Friday, January 3, 2014

Dec 30, 2013 - Happy New Year!!!


Thanks so much for the email! Since I am repenting, I will be better and answer your questions first ;)

The chicken and steak both turned out really well I thought and was almost completely eaten up! The chicken was better by far. Whether or not everyone liked it I can't really say...but they must have been hungry enough to eat it all ;) The Nutcracker was just phenomenal and full of majestical magic to say the least. I had never seen it before, but to hear the music and the dances were just phenomenal!

Yes, I play the piano quite often and have gotten better I's my singing that I haven't had much practice with...I'll have to work on that talent some more ;) The Chopin piece that I played was for a classical music night in our branch called "Grand Waltz Brilliante" and was probably the most classical music-y thing that I've ever played in my life. It was super fun, but I definitely needed to practice to perform it ;)

New investigator wise, we were able to have one new investigator named Volodia who is just so incredible! He is super humble, from humble circumstances, reads the Bible in his free time, and is just super tender hearted. He came to church on Sunday for the first time and said that he felt like he had come home. He's had a pretty rough life so far by personal choice and by circumstances, but he is finding the Gospel and it is healing his heart. It must have been pretty fun for him too on Sunday during combined third hour to listen to Elder Harrison and my lesson on the importance of missionary work.  Well, as the Brethren have said, retention begins from the first lesson. He even agreed to share the Gospel with his brother! :) He, Michael, and Nicholai are our progressing investigators right now and they are doing just wonderful! Keep praying for them and that we will be able to find even more who are ready! Especially pray for Michael who has known the church now for 15 years, still hasn't been baptized and is slowly but surely progressing to membership. We helped him put on his tie this last Saturday at our Christmas party and he said "I guess I can look like a real mormon tonight!" This man was very hardened and cruel in his attitude about life before we came and out of the blue today he sent us a text saying "Have a great day!" in English and in French. He just needs to get over his hurdle and jump with two feet in to active membership. ;) Nicholai is a wonderful man seeking truth...and he learns by the Spirit and will be a wonderful Elder's Quorum President someday! So all in all, our investigators, though small in number, are doing well. We have a few other investigators, but they are not progressing nearly as well as these three. The work is so sweet! And moreso than anything else, it feels so amazing to lay down in bed at night and just know that you represented Jesus Christ with honor today. What tender feelings to feel while speaking with our Father in Heaven in prayer. That is true happiness.

Thank you so much for your message from the general conference talk.  This week was a big repenting week for me because I had let myself slack even more than before and needed to get back up on my feet and do His work. Thankfully, God is so merciful. I wasn't doing anything hugely wrong, I just wasn't doing "all that I could". I was willingly choosing not to do enough of the work of the Lord although it was there before me. I got lazy and just wasn't representing Jesus Christ as I was called to do. With the holidays, we were busy with many other things, and missionary work got put on the back burner of my thoughts. Thoughts of home, future, and family filled my thoughts, - they were all good thoughts of course, but they took me out of Ukraine, and out of my mission. This resulted in my drive to do missionary work decreasing, and me actually doing the work with all my heart, might, mind, and strength, decreasing. It wasn't just this week that such feelings occurred, but that they all sort of culminated this week. It all led to me sitting on a bus reading Jesus the Christ choosing to ignore the promptings to talk with the man sitting next to me while we drove all the way down to another city for zone conference. While I was reading, the Lord in his tender, but firm way called me to repentance. Reading about Peter and the Savior's conversation on the shores of Galilee in the end of the Gospel of John helped me to realize that like the fisherman, I was doing it all my own way and was not catching any happiness. The Savior was coming and trying to tell me to cast my net on the right side, or to do it His way. I was choosing to resist...and I realized that the reason behind it was just that my love for the Lord and those around me had been placed on the backburner. So, realizing that I really did love the Lord and that I was to change -especially that I was not going to end my mission this way - I decided to talk to him. He was a wonderful man, and not much came from the short conversation we were able to have, but it was the start of my repentance process. That night in my prayers, I had a pretty intense conversation with my Heavenly Father seeking forgiveness and committing again to serve him. With such a renewal of covenant, I slept pretty well that night. The next day was the real blessing however: it was the day I would prove to the Lord my committment. So, I talked with people and declared the Gospel with more heart than the day before, and I started to feel those familiar feelings of joy...then came zone conference. I want to now say again and again that I have a firm testimony of the Love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and our Father in Heaven. As I sat at the conference, the spiritual thought was all about the covenant we make as missionaries to represent Jesus Christ in signing our acceptance letter. I have covenanted with the Prophet of God and with God himself in the life before and this life again that I would serve, and I am a covenant keeper. This moved me one step farther and I knew more of what I needed to do: Make representing the Lord my first priority. Then President Lochhead stood up with his presentation entitled: "How to be a Real Missionary."  He is awesome and inspired. As soon as the title of his message popped up on the screen, the words of Isaiah and an overwhelming spirit arose in my heart:
"Shall...the lawful captive [be] delivered?" (Isaiah 49:24). I was most definitely a lawful captive in the sense that I had chosen against the light I had received to not do that which I knew to be true. I was, by law, a captive of my own conscious choice. And yet, in this moment of my repentance, the Lord's words, again quoting the words of Isaiah and answer this question arose: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me...he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the set at liberty them that are bruised (Luke 4:18)" In this moment when I was a lawful captive of my own poor choice, the Lord in his immense mercy forgave my choices and helped me to move forward.

I testify that He is merciful. I testify that He is so patient with each one of us. I testify that there is no chance we have strayed too far or fallen too low to turn to him, repent, and return to the blessings we can have. Jesus Christ is our Savior. Believe Him, not just in him, but believe Him and that he can do what He says He can. In the words of Alma the Younger while in his repentance process:

And it came to pass that as I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world.

 18 Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.

 19 And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.

 20 And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!

 21 Yea, I say unto you, my son, that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy. (Alma 36:17-21)

I am here as a representative of Jesus Christ. I testify that He and only He can remove those feelings that we feel constantly of guilt, imperfection, failure, and 'lawful captivity.' If we turn to Him, He will give us joy more than words can express.

Turn to Him.

I love you. Thanks for never giving up on me! You can count on a more diligent and dedicated Elder Claypool from here on out!

Elder MaKade C Claypool
Ukraine Donetsk Mission

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