Monday, December 29, 2014

Feeling peace from the Lord and spreading Christmas cheer

Silliness at Christmas conference!
3 generations!
Well, this week has been all over the place!  Monday was alright.  We had a couple of unplanned teaching opportunities so that was fun!  We also had a really good lesson with the Solis family.  They still have solid testimonies but they’re struggling still.  Tuesday was Christmas Conference and it was SO fun!  They went all out and it was a lot of fun and really got  us in the Christmas spirit! It was so fun! They had different stations we did, like Mr. Krugers Christmas, cookie decorating, photo shoot, Christmas jeopardy, and then we had a musical nativity where Elder Armatage and Sister Dally read the Christmas story and various quotes from prophets and then different zones in turn would sing various songs. It was really cool. At the end, we sang I Know that my Redeemer Lives, and I finally felt the biggest peace that the Lord accepts our offering, because we're giving our heart to this work, and I know that He has accepted it. It was unexpected, but beautiful. 

 After the conference, we were able to teach April about the Book of Mormon.  I really hope she reads it!  We taught a couple other lessons but there wasn’t a ton of time after Christmas conference.  Wednesday we were only able to teach one lesson in the morning, then in the afternoon there was an interview fiasco where we were in the Kalikid elders’ area forever, and didn’t get back until 5:00 pm, and we had to be in our apartment by 6:00 pm.  So we just did visits to our investigators as we were punted from our appointment.  We had a fantastic Christmas Eve dinner because we actually had time to cook for once!

Christmas Eve dinner with the kabahays!
 The rest of the evening I spent organizing and preparing the AMAZING GIFTS my mom sent to give away to the various friends, investigators, active and less active members and recent converts here.  Seriously, she must have put in a ton of work!  So thanks a million, Mom! 
Christmas gift bags sent to the Philippines that Elders C & P gave out

Christmas morning was AWESOME!  We all opened presents and enjoyed the stockings Mom sent.  (Thanks!) Oh! And big thanks to Aunt Michelle!  The fudge and brittle are AWESOME!  I also got Mountain Dew from Elder Tufele, new sheets from my companion, Oreos and a Spiderman coloring book from Elder Westover and an awesome tie AND certificate for a new suit from my folks back home, NICE!  After personal and companionship study, I skyped!  LOVED IT!  Apparently my cat is fat now, we have a hot tub and Dad can still dunk!  It was good to talk with my “biggest fans”!  And next time I do that, I will only have 3 WEEKS LEFT.  Crazy.
Kabahays with their stockings!
Christmas Skype with the fam!

And then Christmas got really fun!  We got to play Santa and deliver presents, and we taught a few lessons, of course!  And yes, I made a list and checked it much more than twice.
Making a list and checking it twice!
 I was able to give out ALL of the gift bags! All send a huge thanks to you, Mom.  Your love has once again reached the Philippines! Some highlights of the day:  getting fed three full meals throughout the course of the day (Elder Palabrica was about to puke.  He told me so and I just said, “You can do it!  I’ll pray for you!”  That was a blessing and we didn’t have enough room to receive it!  We also were able to help Noli, who wasn’t feeling well, and we gave him a blessing.  Biggest highlight of Christmas:  We went to the Planco family and they’re just inside watching TV.  No yummy food, no Christmas lights, no presents.  Brother Planco was all like “Just as long as your family is safe and healthy, that’s a good enough Christmas.  We were like, “OK, time to spread some Christmas cheer!”  We taught from Luke 2 and just got them all excited about the miracle of Christmas.  You could just see their faces light up as we kept going.  And after the closing prayer, we gave them all presents, even Brother Jonathan, and he was surprised.  They were so excited, I just loved it!
Elder C and Elder Palibrica ready to play Santa!

And then the 26th came, BOOM pains.  I had a rough night of sleep then I woke up with a sore throat and a headache.  After weekly planning I just crashed.  Oh, in weekly planning we discovered we’re down to 7 investigators, only one of which is progressing but even she hasn’t committed to come to church yet.  SO, we’re going to start doing some new things, like church movie nights where members invite their friends, church tours, and starting English class, so that should be fun!  But yeah, currently I’m not feeling good.  You know, towards the first half of my mission I was always dying to have a break, a rest.  Now, it just bugs me so bad!  I’ve got people to find!  And people I love to visit and help.  But whatever, I have my orders from Sister Clark, and I need to be more patient.

So on Saturday I still wasn't feeling well. I couldn't get a hold of Sister Clark, so I just prayed to know whether to work or rest, and I surprisingly felt that I needed to rest, so I did. And then Sunday came around, and we had a couple of miracles at church! Jeffery, a less active 17 year old we've started working with came to church! And now he comes with us to appointments sometimes! And Sister Baby, the mother of our recent convert Dustin, came to church! She's been less active for so long and would just always tell us there was a reason she wasn't coming to church but she wouldn't tell us. Well, she still hasn't told us, but she came to church so that is a huge step in the right direction! Then in the afternoon, neither me or Elder Palabrica were feeling very well, but we needed to get some work done. But man, that was rough, we taught some lessons, but basically the remainder of our investigators basically told us they want to listen to the words of God, but they aren't willing to act or to be baptized. We asked one if when she received a personal witness that this is God's plan for her if she would be baptized [I am so sorry I cannot form a clear English sentence anymore], and she wouldn't reply. She told us she was not going to get baptized. She asked us why we keep coming back if she's not going to get baptized, and that was an inspired question. It was because she was keeping other commitments like reading, but she's not even doing that anymore...AHHH! So yeah. Oh, and with the Solis Family, on Saturday night JR was driving home on his motorcycle and fell asleep while driving and got in a wreck and broke his femur. We visited him at the hospital today, and he's in good spirits, but he has to have it set later on today...yikes. We're praying for him.

