Sunday, August 31, 2014

Upcoming baptism(s) and working on a coconut plantation!

Hello All!

I hope you are doing well and that Heavenly Father is blessing you abundantly!  He sure is blessing us here!  Monday the 25th was a good day.  We had a bit of an epic fail of a zone activity where we went to the beach and got rained out, so we went to the local museum instead—soaking wet.  At night we got a couple of lessons in, and one to the Habala family.  It was Marivel’s birthday, so we got invited to dinner.  There we found out that not only Marivel wants to be baptized (finally), but so does their mom, Elma, who has been coming to church recently!  Say what!?!  Man, I was so happy!  We taught Elma on Wednesday and got a soft goal date for the 27th.  Tuesday we went to Dipaculao, as Elder Hedman’s companion, Elder Emelio, has back problems and can’t work.  So Elder Hedman could get out of the house, I worked with him while Elder Anasario stayed at the house.  It was a good day and it’s always good to be with Elder Hedman.  Wednesday was good, but my comp was having a bit of a hard day, a hard time staying positive.  But we had good things happen!  We came to a point where we had nowhere else to go, and while we stood there for a second, I remembered an old contact I had back with Elder Paredes and so we tried her.  Tina was her name, and she readily accepted us into her home and we were able to share a good portion of Lesson 1.  Cool! We taught Arlene, which went ok as well.  I already mentioned that we taught Elma, and she feels like her baptism is close.  We asked her to pray about the date.  We reviewed with Marivel the baptismal interview questions, and her only concern was about Thomas S. Monson, as she doesn’t know a ton about him but we left a Liahona article of his for her to read.   

Thursday we had a fun service project at a coconut plantation! 
I don’t know the English translation of bukohan, so that will have to do!  That was fun, then we ate lunch on a banana leaf! 
In the afternoon we had a new investigator, “Baby”, and set a return appointment with her and her husband for Saturday.  We’ve started teaching the neighbors of our recent convert, Linda.  It’s kind of fun, as when we get there we teach a crowd of 7-8 who kind of stand there and listen.  This won’t last forever, but it’s kind of fun right now!  They’re interested and answer questions and understand the message, so no complaints!  We’ll see who will really become progressing in the coming days and weeks. 

Friday Elder Hedman worked with me in my area as it was Marivel’s interview!  We had some decent work as well!  We had a good lesson with Apple, a relatively new investigator.  We finished the message of the Restoration, but not without a drunk member of another church trying to debate with us.  Be we maintained our composure and the Spirit, thank goodness!  We taught our little returning young man, Wendy and he is still the man.  He’s the only one in his house, full of members, who listens to us and comes to church.  Marivel passed her interview with flying colors.  She just wants this new life, this fresh start, so bad.  We also taught Elma, who has a baptismal date for the 27th.  She “borrowed” my baptismal interview questions card to review!  Saturday we had zone goal setting and we are going with a back to basics approach.  Brother TonTon worked with us in the afternoon.  Funny story—while we were looking for Tatay Marcos, this small, sandy ledge by a river gave way and I almost fell in.  It was nuts!

(And he wasn’t able to finish the letter because he had to catch a bus in a ½ hour and he wasn’t done with his reports yet)

Monday, August 25, 2014

A few of the best days of my whole life!

Dear All,
Ok, this week I had a few of the best days of my whole life!  Last Monday was good.  We just went out to work and got 4 lessons, one with Marivel, where we committed her to specifically pray about baptism.  Well, we got up and left at 5:30 and went to Cab, then met up with a bunch of zone leaders there and all hopped on a bus together. (I sat by Elders Stenquist and Armatage.  LOVE those guys.)  After eating and whatnot, we headed to the mission home, where we discussed doctrine until our special MLC with President Ardern, Philippines Area President, started. 
President Ardern, Philippines Area President
Wow.  I learned SO much.  Lots of things I need to change.  I need to prepare to teach and lead by the spirit and I need to make sure little things happen like personal and comp study FIRST thing every day.  I learned so much about how to better receive and act on personal revelation.  We need to teach Lesson 1 much more effectively and have much more effective study.  I need to lift up others much more than simply pointing out their problems. And much more!  Sister Ardern was so good, too!  While waiting for dinner, Elder Lytle and I sat and chatted about things as we watched a lightning storm pass and turn into a fire red sunset….Beautiful!

