Monday, May 26, 2014

2 Crazy Stories This Week

Hello family and friends.  So today was the official transfer day. Elder Febbo went home.  He was definitely one of the most influential people in my mission so far.  My new companion is Elder Vasquez.  He was already here in San Gabriel.  His area is getting replaced with sisters considering the steady increase in sister missionaries. He's got about  8 months in his mission. He's from Washington.  He was one of the first trainees that came into our zone when I was first zone leader.  It'll be super sweet.  We're going to play tennis today.

Alright, so I don't think I said much last week about the families we are currently teaching.  First, we have the Lopez family.  The mom was contacted on the street.  In the conversation, she said that her husband's name was Nefi (Nephi in Spanish).  So Elder Febbo grabs his Book of Mormon and says, "like this?" Ya like that.  So ya, he's a member.  He currently doesn't want to talk to us.  He hides whenever we come over, but his wife said that he's fine with us talking with them.  So the mom is being kind of lazy, but her kids are doing really well. Nancy (20) and Jackie (10) have come to church the last two weeks.  Brian (18) can't come to church until school is out because of some conflicts with work.  Brian is in 2 Nephi.  We are planning on having their baptism at the end of June.

Then the other family that we are teaching is the Juarez family.  The dad, Jesus, is less active.  His two daughters, Alexis and Ruby haven't been baptized.  Jesus is a single dad and he is doing an awesome job. There are some slight issues with work schedules and church so they haven't come to church in a while.  We are getting to the point that we have taught them just about everything and now they just need to start coming to church.

So now, the 2 crazy stories this week.  So each transfer, the group of missionaries going home bear their testimonies and all members and investigators are invited.  Missionaries are allowed to attend with their recent converts and/or their investigators. After the testimonies each time, President and Sister Becerra share a few thoughts.  So, all the missionaries finished their testimonies, then Elder Hoover (Assistant) gets up and says, "Now we will be favored with a special musical number by David Archuleta." Whaaat? Ya.  He sang "If the Savior Stood Beside Me" and he does not need any technology to enhance his voice. Wow!!... (No Emmy, I didn't get an autograph)

Now this story was potentially more crazy.  We go by a former investigator on Saturday and his teaching record said that he wanted to be baptized, but he decided not to be baptized because his wife didn't want anything to do with the church.  We show up and he said it had been about a year since the missionaries had dropped by. He goes back inside his house and brings out a stack of all the missionary pamphlets and also his Book of Mormon and a Doctrine of Covenants and Pearl of Great Price combo.  At this point, we are thinking "wow." It gets crazier.  He hands us the Restoration pamphlet and starts tell US the first vision word for word.  He got about 90% right.  We were stunned.  He said that he knew all this was true, but that he wants there to be unity between him and his wife regarding church.  Since she wasn't budging at all on coming to our church, he has kept going to her church.  Any suggestions on that one?

So when I came here to be Elder Febbo's companion, he was having a rough time with some stuff at home and his companion.  President told me to help him end his mission on a high, and I think we did it for sure.  We were able to see a lot of the changes that had happened in each other and it was cool to see that.

So ya, that's my week.  Hope you all are loving life!  Congrats on being done with high school, Emmy!

Elder Christensen

Tanner's response to mom's questions regarding his new area, comp, bishop, etc....

Northern El Monte is nice-ish.  Most of El Monte is super Latino and not nice.  We have a pretty good area.  We live in a perfect spot.  It's mostly Chinese and Latino. Elder Vasquez should be super good.  He could easily train or be district leader after this transfer.  I'm no longer zone leader nor district leader.  Just a regular joe. The bishop is fantastic! He's in his lower 30s and is the essence of charity.  He prefers English but goes to Spanish to help out the people.  His family comes from El Salvador but he was born here.  The ward itself is struggling a bit.  There is not much priesthood nor is there must collaboration between missionaries and ward members (minus the bishop).  We have the Elders Quorum President in our area, so we will start working with him a lot more. All packages and letters should be sent to the office now.  My actual release day is Sept 30.  With Elder Febbo, I had a lot easier time having fun.  But that's just because of who he is.  Elder Vasquez just turned 19, so it'll be a bit of an adjustment considering Elder Febbo is almost 22. As far as living situation back home, I haven't thought that far. I don't really want to get home and move right back out.  Maybe a month or two later? I don't know.  I'll start thinking, I guess. :)

