Thursday, August 30, 2012

August 27, 2012

Hello Family and friends,
Things are going really well here. Never fret. We're actually a little
bit into the second rainy season now. It's rained 2-3 times this week.
This rainy season only lasts 3-4 weeks from what I understand. I'm
just happy because it's staying cool at nights. 
I haven't heard anything about cholera around here, but most diseases 
around here have their Fon names that I can't understand. I've really 
only noticed malaria and parasites, because that's what missionaries get.
You did put some acne stuff in the package, but not a lot. Also, I
could use another little tub or two of hair gel, turns out when you sweat
a lot you have to put in more. I've still got plenty, but it won't be
enough to last the mission like I thought.
Missionary work has been doing well in most regards. We had another
baptism on Saturday. Amour is just a couple of months older than Wes,
he was already living the law of Chastity and the word of wisdom
before we met him. He's a cool guy, and he actually asked that I be
the one who did the baptism. Never had that happen before. The
baptismal service itself was big, 16 people. Elder Bukasa had already
asked me to baptize their candidate, so I was planning to do two. Then
another Elder asked me to be Jean-Baptiste for the Nigerian family he
had been teaching. So I ended up baptizing five people, two in French
and three in English. I was worried I was going to baptize them "for
and in behalf of" someone, but it all worked out great. The Nigerian
names were even more difficult than the Beninois names, in an
interesting twist. The wife bore her testimony that when she went in
the water she felt something incredible, she couldn't really describe
it. At least partially because her English wasn't even very good, but
it was still really cool to hear her say it.
The next American missionaries coming home are in December. Which is
the same time we'll be getting another couple for the mission. We'll
have three couples, that'll be an adventure. The mission is definitely
growing. Don't worry, I've been taking a lot of pictures, my guess is
that by December I'll have at least 500. Probably more, we're talking
about going to Ouidah next week.
Thanks for keeping me in the loop, always feel free to keep me in the
loop about anything. That goes for everyone who reads the blog. I read
fast enough, don't worry.
Spiritually, I'm starting to learn how to recognize the spirit more.
You would think I would have learned after 3 times that if I feel like
I should take an extra copy of the Book of Mormon, I need to. Nope, it
took me at least 4 times.
Heard a bar blasting Forever Young the other day, that made me smile.
I've actually been able to answer some longstanding questions I've
had. Like 1 Cor 15, why is Death the last enemy to be conquered? and
how did prayer work before the ministry of the Savior? Turns out a lot
of questions can be answered if you just read the entire chapter. Fun
how reading more will give you the answers you want.
I went back and read a lot of the talks from the last October General
Conference. I didn't really know why, but it was really good for me.
Then on Sunday I got called on to go translate for a Nigerian woman in
Relief Society, her usual translator wasn't there. Wouldn't you know,
they were discussing a talk I had read the day before. Most of the
time, you have no idea that you've been prompted to do something.
I haven't heard anything more about transfers, but will know for sure
on Sunday. I'm pretty sure I will at least be transferred out of
Gbedjromede, I've been here for 4 transfers. I'm ready to go in some
ways, and in others I really want to stay. There are a few
investigators I really want to see get baptized, but I can't do that
if I'm in Togo. I know that wherever I go, it's where I need to be.
I got a letter from Grandma this week with a newspaper clipping from
the Mormon Times, tell her thank you from me, I really liked it. I
also got the ward newsletter for August, that one came really fast.
I honestly think that when I received the gift of tongues, that must
have affected my taste buds. Everything is delicious these days. Even
things that have been on my bad list for years taste good now. We went
to eat at a member's house this last week and the main dish was beans
and beets. Delicious. Also, there's something called gaari. I don't
understand how it works, but it's kind of like flour that tastes like
Parmesan cheese.
I love you all, and I mean it
Elder Christensen

