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, August 29, 2011

It's all by divine design

Dear everyone,

Hey there. How's it going? I hope everyone is doing well. Yes, I am alive despite the crazy weather this week. Here in Rome we didn't have anything too out of the ordinary. It rained all day yesterday but that isn't out of the norm occasionally. I didn't feel the earthquake personally but I know some missionaries that did. I don't know if the weather had negative effects anywhere throughout the mission other than Herkimer County roads were shut down. We had nothing like that here. Elder Farrens has 2 more transfers after this one. Would someone like to tell me a little about Granddad's profession and what he did? Thanks.

I'm a bit limited in my time today due to an interesting experience that just happened. Here at the computer I'm sitting with E. Farrens on my left and a mid-20's girl on my right. She engages me/us and turns out she was baptized about a year ago elsewhere in the mission and recently moved here. She didn't say she is too interested now at this time, not too sure why but we'll try and work it out. What's crazy is while we were talking our phone was vibrating with someone calling and they left a message. It was Sister Bulloch (
literally calling about the very person we just met and were currently speaking with) asking if we knew a member in our ward named Emily and to call her to get more of the story. Emily is the girl I'm sitting next to right now and she mentioned when we were talking that she spoke with Sister Bulloch at Wal Mart the other day. Crazy. Well, not really it's all by divine design. It's amazing to step back and see the Lord at work. So due to all of that/this my time is rather short. This week has been very enjoyable. Elder Farrens and I are continuing to build up our teaching pool and we were blessed to find 3 more investigators this week. We're working a lot with the part-member families and less-active and trying teaching them and finding new people to teach through them. It's been quite successful so far. My exchange in Herkimer was very pleasant. No, there wasn't any crazy cool, ironic story where I ran into a long-lost relative or anything. But it was really cool to feel a connection with an ancestor, especially one who was a convert taught by Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon. On Saturday we had ZLC and Elder Cook of the 70 was there. It was a great training. The synopsis of it is: the only thing/person who can get in the way of the work going forth is myself and in order to not "stay" (D&C 1:4-5) the work is to be a D&C 4 missionary (emphasizing what, to him, it means to serve with all your "heart, might, mind, and strength"). It was very good and we are going around to the District Meetings in the Zone this week to essentially give his training. Yesterday was a great day. We had a baptism, or rather a "rebaptism." A man who asked to have his name removed 7 years ago wanted to come back and this process had been long underway before I arrived but I got to be apart of the tail end and finale. He's a really great guy and looking forward to going to the temple and being sealed with his wife. I've taught him a couple times and we'll continue to teach him a bit while we ween him to home teachers and such. Interestingly enough this week we got a call from an excommunicated member saying he wanted to meet with the bishop and be taught and come back. It's great and he came to church with the woman he's with, both members. Another highlight was a less-active, part-member couple who we met, taught, and had come to church yesterday. Things are really accelerating, it's great. Oh, I gave a talk in Sacrament on Obedience. It went pretty well, I thought. This week ahead looks like it will be a great one. We'll be on a blitz (both E. Farrens and I there) in Oneonta from Wednesday afternoon until Thursday afternoon. It's going well and I'm learning a lot here in Rome.

Today I think we may go golfing with our Ward Mission Leader - either hitting balls or a par-3 course. Should be a good time, it's a beautiful day today. Well I hope that everything continues well wherever you are. I love and appreciate you all so much and thank you for the support.

Elder Christensen

Monday, August 22, 2011

Hello Rome!

Cookies from home

Elder Christensen and Sister Gifford

Elder West and Elder Christensen

Dear everyone,

Greetings from Rome. It's fun to go around the state and email from these different locations but still read your emails and keep in touch with you in the same manner wherever I go. It seems that transfers often bring change for me, nearly every single one has brought a change in one way or another. I feel that this recent change (and all of them as well) is good. I'm happy to be serving here in Rome with Elder Farrens. He is a really an awesome guy and I can see us naturally becoming really good friends. Elder Potter was right, it seems, that we would make a good team. The ward here is really quite small and struggling a bit; it should really be a branch. There are maybe 60 active members. No pews in the chapel, that's a first. ha. It's great, though. The work had been a bit slow here but I've only seen great things happen since I've been here. It was fun to see E. Potter at transfers and to hear his departing testimony. He's such a great guy and friend. I received the package and letter/card! Thank you very much everything in it is very useful. That's cool Ithaca already met Elder West; he's a really good guy.

