Tuesday, September 24, 2013

We received the following email from Emily yesterday, September 23, 2013:

Miracle Inception!

Hola!  Hola! :)  I love you familia! :)

It is the coolest thing!  I absolutely love going to church for many, many reasons.  The second coming must be getting super close because we keep experiencing signs of the time.  About 2 weeks ago in the foyer before church started...pause: we have 12 missionaries in our barrio!  We make quite the welcoming committee at the front of the capilla...go...we noticed this new lady not dressed in church clothes and just sitting uncomfortably and out of place on the couch.  Hna Pulver is teaching me to always talk with everyone.  We have adopted this practice and the ward loves us.  One of the men in the ward was talking to us and told us that we were las mujeres populares :)  Anyway, her name is Hna. Martinez and she is a menos activo.  She hasn't been going to church for years and something told her that it was time for her to come back to church.  I think her son ran back to Mexico about 2 months ago.  She just showed up on Sunday and was there to be taken care of by the gospel.  We see things like this and know they are signs of the time. 

Last week at church I noticed another really odd one out.  His name was Patsy and he was skinny and white and probably late 40s.  He just has his truck and is traveling to Santa Clarita because he has a buddy there that is going to let him stay in some part of his house free of charge.  Something that is incredible to me is how many people know about and recognize the missionaries.  When we passed a group on the sidewalk a few days ago, I heard someone say, 'dannng those must have been Mormons'.  When we talk to people, they know we are Mormons before we tell them.  When people tell us about how they knew, they almost always tell us that they had a boss that was Mormon and that he was just the happiest guy.  Anyway, Patsy, like almost all people ran into Mormons years ago, but again just the other day.  When their paths crossed the first time they gave him a Book of Mormon and he read it in 8 days and knew that it was true, but he just didn't want to change his lifestyle.  He was a lively man and super funny!  He had come to the church because he wanted to talk to the bishop that spoke English.  The missionaries had just found him and given him some stuff to read and he'd read it and he knew it was time for him to become a Mormon.  I loved it because he was not your typical Mormon look with his tattoos and earrings, but he was ready to join the winning team.  We basically fell in love with Patsy while we waited to talk to the bishop.  I can't wait for him to be a Mormon and neither can God!!

Weirdest thing, Solomon keeps showing up for church every week.  Where did this man even come from?

This week we were having a brunch with Jorge (he is now a menos activo because he saw something he didn't like at church and now won't come) at his favorite place with an open back.  This place is on Variel and there is an outside part with a fence around it.  (P.s., We love Varial after dark! ;)) Jorge is frustrating.  People are always passing by on the street and he pointed at someone walking by and said that she'd gotten baptized a year ago or something.  We didn't know if he really could've seen who she was, but we left all our stuff and chased her down.  We asked her if she was Mormon and she pretty proudly did claim that.  We told her we were so happy to have found her.  She couldn't stay long because she was walking to work, but guess who walked into la sociodad de socorro (relief society) about 40 minutes late...YES!  Elvia!  After just that contact on the street!  This is amazing anyway, but unheard of in Hispanic culture!!!!

What happens when the Drug Lord of Canoga Park becomes a Mormon..Stay tuned for more about Albert :)  There is a really fantastic story here that needs all the details to do it justice.

