Monday, June 30, 2014

Fevelyn and Niko get baptized!

Sorry! Sorry! Super slow internet, and no time to respond to literally ANY
emails. SO SORRY! But here's the update!

Dear All!

Well, one more week has come and gone, and what an incredible week it
was! Monday we went to Cabanatuan for Zone Conference, and we got
there in time to have dinner at Greenwich Pizza! Yum! The conference
was on Tuesday, and it was super good, way spiritual! It was also to
say goodbye to President Martino (He went home yesterday). I was
actually expecting it to be super emotional, but it was actually not
bad. It is weird to think I won’t see him for the rest of my
mission…oh well, President Clark has arrived and we will be meeting
him this Thursday! We also rented a van, and our entire van squeezed
in there and we played games and sang and laughed our heads off, so
the travel was actually crazy fun!

 So Wednesday, we had the single
best day of work of my whole mission. We had so many good things
happen. Our investigator Nancy, who has been taught for about 4 years, 
is finally super progressing! We’re now just working on her papers so
she can get married, then baptized!!! We met a less active kid, and
taught him, went back to an old contact and got a new investigator
there…we had an awesome lesson with one of our less active members,
and she now has a desire for temple marriage…It was just an awesome
day, and we had 14 lessons in that one day! 

Thursday morning we had a cool moment where all of our appointments fell through, and the moment we stopped to make a decision to see what we would do, we received
inspiration to go teach some investigators that are seriously never
home so we haven’t taught them in like three weeks. But we went there, 
and there they all were, ready to listen, and they loved the message 
(about repentance) and we set a sure return appointment! Sweet! We had
good work again that day. Friday we started out super punted, as in we
walked around until about 6 pm, but we after that were able to get
some good lessons. We had good lessons with our investigators Janet, 
Lito, and Fevelyn, who in fact was BAPTIZED ON SATURDAY!
Fevelyn Habala and Elmer Manangan (but he really goes by Niko) were both
baptized on Saturday! It was a good service, and the spirit was so
thick there you could cut it with a knife! Tonton, Fevelyn’s brother, 
baptized, which was super cool!
Fevelyn and Niko get baptized!  Tonton, Fevelyn's brother baptizes them :)
Afterwards we had good lessons with

the Centeno Family and Marcos, and we got done in time to have a
dinner appointment at the Habala’s. 

Sunday…good news and bad news. Bad news, Marcos and the Centeno Family didn’t come to church. Good news!  Fevelyn/Marivel/Tonton’s mom came to church, as well as Nancy (our all  of the sudden progressing investigator) and her friend Vangie! Super
cool! We had good work on Sunday as well, as we were able to go on
splits for about two hours with some members! We got to teach this 12
year old less active girl Mycah, and I don’t know, I feel bad for her, 
she’s going to school and she wasn’t able to come to church because
her mom needed her help selling vegetables at the market. We taught
her about learning to choose the right now, so that when temptation
comes she’s ready. We gave her a CTR ring. I don’t know, it was the
highlight of the day for me!

 We had a great week as far as our numbers went, as we had 53 lessons, and, as our district leader informed us, we hit the standard of excellence in every key indicator category this week. That was a miracle indeed! The work is moving along great here in Maria! The internet is pretty slow here, so maybe no pictures this week. But Yeah, I’m loving it here! The church is true! The Book is Blue! And two more souls just entered the straight and narrow path
leading to eternal life!!!

--Elder Christensen

Sunday, June 22, 2014

52 Things I've learned as a missionary in the Philippines!

Well Hello Everybody
Sorry, I had to get that out there! So this week was good, I was just super stressed though those first few days, I don’t really know why! Tuesday was a great day, as we had 11 lessons, that’s a new all-time high!! Wednesday we found out what our investigator Marivel’s real concern was, and why she keeps saying she’s not ready for baptism. For her sake I will remain mute on that subject, but I’m so glad we figured out what was going on! 
Thursday was transfers, but only one sister transferred out of my whole zone! And her replacement is Sister Penales, who was in my district for three transfers in Tarlac! And she used to be in the stake of my companion, Elder Paredes, and is the batch mate of my roommate, Elder Choresca! So excited when I found out she was coming! 
Thursday was good, and we taught a really awesome lesson all about repentance to Marivel in the morning. We were able to get some new investigators too! They all listened, but in the coming days we’ll find out who’s really progressing and who is just so-so. Marcos is doing great; he’s super excited for his baptism on the 12th of July, as are we! The Centeno family was doing good, but they didn’t come to church this last Sunday…dang. And we don’t know why yet either!  But that night, I burned a panyo and tie in honor of my year mark! Oh, and I opened my “Hump day” package, complete with a camel and everything!! Love the camel, Mom! And the letters were super awesome as well. 
Elder Christensen & Sister Penales
Elder C and his comp on Hump Day!

