Wednesday, November 21, 2012

November 19, 2012 (Perth Amboy)

Oh man oh man do I have a story for you guys.

This happened about 2 and a half weeks ago and I was planning on telling you guys earlier but I kept forgetting. Here we go. Scary story for elders.
Elder Giglio and I went to visit an old lady (84), from Honduras, that lives a couple of blocks away from us. We hadn't seen her in a while, and we figured why not pay her a visit and teach her about the doctrine of Jesus Christ. She was there, as well has her daughter (about 50) and her grandson (9). We sat down on the porch with them and started teaching them about the doctrine. They all understood pretty well and asked pretty good questions. The only problem is, the daughter is Catholic, and although she doesn't assist church, she's pretty hard hearted and doesn't really want to have anything to do with us. As we finished the lesson, she and her son left us and went inside.
I learned very quickly, why there is a rule concerning Elders. It is: in order to ENTER a house, there has to be one other male INSIDE the house. We didn't break any rules, because we were on the porch but LISTEN:
We finished the lesson, prayed, she kept talking and talking (Latina + 80 years old = bound to talk for eternity) and finally we said something like "Alright we're going to take off, ok?" She had been talking about some hospital experience a few years back when she had bad sores over her body (which we didn't really want to know in the first place). Then she was like, "Elderes mire mire..!" (Elders look look) and she whipped out her LEFT BREAST showed us a gross sore on it! We were horrified, didn't know what to do. Luckily, she quickly put it away, we said bye, and walked away quite rapidly.
Now, guess where tons of our jokes come from? Oh it was the worst.
Friends who are going Spanish speaking: look what you have to look forward to.

On the spiritual side of things....

We have this investigator who has been investigating for quite a while now, about a year. She usually bails when we try to set up appointments and she hardly ever answers our phone calls. My faith was increased substantially this week as we had a really cool experience with her.
We had set up an appointment with her Wednesday night for around 7. We went over there at 7 and her cheery Puerto Rican mother let us in. Very friendly, very nice, just not interested. We sat down, she came out and we made small talk for about a minute. She then told us that she had talked to our branch president about getting food for people that were affected by the hurricane, and he had apologetically told her that members were priority and there were already lots of them that needed food as well. Elder Gilgio jokingly said, "Entonces, cuando va a bautizarse? Jaja.." (So when are you getting baptized?). She got pretty serious and then started speaking to us in really good english. I kind of took over, as Elder Giglio doesn't really speak it a whole lot. Very solemnly, she told us that she had been actually hoping and praying for a few weeks now over "that question". She then related to us several sublime experiences concerning the Book of Mormon, the Plan of Salvation, and several visions she had had over the past year that she had seen the missionaries. I'm not sure why, but I feel like I have a particularly hard time FEELING the spirit. I can tell when it's there, but it's difficult for me to really feel it. But could I feel it there. I knew the things she was telling me were true, her experiences, and I strangely enough knew what they meant. I felt like Joseph interpreting Pharaoh's dreams. it was a really intense discussion and the spirit was there the whole time. After, we invited her to be baptized and we prayed with her that night about a date that would be good for her. It was to our surprise and delight, that the very next morning (we were planning on passing by that night) she called us and told us specifically that she would be baptized on December 9th.
God answers prayers. He sends his spirit to those who need it most. And he has given us his word in the form of books to lead and guide us every day that we need him. All we need is the faith to know that he's there.

Carlos is still progressing but he didn't go to church yesterday so we're going to have to move his date back a week. He's still great though, and he keeps all his commitments, except for church. He's reading the Book or Mormon and retaining the information. This week we felt inspired to bear our personal baptism experiences to him. I told him of being in the water with my father and coming out of the water completely clean, and knowing that I was a son of the most High God. Carlos was smiling the entire time. It was awesome.

