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