So... since I last wrote on Tuesday,as you know, lots has happened. Transfer day worked out well. It was the first time I've been in to Utica on a normal transfer day. I'm usually out in the field working, waiting for my new companion to arrive. It was a blast to see people I haven't seen in a while. Also I saw Sister Gifford; she seems to be happy and adjusting well to mission life. After, I arrived in Rome in the late afternoon. The apartment is pretty good, your right though, absolutely nothing will compare to my previous apartment. It's all good, enough getting pampered. ha. We have central air which is really nice and Elder Farrens is clean which makes things very nice. Really, we have had some awesome experiences in the short time I've been here. We have already found 4 amazing new investigators together. The first is a funny story. We were stopping by a potential investigator that neither of us knew but was in our records and when we asked for him at the door the man who answered was really confused and said no one by that name lives here, nor does he know who we would maybe be talking about. After talking a bit he invited us in and we were able to get to know him and teach him a bit. He's Hispanic, 30, and really nice and well off. He invited us to come back the next day so we did and taught him the whole first lesson. He had great initial questions about the Book of Mormon and interest. We're continuing to teach him this week. It seems like everyone is just inviting us right inside, it's bizarre! Also we taught and picked up an older woman named Lois who we're really excited about. She's awesome and has a nephew who is a member in Utah. I've met a lot of really good people here already. We're going to try and work through the ward a lot - use the many less-active members we have to teach/reactivate them and then hopefully teach any non-member spouses, children, and friends. I think it will give us a lot of teaching and opportunities to find investigators, too. Last night we taught and picked up a 15 year old guy named Alec. He went to the Hill Cumorah Pageant with his family and has been reading the Book of Mormon on his own. He is way mature and way smart, I'm really impressed with him. We're teaching him this week and will hopefully be teaching and picking up his entire family as well. The transition has really not been too bad. I'm learning the importance of change and submitting cheerfully with a willing heart. Easy concept to understand, difficult to practice. I feel it's been great, though. The Zone here is the second largest in the mission, 1 unit smaller than Albany, so there isn't much adapting in that sense of helping the other missionaries.

Well I hope you all have a great week. Thanks for all of your support and love, it helps so much.

Elder Christensen

PS- We have ZLC this week and a General Authority is coming (I think Elder Scott, an area 70?? Not entirely sure). Regardless of who it is I am really excited! We have almost this entire week planned out with appointments and things set. Oh, and I get to work in
Herkimer on exchange this week! I'm really excited about that, with family ties tracing back there.

Thanks again for the cookies sent via Sister Porter

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Good Bye Albany

Hello to all,

Greetings. It's wonderful to hear from everyone. It's been a great week here in Albany. I couldn't help but laugh when I saw the pictures of Ste and Grant at the front door before the first day of school..haha, nice shirts. I wonder where that idea came from? Glad to see that Penguin is still being well represented in Mesa. That's cool about the 'Meet the Teacher' experience. I really liked my 6th grade year; Mrs. Muehling was really good. Ste will do great; I've told a couple of the elementary aged kids I interact with that he is already back in school and they can't believe it. (But I remind them he is out in May, too, ha). That's sweet there was a Stake Activity for the Ithaca people, and to see the missionaries there. When people (usually just companions) realize how many connections and things I have with people out here it blows them away. On that note, I'll see Sister Porter tonight at the church and grab the cookies from her. Ha, thanks a bunch. It really is pretty crazy. Yeah, Elder West is headed to Ithaca; I've worked with him a few times he is a really good guy. Have him over for dinner, ha. As far as a package goes, the only thing I need is contacts (one box of each) please. That'd be great. And maybe a tie, ha. Never can go wrong with sending a tie. Other than that I'm good :)

