spirit and receive answers to their questions. There were so many amazing messages that touched my heart and helped me to be better, but I think more than anything else, the Spirit helped me to realize two things: God really does love us and wants us to follow His Son Jesus Christ, who lives and guides His own Church, and that we need to continuously strive to be the best disciples of Christ that we can be. As President Eyring said: We hold the happiness of more individuals than we can even imagine. Yes, we do not decide their fate - only they can do that - but we do influence their lives in such great ways that we can be the catalysts or cross-roads for them to choose eternal happiness or eternal loneliness. It's hard to do the right thing at times...but I can promise that we will find strength every time to do what is right when we do it for those we love, both born and unborn. As our Prophet counseled: Have courage to do what is right because it is right. In this upcoming Easter season, I wish to add my witness to the love, mercy, reality, and divinity of our loving Savior Jesus Christ. He lives and loves us. Only through Him can we find happiness. Just try it. Try living by His Way and I promise as His representative that you will receive eternities more than you could ever have imagined. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the Way. 

I love you Mom! Keep doing that missionary work like Elder Ballard taught! :) We'll conquer our friends together when we get back :)
Wow! I did not know Derek Anderson is to be married.  That is great.  Any details?  Please congratulate him as I assume he will be married before I get home.
Thank you for your letter and for all the support you give.   Just like Elder Scott and President Eyring talked about it in general conference, we all have our heroes that help us to grow. Thank you for being a hero. You have no idea just how much every good decision you make influences each person you come in contact with.
I came away from conference realizing that I need to continue to develop more charity for all men and for my Father and Savior. Life is so much better when we are serving out of love and not just because we are forcing ourselves to do so. Like Elder Hales said: Christ-like love is the key to Christ-like obedience.
We really could use more love in the world, and when we take the time to truly say with all our heart that we love God and our fellow men as ourselves, life all of the sudden fits into place wherever that place may be.
I'm in a new chapter now in Kiev, but as always there are lessons to learn and to teach, people to serve and to love, and so that's what I'll do. The simplicity of the life of a disciple is so breathtakingly beautiful. Aren't we privileged to have what we have? And as was said in General Conference: The people around us are those we are given to love and serve.
Thank you for being a stark example for me of service and love. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Letter received notifying of missionaries being moved to Kyiv, Ukraine mission - April 11, 2014

April 11, 2014


To Parents of Missionaries in the Ukraine Donetsk Mission


            Re:  Status Update


Dear Brothers and Sisters:


Due to the continued unrest in this region, the Church has chosen to transfer the 85 young missionaries from the Donetsk Ukraine Mission to serve in other areas within Ukraine.  Last night all of the missionaries boarded trains from Donetsk and Kharkov for Kyiv.  Missionaries serving in the outlying cities had traveled to Donetsk and Kharkov on Wednesday.  We do not know how long this transfer will be necessary, and we hope that it will not be long.  Sister Lochhead and I met yesterday for a testimony meeting with the missionaries in the Donetsk region, and we briefly joined by telephone a similar meeting being held in Kharkov.  Listening to your sons and daughters share their testimonies was one of the great events of my Church experience.  You would have been proud to listen to them and feel of their spirit.


Saying good-bye even temporarily to our missionaries was very painful, and my wife and I shed more than a few tears, but we are confident it is the right thing to do.  The transfer is being made as a precautionary measure after prayerful consideration and counseling among Church leaders in Salt Lake City and at the Area Headquarters in Moscow.  I am thankful for their unfailing support and wise counsel.  The safety and wellbeing of the missionaries has always been the top priority.  Our three faithful senior couples have remained here with Sister Lochhead and me, and we will work with the local Church members to try as best we can to maintain the positive momentum created by the efforts of your sons and daughters until they can return.  Again I thank you for sending them here.  For Sister Lochhead and me it has been one of the richest experiences of our lives to serve with them.  We honor and respect each one dearly.


Warm regards,


s/Robert Lochhead

President, Ukraine Donetsk Mission

"Salvation is an individual matter; Exaltation- a family matter" - Apr. 7, 2014 - HAPPY BDAY ELDER CLAYPOOL!!!!!!

Thank you so much for your email this week and for helping to allow me to be able to be here. We are so blessed to have the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Plan of Salvation. It helps me realize a few things: 1) We are privileged to experience all the trials and blessings of this world,  2) We have freely received this life and thus should freely give to others and our Savior, and 3) How can we not love life when we understand so much?! The Lord is just so merciful.

With every day I have been trying to be more and more focused, and some times I don't make the difficulties of missionary work easier by beating up on myself...but I am growing.

We have been super blessed to have another investigator accept a baptismal date and now work towards it. He'll be a wonderful missionary someday too! Our investigator Sanya is progressing with flying colors and soon his mom should be doing well too. We just need to keep on keeping on. Thank you so much for all that you have done and all that you haven't done. I truly can say on this day of my birth that I have been born of goodly parents (I know you always say mom is best).

I love you!  I read quote in a member's home I really enjoyed in Russian. The translation is:  "Salvation is an individual matter; Exaltation- a family matter".

Thanks so much for bringing me in to the world!!!!!! As I was saying my evening prayers last night and morning prayers today, I was overcome with gratitude for all the blessings that I have received in my relatively short 21 years of life...and truly all I have to show for it is to point fingers at others who have given me life and given it to my with abundance. My Father in Heaven, My Savior, You Both, and all the many brothers and sisters that have mentored me and helped me to be who I am today. Isn't it funny how on our birthday's we focus on ourselves when in all reality it should be a day of even greater giving back for the fact we received life freely. "Freely ye have received, freely give" the Savior said...I'm still working on the whole selfless thing, but we'll get there eventually :)

This last week went by incredibly fast. I have been battling with keeping focused as usual, but I guess it keeps me humble realizing my weaknesses. I was really studying this week what it means to serve the Lord with all our mind, and realized that just thinking about the mission and nothing else seemed a little too superficial of an answer for me - its not a principle that I can apply after my mission. So in studying more and more, I realized that our minds and our wills are very closely related. When we serve the Lord with all our mind, we are constantly searching for His will in all things. In seeking the will of the Lord more in my thoughts rather than worrying about whether or not I was focused on the work, I have found the words of Isaiah to ring true: "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee" (26:3). I am finding great peace in just seeking the will of the Lord and "look[ing] unto [Him] in every thought" (D&C 6:36).

