Monday, December 23, 2013

Maligayang Pasko sainyong lahat!!! Merry Christmas to you all!!!

Maligayang Pasko sainyong lahat!!! Merry Christmas to you all!!!

Well! What a wild week it was! It started out with fantastic Christmas Conference! I was able to see so many of my friends in the mission, and two other graduates from Timpanogos High School! So yeah, Me, Elder Weitzel, and Sister Brady had a little high school reunion!
Elder Weitzel, Elder Christensen & Sister Brady-- all THS graduates in the Angeles Mission!
The conference was awesome, the musical numbers were super good, and my zone was able to perform as well! Super fun! President Martino read a Christmas story, “That thine alms may be in secret” It was amazing, and made me want to give my all this Christmas. The workshop was on the atonement…it kind of blew my mind! The ride back to San Jose was spent caroling at the top of our lungs, which was fantastic as well!
Brandon with his batchmates: Sister Foukimoana, Elder Armatage & Sister Thomas

So good…And I got more packages this week! Thanks Grandma and Grandpa Christensen for the most amazing English/Tagalog bible! I’ve been reading it nonstop! And the package from the Young Women in my ward was such a nice thought! I got it actually at the church after church was over, then I got to hand out candy to tons of cute little kids. I felt like Santa for just a bit there!

President Martino visits San Jose
Ok, so back to the week! Wednesday was a good day, but hard, as we found out our most progressing investigator hadn’t actually stopped smoking, so we moved his baptism back a couple weeks. But at 10:30 we got a call from some sisters in our zone that their house had been robbed! A camera and personal money were gone…not cool! So we went over there to help calm them down and assess the situation. The next day we came back and installed a new deadbolt on their door, as they hadn’t been using it and we thought their lock had been picked. We had another hard day, as we had an investigator that has SO MUCH potential and a great knowledge of gospel truths basically tell us to quit trying to convert her, she just wasn’t having it, so that was hard. But we had a tender mercy that day as we found a way nice less active/part member family, so that was cool! We got home and found out the sisters house had been robbed AGAIN! Another camera was gone, and so was their utility fund! Holy cow! And in the middle of the night, we had to go over to their house because one of the sisters saw a man on the roof trying to get in through the window! Holy cow! So we went over to calm everyone down…bishops were there, we called president, the whole nine yards. On the way home we got followed home by some girls on a tricycle coming from mass…not cool!
Picture of missionaries in San Jose, taken by Sister Martino, who said "Lots of spiritual strength in this group.  They quickly responded to a call for help."
Friday was a hard day for me, as I was crazy tired and we didn’t really get to visit who I wanted to, either they weren’t home or busy…it was frustrating. BUT! The Lord delivered me from my frustration again with another tender mercy as we went to our Joy Mercader’s (investigator) baptismal interview. I was allowed to listen in, and she passed with flying colors. At the end, my Zone Leader Elder Nield asked her to bear her testimony, and it was amazing. She talked a lot about repentance, and I just felt vindicated as a missionary. I had had rough couple of days there, but seeing her come unto Christ just lifted my spirits again. 

Saturday Elder Nield received orders not to walk because he need surgery on his toe, and my companion volunteered to stay with him, and no ward missionaries were available for splits, so I went with Elder Iligan and Elder Tufele in the other ward. It was super fun, as we went caroling to less actives! Side note, caroling is different here! A payment is expected to whoever is caroling! So we had to explain we didn’t want their money! Kind of funny. Sunday was super good, and I would like to share the highlight of the day. So first of all we were on splits, and on top of that we were visiting a list of referrals from ward members in an area we don’t really visit. Anyways, after one lesson with a family, the dad walks us out to the street, as is sometimes customary. When we got to the street, there was this woman sitting on a bench kind of staring at me, which isn’t too uncommon as I am a white guy speaking Tagalog. Anyways, we started to walk away, and I had a REALLY strong feeling to go and talk to her. I told my companions that, and we went back to her. I asked her if she knew the next person on our list. It was her! It was so cool! Her family was busy and her husband was about to go somewhere, but we scheduled a return appointment and gave her a pamphlet. It was super cool; I love when God blesses me to be led by the spirit. So cool! Anyways, this morning we had a zone activity where we hiked to some falls…super pretty! And that brings us to now!
Brandon got up at 4 am on P day to hike to a waterfall with his zone!

As far as a Christmas/Spiritual message here it goes. Sometimes, life is just messed up (2 Kings 6:26-29). But no matter what life throws at us, we are never separated from the love of our Savior (Romans 8:38-39), and we can take courage in knowing that everything life throws at us is for our good and we always have an eternal hope (2 Cor 4:17-18). Messengers still bring good tidings of great joy for and to all people, wise men still follow His light, and He still lives.

