Monday, November 25, 2013

I Rode a Caraboa (water buffalo)!

 So yeah, my weekly update is a bit short this week! I don't want to talk a ton about Tuesday, as it was a rough day and I made some judgment calls that didn't pan out...basically I felt like I didn't work as hard as I could have. Also, my companion found out a sister from his last zone is in love with him, and so he was stressed as to how to handle that...not a good day!

But Wednesday, I reread John 15 as well as John 16:33 and I almost instantly felt better! We set BGDs with investigators, figured out transportation to church...Man, it was just a great day! On Thursday we had a service project working on a farm. I really grew to appreciate my lot in life after that. My body is STILL sore from that! Anyway, afterwards I rode a carabao! (a water buffalo) That was awesome, and I can check that off my mission bucket list! And the one I rode was a smaller one, too!  They can get enormous!!!
Brandon and his zone at a service project, working on a farm

Brandon fulfilling his dream of riding a caraboa (water buffalo)!  

We got some solid referrals and one turned out to be a less active part member family, which is one of the greatest teaching scenarios ever! You can be the instrument in introducing the gospel as well as resparking the flame at the same time! Friday was a hard day, but we worked hard so it felt good! Saturday we had a good lesson with our investigator Michael, and then we went with him to the Sister's baptism where my companion baptized and I gave my first talk in Tagalog! 
Brandon with his companion, Elder Olila

On Sunday we had 12 investigators come to church, but not one of the people who have been baptized in my time here in San Jose came. That was hard for me, bittersweet for sure! Bishop gave us 4 high quality family referrals, so we have a TON of work to do! It’s a tad overwhelming, but very exciting! This morning we had zone goal setting where I feel like I have a good plan as to how to best help those who we teach and who to really focus on. I'm pumped!

As far as scriptures go, John 16:33 just is everything I need to keep moving and stay focused.

 I love you all!  Just remember that Christ needs to be the center of our lives and everything we do.
Kita kits!

--Elder Christensen 

I am including Brandon’s answers to the questions I asked him in my email:
1.        How is the language coming?  You haven’t mentioned it for a while, so I thought I’d ask!
Lots better! I'm not close to fluent, but I understand most of what's going on. It also depends on how strong the spirit is at the moment. If it’s strong, my Tagalog is good! If I have doubts or the spirit isn't in the lesson, it’s rough! I speak almost straight Tagalog with my companion, which has helped a ton! He isn't as good in English, so it's good that we speak Tagalog!
2.       Tell me about some of the things that you love about the Philippines
The food--the people--their sense of humor--the most beautiful clouds and sunsets ever--how ridiculously cheap everything is--my fellow missionaries--how everyone pretty much will listen to us even though just a few end up being legitimately interested--my ward here where I have made friends that have taken me in like family. No joke, I have like two sisters and a mom in this ward!-- I love my mission president--I love how convenient stuff is. I have fresh squeezed coconut juice sold on the street for 5 pesos a cup! That’s amazing, and delicious!--I love the beautiful countryside--I love how pretty much everyone is related to someone you know, because that's just how the Philippines is!  Um, yeah, I could go on for a while there...
3.       Have you met any of the Tacloban missionaries yet and if so, have they shared their stories? 
Here’s one I got forwarded to me! (PS. Mom- I totally hugged the elder who came to our zone from Tacloban for you!)
 Dear Ones:  
We just received 15 missionaries from the Tacloban Mission which has been dissolved and 11 other missions are taking missionaries from the Tacloban Mission. The missionaries have such faith building stories and I will only share one. One missionary said that he was told to stay in his apartment.  He felt that he should evacuate but he also knew that he needed to do exactly what he had been told by his leaders. In the morning after the storm every house or building on their street was totally destroyed but the elders apartment was still standing. He said “I have a testimony of listening to our leaders.”

Sunday, November 17, 2013

"I love this life, this work, and this gospel"

Hello world!

So, this week was absolutely crazy. The news is covered in pictures of Yolanda aftermath…So yeah, they need prayers down there in Visayas.  (Note: In the Philippines they refer to Typhoon Haiyan as “Yolanda”.  Also, the major islands of the Visayas are Leyte (where Tacloban is), Panay, Negros, Cebu, Bohol and Samar)   I can't even imagine what they (the Tacloban missionaries) had to go through. We pray for them all the time, of course.

