Monday, July 29, 2013

Coincidence? I Think Not!

Hello family and friends.  This week has been another one of the same old same old.  This one definitely ended on a high note.  Well, some good and some less good.  But anyway, let's jump in.
First off, thank you for all the insights on the ward council question.  I love what you all had to say.  I'll let you know how it all goes!  Good news on that front.  We have the zone leaders in our ward, so President has a direct feed on how everything is going.  He sent his 1st council Pres. Gutierrez to observe.  Miraculously, everybody (and I mean EVERYBODY) was there.  It was so perfect.  Part of me, going into it, hoped that it would be a typical week with few there, but after it was all over, I realize how perfect it was to have everybody there.  President got to see all the potential that was there.  You could just feel like something cool was about to happen.  He came in and told everybody to forget about what they knew about missionary work, because everything is about to change.  He gave us some cool ideas to use our talents to get to know more people.  One of those was tutoring kids on the condition that they have a nonmember there with them.  Then bishop added, many of our youth are going off to college soon, but all of them had a tough time with math.  Coincidence?  I think not!  So ya, we're going to try to get something going with that soon.  Also, because of the little talk, the young men's president got a commitment from every young man that if we call a day ahead, each would be willing to come out with us.  Cool stuff is on the way.
Unfortunately, we have transfer calls this upcoming Saturday.  So next email, you'll be getting an update of what's happening.  Elder Smith and I have been together for 3 transfers (almost 4.5 months) so we are pretty sure our time together is over.  We would love a 4th, but it's pretty unlikely.  Elder Smith has been here for close to 6 months, so we assume he is more likely to go, especially considering I was just made District Leader here. 
Cool news, Jaime could be getting baptized this upcoming Sunday!  We think everything is good to go.  This whole process has been a long one, but it could be done this Sunday!  That would be the perfect way for Elder Smith and I to finish out.  As a reminder, Jaime is an excommunicated member we have been working with.  There was a period of weeks when we weren't sure if he was a member or not because he couldn't remember what had happened with all that.  But ya, we're hoping to baptize him this week.
The Garcia family are having a bit of a tough time.  I mentioned that the mom, Rosa, was in the hospital.  On Tuesday, they had to release her because they didn't have enough money.  We went by on Wednesday and we gave her a blessing, and now she seems to be doing a bit better.  Hector's original baptismal date was this Sunday, but we haven't taught him everything yet.  We have been focusing a lot on making sure Rosa is okay and comforting them all regarding that whole situation.  We are hoping this delay will mean that they'll be able to get baptized together a bit later.
Now, just briefly, there is a ward family that we have been stopping by often because they've been having tons of problems.  Well this week, the daughter started having panic attacks and they had no idea what was going on.  So I was able to talk with her a bit and explain what was going on, and you could just see a huge weight get lifted off her shoulders.  It was awesome to be a part of that.
So ya, this week had a lot of ups and downs, but we're going to finish this last week strong.  We're super stoked for it.
Love you all, and thanks for all your prayers!
Elder Christensen

Thought for the week:  

"The influence of Satan is a lot more flashy and attention grabbing than that of our Heavenly Father.  If you wonder if God is doing anything for you or you don't think he is, then you just have to look a little bit harder."  -- Elder Christensen, Jul 29, 2013 :)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Week 33 in the Field

Hello friends and family.  Hope all is well back home.

This week was pretty fun.  Elder Alvarenga got his new companion, so we were able to focus a bit more on our area.  We're finding out that we don't have anybody that is going to take off like a rocket.  It's getting a little tough to discern who is going to go the distance and who won't.  We are teaching a lot of different people, and all of them look like they may take a bit of time to get them there.

Hector and his family are having a bit of a tough time.  His wife Rosa is in the hospital with complications from diabetes.  We have an appointment tomorrow to speak with the daughter specifically.  With work, school, and now this, you could just tell that she was overwhelmed.

I had a few chances to go on short exchanges with the zone leaders this week for random reasons.  It is cool to see how they teach and how they do stuff.  It really helps us have stuff to shoot for.

For the last few months, I've been studying a lot more about Christ's life and His example.  I've been reading a bit from Jesus the Christ and the New Testament everyday.  Until my mission, I never understood the reasoning the Jews had for killing him.  It's super sad.  At times when I'm frustrated with people, the contentious part of me wants to tell people, "Don't be like the Pharisees and reject this truth just because it goes against what you have learned before."

I admittedly have been noticing the Adversary's influence a bit more recently.  It's a little disheartening.  We keep praying for, and expecting miracles, but not much has happened recently.  We are still working as hard as we can, and little things are happening here and there.  We just need to be a bit more patient.  There are so many times that it is easy as human beings to want the flood gates open and all the good coming all at once.  It rarely works out like that.  Here, it's a little more frustrating that it doesn't work like that because you see all the potential that's here.  It gets a little easy to think, "How could this not be God's will?"  But, we keep going.  We are going to do a lot better with working with our ward members to get some solid people.

Love you all.  Thank you for all your prayers.  This past week, I felt a lot of strength come that I didn't feel came from within me.  I know this is the Lord's work and I know it will move forward.  Maybe not at the pace we want, but it will.  

