Monday, April 28, 2014

Week 73

Hello family and friends.  This week was an exciting one in our zone. We have a district in our zone that has been pegged as one of the two wards that nobody wants to go.  Last year, this ward had (I think) 2 baptisms. This weekend, they had 3, bringing this year’s total to 5!

Another cool story.  I can't remember if I mentioned this in a previous letter, but at the beginning of March when I first got to this area, Pomona had not had a baptism in 3 months.  President came to our zone meeting and asked us, "Why isn't Pomona baptizing."  Our district leader had been in the area for 6 weeks and had had the assignment of district leader for 4 days.  Every companionship had just changed 4 days earlier.  We have seen everything change here in Pomona.  In the last 30 days, we have had 7 baptisms in this ward and every companionship has baptized.  We aren't dealing with thousands like Ammon and Alma, but we're on the right track :)

We had interviews on Tuesday.  President did something a little different with our companionship.  He brought all 3 of us in and we talked about planning.  Here's how the conversation went down:

President: "Who's one of your progressing investigators?"
Us: "Rosario."
President: "What is the biggest thing that you could see getting in the way of her getting baptized?"
Us: ...pause... "Not understanding that this church is Christ's church and not some other church."
President: "Good. Good. Very insightful.  Now, what have you done about that?"
Us: ...pause... "Uh. Well. Nothing yet."
President: "So I'm not picking on ya, but you're telling me that the Spirit has told you what this lady needs and you haven't done anything yet?  So what are you going to do?"

It sounds harsh, but he did it with so much love.  He amazes me.  He told us that we are doing well.  As a mission, baptisms are up.  Now this newer focus on planning is going to take us to the next level. This upcoming Mission Leadership Council he told us that we will be looking at the mission effectiveness report (or whatever it's called) and setting goals and making plans to hasten the work.

These last two transfers, I feel like I have been learning so many life lessons.  Working with different types of people, the power of a unified vision, the power of planning, and acting on those plans.  As described by my good friend Elder Andrew Woodruff, who is finishing his mission this upcoming week, the mission is the Disciple Training Center.  I'm so grateful to be here.

To close, here's an update on the Lopez family.  Last week, the Lopez family did not come to church nor to a church activity that we had. We talked with them Saturday night and we asked them if they have felt any kind of a difference this past week. They all said that they felt empty. We explained again the importance of the sacrament. They committed to come to church the next day and asked us to give them a call to help them be on time for the sacrament. They came 5 minutes before the meeting started (the earliest they have ever been). We stopped by for a quick visit after church. We asked them how they felt. They said that they feel normal again. I am so grateful that they now have an increased testimony of the importance of church and it was really the Spirit that taught them everything.

Love you all!
Elder Christensen

NOTE: I asked Tanner what they do to involve the members with the investigators/new converts. This was his reply:

In the ward I'm in right now, we have a monthly FHE as a ward where it is encouraged for people to bring their nonmember friends.  We also make a huge push to get our current investigators there.  Also, every week the members of our ward get together to play volleyball.  This is a tradition that has been going for a long, long time. We usually have around 30-40 show up so we end up rotating who is and isn't playing.  When we aren't playing in the games, we are introducing our investigators and less actives to the active members.  We think that this had a HUGE role in the Lopez family's social conversion.  Also, we are working with a prospective elder that hasn't been active for 7 years.  He has had a blast the last two weeks at volleyball and he came to church yesterday.  On his way out, he said, "I'm surprised how many people still remember me."
So ya, that's what we have done.  We haven't really started anything new, but we have made an effective use of what was already in place. 

Love you!

Monday, April 21, 2014

"Because of Him"

So this was my first full week with my new trio.  We did pretty well this week in every category except for sacrament meeting.  We found 9 new investigators which is the most I've had in a while. It was good to get back in the groove.  Elder Williams has been helping a lot.  We had 6 people lined up to come to church and none of them came... lame sauce. 

It was so cool seeing the "Because of Him" video "light up" Facebook.  All of the members that saw it loved it.  We ended up teaching Gospel Principles yesterday with the topic of Easter.  We showed the Bible video that came out last year called, "He is Risen."  We started talking about the Easter story and why all of that was a big deal.  We tore apart Alma 7:11-14.  Then we watched "Because of Him" to close.  It was a very spiritual meeting.  Too bad that there weren't many investigators.  We'll do better this next week.

I want to share a bit of what I have come to better understand while being here on the mission.  That is the example Christ gave while passing through all that was required to fulfill the Atonement.  As His suffering in Gethsemane was approaching, Jesus said that he was "sorrowful unto death."  He partially comprehended that what he was about to go through would stretch him like nothing that He, or any other human, had ever or could ever experience.  In more modern English, He essentially said to the Father, "Father, I know that you can do anything. I know you have all power.  Please let there be some other way."  And then, he starts his next phrase with the word that has become one of the most significant words for me found in the Bible, "nevertheless, not my will but thine be done."  To quote Elder Holland, "This is the Living Son of the Living God saying, 'isn't there some other way?' And for Him there wasn't."  

So when we are called to pass through our personalized trials, we are often tempted to ask if there is any way that we could get out of it.  We ask for the bitter cup to pass.  But the answer from our Father sometimes will be the same as it was for Christ.  God does not leave the salvation of His children to chance.  Everything that we pass through has been calculated perfectly to give all of God's children the best chance for salvation.  So when we are called to drink our much smaller versions of a bitter cup, we can know that there is always a purpose.   In these moments when we ask ourselves if God's love has ceased, in fact it is often being demonstrated in ways that we are often unable to recognize.

