Monday, December 30, 2013

Christmas Week

Hey family and friends.  So this week was pretty sweet.  We saw some big time miracles and there were also some disappointments, but let's jump in.
So we have been teaching the Garcia family.  Father, Hilario and daughter, Carolina are the most interested, but we are teaching the whole family.  Mother, Lorena is pretty cool too.  She's always busy doing house stuff when we come by, but she reads everything we leave her.  So on Christmas Eve, we had plans to go over to the house.  We bought them a few small gifts because they weren't really going to have much of a Christmas due to some stuff.  On the way there, we ran into a blind lady that got off the bus.  She hit the crosswalk button and the light changed but didn't do anything to advise her that it had changed.  We walked across the street and ended up walking with her all the way to her destination.  She ended up being a really cool person.  We could tell the lady she was meeting up with doesn't like missionaries much, but that's okay.  We felt awesome as we walked away. 
So, we get to the Garcia house.  We walk in and say we'd like to talk with the whole family about a Christmas message.  We show them the Nativity video from,and they really liked it.  The son, Lalo, that just returned home from Colorado, said that he feels different in the house now.  When he came home there was a different feeling and he recognized that it was what we were sharing.  The mom then jumped in and said that even though she hasn't joined in on any of the lessons, she knows that we are the real deal.  She called us angels and then gave us each a porcelain angel to remember them by.  We walked away from the house feeling so amazing!
This week, we went by and we were a little concerned that they were becoming a little too converted to us instead of the church.  We had a full lesson recapping what it is that we do as missionaries.  We talked a lot about baptism and how their family can be together forever.  That night, we officially picked up the mom as an investigator and we also gave the whole family a baptismal date for February.  We set it kind of far off because the dad works on Sundays (for now) and wants to be able to do this as a family thing.  Carolina's response was my favorite, "I'm in!"  In her prayer she asked God to help them do everything that is needed to get closer to Him as a family.  I was flabbergasted.
In less-uplifting news, we dropped Oralia and Delfino this week. They have started going to another church.  We're pretty frustrated about it.  They have had tons of witnesses that it is true, but they just did not want to get married.  We apparently didn't teach the Restoration well enough, because they assured us that "it was the same thing."  Also, we're pretty sure that they have some friends going to that other church, which is something they didn't have here.  The whole experience helped me to appreciate the social conversion a bit more.  Oh well, hopefully they'll get it later.
As a zone, we had the best week we have had in months!  We were super stoked about that.  Our district's numbers this past week were the best that they have been in 3 years.  The hastening is happening!  It's so cool to see it play out.
Love you all and have a marvelous week!
Elder Christensen
PS it was so awesome to see the fam on Christmas.  Love you!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Week 54--A Pretty Good Conclusion

Hey family and friends. This week was one of those weeks that started out awesome then kinda headed south toward the end of the week.  Every appointment from Friday-Sunday either we had to cancel, they had to cancel, or we showed up and they weren't there.  It was a little frustrating, but we had Oralia, Delfino, Hilario and his daughter Carolina at church on Sunday.  That made it a pretty good conclusion. 
Oh, fun story.  So there was an awesome, awesome family that lived in my area in Fletcher that just moved to my area in Arroyo.  The family consists of a former bishop, current 2nd counselor in bishopric, Primary pres, Stake YW counselor, and Relief society teacher.  They are an amazing family that we really need in Arroyo.  They want to keep going to Fletcher (and Fletcher may need them) but we'll see what happens.  I mentioned that we are on special assignment from Stake President to make our area into a branch, right?  We could really use that family to make that all happen.
I don't have much new, exciting news to share from this past week.  We have picked up some investigators that could be pretty cool and those 4 that came to church are progressing well.  All but Carolina have a baptismal date.
Insight from personal study to close...This one comes from Elder Maxwell paraphrasing Ether 12:27, “If I am sufficiently humble, which personal weakness could now become a strength?”  I'm currently working at being more content when I see progress in myself rather than focusing on the overwhelming distance I yet have until I reach perfection.  I had a really cool conversation with President this week on the topic.
Now to end on a light note, this week we had a Christmas party as a mission.  The main part of the party was a talent show.  Elder Febbo, Elder Buehner, and I sang "Puedo ser tu misionero," a song that we wrote stealing the melody from "Hero" by Enrique Iglesias.  If an Elder sends the video home, it may soon be on Youtube getting spread virally.  Haha.  It was fun.
Have a fantastic week!
Elder Christensen

Monday, December 9, 2013

We're Both Staying--Super Stoked!!

Hey family and friends.  So we had transfer calls and WE BOTH ARE STAYING!!!  Super stoked about that.  I hear there's been a lot of snow in Utah.  Boy, I miss it.  It's been pretty cold here.  I had to go buy a thicker blanket today.
So this week, we didn't have a lot happen because both Elder Febbo and I were sick.  Nevertheless, there was still some awesome stuff that's been so much better doing the 20-minute lessons with only one commitment.  We feel the spirit way more often in our lessons.
First, remember how we had that awesome experience with Oralia last week?  Well she didn't go to church after having that insane experience, so we addressed that this week.  We helped her realize that doesn't happen to everyone and that God is really trying to tell her that's where she should be.  So this week she came to church with her husband (who's already on-board with everything) and her kids. During passing of the sacrament, she started bawling again. This wasn't her first time at church, but everything has changed since that one experience. To add to that, her husband had a dream that essentially told him he couldn't enter into God's kingdom until he's baptized. God really wants this family in the church. It's awesome to see this happening.
Leticia got confirmed and is doing pretty well.  She asked me to confirm her, so that was cool.  We are trying to get the rest of the family going as well. 
Hilario didn't come to church because he was doing something with his son, but we had an awesome lesson about the Book of Mormon with him.  He's the definition of a prepared investigator.  It's insane.  Not really sure how to put it all into words without taking forever, so we'll just say he's prepared.
Love you all and have an awesome week!
Elder Christensen
PS I'm in Alma right now and just got to Alma 26 when Ammon is talking about everything they've accomplished.  So inspiring!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

1-Year Mark in California--An Unforgettable Week!

