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, September 27, 2010

Really really blessed

Dear All,

It's wonderful to hear from all of you and I appreciate your love and support. Way to go Ste on the soccer goals and announcements - you're boss student council man now. Thanks for the attached pictures, I love getting those! From Ithaca: who are those children you are camping with? Tell Maren congrats that's way sweet! And ROFL at Ben. From Orlando: Are you kidding me? Jackson is so grown up! He looks so good, holy cow! Awesome! On that note Happy Birthday Rachel! Hope you have a great day and an enjoyable panhandle adventure! I got the package I think Thursday! Thank you so much and let me simply say there was some inspired stuff in there! Ha it was all seriously so perfect (for example - the perhaps most random thing dishtowels were sweet; the day before I cleaned the kitchen and stuff with an old scarf I found in the apartment and was going to buy some towels. HA!) It's all great though and I appreciate it all so much! Thanks. Oh yeah, I didn't get the letter Mom sent yet (perhaps sending them Wednesday doesn't give them enough time to get here before the weekend). I'm glad you liked the pictures and such; I love those people and it's crazy I'm here in Saratoga away from all that already. You can send some of those pictures but you don't need to send a ton. That's awesome about the calls in the ward too! But other than that that's about it with regards to those things.

This transfer is certainly different than those prior for more reasons than one; it's great though. We found 7 NEW INVESTIGATORS this week! That's a jokee! I don't know why we're being so blessed but our teaching pool is really solid now; we have our feet under us and the work is moving right along! It was pretty cool last Monday after Pday Elder DB and I were walking down the street and there were two Guatemalan men we came across (there are quite a bit of Hispanic foreigners here working with the race tracks and such). We approached them like normal because the majority speak English but these guys not so much. So I talked to them in Spanish for at least 5 minutes. Dang, my Spanish is bad. But it was seriously so cool that I was essentially able to get the message across to these two that I wanted. I've seen them around a couple times since and we're friends ha. On Tuesday Elder DB turned 20 so we had a great ol' time celebrating as a missionary. I sang him primary birthday songs all morning. Then for dinner a 17 year old kid (convert of like 2 years) who we are way tight with who we're getting to come out with us at a set time weekly (with a car, yesss) had us over and we had Wings over Saratoga. So good; E. DB had ribs, classic. (They have the same thing Wings over Ithaca I believe; I'm sure the Ithaca people have heard of it/been there). Then later we went to the Phelans (the family we found last week) because they insisted on having us over for cake for his birthday, ha. I think they feel bad for us out here with the "little contact" we have with family, etc. haha. Anyway, Wednesday was an interesting day. It was perhaps the most stressful, tedious morning and start of the day I've had out here. In short, we decided to stay in an extra hour to more effectively plan the day and get our feet under us. This turned out to be such a blessing and good choice. We ended up busing down to a place I'd never been and we planned on doing some finding there. To put it plainly, we knocked on maybe 5-8 doors, two of which invited us right in and were cool. The second was a woman named Kira we are really excited about teaching. She's way into horses and is probably late 40's. Super solid and it ended up being a very successful trip down there. We also taught Tyrone again who is still as awesome as ever. Truly searching for happiness and truth; is willing to disregard his rough past and move on. Awesome. Speaking of awesome we found another guy as an investigator this week named Jeff. We are basically the same person, sorta. He's 33; way into golf, way into skiing, speaks like me, etc etc. But he was recently divorced and is wondering what the deal about this thing called life is. He said he had his dream: wife, money, etc but didn't feel fully fulfilled. And now with his divorce he wants to know even more so. Brother Badger (the Mtn. View guy) is going to be perfect for him too so we're really excited to keep teaching and getting him involved this week. We DID get the bikes fixed (thanks Bro Badger, ha) and rode down to Ballston Spa on Saturday. We taught 2 drop-by lessons there, picked up 3 investigators, and set a baptismal date! The date is with a woman named Bella who is really solid. She will have to overcome some things to be baptized but we'll keep faithful! We've been really really blessed; I'm familiarizing myself with the area now and it's coming together. There is so much to do but it's great.

