Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Leaving the Philippines MTC....
Hello All!

Today is the day I leave the MTC! I just want to share with you what I've learned in my time here. First thing I learned is to love everyone. I'm not going to lie there were some frustrating people here at the MTC. However, they all have great things about them when you look for them. I have learned to love my leaders, my teachers, the natives, and my fellow missionaries. They all are so phenomenal!

The second thing I learned is how blessed I am. When I have gone out proselyting, these houses are the size of my bed back home, and there's whole families living there. I just can't even believe it. I never want to hear someone from back home complain about what they don't have. Get on your knees and thank your God that somehow in his infinite wisdom he has allowed you to live like royalty while others live in cardboard boxes.

Also, my family is so amazing. Just the various family circumstances that I've seen other missionaries come from makes me so grateful. My companion, for example, had his mom move to America six years ago to make more money for the family, but his parents ended up getting divorced, his Dad just buys McDonalds every day for him and his siblings and doesn't come home for a couple weeks at a time. He has only seen his mom once in the past six years. His whole family is inactive, and he only got active because he and his girlfriend decided to. My family is so amazing. The problems I think I have aren't even problems.

 Another thing I've learned is just how close you can get with people after 40 days and 40 nights together. My kasama is my brother. He really is.  He is the older brother I never had. I love him so much. Just for my parent's information, he is coming over and staying with us after the mission. Just saying. Sister McKim, Sister Rea, and Sister Thomas are my sisters in Zion. They are honestly some of the closest friends I've ever had. They just make me so happy. Sister McKim especially, she is a lot like my sister Ashley, just a few years down the road. She and I clicked super well. My other brothers are Elder Armatage and Naulu. We ball together on the daily! I will miss our hilarious laughs and heart to hearts! They are all my family. Oh also parents, I would like to inform you I will be going to New Zealand after my mission for Elder Mo'unga's wedding. Just a heads up!
Brandon and some of his family (Elder Mo-unga, Sister Rea, & Sister McKim), saying goodbye as they leave the MTC and go to their individual missions in the Philippines

 I would like to bear my testimony in my broken Tagalog now. Ako po si Elder Christensen. Taga Lindon, Utah po ako. Takapaglingkod ni Takapagliktas ko po ako. Ako ay misyonero ng ang Simbahan ni Jesucristo ng mga Banal sa mga Huling Araw. Alam ko po na totoo ang Simbahan ni Jesucristo. Alam ko po na totoong Aklat ni Mormon. Totoong propeta si Joseph Smith at Thomas S. Monson ngayon araw. Puwede po ang lahat mga tao magiging perpekto sa pamamagitan ng pagbabayad-sala ni Jesucristo. Mahal ko ang Diyos. Mahal tayo ng Diyos. Gusto po Ang Diyos ating bumalik sa siya sa langit. Sa pangalan ni Jesucristo Amen. I love you all so much, and pray for you all!

--Elder Christensen

Friday, July 26, 2013

Proselyting was phenomenal!

Brandon's letter this week was mostly a tribute to me for my birthday, so I didn't include that part of the letter (as not to bore you), but here is the rest of what he sent. It may sound a little jumbled up because I was copying and pasting different parts of the letter.  I also attached a picture he sent of him in front of the Manila Temple. He is leaving the MTC for the field on July 31st, so we will not get another email from him for a week and a half.  I'll forward it on once we get it!

 I'm great! My ankles are healing, though the most I've done is play a light game of speed. Companion is great! He's hilarious! Proselyting was phenomenal! I didn't want to come back to the MTC!  Seriously I am so pumped for the field! I love these people at the MTC so much and I will miss them tons, but I can't imagine staying here for much longer. 

I don't have much of a general update this week, as not much happened except for proselyting. I got to go out with Elder Latu, a zone leader in Manila who taught me so much, my MTC kasama, and my teacher Brother Santos. We taught one lesson to a less active (I actually got to teach a good portion of the lesson and it went well! All Tagalog!), and before we could commit him to anything he said he was coming back to church, and his non-member family was coming as well! Such a glorious spirit was in that room! Everyone on the street wanted to talk to us and asked us to play ball.

 So, thank you for your email! I love that scripture, thank you for sharing with me! I hope Christian develops into a fantastic wakeboarder. I'm sorry to hear about Christian's ear, but hey I have something for him! He asked me what his name means inTagalog, which I don't know the answer to. BUT! I do know that Christian in Tagalog is Kristiyano (yeah, spelled like that!)