Friday we had exchanges as our District Leader, Elder Hedman, and I switched so he could interview our candidates, Fevelyn and Niko, who both passed!!! Sweet!!! Two baptisms on the 28th!!! That’s a miracle, because when I got here neither of them were even in our teaching pool and we had a goal of zero baptisms for the month of June. Saturday we had a zone service project down close to the beach, and I got to see Sister Penales there, and it was fun to talk about Tarlac!
Elder Hedman, Sister Penales and Elder Christensen
​In the afternoon we had that meeting with all the Branch Presidents and President Martino again. The meeting went really well actually! President Martino goes home this week, but you would never be able to find that out by looking at him. He is working harder than ever!
Elder Christensen and his comp meeting with Pres. Martino
​I also got a package from Grandma and Grandpa Christensen! Thanks for the shirt!!!! 
Sunday we had a good meeting where we finally got home teaching figured out in this branch, and got a bunch of information we’ve been needing for our reports, so that was good! We had pretty good work too, and a couple of new investigators who are genuinely interested and engaged in the lessons! And today we’re going to Cabanatuan for Zone conference tomorrow, so that will be fun to have another road trip with the zone! 
So in honor of my 52 weeks as a missionary, here are 52 lessons I’ve learned as a missionary in the Philippines!
1.       You sweat if you’re working hard
2.       You sweat even if you’re not working hard
3.       There’s probably some sort of bug on you 24/7
4.       Dengue is the worst thing ever!
5.       Don’t aspire to leadership
6.       Worry more about following the Spirit with exactness more than following the white handbook with exactness
7.       Obedience brings blessings
8.       Rice 3 meals a day is totally doable
9.       Coconut is actually crazy delicious
10.   Mangoes are actually the greatest/most delicious fruit in the world, and most probably the fruit in Lehi’s dream
11.   You decide what kind of missionary you are, not your circumstance, companion, or language ability
12.   Exact obedience brings miracles
13.   Repentance, even as a missionary, hurts
14.   Repentance is the greatest thing ever
15.   If we are not growing spiritually, you’re backsliding spiritually
16.   If I was not a Latter-Day Saint, I don’t think I could be a Christian, it just doesn’t make sense to me any other way.
17.   You can sleep when you’re released
18.   The people in the Preach My Gospel videos are the missionaries’ celebrities
19.   EFY music ain’t half bad!
20.   Even singing along with Babylonian music distracts you as a missionary
21.   You can buy 4 burgers for less than a dollar!
22.   Pineapple is actually super delicious as well!
23.   McDonalds is like an oasis for missionaries serving out in the rice fields
24.   San Jose City, Nueva Ecija is my second home
25.   Baler Zone is like PARADISE!
26.   The hardest news you can receive as a missionary is either when a buddy goes home early, or when a baptism in an old area doesn’t go through…or when BYU loses to Utah again.
27.   The best news you can get as a missionary is when one of your friends decides to go on a mission, or when someone from back home gets baptized (quick shout out to my cousins Joe and Angie, Joe got baptized while I’ve been out here, and that to this day is the greatest email I’ve ever received on my mission! I literally cried in the computer shop when I found out!)
28.   There aren’t bad companions, just bad attitudes
29.   You are at your greatest when you are humble
30.   Always think about others first
31.   Always say yes to a merienda! (a snack)
32.   Pepsi and Mountain Dew just don’t taste good in the Philippines
33.   Coke tastes EXACTLY the same in the Philippines, thank goodness!
34.   Smiling makes everything better!
35.   Don’t worry about what you want to do, worry about what the Lord wants you to do
36.   Unless you have the spirit burning in you to do so, never chastise anyone.
37.   Be grateful
38.   No one I know in America is poor. People back home like to say they’re poor, but you all live like royalty. People HERE are poor.
39.   I have no room to complain. EVER.
40.   The Lord has been so good to me.
41.   The Philippines is one non-stop adventure after another!
42.   The Filipino people are the greatest on the planet earth! I wish I was more like them every day.
43.   God directs this work, and does indeed prepare people.
44.   Even when you have a hard day, there’s always someone who had it harder.
45.   Christ understands literally everything we go through.
46.   When we face God, we will all know our guilt perfectly, but the saints who have repented and endured to the end will know never-ending joy as well.
47.   Scripture study is the best. Thing. EVER!!!
48.   God speaks.
49.   Angels visit the earth.
50.   This is God’s kingdom on the earth.
51.   Jesus is the Christ, and Joseph was his prophet.
52.   All I want, all I truly desire, is at that last day for Jesus to call me by name, and say, “Well done thou good and faithful servant.”

