Monday, December 2, 2013

Fwd: The Assisters

Dear Family,

As always, it's such a treat to read all of your letters and hear about what is going on. A shout out to all of my dear missionary friends whose letters I also read and enjoyed this week. Y'all are fabulous examples to me always, and I'm so thrilled for your success and appreciative of your thoughts that often help me complete my own.

I can't believe how old my siblings and cousins are starting to look. I'm starting to see more adults and fewer and fewer kids these days. Aaron, is that a zit I see on your chin?! Thanks for the pictures, btw. I love having visuals, and the one you caught of Grandma and Grandpa is beautiful.

We've had a really good week. I love Sister I and we're going to have such a great transfer together. This is her last one, and she really wants to work super hard, so we're going to. A lot of time this week was spent planning for the transfer, which includes Christmas and Christmas conference as well as New Years and all kinds of fun exchanges etc, so we haven't done much teaching yet, but I have faith that we're going to. And it's going to require faith, because we are going to be busy! We'll be conducting six days worth of exchanges, helping to plan and execute Christmas Conference for the whole mission, we have two Mission Leadership Councils this transfer, as well as President's Interviews. It's going to be so much fun! My calendar is very colorful with all kinds of meetings and events. So, in the mean time, we're just going to turn things over to Heavenly Father, work as hard as we can, and trust that he'll help us to do what we need to do.

Last night, we had a meeting with Sister Slaughter and planned how to organize the making of 40 + gingerbread houses, one for each district. I had no idea that all of those years of gingerbread house making would come in so handy. I pointed everyone towards hot glue and egg white powder, and I think that's going to save us a lot of headaches. Wahoo!

The new ward is fabulous!! We have 15 ward missionaries, a fabulous ward mission leader, super solid members, and tons of dinners at members houses. We were really busy on Thanksgiving with all the transferring, but we were fed a lovely dinner and met a lot of ward members there. Also, our bishop is fabulous. I think Sister K must have just had a bad experience with him, because Sister I and I both find him to be very personable and helpful. Busy, obviously, but that's how you know he's a good bishop.

Friday morning after transfers, Sister I and I had the privilege of being able to clean the temple. While Sister I was taking her turn vacuuming the ordinance room chairs, I was able to take a close look at the mural on the wall and think about the beauty of the building we were in. We were "cleaning," but it was already so clean I hardly felt like we were doing anything. I just loved being there and thinking about the symbolism of the architecture, and knowing how much love and care was put into building it. What a blessing it is to be able to have temples and to receive the blessings and knowledge that Heavenly Father has for us there.

I feel like there was so much more this week than what I've lamely put into words, but I don't know how to explain it to anyone. I've just been so happy. I just love the gospel and I love being a missionary and I love Heavenly Father, and I love that I get to be here, and I love what I am learning, and even though I know there are still going to be more hard times up ahead, I'm ready for them, because I know that through the Savior's Atonement, everything will be alright. I know that Heavenly Father has a plan for each one of us. I've been thinking a lot about faith recently, and how great faith doesn't necessarily reflect the quantity as much as it does quality, consistency. Great faith is consistent, it shouldn't waver depending on whether we're having a good day or a bad one. At transfer meeting, President compared the story of Peter walking on water and the story of the Samaritan woman who pleaded for a miracle for her daughter but was ignored by Christ and rebuffed by his apostles several times before receiving the blessing she sought (Matthew 15). Simon was rebuked for having little faith even though he walked on water, whereas Christ told the Samaritan woman "great is thy faith." The difference is consistency. Even when Christ seemingly ignored this woman, she did not doubt, but continued to ask and to believe until she received the miracle she asked for her daughter. I love the verse in D&C 123:17 which was given to Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail "Let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power, and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed."

We met an older man this week who lost his wife a while ago and is unemployed. He kept telling us "I'm older than you, and I know things that you haven't experienced yet. When your faith is doubting, come to me and I'll help you answer your questions, because I know that there is no God, but I know why people continue to believe in him." How sad I felt for this man because of the simplicity of the gospel that I know that he would not choose to listen to. I testify to all of you that there is a God, that he is the father of our spirits and that he loves us. He has a plan for each one of us, and that plan is centered on the Atonement of his son Jesus Christ. I know that as we do everything in our power to keep his commandments and diligently plug away one day at a time, we can stand back with utmost assurance to see the hand of the Lord. Heavenly Father knows we can be perfect eventually, but he doesn't ask us to do it today. All we have to do is be diligent.

I love the gospel, I love you all, I'm so grateful to be here and I'm so grateful for the Atonement of Jesus Christ, which is real.

Have a fabulous week!

Hermana Christensen

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Re: A Cup of Fiery

Dear Family,

I can't believe that Alan is in Mexico!! The thought has popped into my head randomly throughout the week, and it just seems so weird! I'm so proud of you Alan! Way to go for starting up a conversation in Spanish. The more you make yourself speak it, the better you will learn it, and even if you ever feel awkward about it, just enjoy how well you can make fluent speakers laugh. Work hard in el CCM, but remember to be yourself and not to work so hard you poop out. That's not what Heavenly Father is asking you for.

Sally told me all about the BYU v. Utes game. I'm sorry it was another disappointment for those of us true believers  :)  My companion is a Ute, so I won't be able to talk about it too much this week.

We had such a great week here in Lake Austin!! To start with, the weather finally changed!! I never thought I would say this in my life, but the highs have been about 87 the last three days, and it feels so great! After 97-104 every day for the past month, and higher temperatures before that, 85 and even low 70s in the mornings and evenings feels like a dream! On Saturday, we had a whole day of driving around and looking for inactive members, and we found NOBODY, but I didn't even realize it until we got home and counted our numbers because I was happy to be outside in such gorgeous weather. What a blessing. 

Honestly, I think the best thing about this week has just been my attitude. The last several weeks I've been thinking a lot about "becoming a missionary" as President Slaughter calls it, and the struggle that so many missionaries go through because they feel like there are two versions of themselves, the missionary version, and the version they left back home. After going through their whole mission struggling to feel normal, they get home and have a crisis when they are suddenly a schizophrenic with two identities and they don't know which one to be. The problem is, they need to bring themselves with them on their mission, and then accept the changes that Heavenly Father works in them through their experiences, and then when they get home, they only have one identity, and it's better than anything they were before, so the temptation to return isn't nearly as great. I've also thought a lot about the importance of being ourselves on our missions. Heavenly Father has given us all talents and abilities that he needs us to use, wherever it is that he has placed us. We started developing those talents and abilities even before we came to this earth. We each have unique identities, and it is especially important to incorporate those things as missionaries so that we can do our work more effectively. As I've worked on that, being myself, teaching like myself, acting like myself, thinking like myself, talking like myself in both Spanish and English, and having a positive attitude, I have felt so much happier than I ever have before in my time as a missionary. My faith and hope have increased, and I just love being a missionary so much more!!

On Wednesday we had Zone Meeting and I was able to give a training on this topic. It was so much fun!! I love teaching people, especially other missionaries. A brand new Elder gave me a stellar complement at the end of the meeting. Just as preface, you should know that I love Elder Holland and I love the way he teaches. I have always thought it would be cool to be able to teach the way he does, and have now and again even thought about his style of teaching as I have been developing my own. After the meeting, Elder T told me "Elder S and I were sitting back there and decided that you got some of the fireiness from the same bucket they used to fill Elder Holland up with." That definitely made me smile.

We were able to have some great lessons with N this week. She's back on track and has realized that the dejection and despair she felt last week were not feelings from Heavenly Father. She came to all three hours of church this week and set up three visits for the coming week. I think we're going to start working on some family history with her.

We contacted 10 referrals this week, which is a record for me. We've really been trying not to knock random doors this transfer, but rather work through the people we already know to find new people to teach. So far, we haven't had to do any door knocking, and I hope to keep it up.

This Saturday is the Relief Society General Broadcast. All you wonderful ladies, GO! And if you can, invite a non-member or even a less-active friend. What a wonderful experience we have to be able to listen to a prophet of God that has the Priesthood power and authority to lead and guide us in our day and age. Everyone needs that blessing. If you're afraid to extend the invite, role play it first. Maybe that would be a good FHE activity.