So tomorrow I hit my 1-year-in-Cali mark.  It's been a very, very good year.  2012 and 2013 were both the best and hardest years of my life.  2014 looks to be heading that way too.  I love all this so much!
So this week was incredible.  On Tuesday, we had Mission Leadership Council (ZLs + zone sisters).  We had a conference call with Brother Donaldson (Dad, do you know him?)  He was the Mission President in the District 2 videos.  Anyway, our mission is not baptizing very well right now and he was giving us suggestions.  We started putting it into place and it feels like everything is different.  The game has changed.  And it's nothing secret or special, just PMG principles that we weren't good at implementing.
A typical 1st lesson for us before would be about 50 minutes.  We would jump in, get to know them a bit, and work in some principles from How to Begin Teaching.  Then we jump into the Restoration and teach the whole thing.  Then at the end, we would invite them to pray about Joseph Smith, read the Book of Mormon, come to church with us, and most importantly, be baptized.  We have been so confused why it hasn't been working out.  And now, even as I'm typing this out, I can see how wrong that was.
We have been overwhelming our investigators way too much and have been having lessons that are way too long.  We have switched to 20 min lessons with 1 commitment per lesson.
A typical 1st lesson now looks like this:  We start out with the How to Begin Teaching principles and then we skim the Restoration up until the Joseph Smith story.  Then we pause and describe why this is so important for them to understand.  Then we ask them to pray right in front of us, and we tell them that we won't say anything until they do so they have time to feel the Spirit.  When they break the silence and describe what they are feeling, it's always the Spirit.  Then while the Spirit is super strong, we invite them to be baptized.
So now, what's happened this week....

Remember Hilario?  He's the guy that supposedly had 10 kids?  Well he only has 5, but we finally got in.  We tried this out on him, and he accepted baptism immediately.  Then in our next lesson, we talked about the BoM and asked him to pray about the date we extended, because he was a little shakey on accepting the date.  After sitting in silence for about a minute, he starts bawling because the Spirit hit him so strong.  He also told us that he is going to keep the BoM forever--that we will be able to come back to him in 20 years and he will still have it.  We asked him during a call what we could do for him, and he said, "Just don't forget about me."
Remember Oralia?  Her husband (well, long-time boyfriend), Delfino, has gotten his answer and is on board with everything.  Oralia doesn't want to get married right now and didn't really want to listen to us anymore because she knew that marriage would eventually be brought up.  We back tracked and taught this lesson again.  We specifically asked Oralia to say the prayer.  We sat in silence for about 3 or 4 minutes, then she starts bawling.  I almost lost it too since I understood how important that moment was.  We asked her how we can help them both be baptized, and her response was, "we just need to do more of our part."  It was incredible.
If none of that was enough, Leticia got baptized!  Sorry, I forgot to bring my camera to the library, but I'll probably be throwing pictures up on Facebook.  She then bore her testimony at the end and it was insane!  I was translating for an office sister that came to the baptism and she started crying. 
Because there is so much going on, I'm going to start doing a video recording of me telling the stories so that I have all the details down.  I feel like I never have time for it all.
Anyway, this week has been unforgettable.  Love you all so much, and thank you for all the prayers!
Elder Christensen

Monday, November 25, 2013

There's Agency for Ya

Hello family and friends.  This week was pretty cool.  We had zone conference and kind of reviewed what we talked about in our zone leader meeting.  We have a goal as a mission that everyone in December baptizes.  The whole meeting was about what little things we can do different to get that done.
I had a chance to talk to President Becerra a little bit after.  I've kind of gotten myself worked up recently wondering why everything isn't going better than I think it should be.  The take away from our meeting is that when we work ourselves into knots, only God can untie them.  We let him untie them when we hand ourselves over and stop thinking about ourselves.  It was awesome.
This week, Leticia passed her baptismal interview.  If she doesn't drink this week, she'll be baptized this upcoming Sunday.
We've been teaching Oralia and Delfino.  Oralia started off super solid and Delfino not so much and now it's totally switched.  Delfino wants to get baptized, Oralia doesn't want to get married and doesn't want to talk to us anymore because she knows that's what we're going to bring up eventually. They can't separate because of their young kids.  It's kind of a mess and we need a massive miracle.  They both know what God wants them to do.  They both know it's all true.  It's a little frustrating, but there's agency for ya.
Random:  we picked up a guy named Rolf as an investigator.  No joke.  We had a pretty good lesson with him, and we'll be going over there again on Wednesday.
Thanks for all the love, support, and prayers.
Elder Christensen 

Monday, November 18, 2013

"It's Like One of Those Feel-Good Poems"

So, as I described on Friday, last week was nuts.  Since Friday, not much has changed.  By the way, I don't believe I ever sent out thank-you's for the packages.  To my family and the Jason Kerr family, thanks a ton!  I love the new music!  Love it, love it, love it.  Variety is much appreciated.
We had a cool lesson with a girl named Destiny.  She's kind of like Jeaneth part 2 (Jeaneth was my first baptism).  She's 13, her older sister is baptized, then while the Elders were working with the family, the dad got offended by one of the Elders and they stopped investigating.  Well, Destiny hangs out at this less-active's house all the time.  We showed her the Bible Video when Christ gets baptized, and when we asked her what she thought about it, she said, "I want to be baptized."  So this week, we were talking about the Restoration.  After Elder Febbo told her the First Vision story using Joseph Smith's words, she put here hands over her chest and said, "It's like one of those feel-good poems."  Then we helped her realize that was the Spirit.  It was super cool.
So ya, the zone is doing so so.  We need to get some faith pumping into them!  We are seeing cool stuff happen, but there are many companionships that aren't at the moment.  The whole mission is in a bit of a rut.  BUT WE'RE GETTING OUT OF IT! 
Love and kindness,
Elder Christensen

Friday, November 15, 2013

It Totally Made It Worth It!