See you all next June!
--Elder Christensen
"Sometimes, when i'm teaching, i'm just so awesome I turn into a power ranger"

Monday, June 16, 2014

Another great week!

Dear All!

And just like that another week went by! Another great week! Tuesday was awesome as I had exchanges with Elder Escosio, and we had a great time and great work and 4 referrals! One we’ve contacted, and one we’re going to meet later on tonight actually! We found out the Centeno Family LOVED coming to church! I knew they would, and they’re really starting to progress toward baptism! Fevelyn also accepted a baptismal goal date for the 28th, and she’s excited for it and really progressing as well! 

Wednesday, was actually kind of a rough day, low lessons, but hey we tried! Thursday we had a service project where we cleared some land on a coconut plantation, kind of different! We met one of our referrals, Teresa, and she’s super receptive. We’ve already taught her twice and she has received an answer that our message is true!!! Marcos is progressing alright; we taught him the Word of Wisdom and afterwards wanted to join us in teaching our next lesson! So why not! He bore testimony about the Book of Mormon, he’s pretty much awesome. 
Elder Christensen sporting a pigeon on his head
Friday was a good day as well. We had a good lesson with these two long time investigators, Vangie and Nancy, who are neighbors of the branch president. My companion wanted to drop them, but we just followed up on their testimony and found out Nancy has been reading every day and her testimony is really picking up. She just needs to get to church…and get married to her boyfriend…but yeah! She actually has legit progress/potential, so that was good! 
Saturday we had a district conference adult session thing that ate a lot of our time, and just basically was a big discussion of goals and numbers throughout Baler district, which I don’t think did a whole lot…whatever! It’s ok though. We were still able to get 8 lessons on the day. Sunday we had this really cool District conference thing in Baler. And despite Baler being a half hour trip from our area in Maria, we had 8 investigators at church! And the Conference included a live broadcast from Salt Lake City just for us in the northern Philippines. Elder Cook spoke and everything, it was seriously awesome! Super sweet.
The highlight as far as teaching goes was when we were also able to extend a BGD (baptismal goal date) to Marivel, Fevelyn's sister for the 28th as well! So we have those two, and Nico getting ready for the 28th! So cool!
This morning we went to the Mother Falls (Ditumabo Falls) here, which is absolutely gorgeous! And that took most of our day, so that’s why this email is so late (Sorry mom!!!). But yeah, everything is pretty much the best here in Maria!
Kabahays at Mother Falls

 I love Baler Zone, I love my life…really can’t complain!
 That’s all for now!

Selfie at Mother Falls
--Elder Christensen 

***Brandon, in answering the questions I asked him in my letter, told me to say that he is really sorry that he hasn't had time to respond to emails from friends lately.  He is crazy busy on P days now and often doesn't even get to reading his family's emails.  He does always write a general update, though.  He's got so much reporting to do now as a ZL and he says that since he is in Baler zone (that has so many amazing things to do and see) that it is assumed that they will have a zone activity every P day, and those take up so much of the day. P day is his least favorite day of the week because it is always so stressful and he never gets done everything that he needs to, let alone everything that he wants to.  So--sorry if he hasn't responded!***

Underwater nametags at the the falls

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Our week was pretty much amazing!

So I'm just going to do a short weekly update here, because I'm low on time here! SO, Monday we had a fun FHE with the other elders and a recent convert family! We got a lot of referrals this week, and we started teaching a new investigator Imelda, who said already that she felt something different when she prayed about our message. Awesome! We had a family home evening with the Centeno family, which was so fun!

 Wednesday was just a pretty normal day, but we did teach sister Merly, and all of her kids are members and one is on a mission, but she hasn't been baptized yet! We'll fix that. Oh! And we taught Fevelyn and Marivel again, and that was a good lesson. We taught our purpose in life and the atonement. They were crying at the end, and they said they were so grateful to hear the Word of God from us his messengers. It was awesome to see the spirit working in them. Thursday was interesting as when our investigator Marcos showed up to a member’s house for our appointment he was drunk. That was a difficult lesson, but he told us he was going to repent and come to church on Sunday! 

Friday was AWESOME! Me and my companion went with the Senior Couple, Elder and Sister Lund, and did house checks for the zone, then the treated us at Costa Pacifica, the most beautiful resort/most delicious restaurant ever. It's expensive for the Philippines, but just about normal in dollars. I had a real burger, like a real one. It was AWESOME! 
Costa Pacifica dinner with the Lunds
Awesome real burger at Costa Pacifica
The work was good when we got back. Nico, our goal for the 21st, still hadn't totally kicked cigarettes, so we might have to push his baptism a bit. But other than that he's still doing good! We also started teaching a little born again family and they told us that they would listen, but when Sunday came around there were not changing churches. Well, in our lesson I felt and saw the spirit working in them, and we'll see how that all goes down! 