Monday, May 19, 2014

Game Changer

Hello family and friends. Ready for this? Game changer...I got TRANSFERRED! That makes my third "emergency" transfer (transferred at a time other than regular transfers) to fulfill some kind of need in the mission (for brevity, I will refer to it as ET).

So let's look at my history for a second. I started my mission in the Bel 2 Ward (East LA). After 4 months, I got ETed to the Fletcher Ward (Glendale) to open a new area with Elder Smith. After 7 months, I got ETed to the Arroyo Ward (Lincoln Heights) to fill the empty spot left by the death of one of our missionaries. After 4 months, I got a normal transfer to the Pomona Ward (Pomona). And now, after about 2 months, I got ETed to the San Gabriel Ward (San Gabriel) to fill the empty spot left by an elder who went home early for medical reasons. San Gabriel is back in the East Los Angeles Stake. Now, wait for this one...My companion? Elder FEBBO! Now just as a refresher, Elder Febbo and I were companions for 3 months when we were in the Arroyo Ward (Lincoln Heights). I have been in this area since Thursday morning and Elder Febbo leaves for home at the end of this week (normal transfer time). I will have had a total of 10 days to learn the area and everything. We've been having a lot of fun.

We are focusing on two different families. Two of the daughters of one of the families came to church for the first time yesterday. They are pretty awesome. There is a pretty similar feel in my new area as there was in Lincoln Heights. Like Lincoln Heights, it's a part of the mission that hadn't been touched very much.

Sorry I don't have tons of time. Thanks for all your love and prayers!

Elder Christensen

Monday, May 12, 2014

An Invitation

Hello family and friends!  
It was so cool to SEE my family yesterday (through Skype... I promise I'm obedient).  I love how my friend Aaron described it.  It's like the year-and-a-half time gap we've been apart disappears and we feel like we never left.  It doesn't feel to me like we have been apart that long, but maybe my family wouldn't agree with that one :)
I had an interesting study this morning.  I was reading about Abinadi and at the end of Mosiah 17, it explains how his testimony was sealed with his blood.  I then thought about all the antichrists in the Book of Mormon.  When death was facing them, all of them denied what they were saying.  Yet prophets like Abinadi, Alma, Amulek, John the Baptist, and Joseph and Hyrum Smith didn't back down even though threats of death were present.  I thought back to Elder Holland's "Safety for the Soul" talk.  
He said,

