Tuesday, September 25, 2012

September 24, 2012

Friends, family, and all you other goons:

HEY. How is everybody? It's wonderful to be here, typing this letter to you from the Princeton Public Library. We drove here at about 7:30 this morning, but we hit some bad rush-hour traffic and didn't get here till about 9. Normally the drive is about an hour long. But as we drove into this area (farther south than Newark), greenery and fall colors took the place of high rise buildings and garbage litering the streets. I always forget how dirty Newark is. I still love it though. But little trips like this out to the country make me LONG for something with more beauty. But this is the Garden State and every time I leave Newark I am reminded of that.

So when we got here, we went to the Princeton Stadium and played some good old American Football. It was pretty rad. Elder Key (from Samoa), Elder Hafoka (from Tonga), and Elder Kakeva (from Hawaii), are the only three Polynesians in the mission, so naturally they took the lead in leading the game. I'm pretty sure we won.
But at the end, I caught a short pass and turned to run the ball, and Elder Brimley (who I came out with) was right there. So we clocked heads, probably harder than I ever have in my entire life and now we both have MASSIVE goose eggs on our foreheads. And headaches... Then afterward, we drove to the library. It was weird to drive through an area that is not my own, especially because it was ALL people my age. Weird. I saw a bunch of people with cool shoes and jackets and I wanted them. College campuses are awesome and beautiful. I realized that I don't even know what school is like, though. Man I'm going to be such a nerd.

This week was SLOW. We only found 1 new investigator, and only had 1 investigator at church. On Friday, we had no lessons, no investigators, NOTHING. Straight zeros. The only funny thing was, I was on an exchange with Elder Key. And we had an INCREDIBLE day in the english area. We set 2 baptismal dates, found 3 new inv., did some awesome lesson teaching, and commited a new inv to baptism. It was unreal, and it helped to renew my faith that God is always there and he always has people prepared for us, even when we are down and not searching as hard as we can. However, we know that when we work as hard as we can, he will reward us in more potent, but perhaps, more subtle ways. All I know is, the blessings will be greater. And I've defnitely seen them. Man. Working with Elder Key is so fun. We sometimes will talk about life when we were in the same ward, and how crazy it is that we're now serving in the same mission. Rad. I love him. Every time I work with Elder Key, I learn SO MUCH about listening to the spirit and being humble. Elder Key will never take a compliment though, and it's super annoying.

Our investigators are progressing REALLY slow. Man I get so fed up with them. I tell Elder Magleby that I just want to "punch them right in the face." Not really, but that's how I feel sometimes. Let's be real, when someone tells you to read your scriptures for 3 and a half weeks straight, every other day, and they don't do it, it's pretty obnoxious. But I still love all the people we serve. The other night, I was almost in tears telling Elder Magleby how much I love a long time investigator in the ward and his member family. Like I've probably told you a thousand times, I feel like that was the easiest thing for me: loving people. And everybody said once you love them, all you do is think about them and want to serve them: TRUE. It's crazy how many dreams I've had with less-actives/investigators. I just want to help them all the time and it's hard to find the EXACT way to do that. Because they all have different needs and challenges. I'm rambling.

I think this is the first week I didn't get very many letters. Which is alright, because hopefully I'll have time to write back some people today. Sorry everybody that hasn't gotten letters for a while. You're all on my list. ("You should've known by now, you were on my list".)

In all honesty, this week has been hard. It's been a week to help me realize that I don't depend on God enough, even if I feel like I do.

I just want to bear a simple testimony relating to a quick story.
We were teaching an inactive lady, and we were trying to weed out her doubts about coming back to church. She didn't really have the desire to still be a part of the gospel, so we asked her some leading questions. She said that it bothered her that everybody talked about Joseph Smith so much. She felt like everybody put him before Jesus Christ and she felt that was lame. I told her I agreed. But she didn't understand the reason why people felt so strongly about Joseph Smith and I knew that was where her testimony faltered. So I bore her my testimony of these things.
I basically said the following.

I know that this gospel is true and has been restored on the earth today. The reason why so many people seem to "praise" and "love" Joseph Smith, is because of what he did. Without Joseph Smith, I wouldn't be here. The gospel of JESUS CHRIST would not have been restored and we would not have any of these ordinances and powers that we have today.
I know that Joseph Smith was called of God to restore the happiness of the Gospel of Christ to the earth once more. I know that he was a prophet of the Lord.
I know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. I know that only through his Atonement, I am free from death and sin. This is His church. We are his disciples. Don't forget that.

