Monday, December 23, 2013

December 23, 2013

Dear family,
Well, this is the last Africa email. It's pretty crazy. I definitely
haven't wrapped my mind around it. Denial turns out to be a pretty
effective way of making time go by.
I was wondering when I would be released. Sounds good. Wait, I just
reread that. He's going to release me over the phone? That can't be
I got the emails about Jfk and I wrote down the numbers. I think this
should be doable. NYC here I come!
As far as having food in the airport, I'm not sure I'll have a huge
appetit. Maybe just really thick hot cocoa. And Bacon or krispie
cremes. I've been craving breakfast foods lately, maybe we'll stop by
Ihop on the way home? Nah, we are all going to be exhausted. In terms
of meals for the first few days, good meat dishes. Since it's
christmas time, that's more or less a given anyways.
So I heard a rumor that Elder Burkhart's luggage didn't make it back
to Georgia with him. Ouch. For the moment I have a carry on and one
checked bag. I'm thinking about checking the carryon at JFK to just
make going back through security even easier. I'll decide when I am
As far as friday goes, I really don't care what happens as long as a
trip to the temple is included somewhere.
Are you ready for an awesome story? On tuesday we were at a
lesson/become dinner appointment (sometimes people decide they want to
feed us rather than be taught. It happens occaisionally). Anyways, my
companion had a baby of a couple of months on his lap. When the  baby
got passed to me, we noticed that the baby had peed all over my
companion's lap. It looked really funny and the photo is currently
protected on my memory card. The best part? The baby's name is Power
Insondable (all his first name). We usually call him "baby power."
Oh yeah, my other interesting story is about how during a split I was
followed for 30 minutes by a crazy guy that wants me to give him 10
000 000 F CFA (about 20 000 US dollars) so he can fly to London and
play for the Arsenal soccer team. On Sunday he was waiting for us
outside the church, so I told him I've been frauded, lost everything,
and am going to be kicked out of the country this week. Hopefully he
disappears before the new american comes into my area. My current
companion will be spending 2 weeks with an Elder from Ghana, who will
be in turn training an american as my companion goes into the mission
office. Go figure.
Oh yeah, and then there was the next time I was walking on the beach
due to an accident of directions, and a halfnaked guy came out of the
trees and started shouting and walking toward us. We didn't run, but
we were walking as fast as we could in the sand. Given that there was
NO ONE within a kilometer, we figured letting him get close was not a
good idea. We were exhausted by the end, overall we walked about 4
kilometers on the beach. Oof. Then we found an "American University"
that is the reason why there are so many Nigerians in our area. That
was a very interesting day. Keeping it up to the end!
Oh, and then there was the time that someone was flipping through
radio stations and we heard someone say "book of mormon." they went
back to the station, and it turned out to be a "Mormon turned
Catholic" from Ogden calling into a Catholic Radio Station. Go figure,
you can find ANYTHING IN AFRICA!
I'm currently in Mosiah in my reading of the Book of Mormon. I won't
finish before I get home, but if I'm lucky I could finish it before
the end of the year. If I'm not constantly asleep.
It's super weird to be at the end. Everyone keeps saying that I've
finished the mission and I keep telling them "as long as I'm still
here in Africa, it's not over yet! It's just close." I've definitely
had some reflections about how I've changed, how the mission has
changed, and what I was able to accomplish. On my own, I didn't really
do much, but I did get to be an instrument to some pretty cool things.
Love you all, see you soon!
Elder Christensen

December 16, 2013

Dear Family,
Wow,  another week come and gone. I can't believe how fast it is going!

I asked President Weed and he OK'd me seeing Jacob. He even told me I could look up the best place and all that online. I think he's just thankful that I asked. 

This week had a number of firsts. I gave a talk at a baptism service for the first time. I was supposed to play piano, but the power was out so I gave a talk instead. I was all wet while doing it though because we had to fill up the font with well water. But we were using a terrible cord and now I have rope burn on my fingers. 

