Sunday, March 30, 2014

I should have brought more Pepto-Bismol...

Hey Everybody!
So this week was different...everything started out good! We had good lessons on Monday night and a fairly good day on Tuesday as well, but Tuesday night I just was feeling super tired and not so good. I didn't think I had eaten anything bad, but boy was I wrong. Wednesday I woke up with a fever and migraine headache...not too much fun. I was in bed all of Wednesday until Wednesday night when I started throwing up and other things, so at that point I started my diet of toast, apples, and bananas to try to set at bay whatever I had eaten...
Thursday was battling my stomach in the bathroom all day while still fighting a fever...Friday the fever left but the stomach problems remained...and Saturday my stomach still wasn't perfect but we had a baptism to get to!

So the one highlight this week was that Arianne Bernardo was baptized!!!! It was so awesome, she was just glowing afterwards, as they all do. And she's totally getting involved with the church; she wants to go to Youth Conference next month! She's super solid!
Arianne gets baptized!!!
Oh And Sonny Layug has gone out and worked with us 2 more times. All he wants to do is work! Super solid! So, so far the recent converts are staying strong! The work on Saturday was good as well, but that wasn't even close to the highlight. 

Sunday was a hard day, as I still wasn't totally feeling good, and the lessons were few and far between. But we had a dinner appointment that was super nice. I love solid active families in the church; the spirit is just so strong in their homes! And that brings us to now! Hopefully we will be having two baptisms coming up this month, so the work will go forward! No weapon formed against us will prosper, even a really upset stomach!

Love you all!
--Elder Christensen

Here is Arianne’s conversion story that he emailed me:
Group shot at Arianne's baptism
 So she, first of all, was a tender mercy that came when I got here. As you know, we had NO progressing investigators when I got here, but we worked hard and good things started happening! She was a referral coming from an assistant, Elder Olsen. He met her at a ward home evening that their ward had. Arianne's Grandpa, a strong member, was about to move to America so he invited all of his family to this activity and there he bore powerful testimony about the plan of salvation. Arianne was moved by it, even though she's only 14. She talked with Elder Olsen, who then referred her to us. We taught her at her grandma's house, who is a member. She is SO smart, like you tell her something once and she can recall it just like that a month later. It was a bit of a struggle to be able to teach her for a while there, because she was so hardworking with her studies (she's one of the top students in her high school). When Andrew Layug (Sonny’s brother) became ineligible to be baptized, that’s when Arianne started coming to church! Before her interview, we taught her three lessons in one sitting because we hadn't been able to teach her in about a week and a half before that! But it all worked out, and she's just awesome! She reminds me a lot of Anna because she is so tall for her age/gender/nationality! So yeah!
Elder Christensen with his new convert, Arianne

Monday, March 24, 2014

Darkness and Light

Dear All!

