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.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas in Utica

Dear everyone,
Hello again! Merry Christmas! It was great talking with everyone in Mesa. It's great to hear everyone is doing well. I hope that everybody's Christmas was great! Mine certainly was very enjoyable and filled with the Spirit. The pictures are great to see. Thank you to everyone for the nice gifts and things you sent me! Your love is very evident and I feel it from whereever you may be. My address is the PO box in Whitesboro - we don't even have a mailbox at our apartment, haha. But thanks again to all.
Things are going great in Utica. It's been an incredibly crazy and crazy fast week! So much has happened since I last emailed last Monday from Rome. Monday I got to Utica and E. Miller and I worked that night. Tuesday we were in the office in the morning preparing some trainings and then we went to the airport to pick up the new missionaries that afternoon. That blows me away that Paige and Ben were on the same flight with the missionaries going home, especially Elder Farrens. How cool. I mentioned that to President and Sister Bulloch this morning at our "Staff Meeting" and they got a kick out of that. President then said it's likely I will see them with traveling over that direction and such. He then gave me permission to have dinner with them if/when I'm in the area if I/we feel so inclined. Ha! Soo..there is some food for thought :) . Crazy that I was so close to Paige and Ben at Syracuse airport on Tuesday too. We then were with the new missionaries the rest of that day and night. Back at our apartment we had some missionaries stay the night who traveled in from way up north, most notably E. Boyakin was there. Good times. Wednesday we had the transfer. That morning consisted of breakfast with them at the mission home and trainings. Then we were with a missionary working with us until Friday which was ZLC. Anyway, it's just been a whole lot of good stuff this past week. On a more Spiritual note, I talked about the experience with Gail yesterday and on Christmas Eve. Again, we just talked to her going into her home and she told us how we were absolutely God sent. She came to church and loved it. I'm really excited for her. Also, after talking on the phone E Miller and I had a great experience. We went to visit a part-member family and ended up teaching their relatives there. By the end of the lesson there were like 7-9 people there listening to us. Coolest part is a couple that was there. When we asked the wife to read the Book of Mormon she said, "You'll think I'm crazy" ...and went on to explain a few weeks ago she was cleaning the new home they moved in to and found a copy of the Book of Mormon and has been reading it! She and her husband are very interested too! Ha. We have an appointment tomorrow! So cool; E Miller and I were pumped about that. It was really cool happening right after being on the phone with you guys. The Lord blessed us as we did our best to be diligent, even on the holiday.
This week won't be nearly as crazy. We are working in Auburn Wednesday to Thursday. Also we will be preparing the training we will be going around and giving at all of the district meetings starting next week. I'm looking forward to the week ahead. E Miller and I are having a great time; it's great to be with him again. I love you all so much and appreciate all that you do for me.
Elder Christensen

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Good Bye Rome

Dear everyone,

Merry Christmas! I love this time of year so much. It's great to hear from those who wrote. Hopefully everyone is travelling safely. And those who already have, hopefully you are enjoying your time together. It's great to hear that Kim's surgery went without much complication; I pray that the recovery process can be as best as possible. The classic Christensen Christmas dinner and gathering in Salt Lake sounds like it went off without a hitch. How fun. Also, Johnathan's wedding sounds like it was a good time. I'm happy for him and excited to meet his new wife.
Well, it's definitely a unique, cool thing when my family knows what is happening with me regarding transfers before I tell them. I wasn't sure if you would know because I had forgotten whether the Lewis family was leaving before Sunday or not (looking back at last weeks email I see that they leave tomorrow). Nonetheless, the cat's out of the bag; my time in Rome is up and I'll be serving in Utica with Elder Miller as an Assistant to the President. I'm really looking forward to the opportunity for a lot of reasons. First, it will be very fun serving with Elder Miller ~18 months after serving with him the first time. We are quite different people now than when we served together in Schoharie Valley. As well with the capacity in which we are serving, our circumstances will be much different. I'm excited to associate with President Bulloch a bit more personally and learn from him. Also, it will be very fun getting to know all of the missionaries in the mission. This transfer (every other it switches off between a Zone Conference and the following) Elder Miller and I will be going around to each of the Districts in the mission and training at one of their District Meetings. That should be a good learning experience. And as we travel around we will be going on exchanges (or blitz's) where we work with the Zone Leaders there. Elder Miller informed me that I'll/we'll be giving 4 different trainings this week. With the new missionaries coming in we will go to the airport tomorrow to pick them up with President and Sister Bulloch. We will assist in training them tomorrow night and Wednesday morning (when the actual Transfer day occurs). Also, we have Zone Leader Council on Friday where we will be training as well. I enjoy training and getting in front of people like that so I'm excited for all of these things. There are going to be more things that I'll be doing differently from what I have been with the new assignment as an Assistant, more to come on that as I find out more what they are. I know my time on Pday's will be a bit more limited, ha. Also, Utica (the area; which has been coinciding with the Utica Ward boundaries) is going to be split in half now. Sister missionaries are coming in to cover 1/2 of it; actually Sister Pitts who has been in Ithaca is coming and training a new missionary. Anyway, I'm excited for the transfer ahead.
I've really enjoyed my time in Rome. It's interesting how we often don't appreciate the things that we have until they are taken from us. Although it certainly hasn't been butterflies and roses the entire time, looking back it has certainly been a great experience. I have grown a lot and learned a lot. I've especially enjoyed serving with Elder Bowles. He is a great missionary - from whom I've learned a lot - and who is now a good friend. Even though I know that people appreciate my service in the midst of my serving them, it becomes much more evident how much they appreciate it/me when I'm leaving. It's always a rewarding reminder. There were 2 investigators who came to church for the first time yesterday, which is great! Lois is taking the news of my leaving pretty well I feel. Hopefully she travels to Arizona this winter and those there in Mesa can meet her. She went to the Palmyra temple on Saturday and did baptisms for the dead, went to the visitor's center, and the Grandin Building (printing press). She LOVED it so much. We visited her briefly that night and she was on cloud 9. She's eager to go back to the temple and now more eager to bring her family into the gospel. I think her niece, Shar, will be taught here soon by Elder Bowles. We had some great experiences this week, too. We taught the Jamaican family I think I mentioned last week. Wow. They're so prepared and they are already preparing to be baptized on February 4; they remind me of Namukolo. (Speaking of which, it will be really cool getting to go back to Albany on exchange and probably see a lot of the people I know there!) It's great to see the work here in Rome pick up and I know that it's in good hands.
I hope that you all have a very Merry Christmas! Play some chimes for me and watch Wee Sing together at least once, ha. As far as the phone call is concerned, I have no idea what I'll be doing Christmas day in Utica. I assume that 1:00 or 1:30 (3 or 3:30 NY time) will work for the phone call. Don't be overly concerned, I'll make it happen. I'll call the home phone in Mesa. I look forward to speaking with you. I will bring all of the Christmasy things I have with me to Utica, of course. Enjoy this wonderful time of year. I love you all so much and I appreciate greatly the things you do for me and the people that you are.
Elder Christensen
PS- I may send home a box today with miscellaneous things I don't need/can send home with the transfer. So you can open it right away; I'll put in my memory card so you can look at that with everyone there.
I'll be in Utica today at 4. My transfer is happening early (rather than Wednesday) due to Elder Farrens' group flying home tomorrow rather than the usual Thursday, because of Christmas.
I'll be expecting some fun pictures in next week's emails :).
Love you all.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Let us seek after His love.

