Monday, September 9, 2013

September 7, 2013

I'm doing well here. Africa is still crazy as always. It is starting to get a little bit warmer again, but not too bad. I still don't really need to turn my fan on at night. I did one night but it got way too cold so I had to turn it off. Things should get warmer in a month or so is my guess.

Okay, I'll find a camera here. Shouldn't be too difficult. If that money is still in my account, that should be more than enough to buy a camera. Unless you want me to buy a really nice one that I'll keep using when I go home. I'm thinking something on the medium-low scale myself.

I should know within 2 weeks when I will come home. Interviews with President Weed got bumped up a little, I'm going to use that if it doesn't come up sooner. At that point, we'll know what to do about housing. Also, I've forgotten some of the names of people back home, so I'd have to work on that. 

Sounds like everyone is holding up alright there.
This week was a crazy week. First of all we had new missionaries come in. That's always an interesting experience. I've now welcomed a good 35-ish missionaries here. Which is good, because next month we'll be welcoming 21 all at the same time!

Having a missionary companion who is about to go home is pretty interesting. He's pretty excited. Not as excited as other missionaries I've known, but it's noticable. The weird thing is that he will go home about the same time that I should get my flight plans. That might throw me for a loop. 

On Thursday I had the most interesting dinner appointment of my mission. Why? Because it was with an American. I think I've mentioned that there is an American member who works at the embassy here. Well, he invited us over for dinner. It was delicious, and the conversations were very interesting. It definitely keeps working with the foreign service on my list of potential careers. The best part was the dessert. Legitimate brownies! Fun fact, the Malagasy word for brownies is Mofo Kadradraka, which when literally translated means "full of cockroaches." Luckily, Elder Razanamparany shared that after we had eaten. The whole experience was very interesting. Of course, any time 2 Americans, a malagash, a frenchman, a ghanaian, and an ivoirien all sit down at a table, it's going to be interesting.

This week I had a mission first. In a really good way. I had my first convert who went to the temple. He should be getting back right about now, I'm super excited to ask him about it tomorrow. Temple attendance, especially here where the temple is 2 countries away, is something that really helps anchor a member in place. Of course, the downside is that the member who we work with a lot to do lessons also went to the temple, which made it hard for us to do member-present lessons.

We are still working to get Elder Mary his driving license. He is getting better at driving, but I still hate driving school here. It has kind of messed with our teaching schedule a bit, but we are working with it. The irony is that I probably won't be able to appreciate it very much at the end. I'll probably be transferred out of the office two weeks after he gets his license. Oh well. I guess I get the experience without the stress. 

This week we got a rare treat. No, not the brownies. We got to hear something that so few missionaries get to hear here. Someone told us, "I've read about 20 chapters in the Book of Mormon, I have questions to ask you." Even if the questions are a bit incredulous, at least you read the book! Especially since we hadn't left a specific reading assignment. That person is actually progressing pretty well, she accepted a baptism date for the beginning of October. Now we just have to figure out how to see her often enough to teach her everything. Things are actually looking pretty good in our area right now. If everything works out, I could see four or even five baptisms before I leave the office. Now faith just has to mix with free agency of others. That has always been one of the hardest parts of missionary work. I always have a tendency to think that if the person chooses not to do it, that it is my fault. It's not a good thought process, but it still happens sometimes. On the other hand, being a pessimist about it doesn't get you anywhere. At the end of the day though, I should have a baptism next week. That's always a happy thought. Especially for someone like Kevin. He's really doing well. 

Mom, you got to go see James Taylor? Lucky. That would have been a cool concert to see. And maybe the most sober venue James Taylor has ever performed in.

