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

Monday, July 25, 2011

Michael's "robotic routine" training

Dear everyone,
Hey there; it's great to hear from you all this week. Thanks for all of the pictures that you attached to the emails. I can just pretend that I was there and photocopy my face in there sometime. Looks and sounds like everyone is doing well. It's great to hear that girl's camp was a success and positive experience. It's been really, really hot here but thankfully we were inside teaching basically all day on the really hot days. Our apartment is sweet and has central air so it's kept at a very nice temperature, without it it's brutal. It was good to get Mom's letter and I was happy to see an email from Ben Killpack in there. It's hard to believe that Grant Peterson is a deacon and passing the sacrament, wow. Thanks, Ste, for correcting your error and signing your email "Ste" not "Steven." ha. The Tuhaye greens were a 13? Sounds pretty brutal to me, but 3rd place is impressive, nice job Papa. It's great to hear the updates with the Jennings; that's exciting for Tyler!
All in all things are going great here. Working in a three-some certainly has different dynamics but it's been good. This past week we were able to reach the 'Standards of Excellence' again which feels pretty rewarding (certain number of lessons, etc). On Monday we taught a couple for the first time. It was a really good lesson helping him, Lenny, understand Christ's role and who He is. Tuesday was Zone Conference. I thought it was really good and enjoyable. President trained on repentance and tied pride into it. The Assistants trained on using the scriptures in teaching. E. Checketts and I trained on teaching with your companion in unity. We were complimented quite a bit after and it seemed to go pretty well. I'm not sure what stuck with them most, though; our positive examples/demonstrations of teaching in unity or our purposeful poor ones which included a robotic routine and some choreographed 'the robot' dance moves. Ha, it was fun. We were on exchange after that for the next 24 hours. I stayed here with E. Bergman and a new missionary came here. We taught the Donovan family that night, it was nice. Wednesday we had a really important lesson with an investigator who wants to be baptized but is living with a guy (actually a member) and they're not married. It went really really well because she wanted to go over all of the requirements for baptism which presented an appropriate opportunity to help her/them fix their living situation. The rest of Wednesday was good; we taught a less-active member before we switched back on the exchange who is from Puerto Rico. She speaks broken English and I'm able to help her communicate with us all and speak to her in Spanish. It's way fun, we're good friends. I think that's one of the coolest things about serving a mission is the friendships and relationships gained; there are so many people here I'm close to now, it's so fun. Thursday the highlight is teaching the Flanders the Word of Wisdom; they completely accepted it and are willing to live it. She is still set to be baptized Aug 6! And she's so excited. We picked up another woman this week on Thursday who was a referral from a friend of hers in SLC (member). She's really kind and quiet. Also, we saw Namukolo and she's been figuring out what it will take to renew/extend her visa here in the US and she will likely go back to Zambia when it expires in 3 months. I think that will be good for her; she was able to come here and get away for a little bit and find the gospel now she will be able to go home and share it with everyone there and have added strength. We'll see what happens; I'll now have an excuse to visit and go to Africa, though; and I'm okay with that ha. Friday we taught a less-active woman again with members. She came to church yesterday for the first time in years; it was great, she loved it. Kayla (the 10 yr old) had her baptismal interview and is all set to be baptized this Saturday! She asked me to baptize her so that will be a fun experience. Saturday was picture perfect - we had 6 lessons planned, teaching all day, and they all went through and were really good. We're being so blessed; it's so great. I really recognize the Lord's hand in this work. I felt that yesterday and the necessity for his help yesterday particularly. We had 2 lessons yesterday which were very opposite of each other. The first I felt went very poorly. I'm not entirely sure why other than I didn't feel I/we had the Spirit. I didn't have much power behind what I was saying/teaching. Afterward we talked about it and said a prayer then went into our next lesson. It went really well...the Spirit was absolutely there and I felt I was able to teach with power beyond my own. It sounds so elementary but it's so true that without the Spirit I'm just my weak self. It was a great week. We plan to continue with the work this week ahead. The baptism Saturday will be great. Sis. Flanders will have her baptismal interview Saturday, too, which will be great. And I'll be on exchange (staying here again) with E. Israelson who I came out with who is a District Leader in Downtown Albany with E. Schrader now. I'm excited for that.
Thanks for all that you do for me. I hope you have a great week and I send my love and appreciation to you!
Elder Christensen

