Sunday, January 26, 2014

Doing just fine here in Tarlac... and this week I learned a ton!

 Brandon's District: Elders Leduna, Olila, Christensen & Dejino, Sisters Anderson, Penales, Lazan & Marcucci
Dear All!
How is everyone? I’m doing just fine here in Tarlac! SO this week I learned a ton! Last Monday was one of the most frustrating days of my life, but it was good because I had an exchange on Tuesday so I could sort of get away from the things that were bothering me until Wednesday, which was our zone interviews with president. The workshops given were super good and inspiring, and my interview was just what I needed. He told me something that is so simple but has helped me so much. He said, “When you are frustrated, you have no control.” It’s so true, and when you’re frustrated as a missionary, you don’t have the spirit and you are not effective. I was frustrated because this area is just not progressing and I don’t really understand my companion sometimes. But now, things have already gotten better. 
Thursday I had a super cool experience. Because we literally have no new investigators, we explored a subdivision in our area where missionaries haven’t gone in the past. We got there, and my companion asked me where to go, and I felt like left was the way to go. Literally the first house on the left we met Tatay Salsedo, and he is super awesome! He let us teach, and it was one of the most spiritual lessons of my whole mission. Our flow in teaching was just spot on, and it was rocking. Tatay said the closing prayer, and he was crying. So good! Friday was another good day with lots of lessons, and then Saturday came around. We had a service project in the morning, then pretty much everything didn’t go our way the rest of the day. Our lessons just did not have the spirit, whether it was because of some noisy kids or our ward missionaries  that were working with us laugh at the wrong time in the lesson, or the people just didn’t care about the message…I was fairly frustrated again. And to top it off, I twisted my ankle on a rock in the road…again. I hobbled through the rest of the night and then had to get up at 5 the next morning to prepare my talk, as I had been asked to be the concluding speaker in Sacrament meeting.
The talk went fairly well actually, but my attitude was not so great. And we had no investigators come to church. The two of our investigators who were sort of progressing shut us down when we dropped by their house before church…I just wasn’t happy. I got thinking about it, and I realized why. I was focusing on myself again! It was like I forgot the most fundamental lesson of my training! As soon as I re-realized that no matter what happens in the world around me I can control my attitude and focus on serving others, Sunday was awesome! We contacted a way solid referral who is very excited about the lessons, and we have a return appointment there! I talked to a Jew from Florida on a jeepney, which was weird, and my English was terrible, but that was cool! I got to do another interview, which is always fun, and then the first counselor in the bishopric fed us dinner! And that brings us to now! I’m happy, having fun, and things are looking up!
“Wherefore whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world.” This world is going to get better!
--Elder Christensen

Wacky district picture!

[From Angela: Just some Angeles mission trivia--Last year his mission had 1383 convert baptisms (exceeding their goal of 1350!) and their mission goal for 2014 is 1650.  Oh, and another fun fact is that his church building is where the mission office is!  So I'm hoping he'll get his packages/letters faster there!  In these pictures he is posing at the mission office!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Goodbye to beloved San Jose...and hello to Tarlac (mission headquarters) and mission friends there!

Elder Superman!

Well what a week it has been! It started out good with a great day of work on Tuesday, where we found out that two of our investigators who are not married but living together finally got their papers all done so they will be getting married in the next couple weeks so they can be baptized! YEAH! We didn't know who was going to transfer out of the two of us, so we both said goodbye to a lot of our investigators that day. We had dinner appointments pretty much all week, so that was cool! 

San Jose Zone Supermen!
On Wednesday we found out that I would be transferred to TARLAC Ward 2! Elder Lungay, my trainer, is in my zone, Sister Thomas, my batchmate and good friend from the MTC is in my zone, and Elder Olila, my 2nd companion in the field, is my Zone Leader and house mate! Super cool! I'm also the only non-Filipino in my house, so no English anymore!!!

Anyways, back to Wednesday! I said goodbye to many of my favorite people in the whole world. I did a good job keeping it together until we taught a combined lesson to Lorry Valiente, the Mercader sisters, Klaryl Valiente, and our investigator Michelle. They asked me to say the closing prayer, and I couldn't keep it in anymore. I prayed really hard that Heavenly Father would help them, and that I had tried my hardest to bring them to Christ...that was hard. 
Brandon last lesson in San Jose w/ Lorry Valiente, the Mercader sisters, Klaryl Valiente  & Michelle
We had one last dinner at Sister Sheridan's, where I said goodbye to my San Jose mom and my older and little sisters, Sisters Sheridan, Leah, and Mae respectively.
Saying goodbye to his San Jose family.....

