Sunday, July 29, 2012

July 23, 2012, Kearney, NJ

That's all.
OK. This week has flown by. It seemed like it lasted forever but at the same time it was just Tuesday a second ago. It's a wonderful place here in New Jersey.

Some crazy things that have happened so far are:

1. It rained Wednesday, Thursday, Friday here. Flash flood on Wednesday. Seriously the streets were FILLED with water. It rained so hard for about an hour straight. We were driving through thigh deep puddles and stuff. It was wonderful because the first 2 days we got here it was 93 degrees with humidity. Unbelievably sweaty.

2. I did what's called a fear-buster on Monday where we went off with a trainer and spoke with people on the street. ON the FIRST day. It was a little sketchy but it was a really great experience. Newark is terrifying. Not really but there are some areas where missionaries can go, but you're not supposed to be walking around in that area. Just from this first week I've realized time and time again how blessed I am to live in Utah and have a nice house and a yard and whatnot. DAD: the houses here are literally 4 feet away from each other. Even in the nicer area where we live (just outside of Newark) called Kearney (pronounced Kar-nee), the houses are nicer but still very close to each other. We live in a small apartment-like building. AND GUESS WHO MY ROOMATES ARE?? So my companion/trainer is Elder Storey from Orem UTah. He's just great. He has super curly hair, a high voice, is hilarious, 21 years old and makes fun of me because I'm not a New Jersey driver. (FOR SOME DUMB REASON, I'm the designated driver, which is weird because drivers here are nuts. I'm already an incredible parallel parker though. You HAVE to be.) 

Anyway, the other Elders in our apartment are Elder Garcia from the Phillipines and......ELDER KEY. Remember the polynesian Keys who lived across the street from us?? LARS. Remember Ammon?? His older brother, Alema Key, I live with him. It was so nuts when I saw him at the transfer conference. AHH. Anyway, his family lives in Missouri now but he's in New Jersey, English speaking. He's been out about 10.5 months. He's wonderful. He's our district leader and I've already learned so much from his wonderful example and goodness.

3. We've had two experiences where guys came up to US on the street. One time we were walking to a less-active member's house and this guy was driving past us in a beat-up minivan, but he slowed down and was like "I WANNA READ THAT BOOK!" in a thick Dominican accent. So he pulled up ahead and we gave him a Book of Mormon. He was like "You've got that Mormon book right?!" and we were like "YEAH RIGHT HERE." He said he had been wanting to read it for a long time. He was Dominican, so he was a black guy, wearing a stained and tattered tank top, and had a goldish, grayish goatee. He was so nice though but other Elders have to teach him because he doesn't live in our area. The Lord TOTALLY prepares people for the gospel.

4. President Jeppson is the man. He basically said to us straight up that he loves the Mormon Tabernacle choir (he sang with them for a while) but he does NOT like listening to them all the time. He said we can listen to anything that invites the spirit and uplifts us to be a better missionary. Also, he said, if you play an instrument and don't have a way to play it here in Jersey, FIND A WAY. He was saying how the Lord doesn't want your talents to go to waste. SO basically I'm going to try and find a guitar somewhere. He said it's totally fine. Elder Garcia has a guitar right now but I want one of my own. However we're only allowed to play on P-DAYS which is alright and totally reasonable. I was suprised to hear that we are even allowed to have them and play them. So Elder Storey and I are going to start doing opening hymns in our lessons with the guitar and voice and stuff. Good thing I picked up a spanish hymn book in the MTC.

Sorry this is so long. There's way too much to tell you.

5. We only have like 3 investigators and they are all part of part member families or friends of members. We have Carlos: Coolest guy ever, He's probably in his late 30's, Peruvian, speaks English and Spanish; his family are all members but he's not yet. We're going to try and work with him. We also have Israel; he's a friend of a member family and he's AWESOME. Long, messy curly hair, from southern Cali, dresses nicer than most New Jersians and is pretty loud especially when we teach him with the family. He's a little femi too but he is wonderful.

I've learned so much about being a missionary in the first week. So the ward is about 300 people (approx) but only about 90 come to church. The retention rate is not good here so in this area, we work mostly with less actives. TONS OF LESS-ACTIVES. It's difficult to teach families I realized because you have to talk to the kids in English and the parents in Spanish, so you're constantly switching back and forth. But overall I'd say we teach 80 percent spanish and 20 percent English. It's very interesting. It's a little frustrating working with less-actives though because you have to find something for them to truly be converted... again. They've already experienced the joy of baptism and joining the church but they've lost that. So it's our job to get them on a higher spiritual plane and really help them realize how important this is. Elder Storey was telling me during a rad companion study last night that it takes a BETTER missionary to reconvert less-active members.