Ok, this is where good becomes incredible.  They didn’t have anything planned for us in the evening, so I had the idea to go work in my old area, Tarlac 2!  Oh, that was the BEST!  I saw Brother Ryan, Brother (now Bishop) Reyes, Jenive (who is now baptized!), Tristan, the Nugan and Mamangon families (less active families that I NEVER thought would return but are now returning), and best of all, Arianne, wherein lies a tale, one of the most precious of my mission.  So we went on splits with the elders there, and the first person we went to was Arianne [a teenage girl that he taught and baptized while serving in that area].  She was working in the tindahan.  It took her a second to recognize me, but when she did she just lit up and was so excited!  She even screamed a tiny bit!  Oh, it was so good to see her.  I will never forget the look on her face.  What I felt was pure joy.  I can’t remember the last time I was that happy.  I think it’s what it will be like when we see loved ones in the Celestial Kingdom.  We shared with her and she’s doing SO good, even better than when I left her.  And that’s all I could ever ask for.  It was such a tender mercy.  It was an incredible blessing to do that. 
Elder Christensen got to see Arianne, who he taught and baptized in Tarlac back in March!

Well, we had a good time back at the Assistants’ apartment, and then the next day we headed back to Cabanatuan for our zone conference with President Ardern.  Again, I learned SO much and there’s SO much I am going to put into practice now.  Sorry, I’m not going to write it all here, it’s on the smaller plates. J  Anyways, we got in the van and headed back to Baler Zone.  We only had time for one appointment, with Marivel.  We made a little lesson plan and then went over.  It was a good, spiritual lesson, where we gave her two dates, the 6th and the 13th to pray about for baptism.  At the end the spirit was so strong and I was able to tell her that was the Holy Ghost and to not forget that feeling!  And that’s how maybe the best two days of my life ended.

So as for the rest of the week, Thursday was alright; we helped a family in our branch build a new kitchen, which consisted of splitting and cutting bamboo, which was fun!  We also taught our investigator Queen and she accepted a baptismal goal date for September!  Friday was good, as we had some good lessons.  We taught a less active member, Maria, and we had a surprisingly good lesson.  We taught Sister Arlene and she is still very active in the lessons and wanting to know more.  She said she would come to church as well.  On Saturday Marivel finally accepted a date for baptism!  September 6!  She finally said she had a good feeling when she prayed about baptism!  YEAH!!!!!  We got punted from our appointment with April, but we taught one of our somewhat new investigators, Luisa.  We taught Lesson 1 until the apostasy and it was just a super good spiritual lesson.  She is actually the mother of one of our investigator families, and she has children in other parts of the Philippines that are members.  She also has lots of friends in Baguio, where she is from, that are members.  She really enjoyed the lesson.  She’s pretty hard core Catholic, but we’ll work with that.  The Lunds, the couple missionaries, then gave us a lift to Baler for our monthly District Missionary Coordination Meeting with President Clark, which went well!  Afterwards, we taught one lesson to a member whose husband is less-active and we were about to teach her friend who seemed interested, as in we said an opening prayer, but then Stan struck in the form of her fussy, shrieking kid, and the lesson didn’t continue.  Dang it!  We taught the older sister of a less active young man, which went alright. 

Sunday was a small miracle as all of our young men that we’ve been working with came to church.  All 7!  Marivel was our only progressing investigator that showed, which was rough, as we were really expecting more, but I was happy with the miracle that God did grant us.  The rest of Sunday was spent working and finding hard! We got a couple new investigators, so that was good! They aren't super avid searching-for-the truth types, but they want to listen, so that works! We taught our Investigator Queen, who didn't come to church. It turns out her mom is against her being baptized, and the mom very nicely explained that to us. It's mostly because she almost got baptized into a different church back in the day and that was a very negative experience apparently. We offered to come back and explain baptism more to them, and they accepted, so we will pray that softens her heart enough to let her daughter be baptized. And that's all!

I've been studying the Book of Mormon more this week, as that is one of President Clark's focuses. I just can't get over how true it is! I can't figure out how anyone could have written it, unless they really were inspired. I LOVE the Book of Mormon. If anyone is reading this and hasn't read the Book of Mormon today, PLEASE go do that. It is the best thing you could do for your soul!

Love you all, the Church is true, the Book is blue!
--Elder Christensen

Monday, August 18, 2014

A new companion and a great week!

