Monday, May 25, 2015

Elder Christensen's Final Email: I love you all, I love the Philippines and I love the Lord

Hey Gang!  Hope everyone is doing well this week!  Our week started out fantastic!  Tuesday the Lord just granted me the greatest spirit and excitement for missionary work!  We talked to a lot of people and taught good lessons.  We answered Anthony’s questions about the Book of Mormon, then we went out to our far area and taught Harvey about choosing to serve a mission, then taught a new investigator, Lita!  Her fellowshipper, Lorry, is sort of less active, but we are hoping her fellowshipping will make her more active!  We taught our tiniest investigator, Leah, and she’s also doing great, progressing toward her baptism on the 13th of June!  We ended the night teaching the families of Jess and Allan combined about the Holy Ghost and it was just good vibes, man.  Wednesday morning during companionship study Elder Nalumen told me he wasn’t feeling good.  Now, you got to know something about my companion, this kid is a workhorse and doesn’t slow down.  He has been all congested for about a month here, but he never complained, never said anything.  Well, he just developed a bad cough and said something, so I knew something was up.  After going to district meeting and talking to Sister Clark about it, we decided to have him rest.  And man, he was out like a light.  Meanwhile, I got done a ton of stuff around the house that I had been meaning to get done.  I’m finally all organized! 
Thursday at about three in the morning he tried waking me up, then eventually threw his Preach My Gospel at me to tell me that he had a fever of 101.  Well, we got him the right medication and I gave him a blessing.  He slept all Thursday, and I, again, started getting my stuff organized.  I got to have personal study for two hours, which was a rare treat!  At around 5:30 in the afternoon Elder Nalumen said he was ready to work.  I asked if he was feeling better, and he said no, but he missed being outside.  He said he could do it, so we taught Daisy and Ronald and Wesley, the Atchico brothers.  At around 8 my comp was starting to space out, so we called it a night and he went straight to sleep.  Friday I finished the Doctrine and Covenants, so that was cool!  My companion had a rough night again, so at the order of Sister Clark we went to the hospital for an X ray and a blood test, which both came back normal.  In the afternoon, we left Elder Nalumen with Elder Lopez (who just had surgery and is recovering, can’t walk very far and who was in Tarlac Zone back in February) at the assistants/office elders’ house while I went with Elder Eggett and Elder Cancel to help run some errands, namely lifting/transporting a refrigerator and some furniture. J  Oh!  I forgot to say that Elder Eggett treated me to Mang Inasal, this awesome restaurant, as his “payment” for the zone shirt we made!  What a guy. 
Running errands with Elder Eggett
New zone t shirts designed by Elder C
Cat that gave birth in the assistants' apartment
At about 5, Elders Cancel, Lopez and Nalumen went to have Daisy’s baptismal interview while me and Elder Eggett went with Sonny to interview Arlene Canlas, who was my investigator a year ago!  It was great to see how much she had developed spiritually since I taught her.  She passed and she’ll be baptized the same time as Daisy!  Afterwards we went to try to teach Arianne, my recent convert from a year ago, who hasn’t come to church in months because she felt bullied by some of the young men and her parents apparently told the missionaries a while ago not to come back.  Well, we talked to her mom, and her mom seemed excited to see me, but she said that Arianne wasn’t there…but I’m pretty sure she was…It was late and I know Arianne’s parents like her home before dark... My heart broke a little bit.  I hope she’ll still talk to me, maybe when my parents pick me up.  But, on the bright side, we taught my old buddy Tristan who’s coming back to Church now, as he was less active when we got here.  That was fun!  And they fed us mangoes!

Saturday we did weekly planning, picked up my companion’s ridiculous amount of medication na Sister Clark told us to buy, and picked up the zone t-shirts!  Then we came back to the apartment and my companion was exhausted again.  We worked in the evening, but only taught Matthew.  Sunday was great!  We picked up Daisy for church, and Matthew and Leah came as well.  Lots of less actives came, too!  The Atchico brothers, Lorry and Harvey, Sister Agustin…. It was awesome!  AND Brother Dave brought two referrals to church: Justin (16) and Marlon (18), who are super cool and really looking for the truth.  We taught them in the afternoon and they accepted baptismal dates for July!  I also gave a talk in church about the Sabbath, which I think went ok!  One piece of bad news is that Matthew’s grandpa isn’t budging, so he can’t be baptized now.  But, it’s ok!  He turns 18 in July, so it’s pretty soon!  In the afternoon we taught a ton of lessons, and PJ, Loui and Moy worked with us!  I cooked them refried beans with rice for dinner because that’s all the food we had left in the house… They were not very fond of it, it was funny!  It tasted like home to me. J  But yeah, it felt so good to get out and work a whole day.  I’m excited for this coming week!  Lots of good stuff in store.