So, after all that has happened in our area, and after the fact of working in this area for 7 weeks and not having any progressing investigators at this point, we've decided to start pulling out of this area and focus in a different part of our area. The new part we're going to go to is called Atate, and we have a few referrals there, and we feel good about going there. It's going to be a little like opening an area, again, but our efforts right now are just not fruitful. I feel like this area we've been working in has a lot of potential, but maybe it's just not the right timing, like Middoni in Alma 20, but one day I know many more baptisms will come there. But for now, we're going to try something else. Last night my companion was having a hard time, so I shared my favorite chapter with him, John 15. If the world hated Jesus, they're most likely going to hate me and my companion a lot more, but that does not make me, my companion, or Jesus failures. It just means we have to dig a little deeper, and find those who will not harden their hearts when they hear the Lord's restored gospel. No unhallowed hand can stop the work. I had the thought pass through my head earlier this week, if I would be ok if I didn't have another baptism before I went home. I thought about it for a while, and that would be ok, as long as I do all I can to fulfill Christ's commission to "go and bring forth fruit, and that (my) fruit should remain." But I know that there are many more souls out there. We're not lowering our expectations, if anything we're holding on to hope more than ever that great things are ahead of us.

Love you all, take care!
--Elder Christensen
Christmas Conference w/ Elder C's side  of the mission
Sporting Christmas pjs from Gma Christensen

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

We are not alone in this work

Wow!  So time’s not slowing down at all!  Monday evening we went out and visited a referral of a member that lives pretty far away, and they were nice enough!  They’re this couple who have a lot of teenage sons, but they weren’t around.  Apparently the people this member wanted us to meet really bad was their daughter and her husband, who turned out to be a Methodist preacher.  But he accepted a baptismal goal date back before the old missionaries got pulled out.  But they weren’t home either…but these members, the Bulacans, ended up feeding us dinner!
Tuesday we were excited and ready for the work again!  We met and taught a lesbian woman named D in the morning...that was  interesting.  We taught Michael and Mariel the law of chastity, which they currently aren’t living because they aren’t married.  Then while we were teaching Marlon, my head just started aching super bad.  We taught Mia, who had tons of questions about the apostasy and gaining a testimony.  We read Alma 5:45-46 and left Alma 32 as a reading assignment.  I hope that helps!  We taught April and her grandma, but the environment wasn’t super great for teaching, so we didn’t finish teaching them.  We taught the Llamas boys lastly, and I was kind of out of it.  Sleep was much appreciated that night!
Wednesday morning we had district meeting and transfer announcements!  My house (Elders Westover, Tufele and Palabrica) are all the same!  Elder Armatage is going to train AGAIN, which means we get one more transfer together as zone mates!  Two district members are transferring, Elder Gallego and Sister Acosta, so those will be replaced by two new faces in my district!  And that’s all I have to say about that!  Wednesday afternoon we had a way cool new investigator, but she and her family are going out of town until after New Year’s.  We didn’t have anywhere to go at one point, so we started talking to this teenage kid and it turns out that he is a long lost member!  We taught him right there on the side of the road.  I hope it helped.  Thursday we had a really good lesson with Maricel and Lyn, who are starting to progress a little bit!  We taught April the rest of Lesson 1 and we taught Mia the Word of Wisdom.  She had great objections with the no coffee part.  We asked her if she could stop the coffee and she said no, then asked again why it is bawal (forbidden).  We told her again that God said it wasn’t good for us and we need to trust him.  That wasn’t flying.  So we then explained that it’s addictive and she protested against that as well.  Then we just used logic: it it’s not addictive, just stop it and prove to us that you’re not addicted.  Then she started to see. 
Friday we visited some new investigators and one of them, Novilyn, is so golden!  But, she’s moving to another province on the 27th L.  We’ll refer her!  We also went by a member’s house that texted us because he was fuming mad at another member.  We listened for a while and shared Ephesians 4:31-32, and let him know that we are always here to help.  And it was the branch Christmas party that afternoon! 
Palayan Elders at the branch Christmas party!
Palayan Branch Christmas Party
Bien's mom doing kareoke!
And so many less actives came!  We had the children of some of our investigators come and Dahlia, Bien’s mom, came!  She had stopped listening to us these past few weeks;, but she really opened up at the party.  Heck- she belted out some karaoke! 
Big success.  We taught Dustin and the crew.  As Dustin’s been doing this scripture study every day, you can really see his growth.  He’s started asking great questions like, “Who’s Heavenly Father’s dad?”  Friday was also the day that a little red bump started to form next to my right eye.
Saturday was a good, solid day working in the vineyard.  We shared the Book of Mormon with Novilyn Gose and her family.  In the afternoon we taught Bien, then we taught Maricel and a couple of her in-laws who were rather receptive!  We had a great lesson with Mia!  She said in her praying to know that she’s felt a small change.  We talked for a while and what it comes down to is that she believes our message is true and that she needs to be baptized, but she hasn’t had that desire yet.  We taught a couple of less actives, then went home.  And that night I was starting to feel a bit irritable and exhausted.  Well, Sunday morning I woke up just not feeling good and that little red bump next to the side of my eye?  Not so little anymore.  It was kind of swollen and it hurt pretty badly.  At church I was not so hot either, then they asked me to teach the youth because the teacher didn’t show up.  I tried, but I just was really not feeling good.  I eventually went home.  I called Sister Clark and she told me to rest.  We had some appointments we needed to get to, so we went to those and then came home early.  I just rested and whatnot, but man, I just was not in a good mood.
This morning (P day) my eye is HUGE!  I’m feeling a bit better and I’m in a better mood, but my eye is almost swollen shut!  But it’ll get better. 
Painful, swollen eye :(
And as far as spiritual insights go this week, I had one thought.  Especially in this area I’ve always been praying for guidance and revelation as to what we need to do to break this area open, but it has never come.  BUT what has come has been very clear inspiration in making our lesson plans for our investigators, and the result has been incredible lessons where the spirit is super strong.  God always gives us direction, just maybe not the direction we expect.  We’re not alone in this work.  He’s working with us every step of the way!
Love you all!  Merry Christmas!

Elder Christensen

Monday, December 15, 2014

Miracles with some less active members!