I love you all so much and appreciate all the things you're doing for me. I'm definitely learning a lot out here. A lot about the gospel. A lot about myself. Without going into too much detail I had a humbling experience this week as I was reading the Book of Mormon then felt inspired to read Ezra Taft Benson's "Beware of Pride". Read this talk. Wow, it cuts you deep. Simply, this is something I am focusing on and working on. It's been helping things out quite a bit but certainly is a process. Elder DB and I had a good conversation last night talking openly with each other. I won't say too much but he has been in a tough point in his mission, and now I know where he is coming from better and it should be good.

I love it here and I love this work. I am far from where I need to be but I'm doing my best which is all I can do! There is so much joy experienced out here...and much difficulty, trial, and sorrow. But simply, the joy outweighs any of that by much more. I love it and look forward to a week of hard work, growth, and learning! General Conference will be amazing! Let's all open our hearts and be willing to change and be receptive to the Spirit of conference! (crazy how much has changed since last conference!)

Thanks for all you do and please continue to show your love and support; it means so much!

Love Always,

Elder Christensen

Monday, September 20, 2010

Saratoga is sikk...

Greetings from Saratoga Springs,

Change, change change. It is certain that "being comfortable" is not in the job description as a missionary. It is finally setting in that I am here in Saratoga Springs. I'm just sitting here in the public library on the computer - a little different than the computers in the Family History center in the church building we used in Schoharie. I love it though. Saratoga is sikk. There is SUCH a different feel, atmosphere here. The main street, Broadway, basically feels like a small California town to me or like Park City. An outdoor type mall atmosphere with awesome stores (Banana Republic) and sweet restaurants. Walking down that street I feel like I am on a vacation at times. Bizarre. But basically, yes, the majority of our area is housing communities that are pretty sweet. The people, surprisingly, so far have actually been more nice (maybe not more receptive) than my last area, which is really refreshing! To make things more new and foreign to me this is a walk area although we cover a decent sized area geographically. Our bikes are currently out of commission with tire issues but we plan to hopefully fix that today. We ride the city bus around. It's pretty fun, and different again, to be honest. I remembered the last time I rode a bus was in Cancun with the family, good times. So it's interesting learning the whole bus schedule and how to hop on different buses at specific times and planning accordingly. We've managed thus far, though, and I'm learning it so it's alright. Members give us crap for not having a car. Elder Daniels-Brown is such a humble and easy-going guy. I'm really excited to work with him and learn from him. He's also ready and willing to work hard which I really look forward to too! Saratoga needs it. I love him to death, truly, but without elaborating, he is certainly different from my previous companions and I'm excited and willing to humble myself and learn the lesson(s) intended for me to learn from serving with him.

In short, it seems like the work here has been at a stand still. When I got here they had, I think, 5 investigators - none of which I have been able to meet yet. So, sad to say, it is almost as if we are starting from scratch teaching pool wise. Thus, we've been doing a lot of finding, and fortunately we have been abundantly blessed. Either my first or second night here we tracted into a golden family of 4. The dad works for the church doing the heating and cooling on a lot of the buildings around the area. The mom has a Catholic background but fell away and is looking to get back into stuff. There are two daughters 19ish and 15ish who are excited to learn as well and have the same Catholic/Christian background. We went by last night and they invited us in for dinner (the wife is from Germany and made saweet food)! So awesome, people are hooking us up. We'll teach them tomorrow night and plan on setting them with baptismal dates. Another finding opportunity we had was two sisters in their 20's that are actually really awesome as well. We plan on seeing them this week and setting baptismal dates as well. We found 6 new investigators and can potentially have 6 baptismal dates by next week. Simply, that'd be unreal. I'm stoked though; you just have to press on with faith. Another awesome experience we had yesterday was when we were walking to a potential investigator's place by our apartment and there was an African-American guy walking really slow with headphones, obviously moping around. We talked to him and he was convinced we were messengers from God because he didn't see where the heck we came from and how we got to him. Then, I guess, when we were talking I said exactly what he knew he needed to hear, or "nailed it right on the head." Obviously it wasn't me but the Spirit working through me because it was regarding his marital problems and stuff he was going through - stuff, clearly, I don't have first hand experience with. We plan on getting in touch with him this week and hopefully can sit down with him and pick him up as an investigator too. We gave him a Book of Mormon and he simply was going to look through it because we were messengers from God. Lastly, we helped move a younger couple, the Badgers, in this week - right in our same apartment complex, same building, one floor below us. And guess where they're from. Arizona. She Tempe. He Mesa. Mountain View, class of 2000. Such a ridiculously small world. Oh and I told them obviously where I'm from and about my family, etc and he I guess told a friend (wish I could remember his name) about Rachel. And his friend emailed him back with a link to the Jennings Happenings blog and I guess knew (perhaps just of) you or maybe Tyler. Sorry I wish I could remember better but it was just ridiculous. But the Badgers are so sweet. They bought us awesome Wings from the best place here that night. They're driving us to Wal Mart to shop later so we don't have to take the bus and taking us to Five Guys. BALLIN. It's awesome, people have means to do things here it's pretty nice. But the work itself is really accelerating and I'm really excited for the things we have going on here and the more that will come about.