 Well.  This is it.  The last one… I’ll try to send another update when my parents are here next week picking me up.  But if not, this has been quite an adventure!  I love this mission more than anything else I’ve ever done.  I’m excited to go home because “Brandon Christensen” is someone else now, someone a lot better.  I will be arriving at the Salt Lake Airport on June 10th, at 4 pm, in Terminal 2 (Delta flight), if any friends or family want to greet me there, I have no complaints.  That evening, once I am released, if anyone wants to visit, I will be in my basement watching The Amazing Spiderman 2.  My homecoming address will be Sunday, June 14th at 9 am, and everyone is invited to my house afterwards to visit.

I love you all, I love the Philippines and I love the Lord.  This is Elder Christensen, signing off…

-Elder Christensen

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A rollercoaster week and Sister Victorino's passing

So this week was one of my favorite metaphors for a mission: a rollercoaster!  And it started with a road trip!  We had some big changes!  They took District 3 from my zone (8 missionaries, among them Elder Cox, Velez and VanTassell) and 10 missionaries from the Angeles Zone and made an all-new zone: Mabalacat Zone!  So we went down to Mabalacat for the formation of that zone.  I got to see some other friends there, too, like Sister Koford and Elder Checketts! 
With Elder Choresca, the new Mabalacat zone leader!

With Elder Westover, Angeles zone leader
After that we came home and had one last Home Evening with the Smith family and Matthew before the Smiths went home to Utah. 
Tuesday we taught the Vilencia family again and then we got a surprising text from our former investigator, Mina Vilvan.  She said she wanted to be baptized!  So we went and taught her again and basically what happened is her little 2 year old got injured and hurt his back and now he walked crooked and stuff…It’s been hard and humbling for her and she just feels like now is the right time for her to be baptized.  We taught about faith and she accepted a baptismal goal date for July.  We also taught little Leah Hodrial again and she’s still on track for baptism in June. 

Wednesday was just solid.  Our plans all worked out except for one.  We found out Anthony’s concern, in that he’s trying to make a decision whether he AND his whole family will be baptized.  We’re going to try to teach his whole family, so they can make this decision individually, and so that when Anthony receives an answer he doesn’t force his family to do something they don’t want to do.  We taught those two less active boys we met in the street, Ronald (12) and Wesley (10) Athchico and they’re super cool.  Just a solid day!  Thursday Elder Burton (who used to be in my zone but his companion is currently in the hospital recovering from surgery) joined us.  Our appointments in the morning were completely destroyed…but in the afternoon we found a nice little family:  Jimmy and Viola Tabamo!  We taught Mina again and we finally taught the Puno family again. 

Alrighty, we’re going to speed things up here.  Friday morning we got a text from President informing us that Sister Victorino, my batchmate from the MTC (who had gone home on a medical release last July but who had just come back in March) had passed away due to a sudden illness.  I could not believe it... They would have a memorial service for her on P day in San Jose (her last area).  Moy worked with me on Friday and so we went on splits.  I felt the spirit really strong that day and I felt like I was actually able to help people, like the Ong family when they were stressing out.  Saturday the work was ok, we got some good new investigators, but I just had a rough day.  It was just rough and I just kind of couldn’t wait for it to end.  Sunday I got to partake of the sacrament again, and that made all the difference.  No word on Matthew’s grandpa, but his Aunt Roxanne came to church, so we talked to her a bit and that was good.  I went on splits again with Brother PJ this time, and 18 year old kid who is the only member in his family (and they don’t approve of his religion) who’s testimony is so strong.  We taught a ton of less actives, so that was good! 