 As far as my week goes, it started out with being woken up in the middle of the night to go cast a spirit out of the sister missionaries’ apartment. My companion was the one who commanded it to leave, and there was a peace afterwards, so I think it worked! 

On Wednesday, after being punted from our first two appointments, I felt to visit a house we had never tried before. It ended up being a part member family where the Dad is less active, but wants to come back to church. It was so cool! Thursday we were able to set a baptismal date with an investigator that has been being visited by the missionaries since May, so that’s exciting! We taught some good lessons, and had a new referral! The work just keeps getting better and better in my area. I really want to spend Christmas here, but transfers are on the 5th of December (Happy Birthday Ashley!) and I don’t think I’ll stay another transfer.
Brandon with the pet monkey of one of the families he is teaching!
Well, some pretty intense disobedience was discovered in one of the houses in our zone, so the Zone leaders went on 4 day exchanges to try to help the situation until today, Monday, which is sort of a transfer day. See, we have 15 missionaries coming from the Tacloban mission, which has shut down because of the typhoon. So, earlier some of the elders involved in the disobedience were transferred, and will later on today be replaced with some missionaries from Tacloban.

Busload of 16 Tacloban missionaries arrive in the Angeles Mission!
President Martino greets the Tacloban missionaries that will now serve the rest of their missions in the Angeles Mission, since the Tacloban Mission was destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda).  The rest of the Tacloban missionaries were reassigned to the other 8 missions in the Luzon region of the Philippines

 There was a chance that my companion would become a Zone leader and I would get a new companion, but our companionship ended up not being affected. And now our house is back to normal, Me, Elder Olila, Elder Owen, and Elder Iligan. I love our house, especially since we’re all trying to have the spirit. We’re not perfect, but we are all trying to be obedient, and I didn’t realize how much of a blessing that was until this week. 
 I also have been able to not only remember things I need to repent for to better align my will with God, but I have been able to identify areas that I need to improve--specifically, humility and patience when working with members. The members here are very active with missionary work and sometimes give up to 12 hours a week working with us. Some don’t teach exactly how I would hope they would, but that’s ok! I don’t know if I would give up my whole Saturday to work with missionaries before my mission. The Lord has a way of showing us what we need to improve on, but my problem is sometimes I don’t take it as something I need to fix in myself but as something others need to fix. But I guess it’s just a process.

So, now to the REALLY good part, On Saturday, both Jasmine Leal Yasay, 12, and Anhelyn Ramos Valiente, 31, were baptized!!! YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!       
At the baptism of Sister Valiente (left) and Jasmine (right)
 Oh it was so great! Though it wasn’t the plan, I was blessed to perform the baptisms for both of them. It was so amazing. Afterward, Sister Valiente bore her testimony. She is the mother of a recent convert, and she told how as a parent, she usually tries to be a good example. But in this instance, her daughter was the best example she could have had. She bore testimony how the gospel has changed her daughter, herself, and their family. She said it’s like they’re never mad anymore. She said that Klaryl, her 9 year old daughter, when asked what she wanted, used to say a big house and a car. Now, she says she wants to serve a mission. She has one of the most amazing testimonies I have ever heard in my life. She KNOWS this is true. I have been so blessed to have shared what I believe with her. The next day at church, she simply radiated.

I love this life, this work, and this gospel. There is no greater confidante than our Father in heaven. There is no greater friend than our Brother, Jesus Christ. There is no greater companion than the Holy Ghost.  My last thought is here in 2 Corinthians 5:17-20. Become reconciled, Become a new creature in Christ.

 I love you all!

--Elder Christensen
Sister Valiente at her baptism with the elders and sisters

Another beautiful sunset!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

All missionaries in all 21 missions in the Philippines safe and accounted for after Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda)! The 204 Tacloban missionaries are found and flown to Manila to be cared for before being reassigned to other missions. Sixteen will be sent to Brandon's mission.

