Mailing Address

Elder Matthew David Clough
California Ventura Mission
3301 West Gonzales Road
Oxnard, California 93036

Phone: 1-805-485-1034 (only necessary for packages)

Monday, April 28, 2014

Fulfilling prophecy; here in the Great California Ventura Mission!

This week has been ridiculous.  I've never worked so hard or effectively in my whole mission.  The Zone really took the correction from Elder Bowen well, and it's evidenced by the fact that the numbers this week almost doubled from the last.  In just our own area, we had 35 lessons!  That may not be a lot in some missions, but in ours that's unheard-of!  One companionship in our zone actually achieved the challenge he gave us already!  They taught over 40!  They're a huge inspiration to us, and our goal as a zone this next week is to accomplish it as well.  The way we've been doing it is so exciting to do: we're staying out of our cars (the "curse of the mission") as much as possible, and try to turn literally every person we see into a new investigator.  It's made for some interesting experiences, and some miracles as well!  Only time will tell what true blessings come from these efforts, and who is brought to the gospel by them.
We also went to the temple this week, and that was an adventure in it's own right!  We went with two recent converts from the ward, and they had no idea how to get there.  It turned out all right, and just as we arrived, we met a group of missionaries on their way home from Australia.  They were really friendly, but the cool part came when they found out that we're from the California Ventura Mission: it turns out that the Sister missionary there has a sister serving in our mission!  She was super excited to be able to write her a brief note and send it along with some lesson helps she'd used in her mission.  Fortunately, her sister is even serving in Ventura, so we'll be getting that to her today.  The temple was beautiful, of course, and I learned so much in the session!  I'm resolved to attend at least monthly.  On the way back from the Temple, we got lost while our ride was looking for somewhere to eat.  We wound up accidentally traveling through Bel-air, Hollywood, and even Beverly Hills!  It was exciting but we were happy when we were back on our way to the mission.
We also had two amazing exchanges this week: one was a tri-pan exchange, meaning we just got an extra missionary for the day.  It was a unique experience to be teaching in a tri-pan, and all the better because our extra was Elder Jenkins!  He's grown even more since last we served together: he's a true servant of the Lord!  His faith and dedication went a long way towards helping us reach out to everyone and reach our goal.  One special experience that day, happened when we ran into one of our friends; Basilio, on our way to visit Ruben.  It was good to see him, but we thought we didn't have any time so we were just going to set up an appointment and run.  Elder Jenkins tapped me on the shoulder however, and said "Maybe we're not that busy..." So we repented and taught him a short lesson on the Book of Mormon.  At the end, we invited him to pray, and since he didn't know how to read and was a bit nervous, he really resisted.  Elder Jenkins said a short demonstration prayer, and then I walked him through saying his own, the way you would help a small child, and although he only prayed for one thing, his son (who's struggling and in jail)  he was super touched by the spirit and was weeping at the end.  Then he said "I feel better!  so much better!"  It was a humbling reminder that in all this busyness and places to go, we need to worry more about the ONE and not the massive amounts of numbers.
The other exchange was a fantastic one, and I got to go with Elder Bautista!!! It was such a powerful experience and an answer to prayers!  Elder Bautista had learned so much from the mission conference, and is really seeking to apply it.  He's learned so much and is well on his way to reaching the next level of his awesome potential.  They're re-awakening a struggling ward, and are really starting to gain the Bishop's trust and admiration through their reliability and hard work.
Samuel is also doing awesome as usual.  We've taught him a lot recently, and he's getting there step by step.  I love teaching him because he's super sharp and yet super humble and loving at the same time.  We'll have to push his baptism date back a bit, because we're waiting for his sister to come up from Mexico, but he'll be ready very soon!
I'm super proud of everyone and all the stuff that's going on!  Keep having those scripture studies and family home evenings, it's the little things that make all the rest fall into place!  Tell Danielle that swimming is super fun but RUNNING will always be king!  I love you all and pray for you every night.
Elder Matthew David Clough

Monday, April 21, 2014

And the Great California Ventura Mission promptly caught on fire.

