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