December 30, 2013

Bittersweet Moments

 Sounds like you had an interesting week...Welcome to Missionary Work/life! I smiled really big as I read your letter, as I was doing the same thing that you all were doing. We had two baptisms on the 14th! Each hold an interesting story of how it all came to be. 

  Our first baptism was for Amanda. She is a single mother of two young kids (3 years old and 4 months). She wanted to have the blessings of the Gospel in her life. She started meeting with the missionaries and accepted the invitation to be baptized on the first day. She went to church twice but did not make it the third time so we had to move the baptism date to the 14th. She came to church for the 3rd time! Whew...but then we realized that the missionaries never taught her the Word of Wisdom and the commandments so we tried to set up a lesson but she was so busy the first half of the week. So...we taught her over the phone. We got the time and everything set....then she got a fever! "Oh my goodness!" I thought! Then Elder Smith started to doubt that this baptism would happen and started to feel discouraged as this will be the first baptism he has had in the 4 transfers that he has been here. One thing after another kept coming up. She made it to her baptism interview and all went well! Now we started to see that it really was happening. Saturday morning came and her baptism was set for 12pm. We were very busy that morning. I went on splits with our Ward Mission Leader, who is blind, to teach a recent convert. As you can imagine a deaf missionary and a blind Ward Mission Leader... it was a very interesting lesson but really cool at the same time. In the middle of the lesson Brother Panter's phone got a text from Elder Smith, who was filling the font for the baptism, and the phone read to him saying, "The water is cold and the water heater is not working right." A typical missionary nightmare was becoming a reality. After the lesson we went over to help set up for the baptism and figure things out. We had the Church facilities manager come and inspect the water heater but he could not find the problem so that baptism was really cold. Then Amanda came and we opened up the baptismal clothes closet and found that none would fit her. Luckily, she brought her own white stuff just in case. We then realized that almost all the clothes were super dusty as they have not used them in a while....which is really sad. The bishop arrived to baptize her and they got into the water and they both looked at us and said "It is very refreshing!" Amanda started to shiver and they both got out rather quickly after the baptism. I guess we were just trying to make it a very memorable experience. :) 

  Our second baptism was for Ben. The bishop that did the first baptism drained all the water out as he forgot that we told him to leave it full. Ben's baptism was set for 4pm. So, we quickly ran to grab some lunch and then we spent a few hours slowly filling the font with hot water...but that did not last long until it just came out cold. 4pm came and the chapel was filled with people there to support Ben. This is the 2nd time I have ever seen the chapel be filled like this. It was amazing! We had our Assistant to the President Elders, President Banks (counselor in the mission presidency), Elder Keller (Mission Presidency Secretary) and Sister Winn our Mission office secretary all there to watch the baptism. We had a table full of Restoration Pamphlets and Book of Mormons. We shared the 1st lesson during the changing time and invited everyone to take a pamphlet home with them or share it. By the end of the baptism we left with 1/3 of what we brought. It was so cool! We had many non-members, less actives and members come and show support. It was a neat experience. Ben's baptism was also...cold. Yesterday we talked to our High Councilor over missionary work and asked him to talk with the stake about fixing the water heater and also updating the baptismal clothes wardrobe. We have 3 baptisms on the 28th and 2 on January 4th! Lets hope the water is warm for those baptisms. :) 
  I learned a lot this past week about faith, trust and prayer. I was struggling with being patient with myself and my hearing...again. I just simply wanted everything to sound right and perfect...but it was not. Last Saturday during one of my "moments" I was praying for someone who just might understand me to be placed in my path to help me. Seeing Kimball on Thursday and giving me a blessing was the greatest day so far that week. In the blessing I realized that Heavenly Father answered my prayer in a very real way. It was such a tender experience and to see just how much Heavenly Father cares for each of us. How amazing is prayer and faith! I love this gospel and the blessings it brings. Kimball's voice sounds just like  Dad's and during the blessing I was constantly being reminded that I will be okay. My physical ears may have issues but my spiritual ears won' long as I keep doing the things that will allow me to hear my Savior's voice---I will be okay. Heavenly Father must be really patient with me as He has to remind me more than once. :) Elder Smith also got really interested in what Kimball does. The 3-D printing blew our minds away! He gave us a 3-D printed grande! He was the happiest Elder alive for the rest of the day and could not stop telling people all about it. 

