MTC is serving in the New York Utica mission from June 2010 to June 2012. We hope to keep you updated with his latest letters, pictures and more.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

It's not about me

Dear one and all,

Hey there how is it going? I hope you all had as great a week as you relayed to me, sounds pretty sweet! This week has been a good one for me too and, as always, I'll talk more about that in a bit. The Suns game sounds intense and fun, glad you had a good time there. The Arizona crew is pretty lucky for the Stake Conference they had, loved hearing about that. Little jealous, but that's okay. It's so cool to hear that Jackson walked/is walking, and on skype even! Way to be. He was quite different the last time I saw him, ha. So we went to TJM last Monday and they had some slacks the size and fit and everything that worked well so I exchanged those, and even got a nickle back for tax, yes. Thanks again. I can't believe Mom is going on a sister-in-law trip in St. George, that sounds like it will be a great time (never played Entrada GC). Here this week the schools have what is called Winter break where they have this entire week off! It's a joke! I wish I had that! They get Spring Break here in a couple weeks, too! So some families and things are going out of town but it really shouldn't affect us too bad in our work. We did get the warm spell on Thursday and Friday it was really nice reaching temperatures in the mid 50's. Yeah, you Arizona and Florida babies think that is cold but it was incredible! We didn't get snow Saturday, though, that Ithaca spoke of. Everything was starting to melt those two days which was really nice but then this morning we woke up to 3-5 inches of snow and the sound of snow plows out in the parking lot. Ha, good times. That's awesome that Ben made a profile! That's good to know so I could sent someone to it if I think they could relate, etc! Nice! I hope Papa and the golf guys have a great week this week as well; and yeah, Dad, sounds like such a bummer you have to 'fill in' on Thursday and Friday and play with them, ha. Have a great time. That's really neat Elder Zwick remembered you or talked to you at Stake Conference or the meeting before. Papa and Nana thanks so much for the card and art, it's really nice. I got the Florida card too, thanks a bunch. You both can expect a little something in the mail this week.

So, really, this week has been quite good. It was difficult, just like it is in any other transitional period, coming here again to Saratoga to immerse myself in the work initially. I definitely was doing my best and had the desire to do so but just naturally change can be difficult or require time. I really feel comfortable here and have learned a lot in my experiences already. Last Monday it proved to be really beneficial for me to write you guys and President and to really evaluate how great things are and for what I have to be grateful. I found much goodness in my life and in my current situation or position on my mission. Tuesday I went on exchange and worked with a District Leader in Greenwich who I had worked with before. This, too, was really good for me and I was able to begin to realize my purpose in being here in Saratoga and how it absolutely is not about me. In the email President sent us today he talked about a Conference he went to with Elder Scott among others of the seventy this past weekend. The main point he recalled Elder Scott talked about was the valuable lesson he learned on his mission that it is not nor will it ever be about himself, his wants, or his desires. On this exchange through Wednesday afternoon I had the greater ability to reflect and ponder about everything and I'm so grateful for it. Pulling it directly from his email he said:
Elder Cook testified of the power that came into his life as a young missionary when he finally realized that this work was not about himself and his desires. He said, “The minute you think it is about you, you are in trouble.” This was totally the central theme of my week this week, and I can honestly say that it has not only blessed me to be happier, to have a greater endowment of the Spirit, but also the people we came in contact with, taught, etc. I don't really feel that before I was totally thinking about me or things like that, but it is just simply the entire turning of our hearts to God and accepting His will above our own. That's quite hard as you all, perhaps, very well know. That's what this life is all about, finding the ability to in all cases have the mentality: Not my will but Thine be done. Coming to this greater realization and desire to put the Lord's will above my own has led me to my current thoughts about the upcoming transfer that 'whatever happens, happens.' I really have no clue what is going to happen. With all of the surrounding circumstances there isn't one likely way this will all turn out. Who knows, I could be in Albany again, I could still be here in Saratoga, I could be many miles across the state. Whatever it will be, I'm up for it. I know that the Lord always has our best interest at heart and I'm perfectly okay with that and in whatever way that translates in this upcoming transfer. I'll know Saturday mid-day what is happening; but until then E. Stratton and I have a great week of work ahead of us. The 21 year old husband of a member is all set and ready to go. He is going to have his interview this Wednesday and fly to Colorado after he graduates from the Navy and have the services there. Awesome guy. We taught Lauren and her boyfriend last night actually. It was a very powerful lesson. We picked apart Moroni's promise. They have read about half or more of the Book of Mormon and have prayed about it throughout. They have yet to come to church with his work, but he got this Sunday off to come! They are incredibly smart and understand very well; we just hope that they can receive an answer soon, and that church will be the key. We'll see them Wednesday this week again and probably read with them from the Book of Mormon. Friday morning we had a cool experience tracting. We did a whole street with zero success and started to get a little disappointed when we knocked on a door of a family who wasn't home but a woman in her 20's answered who was so nice. Her name is Lorena, from Mexico City, has member friends here, and back home. Totally prepared. We have a couple in the ward we are looking to have fellowship them: the wife is Chilean and he served his mission there. We are really excited to teach her this week. Finally, the most humbling experience this week revolves around Phil. He is the brother of Sandra who was baptized if you remember on her 25 birthday on January (the baptism I got to come back for). Phil was the initial contact we had with her, he was taught by missionaries in Oneonta and moved here. He had a long road to travel that didn't seem realistic. Anyway, he has totally changed. He hasn't smoked for 30+ days now, and is actually prepared for baptism. Because of things we are aware of we won't set him with a date until he is cleared from his interview but we are looking to have that take place this week and the baptism, assuming he passes, will follow shortly thereafter. It's not super likely, but it's a possibility that it could happen this Saturday. I wish I had more time to describe this whole process and change in him and how incredible and out of no where (especially for me leaving and coming back) it was! Very very humbling and cool to see the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the powerful example of Gospel living siblings can have on another.