Dear All-

Well, Monday started out with a miracle!  We had 3 appointments and two back-ups, and we were rejected from all of them in the space of a half hour.  Not really knowing what else to do, we went to the Planco family to ask if they knew any other less actives we could visit.  And in the Planco family all the kids are active, but the mom works overseas and the dad, Jonathan, is inactive.  We got there and it was just the right timing that Jonathan was coming home from work (he’s like never around).  We asked if we could share with him and his family.  He hastily said no, but if we wanted to share with his kids he was ok with that.  As he started to go inside, I asked when the last time he listened to the missionaries was.  He said he hadn’t since he stopped coming to church.  I asked him when that was.  He said that had been a long time ago.  Then (this is why I love my companion), Elder Palabrica pipes up and asks “Why?”  Boom.  He opened up like a book. We stood in his doorway for forty minutes listening to how he was wronged and offended.  He talked about old callings and how the Church “should” be.  I noticed that he had a lot of knowledge and ability and that he really could be a great leader here.  He started to soften and we eventually started talking about scripture study, which he hadn’t done in 6 months.  Eventually he said, “Well, I guess we should have you guys share a message.  Kids, grab my triple.”  Miracle.  As we shared a simple verse, his whole demeanor changed.  He was happy, smiling and laughing with his kids.  The spirit was there.  It was beautiful and it would never have happened if we weren’t rejected by 5 people earlier!

Tuesday was good.  We met and taught a man named Marlon who was really receptive.  His big question is, “Which?”  We’ve got answers!  WE also were able to visit with Mia, who committed to come to church, and the Solis family again.  I love them!  Wednesday was awesome as President Clark came and spoke to our zone.  He talked about how it was ok if we weren’t going to get 4 baptisms in our area by the end of the year.  He said not to worry about it and just to enjoy this great time to be a missionary and to pray that as a mission we’ll still reach our goal of 1650 baptisms this year.  The rest of that day was awesome!  Even though we got rejected a bit, and we saw Roby, not so discretely, run and hide from us.  It was all good!  We were trying hard and that’s what matters!
Thursday we had the trainers/trainees meeting, which was super good!  I was so happy to have Elder Palabrica as my companion! 
McDonalds after trainers/trainees meeting
Afterwards we went on exchanges with the elders in Kalikid, as they had an interview.  I worked with Elder Gallego, which was good!  We were a bit rejected at times, but it was good all the same!  Friday…I don’t know, I just had a dream about my parents coming to pick me up and I just woke up feeling homesick.  I couldn’t focus and it was hard to shake it.  The work was alright.  We taught Michael/Mariel’s cousin there, who listened to our message and accepted a baptismal invitation!  Cool!  We were able to teach Grace again, and she committed to read and pray about the Book of Mormon.  It was funny, we didn’t teach anyone on our daily plan—pure back-up plans!  But that’s why you have those!

Saturday was interesting.  We were asked to speak at a baptism here in the branch, so we helped out with that in the morning. In the afternoon we just were super rejected, pretty much everywhere we went. It's hard, because we make these plans that we think are good, and then we always end up scratching our heads at some point thinking what's next. Also, the family next door had their mom pass away (active members), and that was really hard for them, and the funeral service was on Saturday so we went to that. Afterwards we taught our favorite family, the Solis family, but they are still just not living the word of wisdom, and not trying to hard quite frankly (we visited with Brother Solis on Sunday and he was drinking, AGH I HATE ALCOHOL!), so that was kind of a tough visit. Then I made a mistake that night, in that I made my companion lead the nightly planning (which is a part of the training program), but I just kind of said “You do it”, kind of like throwing a kid into the deep end without knowing how to swim. Well, he did NOT react well to that. He was upset with me pretty much all Sunday, but I was able to apologize last night and we talked it out a bit, but I still feel like we're not as good as we were before. I need to rebuild some bridges. 

Only one investigator, Mariel, came to church, but a miracle happened in that her less active husband who hasn't been to church in years, as far as I understand it, came! White shirt and tie and everything! He's still working on the word of wisdom problem, but that was a HUGE step for him! So happy there. The highlights of the day was teaching our investigator Mia, who finally accepted a baptismal date for January 31, once she's received a more sure answer and she's "Really ready." Also, we're teaching this 11 year old recent convert of the past missionaries, and to get him to pray and read every day, we promised if he would do it for a week we would take him to get a snack and a soda. Well, news travels fast, and now we teach five 10-13 year old members who have organized their own scripture study class every day!  So cool! I was inspired by the faith of these youth. 

This morning we went to Dingalan, the farthest area in this zone for a zone activity, at the beach! It was like going back to Baler for a little bit! And I got to sit on the beach and talk with Elder Armatage for a long time. I love that guy.  He seriously is my best friend, and he really helps me out a lot!
Elder C. with his anak,, Elder Palabrica
Beautiful rainbow at the beaach in Dingalan
Elder C and Elder Armatage
And that’s all for this week folks!

Mini Christmas tree in package from home
As far as scriptures go, this is what I'm hanging on to! 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, 17-18 "...for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal."

I love you all, and let us catch the real spirit of the season this Christmas!

--Elder Christensen

Mosquito net sent in package from awesome Aunt Jean!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Plant, preach, work hard and invite

Hello once again!

So Monday was interesting.  We went to Cabanatuan for P-Day, to withdraw our support, then we emailed, ate at an all-you-can-rice place, then got some shopping done.  We also found out what our investigators need to do to get married so they can get baptized, which is good too!  We didn’t get done everything we needed to.  Next time we’ll plan better for sure!  In the evening we went and taught some members and got 2 referrals!  Sweet!  We then went and taught the Solis family.  JR was feeling a bit down, I think because he is struggling with the Word of Wisdom.  We encouraged him and told him he was doing good!  We had a good lesson AND got a referral from them, too!  Then Tuesday came.  In the morning we went to a far out area to track down a media referral, the first one of those on my mission aaaand it turned out to be a member.  Darn.  Oh well.  My companion and I had a good laugh about how “prepared” she was.  In the afternoon we went door to door.  That was good for just about nothing.  Everyone rejected us, and most were not kind about it.  The nicest one was a Diyakano from Iglesia ni Cristo, but he graciously told us he couldn’t listen.  We eventually taught an old Methodist grandma, and she said she would listen, but she wasn’t seriously looking to find out if this was the true church to join.  Dang.  We went to Mariel, our golden investigator who is not married, and basically it’s gonna take a whole lot of time, effort and money to get them married, so we were a bit bewildered.  We taught Jared, but he wasn’t into the lesson.  The Ruiz family told us not to come back.  They were nice about it, but that didn’t help much.  We taught Mia, who always has a lot of questions.  We then taught Roby, who is really not progressing.  We gave her a reading assignment and if she doesn’t do it, I don’t think we can teach her anymore.  When we got back to the apartment we were pretty discouraged. 