I love you all so much!! I was thinking this morning about how much my testimony has deepened in the last 7.5 months. As we progress in the gospel, we don't necessarily learn a lot of shocking new doctrine, but our understanding and appreciation of what we already do know grows and deepens profoundly. I'm so grateful for a loving Heavenly Father that loves his children so personally and individually that he will put us all in the right place at the right time to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life again. I love my Savior Jesus Christ and the price he paid so that we can be resurrected and live with our families forever in his presence. I know the gospel is true, and I am so glad I have the opportunity to share it with other people.

I love you all so much!! You are all one of the greatest blessings in my life.

Hermana Emily

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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Sept 2

Dear Family,

Thank you so much to all of you for your letters and emails! It has been so great reading about the goings on. Alan, I'm so glad that you were able to go through the temple. I thought about you this week. Go as much as you can before you head to Mexico. It's so good to be able to think about the promises that are made to you there, and you might not get to go much on your mission. Mom, I love the covenants of the temple. I've thought a lot about the promises, like you said, and how they are such an anchor for everyone, but especially for missionaries. I need those covenants in order to be successful here.

Last night was transfer calls. I didn't mention it last week because Hermana H and I just opened our area and it was pretty certain we would be staying here. Last transfer calls I couldn't stop thinking about them for two weeks in advance, but it barely crossed my mind Sunday morning before church. So when Elder Wcalled and told us they are closing Monte Vista C, we were both pretty shocked, and pretty sure he was pulling our leg. It wasn't until he offered to let us talk to President that we actually believed him. So there it is. Now that the Zone Leaders have finished remapping and ripping up their area book for us, everything is turning back to exactly the way it was before we got here. Why you might ask? I was reading in the Book of Mormon this morning about how the prophets wrote their record without knowing exactly why, and I feel kind of like that, but I do have some insights. 

First, S. Mom, she is now on the radar. We got her and her family to church this week, and I know they were able to talk to the bishop. As a side note, we got some referrals from them for people that live in Georgia, and when we got phone numbers to go with the names, I realized that instead of waiting three days until the office would be open, I could have just called you to pass them on to the Cherokee branch missionaries, but I didn't think that would quite be kosher.  :) )

Second, X. This Saturday (after we leave), the St. Cloud sisters that we live with will be holding a baptism for X, a 15 year old young man that we gave to them as a referral. He lives in an apartment complex that is almost entirely Spanish speaking and never would have been found if we hadn't been there. Since the missionaries started teaching him, he has been to every Sacrament meeting, every mutual activity and every Seminary class. He has also stated that he wants to serve a mission. We're going to miss the baptism, which is a major bummer, but I'm so excited for him and the sisters. We've given away a bunch of other really good referrals too, and it finally makes sense why all the good people we found were passed off at the beginning and none of the referrals we received were worth a first lesson. 

Third, the temple. If I hadn't been here, I wouldn't have been able to go to the temple with the G family, or for myself. That was one of the most choice experiences of my mission, and I wouldn't have traded it for 500 first lesson referrals. I've also learned a lot from my companion and from the experience of opening an area and having very little success. Was I shocked and disbelieving when the news came? Amazingly so. But Monte Vista C has definitely been vale la pena.

Funny story to go with this all . . . the ZLs just finished tearing apart their area book for us and spent some long, boring days in doors. After one of these a few days ago, they stopped by the mission office and bumped into President Slaughter. Apparently the dialogue went something like this:

PS: Elders, how are you doing?
E: We've had a kind of a bummer day doing paper work. We finally finished going through our area book for the Monte Vista C sisters,
PS: Oh really? Well I sure hope there aren't any big changes.

President Slaughter!! I love that man. He's hilarious. 

The other other awesome thing that happened this week was training with President Slaughter. He talked about finding by faith and it was so awesome!!!! Alan, I want to give you a definition that has changed my mission and might make yours a lot easier from the get go. A goal reflects the desire of your heart and the vision you have to achieve it. If you desire to baptized 500 people in your area and you have feasible plans of how you can accomplish that, 500 people is a great goal, and don't let anybody tell you otherwise. PMG says to keep your expectations high, because when you lower them, your faith decreases. If you don't baptize anybody, but you did everything in your power to accomplish your goal, you were successful. Goals are not a prediction of what will happen, and don't get caught in trying to be "realistic" like I have. Think about your desires, come up with a feasible plan to accomplish it, and there's your goal. 

I love you all so much! Have a marvelous week!!


Friday, August 30, 2013

August 26th

Dear Family,

I want to start by letting you all know that this letter will not be as long as usual. The normal library we go to is closed today, and we're at one today that has a one hour limit, and I still have to write President. So, thank you all for your emails, I read them all, but don't have much time to respond.

I wanted to let you know about the temple. We were able to go on Friday as a companionship just to go. We saw the new video, and it was incredible!! So much made so muc more sense, and I felt like Heavenly Father really blessed me with a lot of insight and understading. The San Antonio temple is gorgeous, btw. It's not very big, but there is tons of beautiful stained glass throughout the building, and it just sparkles as you're sitting there thinking and feeling the spirit. It was so great to be in the house of the Lord and to be able to think in peace. We hardly wanted to leave.

But then the very next day we got to go again for the endowing and sealing of the G Family. What a choice experience!! We weren't sure we'd get in because the session was overbooked, but we got all green lights as we drove up Stone Oak Parkway, so we got there in time to get on the list, and there were enough spaces to get in. The whole Del Rio 3rd branch was there!! I felt like I was coming home!! So many people that I loved somuch in the temple. As we walked out of the lobby, there was Brother G, dressed all in white with a little pink ordinance tag pinned onto his shirt. He was beaming!! I only had time to shake his hand briefly before going to change. Waiting in line to get a name, Sister G came into the dressing room after her briefing with the temple matron. She saw me, ran over, engulfed me in a Mexican lady hug and just started to sob! "Thank you! Thank you! I love you, I miss you! Thank you so much for coming!" I cried a little bit too. We did the whole endowment session in Spanish (with the old video) and I understood the whole thing, although not quie well enough to really internalize it and get a lot of spiritual meaning from it. Brother G took Sister G through the veil, and we met them on the other side in the Celestial room. What a wonderful reunion. And the best is still to come! All of the 3rd ward packed into the sealing room and watched as the G's were sealed to each other. They were too short and plump to kiss over the altar without Sister G pusing up on her toes to reach.  :) We all made it through that part with dry eyes, but as soon as they brought the kids in, everyone melted. Sister G was crying, Brother G was crying, I was crying, the whole ward was crying, even Sister H who didn't know any of them was crying. It was so beautiful and such a sweet experience to be able to be there. Thinking about it after, I realized I have been there for a lot of firsts for the G family, especially Brother G. He gave his first talk, got his first calling, passed the Sacrament for the first time, bore his first testimony, conducted his first FHE, taught his first Sunday School lesson, wore his first tie to church, got the Melchizedek Preisthood, participated in his first confirmation, and is now endowed and sealed to his family for all eternity. Heavenly Father really is so wonderful to us, and he knew that I needed to have that experience to show me what I had been able to participate in during my time in Del Rio. It was so beautiful. If I don't have time today, I'll send pictures next week.

We're starting to find people, and I'm less exhausted than I was, both of which are good things. We only had one exchange this last week instead of two, and I think that really made a difference.

Also, I got the pictures you sent of Alan. What a stud!! I pulled them out to look at them last night, and I have to say I think I have the best looking brother on the continent. :)

Also, Lisa, I got the pictures of P and your wonderful letter and I drooled over them the whole night. I can't even tell you what a pick me up it is to get your letters and pictures every now and again. They always seem to come at exactly the right moments too when I'm feeling a little down and really need them. I'm going to try to write you this afternoon, but if I don't get the chance, know that I love you and I can't wait to come sleep on your couch next year!

I think those are the biggest highlights. 

I love you all so much!! Thank you for your prayers!

Have a wonderful week!



Aug 19th

Dear Family,
Guess who I found this week!?!? We got an address and a last name from Obispo G for a member move-in that he didn't know and asked us to go check up on them. So I went over this week while we were on exchanges and knock knock!! Who's there? Soledad!! I think we were both pretty happy to recognize a familiar face. My Spanish is a lot better than it used to be, but she was still really, really, really hard to understand. I had a flash back to sitting in the Beluga Bus and listening to Mom trying to teach her how to say "scarf." "Echarf?" "No, SCarf." "Eharf?" "We'll keep working on it."