Monday, July 18, 2011

"Made a believer out of me"

Dear everybody,
Hey there, how's it going? From what I've heard it sounds like things are going great. I cannot believe Mom and Ste got to go to the All Star baseball game! Ha, that is such an incredible story; the blessings of the Lord come in all shapes and sizes. That's impressive Ste made so much money with his lemonade stand(s); he is a little entrepreneur. I'm glad that Paige made it back to her (new) home safely and had a good time with all of her fun travels. Yeah, the weather here has actually been really really nice. Today we may get some rain but lately, overall. it has been great. (How hot is it again in Arizona? :) haha). E. Lyman is from Washington state. It's E. Stratton who is from southern Utah and yes he is training a new missionary this transfer! The picture that Mom mentioned in her letter of me and E. Lyman on a country road is one of President Bulloch's favorite pictures he's seen too, ha. Good times. That's exciting that the Tuhaye tournament is this week, I hope it goes well! That course is great. It blows me away how old Drue and Sarah are; hopefully things this summer continue to go well. Papa and Nana you can say hello to the Pearson's for me! That's awesome. It doesn't matter to me when my next package is sent. If there is going to be anything bigger-ish that I'll need to take with me (ie. my running shoes...still undecided on that, by the way) then it'd be better to wait until after transfers. But other than that if there wouldn't be too much additional stuff to take, anytime will be great. And I think I'll be good to hold off on contacts for a bit - they should last through August. So maybe after the transfer sometime would be good. I'll keep you posted. Thanks.

I feel like I say this every time but it's the absolute truth: it's been a great week this week. Last Monday we had a good time playing some mini-golf during the day. That night we had a good lesson with the Westphal's - they're such a great family. Tuesday was a crazy day. On our way to District Meeting we got a phone call from a recent convert I'm really close to. He called to tell me that his wife had passed away just a few hours before. She was baptized at the same time he was in September last year and had lung cancer. Although we knew her passing would likely come soon, it was still a surprise. The greatest surprise, though, was how amazingly well her husband, this recent-convert, handled it all. But more on that later. So that was an interesting way to start off the day. We trained 2 districts on using the portable DVD players we are now allowed to use; they went pretty well. After the second one I was able to do a baptismal interview for a woman being taught in the Bennington Vermont Branch. Doing these interviews is such a neat experience. It went very well. Wednesday we had one more district meeting to go to then we did an exchange for the next 24 hours. I stayed in Albany and worked with E. Matangi, a sweet Tongan elder. We had a great lesson with a less-active member we had taught once before. She's going through a tough time in her family but knows she needs to come back and is planning on coming to church this Sunday! Thursday we saw the Flanders, I love them! Sis. Flanders had read and taken notes on her study of the Plan of Salvation with a pamphlet we left after we taught it last time. They're both doing so well! Later we made preparations for a meeting with the Stake Presidency and then had that meeting that night. We were able to make contact with the girl we are teaching, Monica, who is Namukolo's friend. That is a crazy story in and of itself but we were able to set up an appointment to teach her on Sunday. Friday, the highlights include teaching the Donovan family about prayer. The 10 year old daughter is still preparing for Jul 30 to be baptized. And after that we taught a couple, Kevin and Felicia, whose progress is slow but definitely noticeable. Since they've been praying their lives have been better and in fact the day before we went over Kevin was able to get a job, something he had been praying about and he told us of one fervent prayer in particular which he feels was absolutely answered and that in his words it has "made a believer out of me." Awesome. Saturday we taught the Flanders tithing. They were all for it. That was our only possible hurdle and it's wasn't a problem at all. We're now correlating with the Bishop to get him technically reactivated and ordained a Priest so that he can baptize his wife on Aug 6! I'm really excited. Also Saturday we picked up a new investigator woman, Laurie, and 2 of her kids. She requested a Book of Mormon, we had a great lesson, she's very sincere and even came to church yesterday. Saturday was the funeral service for Sis. Constable. I was chosen to say the opening prayer. It was an incredible meeting - all of his and her family are nonmembers and the word was it was the best service many of them had been to. There are several stories that Bro Constable told me after the service that are incredible - showing him that she is still around and her Spirit lives on. Incredible. He handled it incredibly and is still so determined to go to the temple and be sealed once he's been a member a year. We had 4 investigators at church. It was great. We taught Monica, Namukolo's friend yesterday. She's doing great. And we taught another Part-member family who is doing really well, progressing slower, but it's a miracle we've been teaching them and all the progress. This morning we were asked to give a blessing to a nonmember woman who is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Her daughter is a nonmember, the daughter's husband is a member (in Canada) and their son is a missionary in Tempe. He asked if she could get a blessing. It was a good experience.