That night and Wednesday morning, I was praying really hard to know where to go and what to do to find these people who will be baptized this year, but I wasn’t getting any answers.  I wasn’t feeling anything really and that was discouraging.  I felt like I no longer had a right to personal revelation.  Then the spirit finally spoke to me and it was something along the lines of, “How can you expect an answer from God when you have such weak faith?”  And it was true, my faith was wavering.  I re-read James 1:5-6, as well as a whole lot of other scriptures about how God is a God of power and miracles but he works according to the faith his children.  I did that until my faith and the spirit returned, then it was on.  In the afternoon we taught two sisters, Jasmine and Jenin, who accepted baptismal dates for the 31st.  BOOM.  We taught Mariel again, then Bien, and now his little brother wants to listen to us, too!  We then taught one of those referrals, who is a less active/part-member family and they’re super nice!  Joshua and John Lloyd Sabido are their names.  We also contacted our other referral, and set an appointment for Thursday evening.  We then met up with Elder Westover, because Elder Tufele is in Manila doing fingerprinting stuff for his exit visa.  We ate dinner and on the way home we met a girls basketball team, who had lots of questions for us!  They reminded me of Ashley and Anna and how they are true ballers!  Anyways, AWESOME DAY, and that’s just the key: FAITH!
"Doing Standard Work"

On Thursday Elder Westover gave the zone training which talked all about “real growth” and what we wanted to improve on in 2015.  Really cool!  In the afternoon we taught a contact of ours, Lyn, and she was receptive enough!  We taught Michael about the power of prayer, and then we had to go to Cabanatuan again to meet Elder Tufele, which was a little crazy, as he didn’t have a cell phone, but it worked out.  When we got back we only were able to teach one lesson to our referral, Grace, but her kid was absolutely crazy so I don’t think she understood everything.  Friday we were pretty punted, so we eventually went to a less active’s house and we taught a lesson all about sharing the gospel and asked her how we could help her in her personal missionary work.  She asked for a couple of pamphlets, because she had a couple of friends pass through her mind as we were talking.  Yes!  We’re following up on that next Tuesday!  We had another good lesson with Mariel and then we had an INCREDIBLE lesson with Mia about the plan of salvation.  She said she had prayed to know and when she did she got goose bumps all over.  And when Elder Palabrica testified about the atonement—Man, that was one of the most powerful moments of my mission.  She committed to come to church.  Saturday morning we taught Lyn and some of her friends, which didn’t go so well, but we have a return appointment, so we’ll do better next time.  In the afternoon we taught Jared and Bien, and then we just were super punted again.  Eventually we taught Dustin, and then went to a viewing of a mother of a member who suddenly passed away.  The members gave a little service and I gave a message based on Paul’s teachings about the resurrection.  Afterwards we taught one more lesson.  

Then it hit me that it was the last chance to get people to baptism this year, because if they didn’t come to church the next day, they couldn’t meet the requirements this year.  We tried to go to a couple of our other investigators who had the greatest potential to be baptized, and they told us that they couldn’t come or they didn’t even come to the door.  We went home with our hands hanging low.  The promise of 4 baptisms wasn’t going to happen.  The only thing I could think of is that we didn’t do absolutely everything that we could have.  They only thing I could figure out is that we weren’t perfect, even though we've worked really hard. I really trusted the promise of President Clark that there were 4 people that could be baptized before the end of the year and if we came short I felt it must be because of my shortcomings.  That weighed down fairly heavily on me on Sunday. 

Good things still happened on Sunday.  We found and taught a less active/part member couple and we were finally able to teach the Solis family again!  But man, I was not in a very good place mentally.  I eventually talked with Elder Westover about it.  We first read the section of Preach My Gospel about being a “successful missionary” and he said that in his eyes I qualified there. Then he said that President’s promise was that there were 4 people that could be baptized, but these 4 people still had their agency.  We can’t force anyone to be baptized; that was Satan’s plan.  Until then I hadn’t thought about it that way.  We TOTALLY have had super spiritual lessons with way more than 4 people in my time here.  I know that the Holy Ghost testified to their souls, but for whatever reason, they said no.  All we can do here is plant, preach, work hard and invite.  And like my companion said, we’re here to help in any way we can, but we’re not here to fix everyone’s problems; that’s up to them and Jesus Christ.  We can only show people the way and do all we can to persuade them to walk that path, but we can never push anyone.  I still know this work is true, and I do know many more will be baptized in this area. We’ve just gotta work a little harder, fix the little things, and trust that Christ’s grace will be there every step of the way.  D&C 30:11 (And your whole labor shall be in Zion, with all your soul, from henceforth; yea, you shall ever open your mouth in my cause, not fearing what man can do, for I am with you. Amen.)

-Elder Christensen

Monday, December 1, 2014

A harder week, but a blessed one, too, as Bien is baptized!

Dear All-

Well, Monday and Tuesday I felt like I just made one mistake after another!  P-day was fine, except that I forgot to get some numbers and I left a sheet at the house that I needed , so we were in the internet cafĂ© for a really long time!  And we had an activity in the morning and my neck got super sunburned.  In the evening though we taught the Solis family again and JR really wants to give up smoking, so we made a plan to help him!  They are SO awesome!  After that we taught Dustin, a recent convert, and his 2 year old sister is the funniest ever!  We were teaching and I said, “…Makagkapasak sa kocharian ng Diyos.” Then Alexa piped up, “Diyos? Wala naming Diyos eh!” Which translates to: “…enter the kingdom of God.”  “God?  There is no God!”  I was dying laughing!  Anyway, Tuesday I had a moment in the morning while we were finding.  We found this grandma and her two grandchildren who were like elementary age.  I thought, “They probably aren’t going to get this.  Should we bother teaching them?”  Then I thought how they are my spiritual brothers and sisters and they deserve to hear a message.  So we taught a simple lesson about how the gospel blesses families.  If anything we planted a good seed.  (Note:  I found out that their mom works in the Middle East and that their dad is in prison..)  In the afternoon the mistakes continued as I left my name tag at the house *face palm*, so we had to go back and get that after the first lesson.  I also forgot to tell the other elders that a certain lunch appointment was cancelled, so they showed up to a member’s house expecting food and there wasn’t any.  Awkward.  But the work was good!  Analyn Ruiz seems to be softening up now as we shared about the Book of Mormon. We taught Jared, as well as Sister Roby, whose progress is slow as she has a million questions but she said she might come to church this Sunday!  And we visited the Solis family again and they are so awesome!  They’re reading the Book of Mormon.  JR is cutting back on cigarettes and they want to be baptized so bad!  Earlier during district meeting I made a mistake and said that Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Gethsemane, not the Garden of Eden.  NICE.  But it was ok, because afterwards everyone brought food and we had a Filipino Thanksgiving dinner!  I had exchanges with Elder Gementiza, which was a lot of fun!  And we had some good work in the afternoon.

