Thursday, July 26, 2012

July 23, 2012

Hi Everyone, 
Well, this rainy season is just about over. All it really does now is
pretend like it's going to rain right before church starts. Which
gives all of the investigators an excuse for why they didn't come to
church. There will be another short rainy season in a few weeks
apparently. Then it will get hot. Reallly hot.
Missing pageant wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. This
last week the only thing that really ended up bothering me is that I
got the Song of Cumorah in my head a few times. Some things just don't
fade easy I guess.
Saturday was an utterly strange day. It was amazing because I got to
baptize Brice. I also baptized an older man that I taught a couple of
times when I was on exchanges with the zone leaders. Brice was at the
church even before we were! That was cool. he was so excited. There
were a lot of people there, 15 were baptised in Benin.
 Warning Alert:
Saturday also was a terrible day thanks to my health. I don't even
understand what happened. I woke up at 4 in the morning extremely
bloated. It turned into gas, and I farted so much I woke up my
companion with the smell. That whole process happened twice more
throughout the day. It sounds really lame, but it was actually one of
the most painful things of my whole life. It was at least tied with
falling off the rock climbing wall, and maybe worse. The only idea we
have is that some bread I ate may have had too much yeast in it. I
don't even know if the science behind that works? It's either that, or
I ate a whole potted plant. We're guessing my total fart count by the
end of the day was well over 200. And I broke my personal record for
biggest fart several times. Hope you weren't eating while reading
We failed our apartement check this week. We were the most messy
apartement in all of Benin. Not my fault, I tried to clean, but it's a
big apartement. The good news that came with it was a letter from
Grandma Lundstrom. Mail appears to be getting through pretty fast
right now, the last two things I've gotten came within 2 weeks of
I've been doing a lot of thinking about change lately. When we
"become" something, are we accepting the new, or are we rejecting the
old? It has been very interesting for me. Do we accept Christ's love
and promise, or do we reject the natural man? As long as you change,
does it really matter? Which one would lead to a longer/stronger
I'm always learning about how patience and humility. And yes, by
learning I mean I'm being given opportunities to be patient and
humble. There isn't really any other way to do it. Not that knowing
that conceptually really makes it any easier. That seems to be the
story of my mission. I've been so conceptual for so long, getting back
down to the nitty gritty application is a weird transition.
I'm going to teach Ninja destruction at an FHE tonight, we'll see if
it goes over well. I think it could. Just so long as I don't drink six
bissap again I should be fine.
Do you all remember Klouieklouie? The fried rings of peanut butter?
Guess what. I bought some this last week. They actually weren't as
miraculously amazing as I'd kind of hoped they'd be, but they weren't
bad. Crossed that off my mission to-do list.
I was about to buy a giant bag of laundry detergent when a member
stopped me and showed me that I could buy more and cheaper if I bought
the smaller bags. Isn't that backwards or something? Maybe the
shopkeeper just didn't think things through.
As far as things I need, there isn't really much. You can buy pretty
much everything you need here. Good electric razors are pretty much
the only thing that I'd like that you can't get. I'm assuming that
that's something you can't mail out in a package, so I'll just be
patient until I get home. by the way, I've only got 18 months left.
Isn't that crazy? I'm a fourth of the way done with my mission. Opened
my second jar of peanut butter to celebrate. The last month has just
absolutely blown by. And I hear it only gets faster. And I've
written in my journal every single day. Love you too.
Vous tous me manquez,
Elder Christensen