Well, I really hope you all have a great week, filled with the Spirit of the Lord. I love you all so much and hope and pray you know that. Thanks for all that you do, it means so very much.

Elder Christensen

Monday, February 14, 2011

P Day on V Day back in Saratoga Springs!

Dear everyone,

Happy Valentine's D
ay! I hope you all are having a love-filled day full of frolicking and such. Why, oh why, am I not surprised that you all have tabs on me, know where I am, and how it all went down? Ha, that is quite funny if you ask me. So, here I am in Saratoga Springs with E. Stratton on this fine Monday morning (it's actually way nice today). Total craziness. E. Kitchen went home because he hadn't slept more than a few hours his time here in New York. From what I know he really wanted to stay and was fighting it as best as he could but simply couldn't win. Pretty sad. I can say that he certainly has changed my mission quite a bit, though, in his short time here: having been the reason for both my leaving and returning to Saratoga in the middle of a transfer. So we met at the Albany airport and I drove back here with E. Stratton and the Bullochs. Not going to lie, it was kind of a weird feeling to be right at the curbside airport check with all of my luggage at this point. The switch was pretty smooth and the drive back was much more pleasant than I had anticipated. Thanks for looking into the 'darkest before dawn' thing; I figured it couldn't be a true fact in nature but wondered where it came from and things. Anyway, side-note and tangent, in my personal study reading the Book of Mormon I got off pondering for some reason about the sun and how symbolic it is of the Son of God and just how I had never really made the connection of the similarities in the names of both. I don't know, it was just cool this morning. Thanks so much for the Valentine's stuff! I received the box from Arizona (and anticipate the arrival shortly of those of you who also mentioned to expect something. Nana, I had the Albany Elders forward it to me. I should get it today! Thanks so much! :) Thanks for the card Ste! And Mom and Dad. The family history stuff is really great, I've read some of it and look forward to finding some time to read more! The slacks are good; we're planning to go to TJM today and just see what they have but if nothing different or better they most certainly will work great. Thanks! Not to mention, too, the goodies were really good and E. Stratton agrees as well. I appreciate all of your emails and updates on how things are going in your respective locations. I love your emails, Nana, and thank you so much for them. I can't think of anything that I really need from that sale or anything but thanks again so much. Ste, way to go ballin' it up at your game and singing and tennis and baseball and school and life. Great to see the Ithaca party and things, glad it went great! I cannot believe how much Jackson looks like Braden Stevens! Justin and Camille's son? Am I crazy or do they look alike? Anyway, very cute and so exciting about him almost walking! Dad, thanks so much, as always, for your email. I appreciate what you write each week and it just even further shows how much you love me. Thank you. Mom, of course your emails are amazing, too, and I can't thank you enough for them.