Thursday was a rainy day in Palayan!  It was not just rainy as in wet, but as in it was a darker day.  We did meet this one less active who just got back from Manila who really opened up to us, so that was good!  But yeah, after that it was difficult.  We found out that Bien and his family are most likely moving to a part of Aurora where there is no church and no missionaries.  We found out that our golden couple, JR and Mariaris, aren’t legally married yet and that they can’t get married until February, so they can’t get baptized until then either.  And when we went over there for an 8:00 pm appointment JR was drinking with all of his friends….that was hard.  We did have a nice family feed us dinner that night, so that helped!  Friday was going ok.  We taught the dad of a less active member who was into the lesson!  New investigator.  We taught Jared, our goal for Dec. 27th, then Mariel, whose papers for marriage we’re hopefully going to get worked out on Monday.  After that lesson, my anak was not feeling good, so we went home and he rested.  And I got some good stuff done!  I finished Jesus the Christ, did some laundry, wrote a letter for my Christmas package to the fam, and cooked a whole bunch of Litson Manok [roasted chicken], mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy (Thanks, Mom!), hot dogs, watermelon, soda and some other stuff that I’ve forgotten already, but man, it was delicious!  And in true Thanksgiving style we all ate too much! 
Thanksgiving feast with the kabahays!

Saturday was good!  We taught Bien, then had a really good lesson with his mom, Dahlia!  We taught Mia Bautista, whose real concern finally came out as she didn’t see why she needed to pray to know because she believes all you need is faith to be saved, so why does it matter if the Book of Mormon is true or not?  We told her we would make a good lesson plan and come back on Tuesday, to which she agreed.  We taught Dustin and a couple of his friends and then took them to get some snacks because Dustin read every day and prayed every day, and that was the deal!  We taught Mariaris the law of chastity and she took it really well and committed to be baptized in February. 

Sunday was hard in that only Bien and his mom came to church.  We also had a lunch appointment, but when we got there the food wasn’t ready and so we didn’t get out of there until 3:30.  Only 3 people showed up to a fireside we put on, so we just cancelled it, and we taught a couple of lessons.  Then I really wasn’t feeling well:  dizzy, headaches, and exhaustion, so we came home and I was asleep before 7… BUT  Bienjamin Moga Pascued was baptized on Sunday, so what else really matters?  He’s the coolest little teenager and he was so pumped!  He said he felt hot, even though the water was cold. 
Bien's baptism!
What a blessing.  It’s incredible how fast people forget the blessings of the Lord when little, minor inconveniences blind our view.  We always have to be grateful for all of God’s blessings or else Satan’s distractions will consume us!  I know this work is true and I’m just so lucky to be a part of it!

-Elder Christensen

Monday, November 24, 2014

The adventures of Elder Malaki and Elder Maliit [Elder Big and Elder Little]

Dear All!
Ok!  Last P-day was good.  We went to the zoo here, which included some cool birds, a couple cool lizards, some monkeys…it was alright!  Email was good!  Alex Hocker is going to Atlanta on his mission!  Way to go!  So pumped for him!  In the evening we visited all of our investigators then had a family home evening with the Nolli Santos family.  Good fun!  Tuesday morning we had a CSP (service project) where we moved a giant pile of dirt for this part-member family. 
Moving dirt
In the afternoon I felt like it slipped through my fingers, like I didn’t do everything I could have.  I don’t know.  We did have a good lesson with the Ruiz family where we really listened to them, and the Spirit was super strong as we answered their “questions of the soul” using the Book of Mormon.  We reviewed the baptismal interview questions with Bien and that kid is excited!  Oh, and that was the day of unforgettable street contacts.  I was trying to relate the importance of family and how families can be together forever, and I said how that’s what Elder Palabrica want for our future families.  Well, this lady, ever helpful, started telling us where every single eligible young lady was in her neighborhood.  *Face-palm*  Not what I meant!  Then there were some teenage girls holding a guitar, so I asked if I could try, and then we were able to ask if we could come back and share a message, and I played a little of Stairway to Heaven.  Then, as we were talking to an elderly man, a guy came up next to us and started peeing on a nearby wall.  Interesting!  We had a few other lessons, but like I said, it was just kind of unsatisfactory.

Wednesday was good.  I felt like the Book of Mormon really spoke to me in Mosiah 26.  We had a really good district meeting.  (It was Elder Armatage’s and my 17 month mark!) th!  We taught Rufina, a hard-of-hearing less active and Ruby, who said she’ll think about coming to church with us this Sunday.  I really hope she does!
17 months!
And I felt like I received revelation on how we should teach a certain investigator.  Anyway, we went out and taught Jose, who is the most forgetful Tatay and that’s why he didn’t come to church again!  We taught Dom, and eventually I told him that if this message is true, every other church is wrong and that he needs to be baptized into Christ’s true church.  He was just not getting it if we put it any other way.  We taught Mariel, who is AWESOME and wants to get baptized SO bad but she and her less active “husband” aren’t married yet.  But we’re going to get going on fixing that!  We taught Jared, Mariel’s brother-in-law and a friend of Bien who accepted a BGD for Dec. 27.

