Monday, April 29, 2013

A Week of Miracles

Hello family and friends.  This week was so awesome!  Thank you to everybody for the emails.  I really look forward to that every week.  So, I don't have much time today, so I'll jump straight in.

Christina, the lady that came up to us crying?  She is so cool!  She started crying while reading the introduction to the Book of Mormon.  That has never happened to me before.  She came to church this week and absolutely loved it.  The bishop's wife picked her up for church and was really good to her.  Apparently the talk in sacrament meeting that mentioned tithing made her want to pay tithing.  It looks like she's golden.  We only had a chance to teach her once this past week, but we'll try to get two or three this upcoming week.

Before I was transferred here, Elder Smith contacted a guy named Henry.  He said that he felt super good about him from the very beginning.  We have set a few appointments with him in the past and he flaked out on all of them.  This past week as we were walking, we turned the corner and there was Henry right in front of us.  We set up an appointment in the park so his son could play on the playground as we talked.  We were treating this kind of as a "do or die" appointment because of all the other appointments he flaked out on.  So we get to the park on time, and we start waiting.  And waiting.  And waiting.  It came time that we called the other elders to come grab us and our bikes to be able to get to a meeting.  Right as the elders pulled up, Henry pulled up.  He apologized for being late, we sent the other elders on their way, then had one of the coolest first lessons ever!  He talked to the missionaries in Las Vegas before moving to LA.  We talked about the Restoration and HE brought up wanting to be baptized.  It was unreal.  [For anybody that has seen the District 2 videos, he REALLY reminded me of German (hair-MAHN)].  I'm really glad we gave him another chance.

We finally got a baptismal date!  We have been working with this part-member family where the husband has been inactive for over 10 years, so he doesn't remember much about church.  We committed his wife to be baptized and we also committed him to get ready to be able to baptize her (once again, for anybody that has seen the District 2 videos, this family reminds me a lot of the Robles family).  Then, they didn't come to church and we were really confused.  So we ride our bikes to their house and she was telling us that she didn't feel comfortable going to church without a dress.  We felt dumb for not explaining church a little better.  Their 1-year-old daughter had also been sick.  We gave the daughter a blessing, then as we were about to leave, she asked us for a blessing.  She, apparently, has been having really bad headaches recently.  I gave the blessing and I felt the impression to basically command her to be healed.  I asked her how she felt after the blessing, and she said during the blessing, at one moment it felt like a stabbing pain coming all of the sudden, then everything went completely away!  I have never had a blessing like that.  We then talked a little bit more about the priesthood to help her understand the authority and power that has been restored.  The Priesthood is real!

Thank you all for all your prayers this week.  We had a really good week on finding, and we didn't do anything to deserve it.  They all really just dropped in our laps.  Thank you for all your support.  I hope you all are keeping up in your Book of Mormon reading.

Elder Christensen

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Poco a Poco

Hello family and friends.  Sorry for the delay on the letter for this week.  We had a temple day today! (Wed)  It was so nice.  The LA temple is gorgeous inside!  We actually rode over there on a bus.  That was a new experience.  We haven't heard anything else on switching to all buses and bike, but I may need to get a lot more used to that stuff coming up really soon.  Along the way, we saw the star sidewalk (whatever it's called) and we also stopped in West Hollywood at Five Guys.  I said that when I moved from Bel 2 to Fletcher, I was moving from Mexico to California.  West Hollywood was a whole new level of California.  It was funny.  We saw some very interesting people.  This has been one of the top ten funnest days in my mission so far.  Anyway, back to business.

Thanks to Dad and Elder Brueggeman (MTC comp) for the letters and thank you to Hermana Franklin, Elder Wheatley, Emmy, Mom, Dad, and Robert R for the emails.

So this week has been a bike week.  Apparently, cool stuff happens during bike weeks.  First let me go back in time a bit and tell you about a lesson we had last Monday night.  It was with a new investigator named Antonia.  Elder Smith found her a week before I got there, and this was our first sit-down lesson with her.  Her best friends in college were both Mormons.  She said that she had the missionaries over many times but that she didn't get baptized.  She can't remember why, but she did say it was probably due to laziness.  We had a great lesson about the Gospel.  Before we even talked about baptism, she said she has some things in her past that she would like to leave behind.  Once we started talking about baptism, her attention was fixed.  We haven't been able to have another lesson with her yet because she's a professor at Cal State Long Beach in Mexican History and Literature (or something like that) and finals are coming up so she has tons of grading to do. (any empathy, Mom?)  Also, when we talked about Christ coming to the Americas, she immediately said something about Aztec history that was a very, very similar story.  So she was very interested in that.  We left 3 Ne 11 with her.  We feel really good about her.