Hello friends and family. So it's been a little over a week and a half since I had a chance to write.  This past Monday was a holiday so the libraries were closed and we've been going nonstop since.  Really quick, I had a chance to play tennis with my companion Elder Febbo.  We only got to play for about 30 minutes, then it got dark.  I hate how early it gets dark.
Finding has been a bit of a struggle for us until this week.  In the first 2 weeks with Elder Febbo, we only found 1 new investigator.  This week, we have found 8, and we have potential to find a few more.  Hopefully the appointments we have set will go through.  Most of those were found when Elder Febbo was on exchanges with Elder Mostert (my companion from last transfer).  They found a family of 4, an old guy, and set an appointment with a guy that said he has 10 kids.  We'll be going by the big family today.  They told me that in their contact with this guy, he asked, "Why are there all these churches and just one Bible?  Why can't we all be united?"  I love how logical the Restoration is.
Little miracle of the week (sorry, it's a bit of a long story).  So Elder Smith and I were on exchanges yesterday.  To set the ground work for this story, remember back to Jaime Morales that Elder Smith and I baptized right before he left Fletcher.  Since then, Jaime moved into Arroyo boundaries, but got permission to keep going to Fletcher.  At about 3:00 yesterday, we get a call from Elder Alvarenga (Elder Alvarenga was in my district the whole 6 months that I was in Fletcher and is now in the area where Jaime is living).  Elder Alvarenga tells us that Jaime just found out that he has cancer in his kidneys.  We were blown away.  Thinking about the situation, I said to Elder Smith, "What are the chances that the day that you and I are together again, we get a call that Jaime has cancer AND that he lives in our ward so we are allowed to go visit him?  This is too much of a coincidence.  We have to go." 
I was super worried at first that we weren't going to be able to make it because we had set appointments for the whole night.  Then, our 8:00 cancelled which gave us our opening.  We show up a little late, and he's not there.  I call Elder Alvarenga to get Jaime's number to call him, and Elder Alvarenga didn't pick up.  I remembered that a few weeks ago, I asked one of the Fletcher missionaries for Jaime's number and luckily the text hadn't been erased yet.  So we gave him a call, and he said that he was at the store getting something quick, and he would be home in 5 minutes.  So we wait outside his new place and he comes up and we spend about 30 minutes with him.  He was absolutely beaming to see us.  We talk a bit and pray with him then share D&C 122:7,9 (love that scripture!)  We then ask him for a ride home. 
On the way, I remember that I had something in our apartment that I had been meaning to give him.  At his baptism, we had everyone write down their testimonies super quick while he was changing and we were going to put them into a book.  For about a month, that stack of papers stayed on my desk.  One day, randomly, I decided I needed to put this thing together.  So I put it all together, made it look nice, then put it back on my desk.  So I remembered on the way home that I still had that book to give him.  And I had Elder Smith there with me to give it to him.  His face was priceless!  It was totally the pick-me-up he needed.  He kept on saying, "I know the Lord is with me.  I know the Lord is watching me."  It was soooo cool.  Elder Smith and I were actually having a pretty rough day to that point.  Everything, EVERYTHING, cancelled.  But then that totally made it worth it.
Sorry for the long letter.  Have a great day!
Elder Christensen

Monday, November 4, 2013

Quick Updates

Hello family and friends!

This week was super weird.  The first few days, I felt tons of pressure to do everything just right.  I had 2 weeks in the area and my companion just got there, so I felt like it was all on me.  It was bad of me to think that way.  We have gotten into the grove of things and now we're focusing on getting our area going.  We had tons of administrative things to do this week.  One day we spent from 8 am - 6 pm moving missionaries to get them closer to their areas.  We have been redoing areas in our zone to balance out the work a bit better.  All kinds of goodness.

I'm not sure if I mentioned this last week, but our Stake President has a goal for us to get 66 baptisms in the stake by the end of the year.  That breaks down to 3 per companionship by the end of the year.  That number is super possible, but I don't feel like our zone has the faith to get that since it's been really, really tough recently.  I look at the missionaries and the leaders we have and I often ask myself, "why doesn't this go better?"  So right now we're working a lot to get the zone stoked and out of this rut.  We'll be teaching the whole zone on Thursday, so hopefully we'll be able to spark something.

Quick updates on who we are teaching:

Leticia.  Super, super, super awesome.  She looks like and sounds like a member.  She wants to be baptized and is totally ready except she's an alcoholic.  It might get to the point that we need to get medical help.  She wants to do what's right so bad.  As soon as she gets this worked out, she'll be baptized.  The goal is Dec 8.

Delfino and Oralia.  They were progressing really well and it came time to throw out the fact they need to get married.  I think that has acted like a bit of an obstacle to their progression.  They look at it as this super, super inconvenient thing that is getting in the way of their baptism.  They understand what they have to do and what God wants them to do, they just need to buckle down and do it.  Good news, there won't be any paper problems like with Raul and Rosy.

