Monday, October 29, 2012

October 29, 2012

Wow, Halloween already. That's one of the signs I've been here for a long 
Missionary work is going well. We had a number of set backs this last
week, but at the same time, a lot of really promising people are
coming out of the woodwork. I'm excited to see if any of them will
actually progress in the next few weeks. In particular, we've found a
family that seemed pretty interested, and who are already getting all
the stuff together to get legally married. I'm really hopeful for
them, I would love to be able to baptize a whole family. There aren't
enough in the church here, mostly thanks to all of the problems with
Those pictures of people crammed in buses from National Geographic have
already been here kind of. People take big 12 seat vans and cram 20
people in. I've taken those a few times. It's always an interesting
experience. The new bus system is actually not crammed at all. It's
still too new for the most part, people aren't used to taking it. It's
also a little expensive, when a moto can get you sometimes twice as
far for the same price. I'd say that for the most part, I don't
usually feel very third world. But this week, the water has kept
cutting out, which has been rather obnoxious. Also, we had one
occasion where we were walking down a new path and got lost jumping on
tires to stay out of the water. That was rather interesting.
Unfortunately, it is a little far from where we usually work and there
isn't really a good reason for us to go back there anytime soon so I
can take pictures.
I still haven't received the packages, although I heard that that was
being resolved and the mission office would finally be getting them
this week. We'll see. If not, well I guess I'll just have to wait.
It's not like I have much of a choice. I did get the ward news letter
for October, so there is a little bit of movement of mail. On the
other hand, we never got the Liahona in English for October. If its
not one thing, it's another. This mission teaches patience like none
I'm a little bit better at cooking, but not too much. The problem is
that we always eat the same things because they are cheap and easy. On
the other hand, I can eat pretty much anything now. I haven't had to
eat anything too weird in a while, but I'm sure it's only a matter of
time. I've even gotten better at eating the really spicy foods than
some of the African elders. It turns out that really spicy food is
more of a West Africa thing, the Congolais missionaries aren't really
a big fan of it.
There are 4 missionaries in the apartment. It's now to that point in
all of Benin, but Togo still has some 6 person apartments I think. My
apartment is 1 congolais, 1 ivoirien, and 2 Americans. Every apartment
has a fridge (but ours is small) a camping stove, and a rice cooker. I
hear that one of the apartments in Togo paid to have a member make
them a grill, but that's definitely not standard.
This week we saw a huge reorganization of the Branch. The Young Women,
Relief Society, and Elders Quorum presidencies all were changed. And
the Young Men were changed about a month ago. I'm not entirely sure
why, but it's nice to see some of the newer members get the chance to
have some leadership callings. Although to be honest, all of the
members here are new members.
Saturday night we were coming back to the apartment when we ran into a
man who thought we were missionaries for the Jehovah's Witnesses.
That's pretty common actually, but this guy actually was a Jehovah's
witness. He had a whole bunch of their little magazines, and he
insisted that we take them when he found out we weren't. I figured it
was better that we take them than someone else, so I've had the chance
to finally find out a little bit about their beliefs over the last 2
days or so. In some ways, they are so close to the truth. In
others..... I don't even know how they come up with all of those
ideas. That was what sealed the code word of the week. Apostasy.
We were teaching a lesson on Wednesday when this guy walked up and
started listening in. We invited him to sit down and join. That's not
always a good idea. This guy didn't understand at all what our message
was, and got rather angry at us for not giving the usual message that
other missionaries talk about. I've honestly never figured out what
that message is supposed to be. I've generally found that people
joining in on the lesson partway through is kind of iffy. They walk in
without the spirit and have no background for what we are talking
This last week I did a video journal. I thought it went pretty well,
it definitely takes less time. Can't do it for too long though because
of memory space. So we'll see.
This weekend was a big Islamic holiday. Tabaski. The celebration of
Abraham not killing his son. Most people took the whole weekend to
celebrate it. Thankfully it didn't mess up our proselyting too much,
but even a lot of the Christians were using it as an excuse to throw a
party. It's even a day off from school here. That doesn't happen in
Okay, I need to go now, love to you all
Elder Christensen