OK. So our address is:

310 Elm Street FL #1
Kearney, NJ, 07032

Pretty cool. Kearney is really nice. It's pretty and all the houses are small and quaint. Our area is called Kearney and Oranges. Two cities just outside Newark. Newark is pretty dirty and trashy. A lot of one-way streets. Garbage all over the streets and gutters. A LOT of black people. A lot of hispanics. Not a whole lot of white people. MORE fried-chicken stores than I've ever see in my whole life.

MUSIC: I NEED MUSIC BAD. I'm going to make some assignments and more than anything in the whole world (you have no idea) I want you to send me CD's.
DAD and FINN: I need: O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack, George Winston (everything), start me off with a few good classical CD's. The Lower Lights. (PLEASE), The Cold Mountain Soundtrack, Emily Browns church stuff (Finn FIND IT), and here are a few songs I would like you to tack on the end of burning those: Thrice: Come all you Weary, and Child of Dust, and from Brandon Flowers: On the Floor (it's about prayer). Don't think that I'm pushing mission rules because I have prayed and I feel good about all this stuff. ALSO: If you could buy the We Bought a Zoo soundtrack and send that to me I would explode with happiness. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE I'm begging you.

LYDIA/CHRIS: YANN TIERSEN. PLEASE. An elder was playing it on the piano the other day and I freaked out. Also, Sufjan Stevens appropriate stuff and EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY. I'm serious guys. I NEED THIS. ALL of Explosions in the Sky's discography. Chris I"m serious. I need you to help me out man.

Remember that the gospel is true. There are two brothers in at the computer next to me fighting over the computer and they're nuts. But seriously, God loves all of you. Pray to him, read your scriptures an go to church to learn about Jesus Christ.

Elder Niels Christensen

Friday, July 20, 2012

July 16, 2012, Arrival in New Jersey

EVERYBODY. I'm here. It's humid, hot and I saw about 2 white people today. We went street contacting already and I had some really good experiences. It's going to be amazing. President and Sister Jeppson are wonderful kind people and that care about all the missionaries so much.

It's SO green here. It's crazy because it's like: beautiful grove of trees, trees, garden, massive pile of garbage, fried chicken store. Then: trees, trees, trees, factory, factory.... Ah man I love it. Today was actually really short. But I am rather exhausted right now.

Love all of you. Everybody needs this gospel and it's amazing to see it just after one day on the street.

Elder Niels Christensen

July 14, 2012 (MTC-8)

Ok a few thing to talk about, then I'm gone.

1. This one is for NATALIE: Rockstar Diaries' sister is here. Hermana Reid. I talk to her every now and then. The first time though was a little awkward, because it was like admitting you're a blog stalker but not to the person's face, to the person's sister. Anyway, I was just like "Hey uhh.... I read your sisters blog and I think it's cool....." And she was like "Whoah REALLY?" She told me that I was the first guy to ever to tell her that and she that that was sweet. I felt a little weird but it was alright. She is super cool/cute (dunno if I'm allowed to say that). She's serving in the New York, New York South, Spanish speaking mission. So literally like 20 miles away from my mission.

2. My teacher, Hermano Snyder is from Farmington and he knows the Gunnells. I can't remember if I already told everybody but COOL. He's the same age as Kayla and I told him that she just got married and he that was just grand. He's such a phenomenal teacher, he's inspired me to be a master teacher in the MTC as well as the field. Anyway, Gunnells: do you remember a Daniel Synder?
Ok, so we got permission to do mail on Saturday (today) so I'm just going to do a quick update, maybe make a few jokes, and get outta here.

We had in-field orientation yesterday. It was good. It was cheezy (skits and other awkward things concerning misionaros). It was long. But it got me excited to leave the MTC. So that's swell.
Still haven't washed my hair. But I got a sweet haircut. it's pretty much shaved on the sides and pretty long on top. So I comb it and use hair gely and it looks rad and slick. Get OUT. Anyway, I'm sending home my SD card on Monday before I leave. Don't worry I'm leaving it with a trusty Elder. Or I might just send it home today.
More singing in my head/out loud. It's wonderful.

Somebody needs to let Kayla and Daniel know how much I love them and how proud of them I am. Especially because they're both RM's and missions are tough. But seriously, also taank Kayla for her few letters. I'm sorry I didn't get any back to her.