Alvarez family.  This is a part-member family.  The dad is a member and everyone else looks like and talks like members.  The parents work on Sundays.  We invited Fernando (the dad) to fast this week that he'll be able to get Sundays off.  The wife said it would be easier to join the church if her husband was setting the example.  They are super awesome.  We're shooting for an end-of-the-year baptism with them.

Everyone else that we're teaching is doing okay, but just okay.

Fun update, Raul has the Melchisedek (spelling help, mom) priesthood and just got called to be the financial clerk in the new Boyle Heights ward.  Raul and Rosy have both been called as ward missionaries as well.  They're so awesome!

My first ZLC meeting is tomorrow! So stoked! Numbers were awful this month, so not excited to report that...

We hardly ever get fed by the members here in this ward...I'll have to adjust. :)

Elder Smith (last companion) is one of the DLs in my zone, so I'm talking to him multiple times a week. He is the district leader most on top of stuff in our zone. Love him!!

So ya, sorry for the long letter and the rambling.  

Love you all! 
Elder Christensen

p.s. Here's a guy that's leaving on his mission from the Fletcher Ward.  We took him out with us all the time and got him ready.  He's the only member in his family.  Super cool!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Lots of Cool Stuff is Happening

Hey hey, family and friends.  So this past week was nuts.  Last week as I was writing my email, I was in the mission office.  Elder Mostert was talking to President about something.  So remember how I mentioned that he had been zone leader forever?  Well, he has been asked to leave and go be Assistant.  So now I feel like I'm back in a situation like I was with Elder Smith 6 months ago.  Two missionaries pretty new to the area, expected to do big things.  We've seen lots of cool stuff happen, so it looks like everything will work out.
I don't know if I mentioned this, but the stake president here wants to build a new church building in our area.  President is thinking about stealing the bottom corner of 3 wards and making one ward, with our area as the most beefy part.  Now, I don't know if I mentioned this, but because of how far our area is from all the apartments, there hasn't been a whole lot of work in the past.  So we're in an almost untouched area with about 70% Latinos and we're laying the groundwork for a new ward.  It's so exciting!  Watch for the Lincoln Heights Temple coming in 2030.
My new companion is Elder Febbo.  He is from Houston, TX.  He played tennis in high school (super stoked about that one).  Everyone I know is jealous that I have him as my companion.  With Elder Mostert gone, Elder Febbo is now the senior zone leader.  Elder Febbo's first companion as zone leader was Elder Flores (my trainer)!!  So ya, we're really excited to be together, and we're going to get lots done.
Elder Sitati was incredible.  Most of the time, he taught us about our purpose.  It's amazing how our purpose statement can keep blowing our minds.  On top of what he taught us, the way he taught us was super instructive as well.  He broke down our purpose statement into 8 phrases, then asked the question for each phrase, "Why do we do this?" and "How do we do this?"  The whole thing was a huge eye opener to me.  There were tons of "oh, duh" moments for everyone there.  As zone leaders, we got some one-on-one time before the general meeting.  He asked us what questions we had.  We talked for about 40 minutes about how understanding leads to conversion and how we, as leaders, need to make sure that our missionaries understand what they are expected to do.  All of the questions we had that weren't answered in that first hour were answered in the general session.  We are hoping to see a big upswing in everything really soon.  Number wise, our mission has been struggling a bit, but I think we have an idea of everything we need to change to get it back.
Huge thanks to the Harrisons for the Halloween package!  That candy was consumed with great haste.
Love you all,
Elder Christensen

Monday, October 21, 2013

Week 46--My Mind Totally Opened Up

Hello friends and family.  So this past week was pretty nuts.  I mentioned that my companion had been a zone leader for a long time, right?  He said, "This has definitely been one of the top 3 craziest weeks I've had."  It involved a lot of driving, a lot of talking with missionaries, reorganizing apartments, all kinds of stuff.

Our apartment has been solidified down in Lincoln Heights.  That's going to make such a huge difference.

We had interviews this past week, and I want to share some stuff.  So any of you that know me know that something I have dealt with is feeling like I don't live up to expectations, and I've talked with many missionaries that have similar feelings.  So I asked President, "What would you tell a missionary that feels like he doesn't ever live up to his expectations?"  His response was something along the lines of, "Well, Elder, we're never going to live up to expectations.  The expectation is perfection, right?"  Then my mind totally opened up.  I starting thinking to myself, "I've always been frustrated with myself when I am not acting on the things that I know to be right.  Why can't I just live what I know?  But wait, if I were to live everything I know, I would be living a life without sin. I've already been taught everything I need to know to make it to the Celestial Kingdom.  Now it's just a matter of living it.  The expectation I put on myself should not be perfection.  Perfection doesn't come in this life.  The expectation I DO need to put on myself is improvement."   That end part was me remembering the words from Elder Nelson in the Mormon message, "Men's Hearts Shall Fail Them."  Pop that into Youtube, or look it up on Mormon Channel.  It's definitely awesome.  As part of that interview, President told me, "learn your area well."  Thoughts immediately started rolling, "Are they taking Elder Mostert?  I just got here!  Freak!"  So we'll see how that goes this week.

On Saturday, Elder Sitati of the Seventy will be coming to do a mission tour.  I don't recall ever hearing one of his talks, but the info I found about him on is pretty cool. 

Sorry times a little short today.  We're teaching some super awesome people right now.  I'll let you know about it next week.  And I'll also throw in details about the Elder Sitati visit.