Elder Niels Christensen

PS - I heard from my investigator Israel that the XX came out with a new album?? Why did nobody tell me?? Unless it's a lie.

September 17, 2012

Ok. Not much time. Email can be stressful.
-It is September. It's cooling down and it's awesome. I don't notice the humidity anymore.
-I never thought this would happen, BUT I started picking up a little New Jersey mannerism in my speech. The only one I can think of right now is the fact that I say "How you doin"? to everybody but I sound a little like an East Coast person. Embarrassing. Parents, remember how I told you if I come back with an accent or anything, you can beat me? That still stands. So I've been consciously thinking about how I talk now.
-Spanish is improving. Still struggling with being able to understand everything that people say. I know that that will just come time. TIME: greatest gift from God. Time to live, time to be.
-Had an UNREAL french dinner last night at Jackson's house (Indian guy in the english ward). Dad you would have loved it. Listen up: Appetizer: mussels with tomato, fennel, garlic and onions, with fresh bread and pesto.
Pork shoulder with potatoes, rosemary, salt, pepper and an apple cider sauce, with sauteed apples on the side.
A macaroni gratin with grated Gruyere on top
Cooked baby carrots with creme fraiche, butter, salt and thyme.
Dessert was just some fresh seasonal fruit with homemade french sour cream on top.
Goodness, it reminded me of home.
We had an AWESOME lesson with him too. We talked about forsaking the world, through the Atonement of Christ and how we can better understand the Atonement. I seriously want to be just like Jackson when I get home.
-Investigator Israel made me a "WWJD" bracelet. It's awesome.
-Visited a converted Jew in the english ward, (because we had a lesson with his spanish speaking mother) named Moshe. He's 23, preparing to serve a mission and is an amazing person. He got the Melchizidek Priesthood last week.
-With that lesson with Maria (Moshe's mother), it went pretty well. But it was weird because it was like she was interviewing us for her thesis statement on Christian religions. BUT, while we were teaching, Moshe's brother in law came home and sat and listened and then started arguing with us. And literally, the second that that happened, the spirit got up and left. So we just sat there as this guy yelled at us about the Bible and how we don't need prophets because of the Holy Spirit. it was ridiculous. Finally Elder Magelby just cut him off and told him that we needed to go.
-We've been doing TONS of finding this week, as our investigator pool is running thin. Lots of hard work with little success. it's alrigth though.
-KENT - Got your letter. I about died when i saw that you wrote me. Writing you back SOOON.
-Tanner thanks for the photos.

Love you all. Thanks for your undying love and support. Let me know if you need anything from me.

-Elder Niels Christensen

ps - Jackson is coming to Utah to check out BYU and he said he'd take stuff to you guys for me. He's awesome and unreal. Family, you need to meet this guy, he's one of the most amazing indiviudals I've ever met. So I'll let you know soon.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

September 10, 2012

I couldn't think of a subject line. And WELCH is based off of this short, hilarious experience:
Elder Magleby and I went into Burger King on a depressing night of finding people all night. But we didn't really find anybody, so after a good 2 hours of work in North Newark we went to drown our sorrows in bacon hamburgers and fries. So we order and as we're waiting for our food, there's this old black guy wearing jeans and a baseball cap that walks in, walks over to the soda fountain and starts willing up an old bottle of Welches grape jelly wrapped in a plastic bag. It was HUGE too probbaly like a 32 ounce bottle. Anyway, he fills it up, mumbles something under his breath, and walks out without another word. Newark is awesome.
So we had training this week on Tuesday and Wednesday from 8 am to 4 pm. It was really great. Towards the end, President Jeppson (who is a patriarch as well, (it's one of those positions that stays with you forever, like a bishop)) basically gave us all a blessing as he bore his testimony. It's incredible to hear him speak and then hear a literal change in his speech as he pronounces blessings on the heads of us missionaries. Mission Presidents have so much divine power, it's amazing.