Oh! I wanted to apologize, I should have never stopped taking piano. All I want to do is play the piano here, but I don't know much! I can read music and such, but it's sad that I can't make the music I want to. You were right, and always have been right, I should have stuck with piano! Let the kids know I say that! They always ask me to play hymns, but I can only do a one handed melody sometimes! Oh that, and I wish I had done choir, because everyone can sing like angels here. So yeah, you can say i told you so! That's so awesome that Sam went into the MTC!  And Nate emailed me about the cousin thing, I'm so pumped we're cousins!

 My companion has only seen his mom once in the past six years. She left for America to make more money for the family, but his parents ended up splitting up and consequently only got to see her once in the past six years. He loves her of course, but I just couldn't imagine not seeing you for that long. I love you so much. My companion is doing much better, even though sometimes I'll look over and he will have fallen asleep.

I love the Manila temple! It is definitely "my" temple now! I love the incredible spirit it brings.

I don't really need anything, and no other mail has arrived, yet!  Well I'm just about out of time now, I love you so much!

Your boy,
Elder Christensen

Friday, July 19, 2013

An answered prayer, a small miracle and an angel

Magandang Araw Lahat!

So I only have one story to tell, because honestly it is the only thing that really mattered this week. It is a story of an answered prayer, a small miracle, and an angel. So we were supposed to go proselyting for the first time on Wednesday right? My ankle had been feeling much better. I could play basketball as long as I only moved forward, no cutting you know? (And wearing the brace of course) So the night before I was playing ball and not going hard out or anything. I tried to go around a screen and I rolled my other ankle. Yeah, the other one. I was done, but refused to stop walking on it because I was afraid if I stopped I wouldn't want to start again. It hurt so bad. The nurse said not to put any weight on it. I was back on crutches, but my recovering ankle started to kill because it just couldn't handle all of my weight. I didn't have much choice though, as I live up four flights of stairs with no elevators. I was so frustrated. I prayed really hard that night. I prayed to be healed. The spirit asked me if I had faith, and I said yeah of course! I felt at peace as I went to sleep. However, when I woke up it wasn't any better. I couldn't but weight on it. I knew without a doubt that I wasn't going proselyting. However, the MTC doctor gave me the go! That was a small miracle in itself, as I was not suited for walking around a city for three and a half hours. I decided to take just one crutch, as two would just be too much of a hassle. It was difficult, but I made do. I got put with Elder Hawkins, of Idaho and out for six months, and Elder Echano, from the Philippines and I actually was with him in the MTC for a bit! Anyway, as soon as we got out to the field my ankle was fine. Like I had to climb into a jeepnee, which is like climbing into the back of a pickup. I did it no problem. 
the back of a jeepnee
My other ankle was fine as well. I didn't need my crutch; I straight up wanted to ditch it to be honest. No pain whatsoever. And besides a 20 minute lesson and stopping one guy on the street, all we did was walk. It was a miracle. Even now they're both a little weak, but no pain. It was a straight miracle. And an answer to my prayer.
That being said, proselyting was so hard. No one would respond to me when I would try to stop them. We stopped one guy, and I said, "Do you know of the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ?" And then I froze up, forgot everything. It was bad. My companions saved me there and set up an appointment. Our one appointment we did have was terrible; the spirit was not there as her little kid had this devil toy that was the loudest and most irritating thing ever. She didn't follow through on any commitments. I was able to bear my testimony, but she wouldn't look any of us in the eye. I met up with the rest of my district severely underwhelmed with actual missionary work. They all had great experiences! One girl committed two people to baptism and my kasama made an investigator cry then committed him to baptism. Everyone wanted to talk to the sisters. Oh yeah! And everyone I talked to spoke straight Tagalog. The rest of my district spoke taglish! (Like spanglish). I was straight distraught. I felt like the worst missionary ever. I felt like I couldn't do anything. During our summary/wrap up back at the MTC all I could say was that it was so hard. I read D&C 4 and asked myself if I was really qualified for this work. I was having serious doubts about myself. I felt like a bad missionary, a failure. Afterwards, my little Filipina MTC teacher approached me. She looked me straight in the eye and said, "Just because you had a bad day doesn't mean you are a bad missionary. I feel impressed to tell you that." I straight lost it, broke down, waterfalls, the whole nine yards. It was exactly what I needed to hear at that moment. I told her that, and I knew she was an angel sent to tell me that. I know she was an angel for me. I am so grateful God was looking out for me. I've been fine ever since then, and I can't wait to go out again!

 It's all real guys. Totoo lahat. Miracles, answers to prayers, angels, everything. I am so blessed to be a part of this work.

Mark 10:51-52, D&C 4:5, 2 Nephi 32:3, Romans 8:39

Mahal po namin lahat kayo!