Dear everyone,

Hey there. Hope everyone is doing well. It's great to hear from all of you, as usual. By the sound of things, Ste had a very exciting 12th birthday! I enjoyed all of the pictures. I can remember my 12th birthday like it was yesterday. I can especially remember going to school the next day (after I hadn't been there on my birthday due to being in California) and walking up the portable ramp to Mrs. Muehling's class and explaining what I did and why I wasn't at school. I'm sure Ste will remember it that vividly too when he's a missionary. How exciting that he received the Aaronic Priesthood. It's hard to believe he is that old (mainly because it feels like I was just there). And I see that between the Hungry Howies, choice of cake, and going to the Penguin store, much was done in my honor, ha. How exciting that April 16 is the big day for Jennings #2! I hope that Kim's surgery is successful and without complication; she's definitely in my thoughts and prayers. I am all set as far as slippers go but I did remember that postage stamps are always a good thing to have and wouldn't be a bad gift :). That's hilarious that Elder Stratton keeps reminiscing to Paige and Ben about he and I together. He's such a great guy; and how crazy that Elder Becerrill came on exchange that night and ate over at the Lewis'. Good stuff. I have yet to get Mom's letter this week. Tell Jordan Southworth thanks for the card he sent me. That was nice. But 1-1:30pm Arizona time shouldn't be a problem for calling at this point; knowing more next week with the transfer situation and such I'll let you know better then (Monday or Tuesday, depending on when we take Pday with the transfer).

Things are plugging along in Rome. Elder Bowles and I are enjoying our time serving together. The past week certainly wasn't without disappointment and trial, although looking back it really wasn't too bad. We had a really cool experience on Friday afternoon. We had been working really hard trying to find people to teach and after a bunch of things hadn't worked out, we were getting out of the truck to go try a potential investigator that was found months before who neither of us knew. But as we were getting out we saw a little way down the street a woman pull in her driveway, get out of her car and start to walk inside her home - I felt strongly that we needed to approach her and talk with her. Miraculously she had troubles with her keys, by the looks of it, and we were able to get there before she walked inside. After introducing ourselves and briefly sharing truths with her, she invited us in. Her name is Sharon and she has two (respectful, well-behaved) sons, 11 and 16. She and her family are very interested in being taught, coming to church, etc. One of the coolest parts is they're Jamaican (and a well established family)! ha - and the 11 year old son had on a Manchester United (soccer) jersey and I gave him a hard time that I'm a Liverpool fan. Anyway, they're such a blessing to us as Elder Bowles and I had/have a goal this week to find a family to teach. Tuesday night we have an appointment with them. Lois is going to the temple on Saturday with a small group to do baptisms for the dead. She is extremely excited and I'm extremely excited for her. She's solid as a rock. There is no doubt that this week will be interesting waiting to see what is happening with the transfers. I'm going on exchange tomorrow and will be working in Oneida - I've never been there before so it should be a good time.

Hopefully you all are safe and well and are enjoying the wonderful Christmas spirit. I know that the love of Christ brings the sense of peace and togetherness we detect greater at this time of year. Let us seek after His love. Have a great week. I love you all so much.

Elder Christensen

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The most wonderful time of the year!

Dear everyone,

This is absolutely the "most wonderful time of the year!" I love the Christmas Spirit, or Christ Spirit, in the air. I largely attribute my fond feelings for this time of year to Mom, knowing how special this season is to her and being brought up with that. There are so many great memories, mostly family traditions, that come racing back into my mind around this time of year. Speaking of which, it was great to see Jackson's picture in front of the TV watching the irreplaceable Wee Sing Christmas, hahaha. He's going to keep the tradition strong - hopefully his father (Dermey) is okay with that ;) ha. It's great to hear from you all. How exciting that Rachel is having a girl! That sounded very right. I'm incredibly happy for the Jennings family. Did you mention when your due date is? It's hard to believe that Ste is turning 12 this week! I had forgotten about the Faith in God award, but I'm very pleased to hear that he got it. We had heard that there was some crazy wind in Utah this week but it was definitely new and more personal news to hear of trees falling down like that. That's a great outlook, especially at these times, to count our many blessings. By the sounds of things a lot of you feel that I am going to be transferred; ha, I suppose we will see. You haven't been too far off in times past with your transfer thoughts. I hope Elder Stratton and Elder Papa have a great time at the Lewis' tomorrow night. I don't have anything to mention that you should tease Elder Stratton about (yeah right), but perhaps if you have the ability to do so you should make no bake cookies for dessert - they're his absolute favorite. The First Presidency Christmas Devotional is definitely one of my favorite church meetings. We watched it last night at the same members' home where I watched General Conference. Lois came, too, which was very nice; she loves the choir and always wants me to point out "Uncle Mark". I received the advent calendar(s). Thanks a lot - I'm up to date on them, no worries. I was trained well in my advent calendar skills. Does Ste do all of them each day back home? Lucky, haha. With that package I got the pictures with Kevin visiting the house - I gave the copies to Lois at church yesterday and she loved them. She wants to give Ste a hug real bad, ha. She may go to Mesa to visit sometime this winter season, that'd be interesting - I'll keep you posted.
What are we going to do today? Elder Bowles was up in Lake Placid last winter and has really hard core winter gear (too warm for here), so we are planning right after this to go to Marshall's and possibly JC Penny to look for a coat for him. It's been so nice and warm here though, I feel so blessed. We've really only been in our suits, no coats yet really. I've found that I've acclimated to the climate a bit, thank goodness, but I'm definitely still an Arizona boy at heart. Elder Bowles and I are having a really enjoyable time together.

I've certainly felt the blessings from Heaven this week. It's been filled with its up's and down's, just like any other, but looking back the up's undoubtedly outweigh the down's. The 10 year old boy who has been preparing to be baptized this weekend has sort of fallen off; we haven't been able to teach them these past 2 weeks (due to cancellations and difficulty in getting in contact with them). They're on our radar still but obviously their reactivations and the boy's baptism are a little ways out. Zone Conference was this Wednesday and it was such a Spiritual feast. All of the training was centered on The Book of Mormon. My favorite, without question, was President's closing training. After making it clear that a testimony of The Book of Mormon only comes through the Spirit and because of our faith, he walked us through some of the more 'academic' evidences that reveal the divine origin of The Book of Mormon, which confirm the Spiritual witness we already have. We discussed complex Hebrew language parallelism structures (ie. chiasmus, etc) as well as simple Semetic writing patterns that are saturated throughout the book (reference Elder Holland's Safety for the Soul talk where he mentions some of these things). There was a lot more that we discussed that really was edifying. We're not to go and pronounce these things to investigators trying to initially come to know the Book of Mormon is God's word but, again, for one with a witness from the Holy Ghost already they confirm them. The similar principle taught in D&C 63:9, Mark 16:17, Ether 12:6, etc. Anyway, things are going well as we found 4 new investigators this week! One of which is a total miracle. She is a lady in her 70's (I'm telling you, I have had more success with elderly women than any other demographic - what's with that) with great faith and she loved the message of the Restoration! We have an appointment with her on Thursday and Lois is coming with us too. It's going to be great. Oh, and I worked with Elder Shurtz this week on exchange. That sure was fun, especially with the timing of it at our 18 month mark. With that in mind, can someone look into what is entailed for me to take a class or two this summer before going back to the Y at MCC? Also, is there anything for BYU that we'll need to do before I get back? And, working at the MTC, is there any information you can find out about that?

Thanks for all that you do for me. I love you all so much.

Elder Christensen

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Lord is right here with us

Dear everyone,

Hey. How's it going? It's great to hear that everyone's Thanksgiving weekend was an enjoyable one as well as Mom's birthday. Way to represent at the ping pong tournament; that's crazy that there were so few people there this year. Were Kent and Linda out of town or elsewhere? Is Johnathan engaged? How is everyone else doing? It was great to hear from Justin and his family this week - hope they continue to be well. The Christmas lights are up, without a hitch? What an early Christmas miracle; just kidding, it's usually pretty smooth but I'm not too disappointed I wasn't there for that. Ha. We found two little strands of colored Christmas lights in a closet in the apartment and we went to great lengths to hang them with care, ha. You guys crack me up - I'm definitely displaced from the world as a missionary but we aren't completely out of the loop with regards to what an iPad is, etc. Ha, the first one came out before I was a missionary as well. That's pretty cool though. It's really funny, too, to see rich, old High Priests at church with their iPads using them for scriptures, manuals, (and games?) ha. I have yet to get Mom's letter in the mail, I'm sure due to the holiday, for your info. Anyway, it's great that you all are doing well.