On Monday we had a fun zone activity at the Monestario de Tarlac, which had great views. 
With comp at Monestario de Tarlac

Beautiful views from Monestario de Tarlac

Being a jeepney barker
Jeepney ride to zone activity

Then I got in the assistants’ van and we drove all over the mission picking up people for Sister Victorino’s memorial service.  I actually got to see all of my former companions who were still in the mission that day.  I got to see San Jose again, so that was cool, but the reason I was there wasn’t.  The service, of course, was sad, but President gave a great talk at the end which gave everyone great perspective.
San Jose

His first apartment in the mission field in San Jose

With his anak, Elder Palabrica at Sister Victorino's Memorial Service

An old picture with Sister Victorino

Another old picture with Sister Victorino

Well, that’s all this week.  It’s been an emotional one.  I’m so grateful to be a living, breathing, healthy and happy missionary.  The Lord is in this work and in every one of our lives.

-Elder Christensen

Monday, May 11, 2015

"Hail Mary"

Kamusta na!  This week started with a BANG!  Literally!  There was an enormous thunderstorm on Monday and the rain really came down!  Pretty much our whole neighborhood was in a 6 inch deep pond!  It was proselyting in the evening an adventure!  But sa wak as we taught Sister Ligaya about the Sabbath as well as Nanay Lolita.  We slept at the Assistants’ house because Tuesday was MLC!  And I loved it again.  There was some heart-wrenching accountability as my area hasn’t had a baptism in 2015, but it was a good call to action. It was humbling, but it was what I needed to hear, especially at this part of my mission.  There were also great topics about the Sabbath, the convincing power of the Book of Mormon, pride and culture.  I also got to bear my testimony at the end because that’s the privilege of all departing missionariesL.  It was bittersweet.  I also got to see so many of my friends, possibly for the last time.  I’ve been so blessed to associate with so many incredible missionaries.  I love them and I’ll miss them for sure.  But there’s still work to do! 

His birthday present to Dad: a "stealcht" fighter :)
On Wednesday (HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD, YA OLD GOOF!)  I went on exchanges with my bud Elder Burnett in Burgos. We were on bikes again!  I met a less active who is from the same town as/ knows Elder Lungay (my trainer!).  Then while we were biking we got caught in the heaviest rain of my mission.  Just completely soaked.  But we got to teach some really spiritual lessons to some less actives.  On the way home we were running a little late, so we biked as hard as we could to get home on time and we did!  But my nametag fell off in the dark while we were on the bikes :(. I’m only left with my pin-on one!  But I got a makeshift one that works well.  Thursday we had zone training.  It went ok-ish.  I felt like we couldn’t inspire the zone like we wanted to…it was kind of quiet.  But toward the end it was really spiritual and that was good. … I really pray that we helped our missionaries kahit papaano.  We went and taught our recent convert Harvey and our cute, tiny investigator Leah in Aguso…and it rained again!  We taught Sister Ami again for the first time in a while…We taught Sister Queendee and she’s starting to progress!  She’s got great potential.  Lastly, we visited Nanay Mocun, the member who washes for us, and it turns out that she has 3 less active kids who are grown up and have families now, and we set up a time to teach them on Sunday! 

Friday we had exchanges again, this time I was in my own area with Elder Mitchell, who is an awesome missionary, about 10 months out.  We went finding and taught some guys.  One named Lyndon has some potential, but we’ll see!  We taught Matthew… Oh, man.  So Matthew texted his grandpa and (I’ll summarize) asked him to sign a waiver (It came across like a liability waiver, not a baptism and confirmation record) coming from the foreign missionaries, AND in the same text he asked if he could have his passport!  Well, his grandpa freaked out at him because he thought that we were trying to get Matthew to leave the country to go on a mission!  Agh!  He is utterly refusing to sign… Our only hope is Matthew’s aunt (his grandpa’s niece), a member, who is coming in to town…  We are going to ask her to explain everything clearly to the grandpa (He refuses to see/talk to us), and hopefully convince him to sign the form.  It’s a long shot—a Hail Mary—but we’ll give it all we got for Matthew to get baptized.  We taught Daisy, who said she’s looking to finish the Book of Mormon next week!  I’ll be very impressed when that happens!  We ate dinner at a little restaurant and then it rained….AGAIN!  And our area flooded a bit!  Good thing the office elders, Elder Cancel and Elder Eggett, came by in the van and picked us up!  We visited a member of Elder Mitchell’s branch who is actually in the hospital here in Tarlac and we gave him a blessing.  Afterwards, we found a vending machine!  It was the first I’ve used one in over 23 months!  Not gonna lie, it kind of took us a while to figure out how it worked.  Missionary problems.  Anywho, we ended up teaching the Victorio family, and the water had gone down a bit. 

