Monday, June 24, 2013

A Muddy Field and a Heavy Storm

Hi I am sister Christensen and this is my companion Sister Farnes and we are missionaries for the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  Yeah! The mormons, have you met missionaries before.  We know that it is 7:30 at night and you are busy with you family and in fact you have never met us but can we come in to your home and share a message with you?...... so Where are you from?  How many kids do you have? Wow brother you have so many trophies from tennis that is very impressive! Our message is about Jesus Christ and about what God’s plan is for you… After the death of Jesus Christ the priesthood was taken from the earth and that’s why we have so many churches on the earth today.  A young boy only 14 years old, named joseph smith was very confused and so he prayed to god.  His faith was so strong that the actual God of all the earth and His Son, Jesus Christ appeared to this boy.  Then there were more angels and the translation of some gold plates and if you come to know that this is true will you be baptized? 

This is a shortened version of my day to day communications with people all throughout the city of Goa. 

This last Friday night we experienced such a communication.  We were walking through a very muddy field in a heavy rain storm and had another hour before we needed to be home so we decided to follow the council that has been given to us and share the gospel to people that have cars (to try to help build up the leadership in the pines).  We were let in to one home.  A couple, they were watching TV.  They have one son but he is a nurse in Naga.  As we walked through their front door we looked down at our feet covered in mud and I thought of how strange we must seem.  Two young American girls covered in mud stuttering out Tagalog late at night and wanting to be let in.  We were able to teach them about the Restoration and they had a lot of questions about the priesthood and about joseph smith.  They invited us back for dinner later tonight so hopefully something we said made an impression.  Later that night as I kneeled to pray I asked again if the Restoration was true, if Joseph Smith really was a prophet.  Not necessarily questioning, but wanting a more firm answer for myself so that I can more honestly testify of the truth.  I went to bed that night thinking of the miraculous story we tell people every day.  That a young 14 year old boy saw God the Father and His Son, could that really happen? I read through the story in Luke, the one Elder Holland used in his last conference talk where Christ tells the young, pleading father… “if thou Canst believe.” The father replies to Christ, “I believe, help thou mine unbelief.”  I realized that the only way to really know the truth of the Restoration is to ask through prayer in the name of Jesus Christ.  We may all have things we don’t understand about the gospel and if we rely on that knowledge alone none of it will make sense.  It is when we ask through prayer that the savior is able to help our unbelief and the truth is made clear. 

I don’t understand everything but I have received a warm spiritual confirmation to my own prayers. I do know that Joseph Smith is the prophet of the restoration.  I believe him, all that he did and said that he saw. And I believe in the God and in the Son that he saw on that bright morning in Palmyra. 

It is fiesta in Goa.  There are flags strung across every street in the city.  Each barangay or neighborhood has a different color and each of the high schools had a presentation in the parade earlier.  We have so many food appointments today we don’t know exactly what to do with ourselves.  Lots of sticky rice and  egg roll like dishes.  It has a very 4th of july feel to the festivities, I wish there would be fireworks. 

We had our last interviews with President.  It is hard to say good bye to my mission parents but I am grateful for the sacrifices they have made and the impact they have had on me as a person and as a missionary.  They have been a wonderful source of inspiration, love, encouragement and foundational to the growth of my  testimony.  They head back to the U.S.  on the 30th and we are excited to meet President and sister Reeder the first week of July. 

Things here in Goa are going great.  We are heading on a “vacation” this week because we have exachanges in a city 4 hours away.  We leave at 5 am tomorrow and then will get back hopefully in time for our District Meeting on Thursday. Hope all is going well back in SLC.  Glad the World travelers are home safe.

Lagi mahal ko kayo .

Sister Christensen 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

John Paul and Eric

Happy Fathers day to all the fathers that just so happen to skim through this letter, especially my JR.   Happy Fathers day dad! I tried to send a film clip of me wishing you a happy fathers day but that just was not wanting to work; you’ll just have to read it in black and white. I love you dad. Thanks for being my friend and my father. 

We had a great week; it felt long because the days were so full.  We went to the first ever Mission Leadership council on Tuesday so that was exciting.  It was neat to see the behind the scenes part of the mission.  I had no idea that our missionary work could be broken up into 4 separate graphs haha.  We discussed the successes and concerns of the mission.  We found out a little more about what exactly we will be doing.  We will be going on exchanges every week until the end of the transfer. The area farthest out is 4 hours away, so we will be doing quite a bit of traveling.  Sister Farnes is such a trooper and so good at going with the flow.  I feel bad her training has kind of been hijacked but she is a great sport!