   It was also good preparation for the following day. On Thursday night I got a phone call from President asking for my help with another Emergency Transfer. I asked who it was for and what he had in mind. He said the name of one of our elders in our zone who has only been in the field for about 3 weeks. He goes on to say that we needed him to be at the office the following day at 1pm for his father to pick him up. My heart sank. Friday came and we picked him up, went to Cafe Rio and then to the office. We got to the office and Sister Eberhardt asked me "Do you know why he is going home?" I said "I am not sure...I don't think he even knows why." The office staff and I just wanted to shake him and say "You can do this...keep holding on." But, he kept repeating to me "I came out too fast and this is not what I expected it to be like." That brought up many more questions of "What did you expect a mission to be like?" I am seeing a theme of these new missionaries who have no clue what a mission really is all about. We are here to "Invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end." Some do not understand that we have to do hard work to invite and help others through faith, repenting and baptism! just like what Colton said "nothing worth doing is easy." It is so true! Some new missionaries have no idea that we actually live by Preach My Gospel and the White Handbook. Dad, my advice for you as the bishop of these future missionaries....PLEASE get them interacting with the missionaries, go on exchanges, go to transfer meetings, ask the missionaries if the the youth can help with Zone Meetings or District Meetings (More ideal when they are not in school). Does the stake do Mission Preparation classes? 

  Anyway, after the father picked up this Elder, President came up to us and said "Are you busy this afternoon?" We responded nothing set until the mission Christmas fireside which starts at 5pm. He said "Would you take two more elders to the airport if Sister Banks does not get back in time?" Elder Smith and I looked at each other "Two more elders???" When they came down to the office I was sick to my stomach when I saw this one elder. I was his first Zone Leader when he came to Wyoming. He was on his 3rd transfer. I about cried and tried to make the best of it. It was really hard. Sister Banks came back in time so we did not have to drive them to the airport. I helped load up their suitcase and gave a hug goodbye. I will never forget the look of this Elder when he saw me. The Mission Christmas fireside came and his trainer, who I was also his Zone Leader at one point, came up to me and said "Do you know?" I nodded and tears about fell down his face. It was a bittersweet day. At the end of the fireside Sister Eberhardt had me sign "Silent Night" in ASL. Everyone sang along as I signed. Familiar faces all in front of me. Memories of good and hard times flooded through my mind. We have all gone through so much. I have been the Zone Leader for half of the missionaries in the chapel during my time.  Then all the zone leaders were to help give out individual gifts from the Eberhardts to each missionary. I picked up three bags that had the names of the Elders that had left earlier that day. Sister Eberhardt and I almost cried as we moved them to a different room. "Brokenhearted I started climbing" once again. 

  Last night I got a referral for another part-member family who has some deafness in the family and they sign. The father texted me and asked if we could come over tonight for dinner. He goes on to say, "I want to help my children more and become active again in the church." I then found out that the mother is not a member. The Lord really does work in mighty ways. After all, He is "Mighty to Save...".   

   I love my Savior and my gift to Him this Christmas is a White Christmas, having people dressed in white for baptism and the temple. I did this last year and it was the greatest gift EVER!  

From my heart to yours, 
Elder Cluff 

December 9, 2013

Christmas Once Again

Hello Family and Friends! 

   I wanted to take a moment and wish you all a Merry Christmas! I have learned that when you believe---anything is possible.  Here is a little story that I read and felt to share with all of you. 