August 18, 2014
Hello one and all!  I hope everyone is doing good back home.  Well, this week was a bit crazy!  Monday night we had a fun Family Home Evening where we got our faces covered in charcoal. 
Tuesday we had our last district meeting, but we didn’t find out the transfer announcements until Tuesday night.  Tuesday was spent running around teaching our last lessons to our favorite people.  We also taught Marcos’s son Dio, who is SO receptive and wants to come to church…but he has to work on Sunday, because he is Marcos’s sub when he goes to church.  It’s ok though.  He’s so ready and it will work out!  Tuesday night we found out Elder Paredes was transferring and that Elder Anasario would be my new companion, which I was excited for! 
Elder C with new comp, Elder Anasario!
He was in my zone in Tarlac, and he was my friend and Elder Westover’s trainer!  He’s so cool and humble and SO NICE!  Wednesday was spent packing and going to Cabanatuan for transfers.  Elder Williams and his family stopped by the house, as they picked him up from his mission.  Fun preview ;). 
Elder Williams stops by
And on the bus going to Cab... Argh-they showed The Amazing Spiderman 2!  I kept my head down over an hour in that bus so that I wouldn’t watch. That was the worst. 
Head down on the bus to avoid seeing movie...
But we ate at McDonalds that night so it was ok.

 Transfers on Thursday were crazy—new zone leaders- double foreigner companionships- amazing zone leaders re-assigned to train new missionaries, etc.  As we waited for our new companions, me and my good buddy Elder Armatage talked for a long time.  I do love that kid.  We waited for a long time, because both Elder Choresca and Sister Penales are training brand new Americans!  Yes, that means I have a BRAND NEW American in my house!  Seriously, it’s been like someone grabbed the August 2013 version of Elder Christensen, stuck him in a time machine and sent him to be my housemate.  All the same feelings, doubts, fears, questions—It’s crazy!  His name is Elder Jacobson from Idaho. 
New companions in the house!
Friday was a bit of a hard day, as we saw how few of our investigators actually have any progression. And that continued into Saturday morning as well… They are great people but they’re just not keeping commitments or refusing to keep commitments… It’s sad.  But on Saturday afternoon we had a good day.  We got a referral from Marcos and we taught him later on that day.  We taught some of our investigators that do have potential.  There’s one, named Queen, who really does have potential.  She’s 18 and knows a couple of members who go to the same college as her.  Sunday was good!  The whole Habala family came to church!  That was a miracle.  Dexter and Elma, the parents, Marivel, Fevelyn, Ayan, RonRon… literally everyone in the house came!  We don’t even teach the parents regularly!  And even though many came late, the sacrament room was pretty full!  A great tender mercy!  Work was good!  We went to that area with no progressing investigators, but we did some finding, and we have so many people that have potential!  One girl asked us about what her dream meant. Get this: Jesus, dressed in white, goes to a forest where a kid is, then the kid says “Apo!” which means “Lord” in Ilokano.  Man, you should have seen her face when we showed her the picture of the First Vision.  We have a return appointment on Friday!  We also finally taught this one girl, April, who has such potential and also her friend, Apple.  Yeah, that’s her name!  A new investigator, a return appointment for Friday!  Great day, great week!  I’m very excited.
As far as studies, I’ve been studying how Jesus is the Father in many senses, based off of the First Presidency explanation from 1916.  So good!  I love D&C 39:4, where it says we have the potential to become sons of our Lord Jesus, and what that means in D&C 76:59.  No one can get to the Father without going through the Son.  And once we are His (Jesus’s), we can become one with the Father (D&C 35:2).  Beautiful doctrine.  Beautiful Gospel.  Beautiful life!
Matal ko kayong labat!
-Elder Christensen

Yellowcard shirt!

Baseball shirt from Grandma C

Monday, August 11, 2014

The pure love of Christ

***To start off, Brandon asked me to tell you all that he hasn’t been able to open emails from friends lately because he just doesn’t have time.  He spends 1 ½ hours of his email time doing responsibilities that he has to and then he has a half hour or less of his 2 hour time limit to write the weekly update to us.  He’s trying to find a way to have time to reply to people, but he says that right now there is just not a way to do it within the 2 hour time limit. He feels really bad.  So- please don’t take it personally if he hasn’t responded. ***

And here is his update:

Absolutely no time today! Quick update—I totally ran out of gas on Tuesday and woke up super sick, and slept 14 hours that day.  Boy, did I need it. Wednesday we had a great workshop on obedience in District Meeting where I reevaluated why I try to be obedient and do the things I do; hopefully it's because I love the Lord. Thursday we started teaching the husband of a recent convert. They are both in their 80's and I just felt such a love for them when we started teaching, it was really cool actually!

