MTC is serving in the New York Utica mission from June 2010 to June 2012. We hope to keep you updated with his latest letters, pictures and more.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas - one down, one to go

Dear all,

Merry Christmas! I hope the rest of your day on Saturday was great; it sounds pretty crazy and busy with the flight to Utah and move down to Gilbert. It certainly was great to talk to you on the phone. I don't know if it's just me but I can almost get in robot mode when receiving letters and emails, which I absolutely love, and read them and almost seem to forget to remember you're real people. Ha, I don't know how to say that better but it was just nice to talk to you guys. I apologize for the emotion and inability I seemed to have to really speak too, too much. I hope, and sounds like, it was a positive experience for you guys as well. Yeah, it really just was odd for the majority of the day my emotions were right on the surface; for what I would typically consider seemingly unemotional things. I didn't think I was much of a crier but maybe not; thanks Mom. My Christmas was really good though. And you all made it a really special day. Thanks so much for the kind gifts and for your thoughtfulness! After the call we tried by a single, less-active sister but she wasn't there. Then Elder Stratton called and I got all organized with my new stuff and everything. I love my desk set up. The 2 Reflections of Christ pictures are sweet with the Mesa Temple, too, among others. Thanks so much. We got picked up to go the member's home and had a good time there. They're really nice and have like 6 kids. After that we rode our bikes to the nursing home; the front desk lady thought we were shady and didn't really want us to go but we worked our magic and made it happen. We talked to several people there and it was nice. We visited a less-active family on the way home and that concluded the night. Pretty simple, yet maybe the most meaningful Christmases I've had. As I guess Ben said, one down and one to go. Ha, that's my thoughts exactly. Yes, Elder Stratton shared his french toast. Ha, I'm glad my "high" voices were able to make you laugh or know that I'm still the same person; I'm just simply trying to become the new updated model - who the Lord wants me to become. As far a weather report every morning, I call this 1.800 number that you can get a forecast from, because yes I really do like knowing what's going down that day, literally. But again, it was a great weekend and great to talk to you all.

Amidst the holidays, fortunately the work wasn't impeded. Last Monday night our plans fell through a few hours before hand and we called a member couple to see if they would like to come out with us and see a recent convert who is struggling that he home teaches. It worked out well. They took us out to dinner, too. To this way nice old place then we had an awesome lesson there. Tuesday was good. President and Sister Bulloch were at our District Meeting and trained us. (Or gave the lesson). It was primarily centered on how "we are called to teach." We aren't necessarily called to tract, called to bike around, etc. (although these things need to happen in order to have people to teach at times) It was simply really good and Elder Stratton and I look forward to applying it here. In fact we are tonight. We're going over to the McLaws' home to have dinner with Dawn and Sophia and another member family. And we're going to
teach how to effectively do missionary work, through a specific focus we've been implemented from President. Anyway, after District Meeting we went on exchange with the Zone Leaders. I got to work in Albany! Not so much the downtown area but the surrounding cities. It was great; I was with an elder, 1 of my zone leaders, who came out with Elder Miller. We had some really neat experiences teaching together. One was a lesson we had at the University of Albany library in a room there. It was so cool! Weird to be on a college campus like that! Couldn't help but think of and relate it to BYU. It was also really funny Tuesday night when I was there they had a 'split' signed up. Two high priests were coming out with us. And check it, they didn't have plans for me and this member I'd never met before in this area I didn't know. We did work though and found a less-active mother and son. It was a really powerful and neat experience and lesson. Ha, as a missionary you are just constantly put into situations where you are unfamiliar or it's new or uncomfortable, etc. It was good. Thursday we had an awesome experience. Elder Stratton and I tracted into a guy we considered a potential investigator a week or so ago and we went back and knocked on his door to see if we could teach him and if he'd be interested. He was and we taught the first lesson. It was so powerful. He opened up a lot with us. He's maybe in his mid-fifties; we have a return appointment this Wednesday and are hoping to possibly teach his wife too! That was really neat. Christmas Eve I told you about at a member's home with a couple of single young adults in the ward and a nonmember. It was nice. Then yesterday was a really good day. It was nice to get back into the work and missionary mindset, if you will. And no, it wasn't too tough :). We had breakfast at a member's. Church. Afterward our plans fell through but Alden, the 20 year-old awesome member who helps us out royally, came out and worked with us all afternoon and night. We saw 3 less-actives/recent converts. Had an unplanned turkey dinner at his family's house. Taught Sandra our investigator getting baptized 1/8. And through all that gave 2 blessings. Not a bad day, not a bad day. It was great to get us going again. The Spirit was incredibly strong in these lessons and giving the blessings. I really enjoyed it. The 9 year-old and his family didn't show up at church yesterday unfortunately. We are going to really postpone the baptism now and back off. We can't really help people if they aren't willing to help themselves. It's sad but the Lord prepares people differently and in His time. We have so much good happening though it's incredible. I'm excited to get to work this week and help others. That's what it, this life - the gospel, is all about.

Well I hope you are all doing well and have a great Christmas season and New Year! I can't thank you enough for your love and support and generous gifts! It all means so much and I truly appreciate it. Let me know if I can do anything for you guys. OH! I'm looking forward to giving the Book of Mormon away you wrote in! It will definitely be someone meaningful and I can't wait to see them baptized. Thanks again.

I love you all so much.

Elder Christensen

PS- two additional emails have been sent with some Christmas pictures. If I get a chance I'll try and get this memory card sent out today.

PS- your pictures look great. Nice pyramid and pajamas. Elder Stratton had the pair I brought out here per tradition

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas is Coming

Dear Everyone,

Greetings. Hey there, how is everyone doing? By the sounds of things, pretty well, gathered together in Arizona for some good times. It's hilarious picturing you at the house right now chillin. But then again you're probably out doing some fun activities like you mentioned! That's awesome. I'm happy all expected arrived without too much complication (except for the whole 2:30am arrival and all, ha). So, perhaps you are wondering why my email is about an hour later than usual? I'll tell you why: the Bullochs are AWESOME. It was hilarious. On maybe Friday morning we got a call from Sister Bulloch saying they were planning on doing our President interviews at 10:00am on Monday (today). We said alright that sounds fine. We resumed our personal study and we got another call from her about 5 minutes later. She said they had been talking and how they'd like to help us out shopping, to take us and stuff. That sounded great and so they planned on coming a little earlier to allow us time to do that. Then, 30 seconds later, we got a third call from Sister Bulloch saying they'd like to take us out to breakfast, too! Ha! It was sweet! So anyway, President and Sister Bulloch came this morning and picked us up at 8am and we went to Denny's with them! That may not sound like too much but it was such a treat and great experience! They don't take missionaries out to breakfast too often, as far as I'm aware and have been told, but the circumstances were right and it worked awesome! Then, they took us to Wal Mart. After, we had interviews with President. Such a great start to a day; I can't say enough how much they mean to me. So that's that, perhaps more on it later, too. That's awesome Ste got his arrow of light! Way to go. And now in 11 year-old scouts. I can remember Cheryl Chapman, my 11 year-old scout leader, like it was yesterday. Baha. I'm glad someone, I believe it was Ste, made mention of the Wee Sing movie! That better have been watched! Who is Jackson in the movie?? Thooner is still getting represented well here. As well as, "But Santa, anyone would love to help you and your elves." Love it. Hilarious about the dance party at school for Ste. Way to ball hard and represent; I hope your moves were appropriate. I got the memory card this week in the letter Mom sent (as well as last week's letter from Mom on Monday). I don't erase any of them, no worries. I have no clue when they'll get full but we'll monitor that. I'm glad you got our Christmas card. Ha, that's in our apartment and we definitely did the timer set-up and everything numerous times to get it all perfect. Thanks so much for all the packages and everything! The whole 12-days thing is sweet; I wondered if that's what it maybe was going to be seeing the open on 12/16 one. Then as they trickled in it all came together then once I opened the first one, yep. Thanks. The tree is up and looks awesome! Thanks so much, it's really nice. The one for yesterday, 12/19, never showed up though; or maybe I should say hasn't yet showed up. Hope it can be found or whatever, ha. You asked about Christmas lights: as far as houses it isn't too intense over here, some yard decorations and stuff but not too many roof-line lights, etc. But like I mentioned the city is pretty cool with wreaths on the street lights and other lights. We're not exactly downtown at night too much so I don't have any pictures but you could google "Victorian Night in Saratoga Springs" to get an idea.