Love you all, and have a safe week.
Elder Christensen

Dodger Stadium is in Tanner's area

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

I'm Having the Time of My Life

Hello family and friends. This week was a bit better than last week.  We were able to balance the work with Elder Alvarena a bit better.  This week his trainee is going to come, so we'll be back to our area full time, which will be nice.
So I think a few weeks ago, I mentioned that we started teaching the Garcia family.  The Grandma is from Mexico, and one of her main purposes in visiting here is to convert her family.  The dad, Hector, has come to church 3 times out of the last month or so.  The weeks he hasn't come he was working.  He's looking like he'll be pretty solid.  He just needs to keep on learning.
This week, we set a goal as a district for everybody to hit their finding goals.  3 out of the 4 companionships were able to do it.  It was so cool having everybody on the same page.  It was the first week in the last 5 that finding was in the double digits for the district.  We had really been struggling with that in the past.  Our next focus is to keep finding in the double digits and church attendance.  We have seen that once somebody is willing to take the time to go to church, they are ready to do basically everything else that's needed.  We think that August and September are going to be sweet.
As for our area...  For a while, we were hanging on to people as long as they would let us because we still didn't have many to teach.  We are slowly, but surely, getting to the point that we can work the people a bit more. We have more people in our teaching pool than I ever have had in my mission.  Now, it's just a matter of sorting and aligning our schedules.  Everyone we are teaching are pretty tough to catch.
District leader stuff is still going well.  I kind of have a small idea what I'm doing now, but still not much.  If any of you have any ideas on getting a ward council functioning well, I would love to know.  We have some ideas, but since we don't have the keys, we aren't really sure what we can do or how we could counsel on that.
Now some fun stuff:  On Friday, we had a mission conference + summer party.  I didn't take any pictures, because tons of water was involved.  It started out with a 2-hour devotional kind of thing.  I absolutely love the leadership we have here.  I've decided that Pres. Becerra reminds me of Dad and Sis. Becerra reminds me of Aunt Susan.  They all talked about having faith in the moment and keeping your focus in the moment.  Then for the next 5 hours, we ate and played tons of games with water fights going on the whole time. 
In President's words, "Some people have asked me: 'is this really a good use of time?'  To them I usually say, 'There is a true principle in working hard, then playing hard.'"  When Joseph Smith was playing with some boys one day, a man rebuked him saying that that kind of behavior was below a prophet of God.  He responded with a parable that was basically, "A bow that is always drawn, ready to fire, will lose its elasticity."  So ya, we played hard.
Love you all so much.  I hope none of you are worried about me in any way.  I'm having the time of my life.
Elder Christensen 

Note from Mom: Tanner melted my heart when he told me he needed a new blanket for his bed because he gave his comforter to a 4-year old in their ward who has been sleeping on the floor with nothing. The comforter he took with him had sentimental value, so his giving that away makes it even more tender and meaningful. Ohhh...I absolutely LOVE what missions do to (for) these young men and women!!!

He Finally Sent Pictures!!!

Gotta love P-days!

Imagine Tanner's excitement when he met a professional ping pong player in his ward!!

Making lunch

The one thing Tanner said he would definitely be bringing home--A TORTILLA PRESS!

Elder Flores and Tanner at the Los Angeles Temple

In typical elder fashion--hanging a fan with a bungee cord and weight.  :) 

Tanner and Elder Smith enjoying items from the Cinco de Mayo package we sent them

