Monday, September 30, 2013

Hard Week

Monday, September 30, 2013

Dear Family and Friends,

Brian's Zone; Brian's in the back middle
To be honest this week has been super hard. I've noticed a lot of changes over the past few weeks and to be honest a lot of them have been hard to make. First of all I'm learning that I don't know very much about being a missionary. I mean they teach you in the MTC, but there is nothing that can truly prepare you for what is going to happen to you in the mission field. I've been so stressed out. But I know that this is where I’m supposed to be and what I'm supposed to be doing.

One of the main things I learned this week is that I really need to just sit back and let my companion lead the way. He is really shy, but he knows so much about the gospel. Since he is a convert to the church, he knows a lot about what our investigators are feeling. It's hard to let go of control. But often times that is the only way we can learn to do the things that we need to do.

So on Monday we taught Sister Jennifer and Brother Jericho. They are less-actives in our ward, and we are trying to reactivate them. They know so much about the gospel. The only hard part is that they just don't come to church. We are also starting to teach Sister Iva and her 6 year old daughter Anna. They are very nice to us, and I think that they will progress well. We are also teaching Sister Virginia she is really progressing well, but she is going out of town until November 20. I really hope she keeps reading the Book of Mormon.

Oh, one other thing that happened this week. So, the zone leaders came to our apartment to fix the water heater for us but they ended up flooding our apartment... :P It was pretty funny. Don't worry, none of our stuff got wet. It was just a minor flooding. It was very funny though. We are still giving them a hard time about it. But the good news is we have a hot shower now, and let me tell you that is a blessing and a half. :)

Ok so I know this is a long letter but I have to tell you why this week was so hard. So for most of the week we had a lot of lessons and things planned, but more than half of them fell through. Also the past day I've had a massive head ache. I don't want to complain, but this week has been really tough on both my companion and me. We both have been getting pretty down. I know that this is worth it, though, and that in the end our trials will be but a small moment and the Lord will make my burdens light. I love this gospel. I know it is true. I know that with faith in Jesus Christ my savior and my redeemer and through him all things are possible.

I love you all and I'm sorry for the long letter I hope everything at home is going well.

Mahal Kita!!

Elder Christensen

Separate Email Conversation:

Michelle: Aunt Angie made the comment about your cold showers that Brandon is NEVER cold! [Brandon Christensen is in a nearby mission, Philippines Angeles Mission.] You two are so close and yet so far away!

Brian: It’s sooo true. I mean in Baguio it gets really hot, but it can also get very cold... well cold for the Philippines. :P

Also, tell GnG Bevan I got their package, and I loved it. :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :D They gave me a lot of snacks and some little All a Dollar games. It was just a little taste of home from Grandma.

Monday, September 23, 2013

My First Real Week :)

* In order to make it easier to read, Michelle took Brian's comments from several different emails from 9/23/2013 and wove them into the main email he sent on the same day. Questions or clarifications from Michelle are contained in brackets.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Dear Mga tao, (people)

Brian in Baguio
This week has been crazy to say the least, but I think I could say that about every week here in the Philippines. This week we must have walked farther than I think I have ever walked in my entire life. I mean we walked A LOT. We have had to do a lot of finding because our zone just got cut in half, so a lot of the investigators we used to have are in another area. But that's ok; it helps to move the work along faster.

So for the most part we have been doing a lot of the same things over and over again. We get up at 6:30 and get ready for the day. We study until lunch and then after lunch we go finding for like 4 hours until we have an appointment. By finding I mean we try to find new investigators, but we also look for less-actives. We haven't found very many less actives, but I think that will come. We give out pamphlets and just talk to people. It's just tracting, but we try to use members as much as possible.

Pictures of a Commercial Jeepney; Notice Ppeople Sitting Sideways
We try to work with him [the ward mission leader] as much as possible. We have 10 elders in my ward that I'm serving in--one ward. [There are] 2 in the zone, and there is plenty of work per area so don't worry about that. :P Our ward consists of most of Baguio City, and then a ton of the surrounding towns. It costs about 14 pesos on a jeepney to get to church. [As of today, $1.00 = 43.25 pesos.]