“A Favorite Christmas Song”
“Next on the program was one of my favorite songs—“C-h-r-i-s-t-m-a-s.”
I looked up to see a sister with stooped shoulders and one hand held close to her body, walking with an awkward stride to stand beside the piano. She stood with one hip lower than the other and offered a lopsided smile before she began. I admit I wrongfully wondered if the song would be any good.
“When I was but a youngster, Christmas meant one thing,” she sang. The song went on to tell how a child learns how to spell Christmas and discovers what the holiday is really about.
“C is for the Christ child, born upon this day; H for herald angels.”
Her mouth was slack on one side, and she had difficulty forming the words.
“R means our Redeemer; I means Israel; S is for the star.”
Cautiously I looked around the room and studied the faces of her ward members. No one seemed embarrassed. In fact, they sat smiling and listening contentedly.
“T is for three wise men … ; M is for the manger.”
She continued singing and turned her face upward, fixing her eyes on a spot somewhere on the ceiling. After a few moments I looked up too, but I saw only ceiling tiles. When I glanced back at her, though, I noticed tears gleaming in her eyes.
“A is for all He stands for; S means shepherds came.”
When she finished, the hall filled with applause. Her cheeks flushed red. As she made her way back to her seat, hands reached out to touch her arm or shoulder as ward members expressed genuine gratitude. One sister, sitting close to me, told her what a nice job she had done, to which she quietly replied, “Thank you. I hope He liked it.”
He? To whom had she been singing? Even as I asked myself the question, I knew the answer. I realized she hadn't been singing to anyone in the room. She hadn't performed for the approval of the audience. She had sung to the Savior to praise Him.”

I pray that this Christmas we will remember the true meaning of Christmas.

Merry Christmas!

Elder David Cluff

December 6, 2013

When Faith Endures

Mom and Dad, 
   First, the mailing address was changed just because of my area. We live with members and they are not home all the time and it would be a hassle to have the mail thing figured out. So sending it to the mission office is the best way at this time. Plus, I live in an "estate neighborhood." I am not kidding....people actually live in an estate and the house we are in is kind of in the middle of a house and estate. I will attach a photo of one of our neighbors. So, apparently Mitt Romney lives in one of our wards! This should be a very interesting transfer. 
   Thanksgiving was great. Our zone got together and had a turkey bowl and then about 12:30 or so we all split up and attended the missionary thanksgiving day! Some missionaries asked if we could go with them to a 1pm to help eat the food. Then we asked them to go with us at 3pm to help eat the food and then President and Sister Eberhardt invited us over for a 5pm dinner. Lets just say I ate very little and made myself busy being the dishwasher. Since it was an All Day P-Day we went back to a church building as a zone around 7:30pm and played some games. Luckily, no one threw up their dinner(s). I survived and then caught a cold and was not myself the next few days. I am doing much better today. 

   Yesterday was simply crazy, dramatic, heartbreaking and inspiring all at the same time! I don' t know how that is possible but it was. On Saturday night I met a part member family who has a 15 year old son who lost a lot of his hearing. He was so excited to meet me and the mother was asking me questions and so forth. They wanted to pick up their signing again. I told them I can translate for them when they come to church. The son at the beginning did not want to go to church but now he is so excited to go. The morning came and we told them the plans and such. As we were making the plans, Elder Smith remembered that we had to help teach a class at 11, plus meet this family and also meet another investigator...all in two different buildings. It was 10 minutes to 11 when we realized that we were stuck. After a few phone calls and making arrangements we got it all figured out. It was a moment of Good, Better, Best choices. It was so hard. We told the High Priest Group that we could not teach last minute and they were okay with it and asked if we could do it this Sunday. Elder Smith went on splits to meet the investigator and I stayed with the teachers for each class and interpreted for this young man. Sacrament meeting came and I sat up my chair in the isle and this young man just had the biggest smile. He was just so happy to have me sit by his side for all three hours. His mother sat next to him with tear marks from the drama that happened with our miscommunication and comments from her husband, who is not a member. During the sacrament hymn I was signing about Christ's Atonement and tears about filled my eyes as I portrayed the scene in Sign Language. During the silence of the Sacrament the mother mouthed "Thank you!" and I wrote on a post-it note "Thank you for your faith when everything seemed to be falling apart." I was able to sign for all three hours and it did not feel long at all. It was a tender experience where many lessons were learned. Elder Smith and I learned right off the bat that communication is key in all we do. With transfer week it is very important that the missionary that is leaving makes notes of appointments that are set up for the coming transfer. 

