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.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

"Men are that they might have joy"

Dear family and friends,

So guess what?? Yep, going golfing today! Elder Lyman and I are going to Albany to play with our Zone Leaders! We're playing at a municipal course called Western Turnpike that I've heard is really good, 27 holes. We're only playing 9 but it should be so fun; there is a left-handed member in Albany whose clubs I guess I get to use. Elder Lyman has never golfed before, haha it's going to be hilarious! I'll be sure to let you know how it goes, probably won't be too pretty but it certainly will be enjoyable to get out, should be perfect weather today. I got the package of clothes! Yes, thank you so much. I can't say how much all of your help with everything back home means to me. But it's good, I've certainly gained a little weight since I've been here but not more than 5 or so pounds. We are fed so well here it's a joke! (last night we had fajitas at a member's that contend Tia Rosa's, man. The dad is a hardkore cook, it's sweet). I got my backpack shipped off today. I went to the UPS drop box and wasn't sure how it'd work with such a big box and stuff but right as we got there a UPS truck guy drove up and I just handed it to him, so sweet no stress. The Lord is always looking out for us in all aspects of our lives! (whether it's something cool like that, or something opposite He gives us to allow us to grow and learn). That's way sweet about the Family Book of Mormon, I've seen those out here they're way sweet! I got the clothes and the letter from mom with pictures and memory card in it but no letter from Ste yet, I can't wait! I'm glad to hear the Florida move is a success so far! And great to hear from Ithaca, yeah Ben we'll go on splits just you and me! haha.
This week was not my typical week out here, it was really fun and different. Monday we bowled, way fun. On Tuesday we had an exchange with the Elders serving in Schenectady; I worked here in Schoahrie Valley with Elder Russel. It was such a good time, he came out 2 transfers before me and is basically my long-lost brother. He did golf and soccer in high school and we just connected really well it was sweet, I hope to get to work with him more in the future too. Then Friday night the Zone Leaders came here and I had my "Second Transfer Training." We had a meeting then went out and worked that night and Saturday the first half of the day. It was a really good time with them. For our morning exercise we played tennis with them! We do service at a catholic charities thrift store every week and got tennis rackets a few days before (Elder Lyman played in high school). It's way fun, I'm going to get gooood. We played just us two this morning. We saw the Hellstroms this past week and had another incredible time. Driving over there we talked about exactly what we wanted to go over and what we wanted them to do. The lesson went exactly how we planned, to a T. It was unreal, we got the mom to say the closing prayer as we all knelt; it was incredible. They know it's true. We'll see them again this week and continue to help them progress and hit their 10/16 baptismal date. We saw the Dutchers twice this week, once was with Elder Cutler who knows them (Zone Leader now, here with Elder Miller before me) and I. It was great and we're just working on getting Sister Dutcher comfortable socially with the commitment of baptism. She is so solid and knows that it's true without a doubt. We had a cool experience at District Meeting in a practice scenario. Elder Lyman and I were being taught and we decided to pretend to be Sister Dutcher and use her concerns for getting baptized. What they said and did, which isn't totally typical, was essentially exactly how we in reality handled it. It was a testimony to me that we taught with the Spirit and were directed in how to progress with her. We're going to hike Vroman's Nose with them and have food and a lesson up there this week I think. It's a quick hike but I hear it's gorgeous overlooking the entire valley(ies).