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

August 20, 2012

Hi Everyone,
That's great that Michael got his mission call, be sure to
congratulate him for me.
This last week has been really good. The funk I was in the week before
seems to have dissipated, I'm doing a lot better. Right about the same
time the overcast sky went away. Hmmm..... But things are great here.
Our apartment is doing really well, we're having fun.
I heard a rumor that I'm going to be transferred to Togo in a few
weeks. Considering I didn't ask for that and the Elder refused to give
his source, it's actually a little frustrating because I won't know
officially for at least 2 weeks.
This Saturday was a big deal. Instead of the usual baptismal service
we had a giant service activity for all of Cotonou. It was a part of
the Pan-African day of service the church was doing. We didn't really
have all the members in the city show up, but there were a lot of
people there. It was really strange to go outside in a t-shirt and
jeans. I ended up burning on my neck relatively badly, I hadn't
thought about my collar tan line. Oops. It hurt yesterday but now it's
My companion and I had to go renew our visas this week again. It was
interesting to do it the second time, I felt a lot more old hat at it.
Also, riding in the air conditioned car was a really weird feeling.
Also, I got the package you sent me! And the pageant postcard too.
That was fun. If I interpreted right the piece of paper that was taped
into the package, it wasn't opened up at customs. As far as things
that I want/need for the next package, I still haven't found good acne
cleanser here, but I've found every other hygiene product I need. I
would like a fair number of metal oil vials, the one I have is leaky
and it turns out that you can only order the little plastic things. I
figure that would be a good parting gift for companions.
Today we went to the grand clothing Marché at Missebo so my companion
could buy some new pants. That place was gigantic, it reminded me of
my first P-day here when we went to Dantokpa. I understood a lot more
about what was going on this time. I also noticed an intriguingly
large number of what appear to be Iranians. If anyone reading this
ever took an econ class, I'm starting to understand how the concept of
comparative advantage works in the global market. It makes a lot more
sense when there are more than just two countries in play.
Two things from last week I forgot to talk about. I gave my first
sacrament meeting talk. I talked about home teaching. I think I did
okay, I had to cut about 5 minutes out of it due to time constraints.
Everyone seemed to understand me, and during Priesthood someone said
they actually learned something from my talk and were going to apply
it. So I'm counting that as a success. The second thing is that I got
another haircut. I just took the longest length on the buzzer and hit
my whole head. It worked pretty well, sticks up a bit in the back
though. Oh well. Can't be too picky here.
Saturday afternoon was interesting too. When we came back for Lunch,
we decided to recall all of our appointments. They all bailed on us.
So we ended up leaving the apartment planning to go to a member's
house and then figure out what to do from there. It actually ended up
working pretty well.
Some random old white guy told me I was doing a good job this week. I
have no idea if he was American or Canadian or what.
We had two investigators named Christoph come to church for the first
time this week. One is a new investigator we found this week who met
with the missionaries while he was in Ghana almost a decade ago. The
other is the 70 year old we've been teaching since May. I didn't even
know until the second hour that the older Christoph was there, it made
me so happy to finally see him at church! He really loved the
experience. I'm really hoping he can work up the courage to be
baptized before I am transferred. We've been really lucky with him, we
always seem to catch him right at the best moments. The members have
been really good with him too, which is something that I love.
The amount of crazy things I've seen on my mission continues to climb.
This mission is truly like nothing else in the world. I'm finally
beginning to understand Mormon's constant lament that he couldn't even
begin to write the hundreth part of the history of his people.
Yes, I got the picture, thanks! Take a picture of all the family today
before jacob leaves, and send that to me too. I want to see everyone
together. Through flat-me in there too.
I was told yesterday by one of the members that I'm getting bigger.
Looks like I've stopped losing weight. Maybe I'll go weigh myself soon
and find out.
I love you all, personally and collectively,
Elder Christensen

Sunday, August 19, 2012

August 13, 2012

Greetings from the land of..... You know, I never have figured out how
to describe this place. Don't know if I ever will.
I did get your letter you sent from pageant, but not the package yet.
The handout made me laugh. It's totally a handout Bro. Ludlow used to give his
students in his Book of Mormon classes. I guess when you reach that
age it just gets hard to change.