Guess who else we found this week? Enough Sudanese and Iraqi refugees to start an Arabic branch. The same day that we met Soledad, Hna. M and I taught a first lesson in Arabic. Speak English, called in Spanish, teaching in Arabic. Here's how it went down. We knocked the door, it opened, the woman was brown, so I started in English. All I got was a stare, so I tried again in Spanish. More stares "Do you speak English? Espanol?" She looks at me for a minute, and then says, "Arabic." Well, that ain't the language they taught me in the MTC, so I whipped out a card and typing in the air asked "computer?" "Oh!" she said, "laptop?" "Yeah! Laptop." So we got onto, and checked out the languages section, but my favorite website in the whole world let me down. No Arabic. At this moment, we're sitting in her house, unable to communicate, unable to invite this woman to come unto Christ when all of a sudden, like manna in the wilderness, Heavenly Father sent us an interpreter. He's also an Iraqi refugee that lives across the hall named S. He interpreted for the US Army in Iraq for a while before coming to the US. It was a long, slow lesson, but after comparing Islam and Christianity for a while, we were finally able to get into the Restoration. Hna. Montgomery felt like we needed to share the First Vision, so we did, and while we were in the middle of quoting Joseph Smith, S asked "Is that a real story?" To which responded that yes, it was. "Well that's really weird, because in Islam, God doesn't come to people. He just sends angels." All things considered, it was a great lesson, and we got a return appointment for Saturday. Unfortunately because neither English nor Arabic is Spanish, we can't teach them and had to turn them over to the APs. But! We saw the APs at church on Sunday and they told us that S is an awesome investigator (F ended up uninterested) and he was at church with them. We also passed them another family that was at church, and we gave the sisters a referral that now has a baptismal date, and we gave the other sisters a family that they are teaching as well. We're thinking that maybe our purpose in Monte Vista isn't actually to teach anybody, just to give really awesome referrals to everyone else. I'm ok with that. It's all team Jesus. And eventually, the blessings will come back our way.

Yesterday, we were at the apartment complex where all of the refugees seem to live (we've also met people from Burma and Nepal), and one of the gentlemen from Iraq asked through an interpreter if we knew anyone that could teach him English. He can't work without English, and he's really motivated to learn. So, we told him that we're going to start a free class, and we'll tell him when it gets rolling. That's our project right now, is to get that going. And then when we do, eventually we'll pass all of our students over to the APs to be taught and baptized, and pretty soon, there will be an Arabic branch in San Antonio. My Spanish is a lot better now. Maybe they'll just reassign me to learn Arabic too! Or maybe, they'll make that apartment complex it's on mission and call a pair of Elders to the Texas, Nob Hill, Arabic speaking mission. :)
We're planning on going to the temple before the end of this transfer. Hna. L called me from Del Rio and said the G Family is planning to come up this Saturday to be endowed and sealed, and if that happens, we'll definitely be going. Unfortunately, they haven't translated the new video into Spanish, so it'll probably be the old one. I'm thinking I'll try to go again some time when I can see the new one. I've heard it's really good. And I need to go to the temple.

Mom, I'm feeling really pooped. I think I'm at an endure to the end stage. I've just been so tired, both physically, emotionally, spiritually, all around. Personal study the last few days hasn't been as rewarding as usual, I get grumpy super easily, and I'm experiencing all kinds of weird twinges and palpitations at random times and in random places. In fact, as we speak, there's a muscle spasing out below my left rib. Weird. I love what I'm doing, but I'm just wiped, and sometimes the thought of being here for another whole year without the hope of napping whenever I need to just seems a little bit overwhelming. But I'm trying to take it one day at a time, love my companion a little bit more, pray a little bit harder, and I'm trusting that I'll be able to snap out of it eventually.

The Lord is blessing us. We taught two member present lessons on Saturday, which is more than ever so far, and yesterday, we got an awesome referral from a guy in Utah. He came down here on business in April and gave a Book of Mormon to a hotel worker that looked like he needed it. Through this guy's son that served a Spanish speaking mission, they found out that the Hotel Worker had been reading the Book of Mormon every day since April. And we talked to him this morning on the phone. He's going out of town, but we're going to meet with him when he gets back. So cool!!
Some thoughts about food. I've been able to stay well within my budget eating the way that we do at home. Of course, I don't eat as much as a voracious 18 year old, but the budget hasn't been a problem for me. I usually eat cereal with a banana and soy/almond milk for breakfast or I'll make a smoothie or some oatmeal. Every now and then, I'll whip up some banana pancakes which are pretty easy to make. 1 banana, 1 c flour, about 1/2 t salt, about 1 t baking powder, a half spoonful of sugar, and water until it runs right. For lunch, sometimes I like to put a sweet potato into the oven at 400 while I do language study, and then it's done an hour later when it's lunch time. PB&Js are a good option, bagged salad, frozen veggies, canned beans. He could buy some minute brown rice and throw some black beans in a pot with onions, garlic powder and a little cumin, and voila! Rice and beans. Refried beans and tortillas with spinach and salsa works. He could even make oven fries and a hamburger. Often times, people give us food and we end up with left overs too. I like making other stuff too, but it involves a little more cooking.

I love you all. The gospel is true. Heavenly Father loves us so much and just wants to bless us. He just waits for us to ask because he doesn't want to take away our agency. Keep up the good work everyone!!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Transfer Day

August 5th, 2013

Dear Family,

As always, it's great to hear about yall's adventures. Mom, I was able to watch the video about Sister Brock and loved seeing some familiar sights, but there's no sound in the library, and we're not supposed to use headphones. As soon as I get a chance, I'll watch it with stereo. We've been sharing a lot of cards and referring people to watch the videos, so now I'll have a specific one to reference.  J

A lot of our time this week was spent with the mundane tasks of opening an area. We finally got some boundaries set so that we don't end up proselyting in someone else's stake again (oops!), bought a map, divided our area into smaller bites, mapped out which members we cover, visited the mission office to get Spanish teaching supplies, called all of the English ward bishops, and took care of some STL stuff too, like coordinating exchanges for the rest of the transfer (two a week until the end!), calling district and zone leaders to get info about our sisters etc, etc. 

That being said, there were still some great moments to highlight. This week's focus is FAMILIES!! President Slaughter is all about finding and teaching families, which I love. That's really what we need in the church, and families that convert are more likely to stay active than single people that convert by themselves. The problem is, families are usually harder to teach, so sometimes, we shy away from finding and teaching them. President Slaughter was in the mission office the same time we were there getting supplies, and I realized as we talked to him for a few minutes that normally when we set goals for finding new investigators, I only plan for one or two. What family with a father and mother is made up of one person? I can't think of any. So this week, we've been setting our goal higher, with 3, 4 or 5 new investigators, trusting that Heavenly Father will help us find families.

So, one evening, we were at an apt complex to knock, but sitting in the car finishing a phone call. When I looked up, there was a family of four getting out of their car!! "Sister H!! It's our family!!" Papers flying, backpacks neglected, we tumbled out of our car and practically ran over to them. The contact turned into a QGC (quality gospel conversation) turned into a first lesson turned into two new investigators (their girls are both under 8). I'm not sure they'll get baptized or even turn into a second lesson (they've been ignoring our calls), but Heavenly Father helps us meet our goals when we have faith to find. 

In Mission Leadership Conference (MLC) this week (one of the perks of being an Sister Training Leader, or STL), we talked about blind spots and fathers. So what's a blind spot? Imagine you're picking raspberries. When you walk up to the bushes, there are usually one or two ripe ones visible, but not very many. In order to find the really good ones, you have to dig a little bit, turn over leaves, hunt around, and often times, the very best, ripest clumps of raspberries are hidden beneath the surface of leaves where they're not readily visible. Now imagine that you knock a door, talk to the mother of the house who is receptive to your message, and in your excitement to teach her a first lesson, don't think to invite her teenage kids into the room to come and listen or ask where her husband is and if he might be interested in the message too. So many times, we walk into a teaching situation and pick the "raspberries" that we can see off the top and then wonder why we don't have more investigators. These people have friends and families and connections. Every data point is a link to a million others, but if you never follow the links, you never find the other data points. Blind spots. And one of the usual victims of blind spots are fathers.