We had another miracle Solomon.  And this miracle story is actually inside of another miracle story.  It's like miracle inception out here.  When we were going to flood the valley with Libros de Mormon, Hna. Pulver and I decided that we could do a lot better than 100 BOMS.  If we gave out 10 a day we would hit 200.  We hit it hard and did this until the Zone leaders said we didn't have supplies to sustain our efforts and they were calling off the flood until next month.  We're pretty sure that because of our diligent efforts with this challenge that we were trusted with the referral of Marlene.  She was met by a Rosa on the bus and she wanted a Libro de Mormon.  We went to her house and met her and her 3 boys (Who are the coolest, cutest little boys ever: 13, 14, 15) and fell in love.  They are already so Mormon just in the way they are.  The boys are witty and hilarious!  When we got there they were laughing and teasing each other while looking at pictures of them when they were little.  
We went with Hna. Davila to their house for a return appointment and couldn't get in because the security guard wouldn't let us in.  We could see him through two sets of glass doors and he would look at us and then look back down.  I tried not to be frustrated with him.  Finally someone came to the door and the security guard comes out of his room.  We explain why we are there and Hna. Pulver was getting her on the phone (everything we do has to be on speaker phone, so it makes everything we do just that much better ;) ).  It turned out that Marlene wasn't there so we parted with Hna. Davila, and just had a card to take to the apartment.  I signed the little sign in sheet, we went to the apartment, dropped off the card ...[oh and talked to Antonio.  We asked him if he'd read the foyetto and what he thought.  He said he'd read it and that he felt it was true]...and came right back out as we'd promised the security guard we would.  I immediately signed the sheet and he came out to talk to us.  I think he was impressed and astonished that we were so honest and upfront.  When people realize what we do and how we do it, they are astonished.  We gave him a foyetto and invited him to church.  He said that he would come.  On Sunday, guess who came to church looking nice: Alfredo, the security guard.  He also came to the baptism we had in our ward yesterday.  And directly after the baptism he met Moroni and then went with him and his wife to Los Angeles to some conference about the Book of Mormon.    I don't know if you understand how cool this is, but this doesn't happen.  Since Alfredo only has another male roommate, Moroni offered to let him be taught by us at his house and he accepted.  Our appointment is Wednesday.  

Sign of the times.  Miracles.  The second coming is coming.

English class: 
HUGE success!  I taught it by myself last week because Hna. Pulver was on an exchange, and it was fantastic.  I taught them how to pray in English and talked to them about why we pray and how God helps us.  Only 3 of the 8 that were there were even members.  We played a super fun game at the end and the people LOVED it!!  There is a cute woman named Cidia and she kept hugging me.  They love me, I can't help it.

Family Home evening yesterday:
Last night was so great!  We had a family home evening with a bunch of families!  I planned it and Hna. Pulver helped me!  We started them on Trujillo balcony (heaven) and had them come down one set of stairs to the middle of the apartment complex (the waste land) and then they had to find the barra de hierra (iron rod) and make it to the bottom of the other set of stairs that hooks into the other side of the balcony.  We recruited Hno. Albarracin to help us get people off the right path and it was so cool.  I started them off by telling them we were all in heaven and that we were only spirits.  I asked them if they wanted to go to earth.  I told them that when we went to earth, we wouldn't remember all being together here in heaven and we would have to walk in faith.  It was cool because we had the Trujillos (dad doesn't come to church), Albarracins, and Chavezes (German and Francisca getting ready for baptism).  We instructed Hno. Albarracin not to let German Chavez make it back.  I wish you could've seen Erick trying to cheer his dad on.  It was one of the most pure exclamations of emotion I have ever seen.  After the activity we all gathered back in the house and talked about it.  We aren't going to have German be lost.  In fact, we aren't going to let anyone in that room be lost because we are a team and we are brothers and sisters.  It was powerful.  After we played a fun game.  

Things I've learned:
1) Perspective is like the oil of the 10 virgins.  You can't share it.  Accumulation takes time.
2) Families are the most important things.  Please, please, please keep doing family home evenings.  
3) I am now almost literate in 2 different languages.  Yay!!  (All this Spanish is making my English and grammar skills and my ability to describe myself decline)  Yay!

Dad, Mom, Skibs, Sam, Nate, I love you very much.  We are going to be an eternal family.  

I love you!!

Agent Christensen

Monday, September 9, 2013

Emily sent the following email on Saturday, September 7, 2013:


Hey Mom, Dad, Skib, Sam, and Nate! :)

The president ended up giving us permission to go to the temple today for Hermana Davila's endowment and sealing.  That changed my p-day to today.  We really don't have any time today, but I did just want to let you know that:

The temple was absolutely beautiful.  I love seeing the faith of these people.  Hna. Davila is so cute!   She drove down to the temple with us and Hna. Escobar.  After the endowment session, she asked me if she was all sealed to her husband:)

The San Fernando mission better look out because we are about to flood the valleys.  The philosophy is that first you fill the valleys with missionaries, then you can flood the valley with Books of Mormon.  We had ZTM just yesterday and talked about the game plan for this month.  It is going to be big: every companionship is going to place 100 Books of Mormon in the next month.  We are going to make sure that every house and apartment in the valley has at least 1 or maybe 3 Books of Mormon in the living room.  :D!!!!!!!  Take 200 missionaries in the valleys and have each companionship give out 100 BOMs  and you have 10,000 copias flooding through the valley. 

California's time is here and we are about to flood the valleys.