After we teach some appointments we go home at 9 and go to bed. Days are long, but I love it.

Ok so a list of investigators: Sister Elizabeth - She is hard of hearing but is progressing. She has accepted the invitation to be baptized, but we are having a hard time getting her to church. Sister Jamie is not [progressing], sadly, because we can't get her to read the book of Mormon. Sister Jennifer is a less-active and is starting to come back to church. Sister Iva and her family - We haven't really started teaching them, but I hope it goes well. Sister Virginia - She is progressing. We have not taught her very much.

So here's a funny story for you. We were out finding, and this drunk guy stopped me. He kept telling me how much he loved me. I couldn't get away from him, so I gave him a restoration pamphlet and bore my testimony. Maybe he will become an investigator. :P He was very drunk.

Well that's all for this week.

Elder Christensen

[In a separate email, each one of our family asked Brian a question to answer. The questions and answers are below.]

Dennis: What is the temperature in Baguio?
Brian: It's about 70ish usually unless its night and raining which is about every night. :P Then it gets into the 60s or at least that's what it feels like.

Nikki: How much has it rained in the last week?
Brian: Every. Single. Day. :P

Adam:  What is the weirdest food you have eaten so far?
Brian: I think I would have to say some weird blend of veggies. They were slimy, so I didn't like them too much.

Anna: What culture shock have you experienced?
Brian: What have I not. It's sooo different here. Plus since I'm in Baguio the showers are sooooooooooooooooooooOOOOOoooooo cold!!!!! I don't think I have ever taken showers this cold.

Will: What about mission life has surprised you so far?
Brian: I never thought I could work this hard in my entire life. It's crazy.

Stephanie: What percentage of conversations can you understand?
Brian: Haha, only about 30% right now, but I'm working on it.

Mom: Does the traffic scare you?
Brian: Haha the first day, but now I just don't care because I haven't seen an accident or heard of one. They all seem to know what they’re doing. Plus they don't drive very fast in comparison to Americans.

Dad: Do you have enough to eat?
Brian: I have sooooo much food to eat I think I'm going to get fat out here. :P

Monday, September 16, 2013

I'm in the Philippines

Monday, September 16, 2013*

Wow, this week has been soooooooo crazy. I'm in the Philippines now. I'm in Baguio City!!! I'm doing awesome! And I am sooooooo excited to be here. There is sooo much to do. It's very different here, but at the same time a lot of it is the same. I love it here. I can't get enough of the food. It is all sooooo good. :P So don't worry about me losing weight here because I'll probably gain even more. :P

I'm not going to lie it's hard out here. You get placed with someone you don't know very well, but that’s ok because that's how you learn. [The language is] hard, but I'm doing my best to figure it out. I'm going to keep trying all day every do so it will come eventually. :P

I love my companion. His name is Elder Hernandez. He is from Quezon Province [which is southeast of Metro Manila]. He has been out in the mission for 10 months. He's really cool. He is such a good missionary. He always leads by example and makes me want to be a better missionary. He just keeps working always. We get along very well. There are 4 elders in the apartment.

So to recap the last week: When I left the MTC I left with a bunch of people I didn't know, but that was ok because we all got along pretty well. It took a long time to get to the Philippines. Tuesday was sucked out of my life because I crossed the International Date Line. :P Wednesday was more travel. Through all and all from the time I left the MTC and got to the mission office it took about 42 hours. Yes 42--that was not a typo. :P It was crazy.

Brian with Sister and President Balledos
All Three People are Standing!
After we got there, we spent the night at the AP’s apartment, and the next day we studied. Then we did an amazing race kind of thing. We went around and did things that we will do in the mission like ride jeepneys and wash clothes and cook food. It was cool. After that President Balledos let all the foreign missionaries walk on the beach in our bare feet. That was cool.