Saturday morning we taught the Vilencia family, Romi and Joven, then their 22 year old son, John.  They were really into the lesson and understood the apostasy SUPER well.  They accepted goal dates for June AND fed us toron (my favorite!).  We exchanged back then went out to work!  We taught Anthony, who finally committed to coming to church, but then didn’t show... And Al is still here!  His departure to go to Kuwait got moved.  We passed by his house, saw him and taught him!  I’m super pumped that he is still here!  We taught the Fiesta family and found out that the mom has a word of wisdom problem, so that is probably keeping her from coming to church.  We ended the night by teaching Nora about the word of wisdom….. Good day!

Sunday was good!  Church was great!  I’m trying to take the Sabbath, especially sacrament meeting more seriously.  It was a good experience partaking of the sacrament this week.  Matthew, Daisy, and Leah came to church this week, so good stuff! 
With Sister Sol, Daisy, her fellowshipper Carissa, elder Nalumen, and Brother armenio!
We went on splits and I worked with Michael Ramos, one of my good friends here in Ward 4, for the first part of the afternoon.  We went to teach Matthew and … his Aunt Roxanne was there!  Miraculous timing.  She wasn’t sure if our plan would work, but she’s willing to help!  Matthew’s so ready, but we just have got to figure out how to get him baptized!  Later May Duenas and PJ DeLeon (two 18 year olds who want to serve missions) worked with me and we taught Daisy, who is progressing nicely.  We got punted from all of our other appointments, but there was miraculous timing again when we were walking down the street and two little boys came up and told us they were members!  They moved from another stake last November, but then lost contact with the church.  And they live super close to the stake president and our recent convert!  Miracle! 

Life is good.  I love being a missionary and I don’t want this to end!  Live long and prosper!

-Elder Christensen

Monday, May 4, 2015

"Leave it all in the pool"

So the time is just flying by and I’ve started a bad habit of not writing anything down in my journal until Sunday or Monday.  But here we go!  Monday we had our crazy reports to do so we were in the computer shop for over 3 hours…Oh well!  It’s my last one!  Afterwards, we taught our eternagators, Nora and Allan, and had a really good lesson based around Ether 12:27.  We also taught Jess about receiving a calling and he’s totally ready.  Tuesday everything just worked!  We had two boys preparing to for missions, Moy and Ark, work with us!  We taught a new investigator, May who seemed to have a lot of promise!  We also stopped by Matthew and of course, he’s still awesome.  We taught Ligaya, who is our goal for June!  She’s progressing really well.  We taught Nanay Lolita, ate a quick dinner, and then went way out to Aguso.  There we taught Michelle, a less active, who we are now fairly certain was high on weed. It was really weird to say to least.  We visited with Harvey and Lorry again, but the highlight was when we visited the Odrial  family.  They shared with us why they became less active, and their youngest, Leah, hasn’t been baptized.  We set a date with her for June and they’re excited to come back to church!  

Wednesday we had district meeting.  Having Sister Penales and Elder Dejino there made it feel like déjà vu! 
Sister Penales, Elder Dejino and Elder C were also in a district together in Tarlac a year ago!
District pic
 In the afternoon we had good work again visiting our new investigator Kirby then Anthony, who is still awesome but hesitant, and Daisy, who is still so determined to be baptized!  She’s so golden and SO prepared.  After that we met up with Matthew and went over to the Smiths for dinner. We shared about fasting and we’re all fasting this Sunday that he’ll be able to be baptized, and that his life will get better and hopefully that he’ll get back to America.  And with the Smith family he had a good support system.  Lastly, we shared with our good buddy Al about being true at all times, because he’s going to work abroad next week. 