Bayley: I'm sorry I haven't written you back yet. I'll write you as SOON as my first P-Day hits in my first area Ok? Love you.
Hayley: shoot me your email. And also don't send me a letter to the MTC because I probably won't get it anymore. I'll send my address of my first area on Tuesday or Wednesday plus I'll write you when I'm there. But you probably knew that. Love you.
Stilsons: love you sisters. I have both of your letters and I'm going to try to write you both back today.
Verina: Gosh. Loved the pictures, the stories and your letter in general. It was spectacular. hope all is well. i'll write you back soon from Jersey.
Chris, Emily: I heard the show was awesome.
Lydia, Chris: HOW WAS FREAKING RINGO STARR??????? Geez. ps - Lydia, I'm going to try and write you back today too.
Family: You're all so great and funny. Can't stress enough how blessed I am to be able to communicate with you all, even if it's rather limited. And guess who probably gets to skype you come Christmas? Yep. See ya.
Elder Hardy (an Elder in my district) is freaking awesome and hilarious. We hated each other at the beginning of the MTC but now we're great. He's from Portland, and he's always telling me after my mission that I need to come to Portland and hang out. Now that I've got connections there, I say YES. 

We're constantly quoting Mormon Messsages andn The Testaments because they can be freaking cheezy and hilarious. Maybe it's innappropriate but it's still awesome. The funny thing is, the things I think are innapropriate now are barely even. I'm such a square but it feels pretty good.

New Jersey. New Jersey. New Jersey. New Jersey.

Elder Waite and I are so stoked. Seriously all the food tastes the same now, class is long and the same and yep that's about it. But, we're working hard these last few days to finish out strong. I've got to go to breakfast.

Love you all.
"O Savior stay this night with me, behold tis eventide." (song of the past two weeks: Abide With Me, tis Eventide)
Ps - we're singing "Fuente de Mis Bendiciones" (come thou fount) in Sacrament meeting tomorrow. In Spanish.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

July 9, 2012 (MTC-7)

Ok. I can't really believe that this is my last full week in the MTC. We leave a WEEK from today. We got our flight plans on Friday and we are all so stoked to get outta here. I'm not in a trio anymore, so it's just me and ol Elder Waite again. 

Lots of stuff happened this week though. Lots of radski stuff. Like yesterday, (por ejemplo) Elder Peterson and I talked about music during our entire temple walk. Mostly Thrice (Dad, people think it's so cool that you like Thrice) and some other bands but man, I seriously just felt like i emptied my head of all the stuff that I wanted to talk about when it comes down to music. Anyway, it's funny how that is such a HUGE stress reliever for us.

Also, concerning music: CHRIS: this other Elder (who is a little annoying and has a horrible singing voice) was sitting next to me in the cafeteria and was TRYING to impress an Hermana and was like "Man I LOVE The Beatles," then he proceeded to sing "Two of Us" in a horrible breathy bass voice and I wanted to shoot him. Not really, but seriously. And he literally only knew like the first line and then did that awful hum and I was like "Alright can you never sing that again please?" not really but I wanted to. I miss The Beatles.

This week was Elder Peterson's birthday and because he's a weirdo and always talks about how "the less clothes, the better", we sang to him on his birthday right as we woke up in this bed. Oh and right, we were all naked. It was pretty funny. Take that how you will. Man I'm the worst, I probably shouldn't be talking about stuff like that or even DOING stuff like that but it was seriously hilarious.

Dad and Mom thanks for your 4th of July update. For us, we had a little program with some Elders that fiddled and we sang primary songs like Popcorn Popping and stuff and then we had an ex-Judge speak to us. Let's just say, he was pretty boring. But he had a couple of cool interesting points. Afterwards, every missionary in the MTC got Magnum bars and we watched the fuegos artificiales. Fireworks. It was cool, afterwards, we had a rave / dance party / lightsaber battle, with glowsticks that Elder's moms sent to them. We're awesome OK?

DAD: loved the photos from the house. Made me really miss it, but not in a negative way. I'm so excited to get out into the field.

So yep, we got our flight plans. Our flight leaves at 9:57 on Monday morning. It's a straight flight to Newark, which will be cool. Not to boast or anything, but everyone has been talking about how nervous they are and how scared because they don't know spanish and they don't know that's it's going to be like and everything, but I really feel no fear or nervousness or ANYTHING. I just feel great. I just want to go talk to people and teach people and everything.