Love you all.
Elder Christensen

p.s. Thanks to everyone who sent suggestions regarding being a zone leader!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Week to Remember

Hello family and friends.  So this week will definitely be one that I never will forget.  Let me just jump right into it.  We'll go in chronological order.
First, I had my first exchange with the zone leaders this week.  The zone leader I went with is awesome.  His name is Elder Ingram.  We laughed for hours on end.  We found a super prepared lady, a less active not on the ward list, and then a lot of people not willing to make any changes.
Now, here's where the major changes jump in.  I am sure that many of you have heard that we had an elder here in Arcadia pass away.  Not sure if they reported that he had only been here for 4 weeks.  That made it even more tough.  His trainer, Elder Ostler, was in my MTC zone, and it all has been really hard on him. 
On Sunday, we had a really nice memorial service for him.  I had the chance to sing Be Still My Soul with 3 other elders.  We had a chance to find out a lot more about him.  Something we found out that made the story even more sad is that his dad past away a few years ago and he was their only son.  He left behind his mom and his sisters.  They were able to record the whole thing for Elder Page's family back home.  Elder Ostler said that the conversation they had with every contact had something to do with the Plan of Salvation.  Throughout that whole night, I felt the Spirit like I haven't felt it before.  I feel like everyone got a huge wake up call.  I might forget the details of that night, but I will never, ever forget how it felt. Quote of the night, "For [Sister Page] so loved the world that [she] gave [her] only begotten son, that whosoever believeth [the words of Christ proclaimed by Elder Page] should not perish, but have everlasting life."  Sister Page and Elder Ostler had a chance to talk over the phone, and it was reported that the whole time Sister Page was trying to make sure that Elder Ostler was okay with everything.  Quoting Elder Bednar, "The Character of Christ is being able to detect the suffering in others when we ourselves are suffering."  Everybody involved in this story are amazing examples to me.
Because of this tragedy, Elder Ingram (zone leader exchange described above) went to be Elder Ostler's companion.  Elder Ingram was Elder Ostler's trainer.  I have been called to take Elder Ingram's place as zone leader in the zone I've been in for the last 6 months.  I am now serving in the Arroyo ward.  It shares the same church building as Fletcher.  I was in Fletcher for just a few days over 6 months.  My new area borders my old area on the east side.  The way the areas are divided, Bel 2 North (first area), Fletcher South (second area) and Arroyo South (current area) all come together at the same point, so I've been right in the same general area my whole mission.  I'm serving in Lincoln Heights if you want to look it up.  My companion is Elder Mostert.  He has been zone leader for a long time now.  He was also trained by Elder Flores.  We are very, very similar.  It will be a lot of fun.  In our area, we are on a special assignment from the stake president (who is amazing, by the way).  He has a vision for a branch containing, basically, my last area and my current area.  Currently, there are no active members in our area.  Our area is about 70% Spanish-speaking as far as I can tell.  This area definitely has the most potential out of any in our whole zone, and second place would be my last area.
Elder Marchan has been paired up with a visa-waiter that has been out as long as he has.  Bishop was pretty upset to lose a missionary that had been there forever to get a visa-waiter in return.  Now 3 of the 8 missionaries in Fletcher are visa-waiters.  Elder Vasquez, who has 4 months in his mission and was Elder Alvarenga's trainee has been named district leader (admittedly, under my recommendation). 
There was a lot of time that I was thinking that Elder Marchan wasn't really getting much from me.  When we found out we were getting split up, we talked a lot and it was cool to see how much he has changed.  He even said that he looks at me as a really good trainer.  The whole time I felt like I wasn't getting to him, so it felt really nice to hear that.  Another feel-good moment:  when I stood up in sacrament meeting to tell everyone that that would be my last day in Fletcher, there was an audible gasp.  That was a priceless moment.  I'm going to miss it a ton.  It's going to be cool to see everyone still at the chapel, but hard since they aren't mine anymore.
And lastly, this morning we got to go to the temple and we got to see some of the updates to the endowment session.  It was soooooo good.  My understanding went through the roof.  It cleared up a lot of questions that I wasn't really aware I had.  I wanted to go through again right after getting out. 
Sorry this was so long, but a lot happened this week.  If any of you that are reading this have any great advice for a zone leader, I would love to hear it.  Having an experienced companion like Elder Mostert definitely brings comfort to the situation.
We live about a 30 min bike ride from our area and will be moving very soon.  We have multiple potential apartments right in the middle of our area.  For now, send all mail to 170 W Duarte Rd. Arcadia, CA 91007.  And now there's a bit more of a guarantee that I'll get it since there won't be a middle man :)
Love you all, and a special shout out to Emily and the rest of the Timpview Girls Tennis team for taking state!

Until next week,
Elder Christensen

Monday, October 7, 2013

Week 44 in California: One-Year Mark ... Scary!!

Hello family and friends.  So as the title indicates, I hit my year mark this week. So ya, I have lots of thoughts about that going on in my head.  Have I done half of what God called me to do?  It's been interesting thinking about questions like this.  I need to step it up, or "rise up" as Pres. Uchtdorf described.
So conference was absolutely amazing.  We're going to get personal for a second here.  I had two questions.  Here are my questions and the answers that came:

1 - Now in this period of the hastening of the work, how can I as a missionary help the members catch that same vision?  

Elder Ballard basically took care of that one for me.  I will be tearing that talk apart like there's no tomorrow as soon as the text is available.