We did more service on Saturday in Union Beach and Freehold. There was a tree that fell on an old lady's house in Freehold. President Jeppson gave us a chainsaw and we went to work. 9 twenty-year-olds with a chainsaw and axes trying to remove a massive tree from a house = sketchy, but so much fun. After helping her with all that, we headed out to Union Beach again to help people with clearing out garbage and tearing up a wood floor. More and more devastation, we saw. We went into an area that was practically an island that jutted out pretty far into the ocean that had only been opened two days before because of how dangerous the area still was with powerlines and downed houses and whatnot. It was insane. I've never seen anything like it before. Entire houses were just crushed by the wind and water. Pieces were strewn all around for miles, hanging in trees, out on the beach, everywhere. There were boats smashed into the sides of houses, 2 miles away from the water. We talked to one guy, and he said that the water was over twelve feet in his kitchen, which happened to be how tall the ceiling was. I got lots of pictures. I'll send them next week.

Last week, I got two old school board games: UNO and Battleship. HOWEVER, Battleship was from 1981 and UNO from 1978. Elder Giglio and I play them in our apartment sometimes, after nightly planning.

The focus for this month has been the Book of Mormon. President Jeppson challenged all the missionaries to start it and finish it again by the end of the year. He also wanted all of us to have some sort of focus. I chose the Atonement of Jesus Christ, as well as his ministry and his divine calling as the Messiah. It's been really cool for me to study the Book of Mormon and see how it truly is ANOTHER TESTAMENT OF JESUS CHRIST. There are so many prophetic chapters, simply testifying of His divinity and goodness to man.

The Book of Mormon is true and has more power than you know. Read it. I love you all.


PS - Got letters from Verina and mom... I think that was it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

MUD. November 13, 2012 (Perth Amboy)

Geez you guys. It took me about half the time I have to read through all your emails this week. Thanks so much for all your love and support. Thanks to Mom, Dad, Lars and Natalie. PS - Nad. ALways love reading your weekly emails. It's fun to compare missions and see everything we do differently.

We had interviews with President on Friday. His son-in-law Alex Boye was there (to speak at a multi-skate youth conference) and I chatted with him a little bit about music, conversion, being positive, changing your mission, etc. He was really cool and it seemed like everything he said was straight out of an inspirational quote book. HOWEVER, he helped me to realize a couple of things. He told me that if you wake up every single morning with an idea, a specific idea in your head, you will always be happy with the way your day went. The idea was this: "I AM ALWAYS DIVINELY GUIDED." Interesting right? Because if you always follow the spirit and you tell yourself that God is ALWAYS directing you, in EVERYTHING YOU DO, you will never make a wrong choice. Because of that, I was inspired to contact every person in my way this week. It went super well. We didn't see a whole lot of numerical success, but we talked to a lot of people about the gospel and planted the seed. It always feels wonderful to contact people and let them know that God is good, that he's there, that he cares. It's hard sometimes because Elder Giglio does not like street contacting so I'm always the one to initiate the contact. But I feel like that's good for me because I'm always forced to step out of my comfort zone.

We had another good week with Carlos, our Dominican investigator. We taught him about the Word of Wisdom, which was a surprisingly powerful lesson. We heard from the grapevine (his sister) that he drinks A LOT and that he turns into a really horrible person when he does drink. So we committed him to live the word of wisdom. He seemed really inspired to live it and to stop drinking altogether. AAANNND we set a baptismal date for him. He is going to be baptized on the 9th of December. We're super stoked for him and it's the most incredible thing in the world to compare him to where he was when we began teaching him. Before he didn't really have a knowledge of God, Jesus Christ, The Holy Ghost, anything really. He just knew that God was there and that he existed. Now, he is fully aware of our gospel, of the greatness of God, of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. I told Carlos' sister that we're going to change his life and its so amazing to see it happen before our eyes.

