Monday, December 31, 2012

December 31, 2012



I'm totally going to take some photos of me in the shirt holding the
bottle with Africa in the background. They'll put it up on the J-dawgs
wall of awesome places that people have eaten J-dawgs sauce that they
will be making if they haven't done it already. We also went and got
some ice cream, which was good too.

The skyping didn't really make me homesick, don't worry. Although
right when I logged into it, I saw a little pop up thing that told me
my password was successfully changed. So you may want to look into
that and see if my account didn't get hacked. That'd be a little

Here's probably the biggest reason why I didn't get too homesick from
the skype. I forgot all about it about an hour, hour and a half later.
My companion called his family once we got back to the apartment, and
found out that his dad had died that morning. I love Elder Gnahore, he
is way stronger than I think I would be in that situation. He was a
little hard hit that night, but we worked like normal for the rest of
the week. As much as that was possible in the week of Christmas.

Christmas day itself was interesting. We had an appointment in the
morning at a member's house. Turns out he invited some friends and
made some food. So we had to eat an early lunch. Then, we went to an
investigator family's house (more on them later) and we ate again. I
ate so much food that day..... Ooof. So much I got sick. My bad. In my
defense though, it was all extremely delicious, and I had to do it so
that our investigator didn't get upset about the fact that she had
prepared a lot and we weren't eating it. We all have to take hits for
the team sometimes.

Yes we got the faucet in our apartment fixed. So our apartment filter
is back up. No, I don't need a new filter for myself. We still have
low water pressure here, but I'm used to bucket showers by now.

Missionary work has been interesting this week. So many of our
investigators have left on vacation or have had to work to get money
for christmas or have had parties, we have had a lot of dropped
appointments. In a few ways, it has been rather frustrating, but I
also know that we've earned a lot of blessings because we haven't
given up. We do have a couple of investigators that are progressing
really well, like the family that fed us Christmas lunch. That's Anti
with her two sons Steve and Freeman. We haven't had the chance to talk
too much to Freeman, but Steve is really progressing. Sometimes their
mom doesn't understand everything we say because it's all just so
strange to her, but Steve totally understands it and helps us explain.
He even started telling us what strategy we approach when we start
teaching one of his friends. Steve has been my miracle that has kept
me going through these last few weeks, there's been a couple of things
there to get me done, but he's helped me pick myself back up.

This morning I had a new miracle happen. A lot of the missionaries
went to Tokoin to go play soccer. I wasn't too excited, but I knew my
companion loves it so off we went. Most of the Americans decided to
just sit it out and talk to each other, but I gave it a shot. I ended
up being picked last both times teams were picked. Despite all of
that, I still managed to have a good time and just enjoy playing. In
the past I would have felt really awkward about being probably one of
the most unskilled players, but I jsut had fun. And don't worry mom,
when I got tired, I pulled out my camera and started taking pictures.

Okay, I got to go, love you all and happy 2013!!
Elder Christensen

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas Everyone,
Okay, I know that I have to write a bit now before we talk, otherwise
no one who reads the blog will get to know anything.
This week has been a little crazy, like all of the weeks since I've
been here. Harmattan came in this week. There's a pretty constant
breeze coming in, and everything is a little bit dirtier, and everyone
seems to be a little sick around here. Go figure. I remember learning
about the Harmattan during my Geography class first semester at BYU. I
remember distinctively thinking "that's cool, but I'll never see it".
Turns out I was right kind of, it's not something you can see. I was
hoping for a giant dust storm, but it just ends up looking overcast in
the mornings. A little bit of a let down honestly.

