Monday, January 30, 2012

Work While the Sun Shines (or not)

It has been a mix of weather lately, some days it is nice and sunny, although a bit cold.  Other days it is warmer (sometimes) and rainy.  I wish the weather would just make up its mind.  I have to decide whether or not to wear my rain coat or my wool coat (which is warmer, but not so very water proof).  It is kind of a challenge without a weather forecast.

Sister W and I have been having fun.  I am still the driver.  I miss Sister R though.  It is not the same without her.  I am glad that I get to see her every once in a while.  Nothing much has changed by adding a fourth sister but we now get to juggle the bathroom a little more and there are two different schedules.  Since I’m not companions with Sister R anymore, I can't really lean on her to fix the problems or plan for the day.  Sister W and I have to take care of it ourselves.  It is a good growing experience.

There is another baptism coming up.  Kathy is engaged to a member and we got a call one night that said, “Hey, my fiancé wants to take the lessons and get baptized.  When can we schedule a lesson?”  It was every missionary's dream.  She had already gotten a Book of Mormon from missionaries years ago and took their challenge to read it and pray to know if it is true.  She did and felt the truth.  But nothing really happened after that until she started dating her fiancé.  Kathy and her fiancé have known each other since they were kids (about 30 years).  It is interesting how seeds are planted that you don't even realize were there.  I am so grateful those missionaries gave Kathy a Book of Mormon and that she acted.

I love you all!  Thank you for all of your support and prayers.  I couldn't do it without you ALL.  Love ya! Sister Cluff.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Not a Gangster

I only have one companion now, it is Sister W.  We got an interesting phone call on Tuesday or Wednesday.  The APs (Elders who are assistants to the president) asked us if there was enough work going on in the wards to split them.  Transfers weren't for another month so we were a little alarmed.  We said yes, there was.  After a bit of digging we learned that there might be a sister missionary coming who was waiting for her Visa to another country.  We didn't really think anything of it, or make any decisions.

On Saturday, President Y called and asked if we could be ready to move another sister into the apartment in 2 hours.  It was pretty exciting.  Long story short, Sister R is training Sister F who is a Visa-waiter going to Russia.  They are working in the M Ward.  Sister W and I are covering the R Ward.  We are all living in the same 2 bedroom apartment.  It is a party!  Sister F and I are pretty sure we are related.  I whipped out my handy-dandy pedigree chart—(thanks, mom!) and we both have relatives who lived in the Chihuahua, Mexico area.

It has been a bit wet here, for about 2-3 days it was raining solid.  It was gross, but better than the snow.  My boots and jacket kept the rain out; hopefully they will keep doing that.  I might get a cheapy pair of rain boots in case my shoes start leaking.  Who would have guessed it rained in Oregon?!  Just kidding!  Luckily it only really snowed last Sunday.  It reminded me of the time right after we moved to the Chicago area when Dad made me call Kara and ask if church was cancelled because of 2-3 inches of snow.  Haha.

I have a funny story from last night at dinner.  We ate with a family who had 5 boys and when they learned I was from Chicago they were joking with me about being a gangster.  I was wearing my pretty sparkly scarf and totally looked nothing like a gangster.  It was fun joking with them.  We were teasing about "packing heat" and stuff.  It reminded me of hanging out with the cousins.  Another member, Brother S, he is probably in his 60-70s, asked if I had a gun in my purse when he learned I was from Chicago.  He was kidding and it was fun.  Everyone asks why I don't have a Chicagoan accent.  Then I usually say “Chicago” in the Chicago accent way a couple of times.  (Or they say it with an accent like that-- that's my favorite.)  I then explain the whole story that every time Dad becomes ward employment specialist, we move.  It usually gets a laugh.  I miss you guys.  I hope you had fun reading this letter.  Love, Sister Cluff.

Church is Cancelled?

So, exciting news... It snowed!  It isn't supposed to snow here.  It is not what I agreed to.  But, it is fun for a little while. 