Elder Christensen and Elder Williams
One last picture with his kabahays!
Friday we had pretty normal work, but we had some pretty good contacts and set up some good return appointments (one turned out to be a born again preacher, and my companion and our 1st counselor taught him yesterday and apparently it went really good, and he had a lot of questions apparently!). Saturday we got a little work done, and then we went to a Ward Home Evening, which was awesome! Great turnout, and lots of less active members came and whatnot, good bonding, and there we said goodbye to Elder Williams, who left after sacrament on Sunday to go home! Sunday afternoon we got some good work done, and we had a good lesson with the Centeno family, where our Branch President, a convert, was able to testify to the blessings his family has received in being members of the church. It was great! 
The real problem right now with all of our investigators is that they've all progressed to some extent, but they all have these roadblocks (marriage, doubts about baptism, poor examples of less active members that dissuade them, physical ailments that prevent them from going to church, busy with work and other responsibilities...) and they're all so receptive! 

And as far as spiritual insights, here's an excerpt from my letter to the president:
This week was a good week, I feel like I learned a lot. I felt like I wasn't running at full speed, mostly because I've been fighting sickness this week, but I am feeling better. It was just a little frustrating not being able to do all that I want to. But hey, life is like that sometimes. I felt like a major theme this week was love. In district meeting, we discussed obedience in the workshop, and identified the best reason to obey is Love, and in our case here, love for the Lord. Then time and time again in our teaching, this theme of love kept appearing. We also started teaching this the husband of an elderly woman in our ward, and I just had this outpouring of love for him as we started teaching, it was beautiful. Also, as we were teaching a recent convert woman who is in a little bit of a feud with her best friend, also a recent convert, we shared Paul's statement on faith, hope, and love, then Mormon's additions in Moroni 7. As I was teaching, the spirit gave to me a new insight on what the "pure love of Christ" is. What I understood, is that that kind of love is the love that persists even if we have done all we can for someone, and they still reject us and our efforts. Because that's what Christ does, doesn't he? We turn our back on him time and time again every time we sin, almost as if we forget he suffered all for us. And even though we still sin daily, HE STILL LOVES US, so when we've sufficiently humbled ourselves enough to repent, he can accept us back. And that's the lifelong quest I guess, to gain and maintain that kind of love for all. That is unconditional love. It's such a beautiful thing.

Well, that’s all folks, love you all!

--Elder Christensen

Elder Christensen with his recent convert, Marcos Rivera!
The pictures are me and Elder Williams, one last picture of the elders in my house, the hat that a recent convert made for me, and my recent convert, Marcos Rivera (aka the funniest little grandpa in the world!)
Elder Christensen wearing the hat a recent convert made for him!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

But by the Grace of God

Hey Everyone!

Here's a quick weekly update!  Monday and Tuesday we went to MLC/DLC where I learned pretty much everything I needed to know about being a leader, which was so AWESOME! And again, President Clark is the man; he really just wants to help us missionaries so much. Wednesday I went on exchanges with my housemate Elder Choresca, which was really fun, and I think we were able to both help each other. Thursday we had another good day of work. We retaught lesson one to one of our investigators, Reah, and it went super well (especially after a really rough, rejected invitation to be baptized last time), and she even prayed for us at the end, a first! 

Friday I went on exchanges with Elder Hedman, from South Jordan, in their area, which was really fun! And maybe only RMs or other missionaries would know this, but you know Eric Guevarra from "The District" preach my gospel videos? He was the guy who was baptized by Elders Murray and Tui'tuu? Well, he's a Filipino and now lives in that area! I've met him a few times, and he's a rock solid member here. I got a picture and video with him. Probably no one cares, but he's a missionary celebrity! Then the next day we helped them at a CSP to build a house for a member, so that was cool. Saturday was a pretty regular day, we got punted from most of the people we were hoping to visit, but we were able to visit a lot of our young men here who are off and on, and got quite a few of them to come to church on Sunday!

Also, Brother Marcos got the priesthood yesterday, and wore a shirt and tie for the first time! He's such a handsome little guy! We had another good day of work yesterday, despite the fact that I was feeling pretty sick most of the time. We had a dinner appointment with my favorite family, the Habalas, that night, and that brings us to now!

I can't say I'm at my best right now, but I am learning a lot! This area has turned from my most successful to one of the steepest learning experiences of my mission, but I am indeed learning! As far as spiritual insights, I just feel the way Paul does in Corinthians: "But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly...yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me."

And so that’s about it for this week! Love you all!

--Elder Christensen