So yeah, so far in Tarlac it’s been pretty cool I guess. My new companion is Elder Dejino, who just got done with his training. Our area is super small, and all city! Like straight up, all concrete! It’s pretty crazy...I also went on exchanges with my "brother" (Elder Lungay's trainee right now), and have enjoyed the option of having AC on at night! The new ward is super friendly, so that's good!
On to Tarlac!  Elder Christensen poses with Elders Dejino (new comp), Lungay (trainer) & Olilo (2nd comp and now ZL & housemate)

We had a zone activity earlier, where I got to know some more of my zone mates! There are TONS of sisters, more sisters than elders in this zone!!! Holy cow...I hopefully next week will have more news regarding just how the work is going, as I'm still pretty new here in this big city!
 I love you all!  Just focus on the Savior, turn your thoughts to Him and He will direct your paths! Till next week!
--Elder Christensen

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Baptizing four sisters and seeing "many miracles that have been wrought in this land"

Hello All!

Well what a week it was! First of all a big Shout Out to the Hockers and (Martin) Christensen family who sent me awesome packages! Thanks for the treats and the love!

Also a shout out to the Espiritu family, my first and favorite Filipinos back home! Pag uuwi ako, maguusap tayo sa tagalog lagi! At taga saan kayo? Naiisip ko na taga visayas si Sister Espeirtu, pero hindi ko alam kay Bro Espiritu…Cge!

We didn’t have any crazy things happen on Tuesday, we just worked hard and had some cool lessons! Wednesday at district meeting I gave a workshop which went well and we all committed to do our language study every day as a part of using the Lord’s time wisely. After we had exchanges where I got to go with Elder Daplin and my companion went to his old area in this zone. It was super cool, and we found tons of less actives to visit! Thursday literally all of our plans and backup plans fell through in the afternoon, so we knocked three houses and shared with them. 

Thursday was hard for me, because I know I didn’t work as hard as I could have. We spend a good bit of time in the afternoon at a member’s house and didn’t even share a message or anything. In the evening the lessons were good, until we went to this recent convert family’s house…we just got distracted and just kind of hung around at their house, they fed us dinner, and we didn’t even share a message there. It just felt pangit, or bad. Going to bed that night was the worst knowing I hadn’t done my best, or rather that I didn’t try to do my best. That might be the worst feeling as a missionary. Anyways, we talked about it the next morning during weekly planning and we got it all settled and were determined not to waste time like that! 

Saturday was cool, as we had a service project in the morning, and then we had our baptism in the afternoon! Ellen Rose, Aileen Joy, Christine Jene, and Gessele Mae Gadaingan were all baptized! It was a bit hectic, as we only had one jumpsuit that would fit them so they had to take turns wearing it to be baptized! Their testimonies after the baptism were the sweetest things--everyone at the baptism was in tears--the spirit was so strong! I felt like I could fly after the baptism! 
Brandon, his comp and Ellen Rose,Aileen Joy, Christine Jene & Gessele May Gadaingan at their baptism!

Sunday was good, and I have a pretty crazy story there! So when I walked into the chapel for sacrament meeting, a brother came up to me and asked me to give a talk as someone had fell through. I had no topic, no time, nothing! I accepted, and immediately began praying that Heavenly Father would help fill my mouth. I prayed for faith, and not fear. When I got up as the first speaker, I was able to give a 10 minute talk on grace in Tagalog. I talked about how through grace, we are strengthened and shared about that in Alma 26:12, my favorite scripture. When I got to the part about the “many miracles that have been wrought in this land”, I realized all the miracles that I’ve seen in my time here in San Jose, many of which were sitting in front of me in the audience. It was a great moment for me. And, the talk didn’t go bad! God definitely helped me out because I know I didn’t have it in me to get up and give a full length talk in Tagalog! My faith was definitely increased through that experience. I have been wondering about my faith a lot recently, if I have the faith to perform the miracles that a representative of Jesus Christ that holds his priesthood should, if prompted to do so. I don’t think I have that kind of faith, but through experiences like this I know my faith will grow as I put my trust more and more in the Lord. The rest of Sunday was good, and we got to go to Bishop’s for his birthday dinner with pretty much all of our favorite ward members! We worked a little more and visited some of the people we teach that weren’t able to come to church…A good night! And that brings us to now.
Christine Yasay, wearing the CTR ring that Brandon gave her at her baptism

Transfers are this week, and since I’ve been here for 5 ½ months I’m pretty sure I’m gone. It’s been a remarkable chapter of my life here in San Jose, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I seriously have never been so happy in my life! It’s crazy!