Things are doing well here. I had a rough spot this week, but I'm
getting over it. Honestly I was expecting it before now, I've already
been here for so long.
This week I lost one American and gained another. Elder Burkhart went
to Togo and Elder Gundersen came from Togo to be Elder Bukasa's new
companion. It's been interesting to watch how the dynamic of the
apartment has changed. Of course, with new people comes new news. I'm
learning a little bit more about what Togo is like. I also found out
that apparently my first MTC companion went home in the last week or
two. That's really weird for me, I always figured I'd run into him
here somewhere. That makes 4 out the 18 of us Americans that came this
winter/spring. The mission takes a toll.
Confession time, I'm about four days behind on my journal. I might be
able to catch up tonight, but probably not. If I have another bad
week, I may have to think about just doing it a couple of times a week
instead of every day. I've still probably written more than most
missionaries ever right.
I did the unthinkable the other day. I left my badge at the apartment.
Luckily, we weren't out teaching. We had a zone meeting out in
Gbegamey. So it was just the other missionaries who saw it (or rather,
didn't). I had been using my badge to mark a verse when the taxi
arrived at the apartment. Oops. I'm just glad that it hadn't dropped
in the taxi, it would have been gone.
This week I had a little personal spiritual moment. We say often that
Christ died for our sins. But it only just finally sank in that even
if I was the only sinner in the world, if every other person was
perfect, Christ would have died for me. His love is all for one and
one for all, if you will.
Our investigator Christoff is doing well, he came to another baptismal
service, and he's read almost half the Book of Mormon at this point.
He still hasn't accepted to come to church though, but I think he
might be close.
Brice continues to be golden. He was walking back with one of our
investigators after the baptism service and just sat down and talked
to him for a while. Ended up managing to resolve most of Amour's
doubts about the church. Definitely the reason Amour came to church
yesterday. I really just want to give Brice a badge and let him at it.
He's also thinking about building a bakery on his property, which is
pretty much fantastic as far as I'm concerned.
Don't have as much to write about this week, sorry. This last week was
just kind of 'off.' Fun fact. There is no word for "off" in French. It
just doesn't exist. In any context. You have to explain around it.
True Story.
Lots of love,
Elder Christensen

