Friday, November 27, 2015

Last Week in the MTC!

Hola amigos!

Western Scrub Jay (Yes I still like bird watching!)

 This week has been really eventful, especially since it has been my last week in the MTC. I got my flight plans last Friday and I am beginning my journey to Argentina this coming Monday early in the morning! I am the only one going to Resistencia, but fortunately, I will be on the same flight as my companion and 16 other missionaries going to his mission of Rosario. We will travel to the Atlanta airport from 2:20 PM to 7:54 PM, then travel to the Buenos Aries Argentina airport from 9:01 PM to 9:10 AM. What a night that will be! I will probably try to call home during my layover in Atlanta or before I leave Utah. After I get to Argentina, I have no idea how I will get to my mission, but I trust both that my mission president will send someone to get me, and that the ride back will take most of Tuesday. Wow!
Diana (one of our practice investigators of the MTC), me, and my companion.
We have spent a lot of time preparing to our departures. We concluded all of our investigator lessons, which was sad to me because teaching is my favorite thing to do here. The cool thing was that we taught our last lessons as if we would be teaching again soon. It's cool because it shows we have trust for the missionaries that will replace us in the field. We are all on the same team, Jesus Christ's team, so investigators are often taught by many different sets of missionaries.
My Companion with Hermano Myers (AKA Lucas); he has a sock and tie match.
I've been busy as Zone leader. We get to interview all of the District leaders about how their districts are doing and plan all of the meetings for our Zone. It's so great to be doing so much good work.
We got to teach a member through Skype who lives in Columbia. She served in the same mission in which I will soon be serving! Her father doesn't go to church, which makes her sad. We invited her to invite her father to pray. Some of the most powerful experiences I have had have come through prayer. It's really cool being a missionary because it gives me an excuse to be fearless. I know though, that being a member of Jesus Christ's restored church on the earth should be excuse enough to be fearless. I invite each of you to invite someone you know to pray and ask God if He is there and if He loves them. I testify that they will receive an answer, even if it doesn't come right away. Know that after you make this invitation, it is up to them to accept or reject your invitation.
Our district with Hermana Ellison (AKA Sandra) with our favorite names for the Savior.
In other news, we went to the temple on Tuesday, probably for the last time in two years. Temples are holy buildings in which we make promises with God and receive blessings. We can also do essential work, such as baptism, in the place of those who have died without the opportunity to do this work for themselves. This means that through temples, people can still be saved even if they didn't have a chance to be baptized. God is so merciful! I will miss going to the temple.
Just yesterday, the MTC missionaries packed nearly 358,000 meals for hungry children throughout Utah. I got to lead a table of missionaries in the packing process which was so much fun! I love to help other people!
Elder Oaks, a modern-day Apostle of Jesus Christ, spoke to us yesterday about the importance of being grateful for everything God gives us, even the trials of our lives, because those trials bring us closer to Him and help us grow. In another meeting themed on Thanksgiving thanks, missionaries shared talents with us, including piano playing, yodeling, organ playing, and even rubber ducky sounds to the tune of "Rubber Ducky." I have no idea how that number made it in...
The coolest package ever from my family. I was ooh-ing for a good 10 minutes. Thanks so much! A missionary couldn't have a better gift!
I have felt the spirit countless times this week. If you want to feel God's love more in your life, you must pray with a humble heart, recognizing your weaknesses. You must be willing to repent, or ask forgiveness from God, and then change your life to live according to His will. I know this great change is only possible through Jesus Christ, who loves you personally. I promise that through repentance, you will feel His love.

Love you all!
Elder Cloward

P.S. - The next time I email, I will be in Argentina!

P.P.S - I accidentally left a read pencil in one of my white shirt pockets and that shirt is now pink. Why did it have to happen on the last week?!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

A Tiny Seed Needs Sunlight and Water

Hola Hermanos y Hermanas! Hello brothers and Sisters!

What an amazing week! I have grown so much. Some of the changes I have had to make in my life have been particularly difficult, but I know I am becoming who God wants me to be.