Now, I don't know if I already mentioned Erika.  She lives in the projects by Chinatown.  We were looking for a former investigator and she had recently moved in.  We said something like, "well do you need anything with boxes, moving anything, or would you be interested in us stopping by to share a message sometime?"  So for all you RMs, you probably will recognize that wasn't the smoothest thing ever, but to our amazement, she said, "a message would be great!"  So that was last week.  This week, we had a quick lesson about the Book of Mormon and she said that she would start reading it before we even asked her.  It was cool.  She has 4 kids (2 baptism age) and a husband.  She feels like she's drifted away from God a bit and now she wants to come back.  Then we show up.  Interesting... :)

Now two miracles for the week.  First, we had had a pretty tough day on Monday. Everybody wasn't home, we had made the 50 minute bike ride to the far end of our area, nobody was letting us in or everybody was gone. On the way to an appointment with Antonia, she called and canceled because she had fallen behind in grading (again, empathy, Mom?). On the way to a scheduled family home evening, we got a call from some other elders that made it sound like it might not happen.  They ate with the family the night before and they sounded kind of noncommittal. Everything seemed like it was falling through. Something inside me still felt like it was going to be a good day. Even though the other elders said that they might be unable to do the family home evening, we were already in the neighborhood, so we stopped by. The hermana said that the friends she was going to invite had a son that was dealing with some blood pressure issues, and she preferred not to come so she could stay with her son. We asked if it was okay if we went on with the family home evening without their friend, and she said that was fine. Right as we are finishing our dinner with them, there was a knock on the door.  (Really quick, dinner was a full deep-fried tilapia fish head and all.  So. Freaking. Good! Pictures will come in the future) It ended up being the friend that they were going to invite, Guadalupe. She entered the home and stayed for our family home evening. We watched Finding Faith in Christ then talked about His life and why it is so important to our salvation. After the FHE, we gave her our number, set a follow-up appointment, and offered to give her son a blessing, which she immediately accepted. It was a great end to the day. That FHE lesson and blessing would have been impossible if Antonia hadn't canceled the appointment.  During the whole day, though, I didn't get down at all.  Something kept me going.  It was really cool.

Then yesterday, we were riding our bikes up one of the steeper hills in our area. At the top of the hill, I pull off to the side to take a breather and get some water. After standing in the shade for 2 minutes or so, I heard someone yelling at us from across the street. She was waving at us and asked us to come over. It turns out that this woman, Christina, is a former investigator that stopped investigating the church 10 years ago. She immediately asked for a Book of Mormon and was asking for our help. She said that a neighbor had been doing some strange rituals and she felt a bad spirit around, so she wanted to start going back to church to fight it. Throughout the whole conversation, she kept looking to the heavens and saying, "gracias, senor." (Thank you, Lord)  We have an appointment to go back with another member to go bless her home.  She also asked us to make arrangements for somebody to pick her up for church this Sunday.  As Elder Smith and I were pulling away, we were quiet for a second, then looked at each other and said, "what just happened?"  It was sweet.
I don't know if I'm better at recognizing miracles now, or what, because I feel like we have seen more little miracles here in the last two weeks than any two-week period during the rest of my mission.  I feel like I'm working harder and smarter than ever before, so that's probably a large part of it.

Elder Smith and I are still doing great. We are having a blast trying to figure out all this stuff together.  Like I said, he only has 6 weeks more than me, so it's not like he is old and wise in the ways of the mission.  But really, we are having so much fun.  I also learned from stories that we have told each other that if we had ever played any sports against one another, we probably wouldn't have gotten along so well.  We are both very competitive in sports.  We are still laughing a ton.  We are doing our best to make sure charity is the driving force in everything we do.