So I'm going to talk to all the youth? Great, I don't even know most of them any more. I'll do my best. If they really want me to talk about Africa, can they give me a little projector and I could show some of my photos? Maybe that could give some structure to the hour.

In Nigeria they don't speak French, they speak broken English. Really, sometimes it is barely even English, although some are quite good. It's funny how Colonial influences can change the language of people that live across the hill from each other. I still remember my area in Togo that was on the Ghana border. They spoke English over there, but still played the same music on their loudspeakers. 

Elder Burkhart missed his flight in Brussels? That is hilarious. I saw Elder Burkhart at the baptism on Saturday, just a couple of hours before he went home. He was pretty excited. It will be really weird when that day comes for me.....

I finished the New Testament on Saturday, that was really good. I decided I am going to read the Book of Mormon before the end of the year. I will probably finish 1 Nephi tonight. I figure I will be able to read all of Alma while I am on the planes. I'm already seeing a lot of new stuff that I recognise now having "done" a mission. I'm not done yet though!

There's a Tahitian in our area? There is a Tahitian serving in Benin, I'll have him write down a couple of phrases for me the day of the Mission Christmas Party. I'm also going to have my testimony translated into Malagasy.

I had a split with Elder Welch this week so that my companion (our district leader) could go and do a baptismal interview (for Elder Welch and Boto, the zone leaders). It was pretty fun. Elder Welch hasn't taught much in English, so it was funny to watch him throwing in French words. I remember when I was really bad at that too. I still do it a bit though. 

Sunday we had a mini rehearsal with another district to practice for the Christmas devotional. We have to sing Joy to the World. I'm also slated to play the opening and closing hymns for that. Luckily, I finally figured out how to play... ... ... Just forgot the name in English. It's the one with all the Glorias. 

Took my district out to a Vietnamese restaurant for lunch, it was tasty! But not very big portions....

By the way, you have planned that we are going to the temple that Friday right? Because that's what I'm planning. 

Elder Christensen

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

December 9, 2013

No, I cannot believe that it is already the 9th. Everyone always told
me that the last of the mission slows way down. That definitely hasn't
been true for me. It's just flying by. I really am going to miss
Africa. Do you remember how after our first year at pageant, on the
plane all we did was talk about all the things we didn't like? And
when you asked if we wanted to do it again, the answer was a
resounding yes? That's what Africa has kind of been for me. Yes, it
has been a grueling experience, but I've done so much here.
I'm not at all excited to hear the news about the weather. I'm going
to freeze! I'm pretty sure that first day of classes I won't be able
to go to school. Someone asked me the other day if I will want to go
skiing right when I get back. It would be cool,  but I am pretty sure
I would have to amputate a couple of toes afterwards.
I still haven't heard what they want me to talk to the young men
about. Having me talk about the "actual experience" of being a
missionary could be really good or really bad. It would be best to
avoid topics about disobediance.
As far as a dinner, It doesn't make a huge difference to me.
Lets say Sunday? I was actually thinking of maybe for that first
Monday, inviting the Gray family over for family home evening or
something. I'll be bringing home some of his souvenirs and memory
cards, and they might like the chance to chat.
Haha you finally saw my belt? Yeah, I've been wearing the same belt
ever since I left the MTC. I covered the front part with gorilla tape
a while back to make it look a little better, but even that is peeling
now. As far as sizing goes, I'm not sure what to do. As I recall, that
belt was the smallest one we ever found. I've added two holes to it.
I'm not sure, but I think that might mean I'm about a 28.5 waist right
now. So cloth belts or the ones that can run any size are probably
Yeah, I realized a long time ago that I'm not really a good leader.
I'm not really someone that inspires action in others. I am learning a
lot recently though about being charitable and loving people. Wish I
could have learned it at the beginning of the mission, probably
couldn't have though. The New Testament is really cool to study.
Should finish in a few days. I'm wondering if that will be the theme I
will find next time in the book of Mormon too.
By the way, it would be a good idea to contact the Southams about how
to protect souvenirs from the change in humidity and temperature. I
have a recollection that there is a silicon coating that can be put on
wood to keep it from cracking or something like that.
On Saturday we had a hilarious lesson. Everyone fell asleep. at the
beginning, I was kind of nodding off. Then my companion was doing it.
Then the convert (a man in his late 60s) just straight up fell asleep.
At that point, my companion joined him. I just sat there not knowing
what to do. . . . We never said a closing prayer for that lesson. Yay
afternoon siestas!
All the missionaries here are stressing about what they are going to
do for Christmas, which members houses, etc. It's really kind of
funny. I'm just watching and chuckling.
Elder Christensen