That's pretty much what happened this week.  We had our Mission Leader Council meeting in preparation for the Mission Conference itself, and then we had the number one most spiritual meeting I've ever been part of.  The Mission Conference with Elder Nelson, Elder Bowen, and Elder Garnes was incredible.  It's changed this mission, I can already feel it, and it's changing me too.
I'll talk about Mission conference first: it's the most important part after all!
We had a very strict set of instructions to follow, and I'm proud to say that all our 300+ missionaries performed every word of command with exactness!  We were ready and reverently seated long before the guests of honor arrived.  When they did, the room was already full of the spirit, but we could still feel their presence.  Elder Nelson is certainly an Apostle of the Lord!
The talks were fantastic.  Elder Bowen really put us in our place and raised our vision of what is possible!  He started out asking if we are obedient missionaries and we immediately answered "Yes!"  While he was surprised by our answer (Most people say "I try to be" or something similar) he was pleased and told us it was the right one.  After all, the purpose of this life isn't to see if we will "try" to be obedient, but "(to) prove (us) herewith if (we) will obey every command which the Lord (our) God shall give them."  (Abraham something verse something)  He told us though, that we have to do more.  We have to do ALL the "small" rules; if we can't sacrifice those things, how can we ask a man to forsake his life, at the potential risk of being disowned by his own family?  He said if he was our investigator and we asked him to quit coffee or smoking, etc, he'd ask us "Do you get up EVERY MORNING at 6:30?"  (I was very relieved THAT is something I've kept up on!)  He then talked about how we have to step up our game and do more.  We get excited over 6-7 lessons a week: we SHOULD be teaching 40.  He used the example of how the medical community believed it was impossible for the human body to run a mile in under 4 minutes, else the heart would rupture.  But then, Roger Bannister DID it, and a year later 6 others did.  It reminded me of getting past my own mental barriers in Track to beat the 5 minute mile.  I'm super excited to be doing that the next few months: but I wish I'd felt this way earlier!!!  I almost feel like I've "wasted" a year and a half to actually get the answers on how to do this!
Elder Nelson's talk was interesting.  It was largely composed of a question and answer period, and I learned a LOT!  Out of the list of questions I'd written down all of the important ones were answered fully, even though I never had a chance to raise my own hand (I was too busy writing!)  His testimony was powerful, and his final message was to obey those who are placed as watchmen over our souls (ie, President Castro and his Wife)  Elder Nelson was pretty hilarious too; a joke he mentioned as he invited a stake president and his wife to come up and bear testimony was "Ladies first of course! They always have to break the ice for the men..." So true! 
This week was amazing for the work too: After the conference our desire and ability was magnified tenfold!  The district we were in almost tripled our usual numbers.  We also had 4 investigators at church: Samuel, Alicia and her daughter Esme, and Allison!  They loved it, and we're excited to keep pressing forward!  I've run out of time I'm afraid, but I love you all and hope you feel the blessing Elder Nelson pronounced on you in our presence.
Elder Matthew David Clough
ps: The Balboa family (from Arriagas Chiapas) says Hermana Balboa would have been 5-6 when dad was there: does he remember the Nataren/Orozco family? Or Obispo Jaime Castillejo?

Monday, April 14, 2014

President Castro's pretty much the best fellowshipper in the world.

