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:
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.
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.