Think about this for a minute. Women generally tend to be more readily receptive to the gospel. But even if you baptize 10,000 women and no Melchizedek Priesthood holders, can you split the ward? Nope. Can those women be sealed in the temple and become an eternal family? Nope. Can they receive all of the promises of the Abrahamic Covenant which is our whole purpose for being here anyway? Nope, they can't. We need fathers. Fathers are the backbone of the church. Why does every worthy man hold the Priesthood? Because the family is the basic unit of the church, and without that Priesthood link, the family is not connected to the administering agent of the gospel. Families without fathers rarely last, whereas those that are led by fathers become converted. J G, again, is a prime example. When he was converted, the whole family came too. In contrast, many of the women we were teaching in Del Rio without their husbands didn't make it. Maria wouldn't get baptized, Kfell out of activity once she was. Whenever we go in to teach a family, we have to make sure we teach the father his divine role to preside by allowing him to do so. He has to be invited to participate, and even if he doesn't want to, every time we come to teach, we should ask his permission to be there. My whole mission has changed. The invisible walls we kept running into in Del Rio are now visible. This is something that every missionary needs to understand. Teach families by teaching them how to be families, and that includes allowing the father to fulfill his divine role to preside.

No miracles with this one yet, but they're going to come. Probably this week. Hna H and I have been asked to do a training on this for the South Zone's zone conference this week, and I'm really excited!!

Another miracle of the week. We were knocking doors in an apartment complex and had a brief conversation with a young man named A. All we did was give him a card, invite him to church, and get his number to follow up. But guess what?!? He came!! He could only stay one hour yesterday, but said he'd come for all three next week. In the evening, we had a good visit with him and learned more about his life, some wild years growing up and a big changed that happened during a period of consequences. We have another lesson tonight, and I'm really excited to teach him. And guess what? We've checked our blind spots. He lives with his sister and her kids and he has friends too. Are we going to hunt them down? Yes we are.

Some good news from Del Rio!! Hermana L and Hermana L went back to visit M (the mom of J and A that ignored us for a really long time) and she let them in! They even got a return appointment. A and S are making plans to not live together, and A's daughter A got baptized last Sunday. S is planning to be baptized at the end of the month, and asked if I could come down for the baptism. I don't think I'll be able to, but I'm so excited for him!!! 

Funny story. We were talking to two moms and their combined five kids that weren't very interested in what we had to say, but didn't tell us no straight out either. So of course, we kept going. When we were done, we asked if we could come back and set an appointment with the one mom then turned to the other and asked if she lived in the apartment above the other mom's. She told us yes without making eye contact, but then their two little boys ratted her out big time. "No, no!! We live across the street in that building, first apartment on the right!!" Don't try to lie in front of kids. It's not gonna work.

Sage advice from a pro: If you don't want people to see you in your underwear, don't answer the door without your clothes on. A lot of people haven't seemed to figure that one out yet, so I thought I'd pass it on.

Praying for you all as always. Tons of love!


Monday, July 29, 2013

July 29th, 2013

Dear Family,

Well, I'm not in Del Rio anymore, and I feel about like Dorothy when she left Kansas. Usually they tell missionaries important details about their assignments before transfer meeting, but I guess with a change of President and four new assistants, that tradition has fallen through. I have been relocated to the North Zone of San Antonio, doubled in and opening a new area with Hna. H who has been up in Austin. Here's the specs. We're working in the Monte Vista Ward which is a Spanish ward, much more solid than the branch down in Del Rio. The first night, we met our mission leader and he is awesome!! Hermano G has a goal to split the ward in a year, y vamos a sudar la gota gorda para lograrla. Because we're in a Spanish ward, we're covering the geographic area of 4 or 5 English speaking companionships, which means no more bikes. :(  They gave us a brand new Ford Fusion instead. It's a nice car.

Our area includes the San Antonio temple and most of the members in our area live right next to it, so I get to see the temple every single day. It's a great talking point during contacting, and I'm really excited to be able to go soon. My goal is to never stay away from the temple as long as I have on my mission, haha. Despite the fact that we cover such a huge geographical area, we have almost no members to work with. I think we have 8 families in our area, and they're all the leadership calling families, which ironically means they are less likely to have referrals. We inherited about 8 findable former investigator records, about that many potentials, and that's all we have to work with. So it's going to be a fun transfer rooting out all of the Spanish speakers in North San Antonio with little or nothing to start from. Being in the city is so different from Del Rio. President lives in our zone along with all four of the APs, we see other missionaries regularly and usually drive more than 35 mph. To get anywhere we have to take several freeways, and I can't believe how much that freaked me out the first day after growing up in Atlanta. In Del Rio, I knew every street in our area and could tell you something about most of the people that lived in each house. Here, each of the three English areas we cover have more streets alone than my one little corner of Del Rio did. Definitely not in Kansas anymore, but I'm excited, and it's going to be a blast!

Our new address is:

1700 Jackson Keller #3302
San Antonio, TX 78213

Dad, "My name is Jehovah, and I know the end from the beginning; therefore, my hand shall be over thee." I've been studying the past week about faith and hope, and especially in a time of transition and feeling like there's nowhere to start, I've been relying on the promise that Heavenly Father is going to sort things out as we work hard and do our best. He knows the beginning from the end and put me here for a reason.

A few notes about leaving Del Rio. I felt a lot of tender mercies as I said goodbyes this week and realized that my time in Del Rio actually did mean something. We stopped by to see our 89 year old investigator, Mr. Moravitz, who is a sweet old man going a little bit senile. Usually, it's a struggle to get him to pray during lessons, but at the end of our brief meeting, he bashfully asked if he could pray and then offered a sweet and simple prayer that as I left, I would be blessed and be able to have safety and success on my mission. He always jokes about how he can't hug the sister missionaries, but after the prayer I asked if he would do me a favor and give me a hug, and he was just about tickled to death.

We had a testimony meeting with the G family before leaving and it was so good to hear all of their testimonies of the gospel. They drove up to the church to meet us since they aren't in our area anymore, and J was so proud and duly humbled by the responsibility of taking care of the church building and his new set of keys to all the doors. I think I might have said this before, but last Sunday, he got the Melchizedek Priesthood and was able to stand in the circle for the confirmation of the Sisters' convert baptism. Also, because the temple is in my area, if they get sealed in August as planned, I'll be able to go!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I'm so excited for them!!

All day, we kept stopping by J's house to try to drop off a picture and give her a hug goodbye, but she wasn't home, which was abnormal. Finally, around 9:30, she gave us a call which was also abnormal because she usually goes to bed at 6. She told us that [her daughter who has MS] L had been hospitalized with pneumonia because she wasn't able to breathe at all and she had been with her there since Sunday. Of course we were concerned and asked if there was anything we could do. Jacque gave us permission to give L a Priesthood blessing the next day, but said she didn't need us to bring meals or anything. And then she said, with a hint of surprise and wonder in her voice, "you guys really do love us!" Yes J! We love you so much and Heavenly Father does too! That was my goal for her. Even if she never joins the church, J needs to know that there are people in this world who love her and that she has a Heavenly Father who loves us too. There in that last phone conversation with her, I found out that J met that goal.

When I got into bed that night, I couldn't sleep because I was worrying about all of the needs of the people we've been teaching that I wouldn't be able to help anymore after I left. I finally got out of bed and said a prayer that I'd be able to have peace and know that everyone would be ok. Eventually, I was able to fall asleep, but the rest of the answer to my prayer came when my MTC companion, Hermana L got off the Border Van to take my place. I know her, I know how hard she works, how disciplined she is and how much we prayed and worked together in the MTC to discern the needs of our investigators, and I know that the people I have come to love will be well cared for in her capable hands. Thank you Heavenly Father for tender mercies like these.

Another fun side note, Saturday morning was a stake Pioneer Day celebration in our new area, so we went to meet and mingle with the members. Right at the end of the activity, they had the Elders and then the Sisters compete against each other in a watermelon eating contest . . . and guess who smoked all the Hermanas. Yours truly. I'll send a picture.