So, no one knows how to drive in snow in Oregon.  It is kind of ridiculous.  There are also no snow plows or salt trucks.  I guess that makes a difference.

It started snowing during Sacrament meeting and so they cancelled the last two hours of church.  There was less than an inch but some people had 1/2 hour or more to drive home - out in the middle of nowhere.  (By the way, that's where the pictures were taken.)  The funny part was is that it stopped snowing right after they cancelled church.  Then, the snow all started melting. 

We got to go tracting in the snow for an hour.  It was great fun.  Not really, that was sarcasm in case you couldn't tell.  Still, it was fun to see snow.  I am over it now.  I guess it is supposed to snow the rest of the week.  I am still driver, which is not as fun as it used to be.  I don't really like “backers” [backing up].  My companions sometimes tease me about my driving/parking skills. 

Well, since my computer was super slow today, I don't have much time to write.  I’ve got to get going.  I love you all!  Thank you so much for your love, prayers, and letters!  Love, Sister Cluff.

P.S. Sorry the pictures don't have me in them.  Sister W took them while I was driving.  I was concentrating.

New Year's Resolution

Tim's Baptism

Tim investigated the church for a long time before finally deciding to join.

Bobbie's Baptism

Bobbie decided to be baptized after her son, Chase, returned home from his mission.

I feel like I haven't talked to you in sooooo long.  I keep remembering Christmas and smiling.  It really made my day.  I keep remembering how good it was to see you and talk with you.  I didn't ever want to stop.  I am so glad we are a forever family.
            So, having a third companion is a party.  It is a sleep-over every night.  Now it feels weird when there are just two of us.  Sister W got to go out on splits with a member Saturday night. [“Splits” is where a missionary will leave her own companion and work with another member or missionary for a few hours or a day.]  Sister R and I were feeling sick.  We caught the stomach flu -- Sis R's was slightly worse than mine.  Mine was just nausea and feeling super tired (so don't phreak out Mom).  Sister R and I missed Sister W a ton.  It was lonely without her there.  It is interesting how quickly people adapt.  It’s also interesting how you can just feel when something is not right on your mission (or in life).  Heavenly Father helps out his missionaries – a lot. 
Our trio companionship will last for 6 weeks.  This week has been interesting; it is a whole new dynamic with three of us.  We are like an army. 
            One of the New Year’s resolutions I have been thinking about is to volunteer.  Normally, I sit back and let someone else do something.  For example, when someone asks who wants to say the prayer everyone's hand should shoot into the air.  I can at least do that.  It is kind of sad how much we limit ourselves.    I want to be the one to volunteer, even if I am scared to death.  When we do things like that we are just getting blessings.  By the way, I am giving talks in both of my wards.  We volunteered to help the missionary work in the wards progress and to help the members get excited about missionary work.  Fun, huh?  I am not exactly sure about the wording of my goal, but I want it to be somewhere along these lines.  I am trying to work at setting better goals, ones that I can accomplish.
            I guess I am going to run.  I love you guys, thank you so much for all of the letters!

Knocking on Doors

We have had a few days that have been nice enough to not wear a jacket for a little while.  Hopefully the winter will be done soon.  At least it hasn't snowed or iced.  I am glad I am not anywhere colder because it would be a lot harder to go outside then.

            This week we have done a lot of tracting (going out and knocking on doors).  We tracted for 13 hours.  Some of those hours were in the rain.  It was rough but we saw many miracles.  We have a bunch of new people we are going to start teaching and we found one person who is a member and might be interested in coming back to church.  We are going to keep working hard with these people that we have been blessed to find. 

