Saturday, June 15, 2013

June 15, 2013

Hello from Africa,
Well, it has been one of those crazy weeks. Nothing ever quite works out the way it was expected.... The nice part though is that time travels crazy fast because of that. I had no idea that I have been back in Benin for almost 4 months. Next thing I know it will be September!

Our little activity on Monday with all of the missionaries was fun, it was nice to have some time to chill down, relax, and talk for a few hours. Although it was really weird seeing President Weed in jeans!
This week was simultaneously a week where we didn't really get to teach very much, but at the same time there was some great work made. The baptism went off pretty well this morning, although the fount wasn't filled up all the way. In an ironic twist, I was prompted to not baptize our candidate. For some reason it didn't feel right. The moment I saw the water-level, I understood why. I've never been the best at the actual act of baptizing. The Elder who did do the baptism, however, is an expert. Had it been me, I would probably still be standing there trying to get someone all the way under! That wouldn't really be a spiritual experience if it took 17 tries. Plus, I would get really tired.
Are you ready for some good news Mom? I stopped losing weight. Elder Semken brought down the scales this morning, and I seem to have flatlined at 140-141 lbs. Although that may just be because of everything I ate this week. I'll know for sure next month when the next set of Elders goes home.
Yes we are down to two in our companionship now. Just me and Elder Tshizanga. We are even the only two in our apartment. It isn't bad, but it is really kind of weird. The one thing that is definitely nice is that with two full bathrooms, there is never any competition there. We will probably be back up to three in July, so we will see what that will bring us. Regarding transfers and new missionaries, that all went okay. We got everyone where they needed to be (although Elder Lynch is still missing his luggage [or packages, as they apparently say in Scotland]). We ended up hosting the two Ghana MTC Elders their first night in our apartment. I'm still not entirely sure if we ever explained to them that we are the office Elders and not the assistants. I guess they will learn soon enough.
The yellow car was a taxi full of oranges. All of our oranges are really just green or yellow. Half of the time they honestly should just be called 'citrus'.  I've been wanting to take a picture of a car like that for a very long time. I have another picture somewhere of the same thing with pineapples. 
I got to play on a real piano this week! We got to eat breakfast with some of the new missionaries in the Mission home. So I got to play Sister Weed's Piano. It was really weird playing again with a sustaining pedal. Also, I ate some cereal that was literally cold. I always just thought that was just an expression.
Did I mention that those missionaries landed at about 11 PM Tuesday night? So guess who had official permission to be up and driving around the city after curfew? This Elder and his companion! We almost stopped for an ice cream cone, just to say I had eaten an ice cream cone in africa at midnight (take that, Never Have I Ever!), but I didn't have any money on me. Maybe next time.
Fun cooking experience this week. I made Couscous! Except, I'm not very good at it. The instructions on the box aren't too clear. Especially since the instructions in English are different from the ones in French. So I'm not sure which ones to follow. 
Monster storm blew through this morning for an hour or so. Totally flooded some main roads, I felt like Moses while I was driving. I hope I didn't splash anyone though.
I think I have semi-officially become the Mission clerk. It's a heady responsibility (mostly self-abrogated though). I've had to run a crash course in Church administration and the MLS program (I'm still not sure what MLS means though). I'm just glad that Monday things will calm down and we can get back to a pretty normal schedule. Maybe we'll have enough time to actually do some of our normal responsibilities like going to the post office (yeah, there's a lot of missionaries that aren't happy with me because we haven't been all week). 
No I didn't get any pictures from Jacob. I haven't really gotten any pictures from anyone lately. So in the meantime, I will assume that you all grew beards and are keeping it a secret until I get back. 
I got another souvenir this week. Elder Owusu gave me a Ghana tie. It looks like a really tacky carpet. It is also an absolute pain to tie, but it looks pretty cool. I think I'll save that for after the mission. 
I wonder if I would be better at playing the organ now that I drive stick-shift? That thought just came to me. I know that I have gotten a lot better at the "flow" of my playing since there isn't a sustaining pedal most of the time. I'm doing better at sight-reading too (our music directer here at Gbegamey isn't afraid of picking hymns that the other members don't know well).
I hope that you are able to get everything together in time for pageant. I'm sure it will all work out though. Will you let Robin drive the motorhome? That would be a fun experience for her.
 I haven't gotten the packages yet, but for all I know they are at the post office right now. I'll tell you next week!
Alright, well I'll let you stop reading and get on with your busy day.
Love you Mom!
Elder Christensen

June 8, 2013

Hi everyone,

First of all, here are some pictures. We went to Ouidah (pronounced We-dah) again. Lots of fun, went to a new museum and learned some new things. And yes, i just noticed how small my photo files are. I have no idea why, I'll look into that.