Well, I believe that's the news from San Antonio. I loved reading about what's been going on from your end. Every sister missionary has at least 10 pounds she'd like to be rid of. Our zone leaders get up every morning at 5:30 to run at the high school track and we went with them for the first time this morning, so I'm hopeful that I'll be able to at least not put any more on this transfer. There's a little old lady in our ward that leaves all of the missionaries food in the fridge every Sunday and apparently there's always cake. This week it was pina colada cream cake. Sometimes there are consequences for being loved so much.  :)  

I love you all mucho gracias bueno amounts, as my FHE brother Jeff used to say. I pray for you bunches and think about you every time I look at your picture right next to my study desk. 

Have a marvelous week!


Monday, June 17, 2013

Editorial Note

Emily's younger brother Alan received his mission call to serve for 24 months in the Texas Fort Worth Mission speaking Spanish.  He actually leaves Sept 18th, not the 11th, and is going to the Missionary Training Center in Mexico City. He sent an email to Emily with the announcement but did not have a complete address, hence the confusion.

Oh That I were an Angel

Dear Family,

Congratulations Alan!!! I'm assuming from what I've deduced of Mom's and Dad's letters that you're going to the Texas Fort Worth mission, Spanish speaking via the Mexico MTC, leaving September 11th? I don't know if the email was never written, never sent or misdirected, but I didn't actually get it.  Congrats all the same! That's so exciting! I did forget to include my guess in my last email, so you'll have to trust me that I'm being honest. I guessed Texas for state side and Mexico for foreign!! haha. I've been working on my discernment skills (make way for the lightning!!)  ;)  If I got any of the details wrong, I'd love to have them corrected. I'm so excited you're coming to Texas! I actually had a dream this week after thinking right before bed "what if Alan got called to San Antonio?" that we were in the same mission and I saw you at a mission meeting. You had grown to be 6'4" and when I ran up to give you a hug, I felt like a midget. Maybe it's symbolic for spiritual growth. :) You're going to be such a good missionary. 

Dad, Happy Father's Day!! I realized yesterday that this year is the second of three Father's Days that I wasn't able to/won't be able to call home. The upside is, right after the next one, I'll basically be able to tell you in person. In our Sacrament meeting yesterday, Sister Forsyth spoke about Fathers and she asked a question that made me think. "Why did we need to leave Heavenly Father's presence in order to learn and grow?" She compared it to leaving home and learning how to appreciate your parents more. So true!! Both points. One thing that I am increasingly grateful for every day of my mission is my wonderful, Priesthood holding, Christ exemplifying Dad. I can't even begin to express how many scummy men I have met on my mission, and how downright floored I am to be the recipient of such a blessing as such a Dad. Thank you so much for being who you are and always being an example, and always being my Dad. I love you. I also know that Heavenly Father loves each of us and is mindful of us. He did send us to earth to grow and I am increasingly amazed to realize more and more how perfectly he knows us and teaches us. Life is hard, but I'm so grateful to be here, because it's so worth it.

I enjoyed hearing about all of the yard work changes this week. I vote for a cookout pad beneath the deck. I think that sounds like a lot of fun!! I can relate to the bug bites too. Every night we go out (which is every night) we come back in with a few new red, bumpy, itchy battle wounds. I've got a massive bite from something or other on my wrist right beneath my watch strap that bled when I first got it and turned into a super itchy, semi-purple goose egg. It's looking like it's getting better though, so I'm not going to worry about it too much.

Congrats on the new RS presidency and surviving Father's Day. It's so fun to hear about the Sister Missionaries in your area as well. We've talked about this a couple of times this week, one of the ways going on a mission changes you, is you understand the missionaries, because you literally walk several thousand miles in their shoes, haha. All of those years the missionaries would come over and we would ask them how their day had gone and they would give a vague, nondescript answer, I now know exactly what they were thinking and could have said if they had wanted to. I feel for Sister B. She'll be great. Training is hard at first, but it's not really as bad as we freak ourselves out to thinking it's going to be.

I'll start with the sad news first and then move on to the happier stuff. We got dropped by I this week. We had an appointment set up with her for 6 and even had a member there to teach with us. When we got to her house, she was on her way out to dinner. After asking if we could reschedule for a bit later, she told us she had decided that she wanted to stick with her church and didn't want to read the Book of Mormon any more. We gave each other hugs and said goodbye, and that was that. Ouch!! That was a heart breaking moment. I love that woman so much, and I know that the answers to questions she has had for years and YEARS are contained in the Book of Mormon. And her questions aren't just gee whiz kinds of things, they are questions of the soul. It just killed me to have that moment of hugs and goodbye. When that happens, you just have to turn your investigator over to Heavenly Father and trust that he really does know what's best for them, and in their own time and His, it'll work out. I may never see her again, but I sure hope she'll be ready someday, and I'll give her a big hug when I see her in Heaven. 

An RCLA named K is really struggling with the gospel right now, and I'm crying for her as well. She has always struggled with her marriage and was hopeful that when she joined the church, it would help things to improve. Unfortunately, J likes to blame her participation in the church for their problems, and so whenever she goes or we come to visit, problems flare up. Her faith is really wavering, and it's so hard to know how to tell her that she has to keep the commandments in order to receive the guidance that she needs when all she sees is that keeping the commandments cause problems. She hasn't been to church in a month, even though she knows it's true, and without the Sacrament to apply the Atonement and invite the spirit, she's really having a rough time. So pray for K.

We had a great lesson this week with J. We taught her and L the plan of salvation, and her biggest problem with it, is that it's too good to be true. J has had a hard life and her attitude, while surprisingly not bitter, is just very realist. "Life's tough and then you die." To her, the idea that there's a loving Heavenly Father, that we lived with him before we came to earth, that the Atonement is real and allows us to return to live with him again is "too much of a fairy tale." She doesn't think it has any grounding in "the real world." However, she did feel the spirit as we were teaching her, and I'm having faith that eventually, it's going to sink in. That lesson also made me realize once again how blessed we are to know about Heavenly Father's plan for us. It truly is a beautiful, loving and merciful plan, and I am so grateful to be a part of it. I'm so grateful for the Restoration of the gospel that brought the knowledge of that plan back to full light. I'm grateful for the Atonement that makes it possible.

Dad, I really loved your thought of the week (surprise, surprise, I always do.) Poor Sister L is so sick of hearing how much I love the commandments, but I really do. I love them. People are always trying to find loopholes to living the commandments, but really, commandments are the loophole. They allow the Atonement of Jesus Christ to be applied in our lives which is the great loophole to avoiding the consequences of eternal laws that we can fulfill by ourselves. I also really loved your point about the increased maturity of Nephi's thoughts and about the difference between being in the MTC and in the field. The MTC does fill you with a lot of unrealistic expectations, and I understand why. But every missionary struggles when they get to the field with trying to decide if they're really doing enough or if the reason they're not seeing success is because their faith is wavering. I know that Heavenly Father has provided a way for all of his children to receive exaltation if they choose it. I am part of that plan, but all I can do is keep the commandments and invite others to do the same. That's all there is too it. Sometimes, it doesn't work out the way you think it will in the MTC, but that's ok, because it's Heavenly Father's perfect plan, and not the faulty one I would choose if I were in charge. "Oh that I were an angel! But I do sin in my wish, for I ought to be contented to the things which God has allotted me." (something like that.)

I love you all so much. We see miracles every day, even when they're just little ones. For example, an investigator we passed over to the Elders after a lot of non success finally came back to church this week. I was teaching gospel principles this week, and since he was the only investigator there, I was able to completely revamp the lesson we planned and tailor it specifically to his needs. Blessings. We were knocking yesterday and found a woman named L who was baptized when she was 13 and always wanted to be a missionary, but got married to a man that didn't like the church and hasn't been since then. I'm sure she's not on anyone's records and has been MIA for many many years. We're going to see her tomorrow morning. Blessings. Stuff like that. Little things that happen all the time that just let you know that Heavenly Father is mindful. He loves us and he has a plan for us.

Keep up the good work everyone! I love you all so much!!!


Monday, June 10, 2013

Amazing how often you walk out of the closet and find that you match

Hermana Christensen and Sister L


One night Emily and her companion noticed a rustling in the grass when they got home and found giant frogs!