Well, I think that's about it for this week. Love to all,
Elder Christensen

August 31, 2013

Hi Everyone,
No, I don't really grasp the fact that it's fall time again. It's still pretty hot out here.
The mission is going well. This last week has been a bit crazy. I think I've written that most of the weeks I've been here in the office. 
First of all, I have a new companion. Elder Razanamparany. He's my first companion from Madagascar. He goes home in 6 weeks. So I'm once again a "junior companion" of sorts. Elder Mary is still hanging in there too, we're back to three in the office. I'm going to spend probably a quarter of my mission in a tripanionship. Every mission is unique for every missionary. 
Kevin should still be getting baptized in two weeks. I see no problems towards that. He honestly could get baptized next week. I don't think I've ever had an investigator show up to church so many times before his baptism. We have another investigator named Brice who is progressing really well too. He's really an example of the gospel changing lives, every time we talk about a commandment, he jumps in and does his best. He really is trying so hard. He has some long term issues he is in the process of resolving, but I'm hoping he'll be ready to be baptized before I leave the office. We actually gave him a comfort and counsel blessing a few days ago to help him with some of his difficulties. That was an interesting experience, I'd never given that kind of a blessing before. I think I did alright, I felt the Spirit so I think it'll all work out. 
I haven't gotten the package yet. I'm not worried about it. All my mail comes sooner or later (and the laters aren't very late at that). 
As far as housing at BYU, I have a couple of friends that I'd thought about rooming with after the mission. The problem is that I haven't had any communication with any of them since I started my mission. The other problem is of course that I still don't know exactly when I'm coming home. I guess that is a good reason to press President for an answer. It would be funny if I ended up in the same apartment Jacob was in his semester at BYU.
You know what's super awesome? Romario, the last person I baptized, is going to the temple on Monday. They've organized a trip for the youth, they're going to spend a week doing baptisms for the dead. He's my first convert to go to the temple. We're going to call that one a win. 
Driving lessons in Africa are scary. One, the cars the driving schools use are just terrible. Two, the very first time they put Elder Mary behind the wheel, they had him start driving on the streets. Three, sand traps. Those weren't there when I learned how to drive. Elder Mary is getting better though.
About my personal money. I tried to pull money out this morning and it told me I didn't have enough. When you unfroze my account, did you put money back in? The weird thing is that it said that for the Visa card too, which I thought was preloaded. Maybe it just had problems connecting? Look into it. I did go to the artisan center this morning to look around and get a better idea for prices. I'm still terrible at haggling though. I'll go back in probably 2 weeks to actually pick some stuff up.
We went out to look at a few buildings this week to see if we could turn them into branch buildings. I am going to be so picky when I buy my own house. Or maybe I'll just say "eh, at least it isn't made out of concrete".
Well, this letter took a long time to write. Halfway through, we went and made cookies in the Semkens' oven. They were really good, once we figured out how the oven worked.
Am I getting tired of the office? Probably a little bit. I've had some incredible opportunit├ęs while I've been here, but I have been doing it for a while. Part of the problem has definitely been the lack of exchanges with other missionaries. I'm still happy to serve though. I don't want to leave the office just yet, I'm working on a big project that needs to get finished first (It's not that I have to be the one that does it, but someone else picking up where I am isn't going to know what to do). When I do finally leave the office, I don't think it will be that hard. I think the biggest difference will be the fact that I will be training. How do I know this? Numbers. We have 19 Elders coming in October. I won't be a zone leader, so I give extremely good odds that President will have me finish my mission by training someone. That'll be a little weird. 

Love you all,
Elder Christensen 

August 24, 2013

Hello From Africa,
Wow, time really has flown by. Can you believe I put in my mission papers 2 years ago? I actually only figured that out once you said that school starts on Monday. I'm sure that will be nice to get everyone back out of the house a little bit. Things will be a bit calmer, and fewer children whining with boredom.

I did get your email about school. I'm still trying to figure out exactly what I want to do. I kind of bob back and forth on that. I think for the most part though I would like to dive right back in.
So, I have a bit of a problem. My camera has gone on the fritz. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't. It isn't doing anything to the memory card, but I missed some golden photos this week. I know a couple of places where I can buy a decent and trustworthy camera, but I'll not buy it without your go-ahead. 
We have a baptism in about 3 weeks. Kevin is a good guy. He's been to church for a solid month now. He used to be a Jehovah's Witness so he still has some interesting ideas floating around in his head, but he has a good testimony of the restoration and is humble in gospel learning. Brice is another investigator who is progressing really well. He still has some issues that he needs to work out, but he wants to be baptized. The Holy Ghost has been working on him over the years, and lately has been working over time. We talked about the Word of Wisdom two weeks ago, and that day he quit cold-turkey. Unfortunately, not all issues resolve that quickly. One of the principles of free agency is that there are consequences. When we apply the Atonement, that doesn't mean that the consequences just disappear. It does mean that we have the Savior's help in resolving the consequences. It's a key difference that sometimes investigators struggle to grasp. 
I was reading in Alma 44 this week and I found something interesting. in vs 5 Captain Moroni tells Zerahemnah that God has strengthened the Nephites. What I found interesting is the list Moroni gives of how God has strengthened them. It's not just faith in God, but it's also the church, their ordinances, family responsibilities, liberty, and so forth. Lots of little building pieces make one big whole. 
In terms of fires, I don't ever hear of things like brush fires or things like that. Generally it is pretty humid. The other thing is that we are in the city, so we don't much that could spread like that. That being said, we see a lot of fire. Because there isn't really any organized system of garbage disposal, getting a bunch of trash together and burning it is fairly common. It's probably one of my least favorite smells here. 
I did hear from Jacob. He didn't say much more than that he's upstate now. I'm glad he got to do that during the non-pageant season. I think it would have been too distracting otherwise. It'll be a nice change of pace for him. As for me, I'm still here in the office. I passed my six-month mark this last week. Elder Mary and I went and bought some ice cream to celebrate. Did you know that they make ice cream with raisins in it? I'm not sure if that's normal, or just African. 
Looks like I'm out of time for this week,
Love you all,
Elder Christensen

