Tuesday, August 18, 2015

E-mail August 17, 2015: "Elder Operio...Why?"

That's it, my companion has gone crazy. All week long my companion has been talking randomly about a violin and I had no idea why.

"Man, I wish I could play the violin."
"I wonder if I could ever play the violin."
"Elder Cloward, let's go look for some violins."

I thought he was just kidding, but I was wrong. Today we walked into a music store and after I took my time looking at instruments and playing their grand piano, I turned around to see Elder Operio holding a brand new violin and receipt that said "SOLD". I tried to talk him out of it, I tried to talk the sales lady out of selling it to him, I told him that he didn't know how to play but his response was, "I don't need to know how to play, I can teach myself."


So here's to my overambitious companion and what I'm sure will be bleeding eardrums as he learns to play it. I'm really not one to talk though, we borrowed our neighbor's guitar and I've been teaching myself every night after planning. I guess we'll just see who can master their instrument first and then decide whether or not it was a bad idea.

Our investigator, Brother Abello (a-bel-ee-o) got baptized on Saturday, and it was actually one of the best baptisms I've been to so far. Bro Abello is an old man the my companion started teaching and he's taken hold of the gospel and run with it. He progressed faster than almost anyone else I've seen and his commitment to the Savior and his teachings shone through as he willingly accepted our challenges and kept his commitments. Even though I couldn't understand most of what was being said during the baptism service, the Spirit was strong and we could tell that he felt it too. It was a good week. :)

Sorry this is so short this week but we've had a crazy hectic day and we have to head home really soon.

Until next time everyone stay strong and Morm-on. ;)
-Elder Cloward

E-mail August 9, 2015: "Cat Tails & Cloward Tales"

Let me tell you the story of Elder Cloward and the cat:

One month ago when I first arrived in my new apartment my companion warned me to watch where I step because some local cats made a mess on the front porch. "No big deal" I thought, "I'll just clean it up so we don't have to worry about it." And so I did, but when we returned after our first day of proselyting in my new area I was surprised and dismayed to see that the cats had returned and done their business again, except this time it had rained and spread the mess and the smells all over the place. Not wanting to mess with the mess at that time we left it for a few days, but every day we left it, it got worse and the stench began to seep into our apartment through the windows. Finally I got up the courage to clean the mess, and it wasn't very pleasant. Because we'd let it sit so long, it was very difficult and nauseating to clean. To quote Mormon- "And now behold, I, Mormon, do not desire to harrow up the souls of men in casting before them such an awful scene of [stinking cat mess] as was laid before mine eyes; but I, knowing that these things must surely be made known, and that all things which are hid must be revealed upon the house-tops—"

So what did I learn from this? The mess left by the cats reminded me of sin and the consequences of not repenting. Sin is gross, sin has a stench, and it's much easier to repent as soon as we can than to let it sit because we're afraid. If we do let it sit it only gets worse and worse until the guilt and pain begin to seep into every part of our lives, and it's usually harder to clean up than if we had repented quickly. The wonderful promise is that if we repent quickly and thoroughly the mess can be washed away completely and the stench will be completely gone.

To continue with the story, after that incident we made sure to clean up quickly the mess the cats made, but the pattern continued. We'd clean up in the morning, we'd come home to a new mess. Over and over and over this was repeated until it about drove me crazy.  So I decided to do what needed to be done and rid our apartment of those wild cats. My first attempt was futile and, in retrospect, kinda pathetic. I concealed raw chili sauce inside two loaves of bread, broke it up, and scattered it over our porch. I hoped that the cats would eat my fiery sandwich, get serious indigestion, and be scared to come back. My plan failed miserably though when instead of leading them to stay away, the chili sauce led to a much worse mess the next day.

10 points for Elder Cloward's brilliance. Yay.

I figured now that the only way we'd be able to get rid of them for good would be to catch them and move them far away from our apartment, however I realized soon that it was much easier said than done. For anyone who's ever tried to catch a wild cat, you know that they're extremely skittish and you can't get close to them without scaring them off. I decided to try a trap made from materials we had on hand, namely a wash tub, a plastic hanger, and a jump rope. The plan was this: I would put some dried anchovies underneath the wash tub and then prop up the tub with the hanger. I would attach the jump rope to the hanger and conceal myself inside the apartment with the other end. When the cat came along and went under the tub for a snack I would pull the rope letting it fall to trap the unlucky feline. My companion thought I was crazy and rolled his eyes every time I scared the cat away because some part of my trap went wrong. What my companion didn't realize though, is that every time it failed I learned how to make the trap a little better until two days later to his utter surprise I successfully nabbed the little mess maker. We were both excited to be rid of the problem until we realized that we had no cage or anything else to transport it in. We decided to use a cardboard box but as we tried to move the cat form the trap to the box it slipped through the slots in the lid and got away. Undeterred and still determined to solve the problem, I tried to catch the cats again with my trap, but there was a problem. The cat's knew what we were up to now and they were much more careful. They recognized our faces and wouldn't come near our apartment until we had left for the day. I knew I would have to be smarter as well, so I started trying different methods to lead them to where I could trap them. I started luring them in by making a trail of food from where I knew they rested to my trap. I started disguising myself by wrapping up in a blanket so they wouldn't recognize me when they came close, I started cooking different foods for them so the smells would draw them in, I even moved the trap as close as I could to where they slept so it would be more enticing to try it again. My companion said I was obsessed, I called it determination, although I will admit there were times when I felt a little bit like Capt. Ahab chasing Moby Dick. Regardless though, as I employed all my efforts to catch them, it finally worked again. It was late at night, my trap was baited, and I was concealed with my jump rope ready to pounce. As I waited in the darkness I saw the two cats slowly come out of the shadows and make their way to a treasure trove of steaming scrambled eggs and corned beef. I was surprised when the first cat followed the trail, looked under the tub at the almost irresistible bait, and walked on by. I realized that this was the same cat we had trapped before and knew not to go into the trap again, no matter how enticing. His friend, on the other hand, didn't know what was waiting and slipped right in, and with nothing more than a quick jerk I had nabbed him. This time we knew we needed something more than a box to keep him in (the tub itself was too big to transport anywhere) and as we looked around, a MacGyver-like instinct kicked in and we realized that the cage from one of our stand-up fans would be perfect. After unscrewing the cage and using a sheet to protect ourselves from flying claws, we slipped the cat inside and the next day we set him free in a neighborhood far away from our apartment.