June 10, 2013

Dear Family,

Who has the cutest niece in the whole wide world? Sister Christensen does!!! I can't wait to get pictures of her! Every time they show up in my email, I show all of the other sisters and we have an "awwwww" moment, and then remember we're in the library and ought to be quiet. Well done Steven and Lisa.

Glad you all survived the great move-a-palooza. Everyone is off safe and sound, and hopefully for the better. This week I actually used the nail file Sister B gave me at my farewell and I thought about her for a few minutes. Sad to see (figuratively) the Es go, but this means I'll get to see them more in the long run when I'm back at school!! Woohoo for me!

Transfer news . . . 10 points for me for guessing everything right. Sister L and I are staying together in Del Rio for another transfer (yay!!!!!!!!!!!), as are Sister I (who is also the new Sister Training Leader on the Border) and Sister A. Elder Cl is flying home on Wednesday (that one wasn't so hard to predict) and Elder Cr is being transferred. Elder H and Elder S (their companions respectively), are both staying here, and we will have a new district leader. I'm excited for the change. I've always liked changes, but I think they're really important in missionary work to keep ideas and motivation fresh. You learn a lot from the people you work with, so if you get more chances to work with more people, it makes sense that you would learn more.

I also realized that this week, I will be 25% done with my mission. At the end of this transfer, I will hit my 6 month mark, which means I'm basically done. Oh my goodness, where has the time gone?!?!?!?!? It's crazy! When you're working hard, you feel great and the time just slips through your fingers. Before I know it, I'll be facing the same fate as Elder Cl. 

I'm not sure where to start this week. It was a weird one, because we celebrated Hermana L's birthday on Tuesday, and then she was sick on Wednesday and we had to stay home the whole day. I learned some things from that experience though. First, a missionary is happiest when they are working their tail off. Second, Heavenly Father really loves us enough to arrange even the insignificant things for our good. Tuesday night, I was feeling so great about being a missionary. I couldn't wait to get up the next morning and go out to work and teach the whole world. When I woke up, I was not feeling it at all. Honestly, I think think this was a tender mercy to help me be patient with a whole day of being at home and cleaning/studying/cooking. Sister Lalso got sick not on her birthday, but the day after, and because we were home, we were able to receive a package with perishable items in it that came later than it was supposed to, and that would have been a disaster if it had been left out in the heat. All in all, it was still a good day, but when we got back out on Thursday, I realized how much happier I am when I'm working. Even when your investigators drop you and your RCLAs don't come to church, Heavenly Father blesses you with satisfaction so that you know you're still doing ok. 

He also blesses you with chastisement when you need it. Friday, we had the marvelous opportunity to participate in a live mission broadcast with Elder Tad R. Callister of the presidency of the seventy. He's the one that spoke in General Conference a few times ago about the Bible and the Book of Mormon and used the analogy of two dots on a page to talk about how they support and clarify each other. I used that analogy ALL THE TIME to explain to people that we really do believe the Bible, but the Book of Mormon is also the word of God. Anyway, for his closing remarks, Elder Callister talked about how to become a consecrated missionary. I took detailed notes about everything he said, the whole time feeling acutely everything that I should be doing better to become a better missionary. Chastisement is great, because it helps you to progress. But Heavenly Father knows we are still human. Right before closing, Elder Callister talked about the difference between Elders and Sisters. In essence he said "I'm sure all of you sisters have a detailed list of all the things you need to do to improve (I did), and all of you Elders, if I asked you, would scratch your heads and say, 'Well give me a minute. Maybe I'll be able to think of something I can do better.'" I realized again that yes, I can always improve, but as long as I'm doing my best, as long as YOU are all doing YOUR best, Heavenly Father is proud of you and will help you to be better. Before I was done, "patience with self" was added to the top of my list.  :)

I have a testimony of the Book of Mormon. We are trying to focus more on reading it with our investigators from the get-go and having them read it themselves to receive their own answers. As we have done so, we still don't have anyone getting baptized, but the quality of our investigators has improved. Saturday, we stopped by and visited I (the one who did the quinceanera for her daughter) and asked if she had been able to read the Book of Mormon or not. She said no, that she isn't convinced it's true because the language is "so modern." We read in 2 Nephi 31:3 and talked about God and how he wants us to be able to understand, so he speaks in simple language. I love that! I love that the BoM is so simple and understandable. Heavenly Father really and truly does not try to complicate things. He wants it to be straightforward and understandable, so he gave us the BoM. Don't complain because of the "easiness of the way." I's desire is to find faith and for God to be able to use her. She said she prays every day "God, show me what I can do. Use me!" but that he never answers her. We told her, "I, this is your answer. God sent you two white girls that can barely speak Spanish to give you this book so that you could read it and know for yourself that it's true. The reason that nothing else you have tried works, is because it's all the same. The fact that this is different should be a sign to you." We told her she's not allowed to give up on the Book of Mormon until she has read and prayed about 1 and 2 Nephi. If she hasn't felt anything then, we'll talk some more. That was enough to get her to church on Sunday. She came for all three hours and still wasn't convinced at the end, but she had read a lot of the BoM overnight. We told her that we can't convince her, and we won't even try to. The Spirit has to testify that what we are saying is true, and that is the only thing that will make a difference. I'm praying every day that her heart will be softened because I know that the BoM is true and has incredible converting power from the spirit it invites as we read, but it won't make a difference if she doesn't give place in her heart for that seed to grow.    

On a similar BoM note, we found out that J believes the Joseph Smith story, but hasn't ever read in the BoM. I'm sure that's why she doesn't feel comfortable coming to church, because she hasn't experienced the converting power of the BoM. We're going to start reading with them tomorrow as a family, and I just pray that she will gain a testimony as well. Her son, A, who is 8 still comes to church with us every Sunday and loves it.

We've started teaching a woman named C and her twins S and S (who are 12 and adorable!!!!) from the BoM. We only ever have about 15 minutes at a time to teach them, but they are all reading from the BoM and C always says "seems to me like it's the same kind of stories and teaches the same things as the Bible." Finally someone who gets it!!!! What a breath of fresh air.

 Today's title of the week is sponsored by many of the less actives here in Del Rio, and really everybody else we teach as well. Whenever somebody knows they need to do something but doesn't want to do it, they say "I'll try." That means no. That is the biggest self deception I have ever heard in my life. "I'll try." Yoda had it right 100%. Do it, or don't do it. None of this "I'll try" business. If you know you need to be at church, get your lazy rear out of bed and get there. If you know you need to read your scriptures, open them up and read them! It's a skill most of us learned by 1st grade! If you know you need to pray more, get down on your knees and do it!! If you know you're miserable and the gospel will make you happy, live it!! It's not that hard. Heavenly Father makes it simple and easy to understand and possible through the Atonement. Just do it! And stop making excuses. Do it. Do it, Do it!! Live your covenants. Keep the commandments and be happy! J and B G- know this works. Every time we're over there, they bear us their testimonies of how the gospel has blessed their family, and I have seen miracles happen in the 12 weeks I have known them. J said he knew he needed to change when he thought about his kids and the life he wanted them to have. He quit drinking, they started coming to church, now they're paying their tithing and starting to read scriptures as a family and pray together. Every time they start keeping another commandment, the blessings come more and more. They love it! They love going to church and are preparing to go to the temple as a family. J tells us about the sacrifices he has had to make, but that it is so worth it to him. It makes me think of my ancestors and the sacrifices they made so that I could grow up in the church and serve a mission. I am so grateful for them for making those choices. If your testimony and your conversion aren't where they need to be, what are you going to do to fix it? It's worth the sacrifice, and that's a promise. So do it!

I love you all. I love the gospel. I love being a missionary, and I'm so grateful that Heavenly Father trusts me enough to have this opportunity. Be examples. Live what you know to be true. You'll be happier and so will everyone else around you. Just do it! I pray for you all the time, and I love hearing about what's going on.

All my love,


Sunday, May 12, 2013

New Apartment

Yesterday Emily moved to an apartment on the shady side of her building that is much cooler and more comfortable. For packages and snail mail, send things to (at least until transfers in 5 weeks):

Hermana Emily Christensen
705 Kings Way # 1112
Del Rio, Texas 78840

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Gospel Rocks!