So, as I said before, here I am in Saratoga. I'll be pretty open, this hasn't been the easiest thing I've done, to come back here. And the odd part is I'm not even sure why it's been so tough. I absolutely love it here. The ward is great, the atmosphere is great, E. Stratton is great, I don't know. But last Monday was certainly interesting getting the news that I would be coming here and although it's been a week and I'm here, it's still bizarre. The work had slowed down a bit but we are working hard and looking to get things back up to high-speed here shortly. President Bulloch has been fantastic throughout this whole thing, I love him so much. Wednesday after we were dropped off at our apartment and we were in Saratoga he made the special effort to call me and clarify how my call to serve as a Zone Leader was not repealed and I was just on a 'special assignment.' I essentially knew or figured this was the case and it seems incredibly simple what he did but it really meant a lot to me. Since then he has called a handful of times to update me on things in the Zone I should be aware of and such which we normally wouldn't have happen if I was in Albany. Anyway, it's just meant a lot and his support has helped me out quite a bit. It was interesting, too, I don't know why but I feel like sharing that last Monday morning (before I got the call I was coming to Saratoga) I felt prompted to read my Patriarchal Blessing for the second half, which I've never done, during my study time. I shrugged and decided to do so and focused on the portion discussing my mission. I didn't understand why, even after reading it, that was important then, but I did later in the day after this call. Just some of the things I'd read numerous times took on new meaning in light of this situation coming here. That's ultra vague, perhaps how it should be, but it was quite meaningful as well. It really has been great to see people again, though! The Badgers definitely were very excited to see me and I them! I got to meet their new daughter who was born shortly after my leaving, it was really cool! (ps. Sister Badger got all of our Arizona info to send a thank you note for the family book of mormon. I hadn't/haven't heard if they ended up doing that but if they didn't simply know that that was really significant to them and they loved it and were very thankful.) So, we've been working hard. Lauren B. is still being taught, haven't seen them yet but plan to this week. There are others who have fallen out since I left but we are eager to find those who are ready and prepared for this Gospel. Friday morning we saw Jeff, a former investigator E. Daniels-Brown and I taught a little, who is awesome. He doesn't know if God is there, though, so we challenged him to pray sincerely each day this week and promised him an answer or experience letting him know God is there. (He recently got back from a skiing trip in Japan; such a cool guy, can't remember how much I talked about him before, super into golf, etc.) Anyway, we're calling him today to see what his experience has been so far! We're also teaching a 21 year old who is married to a member who I didn't know before I left. He is getting baptized in the near future! I've taught him twice since I was here which has been great. He is in the navy and is graduating from his program early March and will go back to Colorado where they both are from and have the service there with her family. It's a really cool story and they really are awesome! Yesterday was great, all we did was teach. We taught an active family, a less active family, and a part-member family. It was a great time and the Spirit is able to be present so strongly as truth is taught. All in all, I'm looking to maximize my time here in Saratoga Springs and try not to look too far into the future. I felt prompted to have a study on patience in Preach My Gospel this morning after I read from the Book of Mormon and it was really what I needed. Mosiah 24:9-16 really meant a lot to me today. Welp, I hope you all have a great week and continue to be the wonderful people you already are. Thanks again so much for all that you do in my behalf, it means so much to me. May the Lord bless you.

Elder Christensen

PS - The library will be open next Monday for President's Day, so don't worry. :)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Where's Michael?