I love you all very much.  

Con amor,
Em :) 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Em sent us the following email today, September 2, 2013:

iHola familia that I love so much! 

This is Agent Christensen reporting from the Great San Fernando California Mission. 

First of all, I am living the dream.  This is the coolest thing ever and my heart is full everyday because of what I do for Heavenly Father and because I am a daughter of God.  I'm still not able to comprehend what it means to be a child of God.  I am a daughter of God, which means that I have a divine nature and so much worth.  I am precious to God, as well as every other of his children.  It means that I have a duty.  It means that I can be proud every day because I know whose team I am on and I get to work to please Heavenly Father.  Knowing you are a child of God means you know who you are.  Children of God are confident and happy and full of hope.  Children of God have purpose and they will work tirelessly for good.  Children of God are loved unconditionally by their Celestial Father.  I am full of Joy everyday because I am a child of God. 

Second, people on a mission know they are living the dream.  Some get really sad to have to return home.  They don't need to be sad!  This isn't even the real mission.  Our real missions start when we get home.  It's like we are at the university right now studying and practicing for a year and a half and then we get to enter the real world...undercover ;)  Sometimes I think of how excited I am to get to be a member missionary when I get home and how much I can help the missionaries drive people to church or befriend new or investigating members or sit in on a lesson and testify.  Then I remember that I am living the dream!  Then I realize that being on the Lord's team is living the dream and doing His work changes modes, but all is so fulfilling!!  Now I will never not be a missionary and I love that :)

Update on Rene:
We had a wonderful lesson with Rene at the park.  Moroni Castillo (ward mission leader) accompanied us and it was so wonderful!  Moroni is a champ!  He is 23 and served in this same mission.  He is originally from the Domincan Republic.  He is approaching his one year anniversary with his wife and he is just great!  He totally clicked with Rene and was a wonderful example of someone who is a real person (sometimes people don't believe that missionaries are real people) and is living the gospel.  The way he lives his life is a testimony to the world that he believes that this is the one true gospel.  Rene (26) is basically a miracle.  He just got out of jail and promised God that he would find him and change his life.  Sometimes it feels like Rene is going to put 100% into this so soon that it's hard to know if this is going to stick or if it's a phase motivated my this wave of passion that will pass.  I've been trying to think how we can sustain him and how he can become converted.  I think Moroni was an answer to this prayer.  He said something about going to church and changing because you truly want to feel the way the gospel makes you feel and be the way the gospel makes you.  (I actually don't know if this is what he said because it was in Spanish, but I feel like this is what he was saying ;))  It was perfect and I could feel in the air that Rene was understanding that this was a commitment, but something that he wanted and would stay with for the rest of ever.  
Rene told us that he had a lot of respect for all of us.  Rene has spent time around different types of company, and it was different for him to be sitting in the park at night with three people of God. He started by telling Moroni that he respected him because he was joven (young) and [had faith] was living his life in this way.  And he gestures to us and says we are all young too, but we are trying to follow God.  He said something about him never being able to be like us.  We told him that he wasn't supposed to be like us because he was supposed to be him.  He was supposed to become a man of God and his specific characteristics and skills would make him valuable to the Lord in a different, perfect way.  The spirit was really strong.  Moroni, again a champ, got Rene's number and told him that he could drive him to church on Sunday.

We keep encountering this same Spanish-speaking paramedic:
Part 1:
So, this is a totally crazy story.  We've been at the scene when the fire trucks have arrived twice in the last week and a half.  The first time we felt like we should go and check on Elsa.  She is a recent convert and she is really sweet.  She has one leg and a prosthetic.  When we visit her, we just read one chapter in the book of Mormon and she loves listening to us.  She makes it to church most weeks, actually, so that is fantastic.  She has a granddaughter (Emily) who is sometimes there and she hasn't totally admitted it yet, but we're pretty dang sure she likes us:)  Also, she has a dog named Clauie.  It could be Clarie but without being able to pronounce the 'r'..I'm not sure, but she is so cute with her dog!!  When we knocked on her door she was already on the phone with 911 and was giving them information to come and get her.  She was almost throwing up and it was really lucky we happened to be there.  We helped her until the paramedics and firetruck arrived.  We helped her get them her information and stuff like that.  They have a Spanish-speaking paramedic that gets all the pertinent information from people that only speak Spanish.  She had a ton of pain in her abdominal area.  It was deep pain.  They loaded her up and took her.  We were able to get our number to her sister that had arrived so the sister could call us and we could send the elders to give her a blessing if she needed.  It is a miracle that we got there when we did.  She was completely alone when we arrived.  So that is the first time.  