My companion couldn't wait for Christmas and opened his stocking. He
loved it, he says thank you. I still haven't opened mine.
Got the birthday package, you guys are awesome.
We had an activity for all of the missionaries this Friday. That was
pretty fun. They made me play the piano, I guess I'm now one of the
best players in Togo. Yikes. At least I got time to practice. I had to
play in church again too, I played almost exactly the same hymns as
last week. Luckily I had practiced angels we have heard on high, so it
sounded a whole lot better this time. Looks like I'll be getting a lot
of practice on the piano from now on. I may even end up teaching
piano. It's looking pretty evident that I'm going to be teaching the
English class now that Elder Burkhart has left. That'll be
interesting. I don't know if I'm qualified to do that. I don't even
understand English.
So this week we had a really cool lesson where we were teaching a mom
and her son. The son was totally getting our message, was getting kind
of excited about it. The mom was just blown away by everything we were
telling her. It was literally one of those "I wasn't expecting to hear
what you are saying, so my brain can't translate it" moments. I still
have those, but not as much as I used to. But the son was totally
helping us explain things, it was cool to hear him explain it all.
They've invited us over for lunch tomorrow, I'm excited.
I got the chance last night to read a bit out of an Ewe bible. It was
pretty cool. The woman told me that she actually understood what I was
saying, which was interesting. Either Ewe is an easier language than I
thought, or they are really good at understanding people who pronounce
it wrong. Either way, I think I'm buying an Ewe bible as my birthday
gift to myself. Apparently they are only about 3700 FCFA so not too
We got to watch the Testaments in French with a recent convert on
Friday, that was interesting. I understood it a lot better than I was
expecting, but it wasn't as cool without the cheesy voices. I'm not
sure if French has cheesy voices or not. If it does I can't recognize
The end of the world was pretty uneventful around here. A few people
were getting anxious, but nothing really happened. I'm just glad it's
all over, I was getting tired of being asked that question.
Celebrated Christmas eve by giving the fridge a really thorough
cleaning and buying some soft serve ice cream. That ice cream was
sooooo good.
Okay, if I think of anything else over the course of the call I'll
write another letter. 
Love you all and merry Christmas!

