Tuesday, April 23, 2013

April 20, 2013

Elder Gray and Elder Christensen

Woooaah it has been a week, let me tell you. Every little thing that
can happen, did. I'm going to have to type as fast as I can. To give
you a taste, here's everything I did today (keep in mind that today is
my preparation day).
Cleaned for an hour first thing in the morning.
Fixed my broken tie
Elder Semken came and picked us up at 7:40
Went with Elder Semken to a clinic to deliver some blood test results
and make an appointment at a medical scanning center.
Came back to mission office, picked up the Elder, brought him to the center.
Brought Elder back to office because we hadn't been warned that the
scan was to be done on an empty stomach.
Went to baptism service (yes, our candidate Rosemonde did get
baptized, which was super cool. Elder Gray baptized 8 people today.
That's what happens when you teach families).
Came back to office.
Delivered English Brochures to Gbegamey apartment.
Delivered.... Something to Jericho apartment (I honestly don't even
know what was in the bag).
Ate lunch at Jericho.
Stopped back by the clinic we went to this morning to pick up the
blood analysis (I dropped it getting into the car.... my bad) and to
get a prescription to know what scan we will actually be doing on
Came back to Office
Started reading emails.
That is everything up to now, and we still have lessons to do this
evening. I'll try and make a list of more or less everything that has
happened this week.
Sunday - District conference, which was a lot of fun because I've now
served in three branches in the city, so I knew like half of the
people there. Most of them didn't know I had come back from Togo, so
that was super fun to surprise them like that. We also had to come
into the office early that morning to print off the handout for the
Monday - most the missionaries got together and we threw a surprise
birthday party for President Weed, which was a lot of fun.
Tuesday - picked up some shirts I had "dry cleaned" (but were really
just washed in a washing machine. Oh well, still pretty clean though).
Inserted baptism information for the week. Went grocery shopping with
Elder Semken. This guy named Matt stopped by, apparently he's funding
a research project to see if there is any oil in Benin, which he will
get 50% rights to. Seems pretty cool, he has a vague connection to
President Weed. Also, he brought us a giant tub of Red Vines (yum!).
Wednesday - a full day of lessons. We taught Sis. Deborah about the
first part of the plan of salvation. I say the first part because we
showed in the scriptures where it says that Jesus created the Earth
and she responded "wow. So when is my baptism?" Not the reaction we
were all expecting but hey, it works. Her lessons have always been
interesting, because it seems that she gets really spiritually
exhausted about every second or third lesson, and then the next lesson
she's even more exuberant. At any rate, teaching her is a lot of fun.
Thursday - I went with Elder and Sister Semken to go teach a lesson to
the Nigerian couple that the sister missionaries had found. Which
makes me one of the only Elders to teach a lesson with sisters. It was
really interesting to go back and teach in my old area, haha. After
that, they had us go visit a recent convert and we got to give him a
priesthood blessing. That makes maybe 5 times that I've been able to
give priesthood blessings on my mission (Elder Semken anointed, we
figured it would be alright if that happened in English). I think the
Spirit is starting to be a lot more present when I give blessings, I'm
definitely getting more confident about it.
Friday - Everything went crazy. We got a call that an Elder was super
sick, suspected appendicitis. We got him to a clinic, they ran blood
tests, had him go to the medical imaging center. The center confirmed
that it wasn't appendicitis, but couldn't pin it exactly down. Went
back to the first clinic, they told us that it was a kidney stone and
"some other sort of blockage," then sent us to another clinic to do
another blood test (it was too late at this point to do it at the
first clinic). So we had to go find this second clinic (which was only
successful because they happened to mention that it was near a
shawarma restaurant that I have noticed several times on that street
but never entered. Without that, we would have been totally lost). Got
that blood test done, and brought the Elder and his companion back to
the mission home to stay the night (did I mention that President and
Sister Weed were in Togo until late last night, missed almost all of
that? I had to keep fielding calls from them.) This whole process took
about 8 hours.
So anyways, that was a bit about my week. It's actually been a lot of
fun, and I've had some spiritual experiences along the way. I'm just
into speed typing mode for the moment and can't think of them.
I will ask and see if I can postpone the phone call for a week. I'm
sure that it won't be a problem, they will probably actually prefer
that so that it is a little bit less of a load on mother's day. I will
keep you posted on that.
This next week will probably also be a busy week. I'll obviously tell
you all what does happen, but for the moment what I have scheduled is
to go sign a lease up in Calavi for a new apartment (no I'm not
actually signing, just translating), finish all the scanning and
potential operations for the sick Elder, teaching appointments,
meeting with the District presidency to go over the proposed boundary
changes/creation of branches. We'll probably also try to move water
storage tanks around (some apartments have too many, some have none at
all. Luckily, I don't think we will need to buy any new ones). Did I
mention that President will be in Ghana all next week?
Most important thing of the entire week. I finally learned how to make
the "@" symbol on the French Keyboard. It only took me more than a
year. Turns out Right-Alt actually is different than Left-Alt.
Okay, now to talk about things back home.
That's super cool that you have been called to be the campground
directors. I honestly did not see that one coming. President
Schwendiman probably thinks that Dad has absorbed some of Brother
Done's trailer-backing skills. It'll be a big responsibility, but I'm
sure that you will be great at it. You've already mastered the art of
the munch and mingle. And I'm not complaining about having an instant
in card for  the next 5 years. I love that this is a family tradition.
Good luck to Robin on her Driving test. If she really has been working
to get her 40 hours, she will probably do better than I did. I think I
only had MAYBE 10 hours when I took the test. I barely passed as I
recall. Of course, now that I've been driving in Africa, my
understanding of driving laws is probably even worse. My alertness
level is through the roof though. Good luck to everyone else with
everything else, If I know one thing, its that life doesn't stand
still there while I'm out here.
Alright, I love you all very much and I'll be super excited to see you
all again (but for the moment I'm just exhausted).
Elder Christensen
PS, according to the scale in the doctors office, I'm down an extra
pound or two, I'm apparently about 140 right now. Assuming that scale
was accurate, which I wouldn't give 100% odds. At any rate, I think
what we are looking at is more of a muscle deterioration than a fat
loss. All I know for sure is that I haven't been this light since that
time I had Bronchitis.
PPS, I'm staying in the mission office until at least June, I haven't
been moved out in this transfer coming up. I think I'm in danger of
rapidly becoming too valuable to the Semkens to be allowed to leave,
that's what happened to Elder Kittaka. Also, we'll be staying as a
threesome in the office until July. As it is, a decent portion of teaching
this week was just as 2 missionaries because one of us (often me) was
being used by the Semkens. Monday will be pretty similar as well.
PPPS we found a restaurant called 'Sizzlers' yesterday. No, it is not
a franchise, just someone that stole the name. I think we'll go out to
eat there for Sister Semken's birthday.