So yes, the rumors are, in fact, true. I am leaving the blessed area of Albany and the Albany zone. And where am I headed, you ask? To Rome! (NY, of course. haha). Rome is right by Utica, about 30 minutes west. I'm serving with Elder Farrens and we're the Zone Leaders in the Utica zone. I'm pretty excited about the change, it should be a great time. I know a bit about the area and such. Rome is a city, where the brunt of our work is done. We have a car although it wouldn't surprise people for it to be changed to a walk area at some point in the future. There is a small ward but great members and support. Elder Farrens is from California I believe and he served with Elder Potter for 2 transfers. E. Potter always spoke very highly of him and really wanted me to serve with him sometime. This is always a bit of a weird, transitional time, the time of transfers. I feel at peace and have a calm, confidence in the future at this point. But I can't say that I felt that way this whole week. I was really unsure as to what was going to happen. It's been great, though, and I've thought a lot about what I've been able to 'accomplish' so far here. I really wish I had the ability to fill you in on all of the even small details of the things I've done or people I've met and taught. All in all, I feel that my service here has absolutely been what the Lord wanted me to do. Again, I've gained relationships that are so, so important to me. The gift of charity, the tender love of the Savior, is so real and very impactful as you are blessed with it for these people you serve. My mind really is just caught up in so many different thoughts and directions it's a little difficult today, I feel, to express everything. Just know that I've loved serving here and that I'm grateful for the opportunity to serve in Rome. It's been great seeing people for the last (at least for now) time and saying goodbye. Attached are 2 pictures. The first is the part-member couple/family we are teaching. The wife is a member we reactivated and the husband is a nonmember (he who came to church last week which was a big deal). He is one of the most sincere and kind people I have ever met. He'll be baptized soon. And the second picture is a less-active member who we reactivated who has an incredible story. She is planning on going to the temple soon to receive her endowments. It's amazing. There are so many stories and memories of incredible people and experiences here. I'm already grateful I've kept my journal and written in it each night so I can recall people and experiences later.
So, today I'm going to be packing: Yeehaw! I've gotten pretty good, having done it so many times. It shouldn't be too bad. I will probably be sending home a package of things that I've accumulated or don't need (at least some letters, etc). Then tomorrow I drive into Utica for transfers and make the swap. This will only be the second time I've been able to go in for transfers since I've been out (the only other time was when I was training Elder Stratton). I'll get to see Elder Potter before he goes home and hear his 'departing testimony.' I hope you all have a great week this week! Time is absolutely flying by, it is incredible. Thanks so much for all that you do for me.
Elder Christensen