December 17, 2012

Hello Everyone, 
Working with Elder Gnahore has been pretty good, not had any problems
with him at all. We work together as pretty much equal partners, so it
all turns out okay. I've really learned from him how to make backup
plans in advance. Which has been a really good thing because
appointments have gotten kind of shaky with Christmas coming up.
People have gotten a lot busier around here, we have had so many
appointments fall through this last week. We've even had to go to plan
D a couple of times. The Lord blessed with a mini miracle this week in
that despite all of the fallen appointments and time spent walking
around, we still managed to get a lot of work done this week. We have
met a lot of new people and seen some real power in the work.
Yes, I'm in a branch again. Doumassesse branch has been around for a
little over a year if I understand right. We recently split off a new
branch, Addidogomé, but that split officially goes into place in
January. At that point, our church will start at 1 PM, which'll be
interesting. Yesterday I played the piano, but it didn't go as well as
usual. They didn't actually tell me in advance what hymns I'd be
playing. Turns out it's hard to sight read Angels We Have Heard on
High after a year. Especially when the music is a little bit different
in French. It wasn't too bad over all, but I'll definitely need to ask
in advance next time.
I got the ward newsletter this week, along with all the Christmas
wishes from the ward. Be sure to say thanks to everyone. I can
remember writing those letters a few times, never really grasping the
fact that one day it would be me getting them. Time certainly flies.
This morning we got to hear from Elder Curtis of the 70. It was a
really cool experience. He talked to us about obedience and being
worthy to receive the promptings of the Spirit. I was really motivated
to move forward my efforts to be worthy. Not that I'm bad person, but
we all have things we can do to improve.
This week we met a man named Credo. He actually called us down in the
street. Turns out he was in the US army, and now runs a low
income-development-aid-foundation-thing that brings him back to Togo
sometimes. He was super nice, and turns out he's actually a member of
the church! I wasn't able to figure out if he is active or not in the
states, but it was cool to just have a random run in with a member
like that. I wonder how many random people live here in Togo who were
baptized but don't know that the church is hear. Because that is now
two that I've met in about as many weeks.
Elder and Sister Leavitt came by with their little Christmas gift for
us all, I never thought banana raisin bread and peanut butter cookies
would taste so good!
President Weed decided to catch us all by surprise again. Elder
Burkhart will be going back to Benin this week to be in the mission
office, and Elder Poll will be replacing him. I was super excited to
spend Christmas with Elder Burkhart, oh well. Elder Poll is a good
guy, it'll be interesting to see how the apartment dynamic changes.
The new apartment itself is pretty good. The only real problem with it
is that we don't have any real water pressure. So you know what that
means. Bucket showers. Actually surprisingly refreshing, as it turns
out. Just another week in the life of a missionary. They say we should
be getting a new pump system soon. When we first moved in we had a
little bit of a problem with bats flying in and getting stuck inside,
but we put a couple of screens back up on the windows and the general
smell of people seems to have driven most of them away.
This week I did a lot of personal study about the savior. We were
giving a couple of chapters to study before the conference with Elder
and Sister Curtis, and I took the time to look up a couple of other
chapters too. I really felt strengthened in my testimony. I had a
moment where some of the verses in Isaiah really became personal for
the first time. That's one thing that I have loved about the mission.
A lot of those scriptures that I knew were doctrinally important have
now started to become personally important. I'm happy it's happening,
ideally it really should have happened before the mission.
I have decided that for this new year (or at least the first little
while of it), I'm going to work hard on being more virtuous. I figure
if I set a goal for a Christlike attribute, that will help me
accomplish more. I want to really get a lock down on my thoughts, I
still have times where I just am not there during lessons and whatnot.
I'm going to work on memorizing lots of scriptures and hymns.
Especially in French.
That's super exciting that the family will get to be in pageant again.
I think you are right, that has to be a blessing from having
missionaries out. I know you'll all have a lot of fun. Just don't give
in to the temptation to go see Jacob out in NYC haha.
Haven't seen the women with Christmas trees on their heads, maybe I'm
not in the right area for that. As far as the mom sending out ties, I
know all about that. That was organized for Elder Burkhart. It has
mostly worked, except that most of the people baptized here recently
have been women. I'll see if I can come up with any ideas for service.
As far as a shoulder bag for Jacob goes, I don't have too much to say.
I think he probably needs one since he might not be allowed to have a
backpack. It should have a strap that can be washed, obviously.
Strap ideally is wide for comfort on shoulder. For size, it
should carry his own scriptures (I don't really recommend the quad for
missionaries, I think the Bible and Triple separate are better), some
brochures, a copy or two of the Book of Mormon (maybe one English one
Chinese?) and maybe a water bottle. I don't know if he'll be driving
or walking or biking on his mission. Generally, I'd say a skinny but
long and tall is better than a short fat one. I feel like it's less
likely to be stolen, just looks better. Also should have a handle in
case the strap breaks. The strap broke on mine a couple months ago,
and I've been too lazy to go get it fixed.
Haha, Sister Leavitt told me you emailed her, she mentioned that you
happened to use my first name in saying I needed a new fan. It made me
As far as maintaining weight goes, I'm not actually sure if I'm the
same weight or not. I know that I'm definitely way down on muscle, but
I'm getting a little bit of a gut. Turns out that's a little bit of a
universal phenomenon here. We get belly's, but we can stretch out our
skin just about anywhere else. I'm definitely doing better than some
of the other missionaries though, thank you so much for not raising me
to go out to eat all the time.
My companion wants to know if you got/understood his thank-you email.
Okay, I think I managed to write a lot this week.
 Love you all,
Elder Christensen