April 13, 2013

Hi Everyone,
We have a couple of investigators that are doing really well. We
actually have one sister that will probably be getting baptized next
weekend. We need to talk a little bit about that. Rosemonde (literal
translation of name "pink world") wants to get baptized and is totally
willing to respect the commandments, but hasn't entirely grasped all
of the implications of the apostasy and the restoration. Teaching her
has been a lot of fun though, she understands incredibly fast. We've
actually been teaching her with Elder Semken, which has been very
interesting (Elder Semken needs constant translation). I'm pretty sure
she'll pull everything together though. It would be nice to have a
baptism at least. I've gone a long time without having a baptism.
That's really been getting me down for a while. We have another sister
(Deborah) who has stated that she wants to get baptized, but she
really wants to understand everything before she does it, apparently
she's been baptized in 4 or 5 other churches, wants to be really sure.
Our newest investigator is named Gospel. He's from Nigeria, ran into
the church a little bit but never attended. Well, he just up and
decided to come to church with us on Sunday, and now he wants to come
every Sunday. Even though he only understands maybe a third of whats
going on. I'm honestly not sure how well he understands our accents
either. He was super happy to get a copy of the Book of Mormon though,
so that was nice.
Interviews with President Weed went pretty well. I think. This time it
was a LOT longer than usual. Probably because he only had to do five
the whole morning, so he actually had some time. As far as I can tell,
I'm staying in the office for a while. No reason to think I'll be
heading out at the end of the month (except for the irony of the MTC
elders showing up with my drivers license, and I wouldn't need it any
more. That would be funny). But I really expect to be here until at
least June, if not August or September. I get mixed feelings about
that sometimes.
I did talk to President about whether or not I would be able to come
home early for school. He recommended that I look into doing the
second block first, see if that would be possible. I'd honestly never
considered it, but it sounds not to bad. I'd get to be at home for
probably a month, so not to long nor short. The only problem is that I
don't know if I can do that with my scholarship. Could you look into
that mom? If it is possible, what kinds of classes are given second
I did not burn a pair of pants and a tie at my year mark. I don't
recall really doing anything special. I think I got an ice cream cone.
I haven't been big on celebrating events out here. I don't like being
all "okay, now we're going to go do something I want to do" to my
My pictures were in a small format? I know that some of them were
bigger than others, but I don't remember if any were "small". I'll
look into it on my camera. I might have cropped certain photos. I'm
sorry I don't take "cityscape" pictures, but I reallllllly hate
looking like a tourist. Everyone already sees us a mile away because
we're white guys in ties, but to whip out a camera and start flashing
is really uncomfortable for me. Related, I'll get you that better
photo for the drivers license. I can't do it right now because I don't
have time (see below). Elder and Sister Semken will understand, they
want another driver too.
We might be getting our Conference Liahonas a little bit faster this
time. The April Liahona came about the 3rd of April. Is that because I
was assigned to write a complaint to Distribution Services in Accra,
and CC the Director of Temporal Affairs? Possibly. Six months without
English Liahonas was just not fair. In any case, I'm super excited to
read conference. It sounds like it was a really good one. Here's a
shocker for you though... One more conference until I come home. Wow,
it's weird to be able to say that.
No I haven't used all the jdawgs sauce yet. I've actually not used
hardly any since coming back to Benin, we've been meaning to go and
buy some real hotdogs or even sausages (instead of the chicken-dogs
everyone eats normally) and make us some really good jdawgs. We've
been talking about that for a month though, so we'll see if it
actually happens. We have actually started making more root beer
though. I hereby report that dumping milk powder into root beer
creates melted root beer float, and it is delicious.