Merry Christmas!
--Elder Christensen
Beautiful Christmas lights in San Jose

Sunday, December 15, 2013

This mission is just getting crazier and crazier!

Hello All!

Oh man this mission is just getting crazier and crazier! Well, I don’t know if it’s getting crazier or just a different kind of crazy each week!

So a quick shoutout to my fam who sent the greatest Christmas package ever! I now enjoy Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Stephen’s hot chocolate for breakfast each morning here! Thanks so much! Opening that package felt like a little Christmas morning!
Posing with the little Christmas tree we mailed him!
 Anyways, this week was a bit stressful as me and Elder Soberano’s housemates were arguing almost nonstop, but we’re doing fine! We have one for sure baptism coming up on the 28th, and hopefully one more!
Brandon & his companion, Elder Soberano
 The highlight of the week was Friday for sure, when I went on exchanges with one of my batch mates (meaning we came from the MTC at the same time) and he is housemates with one of my other batch mates, so that was super fun. It was also the first time I left my area for an exchange, and the first time I slept somewhere not in San Jose since my first week in the field! I really enjoyed their area, as they had grass and some tall mountains, and it reminded me a little bit of home! I had to conduct some baptismal interviews there, and it was my first time! There were three candidates, two thirteen year old girls and the little brother of one of them. The two siblings passed just fine, but the 13 year old friend had a concern that couldn't be overlooked and meant that the baptism had to be pushed back. After the interviews, I talked with Elder Ofiana, who I was on exchanges with. He said the friends really wanted to get baptized together. I was quiet for a bit, as I tried to figure out what to do. I felt a very strong spiritual impression that the 28th was her date, and that in the grand scheme of salvation and eternity, pushing a baptism back one week to make sure she was ready to make a binding covenant with God was much more important than two friends having a joint baptism. It was hard to break the news to them, but they took it alright. I am so grateful that the spirit helped me out in a moment of stress. That was definitely the spiritual highlight of my week!
Brandon on exchanges in Lupao with Elder Ofiana & his housemates, Elder Gerrat & Elder Rebelde
 When I came back the next morning, the zone was freaking out! One companionship got in a huge fight apparently and one of the elders ended up calling it quits and going home, which meant one of the zone leaders had to go to that area for a few days…Man, the zone just has a really uneasy feeling right now…

 On Sunday morning it hit me for the first time that I really wasn’t going to be with my family this Christmas. That was not very fun, but I had a great day at church and we were able to attend a broadcast of the Christmas Devotional, which helped me refocus on what’s really important at Christmas time. And that brings us to now!

I love you all, and just remember that true Christmas JOY comes from prioritizing the service of Jesus, Others, and Yourself in that order!

Maligayang Pasko!

--Elder Christensen
Eating with zone mates at Jollibees

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Hooray! Staying in San Jose!

Here is Brandon’s letter.  He didn’t mention it in this letter, but he became the district leader with this last transfer! 

Hello all!

So, transfers came and went, and I am still in San Jose! That means I get to have Christmas here! I’m so happy! So that’s good news! I do have a new companion, Elder Soberano, as my last companion Elder Olila returned to Tarlac to be a zone leader there! It was quite the change! No one thought that was how transfers were going to go down, but it did! So yeah, I’m still here in San Jose! I’m so blessed to still be here!  This is a fantastic early Christmas gift!  

So yeah-- this week was nuts! So we went to work as normal on Tuesday, and then on Wednesday we found out the transfer announcements, then went out and visited all of the people we were closest with, and it was rough for Elder Olila. He really wanted to stay here for Christmas as well. Transfers itself were pretty cool. I got to see my good friend from the MTC, Sister Thomas for the first time since then! So that was pretty sweet! My new companion was actually assigned in this zone in a neighboring area back in the day, so he sort of knows his way around San Jose!

So yeah, the highlight of Friday was when I got to teach Tatay Oscar again, the second baptism in my time here. He’s just got such a desire to do what is right. When we said that men are that they might have joy, his eyes lit up and said how happy he is when he keeps the commandments. I love that guy, and his wife and daughter are currently taking the lessons from us, so hopefully they can become one happy family in the church.

The highlight of Saturday was when we were teaching our golden investigator, Brother Michael, and we followed up on his word of wisdom problem. He wasn’t really making any progress there, but when we explained that if he didn’t stop smoking today, he couldn’t be baptized on January 4, something just clicked! He swore off cigarettes. His pack was empty, and he said he wouldn’t buy another pack! It was awesome. Some representatives of another church came by our investigator’s Joy and Jhel’s house, so we had to explain some doctrines that they brought up to them. But they said they believed us and not them, so that’s good!  They’re still on track for baptism. 