Monday, August 8, 2011

Things are amazing and I love it here

Michael with the Dutchers

Sister Flanders' Baptism

Dear everyone,

Hello, how's it going? It's great to hear from you all. I'm glad you all seem to be plugging away and doing well. Things here are great. It's been another great (and ridiculously fast) week. I can't believe Sis. Porter visited you in Mesa. I really don't know her well at all; the most I've interacted with her was a 20 minute dinner at their branch building after I did the Spanish speaker's baptismal interview. That's when we found out how close the houses are in Mesa but I never thought she would go there, nor did I think to tell her to. Ha, that's a great surprise. Elder Checketts knows her/them very well as he served in the Branch earlier this year. That is quite the story about Ste's ankle. Glad that it is not broken. It seems like I had that happen, never broke it but sprained it. Your tough, you can handle it. That's exciting about Mrs. Muehling as well. She was really nice and teaches very well. I remember her saying things like "Wa-r-shington" with an accent, great times. She'll be great for Ste. Wonder if she'll know/remember the relation? Jackson sounds so grown up I'm so excited to see him. Ending prayers and saying "Jees" when he sees pictures of Jesus, how cool. Elder Checketts is quasi-related, distant, to Dave Checketts. I'm glad Dad and Paige's birthdays were a good time. The testimony meetings here are usually pretty good. Yesterday was very good. Investigators are usually good with them, or at least to the point where they don't typically comment poorly about them to us, ha. Hitting range balls last week was really fun. I basically just hit a Ping 6-iron, but it wasn't too shabby. Today I think we are playing some basketball with the Downtown Elders, E. Israelsen and E. Schrader.
Like I said before this week has gone by so fast! Sister Flander's baptism on Saturday and Confirmation yesterday were definitely the highlights. She asked me to do the baptism so I had the privilege of doing that. She was so prepared and so ready. Ironically, today is their 52nd wedding anniversary...who knows, maybe in a year they can be sealed together on this day! It's going to be great. They're integrating into the ward so well - everyone is reaching out to them and they're quite good at reaching out to others, too. Monday night Elder Checketts and I stayed the night in Greenwich with the Elders there and worked with them for only a couple hours before doing some training for others coming in before their District Meeting. It was amazing and very nostalgic to be back in Schoharie Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning. I was able to see/eat with a family that I know very well. They were reactivated just prior to my getting to Schoharie; and the couple was sealed together and to their 4 little girls when I was there and since has been called as the Elder's Quorum President. It was really nice to see them. I was told that the Dutcher's were vacationing when I was going to be in Schoharie, so like I mentioned last week I was a little disappointed that I wouldn't be able to see them. When I was there I felt like just giving them a call to see how they're doing and touch base on this rare occasion. They were in fact out of town but circumstances arose that they would be returning home that night! We organized it and they insisted that they feed us brunch Thursday morning and we have a lesson! What a blessing. It was so fun to see them and catch up. Bro. Dutcher is passing the sacrament each week and doing so well. We taught about eternal families and the temple. It was a very spiritual experience and I know they will get there some day! I was very surprised and humbled to hear Bro. Dutcher say for the first time and thank me that I was the missionary who got him/them back to church. I feel so blessed I was able to see them. It really is quite unique and special that I've been in this stake/zone my entire mission. Everyone I know and who I'm so close to are all near by. Who knows what this transfer will bring; it sounds like most of you think I'm leaving Albany. That's probable, we'll see on Saturday. Some other amazing things have been happening here, too. Something I have to mention is an investigator, part-member family, coming to church yesterday! Of the 5 investigators there, I was definitely most excited seeing him walk through the doors. We've been teaching this family since Elder Lyman got here. When we started teaching he said how he doesn't go to church, nor does he plan on it because he doesn't need to go to a church to communicate with God. Plus he was forced to go to church and had bad experiences there growing up. But thanks to the Spirit we were able to break down these barriers and see him come. The wife, a member, was reactivated and has been doing great and coming with her two kids, 11 and 7, each week. The last 2 lessons we had with the couple were on the 10 Commandments with the most emphasis on Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy. Last Sunday the husband, and nonmember, rested from his labors (ie. working around the house/big yard, gardens) which was a big deal. Then this Sunday he came to church. It was so cool. And, we got the whole family to come to Sister Flander's baptism! That was amazing, too! We will continue to teach them help him progress toward baptism, now. I love them so much. We have one investigator with a baptismal date now, Laurie. She's doing great still. In fact, we taught her the Word of Wisdom and she had the faith to quit smoking and drinking coffee right then and there! It was very powerful and she came to church and is progressing nicely. We get to work with the Assistants here Wednesday; should be a great time we already have 2 solid days planned for both sets of missionaries going out. All in all things are amazing and I love it here so much. Seriously, I can't say enough how much the relationships with the people here mean to me. Whatever the future holds I'm willing to do because I know the Lord always and only has our best interest in mind.
I hope you all have a great week! Thanks for all of your love and support.
Elder Christensen

Michael at the driving range

Monday, August 1, 2011

These are friends for eternity

Brother and Sister Flanders with the famous Book of Mormon
Kayla's Baptism
Elder Bergman, Elder Checketts and Elder Christensen