So shortly after coming in to start writing, we noticed water flowing
down the hall.... The water heater in the kitchen broke somehow. So we
had to mop that all up. Yay! Hence why I can't do the pictures today.
Speaking of mechanics breaking, yesterday was a little nerve wracking.
Let's just say a moto wasn't paying attention until the last minute.
Threw himself off of his bike right before he hit us. Luckily, he
never did hit us. As our Elder Quorum president/Police Chief informed
us, in Africa the law is 'no contact, no fault'. The blessing is that
this all happened on the street where said EQP/PC lives. So he was
there in like 2 minutes. I think it wasn't our fault anyways, but I
wasn't really paying attention at the time so I'm not 100% sure. The
man calmed down pretty fast (his moto wasn't all too badly damaged),
and at the end of it we explained who we were and ended up taking his
contact info for other missionaries. I'm sure that will be a very
interesting first lesson.
In other news, my CD player now works again. Apparently letting it sit
still for 3 weeks fixed it. Go figure.
Okay I got to go now, love you all (but especially you mom!)
Elder Christensen

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

April 6, 2013

Hello from Africa,
I am doing pretty good this week. I only had one big problem, which is
found it in a printshop/bookstore yesterday while we were looking for
ink and laminating pockets. That'll need to be sitting on my bed when
I come home.

I'm attaching the picture for the new international Driver's licence.
If for some reason that doesn't work, email Elder and Sister Semken.
Speaking of a senior couple, we seem to be getting a new couple
sometime soon. Elder and Sister....Christensen. Yup, there are
officially too many Christensens in the church, they aren't any
relation (from Nevada). I'm assuming they will be taking me out to eat
and buying me Christmas and birthday presents and such. Or at least, I
like thinking that.

Easter was pretty low key. All we really did was sing the two Easter
themed hymns in the French hymnal.

I didn't go to the member/missionary soccer match. We were told it was
going to last for a while, and we had some office responsibilities to
take care of. It ended a lot earlier though, so we probably could have
gone. Oh well. I don't really feel out of the loop with the other
missionaries because I have to call them all and we have had large
batches of them in for their residency cards. As far as I can tell,
the only missionary in this mission that I have never met is a little
Elder from Madagascar named Elder Rakotonirina. But everyone else I
know at least by their face, even if I haven't really talked to them.
Of course that'll change with time. Especially if I'm not in the
office in June, when we will be getting a rather large wave of

Yes the rainy season has started a bit. It has rained a couple of
times at night, although for the daytime we still haven't really seen
anything. Oddly enough, we no longer have power outages. You would
think that that would be worse when it rains. I'll never really
understand Africa.

I don't know if the MTC really has more sisters than Elders, but I
know the number of missionaries is up about 8000 since October, and in
talking with our Area Secretary yesterday I was informed that we are
expecting about 94000 missionaries to be the high. That is just crazy.
Obviously that won't be permanent, but it is still very impressive.
The work will progress a lot.

You are the S2 cast team leaders again? That's crazy. You'll still be
there when Robin becomes YSA. Will you even change anything or just
pull out all the stuff from last year again?