Well I am out of time but this week will be great! Amazing things are planned. We have Zone Conference tomorrow which I'm excited about! I hope you all continue to be well and have a great week. Know of my love for you all and thank you so much for all that you do for me.


Elder Christensen

Monday, July 11, 2011

This work is "divinely orchestrated"

Goodbye Elder Lyman

Dear everyone,

It's great to hear from you all. I'm glad that the long trip ended well and that everyone enjoyed themselves. That is crazy about the bizarre dust storm; sounds like the weather is out of control all over the place. Hmm... Mom I got your letter that you sent while in the car, thanks a bunch. I didn't get the letter that you sent last week until Tuesday; so I didn't respond to anything from it in my email last week. I appreciate all of your letters so much. I can picture the Mesaonians at Sonic in Page like you said. Things have been great here. I'm here with Elder Checketts and Elder Bergman now. E. Bergman will likely be here until August. Sister Gifford is serving in Syracuse I believe. Have you heard how she is liking it and such? I'm far away and don't know anything about it. It is crazy to think that E. Lyman is home and doing 'normal' things. I was actually really impressed with how focused he was. I've really enjoyed all my companions. As far as hanging out with them afterward I could see myself getting together with some occasionally. Being roommates with any? I'm not sure. Only E. Miller went/goes to BYU who I've served with. Namukolo was confirmed by a member in the ward who he and his wife have been our consistent fellow shipper for her. The First Presidency just sent out a letter about not sending "sensitive information" in emails home but in short she is trying to get her visitors visa extended to stay here longer. Jackson looks really big. I like his teeth! Sorry to hear that he had that virus and such. Ste, thanks for filling me in that I'm not on the "loser side" anymore on the program at church. Haha, I appreciate that. Glad to hear things in SLC are going well; so great to hear from you. And of course I hope Paige gets home safe and she and Ben are finally reunited. This week has flown by and has been filled with so many incredible experiences. Honestly I can't think of another time when the work has been going better than it is right now. It's amazing and feels so good. Right now we have 4 people with baptismal dates and many other incredible people we are teaching. On Tuesday we taught an investigator, Gretchen, the word of wisdom and she's already living it. She asked to go over all of the requirements for baptism, ha. We had a good-bye lesson on temples with Namukolo for E. Lyman's last lesson. It went really well. It was cool talking with E. Lyman before he left to see his thoughts on the future and reflect back on his mission experience (he's probably going to be reading this at some point, ha I just realized that. How crazy.). Wednesday, transfer day, I worked in Downtown Albany with E. Schrader. This was amazing; we had a lesson with a recent convert in the morning. The recent convert is an elderly man and he had a home nurse there with him when we arrived. Long story short the nurse asked if she could join our lesson, has met with missionaries before and wants to be baptized! The best part is: she lives in our area, and the fact I just 'happened' to be there was amazing. It was so divinely orchestrated it's undeniable. She came to church yesterday and has so many great questions. We'll teach her this week and hopefully start preparing her for a date to be baptized! Later that day my new companions arrived. We had a good night teaching more lessons. Thursday morning was amazing, too. We taught the Flanders, the part-member, older couple we are teaching who came to church last week. We planned to teach about baptism and the Book of Mormon going in and her/their questions perfectly led right into it. We invited her to be baptized Aug 6 and she accepted and is really excited. Her (member) husband was crying; it was really really sweet. They came to church again yesterday and loved it. It's amazing. We taught and moved the 10 year old Donovoan girl's baptism to Jul 30 so she and the family can come to church more and hopefully deepen their conversion rather than just get her baptized and leave again. Friday, E. Checketts and I went to ZLC in Utica. It was really fun. Every companionship is given a portable DVD player to use in helping us study/prepare for lessons and missionary skills. The church is giving them all over the US and Canada, and probably other places soon, too. Saturday we continued to teach and teach and teach. We're working with a few really neat less-active families/individuals and seeing progress there as well as other investigators I haven't mentioned. On Sunday, yesterday, we had 5 investigators as church; it felt so good. Afterward we taught 3 lessons. Seriously, it's pretty incredible all of the things that are happening here. It's been really cool to be here this long to build relationships with so many people. The ward is like my family and all of these people we are teaching are close friends. Now more so than ever I feel that it is absolutely true that the Lord imparts his love for others upon those he calls to serve in his behalf. Having charity for the people I'm serving wasn't something that naturally came for me. In fact, I don't know how much I had it at all at first. And of course I know I have leaps and bounds where I can improve but I really have a sense of love and concern for these people that I know is beyond me. It's amazing.

