Tuesday, November 26, 2013

November 25, 2013

Hello Family!

Well, this week was full of ups and downs. Yay life! Sometimes you feel that things are going good and you are finding people to talk to. And sometimes you cut your fingers twice in a week, or get shocked while trying to fix a cable (in hindsight, should have unplugged the extension cord instead of turning it off).
You know how the saying goes that if you get a bad haircut, you just have to wait two weeks? Yeah..... That's not actually true in all cases. You remember how dad had a little mistake with the clippers a few weeks ago? Yup, had the same thing happen to me this morning. Except it was dead center up top, and I didn't have any size on the clippers. I am officially bald right now. I'm just praying it grows back enough in the next month. Oh, and I'm praying that President Weed doesn't decide to stop by Finagnon for church this Sunday.
This week I got to go on exchange with the zone leaders. It was a lot of fun, even though I didn't ever sleep in a different apartment. It is always fun to spend a day with someone different. That was something I never got to have while I was in the office. 
I mentioned to Dad that staying for that third hour is fine with me. I'm not planning on having any BYU friends coming up since it is the break, and local friends I could just hang out with the next day if I want. I did think about a request for a song. Would there be a way to put Hymn 122 in there (Through Deepening trials)? Most of the extra verses have Restoration themes, and the music is beautiful. Doesn't have to be a special number, it could just be a regular hymn.
Doctors appointments... Yes, there is some sort of parasite/worm killer that they give us right before we go home. They also give us a months worth of malaria medicine. I think a general checkup might be in order at least. The dentist too, obviously. It'll be interesting to see if I have a cavity or not. We actually went to the dentist this week, my companion had a root canal years ago but never had it crowned, and now it is infected again. What I learned from the whole experience is that Fridays at 2 PM is a terrible time to find a taxi, since most taxi drivers are Muslim and are at the mosque. We're looking for a Christian taxi-man before the follow-up appointment. 
You found me an apartment for school? I have a vague idea of where that building is, I think it will be fine. If I'm right, it's about 2 blocks away from J-dawgs, so that'll be cool. 
You know what... I actually never asked president about calling on thanksgiving. In my mind, I just knew that I wouldn't be calling on Christmas, so I forgot about it entirely. For the moment I don't really have any plans for Thanksgiving, but I know a place that sells entire grilled chickens. Elder Gray and I have been joking about joint buying one, maybe we will actually do that. 
I heard that Elder Hawkins is going into the office, I'm sure he'll do a great job. If you didn't know, he comes from the same town as the Nelsons from Pageant (it's a suburb of Philly).
I'm going to make another souvenir-buying trip next Monday. I found out about a place that sells nativity sets, but I haven't seen them so I don't know if they are good or not. I'll check. I'll keep my eyes out for other cool stuff too. I'll probably be pulling more money out for that. Can't remember if I pulled out of debit or credit last time.
So Saturday morning we had an appointment that we had set to be at the church building. We arrive and it is a mess. I got to work and started cleaning, saying to myself that no one showed up to clean that morning. Our appointment never shows up, so I spend about an hour cleaning the sacrament room. When we got back to the apartment, I was told that Finagnon is the only branch in the city that cleans their building Saturday AFTERNOON. Ironically, our  3 PM appointment was also at the church and also fell through, so we got to help clean the rest of the building. In doing so, I accidentally got super dirty trying to sweep some leaves off of the generator room roof, so we had to go back so I could change. It was fun though, I like cleaning projects.
Our area is going a bit better. We have a couple that is progressing really well. The biggest problem is that the wife does not speak French, she actually speaks Goon. This is a Fon-family language from the Porto-Novo region rather than Cotonou, so there are only a handful of members that speak it. For the most part, her husband translates for her, but since he's learning it all for the first time, we actually have no idea if she is hearing it right or not. 
This week I started a goal to finish the new testament before I come home. I'm currently about halfway through Luke, it's going really well. Reading the gospels back to back like that is cool, it helps me see the differences and place the stories better. I should have started earlier so I could do the Book of Mormon one last time too.
Hope everything is going well back home, sounds like it for the most part.