Monday, December 10, 2012

December 10, 2012

Hey....... How's it going?
So, Togo is pretty cool. I think for the moment I'm still liking Benin
better, but that's probably just because I haven't had enough time to
build up awesome memories in Togo. That being said, this week was a
good start.
This week we found a white woman while doing door to door. Okay, we
actually knew that she lived there already, but we wanted to see what
would happen. Very interesting experience, she basically just shared
spiritual experiences she's had over the years. It was a really
interesting experience, I could tell that she had a very deep faith.
This Friday we moved apartments. Before we were living on the second
floor of the branch building, but they found us a new apartment so
they could use the old one for church. Turns out my cleaning run last
Monday was not useless but actually a little inspired, we ended up
holding Sunday school on the second floor yesterday, and all those
cobwebs would have definitely detracted from the spirit. The move over
to the new apartment was pretty fun. When we got to the new
apartment, we were super excited to see actual air conditioners in the
bedrooms.... until the Leavitts told us that they had all been "fixed"
so we couldn't use them. They have a point about how it's not fair to
have one apartment have AC, but getting our hopes up like that was
just a little bit cruel. As it is, one of the fans broke in transit
and somehow I'm the one who ended up short. So I've been hot the last
few nights, luckily the window does give a bit of a breeze. After we
finished getting everything inside and the beds set up they took us
out to eat at a pretty decent restaurant. While we were there, we saw
an interesting site. A black woman (normal here) an Asian woman (less
normal, but not unheard of) and a ginger (a first since I've been
here) all walked into the restaurant together. All speaking American
English. I felt like I was in some sort of really corny joke.
Saturday.... Was one of those days you just have to live as a
missionary. With all of the moving and everything, I accidentally got
dehydrated. My bad. I felt pretty sick Saturday morning, to the point
where I threw up. First time on the mission. I had been warned, I just
didn't get enough water in. I pretty much just laid on the floor all
morning. Eventually I did start feeling better though. That's the nice
thing about dehydration, the symptoms don't last too long. Then came
the afternoon. We had a baptism planned, a young man named Romaric who
was all taught and ready to go before I came here. We were supposed to
pick him up at 2 PM to be ready for the baptism at 3 PM at Souza
Netime. At 1:45 we get a call that the fount at Souza is broken and
the baptism has been moved to 2 PM at Tokoin. We ended up getting a
super beat up taxi. When we picked up Romaric, the taxi driver backed
into a pole. Then we needed a push start to get the engine running.
Then we got lost because there are apparently too many Catholic
churches in the Tokoin area, so we ended up on the wrong end of town.
Then the radiator for our taxi broke down and we fled the smoke. We
walked for about 5-10 minutes looking for a new taxi. Found it, and
got to the branch about 2:50. The only reason why we weren't too late
is that the pump was super slow for the fount, they were still waiting
for it to fill when we got there. They ended up baptizing in water
that only reached maybe mid thigh, if that. Water was also not nearly
as clean as it is for baptisms in Benin, now I understand why
missionaries coming out of Togo don't like to actually be the
baptizers. Over all, Saturday was proof that missionary work is the
Lord's work, because way too many things went wrong. There's no good
reason that baptism should have been possible.
So now my story about Ghana. My area goes right up to the border with
Ghana. Romaric literally lives on the last street before the border.
That being said, the border is just a hill and maybe a fence on the
other side. I could get over super easy if I wasn't afraid of African
diseases. Also, I have no good reason to do that.
I had heard a rumor that they are going to split Togo into a new
mission next year. While we were moving the apartment I asked Soeur
Leavitt how accurate the rumor was. She told me that they're looking
for a mission home. So looks like there's a pretty good chance that I
will be finishing in a different mission than the one I started in.
Interesting times. Most of the older Americans are over in Benin now,
so I get the feeling that when they go home all the Americans that
have been here for forever will go over there and I'll be left here
mostly alone. That'll be interesting. Of course, President Weed never
does things the way I think they are going to go. We'll know in 6-7
months I guess.
While we were moving everything out of the apartment, we found a book
about how everything about Christianity comes from Africa. It's not a
very professional book, let me tell you. Very biased.
The last few weeks I've started writing President in French. It was a
little slow and laborious at first, but it's going pretty well now.
I'm finally starting to master all of the accent keys on the French
This last week we got a new American missionary. Elder Woodland from
Idaho. It's been really interesting to see that look of "woah, I'm in
Africa." It's weird being one of the old guys now. I remember how
weird and out of the ordinary everything seemed at first. I hope we
aren't overloading him with information, I'm not sure how much he's
actually picking up yet. He's a good sport about it, he'll be alright.
Found out today that the church just broke 3000 stakes, #3000 being in
Sierra Leone. So close. Elder Holland even came. Well, I guess being
#3002 will be cool too. I believe that the only thing we are waiting
for at this point is the stake center to be finished.
When we moved into the new apartment I set the tree back up and this
time I took out the stockings. Elder Gnahore was quite content with
the fact that he had a stocking too, apparently he's never received
Christmas presents before. He's sending you a thank-you letter.
You sent me the November Ensign right? If so congratulations, because
I don't think I'll ever get it from the mission. The December Liahonas
have already come in for the branch, but we still haven't received
since October in English.
 I got all the sheet music you sent me mom, thank you. It made me happy.
Hoping everything is well back home, I'd love to hear from you all,
Elder Christensen

