Wednesday, February 27, 2013

February 23, 2013

Hello from Benin,
Yep, change of p-day is an office Elder thing. We have to be working
on Monday because that's the day that all of the baptism forms come in,
we have to get them into the system. They tell me anyways, I haven't
done it yet.

Being an office Elder is an interesting experience, I will say that.
Right when I came in I got to experience sending Elders home. One
upside to that is that they pulled out a scale. I was in proselyting
clothes and had just eaten lunch, so taking that into account I think
I'm down to around 148 pounds. I was thinking of going all the way to
140 by the end of the mission, but I don't think that's possible
anymore. The mission office isn't exactly a Gold's Gym. I've gone from
walking 2 hours a day in the heat to a 5-10 minute walk from the
apartment to the office.

I hope you didn't throw away that international driver's licence stuff
Mom. Elder Semken thinks you sending that in and then mailing me the
new one will be the best way to go forward. If you already threw it
away, just say so and we'll go with plan B. But be warned, I may drive
stick like a maniac when I get back. I'll be mild mannered on an
automatic, but a terror with stick shift.

I'm hearing now that Togo will get a new mission.... next year. I'm
guessing it's just still too early to make the split. Everything is
more or less in place, but they're going to give everything a chance
to settle down, get everyone trained. Same reason why there isn't yet
a stake in Togo.

Well that will be fun for you to go to NYC Mom. If I'm still hanging
around in the office when my own travel plans come in, I'll try and
have a nice long layover in NYC. I'll sneak out of the airport with
Elder Gunderson and go find Jacob. Although I don't think the plane
tickets actually are purchased here, I'm guessing that's Salt Lake's

Malagash is the native language of Madagasar, I guess I should have
clarified that. It's actually more like an Indian language than a
South African language. To give you an idea, the Elder I replaced in
the office is from Madagascar, and his name is Elder Ragodonandrasana.
He spent 10 months here, I'm not too crazy about doing that. Of
course, President could just transfer me out in a few weeks. It's
really impossible to say for the moment.

I did get a Bible in Ewe, it actually looks pretty cool. It's a new
edition actually, so it looks really nice. And of course, it's in red
ink when Jesus speaks. I can't really read it, but I can do a passable
impression of it.

Yesterday I reread the notes from my setting apart. I've finally
started to see the accomplishment of some of the things that President
Frischknecht talked about. It's been a little testimony builder for me
that even the local leaders are inspired. It's funny how things like
that work.

Well, I don't have all that much to say, It's already the second email
of the week!

I love you all so much,
Elder Christensen

PS mom, no I don't think I need another pair of shoes. I don't walk
anymore. I'm still waiting on the last package to show up, we'll go
into the post office on monday but I don't think it's there yet. I'm
assuming that if I haven't needed something by now, I can probably
make it the rest of my mission without. But if anything pops into my
head I'll let you know.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