So the call. We talked to the Zone Leaders and they said they are and it's fine to open presents in the morning or whatever, which is nice. So that concern is settled, I'll have done all that prior to talking to you. You said 11:30am my time/ 9:30am your time is good? That'll be fine; I may call a little before that, around 11-11:30 am my time, assuming you'll all be there and doin your thang still at that time. So plan on that window for the call 9:00am - 9:30am Arizona time / 11:00am - 11:30am New York time. As far as who talks goes and all that you can orchestrate that accordingly...whether each has some solo time, or some have solo time, some all together time, etc entirely what you guys do and want. I'm looking forward to it all. It will certainly be cool yet bizarre.

This week was a good week, though. We are just plugging along, trying to do our best. Elder Stratton is great and ready and willing to work; we've been trying to get him pulling more of the load to equal it out and we talked about it with President this morning. Should be great looking forward. I went on an exchange this past week with a missionary who just got transferred to Greenwich, Elder Smith. He came out with Elder Miller and is awesome. I learned a lot from working with him Tuesday night and Wednesday. We found a new investigator this week, a potential investigator we have been trying by recently and it finally worked out and we set up a member-present lesson the next day. We'll see where it goes from here, not entirely sure yet. Rarely am I ever entirely sure at this point, though. Anyway, overall nothing too noteworthy happened this week as far as investigators go and all of that. They're all about in the same spot as last mentioned and we're just plugging along like I said. I've personally learned quite a few important lessons this week, though. First is the power of prayer. Friday I wasn't feeling too good; I just woke up extra tired and lethargic, had a head throb it seemed, and my tummy wasn't too pleased. Anyway, we went forth about our work for the day as normal and it just wasn't pleasant out there. We came back to the apartment for lunch and I 'napped' for a bit. When I got up I didn't feel much better, somewhat though. I decided to pray, instead. There is very real power in prayer. I've heard it said and as have we all that there is power in prayer; but not until you experience it - perhaps again and again - that you really know. I'm beginning to start to know. Last week I mentioned the "Gift to the Savior" concept and all of that. I won't share too much in this email about it as for time and I don't feel I should, but I had/am having a really powerful experience with that. In synopsis, I prayed to know what I could do. It came, clear as day, and it was hard. I made up my mind, though, to trust in the Lord and His promptings. I had every intention of going forward with it. This morning in interview with President I made mention of it. We had a discussion about it. And, in short, I firmly believe it was a test of my willingness and trust to put Him first, and that was all he needed/wanted was to see where my heart is. It wouldn't be necessary to actually do it. Anyway, I'm still pondering about it because it just happened not long ago but I may talk about it, as prompted, on the phone to some. I have no set agenda, no idea. Overall the work is great and I love it. It's not always easy but it's always worth it in the end, as is life.

I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas! I love you all so much and I look forward to talking with you.

Love always,
Elder Christensen

Monday, December 13, 2010

First encounter with freezing rain

Dear Everyone,

Hey there. How is everything going? By the sounds of it all you guys had a pretty fun and exciting week. It's great to hear that Ste's birthday and all of the surrounding events went well! I'm glad, Ste, that you gave me the clarification of the "kisses" you received for your birthday: the candy, not the other kind. Haha. That's awesome. So this week, as you have mentioned, we did have some chilly days. In fact yesterday I had my first encounter with "freezing rain." It was pretty but the roads were nasty in certain places. Fortunately we don't have to drive in it - although, yeah, we will become limited in our bike use as the weather isn't too permitting. Elder Stratton took a spill on his bike I think on Friday as there was snow on the ground; it was completely not a big deal but showed us we're going to have to slow down a bit and just be smart. With that, we busted out some hand warmers this week. I don't know how long they had been in the apartment; there were different kinds and some worked better than others. I could probably use some at some point; for now I guess I'll just use the ones we already have in the apartment as needed. I wouldn't want you to send some and me not be able to fit them in my suitcase if it's a box/etc not knowing when I'll be transferred next. I'll keep you posted on it though and I appreciate your concern. So I got the envelope from the Activity Day girls. Tell them thanks a lot and I really appreciate it. It's hung up by my desk. I also got the "Open December 14" package and look forward to opening it on December 14! On that note, I don't know, Mom, if you sent a letter last week or with the weird Pday-Tuesday it just maybe hasn't arrived yet. Just fyi on that. Anyway, as a whole this week flew by, just like every week, and it was really good. We were fortunate to find 3 new investigators this week; it's funny, Dad, your discussions on the importance of maintaining all aspects of the work to then never have to feel like you are starting again from square one. That's been our focus and desire entirely, appreciate your thoughts. So having evaluated and making necessary adjustments Elder Stratton and I finally saw some results, by way of finding new people to teach. 2 were found on Monday (who I believe I mentioned, therefore, in my email last week). The final one was an older man who we found tracting who invited us right in. His name is Jack and he is really prepared and had questions of the soul that the restoration of the gospel answers. We went back last night to teach him again and make sure the invitation inside while tracting wasn't just a fluke. It went well; we have a retired couple in the ward we're close with that we plan on getting heavily involved in the teaching process there. The update on the 9 year-old baptism planned for this Saturday. Unfortunately, it needs to be postponed because he/the family wasn't able to make it to church (the dang ice on the roads and stuff, they live a little ways out). So that is a bummer but with that bad news, good news follows. They were able to come to the baptismal service on Friday night of the 8 year-old child of record and had a good time and were excited. Also, we went and taught them last night and were able to reschedule the baptism for 1/1! Pretty cool date all things considered. There's much more to all of this but that is the background. The ward party on Saturday night was awesome. Holy moly it was decked out intense with decorations and food and everything. Anyway, what made it really awesome was Andrew and Lauren (Paige, soccer) showed up! We invited them and they expressed interest but said they weren't able to come but part-way through it all there they were. In fact, they brought another friend. Ha! How sweet is that? They seemed to enjoy themselves and Lauren really was impressed by it all. They're awesome.

So about the call for Christmas. If morning works best with you then that is certainly possible. Basically I can call anytime during the day. We will still follow our normal schedule for the day in the morning at least, though, so busy exercising and studying until 10:00AM my time. After that, is fine. I have no idea when I'll open presents, I kind of forgot to find out how that whole aspect works. But my thought about that is, it's likely if I call in the morning (for example shortly after 10:00AM) that I won't have opened my presents yet. (Which is perfectly fine; just if anything needed to be explained or talked about or to offer thanks it would then be done through our normal means of communication). Furthermore, we're going to be on the line no longer than 60 minutes; essentially what I've heard is shoot for 45 minutes of talking and 15 to wrap it up. This was heard from other than the source but if we are on the phone more than an hour President Bulloch will give us a call and "ruffle our feathers." Haha, so that is the plan with regards to length. I assume I'll either call the house phone or Mom or Dad's cell phone. How do you want to do it? Also, could you please let me know who is planning on talking/etc and everything? Thanks! If I'm forgetting something or need further clarification let me know. We'll have next email to solidify plans.

So I want to share with you portions of the email President Bulloch sent this week (it's been cut and paraphrased in parts). It really meant a lot to me and I hope it means a lot to you.

"The tradition of giving gifts to those celebrating a birthday is something we all have become accustomed to. Yet as we celebrate the Savior’s birth we seldom think of gifts for Him. I invite each of you to consider giving the Savior a special gift for Christmas. He has recorded in scripture the gift that would make Him the most happy. I invite you to carefully re-examine DC 18:10-16, especially the wording in verse 13. It says, “how great is his [that is the Savior’s] joy in the soul that repenteth!” Nothing will bring the Savior more joy than appreciating and taking advantage of the wonderful gift He has offered to each of us—the gift of repentance. For example, in my reading the Book of Mormon recently, it was impressed upon my mind the need to apply a phrase used by the Anti-Nephi-Lehi’s to our own individual efforts to come unto Christ. The scripture records that these humble people did “lay down the weapons of their rebellion, that they did not fight against God any more” (Alma 23:7, 13). I am sure that it would bring the Savior great joy if each of us would “lay down the weapons of [our] rebellion,” no matter what they are, and not “fight against God any more.” Wouldn’t it be a wonderful Christmas for the Savior if each of us were to follow His counsel in DC 88:123-124 to “love one another; cease to be covetous… cease to be idle; cease to be unclean; cease to find fault one with another; cease to sleep longer than [6:30 a.m.]…“ or “lay aside [any other] sin, which easily doth beset you” (Alma 7:15). I invite each of us, as a gift to the Savior this Christmas, to respond to the Spirit that has been telling us to give up those “weapons of rebellion” that we are hanging on to, and “submit cheerfully… to all the will of the Lord” (Mosiah 24:15). I promise you if you will do so, it will be a Christmas to be remembered. A Christmas filled with joy—both for you and the Savior. Remember, He is the reason for the season."

