Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Emily sent us the following email on Monday, January 27, 2014:

Hola Familia!

Erick got baptized on Saturday and then he received the gift of the Holy Ghost on Sunday! :) I love watching how happy these wonderful people are that enter into a covenant with Heavenly Father. Erick was practically glowing the whole time. He shared a little bit about his feelings and told the few people that had come, " me siento bien y muy puro...etc". It was really sweet. One of our missionary friends, Elder Oakey was able to do the baptism. I know it is important for converts to always be able to have a tie with the person that baptized them and have that person always be living the gospel. Elder Oakey is a very good missionary from Idaho, and I know that he'll always be living his life in a way that will make Heavenly Father proud and Erick can rely on.
Left to Right:  Hermana Herrera, Hermana Christensen, Elder Oakey, & Erick
President Mendez is going to really look after these new and recent converts. I think he is going to try to help them have rides to church. When we drove to church on Sunday, we saw two boys in white shirts riding bikes. One was bigger on a super low bike, and the other was smaller on a taller bike: no doubt Roberto y Erick :) It was the most precious sight!
Yesterday Adrian was sustained to receive the Priesthood the following week in church. He is worried that he isn't worthy, but he completely is. I think President Mendez told him that this would help him really know that he's worthy. Adrian was all smiles too. It'll be good to get some more Sacrament passers in our ramita.

Recently, I had the thought that I should give Meliton a call and see how he was doing. I gave him a call and talked with him for less than 1 minute just to make sure that he was doing alright. Two days later, I had the same thought that I should call him again. I did and he asked us if we'd like to come over that evening. I think it was just to chat. He is now living in a different place, still in my area. I asked him what he'd been up to lately... He's been reading in a book. He's been reading the manual for gospel doctrine. And you know, he has found that he thinks that it matches with the things he's read in the Bible and he told us he doesn't really want to perder su alma (lose his soul). We talked for a while and set a goal date for his baptism. Meliton is going to get baptized on February 9th!

I read something in the green manual for gospel doctrine that I thought was really cool.  It was about how Joseph F. Smith traveled around "reinstituting" the law of tithing.  I mean, this shouldn't have had to happen because tithing has been a law forever and it was made pretty clear to Joseph Smith in the D&C that tithing needs to be paid.  This is why God needs to have prophets on the earth.  Even when the children of God have all the instructions, they can overlook important things and get to a point where they think God must not have really meant a certain thing that he said.  God needs to have prophets that can remind the children of God about his commandments and keep everyone on the same page. 

I love you!

Con amor, Hna. Christensen

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Emily couldn't email on Monday because the libraries were closed due to the Martin Luther King holiday.  But she sent us the following email Wednesday evening, Jan. 22, 2014:

Thank goodness I'm finally getting to write to you!  I got your letter Monday, so that was lucky that we emailed after that.  The mail just takes a little longer to get here than we'd thought. 

I have some great people to tell you about:

Erick is Robert's best friend and we have been teaching Erick and he is ready for baptism.  His baptism is supposed to be this Saturday.  As sure and set as baptisms are, I'm always scared that things will fall through, and I don't stop being nervous until they have actually gone under the water.  Erick is a really neat kid.  He is 20 years old, mostly speaks Spanish, is very smart and gentle, and has so much faith.  Robert was Hna. Calderon's convert and that's how we found Erick.  It's really neat because Robert got the priesthood just last Sunday so he will be able to do the baptism on Saturday. 

Robert’s background is so crazy.  His parents brought him here from Mexico and for some reason they went back and he was left here.  He was living on the streets for a while when someone took him in and then another man took him in and officially adopted him.  This man that he is living with, we just call him his dad even though it isn't biological, is white and doesn't speak any Spanish, but loves Erick so much.  He's about 60 years old, so more like a grandpa.  He is quite anti-Mormon so Erick hasn't filled him in on what's going to happen Saturday.  I'm hoping that Erick will be able to come to church and not have this be an obstacle for him after baptism.  Hopefully his papa will see that there is a difference about him and notice that it is good so when he learns what it is he can be more accepting. 

Adrian continues to be a champ.  He heard mention of the Pearl of Great Price during a class on Sunday and found it on his iphone and has been reading it and he really likes it.  From that first chapter he learned about how there are many other worlds that are all populated with people that look just like us, and that is something that has just always made sense to him, so when he read it it felt really right to him.  He made a comment that showed his progression as a member of the church: it was something like how he knew that he would always be learning and there were always going to be things that he wouldn't quite understand and that he would have questions.  I almost needed to pick myself off the floor and make sure it was really Adrian speaking.  Just kidding, I have so much confidence in Adrian and by this point, I knew that his faith would've taken him to this level.  He was the investigator that wondered why there weren't ruins on this continent left over from these ancient civilizations because there were ruins from the Mayans and Aztecs.  The mention of horses in..must have been Jacob..threw him off because he didn't think horses were originally here.  He had to read the whole book of Mormon before he could know if he thought it was true.  I saw his mindset and his faith change 100 fold.  He had many doubts and finally those doubts have been replaced with faith.  This showed me that something characteristic about Mormons is their faithfulness.  Now when we talk to Adrian, it feels just like we are talking to a Mormon and that is how I came to realize that being reasonable and faithful is a mark of someone that will make it into the church of Jesus Christ. 