February 18, 2013

Hello Family and Friends,
 This week was a crazy week, like all of the others. I heard another
rumor that I would be transferred. This one claimed to be from a more
reliable source than the others. Turns out it was true. Next week I'll
be writing you from back in Benin. I'm going into the mission office.
I'll be working with Elder Burkhart and Elder Tshizanga. I'm not sure
what president is thinking putting me and Elder Burkhart together in
the same apartment for a third time. It can't be a coincidence. The
only bad news is that I have no idea how much time I'll be in the
office. If I'm really supposed to be an office missionary, I could be
there 6-8 months. If I'm just there on hold for numbers to change, I
could only spend a few weeks. I guess we'll see. At least it'll give
my shoes a break. I'm still laughing about it though because I only
ever did one Togo visa, while at least one if not two of the Elders in
my wave are still going to be in Togo ever since the beginning.
Valentines day was uneventful for me. The only thing I saw is that all
the little clothing shops had all their red clothes out, and the women
walking around with stuff for sale had lots of fake roses. But nothing
more than that. I honestly didn't think much about it, thankfully I've
never really needed to celebrate holidays. Otherwise I might end up
doing something stupid.
I've never really had to deal with getting people married. I've never
really had investigators that wanted to get baptized that needed to be
married. Here in Togo the cultural marriages are recognized, so it
isn't as much of a problem. Going back to Benin I could run into it
though. I know some Elders have done it a lot.
I'm sad I don't get to spend more time with Elder Gnenenon. He's a
really great Elder. Also probably knows more about American TV than I
do. We had a lot of fun these last two weeks. That being said, the
work was hard too. But overall it was a good experience. I've been
really blessed to have fully competent junior companions. Hmm, I think
I'll be junior companion again going into the mission office.
Elder Cline goes home in a month. Since I'll be in the mission office,
there's a chance I'll help send him off at the airport. Also, I'll get
to see all the brand new Elders coming in. I still remember that day
very vividly.
I don't know if I will train now. Most missionaries in this mission
train. My trainer has trained 3 times now. In our mission it really
isn't all that much of a sign of trust from President though. Largely
because our numbers have been increasing so much that it's been an
issue of necessity. It took me a while to realize that, but sometimes
there really is just no one else.
Yes I'm getting Jacob's emails, and I think I'm getting all of the
photos you send me. Not positive though. Hey, being in the office I'll
probably be able to trust my cards to those computers, maybe I'll
actually email you some photos from time to time.
I got to give a farewell talk (of sorts) in sacrament meeting
yesterday. I pulled it from Elder Ballard's general conference talk.
Unfortunately, they hadn't given me a time limit, so I didn't watch my
time. I think I went a little over. Oh well, it was a goodbye talk.
This week I really started trying to understand Malagash. I don't know
why the language interests me so much. Maybe it's because I love all
of the Malagash missionaries. In any case, I traded out my English
Preach my Gospel for one in Malagash, and I'm constantly surprising
Elder Boto with the grammar principles I manage to glean out of it.
I'm starting a notebook. Not what they mean by studying your mission
language, but oh well.
We had a zone conference this last week, it went well. I learned a
lot. I think President Weed is getting tired of saying the same things
over and over.
Okay, one funny story. During the conference, we talked over what our
emergency plans are IF (not when, we don't expect anything) something
goes wrong. Well, the next day my companion and I got stuck in an
appointment that we couldn't end well, so I texted the district leader
and asked him to call us so we could have an excuse to leave.
Unfortuntaly, I used the phrase "evacuation plan" and wasn't very
clear. So he freaked out a little bit and thought there was something
seriously wrong. I had to apologize when we got back to the apartment,
and that evening we were all laughing about it. Live and learn.
 Okay time for me to go, we're going to try and find a bookstore so I
can buy a bible in Ewe before I head back over to Benin.
Love you all,
Elder Christensen

Thursday, February 14, 2013

February 11th, 2013

Wow, it's been an interesting week here. Not that that is different from any other week. The time is really flying by. I think that that's because I haven't taken down that paper Christmas tree yet, so it still feels like the beginning of January.

Missionary work is still hard. Worth it, but hard. Right now we're looking at expanding our efforts a little bit farther out. I think we've worked the close area a little dry, we've had so many fallen appointments this last week. Time to start walking out. Or paying taxis. Agbalepedogan, here we come!

We've been teaching a woman named Léonie, I think I've mentioned her before. She had a baptismal date for this Saturday, but she hasn't been to church the last two weeks and we still enough material to teach her that I think we're going to push it back another week or two. She's already been to church a few times and is integrating well with the members, but she's hiding the fact that she's meeting us and coming to church from her parents, her father is extremely Catholic. She's technically well above the legal age to need his permission, but culturally he can still command in this kinds of things until she's into her 50s or older.