I really liked that a lot. I've, sadly, never really thought of giving the Savior a gift for Christmas or in celebration of his birth. I've reflected on it and expressed thanks, but never showed true gratitude in this more meaningful way. I hope we all can reflect on this.

I love you all and hope you have a great week! Thanks so much for all of your concern and love and support you offer me.

Love always,
Elder Christensen

PS. So is everyone going to be at the Mesa house on Christmas morning? Everyone meaning: Tyler, Rachel, Jackson, Ben, and Paige? Or what is their plan exactly? Ithaca people come on Thursday? What about Florida? Thanks!

I love you!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Dawn and Sophia are baptized!

Dear all,

Hello hello on this Tuesday-Pday. I hope you all are having a great week and settling down after all of the festivities last week! It was good to get a little more insight on what truly happened on your trip(s). I'm way happy that was all able to work out well and it was a success. It was also great to see some pictures! Yeah, Mom, Dad spilled the beans; but I'm grateful he did and it doesn't bother me at all! That's awesome you had the chance to visit Ithaca and all of that. Way sweet! The weather here hasn't been as dysfunctional as perhaps the other areas of New York. We haven't seen any snow stick on the ground since the one day it snowed like 3 weeks ago! We've heard it's been nuts all over and can't believe how lucky we have been. Yesterday, my goodness, was so dang cold though! We were riding our bikes totally bundled up; I was wearing my gator to block the wind and such. I can't imagine what it will be like riding in weather much colder than this. I'll be good though, just keep layering it on and all will be good. I actually haven't needed to bust out the wool socks yet but the way it's looking that time is shortly approaching. We have some hand-warmers in our apartment right now; we will try them out when it gets down to it but it's likely they will be useful here in the future. I'll keep you updated on that, thanks. The sweatpants idea was suggested by an elder. I actually almost got some last year but then it ended up warming up at that point. That's exciting about Jackson standing and everything; too bad, though, about his cough. He looks so big, that's awesome. Speaking of looking big Ste looks big too! That's awesome. And I'm not seriously upset about the chicken and fries on Thanksgiving. I actually think it is hilarious and shows how things are pretty similar to before, ha! Happy Birthday tomorrow! I can't believe you are turning 11! That's way exciting and I hope your day tomorrow and everything goes well! I appreciate what you're doing for the Badgers; there is no need for anything for anyone else though from you guys. Thanks! And thank you for the unexpected and awesome Bump Day package! It seriously is crazy that I've been out that long already. I'll find out about the Christmas phone call. So morning is preferred by you?

Anyway, this week has been an awesome week. To ease all of the anxious readers: yes, Elder Stratton and myself will be staying in Saratoga this transfer, and for Christmas! I'm so happy and excited. I really would have been utterly shocked if either of us left. Finally, yeah, I get to be with a companion for more than 6 weeks! How weird is that concept? I'm excited; especially with all of the good that is happening here. The baptisms of Dawn and Sophia went through! We had the service Saturday morning. (I can't believe that about the baptism in Ithaca with Ben's involvement and all of that - how cool!) It went so well! The husband of the member family who has been teaching with us the whole time baptized Dawn; and I got to baptize 11 year-old Sophia! It was so cool! On Sunday the confirmations were done without complication and again the member confirmed Dawn but Elder Stratton got to confirm Sophia! It all turned out so well. That's certainly the highlight of the week although the rest of the days were not uneventful either. We had a couple crazy experiences of coming into contact with 2 less-active/no names on the record people this week. How it all happened was pretty incredible and definitely took place because of a power higher than our own. It happens so regularly; being led, guided, prompted in all aspects of the work that it is so blatantly obvious the Lord is at its head. Another cool experience we had yesterday actually was we taught an investigator and planned to read from the Book of Mormon with him wherever he was in his study (he was a former investigator we picked up a couple weeks ago and has been reading for a while, etc.) It just so happened that he was at Alma 44 - the exact chapter I read that morning. It was so cool; we were able to relate the experience of Zarahemnah trying to compromise his own 'commandment' with relation to that given from Moroni to our investigator and his situation. Further explanation would allow the experience to better represent how neat it was but this will suffice. We taught Andrew and Lauren (Paige's soccer friend) on Saturday night. She wasn't entirely into it the first visit but was definitely nice. But this last visit was incredible and she is really excited and willing to read and pray about the Book of Mormon. She had been reading but didn't understand the importance of praying formally or specifically about it. We're really excited about them. Also, we saw Jesse the 9 year old we are preparing for baptism on 12/18. It's going to go through; we are really excited! We had a couple people at the baptism on Saturday but not everyone who said they could come, came. This Friday, though, there is a baptismal service of a child of record turning 8 that we are attending with these people! It's really exciting. And Saturday is the Ward Christmas party: "A Night in Bethlehem" theme. I remember doing that quite a few years ago; it should be cool, we will have a booth set up and look forward to the missionary opportunities that will be there. This week ahead is really exciting with everything that is happening. I'm sure it will fly by, too, with Pday being Tuesday and all we have planned. Oh yeah; last night we found 2 new investigators with Brother Badger a mother and daughter he knows from work and who we helped move in to our apartment complex. They're way awesome and we're seeing them again this week with him. Sorry if I'm rambling or not giving sufficient details but there is always just so much to share and never a way to get everything out.

Sorry there weren't more pictures on the memory card. It's a little tougher in a walk area and our apartment isn't too exciting but I can take some to please you. Attached: the pictures of us prior to the baptism; tracting yesterday this sign cracked me up, I think they're watching out for us. The gator was worn riding my bike but not other than that it's not that cold yet. Enjoy.

I love you all and hope you have a great week. Simply know that I am doing well, I'm happy, and wouldn't rather be doing anything else.

Love always,
Elder Christensen

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Charity is what missionary work is all about

Dear everyone,

CRAP!? You went to New York City??? Hahaha, my my my you are all so sneaky! Was this a planned trip, a surprise trip, a spontaneous trip, or what the heck kind of trip was it? Sounds like a sweet trip if anything! Holy cow! Seriously, had you not told me you were doing that on purpose, or what? Ha, wow. Biggest shock. I was reading Ste's email first and he was talking about NYC like it was no big deal so I was thinking he was completely kidding and making a story up because he felt his Thanksgiving was just normal or boring or something. My goodness, that is so awesome that you all were able to do that! I forget who I was talking to about the Macy's Day parade and how crazy it is, etc, but I definitely was and I can't believe you were all there. Ha, welcome to New York weather my friends. It's been nice and I'm adjusting for sure. In fact, the last couple days we've gone running in the morning; it's been great. Man, I need to take a deep breath and calm down I'm typing like a thousand words per minute I'm so excited. So it sounds like Thanksgiving was a blast. I can't believe Ste had chicken tenders for Thanksgiving..I hope I read that wrong or something. Goof ball. I love you all so much. Where are all of the pictures from the trip? Speaking of pictures I will try and send my memory card home today. I have a dentist appointment at 3:30 which should be really good. So thank you so much for the awesome Thanksgiving tidings. I really appreciate it, Drue and family. I appreciate the CD's you sent - they're alright. I know Handel's Messiah is incredible but having listened to a little of it I don't think it carries the same Spirit I want to maintain - just fyi to know maybe in future for other music selections. Thanks so much though it really made for a great day. I know I owe Ste a letter, I'm working on it baller. Elder Stratton gets good mail, there's no need to send him anything. But I do want to mention - please don't do anything out of control for Christmas. If you've already done something that's alright no worries but I feel impressed to say I do not need excessive decorations, etc or stuff like that. And I love and appreciate how generous and kind you all are but please don't do anything over the top present wise either. For one, I don't need excessive stuff; two, I don't have room for excessive stuff :). I love you but I just feel impressed to say that.