Dear Family,                                                                                         

So this week was a fun one. Early on in the week with Hna. B,  we were able to leverage the fact she was leaving to nail down appointments with some of our tricky investigators. We were finally able to meet with M again and had a super solid lesson with P. G. one of our recent converts. P. shared her conversion story and how prayer and reading the Book of Mormon had helped her to gain a testimony, and M really latched onto that. She asked "how did you decide this was what you really wanted to do?" I think M's problem is she's faced with a bunches of changes she is going to have to make if she joins the church, and I think she knows that the changes are good, but she doesn't have a testimony, that what we have taught her is true to support the need to change, and so it's been a hard decision for her. We went and woke her up yesterday morning 20 minutes before church and encouraged her to come when she could, but she didn't ever show up. Pray for M. She needs it, but I'm not quite sure how to help her.

After a few miracle lessons like that, it was off to San Antonio for transfers! The morning of, I had the opportunity to take the mission Spanish test for the first time. I don't know my score yet (75% is a pass), but I walked in when there were already a bunch of people there taking it for their third or second or sixth time, and I finished before most. It might just be because I didn't know what I was doing on the grammar section, but I felt pretty good about it, and I know I dominated the vocab and the idioms because of a bunch of help from Hna. B. So we'll have to see.

Onto what you all really want to know. Who are the new Sisters of Del Rio?! My new companion is Hermana L. She is a boss!!!!! I love her already. She's from Boise, third of six kids, her youngest brother is the cutest Downs Syndrome kid you have ever seen in your life, she's been at Utah State the past several years studying Psychology and working at a special ed preschool, and she's about to graduate as well. Her Spanish isn't super great yet, but she really wants it to be, so I have every confidence that it will come in time. More importantly, she has missionary fire! One of the challenges of working with a missionary about to go home, is they have to think about what is coming after the mission in order to prepare for it, which means the companion ends up thinking about it a lot too. Hna. L. on the other hand has tons of energy and excitement for missionary work, is so ready to work hard and already loves the people of  Del Rio. Saturday, we only had one lesson scheduled, and spent the rest of the day knocking doors. From that knocking, we got the first two literal door slams of my mission (and hers), but also a stellar first lesson. Hna. L is super focused on conversion and what we can do to help people be converted. A lot of the things I was struggling with last transfer came so naturally in our lessons on Saturday. We explained the Book of Mormon and the Holy Ghost and the importance of commandments and coming to church and agency in choosing to do these things for ourselves. We introduced baptism both times, and the spirit was there throughout. I'm SO excited to work with her.

Friday, we had a lesson with one of our investigators, M, that we've taught several times and never even talked about baptism. M only speaks Spanish, she doesn't even do very much Spanglish, and this was my first lesson as a trainer with a companion that doesn't speak much Spanish yet. To add to that, I was super thrown off because M had read in the Book of Mormon, but she had read in the "guide to the scriptures" in the back of the Spanish edition (like a combo of the topical guide and bible dictionary) about a bunch of random things, and I didn't know what to do with that. However, even though the lesson was super jumbled and M is hard to read, the lesson turned out great. She told us straight out that she knows the Book of Mormon and the story about Joseph Smith are true because of the "penetration" she feels in her heart when she reads the Book of Mormon. We asked her to be baptized, and she said yes, but was nervous about the date we tried to set, and said she wanted to think about it. That was a miracle to me, because the lesson by all standards of man should have gone terribly. I was so jumbled and confused and felt like I was grasping at straws, but the Lord works through imperfect vessels, and because the Spirit was there, we were still able to invite her to come unto Christ. It all worked out in the end.

Let me just warn all of you future missionaries out there, being a trainer really is hard. BUT, like Dad shared with me in his scripture of the week, I know that the Lord calls those whom he qualifies. The last few mornings, I have rolled out of bed and immediately felt a rock of dread sink into the bottom of the stomach, knowing that I am responsible for how we spend our time that day, and not knowing what to do or how to do it. But then I realized, when I first got to the field, I had that same rock of dread sink into my stomach at the thought of having to contact people. I was terrified to be a real missionary, and had no idea how I was going to do it. Six weeks later, I spent the whole day knocking doors with my brand new companion, and I wasn't terrified in the slightest. I had every confidence that I would be able to contact and talk to people and everything would be just fine. I know it will be the same this transfer, and I have already seen the change start to happen. Heavenly Father gives us challenges because he wants us to grow. I got comfortable by the end of six weeks, and it was time to make me stretch again. But Heavenly Father doesn't just throw you in a den of lions to fight them off yourself. He gave me the companion I needed, he has given me blessings of confidence and comfort. And there is nothing to fight of rocks in your stomach like hard work. Just go out and do something. Heavenly Father will bless your efforts.

Mom, your prayers for my Spanish are working, and I can testify that the gift on tongues is real. At the beginning of the week with Hna B, we were listening to the Restoration in Spanish and working on a visual aid during our Spanish study, and even with the Spanish subtitles, I had a really hard time following the native speakers and understanding what they were saying. Last night, I turned it on again while I was working on a different visual aid, and the subtitles didn't work for some reason, but I understood almost every single word that was being said, even though my hands were busy with other things and my mind was semi engaged in my work. We had a meeting with the 3rd ward Branch President yesterday, who speaks super quickly, and for the first time, I understood almost everything he said. I have felt in my few conversations with Spanish speakers this week that putting my thoughts into Spanish isn't as hard, and that I am able to converse more effectively than before. The gift of tongues is real. That doesn't eliminate the need for effort, but Heavenly Father will make up the difference and go far beyond to exceed your expectations. 

Another mini miracle of the week. After not driving a car for more than three months, we were on our way back from San Antonio, and I had forgotten the need for a few essential car things, like gasoline. We cruised through Bracketville, the last town before the long stretch of ranch land that leads you into Del Rio, and passed the last gas station for 20 miles or more, when Hna. L made a comment about the gas prices. Her vocalized thought prompted me to look down, and I realized that the gas gauge was beyond empty, and the "miles to go" reader said 0. We had enough to turn around and head back to Bracketville for gas, but I'm sure we wouldn't have made it through to Del Rio. Heavenly Father, again, watches out for his missionaries.

I'll just tell you briefly about the other new missionaries in Del Rio. In addition to Hna. L we got two more sisters and two more Elders. Hna. I is from Seattle, but I believe she said her family recently moved to Georgia though not terribly close to us. She has been out ten months, and is really cool. I like her a lot. Her companion is Hna. A from Provo. Her dad is Peruvian, so I think she's heard Spanish throughout her life, but didn't grow up speaking it at all. Her Spanish is pretty good. Elder C and Elder H are the new Elders on the block. I still don't know much about them, but I'm guessing that will change because we're working the same area and have already had to do a bit of coordinating investigators etc. And we still have Elders C and S from Layton and California respectively. 

Faith, repentance, baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end (aka repeat). That's what the gospel is all about. That's how we start on the path, that's how we continue on the path. We have faith in the Savior, we change every day to become a little more like him, we renew our baptismal and temple covenants as we take the Sacrament every Sunday, and we have the Holy Ghost to guide us and sanctify us and help us to keep the commandments that God has given us. Commandments are a blessing. They are stepping stones given to us by Heavenly Father, the man that knows everything, so that we can also know how to become like him. They are trail markers to walk the path that will lead back to his presence. Jesus Christ carried out the Atonement, which is what makes the whole plan possible! The scriptures are how we find out about the plan. Read them! Love them!! They and prayer are your lifeline of communication. I LOVE this gospel. I LOVE being a missionary. We are so blessed to have the knowledge that we do, so don't ever take it for granted.

Dad, your scripture of the week is great (D&C 35:12-15,24). I know that I and every other missionary can have a successful mission with the help of a loving Heavenly Father. I love verse 24 because it highlights how the commandments and our covenants give us power. They do not restrict us. They liberate and empower, and I am so glad for a loving Heavenly Father that knows what I can become and can help me to become it, and will help me to become it. I have faith that even though there is a lot of unfairness in this world, everything will be made right, because Heavenly Fathers plan is perfect and it is fair. In the end, we will see how we have all had the equivalent opportunities to use our agency to become like Heavenly Father or not. The great thing is, we get to choose. Every single one of us can choose to go to the celestial kingdom right now if we want to (2 Nephi 2:27, 2 Nephi 9:39, 2Nephi 10:23, 2 Nephi 31). We just have to manifest that choice by our actions. 