Elder Christensen

November 18, 2013

Dear Family,

You got me an Electric blanket? YES!
I think I may still bring home a couple of pairs of pants or something. I may need some padding for some of the souvenirs. BTW, do I have permission to leave a bag here if I don't need it? In other news, I got one set of clothes made, it works pretty well. I'm going to get the second one made this week. I'm going to ask if the guy can make me a suit vest out of the fabric. That would be cool. 
I'm sad to hear that Elder Quinlan is still sick. I really liked that guy. Hope that things go better soon. 
It's really hard to find flags here. They are pretty much just in Togo. I did see the picture of the Thinker. I know what that is, I think next Monday I'll go out and find a couple of those statues. I still haven't seen any nativities. Maybe because it wasn't Christmas season yet. I'll look next Monday.
I have been taking a couple of pictures of doors for you mom, I'll make sure to snag a couple more before I go home.
Yeah, I understand that aspect of not understanding why things happen the way they do. I struggled with that a couple of times in the mission office when I didn't understand why certain things were happening, and I've even had it a little bit in this new area. The trick is really just to plug on and wait for more light. Not easy.
Christmas wish - a giant box of mini candy canes.
The area here is going pretty well, although a lot of people don't respect the appointments we make with them. We actually have a family we have been teaching. It is a little hard because the wife does not really speak french, but they are doing pretty good. The husband has come to church several times already, and yesterday the whole family was able to come. I like that family a lot. We have a couple of other investigators that are pretty good, but not too many that progress. I was going through our area book, and I realized that only one person was baptized in our area in 2013. It's rough, but we are working on it.
I accidentally left the Jon Schmidt music at the office apartment because I was in a rush. :-(
Hey you know the Stake president of the Chinatown ward right? Maybe he could be at the airport when Elder Gundersen and I are there, and I could pass Jacob's gifts off? And/or a hot dinner could be included? If I don't ask, I know it won't happen.
Elder Christensen

November 11, 2013

Dear Mom (I love you!),
Africa is still just about as crazy as ever. It has been a very
interesting time in Finagnon. It is not a new area, the branch was
created right about the time I got to Africa. But my particular area
was closed for a few weeks and then the new elder got sick, so not
much got done. Things are hard, but not impossible. Something that I
love about the area is that the houses are really cool. The name of
the neighboorhood is "embassy zone", because initially the idea was to
have a bunch of embassies there. Then that didn't work out, but it is
still really cool looking. But Door to Door is a little challenging
because rich houses mean either the person is muslim, not home, or not
interested. We are working on it though and we have a few
investigators. President Weed called us the other day to explain that
we are co-senior companions, but that Elder Lala is district leader.
I'm not fussed about that, but it is still a little weird. President
said that I may be with Elder Lala to the end, he isn't sure yet. I am
not in Elder Gray's apartment, but I am in his zone. He's doing good,
we had a basketball activity this morning. The two Elders in my
apartment are Elder Ritchie and Elder Boto, our zone leaders. Elder
Ritchie is one of the most level missionaries I know, and Elder Boto
and I were in Doumassesse together and I really like him.
Yes I am playing the piano again. Unfortunately, there is ZERO air
circulation where they put the piano. I about melted yesterday. And
then afterward, no less than 6 people walked up and asked me to teach
them piano. I'm sorry, but even if you had a piano at home and you
practiced an hour a day I probably couldn't get you up to simplified
hymns in 6 weeks....
The last few days we have had a giant wedding going on in our street.
Like they put up tents and chairs in the middle of the street. This is
not unusual actually. But the music was loud. It has been a little
hard getting to sleep at night.
This morning I went and bought some fabric so I could get a set or two
of traditional clothes made. I need to do that before the Christmas
I don't think I will be able to get a monkey head (even if I can find
it, I doubt that is allowed through customs.
Oh yes, my tan is coming back very well. I've been out walking a lot
lately, and it has been making a difference. Not that you will see it,
I'll be so covered in coats and blankets.
For my homecoming talk I was thinking about talking about "putting
your confidence in God" or something like that. I think it would be a
good way to approach a faith talk. I was thinking about talking about
consecration, but then I realized that that would be difficult to come
up with good stories about members and what-not. Tell the Wades
congratulations for me, that will be very exciting for them. I'm not
too fussed about a musical number, if the Wades have something they
want to do that is cool.
I got an email from Grandma Christensen this week. I didn't know they
were already great grandparents! That was a shocker for me. One of our
elders lives in the ward over from them, I may bring some souvenirs
home for him (I'm already planning to bring some home for Elder Gray).
Did you ever find me an apartment? And what do you think I really need
to bring back (other than souvenirs)?
Someone in this cyber is playing Windows pinball, and it's making all
sorts of noises. Haha.
I'm in HTML simplified mode, I have no idea if this is a long email or not.
Oh yeah, this morning I found a little tiny Chinese supermarket. I
bought some candy and some beef jerky, it made me think about Jacob
I can't believe how fast time is going! This week is halfway through
November. That is just crazy.
Okay, I think I'm done for the week, I didn't have much time because
the guy in charge of the cyber was gone for like 20 minutes when I
first got here, I couldn't buy any hours until he showed up.
Elder Christensen