My Thanksgiving was rather nice. We had a very good meal - there was absolutely way too much food, ha. We ate with the the Boxall's, our Ward Mission Leader, and his wife (who is from the Philippines) and another sister from the ward. She is a really good cook and loves to feed anyone, such a nice family. We had a great time, too, singing some Christmas hymns and laughing together. Definitely a day to remember - it is in such stark contrast from my Thanksgiving meal in Saratoga with the Bishop's family last year which was equally enjoyable but just so different. There it was very formal, nice dishes, classy, quiet visiting... whereas this year was a much more laid back, come as you like, type atmosphere. Again, I loved both just so different it is fun to reflect back on it. The rest of our Thanksgiving day was productive - we went around visiting people, wishing them a Happy Thanksgiving and giving them a nice little card expressing our gratitude for them. Our timing at the places we went seemed to be just spot on for people the whole day, it was pretty amazing. It was really nice when we went to our relatively new investigator-family's to give them a card. They in turn said, oh that's funny because we actually have something for you and they gave us a card as well, expressing their gratitude for us. That was nice. This week definitely wasn't without trials, though. Especially yesterday, everything just kept not going 'our way' - is was quite a bit disappointing, especially after some of the other circumstances not working out earlier in the week. I am so grateful for the tender mercies of the Lord, though, and just at the end of our day yesterday we had a great experience. We had an appointment with a couple - excommunicated member and less-active member - who are some of the coolest, and most sincere, people ever. The best part is their 18 year old daughter (nonmember) who came home from her boyfriend's in order to be present for the lesson! Her parents are experiencing a miraculous change of heart in embracing the gospel now in their lives more than ever. The daughter, Sarah, knows very little about the church but had really good questions and expressed interest much more than I would expect from a typical 18 year old. All this may sound relatively simple but to me at the time, yesterday, it was incredibly meaningful and such a testimony builder than the Lord's tender mercies are upon the faithful. I've learned in a greater degree that the Lord is right here with us, as this is His work. And although it isn't always an 'easy road', as I faithfully endure well the trials and circumstances in which I find myself, He is eager to bless me at the most opportune instant. This isn't true just for me or missionaries, it's true for all of us. We just need to do a better job trusting in the Lord's way - as it molds us into the individuals He knows we have the potential to become.

Thanks for all the things that you do for me. I'm very grateful for the love I feel from all of you.

Elder Christensen

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Michael, Lois and Elder Farrens

Dear everyone,

Happy Thanksgiving! I can't believe it is already Thanksgiving. It's even weirder for me to think back on what I was doing as a missionary last year for Thanksgiving - I can remember that whole day like it was yesterday. Bizarre. Anyway, it is, as always, so great to hear from you all this week. I'm happy to hear the great things that are going on where everyone is. The pictures with Kevin are classic. Can I get a copy of it printed out? Actually, 2 so I can give one to Lois? That'd be awesome; I know she'll be excited to see it. She spoke with Kevin a little bit about the experience and she said he only had great things to say, of course, and was very impressed. I'm glad that worked out so well. What a cool experience. I got the Thanksgiving goods from Papa and Nana! What a fun, unexpected arrival, thanks so much. That's so exciting to hear that the museum is open and doing well. I'm excited to get the grand tour when I'm in the area! Dad and Ste, those emails you sent have got to go down on the top 5 best emails sent ever list, haha. Nacho Libre quotes bring back lots and lots of good, funny memories. Either I wasn't aware or I had easily forgotten that the Jennings crew is going to Jamaica (or already there, I suppose) for Thanksgiving. That's awesome! I have given 2 talks in Sacrament meetings so far as a missionary - my estimation would be that's below average. Elder Bowles spoke yesterday in church about forgiveness, he did good. So this may seem really random but I have a thought for Christmas: I would like (no, I don't need) a gift card to Dunkin Donuts. Haha, no I'm not apostatizing. They have really good white hot chocolate with flavors to mix in that would be nice to be able to get this winter. A member in Albany happened to give us a card there and it was a nice thing to be able to do every once in a while. Just a thought. Thanks for all the thoughts and concerns.
This week has been good. The travel and training at the various district meetings went well. Elder Bowles and I find it enjoyable doing those sort of things so it was fun training together. I went on exchange with Elder Pexton this week which was an enjoyable time. I've worked with him before (he is related to the Willardson's). The work here in Rome is definitely gaining momentum. We are still preparing the 10 year old, Vincent, for baptism whose parents are/had been less-active members. They are so awesome; such a great family. Perhaps the funnest thing that we did this week was go to a benefit dinner at an American Legion for Vincent's grandma who had cancer and recently went into remission. It was actually a really good missionary opportunity with their families there and friends. The best part was Vincent's mom being an auctioneer, auctioning off baked good and other things. There is such a strong spirit within the family; even doing fun/more rowdy things like that together in the spirit of family carries a great feeling. So, they're great. Oh, and we found out that a relative (one of Vincent's cousins; a 15 year old girl) is a nonmember who actually has been coming to church with the grandma. Hopefully we will begin teaching her here soon, too. We received a referral from this week right as we were praying to go out the door one morning. It was pretty cool, we were asking Heavenly Father in prayer to help us find the elect who He is preparing or have them find us and right at that moment the phone vibrated and said "Message Received" as it does when we get a text message. Ha, it was the referral - pretty cool. We contacted them and they're a great young family. We have an appointment with them tomorrow morning, very excited. For Thanksgiving this year we are going to our Ward Mission Leader's. He invited a nonmember co-worker to come, which will be great! Not to mention he and his wife both are amazing cooks! We are planning on taking Thank You notes or something around to investigators, less-active members, members, etc on Thanksgiving to show our appreciation for them.
I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving! I am so grateful for all of you. Now, more than ever, I appreciate the small and great sacrifices from love that you offer me. Thanks so much. I love you.

Elder Christensen

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Elder Bowles arrives

Dear everyone,

Hello and greetings to all. The time is flying by here in Rome and things are going well. It's great to hear from you all. It's always nice to see pictures, too. I received both packages - thanks a lot everything is great! Even being out this long it is still as exciting to get a package in the mail, not to mention even getting letters too, ha. Thanks. Transfers are on the 20th of December (if I said the 10th last email that was a typo). Also, I realized once it was too late to ask to have contacts sent in the box that you sent. Sorry. I have about 25 left (25 days) so I figure maybe you can put 2 boxes of contacts (1 for each eye, being different prescriptions) in one of the boxes that are to sent for Christmas. make sense; or you can just send them on their own...whatever is easiest and cheapest. Sorry again for forgetting to mention it sooner. That's great that Paige and Ben already met Elder Stratton and my little note was delivered. I love Elder Stratton and hope they can have him over and get to know him well. I'm very excited that Kevin got in touch with you guys and is coming over tonight! That will be so cool; I can't wait to hear how it goes. He is a very great guy with a strong, burning testimony. I can't think of anything off hand to be sure to mention to him from me. Definitely listen to his conversion story - and get insights on Lois' experience, too. My thoughts and prayers are with Kelly and the Sheffields at this time. I hope this week goes great for them. Thanksgiving we are going to be eating with our Ward Mission Leader and his nonmember coworker, hopefully. He and his wife are great cooks so it should be a great time.