2 - I have a tendency to use just my own strength and understanding.  Essentially, I am not living Proverbs 3:5.  How can I make the switch to trust the Lord when trying to solve my own problems?  How can I combine my strengths and understanding with the power of God to solve the problems I face in life?

"Rather than solve the problem himself, the Lord wants us to develop the faith that will help us rely upon Him in solving our problems and trust Him.  Then we can feel his love more constantly, more powerfully, more clearly, and more personally.  We become united with Him and we can become like Him.  For us to be like Him is His goal.  It is His glory as well as His work."  He also talked about the brother of Jared and how the Lord was involved in helping solve his problems.  I will be doing a deep study on that story tomorrow.  I admittedly was so blown away at the specific nature of this answer that I didn't get it all down until today having the chance to listen to it again online.
So ya, conference was awesome.  I loved President Monson's Sunday talk.  The Gospel really does have all the answers for us.  And not "the Gospel" in terms of all the teachings of the church, but "the Gospel" in terms of the Doctrine of Christ as He defines it in 3 Nephi 27:13-21.  Loved it!  I think there is a cool companion thought that goes along with this talk.  It is the Mormon Message "Men's hearts shall fail them" by Elder Nelson.  It's really cool if you haven't already seen it.
We found a super awesome lady named Claudia this week.  I might have mentioned her before.  Elder Smith and I found her back in July, but we were finally able to get in.  Her husband, Erick, is a member from Guatemala.  His records aren't on our lists. I needed to use the bathroom really bad, and I knew they were close and super nice, so we swung by.  When I came out, they had chairs set up ready for a message.  My mind was blown away.  Our first lesson was all about what we teach can help them and we asked them what they needed help with.  They said they wanted a stronger marriage.  We testified that praying, reading, and going to church would invite the Spirit into their home and therefore help them improve their relationship.  We focused most of all on prayer and invited them to pray with us that night as a family, and to continue praying daily.  We went back later in the week and spoke with Erick.  They have prayed morning and night as a family since Monday.  He said the difference they've seen is obvious.  It will be a little tough to coordinate schedules to get Claudia and Erick at home at the same time, but they both seem very serious about getting on track.  They have a daughter, Genesis (6), who is the center of their lives.  Great, great family.  Oh, and a side note.  Claudia read most of the Book of Mormon about 10 years ago.  The missionaries were dropping by, transfers happened, and she was lost in the mix.  Really excited about her.
Last bit of good news.  I'm finally moving closer to my area!  We still are outside our area, but now we will be about .5 mile outside instead of 3 miles outside.  We'll be living with an English-speaking member.  I'll post the address next week. 
Love you all and I hope that all your questions were answered too!
Elder Christensen
P.S.  I saw Raul and Rosy yesterday.  They are doing SO good.  In between sessions I went to a baptismal service there at the stake with them.  They knew the songs.  They were saying, "ah, I love this one."  They have gone to do baptisms for the dead TWICE.  They're super solid.

Monday, September 30, 2013

A Day Full of Experiences

Hello hello.  It's been another week here in Fletcher.  The weather is finally starting to cool down a bit, which is good.

So we officially picked up Hector as an investigator again this week.  He still seems solid. He said that when his mom was living with them (remember she was a member from Mexico) he felt tons of pressure from her, so now he can do all this on his own.  We had a lesson that went super well then there was some poor communication, so we missed the second lesson.  Then on Saturday he called us and said, "Hey I'm coming to church."  And I started thinking, "Somebody that's willing to act!  I love it!"  Unfortunately, he didn't end up coming.  Not sure why.  We weren't able to get a hold of him.

So yesterday was a day full of experiences.  We had the first counselor in the mission presidency, President Gutierrez, come and teach the 5th Sunday class.  He told a story about a time that he got lost in the mountains overnight and tons of people came looking for him.  He related it to how we treat people that are less active or who are trying to come back.  We should never say, "Oh, he decided to leave.  He didn't have a testimony."  "Oh, his faith wasn't strong enough to get him through his problems."  In Pres. Gutierrez's story, nobody was criticizing him.  Nobody said, "Well you really should have stayed with the group.  You shouldn't have sat down for a rest.  You shouldn't have been out there with so few resources."  Nobody said that.  When they found him, it was all, "It's so good that we found you."  "How can we help you."  "Thank goodness you're safe."  He said he had friends fly out from Idaho to come try to find him.  Then the question, "How would our ward be, if we had that same drive to find those among us that are lost."  It was awesome.  His story made the news if you want to check it out.  Google: Brian (maybe Bryan) Gutierrez missing hiker Forest falls.  The members received that message SO well.  He said that he'll be coming back in the next month or so to teach them more.

After that, I asked him to talk for a few minutes about everything I've been feeling during the last few weeks and months.  He gave me some of the most inspired words I've ever heard.  It was perfect.  I was able to see myself in a way I haven't been able to see myself in a while.  To sum everything up, I need to work on bridging my logical self and my spiritual self.  I need to be able to go at a problem willing to figure it out myself, but at every instant, be willing to hand it over and ask what God wants.  Right now, I see a problem and I buckle up and go, go, go until I beat it to death.  I've been getting distracted doing things the way I think makes logical sense.  God has caused all the wheels to fall off so I could stop and realize that I've been distracted by my own logic.  "Verily I say unto you, he that is ordained of me and sent forth to preach the word of truth by the Comforter, in the Spirit of truth, doth he preach it by the Spirit of truth or some other way? And if it be by some other way it is not of God." - D&C 50:17-18

Then he asked me one of the most inspired questions I've ever heard.  "What do you want to see here that would make you believe you were successful here?"  My mind started going.  "Recent converts that are still active and progressing, members being missionaries, members helping out with fellowshipping and lessons", and my mind kept going on that track.  Then he said, "let me tell you.  You will know that you were successful here when you look back and can say, 'Fletcher is where I learned to trust God.'"  So there were some other super helpful things in our talk.  The five minutes I asked for quickly turned into 20 minutes.  But it was really an answer to prayers.  One last quote, "Stop worrying too much.  The baptisms will come."