   We are looking forward to a great week and the little deaf girl that I taught in the deaf ward is getting baptized this Saturday from what I just found out! I am so excited!! We may have to go on exchanges with the Church Missionary Department tonight but we will see. I know all the Zone Leaders have a meeting with them on Wed from 9am-4pm. Should be fun! 

Well I've got to go but know that I love you! 

Have a great week! 

From my heart to yours, 
Elder David Cluff 

December 2, 2013

Blessings Once Again

Transfers was on Tuesday and now it is Thanksgiving and our P-day. I got transferred and learned that things often don't go as we planned. Although, there are many blessings in disguise. On Sunday night I was awaiting that phone call that I would be released as Zone Leader and made a trainer. But, that phone call never came. I prayed that I will be able to handle whatever is thrown my way. Mondaymorning came and I found I would be leaving Park City and staying Zone Leader. It was a rather rough day for me personally. I was humbled and comforted by the Lord as I studied the scriptures and knew that this was what needed to happen. I said my goodbyes, packed my bags once again and headed to the mission office to see what the next 6 weeks awaits for me. They called up all the newly called zone leaders and current zone leaders. I was the oldest zone leader up there, going on 8 transfers as Zone Leader. I am now in the Cottonwood Zone serving with Elder Smith. He and I were in the MTC together and already served around each other in the Salt Lake Zone. We were rather shocked to find ourselves serving together. The first day in the mission he and I got to know each other rather fast. It was the transfer day and 1st day for us in the mission. Elder Smith and I were the first ones all ready to go. Sister Winn was not ready to go to the mission office. So, she asked if Elder Smith and I can go drop things off at the mission office and take photos of the rest of the new missionaries that arrived that morning. She handed me her car keys and gave elder smith her iphone. She gave us simple directions and said "I will call you when I need you to come pick me up." We got in the "big truck", as she likes to call it and off we went. Getting there was easy but getting back was the hard part. We got lost. Elder Smith and I looked and saw there there was a GPS in the car. We clicked "Home" and hoped it would not take us to Delaware Luckily, we made it back to the mission home! Whew! That was how Elder Smith and I first met. He is awesome missionary and we get along great. 

The first night being in the Cottonwood zone I had a feeling that this is where I need to be. Although it did not make sense as far as what I thought would was the right place. I met one of the bishops in the area and he said "Hey, we can use you to get into some homes!" He went on to say that there is a young family with a little boy that has Cochlear Implants and the mother is less-active. I knew I had to meet this boy and his mother. We attempted yesterday but she was at work. Then things just started falling into place for me. When I was serving in Kamas, I loved it but I did not feel fully comfortable there. From the start I felt that I would only be there a very short time. Now in this area I just feel like I have been here before and that this is the right time and place for me. He really does "Know [my] faith" (2 Nephi 3:19and me. 

This morning I was studying the Book of Mormon and a few things really stood out to me. I love this phrase in 2 Nephi 3:21:"the weakness of their words will I make strong in their faith." I often felt weak in words but I have felt that my faith has been what keeps me going.  "O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever." (2 Nephi 4:34) As today is Thanksgiving I kept thinking of things that I am grateful for in my life. I am so grateful for the blessings of the Gospel! I am grateful for a loving Heavenly Father who teaches me each day and lifts me up when I fall. I am grateful for the time I have in helping others come unto Christ and feel His warm Light through His gospel! I am grateful for the Book of Mormon and how it helps answers questions in life. I am grateful for people who truly embrace our Savior and accept the invitations we extend to them. I am grateful for Heavenly Angels, both seen and unseen, that help me each day. I am grateful for a wonderful family who have been by my side every step of the journey. I am grateful for all the people I have come in contact with as they have helped me find what matters most. I know that God loves each one of us. No matter how far apart we may all be, our hearts are united. With a bother serving his mission in London, family and friends located all over the country I feel close to them all. It is such a great feeling to know that Christ did die for each one of us. 