Dear everyone,

Hey there how's it going? It's pretty crazy that it is already August - the time is definitely flying right on by. I'm glad to hear that Paige's birthday was well celebrated! I hope that everyone had a great week and by the sounds of it I think that is the case. I received the letter and the memory card that Mom sent, thank you. That's legit Ste's team had an article about their victory. Nice work. It's fun to see the beach pictures; even if I wasn't there, ha. That was really intense to hear about the experience at Girl's Camp. The Lord definitely is involved in the fine details of our lives. I'm pretty sure my golf is slipping too, Papa, it's alright. It always comes back; speaking of which we're planning on going to the driving range to hit some golf balls later today! Yeah. The Spanish speaking couple just kind of fell off, unable to get in solid contact with them and it's not per lack of effort on our part. It's alright, though, they have some things they can take from our experience with them.
So this week I feel like breaking away from the monotony of emailing in the same format (ie. just giving the run-down of my week) and just expressing myself a little more freely with what comes to mind and what was important to me this week. Hopefully that's cool. So, we had our baptism on Saturday! Kayla was baptized and then confirmed yesterday at Sacrament meeting. The service went really well with a really great turn out from the ward. That's going to absolutely be key, ward support, in strengthening the family after this and keeping them active. They're great and it was fun to do the actual baptizing as well. Yeah, that is the second one I've performed. I'll attach pictures. The baptismal interview for Sis. Flanders went perfect. She is all set and ready to be baptized this Saturday at 6pm! I am so excited for this one! We are planning on inviting everyone we're working with to get a great turn out there and of course to strengthen the people who attend. She is really excited and her husband is so happy for her. It's so great. I don't know if I shared a story about them. If I did, I apologize but I feel like sharing it. Remember the special Book of Mormon that has the family photo in it and testimonies? Guess who it was given to...Sister Flanders. Basically the story is as follows: One morning just before going out for the day I saw that copy of the Book of Mormon among other books on my desk. For some reason, at the time no idea why, I felt like putting it in my backpack and taking it along with me for the day. I put it in a different pocket from where I put other, 'normal', copies of the Book of Mormon that way I wouldn't give it to someone without knowing or meaning. First thing that morning we taught the Flanders and it was only our 2nd appointment with them (the first one was really a 'get to know you' lesson and setting up us teaching consistently). While we were chit-chatting at the first of the lesson Bro. Flanders talked about how his favorite hymn is "How Great thou Art." We decided to sing it to kick off the lesson so I opened my backpack and got out my hymn book. We sang. We prayed. We taught the Restoration. In talking about the Book of Mormon we invited Sister Flanders to read it and pray about it. She needed a copy, so I leaned over to my backpack on the ground and the pocket was left open from getting my hymn book and the special family copy was sitting right there. I supposed I should give it to her. This was way early on and I had no idea things would turn out the way that they are - her getting baptized this Saturday and her husband reactivated. It's great. We have a really good relationship and they hold that Book of Mormon dear. I'll attach a picture. I knew Bro. Plotz was going to go visit you in Arizona. I'm glad it was a positive experience. He has a heart of gold. We were teaching when he called from the house. He called us later and I thought he was with you so I didn't answer and had E. Checketts, I then talked to him for a minute about the experience. Glad it all worked out well. It's fun to have he and his wife in the ward. Elder Bergman is now in Lake Placid. The visa-waiter got his visa and yesterday we met with those Elders and President in Saratoga and made a swap. It's just E. Checketts and me here, now in Albany. It's going great. Truly, things are going so well here it is pretty miraculous. I'm so grateful to be a part of all the sweet things happening. We are teaching so much. This upcoming week is literally almost entirely filled up with appointments/meetings. I love it. I wouldn't want it any other way. We had 7 investigators at church. The service was great. Everyone seemed to love it. As well we had some less-active members we are teaching come for the first time. It's really hard to imagine things going much better. I really wish I could tell you all of the incredible experiences I'm having here. There are so many. My testimony is growing so much from all of the miracles and amazing people we are able to find (or rather, who fall into our laps). Amazing. This week I'm going to work in Schoharie on exchange. I'm really excited about that. I heard the Dutchers are vacationing, though, so I'm a little bummed about that but it will be a great time there. I'm excited for the baptism this Saturday and we have one other investigator with a date, Laurie. She was a Head-Quarter referral for a Bible and a Book of Mormon. She's loving it and doing really well. I love the people here so much. I know these are friends for eternity, both the ward members and these people we are teaching. Having relationships with them is so critical to their success and, from my feelings, to our happiness. I love serving and helping them.
I hope you all have a great week filled with the Spirit. I love you all so much and feel and appreciate your support and love so much.

Elder Christensen

PS. Congrats to Jonathan, that's awesome!!