Wow, it has been a crazy nine weeks here. It's hard to believe that tomorrow morning I'll be flying out!
This morning I had to wake up at 3:15 to see off my two companions. They are probably crossing the border into Canada as I type this. I know that they are going to be just fine (well, except for the one that forgot his ministerial certificate, but we're going to mail that to him).
I'm sure you all are wondering about how nervous I am to leave the continent the first time. And all the other stuff associated with that act too. I'm not going to lie, it's a little intimidating to think about. I have kind of avoided for a while, because I was able to just pretend I was going to Provo and not worry about it. The last few days it has really sunk in though, especially yesterday when all of the Paris and Lyon missionaries left. I really don't know what Africa is going to be like. I do know that it is going to be hard. It will easily be the hardest thing I have ever done.
Despite all of my fears, I know everything is going to work out all right. I know that this is what I'm supposed to do. As I was in the temple this morning for the last time, I flipped open the Bible to a random page and started reading. I had opened to 2nd Chronicles Chapter 15, which I am honestly not sure if I have ever read before. Verses 2 and 7 really stuck out to me, I can't quote them exactly right now but they essentially say 'seek the Lord and he will be there; wherefore, be firm of hand and not weak.' It was a comforting reminder that I will not be doing this alone, and I can always have support if I do what I am supposed to do. I decided to read towards the end of Isaiah also, and I found more scriptures that seemed to talk specifically about missionary work in the latter days and were very comforting to me. I can't give exact references, but I think chapter 61 had some of those. It was a really powerful scripture study session, it really strengthened my testimony that our Heavenly Father really does care about us and will help us with even what appears to be small problems.
On a more temporal note, mail service is apparently not as bad as I was first led to believe. My Mom (hi Mom!), says that apparently other moms of missionaries are getting through flat-rate envelopes right now. I asked my teacher about mail and he said that almost all mail would eventually get through to him, although sometimes it took a long time. So feel free to mail me, I should get it sooner or later. My teacher even said that some missionaries mailed letters out, although that was a little more risky and he hadn't done it himself.
Our devotional on last Tuesday was Elder Oaks, which was way cool. He talked to us about having the Holy Ghost as we teach, and especially how partaking of the sacrament is essential to that. I was greatly impressed by the fact that he refused to read through the prayers during his talk, stating that they were "too sacred." It made me rethink my attitude during the Sacrament.
Every Sunday before a group leaves the French zone here, all of the departing missionaries sing a French hymn titled "Souvien-Toi." It is a very spiritual hymn which I enjoy greatly, and I was pleased that I was able to contribute my talent to play the piano accompaniment for it. I was even able to sing along, which is something that I've struggled with with English hymns, so being able to do it with a hymn I wasn't familiar with in a different language was definitely a tender mercy of the Lord for me. I went in to being "branch pianist" with a little bit of a bad attitude. Not really bad, but I wasn't very excited about it. I really am glad that I did it though, it made me practice the piano and improve my skill, and now I have the confidence to contribute that talent in the branches I'll be serving. It would not surprise me very much if I have to play this Sunday too.
Just in case you all somehow missed the news, General Conference is this weekend. For all of you at least. We won't be able to watch conference until we get a dvd of it, which will be in about a month, apparently. Even then, I'll probably only get to watch 2 sessions. I have a challenge for everyone who is reading this blog; in the days leading up to conference, will you pray to receive answers to you questions through conference. This isn't a general prayer, will you prayer for answers to specific questions you need to have answered. I know that if you do that, and then pay close attention to the addresses given, you will receive inspiration. Next letter will come courtesy of Africa! with love, Elder Ethan Christensen