Well, just like that it’s been another week! It’s been an incredible one, moments of real darkness and moments of pure light. Let’s start at the top! Tuesday was kind of rough. We met the Layug Family’s neighbor, a faith healer who is blind and knew a lot about Joseph Smith but says she’s never met with the missionaries…I don’t know, I felt like I wasn’t fully prepared for that day, and that ultimately it slipped through our fingers and we didn’t work as hard as we could have.
 Wednesday the work was absolutely awesome! We taught one recent convert, Jessica, at the Plaza again, where we had tons of OYMs, so that was really fun. We were able to teach 8 lessons, and they went really good. It was such a good day until the evening. Me and my comp got into an argument of sorts about just the stupidest things…we were in our room until 11 at night, and then we ate dinner and went to bed. In the morning we both had humbled ourselves a bit and it was all good. We taught Maria and then her husband/live in Roldan, and they’re either going to get separated or married soon here, and she keeps saying hopefully before I transfer out in May.
Later that afternoon Sonny Layug told us that he had encountered Joseph Smith and polygamy on the internet…of course, the week of his baptism. We talked about it for a while there, but it ultimately came down to if he had prayed to know the truth. He said he had, and he had prayed the night before to know what to do and he felt he should go through with his baptism. We bore witness that that was of God, and he was a bit more at peace about things. We had a few more lessons, but right before we went home we ran into Brother Jericho, a 14 year old less active. He’s a bakla. I don’t know if I’ve said much about baklas yet. It literally means gay, but not in the way we think of it back home. If you’re gay here, you often change your name (he hasn’t, but many do), grow your hair out like a girl, and dress like a really skanky girl, short shorts, low cut shirts, makeup…the whole nine yards. Anyways, we taught him and his other bakla friend right there on the path. He says he’s willing to change and come back, just “step by step.” 
Friday…oh man. Friday we taught this recent convert who is also less active tatay, and he’s just been giving excuse after excuse, and basically I just didn’t take it anymore. I bore down straight, not sugarcoated doctrine, and it pierced him, I saw it in his eyes. I feel like I was a bit harsh, but he didn’t give any more excuses. Later we got Arianne ready for her baptismal interview on Sunday.
That night, I had a life changing moment. In the ghetto of our area, we stopped this one lady who told us about her daughter. This daughter was with her, but had gone ahead. This daughter has diabetes and cancer, and a crippling infection in her left foot. We ended up catching up with this girl, who was using a stick to hobble along with. Her foot was wrapped in dirty bandages. I asked her name, and she replied Mina Castro. She said she was 24, but she looked and sounded 13. Her left eye was fogged over. We asked if we could share a message of hope that could help her sometime, and she said she didn’t know, as she’s at the market with her mom every day. We gave her a pamphlet, and I walked away and just cried. I had to sit down on a little bamboo bench and I bawled. It was the single saddest thing I’ve ever seen. I was really shaken up. How can I ever complain about anything? How could anything possibly be hard for me in this life? I vowed there never to complain again…My spirits were really down, I was just so sorrowful for this one precious daughter of God who has been dealt an extremely unfair hand in this life. We later found out that they don’t have any transportation to the market, so they just walk the kilometer or so twice a day 7 days a week. Me and Elder Antoni cried a lot that night.
But the ultimate tender mercy came the next day when Sonny and Wilma Layug were baptized. It was a beautiful service, and it was a great reminder that while darkness is definitely real, so is light, and it’s our privilege as missionaries to help others receive this light in their lives. 
Baptism of Sonny and Wilma Layug
On Sunday they were confirmed, and Arianne passed her interview, so her baptism is next Saturday, which is perfect, because she’s going to the Mountain Province for summer break for two months, so if she was going to be baptized it’s now or never! It was awesome to see God’s plan for her come together. 
On Sunday afternoon Sonny worked with us, which was awesome, as he multiple times opened his mouth to testify, and the Holy Ghost justified his words. The gift of the Holy Ghost is real; I saw it in Brother Sonny yesterday. He told me he just had the words come to him and he felt like he needed to say them. It was awesome, and that was a great highlight to end my week on.
Sonny goes out with them to teach and testify

Darkness is real, suffering and sorrow are real, but they aren’t permanent. All that is unfair and unjust will ultimately be made right by Jesus Christ. He is the light, and I saw the Light triumph over darkness this week.
--Elder Christensen
Brandon w/ an investigator's baby
Sonny and Wilma Layug get baptized
All the convert baptisms that day
A spider eats a cockroach on his bathroom floor

Monday, March 17, 2014

This rollercoaster doesn't slow down!

Hello All!
Well, this rollercoaster doesn’t slow down! So last week I talked a little about Venus, our new investigator. Well, we tried to go back there on Monday, and she wasn’t there, but her uncle, Brother Martin, was. This guy is the most intelligent man in the scriptures I’ve ever met. Basically, we kept trying to answer his questions, but he would just tear our answers apart and try to disprove the Book of Mormon. We told him that we can’t convince him because we don’t have all the answers, and invited him to pray to know. He basically told us he wants us to answer his questions if we’re true missionaries or whatnot, and threw out 1 Peter 3:15, a scripture which now will be forever engraven in my brain. We got slammed pretty hard, and he did not commit to pray…Man. That was one heck of a way to start the week. 

Tuesday was good, as the highlight of the day was finally being able to teach a recent convert who has been hiding from us when we visit and just sending her husband to face us. We broke the ice with some healthy laughter because my companion, a Filipino, asked me how to say something in Tagalog! That was good. Wednesday we had a service project, where we helped destroy an old house. I was good at that. We taught one of our recent converts in the city plaza, which was kind of fun. After a few good lessons, we got super punted from all our appointments or whatnot. We took a moment to pray, and felt like we needed to go back to Sister Venus. I prayed really hard that Martin wouldn’t be there, and if he was, we would be able to handle the situation. Well, Martin was there, and so was Venus. It was hard at the beginning as he was mocking doctrine again, specifically about the Word of Wisdom and a physical resurrection. In a moment of slight panic, I prayed to know what to do. I felt, “Push the lesson.” So we did, which was a part of the plan of salvation: where did we come from. It eventually turned into a really good lesson and the spirit was there. She begged us to come back as soon as we could at the end of the lesson. 