So my week was really good; it basically seemed like it didn't exist, though, how fast it went! Between Thanksgiving, Return and Report, and an exchange the week's activities were certainly out of the norm. Thanksgiving was good - perhaps not the most effective which is unfortunate but it's tough. We went to the bishop's home and had a classic really good meal there with he and his wife, her parents, their daughter, and a less-active single woman in the ward. Later we went to the Badger's and had some dessert which was fun. We spent the night in the Downtown Albany Elder's apartment; it was a good time and cool to be in the heart of Albany. Return and Report was awesome on Friday; I love President Bulloch. Then after I went straight on exchange over in Greenwich, so I spent two consecutive nights in a bed not my own which was odd. The exchange went well though, no skunks or anything like that! I actually learned a good principle from the new elder I was working with. What I picked up from him is something I've been trying to improve on: loving others before myself and truly wanting to have their needs met above my own. Looking for opportunities to help and serve others, charity, is what missionary work is all about. I often times get too caught up in all of the logistical matters of missionary work and forget that it is the people and their needs at the very core. It's something I'm working on and I look forward to the road ahead with this important outlook. Anyway, while I was away the baptismal interviews for Dawn and Sophia went very well! They're set for this Saturday! I'm so excited! We're working on finalizing all of the plans and things for it which is awesome. With the somewhat odd week due to the abnormal events we didn't see tons of people and stuff, unfortunately. Sandra is doing amazingly still and is progressing well toward her baptismal date January 8 - aka her birthday! The Whitman's are great as well, too. Again, we technically will need to move their dates back but they're as excited as ever. We taught the Word of Wisdom yesterday and Brother Whitman had/has already been in the process of giving up smoking. That's so awesome; they really are being prepared and have been prepared. We're staying faithful that these bigger changes in their lives will happen quickly but if not they're becoming converted and will be baptized soon enough. Other than that there isn't really anything else noteworthy to mention work-wise. We're going to get as many of our investigators possible to the baptism on Saturday, confirmation on Sunday, as well as the Christmas Devotional Sunday! Exciting stuff! I love this time of year, just the feeling in the air is nice. Downtown Saratoga is all bling'd out with decorations and stuff, it's pretty neat. Anyway, I'm happy and love it here. The work is great, we are working hard and doing everything that's in our ability to be obedient and diligent. Elder Stratton and I get along great. We're certainly different people, as we all are, but we have a common interest and goal that stands priority above everything else. I love his ability to just go for it and his drive.

I love you all so much and hope you have a great week. I still can't believe you all went to New York City! Incredible. Ste, good luck with the advent calendars; you can do it! I appreciate all that you do for me and the willingness that you have to help me out and care for me. You are simply the best and I love you so much.

Elder Christensen

Monday, November 22, 2010

Saratoga is for lovers


Greetings from Saratoga Springs, New York! It's great to be able to hear from you all again this week and by the sounds of it you all seem to be doing well. That's awesome. I can't believe it is already this time of year - Mom's birthday, Thanksgiving, and the upcoming holiday season. Crazy! I know the outcome of the ping pong tournament is now uncertain because I won't be there but I hope it still goes great, ha! Thank you Papa and Nana for sending the awesome package this week, it was totally a surprise! Regarding the music question, and mention of the resolve back to strictly the rules in the white handbook: I still plan to only listen to MoTab and hymns (obviously renditions) simply to maintain the sacred Spirit of this call. There is nothing in this life, for anyone, worth losing the Spirit of the Lord over. The companionship of the Holy Ghost out here is more apparent than it has ever before been in my life - and it's obviously because of the lifestyle and "rules" to which we obey. I don't plan or even desire to deviate from that. Realistically, as appropriate, in this case there are definitely songs that are conducive to the Spirit but as a general rule of thumb this is the course I plan to continue to pursue. Yeah, the white handbook is still the same. Anyway, so the lights are up on the house in Mesa. How awesome! Let me first say in response to Dad's comment - this is the first year I haven't helped do them since as long as I can remember. (I was fortunate enough to do them last year during my Thanksgiving trip home, silly). Ha, just kidding but I hope they look good! Stay faithful to the lights, Mom.

But on a more important and relevant note, I had a fantastic week this week. Saratoga is for lovers - or I mean, I love Saratoga. Seriously, this place was made for me; I love it so much here. This week was full of really neat experiences and teaching, I'll do my best to make mention of the best ones. I really wish I could just wear a helmet cam that recorded everything happening and you were all filled in...but I suppose email will suffice for now. Basically, at this time we are teaching 15 awesome people. I'll give a quick run down of those I have time for.
-Dawn & Sophia. Awesome. Mother and daughter. Going to be baptized on 12/4! It's all fantastic! They love it and are progressing ideally. So exciting.
-Roger. scheduled for baptism 12/18. Possibly going to happen; he's been busy, out of town this weekend and we're not entirely sure of his preparedness. His wife Missy, who we're also "teaching" may be holding him back, we'll have to feel it out this week and see whether we are to press on or if time would be more effectively spent elsewhere.
-Jesse. 9 year old son of a less-active family. Planned on 12/18 for baptism. More than likely this will happen; we're really excited and simply hoping that the whole family comes around with it, to then obviously support and allow Jesse to really continue conversion.
-Sandra. Baptism on 1/8. Totally going to happen; she is amazing. Progressing very well. Found out at church yesterday she met President Hinckley, then Elder Hinckley probably, on a plane when she was little. Recognized his picture immediately. How cool! She's utterly prepared.
-Shawn & Shawny. Father and son. So awesome and accepting. Finding us referrals to teach. They're scheduled for 1/8 but it will need to be pushed back for an anticipated birth, but very excited and wanting to be baptized and talks openly about it. We're teaching his girlfriend too who really is enjoying it and we're getting her on the same page with it all. Some things will need to be overcome but what we have mentioned and taught already has been incredibly well received.
-Adam. This week we went by this former investigator. He is 19ish and simply knows that the church is true. Seems to have concerns about baptism but we plan on addressing those and setting him this week!
-Andrew and Lauren. CHECK THIS OUT. Andrew was a Head Quarter referral we received this week and picked up as an investigator when we contacted him. His grandmother is an active member and he knows quite a bit about the church and said he is interested now in really looking into it, etc. Awesome guy. But listen to this, he now is living with a girl. She is from Mesa and totally played club soccer with Paige! Lauren Baumgarten (Bomb-garden). Do you know/remember her? We walked in when we got to their place and she looked oddly familiar. I highly doubt I even saw or talked to her when Paige was playing with here but it was interesting. We got talking and she said how she went to Dobson High School, graduated in '06. We started teaching and out of no where she was like do you have a sister named Paige? haha, she was saying from the last name and how much I looked like her that she guessed we were totally related. It was way sweet, she was asking about her and everything; surprised to hear she is just in Ithaca. It was a really really cool experience and allowed us to build a pretty sweet relationship with them. She's in the nuclear power navy program here which is pretty intense. We're planning on teaching them this weekend again and hope to be able to help them out! Way sweet.
Anyway, this week was really cool. I had the privilege of giving 2 blessings this week. It's incredible how the Lord is able to work through you and magnify your priesthood. We recently had some ward missionaries called and they're so helpful. One is a 20 year old guy that is so cool! He was with us all day yesterday driving us around and to our appointment because he's in a lull of no school or job. He's thinking of going on a mission but I don't know what's holding him back. Such a smart and fun guy though, it's so nice. Tremendous blessing to help us get around and things. Oh, and not to mention provided us with a spontaneous meal last night because our meal fell through. I feel like I'm rambling but everything here is incredible. I love it so much and can honestly and truthfully say I wouldn't prefer being anywhere else or doing anything else than this right now. It's cool how as we are so busy and constantly thinking of others and their needs and what to do next, etc how the thoughts and concerns about yourself disappear. I pray I can become more selfless, like my Savior.

This upcoming week is going to fly! We are eating at the bishop's and the Badgers on Thanksgiving! Friday we get to go to Utica for Elder Stratton's Return and Report! I'm way excited; and Thursday night we'll sleep over in Albany because of it. Sweet! Dawn and Sophia have their baptismal interview Saturday morning. Because of that I'll be on exchange in Greenwich so our District Leader can do that. (Yes, the skunk place.) Well, I love you all so much and hope you have a great week filled with Thanksgiving and Birthday! I send my deepest love and concern for you all!

Love always,
Elder Christensen

PS. I had a great 1/2 birthday ;). I can't believe how fast time is going. Crazy.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Anxiously engaged in a good cause


Hello there! Yes; I'm alive although I am emailing later than I typically do. Today for Pday the Greenwich elders, our next door neighbors, came over and we hit the town. We went to the mall, TJ Maxx, Wal Mart, all that fun stuff. It was a good time. Then after that I had a dentist appointment at Bishop Dennis' practice. So sweet. I'm going to go back to have sealants done and perhaps a filling too. It was really sweet though and awesome I could do that. I'm glad that my emails meet your desires and you're pleased with them; I'll try and do my best to continue providing adequate info about my happenings. Sounds like everyone had a good week. Another week, gone. Crazy. I can't believe the Jennings went on that trip. How cool! The pictures look awesome, thanks! That's awesome that Ste scored in his soccer games! Way to go. And I haven't got his letter yet; although it's likely it came today I haven't been home since the mail came. Excited! Mom, did your email infer that Kristi Oaks is getting married? So yeah, the Badgers ARE awesome. I've been thinking that same thing of what I/we could do for them. Sister Badger is pregnant and expecting a daughter early January. Although they'll probably get quite a bit of baby stuff for Christmas I bet they'd appreciate something in that regard? That's really nice though, thanks. I could always use more stamps; if someone is looking for something to easily put in an envelope. Those pine cone Forever's are awesome. If not, no worries. You guys are already doing more than your fair share back on the home front. Thank you for all that you do.