Our area is going well with a slower week, but with still lots of potential. Sanya is doing just wonderful and even came to church with us this week! He also aided us with service on the cabins of one of the members. The members are doing a wonderful job of finding and helping to friendship our members here.  It was wonderful to have the member who struggled with quiting smoking for many, many years be able to just have a heart to heart with our investigator multiple times throughout the day. Sanya looked so good at church this Sunday! He came to church this Sunday in his suit, tie, white shirt, and slacks. The Gospel Principles teacher didn't even recognize him as an investigator :) He still has a ways to go, but the Gospel is literally transforming his life from captivity to freedom. His mom is also sitting in on the lessons now and even reading the Book of Mormon! Any person who wants a better life: daily read the Book of Mormon and apply what you read. There is truly power within that book. It is truly from God. We also have two other investigators who are on date that are both member referrals, Yuri who is a sweet man that has been through a lot and just wants to change his life for the better, and Sasha who is the son of a member, 17, and extremely spiritually mature...he'll make a wonderful missionary soon :) It's been super nice that they are member referrals as well because when one of them was sick this last week and we were unable to meet, the member was with him almost everyday because of work. So the work is moving forward. Thank you so much for your prayers!

I love you mom and am far from perfection...but we are moving forward to our best selves :)
Elder Claypool

PS- We will be watching General Conference this weekend and I am super excited!
PPS- Nina, the red-haired lady, is moving forward, but slower. The members again are playing a crucial roll in her returning to activity :)

Happy Birthing-Me-Day :)

Aren't We Privileged to Be Participants? - Mar. 31,2014

I'll be praying for Ky and fasting for her!

Tell Lydia that I will be super excited to see her and I love her.

And for this week:

We were able to see just so many tender mercies this week especially with a man named Sanya who is was on really hard drugs for about a year and a half. He gave them up two months ago and in order to quit, took up really heavy drinking...and here come the missionaries knocking on his door :) He let us in (and if not for the Spirit giving the okay we would have not gone in...) and we were able to give him a Book of Mormon and set up a return appointment. That was a little over a week ago...and now, he is down to a few grams of alcohol every 24 hours, is reading the Book of Mormon and praying every day. It is incredible to see that only the fullness of the Gospel would have the strength to take him out of the hole he got himself in, even hospitals have rejected him considering him hopeless...and some of the sweetest moments of my mission have been with this man who is trying just so hard to change his life against all odds. Because of the drugs, his brain suffered a lot of damage...but that doesn't stop the Spirit from literally fusing his neurons together and helping him understand fundemental truths that have the power to make him free. Only the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ and through the Book of Mormon has and will have enough strength and power to combat the adversary in these days and in the darker days to come. "Does God love me?" He has asked time and time again. "I'm pretty sure that He hates me for what I've done." And with full heart and testimony of the redeeming love of our Savior eternities echo as we are able to repeat just as often as the question is posed: "Yes Sanya. He loves you so much." As the prophet Isaiah poetically put: "For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still." (Isaiah 9:17). Though we must repent - and often that repentance is painful - I testify that His hands are always stretched out still.

Are we privileged to be participants?

I love you mom!
Have a wonderful week and tell the twins that I love them too!
Elder Claypool

Self Mastery - Daily work - March 24, 2014

Mom, thank you so much for your pictures and your message! I hardly recognized half of the cousins :) I really needed to hear that message right now. Heavenly Father is so merciful to me, but all the same my physical imperfections have always been something that get me and hold me back...but self-mastery is what I am working on. Your message was an answer to prayer.

Kharkov is wonderful! It was difficult of course to leave Sumy and all that I left there, but this is where I need to be. In prayer I asked Heavenly Father to confirm that this was his will with who and where I would be. Time and time again already, the Lord in His immense mercy has showed me that (1) even in the end of my mission I need him more than ever regardless of how well of a missionary I have been able to become, (2) This is where I need to be, and (3) He loves me along with all of His children. Building a personal relationship with our Father through prayer is such a crucial aspect of our lives that is so rewarding! When our confidence is in the presence of Heavenly Father, then we are able to not fear man, ourselves, or anything that may meet us on life's path. I'm finding in prayer great solace and reconciliation with my Father in Heaven. Prayer is such a supernal gift, as Elder Scott would say. I really do love Him and invite all to make their prayers a little more sincere and much more listening than speaking. 

The branch here is just incredible! You have no idea how strange it is for me to go from 35 attendance to almost 85 :) But there are families, wonderful members, and a very functioning branch here in Novie Doma. (It means 'new homes' :) ) Elder Witt is my new companion and a wonderful young missionary at that from Salt Lake area. It will be a wonderful privilege to serve with him! Our area is wonderful and definitely far from everything else...but there are really wonderful people here. In fact, in the first few days we have already had many, many tender mercies. The first was that we felt that we needed to tract an apartment complex near our home and in doing so we were able to meet a wonderful man that was a drug-addict for the last year and a half and was just now coming out of it. He has a huge desire to change! The next day when we came back he had read nine chapters of the Book of Mormon and you could already see a difference in him! We asked his mom to join us on the lesson and his mom not only came but was super active in the conversation and has a lot of potential too! Then that same day we ran into a man that has been just living with immense guilt for the last 10 years because of how he drank away all of his money and as a result lost his family and all that was dear to him. He'd gone to many churches, was even baptized in an other church, but just didn't feel that it helped at all. Our lesson with him was a little rough because he has beat himself down even deeper into the hole of sin and doesn't have the faith that anything can help anymore...but we are working with him. He definitely felt the Spirit though! On our way to church the most amazing experience occurred: We were walking on our street, just having left our home, and there was an older lady with bright orange hair that we just said hi to. She stopped us and asked if we were believing people and asked if we were from some American church. We answered accordingly and she said, "well I was baptized in your church!" We thought to ourselves that she must have been baptized in some protestant, American-founded church and thought it was ours. And then she said "Yes, I was Relief Society President back in the day." Well there was no confusing our church with others :) We found out in later meeting that she was one of the first members in Kharkov, but lived in the Saltovka branch. She moved to Italy for work and lived there for nine years, thus becoming inactive. When she moved back, she didn't know of other branches and moved away into the Novie Doma boundaries but was too lazy (in her words) to go back to the Saltovka branch. In the time she had been inactive, she spoke of how the Spirit that she once felt was greatly less and that she worried she would never get it back. She has forgotten a lot, but she will be a wonderful addition to our branch here. What is best, in my talk on Sunday to introduce myself, I mentioned the sister that we found earlier that morning and the relief society visiting teachers or president (I"m not sure) came up to me and said: "What is her name, address, and number? we would like to visit her today and return our sister." I am in awe at just how incredible this work is and just how amazing the Lord is in doing His work.  

I love you mom! Keep praying that the Lord open the hearts of his children here!
Elder Claypool

From Sumy to Kharkov - Mar. 17, 2014

 "What do you choose"

So many people have trials of Faith.  It is a joy to help even atheists learn of truth. The Spirit softens their hearts...but then with trials and lack of diligence, many fall again into not believing in God and it seems firmer than before. It is absolutely heart-breaking to see people give up happiness.

As disciples of Christ we often wonder "am I doing any good in the world today?"  We may serve well, but when we watch people go inactive, missionaries wonder if they just added more former investigators to the pile or one more less-active to the ward roster...but, the Spirit doesn't confirm that idea and I know that we are on the Lord's side in a great battle against the adversary.  We are who we choose to be.