Monday, August 6, 2012

August 6, 2012

Well, no big news as far as transfers go. Elder Kabongo and I are both
staying. Elder Burkhart will be leaving for Lomé, and he'll be
replaced by Elder Gunderson, who came the same flight as me. So
that'll be a little interesting. I feel pretty good about staying in
Gbedjromede for longer. We're looking at seeing a lot of work happen
in the next few weeks. I don't think I could stay another transfer
after that though, 6 months is already a long time to stay in one
I still haven't gotten the package yet, but we're only at about 5
weeks I think. And it could very well show up during the transferring
process. As far as letters go, I recently got the July Ward
Newsletter. Never did get the June newsletter though. That's life for
We actually do very little tracting right now. We have enough people
to talk to that we can fill most of our time without going door to
door. We've been getting pretty good at snagging the friends and
family members of members or investigators. That's pretty nice,
because it gives a support net built in already.
Some converts do have a little bit of trouble, it just depends. We've
already lost one woman I baptized, she moved out of Cotonou for work.
Oh well, the missionaries will find her again when Callavy opens. On
the other hand, other recent converts are super strong. Like Brice.
That man is incredible. He's like a walking talking "I'm a Mormon" ad.
And yes, the last 2 weeks the branch has been packed. To the point
that the missionaries have to stand in the back during sacrament
meeting. Our problem is we're the only branch in the country with a
baptismal fount, we can't just up and change buildings. I'm confident
that President is working on a solution though.
Yikes, the dreaded braces. Good luck Cameron! He's getting them a lot
younger than I did. That's good, he'll be done with them earlier too.
Not doing anything is very much a coping mechanism. Trust me, I know.
Wes does too I think. Jacob will do fine. He just needs to keep a
level head and he'll be alright.
Eating is fine, I eat more than anyone else in the apartment. I might
be losing weight still, I don't really know. I don't feel like I am.
I'm not doing so great about getting fruit other than the mini bananas
they have here. They're so cute. The problem is just finding the
change, like always. Health wise I'm doing good, not a single sign of
Malaria. Acne has been acting up though.
I accidentally left my agenda at the apartment, so we'll see if I
remember everything I wanted to tell you about.
So the big news is that we had another baptism this weekend. It was
Franciska, the 15-16 year old girl I've mentioned once or twice.
Little sister to Maurine. It was really cool to see her start
interacting with the young women in the branch, she's being integrated
really well. She was even able to sing most of the hymns at the
baptism service because she's been going to the choir rehearsals.
Another name I've mentioned once or twice is Christoff. He's a 70 year
old Catholic man we've been teaching off and on since May (he travels
a lot, which has made it hard). We got him to come to the baptismal
service on the 28th, and it left a big impression on him. On Thursday
he called us and said he'd be coming to the chapel that evening. While
he's really spry for a 70 year old, we said we'd meet at his house. In
those intervening 5-6 days, he'd read about 150 pages in the Book of
Mormon. That was really cool. He still needs to come a long way before
he is ready to be baptized, but he's accepted that it will eventually
happen. I really am hoping that we'll be able to prepare him before I
leave Gbedjromede. But with the way things work, it'll be one or two
weeks afterwards.
This week I've been rereading the talks from the last general
conference, because for us it's about the midway point. They are
really good, I can not emphasize that enough. I'm getting whole themes
from them that I missed the last time. One thing that it has helped me
with is to realize where I actually am. I've been getting a little
down on myself lately for not being a perfect missionary, not
perfectly obeying the rules, so on and so forth. But at the end of the
day, I'm a worthy temple recommend holder, trying to do his best. That
means I'm doing alright. Wow, it's really cool to get a spiritual
confirmation as you type. I've decided to start carrying my temple
recommend around with me, I've just been leaving it back at the
apartment until now.
Hhhmmmm, what else. I've found a critical area I need to improve on.
We did the Christlike Attributes activity in Preach My Gospel for
District meeting, and my overall worst attribute was telling people
that I loved them/cared about them. That's only kind of important. So
that's a goal. Purpose of the Activity, accomplished!
This week there's going to be a group wedding for the branch, three
couples that the zone leaders have been working with. I've met all of
them over the course of doing exchanges, I'm excited that I get to be
there. One of the men has been coming to church faithfully for the
last 3 months at least.
 Okay, let's see, what else.... there's a Pan-African activity coming
up next Saturday. If I understand right, all the members in the city
are going to gather and sweep the streets. Yes, that is something that
has to be done here, there's just way too much sand. Should be fun, I
really like sweeping.
What day does Jacob go down to BYU for realizes? Are you going to stop
at In-n-out again? That'd be a funny tradition to continue. It seems
so long ago that I moved down to BYU. Mostly because it was.
I really can't remember everything I was going to write about. Oh
well, I think I did write a lot. I'm still writing in my journal
everyday. Well, almost everyday, sometimes I have to play catchup.
Thankfully, I have my daily agenda to help remind me.
Love to everyone,
Elder Christensen