The apartment is fine, smaller than last, has a weird-moldy maybe- smell. But it's all good. The last baptism was actually a month or so ago as well as another perhaps 2-3 months ago. We still work with them. Oh and the bishop I heard about isn't anymore so we'll try and get to know him. I guess he kinda fell under the radar since then haha. That'll change :) Oh and I heard there is a really well off less-active member who has a membership at the nicest place around here to golf that offered to take Elder DB and stuff before so we'll try and get that going before it gets too cold. The weather is perfect right now. The church felt more Westernized as many BYU recruits are here in the military/navy programs or something. It actually started on time! I'll send my memory card, and hopefully a letter, today. We plan on just walking around the shops and stuff today and kickin it back home.

I love you all and hope you have a great week. Thanks for all of your love and support. I know that this work is divine, true, and real. My testimony and conviction regarding it is strengthened every day by the many miracles and incredible experiences I'm able to witness as well as by simply bearing my testimony.

Love you all,

Elder Christensen

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Saratoga Springs, Here I Come!

Hello Everyone,
I assume Mom is super scared that I wasn't going to be able to write this week or something crazy like that! Haha, Like you reasoned, yes today is Pday because of the Transfer Day tomorrow. And guess what...yep, I'm leaving Schoharie Valley and Elder Lyman. How crazy is that? Total shock and surprise to the max! President Bulloch called us Saturday morning to talk to E Lyman. He asked him if he'd be willing to train a new missionary. How sweet is that!? He hasn't trained before and now will be an awesome time to have the chance to! I can't imagine what this newbie will think when he gets here to see all of the sweet investigators and baptismal dates (currently 5)! It's so cool! Surprisingly I'm not as disappointed to leave all of this as I initially thought I would be! I'm not certain if it totally hasn't set in yet or what but it hasn't been too brutal. E Lyman taught me something cool he said that President Bulloch teaches that when you are transferred it should feel as if you are starting your mission over again, for two reasons: first, it is a fresh start, another clean slate; second, it should feel as if you are leaving family behind as you did at home. Crazy enough, in the short 3 months I've been here I can say these people are like family. There are many I feel so close to and it's as if they are family - members and investigators alike. I have loved it here and certainly will miss it. The Dutchers are especially bummed about my leaving. I love that family.
There are many other interesting experiences that have happened with regards to my leaving as well. One example is our investigator John (my first lesson-guy; rooough past-guy) called me after we saw him and let him know the news and told me that he wasn't going to go through with his baptism (which is a ways away, First Presidency approval at least once) if I wasn't there because it's an event where friends need to be there for one another, etc. It was actually pretty touching. He told us he would make us lunch the next day and we would be there, ha. He made homemade tomato sauce from homegrown tomatoes, homemade noodles, and homemade bread. It was way legit and a lot of effort for us. Wow. Then he also gave me "A gift to a Friend and a Brother" which was a ridiculously generous sum. He is incredible, and it is humbling and powerful to see in his life and hear him literally say the difference I (we, the missionaries I believe) have made. It's incredible. Also, the Lehoe family gave me a nice picture and