I sanctify myself even more for these my people in their time of need. Grace is needed.

I know how to be a missionary and how to share the Gospel. I really enjoy it. I love to teach...and it will be interesting to see what The Lord wants me to do after my mission.  I cannot believe I will be back in school this fall !

Thank you so much for your dedicated service. We had a really wonderful lesson yesterday in Gospel Principles about sacrifice. I had never thought about sacrifice as a necessary characteristic to become like our Heavenly Father. Our Father is willing to give all to us. How can we even come closer to him or become a little like him if we are not focused on others and ready to give all. For God so loved the world that he gave. Thank you for pointing me even further on the path to our Heavenly Father.

So, its time to finish this chapter of my mission and move on to the next. Yep. I received a transfer to serve now in Kharkov and leave this wonderful branch and area here in Sumy. There are so many thoughts in my head and heart that I hope I will be able to express and I pray the Spirit will help me do so. This was one of the greatest periods of growth in my life here in Sumy. I feel that here was a special place of pre-earth life fulfillment. There were so many people that I have met, befriended, and some what helped. As always, my mission and this service has given me so much more that I've given to it...but I guess that's the way it will always be. It was a little hard for me not only to be leaving, but seeking approval from Heavenly Father that I had done all that I was called to do here...there were times when we had a lot of investigators and when we had little to no investigators. But I just wanted to know from Heavenly Father that it was enough. With Elder Harrison and President of the Branch we were able to sing "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief" and mid song the Spirit impressed me as we sang the following words (they are translated from their Russian text to English because the English words differ a little): "I know all, he said to me. Don't fear, for you have helped me." There were plenty of times here in Sumy when I was a far-from perfect servant. There were many days that I needed to repent and get back on top, but He knows all that. He knows all our bad days and all our good days...and He loves us still. Even in all my silly mistakes, he still forgives me when I repent and His graces makes my far from sufficient efforts sufficient. While I was sitting there looking at the congregation from the Sacrament table, I was just able to remember. Though there were not 50 people there as I had wished, though there weren't hundreds that were baptized, and though it would look like there was little change, the Spirit said differently. When the branch sang "God be with you till we meet again" that hymn became more than just music and words for me, but rather a prayer to protect this wonderful branch and all its members. Then on the second hour our investigator Nicholai broke down in tears (this is a Soviet Military man crying over a 20-year old kid) and proceeded to pray to Heavenly Father to bless and keep my path. It's really important to say that the most important name on my tag is and always will be the name of my Savior not mine...but it is a rare blessing that God gives us to peak into just how much we make a difference. The day continued with rejections and imperfections, but that's what makes this life -life. I came to Sumy extremely imperfect. I had to relearn how to love missionary work and to do the Lord's will with a full heart. The scriptures here in Sumy have opened up to me more than ever before. My relationship with my Savior has increased in quite, yet firm steps. And now I leave Sumy still imperfect, with more to learn, more to do, and closer to get to my Savior. But it was not time wasted in my life or in the lives of others. I am eternally grateful that I could be here in Sumy. I guess I can't and wont ever be able to express how I feel especially in an email...but my heart is washed over in gratitude to my God that for five short and extremely fast months, I could serve the people here in Sumy. What ever our calling, let us magnify it. In this is growth. In this is happiness. I remember when I sat in President Lochhead's office knowing that I would be then serving in Sumy and I thought to myself: "What next?" I had already felt that I had learned a lot, served in almost every assignment, and honestly didn't know what Sumy held in store for me. I came to serve the people...and I am so grateful that the Lord knew what was next and allowed me to experience it. On to the next chapter :)

I love you mom! Tell Korm and the twins that I love them too! 

Elder Claypool

“Sanctify ourselves” - Mar. 10, 2014

I must say that any perfection that I have received I learned from my parents, right?  While I've learned a lot on my mission from various leaders, nothing can change the foundation upon which it is all built. More and more I feel like I'm learning more and more just of your nature and character...kind of a mini lesson on how life is like for us as we try to come to know our Father in Heaven. I'm grateful for you.
The last week was a lot better in regards to missionary work and time is just flying by. I was able to read a journal entry from my first area and just feel the change. Although my writing style and words haven't changed all that much, the spirit behind the words have.
It was pretty shocking to hear that Bryce (Elder Samuelson) was already sent home (six missionaries left early from our mission until Ukraine settles) and that threw me into a huge ream of needing to get back focused. But, the Lord has kept me here for a reason. I could have just as easily been in his shoes, and he in mine, but we all have our different callings and our own times. This was something  that I needed to realize this week. If the Lord needs me to be here for another three months then I will be here and serve with all my heart, might, mind, and strength. It is a daily battle to keep our covenants...but it is so worth it.  The people need hope.
There were moments this week where I had incredible spiritual experiences with the scriptures, investigators, and new members. President Lochhead came up to Sumy for a few hours just to meet and talk about the current situation...but his presence just helped me to get back up again and do my best. Never expect any less from me. The kind of leader and disciple that I want to be is one who always does the will of the Father...this in turn helps others to do what is best. At times it is difficult for anybody to do the right thing...but when I think of how many people that one right choice will influence, the decision becomes second-nature. Like the Savior said: "And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth" (John 17:19). When we sanctify ourselves for the sake of giving others the example to be sanctified, the strength come to endure.
This last week was really wonderful and super fast! Our investigators are doing well, but we are trying to find more. Nicholai is just moving on closer and closer to baptism, but is waiting for the weather to warm up to be baptized in the river...besides that minor set back, he is a Priesthood leader prepared  from before the foundation of the world. :) We also were able to find a lady that is just looking for so many prophecies to be fulfilled including the restoration of Zion, the gathering of Israel, and the outpouring of the Holy Ghost. Such an incredible blessing it is to be a missionary and have the truth!