We had another really cool experience this week I want to share. When I was with Elder Cutler at the Dutchers, Elder Lyman and Elder Westra were working in Cobleskill and tracted into an extremely nice older couple. They invited them to mass on the next day as they were Catholic and they agreed. When we (all 4 missionaries) met at the apartment that night I heard the news, as it would be Elder Lyman and I going. I wasn't nervous but found it interesting because lately we've been focusing (in president's email last week) on doing the "best" things to fulfill our time (good, better, best scenario). We decided to go and see if it produces fruit afterward and then know for the future how to handle a similar situation. Man, are we glad that we did! They were shocked and extremely happy to see us at Mass. It was good and just like the one I went to with Dad. So glad that we did that, that was so smart Dad thank you. Afterward the couple was so nice and talking with us and invited us to have a meal at Pizza Hut with them! HA. We had a great gospel conversation over the meal as they were desirous to know about us as missionaries. We found out the wife isn't Catholic but actually Presbyterian! Ultimately they agreed to allow us to sit down with them to teach them in their home more formally. It was simply amazing. There are more details but it was truly a jaw-dropping experience as it was happening.
Quite simply I know that this is true and real. It's so important. We're certainly finding joy in the work as "men are that they might have joy" but working hard as well. I truly appreciate all of the love and support you send me, it means more than I can say.

Love always,

Elder Christensen

Michael walking down memory lane

Michael and Elder Lyman typing letters on their sick typewriters

Michael with the Zone Leaders

Michael's last night with Elder Miller

Monday, August 23, 2010

that one last door to try

The Dutchers
Noah (age 2)

Michael with his bacon straight from Salt Lake Country Club

Michael and Elder Miller with Elder Welch, the DL

Hanging with the ZL's after a District lunch

Greetings to everyone,

August is almost over? Hmm, that's not right. As always, it is so good to hear from all of you! Sorry that life is boring in Arizona. I'm glad Papa's golf has been better and hopefully Nana you are doing well too! My prayers are with you guys always. And I didn't hear from the East-coasters but I'm sure they're well as well! The big move will be exciting in Florida! Maren's wedding and all going on just West of me here should be great as well. So my backpack made it! We had President interviews on Saturday and he brought it from the Mission Office (it had been sent to seriously like 2 or 3 other WAY WRONG addresses here in Upstate; no idea where they came up with the addresses they did...but I got it. But yeah, and my little envelope from the Distribution Center got here! Wonderful, thank you so much I plan on memorizing those (like I should have already done better). You can certainly do the same kind of journal I have now, and no engraving is fine! No worries at all for me, all that is up to Mom. Like I said I won't need it for a while. (Probably 1/2 filled with mine?). My contacts have been great, I'm going to get the supply today after this, so look for it like you said. I wasn't crying in that picture, by the way. It was sad but not a crying issue, ha! Would you please be so kind as to send me some clothes. I need another pair of jeans no doubt and I realized I can still be myself out here (although I certainly want to leave my old self behind and truly become a new creature in Christ). I apologize if my stuff is all packed away, but the minimal clothes I brought aren't cutting it at the time being and simply need more, and want variety. I'll have room to pack it in my suitcases, don't worry about that. You suck air out of all your stuff in bags and you can fit lots. Thanks so much! :)

The work is so awesome here. Salt Lake is implementing a new MTC curriculum that will come into effect summer of 2011 (simply, more specific things out of Preach My Gospel. Less practice teaching which is about all I did). So for us missionaries already out here, we have to be up to speed with them when they come out. In our District Meetings for the next 8 weeks we’re going over this stuff. Last week we talked about the Doctrine of Christ (2 Nephi 31). Obviously, just: faith, repentance, baptism, receive the holy ghost, and endure to the end. And with that we were "trained out" on extending baptismal commitments (WITH A DATE) with people the FIRST time we sit down with them. (a new request from Salt Lake, aka the Lord). That's pretty intense! But I love it! Elder Lyman and I decided we would be faithful and do so (and set those investigators we already have the next time we see them). This is inspired. We set 4 people with baptismal dates this week. In short, Elder Lyman summed up this past week as perhaps the best on his mission thus far. We set a woman Mary Jane with 10/16 and another woman Mary with 10/9! (the idea is this will separate the wheat from the tares and we will be able to better focus on those who want to change and come unto Christ and not "waste" time with those more reluctant to change). Wednesday (the same day we received this new counsel from SL) we had the Hellstroms. They articulated to us how they wanted to ease into this and not take it too fast. We were nervous to set the mother and daughter with a date (father a less-active member, other son is only 5). But we planned on doing it and putting this to the test. In short, we taught the plan of salvation and Elder Lyman thinks it was, if not the best lesson on his mission, one of the top. It was powerful. Then we invited them to be baptized when the Spirit was strong. They accepted, and it's set for 10/16. Wow. We never would have thought to set them yet but the Lord asked and we obeyed and it worked. We've been so blessed for following this counsel and staying faithful and diligent.