October 22, 2012

Hi Everyone, 
Wow, sounds like it was a bit of a rough week back home. Sorry guys.
It was a little hard here, but not really more than usual. Just in the
natural course of missionary work and life.
I'm not upset about the fact that you emailed me about Great Grandma.
I agree with your decision. It probably would have scared me to get
that call from the mission office.
Missionary work goes here, but it is a little bit slow for the moment.
It's never a problem finding people to teach, but finding people who
will actually progress is sometimes a little bit harder. Lots of
people like to listen to talk about Jesus, but not everyone likes to
act. I've got some ideas for what we can do this week that will
hopefully help us figure out who will actually progress.
Mosiah is good, but personally I keep getting sucked into 1 Nephi for
the last two weeks. Weird isn't it? That's only the one that I've read
eleventy-seven times. But I'm finding new ideas and new verses. I'm
greatly enjoying it.
I still haven't gotten any mail. I think that the office elders just
aren't going to the post office until they figure out what to do about
customs. Which is frustrating, because I know that there is stuff
there for me. Did you send anything that would conceivably cost
anything at customs? If no, I'll just tell Elder Caycho to go ahead
and pay customs and I'll pay him back. As far as requests for my
birthday.... Not really. Okay, that's not true. Can I get bacon?
So it turns out I lied a little last week. I said that it is
impossible for an American to train another American. Well, after I
was done emailing my companion was still on for a little bit, and it
turns out Elder Terranova will be training an American for the last 5
weeks of his mission. I don't know if that will be a common thing now
or what, there is that. Elder Terranova is the most Africanized of all
of us though.
This week I saw a lot of senior American Citizens. First we saw the
new couple who will be serving in the mission office. Elder and sister
Semken seem to be doing well, things are pretty well established for
them at the bureau. Next there were several older couples at church.
It turns out the church is doing a humanitarian project with
wheelchairs this week. The couples have already visited Ghana, Congo
(RDC) and South Africa this year. That sounds like a great idea for
when I am retired.
The sister missionaries that came into the MTC with me just hit their
halfway point. I've been out for a long time. It'll be weird when they
go home and I'm still here. At least they are all in France and not
here. That would be really weird if they were in the same mission.
This week was the week of the primary program. I don't know if it was
the first one in the history of the branch, but maybe. It made me
really happy. It kind of felt like I was at home again. The level of
singing ability was actually close to the same.
I can't really write this much this week. My keyboard is freaking out,
and I just don't have the spirit at the moment. I hope that things are
going well back in Utah and wherever you happen to be reading this.
Lots of Love,
Elder Christensen
PS, I was actually going to email you some photos today, but I
happened to get the computer that doesn't have USB ports. Looks like
you'll just have to wait until next week. Just like me.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

October 15, 2012

Hello Everyone, 
So I really don't have any idea when the rainy season is here. I had
been told that September was the rainy season and that in October it
would start getting hot, but September was dry and October has been
wet. So yeah. At some point it will get hot, I'm sure.

The work goes here, but this week it was a little slow. We thought we
had a great idea when we arrainged for a lot of our lessons to be at
the branch building. But then several dropped... And it was impossible
to leave, find another lesson, and come back in time for the next
lesson. So we learned a lesson with that. I think had that happened at
the beginning of my mission, I would have freaked out. But I'm
starting to understand now how much the mission is as much about
learning as it is about teaching.

Overall, the branch of Fidjrosse is doing well. So well in fact, that
if I stay here for a while there is a decent chance I will see the
formation of the Aibatin group. That would be very interesting.
Starting a group is a lot of work I hear. I believe that all that is
lacking for us though is maybe another 3-4 priesthood holders and a
building. Not that I'm being kept in the loop though. I know that
having a church building closer to the apartment would make it easier
for investigators to come to church, although it would probably become
more difficult to describe the location, the Fidjrosse building is
conveniently located to describe.