So ya, this week was definitely an important one for that reason.  It feel like a new beginning.  I'm SUPER excited for conference this upcoming weekend.  I should get to see Raul and Rosy there at the stake center.  According to the missionaries in that ward, they're still doing awesome.  Speaking of that ward, my first ward just got split.  Raul and Rosy fall into the stronger part of the ward, which is comforting.

Love you all and thank you all so much for the prayers.

Elder Christensen

Monday, September 23, 2013

Cool Stuff Happening

Hey family and friends.  So this week was way better mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, but not much better with the numbers.  Still struggling a bit, but we finally have some things coming out of the dust that makes it look like we could have some awesome stuff happening in the next 3 weeks or so.
They have this new booklet out called "Adjusting to Missionary Life" and it talks about all of the demands of missionary work and how to deal with them. So naturally, there is a a lot about dealing with stress in there. There was something in that booklet that when I first read it, I thought, "eh, whatever" but once I applied it, it changed everything. "When you feel overwhelmed, think, 'All I have to do right now is ____'." So once I started thinking like that, everything went a lot better. My mind cleared up. I stopped feeling super pressured.  It's been a lot better the last 3 or 4 days.  Then after that change of mindset, stuff started happening. I felt like I was going out Nephi-style. "I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do" (1 Ne 4:6).  We went by our plans, and some of our plans just didn't feel right on our way there, and we would change it up last second and see cool stuff happen.
In one of those situations, WE FOUND THE GARCIA FAMILY AGAIN...FINALLY!!!  If you don't remember who they are, they are the family that has the wife that was dying because of her diabetes.  We went and gave her a blessing then started losing all contact with them.  We finally got back with them after 2 months.  We have a lesson with them tonight.  AND their youngest son turns 8 in 3 weeks.  So maybe God wanted this to wait to be a whole family deal?  I don't know.  But they still seem pretty solid.
We also found a lady this week named Carmen.  We found her in the middle of a panic attack and we were able to calm her down.  By the end she said, "Thanks to you boys, I feel 100% calm.  I want you to come back and help my husband feel this way."  She was asking other questions like "How can I get that hope?" "What do I need to do?" "What happens when we die?"  It was awesome.  We're going back on Wednesday.  Her husband is active in the Catholic church, but she thinks he'd be willing to change after one talk with us.  Hopefully some cool stuff comes out of that.
We also found a lady that started crying because she doesn't like the fact that she doesn't go to church on Sundays and knows that she should.  She lives close to the Garcia family.
So ya, lots more stuff is happening.  And we'll be keeping it up.  Tonight, we also have a lesson with a part-member family that we randomly knocked into a few weeks back.  And this will be the first lesson tonight.
Bishop Leiva showed me the pictures of when they met up with you in St George.  I sure miss you guys!
So ya, it turned out that all that advice I got to "keep going" actually worked out!
Have a great week,
Elder Christensen

Monday, September 16, 2013

Time to Cast All Doubt Aside

Hello friends and family.  Transfers.  I am...wait for it...STAYING!  By the time I finish this next transfer, I would have been here for about 7 months.  As far as I see it, it's basically guaranteed that I'll be gone this next transfer.  I've seen the pattern that the trainer leaves after the 12 weeks is over.  So it's time to make the most of the time left.  There have been some big changes in our district caused by the lack of cars.  The zone leaders, who used to roam the whole ward, have moved to a different ward.  So good news, we picked up all of the zone leaders' investigators in our area (and they had a few solid ones).  Bad news, everyone's areas were rearranged, and we lost part of our area that I absolutely LOVED.  But a smaller area is definitely a good thing.  I've been feeling a little overwhelmed about how big our area is.

I'm a little low on time, so I'm going to cheat a bit and copy part of my letter to President:

"These last 2 months have been pretty trying for me. My patience was tried more than anything. Last night, as I was talking with Elder Alvarenga, I expressed some of my concerns. I feel like I haven't been living up to my own expectations. I was feeling accountable for the lack of success we have had in the past weeks. My mind had been slipping into the deadly "what-ifs." What if it doesn't change? What if I'm not good enough? At the same time, I was trying to be a good example for Elder Marchan in always going out there are working despite the lack of success.

"He helped me realize that, yes, these last few months have been pretty bad, but to doubt that the Lord will not help is absurd. Over the last few months, I slipped into the thoughts "I gotta do this," "I need to accomplish this," "I have some high expectations,"  "I need to get this done." Slowly, I took God out of the picture, and Elder Alvarenga helped me realize that. I was focused on what I wanted me to be, not what God wanted me to be. I am still trying to capture the vision of what God wants me to become.

"On looking ahead to the coming transfer, a six-week period never has felt like such a long time to me. I feel like we can genuinely turn around EVERYTHING before the end of October. I feel like it's time to get some righteous revenge. It's time to cast all doubt aside. I'm excited to get out there and get done what the Lord wants to get done, and not what I want to get done. I got a glimpse of what God wants the area to be, not what I want it to be."

So ya, I'm stoked and expecting to see some crazy awesome stuff in the coming weeks.  I'm feeling a kind of fire I don't think I've felt before.  It's gonna be fun.

