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.