Man this week was still a little slow BUT it was because of the insane amount of service we did.
We did some more service with Bruce on Tuesday chopping wood in the freezing rain and stacking it. On Saturday, we got a text from our zone leaders that said that we needed to be in Eatontown (farther south than us) at 8:00 in the morning. So we headed down to Union Beach to start our service.
I did not even realize how intense the hurricane was. We literally saw NOTHING in our area and in the Brunswick area. But farther south, and on other areas of the coast, house after house after house was simply leveled to the ground because of the winds and waves. We saw people's entire lives, ripped to shreds, floating in six inches of muddy water in murky area that used to be their basement. There was this insane "half-house" which was basically a house that the front half looked ok, like it had got a little weather but not too bad. Then we saw the back of the house, which was non existent.

Elder Tippets, Elder Morrill and I were in one group and we headed down into this dank storage cellar that smelled like feces and rotting cardboard. There was this Mexican guy named Leo that was wearing a bunch of plastic bags and a face mask and was carrying bin after bin of garbage, glass, grime and destoryed storage out onto the curbs to be taken away by garbage trucks. We basically just helped to carry stuff out. By the time we were done, we were FILTHY. Dad - filthy animals.

Then on Sunday, the same thing happeendd. Except it was from our Branch President, President Zapata. We had a 15 minute service for church, basically just taking the sacrament and then immediately after we headed over to Staten Island, New York. It was basically the same situation there, but not as bad. BUT I had a cool feeling with one of the guys we helped that he would receive the gospel later on in his life, due to the service that we rendered to him.

Doing service is a really cool work that we can do to spread the gospel and simply help people out in times of trial. We helped this guy Bob with ripping out all the sheetrock in his flooded house and he said to us so many times, "You guys... I don't know that to say.. I can't thank you enough...God bless you guys.."

There's a lot more service to come, I was just surprised that it took us 2 weeks to actually start doing it. 

God is good. He loves us all. Jesus sacrificed his life for us so that we can live with him and our Eternal Father again. I wrote a poem the other day about Kai in jail and I included Isaiah 9:6 or 6:9 I can't remember but it says (and you're all very familiar with it)
"Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder. And His name shall be called



Elder Christensen

Thursday, November 8, 2012

November 7, 2012—Post Hurricane (Perth Amboy)

Elder Giglio and I did some more service this week. After being cooped up for 4 days in an apartment, we got out and helped out around the town. We went with the other Perth Amboy elders yesterday and today to help a member in the ward, who lives in a house that was built in 1907 (it's so rad, more on this later), chop wood, cover a tree-destroyed section of his roof with a tarp, and get pizza at a delicious American Italian place afterwards. So this guy is named Bruce. He is white, but he attends the Perth Amboy branch, even though he doesn't speak any spanish. He's a little weird, but I'm pretty sure he's a widower. He's really lonely and he lives in this big old house in Woodbridge (right outside Perth Amboy). He has SO MUCH STUFF. His house is just packed with "things" mostly really old things though, which is really cool. He has an semi hollowbody electric bass from the 1970's. I was geeking out a little over it. He also has an incredible book collection with many of the books dating back to the late 1700's. His house is falling apart on the outside, but the inside is newly painted with rich wood banisters everywhere. I want to come back after the mission, become best friends with him, inherit his house, fix it up, and rent it out to super wealthy people. It's seriously the raddest house ever, with trap doors, attics, old bookcases, etc...
The ax we used to chop wood was the sketchiest thing in the universe. The head was practically falling off so we had to be super careful on the up swing. Let's just say, it probably wouldn't have been completely approved by our zone leaders.

We were planning on heading up to Patterson to do some more service this morning, but we received word from President that it was canceled, due to the snow storm. IT's going to be rough for the state, especially for the people that got hit really hard, to  have a big snow storm 1 week after a big hurricane. For example, in Patterson, where we were going to do service, a dam broke so there was MAJOR flooding in all the houses in that area. Also, in the more heavily wooded areas, there was lots of damage to roofs and siding of houses as well.