District Elders being silly
Last week we learned in class some new ways to teach more effectively. We have to back up the scriptures with our testimonies, not back up our words with the scriptures. It makes sense, but it's much harder than one would think. However, it makes a tremendous difference because God's words are always better than ours. We are also learning how to ask inspired questions that invite investigators to think deeply. No more "how do you feel?" and "what do you think?" By asking inspired questions and using the scriptures to answer doubts rather than trying to explain what we think, we invite investigators to answer their own questions. I know that this way to teach invites the Holy Ghost, which is the ultimate teacher.
Scatter Sunshine all along your way... Every passing day!
I was released from my assignment as district leader this past week so another Elder could experience what it is like. We learn so much in leadership positions. My favorite thing I got to do as a district leader was interview other Elders in the district about their progress and their relationships with their companions. It was so cool to hear each of their testimonies about how God is helping each of them to become better. Whenever there were issues between companions, it was incredible to see how just talking with the other companion made up the difference. I know that when you have a problem between you and another person, you can resolve it if you just have a brief "companionship inventory." Discuss strengths of the relationship and of each other. Then say "you can be even more effective if you..." I know that this builds me up and I have seen it mend relationships. So cool!
Our District Mission tags
This last Sunday, my companion and I were assigned as the new Zone leaders. Wow! This means we now serve 4 districts. God is teaching us how to lead and it is difficult and exciting! It is particularly difficult for me because I am a sit-back-and-observe kind of person. I am also learning how to lead in a way that those I lead will feel loved and also want to do what is right. I am not very good at it, but I look to Jesus Christ, who is our perfect example of a leader. I will continue to pray for God's help and guidance.
I am trying to learn how God talks to me. I am learning that when I am humble, God can teach me. I struggle to find a balance between seriousness and fun so that I can hear and feel the Holy Ghost always. It is hard.
Elder Maisey and I got to teach a special lesson this week. The MTC staff connected us to a member of the church in Argentina! That was so exciting! We could hardly understand her because the connection was poor and she spoke Spanish so fast, but we learned that she has a two year old daughter and that her husband joined the church a few years before they were married. Wow! After seeing the light of Jesus Christ in her eyes, I can't wait to go to Argentina! We invited her to share her love of Christ's gospel with someone she knows that needs it. I would also challenge each of you to do this. Remember how grateful you are for Jesus Christ, who died to save us. Go tell someone how much you love Him and how much he loves them. You can change lives!
Most of the Elders in my Zone (The one smiling was the preivous Zone leader. He is an amazing example to me of a leader who helps everyone feel loved and also encourages them to do their best)

Our district had an English fast this past Tuesday. We tried to only use Spanish throughout the day. It was hard, but I know my Spanish was strengthened. I would recommend not doing this very much because we couldn't speak very much and I felt less effective because of this. Even still, it really strengthened my Spanish and humbled me.
Yesterday, we shared our last lesson with our investigator Diana. It was really hard to say goodbye because I have felt the spirit so strongly in our lessons with her. She is amazing and wants to learn more. After our lesson, we talked to someone who watched our lesson remotely with her, and she showed us some notes Diana had been taking of our lessons with her. She said that she had felt happy and peaceful when we prayed with her and that because of this, she wanted to pray more to receive answers from God. Wow! That is why I am on my mission. I am hear to invite all to come to Christ, through faith repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.
I invite each of you to pray to God tonight. He is your Heavenly Father and he loves you. He will answer your prayer with peace. Begin by addressing Him. Then have a conversation with Him. Tell Him what you are grateful for and what you need. Ask Him questions. Then close your prayer "In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen." He will answer. You may not hear words, but you will feel His love for you. You will have His peace. This is my testimony to you.

I love you all!
Elder Cloward

Thursday, November 12, 2015

MTC Halfway Point- What a spiritual week!

Buenos dias amigos!

I love it here in the MTC! It is somewhat sad to me that we have passed the halfway point. It goes by so fast. The campus is really nice, being right next to my dream school BYU. The mountains are fantastic and it has snowed a little this past week. However, even more fantastic than the snow balls, delicious food, comfortable dorms, friendly missionaries, awesome companions, and excellent language trainers, are the powerful spiritual experiences everyday.
At the Provo Temple. I will miss this place.
On 11/6, Elder Inman was sick. His companion, Elder Starr, and I gave him a priesthood blessing. The priesthood is the power of God given to man to serve God's children on the earth. It is by this authority that we can baptize and also by which we can bless the sick. I am happy that God trusts me with his power and provides me with opportunities to serve.
The next day, we taught Lucas again. We focused on teaching him just about baptism. Here is a portion of my journal entry for that day:
"After sharing multiple scriptures (Mosiah 18: 8-11) about the people of Alma desiring to be baptized and the example of Jesus Christ, he prayed with us and asked God if he should be baptized. During the prayer, I realized that the only thing I wanted in the world was for Lucas to receive an answer from God. [I prayed mightily for him]. After the prayer, he was noticeably affected, but still unsure. The spirit then prompted me to tell him that this decision is really big, that it is not our decision and we can't make it for him. It is up to him to choose. I then invited him to be baptized again. It was quiet for what felt like two minutes. Finally, he replied 'I know God wants me to be baptized. Yes.' That was the coolest thing to hear! I know it will bless his life... Hurray!"
I must have invited him three times during that lesson to be baptized. My companion thought I was really pushing him, but I know I felt and obeyed God's promptings to me.
We sang this past Tuesday, an arrangement of "Nearer My God To Thee" for the devotional. This song applies so powerfully to me right now. If I am not coming closer to God each day, I am falling away from Him. I especially love the line "Angels to beckon me." I know that angels are with us daily to protect us and invite us closer to Christ. During the song, I was able to focus on the words of the song and felt the spirit very powerfully, as I plead with God to help me come closer to Him. What a great song!
My companion and I had a contest to not look at the screens while we were singing. If I looked, I had to do 10 push-ups, him, 30. Even though we focused really hard, me 10, him 90 (he is really built!)
We are learning to teach more specifically and with more power. My companion and I have a long way to go, but we are on God's side and have great love for our investigators and desires to follow Christ. I invite each of you to come closer to Christ this week. Read the scriptures, serve someone in need, or give a heartfelt prayer of gratitude. I know this will bring you greater happiness and peace.