I think that might be why I like James so much.  James is very reasonable and he does have faith even though he also has a lot of doubts.  He has been reading in the Book of Mormon, but he doesn't feel like he feels anything.  In general his life is good and so feeling good when he reads in the book doesn't feel like convincing evidence for him.  I remember that when I was in college, you gave me that talk by Elder Christensen that talked about how he received an answer about the Book of Mormon.  I remember that he decided that he was going to pray to know if it was true and read for an hour every night until he found out.  He did this for many many nights without having anything special happen, though he did feel good.  It was a ways into his study of the book that one night he said a different spirit entered his room and it was such a sweet feeling that was different than just feeling good.  Some of the things I feel I learn from this is that receiving an answer takes diligent effort.  Also, it doesn't come immediately.  The spirit is also very delicate. 

I have some really good friends in my district right now and it is the coolest thing.  On our break day we played soccer.  Our zone leaders and district leader take really good care of us.  The other elders are really kind to me too so I love that there is so much trust and love between us and that we are feeling like a family.  I'll try to send you picture of them :)

I love you very much!  I am doing well!  Thanks for everything you do to support me.  

Hermana Villar and her family have been like a family to me :)

Elder Stark and Oakey are great missionaries.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Emily sent the following email yesterday, Monday, January 13, 2014.  I had emailed her earlier in the day to tell her the news that Sam received his mission call to serve in the Phnom Penh, Cambodia Mission.  He will report to the MTC on May 14th.  

Querida Familia!

Estoy bien bien entusiasmada y agradecida a Dios por este nuevas que ha llegado a mi.  My corazon ha sido tocado mucho. 

(I am so excited and grateful to God that I received this news.  My heart has been touched greatly.  )

Dear Sammy, receiving a mission call is an incredible experience.  It takes so much trust in the Lord to hand your life over to him.  I am so proud of you and I love you very much.  I think I am still getting over the shock of reading about this news.  I had your email pulled up and held a paper over the word and read down each line just like how you would've.  As soon as I read the location I started to cry.  This is your mission and, again with your call, I feel like the randomness and the coincidence of everything shows that this call came from God.  I am so grateful that Jessa is there to be there for you.  She will look out for you and take care of you and you will have something familiar from home and to remind you of your family.  Sam, what are the chances of this happening?

You are probably in shock.  I was in shock for at least a week.  I'm almost surprised that you aren't coming to my mission, but this is still pretty crazy.   I know the Lord plans things.  I want to show you some of the letters I have from Jessa with her writing on it.  I'll take a picture of some of the script that she has written me.  I am so excited that you will get to learn that and stretch your mind in that way. I'm not going to lie, I thought the chances of you serving a Spanish-speaking mission were pretty high and I thought we were going to be able to speak in Spanish together for the rest of our lives, but it's ok.  How I see it is that you can learn Spanish from me and I can learn Cambodian from you.  When I get home from my mission, I'll study some of it.  :)

Sam, I know you will do such a wonderful job.  I am excited to hear about the miracles that you have.  Serving a mission has made me love God and his gospel.  I have grown so much conviction and passion and dedication for the work of the Lord.  I had a cool experience last night that I only could've had as a missionary, one called of God to preach repentance.  I am in the Newhall area just for this week and we had a dinner with the Secas familia.  I can't even explain or fully diagnose what exactly is wrong with the dad, but he needs to change.  After the dinner and sharing the message with just the wife, I felt that there was more that had to be done there.  I invited the dad from the other room to come because we were going to share a verse and head out.  He came and we shared a scripture and talked for a moment.  I know the things I said were guided by the Lord because they were a lot bolder than I would normally have found appropriate and the wife started crying and the husband responded.  Basically, the Lord had me tell him that we were representatives of Jesus Christ and as such, the message we were about to deliver was directly from God.  God loved him very much and was reaching out to him because that time has finally come when a change needs to be made.  He was nodding very much.  We invited him to read the scripture and pray with his family every day and come to church. There is a bit more of the story, but before we left I told him to think about how much love and trust God was showing him by trusting him with the spirits of his family.  About how God had trusted with him with his wife and his kids because he knew that he would take care of them during this short time that we are separated from Him and on this Earth.  The mom wants nothing more than to have the dad join them in her righteous efforts to raise the kids and she started crying at this point.  We let the spirit fill the room and left them with a prayer.  I was a tool in the Lord's hands.  That couldn't have happened to me and I couldn't have delivered a message like that from God if I wasn't a set apart missionary.  Sammy, I love you and I am so excited for you.