Thursday we were only able to set one return appointment in the morning.  Nanay Ponco fed us lunch, which was SO GOOD!  We then went with the zone leaders to Laur, like the farthest part of our area, to visit President Nicanor and his family.  They lost their baby boy a couple of months ago and they’ve had a hard time with that.  We really enjoyed visiting.  President played “Black Bird” by the Beatles on his guitar, which was really awesome, then we reviewed the plan of salvation with them.  It was a lovely visit.  We had so many people we wanted to get to, but we were running behind schedule, and we got punted, but we still had some good lessons. We taught Bien, who is excited as ever for baptism.  We taught Michael, the less active boyfriend of Mariel, who wants to stop smoking, so we talked about it and made a plan to decrease it by 1 stick a day, starting now at 20.  Then we were punted again, and we were supposed to teach a man named Wilson, but when we went to his house he wasn’t home, but his brother, JR, was!  We actually met him last night and he let us right in!  We met his wife, Marieris and their one year old baby girl.  We taught them Lesson 1 and they were so engaged!  When we got to the Great Apostacy, JR was all, “So how can we know which church is true?”  GREAT QUESTION!  We explained the Restoration and how to ask God if it is true.  In our kneeling prayer, JR thanked God that He sent us to him and that he now knew God loved them because we were sent to them and that he believed Joseph Smith had a vision.  WHAT.  They accepted a baptismal goal date for the 27th. After we closed, the first question was, “When are you coming back?”  Saturday, my friend.  That is the Solis family and they are elect.

Friday was a pretty good day.  We were finally able to teach Dahlia, Bien’s mom, again and it was a really good lesson.  We taught Jared and Mariel about the Book of Mormon and that was chill!  We also taught about the Book of Mormon to Mia and Kristel Bautista and they had lots of questions!  Good sign!  Saturday we had a good day, but the highlight was easily the Solis family.  They prayed and got an answer already!  And they are so set on getting baptized.  They asked what were the “rules” of this church were, so we left a Word of Wisdom pamphlet.  Oh, they are just so awesome!  Sayang talaga they couldn’t make it to church because JR had something come up with his work on Sunday morning, but they were totally planning on coming!  Church was good!  I feel like I do way more in church than I ever have in my life.  Yesterday, for example, I gave a talk, taught Sunday School, gave 3 baptismal interviews, had coordination meeting, and then ate lunch!  Kind of tiring, actually!  In the afternoon no one wanted to listen to us for a while because Manny Paquiao  [WBO Welterweight world champion] was fighting….I was a bit frustrated.  We found a less active we’d been looking for a while, so that was good!  We taught Jared and Mariel, two great investigators.  Because Mia didn’t read like she said she would, we read with her and that was good!  We also visited with our Branch Mission Leader, CJ, to try to help him with his calling.  Overall, it was a good week!  And thus ends the adventures of Elder Malaki and Elder Maliit [Elder Big and Elder Little] for one more week!

-Elder Christensen

***I thought I’d also include this email from a senior couple that worked in Brandon’s last zone:

Dear Sister Christensen: What an amazing son you have! We enjoyed serving with him & watching how diplomatically he worked with all the missionaries. He demonstrated such concern for all of their needs & feelings. Luckily, he has a sense of humor which paid off on more than one occasion, especially with the sister missionaries. We laughed at how bothered Elder Christensen was to have Dengue Fever a second time. I thought we would have to tie him to the bed because he was just too busy to rest----even though rest is what the doctor ordered. But it won him a trip to the hospital in Tarlac & that sounded like an adventure in itself.

We were all so shocked to receive Elder Christensen's message that President Mamaradlo had passed away suddenly, without warning. Sister Mamaradlo leaned heavily on you son in the days following & he was a pillar of support to her. As Elder Lund & I were frantically trying to find temple clothes for his burial, Elder Christensen took another missionary along with his own baptismal pants & his only long sleeved white shirt & dressed the President’s body. Your son told me it was the hardest thing he had ever done & we could see he had called upon every bit of strength he had to complete that act of loving service. Then the next day, Elder Christensen met us at the family home & led out in placing the temple clothing. As Sister Mamaradlo looked into the casket afterward she said, "He looks like a King," & he truly did. The day of the burial it was pouring rain. Elder Chirstensen should have been home in bed but of course he was not. I can say that the last time we saw your son, when he was transferred almost 3 weeks ago, he looked strong & healthy. He was ready for a new adventure.

 I want you to know that we thoroughly enjoyed the Spider-Man hoodie you sent for Halloween. I have seldom seen a happier young man than Elder Christensen when he put it on. I sent pictures of him to my family.

Thanks for preparing & sending a great young man out to serve The Lord & to take care of two old people who are trying to survive in the Philippines.

Love, Elder & Sister Lund
In Captain Moroni pose, while drinking Sparkle
His new "Spalring" basketball!

Monday, November 17, 2014

A remarkable week!

Dear All,
So!  First off, last P-Day was really cool.  Email was good, but there was a brown-out that delayed us.  In the evening we visited all of our investigators and we had a dinner appointment with Nanay Ponce.  After dinner he gave us two referrals!  We then read the Book of Mormon with him.  Another good day!  Tuesday morning we had a fun service project with the zone leaders in their area for their investigator. In the afternoon we taught Maria Biyag, a less active, who recognized the difference in her life when she went to the church and she said that she would come this week.  We were punted, but we found Tess and Malu, two moms who let us share with them.  We then taught Dahlia, Bien’s mom.  She had so many questions, especially about the Book of Mormon.  My companion announced that that is what we would be sharing, even though the Restoration was what we had planned.  I hesitated, but then asked him if that’s what he really felt, and he said yes, so I followed his lead and it was a great lesson!  And when Elder Palabrica started saying, “And when you come to feel this is true,” she suddenly interrupted and said, “I’ll get baptized!”  she totally accepted a goal date for the 14th of December. My companion said that he felt like screaming.  I did, too!  We also had a really good lesson with Roby, where we explained the Book of Mormon.  It was a surprisingly good lesson and she committed to read it!  We contacted the referral of Nanay Ramos and they accepted us!  Julius, Jonna and her boyfriend Jeff!  Cool!  Amazing day.  When we got home, we did scream!
Service project
In the afternoon we taught Maria Biyag, a less active, who recognized the difference in her life when she went to the church and she said that she would come this week.  We were punted, but we found Tess and Malu, two moms who let us share with them.  We then taught Dahlia, Bien’s mom.  She had so many questions, especially about the Book of Mormon.  My companion announced that that is what we would be sharing, even though the Restoration was what we had planned.  I hesitated, but then asked him if that’s what he really felt, and he said yes, so I followed his lead and it was a great lesson!  And when Elder Palabrica started saying, “And when you come to feel this is true,” she suddenly interrupted and said, “I’ll get baptized!”  she totally accepted a goal date for the 14
Wednesday we had district meeting, where I saw Elder Armatage again.  I can’t believe we are in the same zone.  So fun! th Day Adventist missionary, and we had one “I’m busy! No!” (Yes, in English, Ha ha!) The rest of Thursday was pretty good!  We taught Tatay Jose, who apparently doesn’t come to church because he’s so old that he forgets what day it is.  Interesting concern!  We found and taught a man named Dom, who wanted to know why there are so many churches.  We couldn’t teach Malu, but we found her husband and taught him instead!  WE went back and had a really good lesson with Jeff and Julius.  We finished the message of the Restoration and when we explained that Christ’s church had been restored, complete with apostles and prophets, Jeff asked the golden question, “Where’s that church?”  Right here!  They accepted to pray to know and a goal date for the 27th of December.  We taught Dustin then Noli Santos who invited us to stay for dinner!  What a nice guy.  Really funny, too.  We taught the Llamas family again and Julius actually joined in the lesson!  Way cool! 
Elder C and Elder Armatage riding in a sidecar