            I don't really have too much to write about this week.  It feels like all we did was tract.  A funny story is that we came across a Jehovah's Witness and she thought we were Witnesses.  We talked with her for about 15 or so minutes and she said that the Jehovah's Witnesses were the most persecuted church in the world.  We corrected her and she relented a little and said that we had it pretty bad but that it was just because of polygamy.  [Note:  There was a brief period of time when some members of the church did practice polygamy in the mid to late 1800s, but the practice was officially ended in 1890.] We let her know that we were persecuted before and after that. It was kind of a debate about who was persecuted more, because the Bible says that the true church is going to be persecuted and that it grows fast.  She said that Jehovah's Witness, Mormons, and the Community of Christ were the 3 fastest growing churches in the world.  It was kind of a funny conversation.  Neither of us was changing position on being the true church but we were trying to be diplomatic about the whole conversation. 

Oh, so sister missionary transfers are happening tomorrow.  Anyway, Sister W, my companion from the MTC, is going to be companions with Sister R and me.  We are staying in the same area.  Yes, a trio. We are trying to find a bunk bed so we can fit three beds into the bedroom.  It is going to be a party.  Sister R is scared because she has to train us both.  But it is only for 1 more week.  It is going to be super exciting this transfer and a huge adjustment to have a third companion.  But it is going to be fun.  I already love them both. 


Thank you so much for yesterday.  [She’s referring to the Skype call.]  It made me feel so happy and loved and almost normal.  It was like I was back home for an hour.  That was definitely one of the highlights of my week.

So, last Monday we went to Wildlife Safari.  It was pretty sweet.  We have a couple of ward members, the M family, who volunteer there and were able to give us a free tour.  The first part was a little walk around zoo thing and then we went on a safari.  When we were on the safari, Brother M fed a banana to the giraffe out of the car window.  It was kind of against the rules, but he "turned himself in" afterwards.  It was sweet.  The giraffe's head was in the tour van.  It was definitely the coolest part about the safari.

Another highlight was that we had two baptisms.  Bobbie was baptized!  She is a mom; she works with doctors somehow.  She is really sweet and loves her family more than anything.  Her son was baptized about 6 years ago and just got back from his mission about a month ago.  She took the lessons while her son did and has been taught off and on.  She was just waiting for her son to get back.  Now her son, Chase, is not the only member!  This gospel really blesses families.  We hope to be teaching Bobbie's daughter and husband in the near future so they can be eventually be sealed in the temple.   Tim was baptized at the same baptism as Bobbie.  His wife and step-daughter are members and he has been investigating for a little over a year.  He and his wife both work at schools.  They are really awesome people and I am super excited that they now have the church in their lives.

Christmas Stockings

Christmas Tree with gifts waiting below.

Christmas was an awesome day.  We opened presents at 6:30AM, much earlier than we would have at home.  It was hard not to open them sooner than that.  There are no parents here to guard the tree!

Sister Cluff follows the Cluff family tradition.
Each year we take a Christmas photo amidst the pile of wrapping paper.

 This letter is going to be short.  P-day is on Saturday, Dec. 31, this next week.  [It was switched to accommodate New Year’s Eve activities.]  So, it would be nice if I could get some new emails in my inbox that day.  I love you all so much.  Thank you for all of the letters you have written!!!

Alexa's Skype Call on Christmas

Hi.  It's Sister Cluff's Mom here.  We had a busy holiday.  It included airline flights, a cross-country driving trip, Adam's & Kendra's wedding, a reception luncheon, and an open house.  I won't bore you with all the details.  I just mention these things to put the call in context.  We were in Arizona when we got to Skype with Sister Cluff.

She looked good.  Her hair was shorter, so it took a moment to get used to the new look.  I don't recall many of the subjects we talked about.  What I remember most is the laughter.  We talked and laughed and talked some more.  The time went so quickly.  It was hard to say goodbye at the end.  I just wanted to hug her.  We will get to talk (Skype) again on Mothers' Day.  It seems so far away right now.  Until then, we'll just anticipate those weekly letters. 


