Monday, September 30, 2013

Fastest week yet and another baptism!

Hello All!              
The fastest week yet by a long shot! I cannot believe I’m sitting down to a computer again. On Tuesday I felt a little sick, and it must have been something I ate, but it wasn’t too bad. We still got some good work done that day! 

Wednesday was sweet!  We, as a district, all had pizza after our district meeting, which was way fun! I realized that we hadn’t challenged quite a few of our investigators to baptism, and there really was no reason not to. So I think I challenged four people to baptism on Wednesday? I don’t know, it was fun though! And they all accepted and wanted to be baptized, even though a few didn’t want to set a date. I also tried squid that day! It was alright, super salty. It ranks somewhere around raw broccoli  in terms of tastiness.  

On Thursday Brother Jeff got home from his mission in San Pablo mission, and joined Elder Lungay and I in proselyting. He said he wants to work with us more, which is totally good with us! That day we taught one lesson that stood out was when we had an investigator tell us she totally believed all we had taught, but that she is just waiting for that feeling of the Holy Ghost to confirm it to her. It was interesting.  It’s the opposite problem we usually have! 

On SaturdaySaturday was just a weird day! Even though pretty much everything was a fiasco organizational wise, we were able to baptize Oscar Esteban. He was an investigator of 5 months, and it’s been a long journey for him. The next day at church he just looked so clean. He really wants his wife to be baptized, and she comes to church every week, but she is just slower to accept our message.
Elder Christensen, Elder Lungay and their new convert, Oscar Esteban, who was baptized on Saturday!
 Later, I had to deal with some Elders who were perfectly ok with blowing off work for a couple hours until we had a set appointment at six. That was frustrating, but literally the zone leaders happened to be walking down the street and they helped me out.

Later on that night, I taught the most frustrating and most difficult lesson of my whole mission. I was going to lead the lesson with this less active family. As I started, they started laughing at my Tagalog, which is pretty normal. I apologized for my lack of knowledge, but they still didn’t stop laughing. Even the dad, who is usually a stern man, was laughing at me. I started to get discouraged. I kept teaching, and it just got worse. I tried to tell my companion to take over, but he didn’t understand me. I kept going until I asked my companion to explain a passage, then I just stopped talking. I couldn’t say a word or even look up without them laughing at me, so I just sat there. I was very frustrated. However, when I took the sacrament the next day, all my frustrations just seemed to go away. There is great power in the sacrament, never forget that. Also, I then felt more love from the ward members and fellow missionaries, more so than I ever have in my mission, the rest of that day. It’s amazing how the Lord tries us before the blessings come.
I am so happy to be a missionary. We have so many investigators with potential for baptism, and I pray that the spirit may touch their hearts and turn them to Christ and the saving ordinances of his Gospel.

Lastly, I would like to make a request to all who email me: DO NOT TALK ABOUT CONFERENCE NEXT WEEK! I can’t see it for another week, and I would rather just experience it like everyone else.

I love you all, I pray for you, and thanks, as always, for your support as I continue this adventure here in the Philippines!
--Elder Christensen

Monday, September 23, 2013

My First Baptism!

Hello all!

So I think I’m not going to talk about much except for MY FIRST BAPTISM!!!

But before we get to that, some random highlights throughout the week!  Tuesday was zone conference, which was super cool! I learned a ton and got to know a lot of the other missionaries in my mission. 
Zone Conference:  Brandon said that their mission in so big and transportation is so slow that they have zone conference with half of the mission at a time (over 90 missionaries there).

Riding in a jeepne with other missionaries to zone conference

On Wednesday we had a community service project, where while building a house, I killed two deadly poisonous centipedes! You don’t really get that back in Utah! 

On Thursday I discovered that ants were eating away at my garments? Yeah, not cool, so I made sure I sprayed just about everything with permitheren (bug killer/repellant). Later on that day I had a cool experience where Elder Lungay changed the lesson plan suddenly, but it ended up leading to a baptismal invitation. I’m so glad I have a companion who was in tune to the spirit.

 On Friday we had another service project, where I got to get nice and muddy working on a farm! I got to go on exchanges with an American, Elder Black, that day as well, and I learned a lot from him!

Oh yeah! On Thursday our neighbors in our apartment complex knocked on our door because they wanted to switch apartments with us because they had family next door to us. We saw their apartment, and we were sold. It was so nice! So on Saturday morning we switched apartments with them. It even has a shower! No more using buckets for a while!
Brandon's new apartment!  It even has a shower!