Monday, July 8, 2013

I Love Latinos

Hello family and friends.  A HUGE thank you to my marvelous family for the package!  I will keep getting fat on candy, and then get skinny by playing frisbee.  It's genius!  I hope you all enjoyed your reunions and family time.  I was able to stay busy enough and laugh enough that I didn't really think much about home.
We'll get the fun, random stuff out of the way first.
The 4th of July was a little uneventful.  We went up to this super sweet hill that over looks downtown, and it looked like there were people setting off fireworks right downtown.  That was cool.  On this hill, you can see my old area in the distance, and I could only imagine how crazy in was over there.  I hope I'm back in East LA for next 4th of July.  We had to be inside before any of the big fireworks started.  Everybody was having BBQs and was acting like we didn't exist.  Kinda lame.  We were really hoping for an on-the-spot invite.  (On the note of on-the-spot invites, we had two this week, and both involved carne asada tacos, MY FAVORITE!!  I was excited about that)
I thought about Emmy on the 4th when we were eating at a place called Foster's Freeze. It's a lot like Ripples. (it's on Fletcher Drive near the LA river if you want to Google Maps it) We were in line and this guy starts mocking us under his breath to his wife. We start ignoring it, and then we hear another voice that was like, "oh wow..." kinda like "oh wow, are you really talking about them like that?" We thought that was cool and we turned around and started talking to the guy. He was super, super cool. Now, here's why I thought of Emmy. His wife is the President of Forever 21. Cool, huh? They are temporarily living in my area in some sweet new modern homes on a street I pass everyday. He went to a Singles ward with his friends back in the day all the time and said he always had a blast. He said he wasn't interested, but he came and sat at our table as we ate the whole time. He is about 40 or 50 and retired because he sold his Porsche restoration company and is now working for Jerry Seinfeld Porsche. So there's California for you. Super nice guy. Coolest part is that he was wearing a t-shirt and jeans. Looked super normal. But ya, there's the random story of the week. 
Now, the "I love Latinos" story.  We come home to our apartments, and there is a massive birthday party going on outside.  I think it was the manager's family member or something.  We live in a apartment complex full of latinos in the middle of Armenian-ville.  So there's the party going on, they have live Mariachi, and the manager is right at the front and he offers us tacos.  I'm pretty sure it was a peace offering so we wouldn't have any hard feelings about the noise.  We go back into our house, and the music was so loud, that it sounded like it was coming from inside our house.  It was hilarious. It gave us a chance to laugh out some frustration and stress with how our areas are going right now.
So now, down to business:
Elvia FINALLY GOT CONFIRMED!  For little things, she missed the 3 weeks following her baptism, but she's back and every week she felt super bad that she wasn't there.  She'll be solid.  We're going to start pestering the bishop a bit to give her a calling or an assignment sometime soon.
So this week, I was in a trio with an Elder named Elder Alvarenga from Salvador. The last two transfers (2.5 months) he was one of our zone leaders. I will be in a trio this upcoming week as well, then he will be getting a trainee. We are trying to learn as much as possible in the time we have with him.  We have the responsibility (pleasure, burden, opportunity, not sure how I feel about it) to cover two areas right now -- the area of me and Elder Smith, and the area of Elder Alvarenga and his future trainee.  Our new "area" as a companionship is about 10 miles long, so we are using the car a ton...a little too much. There will be a lot of biking near the end of the month. We both had a bunch of stuff set going into this week, which required us to bounce back and forth a lot. We tried to be in each other's area a lot each day, but this upcoming week, we are probably going to take days in areas so we can "get into the groove" as the disco kids say.  We'll also be a lot better at having members go out with him so that we can still go do our stuff.
As for new investigators, there's nobody that looks super prepared at the moment.  We are still sorting a lot.  We are going to start being a lot better at being consistent with the people that have the most potential.  We're figuring out that our lack of working with the members is starting to hurt us a bit.  We will be repenting this week.  We have some good stuff planned and we are starting to figure out when people are actually in their houses, so this week will be pretty sweet.
I hope all went well this week with everybody.  Next week, there will be fewer random stories, and more awesome inspirational missionary stories.  Love you all so much!

Elder Christensen

Monday, July 1, 2013

A Cool Week (but not in temperature!)

Hello friends and family!  This week was a cool one. (but not in temperature)  Thank you to all the friends and family for the emails.  Have tons of fun at all the summer reunions that are coming up.  It has been stinking hot here this week.  I assume it's nothing like what Jacob, Morgan, and all others are going through, but this is the first time in my mission that I have just been too hot.  I inherited a camelback from a missionary that's coming in handy.  (so yes, Mom, I'm staying hydrated)
So like I've described in the past few weeks, stuff has been going a little bit slow.  Stuff just wasn't really coming together, appointments were dropping all over the place, etc.  This week, it went much better.  We were able to hit the majority of our goals this week, which was definitely motivating.
So this first week as a district leader has been pretty cool.  So embarassing:  my first district meeting, I totally forgot my notes at home.  I was, luckily, able to remember all the scripture references and I was still able to pull everything back together, but it was way too stressful those first few minutes.  I've definitely felt the weight of the calling sinking in.  Our whole district has had a tough time the last few weeks.  Our area has the most latinos in it, so there's a little extra stress to have successful weeks.  Having a week like this week that went well eased a lot of the stress.
Unfortunately, Antonia dropped us.  I'm still not exactly sure what the problem is.  She felt like her whole life was getting thrown around and she wasn't really trying any of the suggestions we were giving her.  We took about an hour trying to explain how all this would help, but she just felt too busy to do any of it.  That one definitely hurt.  She told us to check back with her in September.  I think all this falling away stemmed from a comment from a family member, "You're only studying with them because you're lonely."  When she told us that a family member said that, I was stunned.  I think that comment just made her question everything.  It'll all work out.
We picked up some cool people this week.  There isn't anybody in particular that has the mentality of "baptize me now!" but I think we can work with them to get them there.
The Adversary is working on Elvia.  She missed church AGAIN.  We're super bummed about that one.  She still doesn't have the Holy Ghost.  She's still committed, just all this little stuff keeps getting in the way on Sundays.
This week, in addition to all the cool investigator stuff, we spent a lot of time with ward members.  There has been all kinds of crazy stuff going on recently.  The faith of some of the strongest members has been shaken.  We witnessed a lot of tears this week.  I'm so grateful that Heavenly Father cares enough for these people to bring scriptures to our mind to share with these people -- even when we haven't looked at those scriptures in months.  I'm still working on the purification thing, and I'm starting to see little changes.  I definitely have a long way to go, though.
Thanks, as always, for all the love and support.  I'm having a great time and my district is stacked.  Cool stuff is going to happen here in the very near future.
Love you all!
Elder Christensen