Perhaps it's about time I send a memory card home. I'll work on that. Also, I'm thrown off when to expect my next package but assuming it's like 5-6 weeks from now I may ask to have my white nike running shoes sent to me at that time. Don't let me forget, or ask me about it when you're preparing to send it. My other nikes are getting a little beat. I'll see if I think they can make it to the end.I hope you all have a great week. Thanks so much for all that you do for me and for sending your love my way. I love you all.

Elder Christensen

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Serving day in and day out

Fireworks in Albany

Namukolo's Baptism
Michael visiting the New York State Capital Building

Dear all,

Hello and Happy belated 4th of July! It sounds like those of you in Utah had a great time celebrating there and visiting all week. Yeah, I heard about the crazy Arizona heat. There is a family who snowbirds to Mesa every winter and they know everything around there; we had a BBQ with them yesterday and all their nonmember relatives which was fun. It's been a great week. Thanks for the package; it arrived safely and everything inside was great! I thought that it was Stephanie Gifford's time when she was to arrive. Her trainer's name is Sister Etienne (spelling?). It's interesting because she is a Sister that's been serving at SLC temple square but is here for 2 transfers. She'll be starting her 2nd transfer this time, and thus her last. So Sis Gifford will only be with her for 1 transfer guaranteed. You can pass that along to her family, perhaps. Ha. I won't see her, though; I'm not going in to Utica on transfer day. It's all good though. So we did get our transfer calls and my endless saga of craziness continues. I'll be serving with E. Checketts and for a little while E. Bergman as well. We'll be a 3-some here until a 'visa-waiter' missionary (one who comes here to fill in while waiting to get his visa) leaves and E. Bergman will go to the area he is currently serving. Ha, it seems there is never a dull moment here. E. Checketts was actually in Downtown Albany when I first got here to Albany and I know him some from interacting from that. It should be good; he came out with E. Miller and I'll train him how to be a Zone Leader. I actually offered the suggestion that a 3-some could work here again (we became aware of the fact that a 3-some was needed somewhere and President was asking for suggestions). President called me to let me know about the 3-some situation coming here and how much he appreciated the willingness and how he's fully aware of all of the changes and bizarre situations like that I've been in already. That was nice to hear. So that's that. Oh, and to answer..Zone Leaders generally stay a Zone Leader for a while; it used to be very common to stay such until the end but recently some have been sent elsewhere to help with specific needs or things like that. And because Zone Leaders are paired together I wouldn't train a new missionary unless I first went to a different area.
I'll give the run-down of this weeks events. Monday we went to the New York State Museum and saw a 9-11 exhibit followed by a sweet tour of the Capitol building. The Capitol building was really cool and interesting to be there right after the law for gay marriages that was passed. We taught a part-member family that night; perhaps the best lesson we've taught on the Restoration. It was really nice. That night I was then with E. Schrader with E. Lyman going to Palmyra. We taught Jenaro, their recently baptized Hispanic guy. Awesome. Tuesday working in Downtown with E Schrader was good except about everything fell through, oh well. Wednesday in the morning the Palmyra visitors returned. E. Lyman had a really good time, I'm happy for him. That evening we taught a couple investigator lessons, one of which was Namukolo. Thursday we had a great lesson with an older, part-member couple. We invited them to church (which we were a little nervous about with their very active status in the Methodist church nearby) and they accepted! The timing was really perfect, they went on to explain, and we were really happy with it all. That day consisted of a lot of teaching, too. Other investigators and a new, less-active woman we're teaching. I wish I could share her whole story but just very inspired we happened to knock on her door a little while ago and she knows she needs to come back. We taught a new investigator, another part-member couple. The husband has