Novemeber 4, 2013

Hello Everyone, 
Yep, I'm now in a new area and doing a lot more proselyting.
It's interesting. I've only really worked an afternoon in it so far.
Generally, there are a lot more Nigerians here than I'm used to. I
really don't like teaching Nigerians, it's almost impossible to
integrate them into the branches here and they require someone to
translate for them every week. There are some really nice buildings in
our area as well. I didn't really appreciate nice buildings until
being in the office. Elder Semken and I saw so many buildings that I
started getting a feel for that.

My zone leaders are two of my favorite missionaries. My companion is a
French/Malagach mix who likes to have fun. We still aren't sure who is
senior companion though. One of us is also district leader. I guess
we'll figure that out at some point.
Well, this week I guess I didn't really have much of a "big email."
This cyber is far from my favorite, it's hard to concentrate here.
This week I get to share one of the saddest stories a missionary can
share. On Saturday we baptized a woman from Burkina Faso. Saturday
evening I was transferred. This morning I get a call from my old
companions. The woman did not come to church Sunday morning, and in
the afternoon she called a member to say that she has gone back to
Burkina Faso. I have no idea at all why that happened, but it did. She
wasn't confirmed, and the church does not really have a presence in
Burkina Faso. Probably one of the worst phone calls of my mission.

In other news, the Finagnon apartment has hot water.That was surprising.
Zone conferences were this last week. That was fun.

Honestly, this last week has just been such a giant emotional
rollercoaster. Up, down, and sideways. Wow. But it went fast. I
thought the mission would start slowing down, but it still seems to be
zooming by.
Elder Christensen

Saturday, November 2, 2013

November 2, 2013

Okay, this is a really weird email. As you may have noticed, I am not writing from  my myldsmail account. They are doing some work on the website and took it offline. They figured that no one would be using it on Saturdays ..... Oops. President Weed walked in and I asked him what to do. He said "you have a gmail right? Go ahead and use that." I don't think he would usually say that, but he knows that today is a very important day.
Why is today an important day? I'M GETTING TRANSFERRED. Tonight. This is a long but short story. One of our new missionaries has gotten very sick. He has spent the last 3 days with us here in the office and Elder Mary went out to Finagnon so that they could do some work in his area. Elder Quinlan is an amazing person, and he has handled being sick WAY better than I ever could. For perspective, he hasn't been able to eat anything for two weeks. Anything but water just keeps coming back up. I would have gone insane by this point if I were him. The doctors here can't figure out what is wrong with him, so he is going home tonight to get better care in the United States. Because this means the number of Elders is now even again, someone had to leave the office. We all assumed Elder Mary would just stay there. President informed me during the baptism that I would be transferred out. He told me to start packing my bags. I assumed he was just saying to get ready because he said he hadn't decided exactly where I would go. But he did decide because when we got to the office he said I would be heading out there this evening. We are all kind of shocked. So I'm heading out to Finagnon to serve with Elder Lala Hariniaina for a bit, and then he will probably be transferred and I will stay there. I think. The office will be without an American for the first time in the history of the mission. Weird. I'm kind of happy about leaving, but at the same time, It's weird to have it happen so fast. I'm really kind of disappointed that I won't get to say goodbye to anyone. I'm also kind of confused because I have no idea who is what in this companionship. He was district leader, but I'm about to go home. is he now junior companion? or am I junior? At any rate, the other companionship in the apartment is two of my favorite Elders in the mission, so that will be really fun. 
In other news, We had a baptism service this morning. Habiba has been progressing really well, it was a good service. More of our branch members attended than usual.
We had zone conferences this week. That was a lot of fun. Sometimes the talks tend to be about a lot of the same topics from conference to conference, but they really do help motivate and lift spirits. Plus, it's always fun to talk to everyone. This was my last zone conference, I got to bear my testimony. I remember the testimonies given at my first conference, it was interesting to reflect back on that. I didn't say too much, I kept it pretty short. 
Oh, by the way. Since I'm getting transferred, my p-day is getting changed back to Mondays. I will write again then. But hopefully that time it will be back on myldsmail.
Hmm, I can't remember much else of what happened this week. I'm just floored for the moment. Hopefully I will remember more on Monday.