Like I alluded to earlier we had interviews with President and they were great. He's so powerful and loving. He told me some very nice things. Yesterday it literally rained all day, a lot. It was fun! As an Arizona boy I love it and think it's fun while other people are sick of it. Hopefully I am able to like it the whole time I'm here..ha. Still raining, but much less, today. We tracted out in it yesterday for like an hour and a half. My jacket got its major debut! We taught the Russian man Vitaliy and gave him a Russian Book of Mormon, he's excited to learn more and understand better.

We’re teaching 15 people right now, there is so much to tell about all of them but I'll quickly share one story. We were tracting a long country-type road with many houses pretty close but not like our neighborhood close; and we started at one end and on the other there were 2 former investigators we were going to try and contact. Long story short we finally got to one that lived on an off shoot from the major road we were on where 4 trailer-homes were. Her home (the former member) was the second to last one of these. We knocked and no one answered. Running low on time and lower on energy we were going to turn around and go to the other former member on the other side of the road a few hundred feet away. But there was still one more house (trailer) to try. I felt that we should and so we went around to it. A younger man was out front and didn't appear to be one interested in our message. Long portion of the story short, he invited us in, loved the restoration and we’re excited to go back and teach him (and set him with a date, we saw him on Tuesday before the training). He's excited about the gospel and essentially prayed for us (or something) to help him out as he's going through a tough time with his girlfriend and things. We immediately learned the importance of that one last door to try, that one last soul to invite to learn. (And also that you never know who would accept this message, based on their appearance, living conditions, etc). It was really neat. We're being extremely blessed here and I hope we can help these people we’re teaching continue to progress in the Gospel. OH! We taught the Dutchers the Word of Wisdom and they said they would live it. Awesome. Coffee and tea are the issues so should be good. Technically she doesn't have a baptismal date yet but she knows it's true and will be baptized (just hesitant to talk to her father about it; though we know him and he likes us and is awesome). We're seeing a Part Member family tonight. Wife member, husband not but knows it’s true and has a calling in the ward. Smoking is what's holding him back but he wants to quit and talk to us about it tonight so I'm very excited (missionaries have worked with him for years, I don't know how seriously, but this seems different if his desire is sincere). Should be sweet!

We're going bowling today! My first P-Day fun thing! Next Monday were going to golf and/or play tennis with brother Dutcher! I'm stoked!! (the guy above who wants to quit smoking designed a course here in Cobleskill, I want to go with him too!) I love it here!

Please keep sending your love and support my way. It truly means so much to hear from everyone. Oh and attach pictures to your emails if you have any, they're sweet to see!

Love you all so much,

Elder Christensen


ps- got Rachel's email before I left. Good to hear from you. :) much love.

Monday, August 16, 2010

An epiphany....