We are doing a bit of missionary work here in my companionship too.
Usually all three of us are in on lessons, but yesterday Elder Semken
took me to go run some errands with him so I missed about a lesson and
a half. Luckily, both of them were taught here in the mission office
(yes we have permission to do that). One of them accepted a baptismal
date, so that was something. She's even come to church already so that
is a little more significant. Sometimes I get a little skeptical when
people accept a baptismal commitment and they haven't even been to
church yet. We have a couple of other investigators that look pretty
promising. Funnily though, only one of them is from Benin, one of them
is Congolaise and the other is from the Central African Republic. The
latter was wearing an LMFAO shirt during our last lesson, which made
me chuckle. We have had a couple of really good lessons over the last
week where I really think the Spirit was there. At least we are
starting to have investigators come to church.

We are going to have interviews again with President Weed this week.
I can't believe that it's that time again. The last 3 months have just
flown. I don't know how that will be now that I'm in the office and we
see each other most days of the week anyways.

This week I realized that I am not a good cook yet. I had not been
aware that it is in fact possible to burn spaghetti. Oops. Lessons
learned. On the other hand, I bought a giant bottle of mint syrup
recently and that has been a lot of fun. I have rediscovered the joy
that is mint hot chocolate. Mint Macaroni? Not a joy. Mint rice?????
I'm going to try tonight if Elder Burkhart will let me.

Yesterday we had a visit from the Area Secretary, Elder Fitzgerald. It
was a most insightful meeting. He was here to talk about the new
branches we are looking to create for the district. I now fully
understand how painfully obnoxious it is when missionaries "poach" and
baptize someone who lives in a different ward or branch. I also
learned a lot of other really cool stuff. Unfortunately President Weed
wasn't able to be there, so I took like 3 pages of notes.

Now for the list of cool things I saw this week.
A two ring binder
A baptismal form with a birth date of February 31st
A catholic church that looked like a candy cane

I was thinking this morning about communication. I never really
realized before my mission how important communication is, and
especially good communication. It is impossible to work for/with
someone if you don't communicate. Same thing with serving them. When I
attended those two weddings a few weeks ago, something that really
struck me is that all of the American couples talked about how crucial
being completely open with your spouse is. I also thought about the
communication that we have with our Heavenly Father. It is incredible
to me that that is a two way communication. He doesn't have to tell us
about what he is doing, he could just go ahead and do it. He tells us
because he loves us and he wants us to understand. Thinking about all
of this made me really grateful for general conference, even though I
won't get it for another month like normal. That really is such a
great way to listen to what God has to say. I hope everyone will take
the time to listen.

Alright, I think that that might be it for this week.
Lots of love,
Elder Christensen

March 30, 2013

Hello Everyone,
I am super sorry that this is going to be a short email, sometimes
things just don't work out the way you want them to. On the other
hand, yesterday was my 1 year anivesary of arriving in Africa. The
time just flies by doesn't it?

YES the mission office is airconditioned. That was honestly one of the
only things that kept me going on during the rough start I had here.
Things are going a lot better now here though.
Elder Burkhart
I did not get the drivers licence yet, but we will be making another Post office run on Monday. You can talk to the AAA people about what happens if you re-renew it and then the other one shows up. Or if you can think of some way to guarantee that that one will show up fast. You can email Elder or Sister Semken to get through to me before next saturday, I already talked to them about it. If it turns out just redoing it is the best idea, I will probably send you the pictures on Wednesday or Thursday, I already asked for approval on that.
To my knowledge, we are not doing anything for easter. Maybe we will
be doing a musical number in sacrement meeting, that's what we did
last year.
Yes I try to write in my journal a lot still. I'm not as good as I
used to be (every day for the first 7-8 months booyah), but I probably
have at least 10-11 months of entries.
My white shirts aren't really thinning, at least as far as I know.
They are a little less white, I will admit that. I'm going to dry
clean some of them this week to see if that will help. If it does
reach the point where I need new shirts, I'll just have some made
here. Everything else seems to be holding out pretty well, I can't
really think of any "needs' that I have.
The power has gotten a lot more stable here the last week, thankfully.
So yes, rice cooker is back in action. We don't cook too much american
stuff, except when I have the alfredo sauce mixes. I guess that's
Italian though.
Yes I have been getting the forwarded emails from Jacob, thank you
very much! That has been really fun to read them.
Let me share you an interesting story from the life of an office
missionary. So 2 weeks ago the country of Benin finally figured out
that we are actually a church (no joke, missionaries even heard it on
the radio). I don't know why it took so long, especially since we have
been legally recognised since like 2006. At any rate, they figured out
they shouldn't really charge us so much on our visas and residence
cards and such (we were paying something like 20% more than nuns or
something). So we decided to run a giant batch of missionaries through
for their residence cards. This is the one that requires the blood
test. So we called them all in on Friday and ran the blood test. There
were 19 missionaries that were in this group, and some of them had to
bring their companions. Acccording to my count, we had 2 doctors, a
government agent, 27 missionaries (4 of which were sisters), 2 senior
couple missionaries, and 2 brethren from Ghana (running an unrelated
audit with one of the aforementioned senior couple) all in the office
at the same time. It was chaos. Especially when they all of a sudden
asked us to have them all fill out extra forms we weren't
anticipating. I was on my feet from about 7:45 AM to probably 11:30AM,
trying to run through the crowd and get 20 different things done at
the same time. But the good news is that everyone survived, and I
never once broke down to cry like a baby. we decided we are going to
split them up into two groups to take them to immigration for the next
step this week. Hopefully that will go better.
Office Missionaries
How are the pageant preparations going? Are you cast team leaders again?
I love you all very much,
Elder Christensen