December 2, 2013

Hi Everyone,
Yesterday my companion told an investigator that I go home at the end of this month. It was super weird to hear him say that. I still haven't been able to wrap my mind around it. I assume that that is probably a good thing, keeps me from being too distracted.

I'm not too excited to hear about those temperatures back in Utah. It needs to be warm! As it is, I'm going to need a thermos of hot chocolate in the airport.

My head didn't get too sunburned. I found a bottle of sunscreen, and I have been putting it on before I leave the apartment. It seems to have worked pretty well. My hair is probably long enough now that I don't need it any more. It has already grown back a lot. Sister Semken took a picture this afternoon and said she would send it to you. Just know that that is after a full week's growth. I am told it will probably be about a half inch by the time I come home. Not long enough, but not bald either.

Hymn 122, assuming I wrote down the right number, is one of the hymns they play as prelude music to the pageant. That's where I know if from. One of the reasons why I like it so much is that it reminds me of pageant. No worries though, it was just an idle wish. When you know what they want me to do for the Young Men, let me know. If they ask me to teach at the last moment, half of it will come out in French. Praying and teaching in English is hard enough as it is.

This week I had to translate at church for some Nigerians, that is always a little stressful. At least in conferences they give you little breaks so that you can catch up. In lessons, they just keep going! We also sang our first Christmas hymn in sacrament meeting. In other news, I think I finally managed to learn how to play Angels We Have Heard on High. I get the feeling I am going to be ward pianist at some point. Or maybe for the primary. 

This week we had our daily schedule changed. Apparently someone from the church security department called in and said that there is some sort of thing that...... I really have no idea. But now we come in an hour earlier every day and are supposed to do our language study at night. Huh. It means we have to go back out right at the really hot time of day. That has been a little different. At first I honestly thought that the zone leaders were just pulling a prank. Honestly, I don't feel any less safe, it's just that they are taking every precaution.

We had an apartment inspection this week again. I never officially won that. Shame. At least I did my best to clean the apartment every week. Some missionaries only clean before the apartment check (hence the reason for the inspections).

This morning our zone went out to Ouidah again. That's where there is the python temple and the beach they launched the slave ships from. It was fun to go back one last time, I was able to finally negotiate a couple of souvenirs. I still am not all that great at barganing, but I am getting better. Unfortunately, that skill soon won't be able to help me any more. 
Elder Christensen and Elder Gray

Thanksgiving actually turned out pretty well around here. We had a service activity planned that morning. We didn't quite realize how far away it was, though, and ended up accidentally walking across a quarter of the city! Luckily it isn't all that big of a city. We cleaned out a small warehouse for a member who used to run a soda distribution company, it was full of old paperwork and old bottles. And old car pieces. And cockroaches. I think I killed more that 40 cockroaches that day. It was actually a lot of fun. Then as we were walking back we found a really good restaurant that sells good ice cream. So that was our thanksgiving celebration. Then we managed to catch a bus back to the apartment. Overall, it was a good day, but it was really dirty!

I just got a phone call from Sister Weed, looks like we will be singing at the Christmas program after all. That'll be interesting. Last year the results were... ... ... not bad generally. 

Lots of love,
Elder Christensen