Merry Almost Christmas

Merry almost Christmas!  It is an awesome time of the year.  It is so happy and joyful, especially if you think of the miracle of Christ's birth and how much He did for us. I have been thinking a lot of Christ and why we celebrate Christmas. What I came up with is that the reason we celebrate his birth is not really because of the miracles that happened during his birth, but the most amazing thing about it is that he chose to come down.  He chose to live a perfect life, suffer for our sins, die for us, and then rise again.  He did all of these things for us.  I am really grateful for all he has done.

This last week, hmm.  Time has flown past; I can't believe it is already P-day again.  Some days drag and some days speed by.  We have been working on teaching about 20 lessons a week.  This is a lot and it is the standard of excellence -- or the Eugene mission's goal or guidelines to how you spend your time.  I don't know if you know this, but missionaries work a lot with the less-active people in wards.  So the majority of the lessons are with them but we are trying to build up a teaching pool, people we are teaching lessons to in order to prepare them for baptism in the future.

Last week we got to do service for a family that is just moving in to a new-old house.  This family was in the ward before.  We got to wash the sticky gunk off of the walls after they took down a wall paper border thing.  It was pretty fun.  Since we spend most of our time wearing dresses or skirts, any time we get to wear jeans we are happy.  It is awesome to have time to go help people.  I love doing service.  The week before Thanksgiving we got to help unload the Church food distribution truck to families in need.  It was a special experience.  It is nice to teach people and to bear testimony but in my opinion it is great to serve people.  I feel like it is a refresher in a way, you get to stop having to worry and you can just “put your shoulder to the wheel.”
Oregonian weather update:  it hasn't been really rainy.  I guess all of the people in Oregon are concerned about the lack of rain.  It didn't rain for about 2 weeks, and then lately it has at least rained once every 2-3 days.  I guess it is usually raining a lot more.  But that doesn't mean that it has been sunny.  The area where we are serving has some intense fog.  It sometimes lasts all day.  It is pretty gross.  It is typically in the 30s and there hasn't been any ice or snow.  There is a little frost on the car sometimes but it melts by the time we leave the apartment, about 11AM.  Not quite like Chicago weather, where your ice scrapper is your friend.  They tell you to take vitamin D here because you don't get enough from the sun during this time and it helps you stay happy.   Here’s an interesting tidbit… skim milk has more vitamin D than 2%.
Sister R is doing pretty well.   I am driving for the week until she is sure she is okay.  She is happy not to drive and I like driving except for the parking part.  But I am practicing up. It is scary how little I pay attention to the area when I am passenger.  This should help me learn the area better.  Sister R keeps saying that I will probably be the one in charge of the area and she will be the one leaving.
I get to go to a place called Wildlife Safari today.  It should be super fun.  It is more hands on than a zoo from my understanding.  We are going with some members who volunteer there and can get us in for free.  They can also let us do a few behind the scenes things.  I will keep you updated and send some pictures.  Maybe there will be a Lexa in the Lion's den picture [reference to her brother’s mission photo taken in a Lion’s den at an Africa wildlife park].
I love all of you.  Thank you so much for your prayers.  I think of each of you every day.  We will be allowed to Skype home on Christmas.  There is not a specific time limit, but we have to keep it to a  reasonable amount of time.

A Few Photos...

Riding thru my first carwash with Sister R.

What it looked like from inside the car.

Our Lovely Apartment.
  Yes, there is a lamp hanging from a string and Christmas lights strung around the room.

Beautiful Oregon Sunset.

Sister Cluff with the beautiful sunset behind her.