After that, we headed to the baptism. Once everyone arrived, we heard some great talks from ward missionaries/fellowshippers. I was blessed with the opportunity to baptize. I got to be the one who helped Reynaldo Beltran Dela Cruz Jr. participate in a saving ordinance. After he came out of the water, we hugged right there in the font! When we were changing I asked him how he felt, and he said “wholly new.” At that moment in time, I don’t know if I’ve ever been happier in my whole life. It was just pure joy. Ah it just vindicated everything we do as missionaries. I want to invite everyone to be baptized now! It’s just the best! I can’t wait until a year from now when he can go through the temple, and I can go through with him!! He is just so golden, so sincere.

Brandon and Reynaldo Dela Cruz ("Brother Allan") right before he baptized him!

The next day at church, he was just radiating. He just looked so pure to me. Elder Owen said that he could just feel his spirit, and that he was glowing. It just so happened that my Mission President and his wife, President and Sister Martino, were at the church for a meeting with the zone leaders and local leadership. After sacrament I introduced Reynaldo or “Allan” to them. Sister Martino, upon shaking his hand, leaned over to me and said, “Gosh, he has an incredible spirit.” And it’s true. He wants to go to the temple as soon as possible to be baptized for his parents. He is destined for great things in the Kingdom of God.

Back row, starting from left:  Sister Valles (bishop's wife), Sister "Auntie" Sheridan (ward missionary that feeds them every Sunday night), Renaldo Dela Cruz Jr aka "Brother Allan" (who was just baptized!), Brother Ernie (in bishopric), and the sister who referred Allan to the them.
Front row, from the left: Elder Lungay (his comp), Bishop Valles and Brother Arthur (ward mission leader)

 I have never loved my mission, my family, this gospel, and my life as much as I do now. Thank you all for your support, Mahal ko kayong lahat!

--Elder Christensen

Sunday, September 15, 2013

No Transfer and an Upcoming Baptism!

Brandon and his trainer- neither one transferred!
Hello all!

 So what a week it has been! Tuesday was transfers, but nothing changed for me or the other Elders in my house. 

On Tuesday we taught a less active, who always invites us in and listens, but never takes it too seriously. We prepared a message more catered to his needs, and it hit home. He even started to tear up when he asked what to do when we are trying our best to be righteous and the blessings don’t come.  It was way spiritual! I also realized that the question of why there are so many churches is just something I’ve always known and just taken for granted. However, in the Philippines it is a very apparent question. It feels a little bit like Palmyra back in the day with people calling “Lo, here!” and “Lo, there!”

 On Tuesday we got caught in a huge rainstorm without an umbrella. We had to walk about an hour in the pouring rain, which was actually quite fun! However, I woke up with a cold on Wednesday, which I am still fighting now! I can still go out and work and whatnot, it’s just a little bothersome! In the morning, I rested and did lots of praying to figure out if I should stay in bed or go out to work. No definite answer came, so I took it to the scriptures. I just opened up my scriptures to Helaman 10:4, and I got my answer of what I should do. We went out to work, though I felt pretty bad. But a tender mercy came when we taught one Tatay that is all scheduled for baptism in two weeks. He had Word of Wisdom problems, but is all good now. However, I wasn’t sure he was ready for baptism until that lesson. The spirit was just super strong as we talked. I knew he was ready. 
Stopping to pose by a rice field
On Saturday, we had a zone community service project, which consisted of me hauling sandbags through a knee high river in jeans! An adventure indeed!

 Also, I don’t know if I mentioned this or not, but next transfer we will be getting new sisters in our ward, so my area will be split. Kind of exciting, but kind of sad that I won’t be able to continue teaching some of these people. 

Sunday was a harder day. We taught our investigator who is getting baptized this coming Saturday, but at this point he’s teaching us. He is just so ready for this! Our other lessons were frustrating for me, I don’t know why. I just didn’t have anything to say I guess. Well, that is until we taught this less active family. I’ve talked about them before. I don’t know if I am allowed to use their names, but I’ll just call them the “Saturday” family. So usually the mom is the one with all the questions, so we prepare our lessons more to her. However, she wasn’t there this time so we changed tactics. I felt like we should share 2 Nephi 25:26 with Brother Saturday and his late twenty something daughter. It worked. It was super spiritual, and I felt like I was able to express my feelings in Tagalog adequately. It was the highlight of the day for me for sure!

All is well in the Philippines! And if all goes according to plan, I will have baptized my first convert by next email! I love you all and thank you all for your continued support!