The work progresses here, yesterday we saw the formation of the first
district in Benin. Essentially, that is a stake with just branches
(not wards) and it reports to the misison office still. But it's still
a huge step. I'm thinking they could announce a stake center by the
end of the year. It has definitely been announced that the number of
members in this country has double since the mission president arrived
July last year.

I actually really loved the District meeting because I got to see all
of the people from Gbedjromede again. I got to say hi to a lot of
people. It was really cool to see recent converts and old

No, I still don't have the debit card. I don't think that the office
Elders are going to the post office until they get everything sorted
out with customs. What actually happens is that things show up in the
post office, and then packages have to go to customs (which is right
next door). At least, that's how it worked for Elder Perkins. I assume
that that's because we're private, company stuff would probably just
go straight to customs. Or something. I don't know, I never studied
international mail systems. I could ask the Elders to go and just pay
the customs, the problem is that we have no idea what customs will be.
It could be zero or it could be a lot. I'm not even sure what is
waiting for me in the post, if it's a box or flat rate envelope or
what. I know that if it takes more than a few weeks, I'm just going to
ask them to pay it.

I should hear conference for the first time in early November. That
would match up for last time we did conference at least. That'll be in
French, the translation shouldn't be difficult, I'll just have to pay
attention. For the Ensign/Liahona, I'm thinking end of
November-beginning of december.

Haha, I honestly don't have all that huge of a desire to serve in
Togo, I just want to see it. I love serving in Benin. The people here
are great, and I know where to find just about everything I could
want. I know I'll go to Togo one day, but that will be at least six
weeks. Transfer calls came in last night, and I'm staying here with
Elder Kiputa until at least December. I actually feel like I dodged a
bullet with that one. We had interviews with President Weed this last
week, and he told me something along the lines of "you know how to do
everything now, I could stick you with a new American and you could
show him how to do everything." There is no way I would actually train
an American, but I was giving myself equal odds to actually start
training. But that will wait until at least December. Besides, from
everything I hear, asking President for a transfer is just about the
exact wrong thing to do. I'd probably stay here for another 6 months.

That is really sad about Sis. Wahlstrom. Life is short like that.
Also, I'm already terrified of Motorcycles, that just confirms it. I'm
getting me a nice big safe car when I get back. Although I do
understand why pedestrians are so crazy in Provo. They are all
returned missionaries use to crazy drivers and being protected by the

Don't worry, if I do ever send an SD card home by bubble package, I'll
make sure to copy all of the photos over to the USB drive first. I
wouldn't just mail out 600 photos like that. I do know that regular
letters come through, I think I'll be doing that soon.

Yes, I do have bread and fruits and veggies and stuff like that. I
honestly knew where it all was in Gbedjromede, the problem was that I
didn't really know how to break big bills. I've gotten way better at
that though, so I'm able to buy little stuff a lot more.

This week I realized a little bit just how long I've been gone from
home. I don't honestly know what has changed in most peoples lives. I
know that at least two of my friends have gotten married, but that
number could be as many as 10 for all I know. And I have no idea how
many just decided to serve missions. I guess that's being cut off from
life outside the mission though.

Is the change in ward boundaries going smoothly? I could see there
being problems in a ward that has stayed the same for so long.

I've really started to see some of the changes in myself from being on
the mission. The thing about Christlike vertues is that the day to day
change is almost imperceptible. But after more than 8 months, it adds
up a tiny bit. I've gained a tiny bit of patience and charity since
that first day in the MTC. I've still got so long to go though.

Lots of love,
Elder Christensen

October 8, 2012

Hello Family and Friends,

Well, no week is ever quite like the others. That should be the lesson
I take from Africa.

The big news for this week is that I went in for the Carte de Séjour
(essentially a Green Card from what I understand). Yes, I got a blood
test, that was a little scary. But that I know of, I came through
clean. Which means I don't have AIDS or syphilis, which is good
(<---big understatement). Then this morning we had to be to the
mission office really early so we could go to immigration and actually
apply for the thing. I'm not sure when we'll go back to pick them up,
but I'm thinking about the end of the week. The good news is that with
this we'll be able to get yearlong visas. The bad news is that I'll
probably finish my mission in Benin, so I'll probably need to do it
again. We'll see. Beats going in every three months at least.