I can't remember who said this, but there was a quote that I heard this week that went, "If the New Testament ended with the death and burial, there would be no good news."  Christ's triumph over death forged the possibility of a brighter future.  Because he lives, we will all live again.  We have the promise that we will overcome our trials and weaknesses.  We have the promise that no bitter cup is bottomless.  Because he lives, all that is unfair will be made fair. 

Elder Maxwell said, "If it is also true (in some way we don't understand) that the cavity which suffering carves into our souls will one day also be the receptacle of joy, how infinitely greater Jesus' capacity for joy, when he said, after his resurrection, “Behold, my joy is full.” How very, very full, indeed, his joy must have been!"  Someday, we too will experience this fullness of joy.  The Atonement of Jesus Christ is essential to our salvation and our eternal happiness.  All these things are made possible because of him.

I hope that you all had a fantastic Easter.  I thank you all for your love and your prayers.

Elder Christensen

Monday, April 14, 2014

Week 71

So family and friends, transfers take place tomorrow, and I'm staying here in Pomona. I'm in a trio...for the 5th time! My new companion is Elder Williams. He was my district leader a year ago. All three of us have been out more than a year and a half, so we'll keep each other moving!!

Yesterday, President came to Pomona and taught the 3rd hour of church. The Lopez family also got confirmed and President confirmed Omar (dad). It was pretty cool writing "Seventy" next to his name on the baptismal form. We are teaching one of their cousins and she really wants to be baptized. We are going to figure out how to play this one out since she is going back to Mexico soon-ish.

For a super awesome spiritual uplift, you HAVE to watch this video if you haven't seen it already. It's on If you have seen it, watch it 5 more times. And then, post it to your Facebook or email it to a friend. It's so cool!  I feel like I can take on anything after watching that video. 

Elder Christensen

P.S. Thanks to my family for the package of food and Easter goodness. I've been loving everything!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Week 70--The Work IS Hastening!

First off, I realized this week how little time I have left and it freaked me out a little.  Then, thinking over the past 6 months helped me realize that I still have a lot to do in the next 6 months.

Wasn't conference fantastic?  I loved Elder Bednar's talk.  I have a talk by him from a few years ago where he shares much of the same principles.  For some reason, it hit even harder this time.  I am so grateful that we live in a time where the talks are ALREADY online to listen to again.  I love it. (After listening to Elder Bednar's talk, I have made the following change to my write-up on Grace that I sent last week...."Simply enough, when you trust in the strength of man, you carry the load alone.  When you trust in the strength of the Lord, the strength of the Lord carries you.")

So for all those who haven't heard, my mission president has been called as an Area Seventy.  I don't have many more details than that, but I would like to say that, like President Eyring was talking about, President Becerra has become one of my spiritual heroes.  He has helped me develop a hunger for the word of God that I hope never dies out.  I can't remember if I mentioned this, but that grace write-up I did last week was a result of an invitation he gave me.  He'll do a fantastic job.

On Tuesday, we had the chance to go as a Mission Leadership Council to the temple.  It was SO cool. We went through a session and then had about 30 minutes to talk with the temple president.  And of course, when you get a chance to ask questions, all the questions you have either leave your mind or don't have revealed answers.  It was such a special experience.

Afterwards, we talked a lot about planning.  I have decided that 1) I'm awful at planning, and 2) I never want to stop planning my days. We talked a lot about having a vision for what we want to accomplish, like asking ourselves, "why am I working towards this?"  "why do I want this baptism?" "why am I going to school and studying this major?" This helped us (or me at least) get a higher vision of what we are doing out here. It was one of those lessons that I know I have been taught before, but it really sunk in this week.

The Lopez's are still doing so well.  They came to conference this week.  On Saturday night, we went to their house and two of their cousins were visiting (one from Mexico).  We had Hugo (11) help us teach by showing pictures and talk about what's going on.  As we started talking, she said, "ya, I want to be baptized. I want to get closer to God."  Hugo (11) and Fatima (14) both prayed that God would help their "aunt" get baptized.  They came to conference the next day and said that President Monson was by far their favorite. Omar (dad) said, "that man has power!"  It was so cool.

In our zone, the attitude has totally changed.  We had a meeting with our zone where we taught everyone about having that higher vision. The spirit there was so much stronger than it was last month.  In our area in particular, the number of lessons has almost doubled since the beginning of March.  I think having everyone see the Lopez baptism got them stoked.  To explain the situation a bit more, 2 of the 3 wards in our zone are historically difficult and the ward that is historically good (where I'm serving) has been having a really rough time.  One of those 2 historically difficult wards has baptized just as many this year as they did all of last year and they have another one set up for next week.  The other ward had a baptism last week and will have another this upcoming week.  Our ward had the Lopez's last week and another baptism yesterday.  The work IS hastening.

Thank you for all your love, prayers, and emails.  Transfers are coming up this week....

Elder Christensen
NOTE from Sheila... My brother-in-law (Peter Evans) met President Becerra at the training meetings for the Seventies last week. He sent us this picture Saturday after President Becerra had been sustained.