--Elder Christensen

Also- from my personal email from Brandon:  I asked him what the Filipino people were like.  He said, 
"Filipinos...they are kind of forward, super nice, very smiley, very considerate, and they love to talk! There are these things called "kwentohan" which literally means story time, but its just when you sit and chat for a while. Sometimes it's hard to teach, because they just want to kwentohan. Oh well! I love them so much. I don't know if I could be a missionary in America, Americans are too mean!"
When I asked him what he meant by "kind of forward" he said, "Well today for example, this girl at the burger stand we go to sometimes said, (in Tagalog of course) "You have beautiful eyes--If you want to, we should trade." Or if you gain weight, they will just tell you that. Or if you have a zit, they will point it out! It's just friendly conversation here. This one nanay is always worried about me, because I've been getting skinnier and she thinks I'm sick!"

Other pictures:

Sleepy companions on a bus

Brandon pointing out one of many spiders in his apartment

Sunday, September 8, 2013

So great to be here in the Philippines!

Magandang umaga mga kapatid!

Oh it is so great to be here in the Philippines! I can honestly say that I love my mission! I just do!

 I had a realization. Before I would think that since I’m on a mission I SHOULDN’T worry about myself or COULDN’T worry about myself or else I wouldn’t be a good missionary. While that’s still true to an extent, it was this week I realized I DON’T HAVE TO worry about myself! I can just worry about serving others and serving my Savior. I don’t think I could have been able to do that back home! This week was the first week I didn’t miss home, I mean not enough to take my head out of the work. And it went by SO fast. It’s a surreal feeling.

 Anyway! This week was action packed!  I had a trainer trainee, where I got to see a good portion of my batch mates, be taught by the Assistants about the dangers of the “Pwede Na” (good enough) current, be spiritually uplifted by a great lecture from my Mission President about Enoch and his ministry, and eat McDonalds! Seriously, McDonalds has never tasted so fantastic in my whole life! It was incredible.

Elder Christensen and many other elders gathered for the trainer/trainee meeting

There was also one day where we got caught in the middle of some rice fields in a rainstorm without an umbrella.  That was crazy! 

The best part of this week was when we taught this family, a referral from a recent convert, about the restoration. We planned to extend a baptismal invitation if the spirit so directed. It was a fantastic lesson and the spirit was strong. I asked how they felt. The Brother said he couldn’t explain it, but he felt like what we said was true, and he just felt happy. We then were overjoyed to explain to him that this feeling was the Holy Ghost. On that note we challenged him and his wife to pray to know, and if it’s true they’ll feel this ways again. After that, it was my privilege to extend a baptismal invitation to them. I couldn’t stop smiling for the next two days, it was just so amazing! It’s just so real! Tunay ito talaga!

Anyways, on Friday I went on exchanges with Elder Iligan, my zone leader, which was scary because I had to lead the area. It worked out alright though, and I learned a lot from him! I need to work on really learning my area better, and not settling for what I know I know how to say in Tagalog. He pushed me, and that’s when I could teach more effectively! And then yesterday we went on splits where I was with ward missionaries, no other Elders, and I got to lead the lessons and the area! And it went alright! I’m learning! Which is a very good sign! Anyways, that’s about all for what happened this week.

 For some random things now! The Philippines has the most unpredictable and bi-polar weather imaginable. We’ll head out from the apartment and it will be just sweltering hot, we start teaching our first appointment, then we look outside and it’s a complete downpour. And when it rains in the Philippines, IT RAINS. Also, the most beautiful sunsets and clouds I’ve ever seen are here. It seriously is just so beautiful. 

This country is amazing! I love my life! I love my mission. I love you all! All you need is love! Until next week!

--Elder Christensen

And here are some more pictures from the trainer/trainee meeting:

So fun to see Elder Armatage! 

With Sister Foukimoana (from MTC) and others
More missionaries at the meeting!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Loving my mission!

Hello from the Blessed Islands of The Philippines!

I first-off would like to apologize for not sending out a large general update last week. I had Dengue, which has been described as “a week of hell” by other missionaries. Mine lasted only four days, so I count myself lucky! It was really hard, but it ended up being for my good. It humbled me enough to reevaluate why I’m here on a mission. I will be honest, I wanted to be back home during the middle of it, but I got over it, and now I feel much much better! In fact, the past two days have been my best days in the field yet!

I’m starting to love my mission. Like I’ve loved parts, but I’m starting to seriously love it now! When you can lose yourself in the work, all the sudden time flies and you’re loving every moment! It’s not easy to forget yourself, but when you do, It’s the best feeling ever. “Whosoever shall lose his life for my sake shall find it.” I know that’s true now! I wasn’t totally sure before because I hadn’t really experienced it. But I’ve tasted it now, and it’s truly fantastic! Thank you all for your kind words and prayers, they really mean a lot to me!