brain cancer and isn't projected to live much longer but we were invited to teach them by their home teacher who asked if they'd like to be taught. It went well; they are the Blairs. Friday was good - a few lessons; not anything too noteworthy other than we saw Namukolo once more before her big day Saturday. Saturday we helped a different part-member family with a move for a little bit. Then we got our transfer calls. And that evening was Namukolo's baptism! The Bishop's son baptized her who we got involved in the teaching process as he is going to Cali to serve soon. I was asked to read a testimony that Namukolo wrote because she was too nervous to get up. E. Lyman said it was one of the most spiritual parts of the meeting. Oh, we also sang "When I am Baptized." The baptism really went according to plan and was very special to be a part of. Sunday Namukolo was confirmed in Sacrament meeting (crazy about the guy from Ivory Coast getting confirmed in SLC too!). The most amazing part was her getting up to bear her testimony in sacrament! She spoke of how during the Confirmation she felt a warmth that she had never felt before and she couldn't help but shiver. It was incredibly powerful and all worth being out here serving day in and day out! Yesterday was good. Believe it or not we got a flat tire on the Corolla! Ha, I don't know what our/my problem is. But hey, E. Lyman was driving again this time and not me. We changed it and are on a donut and will get it looked at today - we think the old tire may just need a plug. And hopefully we get our van back when the new missionaries to the zone come from transfers. At night we saw some fireworks over the city of Albany, it was pretty good; we didn't have the best view. I'm sure it was nothing like the view those of you had at the Country Club. It's been great to serve with E. Lyman and I'm so happy that we was able to go out on such a positive note! It's been a little difficult with his going home as it's made the fact of 'going home' much more of a reality. But all in all it's been wonderful and I know once we ship him off and I get my new companion(s) the reality of home will be lessened.
I hope those of you driving home do so safely and that everyone has a great week this week! I'll be with E. Schrader tomorrow during transfers working in Downtown Albany. Friday I'll be in Utica for ZLC. Should be a great week this week. I love you all so much and truly appreciate and feel your love for me.

Elder Christensen

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Un testimonio corto pero fuerte

Michael at Jenaro's baptism

Dear all,

Hello hello. Great to hear from you all and it's great to hear that things are going well for everyone. Sounds like the California trip was a great time, I'm glad. This may sound awful, but it's weird for me to think of all you guys there and not feeling like I'm missing out too much, or that I would 'usually' be there. I can picture it all now, though, and I'm happy everything was great. I'm shocked to hear that Rachel is more tan than Paige. Wha? Some proof via photo would be convincing. Ha. I hope the wedding went well in San Diego! That temple is so amazing. I would love to go there some time; hope Disneyland is fun! Elder Lyman is leaving tonight to go to Utica for the temple trip (Palmyra temple, Sacred Grove, Book store, etc etc)...luckky. I'm excited to hear all about it though when he gets back! I'm going to be with Elder Schrader for that duration (Monday night through Wednesday morning). I hope it will be a good training opportunity and that I can help him. I got the letter that was sent from California! Thanks to all who wrote. Nice Penguin sticker, glad you guys could hit up the store even without me. ha. We won't get our van back probably until Transfers which are a week from this Wednesday. So yeah, Elder Lyman is leaving then and I'll (99.9% sure) stay here with someone new. Should be a good time. And transfer calls are this Saturday so we'll see what that has in store! (Pday next week likely to be taken on Tuesday, fyi; but plan on Monday like you know :) ha). I don't think we'll be picking any strawberries, Paige; but if you do hopefully it turns out well. Before I forget, today we are meeting some other missionaries and going to the capital building and sweet museum. We're getting some VIP tour from a guy the Downtown Albany Elders know. So that will take any 'free-time' I would have today so if you don't hear from me via letter, sorry about that.