Elder C with good buddies, Elder Armatage and Elder Westover
In the afternoon we were super punted.  We taught Bien, then found some new people to teach, Kristel, Anita and Daiza Mae.  Kristel was really into the lesson!  We tried to contact one of Nanay Ponce’s referrals, but we got rejected.  Sayang!  We went to the other one, which turns aout to be a part member family where two of the 20+ sons are less actives.  They are super nice and humble and we had a good lesson there.  Thursday morning we got rejected all morning.  We had 4 street contacts and we were contacted by one 7
Friday we had a good weekly planning, but afterwards it felt like we went all the wrong places at all the wrong times.  Our lesson with Kristel didn’t go as smoothly as we had hoped for, then we just straight up missed some people we were hoping to teach.  We were able to teach Bien, but his dad apparently is pretty controlling of his mom Dahlia, so she said she can only be taught sometimes… L, but she said not to give up on her!  We won’t!  She’s elect, so we will find a way. We also met an 11 year old boy that comes to church every week, but has never been taught by the missionaries.  We’ll teach him!  We got to teach Baby, an old contact, and that was ok.  We had a REALLY good lesson with Roby!  We made a special lesson plan for her all about praying to know and she really opened up to us.  It was awesome!  She wants to make our visits more regular and she accepted a soft baptismal invitation.  She said she’s never asked God a specific question, because she feels like she would be doubting Him, but she said that she’ll try it for the first time!  Heck yeah!  Good things are happening!
Saturday was the day of the kindest, nicest rejections ever!  In the morning we had a return appointment with a certain contact, but when we got there the Dad totally let us in, sat us down, and told us no.  Dang.  In the afternoon a miracle happened though!  We were on our way to an investigator when I just saw a dad standing in his yard so we decided to talk to him.  Apparently they are from BALER and just arrived a couple months ago.  They were taught by the sisters in Baler!  We taught the mom, Analyn and her 18 year old son, Ahmar!  They both accepted dates for baptism on the 27th of December!  It was awesome because when we approached their doorway, I just had the strongest prompting that we needed to teach them, and the result was a miracle!  We then met and taught Mariel, the girlfriend of a less active member and her little brother-in-law, who were both taught back in the day.  They both came to church on Sunday!  We then taught the Estigag family, the couple who now does our laundry (except for our underclothes) and they are SO nice and SO cool and SO HARDCORE Born Again Christians and they rejected our message in the nicest, most Christian way possible.  But they accepted a Book of Mormon and said they would read it and pray about it.  But they aren’t ready to seriously investigate the gospel.  But we’ll follow up about the Book of Mormon when they get the laundry and whatnot! 

Palayan elders at church
Sunday was good.  We had 3 investigators at church! We had our branch mission leader come with us again!  We taught Bien, whose baptism is next week!  We taught Mariel, whose main concern is marriage and marriage papers, but we’re going to get on that because she totally wants to be baptized!  We taught Tatay Dom.  I thought he was disillusioned because of how many churches there are, but apparently it’s more along the lines of why everyone isn’t Catholic still.  Agh!  We’ll try to explain that better next time.  We taught Kristel again, who referred her sister Mia, who is really receptive as well!  We taught Roby all about the priesthood and baptism and she said she’ll read the Book of Mormon and pray about it first before she says yes to baptism, but she understood the principle that authority comes from Jesus, not from studying or preaching from the Bible. 
And thus ends a remarkable week!  We’ve had so much help from God this week.  Truly incredible.  33 lessons, 22 of which were to investigators and a grand total of 17 new investigators!  Unbelievable.  We’ve been so blessed.  I love it!  My companion is the man and we are having fun working hard!  The Church is true and the book is blue!
-Elder Christensen

*** I thought I’d add a few other things he said in response to questions I asked him in my letter to him this week.  First I asked him about his companion that he is training.  He said, “We get along SO well! He's so fun loving, hard-working, and just happy energy! Super sweet! He's been through a lot too. His mom died because she was bit by a rabid dog, but through that tragedy he found the gospel and followed the example of his older brother to be baptized. Out of 6 kids, they're the only ones who are members. His family doesn't want to be taught and that breaks his heart. One main reason he's serving his mission is because he's counting on the blessings that will come to his family. He has THE STRONGEST TESTIMONY.”  Then I asked him how he liked being a district leader again (instead of a zone leader, like he has been the last 6 months) and he said, “I love it! It's very nice to have rolled off the responsibility of a Zone leader and to be back as a District leader. The district is good! It’s me and my kabahays [housemates], then the two sisters and two elders in a neighboring branch, and they're all great missionaries.”