Elder Owen, ZL & housemate from Alpine, UT
Now to the update! After being stuck in my bed/apartment for a few days, I had interesting feelings about missionary work. I struggled to have a desire to serve, I don’t know…I knew I had to forget myself, but it was just hard! I wanted to be selfish, just straight up! Anyway, I prayed really hard about it, and I talked to my kabahay/zone leader Elder Owen about it.

Elder Owen, by the way, is from Alpine Utah, and has three months left. I learn so much from him because he has gone through pretty much exactly what I feel and go through as a kid from Utah Valley. Anyway, he suggested that desire to serve comes from repentance. He talked about how kids are (usually) so fired up to serve when they get to the MTC because they’ve been preparing and repenting of everything so they can go on a mission. However, when you get to the field, you may not be severely disobedient but little things can bring you down and make you more self-centered. I did some scripture study, and its true! Look at Enos and the Sons of Mosiah. They didn’t have a desire for the welfare of others until they had received a remission of their own sins through the repentance process. It’s so cool! So I’ve been applying daily repentance and praying for desire and for my investigators more seriously than ever before. And it’s working! I’m loving this!

Anyways…this week...we had some great lessons, new referrals, and a couple of cool miracles! For example, our appointments had fallen through so instead of going back to town in a trike (see picture and description at the end of his letter) like we usually do, we decided to walk and talk to people! Some members from the other ward pulled over on their bike and gave us two referrals, and then we talked to an older couple who said we could come by their house next week! So cool! And it wouldn’t have happened if our appointments hadn’t have fallen through! God seriously has been helping our work so much!
Elder Christensen and Elder Lugay, walking and talking to people!

Another small miracle, we sort of have this investigator named Michael. I say sort of, because since I’ve been in the field, we’ve tried to visit him twice a week and haven’t taught him once! Sometimes he’s home and says he’s busy, sometimes his family says he’s not around, sometimes there’s no one around. It sort of became like a joke that Brother Michael might not exist! Anyways, with that background, he just showed up to church on Sunday! Never been before, and only had one lesson way back before I got here. Last time we stopped by he wasn’t home so we didn’t even invite him to come to church or anything! He just came! And he was into it too! It was fast Sunday, so testimony meeting right? It was a super spiritual testimony meeting, which was great, and Brother Michael started clapping after one of the testimonies! It was so awesome! He just approved so much of what was being said that he didn’t control himself! It was too perfect! Anyway, I know that God granted us with that miracle because of our diligent efforts to invite, even if we never actually taught. It was just a small miracle, but I’ll take it for a miracle regardless.

We have investigators with various problems, of course. One has a word of wisdom problem still so we had to push his baptism back another week, and another isn’t old enough to come to church on her own and she needs to have a guardian come with her to church but her dad is a less active who just won’t come to church…it makes me sad. I pray that he’ll soften his heart and come to church for his daughter’s sake. But on the other hand we have new investigators coming out of the cracks! One when we taught him about the restored gospel just had a twinkle in his eye when I talked about Joseph Smith. He was so engaged in the lesson, despite my pangit Tagalog. That’s another thing, my Tagalog is improving! I’ve decided to not stress so much about it. I still work hard to learn it, but I don’t try to say things that I don’t know how to say and just let the spirit guide. The spirit doesn’t tell me to say things that I don’t know how to say! So that’s a good thing. Also, people in the ward are starting to say things like, “Wow, Nagtututo Ka! (Wow, You’re learning)!”, which has never happened before, so I guess I am actually learning! This week we (my comp. and I) are going to try a day of straight Tagalog, to push my abilities! That will be interesting for sure.

Anyways, so September has come, which apparently means Christmas music? A member explained to me that when the “Bers” come (i.e. septemBER, octoBER…) that’s when you should start celebrating Christmas!  Look mate, I don’t start listening to Christmas music until after Thanksgiving, so this is just insanity! I love Christmas music, but in September? Weird, but it’s now playing in our apartment thanks to my Filipino Elders! I might not like Christmas music anymore by the time December rolls around! Anyways, that’s what’s new with me!

 It’s all true, it’s all real, and God loves you as he does everyone else, so we should love everyone else too! Till next week!

--Elder Christensen

Picture of a trike:
Motorized tricycles are a common means of passenger transport everywhere in the Philippines, except on busy major highways and very busy city streets. "The tricycle is the most popular means of transport in small towns and cities, especially in the rural areas."