This week has been good. I can't believe it is already week 5 of the transfer and that Elder Lyman's time (and our time together) is over so soon. Last Monday we went and played ping pong with the Downtown Elders (E. Ludlow and E. Schrader). It was pretty fun. That night we had dinner with a recent-convert couple (the wife who has cancer). They are awesome; the wife's situation is really unfortunate and sad but we're trying to help her stay in high spirits. Then, we taught a less-active member we've been teaching about quitting smoking and devising a plan for her to stop doing so. Good day. Tuesday morning we taught Namukolo - she is amazing, more later. Then we went to Saratoga; it is a missionaries 2nd transfer who is serving there so we do a training for him and then work with him/them after. It was a blast to be back in Saratoga. I love that place so much. It was really fun to see all of the green leaves because when I was there it was fall and winter, not much green. I got to teach Phil Brewer again (the big guy who was baptized in March); he's doing pretty well which is exciting. I stopped in the Badger's on our way in for the night. Bro Badger was out of town but it was great to see everyone else. Wednesday the highlight was seeing Dawn (she and her daughter were baptized in December). She's actually in the hospital right now with blood clots in her lungs. The timing of me being there was quite 'ironic.' Her faith was shaken a bit by this but we had a great lesson around her hospital bed. That night was incredible back in Albany. I did a baptismal interview IN SPANISH. Ha. It was the guy I taught in Downtown Albany in Spanish (I had you print 2 pictures of it, he wanted a copy). It was really really cool to be able to do that. It was a bit harder needing to use specific words (from the baptismal interview questions, which I didn't have in Spanish) but we made due. It was great. Thursday we taught a few investigator lessons. Friday we had a cool experience with Namukolo. She's already a missionary and we were able to teach, in addition to her, a girl she befriended in the apartment complex (did I mention Namukolo lives in the very complex where we just moved from in Menands? crazy.) as well as the wife of the couple she lives with! Awesome; she was so excited. We were able to make contact with Jon Morris, sweet investigator who's preparing to be baptized. We hadn't for almost 2 weeks, he was out of town with work off. Saturday we found our 3 new investigator for the week; a head quarter referral for a Bible and he had actually read from the Book of Mormon before which was surprising. We're still trying to evaluate this guy with some different things but we'll see him again this week. Then we painted a shed with a less-active/part-member couple we are teaching. It was a really good experience to build our relationship with them in a less formal setting. That night Namukolo had her baptismal interview and she is all set to be baptized this Saturday, July 2! Yes!! She's so ready and such a blatant answer to fasting and prayers. Pictures next week for sure. Sunday, yesterday, was a definite "the good outweighs the bad" day. Church was nice with 4 investigators there. After, every appointment and thing we had planned fell through; it was a little frustrating but it's all good. That night was amazing, though. Jenaro, the Spanish speaker I interviewed, was baptized! The service was in Spanish and it was BY FAR the most spiritual baptism I have been to out here. The Spanish himnos carry such a strong spirit. At the end of the service it was opened up for testimonies. A woman went right up and bore an awesome testimony in Spanish, and while she was speaking I realized that I had to get up and do so in Spanish. Cliche, I was a bit surprised and reluctant at first at the thought of it but decided I definitely needed to do so. I got up when there was a break and bore un testimonio corto pero fuerte. I've definitely never done anything like that nor did I anticipate doing anything like that on my mission in New York. It was an amazing meeting.

Well, I hope you all have a great week and know of my love and appreciation for all of you and all that you do for me. Stay safe and stay faithful.

Love, Elder Christensen