July 16, 2012

I'm doing great here, never fret. It hasn't been too rainy here this
last week, but it's been nice and windy. You have no idea how amazing
a steady breeze can be. Benin always looks pretty brown. That's just
the color of the dirt. You probably haven't thought about it, but
grass is actually a weed. Only rich people can afford to keep it well
kept. Most people just don't bother with it. Also, the rain floods it
all out a lot. So yeah, there is a lot of dirt here. Also, the
Harmattan blows a lot of sand out of the Sahara on us.
Sorry that you guys are feeling sick out there. I'm glad that I never
really got sick out here. I've been a little bit sneezy lately, but
it's not bad. Glad to hear that Pageant is going well though. I was
really worried that I was going to be distracted by it, but it
actually hasn't been too bad. I'm at the point where things are
starting to speed up, can you believe that next week will be my
six-month mark? The next year is just going to fly. Oh yeah, you
should read to the guys in your cast team Elder Bednar's October 2005
Priesthood session talk "Becoming a Missionary." It's pretty much
everything I would have written to them. Make sure to say hi to Tanner
and Rosie and everyone else I know out there (I'm not actually sure
who all is there, but I wish them luck!)
I played Swedish Twister my first night at BYU, it was pretty fun. No
idea about 3d twister though. I'll have to bring home some games for
you all to play. Marbles, bocce balls, and...... Mancala! Yep,
apparently that originated here. Or at least I see lots of old guys
playing it. That said, there's a scrabble club in my area, so I can't
be too sure.
Speaking of my area, there's some news there. When they pulled the
zone leaders out of our apartment, they added a new companionship to
the branch, so there are now 8 of us in Gbedjromede. Because of that,
they've reorganized the boundaries a little bit. For us, that means
that they chopped out all of the area near the apartment. Which
happened to include a fair number of our investigators and our recent
convert. So we're having to find some more people. And do more
walking. That's okay, I've been gaining weight anyways. Brice is still
in our area, thankfully. He is just so incredible. He has been more
prepared than I could have ever guessed. I'm so excited for his
baptism this Saturday, I'm going to triple check that my camera has a
full charge! and yes, I've been taking more photos. Never fret.
Fun question, is it breaking the sabbath if you help someone to
prepare food that they are going to sell tomorrow? We showed up for a
lesson and they were in the process of shoving....a patte/foufou into
little bags. They let us help for about 20 minutes, then we shared a
little lesson and left. It was fun, something different, and it was
nice to do a little bit of service.
We got back some investigators this week. The last time we'd called,
an angry woman had answered and told us that we were false. We assumed
they were no longer interested. But while walking past their house
they saw us and explained that the phone company had sold the same
phone number out to another person, and that someone else had answered
the phone instead. The family actually is pretty receptive to the
message, and it was the first time in a few weeks that we've been able
to talk to a husband and wife at the same time. I'm excited to see how
much they will be willing to progress.
My flipflops broke this week. But good news is, that's a common
problem here. The American solution is to go buy new shoes. The
African solution is to have people who walk around all day who will
fix your shoes for about 20 cents with some strong thread. So my shoes
are fixed!
While I was moving my stuff over into the zone leaders bedroom, I
found some tshirts that I'd forgotten I'd brought with me. They still
smell like Provo :-) Also, I was sleeping on two mattresses all week.
That was really soft and nice. Unfortunately, they came this morning
and took one of them away, I guess there was a need somewhere else.
I found the African knockoff of oreos this week. They're called
Noreos. Made by the Haansbro company. I laughed really hard about that
one, and they actually were pretty good.
We've been teaching this 15 year old girl named Franciska. Or Jolie,
depending on who is talking to her (lots of people here will go by 2
different names). I've actually run into a few 15 year old girls
lately, it's been weird. It makes me think about Robin. Here's a good
question to pose to the family; what would it take personally for you
to be converted to the gospel if the missionaries knocked on your
door? What can you do to imitate that? I know for me, it would have to
be some exceptional missionaries. One of the things I've learned this
week is that while you can be converted to the Church, you have to
become converted to the Gospel. That's what will keep you active
through the trials. 
Today has been interesting. We went over to Akpakpa to see some recent
converts that Elder Kabongo taught while he was over there. We had a
lunch mangez-vous, 3 bottles of bissap each, and we have a dinner
mangez-vous scheduled in a little bit. Not to mention the fact that we
had a large American style breakfast this morning. Pancake, egg,
sausages, bread (biscuits weren't possible) and gravy. It was
reallllly good. So today is a big eating day, to say the least. Also,
when you eat spaghetti for months, macaroni will taste realllly good.
Also, I'm on the path to conquering my dislike of beans. So mexican
food will be open to me when I get back. I conquered tomatoes a
looooong time ago.
I've been doing a lot of study about obedience and blessings lately.
I'll give you a little scripture chain I'm working on.
1 Nephi 17:3 Through obedience we receive strength
Mosiah 2:21-24, 41 we are already in debt, we obey, the lord blesses
us again. How then can we boast? If we obey and stay, we will have
eternal joy.
2 Nephi 2:25 - men are that they might have joy.
Just some thoughts, it means a lot to me.
Love to you all, have a great rest of pageant.
Elder Christensen
Tell Jacob that he needs to do sunrise Yoga again. Also, if possible,
you should go find Alvin's tomb. I've never seen it, but the maps in
the appendix have it marked.