Love you all, sorry for making the letter a long one.  I hope that you all have a fantastic week.  Going to the temple made me remember how much I miss having one close.  Provechen de esa oportunidad!

Les amo mucho,
Elder Tanner Christensen

Monday, April 15, 2013

New Area!!!

Hello hello family and friends.  If you didn't notice the subject line, I'm in a new area!  I got moved mid-transfer to the Flether South area.  It is about 5 miles northwest of my old area, but it is SOOO different.  My last area felt like Mexico, and this area definitely feels like California.  A lot more white people here.  And a lot of Armenians, and Asian as well.  Of the three areas in our ward, we have the second highest concentration of Latinos.  There's one area specifically that feels a lot like my old area, so that's nice.  My new companion is Elder Smith, and I got to know him in the MTC.  He has been out here 6 weeks longer than I have.  He's from a small town in Idaho named Salmon.  Oh, and the best part of all of this?  We are starting a new area!!!  It's been tough, but Elder Smith has made it so much fun!  He was here in the Fletcher ward last transfer, and they split his area.  EVERYTHING they had went to the other area.  We inherited 1 investigator and some pretty old formers.  The ward is no where as strong as Bel 2, so we are working a lot to strengthen the ward.  We are trying to visit everybody in the ward in our area, and we are finding a lot of part-member families along the way.  We have a few potentials with set appointments for this upcoming week, and they seem pretty solid.  My new district is awesome!  I have met all of them (except the missionaries in training) before.  I think I was starting to feel a little too comfortable over in Bel 2, so this change will be a good one.  Other area info:  We have Dodger's Stadium, Chinatown, and Echo Park (a lot of gay communities) within our area.  If you want to look on the map, we have everything south of the LA river, and north and east of Sunset Blvd.  I don't remember what the border is on the east.  But to put it into perspective, Chinatown is in the southeast corner of our area.
Now the only two negatives about the change:  1) I didn't get to say bye to anybody (but Raul emailed me this week, so that was awesome) and 2) we live a 30-min bike ride from the beginning of our area, and an hour bike ride from the far side.  We alternate who has the car every other week.  We had bike this week, so I've been sleeping much better.  The Zone leader is going to try to make the car permanently ours, but until then, it's helping us be really smart about planning.  I'm super stoked to be here, and Elder Smith will help the transition a lot.
So now all that's out of the way.  Haha.  Ya, it's been a crazy week.  Thank you for all the emails: Mom, Dad, Raul, Sister Jakins, Elder Evans, Elder Wheatley, Hermana Franklin, and G&G Christensen.  The computers at the library here have a one hour limit, so please keep emails brief and please don't feel offended if I don't respond.  I love hearing from you all so much!!!
This week, I found a really cool scripture in Romans 12:1-3.  It took me a few readings to understand it, but it's a good one.  Also, I finished the Book of Mormon this week.  My favorite scriptures from this read through were Helaman 3:35, and Moroni 10:(last three verses.  Don't remember the numbers) I love you all so much, and I appreciate your prayers very much!
Elder Tanner Christensen

Monday, April 8, 2013

Email from Investigators!!

What an absolute thrill it was to receive an email yesterday from some of Tanner's investigators. They also included some pictures....
"estamos muy agredecidos por conocer a su hijo christensen sabemos que es un soldadodito de dios, que a cambiado nuestras vidas junto a elder flores y ahora elder bennett les hemos tomado un gran amor a todos ellos por que son jovenes maravillosos llenos del espiritu santo , entusiasmo , bondad, humildad, sabiduria y caridad hacia los demas.

 Rough translation....
"We are grateful to know your son Elder Christensen. We know that he is a soldier of God, that he has changed our lives with Elder Flores and now Elder Bennett. We have a great love for all of them because they are wonderful young men filled with the Holy Spirit, enthusiasm, kindness, humility, wisdom, and charity toward others.

Week 18--6 months

Hello family and friends.  Thank you to Sister Stone for the letter, and Mom, Emmy, Kerrs, G&G Christensen, Hermana Franklin, and Josh for the emails.  I feel your love everyday and thank you for all your prayers.

I have no idea how I'm already 1/4 of the way done with my mission.  I feel like I'm still just learning to walk.  It's time to kick it into the next gear.