Okay, love you a lot!
Elder Christensen 

PS Happy Birthday Wes!

A very nice letter and picture from Sister Semken

Hello Sister Christensen, Today, Elder Semken and I had lunch with Elder Christensen and the Akpakpa Apartment, they won the cleanest apartment with the Jericho apartment this month. Elder Christensen was with us to translate for us, when earlier we went and looked at some property in Avotrou. Then we went to lunch. It was really fun to be with these wonderful missionaries. Elder Christensen and Elder Gray (who he knows from High School) had a lot of fun talking. I remembered I took this picture a while a go. They keep dumping sand right in front of President Weed's garage. He has a hard time backing out, so this day the missionaries and the guards went out and moved some of the sand. I just wanted to let you know again what a wonderful missionary Elder Christensen is. He is so responsible and always does the right thing. Elder Semken and I could not do our jobs without him. The time is going so fast for us. We will really miss him when he goes home in December. I was very excited for you and your family that he will be home for Christmas, almost! 
Sister Semken

October 26, 2013

Yes, this week was more African craziness. If there were nothing crazy that happened in a given week... that would actually be the craziest of all.
As far as the ecclesiastical endorsement goes, that actually took me by surprise. I had a roommate my last semester who had just come off of his mission, and I remember he had to take in his honorable release certificate. I assumed that that was the endorsement per se. And yes, it was a good idea not to call the mission office. I'm the one who picks up the phone 75% of the time, so that would have been very awkward. Thank you for all the work you did on that.
As far as my homecoming talk, I can do whenever. I kind of like the idea of getting it done quickly, it would probably be easier on extended family that way. That's my thought, but maybe there are better reasons to to it latter. 
So this last sunday was our District Conference as I mentioned last week. It was a pretty good meeting, I really like being able to see all of the members I know in the other branches. Something that was really cool is that one of my converts in Fidjrosse was sustained for the Melchisedek Priesthood. It caught me a little by surprise (although it really shouldn't have). I was really glad to see that he has been progressing in the church and is still active.
The effects of the District Conference continued to Monday as well. Elder Vinson of the 2nd Quorum of the 70 presided over our conference. Well, Monday morning I was assigned to drive him to the airport due to a long series of events that includes a canceled flight, a visit with one of the city mayors, and the mission president driving to Ghana. Elder Vinson was really nice and easy to get along with. I think that's a requirement to become a general authority. If you didn't know, he is from Australia. He asked where I am from and I said northern Utah. He asked which part and I said Fruit Heights. He said "oh yes, I know Fruit Heights very well". I believe that it was Pres. Jensen  who served in Australia, and got to know Elder Vinson there. He said he knew President Frischknecht as well from being in Salt Lake for church callings. He is the very first Australian I have ever known, and we still know people in common! I seem to know the 1/10 of the church that knows the other 9/10.
As far as transfers go, I have no idea when/where I will go. I think the earliest I could leave would be around the 6th of November. I'm assuming that President would probably give me about a week's notice. I am a little worried though. Every missionary I know of that staid in the office this long finally asked to be transferred. I have this little suspicion that President is waiting for me to do the same thing. The problem is that I promised myself before I left that I would never ask for a transfer. This may turn into a silent and slow game of chicken. Although I'm not at 9 months yet, I'm only at 8 for the moment.  
I think that the envelope you sent me might be lost. We got two envelopes this week from Utah that were sent in mid-October. Oh well, I had to lose one of them over the course of the mission.
Teaching has been a little slow lately due to some added pressures in the mission office, but we are still doing okay. We actually will have a baptism next week. Her name is Habiba, we have been teaching her for about 6 weeks now. A member introduced us to her and has been helping her a lot. She has seen a lot of hard times in her life.
Our mission is just under 110 missionaries for the moment, which is a high for us. It looks like that number will decrease slightly for a while, but from what we are looking at there will be another big wave coming in in April. But it's not really my concern at that point.
I had an idea for what I want to do in my first few days back at home. I want to do a Family Temple Trip. I've never actually been to the temple with the entire family. I think it would be really cool to all go together. It would be even cooler if we could even do work for family names, but I don't know if it would be possible to get enough in time. Could we please plan to have that trip though? Maybe that saturday after I get home.
If there is an opening at "University Park" I think it would be fine. From what you say, it's in a pretty good location. I'm honestly not too picky at the moment, if it has a microwave and hot water it will more high tech than any apartment I've had for the last two years. 