Anyway, this week was another good week. Perhaps not quite as 'eventful' as last week but still great nonetheless. On Monday we got our first snow! It was quite a bit, I'd guess 3 inches and it stayed overnight but melted Tuesday. Since then this past week has been really quite nice weather. Tuesday was a spiritual feast - we had Zone Conference. I can't believe it was only my second one. (They used to have one every transfer but now it's every other; and the all-mission conference postponed it another transfer). But wow, it was so awesome! I love President and Sister Bulloch so much. The gist of the whole thing was really intense - all of the other "mission rules" that were in effect outside of those in the white handbook are hereby no longer. At his Mission President conference a few weeks ago, President Bulloch was encouraged along with all of the other mission presidents to throw away all other rules in addition to the white handbook (ie. only motab and hymns), if they felt their missionaries could handle it. He went on to tell us that he lately has been pondering and searching for ways to accelerate the progress of the mission and the things happening here. He also told us when he was set apart by an apostle he was told numerous times to "trust your missionaries." So this is the course he's taking. The principle behind it is actually really profound, true, and something I had actually just read the day before in the Book of Mormon. In Alma 32: 13-15. Essentially, as we righteously use our agency we have the ability to be "much more blessed" (vs. 15). He said how he wants these blessings here. As we aren't "commanded in all things" and are "anxiously engaged in a good cause" we are more blessed (see D&C 58: 26-29). It was really deep and powerful. We're now going to have the capability to text on our cell phones. Really cool. He told us how there will be casualties now with this greater ability to choose how to conduct ourselves. But again, it is as we see how close to Christ we can come rather than how far away we can act while still being considered 'good' where the greater blessings are to be had. I'm excited for all of these things. To be honest it won't really change my course of action or thought in 'feeling justified' getting away with certain things because it, life, truly is all about how close to Christ we can come. That's achieved, in any part of life, through diligence and obedience. Simple as that. Anyway, off my soapbox. The rest of the week went smoothly although we really did have quite a few appointments fall through. It was unfortunate and we were unable to see some of our investigators this week but I feel they're still doing well for the most part. We're going to see Dawn and Sophia tonight - Dawn's been sick and haven't seen them for almost 2 weeks now (other than at church). Sandra, the sister of Phil who I wrote about last week, is doing really well. We went over there last night to see them a second time this week and unfortunately she wasn't there but we taught Phil the Word of Wisdom because it's something really holding him back. And we got to see him dump out all of his alcohol which was pretty cool. Nine year old Jesse is doing well, he and his family weren't at church this week but hopefully it's not a big deal. Shawn and Shawn Jr are awesome still. We did find out about a girlfriend in the picture, though, as she showed up at church with them this week which was really exciting. We're going to have to move their baptismal date back perhaps a week or so but they're aware and still planning on baptism. Hopefully the girlfriend, Nicole, had a good time and we can start teaching her officially now too. Overall it was a good week; we're still plugging along here having a good time. Certainly focusing on finding joy in the journey, that's huge. I really do love it here, it's a wonderful place to be. And hard may it be to be without a car, the members truly save us so much and are incredibly helpful. It really feels like I'm a part of the ward family, which is really neat. I fit in here it seems.

I honestly don't know what else to say other than I'm doing well here and no need to worry about me. I hope you all are doing well and continue to do well; if there is anything I can do for anyone let me know. I hope you have a great week and make the effort to give adequate time to the Savior and the important things this week. I love you all and appreciate everything you do for me.

Love always,

Elder Christensen

Monday, November 8, 2010

I've never loved it more than I do now!

Dear Everyone,

I apologize for the redundancy but, as always, it is so awesome to hear from you all and get your updates! In Arizona it sounded like a laid back and fun week then a busier weekend; very cool. That's wonderful about the U health announcement, and perhaps not so wonderful about the football game. Oh well. Sounds like Ithaca had a good week too. I didn't know that about Elder Israelsen; he was in a tri-panionship there right? I wonder what was the cause for his leaving. I'm sure between my and your inside scoop we will get word. That's hilarious, Mom, you talked about the name "Isaiah" and its meaning. The day before I got your letter and read that, a lady from the ward called us and asked us the meaning of that name (for a new baby being born) so I looked it up just prior, ha random. That is nuts about Tyler King, wow scary and sad. My journal is perhaps 3/4 filled and I am pleased to report I still have not missed one day writing in it! I don't have any update on the flight attendant from my flight over here who goes to Cornell. I gave his info to the Elders over there when I got here but no idea since; to be honest they probably forgot about it, sad. So I got the package! :) Thank you so much for the Turkey Month stuff, ha. I always look forward to and love getting a new tie in those, very nice thank you. Wore it to church yesterday and going to wear it to Zone Conference tomorrow. The CD's are awesome. The cookies were great and fresh as well as the banana bread. And on and on; it was wonderful thanks so much it means so much! As well as, obviously, the letters included. Thanks. Speaking of which, Ste definitely owes me a letter. Love you man. So in response to some responses about last weeks email and being stressed or whatever..basically it's kind of funny. When I was emailing last week it was definitely the peak of my stress just with our bus passes being expired, etc. Then after it all was awesome. We got a ride from members to the bus depot to get passes, they bought us food, and dropped us off at TJ-maxx like we asked (no I didn't get anything, ha). And the week only went uphill from there (pun certainly intended regarding "uphill" and to be understood later).

So, I'm almost positive I have said this in previous emails and have always meant it, but this time I indeed mean it as well when I say: this has perhaps been one of the best/most special weeks of my mission thus far. In preface, we saw so many miracles this week it is easily unbelievable. On Tuesday we went out with a member to a less-active and part-member family's home. They have a 9 year old son who hasn't been baptized, Jesse, who wants as well as the parents to do so. So we are working with him in progressing toward baptism (on December 18) as well as activating the parents and family. On Wednesday, the most notable happening was helping move in a man (Phil, 21) from Oneonta who has met with missionaries there for 3 months. He has things he needs to overcome in his life to become fully converted to the Gospel, but we hope to help him out as he willingly keeps commitments we leave him. What's more fantastic, though, is he moved in with his sister, Sandra (24), who is incredible. Phil loved going to church in Oneonta so we got he and his sister to come! (Which was difficult because they live 30+ minutes away from the church and don't have transportation). Anyway, more to come on that later. Thursday, we went to a man's home named Shawn who had met with the missionaries here 3-4 months ago but lost track of them when we moved a few miles away. He is so sincere and awesome. We set he and his 9 year old son to be baptized on January 8 and it's very likely to happen. So on Thursday at the end of the day we had 6 people committed to be baptized with very realistic dates and 10 (ten) people committed to church. That's crazy. Friday was a great day, saw Jesse and less-active family we are working with who's been coming to church. Saturday was funny. A bus we planned to take to see Shawn doesn't run on Saturdays so we went down to a different town and worked and tried seeing some people. After not much success and some tracting we were waiting to catch a bus back to our apartment to eat, when who drives by and stops but the Badgers! Ha, they took us out for pizza and wings. So amazing I can't even tell you how awesome they are. After that, listen to this, we had to contact a referral we got from Salt Lake, but had no means of getting there other than biking. We rode 8+ miles, no joke, uphill at least 80% of the way to get there. It was insane. Such a funny time. Long story short, we got there (hoping she'd even be there or that it was a legit referral as she hadn't answered our phone calls before, etc) and she was awesome! Best friend is mormon and going to Byu, visited her recently and went to temple square, etc. We're going to teach her more this week. And to top it off we were able to get a ride home from her dad in his truck (it was going to be dark riding home and stuff). Way good. Finally Sunday. This is incredible, we ended up having 11 committed to come to church and we had 8 investigators show up! It was like running a 10 ring circus! It was so awesome though! Then later that night we went over to Sandra and Phil's place. Prior to going over E. Stratton and I discussed setting Sandra with a baptismal date and we were unsure which date to pick. So seeking inspiration we prayed. In our prayer E. Stratton asked that we might be enlightened and that the date that we choose will have a special meaning to Sandra. Fast forward to the end of our first lesson, we invite her to be baptized on January 8 and she agrees happily. Then going to explain that that is her 25th birthday, and how awesome that is. And ALSO, how for the last while she has felt that this birthday would make a turning point in her life. HOW COOL IS THAT? Too cool. Nah, but really cool. It was so humbling and incredible to see and be a part of. In short, we have 7 investigators committed to be baptized right now! It's amazing. We had 8 investigators at church this week. And, we found 7 new investigators! Simply, things are going amazing here and we are so busy it is crazy. But crazy, good. We have a lot of support and help which makes things a lot easier and actually possible. I love it out here. I've never been more immersed in the work; and I've never loved it more than I do now.