Through this experience I had to learn how to perfect my trap enough that it would be effective yet still enticing enough to lure in the prey, and I realized that what I was doing was exactly what the devil does to bind each of us. Look at this story again and instead of Elder Cloward and a couple of cats imagine that it's the devil trying to ensnare the saints. The devil has been doing what he does for a long time and his traps are made with extreme cunning. Just like my trap with the cats, his plan consists of 3 steps- lure, trap, bind. He lures us by enticing us with things we like, he sets the temptations as close as he can to us, and he often disguises himself so that we'll come near. He traps us by tempting us enough that we eventually commit sin, and he binds us by telling us that it's not that bad or, if it's a big sin, by making us scared to confess and repent. My challenge today is to remember that the devil is good at what he does. He doesn't chase after us with a net, he doesn't stand out in the open and wait for us to come close, he slowly and carefully lures us in until it's too late. Remember also that we have a friend who is always there to rescue us. We have a perfect Redeemer who can break apart any cages that we've fallen into if we'll only turn to Him and do what is necessary to repent.

So, if you think you're being led on to temptation right now, get away as fast as you can. If you've already fallen and you feel bound by the adversary don't let the sin sit and stink, repent and come back, today.

Anyways everyone until next time, don't be a foolish cat, be a wise saint. :)
-Elder Cloward

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

E-mail Aug. 2, 2015: "That's right Satan, take that!"

During this last year on my mission one of the most prominent things I've learned is how to ask inspired questions and how to be led by the spirit as we teach. Inspired questions are questions given to us by the spirit that spark an idea or a feeling in the mind and heart of someone we're teaching. It often comes as a question that requires contemplation on their part and, if it truly is inspired, it's exactly what they need to hear in the moment that they need to hear it. Learning to listen to the Spirit and to recognize what He wants us to say and do is something that's difficult at times and was hard for me to learn, but this last week as we were teaching I felt over and over again the confirming voice of the spirit as I said things that were not my own words. One example was when we were teaching two sisters about the Book of Mormon and they didn't seem particularly interested. It was hard to get responses from them and they weren't understanding what we were saying very well. As we neared the end of the lesson as we were about to testify about how they could receive an answer I had the impression to ask them if they've ever felt like God had given them an answer to something before. My first thought was "I can't ask that, what if they never have and they get embarrassed?" and "They'll just respond to this the same way they have to all the other questions." I asked the question anyways though, and the results surprised me. Instead of looking down and mumbling or not answering at all both of the girls lit up and energetically expressed that they had felt like that before and went on to describe how it felt to them. The entire mood of the lesson changed after that and we finished the lesson with all of us feeling uplifted. There were several other times this week when  similar thing happened during a lesson, especially as we were teaching less actives. The results? We had more less actives at church this week than I've seen in a long time and most of the people we're working with are beginning to keep their other commitments as well, every time. It's encouraging and refreshing to see how when we trust in the Lord His Spirit works through us and settles into the lives of those around us. I can see more and more how God really is in charge of this work, and slowly but surely I watch as Satan's tactics crumble and he loses his power over the lives of our brothers and sisters. Miracles happen when we listen to the Spirit, I testify of that.

In other news this week I officially miss Indian food. Don't get me wrong, most of the Filipino food here is great, but it trends to be very mild and sweet and I miss the kick of a good chicken curry. My withdrawals for something spicy are so bad that I've started putting chili sauce and turmeric powder in everything I cook at home. From corned beef and potatoes to sweet and sour instant noddles, it does the trick, and I go to sleep each night satisfied on a full and fiery belly. I often ask my companion if he wants me to prepare extra for him but he usually declines, and once when I asked a member to try a dish I had prepared he took one look at the deep red color and utterly refused. Oh well, curry's not for everyone I guess.

And once again I apologize for not sending pictures. I've taken plenty to send but my camera isn't working right now so I'll probably have to get it fixed first.

Anyways everyone until next time rock on. :)
-Elder Clouds