This week was amazing!  It was just as hectic and busy as I'd expect week one to be, but we got to teach a lot of great people and we saw some awesome miracles.  Working out the Zone Goals was different this time, it seemed a lot harder but then all of a sudden they clicked into place and they're perfect for our needs.  My favorite is that we're going to work on having a more positive, responsible attitude.  Basically, whenever a negative statement is made, like "This area is really hard." or "We can't teach anyone because they won't let us."  one of the missionaries will say a positive response to take responsibility, like "It does seem difficult right now, but if we work hard we'll see blessings."  One of the number one lessons I've learned in my mission is attitude really is everything!
Anyway, this week has been awesome.  Last P-day we hiked up a CRAZY trail, which was basically a game path straight up a mountainside, to the giant wooden San Buenaventura Cross.  We even had to use a rope to go straight up one super sandy spot.  Coming down was the hardest part, but we survived with no injuries.  Blessings!
It was weird not being at transfers meeting for the first time in what seems like forever, but I'm glad we could stay: we've had so many miracles this week!  We didn't get a chance to teach Samuel yet but he did come to church.  He's such an awesome, chill kid.  It was cool, because even though he's only ten, he was really excited to come to church, and got his uncle to take him even though the rest of his family stayed home.  It's amazing to see how humble he is.
We also taught several lessons on keeping the Sabbath day holy to families that can't come to church because of work.  We used the example of Nefi getting the Brass plates and really threw down on how important it is to sacrifice and do the Lord's will.  Felipe, one of our most solid investigators, REALLY loved it, and said: "You know what? This is really hard for me.  Work is what I AM, I work 3 jobs, 30 hours a week EACH.  Nobody works like I do.  But I know I've got to do this.  I know that God loves sacrifice."  It was incredibly humbling to be the ones asking him to step down from his pride a bit.  But they came!  We attended the 9 o' clock English ward with them, and it was perfect.  It was fast and testimony meeting, and all the testimonies were super focused and specific to their needs.  All of the ward, including President Castro, welcomed them with open arms and President Castro even gave his testimony specifically in Spanish, just for them!  Felipe even took a whole page of notes from the testimonies (I've never seen ANYONE do that!) and one of them (I had to peek)  was "We need to be Eternal Family"  Afterwards, they left super happy, and said they could FEEL the difference the moment they crossed the doorway of the church back into the world.  I can only describe it all with one word: Awesome.
I'm very excited for what the future holds: we're going to work hard and see great blessings.  Elder Lee has really gotten into the mode as a Zone Leader, and we'll work super hard to build everyone up. 
In the last letter you wrote me you mentioned you're signing me up at Weber for the same stuff I had; and that's perfect.  Even though I've grown so much as a person, a lot of my life-plans are the same, so I'll start there.  Due to that and comments made by other loving (but ignorantly cruel!) missionaries, I've really felt the time crunch this week:  So much to do, so few weeks!  I know we're doing what God wants us to do, and I'm excited to do that in some way for every stage of my life.
Keep up the good work, love everyone, and love yourselves too!  Keep looking for people to encourage and bless, and let Brother Lowder know I'm mindful of them if you get the chance.
Elder Matthew David Clough

Monday, April 7, 2014

Round two in Ventura!

For the first time in a LONG time, I'm staying with my companion!  We're super excited, especially since last week brought so many miracles and blessings.  This next transfer we're going to hit the ground hard and get a lot of work done.
I LOVED Conference!  It was incredibly uplifting, and I really felt the power and love of God in those meetings.  A lot of my questions were answered in that meeting, either directly or by the subtle impressions I felt.  It was interesting how small comments and stories that the General Authorities used to introduce their talks often carried a subtle side message that answered a question I'd been praying about, instead of the main theme of the talk!  All in all, we felt a huge burst of hastening again in the work, and I know that during the next six months, things are going to get hard but so much will be accomplished.  It was really enlightening for me to realize that in President Monson's lifetime, the number of temples in the world has increased times 10!
This week we saw great success in the work, in spite of limited time.  Our most promising investigator right now is a little 9 year old boy whose whole family are members, who just moved here from Mexico.  His name is Samuel, and though he was a little shy and timid at first, he's started running up to us as soon as he sees us.  It was amazing to me how fast he grew to love and trust us.  That's why kids are so Christlike!  He doesn't have a whole lot of Gospel knowledge yet but we'll work with him bit by bit, and he's set to be baptized on the 3rd of May.
We also had a great night after conference.  Fired up with the Spirit, we were led and tracked down several investigators that had fallen off the map for a long time.  We even found Alicia, who was SUPER close before I showed up, but who disappeared after week one.  She only had a moment to talk, but she's still interested, and we'll meet again with her tonight.
Another tender mercy of the Lord was that even though we were very busy with conference and end-of-the-transfer paperwork, we taught many lessons, and by talking with everyone we could we even exceeded the number of "declarations" that the mission has set as our weekly standard!  This was a testimony to me that if we just dedicate ourselves to it, we can accomplish the Lord's goals.
At any rate, I haven't heard much about what's going on with my old companions and friends this time, but I trust they'll do great!  I hope Mom and Danielle get feeling better, and that we can apply the stuff we learned at Conference.  Life's the best!
Elder Matthew David Clough