Dear Everyone,

Hey there. Once again. it's me from Albany, New York. It sounds like everyone is doing great! Man, I'm not sure where to start with this I have so many thoughts going through my head! That is so crazy and exciting about Jean! Holy cow! I can't wait! I thought it was crazy enough the prayer at the Christmas Devotional - but now we get a full serving! So excited; I was already stoked for Conference but now I can't wait! As far as the pants go, a size 32 waist would be fine if you can't find a 33. I think I weigh like 150-5? HA. I'm really probably a size 32 but the ones I'm wearing now are 33. That's exciting about all of the fun stuff that happened this week: the Suns games and such! Way to be. Yeah, it was a little difficult yesterday with the Superbowl and of course we were out tracting at that time. But I know that no effort is wasted out here, and as we simply do our best the Lord will bless us and others. It's very literally the law of the harvest. That's intense about all of the cold. It really hasn't been too bad here; and weird about the golf tournament. I can remember being there last year waiting to get my mission call! Sweet. On that, though, I appreciate how much you guys like to keep me informed and everything but as far as which golf tournament is happening and other sporting events I'm not too concerned about it (and would prefer to not be distracted by it. :) I found myself thinking a couple times this week how the phx open was probably happening right then, etc..and that's something I (and the Lord) would prefer to avoid. Thanks so much though). I do love hearing about Ste's games and such, way to go man! I have a random favor. Someone, next time they go to the Mesa temple if they could get a 2011 schedule card with the picture on it that'd be awesome, and send it in a letter or something. (no real rush). I just like having them on my desk, I have the Provo from '09 when I was there then the Salt Lake from '10. I don't know, random. Thanks. Glad that dinner in Ithaca with the missionaries was good. That's awesome you are making profiles! Way to be. We've been using that tool quite a bit and it's awesome. Real quick that was cool in Ben Killpacks email his new companion is from Alta High so is E. Boyakin and he knows (at least of) him.
So this week was a good week all around. We had a great time at Zone Conference. There was a huge storm that day and about everyone arrived late which was really unfortunate and we ended a little early so people could drive slowly and safely back to their areas. All of the trainings were really good though. Ours went pretty good although all but 2 of the members we had coming to help with the tracting practice didn't come or weren't able to make it because of the bad weather. It all worked out, though, and it seemed that everyone got a lot from it. We are given an outline of what to train on in Zone Conferences from the Assistants. And we practice and work on our skills always, it's never like we are too good to be able to improve so it was really good. Again this week we definitely still faced quite a bit of opposition in addition to some sweet things. On Wednesday all of our appointments fell through which was a real bummer but we were still able to be effective nonetheless. Two times this week we were able to get a member to come out with us for a teaching appointment in the middle of the day, which is really hard, and both times the appointment fell through. There were just simple frustrations this week that really kept us in check and humble. Thursday night, though, on splits we were able to teach 2 sweet lessons. The one I went to with Elder Potter was a member named Uyi from Africa and we taught he and his non-member girlfriend. She is really awesome and we're excited to see her progress in the future. Friday we were able to see Dennis (currently now our only investigator with a baptismal date) at the University of Albany where he works. He is really sincere and has some pretty interesting questions. He's felt the spirit and knows that all of this is good but at times he is too, as he puts it, "academic about it." We look forward to seeing him this Wednesday, though. We were able to set up a ton of appointments for this week ahead last week that we are so stoked about. We have really slimmed down our teaching pool and really are looking to find those who will receive us and progress in this Gospel. Saturday was rough, too, with everything falling through and rain, yes rain. It turned everything to ice which made it really slippery. And I'm happy to report that although E. Potter and E. Boyakin (2x) fell, I have yet to do so. Yesterday we found ourselves tracting quite a bit as well and I just kind of felt 'bleh' all day - not really sick, just bleh. We worked hard though. I feel great today and am so excited about the good stuff on the horizon. We are all getting along well here together; it is such a blast to be in a tripanionship.
I have a question or I guess something I'd like someone to look into for me. I've heard the phrase that the night is darkest right before the sunrise...or something to that extent. Is that a true phenomenon? If so, why? what's the deal with it all? I don't know why but I felt like asking that last night in my email today.
WOAH!!! I just got a phone call from President Bulloch literally right now. Elder Stratton's current companion is going to be going home. He's been struggling and one of us here is going to be going to Saratoga Springs for the rest of the transfer. By the sounds of it it will likely be me with simply knowing the area and such but President said we can council about it and see what would be best, with things happening here in our area as well and such. So we are going to decide that here right now and get back to him. So, I don't think you should send a letter to this address this week. We'll see where I am next Monday! Who knows. It's likely me, but I don't know. I'm willing to do anything to help this work go forth. It's simply only a temporary fix, as President put it, and whoever goes there will likely come back or go be a Zone Leader elsewhere. Woah. Out of time on the computer, sorry!
I love you all so much and I hope you have a great week! You are all the best!

Elder Christensen

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The highs outweigh the lows by a ton