Elder Bennett and I are still doing awesome.  Elder McIlwain kinda jumped in with a "let's change everything" attitude, so this week was a lot of balancing.  He helped us realize that we need to do better at talking to more people so we aren't just cycling through the same 25 people over and over again.  That was definitely a realization we needed.  Nothing awesome has happened as a result yet, but we're getting there.

How fantastic was conference!?  I didn't have one talk that was "this talk is 100% for you" but there were so many fantastic talks.  President Uchtdorf's Sunday morning talk was probably my favorite.  I definitely have to study the rest of them to capture all that was going on.  Elder Cardon's and Elder Porter's were both fantastic as well.  Okay, they were all great.  I've never been more excited for a conference.  I hope the family get together for conference was a good one.  I missed out hearing all your insights.

Raul and Rosy loved conference.  Raul's nephew that's a member is falling away from the church a bit, so he loved all those talks about how to rescue those that are falling away from the church.  And Rosy liked President Monson's comment at the very end about treating those of other religions.  No developments in their papers, but we're still praying.

Sad news:  Pedro dropped us.  That's the first time in my mission that this has happened.  I'm still kinda confused about it all.  He read to 1 Ne 17 in about a week.  He lives in Raul and Rosy's building and they see him all the time, so maybe their awesomeness can transfer to Pedro through some kind of spiritual osmosis.  I'll try to figure out how we can make that happen.

We have worked stuff out so that literally nothing is impeding Armando's baptism and marriage.  We had a very direct talk to figure out what was going on and he said that he doesn't feel strong enough yet.  We are helping him refocus on prayer and the Book of Mormon.  He ended up selling his broken car, so we'll have to figure out how we can help him in that regard.  He wasn't able to attend any conference and he didn't have any other means to watch it, but there are some talks we'll be giving him.

This week I read in Ether 12.  Such a great chapter.  There were two things that I never realized before.  In one of the verses, it said that grace (which the BD defines as "the enabling power of the Atonement) leads to charity.  I thought that was super interesting.  Also, in the last verse, it said that grace is something that doesn't just come and go, but can abide in us forever.  I thought that was super cool.  We all need divine help, and the Lord is ready to give it.

I love you all so much, and hope that you have a fantastic week.

Elder Tanner Christensen

Monday, April 1, 2013

Week 17 in Sunny California

Hello family and friends. We had transfer calls this week and I am...STAYING!! But there was a bit of a change. Elder Bennett is staying as well and we got a third missionary, Elder McIlwain. It looks like it will be an interesting one. He kinda reminds me of Matt Smith from Doctor Who, if any of you know who that is. He's been out 3 months longer than I have. Looks like it will be a good one.

HUGE THANK YOU to my family for the package. That was such a thoughtful package! I absolutely loved the bratzlies and I am trying to make them last as long as possible. I am absolutely loving the talks, and I am so stoked that you found the "Character of Christ" audio! Thank you so much!! And Emmy, thanks for the things that you sent. I definitely got a good laugh out of that.

So I don't really know what to share right now. There hasn't been anything incredibly out of the ordinary this week. Raul and Rosy are still doing great. Armando is still wanting to wait for some reason. Finding is coming along bit by bit

Kind of a bummer. This week, Pedro said that he didn't invite us over because he wanted to change religions. He said that he is not ready to come to church. However, he is reading the Book of Mormon faster than any investigator I've had. He's had a Book of Mormon for five or six days and he's in 1 Ne 14. So I'm not really sure what to think about him. We'll keep dropping by to see if he's willing to change.

The weather has been fantastic. I'm still loving the food. Oh, I'm not sure if I told you this already. A few weeks ago, I ate about a quarter of an habanero. I was absolutely crying. I was like worried that something was wrong with me. Looking back, it was hilarious. All the Latinos here say that you need to eat chile to get good at Spanish, so that may be why I'm feeling confident about my Spanish recently. Right now I am understanding about 90% of everything that's being said and I feel like I can say about 60% of what I want to. It's getting better bit by bit.

Sorry that this is a shorter letter. I love you all. If you haven't already, Google "Character of Christ" by Elder Bednar. He gave the talk at BYU Idaho in 2003, and it will change your life as you apply the things he taught. I love you all so much. I hope to hear from you all soon.

Elder Christensen