*** I also got a nice email from Brandon’s good friend, Elder Westover, who is now his housemate and zone leader!  So fun! Here’s what he said:
Nanay Christensen!
Hey this is Elder Westover!  I just wanted to say your son is the best!! He and I were good friends in Tarlac and now we are in the same house!
He is an awesome missionary! He really is one of the best in the mission!!
Thank you for having such a great son and for sharing him with the Philippines and with me!
He always tells me awesome stories about your family and I'm excited to meet you guys after the mission!

Give the family big hugs from the Philippines!
Mahal ko kayo!
Elder Westover
Elder C, Elder Palibrica and their new contact
Elder C with parrot at the zoo on P day
Elder C modeling the new mode of transportation in the Angeles Mission!
Spiderman Parrot!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Transferred to Palayan and now training a new missionary!

Dear All,
Monday the branch threw a home evening for me and Elder Choresca, as we were expected to transfer.  It was really nice and cool, but unfortunately we didn’t get any investigators there. 
With Angie Mamaradlo and girls

Maria Branch farewell FHE
Tuesday we had Zone Training which went well and we visited our recent converts in Baubo one last time (Nancy Adelina cried).  We were able to teach Dexter the Word of Wisdom and apparently Fevelyn has refused to buy him anything but Milo [a chocolate drink] for a week now, so he’s started to drop coffee!  Afterwards I gave out remembrances to everyone at the Habala house and then we went and found out transfer announcements!
First off, I’m training!  AND I’m opening an area in the Bongabon Zone that just got white washed!  AND I’m in the same house as the zone leaders ELDER WESTOVER and Elder Tufete! AND ELDER ARMATAGE IS IN MY ZONE!!!  AHHH!  I was so pumped!  [Elder Westover and Elder Armatage are some of his best friends in the mission.  Elder Armatage is his batchmate who flew out to the Philippines on the same plane as him]  And Elder Gordon, who is coming from San Jose Ward 2, is taking my place in Maria!  Elder Jacobsen is transferring.  Sister Penales is training AGAIN.  Crazy stuff.  Wednesday we packed then headed down to Cabanatuan.  That night we attended a missionary fireside with some of the missionaries there, but it was kind of awkward because we knew no one in that ward…Oh well! 

New kabahays:  Elder Westover, Elder Tufete, Elder C and Elder Palabrica
And Thursday was the big day.  I went to Tarlac to meet my new anak!  We had some good workshops by President and Sister Clark, and then I met my anak! Elder Palabrica!  He’s 19, from Mindinao, and he’s full of energy!  Seriously he’s your typical spunky greenie, but like overcharged!  I love him!  He and his older brother are the only members in his family of 8, and he has the most incredible faith and optimism. 
With his new anak (son), Elder Palabrica
With his son (trainee) and his father (trainer)!
After lunch, we headed back to Cabanatuan, where we met up with Elder Westover and Elder Tufele.  We had to wait there a while because a member of our zone hadn’t arrived yet.  Then we went to our new area, Palayan B!  After we dropped off our stuff, the elders showed us the houses of a couple of members, and then went home.

Friday we had an odd weekly planning, as we knew nobody to plan for!  Afterwards, we had an odd emergency-type meeting in Cabanatuan.  President just laid out that in order to meet the 1650 baptisms this year (our goal as a mission), each companionship needs to get 4 baptisms before December 31.  They talked a lot about faith, promise and trust in God.  We were all pumped.  Once we got back to our area, we hit the ground running, but man it was like we ran into a brick wall.  We found a less active, then we taught one family who really was not interested and then one sister who is OK with us visiting, but refuses to pray to know the truth.  Her name is Roby Bautista and she was our only new investigator.  I told Elder Westover that I was glad the hardest day of my mission was over with, because it could only go up from there.  Oh, I was so wrong.  Saturday we had two return appointments we had set up with contacts,  Yeah, neither of them were around. By the way, in the past 3 days I’ve never talked to/been rejected by so many people.  It a good thing that my companion is the courageous ball of energy in our companionship!  We were able to teach one man, Jeve, who accepted a soft baptismal invitation.  We got a couple of referrals, but as we went to try to find them, some guy on a motorcycle and side car fired a homemade gun that shoots marbles at us.  We didn’t linger long!  I was seriously freaked out.  We eventually taught a recent convert, then wandered around looking for houses with lights on (It was about 7:30 at this point).  We actually were able to set some appointments for next week.  But man,  THAT was the hardest day of my mission.

Sunday morning I broke down.  I’m just not used to this kind of rejection.  I feel like I can’t get any revelation on where to go or what to do.  I just woke up with this dread in my chest.  I haven’t felt like this since my first couple of weeks of my training.  Elder Westover and I talked for a while and he really helped me get a better perspective on things.  We went to church, which was good.  We have a beautiful new chapel and the members were super nice and receptive!  And we had an investigator come to church!  He’s this 10 year old kid named Bien, and apparently he has a baptismal date for the 29th!  What do you know!   After church  we had CJ, the Branch mission leader, and Nathaniel, a 16-year-old young man, come and work with us!  We also had a special sacrament for a woman who has had a stroke and can no longer walk.  We also taught Bien and there’s a possibility that we can teach his mom in the future, and she is super nice!  We found Anarira along the way.  She is a former investigator from Cabanatuan who welcomed us with open arms.  We started to teach, but her baby was getting all fussy so we just set an appointment for Tuesday.  We taught Roby again, teaching from the Apostasy to the Restoration again, which she understood more this time, but she is very active in her current faith and she still refuses to pray and ask God.  We are going to give her a Book of Mormon and hope for a miracle there.  After that we went looking for a referral given to us by a member.  We went to one house to ask if they knew him and they immediately opened their gate and let us in.  It turns out it’s this less active family that had a cousin, Mitsel, who is not a member, over when we visited.  At first Mitsel told us she wasn’t interested in this, but then Elder Palabrica shared a super spiritual message about praying for strength in trials.  It was a great lesson and by the end we were able to give Mitsel a pamphlet and she said it would be OK if we visited her again.  Actually, a good day!

We are taking it one day at a time here, but Sunday was an infinitely better day than the previous two days!  And I’m feeling OK now.  And I feel like we are getting more established here.  I am still so happy I’m a missionary and so blessed.  The Church is true, ya’ll!

Pictures from his last Mission Leadership Council meetings at the mission home
One last pictures with his kabahays in Maria before transfers
-Elder Christensen