The other real success of these last two weeks has been the Anti family. I've been so happy to have actively worked with this family. The other converts I've have not really been thanks to me, I either came in late or couldn't really talk. But I honestly think this might have been one of the families I was sent here to find. The only thing that is really keeping this family from being ready is that they haven't actually told the husband (who lives/works in Holland) that they meet with us. Since we need his permission for the wife and younger son, this is kind of a problem. We're probably going to organize a fast with them in the next few weeks. I'm not sure if I'll still be around when they do get baptized, but I know it will happen one day.

Yeah if you want me to have clothing made, I'm going to need measurements. "my basic shape, but shorter" isn't really a very accurate measurement in the metric system. Even though they still sell fabric in yards. I'm still trying to figure that one out. I'm pretty sure I took some decent pictures of some traditional style clothing, if not you can talk to Brother Hanna (it's interesting that he's no longer an Elder, I remember he still had 10 months left when I first arrived here).

No I've never heard of Marshal McDonald. I'm hoping to keep playing the piano when I get back, so if you want to buy some sheet music I'm down with that. Music will always be a part of my life, thankfully. My new companion likes to listen to Enya right before bed, I'm going to be sad when he goes. No, I'm not entirely sure where he picked up Enya. I'm not sure why, but I'm really craving some good piano/instrumental music lately.

Yeah the Harmattan was a very interesting thing. Lots of dust. It never gave me any breathing problems, but lots of locals got coughs. I would wake up feeling really dry though. It's pretty much gone now. It had a sudden return last Saturday, but now we are back to just being kind of dirty again. Then it will start raining again in a few months.

Leadership here is a very interesting process. As far as district leader goes, it's just the oldest missionary in the apartment, unless that missionary has serious problems. For zone leaders and assistants, I'm not really sure what is going on for the moment. Before it was always one American, one African, but I think President Weed is starting to move away from that model. So I don't know if I'll ever do any serious leadership or not. I probably will be a translator for the Leavitts once the next group goes home. Assuming I don't get transferred somewhere. We don't really know what's going on as far as transfers go, I believe there are 3 more coming before the end of March due to missionaries coming in and leaving.

Mom, how is it that you hear mission news before I do? If the new sisters are really moving in across from the Eastmonds, that means that they are moving into the first apartment I served it. For the moment there is only one actual sister, her companion is a member I know who has been called for a "mini-mission" of a transfer until the new sisters arrive. Sisters generally do pretty well. They are able to reach a lot of people that we the Elders just can't get through too. They aren't perfect though, sometimes they can be even worse than the Elders with certain things. It'll be very interesting to see what happens. As far as splitting the mission goes, I haven't really heard anything more. Still just rumors. Tomorrow we'll have a zone conference, I'll ask the assistants what's up.

I had an interesting experience this last week. It turns out that there's only one water bill for our building, even though it's two apartments. So we got to discuss things with the brother of the other tenant (who isn't in country at the moment). So in French I discussed a Togo water bill with an Italian. My life is full of really lame standup comedy setups.

Okay, time to go, love you all,

Elder Christensen

PS It turns out I can read Malagash pretty well. I haven no idea what I'm saying, but Elder Boto says that I'm pronouncing it right. Mysterious talent that I wouldn't have found without being on a mission.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

February 4th, 2013

So we were in the cyber we normally use, but the connection cut so we had to come to another cyber. The connection here isn't great either, but at least it's there a little bit.

I hadn't heard about the Hobo Traveler, but that figures that there would be something like that. I'll put that on the list of things to look up when I get home. I think he's spot on about the fact that Africans don't like being filmed. That's one of the reasons I've not taken very many photos/videos, I realllllly want to avoid looking like a tourist. I was thinking about taking a film of the taxi ride going to the baptism, but luckily decided not to, every single light was red. On the other hand, saw the US embassy for the first time. Looks like a standard US government building. I've been asked a few times if the embassy knows that I'm here. I'm not entirely sure, but I would think the church would tell them that.