Dear everyone,

Hey, what's going on? I hope everyone is well where ever they are! It, as always, is great to hear from all of you! It sounds like things are moving swiftly along for everyone else, too, which is pretty cool. I absolutely am receiving your emails, Nana, and I appreciate them so much each week! I'm glad you both in Salt Lake are doing well. I don't know of anything off hand that I really stand in need of at this time but I really appreciate all of the offers and generosity. To respond to some things in Mom's letter...I don't think I need any more warm clothing. If I was up north it would be a completely different story. Talking with Elder Miller at ZLC a week ago he was saying how it's been -20ish average for the last while. That's dang cold. This week it hasn't been too bad; a couple days in the 30's and the rest seemed to be in the 20's. We heard there is going to be a ridiculous storm here this week - perhaps tomorrow through Thursday. That should be really interesting; there is this guy in our ward who studies weather and such who is really smart who gives us the low down. I wear the penguin ties occasionally, not too much, staying more conservative. We go on for an hour each week other than Pday. We familiarize ourselves with the people on there, the videos, and some of the profiles. The main focus for us is to then be able to relate these people on the website to people we come in contact with on the streets, tracting, etc. We're already seeing fruit from it, it is incredible! I don't know if I'll make my own profile on there, yes we 'can' but I don't know - at least at this point - if that is the most effective thing I can do to utilize my time on there. E. Potter is a Zone Leader, all three of us are. He is awesome. He is from Coleville (spelling?) Utah and has a slight small-town accent, so cool. All of us are really getting along well and working well together. It's probable that I will stay here in Albany for a while; at least I hope so anyway. That's awesome Institute was on Jacob 5 - I agree, if you really can begin to understand this chapter and parable it really is powerful and meaningful. Really cool. That's crazy Colten Johnston and Steven Frost are getting married. How long have each of them been home now? I forgot to mention before E. Potter got here E. Boyakin and I went to Panera; it was really good, thanks again for that gift card. Speaking of Ithaca, that's cool you are having the elders over for dinner! Tell them hello for me/us. When are you having them over? We're making a new push to make sure we are done with our meal appointments on Pday by 6 so we get 3 solid hours of proselyting time...something to consider, at least in the future. Make sure they are obedient and not there more than an hour ;) ha. That's cool Orlando is going to have some visitors! Way exciting. And crazy about the evacuation at church; I've never heard anything like that before! (Super lame not getting to get the ward mission plan lesson, too. ha). So I know quite a bit about Jimmer and all of that. Glens Falls is the area just north of Saratoga! President Bulloch is all over it, wanting to get him to make a profile on and stuff. Way cool though! And really neat, Mom, the experiences you had this week. I got to quickly share, that's really really interesting about the family history and William Stevens being from Herkimer, NY. My first transfer out in Schoharie Valley when I was saying my personal prayer before bed I had an odd experience that I haven't/hadn't been sure what to make of it but perhaps this new discovery sheds some light on it. I was praying and I had been doing something where I had a little notebook and a pen nearby to write down promptings and things of that sort. I was pondering on something and the name "Herkimer" came to mind, so I wrote it down. I didn't have any idea what that meant, I had heard it before I thought but wasn't sure. I think the next day I asked and found out it is the name of an area in the mission! I thought, hmm, perhaps I will go there next or soon or sometime. Didn't happen, obviously. Ha, but I've still had that city and name in my head whenever I see it or read it and think about that and what it might have meant. Still, who knows? Maybe I'll end up serving there later? Crazy.
So this week was a great week. On Tuesday we went around training the missionaries at their District Meetings on the new and on obedience. It was really fun and they went pretty well! I didn't really think I liked getting in front of people or teaching, or I guess both together, so much but I guess I do! Ha, I didn't mind it at all and really enjoyed it. That night I went on a split with a high priest and we taught an awesome family of 6 for the first time, we had tracted into them prior. It went so well and the Spirit was so strong! We picked them up as investigators and we couldn't have been more excited. (side note: if you think of how bizarre some of the circumstances are you find yourself in on a mission, it's pretty funny. I was here in New York with a member of the church I don't know hardly going to a stranger's home and meeting them, etc. There are so many just odd/new situations like that that are just so funny and you just go for it). Anyway, the update on that is we called them 2 days later to see how they were doing and to set up another appointment and they dropped us and told us they were all set in their Catholic faith and hung up on me. Nice. The highs and lows as a missionary never cease. There is no doubt, though, that the highs outweigh the lows by a ton. We ended up being able to pick up a couple new investigators this week, still, which was really good. The most exciting (who we technically haven't considered a new investigator yet) is a woman who was referred to us by a member who used to live here who now is in Texas who has "been working on her" for a while now. This woman, Dani, was way sweet and we have an appointment with her on Wednesday night we are really looking forward to! Other than that, though, I don't know what else is too noteworthy. Dennis was able to make it to church which was a great blessing! He hasn't been reading the Book of Mormon which is a little unsettling but we're working on it and will see him this Friday. He is still set for March 12 for baptism. Good things are happening here; we've really been working hard and being obedient. It can be tough to balance things with the responsibilities as a Zone Leader to make sure all of that is accomplished in a timely manner and accurately and have effective time to be out working (as much as I'm used to). It's great though. We've seen some opposition as I've mentioned but we are finding those that will receive us and act on this message. They are out there. Tomorrow we have Zone Conference here which is really exciting. We are making sure all of the loose ends are tied up today and we're ready for that! We're training on finding people and having some members come and be 'normal people' behind doors the missionaries will practice tracting on. ha, it's pretty cool we're excited.
Well I hope that you all have a great week and that things continue to be well for you all! I appreciate so much all of your words of encouragement, support, and love! Thanks so much! I love you all and I can't begin to write how much this gospel of Jesus Christ has blessed me and how much I know it is all true and real!
Elder Christensen