Love and kindness,
Elder Christensen

Monday, September 9, 2013

A Week of Self-Reflection

Hey family and friends.  This week was a very interesting one.  First off, thank you mom so much for the package!  The talks I have listened to so far have been fantastic!

Work wise, it's still pretty slow.  We picked up two new investigators.  Both are people Elder Smith and I taught a few months back.  One of them feels like he's different now, and the other, I'm not sure.  We'll see.

We've had a lot of disappearing investigators, investigators unwilling to fulfill commitments, and miracles that then don't lead anywhere special in the end.  I feel like we're all a little spiritually burned out.  But like we all do, or are supposed to do, we are keeping our "eye single to the glory of God" ~D&C 4:5

This week there was a lot of self reflection.  It was one of those weeks where I came to be aware of every little thing that I could possibly do better.  Having such a slow time, I find myself asking myself constantly:  What are we not doing?  Why are miracles happening in all the district except here?  Are we lacking faith? 

I believe yesterday I came to a bit of a realization.  One of my goals all along was to be able to trust God more.  So why would I be upset if God is giving me this chance to grow?  I sometimes feel like God's will is conflicting with itself.  Does he want baptisms or does he want me to grow?  I'm sure every missionary would tell you that the times they learn the most about themselves is in the toughest times when things feel like a total drought.

Then at the same time, I think about all the things that have been going for us.  We've been able to run into some really cool people, have some great first impressions, then have everything fall apart or have them constantly running away.  This week I realized that God has been leading us to people that could be prepared, but then they choose not to be.  "...nevertheless, they shall return again to their own place, to enjoy that which they are willing to receive, because they were not willing to enjoy that which they might have received." ~D&C 88:32

So recently, we've tried a lot that hasn't worked, and Einstein teaches us that it would be insane to keep doing the same thing, so we're going to be trying to switch things up a bit.  Being in a leadership position, I feel like the numbers I put up have to be an example, but despite all the effort, it's just not working.  So ya, I still have many questions going in my mind all the time, but I feel like everything's okay.  Not sure what God has planned, but He's always got something in mind.

"...all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good." ~D&C 122:7

Another talk that I read that helped a ton was "But for a Small Moment" by Elder Maxwell. (thanks, Mom) I only understand about half of it, but the stuff I do understand is fantastic! 

"...past, present, and future, and are continually before the Lord" (D&C 130:7) So, he knows what our future self is going to be.  So what he's doing now in all of our lives--He's putting us through the things we need to be able to become what he knows we need to become.

I love you all and thank you all for the prayers.

Elder Christensen

p.s. Evidently, there has been a problem lately with chinches (bed bugs) mission-wide. President has asked all of us to caulk any cracks in our bed frames so they can't hide there. I know the sisters in our district have had some problems with them; but so far, we have not picked up any...thankfully!!!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Cars Are GONE!!

Hello hello.  Hope you all are well.  So do you remember when I told you that they were going to be reducing cars significantly in the mission?  Well, as I described, they have already taken away our car, and we're still working on getting used to the bus.  BUT, the car reduction is going to be a little bit more intense than originally anticipated.  They are going to take away EVERY CAR IN THE MISSION!  Watching the faces of the Zone Leaders and the sister missionaries was SUPER funny.  Few of them looked like they got slapped in the face, some others laughed nervously, some just sat there speechless.  So this will be very interesting, indeed.
This announcement came during zone conference.  President Becerra started his lecture with, "if you apply what I will be teaching you today, I promise you will double your baptisms."  In our mission, Spanish missionaries teach 3 times as much as English, but we baptize the same.  It's super, super weird.  So everything we talked about is ways to make sure that we are teaching people that are ready to progress.  I know Dad has shared a bit with me about this, but for some reason it clicked this week.  In short, we had a lot of drop lessons this week and are desperate to find.
This past week we saw some cool things happen because of all the walking and busing.  We are starting to see the members step up a little bit with the lack of cars.  We got a few random rides from members of our ward, and we have had multiple people offer to pick us up wherever we are at to take us home at night.  It's good stuff.  It's been kinda hot the last few days, so the rides are always very, very appreciated.
This past week we got a baptismal date!  It's been way too long since the last one.  Her name is Chela and she lives in an apartment behind a member family.  This member family, the Balderas, referred her to us.  Now a slightly worrisome part of the story: we randomly ran into her and tried to set up another appointment with her because she missed the appointment on Friday.  Then, she said the dreaded words, "I'll call you."  The Balderas family are still working with her.  She might be feeling a little smothered.  We'll figure out how to fix that.
Another sad story:  Cristina and Elvia (our recent converts) have totally disappeared.  I don't know what is going on.  We cannot find them or get hold of them despite everything we've tried.  We still haven't found the Garcias again either.  It's been a little tough.
Relationship with the companion is still a work in progress.  We are on exchanges today, and I've given his companion for the day the assignment to open him up a bit and see what he's thinking about everything.
Thanks for all the prayers.  I've still been diving into Atonement doctrine.  The most recent question I have been working on is, "Why is repentance enough to receive mercy?  I know that's how we get it, but why is it all that's needed?"  Haven't gotten too far on that one, but I know that there are a lot of members that need to understand justice and mercy a lot better.  We have a few people here that think because they're in the church, they've got the free ticket, and others that think that even though they do everything they are supposed to do, they aren't sure if they are worthy or not.  We have been working a lot to strengthen the members to get referrals out of them.
Love you all.  Thank you for all your prayers.  Emmy, HAPPY BIRTHDAY on Sunday.  Your present will be a little late.  Hope you like it.  It has been approved by Hermana Lopez.

Elder Christensen