This week has been a pretty good one. Elder Bowles and I are settling in together here in Rome nicely. He is a really great guy and we get along great; we're able to work hard and still have some laughs as we go. He is from South Jordan Utah. His first night here we had an amazing experience. Elder Farrens and I had tracted into a lady months ago who was warm
and invited us to come back at a better time. Some time passed and we hadn't connected with them until E. Farrens and I stopped by not long before he left and had a great 45 min conversation standing in their doorway (the woman and her husband). Last Monday I called them and finally got in contact and set up an appointment to see them Wednesday night, E. Bowle's first night here. So we went over and sat at their table with them and had a great discussion. The husband, Bruce, is hilarious. He kept saying how he normally never lets anyone into his house who comes to his door trying to 'sell' him something but that for some reason he let us in and this far. They opened up to us about some struggles within their family and described us as "a ray of sunlight" in this difficult time for them. There was an amazing Spirit there. We have another appointment with them tomorrow evening. Can't wait. They are definitely the high water mark for the week. We were able to find 4 sweet new investigators this past week. Another great find is a part-member family; the husband is a less-active member and convert and the wife is a nonmember. We had a great lesson with them right before E. Bowles got here. We actually had an appointment to see them this morning but it fell through, the dad had to go to school for one of the kids; I'm thinking we'll end up seeing them tomorrow. Our teaching pool (of investigators) is about 10-12 people at the moment - all of whom we sadly aren't able to teach super consistently, but it's improving. We're working with quite a few less-actives and excommunicated people, though which are bearing fruit as well. The 10 year old we are teaching (whose parents are less-active members) is still preparing to be baptized in December; we want the dad to prepare to be worthy to do it. They all came to church yesterday which was great! We're going to go get our oil changed at his garage at 1, as well so hopefully that will be another positive interaction with him/them. Speaking of church it was the Primary program - Man, I love kids! They have the most tender, sincere, and innocent Spirit about them ever. I love kids. The Savior seems to love them, too. Jean's Conference talk is so good. Anyway, this week ahead is crazy - we'll be going around and training at the District Meetings and on exchange after that. It should be an enjoyable week for sure. ZLC was fun this past week, too.

Thanks again for everything that you all do for me. I truly feel your love and prayers from wherever you may be. I love you.

Elder Christensen

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Lois has been smiling ever since she got out of the water

Dear everyone,

Hello to all. How is everyone? From the sounds of things you are all doing quite well - that's great to hear. I can't believe Salt Lake had 5 inches of snow! We haven't had any here at all! In the mornings (at 6:30) there has been frost on the cars and grass but it melts as the sun comes out. I'd like to also say I think Arizona is wise in not having Day Light Savings; now when we wake up there is sunlight but the sun goes down by 5pm. Oh well. I'm excited to hear that Elder Stratton is going to Ithaca as well! Paige and Ben definitely need to have him over soon. I'm sure he knows me better than anyone else that you've had over. That ought to be good. It's been a very enjoyable week serving with Elder Becerrill. He is a very diligent and focused missionary and pretty inspiring to be around. And, he is an avid Ute fan (his blanket on his bed is University of Utah U's and stuff all over it) for those who may be interested in that little bit of information. But, for the upcoming transfer, he will be going back to Corning (which is currently closed because the missionary he started training at the beginning of this transfer went home) to train again. I anticipated this happening, which means that I'll be getting another new companion. This will be my 12th companion (plus Elder Shurtz in the MTC, and not to mention the fact that I served with Elder Lyman twice), I'm just a problem child apparently. Ha, just kidding I sure hope not. I do feel that I can do well with the changing and everything, though. I'll be serving with Elder Bowles, coming from Potsdam. He came out a transfer after me and I've only heard good things about him. I know him exclusively through interactions at ZLC but I look forward to the opportunity I have to serve with him here in Rome. He's super tall, 6' 8 or 9 I think, which will be fun.
So this is the difference between the mission home and mission office. The mission home is an ordinary house in a normal neighborhood where the Bulloch's live (we go there very rarely; lunch for the day of ZLC; and other just random circumstances - ie. dropping off Elder Farrens last Sunday and meeting up with Elder Becerrill. The mission office is inside the church building in Utica (Whitesboro). When I go to District Meeting here in this District the church we meet at is in Whitesboro so we get to stop in at the mission office and see the senior couple working there and sometimes President, etc. The mission office and mission home are less than a half mile away. I've never really explained that and hopefully that can eliminate some confusion when I refer to them. I don't really have any special thoughts/needs regarding my package this transfer. And likewise regarding Christmas at the moment. Thanks though and I'll definitely think about it more and let you know. As far as mailing Christmas stuff (with the transfer so close to Christmas; it will be 12/10 actually) probably just the mission office mailing address will be best (PO box 149) if it's going to be sent close around that time.

The baptism and confirmation were amazing this weekend! Lois is doing so well. She has been smiling ever since she got out of the water; and even more so since she received the Gift of the Holy Ghost. Her nephew Kevin is a really great guy. It was such a treat to have him come up and be a part of everything. He has only been a member for 14 months and recently was ordained an Elder. He had never baptized anyone nor confirmed anyone before yet he did everything perfectly and without strain. Kevin flew in with his mom, Lois' sister, too who is a nonmember and attended all of the events this weekend. Lois had a lot of local family here supporting her, too! I strongly feel that Lois will help bring the Gospel to her family. We ate over at Lois' on Friday night with her family and met Kevin and had a great time. Saturday after the baptism we went over and had left-overs and visited with her family again. And finally Sunday she invited us over to have dinner with her and her family! Ha, it was a great weekend that I and I'm sure she will remember. There is no mistaking the lasting and eternal joy that is to be had in bringing others the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I was talking with one of Lois' nieces (who lives in Rome) shortly after the baptism and she was saying how she has seen the change in Lois over this time, and how happy she is for Lois. That's so rewarding to hear and see and be a part of. Lois is getting excited to go to the temple; in Gospel Principles class at church yesterday the lesson was on Family History and Temple work. She's awesome. There has been quite a thinning out taking place in our teaching pool. I have faith that this week we are going to find prepared people who are ready to receive the Gospel. One thing I've gained in my experience with Elder Becerrill is a greater love and appreciation in God's word found in the scriptures. There is so much power in the scriptures and I'm eager to study them more diligently that I may grow in my testimony and understanding of the Gospel.

Thanks so much for everything that you do for me! The pictures you sent look great! Have a great week. Know of my deep love for you.

Elder Christensen
Michael with Lois, her nephew and Elder Becerrill

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

By divine design

Last picture with Elder Farrens

Dear everyone,

Happy Halloween! I hope everyone has a great day today. It's very fun/funny thinking back on last year's Halloween in Saratoga Springs with Elder Stratton - time flies it's pretty crazy that that was an entire year ago. I'm not surprised at all that you already know about Elder Farrens leaving and me getting a new companion here in Rome. His name is Elder Becerrill, from Salt Lake area (went to Cypress High School). He was in a three-some due to circumstances and so with an opening in Utica, Elder Farrens went there and E. Becerrill slid on over here at least until the end of this transfer. I have no idea if he will stay here for the upcoming transfer or what. He is a great guy, been out since February. We talked with President about it when we were at the mission home making the swap yesterday. It was cool talking with him and the trust I feel he has in me. He mentioned all of the 'different' circumstances I've been in and how he can count on me in these weirdish situations. I got the note from Paige and Ben yesterday, too; thanks for the love. The encounter with Elder Williams' mom was pretty crazy. Elder Farrens and I were on our way back to Rome from Oneonta (having just done a baptismal interview for a guy getting baptized there) and needed to get more copies of the Book of Mormon so we swung by the Mission Office to get some. Sister Williams was pulling out of the parking lot as we pulled in and then came back around to meet us and grab a picture. Very crazy the timing of it all. Pretty cool. It's great to hear from Namukolo! I actually talked to Elder Miller the other day and he had been on exchange in Albany and taught Namukolo and said she's the most solid convert he's met! She really is amazing. It was also neat to hear that Dawn (mother who I taught and baptized in Saratoga), her mother is being taught and going to be baptized in November! The ripple effect is already starting to take place, how cool. Sorry to hear that winter is kicking in over in Utah. We didn't get any snow here, although it's cold; we saw snow as we drove down to Oneonta, though. I shared last year on Halloween how we were tracting at like 1pm (sun shining brightly) and the guy at home figured we were trick or treating, ha; it's for that reason and others that we've been advised to stay in tonight and organize stuff/do other productive missionary things inside.