Missionary Minded

This week was a week of miracles.  We just got into a new area and there are two people who have been taught lessons and are now finally prepared to be baptized.  We went in on the first lesson with each of these people and invited them to be baptized.  This just reinforces the fact that the Lord has his own timing.  One is a mom whose son just got back from his mission.  The son was baptized when he was 14 and is the only member in his family.  She was just waiting until he got back.  We happened to be the lucky missionaries who got to teach her before her baptism.  She has seen how much the gospel has helped her son grow and she wants that for herself.  She also wants that for her family.  She understands this not only can bless her life but the life of her family.   Her son was the one who really taught her but we are the ones who get to share the lessons with her.  Examples can help people, but unless you invite someone to do something they won't change. 
            The second person we worked with is named Tim.  He was a devout Catholic the missionaries have been working with for some time (probably about 1-2 years).  He is one of those people who want to know everything.  He has never felt ready before but now there is nothing holding him back and he knows the Book of Mormon is true and that he needs to be baptized.  The thing he loves the most about our church is the focus on the family.  He and his wife are on their second marriage and love each other and their kids a lot. (She and her kids are members.)  They want to be sealed together.  This is also from the efforts of a lot of missionaries.  Both of these baptisms are scheduled for Dec. 22 at 7PM.  The mission president is going to be there because he helped with teaching Tim.  We are super excited!
            Since I have been on a mission I have loved the ward members who are missionary minded.  I just wanted to invite you to do what our mission president invited each family to do in this mission.  He mailed the Bishops a letter that invited them and their family (and all of the families in the ward) to invite someone to their home to hear a special Christmas message from the missionaries in their home.  This is a great time of the year to do missionary work because Christ is more accepted at this time of the year and people are trying to remember the reason why we celebrate Christmas.  I invite you to pray for someone to come into your mind who can hear a message from the missionaries.  Think of all the joy you get from having this in your life.  Since I have been on a mission I have regretted all of the missed opportunities to share the gospel with friends.
            I know the church is true.  Don't forget about the real reason we celebrate Christmas.

P.S.  I am getting my hair cut short.  I have an appointment at 2PM today!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Anyone for Pizza?

Mom was kinda complainy last letter about my letters not being very good.  [A Note from Mom:  I just mentioned I wanted more information, not that the letters were bad.  I pull parts from all the letters she sends and make them into one blog post.]  So, I am writing this first....
First of all, I don't have a new companion.  We found out Monday afternoon that it wasn't going to happen.  We had started rearranging our furniture to accommodate a third bed in the same room.  As missionaries, you have to sleep in the same room as your companion and you can't sleep in the same bed.  The mission rules are very clear about that.  Any way, we are kind of bummed about not getting another companion.  We had been getting super excited and telling all of the wards.  So, now everyone is all confused whether or not a new companion is coming.
 Mario is from Mexico and his wife is a member.   They are in their 50s and have two daughters in their 20s.  He wants to meet my Dad, since he went on a mission to Mexico.  He is a philosopher, entertainer, and people pleaser.  He calls Sister R, Rosita, and me Blanca Nieve (Snow White in Espanol).  It is pretty fun.  We are having a hard time teaching him because, as a Catholic, he believes in Saints.  He will try to pray for anything we ask because we asked him to do it, not because he wants to.  He has been having lessons with missionaries for at least 10 years.  We set a baptismal date but until he feels that desire to know he is not really going to progress. 
 Maggie requested missionaries and she is the most prepared person ever.  Her biggest hang-up about why she doesn't like our church was because she thought we worshipped the Book of Mormon.  (We don't by the way.)  When we taught her about the Word of Wisdom, which includes our health laws, we were a little skeptical.  She had been agreeing with everything up to that point and we knew she at least was a smoker.  She said that she knew these things weren’t good for a person and she didn't understand why other people didn't.  She said there was a verse in the bible that said a person couldn't feel the spirit if they were drunk.  It is awesome that she recognized that!  She is going to be baptized around Dec. 20th. YAY!!
 Rodrigo came to church yesterday and after fast and testimony meeting, he asked where he could sign up to be a member.  We are teaching him the first lesson on Thursday.  We hadn't met him until after Sacrament meeting.  Miracles happen!
 Abby's Legendary Pizza.  We have an hour for lunch every day, which usually gets taken up by missionary work like calling people.  One day last week, we were in between two lessons so we decided to go out for lunch.  We decided on Costco since it was on the way, but when we walked in the exit the lady asked where we were going and we said to use the bathroom (which was true), she said that was okay.  We felt bad about buying food (without having a membership there), so we went to Abby's for pizza.  Abby’s are all over here, and semi-decent.  It is kind of like a thin-crust version of Pizza Hut.  So, on our "restful" lunch at Abby’s, we saw the kids that were recently baptized, the Relief Society President  from the NC- ward, the Young Men’s President  from the NC- ward, a less-active member from R- ward, and three people who have been going to church for over a year and aren't baptized yet. It was the most productive lunch ever!  Most of them were at a birthday party for the 17 year old who hasn't been baptized yet.  We helped out with his Eagle Scout Court of Honor our first week here.  We were invited over to the party, it was fun.
I know this church is true.  We have seen sooo many miracles.  I hope you feel like a part of my life now, since I have written more about my people.  Obedience brings blessings, exact obedience brings miracles.  We haven't been exactly obedient, it is a work in progress, but we have been trying our best and Heavenly Father helps out.  It is unbelievable.  Praying 20 times a day also helps out!  I love all of you sooo much!!!!  Love, Sister Cluff.