Sunday was awesome, as I got to see all these people I love so much at church again. In the afternoon, we had what was called a one day mission, where just a ton of people from the ward came out with us to OYM all afternoon, which was awesome! We had lots of success, and found a couple of people who really want the gospel! That was awesome. And that brings us to now!

So yeah, I love this life, this area, my mission, and most importantly my Savior. Around two thousand years ago the start of the most important event in the history of the world began with the birth of our Savior. I’m so excited to be able to spend the celebration of his birth here in my “hometown” of San Jose.

San Jose cathedral with Christmas lights

 Maligayang Pasko! 

--Elder Christensen

Monday, December 2, 2013

"Each Life that Touches Ours for Good"

Holy Cow, Everybody!

So I haven’t done this before but some quick shout outs! Shout out to the other Elder Christensen here in the Philippines, to Elder Owen, my bro who just went home this week, and “his blood is my blood”, to Hermana Pedersen and Elder Spinder, who somehow got to see each other?? Way cool!

So yeah, this week was nuts! Tuesday I had the greatest lesson of my whole mission. I was on exchanges with my batch mate, Elder Rebelde, and we taught Brother Michael. So back in my first transfer, we were never able to teach him. Not even once! Not kidding! But we kept trying, we kept coming back. Here is a lesson that I learned as a missionary, NEVER GIVE UP ON ANYONE! I didn’t give up on Michael, and I now see the blessings. Anyways, he had been to church 3 times in a row, and we taught him about the Word of Wisdom, which he has a problem with. He said he doesn’t feel “Close to God” when he does those things, but then he proceeded to tell us all the times he had felt “Close to God” starting with the time he prayed in a Catholic church to find out which way to go as far as religion, and as soon as he walked out he had the impression that what he was looking for was somewhere else. He told about the time he first called over the missionaries he saw walking down the street because he felt like he needed to talk to them. He told how he felt close to God when he received his answer that Joseph Smith was a prophet. He told how he feels close to God when he studies the scriptures, and he cries, and he doesn’t want to, but he can’t help it! At this point, he was crying, and more than one tear slipped out of my eyes too. The spirit was the very strongest I have ever felt it in a lesson, coming from my heart and spreading all the way to my toes. At that point he said, ”It comes from the heart, not from the mind.”  Spot on! He concluded by saying his answer didn’t come all at once, but little by little, it came. It has been amazing to see this man be changed by the spirit of the Lord. He’s all set for baptism, but just needs to get past the cigarettes, which he’s doing better on! It used to be 30 a day, now down to 5! So that’s awesome! Anyways it was just awesome. He wants to serve a mission super bad, but he’s 25 now so I don’t know if that will happen…I hope so! The rest of the week was super solid teaching wise, but that just kind of blows the rest of the experiences out of the water!
Brandon with Brother Michael (in the red) and Elder Rebelde (who he was on exchanges with)

 Well, Sister Joy, an investigator I’ve been teaching since I got here, pretty much finally received an answer that the Church is true! She’s been reading, going to church, stopped drinking coffee, and she is even going to Young Women’s activities! Set for baptism this month!
Brandon with two investigators committed to baptism this month: on his left is Joy & on his right is Jhel

Sunday was a really hard day for me. I had to say goodbye to the elder I am closest with in the mission, Elder Owen. I don’t know if I’ve ever had a friend, outside of my family of course, that has ever helped me more than him. He is such an example to me. So yeah, if anyone runs into a Scott Owen from Alpine back home, just tell him hi for me! Yeah, so I was a bit down during church, but the spirit comforted me as I took the sacrament, and I was alright. The highlight of the day was when Michael, the same one as earlier, got up and bore his testimony during church! It was so awesome and everyone told me afterwards how blessed I was to have an investigator like him. It’s true, he’s just amazing!
Saying goodbye to Elder Owen, Brandon's housemate of 4 months who he loves dearly

The work was limited and hard on Sunday, but we were blessed later on that night with two dinner appointments! TWO! Out of nowhere!  We just got a text saying come over! It was awesome! They don’t celebrate Thanksgiving here in the Philippines, but man, I felt like I just had Thanksgiving dinner last night!

This morning we switched apartments with the sisters here in San Jose, because they had some creepers by their house, and our new apartment is in a gated apartment complex in a nicer part of town. So yeah, that happened! Transfers are coming up this week, and I really don’t want to leave here, especially right before Christmas. But, I’m excited for what lies ahead, whatever happens!

Just stay focused on the Savior, and your life is happy. It really is just that simple.

I love you all,
Maligayang Pasko!  (translation:  Merry Christmas!)
--Elder Christensen
Brandon holding Jasmine's monkey!
Brandon and his first convert, Brother Allan