Here are some links to a couple of articles that talk about the miracle of all 204 missionaries serving in the Tacloban Mission being found safe after Typhoon Haiyan destroyed their mission:

See more photos at Mormon Pinoy Newsroom on Facebook: First Set of Missionaries Arrive in Manila

First set of Tacloban missionaries arrive in Manila after Typhoon Haiyan
Tacloban missionaries cared for at the Manila MTC before being reassigned to other missions in the Philippines
All 204 Tacloban missionaries reunited in Manila a week after Typhoon Haiyan

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The blessings this past weekend were incredible

Hello Friends and Family!

What a week it was! It definitely tried my patience at times, but the blessings this past weekend were incredible. 

 My first baptism has been super busy the last few weeks and hadn’t come to church for three weeks. I was seriously worried about him. He wasn’t answering any of our texts, and when we tried to find him, nobody in his neighborhood knew where he was. I’ve been praying a lot for him. BUT, this past Sunday, he showed up for Stake Conference! I don’t know if I’ve ever been happier to see someone! It was awesome! Hopefully we can get back into the swing of teaching him regularly again. I’ve really missed him. So that was the biggest thing that happened this week.  Well, maybe second biggest. 

On Tuesday during Zone Training Meeting, the Zone leaders gave a workshop about repentance and the sanctification process. It hit me hard. I realized all (well, most) the things I’m doing wrong and a ton of things that I didn’t think were big deals that I need to repent of. I spent the rest of the week preparing for interviews with president, as there were some things I felt like I needed to talk to a priesthood leader about. The interview itself was actually centered on repentance, and when I talked to him, he either said that I was all good or had adequately repented of my sins. He said I had already started the sanctification process and that as I go, it will be hard, as the Spirit will remind me of little things I need to repent of.  I know that as I repent, my will will be more aligned with God’s and I will become a better missionary. So that was cool!

Other things that happened this week…we have so many investigators that know the truth, but just don’t have enough money to go to church because the chapel is so far. I believe that they do have money, but they just don’t have enough faith to spend it this way as most of them are incredibly poor. I know that if they did come to church, the Lord would provide for them, but it’s just hard when they don’t understand or have a testimony of that. We do, however, have two baptisms coming up! So next Saturday, two more souls will have been brought into the fold! I’m so excited!

In closing, I just want to share one last story from this week. We have this investigator, Michael. I’ve talked about him before.  He’s the one who just randomly came to church once and started clapping during testimony meeting! Anyways, so we usually visit him on Tuesday and Saturday, but Tuesday was just a crazy day and we weren’t able to visit him. When we visited him on Saturday, he said that he missed us on Tuesday, and when we didn’t come on Tuesday, he went outside and read the Testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith Pamphlet we gave him last time (which is just a condensed version of Joseph Smith History). He said as he read, he was overcome with an indescribable feeling and he knew it was true. And to top it off, when he finished reading, a single ray of sunlight broke through the clouds and shone on his house, just his house. He came to church on Sunday, and we agreed to pray about a baptismal date for him. It is just a testament to me that answers come to different people in different ways. I know for me, when I finished reading the Book of Mormon on my own for the first time an answer didn’t come when I got on my knees and prayed about it. The answer for me came when I read Moroni 10 before school my sophomore year, and as I read the spirit bore a powerful witness that it was true. God is waiting to give us answers, if we are willing to accept them. I know this is true. I KNOW I am a representative of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I love you all, and I love this work. Count your blessings, and love the Lord. Till next week!

--Elder Christensen

*In answer to my question about how he liked his new companion of 2 weeks, he replied:  "Oh yeah! I love this guy, he's just so solid! I've been blessed with outstanding companions. He is super diligent and obedient, which is such a blessing for me, and it helps me work harder!"

*Below is a map showing the path of Super Typhoon Haiyan.  It went right through the central Philippines.  If you look at where Manila is on the map, Brandon's area is 100 miles north of Manila, in central Luzon (the large, northernmost island in the Philippines), so he was out of harm's way.

Friday, November 8, 2013

I'm All Good! (a short email received from Brandon after Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines)

Typhoon Haiyan, as it approaches the Philippines

Typhoon Haiyan, the strongest super typhoon to make landfall on record, hit the central Philippines this week.  They think that 10,000 people died in its wake and some cities were completely flattened.  We are praying continually for the MILLIONS of people that were affected by this typhoon.  We feel blessed that Brandon, being up north, was not affected by it.  Below is the letter he send after the typhoon hit:

Dear Mother Dearest,

So we got permission to stop by an internet shop tonight and say that we here in Angeles Mission will NOT be affected by the typhoon! Its pretty windy and there are random super heavy cloud bursts, but that's all. I'm all good! So no worries. Make sure to tell Christian happy Birthday for me, and that I could never ask for a better brother.