Do you want to hear my regular weekly goals?
1. Be quieter
2. Talk less
They kind of go hand in hand. But seriously, sometimes I feel like crap after we teach because I LOVE teaching. I seriously get a high out of it. I feel like I'm in my element when I sit down with any investigator and just talk and teach and ask thought-provoking questions and stuff. But the problem is, I don't really let other people (Elder Waite) do the teaching. I just love talking to people so much that I hardly allow room for other people to share their part. Whoops. I'm working on that.

I met with Brother Morgan yesterday and we talked for a while about all kinds of stuff and man, it was incredible. I love speaking with that man and taking his counsel (because it's ALWAYS good) and just having spiritual conversations with him.

We had a workshop on Saturday night where we talked about the Restoration and talked about how the Atonement really applies to it. Because all the time it may not seem like it, but EVERYTHING ties back to The Atonement of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Because without the Restoration and Joesph Smith, we would have no access to the keys and ordinances and blessings that the church of Christ brings. We would not even be able to repent and access the healing power of Christ, and I would not even be here without any of that. You all know that I have seen that in my life many many times. And it would be a shame to say that I don't use the greatest gift Jesus Christ has given to all men. The Atonement of Christ is the one way that we can return to God. I KNOW THIS. I have experienced and learned this , especially here in the MTC. It's so poweful.

It's strange to think how OFTEN we feel the spirit here. Like when I was home, it was maybe every other week or so. But I realized in the MTC, it's every single day and multiple times a day as well. It blows my mind because half the time I don't even notice how often the spirit is seriously just hanging with us, because we're all doing the things that we supposed to be doing and we're all in the exact place that we're supposed to.

All the Elders do hilarious impressions of President Ricks because he always says hilarious stuff, even if he's not trying. Like he always says "Quit WORRYING ABOUT THE SPAAAANISH." and he says it like that Spaaanish. Oh, by the way Pappy, he's from San Jose. Anyway so we walk around saying "The Spaaanish will come" and stuff like that and it's so freaking hilarious. Also, he always puts his own name in scriptues whenever it says another persons name or it's God talking to someone or something. So he'll say like "Jim.. thou art a son of God...." And stuff like that. I dunno why but we can't stop laughing everytime he does it and everytime we quote him. But we love him and think he's the greatest.

Hayley: Got your letter. Writing you today.
Tanner: WRITE ME. Dollface honey. Ps - I wear the shirt you gave me pretty much every night. I wear it with a pair of grandpa shorts and I leave the short hanging open and everyone thinks its hilarous and awesome.
Chris: Update me on stuff, and write back soon.
Bekah: write meeee.
Sister Natalie: I love you so so so much and miss you and was thinking about you the other day. I hope you're doing well and I hope you know that I think you're seriously one of the greatest people that I know.
Bayley: Sorry sorry, I'm wriing you today. i've been so freaking swamped.  love you.
Lydia: I don't know if you got my letter, but seriously thank you so much for the package and the letter. I felt top notch when I got it and I loved what you said to me. Write me back por favor.
KENT: write me bro bro. Love you and miss you.
FINN: GAh. Write me, you barf-face. PLEASE. Even if it's just an email, I wanna hear from you. it's seems like the only reason you wrote me was because you wanted my iTunes password. ps DO NOT BUY MUSIC ON ITUNES THROUGH MY ACCOUNT UNLESS YOU HAVE A PREPAID CARD. Thanks brother, love you.
Dad: Thanks again for those photos. I loved them and I loved your biking stories. Also, it seems like you have the personality of a millionaire author lately. You're like "Ah just going to have others teach for me and then I'll just kick back and ride bikes and take photos and finish up my book." Geez, who do you think you are? Love you Mattsy.
Mom: AH I loved the drinks and stuff but like I said: I didn't get the cheese spread or whatever it was because the mail room has to confiscate anything that could spoil. But I sent the bag back with Ray Morgan. But thank you so much for that stuff. It made my week. I love you and I really miss you. remember when we saw each other in the temple? that was nutzzzz.

I love you all. I can't really remember what else happened this week but it was all right. I miss music, I miss all you guys, but I know I'm here and that it's a wondrous thing for me.
Also, NATALIE: I get compliments every week on my outfits and stuff. People call me old man 70's / new age hipster. What the? Cool.

Gah. Have a lovely week and remember God is with you. Develep charity for all people for without charity, we are nothing but noise (1 Corinthians 13:1-4).