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, 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