"Disregard all of that, and tell me whether in this hour of death these two men would enter the presence of their Eternal Judge quoting from and finding solace in a book which, if not the very word of God, would brand them as imposters and charlatans until the end of time? They would not do that! They were willing to die rather than deny the divine origin and the eternal truthfulness of the Book of Mormon."
There are two zones in our stake.  The other set of zone leaders is teaching perhaps one of the most prepared investigators ever.  He knows Hebrew, Greek, Italian, English, and is now working on Spanish.  He is going to the Spanish ward in El Monte because he is engaged to a member there.  He has been studying for the last 6 months and just showed up at church one day saying, "I want to be baptized."  Now, the reason I bring this up.  So this guy is super smart and very well read.  His father is even more refined.  At the moment, he is against his son getting baptized because he is still under the impression that it is a cult.  This soon-to-be convert said to his dad, "Set aside everything negative you have heard about the church.  Now you cannot honestly tell me that you believe that the Book of Mormon could have been written without the power of God."  His dad didn't have any words to respond.  The conversation ended there.  And that's because there is no worthy, logical response.  The Book of Mormon is the word of God.  I have loved coming to see how the Book of Mormon really is the keystone of our religion.  There is no way to tear it apart.  For that reason, the Book of Mormon accompanied with the Spirit make up the most powerful tool for conversion.
I think too often, we think about conversion as what happens in the lives of investigators.  They switch from one church to another, therefore they convert.  Paraphrasing Elder Bednar, testimony is to know what is true and conversion is to be true to what you know.  We are all still working on our personal conversion as we continually strive to be true to what we know.  The best tool to help us get there? The Book of Mormon.  President Becerra invited all of us to read the Book of Mormon before President Villanueva gets here July 1st, so the Book of Mormon has been on my mind a lot recently.  I invite you all to take your scripture study one step further, whatever that step may be.  I recently read a talk by Elder Bednar from a CES fireside called, "Reservoir of Living Water."  I recommend that you all check that out if you feel stuck in your studies.
I love you all and I KNOW that this is the only church that has any power to save us from the consequences of sin.  And I KNOW that "in the ordinances, the power of Godliness is manifest."  I love you all and invite you all to take your conversion one step further.  A prayer that will always be answered is asking our Father, "Father, what do I need to give up to better know thee?"  This is my invitation. 
Thank you for all the love and support! Till next week.

Elder Christensen

Monday, May 5, 2014

2 Little Miracles

Hey friends and family.

So this week we had two pretty sweet things happen.

First, Omar got the Aaronic Priesthood!  He specifically asked bishop to give it to him (hurray for member friends!)  This upcoming week we will be talking to him a bit about passing the sacrament then in a few
more weeks we get him blessing the sacrament.  Sulema (the wife) bore her testimony in church.  I don't know if I mentioned this, but she bore her testimony the day of her baptism at the pulpit.  She is fearless.  The ward is doing a baptisms for the dead trip next week and we need to get the Lopez family ready to go!  We found out
yesterday that Sulema's mom died after giving birth to her, so she never met her.  We really hope we will be able to get all the information needed to help her be baptized for her!  So ya, they are still doing super awesome.

Next, we found a part-member family not on the ward list this week. This is probably my favorite type of people to work with.  So the mom, Vicky, was baptized about 20 years ago.  She was attending the El Monte ward which is about 20 minutes from where we are.  She then started moving around a lot to avoid some death threats and in the process she lost contact with the church.  3 months ago, she met a member of our ward, Carol.  She didn't know that Vicky had been baptized.  Now, we'll rewind a second.  Last week, we started teaching one of Carol's friends at her house.  We set a return appointment for Tuesday morning. On Monday, the friend cancels the return appointment through Carol, but she forgets to tell us.  So we show up and are initially disappointed not to find her there.  But Vicky was there. Carol was doing some stuff in the kitchen so she told Vicky that she
should sit down and talk to us for a second (Carol at this point still didn't know that she was already a member). We start talking and she has forgotten most of what she had learned before, but never forgot how she felt.  She has a 9 year old daughter Terry that we are now teaching and she is the sweetest, most prepared 9 year old ever. They came to church yesterday and loved it.

The work is picking up in our area!  We were able to hit the standard of excellence in every category this past week. We're having a good time.  Hope that all of you are well.

Invitation:  I get home at the end of September.  For all those that read this email, I invite you to look for 1 person to bring into the church or back into to the church.  If you are needing some ideas to get started, check out Elder Ballard's talk from Oct 2013 conference. When I get home, I would love to hear your stories!

Love you all!

Elder Christensen

NOTE: When I asked Tanner if he was for sure coming home on the September transfer instead of the November one (because his 2-yr mark is in October), he said he'd love to ask for an extension, but it's highly unlikely he'd get it. He said no one is getting them. I didn't tell him this, but I am totally okay with that!  :)   ...4 1/2 months and trying not to count!!  :)  

Thank you all for your love and support for Tanner!