I hope you all have a wonderful week and stay safe. I love you all so much and again can't express how much your love and support means to me. Thank you so much!


Elder Christensen

PS- this is the only picture we took this week. it was this morning right before we left, so that's what I look like now. I haven't worn my glasses too often since my new contacts are sikkk but occasionally it's fun. Love you.

PS- You may enjoy this, I've never done this before. Here is an excerpt of my email that I emailed President Bulloch. Faith has been a huge focus lately, with him and me. And I realized I didn't mention anything about it so here is something from that email:

"Elder Stratton is doing very well and it's clear that he has great faith - one of the many things I desire to learn from him. This week has maybe been the best week of my mission up to this point, by way of seeing others coming unto Christ. I want to help you understand the kind of week we had; not to become boastful of ourselves "for as to [our] strength [we are] weak," but as Ammon explains I too would like "to boast of my God, for in his strength [we] can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land" (Alma 26: 12). My heart is full and I'm convinced we saw the many miracles we did this week because of faith as well as obedience. This week we set 4 investigators with baptismal dates (making a total of 7), we had 8 investigators at church, and found 7 new investigators. I mention this, as well, because it has helped me understand the great aspect of faith in the work even more so. In last week's Weekly Planning Session Elder Stratton and I prayerfully considered our goals for the week, seeking inspiration for each key indicator specifically (before we planned "how" we would accomplish the goal). To my joy and wonder looking back at these goals we accomplished all but one of them, "contacted referrals." In short, I know that faith is a primary driving force in seeing mighty miracles. Of course there are other significant forces as well, such as diligence and obedience, for faith without works is dead. But faith, in my mind, is standing most high. I pray that I can increase my faith. My faith in investigators. My faith in finding. My faith in Preach My Gospel. My faith in myself. My faith in my Savior."

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Welcome Elder Stratton

Hello everyone,
As always, so wonderful to hear from you all. You are the best at emailing and keeping me posted with how you are all doing; it's such a blessing. It sounds like you all had a great week and Halloween weekend. Awesome! Ha, it cracks me up how universal Trunk or Treat is around the nation; what a funny people we are sometimes. That's great though and it was great to see all of the pictures you attached! Ste, yes I have played basketball on a Pday it was actually a couple weeks ago with Elder DB at a nice, new Rec. center here. Ha, we challenged these two black (real black, not your fake face black :) ha that's hilarious!) guys (one of them we knew as a son in a less-active family) and totally won. Can't say that I did too much but it was pretty fun and hilarious nonetheless. Pdays are typically pretty low-key around here though without a car. And we just realized this morning our bus passes expired with the beginning of a new month so now I don't know what we are going to do today and how we're going to get things done..anyway, more on that later. That is awesome Ste and Dad got to go on the camp out. I can remember being in 11 year old scouts like it was yesterday, over at the Chapmans. Yeehaw. Good times. Jackson looked awesome in his costume, not to mention his parents too. ha! So cool. I appreciate the emails and that lightning visits is a pretty cool idea. We'll definitely have to try that. Fortunately here, too, the members starting this week as it's colder now have one priesthood holder go out with us (and drive us around) 4 nights a week. We've been doing splits 2 nights a week before now and this should be a great blessing 1 member 4x especially with a new missionary here who would be less capable of doing that. Anyway, the Ithaca costumes looked sweet as well. Last year in Provo with the crayon costumes seems like just yesterday, I can't believe it. That's cool word got through about my companion and stuff already, such a joke.
This week has been perhaps the most busy, stressful, and crazy week I've had. Tuesday, transfer day, I basically was just in Utica all day waiting for the new missionaries to come. Yeah, chatted it up with the Woods; he is hilarious. It was a weird feeling basically sitting around all day (we had trainings and stuff but it was still different). Finally they arrived at like 5:30 and Elder Stratton came up and told me he was my companion. (They had brief interviews with President in the airport before he left for his Mission President Conference, ha so weird and glad I didn't have to do that). I was really excited when I saw he was my companion and got talking with him. He's from Hurricane, Utah; ha, driven through there a few times. He's really excited to work and get things done which is fantastic. Seems very skilled and I couldn't be happier about it. Had I got a new missionary companion unlike E Stratton I don't know how I would have been able to handle it. We got home way late on Tuesday and quickly tried to get him unpacked and somewhat settled. Wednesday was absolute crazyness - we had to let him email home to let them know he was good, get our bikes from the church, shop, and somehow still help people come unto Christ. If you could have seen us with Wal Mart bags and a trash can on the bus then walking that with our bikes back home it was a sight to see. His first day was still good though we actually got a referral from a member in the neighboring branch driving home from Utica; and we were able to get in contact with him, teach him, and set him with a baptismal date. Pretty legit. Also that night we taught Dawn and Sophia who are still doing awesome. The rest of the week was good but equally busy and hectic. I'll be honest, I don't consider myself one who really gets stressed out too easily, but lately and even now, I definitely am. I have the desire to be my absolute best in obedience, diligence, etc in setting the tone for E Stratton which is a constant struggle to always be pushing yourself that hard like that. Also, since all the planning and means of carrying out the work primarily rests on my shoulders at this time my mind is constantly centered and focused on the work. This is the way, I suppose, that it should be, but it's hard and tiresome. I hope I'm not relying too much upon 'my strengths' and not enough upon the Lord and His. Through Him everything and anything is possible, I hope it's His power and His will I'm placing first. Saturday was maybe one of the coolest, funnest, busiest days out here. The day consisted of teaching 3 lessons: Wendy (the Las Vegas self-referral person) and actually her fiance as well; Dawn and Sophia (we taught the Word of Wisdom and it went really well); and Roger (the referral we received just Wednesday). Good things are happening. Then at night we attended the ward party. Chili Cook off and Trunk or Treat. We had Dawn, Sophia, and Wendy come! As well as less-active families, part member families, and nonmember friends of members. It was really quite effective actually. Then, yesterday, Halloween was interesting and fun. After church we had a dinner appointment but while they were finishing preparing it we knocked a couple doors. The first door the guy told us we really pulled off the Mormon Missionary look, as he was handing us candy thinking we were trick or treating! (ha, it was 2:00pm!) It was quite the fun conversation with us telling him, no we're the real deal. Anyway, walking around the street at like 4:30 starting getting weird with people in masks and stuff all over. We gave the grim reaper a pass along card; pretty ironic don't you think? Ha, but we were in last night from 6 on doing our weekly planning session (President moved it to have it then because of the craziness). And now I'm here now. I've never been more immersed in the work than now; it's daang hard but we're seeing some really awesome blessings. We randomly ran into a guy who missionaries used to know and go over a few months back but lost track of him because he moved. We're planning on seeing him this week - as well as our other investigators we weren't able to see this week you may be wondering about. We are busy, we are doing our best. I suppose that is all we can really do and all the Lord can really ask of us. I pray that I can live up to it. In short: I'm very happy, busy, time is flying by, and loving it although this is very hard and making me stretch and grow in ways I've never before experienced.
Again I appreciate your words, prayers, thoughtfulness, and love. I love you all so much and I hope you have a great week! This life is the time to prepare to meet God.

Love always,
Elder Christensen
PS. I look forward to getting my package! :) thank you so much!
PS. I knew you all would LOVE the Ute costumes. They are the Dennis family, the previous bishop dentist hookup guy and sweet wife. Classic.
Love you.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Michael will be a trainer....