Part 2:
Then about 3 days ago we happened to be in the neighborhood and we were walking back to our bikes when we noticed this guy laying on the cement.  The way he was laying, it looked like he'd either been dropped out of a plane or he had dropped mid-walk.  We were really worried that he was dead.  We called to him and made noise and nothing.  Hna. felt like we should move away because she didn't feel good.  We stood on the street corner deliberating.  We prayed to know what to do.  We didn't know how we could leave them there, but if Hna. didn't feel safe going close to him, we had kinda readed an impasse.  After the prayer a truck drove past us and stopped on the road next to the man.  We felt safe to approach again.  The guy tried waking him up again and nothing.  He said he was going to call 911.  We looked and could see some movement on his side, so we knew we was alive at least.  After the call was made he started moving a little bit.  We gave him water and tried to talk to him to see if he knew his name and his last name.  I have never seen somebody so out of it in my life.  Something was definitely wrong with him.  When the fire truck got there, all the men hopped out of the truck and we noticed that the same Spanish-speaking paramedic was here again.  Gale got out of the truck and greeted us warmly with, 'It's the sisters' and a handshake.  We had to move out of the way, but we felt like we were supposed to talk to the paramedic.  We have a goal to see him again soon and if nothing else get a card to Gale to give to him.  Everyday is exciting! 

Mercedez y Vianney:
Yesterday we were definitely guided to Mercedez and Vianney's house.  I don't know if I've told you much about them, but they are really sweet.  Mercedez is the mom (52) and Vianney (12) is the daughter.  We had been going to their house 3 times a week to read chapters in the Book of Mormon with them.  When we asked them if they wanted to get baptized they retreated.  Baptism scares them a lot and they don't really want to confront it.  Also, they aren't coming to church because Sunday is the only day that they can go and visit the brother who is in rehab for alcohol use.  They love when we come to read the Book of Mormon with them.  Mercedez always pours us a whole glass of whatever Juice is the juice of the day and then we read a chapter.  Sometimes I think that I was called to speak another language so I could be humble and weak.  The Lord does great wonders with the weak things of the world; he uses weak things as a manifestation of his power.  We are all at different levels of Spanish and it's actually really cool.  Vianney is learning more English than Spanish and it just feels like we are reading the book like we are a family and there are all sorts of mistakes, but it is wonderful to all be trying to be edified together. :)  They totally know the Book of Mormon is true and they love God and talk about how he blesses them all the time.  they just don't want to act.  They don't read the chapter in the BOM that we leave them in between visits so we usually end up following up on the chapter instead of reading another one or teaching them a lesson.  It is sad to go everytime and see that they aren't reading.  It was getting hard for us to justify going to their house that often when they aren't progressing and are kind of eternogators.  We started teaching the English class on Wednesday, so that took out one of our weekly appointments with them.  Also, the Monday 8:00 appointment time is pretty valuable and we have to use that with people that are progressing and keeping commitments.  It was pretty sad, but we were still going to visit them once a week.  
We saw them in the street this past week after not seeing them for a few days and asked about their brother like always.  Turns out that he was actually at their house (so out of rehab!) but that he had showed up super drunk.  This broke our hearts to hear.  They seemed agitated and off.  When we showed up to their house on Friday for the one appointment we were keeping with them, we saw Mercedez leaving to go and get the brother because the policia had him.  We entered the gate and went up to their apartment and hugged Vianney and tried to comfort her.  Mercedez came back to read and it turns out that she hadn't told Vianney where she was going and Vianney was putting the pieces together as we sang the himno and said the prayer.  She left crying and we just read with Hna. Davila (member) and Mercedez.  Mercecez said that she would be at church and Hna. Davila was going to take them.  We are really worried about them.  Vianney is about the sweetest, cutest girl you would ever meet.  The appointments we have with their family are actually a lot better than most of the ones we have because so many Hispanics can't read in the Libro de Mormon because either they can't read, or they can't see well enough to make out the letters.  Isn't that so sad?  That is why we tried so hard to get the BOM on CD for Francisca.  Elsa(recent convert) can't see well enough to read, her neighbor Paz (Elsa calls her Pazquelita :)) can't see well enough to read, Solomon can barely see well enough to read ,...I didn't even know that was a chronic problem for people in 2013.  Most of them don't understand the Spanish in the book either.  (I'm so sorry there is so much here.  I promise I will learn to condense.  I just wanted to really paint this picture for you.  I'll probably have to send you some photos because they say so much more)