New Elders Walking on the Beach

Brian on the Beach
I love President Balledos. He is soooo awesome. You can tell that he cares so much for all of his missionaries and wants them all to do well.

[Did you get the package from home that was mailed four weeks earlier?] Yes, it was there. When I got there they gave it to me. :) Yes [he liked the homemade toffee], but it was kinda weird because it melted. But when it got hard again it wasn't hard; it was more crumbly like a cookie. But it tasted great. 

Friday was transfer day, so we traveled a lot then, too. The next day we had transfer meeting where I was assigned to the Baguio Zone. That's where I am now, and I love it here. It's funny because it's really not hot here. I can almost pretend I'm in Utah. But, I know I'm not because everything else is very different. I love it though. [How was the ride to Baguio through the winding streets?] It was good. We all rode in a jeepney.

Saturday we taught three lessons and did a lot of running around because our areas just got rearranged.

We are teaching the Bahug family; they are really nice. And Sister Jamie is really receptive to the gospel. She is almost 19; she is about to start college as well. Sister Elizabeth is an older lady. She is almost deaf, but we can write what we need, too; so she can understand us. I don't know the rest right now. They are kinda a blur, but I'll write them down for next week. [The investigators are all non-members.]

Ok, so last thing, we went to church yesterday, and I was surprised to find that they have sacrament meeting in English. It was kinda strange. We went to church for most of the day because we have to go pretty far to get to church.

Anyway, that's all for this week. I love you all and this really is a great work. :)

Mahal Kita!!!


* In order to make it easier to read, Michelle took Brian's comments from several different emails from 9/16/2013 and wove them into the main email he sent on the same day. Questions or clarifications from Michelle are contained in brackets.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Five Hours in LAX

Brian left the MTC, yesterday, Monday, September 9. He had a five-hour layover in the Los Angeles Airport. He was able to call home. Following are some notes from his conversation that were taken by Michelle.

Brian and Missionaries He Flew Out With
Although Brian’s district and zone left early in the morning, Brian didn’t leave until about 2:00 PM. He did not travel alone, however. There were four other sisters and three other elders traveling with him. One of the sisters was heading to Australia. All of the other missionaries were going to Brian’s mission.

Brian’s flight from Los Angeles to Hong Kong was supposed to have 15 hours of airtime. He wanted to stay awake until it was time to go to sleep in the Philippines so that he could start adjusting to the time zone change. Brian filled all three suitcases. One big suitcase weighed 48 pounds and the other big one weighed 47 pounds. His carry-on bag weighed 15 pounds. Brian was able to pack most of the food from the package we sent him on Friday.

As a Zone Leader, Brian didn’t have many responsibilities. Mostly it was to lead by example. He did get the chance to show the new missionaries assigned to his district around the MTC when they arrived. Although he and his companion wanted to help with the meet and greet experience for incoming new missionaries on Wednesday, they never got the chance.

One Tuesday shortly before he left, they were privileged to have Elder Neil Anderson from the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles come and speak to the entire MTC. The meeting was held in the Marriott Center at BYU and broadcast to all the MTCs in the world. After the devotional, they couldn’t return to the MTC buildings because of a huge lightning storm. They waited and waited until it stopped and they could walk back to their buildings. However, when they left, the rain had not stopped, but was still pouring down. They all got soaked walking back to the MTC.

Brian’s favorite experience in the MTC was when Elder Richard G. Scott came and spoke at a devotional early in his mission. Elder Scott talked about his wife who had passed away. At that time, Brian had a special spiritual experience that gave him a lot of hope and peace and love.

While he was in the MTC, he saw his cousin, Sam Clark several times. The last week before he left, he and Sam were able to have lunch together. They both enjoyed this. Sam is now serving in the Arizona Scottsdale Mission while he waits for his VISA to come so he can go to Brazil. It’s a small world. Scottsdale is the same place where another cousin, Linda Hogensen, just barely went to.