Thursday was weird.  I had the hardest time focusing on anything.  The entire day was weird, too!  We taught Brother Puno in the morning and he argued that not going to church isn’t a sin (we shared James 4:17).  We got super-ultra-mega punted in the afternoon, but we ended up teaching Evlo, who is one funny little less active kid.  We decided to go finding and we found an elderly Iglesia couple, and the man listened but the lady was inside fuming, so we made an early exit.  We then went to our investigators Crisylyn and Roger, but they weren’t home.  As we were walking away, we saw them at the end of the street, but they got shy and turned back.  Elder Nalumen suggested that we go around the block to run into them on accident.  We caught them and my companion was so funny, acting like nothing happened!  Well, we taught them and it was good!  I’m grateful Elder Nalumen is my companion because he knows how to have fun even in less than enjoyable situations.  We taught the WHOLE Victorio family as well!  The mom, dad and everyone!  We gave them The Family: A Proclamation to the World and challenged them to read it as a family. 
Friday was exchanges and Elder Van Tassell was my companion. He was in my zone back in Bongabon Zone and he’s now a new district leader!  He’s a great guy with a solid desire to serve.  I like him a lot! 
We taught Ligaya, who opened up to us about how she had been wronged by others before, but we were able to show her how living the gospel gives us peace and guidance and strength to forgive.  That was one of the better lessons of my mission.  We taught Matthew, and we had a hard time speaking English!  We brought along Al, and we taught Teresa AND she fed us dinner!  We taught Kirby, but it looks like he’s going to go back to Iglesia ni Cristo..Dang.  We stopped by Queendee and explained the Intro from the Book of Mormon, because she didn’t read, but she still has a lot of promise!  We taught Al himself last about seeking first the kingdom of God, as he left for Manila on Saturday then he flies to Kuwait on Sunday.  I’ll miss him.  But Friday was good.  It was a bit crazy, but we worked it out!

Saturday we exchanged back, then took care of some stuff for the zone. We taught Anthony, who had some concerns about the Apostasy, but we finally committed him to ask God if it’s true, come to church next week, and he finally accepted a baptismal goal date, sa June!  We taught Daisy the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Word of Wisdom.  But there’s a little problem there.   Sol, who referred her and takes her to church, is super offended by some members in Ward 4, so they’ve transferred their records to Ward 2.  So for now, Daisy’s going to church in Ward 2, which isn’t a problem now, but it might be when it comes to baptism and staying active in this church.  We’ll work it out.  We taught Sister Puno and her son, Rod, which was nice.  We showed the Restoration DVD to the Ferrer family…it really didn’t have much effect unfortunately.  They just said, “It’s possible God appeared to him.” 

Sunday!  Lots of people came to church!  Lorry, Sister Puno and even Sister Michelle came!  The Odrial family, along with our little investigator Leah, came.  And Matthew was there a half an hour early!  Daisy couldn’t get money from the ATM on Saturday, so she didn’t have money to get to church, but it’s ok!  She’s still on track for baptism on the 30th!  In the afternoon we visited one of the young men, Angelo, who’s been inviting us to come and teach his aunt.  They live super far away, but we scheduled it in.  They weren’t too terribly interested, but they’ll have us back next week!  Afterwards it was the monthly meeting with all the bishops in the stake, and boy did they have a lot of questions for us!  But it was alright.  Afterwards we went on splits and I worked with Bro. Isaiah, who leaves on his mission in July!  He’ll be a great missionary.  We taught Matthew then the Victorio family.  All in all it was a really good week!  Oh, and I forgot to say that I got Mom’s package!  Thanks a ton!  We’ve all but finished off the Starburst (Elder Nalumen’s a big fan).  As far as insights, I’ll attach a part from my departure questionnaire, where it’s the advice I would give to all new and old missionaries. 

Alright, this is it, one month.  All out sprint.  It’s like Dad used to say before my swim meets, to just leave it all in the pool.  I’m excited.  This is going to be the greatest month of my mission!

-Elder Christensen

His answer to the question, “What few words of advice would you share with the new arriving missionaries that would help them be successful in their mission?”,   from his departure questionnaire:

 “Just keep swimming.”  (1 Nephi 4:6-7)  Keep going!  God will help you!

“With great power comes great responsibility.”  (D&C 82:3)  You are a super hero now! 

Be obedient.  “Live long and prosper!”  (Alma 37:13)

OYM people!  On buses, trikes, jeepneys, on the street, and everywhere!  “Just do it.”

Love everyone, especially your companions.  “Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know which one you’re going to get.”  So why not love them all!  (Moroni 7:46-48)

Don’t bible bash!  “Apply this two word sermon: Stop it.”  (3 Nephi 11:29)

However magaling you are or aren’t, let your mission change you, and let the Lord, through His atonement “Fix You”.  (2 Cor. 5:17)

Never, ever forget that you’re “On Top of the World”, that you’re living the dream!  (D&C 58:16, D&C 45:62)