Well, Love you all! Come what may and love it!
-Elder Christensen

Brandon and Elder Stenquist

Brandon with his housemates, Elders Blackham, Potestad & Soberano

Brandon, his comp & the sisters

Sunday, January 5, 2014

A Crazy Week and a Happy New Year

Dear All,

I HAVE NEVER BEEN MORE CERTAIN THAT IT CANNOT GET ANY CRAZIER THAN THIS! So yeah, last P-day we found out the Zone leaders, my housemates, were being emergency transferred! So that happened! And the new Zone Leaders didn’t arrive until Jan 3rd, so it was just me and my companion in the apartment this week! It was good, as we grew closer than ever this week.

Brandon and comp watching fireworks from their roof on New Year's Eve!
We spent New Year’s Eve just the two of us in the apartment, but it was way cool when the fireworks started going off. We went up to our patio/roof thing and were just surrounded by 360 degrees of fireworks! 
Also on New Year’s Eve, we found out that just our most progressing investigator finally stopped smoking! And he hasn’t since!!!! 

YES! New Year’s Day was sweet as we had tons of great lessons with some of our favorite people, and everyone fed us! SO awesome! The next day was just a solid day of work, as we had great lessons pretty much everywhere we went! We started teaching this family, the Morales family, and the wife was an investigator back in high school, and she really loves the lessons. Her husband is very interested as well, and has many questions. They’re just a great little family; I hope good things happen there! 

On Friday the new Zone leaders arrived, Elders Blackham and Potestad, and they are awesome! I am looking forward to our time together in the house! So yeah, I sort of had an asthma attack on Friday night, which was super weird and a bit scary, but I got an inhaler now so that’s good! Saturday we had a Zone training meeting all about consecrating our efforts to the Lord, which made me want to be a better missionary! Later on that day though we worked hard, I felt like the day was slipping through our fingers, not enough time to share the gospel with everyone I want to! Oh well. We went with the Zone leader to the Gadaingan family to be interviewed for Baptism (the mom is a less active who has now returned to church, and now her 4 daughters will be baptized on the 11th!). 

Sunday…well I took about three steps outside our gate then sprained my ankle on a rock and fell down right there in the middle of the street! An investigator gave me—get this—a walker to use at church! It was so funny! I strapped a brace on (thanks mom!) and hobbled around all day. But Church was so awesome, we had so many less actives come to church, and tons of investigators too! We saw miracles in church attendance yesterday, and it strengthened my faith for sure. Ah I loved it! This ward is so awesome, so helpful, so friendly, so loving. I never want to leave! I feel like a little kid again who never wants to grow up! But it’s good.

I made only one resolution this year, to make this the best year of my life by consecrating every second of 2014 to the Lord. I will give my whole soul (Omni 1:26), and I know I will see miracles.

 I love you all, welcome to 2014!!!

--Elder Christensen
Brother Michael (getting baptized this month!), Brandon's "sisters and mom" in San Jose, and Elder C. himself

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Christmas Week

Sorry guys, short one this week!

Tuesday was a good day, and we had a fantastic Christmas Eve dinner at the first counselor in the mission presidency's house! So much fun, so much food! Christmas was sweet, as I got to Skype with my family! That was easily my favorite part of Christmas day itself! So yeah, then my companion got super sick and we were in the apartment all the rest of Wednesday and Thursday. Friday he was feeling better and we went out to work, but his fever came back and we went home early.

Saturday was cool though, as Mary Joy Pulido Mercader was baptized! It was so awesome to finally see her be baptized. We've been teaching her since Sept 4, so it was another lesson to me about not giving up. I knew she had potential, and I'm just glad she realized that potential. In her testimony after the baptism she said that she had come to a knowledge that it was true, not through hours of study (she was a Jehovah's Witness) but through the power of the Holy Ghost. What more could you ask for!? Sunday I was able to get a split and we had good work, as we have tons of investigators getting ready for baptism! And that brings us to now!
Brandon got to baptize Joy, Christine and Joanna!

I was worried that Christmas was going to make me homesick and not want to work, but with everything that has happened this week it has been quite the opposite! I want to work harder and waste no time! I discovered instead of sitting and thinking about my family, going out and working for them is a much, much better way to remember them! I love this work; it brings more joy to me than I ever imagined it would.

Skyping with Elder Christensen!

Happy New Year Everyone!

--Elder Christensen