Sunday, September 28, 2014

Staying in Baler Zone!

Dear All!
Well, last Monday was good!  We went to Mother Falls as a zone and that was fun!  Email was all good, too.  I got a haircut and got to talk about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon with Efren, the guy who cut my hair. (He did a good job, too!)  Tuesday we had district meeting in the morning and we worked in Baubo in the afternoon.  We were pretty punted, but we were eventually guided to Sister Lolit.  We taught a lesson, as prompted by the Holy Ghost.  She opened up and shared some powerful experiences about how her prayers had been answered in the past.  The only thing I want to say about that is that the Lord was really looking out for me.  Well, He always is.  We also taught Linda, Marcos and Adelina and said goodbye, as I thought I was leaving.  I gave Adelina a big picture of me and her two other “sons”, Elder Park and Elder Brockbank.  We then went to Dipaculao to do an interview for Elder Hedman, and then we zipped back to do two interviews for Elder Choresca and Elder Jacobson.  Then we got transfer announcements: Nothing’s happening!  Literally the entire zone is the same, except Elder Purca (the elder I went on splits with when I got to visit Arianne in Tarlac) is Elder Hedman’s new companion.  Elder Anasario, Elder Hedman and I went down to Cabanatuan to get him at transfers.  I’m excited I’m staying!  I love the people here and there’s so much good we can do here.  And me and Elder Anasario’s companionship is going good, so things are looking good! :)
Baler Zone--staying the same!

So! Wednesday morning we taught a good lesson to RonRon, then went down to Cab!  We ate at McDo. Siyempre.  Interesting news at transfers:  Elder Armatage is training again, Elder Couqia is the new assistant and Elder Westover is the new zone leader in Bongabon!  We got Elder Purca, and then headed back to Aurora.  On the way back my stomach really started hurting.  I thought I was just car sick, so I rested a little when we got home.  Then we went to work, but I still wasn’t feeling good.  Friday morning I was feeling worse.  We called Sister Clark and she told us to get Buscopan.  We went to the pharmacy and they lady convinced us to get something else…dumb idea.  I didn’t get any better.  I seriously felt so nauseous every time I moved around and my stomach seriously was hurting, especially if I ate or drank anything.  Finally we got the medicine that Sister Clark told us to get when I was seriously hurting around 6:30 pm.  I was on my back most of the day, as any other position seriously hurt.  But, that medicine worked and I was feeling a bit better before bed.  Saturday morning I was hurting a bit, but not as bad.  We had zone goal setting in the morning in Baler, then we came back to Maria and taught one lesson, then went back to Baler for our SMC meeting with President Clark.  Then we came back again and taught Razzel, JL, and Jomari (the coolest little kids—they said in the prayer that they were happy that I didn’t transfer because they loved me.  (Everybody: AWWW!)  We taught Elma and Virsilio as well.  My stomach still hurts, but I can get through.  I’m eating nothing but toast, water, bananas and crackers because that is what hurts the least!  No unhallowed [stomach] can stop the work from progressing!

Well, Sunday went well!  I gave a talk in church, which was something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time in this branch, so that was good!  I talked about obedience.  In the afternoon we taught a super good lesson to Nancy about the Family Proclamation.  We taught a super less active finally about the temple.  We also did appointments with people that really seemed open and receptive.  We taught Mycah’s referrals that she brought to church again and set baptismal dates as well!  We taught Elma at the end about the law of chastity and she loved and agreed with every part.  She is definitely our golden investigator now.  She is always reading the Book of Mormon and she has a thirst to know it all!  It’s so great.  Her baptism is on the 18th!  Life is good!  My stomach is a bit uneasy, but it’s ok.  We are being watched over here. :)

Dinner appointment!
Elder Christensen
Brandon's stolen Spiderman hoodie :(
Eating rambutan "Dr. Suess fruit" :)

Monday, September 22, 2014

Blessing a motorcycle (?) and 7 investigators to church!

Hello All!

Backing up to last Sunday, after church we went to a service for a still born child of a member.  So sad.  After that we were able to teach one lesson to the young men before we had to be inside by 5 pm because a Bagyo (typhoon) was coming…but it never came.  Kind of funny.  On Monday we joined the funeral procession for that baby, and then headed to Baler to email.  It was a good email session.  I don’t know, Sister McKim made me laugh pretty hard, so that was cool!  We went shopping at NE and saw President Mamaradlo, Marivel, Tonton and Fevelyn there.  Marivel kept trying to convince us to buy baby stuff that was on sale...Baliw.  We had a good Family Home Evening at the Mamaradlos.  We got 5 referrals!  Awesome!  And it was good fun. 