Volodia has been going through some post-baptism trials of his faith that are rocking him pretty good. The last Sunday he was struck on the side of his head from behind and woke up in his apartment shortly thereafter. At first I didn't believe his story...and then we saw him a few days later with lots of swelling etc. It ended up turning into a pretty bad infection which has left him at home for the last few days. On top of the physical and far more dangerous is that his testimony is really shaking. He came a long way to believe in God and put off his atheistic roots...but they are rearing their ugly head again and causing a lot of doubts in him. From the outside it is so interesting to see how much his personality changes from happy to unhappy when he abandons his faith and sticks to his atheism. For me it was super stressful! I didn't want him to go less-active right from the with blank paper ready for revelation and lots of prayer and study I was able to learn some really important lessons this week: (1) How does our faith cause the miracle of conversion in the hearts of others. We cannot change their choices, nor can we take away their agency. We also can't have faith in them nor hope in their conversion unless they choose to repent and change. So how then does our faith play a role? When we have faith in Jesus Christ we have faith in not only his word (his commandments and promises), but we also have faith in his power. This puts us in the perfect situation to give opportunities for another to become converted. No matter how strong our faith is, we cannot change some one else's heart simply because. No matter how hard I prayed that because of my faith Volodia would receive the same, I couldn't control his agency. However, because of my faith in Jesus Christ, through me and other means, the Lord can work the might miracle of Volodia's conversion by providing him opportunities to become converted. (2) When someone is having a hard time believing, what should we do. We had a lesson with him yesterday where he came out and said just the different problems that he was having with faith in God. At first, the instinct was to pull out scripture after scriptures to help convince him to believe in God...even though we used scriptures, the Spirit taught something different: It's okay if he has doubts. In fact, faith by definition is not perfect knowledge. There is nothing wrong with a person if he has doubts. Faith is a gift from God that is given to us through qualifying efforts of reading the word, hearing the word, keeping the commandments, and praying to name a few. The problem occurs not when a person has doubts, but when a person stops qualifying himself to receive faith from God because of his doubts. Faith isn't faith until its tested, and the difference between faith and proof is that proof is human and faith is a gift from God. The message helped Volodia and taught us a lot too! Elder Evalde is just doing wonderful as well and carries the Spirit with him in all his very humble testimonies! When ever we have doubts in our faith, the words of Paul should ring clear: "call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions...Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back..." (Hebrews 10: 32,35-39). Hold to what you've received even in times of darkness. Cast not your faith away from you but be patient with faith. We are not of them that draw back. 

I love you mom! Thank you for you ever constant prayers and support! It is much needed!

Elder Claypool

A Voice of Hope- March 3,2014

Morning everyone!
This morning we received two emails from Ukraine-one from Kade and one from his mission president. 
His mission president reassured us of the measures are being taken to protect all the missionaries and how they are relying daily, if not hourly on the Area Presidency and church headquarters for their guidance and inspiration. The missionaries in Kade's mission are being allowed to carry on with restrictions- only speaking Russian (due to some growing anti-American feelings), cannot be out after dark, cannot go near city centers or plazas, government bdlgs and groups of people. But they are moving forward with the Lords protection! :)
Thank you for your continued thoughts and prayers!!


Thank you so much for your prayers and your specific prayers that we we'lll be able to continue to teach the Gospel here in Ukraine. The people need it so badly here!

Everything is just moving forward here! Yes, there are a lot of fear in the air among the people, but you know Mom, it really is okay. I was a worried a few days ago about the people here, the future, not being able to finish my mission...but I was able to go through a huge change in a matter of hours thanks to the scriptures and the Spirit. 

I don't know if you've have the opportunity to study the signs of the Second Coming in huge depth, but I had never done so until this week and it greatly increased my hope! When you read all the things that must happen before the Second Coming it is really easy to lose hope, but when we read just how much the Lord is willing to help us, we gain that hope. I love the counsel and scriptures that are just filled with promises and hope for all faithful members of Christ's Church. 

D&C 45:32 - we are commanded to stand in Holy Places
D&C 45:57 - We must take the Spirit for our guide and we will be able to abide in our difficult day
D&C 21:5-6 - if we follow the prophet, we will not be overcome in these days
1 Nephi 8:23-24 - In holding on to the iron rod, or the scriptures, we will be able to press forward through the mists of darkness. 

We are seeing before our eyes here in Ukraine the Savior's prophecy in Luke 21:26 - "Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth." Honestly, satan is doing his best right now to simply make us lose our way by focusing on all the things that are going on  around and put off the things that are most important. See what the Savior spoke next: "And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads...And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with...cares of this life, and so that day come upon you dunawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man." All Satan wants us to do is to be distracted from our true purpose. He places all these material crisis and blessings in our path so that like the people on the path to the tree of life in Lehi's dream we lose our way and are lost when the 'mists of darkness' arise. We are called to warn our neighbor and help them have peace in their hearts that comes from living the Gospel and only from such. Like the Savior on the boat amidst the storm, we can be at peace; was He wet from the waves? I would assume so, but he still slept. Will these troubles be around us? Most definitely. Will we sink like Peter who was afraid looking at the waves and winds? If we hold to the Iron Rod and keep our focus we will be able to stand in that day. Count my message today as a voice of hope. The future is as bright as our faith. 

I love you mom!
Elder Claypool

Sunday, March 2, 2014

"Reduce noise in our lives" Feb 24, 2014

 Thank you so much for your letter, your fasting, prayers, and love. It's all very needed. Missionaries enjoy hearing from everyone.

This last week was another week that was full of repentance and just getting back on my feet. It's getting harder to stay focused and not think about the future because I know I need to make plans about registering for classes and where to live, etc, but the Lord is helping me stay very busy and I'm especially grateful for the scriptures. Seriously, the opportunity to receive personal revelation is just absolutely wonderful! I pray everyone will read them and not stray.  Sometimes it is the easiest way for Him to talk with us.

It was a rough week because I wasn't following promptings, wasn't striving to preach the Gospel, and on top of that we had busy investigators and not too many meetings all week...Satan's best tool is making noise and keeping people too busy for what is important.  I just felt extremely far from the Spirit. It was an awful feeling. But the great news is with repentance I am now able to move forward, back focused and I learn and continue to serve. The Lord is truly merciful!

Volodia is doing well and is now a Priesthood holder!  Also Nicholai is just a wonderful "member" of the branch already, (I say "member" but he's waiting till the summer to be baptized in order to be baptized in a river "just like they were baptized in the waters of Mormon" as he says). I just smile at him :)

The thing that is weighing on my mind right now is just the unity of the branch. There are members that are just...well... the entire branch just has a feeling of separated-ness (not really a word). How do you unite a branch? I may only have a few weeks left in this city because I might get moved to another city, but my goals are set to bring that unity to the branch that it needs to continue on. It would break my heart to see that after all these months, nothing changed in the I'm going to work my hardest to better magnify this branch and make it independent. Advice is definitely welcome!

I'm trying to do my best. Sometimes it is really hard...and most of the time its hard because of my personal pride...but my companion and I are trying. My companion is wonderful and really patient with my impatience. But we are in the service of The Lord and we love our Savior.

I love you!
Elder Claypool
I'm glad to announce that we are safe, sound, and strolling forward :) There are a lot of really sad things happening right now in Ukraine...and we are kind of in a bubble being on a mission, but kind of not since it is all that people can talk about. The people here are just in pain of all that is happening, and some how, some way, it will further the preaching of the Gospel in this hallowed land. The Land of Ukraine has been through so much...and it will continue to be tried and tested as its residents, the remnants of Israel, are proved, cleansed, and eventually gathered back to a knowledge of their Savior, themselves, and the covenants that their fathers made. But just to let you know, all is okay with us! 