Michael reunited with his MTC roommates

Dear everyone,
So perhaps you were surprised to see an email from me today. Yes, normally transfer week Pday is on Tuesday and then we transfer on Wednesday but the Bullochs have a Mission President Conference or something like that they are flying to tomorrow so Pday is today and Transfer day is tomorrow. But holy cow, let me just say I have been reading such great and detailed emails that if my email isn't as long as I would prefer I apologize. It sounds like everyone is doing well and had a great week, that's wonderful! It's seriously so great to hear from you all, I say it every week but I mean it. That's awesome about the temple visit/coordination with Arizona and Utah relatives. I'm definitely jealous and wishing I could go to the temple, but I suppose I can wait. Nana, unfortunately I've been told from other missionaries we aren't allowed to wear hats, thank you so much for your thoughtfulness though. Also, thanks about the boots but we'll see how mine do I haven't had to break them in yet but I anticipate them being good. And way to go "Mormon" golfers for the Championship of the World! haha. It seemed like DC was a great time for Ben and Paige, that's awesome. I can think back and remember when we went there as a family like it just happened; wow how time flies and lives change. (it's actually really funny too because thinking back on that: a lot of people will talk about going to or seeing the Washington DC temple and how awesome it is. And I always say how I've seen it but not been there. Remember getting lost trying to find it through all the trees? haha). It's great to hear Jackson is doing well, hopefully he gets over his little sickness quick. Ha, that's classic sub-seminary taught. I'm learning about the whole early morning thing out here with all the youth doing it. haha, so grateful for release time. I generally get letters from Mom on Friday or Saturday. This week I got it Friday (as it seemed like you sent it off Tuesday?). But it, as always, was wonderful and I appreciate it a lot. You would have crazy ideas for Christmas already, ha. I have some things I've thought of that would be great to have that perhaps I can put on my "Christmas wish list." ha :). That's absolutely crazy about Nick Ferrin; so sad. I was never close with him at all, perhaps never even talked to him, but some of my friends were pretty close with him. To be honest I had no idea he was serving a mission, good for him; but wow about that. Sad. I'm so glad that Ben and Paige were able to meet/talk with the Bullochs! Are they not the most loving people in the world? How sweet, I love them so much! So so cool stuff like that can happen with you guys in Ithaca, still blows my mind.

So this week has been great, truly. In short (because I know everyone is more curious about transfers), we found 4 awesome new investigators this week. First is a guy that we talked to outside his house when we were around there trying to contact a Headquarter Referral that didn't exist a couple weeks prior. He is from Texas and has really close friends who are members and who served missions. We taught him the Restoration and it was really neat. He seems sincere to learn and try it out; Catholic background. Next was a woman that we ran into two completely different times and places just on the street. She, too, had had experiences with missionaries or knowing what we do in the past. Awesome first lesson with her as well; she is a little bit older and going through a tough time in her life right now, willing to experiment upon it. Third, last night we picked up a wife of a quasi less-active member. Oh how I love part-member families. Basically they are millionaires: literally as the term suggests and figuratively in the sense of ready to truly convert to the gospel. He is looking to become an Elder. And she has read the Book of Mormon before, is reading it again, and knows without a doubt it is true. We made the connections of what that truly means and she, herself, said she has the desire to be baptized. So legit. I'm hoping this can happen before they go down to FLORIDA for the winter starting around January; and it's likely because she really wants it low key. And then, finally, the son of Dawn. He is 13 and at first wasn't interested at all but he met with us this week and it went alright. I didn't think he seemed too intrigued from it, until we got a message the next morning saying how he told his mom it's something he would want to become a part of to help him make good choices in his life, etc. Awesome. We're hoping this week to set him with the same baptismal date of 12/4 that his mom and sister have. Anyway, the work is seriously going great. Our teaching pool is not only growing but being filled with people who I really feel are searching for the truth.

So transfers. Elder Daniels-Brown is heading off (ha, actually to Malone where E. Miller is leaving and becoming a ZL). And I'll be staying here training a new missionary. To be honest it's pretty ridiculous and crazy. I feel like I haven't been out here hardly at all (in the grand scheme of things), and for me to have a greenie who is looking to me to show him how to do all aspects of the work is unreal. I'm humbled. To fill you in more fully, though, let me back up. Two Mondays ago in my interview with President he brought it up that it was likely I would be called to train this transfer. (I was sworn to secrecy though, as you could understand. But, I was dying last email not saying anything when you were all supposing this or that). So for the past 2 weeks I've basically had this pressing on my mind. All the things that need to happen before then, how I need to improve, etc., etc. I'm grateful for the time, I guess, I had to somewhat prepare myself mentally and in every other aspect. So, if I don't seem as surprised as you may have guessed it's because this has since 2 Mondays ago been registered in my mind. Only being here 1 transfer and training will be intense. There are a lot of people in the ward I don't even know yet, let alone less-active members, etc. I feel like we have their support, though, which makes all the difference in the world. And it being a walk area, something new, as well as memorizing all the bus routes and times and stops is a lot. Ha, it's certainly going to be a big endeavor but I'm up for it. Especially with the Lord's help, we know that all is possible - he will make up all our inadequacies as we trust in Him and do ALL we can. Elder Daniels-Brown and I, to be honest, have had a good time together. We certainly are very different people in a lot of different ways, but I truly feel we were able to put those aside and become unified in allowing the work of the Lord to go forth unhindered. I'm grateful for the lessons I've learned with him and growth I've experienced. I really feel looking back, and already now, that the time I spent with him here will find a special place in my heart. I greatly look forward to the future for what is in store and the adventures that lie ahead. I've realized that as a missionary you definitely are subject to a lot of changes. I've found this with all of the different companions I've had as well as changing areas quickly. What I'm learning, though, through all of it is great. Simply, the only person you will always be with here is yourself. It's important to know who you truly are, or who you want to become. And with that, I am growing a personal relationship with my Father in Heaven and with my Savior that beforehand I never, or very slightly, had. It's something that I heard would happen or would be good to experience but it's something difficult to describe and something you truly do just need to go through to know. As you personally rely and trust in the Savior and our Heavenly Father's plan, it's miraculous what happens.

Well, I love you all and hope you have a great week! My heart is full at this time, and I can't really write the way I feel. It's awesome though, it's the Spirit of the Lord. Please continue to stay in touch.


Elder Christensen

Michael reunited with MTC friends at All Mission Conference

Michael and Elder Miller practicing the no teeth smile

The Badgers
Michael and Elder DB

Monday, October 18, 2010

These things are true because they work

Dear everyone,

Hey there. I hope everyone is doing well and things are swell wherever you are. Things are good here in Saratoga Springs; as a whole this week was pretty good. Some awesome days, some longer days. AND this week was made better because of the awesome mail I received. Papa and Nana thank you so much for the incredibly thoughtful box, that was so nice and everything in it is fantastic! Sheffield's too! Thank you so much Kim Kelly Drue & Sarah, the goodies and nice letters are really appreciated and mean a lot! Ste thanks for the letter bro! Don't be thinking you're some ladies man now, though. haha silent reading tag, ay yi yi funny. And as faithful as always, I got Mom's letter! I truly do appreciate your letters and the things you write each week, thank you. So skunk miracle is complete. My suit pants were dry cleaned for a whopping total of $1.35 because of the member owned place in Albany, I just need to get them back when I see the Zone Leaders next. Speaking of which, it's likely I'll see them because yes transfers are already next week and therefore transfer calls this Saturday. Elder DB has been here 3 transfers now, and no I'm not his first Jr. Companion. It sounds like Lake Powell was a blast! Way cool, that's awesome. And Ste balled it up at the Suns game, nice. I hope that Tyler had a great birthday and that Nana will have a great birthday! Oh yeah, and I appreciate the offer but I wouldn't have a need for those bookmarks, Nana; we have quite a bit of different supplies out here, but thank you! Stake Conference two weeks ago was awesome. Great seeing E. Lyman and the Dutchers. I guess I failed to mention the Stake President out here is actually really close with the Dutchers and hooked them up with a private interview with Elder Grow right before Stake Conference. I talked to them afterward and they really enjoyed it. I believe Sister Dutcher is scheduled to be baptized this Saturday! Hopefully she has fully committed like she says she will and needs to and does it! We'll wait and see I suppose. We get copies of the Ensign but thanks, I appreciate it. I got the contacts rebate in the mail. Yeah, the Badgers are so legit. Such a blessing and help to us. They picked up Chipotle for dinner for us this week..haa. And we're actually teaching them and I think it's really beneficial to prepare them to be temple married. They have 2 daughters and one on the way. Perhaps I should get a picture soon and you can know who I'm talking about all the time. Can someone find Jordan Richardson's mission home address? As well as Jake Terry's? Terry's should be on his facebook if you look it up from mine.