Well, this was a week of wonders. So many firsts, lasts, and middles. Okay, well mostly just a couple of firsts. For example.
I rode in an elevator (no, not an elephant). We stopped by the new Best Western hotel right by the airport, and they gave us a tour. It is very nice, I was astounded. It looks at least as good as any hotel back home I ever stayed in. And the elevator even worked. I don't know who will stay there, but it was pretty cheap!
Are you ready for this? We received the June Liahona this week. We still never received the May edition. When we emailed Distribution in Accra last week they said that even they haven't received it. Sigh.
This morning we went to the baptism service with one of our investigators who will be getting baptized soon. It was a fun experience, I got to play the piano. I did a lot better than the first time I played for a baptism. 
One of the exciting moments you can have as a missionary is when you are teaching someone, and they have a question that they just can't seem to resolve. Then suddenly, you get an idea about how to approach the problem. It works! The investigator feels satisfied with the answer, and you know that that didn't really come from you. I love it when that happens. Unfortunately, that particular investigator is a security guard that has to work Sundays. That's one of the hardest things to work out. 
We have our two investigators that are going really well, but I don't know if we will have more baptisms very soon. Most of our other investigators are still pretty new (or, in the case of Gospel the Nigerian, just don't understand very fast). 
We have had some crazy happenings here, and the going gets crazier. This next week is a doozy with transfers and new missionaries. Add to that a mission beach party, working to get a branch approved, trying to reserve a building for said branch, and preparing two investigators for their baptisms, and you'll appreciate my situation. Luckily, after that everything calms down and we have nothing for a month, which means we'll be able to get a lot more normal missionary work done. Hopefully. 
Rainy season is still on, but the last few days have been pretty dry. Driving through the ponds are fun! The one problem, you don't necessarily know how deep they are before you start. Good news, we finally started filling in the dips around the mission home and office, so there shouldn't be any more lakes outside of the garage. 
Wow I miss camping, I hope that Cameron has a lot of fun!
Wait, so it's a trailer or a motorhome that you found? I'm not straight on this. Either way, cool! Not that I can really think that far ahead though, that's a full year away. I really can't think ahead more than a few months for the moment. As far as my personal life is concerned. For the mission, I can look a lot farther ahead. 
I think I might have been in the office too long. I'm starting to memorize phone numbers. Oh well. 
Hmm, now I can't actually think of all that much to write. I'm just too focused on how to get through this next eek. Oh well, the pictures should count for something. 
I'm thinking that I may just buy a whole bunch of "African fabric" and then come home, learn how to sew, and make souvenirs (aprons, pillow cases, ipod socks, etc) for everyone. It would be pretty cheap, and I would know how to sew! The problem is I have no idea how hard it is to learn that skill....
Love you all lots,
Elder Christensen

 PS, the picture of the taco is the best meal that I ever ate here in Africa. I loaned my taco seasoning out so that they could make tacos for Elder and Sister Dickson when they came by, and we got to eat the leftovers IT WAS AMAZING.

June 1, 2013

Hi everyone,

So this week we had some interesting things happen. I guess that happens every week, but this week they were different! The first thing that is that I learned that the name of our neighborhood is "the living bush." I don't really know why that is, but hey, I'm from Fruit Heights, what do I know?
Another thing is that this week we received a shipment of triple combinations from Accra. This would ordinarily be a great thing. Instead, it was only a very good thing. Why? Because two of the eight boxes weren't in French. They accidentally sent us two boxes of triple combinations in Fante by mistake (and for those of you who have never served in West Africa, Fante is a language from northern Ghana. Which means there are at most three missionaries here who can read it). We have been told they will refund us if we send it back, but that costs shipping money...... 
The other day I was thinking about how much weight I've lost, and I came up with an idea. The mission is a tithing on the first 20 years of your life, right? Well, I'm also paying a tithing of my body weight. With a large fast offering attached as well. 
In other news, the transfers have been all planned out, and I am staying in the office with just Elder Tshizanga. This will be a little weird because it will be my first time (and only the second time in the history of the mission) where two missionaries will have an apartment to themselves. Related, because I will be THE American, they have bumped up my responsibilities a bit. C'est a dire, I'm driving a lot more these days to prepare me. The good news is that I've been to all of the apartments and branch buildings now, and we have conclusively proved that I know this city better than someone who has lived here for 15 years (we helped an investigator move on Wednesday, and I knew exactly where her new house was, and even all the neighborhoods around it! Of course, it was back in my second area...). 
Elder Burkhart almost had malaria this week. That was interesting. It didn't look fun. Looks like I'll be making an extra effort to take my meds for a while. 
This morning we had a great zone conference with Elder Dickson of the 70. I had to pull double translation duty. I had to translate all of the first half into English for them (missionaries teaching, stuff like that). Then Elder and Sister Dickson taught, and I had to translate it into French! Then we had some time left over, so we let the missionaries bear their testimonies and I got to translate it into English for the Dicksons (which was madness! I had to translate as fast as I possibly could because everyone had a time limit. Elder Dickson joked that although I didn't get the chance to bear my own testimony, I got to bear 25 other people's testimonies.). The whole thing was a real pleasure. It was so cool to see my progression in French from that first day in the MTC, to leaving the MTC, to my first few months infield, to being a little more experienced, to finally being able to handle a serious translation like that. Obviously, I was far from perfect, but I was happy to serve. It got to be pretty natural by the end of it. Luckily, he didn't use too much hard terminology. Except in explaining why he doesn't have a right arm. I still don't even know that medical terminology in English, much less French! But it was a great lesson, and I still managed to learn something even though I wasn't able to take any notes. 
I think that that is a great pageant theme. I loved Elder Holland's talk. I would love to read it in the Liahona too, but we just heard back from Accra and even they haven't received it yet, so we missionaries won't be getting it any time soon. 
Robin got asked out on a date? Woah boy. For some reason, it's hard to imagine that. Probably because she was still just 14 when I left.
I haven't really been too worried about using the office computers to send pictures, but I feel kind of awkward doing it. The other problem is that I haven't really taken too many pictures lately. Today for example, I brought my camera to the conference, but after doing so much translating, it completely slipped my mind to take any pictures. I'll try to get some good ones soon though. We should be taking a trip soon up a little north into Benin to go see some sights. 
I'll just share with you real quick one of the main themes of Elder Dickson's talk. He talked about Jacob 5, with the branches and the roots in the olive trees. He talked about how, if we want the branches and wards and stakes of the church to grow, what we really need is to lay out the roots of the gospel with the priesthood power and tithing and respecting covenants and such. It was stated a lot better than that,but I don't have time to explain because the power went out twice in the last hour. 
Well, I love you all so very much, and wish you all the best!
Elder Christensen