That is just amazing to hear about the recent converts and less active member. Really, you have no idea how grateful missionaries are to see members like you doing their duty. Truly mom, you're an incredible missionary! 

This last week for Volodia was a pretty wonderful and yet stressful week. He is in a whole new ball-game and really just doing wonderful. The change that we are seeing in his heart it just huge! He came to church this last Sunday after a week of being super nervous to receive the Aaronic Priesthood, but came and received it. He was still pretty overwhelmed, but with time the Spirit quieted his fears and now he is doing just wonderful. He even called me Saturday night at like 10:45 after we had already went to bed, and he asked "Do I still need to bring bread tomorrow?" The Gospel is something that truly changes hearts. In talking with Volodia, I was able to realize some differences that we have in the Church that really in quite unique: the Lord named his church in our dispensation "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints." Have you even wondered why the Lord chose such  name? In the church we really do require that all men, women, and children become saints, or 'set apart to the work of the Lord' - servants of the Lord engaged in his work, in my own words. We are the saints of the last days not because of our perfections or because of our abilities, but because we were called and set aside for this day and this time to all take part in the work of the Lord. As latter-day saints we announce in our title that we are set aside from all other peoples of all other times: called and consecrated to carry the Gospel to all the world, both the living and the dead. This is our duty when we are baptized into the restored Church. Isn't that incredible? There are no such thing as 'normal members' or 'members of the congregation' for we are all in one way or another engaged in this amazing work! We're the latter-day saints!

Love you mom! I'm trying my hardest and just loving my's getting harder and harder to focus and not get side tracked, but the Lord is helping. Thank you for your prayers too!

Elder Claypool

Volodia Baptized!!!!!! Feb 17, 2014


"Diligence isn't achieved by quota, but by giving all that we are able to give".

Thank you so much for your letter. I feel like being on a mission gives me a better ability to understand you and mom and have a more full relationship with you both.

It's kind of like or relationship with Heavenly Father. As we come to do what He does, we come to better know Him.

Before my mission you were both my parents and although we were a close family, there was that natural separation I still love and respect you as my parents, but I feel that the relationships have deepened over this last while to the point where we have become more and more like friends who understand each other. I don't know if that makes sense since it is a little hard to express how I feel about it, but it feels really good. I look forward to just being able to have talks between us on a level of understanding that we couldn't have had before my mission because of my lack of life experience. I have a lot to learn, but the future is bright.

I'm also really looking forward to the opportunity to see you all again and my heart breaks just thinking about it...but I love my Father in Heaven and I covenanted with him to serve till the end, and I love the people of Ukraine and being a missionary! The church is true.

This last week I was able to see many miraculous things like the baptism and confirmation of Volodia. It was such a joyous moment to see him be baptized and then to participate in his confirmation. It is even more amazing to see how much he is changing! However amazing the experiences this week, I was tired. I was feeling that we had built up to this moment and my energy was just spent. I literally was just falling asleep during our companion study. With all of this happening, I relaxed spiritually and wasn't as diligent as I could have been...but in repenting and seeking inspiration from my Heavenly Father, I realized that I can't go on on my own. He is giving me an opportunity to rely on Him even more and use His grace. Like Peter in the water after he began to sink, I can't even keep my head above water without my Savior. The amazing thing is that I was able to learn that in these times of trial and hardship just where our strength to endure comes from: Loving the Lord and loving others.

I read in the scriptures the other day about Alma the Younger leading his followers into battle against the contriving forces of Amlici. The army, because they relied on the Lord, was strengthened and were able to defeat not only the Amlicites, but also the Lamanites when they came and joined forces. It could have been a crippling blow for the band of Alma when the beaten Amlicites were rejuvenated by the numberless hosts of the Lamanites, but they drew within themselves, called upon the Lord and were strengthened.

As a whole, we fight for the right purposes and seek to do the will of God. We will then be strengthened in Him. But what about when that just doesn't seem to be enough? When I walk the streets I try to do what is right, but at times I just don't have very much energy, spiritually and physically. For those situations, the Lord gave us the example of Alma the Younger specifically a few verses later. He was battling furiously with Amlici sword to sword. He believed in God and was a righteous man who called upon the Lord, but his focus didn't end with just a plea for strength. He prayed for strength in order to be an instrument in the hands of God to save his people. Only when others become our 'why' will we have enough strength to endure. The greater the cause, the greater the strength. When we fight for our Savior and when we fight for our loved ones, we gain spiritual and physical strength to fight our battles. In fact, no longer do we fight our own battles, but the Lord fights them with us and even for us at times.

I'm coming to learn what it means to "wait upon the Lord". There are great promises that come from doing so. I can't imagine what it is like to have lost Hilai and now CJ (even though she has a great opportunity for her family) but Heavenly Father is molding my amazing earthly father even more. Read Isaiah 40:28-3. I pray for you and will continue to.

Diligence is not achieved by meeting some objective quota, but by giving all that we are able to give. Some days that may mean we can run the full 3 miles. Some days that may mean we can even go the extra mile. And some days it means that the most we can give is to limp our way to the next checkpoint. The Lord does not expect the same objective amount of effort and energy from every person. He requires all of one's individual all. And when we give that, no matter what it be, His Grace takes care of the rest. We can't run faster than we have strength.  But regardless of how much you can give, just keep giving. You have an incredible heart with an incredible capacity to give. Don't hesitate to ask Heavenly Father to send a bit of Grace your way. I've seen in my life what a lasting difference my works have when His hands are in the making.

I love you! If I didn't love the Lord more I would be on the next plane home, but my duty is a reviving reminder to serve my Redeemer.  I am so happy to be in Ukraine serving.

Elder Claypool
Ukraine Donetsk Mission
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
Thanks for your email! This last week was just wonderful with many ups and downs, but I will tell you about the biggest up: 

