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, 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.