Oh, and yeah, Obama's face is everywhere. Shirts, plates, just about anything. Not just him though, I've seen the President of Togo's face on dresses.

Missionary work was dry again this week. This week the only investigators to come to church for us were two men that we honestly don't even remember contacting. They say that we invited them a few weeks ago though. At any rate, we have their numbers and will be seeing them this week.

I'm not getting transferred just yet, but I am getting a new companion. It's another Ivoirien, Elder Gnenenon (yes I know his name has four "n"s). He's only about his 6 month mark, it should be interesting. I'm not sure if I'll be with him long term or not, there's another round of transfers in 2 weeks because 9 more missionaries will be going home/11 coming in. We'll see. I'll miss working with Elder Gnahore, he's a really hard worker and does a good job. Elder Bukasa is coming into my apartment, that'll be interesting, we spent 5 months together in the apartment at Gbedjromedé.

I play the piano about 2 out of 3 weeks for church. There are two members that know how to play a little, and I want to give them the chance to practice and serve too. I'm happy to help out though. I'm even getting better. Bizarrely, the baptismal service was the first time I've ever been able to play I Know that My Redeemer Lives. I'm also happy to report that I can play the piano and sing in French at the same time. Those were some tender mercies from the Lord during a rather difficult week.

This morning I accidentally decided it would be cool to read the "preparing for the temple" brochure in French. Now I really want to go back to the temple. Less than a year now!

My other big tender mercy this week was an inspiration to think of all the ways I've changed since the start of my mission. I really have changed quite a bit I think, and I still have a long time left. I'm definitely not perfect, and I never will be in this lifetime, but I'm doing better. It was comforting to see how I've increased in charity and patience overall.

Oh, I forgot the third tender mercy. This one is a big shout-out to Hermana Cooper, because she sent me BACON. She is officially the current holder of the "my favorite person" title. But for you the blog readers, don't give up hope! There is still plenty of time for you to send a package or lots of letters or something surprising, you too could be a winner!

Just wanted to let you know Mom, I tried to celebrate your birthday too. The fast food place near our apartment that makes soft serve ice cream claims to make milkshakes too. So I ordered a chocolate one. It was very interesting, pretty tasty actually. Unfortunately, 30 minutes later my stomach wasn't so happy. Oh well, tasted good at least.

I gave some letters to Elder Hanna to take back to the states, so that's heading your way.

I think I'm going to order the bead ties soon, any preferences from Dad, Wes, Cameron as to colors, simple patterns?

I've been told by a couple of Elders now that they are amazed that I finish the month with money left over. They think I'm really good at getting deals and whatnot. Unfortunately, I've determined that it's actually because I'm kind of a miser. Not that I love money, but I just don't like spending it, I'm worried I'm going to need it for something else later. Luckily, that doesn't seem to apply when I'm giving fast offerings for some reason.

I'm thinking about starting a blog when I get back: A poor man and his rice cooker. I'll only eat out of a rice cooker for a month. I think i'ts totally possible, rice cookers are amazing. Also, I've eaten rice for way too many meals in the last few days, we ran out of group spaghetti and I don't have any personal reserves. On the other hand, the PB&J sandwhich I had this morning was one of the best sandwhiches I've ever eaten, a big thanks to Elder Poll.

I don't think I'll need the international driver’s license renewed, if I will it can be done here.

As far as when I come back, I'm going to discuss that with President Weed next round of personal interviews. I'm not sure if I can/want to come back for winter semester. If I do, I think it would be one of those "leave friday, get home saturday, give talk sunday, sunday evening leave for school, monday morning classes start" scenarios. I'm not sure if I want that. You shouldn't have to extend anything with New Century or BYU though, that would only be in case of me coming home early that things would change. I think I'll tell President that he can either send me home early for school, or he can send me home so that I arrive on the 31st. I think that would be the best birthday present I could ever give you. Of course, if I tell him that, maybe he'll keep me until Valentine’s Day just to mess with me.