Tuesday morning we went hunting down referrals, but none were home/available.  In the afternoon Nanay Adelina threw a party, so we attended and shared with her before it started.  That party kind of threw off our schedule, so we didn’t get a ton done.  BUT, when we went to teach Arsenio (who wasn’t there), we met his daughter-in-law, Lolit, and she is GOLDEN!  She just understood the lesson and accepted the invitation for baptism right away!  That was the highlight of Tuesday for sure!  On Wednesday we had district meeting then exchanges with the Elders in San Luis.  I went to San Luis with Elder Illustrisimo (Elder Armatage’s last companion and THE FUNNIEST ELDER in this mission).  Before that we tried to go by the house of a recent convert of Sister Penales, who happens to be a 50+ year old man who confessed his love to her in a letter at church.  Yep, that happened.  We were going by to tell him that is totally not okay, and that Sister Penales would be transferring.  Well, unfortunately (or thankfully, not sure which) he wasn’t home, but since then their branch presidency has swung by and talked about it with him.  The exchanges were great!  Lots of fun and Elder Illustrisimo is the man. 

Thursday we came back and in the morning Elder Anasario and I found the house of this family who actually sells this awesome pork dish called liempo right next to our apartment!  We taught the mom and she was so prepared!  She was so into the lesson and she said yes to the baptismal invite!  Awesome!  In the afternoon we had even more success!  We taught Arsenio and then Lolit, and LOLIT IS AMAZING!  We taught the apostasy and restoration and when we reviewed about the primitive Church, she kept asking “Where is Jesus Christ’s church now?”  She told us how she tried about four different religions and she says she likes her Baptist Church as she’s learned a lot but, in Bono’s words, “She still hasn’t found what she’s looking for!”  I can’t wait to find how her praying to know has gone!  We taught Marcos, then his son Marlon who was just really shy.  We taught a few other recent converts, and ended the day with 10 lessons—Awesome! 

Friday’s highlight was when we contacted a referral of Nanay Adelina in San Joaquin and she is SO awesome!  She’s had many religions that she’s tried but hasn’t liked and she really understood the need for a prophet.  Her name is Christine and we are excited about her!  We were called home early because the wind of the typhoon was pretty nuts, but that’s ok.  It gave me time to make breakfast burritos!  Saturday we taught Dominga, the one who sells liempo, and she was excited for the lesson and read the pamphlet we left. She was a bit quiet, but we’ll follow up on her praying to know in the future!  In the afternoon we had something weird happen.  As we went to teach Marcos, his daughter and her husband joined in (Usually they don’t seem to care).  Then afterwards they asked if we could bless their motorcycle.  Well, we said a prayer for them and their vehicle…interesting!  On Sunday, good news and bad news.  The bad news is that only one investigator with a baptismal date came to church, but the good news is we had 7 ISMs (investigators at sacrament meeting) still!  Mycah, a 13 year old, brought two referrals to church.  Our investigator Razzel brought his cousins with him and the daughter of Marcos and her husband came to church as well, on their brand-new- blessed motorcycle!  Ha ha!  We had a missionary fireside for our branch, which went well!  Hopefully we have some new investigators coming from that investment.  And today, for P-day we have a zone activity where we will be going to Mother Falls…I’m excited!  Life is good!

Comps at Mother Falls
-Elder Christensen
Tribe of Don bag!

P Day fun at Mother Falls
Elder C !

Monday, September 15, 2014

Not easy, but good things still happening

Hello All!

Baler Zone
So last Monday was crazy, as the plan was study, clean the apartment, email, go to Cab, enjoy NE Pacific Mall, then go to sleep. Well, there was no power in all of Aurora on Monday, so what we did was leave a little bit earlier, run around Cabanatuan for an hour or so looking for a computer shop that could accommodate us, and then didn’t email until 6:15 pm (on the plus side, Katelyn Josie emailed me, that was a fun surprise), then tried to get everyone fed and the sisters to their apartment before 8:00.  Somehow heaven provided a way and all of that happened!  But I was stressed to the limit.  But it was ok.  Zone conference was awesome! 