July 30, 2012

Hi, Everyone, 
The weeks are just zipping by now. 
I'm pretty sure that most mail isn't getting opened, nothing I've
received has appeared to be. That being said, if there was obviously a
card of some sort in there, they could think to open it. I don't know,
I'll leave it up to you. I can tell you that I'm not in any big pinch
for money, they give us plenty. I haven't received the package or the
letter yet, but I think I should in the next week or two. I realized
this week that I never received the Ward Newsletter for June, not sure
I'm glad you all had fun at pageant. So the question is, will you
apply again? Did they announce a new presidency? I pretty much
convinced Elder Burkhart that he wants to do it after his mission. 
The Lord has been merciful on me and given us some of the most beautiful
weather lately. It's absolutely balmy right now. It's pretty much
stopped raining, but its really windy in the mornings.
The picture I want is the one of me next to my companion and another
man who is dressed in white. We're standing in front of a sign with
the name of the church, I think I was wearing my red tie. He's my
first baptism. He's actually been doing really well, he's really
excited to be in the church and serve. Plus, he's a computer guy, so
I'll be able to keep in touch with him after my mission.
Wow, I can remember the day I got spacers for my braces, I walked to
the Orthodontist after watching Over the Hedge at the Kaysville
Theater. I have no idea why that little detail has stayed in my head
all these years. Good luck Cameron!
Is Jacob practicing the piano like he said he would? On Saturday I
played the piano for the baptismal service. Which for some reason
started  about 40 minutes late, so I was playing prelude music for
almost an hour. And then the opening hymn was Ver Sion, cité promise
(I can't remember the name in English), which I've never played
before. That was interesting. I'm going to play for sacrament this
week, so I'll have to do a little practicing.
We managed to get some of our investigators to the baptismal service,
which was really powerful. Of course, there were about 10 who said
they would come but didn't. That's life for you. It helps that 16
people were baptized in Benin this last week. Benin alone has baptized
more in the last month than the combined tally for June. So I'm
excited to see what the overall number is.
This week we had a couple of interesting problems in the apartment.
The first was when the front door handle fell off. That was
disconcerting. Kind of hard to close the door when leaving. Got it
fixed pretty fast though. We also ran out of gas for cooking. That was
a little bit more problematic, as there's a little bit of a gas
shortage right now. It took a member about a full day to find a place
we could fill up,
Oops, not done yet.
And I don't even know how far away she went to go find it. Apparently
the port is just completely dead right now, everything is going to
Lomé.   I don't really know why, that uses a lot of vocabulary I don't
know yet. The good news is, it gives Brice a lot of time to read the
scriptures and the gospel principles book. He isn't even worried. His
whole life has been turned around by the gospel, it's incredible. And
everyone sees the difference. Lots of people asked him what's
different. I get the feeling that lots of people are going to receive
the gospel through him. I almost just want to hand him a stack of
brochures with our phone number and let him get to work.
There's a guy blasting the JayZ Forever Young song on his phone here in
the cyber. Never thought I'd hear that song in Africa. Then again, I
heard I'm a Barbie Girl twice this past week.
I ate two unusual things this last week. I went out and bought myself
a real loaf of bread, and sliced it. Then I put my peanut butter on it
and had a legitimate peanut butter sandwich. The other thing I ate?
........ Chicken Nuggets. Elder Burkhart splurged a little at the
supermarché and shared. Won't be having those again anytime soon
though, because he's going to Togo next week. He wormed that little
bit of information out of the office Elders. I still have no idea if
I'll be transferred or not. I've been here for three mutations, so it's
possible. We'll see.
Did you know that there are two kinds of Muslims in the world? There
are the more stereotypical Muslims that are actually the kind that you
know about.... And there are also Christian Muslims. Yeah, I'm still
not really sure how that works. They accept the Bible and if you ask
them, they'll tell you that they are baptized (which may or may not
have involved water). It's really bizarre, it messes with my head. I
almost want to start correcting them and say "no, you don't actually
believe in that as a Muslim, you believe . . ." except I'm here to
preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and Repentance  instead.
I actually have had a pretty powerful confirmation of the power of the
Atonement over the last few weeks. That single event was so powerful,
that our hearts can be changed if we are willing. That mighty change
of heart that the scriptures talk about isn't just a figure of speech.
I've had times where I had to say "I have no desire to do this, but I
know I need to. Help me to want to do it." It doesn't come overnight,
but it comes. (I should point out that no, that wasn't about serving a
mission in general. I'm very happy to be here and am totally committed
to serving for the rest of my mission. Sometimes problems come up that
you just have to deal with, is all).
Lots of Love,
Elder Christensen