--Elder Christensen 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Birthday at the MTC!

Magandan Umaga Po from the Philippines!

You know, every P day I think to myself, "You know, I don't think anything crazier could happen this week than last week." And you know what happens? It just gets freaking insane!!! So I got chewed out by President Beck like as soon as I got done emailing last week about having those other Elders move in, and then the next day I sprained my ankle playing basketball! We got an x ray because they thought it was broken, but it's just a high ankle sprain. I was on crutches for a few days, but now I'm just in this little air cast thing. I was actually losing weight here because of all the ball I play but now...not so much! But I'm still happy to be here and the Lord is just trying to teach me patience, so I'm thankful for that opportunity!

Oh man, I have so much I want to say...I'll just give some highlights though! Oh! and I'll also include pictures! Oh yeah, Sunday was my birthday! My whole batch threw me a surprise party! They sang "We’ll Bring the Word His Truth" (My favorite primary song) as well as Happy Birthday and they gave me lots of Oreos, as they know Oreos are my favorite. All the sisters wrote sweet notes to me, and I almost cried because they were so nice. I cannot think of a time when anyone besides my family has done something that nice for me. These people are my family. And Elder Mo'unga is set on my coming to his wedding in New Zealand when we get home! We are so tight here...Sister McKim and Sister Rae are so amazing! They are my sisters. I love everyone here so much and I am so blessed to be with them for this short time!!

I am learning a lot! The Tagalog will start to make sense, and then they will introduce something else that just completely turns everything I've learned on its head! But it’s all good though! We can actually teach discussions that our "investigators" understand without the use of prewritten scripts or anything! We also taught some Teaching Resource Center investigators yesterday, which means they're local members. My companion was having a really rough couple of days, just not into learning or anything. It was difficult for me to remain positive. Our lessons stopped having the spirit, and our companionship study was almost nonexistent because he would just go to sleep instead. I really wanted to talk to my Dad then about what to do, but I learned to pray instead. After I got done praying, we went to teach these TRC investigators. I thought it would be a train wreck like the past couple lessons had been. However, we ended up teaching two high school seniors, who just cracked us up like no one else! They introduced themselves as Laman and Lemuel...yeah, and then they started singing Justin Beiber when I told them I was from America. I asked them to pray, and they started singing their prayers and waving arms "like we do in America". We challenged them to read the Book of Mormon somehow, and got out of there. It made our whole day! Oh my gosh...It was so funny! We met them afterwards, as well as a bunch of other members who were so excited to talk to us! It just made me want to go out to the field so much more!
And now the section of stuff I want to share, but don't really have a place for. All police officers have huge guns around their shoulders! Weird, huh? 

I have so much American pride, all of the time here, and a new batch came in with 11 Americans, so now people sing the national anthem with me! 

They don't believe in knives knives at dinner, so we spread stuff with spoons...

Until this new batch came in I was the youngest person at the MTC. I got teased a lot about it, being called Baby, Baby Face, and the sisters’ personal favorite, Elder Beiber.

 Tagalog is a lot like Spanish! For example: Familia and Pamilia, Espiritu Santo is the same, zapatos, manzana, and a bunch more are all the same! But ninyo doesn't mean child, it means “your”, which always throws me off. 

Our cat "Simba" aka "Go to church"!!!
My Kasama does the most hilarious American impression. He says "Whatever, Dude" but pronounces it like "Watt-eh-vur dee-ood". Oh and to my family, Simba in Tagalog means "to go to church" so that’s kind of funny!

Ok, an explanation of these pictures! The first one is me and my Kasama, Elder Mo'unga. 

These are all from my birthday party on Sunday, by the way. The second one is the whiteboard art from the district room. The last picture is the sign that the sisters made for my birthday (so nice!).

 The third one is the one that needs explaining. This is my family.
 The two crouching down are Elder Naulu, in the suit, and Elder Mo'unga, my companion. Starting on the left is Sister Paetou, from Jacob district (my district) and she hails from Samoa! The white girl next to her is Sister Thomas, from Lehi Utah! She is in Abinidi district, and is going to Angeles Mission with me! Next to her is Sister Ai'i, who is companions with sister Paetou, and she is also from Samoa! Next to her is Sister Rea, from Australia, and one of my best friends, also in Jacob! Next to me is Elder Armatage, from Alpine Utah, and he is the district Leader for Abinidi. He is going to Angeles and is one of the "fantastic four" elders! The other side of me crouching down is Sister McKim, also from Australia, in my district, and she cracks me up I think more than anyone else here! Next to me standing up is Sister Kinikini, from Abinidi, and from Tonga! Next to her is Sister Tuione, from Abinidi district, and from South Jordan I believe?  Also going to Angeles! Next to her is Sister Tonga'onevia, who is companions with Sister Ai'i and Sister Paetou, and is the last member of my district! Sister Foukimoana, in Abinidi, who is also going to Angeles!