   Blessings and miracles happen each and everyday! When we have the faith to see what God sees in us, amazing things happen. We see who we can become and realize that we are more than what we think. We are sons and daughters of a Heavenly King! 
   I wish you all a happy Thanksgiving and hope that we will always be grateful for the blessings we notice in our lives. 

Trust in His Plan

 This morning, after a long wait, we got the transfer information. I am still trying to figure out what is going on. So this much I do know. 1. I am leaving Kamas (Super sad about it) and 2. I am STILL Zone Leader (going on 8 transfers as Zone Leader). I am not sure what to think about that. I totally thought I would be released as Zone Leader and do something else....guess not. I am just going to embrace whatever comes my way. I pray that I will have the strength to continue to help all the missionaries. Dad, you may understand this aspect but I am tired of dealing with all the missionary drama that always seems to happen each week. Deep breathing comes in handy when I just want to say something rather harsh to some situations I encounter.
But, it is a Beautiful Life and I will keep smiling and trust in His plan.
I was thinking about what a short time I have been in this area and just how I was able to see God's hand each day. I was able to see lives change, make connections and say thank you to people who helped me live the dream of hearing. Grandma Olson sent me a letter telling about how they loved driving through Oakley on her Birthday and how Brother Smart's mother helped raised money as the PTA president in the School I was in at the time of getting my 1st Cochlear Implant. On Saturday I dropped by their home and gave them a thank you note and expressed the joy that I have felt being able to come back and say "Thank you". It was has been a neat experience. I also met many people who just wanted to hear a miracle story and I was able to say "I am a walking miracle".
I love this work and am grateful for such an awesome family! Thank you so much for your letters and being able to help me with my batteries so fast. Elder Daines was impressed with how fast everything was. I love my Savior and know that He Lives! I know that the Book of Mormon really does help change lives as they read about the testimonies of Christ. 

Miracles and Simple Blessings

Hello everyone! This past week has gone by so fast and lots of things to do and get done but we still see miracles happen everyday! 

On Thursday we got a phone call from a member saying "Hey, can you come to my house as I need to talk to you about someone that I need you to teach." We had meetings most of the day and said we can come over at 3pm. We showed up and he told us the story. Brother Thacker goes on to say "So, I was helping a lady pull stumps out of her yard and stuff. I decided to ask if she had any religion. She said she did not grow up with anything and went to every church growing up to find what fit with what she felt to be true. So, I asked her if she would be interested in having two young men, missionaries, come share with her what I believed. She said YES! I then they may invite you to be baptized on their first visit are you okay with that? She again said, yeah!." Elder Daines and I almost fell over at this point as we listen to him tell us the story. He then had us get into the truck and drove us to her house!! She was home and he introduced us to her. We asked if she would be willing to meet with us at the Thacker's home. She said yes to 6pm on Saturday! We were so excited as you can imagine that someone actually, really, wants to meet with us! Saturday came and we had an amazing lesson. We taught about the restoration and after the Joseph Smith Story we asked if it all makes sense and if she had any questions. She said "this feels like what I believe and feels right!" We then invited her to be baptized and again she said YES!!!! Now at this point I am about to faint and fall off my chair. She did not want to agree to a date, yet but we have another lesson with her this coming Thursday! We are super excited. Brother and Sister Thacker have already served a full-time senior couple mission in Oklahoma. They then said "That was easy! Why do members make it so hard to open their mouths?!?"

 Miracles do happen every week! I pray that we will all keep our eyes open to the simple blessings that we receive each day and how God's hand is in every moment in our life. It is a beautiful life!