Situation on the mail. I know for a fact that there is at least one
thing sitting for me at the post office. But we can't get it because
they are demanding that we route all the packages through customs like
we did before. The problem is, we have no idea how much customs costs
(that depends on the contents of the package). So we aren't getting
any of that until we get that all sorted out. We were actually walking
past a post office when an employee called out to us to ask if Elder
Perkins was in the group because there was a package for him. Elder
Perkins literally saw his package sitting on the counter but couldn't
take it because of the problem. Needless to say, he wasn't exactly
thrilled with that.

Today had a second adventure tacked onto it. After going to
immigration, we walked from the office to the Walmart of Africa. It
wasn't actually a Walmart, but it was the closest thing to it. They
actually take credit cards there. It was almost scary, it felt like
home. I felt a little out of place. I don't know if I'll ever have the
chance to go back, it's pretty far out of the way.

The Van Duyses told me about the change in missionary age, and
President Weed mentioned it again this morning. That's incredible. I'm
pretty sure all of the girls I knew at pageant are calling their
bishops today. I'm pretty sure the Brethren had it all planned out
when they renovated the MTC this last year and opened a new MTC in the
Philippines. That'll be exciting, but personally I'm glad I got to do
a little bit of time in college first. Getting this call back at the
age of 18 would have scared me. Also learning French would have been
harder because I wouldn't have had the Arabic background. So I'm not
really regretful.

Haha, yeah there's no Halloween here. I think the closest equivalent
will be the giant voodoo festival in January, but I think that mostly
involves people in costumes running around hitting other people. Or
something, I haven't exactly figured it out yet. I'll tell you in 4

I'm still taking pictures, but my rate has slowed down a little bit. I'm
going to look into seeing if I can actually send one of my bubble
envelopes by post. If that works you'll be getting photos soon.

Yes, I brush and floss, no worries there. I'm pretty sure I have more
than enough floss for the rest of my mission. And maybe the next year
too. And I'm starting to notice Colgate around, so I'm pretty sure I
won't need more toothpaste.

Oh yeah, we got surprised yesterday. This Sunday, all the branches in
Cotonou are going to be meeting in Cadjehoun for the formation of the
Cotonou District! That came a few months earlier than I was expecting.
The only problem is, no one really seems to know the location of the
meeting. We know the general area of the building, but the precision
is lacking us. The good point though is that the church is growing
here. They could very conceivably announce a stake center for Benin
before I leave the mission. That would be so exciting.

I got to teach the English class this week, that was interesting. It
would have been better, but Elder Barker only asked me to do it about
30 minutes in advance, so I didn't really have any preperation. Or any
idea what he had been teaching. So I kind of just wung it and it
turned out alright. A fair number of people here actually have a
somewhat decent idea of how English works, it's largely just speaking
and vocabulary.

This week was my companion's birthday. I splurged a little bit and
bought some ice cream so we could celebrate. That turned out to be a
little fun. He really enjoyed it because no one likes it when their
birthday is just an ordinary day.

I'm still really jealous of all of you for getting to watch
conference. I heard a rumor though that Togo got to watch it as a
district. If that's true, that means that even if I'm still in Benin
next time, there's a chance I'll see it vaguishly live. That would be

I had a new first two weeks ago that I forgot to tell you all about.
Some one asked me if I was from Madagascar. That one surprised me. I'm
tan, but not that tan. Not really sure why he thought that. Most
people think I'm French or German when they first see me. Go figure.

Cotonou now has a bus system! So that's hopefully going to start
taking some of the motos off the road, make things a little bit safer.
Problem is, they are using Airport buses, the kind with all the space
for carry on bags. So it's not the most efficient seating wise, but at
least it's something official.