The new companionship -
Elder Christensen and Elder Lyman

Proof that Elder Christensen is in Schoharie Valley

Hello everyone,

I can't say enough how much I love hearing from all of you! It is so awesome to hear all (or, really, a fraction) of what's going on with people's lives! What Ste said blew my mind: I'm already 10% done? What? It definitely feels like I've been here for some time but still, that's unreal. Awesome the missionaries were over to Paige & Ben's in Ithaca - that cracks me up so much. Dang. And the Jennings that's awesome about moving and Jacksy! Ste is in 5th grade. I can't remember a LOT from my 5 grade experience and he's already there. Jeeze. Yeah that's awesome Mom got to talk to Sister Bulloch. She is hilarious, I love her to death. I talked to her before she called you so I knew that was happening, awesome though! ha, there are so many connections it doesn't even feel like I am as "disconnected" as I guess I really am - which is sweet. I got the package! Thanks so much it was awesome! Sweet cd, awesome tie, YC shirt was cool, and the supplies and stuff are great too. I have no clue about the backpack - mystery beyond understanding, ha. Mine is fine though. Yep, appointment at Wally Marts today at 12:30 for my eyes, we will get it figured out. Start looking into what journal you want my next volume to be. The missionary one I have now is sick, it just has all the stuff at the beginning (mtc experience, setting apart, etc) that I won't need so either a different one or the same is fine just i won't use that part again. You won't need to send that until the next package at least but something to start thinking about. I'll send my memory card to you guys, there are some cool pictures I think on there, it'll go out tomorrow. And I am set for bacon for now, thank you so much Papa and Nana :).

The work is moving forward. To be honest this week was a little tougher. Many of our appointments fell through, we were dropped by a couple solid investigators (moving, or going back to old church, etc), and often found ourselves tracting in the wet heat. But we persevered and did our best and certainly saw blessings for our efforts later! We had the chance to teach a less-active part-member (husband only) family! Wow. The wife has a Christian background but isn't set and they have a 13 year old daughter and 5 year old son. They're truly a choice family that can build the kingdom! We had an incredibly Spirit-felt lesson with them Wednesday night; we taught the Restoration. We were able to connect so well with them. At first we were just sitting with the parents then I felt prompted to get everyone together when we started teaching, turns out that was really inspired. The daughter in the past was their stumbling block in not getting back into looking into the church and stuff and she really liked it this time for whatever reason and is super into it (we got a call from them last night confirming what we wanted them to read so they'd do it right and stuff). I wish I could tell all that happened but it was incredible! We're seeing them Wednesday night again and I can't wait! Lauren is going to be baptized here soon - by her husband! We're working with him to get ordained a Priest so he can do it! So incredible, they're so awesome! Kim who has a baptismal date we couldn't see this week and seemed kinda sketched out about stuff after church last week (teachers going off on stuff about the temple, kind of interesting for an investigator) so hopefully we can resolve his concerns and keep him going. We're teaching Amy and Monty (the SLC visit people) tonight; couldn't be more excited. Everyone else is progressing and doing well, there are 16 people in our teaching pool at the moment which is pretty sweet.

I had an epiphany yesterday sitting in church. I realized I've grown up with these beliefs my whole life; and they were essentially just that beliefs. Or just ideas or concepts. That yes I believed and found comfort in but they were abstract in a sense. It hit me really hard for whatever reason that recently and hopefully continually, these beliefs are becoming a reality. It's just real, or becoming more and more real. It's really awesome. God, literally, is there. Christ, literally, lives and wants to help us. We, literally, can have eternal life. That may sound stupid but it really struck me yesterday. Also, E. Lyman said something that an apostle came to our mission several years ago and said that this mission is 2nd hardest (to Russia). Meaning hardest in the sense of people receptivity and the hardness of their hearts. It hasn't seemed that way so far in my experience but that's crazy if it's true. We're doing great and just trying to be better, work harder, and always be obedient.

I love you all so much and truly appreciate your support, kind words, and love so much. Your letters and emails mean so much. Please continue keeping me posted!

Love always,

Elder Christensen

Monday, August 9, 2010

People just falling into our laps

Hey everybody!