Volodia was baptized! It was such an amazing thing to see him be baptized and all the members that were there to support him! He came such a long way: We found him on December 25th in the evening when we were on our way home. We walked passed him and there was just a small, subtle thought to stop and talk with him. So we did. Gave him a Book of Mormon, and a few days following we were able to start meeting with him. He knew the Bible really well, but didn't believe it, thought that his knowledge was sufficient to save himself using the laws of physics, and that the existence of God was not even a big question in his mind: He wasn't an atheist, but also wasn't anywhere close to believing in God. So we kept meeting with him and had some lessons where it just didn't seem like we were going any where. It even got to the point that he didn't really want to meet with us. We didn't know what to do and felt that we needed to go by again...but we did, but this time with a member. Finally, having a member on one of our lessons, the Spirit was so strong and from that moment he began to change. He accepted a date of baptism because he felt that he needed to...something inside told him to say yes. There were still problems with the Word of Wisdom, but he had felt the Spirit and we kept going from there. There were many ups and downs where my faith was shaking or his faith was shaking, but after some extremely powerful experiences that I wrote about two weeks ago and lots of prayer and fasting, Volodia was ready this last Saturday to be baptized. He was baptized in a small hotel spa since our little branch doesn't have a font, but that didn't stop him for a moment. He was ready, willing, and wanted to change. The changes that came into his life are not yet complete...but he is a completely different person! The joy that filled my heart when he was baptized was just...unexplainable. He knew that he was making a covenant with God and he did with all his heart. To hear his humble testimony and to see then the next day him be confirmed and become a full-fledged member of the Lord's Restored Church was only half the blessing. To see the change in him was even more rewarding. Though he had a problem with smoking and couldn't quit until a little under a week before his baptism, after his baptism with his newly acquired spiritual strength, he was able to tell his neighbors no - something that he wasn't able to do before. Not only that, but yesterday night after he had been confirmed he came with us to go tracting out of his own desire. He even called me this morning just to say that he had read his scriptures  and had almost endured all of Isaiah in 2 nephi ;). The Gospel of Jesus Christ as Restored by Joseph Smith truly changes hearts. A man who was far from what is now is now on the path to eternal life. It really is worth it to follow those small promptings, open your mouth, and follow through in faith. The results are eternity changing. 

Inline image 3Inline image 4 

In more ways than one, it was a very white weekend :)

I love you mom! 

Elder Claypool

Feb. 2 - ups and downs of mission


Thank you so much for your love and prayers...they truly are answered daily in my daily life. Nicholai is doing good and introduced us to his daughter this week to start teaching here! Dima left to go home but should be back in a month or so. We'll keep the ties with him. 

I needed to hear about the message of enduring well...this last week for the first time I experienced something that I had never really experienced so intensely: a desire to just be done. It wasn't that I didn't like my mission or that I wasn't having a good time, I just missed you all, missed the temple, wanted to have my own family, and move on to the next step of life feeling that I had put in my time. What kept me on the right track and not to get completely lost was my covenants actually. God was asking me to continue and to endure. Endurance is a huge part of the Gospel that we often don't focus on, but I think that the reason for that is because faith, repentance, and baptism are all things that we can teach, but endurance needs to be experienced. So I am learning through my experiences what it really means to endure to the end. I covenanted with God that for two years I would serve Him. If he considers that two years is what I need to give to him, then the full two years I need to give. Covenants are truly a blessings to help us endure to the end and remain faithful. How wise is our Loving Father in Heaven! 

That was all shadowed by one of the most miraculous things that I have seen so far in my life. Our investigator Volodia, who is on date to be baptized the 15th of February, was progressing. He was reading the Book of Mormon every day, praying every day, and coming to church. He was trying to live the Word of Wisdom and quit smoking, though it was hard for him. Even a recent-convert in the branch, Roman, was doing an amazing job befriending him and even stopped by his house without our knowledge or suggestion to see how Volodia was doing. We received a call from Volodia Saturday morning saying that he need help right away and so we gathered up our things and headed over to his house. Once we were there and within the first few minutes it was obvious what he needed to talk about: All the things we had given him to help quit smoking, all the Liahonas, books, and scriptures were gathered together in two plastic bags and sitting by the door. He proceeded to tell us that he couldn't keep on fooling us and just said that because of his superior knowledge of physics and science, he had too great of a means to believe that God doesn't exist rather than have faith that he does. He couldn't go on when he had no interest in such things. Only if God showed him a sign would he believe and join the church. We were shocked. The whole time I was just praying that we'd have the Spirit to be with us to know what to do and to say the things that would change his heart...but in the end all we could do was express our love, Heavenly Father's love, and bear testimony of the truth of all that we taught. He had made his decision however. We left in shock carrying all of his materials and headed home to finish our studies. In that moment, the desire was to just throw in the towel for a while because of the hardship that we were going through...but the Lord in His mercy (that I didn't understand at that moment) prompted us to keep talking with people on the streets and keep working. Regardless of the desire to just break down and stop, we kept on forward. The day continued with an okay lesson with a new investigator that we had found - nothing special, but we kept on keeping on. Towards the evening we received another phone call from Volodia. He called us and had asked if our meeting was still going to happen with him that evening as we had agreed on before the morning's endeavors. Confused, we agreed, and waited for the evening to come to see what was going on in his head. There was a little hope that he had changed...but not much. He arrived at our weekly game night and to our dismay had not changed one bit. On the other hand, he smelt like smoke, and openly boasted how he was no longer trying to live the commandments, but freely transgressing them. We had no idea what to do or why he came. We kept talking with him and didn't see any progress. My faith was completely gone in him changing. But that's not the end of the story. 

We invited Volodia to institute of religion just like we had done in the past every week and he hesitatingly decided to come. The branch president couldn't come to lead the lesson as usual, and so I had to teach it. So we started our study about the book of Enos, prayer, forgiveness, and revelation. It was honestly a good lesson, but nothing special or out of the ordinary...but for Volodia it was for one simple reason: The Spirit. Throughout the lesson he would make comments like "My heart is not in the right place" and "you must have been praying really hard for me." After the lesson, I had the prompting to just sit down and talk with him. "How could it all have changed in just a matter of a short few hours," he said. "I have never felt in my life my conscience speaking so loudly to me as now. Before, I could smoke and could care less because I didn't believe in God and had nothing to worry about...but now...I guess that means I...I do believe in God. My desire to have a clean conscience before God so much greater out weighs my desire to smoke."  Then more and more introspectively he said: "I need to repent." 

I cannot express the Spirit that we felt in that room as the Spirit literally was testifying straight to his heart in such a way that he could not deny it. He was feeling the influence of the Holy Ghost burning into his heart the divinity of the message with an evidence greater than other thing on the face of the earth: his personal change of Heart. He continued during the prayer that we said as we kneeled together after his amazing experience and even during the prayer he exclaimed how the Lord was asking him why he was behaving like a little immature boy..."but he's saying it in a loving way...the kind of loving way that a father has for his son," he said. After the kneeling prayer we were in shock...about as much shock as we were in this morning. In a matter of a few minutes and hours - moments in eternity - his entire life and eternity was turned upside down, broken down, and rebuilt through the power of the Spirit. As he was getting dressed he stopped, turned to me and said almost hesitantly: "Is it still okay to be baptized?" OF COURSE IT IS !!!! I replied. He took back his scriptures and headed on his way home. But that is not the end of the story. 

