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