I can't believe school is starting already! Wow, and awesome for Ste to be in the Moore club, she was awesome. I am happy to hear that the big 5-0 birthday day and events went well! It will be funny to see that book when I come home, haha! And I am very glad youth conference was awesome! That is so crazy you guys just did that! I'm sure the youth loved it and it was a great experience for everyone. That is hilarious Mom is going to Florida! Awesome the Jennings are getting that house, seriously wow. Awesome that Paige is having sisters over Wednesday probably, that's sweet. It's so weird to think that there are newer newbies out here than me! haha! The scripture mastery cards I want are sold as a sheet of paper-ish then you rip them into little cards (with scripture on one side, history stuff on the other), typically at Deseret Book or something like that. Music: you can get efy songs if they're in the green hymn book or children's (renditions, obviously). .. Just anything that invites the Spirit and is a hymn - or obviously a motab appropriate song. Yeah my contacts have been weird. Before you order the same ones see if there is a better kind for humid climates or if that would affect them? They've been bugging my eyes more than normal, and more quickly when I switch out to new ones.

But it is great here in Schoharie Valley! I'll be honest I was a little nervous "leading out" the area only being here 6 weeks and getting a new companion. But I can truly say I have been strengthened from the Lord and He is definitely there helping the work go forward. Elder Lyman is sweet! He's from Spokane, Washington. We can relate on a lot of levels - snowboarder, grew up in church, lived in SLC for a year before he came out - and it's awesome! I've heard multiple times your second companion can be the toughest because you've never been with someone else and seen the work done differently, etc. But I think it will be great here. He's an awesome missionary and able to talk with whomever, it's sweet. We talked about the importance of being diligent and obedient in order to have the Spirit and make the Lord's work go forth His way, so we're committed to really focusing on that! We're able to be really open with each other already and it's going to be great I anticipate. He's really excited to be here! The work here is incredible. I didn't realize we have the biggest ward in the mission, 170ish people! We're working with the members a lot. Or trying to focus on it. The first day with E. Lyman we had rain rain rain and we were out tracting kind of off a highway without jackets or umbrellas, it was hilarious! And seriously so much fun!

We're teaching families. We're teaching people that will build the kingdom, it's crazy! Amy and Monty (50's) are awesome, we're planning on seeing them tonight at 6 so that's way exciting! They're sweet people! We are so happy to have the chance to teach them. We went to a Lady's house named Margaret (40-50's) who we tracted into and we were able to sit down with her and talk for a bit. She's absolutely golden! Asking for more stuff to read and setting up a time when we can come back! Last night we stopped by a potential investigator, Tanya (40's) I had met briefly who I guess was taught a little bit before I got here and we were able to sit with her! It was a great gospel conversation and we were able to build a solid relationship and trust, and make a return appointment. Then when we got in the car afterward Elder Lyman said he could hear the words "baptize her, baptize her" in his ear like he had never heard before! So awesome! We have so many other solid potential investigators like that that are so awesome and we're so excited to hopefully teach!

We set a man Kim with a baptismal date 9/18 and he was at church yesterday. Also the Dutchers are awesome, planning on that date too and with Brother Dutcher being able to baptize his wife!! Such a sweet family. We have others still really ready and close for a date too. And we're continuing to see many miracles every day here! People just falling into our laps. It's amazing. I wish I had the time to tell every detail but just know it's absolutely incredible!!

I apologize if I left anything out; we found some sick typewriters in our apartment so I can write a little more now, perhaps, as it won't take as long (hopefully if I can figure it out). But I love you all so much and thank you so much for all of your love and support! Keep being awesome everyone and put your trust in Him.