Have a happy day!
Elder Cloward

P.S. To answer some questions, my departure date is either Nov 30, or Dec. 1, I'm not sure which yet. My Spanish is coming along nicely. I can communicate, but at this point, every sentence I give has at least one error in it. I'm getting all of our recent language lessons confused and there is little time to review or fully incorporate what I am learning. Still, it's fun to pop a Spanish word that the rest in the district don't know and have them decipher what I'm saying. Next Tuesday, our district is doing an English and food fast. I am excited for this opportunity to develop.
This is my last week as district leader. It has been a great, but difficult experience. I am excited to see who will be assigned this next week.

Love you all!
Spike Ball With Elder Maisey


Thursday, November 5, 2015

Second Week- Awesome!

Buenos dias!

 So much happens in a week at the Missionary Training Center, I have to look back at my journal to remember anything.
This week, Elder Maisey and I continued to teach Lucas and Diana, and a new investigator named Sandra. Even though these people are members of the church pretending to be investigators (people who want to know more about the church), they have become very real people to me. I spend all of my time and effort thinking about them and preparing lessons that will invite God's love and spirit into their lives. Lucas was our first investigator, and this week, he surprised us all. One day we showed up to class, and there he was, ready to teach us! His real name is Brother Myers. He's probably my favorite person in the whole world right now, partly because everything he teaches us is so profound and personally powerful that I just want to write everything he says down. He has taught us to be misionaros imparables, unstoppable missionaries, who don't let excuses get in the way of working hard and doing their best. However, I love him even more because I have felt the Holy Ghost testify through me to him of the importance and power of Jesus Christ and His gospel in our lives. He was the first person we taught to pray, even though we didn't even know how to pray in Spanish ourselves. Just yesterday, we taught him how to repent and be clean from sin by praying for forgiveness from God. As he prayed with us, the joy of the Holy Ghost was so overwhelming, I almost cried. I remembered all of the times I have repented and become clean. I invited him to continue on the path to the savior and be baptized. There was a long pause as he thought about it. He almost said yes, but told us he wanted to pray about it before he made the decision. I told him I know God will say yes.
In other news, A lot of medical issues have come up in our branch (a group of districts or classes each consisting of about five companionship). About two weeks ago, I got a little bit sick, but pushed through. Now nearly everyone except my companion and Elder Starr have gotten sick in one way or another. Elder Inman used hydrogen peroxide to clean his contacts, put then immediately put one in his eye. Needless to say, he had to leave the MTC to get medical attention, but he is okay now. An Elder from another district was rushed to the hospital to get his appendix removed. That was scary, but he is okay and recovering too.
Today it snowed briefly, and Elder Inman, who has never left Florida, was so excited to see snow for the first time. Snow is so clean and pure. I want to help my investigators feel this same way.
Elder Maynes, the President of the Quorum of the Seventy ( a group of 70 church leaders) visited on Tuesday and taught about going out each day to find new people to teach. God is preforming miracles for people in Argentina so they will be ready for me to teach them when I arrive. However, if I don't do my part by searching and opening my mouth, I may miss my chance to serve them. I know that as I am brave, God will speak through me to His Children and they will feel His power and peace.
The food is good here. I eat a lot, but still weigh less that any of the other Elders by at least 5 lbs, even though I am taller than most of them by several inches.
Time is flying by, though we do so much each day here. I am happy and well and hope to hear from more of you. Thank you for your support!