The work is continuing to progress in Rome. Lois had a very successful interview on Tuesday! She is all lined up for her baptismal service this Saturday at 1! I'm really excited to meet her nephew from Mesa. On Friday night we will be eating over there with those 2 and others in Lois' family (that she's wanting to share the Gospel with), it will be great! She is looking forward to her baptism so much, I'm so happy for her. We set another baptismal date this week, a 10 year old we are teaching - who's parents are less-active members. It's really fun teaching him we've taught almost all of the principles with either an analogy he can relate to or a demonstration of some kind. He's planning on Dec. 10. The family is doing really well, as we want this to be a process to unite and strengthen the whole family. Things, slowly but surely, are falling into place with the work here in Rome. We had other great lessons with people we are teaching. I feel blessed to be able to be worthy of, receive, recognize, and act upon the influence and prompting of the Holy Ghost. There isn't much better than feeling the assurance that what I'm about to do is by divine design.

I hope you all continue to be well and can feel of my love and appreciation for you.

Elder Christensen

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I love the simple promptings of the Spirit

MTC roommates posing with Michael back in Albany

Dear family and friends,

Hey there, it is wonderful, as always, to hear from each of you this week. It's so great to hear that things are continuing to go well for each of you. I enjoyed the pictures from Palmyra and other New York sites. That is quite the experience this week with President and Sister Bulloch in Ithaca. I had no clue that they were there - they go all over the place - but how cool about the note. And I'm pretty surprised he promised/said that I will see Paige/Ben before my mission is through. I'll just remind him that one of the questions for a temple recommend is whether we are honest or not, ha. How crazy. Thanks for the family history stories (I got the letter and big envelope already)! I looked over all of it briefly and it looks great I'm excited to really read it and become more familiar with these relatives. I think I kind of remember that crazy Lake Powell trip - I definitely can picture the family picture on and around the houseboat in our shirts and we're up on the roof sitting (if that's the same trip). Family is the best. That's pretty cool, too that you talked with Elder and Sister Timothy in Ithaca and Elder West, etc. Thanks for the information about smokers - I was just curious, not planning on using it for any specific reason. Thanks, Papa and Nana, for the package! It arrived safely and everything inside is great! I'm happy to hear that Jordan Richardson did a good job with his homecoming talk. What is his address, so that I can write him? To answer Brayden: Lois is a nonmember-woman, and she is getting ready to be baptized on November 5. The weather here is getting cold, about 48 degrees this morning I think. Colder when we went out running earlier this morning though. And Logan: on Sundays we go to church, teach people, and continue to find new people to teach.

This week has flown by. It really is crazy how the days, weeks, and months all melt together. Although not everything worked out as we had hoped and looked forward to this week, it definitely was still successful and enjoyable. I'll share some of our cool experiences. First, we are teaching Sarah, a sister of a recent convert. She is 19 and her brother, the member, is 22 (married to a member). We were reading from 2 Nephi 31 and discussing the doctrine of Christ and emphasizing baptism. Sarah said how she wants to be baptized and feel the Spirit more in her life. She has really seen a change as she is starting to pray, read the scriptures, and for the first time yesterday come to church. We invited her to prepare to be baptized on November 26, a day we told her we felt good about. She smiled and told us how that sounds great and she really looks forward to it as it is her 20th birthday. Another cool experience was on Monday night. The week prior we tracted into a woman who initially was disinterested entirely and didn't want to hear our message. We quickly told her about family history to see if that perchance would spark her interest and it just so happened that she was very into it and has a name she's been trying to trace back but is having difficulty. We explained and about the local family history center and she told us she actually really enjoyed speaking with us and that we can stop back by and see if she had any luck on familysearch. Monday night we went back and she didn't have any luck on familysearch; we explained other resources, etc. We get to talking a bit and I felt like asking the 'random' question if she likes to read (which was pretty out of left field for the topic of the conversation at hand; obviously a prompting from the Spirit.). So I heeded the prompting and asked. Long story short, she has agreed to read the Book of Mormon and showed good interest in it (a woman who was initially very quick to say she is Catholic and "all set"). It sounds simplistic but I love the simple promptings of the Spirit that help us move the Lord's work along in His way. It's our opportunity and responsibility to be worthy to 'feel' and act on them. Lois will have her baptismal interview tomorrow; it should go great! We're continuing to increase the amount of teaching here, which is great.

Thanks for all the nice things you do for me; I truly feel your love and strength where ever you may be.

Elder Christensen

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A week to remember

Dear all,

Hey there hope everyone is doing very well. No, you are not as sneaky as you thought :) - I had the notion that you were coming here for Fall Break. And hence you didn't mention
anything about it it was quite clear that you were doing something of the sort. Ha, it's nice to hear some of the specifics though. I'm glad you enjoyed yourselves, those who went, at Palmyra and all of the sites that you visited. I'm looking forward to my turn to go in May; hopefully it isn't raining when I'm there. Although you are definitely right that the fall leaves are beautiful. I think the peak, here at least, has past and everything is slightly beginning to brown-up and die. I finally received the letter Mom wrote last week on Tuesday (which I do read the day I get them ;) ha) and I have yet to receive the letter this week (ie. with Priesthood line). It seems like our mailbox is broken, ha. In response to some things from that last letter I received - yeah we missed a bit of the Sister's talk Saturday morning (thank goodness it wasn't Jean speaking this time) and the Elder's after hers. I was sure to point out Uncle Mark to Lois and the member family who we were watching Conference with. I'm not sure exactly where Lois' nephew is in Mesa - I'll see what I can do. That is a cool story, Tyler, about Elder Anderson. I wish we were able to go to the Saturday sessions of Stake Conference with Elder Bednar - he did a lot of question/answer and spoke on some incredible things I hear. I've been reading about William Stevens (from Herkimer); he is quite the man. We're trying to use family history a bit more, especially in finding new people to teach. Could you send little snippets of information about more ancestors now, as opposed to a lot of information about a single one? Thanks. What percent of the population smoke in NY? How about AZ, CA, UT? How does the US compare, percent of smokers-wise, to European countries? I just found out in President's email that a woman I taught in Albany was baptized this weekend! It was a very pleasant surprise and a testimony that the harvest is the Lord's. It doesn't matter so much if I sow the seeds or harvest, etc... the joy in bringing others to Christ is all present.