I used to hate role plays but NOW after doing literally 500 over those two days, I can appreciate them more. They're really good opportunites to work out kinks in your lessons and receive revelation too. I got some sweet ideas from various missionaries that I worked with. ALSO, I got to hang out with Elder Romrell, one of my MTC companions (he got put with me and Elder Waite when his companion went home).
It's weird because Elder Romrell, Elder Waite and I are the only New Jersey missionaries left from our MTC district. Everybody else has gone home due to depression/health problems. Super sad. Hopefully they'll be coming back out soon but it's still gives me heavy boots.
This week we only taught 17 lessons. Boo! But that was partly because Tuesday and Wednesday got destroyed due to training.
But we found two new investigators this week. One guy named Tony, a peruvian that we met on the streets. He was great because we just talked about the churches and if there was one true church and whatnot. So he basically set up the return appt himself, which hardly ever happens because people usually aren't interested. The other person was Vanessa, from Uruguay. She has two sons and 3 step children. She's probaly only like 35 or so too. She was super great and listened to our message and her son Lucas who's like 9, has long beautiful brown hair. I'm jealous. When I got home, you all better believe that I'm growing my hair out again. And a lush beard as well.... moving on.

Going back to the training really quick: the biggest things I learned are the following:
1. Be quiet.
2. Slow down.
3. Listen to the spirit.

YOU ALL KNOW ME. I love to talk and communicate with people and just be their friend. But the problem is, is I talk TOO much and don't the spirit room to come and and speak for us. Elder Magldby is cool, collective and reserved. I'm trying to be like that, and it's incredibly how much I've calmed down these past weeks, JUST FROM listening to eh spirit more. I love it. They say every companionship is a trio: You, companion, Holy Ghost. It's a wonderful feeling when you know that and when you use the Holy Ghost as the tool that God has given us.

My spanish is coming along. Elder Magleby has good spanish, but he speaks like a total gringo. So I've already noticed my accent is going a little downhill. OH. COOL thing: I've been told that I look Puerto Rican and Italian so far. We'll see what else comes next.

I'm going to the ZOO today in South Orange, (WHERE GARDEN STATE WAS FILMED). I'm stoked.
For everybody that wrote me, I probbaly won't have time today. But I'll try to post some photos so Matthew can post them on my blog.
Tanner: got your letter,. IT WAS AWESOME.
Chris: wrote you back.
Hayley" WRITE ME.
Bayley: I'm sorry I'm the worst at writing you. I'll try to get you next week.
FAMILY: I'll try really hard to write you all next week.

ELDER Niels Christensen

ps - Indian Bro. Jackson, from the english ward is cooking a rich french meal for me and Elder Magleby this Sunday. I'll send pics. Also, he's awesome and printed off lyrics for me for "On the Floor (brandon Flowers) and "I'll Fly Away" (Allison Krauss and Gillian Welch). SO I'm going to sing them for other missionaries and it will be grand.

September 4, 2012

Because it was Labor Day yesterday, none of the libraries were open (duh) so we didn't get to email. And we have an appt with a Dominican guy named Lloyd in about 10 minutes. So I gotta fly.
Quick updates:
-Baptismal date with Maria Paez. She's like 80 years old and is awesome and tells her children to go to hell.
-Peruvian BBQ yesterday with Hermano Vallejo (high priest group leader). Incredible. Grilled steak, chorizo-like-sausage with sliced peppers, grilled corn, fresh bread, rice, INCA KOLA (the BEST) and other stuff. It was amazing. (PS another favorite drink is a purple corn drink called Chicha Morado. It's out of this world.
-ELDER Magleby: follow up trainer, from American Fork, 6'3, used to be a male cheerleader, really hard worker, good missionary, we get along pretty well.
-I'll send some photos soon. DAD - The SD card that you sent me doesn't work. Don't know why. I'll send it back though.
-Beach volleyball yesterday (beach court in a members apartment complex). Brother Jackson, from India is incredible. MATTHEW, her wears some incredible shoes. Like 400 dollar chucka style leather dress shoes. Wow. I'll send pics. He's ALSO an amazing chef. Sending pics and whatnot SOON.
-Got some more letters. Still backed up on writing letters. Trying to respond to everybody.
-Miracles in Newark. OUt of gas. Found a new investigator. TONS of street contacting. Elder Magleby is pretty good at it.

Love you all. HOpefully I can write a wee bit more in a couple of days.