MTC Picture

Eugene Oregon Mission
Here's a cute picture of Sister Cluff from her MTC days.  She didn't have her camera cord to download her photos for awhile.  It's always fun to see her smile!  It's even more fun to hear her laugh!

Thanksgiving & Transfers

Happy Anniversary to Mom and Dad!! Thanks for all of the letters!  I love finding out what all happened at home. 
I was very loved on Thanksgiving.  We got to watch the movie “17 Miracles” and have Costco cinnamon rolls at a members’ (young married couple, both RMs) house.  Then we wrote a bunch of letters.  I ended up writing 7 on Thanksgiving!  We had "dinner" at 3:00PM at a couple's house, and then we had "dessert" at 5:30PM (which was really leftover dinner) at a family's house with a group that included about half church members and half friends.  So, we had a super busy day. 
Some exciting news is we got transfer calls on Saturday.  Sister R and I are getting a companion!  Her name is Sister R.  She is going home on Dec. 20, so she is only with us for about 3 weeks.  It is going to be exciting.  We also are in M Ward and R Ward [names of congregations] now.  We are no longer in NC, which means nothing to you but it is kind of sad for me.  It is funny because a lot of the people we were working with were in NC and then got moved over to R Ward from the boundary changes.  We were worried about how the change would affect their church activity at this early point in time, but we get to move with them!
 I haven't yet cut my hair, maybe next week.  For those of you who don't know, I am pretty sure I am getting my hair cut short.  There is a ward member who is a hair cutter.  She went to beauty school and cuts curly hair a lot. 
Oh, no.  I just remembered something I have to do.  They gave us homework, so I’ve got to run.  (P.S. I know this church is true.)

