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!