Elder Niels Christensen

Saturday, September 1, 2012

August 27, 2012 (Kearney, NJ)

It's INSANE how quickly this transfer passed by. And this is only the first one. I was talking to Elder Key about how quickly I felt it went and all he did was laugh and say "You have no idea."
Elder Storey is getting transfered, which means that I will be getting a follow-up trainer tomorrow at the conference. It's going to be great though. Elder Ream (zone leader, also getting transfered from Central Newark) told me that he was super glad his trainee got a follow up trainer because he learned things from his f-up trainer that Elder Ream NEVER would have been able to teach him. Hopefully that's the way it will be. I'll miss Elder Storey though. He was great and exactly what I needed. He taught me a great many things but mostly he taught me how to love your investigators and have eternal patience with them. Goodness gracious is he patient.

So this week, we taught Lydin again (finally!). She's still progressing, reading the Book of Mormon and keeping up on her prayers. She said she feels like she needs to learn some more but when she does that she'll be baptized. I can't remember if I told you about her but she's like 21, from Ecuador, is a hostess at Applebees, and is REALLy sweet and nice. Always willing to listen and always keeps commitments, EXCEPT for coming to church. Super frustrating. That's one of the biggest things we're working on with her. The importance of church. Nobody realizes that. And it's hard to get them to really understand.

We also taught Mario a few more times. Mario is in his 50's, from Ecuador, lives with his "esposa" (though not married), but wants to be baptized. The problem is, is his esposa, Lola, is not super into the idea of marriage, as well as being a member too. They live above a super active, really devoted member family, which consists of Ronald (16, has a mohawk, loves working out, comes out with the missionaries frequently though) Rosa (Ron's mom, endowed, incredible member, supports the ward really well) and Ron's grandmother (also awesome, also a super devoted member in the ward). Anyway, we're continually working with Mario to try to get him to set something up with Lola while we're there. He's really funny and nice and always wears a yellow or grey tank-top. I'm telling you guys, the tanktops here are in abundance.

A few nights ago, Elder Storey and I did a music lesson at a Thursday night family night at the Castro's house. We played the guitar and sang hymns and talked about music and why we use it in the gospel and the spirit that it brings and whatnot. Afterwards, Hermana Castro asked me to come play "Brightly Beams our Father's Mercy" in spanish at a ward activity on Saturday night. I said sure. So we went and I sat down and started playing in front of about 40 members and NOBODY started singing with me. They all just looked super confused. So I frantically looked over at Hermana Castro who swept in to rescue me. She showed me the lyrics and guess what? DIFFERENT LYRICS. Not the regular lyrics for Brightly Beams. So we started over and I was a little peeved and embarrassed and I looked back at Elder Ream, Winslow and Storey, and they were all busting up and taking pictures. It was funny though. OH and afterwards Elder Ream (who is the ward pianist and probably the best pianist I've ever met) started jamming on piano and guitar and we were going NUTS. Both of us soloing and shredding and playing jacked-up versions of hymns. It was so rad. He's incredible at taking a chord progression and just JAMMING. Goodness I love music so much.

A super less-active family started coming back to church. They're in the zone leaders area, in Harrison and Central Newark but it's SUPER AWESOME to see that light come back into their life. They have been inactive for 19 years and yesterday the father of the family recieved the Priesthood. Incredibly experience. He's going to be baptizing his daughters next week. I'm really excited for them.

Good week. Time to start anew with a new companion and a new-take to missionary work. This area is really slow moving and my goal is to speed that up in whatever way I can. I got a really good compliment from Elder Storey the other day. We were talking to our investigator Israel and Elder Storey basically just praised me for being able to walk right and just talk to people as if I was friends with them. It felt good to hear that because I've been feeling low lately, basically that I'm just a crappy missionary work, because we haven't had any baptisms or confirmations. But it was wonderful to hear that, especially from Elder Storey.

I'm super backed up on letters right now. I have to write 10-11 people. So sorry if you don't get letters for a few weeks. BUT I LOVE ALL OF YOU.
Keep reading your scriptures and praying. I mean it.

Elder Niels Christensen

CHRIS: got your letter. Writing you today.
Hayley: I don't know if you're sending a letter soon or have already sent one... but I'm sending one today.
Bekah: LOVED YOUR LETTER still/ Writing you today.
Lydia: writing you today FOR SURE.
FAMILY: I'll try to start writing you next week. Love you.
VERINA: totally got your letter. Next week I'll write you.