This week certainly has been one to remember. Saturday was a great time receiving training from Elder Paul B. Pieper of the 70. I was in Liverpool, NY - the farthest west I have been in my NY experience (odd that you would have been so close to me, no?). He trained a lot about how to answer questions ourselves (ie. questions that we personally have in life, questions that others have, etc.). He taught how we must first understand the doctrine, then principles, then the application. It was very interesting how he explained it; rather than give us a fish he helped us learn how to fish ourselves. He also talked a lot about faith, hope, and charity. It was very uplifting and inspiring. He is very big on conducting meetings under the inspiration and influence of the Holy Spirit, so he wanted to know what was on our minds and train to it, etc. After the training out of the 40-45ish missionaries that were present, Elder Pieper chose about 10 to be interviewed by him. Not that there was any special criteria to have this interview - but guess who he chose to interview first? It was pretty neat talking with him privately for about 5 minutes. He asked questions like how I'm doing, what is the most meaningful thing that has happened to me on my mission, among others. He extended thanks from President Monson to me for serving. I certainly won't forget it. It was a fun day, too, to be able to see Elder Stratton and others who I haven't seen in a while. I saw Elder and Sister Timothy there and they said something about you guys not being at some class or something? Ha, I didn't know what it was exactly. But they like you guys in Ithaca. Yesterday was just as great. Elder Eyring of the 70 and Elder David A. Bednar were here in Rome for the Utica Stake Conference and the reorganization of the stake presidency. Elder Bednar's remarks were centered on the reality of revelation. He spoke about 3 things specifically which witness to him of the incredible revelatory process: first, the process that takes place in finding the new Stake Presdient; second, the coordination of talks at General Conference; and third, how missionaries are assigned to labor in specific areas. With each of these three he allowed us to "come behind the curtain" and hear more about the process and shared specific stories from each on how incredible and real revelation is. Just prior, Elder Eyring talked a little about revelation and used one of my favorite scriptures to teach with (1 Nephi 16:28-29) which relates the liahona and us receiving revelation. Faith, diligence, and heed is what is needed; heed is definitely my favorite part of that. Unfortunately, the turn out to stake conference was quite poor from our investigators - we were a bit disappointed but understand it happens in the Lord's way. Lois went to visit family in Pennsylvania (and do missionary work, I'm sure) for the latter part of this week and she wasn't able to attend. But she's back and I'm looking forward to continue helping her come closer to Christ. A few things are in the works right now and are close to very exciting new investigators who are "the elect".

Elder Farrens and I may be hitting range balls today. It should be a good time. I hope you all have a great week and know of my love for you. Thanks for all that you do for me.

Elder Christensen

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I'm a changed creature

The crazy zone of Rome, New York

Dear everyone,

Hey there, it's wonderful to hear from you all. I'm glad that you're all doing well. It was very exciting to see pictures from the dolphin swim over in Florida! That looks like it was a great time. Also, what a neat surprise to see the picture with Papa and President Eyring at the Salt Lake Country Club! Ha, how cool! So Ste, what were you doing up so late? I can't believe it is already October break? Wow. That's crazy if that's the case. Anything exciting happening? I haven't seen that woman from the library since I last mentioned her a month or so ago. Who knows, I wish she gave us her information to contact her and teach her and such. How often do we eat out? Hm, I'll think back on this past week - I think 3 or 4 times? That's a bit above average due to eating while traveling for District Meetings. I've never turned down anything that has been served to me. I was actually served fish on Monday and it was quite good. I do like salad and yes when I'm not a missionary I'll eat it. I'm a changed creature, ha. Could you please print out the Priesthood line for me? Thanks so much for doing that for me. I didn't get a letter from Mom (or anyone, ha) this past week; since you didn't mention anything about it, it's likely that it's caught in the mail with today being a holiday. That's crazy Jordan is home; I'm so happy for him. I'm in the mission office right now because of the library being closed. We're going to play some basketball in a few minutes, too. We were able to play tennis for a bit this morning which was really nice - I don't know how much longer we'll be able to enjoy outside activities like that. What's new with everyone?
Well, to be honest and still positive, this week has definitely been a tough one. I'm learning the lesson that even though I do everything I can, the Lord's work is in the Lord's hands. I really appreciated the email that President sent today. Due to lack of time and how applicable it is to me today I'm going to attach most of it here:
Some time ago, I was pondering the phrase “mighty prayer” as used in 3 Nephi 27:1. My study led me to Alma 8:10 as noted in footnote b. That verse seemed to perfectly describe the prayer and desire of every missionary. It struck me as significant that after “much labor in the spirit” and “mighty prayer that [God] would pour out his spirit upon the people of the city” of Ammonihah, a man as strong and faithful as Alma would not only be rejected, but “reviled,” “spit upon” and eventually “cast out” of the city (Alma 8:13). Alma was a faithful prophet, with a righteous desire “that he might baptize them unto repentance.” The question could be asked, “Does not God hear the prayers of His prophets?” Well, of course He does—but even they must endure faithfully through the difficult times of missionary work. We know that the city of Ammonihah would eventually be destroyed because of their wickedness, yet through much difficulty and extremely challenging circumstances, Alma’s labors in that challenging area would reap a harvest of valiant souls—souls that would have a great impact for good on future missionary work. We may not know by whom or when the harvest will come, but we must press forward with faith—especially in difficult times. In the mist of the severely difficult circumstances of Alma’s mission he cried out in prayer, “How long shall we suffer these great afflictions, O Lord?” (Alma 14:26) The question of “how long” seems to not only be a reasonable question, but a common one asked by those who suffer difficulty in the Lord’s service (see Habakkuk 1:2; Revelation 6:10). “How long” was asked twice by Joseph Smith while suffering in Liberty jail (DC 121:2,3). The answer that came to the Prophet Joseph Smith in DC 121 is a study that would bless every missionary. Every missionary seems to wonder “how long” at various times in their service. How long before we find someone to teach? How long before this area turns around? How long must I endure this challenge or temptation? We must realize that “how long” is in the Lord’s hands. Our job is to continue faithful for as long as our Heavenly Father may require, knowing that He will not “require you to experience a moment more of difficulty than is absolutely needed for your personal benefit…” (Elder Richard G. Scott, CR, Nov. 1995, 16). Developing the capacity to endure is part of the experience. Ammon reflected on his experience of enduring difficult times as a missionary by saying, “Now when our hearts were depressed, and we were about to turn back, behold, the Lord comforted us, and said: Go amongst thy brethren, the Lamanites, and bear with patience thine afflictions, and I will give unto you success” (Alma 26:27). It is my hope and prayer that each of you will do the same. The principles taught by those that have gone before are still true today. To put it in a more modern vernacular, “hang in there” and allow the Lord to bless you personally, as well as the work you are doing.
I really appreciated these thoughts today. Lois is still doing amazing; her nephew is planning on coming up from Mesa for her baptism. We're hoping to find some new people to teach this week who are earnestly wanting to change their lives. I'm grateful for this opportunity to serve. Saturday is our 1/3 Mission Conference (it's taking place on 3 different days in different locations) with Elder Pieper. And Sunday we get to listen to Elder Bednar (and I think Presdient Eyring's son too, not positive on that though) at Stake Conference. I'm quite excited for that. Hopefully you all are doing well and have a wonderful week. Thanks so much for your love and support. I love you all so much.
Elder Christensen

Monday, October 3, 2011

I'm going to do my best to "look up"

Dear Family and Friends,

Hey there. It certainly has been a great week and weekend with General Conference. I am so grateful to be led and guided by just and holy men who Heavenly Father calls to be his prophets upon the Earth in these days. What a blessing it is to not only have prophets but to have the technology to access their messages with ease. Well, usually with ease. Ha, at the Rome Ward building the satellite transmission was having some difficulties this weekend. Elder Farrens and I were there with Bishop and a few others for the Saturday morning session and after about 15 minutes of perfect Conference-watching action, the screen went green and no sound was coming through. After some time and effort the Bishop was able to reconfigure the system and get it up and going. However it was short lived and again it cut out. Patiently hoping that this would be able to be fixed Elder Farrens and I decided we needed to go another route and especially when investigators would be coming on Sunday that we would need to have an alternate plan. We decided to go to a member's house for ourselves then figure it out for others later. So Saturday Morning and Afternoon sessions we watched Conference at a young, single guy's place on his Mac. I was and am very grateful for the many different ways we can access the words of the prophet and apostles. Then, for Priesthood we traveled to Utica with that same member to watch that session there without satellite problems. It was all very good. I really enjoyed the messages of hope and encouragement as well, of course, those that were directed to missionaries, especially missionaries currently serving. How cool. So Saturday we made every effort to let our investigators know how they could access Conference online/
BYU.TV because that would be a much more positive experience for them than to come to the church building and be disappointed, missing a good part of the meetings. Sunday morning we watched it at an older member couple's home and Lois came with us. In hindsight I think that was probably the best thing for Lois to really start to get a relationship with these members, being in their home and still catch the spirit of Conference. It was very good. Lois really liked President Monson, but she was sure to say that the music was her favorite. She is doing fantastically well. She's preparing for her baptism still on November 5. She said her nephew, only member in her family, will fly out from Mesa to be here and do the baptizing! It's awesome. We are seriously having so many incredible experiences here; the gratitude I feel toward my Savior is hard to express. People we have been teaching are starting to progress more solidly and new people continue to fall into our laps to teach. Simply, I'm going to do my best to "look up" and maintain an optimistic and trusting attitude in my Master.