But like I said before this week overall was pretty good. There were some better days than others but nothing bad at all. So last Monday evening we had interviews with President. I love him so much. Elder Grow when he was here made the point how not only were we called to serve here in New York for specific people here but we were called to serve (and to go even deeper: foreordained before this world even was) specifically with President Bulloch. I couldn't agree more and appreciate this knowledge. He is so positive and loving; not intimidating like I had perhaps thought it may be. Anyway, it was a great interview and he gave me some wonderful insights with regards to knowing my current situation and things I'm going through. Tuesday we had District Meeting and President trained us there, it was way good; he's such a captivating teacher, hence that's what he does/did. We went on exchange afterward and I came back to Toga with E. Waldron. President and Sister Bulloch gave us a ride and because we had to cancel our dinner appointment for him to interview other people after District Meeting they took us out to eat. ha, Where did they take us? Panera Bread, aww yea. I was cracking up. Sidenote: Ithaca residents, at Stake Conference be SURE to go and talk to President and Sister Bulloch. They're speaking and want to meet you guys.

So the 'miracle' Griffins who moved from Vegas. I wouldn't exactly spell out that they are G-O-L-D-E-N, but nonetheless promising. She wants to be baptized, but has some things we are going to try and help her overcome. Her fiance, not husband, wasn't too interested when we went over there but was busy leaving some where so we haven't really spoken with him. We're going to see her tomorrow and she said she was going to talk with him, and we'll map out what needs to happen for her, and hopefully them, to be baptized, and more importantly converted to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Perhaps the most exciting thing this week was teaching a woman named Dawn and her 11 year old daughter Sophia. They are a referral and friend of a family in the ward. We set these two with a baptismal date of 12/4. They were very excited and looking for a change in their life. Talking to her member friend Dawn asked does being baptized mean specifically that I become a member of your church? She said yes. Dawn said, oh alright, cool. Ha, she's very promising; and even better yet we are teaching them tonight but also she said her 14 year old son will be there and we plan on getting him in on it all. Happy. So I guess other new things here on the mission front is teaching another friend of this member family, Karie. She's been taught before but truly felt the Spirit when we first taught her and she recognized it. We plan on teaching her this week. The Phelan family is doing alright; their daughter is still going through a stressful time figuring out what is up with her heart but we were able to sit down with the parents alone and read Alma 32 with them. They really enjoyed it, but we're trying to get them to act more on these things. Other than that basically things are the same around here. I realize pretty often that my knowledge of the Gospel is pretty shallow but thanks to my testimony, the Spiritual - and very real - witness that I have that these things are true keeps me going. And that's all we need to start. I know that these things are true because they work. I know that they work because they are true. I love this Gospel and desire to learn all that I can about it; more importantly I feel, though, we need to live it. Have the courage and faith to do what you know is right. If you're not sure whether something is from God or right, go ahead and try it. Act upon it and see for yourself; for you receive no witness until after the trial of your faith. My best wishes and prayers are with you all and I hope you have a great week.

I love you and appreciate everything you do in my behalf.


Elder Christensen

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Monday, October 11, 2010

Faith precedes miracles


Hey there how's it going? It's good to hear from you all and it sounds like things are going great in your respective situations. I can't believe that about the storms and the tree branch at the church! Thank goodness nothing too bad happened to the car, I suppose! Way to go scoring 2 goals Ste. So to answer some questions Elder Daniels-Brown is 6'7 or possibly '8 he says. And I got a pair of slacks at TJ Maxx. I snagged an old CTR clothing pair too, similar to mine from Pomeroy's, from the Schoharie apartment that I wear when it's a way rainy day, etc. When I was sprayed I was wearing a blue tie (the one in my shrine pictures; sprayed directly and salvaged), long sleeve shirt (salvaged), black suit pants (those rather than slacks because we had District Meeting earlier that day when we have to wear suits; at the dry cleaners in Albany (ZL's took them for me) because a member owns one there so it'll be way cheap; salvaged). Everything is good with that and not one thing I was wearing during or after was lost. It will be all finalized when I get those suit pants back soon. Oh yeah, I ate (literally) my words from my last email when I had sushi this week with this nasty seaweed salad thing. bleh. Anyway, thanks so much Paige and Ben for the hand-delivered goods! I appreciate that; and definitely told them all to thank you so if they didn't don't think I didn't tell them to..ha. But oh yeah I didn't mean "no treats" when I said that last week but just know I'm getting fed really well (ie. even the Badgers from Mesa right below us always make something new everyday, literally. salsa, guac, cookies, etc etc etc and we typically have some; reminds me of mom). But I love getting anything and everything from you guys!!! I appreciate it all so much, it truly means a lot.

This week certainly has been a less stressful week than last although it certainly wasn't a "typical" week either. We taught more this week. "My" bike got a punctured tube. A member family set up a sweet appointment with us and two of the Mom's friends that went really well. One called after she went home and we left that she felt all light and tingly when we were teaching, etc. but not after. Yesss; best thing to hear. All Mission Conference was sweet with Elder C. Scott Grow there (yes, his name is a sentence; ha). --- Side note: Elder DB was one of like 7 who Elder Grow interviewed afterward. I guess President and the Zone Leaders "randomly" selected some people to have that opportunity. I'm convinced it wasn't "random." But it was a really good experience for him that helped him out quite a bit I think. --- In short, from the Conference I learned I need to have more faith (sweet story about that to follow) and that every aspect of the work can and should improve. There was a lot of information and pretty overwhelming how much things could improve and how much I can personally improve. To be completely honest, I walked away from it glad we were able to do it but completely unsure as how to apply the things that were taught. So I looked back over my notes the next morning in study and pondered on how I could have or exercise more faith in the work, etc. Then, of course, inspiration came. In the past in daily (and weekly) planning sessions I would open with a prayer, then plan, then set goals, then work those plans. The inspiration came to try this: open with a prayer asking to be inspired in regards to goals for the next day, then set goals, then plan according to these goals established, then work these plans with all your heart, might, mind, and strength to accomplish them. It sounds pretty intuitive and perhaps how it should have been done all along but I'm so grateful. Yesterday, Sunday, was the first day of incorporating this entire process and I had a very powerful experience. After Stake Conference we got a ride home with the Dennis family (the prior bishop, dentist (going to hook us up), sweet guy) to their neighborhood to eat and work. In short, we worked a few hours there (according to the plans we established the day before with the goals we set) but didn't see the success or things play out as we hoped (people not being home, not willing to let us sit down and teach, etc). But we worked hard, doing all we could do. A little later we got a ride back to the apartment and I was a little disappointed things didn't go as they could have ideally gone (This was a reason why having a lot of faith in the work is hard for me right now I guess just needing to be realistic, as well as optimistic, in what can happen). Elder DB was going to the bathroom, not feeling great, and all this happened when he was in there and I was quasi alone. I knelt down and simply told Heavenly Father my thoughts and how we're trying our best in working the plans we had, in being faithful, in everything. It went well. I got up, grabbed a drink, and began to sit down and relax for a minute while E. DB was still in there when I saw the cell phone sitting across the room. I had the feeling come to mind: go grab it and bring it over here because someone is going to call with some great news. I don't know why I thought that but I simply decided to go grab the phone and set it next to me so when they call I'll be prepared (and won't have to get up from a comfy chair to get it, ha). A couple minutes went by still thinking it was going to happen (I was actually just mending a pair a pants) and what happened? The phone, in reality, rang. A member of the bishopric called and told me a young family just moved from Vegas who called him trying to get in touch with us. They were being taught over there and want to continue here. He gave us the information and hung up. ARE YOU KIDDING? I'm still blown away by it. It's hard to describe everything well enough without going in to detail but it simply was a miracle that was wrought by simple faith. Faith precedes miracles. I know that God is THERE. It's so real; so, believe it or not, tangible. Nothing like that has ever happened to me before; it still blows my mind. I know that the Lord is in the fine details of all of our lives. And through us exercising (meaning action) our faith, miracles are produced and we can see that hand of the Lord in our lives more so than ever before. Thanks Ste for praying for me to have "great experiences" because I truly am.

Nana: Baptism. There is so much on that I could go off on it, but possible suggestions include.
1) All need to be baptized. John 3:5. Baptism has been taught since the beginning of time. Adam, the first man on earth, was baptized. Christ, the perfect son of God, was baptized.
2) Our covenant of baptism. We promise: to take the Lord's name upon us,
remember Him always, and keep His commandments. And we are promised: to have our sins forgiven of us and to have the Spirit to be with us.
3) How to baptize, why it's important it's done with right authority and in the proper manner.
See 3 Nephi 11 when Christ himself instructs on these things.
4) Baptism is the gate by which we enter to allow us to get on the straight and narrow path we
must all walk to return to live with our Father in Heaven again. Our first covenant.
5) The relationship of Baptism by water and Baptism by fire. How they need the other to be
complete, etc.

I love you all so much and truly am excited to exercise more faith. Please continue to send your love and support, it means the world. Thanks so much for always being there for me.

Love always,

Elder Christensen

Michael enjoying Saratoga Springs on P day

Just doing a little tracting