It's actually a) snowing right now and b) absolutely freezing cold. So THANK YOU MOTHER for the wonderful peacoat which I got yesterday.

It's been super hard to see our investigators this past week, as well as the beginning of this week as well. On Monday we had a lot of people bail on us and yesterday, after zone meeting, I started getting weird tunnel vision, which meant that a migraine was coming on. I HATE MIGRAINES. During the drive back, I started getting nauseated and heating up really bad, so I started stripping off layers (cardigan, peacoat, tie) as we got close to the house. When Elder Giglio and I finally got in the apartment, I dropped everything and ran for my bed. By that time my eyes and head felt like they were going to explode. I slept feverishly for the next 2.5 hours and woke with only a little pain in my head. But we missed an appointment already and we only had time to see 2 more, a Mexican electrician named Aurelio (the most humble man I've ever met) and a member family. I realize again and again that all I want to do is teach and be out of the house.

Today (Wednesday) we have to be in the house again by 6. Man oh man, I just want to be out doing service and teaching. it's funny how that is my biggest desire. Because before my mission, i would have never thought that THAT would be what I want most. I love how much the mission has changed me.

LYDIA GOT HER CALL. (am I allowed to tell?) Jacksonville, Mississippi. So rad, I'm stoked for you Lydia. ps - got your other letter with the CHocolate. THANKS.
I have written letters for Emily (finally I know), Lydia, and Bekah. Sorry it's taken a little while.

Elder Giglio and I are best friends. We have way too many jokes. I love him.

I love you family and friends. Thanks so much for your love.


ps - this "newsletter" is boring. Sorry.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

November 1, 2012—Hurricane Sandy


Yep. A tree fell on  me.

No, in all reality, the hurricane wasn't that intense where I was staying. Elder Giglio, Elder Storey, Elder Steele, and I all had to evacuate our apartment though (as Elder Giglio and I live 3 blocks from the beach). We left Perth Amboy Sunday night and stayed in New Brunswick until this morning (Thursday). It was a riot. I felt like we were living inside of a protective, divine shield. A few trees fell over in the complex that we were staying in but other than that, we didn't see very much... until we left our apartment complex.

Trees broken down, powerlines in the street, 500 car lines for gasoline, half the state doesn't have power, and we heard that Atlantic City is underwater. Crazy. We missed all the action though. Elder Packer, serving in New Brunswick spanish, (quick story: NATALIE he served a service mission in Nauvoo before he came out here. Yep your worst fear; singing, dancing, acting, thespianing.. but you never would have been called there because you have to try out for it) were chatting about how we felt bad because we were all hoping and praying for the storm to hit us hard so we would have cool stories. But then we decided that there are probably 1 million people praying for the storm to NOT hit us. So we joined in with them and prayed for peace and safety and we GOT IT.

Over these past few days, we spent our time playing UNO, Harry Potter Clue, LIFE, other games, and doing musical stuff. I played a lot of guitar while the wind was howling and the rain was lashing the windows and roof of our house. It was pretty fun. I wrote some more stuff and felt good about it. I wrote a song, one night in the bathroom with the light off, about God. It's been probably my favorite song I've ever written and it's honest. Those are the best kinds of songs.

WE found out our GOLDEN investigator Darmis is getting baptized in Pennsylvania with her member sister. We were super bummed when we heard it but I know that the Lord's work is the same (haha see my last letter) and I am STOKED to see her enter into the waters of baptism and enter into a powerful promise with the Lord.
Lots of work with Carlos was done last week before the hurricane. I can't remember if I told you about him. Carlos is a 30 year old Dominican man that lives in a house with practically all of his family. We were originally teaching his mother, when he said he wanted to meet with us sometime. Cool. We did and he's amazing. NOt a very religious person but wants to strengthen his relationship with God and Jesus Christ. We have already taught him 6 or 7 times and when I mentioned the fact that he could baptize his own son, he was touched and humbled and didn't really know what to say. As he was raised Catholic, he's always had the idea in mind that only the preacher can baptize and perform those ordinances. HE understands the need for authority and he understands our doctrine really well. It's cool to see someone learning so much in such short time. i feel like I can practically see the light slowly growing brighter behind his eyes and chest.