I experienced so many miracles this week.  This is undoubtedly the Lord's work. 

We received a referral with a return appointment.  Her name is Jasmine and she is 14.  She was with her best friend and met missionaries.  We met her for the appointment and taught her about the restoration.  We returned a second time this week to teach her about the plan God has for her.  She is a brave and valiant soul.  She has a lot of opposition from members of her family, but she is determined to give this a chance.  She told us that she had to hide to foyettos and Book of Mormon so that her grandma wouldn't get rid of them.  I told her about how prophets had been guarding those same words for centuries.  They carefully guarded the words and passed them down to their children so that precious truths could be preserved.  Finally, Moroni had to bury the plates so that God could keep them safe for a time and then bring them to light in a time when those words could never be lost or distorted or destroyed.  Those words have a long history and legacy or being treasured and guarded, and she will have to carry this tradition. 

We had an incredible lesson with a man named Oscar De La Oya. ...turns out I'm too gullible and he is really just Oscar Garcia.  His story is a cool one.  He went to the Home Depot parking lot on Sunday to find people to help him move the next day.  I don't know why that seemed like a promising idea...definitely a prompting from the spirit.  There he found Elder idea what he was doing there.  Elder Wilson loves offering service and volunteered us to be there the next day.  We moved them the next day.  I told the mom that we loved to help people but that the most meaningful way we could help people was to tell them about the gospel.  It's so true too.  If you help someone in some temporal, physical way, that's cool and I'm sure they can be grateful for your time, but there is no comparison in value to helping someone learn and practice a true gospel principle or law and have the spirit confirm to them that they are finding the path. 
We didn't have too much time in my area because this week we are a tripan and are working both areas, but the hours we spent in my area were very quality.  We stopped by Oscar's house and found him home.  We taught him one of the most spiritual versions of the first lesson that I have taught.  I felt so much love of God in my chest and I felt so much love for the message we were carrying.  Oscar was interested and sincere and willing to learn.  I believe that he is very sincere and has the potential to really know this is true too.

James is incredible.  James wins the award for the most responsible, sincere potential.   I think I like him so much because if I was a sincere investigator, I think I would be a lot like him.  He listened intently to the first lesson, asked many questions, and understood everything we taught.  He has some critical questions, but he is asking them because he wants to understand.  After the first lesson, he read the things we left him and prayed to Heavenly Father twice about the Book of Mormon.  He didn't feel he received an answer. 
We taught him the second lesson.  He didn't see the need for religion. James is really cool because you can explain things to him and he'll really consider them and then look up and not because he's felt that it makes sense to him and then let us go on.  He said yes to being baptized the 2nd of February, but I think that will probably have to be changed. 
James by himself is a miracle because he is being prepared by God and I feel that he could make the journey to the knowledge that this church is true, but the real miracle with James is:

Adrian came to the lesson we had with James this week.  I have had two best moments on my mission, and this is the second one.  The first best moment was when Francisca came to a lesson with Victor Torrez when she was still sub 1 week being a member of the church and she bore her testimony about the word of wisdom.  She is sweet and a bit timid, but she boldly assured him that he could over come his addiction to alcohol because her husband had done it with El Libro De Mormon and a priesthood blessing and she had given up her addiction to coffee because of the help they'd received from the Lord and because of El Libro De Mormon.  She bore pure testimony and the spirit confirmed every word she spoke.  It was that night that we set his baptismal date for 8 december 2013, the date that he later entered into a covenant with the Lord after overcoming his addiction. 
Adrian was sub 1 week.  Without acting the story out to you in person, and even if I did that, there is no way that I could do it justice.  When I asked Adrian to come, he immediately responded and said he'd be there.  We let him say the prayer before we went to James’s house.  Adrian pleaded with the Lord to be with us in helping teach another and bring them to the knowledge.  The plan had to change because James’s mom was there and she wanted to clash--she would cut in and interrupt.  We changed plans and told her we'd teach the restoration so we could answer her questions.  After changing plans and starting, she impatiently demanded an answer about the Book of Mormon and just as I was about to speak, Adrian leans forward and starts talking.  Adrian was a champion and shared exactly what needed to be said throughout the lesson.  He could understand some of her arguments because he'd been outside  of the church and ignorantly rooted only in the Bible for a while.  Adrian is very smart and he read the whole Book of Mormon.  Adrian talked about the Book of Mormon and what it is, its purpose, his experience with it at first, how it changed him, what it means.  She was concerned about only wanting to learn things about Jesus Christ and not Joseph Smith.  Adrian told her how the Book of Mormon was written anciently by prophets and talks about Jesus Christ.  Joseph Smith's role was to translate the book.  She had a very hard heart and Adrian obviously knew that. 
This lesson could have seemed like it didn't accomplish its purpose, but there were some important things that happened below the obvious level.  First, I saw in James's eyes an apology for how his mom was behaving which grew to reflect a lot of respect.  Second, James got to hear about the restoration again, which is the most important and unique message.  Third, he heard Adrian's testimony.  I'd invited James to come to Adrian's baptism, but we couldn't, but he realized that it's only happened this week.  I watched him, and he was thinking very deeply about everything Adrian was saying.  Even if the mom didn't absorb much besides the very obvious logical points he made, James heard all the things he needed to hear. 