 So yeah. I love you so much! Take care! You always inspire me Mom, and never forget your child walks in truth!

--Elder Christensen

Sunday, November 3, 2013

"No Witness Until After the Trial of Your Faith"

You know, you can never know how everything is going to work out. You just need to go forward in faith that everything will turn out right in the end. 

On Tuesday I was just stressed out about everything that was going on. I had received some discouraging news about some friends of mine on P-day, and then some investigators had texted us wanting my old companion, Elder Lungay back. I don't know, I had just come out of a fairly punted week, too, and I was a bit nervous to go out and work, only to be punted again. There were a few other reasons as well that I won't go into, but basically Tuesday was my breaking point. The stress was just a bit too much. I did lots of praying and reading my patriarchal blessing. I talked with my kabahays and my new companion Elder Olila, and they really helped. Once we went out to work though, it was amazing!

Even though we did get punted from appointments, the work was incredible! We did some finding and found one former investigator that the missionaries stopped visiting for no apparent reason! He asked us to come back and share with his family. I looked for a progress record for him in the area book, but there doesn’t seem to be one! I’m so glad we found him. And the work just continued from there! The next day we had another awesome finding day where we were able to teach a full lesson one to a random house we knocked. The woman we taught was super interested, and we set for next week to come back and teach her family. We also had some really solid lessons that day. 

On Thursday we went on exchanges with some other elders who have actually been proselyting in a neighborhood that’s in our area! It was a handing off of sorts to get the boundaries fixed. It was an interesting day! We also received four referrals from a member there who is anxious for us to work there! So awesome! I really felt the love and support of the members this week.  

On Friday it was All Saints Day, which means everyone has a ton of food and heads to the cemeteries to get drunk and party. And we happened to be working really close to a cemetery that day! We got fed a ton! It was awesome! We also taught a ton of lessons, which was super awesome! 

Saturday, we did some more finding again, and found one family that was super interested in our message. I felt like it was the most well taught lesson I’ve been a part of yet. We were able to really relate our message to their feelings and questions. We were also able to teach that one sister that we knocked her house a couple weeks ago and she had already had the first discussion before. She just loved the plan of salvation. She has huge potential; I’m excited to continue teaching her. We also taught some investigators that day that had awesome questions for us that we were able to answer with the spirit, and we ended up setting baptismal dates for both of them!

Church was good.  We had a few investigators come to church, but many still didn’t come. Oh well! All those with baptisms soon came, so that’s good! We had another good day of work, where we found even more investigators! It’s like people just lined up for us this week, it was kind of weird! We were able to make great progress with the investigators we currently have, and introduce the gospel to many! This was easily the most hardworking week I’ve had! It felt great, too. I hope that I can continue to work hard and make this fantastic week worth it!

My new companion is amazing too.  We work hard and strive to have the spirit and great things have been happening. I look up to him so much.  He's a humble servant of Christ and serious about the work, and yet knows how to have fun! He's just the man, that’s all.

And also, every last concern, worry, and uneasiness I had last Tuesday has either been resolved and in just one case I have a plan to resolve it now. I have received a witness from God this week, but it definitely didn’t come until after the trial of my faith.

 I love you all!
 “Everything is going to be alright. Stay strong. Believe!”

--Elder Christensen

More on All Saints Day:
Every 1st day of November, Philippines give honor to the dead. It is a public holiday in the country. People from all walks of life remember their dead relatives by lighting candles, offering flowers and foods. During this events all cemetery in the Philippines look festive. People come and go and some stay there overnight. In every family’s house there are native delicacies prepared in the table and it is a custom of every Filipino to come, eat and exchange foods to their neighbors as a part of the celebration.  In the cemetery aside from material offerings the most important is the spiritual offerings. Since most Filipinos are Catholic, a mass is held in the cemetery to pray for the souls of the dead. There are some who prefer to say some prayers in front of their relatives’ grave.
the cemetery looks festive during all saints day in philippines