Looking for Rainbows

This is Sister R and I celebrating the baptism of 3 children we have been teaching.   They are great kids we found through other Members! The adversary did everything he could to stop this baptism.  We just kept moving forward with faith and they were brought into the fold on November 18.  The Holy Ghost will now be their companion as they go forward from this point.  Moral of the story-- Satan works really, really, really hard to stop baptisms from happening.
            How is the weather back home?  I can't check weather while on my mission.  It’s one of the many weird things that I miss. 
The weather here is crazy!    The moss is growing from the trees.  I want to send some to you.  AND-- IT STILL LOOKS LIKE AUTUMN OUTSIDE!  My towel never dries completely and it is ridiculous.  It doesn't feel that humid but fruit ripens and bread molds very quickly.  It is kind of weird.  And, don't think of hang drying clothes.  It is not a very good idea.  I love the rain, so far.  It is way awesome and we don't have to pump our own gas! 
  We are definitely normal people as missionaries.  It is kind of weird as a regular member I viewed missionaries as perfect.  Now I see how many flaws I have but how I am working constantly to be better.  We love laughing and joking, there are a lot of things we can't do but we do talk a lot.  I am glad that my companion has become my "new twin."
My companion, Sister R, has been having a bad-health week.  Since she was under the weather, we had to take it a little slower. I feel really sorry she is dealing with all this.  She really doesn't want her health to shorten her missionary opportunities.  She still has a year of service to go.  I am praying hard for her.
I did get Kendra's wedding invitation.  It was beautiful.  It made her wedding seem much more real.  I felt super left out when Kendra "replaced" me but I am further away from it now so it is easier to handle.  Sister R is one of my best friends.  I definitely have an advantage over other people by being used to someone 24/7.  It is still different.  As companions, we have to be within sight and sound of each other always.  Sometimes you feel like "escaping" but that is impossible on a mission because it is clear you are never alone.  The other morning I just felt like going in my room and crying not about anything specific-- mostly just tiredness-- but I couldn't leave my companion.  It forces me to have good communication with my companion which is a very good thing. 
Missions are awesome!  I wish everyone could serve a mission.  It helps you so much with life.  It not only teaches you skills, but you see things in a different light and it allows you to focus on things that are most important. 
I love my mission and Oregon is growing on me.   The members always feed us really well.... I love this gospel and all of the blessings I and my family get from it.
A note from Sister H:
“Sister Cluff is doing great in our ward; she's got such a relaxing personality and genuineness about her.”

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Mission Happenings

Our week has been super busy, we went to the Sisters’ Conference, which was awesome, and I feel like we have been running around ever since then.  Tomorrow we are going to a Zone Conference (which is 1.5 hours away) by the temple.  It should be exciting.  I am giving a 5-minute talk; I was already asked.  It is about the doctrine of Christ and I am going to try to relate it either to the hen and chick analogy or the Christ knocking at the door analogy.  It is still a bit shaky in my mind… we'll see how it goes.

We have a mission BlogSpot:
I am in a couple of the pictures.  You should spread it around.  The photo below is from that blog.

[Sister Cluff's little brother asked her what she was doing on Nov. 11 at 11:11AM.]  I think at 11-11-11 at 11:11AM I was doing weekly planning, basically we plan for the whole next week.    At 11:11pm I was sleeping …which was super fun for me, but not very exciting for you to read about.

On Friday at 6PM we have a baptism for 3 kids (2 "investigators" and 1 "child of record").  We are getting super excited for it.  IT WILL BE MY FIRST BAPTISM!!!  So, these are the grandkids of 2 active grandparents.  Their parents are members although they could be classified as semi-active and less-active.  The grandparents have custody of the children and we got to teach them all about the gospel.  They have been in a foster home for the last 2 years, and would have been split up if the grandparents hadn't taken them.  There are four of them D… (11), M… (9), H… (8), and M… (4). They are all super cute and we love teaching them.  I will be sending a picture next week.  I get to conduct the music at their baptism.  I have conducted music more since I have been on my mission then pretty much ever before, not including FHE [Family Home Evening].  I only led the music for Sacrament meeting in the MTC once, but it was kind of a big deal for me.

We are also teaching an Egyptian named Ahmed and he speaks very little English.  He is also Muslim so we have to get permission to teach him.  We get to have a counselor from the mission presidency come to the lesson.  We were joking with the Elders that we need an emergency transfer of the Arabic missionaries to our area.  (There are no Arabic missionaries in our mission.)  Ahmed seems really open to learning, but it is going to be a slow process. 

Well, I am grateful for the chance to be here.  I am grateful for all of the miracles that we see every day.  There are little and big miracles.  I prayed for the DVD the other day because it was pretty skippy the day before, and it worked flawlessly.  I love the Lord, and all he did and does for us.  Jesus Christ still lives.  Heavenly Father is the father of our spirits, and the Holy Ghost can be our constant companion if we live worthily.  Every day I discover how blessed I am to have the gospel in my life and how true it is.  Everything I learn about the gospel just solidifies its truthfulness. 

My release date as of now is April 16, but I could extend another 6 weeks.  We'll see.  I gotta get going.  I am not allowed to procrastinate here.  As a missionary you feel super bad wasting time.  Love, Sister Cluff.