I will get a new companion on Tuesday and I will be back in my area and commuting much less.  Crazy thing, I actually went to the temple again this week.  One of my favorite parts of going to the temple is seeing all the faithful people that take their time to come and serve in the house of the Lord.  Another thing I realized is that no one is prayed for more than the missionaries.  I know that there is a certain day of the week that the prophet prays for the missionaries, they pray for us in the temple, families and children around the world pray for us.  It is incredible and I love being a missionary for Jesus Christ. 

I love you so much and I will talk to you soon!!!! :)

Con amor y besitos,
Hna. Christensen  

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Emily sent us the following email and pictures on Monday, January 6, 2014:

Hi family!

I don't have a ton of time today because I went to the temple this week and that counted as most of my p-day. 

Adrian got baptized!  It was such an incredible experience.  He had so much faith through the whole process and once he was committed, I knew that he would do it.  He had told us that he wasn't going to enter into the church unless he knew that he was going to be 100% committed, AND HE DID IT!  I think they should call him as the gospel principles teacher here in the next week!

The baptismal service was so beautiful and the spirit was so strong.  There were about as many people at his baptismal service as there usually are at church.  (This is not a joke.  There were about 60 people.) All the missionaries sang Grande eres tu and it was really pretty.  Adrian bore his testimony after the service and testified to the people that " me siento bien.  Me siento bien" .   This is a simple and powerful testimony of baptism. 

Adrian has always been such a sweet and happy man, but I'd never seen him more smiley than he was after his baptism and especially the next day at church before and after his confirmation.  Adrian is so sweet.  I can't emphasize that enough.

I had an experience being guided where the Lord needed me when I was on exchanges.  I was with another Hermana and we were working in her area and we were lead to this house.  We knocked and asked to come in and teach more.  The woman was very humble and let us it.  Before we started teaching her, she went to get her daughter to listen too, when it became evident that there was some sort of medical emergency going on in the other room.  The woman has a son that wasn't breathing and that she couldn't get conscious.  Suddenly everything turned really panicky.  This was such a freak thing to happen and I knew that we weren't there at that moment by coincidence.  I immediately tried to discern the reason that God had put us there and what it was he was counting on us doing.  It was this moment that I wished I was an Elder and had the priesthood, but I knew that God would pick his tools and he would pick the right tools to accomplish whatever task he had at hand. 

We were waiting in the room next to the bedroom when one of the children was sent out to get us.  The mom wanted us to come and help.  We quickly entered and she told us that she needed us to call to God.  I bowed my head and offered up a prayer to Heavenly Father trying just to ask for the things that would be appropriate to ask for such as..recovery for the boy if it be Heavenly father's will, to help us be his tools, help her feel the spirit and learn through her faith, etc..

At the end of the prayer, it was evident that he was breathing.  From this point, he recovered until he could weakly sit up.  I love being a missionary because we really are representatives of Jesus Christ and it is natural to boldly proclaim the truth of the Gospel.  I told her that God had put us in her house because it was her time to know that the true church of Jesus Christ was on the earth and he wanted her to be a part of it.  We told her that God was aware of her and loved her and things would be ok.  She told us that she knew we were angels sent from God to help her.  We told her our message was true. 

I received a text from the sister I was on the exchange with that they'd returned to the house and there are at least 2 baptismal dates that are pretty solid in that family.  God is preparing people and we are doing everything we can to find them.  I've learned that so much of being a missionary is just making sure that you can always have the Holy Ghost with you to guide you and let others know that you are representatives of Jesus Christ. 

If there are any new or recent converts in your ward, will you make an effort to be a genuine friend to them and help them to feel comfortable at church?   

Church members need to take care of these precious and new souls that have been brought to the truth. 

I love you all so much! 

Con amor,
Hna. Christensen
This is from Christmas eve when we went caroling!

Here is our wonderful district family.  I really love these people so much.

This was us when we went to the temple as a zone.  
All the Spanish missionaries go once every 6 months.