Brian and Elder Giblette
He loved going to the temple. He went each Saturday after it re-opened. It was closed the first two weeks he was in the MTC.

Brian feels like he learned a lot in the MTC, and not just Tagalog. He learned about spiritual things, how to set goals, and how to be a missionary. As he leaves the MTC, his goal is not to convert anyone in the Philippines. His goal is to become an instrument in God’s hands so that the Holy Ghost can convert people. Brian loved the MTC but is ready to get to the Philippines and begin doing the work.

Brian: “Ahhhhhhh! I’m just so excited!”

Saturday, September 7, 2013

I'm Going to the Philippines!!!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Dear Everyone,

This week has been one of the longest and shortest of my entire life. I keep thinking about how I'm going to the Philippines in just 2 days. HOW CRAZY IS THAT!!!!! I am sooooooo excited in case you haven't noticed. Haha! I love serving the Lord. There is nowhere else I would rather be in the whole entire world. I love it here. Everyday I get to feel the spirit so strong, and every day I get learn something new about myself or come to a better understanding about gospel principles.

Wow, ok so to go over this week. It started really slow because I just wanted to go to the Philippines, but as the time grows closer, I'm starting to find more and more that it's soooooo close. I don't know. I guess what I'm trying to say is that it feels like yesterday that I got here, and now I'm already leaving. I think the best way to describe it is to say that the days are long but the weeks fly by. Haha how great is that!

We also had infield orientation this week. It was long, but I enjoyed it. They gave us a lot of really good info about what we need to do to make our teaching effective in the field. I learned a lot.

Brian and Elder Giblette
So to start there is an elder in the other district from Kitapes (I have no idea how to spell it.). It’s a small island in the middle of the ocean. Anyway, he says and does some of the funniest things. I mean he is always “what” but he is super loud and in an accent. Idk [I don’t know], he is just funny.

All right, so there is another elder in my district who does some pretty funny stuff, too. He is the funniest kid, but you wouldn't expect him to be. He is super quiet pretty much all the time. I mean he talks, but he is kinda shy when you first meet him... like me! When you finally get to know him he does the funniest things.

Ok, so to the story. We were sitting in the residence getting ready to take a nap. His companion, Elder Ball, threw a pillow at him, so he (Elder Giblette) threw his mattress at Elder Ball. I mean, he took his mattress off his bed and threw it on top of Elder Ball. He then proceeded to jump on the mattress and pin him down. It was so funny. I about passed out I was laughing so hard.

Elder Giblette on Top; Elder Ball on Underneath
Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. I don't think I can show you how excited I am to go on my mission. I mean I am SOOOOOOOOO excited I think I’m going to explode. :P Well I'd better stop now. This has already been a super long e mail.

Mahal po lahat kayo ng ko!!!!!!!!

Elder Christensen.

Excerpts from Separate Emails:

Yes! I got the package, and I loved it. I just hope I can get it all to fit. :P I'm going to be sending a package home on Monday before I leave the MTC so be looking for the next week. :)

Yes, I got the phone card. I haven't had time to read [the instructions] yet, but I'll get to it tonight, and I'll call you Monday night while I'm at LAX. :)

I can call anyone I want. If you can set up a conference call I would just call home, and you would have to figure out how to make that work. But I think that would be cool. I'm doing fine, and I can't think of anything I need before I go so we are all good there. Plus if I did, I don't know how I would make if fit and not be over my weight limit. Haha But that's the way it goes, I guess.

Oh, no I'm not traveling alone. I'm just going with the other zone to the Philippines because they are going to my mission. [Dad: How many in the other Zone are going to your mission? Elders? Sisters?]
I'm not sure. I know there will be at least 4 sisters, and with me there will be at least 4 elders. But I'm not sure exactly.

Pictures of Life in the MTC

Elder Giblet's Collection of Foreign PMG

Sister Kurkofer aka--Captain Kurk--and Sister Crital

Sisters Warr and Barney

Funny Quotes from Brian's Instructor, Elder Kaka