Well that’s all. Serve your fellow man, love everyone, and make it your goal to become like Christ!
Paalam! Mahal Kita Lahot!

-- Elder Christensen

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Loving the MTC

Here is last week's letter that we got from Brandon.  Just a few other things that he mentioned in an email to me is that he has been to the Manila temple twice now.  He got to be the escort for a Filipino missionary going through for the first time, so that was awesome.  He is the only one going to his mission (Angeles) in his MTC district and he is the only American as well.  The others are from New Zealand, Australia, Tonga and Samoa.* 
Hello All!
 What a week it has been since my last email. My last P-day wasn't very good. I got super frustrated and homesick, but once we forgot about ourselves and started to focus on teaching our "investigator" (Just a teacher, but they're brutally in character!) Kasama ko at Ako's day got a lot better!

 Last Sunday was crazy! We saw the worldwide broadcast thingy, which got us super pumped for the field! Such great messages and doctrine, I took heaps of notes!

  Oh! On that note, I wanted to say I have tons of Australians and New Zealanders around me (we just call them Aussies and Kiwis), and I'm starting to speak like them! Not like accent wise, just vocabulary wise. Like they always throw the word "as" on the end of sentences. It means “very”. So like, "I'm thirsty as" means “I’m very thirsty”.  I thought it was weird, until I realized that saying "really though" makes just as much sense grammatically. So I'm learning the language down under, as well as Tagalog!


Elder Bednar
Anyway, so later that night we had a video from a devotional Elder Bednar gave to the Provo MTC last Christmas. It was all about the character of Christ. It literally changed my life and perspective of the world. We are so prideful, every last one of us. We need to look at the needs of others above our own, and by doing so we learn to love them. Oh my gosh, it was so good. He also talked about my mission scripture (Alma 26:12), and changed my perspective on that! When I thought about God strengthening me, I thought about it like if Brandon is a level three, through Christ, Brandon can be a ten. While it is true that Christ does improve us, that’s not totally right. It’s more like through Christ, Brandon will remain a level three, but will be able to act and perform like a ten. I have already experienced acting beyond my bounds, but I'll get to that later. Oh my gosh, I just have so much to say!

 Monday we had a small crisis in my district. A trio of sisters has had a really hard time getting along, staying together as a companionship, and agreeing on what they should do. One sister in particular just goes off on her own, and it just got to be too much. I had already addressed the issue privately and made some changes within my power, but it became too much on Monday. So, My Kasama and I prayed what to do, received a shockingly clear and sudden answer, cancelled our appointment with an "investigator" and held an emergency meeting. More than half of my district was in tears, whether for sympathy, humility, sadness or anger. It was a scary situation. However, somehow, I was able to conduct a meeting where the sisters all shared their feelings about their situation, and we all lended aid and advice. We came up with three goals that should fix the situation within our district, and I challenged them to set measurable goals as a companionship. We have had no problems concerning the matter since. I wholeheartedly believe the spirit was putting words into my mouth. As soon as I started the meeting all of my opinions about the situation went out the window, and I felt like I was able to treat everyone with love and respect that I had not felt before. It was a personal miracle for me. I know Brandon couldn't have pulled that off on his own. It was absolutely amazing.

  On Wednesday we said goodbye to a batch of missionaries. Elder Woodburn, Ramsey, Broderick, Schroder...those guys will always be legends! We hung out in their room the night before they left and executed operation GT...Oh man that was impressive! We also heard some crazy as stories man...good times with the lads! Wednesday night we, Elder Armatage, Naulu, Mo'unga and I (also known as the Fantastic Four or New Austrailica) took advantage of being the only guys on our floor and stole a bunch of the mattresses and slept in the hall. We were singing and laughing the night away. It was honestly one of the best nights of my life. Thursday Elder Mo'unga and I humbled ourselves and taught the most spiritual discussion we've had yet! It was amazing. Also, before the new batch came in, Elder Armatage and Naulu moved into our room! We're gonna party now! And that brings us to today!

 Some other things that I haven't had a place for: My teacher is the man! Brother Santos! He is like a cute Filipino teddy bear...oh my gosh! He is so funny and he always knows how to handle pretty much any situation. Ahh I had something else but now I can't remember...It's really hot? I don't know... Well, whatever!

Study the word, love everyone you meet, become like Christ!

 --Elder Christensen.
Brandon follows the Prophet!