We went to his home the next day, Sunday, to pick him up for church. In the past we had kind of almost dragged him to church every Sunday since his desire had been small. But this time, he opened the door with a light in his eyes, a literal light. We walked in the room of his humble apartment and waited as he quickly finished his breakfast and got dressed. As we waited, my heart sunk a little bit: sitting on his bedside table was a big fresh box of cigarettes. I turned to the Spirit to know what to do, and felt that I just need not say anything. A few minutes later he also sees the box and says: "Oh, and I wanted to repent," and handed me the box of cigarettes. He has extremely poor circumstances and it would have cost him a pretty kopeck. Following a prompting I gave them back and told him to crush them himself. And without a seconds hesitation he crushed his box of cigarettes and handed them back as if it meant absolutely nothing to him. Almost giddy we went out and threw them away. At church he participated in all the lessons, gave incredible answers, continued his friendships with the members of the branch and as he was leaving after being at church for three hours said: "There is a road of unbelief that I need to overcome. But I'll overcome." 

The Gospel changes lives. Truly the Book of Mormon and the Spirit are the greatest tools that we have in conversion. That is one fruit that no one can deny in their search for truth: The truths in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints change lives to the better and in such a way that the only explanation is that it is from God and endorsed by the Same. 

Thank you for your prayers. As Alma the Younger was not the one who merited the visit of the angel and his change of heart but rather the prayers of his parents, so am I too grateful that I could have parents that pray for me and my investigators. Thanks mom. I love you very much and can't wait to see you...but I still have a work to do here and I must diligently do it. I will endure well. 

Elder Claypool

Feb 10, 2014


You're letters are always inspiring and help me to do better. The mission has been so wonderful! And it will continue to be so. I not long ago read that advice from Elder Ballard that you sent me and it just hit me how wonderful our Father in Heaven is, how much he really does ask of us, how much he has the right to ask that much of us, and just how much I want to give my all. This week was pretty quiet with not may ups and downs but a lot of wonderful opportunities to serve. There's more to be done...but I'm moving forward.

Volodia is doing well to, but pray for him to give up smoking. He's having a hard time doing so, but he really is gaining a testimony of the truth of all that we teach. The Gospel changes hearts. When we reach out to God, God reaches back, and when God reaches back, hearts are changed. There is nothing like your investigator calling you and saying: "I don't have many minutes left on my phone, but I just wanted to call and say thanks for all that you do." He even came up to me and showed me a verse that he had found in the Doctrine and Covenants after praying for an answer from God, opening the scriptures up, and receiving a clear and direct answer. And this man was practically athiest little over a month ago! The Gospel changes hearts!

We have our other investigators that are doing well too and studying the Gospel (one called us and told us about the things that he learned while studying the Gospel principles manual yesterday at work since he was unable to come to church. It is just a blessed time Mom. I love my Savior and am coming to know him better and better with each passing day...the path is long, but I'm walking it. 

I love you! Thank you for your support!
Elder Claypool

Thursday, January 30, 2014

1/28/2014 - Letter from Mission President

To parents of missionaries serving in the Ukraine Donetsk Mission: 
Re: Current situation in Ukraine

Dear Brothers and Sisters: 

As you have heard reports of the current unrest in Ukraine I'm sure you are concerned about the security of your missionary son or daughter. Please be assured that the personal health and safety of our missionaries is my highest priority and that of the Church Missionary Department. The current demonstrations were initially confined primarily to the capital city of Kyiv, but more recently they have spread to other areas, including cities in this mission. Up to this time, however, the demonstrations have been concentrated within localized areas near government buildings and/or city centers. They have not spread to residential areas where the missionaries spend the great bulk of their time.

Our missionaries have been instructed to avoid demonstrations and other large gatherings of people and to speak Russian when they are away from their apartments to avoid standing out as foreigners. In the event that any missionaries, for whatever reason, find themselves in an uncomfortable situation, they have been instructed to leave the area immediately. The missionaries have also been instructed to have a minimum of three-day supply of food and water in their apartments at all times for use in case of emergency. 

Contingency plans have been prepared in the unlikely event that the situation deteriorates to a point that would require missionaries to be relocated. The Church, of course, remains neutral on political matters, and missionaries are instructed not to discuss politics with others.
We all hope and pray that the current unrest will be resolved quickly. Sister Lochhead and I are monitoring the situation closely, and we remain in regular contact with the missionaries. We are continually inspired by the elders and sisters in this mission, and we thank you as parents for sending us such outstanding young people. They are truly a marvelous work and a wonder, and it is a privilege to be able to serve with them in this great land. Please do not hesitate to contact me or the office staff if you have any questions or concerns.

Warmest regards,
President & Sister Lochhead 

1/27/2014 -"God speaks to our Hearts. Our hearts are the final word"

 Hi everyone,

Thank you for your encouraging words this week! They are always very needed!

I'm doing just fine with my clothes and really have only been super cold once. Elder Evalde (from Uganda) and I went to the market the other day to get some warmer stuff for him (and I grabbed some things for myself too ;)) He's the one that is really the trooper. He's never really experienced winter before in his life besides in Crimea, Ukraine (which has pretty mild winters in comparison to Sumy) and at that, his winters were spent indoors. So he is doing just great! And we're trying to keep him warm!

Our investigators are doing well, one of which is Dmitri. He is just a wonderful young man that is probably the most energetic person I have ever met. He is studying to become an Orthodox priest but is more than willing to meet with us and talk about our message to know if it is true.

It has been a pretty mentally intense last few weeks coming to learn more about his religion and being able to help him see the need for a Restoration. I have pounded my head against the topic of the Great Apostasy and read everything that I could get my hands on. But you know, just using the Bible, it's hard to 'prove' that there was a complete and universal apostasy resulting in all that we claim... and you know, in thinking about it, I think that Heavenly Father did that for a reason. In our churches we don't really look at all the details of everything that there is to look at.

Meeting with many representatives of other churches over the last few months, I have seen just how different the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints approaches everything. It is not just about intensive Bible scholarship, but rather sincere Spiritual confidence in the answers we receive from God. It is truly amazing that the Lord in His infinite wisdom knew that the wisdom of men could not be a suitable enough foundation for the testimonies of His faithful children. For one thing, we could not understand everything as well as He does in the first place because our Human Minds simply just can't - our hearts on the other hand, can absolutely understand what love means, peace, and joy. This was something we could understand and as such, it becomes the foundation of our testimony. Yes, we need to use our minds, but always and forever, the heart will have the final word.

As the Spirit of God touches our minds and our hearts, there will be unity. This is how we can know what is true and what is not. Regardless of the evidence brought forward against Christ, the Church, doctrine, or procedures, my question is always the following: "Well, if it's all not true, then explain to me the fruits."

Yes, my testimony is not solely founded on the fruits of living the Gospel - it is strengthened by all means - but my testimony is founded upon the witness received from God Himself that the Book of Mormon is true. I know it is true. And anyone that wishes to come into full-faith in this world and this Church as the Restored church of Jesus Christ - and if anyone wishes to leave this precious Church - they must go through the Book of Mormon to do so. God is so wise in allowing us to so simply build the surest foundation; a foundation that the gates of hell cannot prevail against so long as we are worthy of that testimony and live accordingly.

Keep praying for our people here and our country of Urkaine. She needs the Gospel.