March 23, 2013

Hi Family and Friends,

Wow has it been one of those weeks that I could never totally explain
in a single email. Generally, it has been a better week, lots of
exciting stuff has been going on.

So this week has been a week of comings and goings. We've had a lot of
new missionaries come in, and right now there are 7 missionaries
sitting in the mission office having their departing interviews with
president. Both of those have been interesting. Let me sum up in a few
key points:
I've lost about 18 pounds since leaving the MTC (assuming a two pound
proselyting attire, I'm at 143 pounds, and this morning I realized I
could drop an inch off of my pants waist).

I met the incoming Americans, they all seem to be doing really well. 6
weeks appears to be a decent amount of time in the MTC. One of them
had all of his ties stolen the night before he left the MTC. I'm not
sure if stolen is right, my guess is someone thought he had already
left and had left them behind.

I met sister missionaries for the first time. They were short.
Apparently we have been paying a lot more for our visas than other
charitable/religious organisations do. This is being rectified.

It is impossible to look up the status of a flight from an African
airline company. You can call the agency, but they will tell you that
the plane is en route, and then the destination airport will tell you
that the airplane has already landed and taken back off. And at the
end of it all, you have no idea where your two sisters and elder are.
They are safe and sound now, we are glad to say.

Not Sister Weed's Meatloaf
Sometimes you can get the leftovers from the incoming dinner the new missionaries get. Sister Weed makes pretty good good sweet and sour meatloaf. This morning I went to another wedding. Again a fun experience. This one took a lot longer though. The mayor found it necessary to read all 59 points enunciated in the marriage process or something. I stopped paying attention. All I know is that one of the kids is a really good Michael Jackson imitator. Yes I took a lot of photos. Yes I am sending my memory card home with Elder Cline.

Missionary work is picking a bit back up too. We have a couple of
investigators that look like they could progress. One investigator
that is definitely progressing. I wouldn't be surprised if she has
read half of the book of Mormon by tomorrow. Okay, that actually would
be a little surprising, but I could imagine that happening.

I think I've more or less got the hang of driving in Africa now.
Definitely haven't mastered it, but I can get by.

According to one investigator that meets with other missionaries, I
have a super small mouth. There you go. Elder Burkhart confirmed that
even for white people, my mouth is apparently a little small. I never
knew. The way I was told this story was super funny though.

We all bought ties off the street a few nights ago. Super cheap. My
companions actually got really good deals for their ties. I however
finally looked at my tie in a well light area and found out that I
pretty much got what I paid for. Oh well, it was only a dollar.

This week I had some really good personal study time. I had a really
cool day where I really didn't do any other study than read chapters
in the book of Mormon that prophecy of Christ, and then that evening
we had a lesson with a young Muslim man where I got to use verses from
pretty much every chapter I had read that morning.

I thought a bit this week about motivation for service. What it really
seems to come down to is love for the other person. That is the reason
that will continually motivate service especially service to the point
where it really becomes a sacrifice. I know that I have improved my
capacity to love since I came on my mission, but I've been looking
into what I can do to increase that still. Ironically, it has made me
come back to one of my top missionary scriptures. Alma 38:12. Also
Mosiah 4:11-12 have been insightful. I'm still working my head around
this. Christlike attributes rarely seem to be acquirable if the main
goal of an exercise is to gain them. They usually seem to be really
nice side effects of living life. So I guess that means that I need to
"live life" more often. That's going to take a long time.

I finally figured out that the stretchy exercise band they give you
in the MTC actually can be pretty handy for exercising. Go figure.

Alright, I love you all,
Elder Christensen