July 9, 2012

"Flat Elder" at the Hill Cumorah Pageant
It's so weird to me to not be in pageant this year. That's been such a
huge part of my life, to not do it is just strange. Luckily, the Lord
is helping me get through it. The last week has been incredibly fast.
I can hardly believe it. And there isn't any sign that it's slowing
down. Wow.
I had the chance to be the baptizer again this Saturday. Not just for
our candidate, but for two young children as well. That was a really
cool experience, the Spirit was very strong. I don't understand why
some missionaries don't like to do the baptism. I have to make a
confession though, my camera battery died 10 minutes before the
service started. My companion got some pictures though, so I'll snag
them from him.
The bugs here have been getting a little bit more feisty. There's some
sort of little tiny thing that I honestly think is just dirt that will
make me itch for a day or two. I've even gotten a bite on the palm of
my hand. That's been interesting. I have no idea how it happened. The
bugs aren't too annoying, though, you get used to it after a while. As
long as I'm taking the medicine, itching should be the only symptom.
I don't have anything from Brother Ludlow about Third Nephi. I took
the first half of Book of Mormon from him. I'd also totally forgotten
that the Ormes are in pageant too. Every day the world shrinks a
little bit.
Of course Al-Jazeera would come the year I'm away. Haha. That'll give
me something to watch when I get back. Did you guys ever find the
little bit they did on the MTC? It should have aired back in April I
The mission has been going really well. In fact, it's gone so well
that we've run out of some of our brochures to hand out. It's a little
weird to not have them, but we make do. We should be getting some new
ones real soon. We've found a couple of new investigators, but by far
my favorite investigator is still Brice. This man is so golden. He
quit smoking 4 days after our first lesson because he felt that it was
the right thing to do. We hadn't even planned to cover the word of
wisdom until the end of this next week. 15 years of addiction,
French has come a long way. Ironically, as French comes, I think about
how much I really understand English. I think I don't really speak
English all that well. I'm not really sure what the rules are for
adverb placement in English, and that's translated over a little bit
into French. Mostly what is blocking me at this point with French is
vocabulary. Also, different ways of saying things. A basic example is
that in French, you have hunger, not be hungry. Some things like that.
Those just come by plugging away day after day though. And generally,
people understand what I say. And if they don't, my companion does.
His gift of tongues is incredible, If I had that kind of a gift
everyone would understand me. Usually when I think in French, I'm
writing it out in my head. But honestly, I do that in English
sometimes. That's just me.
There's no sign of the package yet, but I did get two handwritten
letters! The interesting thing is that they were mailed more than 2
weeks apart. The mail here is funny like that. It really made my day.
If anyone who reads this blog ever gets bored and has a little pocket
change, feel free to shoot me a letter. I'll record your answering
machine in French when I get back if you really want.
One of the big changes for the week just happened this morning.
They've opened up a new apartment and they moved the zone leaders out
of our apartment. So me and my companion moved into their old room. It
will be weird to only have four of us in the apartment, but on the
other hand, I'm now sleeping on two mattresses. That's going to be
pretty comfortable for the next few weeks. Or months, depending on how
long I'm here. No idea.
I had a really interesting experience this week. I got to try and do
some math tutoring for one of the members. It was algebraic geometry
stuff. I put the emphasis on try, because I couldn't really do
anything. It's been a long time since I studied that, and the
notations in French are all different. The funny part is, I can
specifically remember saying in the MTC "I don't need math skills, I'm
a missionary."
This week was the fourth of July! That was only kind of weird. That's
already been a toned down holiday in past years thanks to pageant.
This year was just the littlest bit more. We had some cookies and soda
for dessert. Woohoo!
I think I've started gaining weight again. Want to know why? Bread.
It's so good, and so cheap. You can get a loaf pretty much the size of
your fore-arm and fist for about 40 cents. I can down one of those in
under 10 minutes. So I need to cut back a little bit. I'll start
losing weight again when I go to Togo I think.
Add Tobey Macguire to the list of people I resemble, Spiderman was on
at a member's house when we showed up.
I've been doing some thinking about repentance lately. The guide to
the scriptures talks about how true repentance comes from loving God
and desiring to obey his commandments. I've learned a lot about how
God is my Heavenly Father on a conceptual level, but I can still do so
much to actually feel it. That's when obedience moves from being a
responsibility to being a desire. So many things to improve on. If I
ever am prideful after my mission, slap me. I'll deserve it. And it
will teach me patience.
I think that that is a decent email, got to go
Lots of African Love
Elder Christensen
PS, Homemade shawarma is really good. Double so when a Malagash makes it.