Being a missionary is the most indescribable thing. I love it more than I love anything else in the world. I bore my testimony in zone conference a while back and I said, "I've never felt this much love in my entire life." Only after having said that, did I realize how true that is.

I got letters from Hayley, Bekah, Lydia (not the package yet. soon hopefully), Chris, and others... I can't remember...

I love the Lord.
"Nevertheless I know in whom I have trusted... He hath filled me with his love unto the consuming of my flesh." 2 Nephi 4:19, 21
Every day I feel more motivation and more inspiration to change and be better; to become the shape that the Lord sculpted from the beginning.



October 22, 2012 (Perth Amboy)

Rough week this week. I'll be honest. We didn't teach very much and had to spend a lot of time walking and talking to people on the streets. At times it's hard to see if you're making a huge difference in the work, but we do know that the Lord is on our side and that he will lift us when we need him.

I loved Dieter F. Uchtdorf's talk in General Conference about not having regrets. He gave counsel about how to avoid regrets and honestly, I feel like it's truly blessed me as a missionary and helped me to stay happy:
"-Resolve to spend more time with those we love
-Resolve to strive more earnestly to become the person that God wants us to be.
-Resolve to find happiness, regardless of our circumstances"
I love that because, at times, it's so difficult to see feel like you're truly helping people come unto Christ, because they don't even choose to accept you. But if we are happy and we serve with joy and with a willing heart, we will find happiness in every situation, no matter how rough it may seem.

We have the most amazing, prepared investigator.
She's a 40 year old, hip mother from Columbia. Speaks really good English but we teach her in Spanish of course. Elder Giglio wouldn't have it any other way. Here are just a few facts about her: She's a school teacher, specifically works with kids with autism, so she's really loving and patient. She takes NOTES when we teach. I was astounded when she brought out a notebook with her Book of Mormon and other spriptural materials. She laughs all the time and LOVES to talk, like all Latin people. Her sister is a member. She's already had several amazing spiritual experiences. She already lives the Word of Wisdom. She is still getting out of a divorce with her husband, which was her worry about getting baptized. Yep, she told us she wants to be baptized. She is so cool and I can't believe that we get to teach and probably baptize her.
I had a cool little revelation the other day when we were teaching her:
She took one missionary lesson with her sister in Pennsylvania, with those elders and i was thinking about how those Elders are probably saying something like "MAN WE wanted to baptize her... ah man.. what a bummer.." And I was thinking about how universal the Lord's work is. Of course, I'm on the lucky end of this situation, but still. If we don't get to baptize this woman, it's okay, because she WILL be baptized. I love how God works.

Still working with our investigator, Francisco, from the Dominican Republic. He has a hard time believing in our doctrine but TOTALLY respects the testimony we live. He bases a lot of his belief on the Catholic church, as his leg was healed by a catholic father, because he has an AMAZING amount of faith. He's really interesting to talk with because he's well read and really smart.

Letters received this week: Chris, Gemma. I am so stoked to write you guys back. PS - Gemma. I was literally about to ask for your address from Lydia and then I got your letter. Thanks so much. It lifted and blessed me and made me want to go out and help people. Thanks for your example.

FAMILY: I'm so glad you got to hear from Jackson. He's so rad and I already miss  him. Dad. I KNEW YOU GUYS WOULD HIT IT OFF> Haha. Called it. How's everything going back home? Love you all so so much. Write you soon. I'm ticked cause I really want to get the mini package you sent me. I'll probably get it next week.

Love you all. Thanks for being there for me, because I always need you.