I love you all so much. I can't wait to talk to you on Sunday!! We get out of church around two, which is three your time. I'll probably try calling then, and if y'all are busy, I'll call back later.

Les quiero muchisimo!


Tuesday, April 30, 2013

4/29/13 Transfer Week

Dear Family,

It's transfer week, and what a transfer it is going to be. When President called on Monday and said I might be getting a challenge, I immediately felt that I was going to be training. That was my very first thought. I told Hermana B that, and as a kind, loving companion who didn't want me to fret throughout the week, she convinced me that was impossible because President can't go against the training program. For those who don't know, the new missionary training program lasts twelve weeks, or two transfers. While you are training, they encourage you to prepare to train someone else at the end of 12 weeks if you are called upon to do so. I've only been out 6 weeks, so it would be against the training plan for me to train after only 6. I would have to finish training myself and a new greenie simultaneously. Thanks to Hermana B, I didn't worry about it too much this week. I convinced myself that the challenge President meant was that we would be getting three new sisters in the area and Hermana B, who knows this place like the back of her hand, would be leaving and it would be my responsibility to fill everyone in.

So. Last night President called to give us transfer news. He talked to Hermana Bfirst who is indeed being transferred to train a greenie in a trio with another experienced sister, and she has been assigned to be one of the new Sister Training Leaders for the mission. We both saw that one coming. Then the phone got passed to me. The conversation went something like this:

"Sister Christensen, are you sitting down?"

"Yes President."

"I'm glad to hear it, because you're driving, and it wouldn't be very safe if you weren't. Well Sister Christensen, you will be staying in Del Rio and you will be training. You will also be getting another companionship of sisters who will be training as well."

So, there you have it. As much as I thought I would be shocked if that's what he said, I wasn't really. I honestly had convinced myself it wouldn't happen, but I knew it was going to as soon as President talked to me on Monday, I knew I was going to be training. So did Hermana B, but she didn't want me to worry about it, which I'm grateful for. Challenge indeed. I know that I can do it. If Heavenly Father through my mission president is assigning me to train, I'm more than happy to do it. What I'm most worried about is my Spanish. I feel like I speak pretty well, but I still have a hard time understanding what the native speakers are saying to me. I've been praying all week for the Gift of Tongues to help me understand, because I knew that even if I wasn't going to train this transfer, I most likely would be next transfer. Yesterday at church, I noticed that I understood a lot more than I usually do, and I know it's because I've been praying for help. The silly thing is, sometimes I pray and I forget to ask for the Gift of Tongues. And guess what? I don't get it. But when I pray and I ask specifically for help to understand, it comes. It gives a whole new meaning to the scripture "ask and ye shall receive." That's really a true principle. Heavenly Father has so many blessings he wants to give to you, but he has to wait for us to ask him for them. Hermana B also shared something comforting with me. She said that when you are the senior companion, Heavenly Father knows that you are responsible for helping your companionship understand and be successful, and he blesses you. Her words were "expect it." So I'm going to. I am going to expect that Heavenly Father will bless me as I am living worthily of those blessings, because this is his work and he wants us to succeed even more than we want to. I have faith in that.

I want to answer your question about why I love working with less active members One thing that I guess is a little bit different about my situation from yours, is that working with RCLAs (Recent Convert, Less-Actives) means I actually have more freedom in what we discuss. RCLAs generally have a better idea of gospel principles than investigators, and so we can talk about things on a slightly deeper level than we usually get to. Not super deep by any means, but enough that it's easier to help people see how these things really apply to them. You just get to dig around a little bit more instead of feeling like you're walking on egg shells not knowing exactly what it is they already believe (although sometimes you find out that RCLAs believe strange things too). Also, RCLA work tends to yield more visible fruit. So far, it has been much easier to help them come to church than to drag investigators kicking and screaming by the hair every Sunday when we have to do all of the work to wake them up, get them ready and get them there. In your situation, you don't have the comparison of working with investigators to make less-active work more motivating, but there's more to it that I really love that does apply to you. That part of it is that I love helping people remember the baptismal covenants they have made. I tell you what, as a missionary, it has shocked me how comfortable people feel just spilling their whole life story to you. We had an experience this week where we met an RCLA who was born, raised, and converted here about a year and half ago, but then moved, had a miserable year, went inactive, and came back to visit her family. We walked into her house, sat down on her couch and within five minutes, she had proceeded to tell us all of the things she had done in the last year that were against the covenants she had made. She even paused at one point and said "I have no idea why I'm telling you this. It's so embarrassing." But people do it all the time: Standard day in the life of a missionary. I have heard more drama in the last six weeks of being a missionary than I have ever been exposed to in the rest of my life. It's so sad to me to hear it over and over, but it has strengthened my testimony so much of the commandments that Heavenly Father has given us. 


Commandments are not here to restrict us. The Law of Chastity is your best friend. The Word of Wisdom is your other best friend. Stay as far away from the line as possible, ALWAYS. People are so miserable when the break themselves against the commandments. They are deceived by the lies of the world that they will be happier if they are disobedient, but they are not. They are miserable. What I love about working with RCLAs is that they usually know the gospel is true, but they don't really understand it. They have big gaps of "gospel application" that are missing in their lives, and as missionaries with testimonies of these principles that have come from a lifetime of living them, we have the opportunity to pass that on to other people who are miserable and invite them to act so that they can be happy. And usually, it starts with something as basic as prayer. Then scriptures study. Then coming to church. You build slowly and steadily and it takes forever, but in the end, you have people that are really converted because they were miserable, they learned the gospel and were happy, then they were disobedient and miserable, and then they became happy again when they were obedient, and they know without a shadow of a doubt that the gospel is not only true, but is applies to us. The gospel is real life. It is as real as it gets.

This week, JG passed the Sacrament for the first time ever with his son J Jr. there to help him. Hermana B and I were on the stand to play the piano, so we got to watch their faces as they interacted together. It was literally a precious moment. Afterward, we talked to J, and he told us the branch president would interview him to go to the temple with the youth at the end of the month if he would start today to pay his tithing and not drink coffee which we figured out this week he has also been drinking. J is going to the temple!!!!!  We've also spent a lot of time with a woman named V who was baptized about 18 months ago, and she told us yesterday that she finally has a desire to go to the temple and is going to start this week to schedule interviews to get her recommend. V is going to the temple!!! That's why I love working with RCLAs. You get to help people see how the gospel is not only true, but applies to them and helps them to really be happier as they live it.

Dad, I loved your thought again for the week. This morning, we were talking about how developing Christ-like attributes helps us to keep our covenants, and I love that 2 Peter1:4 starts out by saying that we are given promises that we may be partakers of the divine nature. In essence, that says to me that Heavenly Father has promised us a way to become even as he is, and that as we strive to develop these attributes, which is a part of the covenants we make with him, we will not be unfruitful. That's why commandments and covenants are so great! Because Heavenly Father is bound when we do what he says. If we are obedient, we can KNOW without a doubt that he will bless us and he will always be on our team helping us to come back to live with him. I'm just all over the place today, but we've been asked a lot this week (and I'm sure this will continue throughout the mission), that if there is a God, why is there so much unfairness in the world? It's like what Ethan said in his talk. Heavenly Father gives us challenges and trials because they help us grow, but when we have this eternal perspective of covenants and commandments, we can know that everything is going to turn out happy and fair in the end. 

An item of business before I have to go (although I will probably have a few minutes this evening to check back and respond briefly to all of you wonderful saints out there who wrote to me this week). President Jones hates phone calls home because so many missionaries go nuts over them. The rules he has set to prevent our missionaries from losing their minds are that phone calls are done by phone (not Skype unless your parents live over seas) and they last no more than 45 minutes. We should definitely compare schedules next week so that we don't miss each other, but I'm sorry to tell you that I won't be able to Skype.

Also, my termination date that I mentioned last week is officially set for August 6th next year. President called Salt Lake and they changed it.

I love you all! Thank you for your letters! The church is true, the gospel is true and they apply to all of us. Live the commandments. Keep your covenants. They make you happy.

Have a wonderful week!