Thanks for the package! I'm glad Mom was able to find another journal - yeah , I think three will be the magic number (especially as I'm 2/3 through my mission. crazy). Perhaps in the next letter you send, could you include my Priesthood lineage; I don't think I have one with me out here. We're short on missionaries for different reasons: with the tragedy in Ogdensburg we're down 2, then another sister went home sick, and the transfer before that an elder went home. Compared to 3-5 years ago in this mission we have 40 or so fewer missionaries. I guess they're sending more to the more 'fruitful' locations...peh. At ZLC I got some updates on the people in Albany from Elder Checketts. The Flanders are doing very well and others. Namukolo, I was informed, is still in Menands and is looking to stay in New York. Hopefully she can do so without much strain. (She doesn't have a computer in her apartment so that's probably why she hasn't emailed you, Mom). I hope the trip to Florida is fun for Kelly and Drue and the Jennings (I got your email :)! ). Sounds like a blast. There isn't a Panera here in my area. The other city we'll go to for training this week is Carthage. The picture of the dancing, Paige, is very classic. Does the guy with the hand behind you happen to resemble me a little? Ha. It's great to hear from Justin and Camille and their family! I was asked where I'm going today? Brayden, I'm going to dinner and then to Camden for a teaching a appointment with a part-member family. During the day today I'll likely just be in the apartment. We need to prepare our training for District Meetings this week. Yeah, Justin we're both Zone Leaders and no I wasn't a District Leader before. There aren't really any other languages here that stick out although I have taught some in Spanish. Is Jordan Richardson getting home this week?

Thank you everyone for your inspiring words and the love you send me. I'm very grateful to you all of you for everything you do for me.

Elder Christensen

Monday, September 26, 2011

Staying here in Rome

Dear everyone,

Hello. How's it going today? I hope you all are doing well and as always it is great to hear from all of you. As you may suppose due to receiving my email today, on Monday, Elder Farrens and I are staying here in Rome. I really wasn't thinking too much about the upcoming new transfer, or the possibility of change for it. It's hard to believe a new transfer is already here, the time is melting away. Yeah, E. Kunzler is extending a bit so we don't have to close
another area. He'll leave before this upcoming transfer is over, though, so some change will happen in the middle of it all. I'm very excited for the things ahead - with the work here in Rome and other upcoming events. This week we have ZLC and General Conference. Next week E. Farrens and I will be going around training at the District Meetings in the Zone. The following week a General Authority, Paul P Piper, is coming and we're having joint Zone Conferences; and that weekend this Stake is getting reorganized and the rumor is Elder Bednar is coming! This should be awesome. My best guess would be that there are 8-10 walk areas in the mission. We have the only 'big truck' like that in the mission and we have it because they want it close to the mission office in case they need it. We exercise everyday but Sunday, of course. We run about a mile and then other exercises for the rest - I do stuff for my hips primarily. I've stayed in 1 day due to illness back with Elder Potter, I threw up in the morning and stuff. I've never been with a companion who had to stay in because he was sick. Very, very blessed. The black family/kids in the picture are a less-active/part-member family. The dad was baptized some years ago and none of the kids are members. (there are a couple neighborhood kids over and in the picture, too. But there are 4 boys in the family). They're really funny; I didn't teach them too much but had a really good relationship with them - helped them with snow in the winter, etc.

The work in Rome has really picked up and is very exciting. We were able to find 4 new investigators this week and teach 20 lessons - that's good for anywhere around here and definitely an improvement from the past. Lois is continuing to do very well and is progressing nicely for her baptism of Nov. 5. Her nephew, the only member in her family who was baptized a year ago who lives in Mesa, subscribed her to the Ensign and she's reading that in addition to the Book of Mormon and pamphlets we give her. We taught the Word of Wisdom early last week and she's been living it 100% - very exciting and she feels very good about it. She came to church again this week and stayed for Gospel Principles, too. It's really great teaching her. I don't know what it is with elderly ladies but I've seemed to have quite the success with them, ha. (ie. Sister Flanders, Lois, and another 81 year old lady we found as a new investigator just yesterday). Lois is definitely on the forefront of my mind and I'm very excited as she continues to grow close to her Savior. Another new investigator we found this week is a guy in his 70's. We taught him at the bishop's home as they formerly were coworkers and know each other well. His name is Bill and he was taught before several years ago but we found him and will continue to teach him this week. It's certainly true that the longer I'm in an area the more comfortable/'easier' it becomes as I have relationships with the people we're working with and members of the ward. We're trying really hard to not only strengthen the ward by bringing outside people in, but by strengthening it from the inside out. Elder Farrens has 2 more transfers, this and one more. He's convinced that he will stay here the rest of his mission and feels it's very likely I'll be with him for that time. I'd be fine with that. I'm really learning what it means to put trust in God. Perhaps my favorite way to help people understand God's love for all of his children (and the way that it makes most sense to myself) is relating it to the love that a parent here on earth has for his child. I know that Heavenly Father only and always has our best interest in mind. 3 Nephi 14:7-11. Although I may not understand and see why certain things need to happen the way they do, I have trust that Heavenly Father certainly does. I know very clearly that I need to be in Rome at this time in my life - for myself and for others.

We had a good time golfing last week and are planning to go again this week - perhaps to a par 36, 9-hole course; we're trying to take advantage of this pleasant weather while we have it still. Thanks so much for all of the love and support that you have for me. It means the world and I can definitely feel it. I hope you all have a great week!

Elder Christensen

Monday, September 19, 2011

"I feel it already"

ear Family & Friends,

The leaves have definitely started their autumn transformation and the cooler weather is certainly upon us here in Rome as well. It's great to hear from all of you this week; I always look forward to hearing the updates from everyone so thank you. It seems like everyone is doing very well which is fantastic! Those pictures from the flooding in Owego is pretty intense. It's nice that Paige and Ben went down and helped out. I don't know if I should consider myself lucky or what, how I avoided the floods by coming to Rome when I did. It's good to hear that Ste is still involved in his sporting and scouting - it seems like that was me just yesterday, wow. Hopefully the "round up" goes well for Papa. I know he always looks forward to that time. That was interesting, Dad, about being sure to begin the kids' lesson with a prayer. That was actually something that I noticed more significantly than usual this week: the ability beginning a lesson with prayer has in inviting the Spirit. It sometimes can be tough here with situations in which we find ourselves where a conversation really leads into us teaching and how to have a prayer at the 'right time.' Anyway, cool you played Quintero last week - we're playing a par-3 course with our Ward Mission Leader this afternoon, I'm excited to get out and play a lil' bit. I'm very happy for everyone and again it's great to hear from you all.