card. And the Dutchers are feeding us and giving us sweater vests. (Brother Dutcher works for , we talk about it all the time; it's so hilarious. Look in Golf Digest & Golf Magazine and see their little advertisement on the advertisement sheet. I can remember seeing it before coming out). The people here are so nice, there's too much to share of all the nice things they've done as I'm leaving. E Lyman is shocked at the farewell I'm getting. Anyway, our investigators are still progressing. Nothing really else noteworthy happened other than a sweet experience randomly tracting into a boyfriend of a member (we're tight with the family) who was actually coming to sacrament meeting that week (we tracting into him on Saturday). Then we taught him at church, watched the Restoration movie with him, and picked him up as an investigator. As the mom of this family put it, "I can't believe 'how inspired' you guys are" haha, It's incredibly humbling and powerful to be an instrument in the Lord's hands like this and see all of these miracles take place, quite frankly, on a daily and hourly basis.
So I'm heading to Saratoga Springs! I'm actually incredibly excited! I hear amazing things about the area. It's where the renowned horse race track is located. I've heard it's very high-class and affluent. The bishop and his wife are mission famous for their generosity to missionaries. He's a well-off dentist who has whitened missionary's teeth for free, steak dinners, etc, etc. I've been told to be prepared for amazing members like that. haha, doesn't sound all that bad. The work aspect, though, isn't as flourishing as it is here though. There aren't any baptismal dates there as of now, but that can change. I look forward to the work I'll be able to do there!! My new companion is named Elder Daniels-Brown. I met him at Zone Conference; I remember him being really cool and nice, and really tall. haha. E Lyman is actually jealous I get to serve in Saratoga and with E D-B. He's wanted both before. So I feel pretty fortunate to have this opportunity. I know the Lord directs this work and the work here in Schoharie and there in Saratoga will go forth the way he wants it otherwise this transfer would have happened differently. I'm extremely excited for what the future holds!
(I'm about as far away from Ithaca East and West wise as you can get...haha, interesting.)
Well I can't believe that about Ste and Elder Oaks, man that is incredible. Ste I love you man, that's so cool. I hope you wrote that down :) and how you felt/feel about it. Looking back in my journal from with E Miller and the MTC I already am glad I have things written down, so I can't imagine 30 years from now how important it will be. I've never had a testimony of journal writing but it's getting stronger each day, as I keep going. I'm glad Annie is home safe and well and the trip was sweet!! I'm so happy everyone could get together for that! I would love to hear her talk or read it sometime later though. Please still include my polo and shorts in the package if they can fit (yes it's certainly cooling down and feels GREAT), but I'll want them. That's exciting about Tyler's call! Congrats man, you'll do great!
Simply, I love you all so much and appreciate the love and support you give me. I couldn't be happier and I love my mission experience already, as short as it may be and only still in the initial stages. This work is divine and everything we share is true. I love it. Apply it to ourselves and we'll find happiness! Thank you for everything you do!!!
Much love,

Elder Christensen

P.S. I will send my memory card home next Pday. The new one is awesome and works thank you so much for sending it! There are a lot on there so look forward to it!

Missionaries do get to golf if they're lucky
Vroman's Nose Hike
A beautiful country road in Schoharie Valley