July 2, 2012

Hi Everyone,
Boy oh boy has the rainy season come in this last week. On Thursday it
started raining about 3 in the Morning and didn't stop until almost
noon. We had to take off our shoes twice to wade through about 3-4
inches of standing water to reach our rendez-vous. Don't worry, they
let us borrow flip flops. It's actually been reallllllly cool here.
This morning when I woke up, I felt my toes. They were a little bit
cold. I'm pretty sure I could sleep without my fan, but I keep it
going for the mosquitoes. So I'm probably way cooler than you are
right now.
By the way, important request. The first man we baptized when I got
here recently asked for the photo from his baptism. When you have
access to it, could you attach it in an email? We can get it printed
here without too much of a hassle. He's actually been called as Young
Mens President in the Branch now, he's going strong. Not that I
contributed to that all that much, I could barely speak French back
I realized recently that I've seen some huge French jumps in the last
two weeks or so. I'm thinking that it's mostly because I'm just
speaking more. It's hard not to progress in something when you do it a
Ready for the story that made my week? His name is Brice. We gave him
a restoration brochure about three weeks ago. Since then, we weren't
able to actually have a lesson with him until Friday. I was just about
to call it lost and move on, but we gave it one more chance. When we
got there, he had a story for us. Sometime in his youth, he was given
a copy of the Book of Mormon. It was so long ago, he doesn't even
remember where or when or who. We know it was at least 15 years ago,
though, because it's not the newest version (the old version didn't
have the Guide to the Scriptures, and it just had an asterisk for
every time it said "and it came to pass that"). Two days before we met
him, he found that Book of Mormon again and leafed through it a bit,
but didn't think much of it. He was reading the brochure we gave him
when he found the name Mormon. He double checked and yep, same person.
He got a lot more interested and ended up studying the brochure,
filling out the questionnaire at the back perfectly and underlining
stuff and everything. When we asked him if he would act on what he'd
learn, he said "without hesitation, yes." He was excited to come to
church yesterday so he could see how the church he'll be joining
actually works. Those are his words, not mine. This man is the most
perfectly prepared investigator ever. The next day we went back and he
had already read all the intro stuff in the Book of Mormon and was to
1 Nephi 6. I don't even know how far he is now.
Fun things I've seen in Africa this week:
TOMS again
Disco strobing headlights
two feet of standing water in the streets
A Revenon (okay, thats not this week, that's old. It's a voodoo thing.
People dress up in garish costumes, pretend like they're evil spirits.
Then other people hit other people with sticks. I don't really
understand how that all works at all, but apparently someone gets
money from it.)
The A-team movie in French (a tiny part, it was on at a members house
when we showed up)
the Simpsons (same story)
Me with shorter hair (I got another haircut finally, turns out the
barber below the apartment actually knows how to cut hair for a part.
And he only charges missionaries about half price for it too. It was
weird paying for a haircut, that's the first time ever.)
This week we should be having one or two baptisms. I say that because
we don't really understand what to do with one of them. He's a young
man who was baptized once, but never actually confirmed. So we're
waiting to hear whether we have to teach him the lessons again or not.
We'll see. But overall, I'm hoping for three legitimate baptisms this
month. And at this point, we don't really have any investigators that
I haven't been there since stage one. That's one of the nice things
about staying in an area for 3-4 transfers.
We also have an investigator that I can only describe as me if I were
receiving the missionary lessons. Also, a woman. It's a really bizarre
experience. I've thought a lot about what it would take to get me to
accept the gospel if I wasn't in it. I'm still not even all that sure.
It pushes me a lot, and I have to become a much better teacher.
Food is doing pretty good here. Most of the Elders in the apartment
are better cooks than I am. Or at least they use more spices than I
do. Because of our lack of an oven, a lot of what we make is either
rice or spaghetti with meat and a sauce. I don't think I ever made a
sauce before my mission, so I've been a little behind with that. But I
realized this last week that I conceivable can make Pilaf, so I'm
going to try and make that in the week or two. I think I've pretty
much stopped losing weight. Why, do you ask? Because of bread. I
bought almost two dollars worth of bread last week. Which doesn't
sound like much, but you don't know how much bread that really is.
Okay, I'm out of time, at least I wrote more than last week.
Love and Bissap,
Elder Christensen