Saturday we had a really good lesson with the Centeno Family, where they said they were coming to church, and my companion received a witness that it really would happen. And it did! Not only that, we had 10 investigators at church! The five from the Centeno Family, Marivel and Fevelyn, Marcos, Merly, and Nico! So awesome! We were able to get nine lessons in too, which was incredible!

All in all our week was pretty much amazing! We had 24 Lessons taught to investigators with a member present, the highest I've ever achieved! We had 46 lessons, tons of referrals and new! It's just rolling forward! I love this life and I know this work is true.

Elder Christensen
Costa Pacifica

Monday, June 2, 2014

Now I see and know the Lord’s vision for the work here. It’s a beautiful thing.

Dear All,

WOW what a week it has been! It started out with me, Elder Paredes, and the district leaders, Elder Hedman and Elder Shepherd, all piling in a tiny van and making the 4+ hour trip to Cabanatuan for a Mission/District leadership council on Tuesday. The theme was all about visions, and it was awesome! I learned so much, and really gained a vision for my area and the zone. President asked us to raise our goal of 7 baptisms this transfer to 17, and by the end of that day there was no doubt in my mind that we were going to achieve the standard of excellence in the month of June. We had our zone training meeting on Wednesday, and I really feel like the zone caught the vision. As of last night during our call-ins, we have 19 possible people who can be baptized this month! It’s awesome!

Wednesday we had a pretty good day as far as work. We’re teaching Nico, and 18 year old nephew of the Branch President who wants to get his life in order and get baptized. He’s got a goal date for June; we’re just working on building his testimony. I met the Galam family, who we think has real potential for baptism, and we set a family home evening with them for Monday, so that should be fun! 

Thursday was an awesome day! We taught ten lessons, a first for me in my mission! We received and taught a referral from a recent convert, and it was just such an awesome lesson. By the end of the lesson he was asking about baptism, and when he could be baptized, and said he already knew then that our message was true and his current religion was not! Wow!! He is a 60+ man named Marcus, and he said he wants us to teach his three children and their families as well! I’ve got no problem with that!!! We had another good lesson with the Centeno family, as well as a few others. 

Friday was still good, but nowhere near the success we had on Thursday. Oh yeah, and the power seriously went out every day this week, but thankfully it came on in the evenings so we could sleep with our electric fans on! We taught Nico again, and we were also able to teach Fevelyn, the little sister of our ward missionary. We taught her lesson one earlier that week, but hadn’t yet received a witness that our message was true. We taught about The Book of Mormon and we got a shaky commitment to come to church with her older sister, Maribell, who is also an investigator but until this point hasn’t really been our focus.

So Saturday was hard, because my house mate, Elder Williams, got some sort of infection in his arm from what we believe to be a cockroach bite, and he was running a fever of about 102 and not feeling good, so my companion stayed home with him and me and his companion, Elder Choresca, went out to work both in my area and his. We were able to get two lessons in his area, and four in mine. We tried to teach the Centeno family, but they were busy with something, but we stopped by there twice to make sure they were coming to church that next day, and they told us both times they were coming. And you know what happened at church on Sunday? They did NOT come! Agh!!! I really believed they would; now we’re going to have to push back their baptism until July…dang.

BUT, out of nowhere, both Fevelyn and Maribell came to church! Nico was there, but that wasn’t too much of a surprise! And I didn’t actually get to teach Fevelyn and Maribell, because yesterday it was my turn to stay in the house all day with Elder Williams, but Elder Paredes said they’re taking the lessons more seriously, and more seriously reading The Book of Mormon now, so that’s awesome! And that takes us to now! We cleaned the apartment this morning, and that’s about it! I don’t know why this week just seemed to last forever! It was a really long, eventful week! But it was good, and now I see and know the Lord’s vision for the work here. It’s a beautiful thing. I love this life, love this work, love my companion (he’s absolutely nuts, I literally laughed through this whole week!), I love the Philippines, and I love the Lord!
Still living the dream!!
--Elder Christensen

And some answers to my questions:
1. How is it going being a zone leader?   I like it, it's stressful, but it's been a great opportunity as well! I like helping our little zone out here in Baler.
2.  Tell me about your companion  He's so funny! He is seriously the happiest companion I've ever had. A bit like Elder Lungay actually! He's super obedient, hardworking, and happy! So optimistic, too. I get stressed, and he just is always optimistic! I love that guy! He really is the man!
This map shows Maria Aurora, his new area.  Also on this map you can see his 1st area, San Jose and 2nd area, Tarlac

Panaramic shot from last P day when Brandon saw the ocean!