Okay, I think it's time to go, I love you all so much!

Elder Christensen

January 28th, 2013

The week here was pretty good, no complaints. The work progresses bit by bit. We had interviews this week with President Weed. They were.... a little uneventful. Since I'm not a trouble maker, I never really take a long time anyways, but this time we all felt it was a little short. At any rate, President now knows where the apartment is, so I guess we can't goof off any more. Not that we were before.
I wasn't really planning to send an SD card home with Elder Hanna, I was just planning on sending one home with Elder Cline. That'll be my last chance for pretty much the rest of my mission.

I'm guessing that I will stay in Togo for a while, but you never know. I had a week or so where I thought I would be replacing Elder Hanna as zone leader, but then I realized that President has no good reason to put me there. That was just my ego hoping to build itself back up. I'm thinking I'll stay in Doumassesse until April, and then I'll be moved somewhere.

We had a faith building experience here recently. We were considering a course of action, but something seemed wrong about it and my companion and I both agreed that it wasn't a good idea. We ended up being really grateful that we changed plans. Serious blessings there. I love having the Spirit to warn us.

I haven't heard anything about any flies/larva stuff. The only thing even close is that I may have gotten a worm in my arm a few months ago. It never hurt, but I had a red line that turned pretty white afterwards. It's faded quite a bit though. Haven't seen any boils. I'll keep an eye out. As for the garlic pills… Sorry mom, but it has been a little while since I took them. I am taking my doxycycline everyday though, which is more than the majority of the Elders that get Malaria. I would say at least 75% of the Elders catching Malaria don't take doxy, and I'm guessing none of them use mosquito nets. Over all I'm very safe, I only got maybe 3 bites all last week.

For the debit card, I'm thinking I'll just tell you that I want to pull so much money out of the bank, you'll put the money in, I pull out, and then you can freeze the account again if you want. I know a few Elders have pulled from the ATM, I've only heard of one having problems. I don't plan on pulling more than 1 or 2 times.

This week we had a first lesson with Malik. He's an interesting fellow, a Camerounian that works in the marché near our apartment. He called us over one night, he really wants to turn his life around but doesn't feel like he has the strength on his own. It'll be really interesting teaching him because although he speaks pretty good French, he can only read English. So we'll be speaking in French and asking him to read in English. His English accent is pretty good at least, way better than Nigerians.

We've started teaching a woman named Léonie, one of the other companionships found her outside the church building and she asked if she could come visit us on Sundays. She's now been to church three times, and already has the Daughters in my Kingdom book. So she's being well integrated by the branch. The only problem for her is that she lives with her parents who are solid Catholics, so she hasn't told them that she meets with us. She's well over the age that we legally need their permission, but socially that is a hard thing to overcome here. She loves coming to church though.

Fun fact, one of my recent converts is in the Liahona for January! The little blurb at the back for the pan-african service activity has a photo that one of the missionaries in Benin sent in. It was so awesome to remember that day. Had a lot of fun.

Got to see Elder Kiputa again this last week at a zone training meeting. He loves getting emails still from Dad. He also says I've lost weight. That's probably true, I walk a lot more than I did in Aibatin. I'm also a little bit more spendthrift here. I have almost a third of my monthly money left. Not really sure why that is, but it feels good to know that I'm not wasting the Lord's money.

My favorite General Conference talks for the week are from Elder Gray and Elder Whiting of the 70. What would a man give in exchange for his soul? and the Temple Standard. I'm not sure why I like them so much, but they feel very real to me.

I think the one complaint I could have for the week is when you teach someone who understands extremely well, and who at the end of the lesson says "well, I come from the interior, I'm going back next week" and you know that the church won't be there for at least a few years. That's kind of a bummer.

I think that might be all the time I have for this week, love you all so much!

Elder Christensen