It's hard for me to believe that this transfer is already coming to a close. This week flew by and it was filled with much success and great things happening. I'll begin with some of the highlights. On Saturday, we had a tour of the church building with Lois, our investigator with a baptismal date, and a member. It was a very good experience for her to ease the concerns that she had about coming to church and all of the 'newness' and unfamiliarity of it all. We talked about everything there and showed her everything she should see. The finale was the baptismal font. She wanted to get in it (as it was empty, of course) so we did and showed her exactly how the baptism will be performed and explained that whole process again. It was very Spiritual and she is very excited about it all. She then came to church on Sunday for the first time! As she walked into the little chapel (no pews; "phase-2" building I believe?) she said "I feel it already." We asked what it was she was feeling and she said the Spirit of course. Ha, it was great. A returned missionary (only a convert of a little over a year before he left) spoke and it was a great meeting. We also had another investigator come to church that we're working with. I went on exchange with Elder Nielsen from Carthage this week and I stayed here in Rome with him. He was in Ithaca for a while and he knows Paige and Ben. It was funny a time or two he commented on how something I said or did reminded him of Paige, ha. Thursday we had interviews with President, he's a great man. That night we had Stake Correlation meeting in Utica. It got postponed from 7 to 8 just prior to when the meeting was to start. Elder Farrens and I hadn't eaten so President took us around the corner to the mission home and we ate there with him. It was a really cool experience to be there with him in that environment. I offered to allow the Bulloch's to copy the program from Sis. Bentley's funeral but turns out they had 2 daughters in attendance who live in the Phoenix area and were expecting one in the mail from them. There were lots of other really cool experiences this week. One I wish I had more time to share is going and contacting a less-active member whose records randomly showed up last Sunday. We knocked on the door and addressed him by name but he proceeded to act like it wasn't him, that there was another "Bill Smith" we must be looking for and that he was Catholic. He then, though, invited us in. We sat down and talked for a bit. It became obvious he was a member by some words he used but continued to say he wasn't and had never been baptized in the Mormon church Then his Mexican wife comes home and rats him out. It was quite humorous and they were very nice. She's a non-member and he served a mission in Honduras. The sad part is we got a message from him yesterday saying he sent in to have his records removed from the church and didn't want to have contact. I doubt that'll be the end, though, and that he even really had his name removed. Who knows though. We have other really good things happening here in Rome and I'm excited for what's going on. Transfer calls are this Saturday and we'll see what happens there Oh, and we got a 2011 Silverado here. It's pretty funny driving that around as a missionary - it's the only one in the mission and they want it close by the mission office in case it needs to be used for something.

Well, I hope you all have a great week and know of my great love and appreciation for you all.

Elder Christensen

Monday, September 12, 2011

The highest highs and lowest lows

Elder Farrens and Elder Christensen try a different look

Dear everyone,

Hey there I hope everyone is doing well! It seems that way from the emails that I received. Yeah, it is pretty crazy that 9/11/01 was ten years ago. I can vividly remember sitting in Mrs. Moore's 5th grade class watching the news and having a very abnormal day. Time really does fly. Ste is now older than I was when that happened, holy smokes. That's so cool about Patrick Benjamin's baptism! He's 14? Would he go to church alone, with his Mom, or someone else? That's a pretty impressive age to be baptized and especially with his upbringing and background. That's good that Papa is involved in his tutoring again; I know that those kids love him. The situation with Lindsey and her baby is intense. I'll keep her in my prayers. I like the DBacks picture from the TV! Haha, nice - that's fun you guys have been going to so many games and such. That's a bummer BYU lost. Fun that the Lewis' were able to go to Texas though for the event. Would I know the Curtis guy who was reactivated? Today's Elder Farrens' birthday, we're going to celebrate in style with some golf or bowling or something of that sort. The letter that Mom sent this week was pretty intense with all of the things inside. I was surprised to see the program from Sister Bentley's funeral - I'm really happy that Mom decided to go.

This week has been a very good one, certainly a roller coaster. It's so true that you experience the highest highs and lowest lows in mission-life. The work in Rome is continuing to progress although that certainly doesn't mean that everything is peachy all the time. Definitely the high water mark of the week was a lesson that we had with a 81 year old investigator names Lois. She is so sharp and sweet. She was tracted into right before I got here. She has a nephew who is a member in Mesa and because of him she has a very good perception of the church. The lesson this week was so incredible because it was entirely guided by the Spirit. What I mean is this. Earlier in the day we, E. Farrens and I both, felt strongly that we should invite her to be baptized on November 5. This was pretty interesting as she had expressed in the past not wanting to feel pushed and not sure if she wants to 'be a part' of this yet. We thought a lot about it throughout the day and prayed about it and we were sure that that's what we should shoot for. The lesson content was to teach the second half of the plan of salvation, where we left off last time, but when we got there we understood what she really needed. She asked a bunch of different questions that all, eventually, led to questions specifically about baptism and her expressing her desire to be baptized once she understood the need for her to be baptized 'again'. It was very powerful and I have no doubt that we were doing exactly what the Lord wanted us to be doing at that time. What a great feeling that is. So Lois has a baptismal date set of November 5 that she is striving for. I'm confident she will be ready (and feel ready) by then with the good chance of it happening sooner. There have been other good things happening with the people we are teaching, too. I went on exchange with the Assistants this past week which was a good time. I worked in Utica with E. Kunzler. We already have a lot of things set up for this upcoming week that I'm excited about. I've learned, or was reminded again, this week that I can do everything in my own power to make things happen but others still have their ability to turn away. That can be the hardest thing, at times. I know, though, that as I
do do everything that is in my power that I am literally on the Lord's errand and will be exactly where He wants and needs me to be. I'm grateful for this reassurance and the comfort I feel to know.

I hope you all have a great week and continue to do what's right. I love you so much and thank you for the love I feel.

Elder Christensen

PS- I was sitting by the Emily girl again in the Library today. What are the 'odds?'

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A week of reflecting and pondering

Dear everyone,

I hope everyone is doing well today. You're definitely right when you say that my week has been pretty bizarre, emotional, different, you name it. My thoughts are pretty scatterbrained as well so I'm not sure what exactly is going to come out. The experience last week emailing was pretty crazy, sitting by the lady who was baptized a few years ago. With countless experiences like this I absolutely know that the Lord's hand is involved in our lives. We didn't end up playing golf last week and we were going to go today but it has been raining all day, ha. Thanks so much for sending the reinforcements to help in replacing those keys that were lost. I really appreciate it and it helps greatly because they have to re-key our deadbolt lock which isn't too cheap. Thanks for the information about Granddad's profession and such. Well, I'm glad to hear that Papa and the "Mormons" won the golf match! How big was the branch that Ste went to this weekend? That's awesome he bore his testimony there!

Like I mentioned before, my thoughts are all over with the events of the week. I had no idea about the flooding in Schoharie and all of that. Wow. I hope everyone is doing well there. Very interesting that you found Sis. Dutcher's facebook page and that it mentioned the flooding and things. So, on Wednesday morning we got a call from the Assistants about the tragedy of Sister Bentley and Sister Love. What a complete shock that was to hear just before 8 o'clock in the morning on what seemed like it would be an ordinary day. I/we don't really know too much about the accident; we were told very little. I'm sure you know more than we do in reading articles about it all. In trying to reflect positively on the events of the week, I have definitely felt an added sense of appreciation for my life and my being here. Being reminded of the frailty of life, although the reminder unfortunately had to come this way, is an important perspective I've been able to gain. I really appreciate this reality check. How great I have it to be where I am. I'll never forget a fortune cookie that Elder Potter got, it said: Happiness isn't in having what you want, but in wanting what you have. How true this is - and the sad event from this week helps remind me of this true principle. This week has been good and filled with a lot of reflecting and pondering. We're continuing to work hard here to progress the work and to find more people to teach. There are some really great people here in Rome. Currently Elder Farrens and I are in the mission office (library is closed for the holiday) and Elder Miller and Elder Kunzler are here and President and the office couple so it's a little difficult to write a focused email. Sorry about that.

Just know that I'm doing well and happy to be here. Elder Farrens and I are having a really good time together, too, which is a blast. Thank you all so much for your love and support. I love you all so much and am so grateful for all that you do.

Elder Christensen

Summer 2010 - Schoharie District
Sister Vanessa Bentley (in the white blouse)
Died on Aug. 30, 2011