PS, happy late anniversary mom and dad!

August 17, 2013

Hi everyone!

Yup, I'm still hanging out here in the office. Made it through yet another transfer. We are back down to two Elders though, and the weird thing is, it's still me and Elder Mary. This is my first time since the MTC that I haven't had an African companion. It's different, that's for sure. Some ways better, some ways not, totally different. Generally, things are good though. I like Elder Mary, he just talks a lot. It's a bit of a change because Elder Tshizanga wasn't really much of a talker, but at least things are interesting. He's a pretty decent teacher generally, It's been good so far. I've never had a companion teaching exchange since coming into the office, so it's a bit of a fresh take on things. He's also the youngest companion (in terms of time on mission) I've ever had, so it's been interesting to look at his teaching style and compare it to what I did at that point in my mission, and what I do now. We actually haven't been able to get him driving yet, Elder Semken spent the entire week up in his office working on the proposed budget for the mission. I got to help a little bit with that (mostly technical stuff). 

Precious' husband is doing a lot better. He has a lot more mobility back in his arm and leg now, but very little strength. Considering the rehab capabilities there are here, it's pretty miraculous. We haven't been too involved for the last few weeks, but we're always ready to help out when we are needed. 

To my knowledge, President hasn't yet made any decisions about our departure date. He has a son and some grandsons in town this week, so I think he'll start making the important decisions once they go home. Part of my problem is that I've never been able to give him hard facts. Like I have no concept of exactly how much time I really need to prepare to go back to school.

Yes, somewhere it did pass my mind that I am the next missionary coming home. I got the Ward newsletter which told me (by the way, mail is getting here super fast right now. I don't know why, but I've seen letters take as little as 1 week). 

Wow, sounds like I'll have lots of tiny little cousins when I get back. I'm guessing family reunions have gotten a bit louder. 

Keyword of the week is common sense. If the medicine didn't heal you the first time around, maybe you have a different illness. So don't go ahead and take the treatment two more times without consulting anyone. Now the reason you are sick is because you overdosed on malaria medicine. 

 I'd like to get a lot of my souvenirs bought while I'm just with Elder Mary. We're probably going to check out the artisan center this next Saturday. I'll make sure to keep my eyes open for a nativity set, as well as other things.

Oh yes, we had our annual pan-african service activity day this morning. I got to wake up early on my PDay to go chop weeds! Yes, we were literally chopping away at the African brush... With Machetes. That was actually pretty fun. Got to let go of some residual stress. Got a bad neck burn again though. I recognized about 80% of the members at the activity (about 4 branches attended). Super fun to reconnect with people and do some service. I wonder though if we didn't take more pictures than weeds were chopped.

Saving the most important for last, the spiritual week. Personal and comp study were a bit skewampus this week with all of the various things that happened. That said, we still had some pretty cool stuff happen. We committed our ex JW investigator to be baptized. Kevin hits home runs on about 90% of the doctrine when we ask him questions. The other 10%.... He brings a hockey puck to the Baseball stadium. He has a really good testimony though and is super eager to learn. I think he is going to be just fine (and yes, he's the guy we teach at the french cultural center). He's already come to church 3-4 times now, and has loved every bit of it. 

Well, I'm going to leave off with that high note. I love you all, and hoping to receive letters soon from each and every one of you!
Elder Christensen