Monday, September 6, 2010

Take every chance there is to talk to everyone

Greetings everybody and Happy Labor Day-

It's pretty funny how holidays are such a blur and unnoticed really out here, ha! But it was so good to hear from everyone today. I appreciate it so much. I'm glad the Florida outing was successful and it sounds like the new house is way cool; I'm so happy for you guys. Awesome that Annie comes home and you're going up there, that'll be great to see and hear from her. I've only been out this short while (though yes 3 month mark was on the 2nd - cuhrazzie!) and it's already pretty weird to think about going home, so I can't imagine what it'll be like for her coming home and seeing the whole family up there, ha! So golf was really fun last Monday, it was so great to get out and do that. My clubs were decent but old-skool and it was warm. Had a birdie but other than that pretty uneventful day probably shot 42-44, just enjoyed being out and helped E. Lyman; he got around better than I anticipated which made it nice! Then today is crazy, yesterday we finagled another golf game, here at Cobleskill Country Club (semi-private) ! We're playing with the way good cook member we ate at last Sunday and his father-in-law, who designed the back nine of this course! So cool - we may get hooked up there, we'll see! I'm renting clubs there. Then later we're playing tennis with Brother Dutcher, he's hard-kore. Should be AWESOME today. But not much time to write letters today, sorry, we'll see how it goes though! It's so nice to get out and do stuff like this, man! It certainly allows you to focus more throughout the week, too. Speaking of which, in my next package you send can you send a polo that I can golf in in the future and my khaki polo shorts? Thanks. And I'll try to send my messed up memory card home today. My camera can't read it, so glad you have all of those pictures! phew. Thanks for the awesome letter Ste!! You're the bomb! I'll write you back as soon as I get a chance but know I love you tons! The pictures of Jackson are so awesome! He's huge! What a stud! Way to go Jennings.

This week has been a pretty sweet week. We have 6 investigators with baptismal dates right now! But before that, it was the end of the month this week so we were short on miles and guess what...we whipped out the bikes for a day! It was so hilarious to be riding around with a helmet and shirt and tie. It was burning hot but it was a good time, ha! This week we weren't able to sit down and teach too many "lessons" but we had a lot of good fellow shipping experiences and found 3 new investigators this week! One was a 23 year old girl named Liz who came up to us and asked us what the heck we were doing (we were ballin on the bikes at that time). We were able to teach her the first lesson right then and there. Others we met are Ronnie and Ed. We'll invite them with baptismal dates this week if we hopefully see them. Another sweet investigator we have and set with a baptismal date this week is a man named Roland. He's probably in his 70's, he's a little bit slower (we think perhaps he had a stroke) but is very competent and very accepting. We were thoughtful and prayerful whether to continue with him (if he's accountable enough, etc.) and we both felt that we should. He came to all 3 hours of church and loved it, he has friends there now, and it's just a wonderful situation with him! It's so crazy to think had we not just opened our mouth when we saw him on the street he wouldn't have this opportunity (at this time). So cool. There are so many instances looking back that I realize how important it is to take every chance there is to talk to everyone because you have no idea who will accept or want to learn more. So great. We set Sister Dutcher with a date this week! October 23 is the day. We hiked Vroman's Nose with them (check it out, it's sweet) and had a lesson afterward. They're so strong and will be sealed in the temple. Our investigator named John, the rough guy I had my first lesson with, is getting so excited about the gospel. He's way into, way-into, the church DVD's we've watched with him and given him. He loves it and wants to "climb the ladder." It's a very long ladder and involves first presidency approval, etc but it would be so incredible if he continues faithful. He had us over for a BBQ too this week, it was hilarious. Friday was rough, we didn't have time really to plan the day out so we roughly planned and it was no bueno. On top of that I felt that we should do something later in the day but we ended up trying it in the morning and it was a waste of about an hour because it didn't work out til later in the day. (helping a less-active, part-member couple set up stuff for a wedding in their yard that we want to teach). Anyway I realized I hadn't listened fully to a prompting I received and the day simply didn't go as well as it could have, lesson learned. Hopefully I can use that and follow more faithfully and stop trying to distinguish my thoughts from the spirit. As Elder Bednar taught, as we are on the path, trying to do what's right we will be prompted by the Spirit whether it comes literally as naturally as our own thought-processes or something profound.

Church yesterday was special. Basically the general theme of everyone's testimony was missionary work! The whole ward is behind us, and spoke very highly of us and the work that we're trying to have go forth. It was so cool and a boost that we're at least doing something right! Then we had to break out our sweaters last night because it was a little chilly. The leaves are slightly starting to change, I'm so excited to see autumn here! I'll send pictures in my next email, I forgot my cord today to hook it up.

Simply know that I love all of you so much and appreciate your love and support dearly. I apologize I can't write often or as much as I'd like but know your letters mean so much and it's so wonderful to get them. I know that this is the most important work I'm involved in, and we all need to be involved in it.

I love you and pray for you always! May the Lord be with you.

Elder Christensen

ps- I got your letters dad, thanks! I love you so much. Got to go tee off. ;)