Anyway, we didn't know what the dad thought of us.  He sometimes walks through the main area into the back room and never talks to us.  I always just hope that he doesn't resent that we are there.  
So, yesterday (back to the story) we didn't have an appointment with them, but we felt we should check on them.  When we got there no one answered.  We were just finishing writing a note to them when the dad comes climbing up the stair well.  He was really smiley and humble.  He unlocked the door and invited us in, but we couldn't go in.  We asked him about his work and what he liked to do on his day off.  There was a really sweet feeling there.  This is the first time we'd ever even talked with him.  He gave off really relaxed, chill vibes.  We were able to stand there with him with neither of us talking, but all knowing that we were listening.  I guess he used to listen to the missionaries when they would come and read with his wife and daughter.  We told him that he is always welcome.  We invited him to come to our English class and I think he is really going to come to that Wednesdays.  It would be absolutely perfect if he could come with his wife Mercedez because neither of them really know Spanish and then Vianney could go to mutual.  She turned 12 less than a month ago and Thais took her to mutual once and that was a crazy miracle.  Ahh!  I just love them and want them to let the gospel help them!


Lila Diaz has finally passed her temple interview and she is going through for the first time next Saturday!!!  We love Lila!  She is a little bit crazy, but she just croons over us and always wants to get us dinner even though she is struggling with money.  She is one of our favorite people in the ward.  She is hilarious!  She would be like the Hispanic version of Becky! :)

Hna. Davila is going through the temple and is going to be sealed with her husband on Saturday the 7th!  We are so so so excited for her.  She invited us to go with her, but we don't know if the president will let us because Saturday is the best pros day.  We are allowed to go to the temple our birthday month, and this month was my Hermana's birthday, so we have a trip to cash in...cross your fingers!

I have so much more to tell you but time is short!  There is one last jewel thing I want to tell you.  This story's appeal is mostly just..it's bizairre.  (I'm sorry I can't spell)  If you are getting in the Steve Martin mood already, that is good.  So we were going to teach Rene in Subway on Thursday I believe because we had a girl coming and we didn't want her to be in the park at night because she is pretty cute.  When we walked into Subway to check their hours we had this man run over to me.  He runs over and examines my tag and asks what I do.  I reply, "we teach about Jesus Christ".  I kid you not, he was wearing the same white exercise/jogging suit that Steve Martin was wearing in that little clip where he is an insurance agent and was cleaning his pool..  He had a gold chain around his neck and was wearing sunglasses and reeked of confidence.  You could tell that he was from a fast-paced life.  He liked my answer.  He starts scrampling to get us a number and a card.  We were beyond confused, but began absorbing everything that was coming at us.  He starts telling me directions to get ..somewhere?  I quickly take notes and get them down.  The name of the tv program is NITV (National Iranian Television).  We are to talk to Neli.  We are to tell her he sent us.  She will get us in.  He gives us her number from his phone.  He last minute decides to give me his card.  He scrambles through his wallet (that has many $100 bills) and gives me his card.  And then we have been given everything and walk away in a bit of a daze.  
They shoot lots of stuff out of the valley and he wanted to have us on his show to talk about who we are and what we do.  I had interviews with the president the day after so I have him all the information and we found out more, but yea!  Neli was another religion, and a few years back she became Christian and they want to spread the word.  The president looked up NITV and they are the uncensored source of news in that part of the world.  It would be bad for any church representative to show up on a channel that is viewed by the public to be the opposite of their government.  Anyway, I just wanted you to know that things like that really happen.  

This is a picture of Erik Chavez standing next to his piece of art that he submitted.  This day was a miracle.  I wrote all about it in the letter I am sending to Peter today.  

I love the gospel so much!  I have learned that people are who they are supposed to be when they are the version of themselves that the gospel makes them.  This is especially true with German Chavez.  He is a completely different man now than he was before.  He tried the virtue of the word of God.  

Love, Emma
Erik Chavez
Emily, Francisca, & Hermana Pulver, Em's companion