Accidentally cut my hair a little bit short. Going to carry groceries
on my head until it grows out again. Yes I have and will take more

Okay, that's all I've got time for at the moment. Cheers!
Elder Christensen

Friday, October 5, 2012

October 1, 2012

Hi Family and Friends,

Sometimes there is a huge gap of information here. Especially with
regards to what happens in Togo. I had heard absolutely nothing
about Elder Harding’s health until I read your email. I have absolutely
no idea what you are talking about.  The only thing any of us have
talked about this last week has been Elder Kola’s plan to buy and butcher
a cow (which he did this morning, apparently).

I don't think anyone had told me that Annie was pregnant again. That's
the story I'm going with anyway, tell her congratulations for me.
I haven't gotten any mail this last week. Elder Caycho told me that
there's something for me at the post office, but apparently customs is
doing something weird for the moment with all of the mission mail. Or
something. I'm hoping to get whatever it is this week, we'll be going
in to do the blood test stuff for the residency cards (on Friday I

Do you know how disappointing it is that I won't be seeing conference
this weekend? We won't see it for at least a month. We have to wait
for the DVDs, and then those have to come to Africa. The good news is
that I might be able to watch them in English. We now have about 6
Ghanains in the branch thanks to the University Frere Bother Van Duyse
started. We'll see. If not, my French is doing well. I'm still left
lacking for words from time to time, but I'm finding that my grammar
is starting to be better than even some of the Africans, Occasionally.
I get the Liahona in English every month, so I'll be able to go back
and read anything I miss. I'm still kind of bummed about missing out
though. That'll be really weird though, that's like the final mark of
spending more than six months in the field. I'll only have two more
left after that.

I'm going to challenge you all to find a question you want an answer
for. Pray about it, and look for the answer in conference. You'll find
it. My regret is that I took conference a little passively in the
past. I didn't use it to its full potential. Also, I read President
Ucthdorf's "Forget-me-not" talk about 6 weeks ago. That was just as
good as everyone ever said.

We had an interesting lesson this last week. We got a contact from the
other companionship, they told us this guy had walked in on one of
their lessons and asked a lot of questions about the book of
Revelations. So we went in and he asked about the sealed book and the
seals and the spirit of Elijah and all kinds of stuff. It was stuff
that we have answers to, but a lot of it can only be talked about once
you have the gospel background, and he didn't want that. So we did a
decent job with that I think. We went a little bit over, were just
wrapping up when his friend walks in. His friend looks at the
Restoration brochure and says 'yeah I talked to you guys once, but I
found some flaws in your doctrines. You know if you read Hebrews
carefully, it says that there is no such thing as the priesthood after
Jesus?" That took forever to sort out. The ways that people can read
the bible are more myriad than the grains of sand on the beach. We've
had to say a number of times "look, we're sorry, but we aren't here
for you to teach us. We've been called by a prophet of God to teach a
message". I've found that bearing testimony in these situations is
really helpful.

We've seen a man's heart softened just the littlest bit this week.
There's a family here who is more faithful in their church attendance
than half the members. They haven't missed in six months. But the
father has been holding back, both himself and from the children being
baptized. But this week he picked up the phone when we called! That
was a first. When we told his wife, she was shocked. It'll come, and
that will be a joyous day.

This week we had to go to immigration. Turns out my companion's visa
expired about two weeks ago. So I've been living with an illegal.

This week it rained a lot. Like a lot. We got turned back from a
couple of lessons because we weren't able get through all the standing
water. Clear-ish standing water is one thing, but that water was as
unclear as you can get. "Are you sure this water is sanitary? It looks
questionable to me" My companion absolutely refused to go through,
apparently he's gotten some nasty rashes by walking through water like

This week we had a lot of mangez-vous. It was all really good tasting.
This morning I saw my trainer when we went to the grand market. He
said, “hey how’s it going? You've gotten fatter.” (note: That's not an
offensive statement in African society. It's just a truthism.) So
apparently I'm looking a little bigger. People here notice weight
changes a lot sooner than I do, both on me and on other people.

Okay got to go, love to you all
Elder Christensen