Thursday was Zone Conference! We had three different workshops, one on Flirting, which is a pretty big problem in this mission, another on companionship inventory, which I’ll touch on more later, and the last was the atonement. We watched the LDS bible videos of the last 24 hours of Jesus' life, while singing hymns in between. It was super spiritual, and I had tons of insights and inspiration about the atonement that I hadn’t yet realized. At the end, President Martino gave us all new copies of the Book of Mormon for the purpose of studying just the Atonement. After lunch we had roll plays where I was chosen to demonstrate in front of a third of the mission, and I failed pretty miserably. But it was good, I learned a lot from that.

Sonny and Wilma Layug had their interview that day for baptism, so they’re set for the 22nd.
Teaching Sonny and Wilma Layug
I also had exchanges with Elder Hubbard that day, which was super fun. Friday we had weekly planning then companionship inventory. I found out some things about how Elder Antoni was feeling that I hadn’t even noticed, and things I was doing that I didn’t even think about but were affecting him. I felt super bad, but we made some good goals as a companionship and ever since then our companionship has been better than ever. Stronger spirit, stronger love, good stuff! We’ve been teaching April Roxas, who came to church last week, and she has a lot of potential, and we taught her again on Friday. We taught Sister Venus, which went really well, and she said she would request work of on Sundays! So that’s good!

So story time. In Tarlac, the sewers are not under the street, but under the sidewalk, and the sidewalk can be removed to access this really gross canal type thing. Well, that night while trying to get a picture with a sign that had directions to Baguio for the other Elder Christensen, specifically the one serving there, I took a wrong step where the sidewalk had sort of collapsed in to this cesspool.  Yeah, my left leg…was submerged, and I twisted my right ankle in the process! I was not a happy camper. But yeah, I washed that leg super good and now am on an antibiotic just in case…
Taking a picture by the road sign to Baguio (mission of the other Elder Christensen)

Saturday was super sweet, we had eight lessons, and the highlight for me was when we taught Joan, a recent convert who is starting to go inactive. The spirit was super strong and I literally all I had to do was open my mouth and it was given what to say. The scriptures to share just came to me, it was awesome. And then Sunday hurt, as she didn’t come to church as she had promised, and we only had 2 investigators. Andrew Layug, who was supposed to be baptized on the 22nd didn’t come and didn’t have a valid reason, so he will have to be pushed back four weeks. We had some good lessons though in the afternoon, and it turned out to be an alright day. This morning we got up played basketball, but I didn’t go too hard as I’m still rocking a brace from my spill on Friday. We wore green mustaches (Thanks Mom!),
St. Patrick's Day in the Philippines!
cleaned the apartment a little bit, and now are emailing whlist rocking shamrock ties
Sporting the shamrock ties on St. Patrick's Day
(Thanks again Mom!). So yeah! I’m doing good, this work is hard, but I still love my mission and my life, so I can’t really complain!

Come to Christ, learn of him, utilize his atonement every day, and enjoy to the end! Love you all!

--Elder Christensen

My favorite leprechaun

Monday, March 10, 2014

Training going well and 7 investigators to church!

Dear Everyone,

First off, I feel like Elder Antoni [trainee] is doing well. He is absolutely amazing at asking inspired questions, and though his teaching skills aren’t quite refined, I believe we have one heck of a missionary here.  He always has good ideas, and he has an innate desire to share the gospel.  He really REALLY cares about the people and their concerns.  No matter who it is, he is always trying his very best to help them.  He’s a bit more comfortable now and I feel like overall he’s getting happier and happier!  He really likes to tell stories and I like to listen so it works out good!  I love being his companion.

Well, I feel like every time a change comes in my time as a missionary, I find myself saying “Man, this isn’t as easy as it was last transfer!”  Not that training is the most difficult thing in the world, I just feel like the work has just gotten a little more difficult.  For example, we have a full planner of lessons that last transfer would lead to 7-9 lessons, and it’s only 6 pm.  But, that’s where faith really comes in.  Truth is, I was tempted to say, “Well, we have run out, let’s just get some dinner and call it a night.”  But it was at those times I remembered just one more person, rarely visited, and gave it a try.  From that situation, we have 4 new investigators this week.  It’s when you’re pushed and stressed and want to just call it when miracles happen, and Heavenly Father puts those ready in our path.  