Elder Christensen

October 19, 2013

Dear family,

Well, the second rainy season seems to be just about over. I think it was about the same as last year. Overall it was a pretty dry year though. I may only see rain maybe once or twice for the rest of my stay in Africa. 

By the way, I think I forgot to mention last week that I have another companion. When Elder Razanamparany went home he was replaced by Elder Ouonnebo. He's an Ivoirien Elder who has been out for about 18 months. He's pretty fun, and loves to cook. He actually already served a long time in Gbegamey branch, so he knows a lot of the members already. 

I can tell you that for the moment, Bishop Field and President Frischknecht have not yet received copies of my travel plans. They will receive them next week, but feel free to talk to them about it at church tomorrow. I personally wanted to go through Paris again, but Brussels will be fun too. It will be very weird being in JFK with Jacob so close in Chinatown. Maybe I'll buy him a postcard in the airport. 

Most of my "Africa friends" are either not going to BYU, or come home after me. At this point, I'm not really sure who you should contact. My other old roommate that you could try is Destin . He was fun. This may be a far stretch, but it'd be fun to go back to my old off-campus stake. I was near the southwest corner of the stake I think, so probably stuff around 4th north/4th east, 3 north, 3 east, Given the amount of time you have to find an apartment, that's probably not possible. 

I have been taking pictures mom, don't worry. I probably should be taking some more photos of myself though. I'm not sure how I am supposed to take pictures of "smells" though. 

If you were to send a package right now, I would probably still get it. Personally, I say just hold onto whatever you would send me until I come home. No sense sending me something I will just have to bring back, and if I won't bring it back, no sense having it for only a week. Just keep the tree watered and I'll celebrate Christmas when I come back. I think it would be a good idea to put a little bit more money into my account though, I still have to get a couple more souvenirs. 

This week as you know we got to orient 20 new missionaries. That included our first two Americans to pass through the Ghana MTC. I didn't get much of a chance to talk to one of the Elders, but Elder Sagers spent the night in our apartment and we had a bit of time to talk. It was nice, it sounds like the Ghana MTC is a very different experience than Provo. Hopefully that was the last group I will ever greet in the office. I've had a lot of fun greeting people, but if I'm here for the next group, that means I will be finishing in the office. I've loved serving here, but 10 months would just be too much.

Tomorrow we will have another District Conference. This will be the fourth one in the country, all four of which I have attended (I'm a Benin Missionary, not a Togo Missionary). I'm excited, this one will be presided by Elder Vinson of the second quorum of the 70, who is in our area presidency. I'm interested to see how his translation goes, he apparently has a really good Australian accent, which is practically unheard of here. I hope that we will have a lot of investigators come. The conference room we are renting out is kind-of in our proselyting area. 

We had a great lesson yesterday with the "hakuna matata" family. Rosa has now read almost all of 1st Nephi in the Spanish Book of Mormon you sent with Elder Allred. She's really enjoying it and had a lot of questions. They said that they will come to the conference tomorrow. 

One of my personal study moments this week came from Romans 4:20-21. The thought makes a little more sense in the French translation. We often think that faith is having the conviction that God will do what we want him to do. In reality, faith is believing in the promises that God has given us. We have to believe that God can and will do everything he has said he will do. This is a faith that is not hurt when a Priesthood blessing doesn't lead to a miraculous healing. This is really a faith that enables us to say "thine will be done." I've been learning slowly over the course of my mission many of the promises that God has made to us. Having the faith that he will do his work gives me the strength to go forward. 
Lots of love, 
Elder Christensen