I love you!
Elder Claypool

PS - On a more sad note, last Monday I put my flash drive in the computer to download pictures, forgot it, and the next day it was gone.....second time for losing all my photos from my I hope that you have time to take all that I send you and save those. It stinks. But there are more important things than photos.
Hi Mom!

You sure do deserve what I said! You define what I said :)

Okay, I will answer your questions from the start:

We are keeping very warm and we have plenty of warm clothes. There's only been one time that we've been unprepared for the weather, and in that situation we headed home to get reprepared :)

I actually haven't really gotten sick at all on my mission. There have been times that I have gotten a cold or had some stomach problems, but they were never serious enough to take me from the work (that's actually a fulfillment of my setting-apart blessings :) )

Political unrest...just keep praying for the country. There are demonstrations almost daily now, but we keep away from them, and do what we do best :) The Mission President is keeping us all on the awares if we need to do anything, but luckily Sumy is a pretty small city. It is getting pretty bad from what we have heard. But we really are fine. 

Dima and Nicolai? They are doing wonderful! Keep praying now for Nicholai's family who we are going to start teaching today. He is already set on Baptism! But he is still keeping back for some reason...i think it is because he received an answer that he needs to be baptized in a river :) But it gives us time to work with his family and baptize them all together. Dima is progressing and could be one of the greatest Ukrainian missionaries the world will ever know...we just need to help him gain a testimony of the Book of Mormon and the Restoration. Volodia is moving closer and closer to baptism with the goal to quit smoking this week to be ready for his baptism on the 15th of February. He is doing just wonderful! He was practrically an athiest when we met him, but now he is reading the BOok of Mormon every day and praying too. Not to mention he comes to church and is really becoming part of our small Sumy family. We're also getting a few of our members to the temple this next month or two and our recent convert here in the branch is going to be receiving the Melchizedek Priesthood soon and has already been to the temple to do baptisms! There is just real progress here, but we need to keep going. Satisfaction is of Satan, Gratitude is of God. :)

I did get the watch and gave it to him...he almost kissed me because he was so happy. He's just a great man and has a lot on his shoulders. Thank you so much for that!

On to the unfun questions...

I have no clue what classes I need to register for nor have I thought about it. Can you figure out deadlines of class registrations? What you will need to do is first contact the department of admissions and see what needs to be done to renew my enrollment at BYU. I'm currently defferring my studies. So once you find out the date, we can know if I'll have time when I get home, or if I need to do it sooner. As to the question of housing, I think that I would love to room with Elder Harrison here on the mission and can get all the infor that you need. When do we need to figure out housing? So I think the next step is just getting dates and deadlines and then planning from there. Thanks so much mom for all that you are doing! It really helps me to stay focused on the work!

My thoughts about Korm...what makes you think that he wont be ready? Just that he really hasn't been away from home yet? Well..................all I can say is that maybe you could just reemphasize with him to make it a matter of prayer and fasting if he hasn't already where he weighs out all his decisions, makes a decision and then asks Heavenly Father if that is right. Timing really is everything. It probably wouldn't be bad for you and dad to make it a matter of prayer and fasting too to see what counsel Heavenly Father has for you both...other than that, I can't really give any more advice :) Every missionary is different and all that they need is different. Elder Ellsworth, my last companion, went to school for a year before his mission, and he turned out just fine. Another elder didn't and he's doing wonderful now all depends on the person. But in any case, HEavenly Father knows best :)

I love you mom! Thank you so much for your prayers and consitent and faithful support of me out here. It is so wonderful to have such! I love you!

Elder Claypool

1/20/2014 Ever the Poet

Your message again was inspired as ever! 

This last week we were so blessed in so many ways that I was beginning to realize just how much I am like any other Nephite that fell into the pride cycle. What I mean is that we were so blessed this last week because we had new investigators:  an orthodox priest that wants to become a Mormon; Nicholai just trying to decide on a place of baptism and testifying of the truth of the church every day; and Volodia soon to be baptized as well. We are so blessed! 

And often that blessed state leads to laziness, satisfaction, and like the banana story you sent me, we stop getting ripe or we ripen so much that we rot. As I was thinking about it, I wrote a poem to express a little bit just what I felt inside and what I was battling with:

In hunger or famine with mouths to feed,
The Breadwinner will diligently strive,
To obtain the need and bring the feed
That mouths might be satisfied.

He'll work in the trenches and do the deeds
No matter how mucked with dirt - 
From morning till night with all his might
To riches from rags convert.

Yes, He is diligent, courageous, and true - 
A laborer worthy of hire.
But when famines subside and blessings abide
Where goes our hero's desire? 

Will he work just as hard - and just as long
As then when blessings were few?
Does diligence persist when blessings exist
To prove him persistently true?

Or does laziness creep and start to claim
The Heart, Mind, and Might of the man:
"Satisfactions replete! Why back to my feet?
Have I not worked hard enough with my hand?"

He'll let one hour go, then days will slip by
As time marches ever on, -
And soon he will find, with no effort of mind,
Famine again starts to dawn.

Thus endurance and diligence are needed the same
In want as well as in worry:
For the One having all there is to have   
Continues His Work and His Glory.

Love you. 

Hi Mom!

Sorry that I don't have much time this week to write you, but I sent dad a letter that talks a little bit about just what I felt and experienced this week. It was such a blessed week and I just love this work so much! I washed over with gratitude that allows me to work even harder. We need ever more you prayers and fasts because we cannot do this work on our own. The Lord is merciful and just requires that we do our best. Then He takes care of the rest. One of our new investigators this week that we found after a really rough night of being denied again and again is now progressing pretty well, but also sharing the Gospel with all around him. He loves the church and wants to meet every day with us and just...he's incredible! Dima after the 3rd day of knowing us had shared the Gospel with his mom, grandma, friend, the doctor of his grandma, and other wonderful friends of his. On top of that, Nicholai, again bore testimony that the church is true and that here in the Church he finds peace unlike anywhere else. We do all that we can and let the Lord do the rest. There is one benefit, as President Lochhead often says, of our message when it's all said and done: It's really true. :) I love you mom! You are a woman among women! Here's an exerpt from Jesus the Christ that reminded me of you:

To every son the mother ought to e preeminently the woman of women; she is the one woman in the world to whom the son owes his earthly existence; and though the title "Mother" belongs to every woman who has earned the honors of maternity, yet to no child is there more than one woman whom by natural right he can address by that title of respectful acknowledgement. When, in the last dread scenes of His mortal experience, Christ hung in dying agony upon the cross, He looked down upon the weeping Mary, His mother, and cmmended her to the care of the beloved apostle John, with the words: "Woman, behold thy son!" Can it be thought that in this supreme moment, our Lord's concern for the mother from whom He was about to be separated by death was associated with any emotion other than that of honor, tenderness, and love.

Love you mom!
Elder Claypool