A few details of the week’s happenings:  Tuesday we finally committed the Canlas family to stop smoking/drinking coffee, and I think they will be baptized in April, so that’s exciting.  Wednesday we had so many people cancel on us or tell us to come back next time, it was nuts, but we eventually went back to a rarely visited investigator because he wasn’t really progressing.  He wasn’t there, but we taught his wife and sister in law and it was super spiritual and good.  Thursday…we had a really intense lesson with this recent convert who was baptized last July but hasn’t been to church in a long time.  I was prompted to be bold with him, but the spirit was super strong, way cool!  He ended up committing to find a way to not have work to work on Sundays and come to church.  Friday was like Wednesday in that we seemed to spend the whole day walking and not doing much teaching.  We had run out of appointments in our planner, but I remembered one more investigator that was a bit far, but we had nowhere else to go.  Well, he wasn’t home, so we said thanks to his wife who was cooking dinner and started walking away.  I then felt that I needed to ask for a referral, if they knew anyone we could teach.  It turns out that they have a niece currently living with them.  Her name is Venus, she is 24 and separated, and her brother is a member!  Well, we taught her and it was super spiritual!  She really has potential!  That was way cool…Saturday we sat down and finally figured out what the problem was with one of our recent converts here, which is just too complicated to type all out right now, but it was good to finally figure it out and we shared a message that they said really helped.  Sunday was cool as we had 7 at church and we were able to teach Venus again, as well as Maria’s husband, where I had an impression to not give up on him yet, which was my thought prior to the lesson.
Visiting the enormous statue of Jesus at the Monesterio de Tarlac

We had a way cool spiritual zone activity earlier where we visited an enormous statue of Jesus Christ in the mountains and had a short personal study about the atonement and then a quick testimony meeting.  I’m grateful for this week, even though it was a bit more walking and less teaching.  Great things are happening here, and I have faith it’s just going to get better, even if it gets harder.

Love, Elder Christensen

Elder Christensen--A representative of Jesus Christ!
*When I asked about his greenie, he responded:   “He's opening up a lot to me, telling more stories...that sort of thing. He's super nice, like SO nice to me, like the nicest of all my companions...I'm trying to be nice to him too, but he always outdoes me! Always washing dishes, cooking the rice...I don't know, He's seriously awesome.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Staying in Tarlac and training a new missionary!

Brandon was super busy during his email time showing his trainee how to do reports, so he didn’t have much time left to send his weekly email.  But this is what he was able to send:

 Sorry I don't think I have time for a weekly update this week, I'm just running out of time!!! Here's a quick update:  I was sick in bed all Sunday afternoon, Monday, and Tuesday, but I was back at it by Wednesday. Both me and Sister Thomas, my batchmate and good friend from the MTC, are training so that's fun! My new companion is Elder Antoni, from Leyte. Yeah, that's where the typhoon hit, and his family's house was damaged pretty good, but they were all ok. He is 26! He’s a child of record, raised by his grandparents. He's super nice; he's having a bit of a rough time, which I totally get. He's super nice and super humble, and very go with the flow chill. He's going to be a great missionary, I know it! I've loved companions, but I've never cared so much for a companion you know?
Brandon and his trainee: Elder Antoni
Brandon and Elder Antoni at a dinner appointment

 Well, we have three baptisms on the 22nd, so that's exciting! Wilma, Andrew, and Sonny Layug! The Layug Family. Wilma is in her 50's, Andrew is late 20's and just had his wife leave him...and Sonny is 18.  They're super solid. So the story with them is we had an OYM (street contact) on the porch of a house full of teenage and twenty something girls. Yeah, my companion led that one.  I didn't want to deal with that, because I knew they weren't calling us over to hear the gospel. Anyways, we went back there to teach the next lesson and Sister Wilma, their neighbor across the street, was there. We reviewed lesson one and she practically begged us to teach her and whoever of her kids would listen. So, we set the return appointment, we met her sons Andrew and Sonny, and they've just been awesome! Avidly reading the Book of Mormon, giving up coffee and tea, observing the Sabbath...Awesome! What more can you ask for! Always early for church...just ready for this!!!

Elder Dejino of course transferred, and so did Elder Olila. My new kabahay is Elder Hubbard from Canada. We're working hard; it’s a bit different being a trainer, as all of my companion’s actions fall under my responsibility. He really likes to go into detail, but a bit too much at times. He has a real fire for sharing the gospel though, and he's got great potential. Well that’s the best I can do for a weekly update.  Sorry I'm a bit lame right now, I'm just stressed and pressed for time.

 Then in answer to my questions:  I am still in Tarlac, but with my anak! That means child. In the field your trainer is your "tatay" or dad and your trainee is you "anak". He's good. He's having a little bit of a rough time, but yeah, I'm trying to love him and not be stressed around him. I am about 100 better.  I've had a cough/phlegm thing since October, but other than that I'm cool! When I was sick this week I had bad migraines and fevers- not fun-but I’m good now.  Yeah [the work] has been pretty good! It took a hit when I got sick, but we were still able to teach 33 lessons despite being in bed for three days.  (When I asked him what counted as “lessons” he said that lessons with investigators, less active members and recent converts were a part of that lesson count) And yup, I am still the district leader, too.
Ward missionaries come and visit Brandon when he was sick