Note from Sister H

We received a nice note and a few pictures from a family Sister Cluff and Sister R were visiting.  Here's the note:

“Your sweet daughters just left and we had the best time with them!!!  We've lived here for 14 yrs and I do not remember ever having sister missionaries before - so we are feeling very privileged to have them.
                We have made plans to have the sisters join us on Christmas Eve - they don't know the plan yet (any zone stuff or curfews or such) but are going to discuss with the mission president and get back to us.  I encouraged them not to plan anything too firm on Christmas Day as they will be able to call home and that will take top billing over anything else.  If there's anything I can do to help with Christmas surprises let me know…. We’ve got a son going to the MTC on Jan 11th, so we're happy to assist other missionary families as much as possible.
                Anyways, just wanted to let you know that your children are doing great and making a difference... with their cheerful countenances and joy for the gospel.”

So fun to see and hear about our missionary!  Thanks to Sister H.

Answering More Questions

Note from Sister Cluff's Mom:  Sister Cluff has been faithfully sending emails on her prep days, but I have been negligent in my posting.  Our family has been a little distracted with a wedding and travel during the past few weeks.  I hope to catch up soon. 

Sister Cluff says:
Thanks for all of your awesome letters!  I am so thankful for my great family!  I don't have much time, so I guess I will just answer your questions. I love you all!

Tell about your apartment.  My apartment has 2 bedrooms (one for sleeping and the other for exercise) and one bathroom (it had a black shower when we got there that was supposed to be white).  There is a kitchen with a dishwasher and disposal. (YES!!)  We don't have a TV.  We have about 4 desks in our front room/kitchen to do all of our studying and we have a couple of old couches.  Our beds are a little creaky, especially when you get up in the night to use the commode.  So I try to jump out instead of getting on the creaky side (I feel like the middle is not quite so creaky).  6:29AM comes way too fast.  Happy day-light savings time!

What kind of food do you eat?  I have had imitation crab in Alfredo sauce.  It was interesting and I tried not to make a big deal out of it.  (I didn't mention that it was my first almost crab until I got out to the car with my companion).  It was actually not bad.  I have had elk sausage, turkey spaghetti, lots of lasagna, spaghetti, Chinese food, etc.  For lunch, we have leftovers, frozen dinners, quesadillas, etc. - stuff that is super easy and quick so we can get a nap in.

What do you do for your service hours?  We have hair shampooing and setting for our service this week.  There is someone in our ward who knows someone in cosmetology school.  It should be interesting.  At the MTC mostly we mopped stairs.  They had all the missionaries cleaning up after themselves (which cuts down a lot on custodial bills).  We need to do more service in the upcoming weeks.  We have just been super busy and we are trying to work it in.

What's the ward (congregation) like?  The wards we work in are super nice.  There are a lot of older people and there are quite a few young families.  There are also no singles branches in our area so there are a few young single adults.  It is interesting the people you meet here.  I have met more people on their second or third marriage, or divorced than I thought was possible.  It makes learning the families more complicated.

What gospel topics are you studying?  I have been reading the Book of Mormon a lot.  I have been skipping around on various topics. 

What have you learned about yourself so far?  I am pretty quiet.  I like a clean environment.  I have been trying to be cleaner since I started on my mission and my companion thinks I am a “neat phreak.”  I have learned that I love to laugh. (Okay, I already knew that!)  I have learned that I take a while doing things (like writing letters and getting ready in the mornings) sometimes.  I am trying to be quicker.  It is hard to follow so many rules, but it is totally worth it to do so.  As missionaries, you meet the humblest and most interesting people, who are often having super hard trials in their lives.  I just want to shake people and say, "Don't you understand how much the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can bless your life?"  People all have their own agency.  They are going to be kicking themselves when they learn about it in the spirit world, I think.  I have learned how blessed I am to have the gospel in my life.