​I learned so much about how to improve my teaching and how to make solid lesson plans!  And the rides down were fun as we blasted Tagalog Christmas music and kwentohaned.
​We taught Elma when we got back to Maria, which went well!  We made a lesson plan. :)

 Well, this is a rare opportunity; I have a little extra time.  Currently, I’m a bit freaked out because of time.  For example, two years ago I was going to college at BYU.  WHAT?!  No, I feel like I was a junior in high school two years ago.  And, I hope this doesn’t sound trunky, but the end is starting to be in sight.  In 9 months from now I’ll be home, and if those 9 months go as fast (or faster) than the last 9….Man, I don’t know.  I had successfully convinced myself back in San Jose that this was eternity, that I really was never going to go back home.  Then I started to believe in it, like the Second Coming, in that I’m sure it will happen, but I don’t know when, so I don’t worry about it.  But now…agh!  Throws me for a loop.

Well, the past few days haven’t exactly been easy, but good things are still happening.  Wednesday we found out that Nanay Jesusa moved to Baler, so that was sad.  Then we went to Queen, and now I’m sure what happened last week was preparation for me this week.  Her mom told us that Queen no longer wanted to be taught and that they are just Catholic.  (Which I don't really know how true that is. The mom has always been suspicious of us, but since queen is 17 we don't have a choice really).  That was hard.  I put her teaching record in the former investigator section in the Area Book, but I wrote in big letters to go back to her when she is 18, because she really is golden. There must be a bigger plan behind all of this, but yeah, that was really hard this week. We had a high note in our lesson with Arsenio, as he accepted a baptismal date on October 18th!  Tatay Marcos had a tough question: He asked what will happen if he really wants to be sealed to his family forever, but they don’t want to be baptized and in the end he’s with the Lord, but his family can’t be with him.  Man, that’s so hard.  My heart ached for him.  We made lesson plans for Nanay Linda’s neighbors, but they were all drunk when we went.  Hard day.  Thursday we went finding in the morning and taught an old Methodist Nanay who thought we worshipped Joseph Smith.  She didn’t seem to love the idea of a living prophet.  Oh, and we saw a crazy guy wearing my Spiderman jacket that he evidently stole from our apartment…Cool, cool.  We taught Apple, but she was sick.  We taught a referral, the DelaCruz family, and they were really nice and receptive, even though it was just the mom and her kids. 
Costa Pacifica!

Friday we woke up super early to finish personal study, companionship study and weekly planning all before 10:00 am, then we did house checks with the Lunds and they treated us to Coast Pacifica again. (SO GOOD!) They are so nice!  

​The afternoon was rough again.  Arsenio is progressing, but that’s about it.  Nanay Linda’s neighbors seem to be hiding from us now.  A good thing is that we taught Darwin Centeno, just him, and that was a good lesson.  We had made a lesson plan about the first two principles of the gospel and I felt like it hit home.  He really liked James’ imagery about how faith without works is dead like a body without a spirit is dead.  That and he finally realized to receive forgiveness for his sins that he has to change.  He committed to come to church and I really hoped that would happen.  We went to try to find referrals.  We weren’t able to contact and teach them, but we did find two former investigator families!  Good stuff!  On Saturday we mostly tracted the next morning…I do NOT like tracting!  Not effective, lots of rejection…We planned a missionary fireside for later on all about referrals and I was praying that we could get some new investigators there, because they are SO much more likely to progress.   The fireside actually didn't end up going through, though, for various reasons, but it is rescheduled for next Saturday! Sunday we only had two investigators at church, Nancy and Elma, even though we had so many good lessons with investigators that said they were coming to church on Sunday...oh well! On Sunday we went to a funeral of a member’s still born sad. So hard, I have a lesson based off the last verse in D&C 137 there to try to comfort the sad. President said there was a Bagyo (typhoon) coming, so we had to be inside by five yesterday, but nothing happened...just a little rain....Oh well! And that's all!

-Elder Christensen

Monday, September 8, 2014

"Believe in God"!

Note: Brandon’s email never came Sunday night, so I thought it wasn’t coming, but I woke up to this message this morning:
Sorry Mom, it has been such a crazy day. No power in the entire province of Aurora, so we came down to Cab (its zone conference tomorrow) and just now are emailing. I have no time again, I need to get these sisters to the sister training leaders apartment before eight, and we still haven't eaten dinner.... Sounds like a great week back home, and OH MY GOSH I'M SO OLD MOM I CAN'T BELIEVE ITS BYU FOOTBALL SEASON AGAIN AND THAT TWO YEARS AGO I WAS IN COLLEGE ALREADY!!!! AGH!

And here’s his update:
Hello All!
 Sunday the 31st was good! I got to go on splits and work with John Paul and Fevelyn.  Big day for Fevelyn: gave a talk in church AND worked with the missionaries for the first time!  Queen was excited for baptism when we taught her!  Her mom said it was ok if she gets baptized, and Queen said that was the answer to her prayer!  And starting Sunday night my life has been an all-out sprint!