Much love,

Elder Christensen

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Schoharie Valley is a Blessed Area

Dear ALL -

Man, it is absolutely crazy that I have been here for an entire transfer already! And that I have been out now for 2 months! It is seriously unreal. But yes, you and your insider information was correct. Elder Miller is leaving tomorrow to Malone (way north)! He's going to be a DL up there following in a sweet missionary's shoes who is going home i guess. So I am staying here in Schoharie and Elder Lyman is going to be my new companion! He has been out a little over a year I was told, should be great. Missionaries have told me that with your second companion there are often some ruffles just because I'm not "used" to doing the work with someone else or "his style." I really look forward to it though it should be a great time, and obviously I know the area better than he so I will have to step up and lead out! There were tons of changes too with our zone combining with another and now I'll be in a District with Elders from 2 new areas so everything will be new, basically! ha. But I'm just going to continue to try to do the things the Lord would have me do and what He has asked me to do, and He will provide. We were able to have President interviews on Saturday, too! He has us teach he and Sister Bulloch as if they were investigators. They're so loving and supportive and helpful. Wow. It was great talking with him personally. He talked a lot about the Transfer changes that were going on ("the call" was that night so we new first-hand and early). He gave me more information which was really nice to hear what he had to say and his take on things.

Schoharie Valley is a blessed area. Wow. We have been so blessed. We are planning on having a baptism this upcoming transfer, Lauren (wife of (previous) less-active). Such an awesome lady and family! Many others we have been so lucky to "find" (more like, have been placed right in our laps) are very awesome and close to being committed to baptism! I'll tell of one. There names are Amy and Monty, they went to SLC temple square a few months ago, had a great time with Sister Missionaries there. We knocked on their door, planned a return appointment. When we came back the Sisters from SLC called them and asked if it'd be ok if Elders came by- and they answered we already had. So awesome. They're Methodist currently which is the absolute chillest and are letting us teach and stuff so they're awesome. A great family as well that will surely build the Kingdom of God. Ha, we met this guy Jeremy who is a character; he firmly believes in leprechauns, holy oyster pearls, and cow insemination and how this all relates to our resurrection. He's awesome, it's fun teaching him - who knows where that will lead at this point, you never know what the Lord has in store. We have these people with soft baptismal commitments: Haylee (17), Kim (male, 40's). It is incredible how much good there is here. It's crazy the average Elder has 4 baptisms in the Utica mission. (not that numbers are of upmost importance but that was pretty interesting when I heard that).

Well happy birthday to dad! You're officially OLD! I hope you have a great day. And thank you so much Papa and Nana for the incredible package you sent me! The bacon and Cummings goodies were amazing! That's incredible about President Eyring, oh my goodness! I've been sleeping very well. Our apartment is actually quite nice, and especially compared to some of the other Elders' places. We didn't tract too much this transfer but it depends where we are how we do it. We've walked with houses really close, walked when a little more rural and have driven to individual houses when spaced out more.

Can I get the scripture mastery rip out cards from all 4 years? (white with history on one side, scripture on the other). And I wouldn't ever turn down more ties. Silk are totally fine unless it's raining really hard which it hasn't much since I've been here! And the backpack never came, but if they haven't sent it that's fine don't worry about it - I'm good with this one. Send me any music you can - it's the best. Hymns, renditions, and Motab (but not showtunes or stuff like that). E. Miller has good music and is leaving sadly, so anything would be good. You can go on my itunes and buy some or something. Send spiritual things (temple pictures, etc) or whatever other random stuff toys or whatever, I'm good on food for now, thanks. Oh and I please need more contacts. Perhaps like a year supply? Not more than that

I hope you enjoyed the package, I just don't want to have too much stuff (Elder Miller is having that problem as he's packing today). Yeah the daily planners are fun! ha.

I apologize this email is so scattered and all over the place but just know that things are going well here, I look forward to the changes, and I love you all so much and I am so grateful for the love and support that you give me! You're all amazing. This work is so divine and so real and so powerful! Trust Him!

Keep in touch.

I love you,

Elder Christensen

Michael with Sister Cox (from his MTC district) and Sister Zwick who serve in Paige and Ben's Branch in Ithaca.
Michael is reunited with his MTC district at the
"Return and Report" day.
Elder Christensen & Elder Shurtz - MTC comps

Michael talked Elder Miller into eating a "double down" sandwich from KFC....gross