Sunday, December 9, 2012

December 2, 2012

Howdy all, 
This is Togo reporting in! Togo seems to be a really great
place. I'm excited to be here. I'm in an area full of red sand/dirt,
so it feels kind of like St. George. My companion is cool. I honestly
think he'd be perfectly fine as senior companion himself. He doesn't
really speak English, Ivory Coast doesn't have English. What's really
interesting is that the Malagash that Elder Burkhart is training
actually speaks pretty good English. Did I mention last week that I'm
in an apartment with Elder Burkhart again? That'll make at least 6
months of our missions that we've done in apartments together. We're
pretty good friends by now.
I'm glad to hear about the flash drive getting there, I was a little
worried. You can send it back if you want, I'm not sure if I'll need
it personally, but I can probably give it to one of my companions.
It's a little hard sometimes to find flash drives and memory cards
that are reliable. I'm not sure what would happen if I took a photo
inside of a cyber. I'll try in the next few weeks.
Before coming to Togo I got the ward newsletter for November and I got
Grandma Lundstrom's Christmas letter. That's all I've received for the
moment. Now that I'm no longer in Benin it will probably take me at
least a week or two longer to get mail, with getting it over the
border to the Leavitts and then to the right apartment.
Yes I'm aware of the Leavitt's little cleaning competition. I'm also
aware that I have very little chance of winning it. I was the only
Elder who actually cleaned this morning, and I took out about 300
cobwebs in the process. It doesn't matter too much though, because they
are apparently going to be putting us into a new apartment in 2 weeks.
For the moment we are living above the branch, but the branch has
become big enough that they need the upstairs as well. We're just
waiting for the painting to get done and they will move us over.
Christmas should be fun in a nice new apartment. I was going to wait
to set up the Christmas tree you sent until we got there, but Elder
Burkhart started playing Christmas music on Saturday so the tree had
to go up.
I was looking at the Visa they issued me for Togo. They spelled two of
my three names wrong. Thank heavens there is a 0 % chance they will
ever look at that when I come back to Benin. If it was the US, there's
a chance I would have problems.
This last week I have seen all the Elders from my wave at the MTC, and
the wave behind us. It was really interesting to see what has all
happened to us over the last 8 months. For the moment I'm the only one
that is officially senior companion. Sort of. Two of them are 'equal
companions' so to speak. Lots of them have lost a lot of weight. We
have an new American entering the apartment this week, it'll be
interesting to see his starry eye look that we all had back then.
Elder Cline was transferred over to Benin, so we never got to see each
other throughout the mission. Oh well.
Okay, We're out of time, my bad. The cyber is a little bit slower than
at Fidjrosse, but not too much, at least today. I'll just have to tell
you about seeing Ghana next week!
Love to you all,
Elder Christensen