Monday we had so many reports to complete before we went down to Cabanatuan at 11 am.  We got some shopping done there for some zone mates, and then it was on to Tarlac! 
 It’s also September now, which means the Christmas season in the Philippines! Yay! Christmas music was all over these big cities.  

Tuesday was our Mission Leaders Council at the mission home and I learned SO much!  How to better use the Book of Mormon, how to help district leaders (as apparently that is the most critical role), about how to handle disobedience, and finally how to find and teach more effectively!  Whoa, craziness!  LOVED IT!  

I got to see many of my mission buddies, especially Elder Armatage- what a champ. 
 Wednesday the 3rd we got a ride in a sedan back to Baler, which was super nice.  I got to sleep a little!  (It’s impossible to sleep on the buses)  We got a few lessons in, too!  Thursday we gave the zone training, and then everything went absolutely insane.

You know how I’ve said it couldn’t get any crazier?  Well, it did.  We went to visit Sister Queen, as her mom told us she was sick.  Well, she had had a fever and evidently poor circulation and had been laying down for a couple of days.  She came to the front room for us to give her a blessing.  Elder Anasario anointed, then I said her name and was about to seal the anointing when she passed out.  Chaos ensued.  The mom was shrieking, crying, yelling at us and saying “What is this?!  What did you do?! This is my only child!  If she dies, I’ll die too!”  It was the scariest few minutes of my life.  Her eyes had rolled back in her head and it really looked like she had died.  In a moment of panic I prayed, then called President Clark to figure out what to do.  He told me to explain our purpose and intent and to maintain the dignity of our calling.  Well, my companion did that but I was just freaked out.  Every bit of first aid I learned as a lifeguard went out the window.  Queen woke up and seemed to be doing ok and the mom calmed down and even apologized for freaking out at us.  I tried to explain that we were just trying to help as I choked back tears.  They went to the hospital and we went to the house of Nanay Adelina to calm down a bit.  I was still pretty shaken up, but what really bothered me is why this would happen.  Why would God let something like that happen, something that could destroy this daughter of God progressing towards baptism’s relationship with His kingdom on earth?  I couldn’t wrap my head around it.  I said a lot of prayers.  

The next day in personal study, I realized that my faith was just really weak.  I was kind of like Peter when he stepped out on the water and saw the scary waves.  That’s what happened to me.  I read in Preach My Gospel about faith and one of the suggested readings there was Mosiah 4:6-12, and man, it was like verse 9* spoke straight to me.  It was exactly what I needed to hear.  And much like what happened with Peter, the Lord immediately stretched forth his hand and helped me understand why that happened. 
 We texted Queen to check up on her and she said she was ok and that she had a lack of red blood cells.  Her neighbor later told us she had a blood pressure reading of 84 over 50, so no wonder she fainted!  But if she hadn’t fainted, she wouldn’t have gone to the hospital (as her mom told us previously they wouldn’t because they couldn’t afford it), and she wouldn’t have fainted if she hadn’t stood up to see us.  And she definitely needed to go to the hospital.  Also, initially, I was afraid to go back to that area because of what might be said about the missionaries who make people faint (kind of like Ammon, now that I’m thinking about it).  But our members there went to work the next day sharing stories with the neighbors about the multiple miraculous healings that missionaries had performed in that area, so that problem was fixed.  I should have been afraid to work in that area again because of the way I acted, as I did not keep my composure as a representative of Jesus Christ should and I let fear get the best of me.  I spent a lot of time apologizing for the way I acted when I went back.  But this has been a faith strengthening experience even though it’s been completely crazy. 

Well!  Good things happened as well this week!  Lots of investigators accepted baptismal invitations (among them Luisa, Lolita and Arsenio [a referral from Nanay Adelina who came to church this Sunday]) and baptismal dates (Razzel, Centeno family and Josie).  And we met this less active kid who just moved back to Maria and he came to church on Sunday!  Virsiliio is his name.  He is 14 years old and super cool! 

And the best thing ever, MARIVEL ODINA HABALA WAS BAPTIZED!!! Oh, that was the best!  Her testimony afterwards was so awesome.  She just has a new light about her.  I wish you guys could see it! 

With President and Sister Angie Mamradlo at the baptism

Well, that’s all folks.  Believe in God!
-Elder Christensen

*Mosiah 4:9 “Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend.”