John Paul (13) and Eric(10) Loma’s baptism went so well! Sister Loma was telling us that Eric was throwing a small temper tantrum before the baptism because he wanted to look nice and his clothes were dirty.  He ended up trading outfits with his younger brother! They both looked very handsome.  We gave them little CTR rings after the baptism (thanks KT for the supply) and then on Sunday Eric gave me this fuzzy hair clip thing – no clue where he got it but it is so darling! On Sunday we were talking about temples in our gospel essentials class, specifically family sealing and Sister Loma had teary eyes.  She is so excited for her baptism on the 6th and then getting ready for them all to go to the temple.  She told me this week she has seen changes in herself.  Time and time again I have realized that is really the point of the gospel to give us the hope and faith to make changes. 

A few weeks ago Meg noted a quote by Mother Teresa about prayer…. “I used to pray that God would feed the hungry, or do this or that, but now I pray that he will guide me to do whatever I am supposed to do, what I can do.”

 I have thought a lot about this quote and have made an effort to change my prayers.  I have been asking for the strength to talk to everyone and be led to those who are prepared.  Last week we met sweet Avalina, she is 85 years old and still as active as they come.  She is the treasurer for a committee in their Barangay and has a fire for life.  We were able to share a lesson with her and it was wonderful…. However she told us she is a Roman Catholico and will die a Roman Catholico but she wants us to keep coming back.  I told Sister Farnes about the quote after we left the appointment and she laughed and said, “that’s what you get for following a Mother Teresa quote.”

Every single night the sky is lit up with the most magnificent lightning shows.  Most of the time as we are walking back we don’t need our flashlights because every few seconds it is almost that the sun comes back out. 

We have become addicted to making pop corn on our gas stove.  We put the cornels in a pan with oil and then shake it back and forth over the flame.  Oh the things you learn on a mission.

It was independence day this week… there were no BBQ’s or fireworks, but there were lots of Filipino flags flying. 

Speen! Happy happy birthday!!!!! Hope you have a great b-day on the mish…. Go buy some delicious treat on your way home from teaching! Sure love ya kid and I am so grateful you are my baby brother. 

Love always from the pines,

Sister Christensen 

Monday, June 10, 2013

And The Rains Came . . .

Hello Hello minamahal kong kapatid!

Still laughing about the Christmas sisters in the DR! We also had a wonderful week here in Goa. The Loma boys passed their interviews on Saturday so all systems say “go” for their baptism on Saturday! I am not sure who is more excited the two American sisters or the 2 filipino 10 and 13 year old boys. The zone leaders came into Goa for the interview and we went to the Loma family’s home. They live in the very middle of a rather large rice field. As we were walking in one of the Zone leaders asked, “how did you find these people?” Haha it really is the middle of nowhere. Sister Farnes and I bought fudgie bars which are the pinoy version of a zinger with high hopes that the boys would pass. They have such a great understanding of the gospel and I am reminded of how much faith can be had in such young, little bodies. After their interviews were finished we all sat under the coconut trees at their home “in the middle of nowhere” and ate fudgie bars and laughed. I felt so happy and filled with joy.

The joy you feel on the mission is a different kind of joy. It isn’t the same as coming off of a rollercoaster or finding jeans that fit perfectly. It is deeper. It is rooted inside you somewhere mixed in with all the stress and worry that comes with the nametag. In the scriptures there are many references to joy – nearly all of them relate joy in other people. In John it tells us that Christ’s words were given to us that our Joy might be full. I know that I have felt moments here on this island that my joy felt full. The joy that I mean comes from fudgiebar laughter and seeing investigators at church, this fullness comes from listening to Crisanto’s friend pray for the first time and having a less active woman find tears of happiness after reading the scriptures. That fullness that Christ promises us does really come from other people; from watching them come to know their savior and allowing the gospel to change their life.

We have a meeting tomorrow in Naga with all the Zone Leaders and President. It’s the first ever Mission Leadership Training meeting. Like Joseph Smith said about deep waters: “better deep than shallow.” I suppose we can’t swim and grow in shallow waters. In our district I am the oldest, both in age and in time on the mission…. by far. Everyone else is in training and the trainer that has been here the longest after me got here in January. As I sat there I noticed the other missionaries would turn to me for questions. People expect me to know what to do. There is a scripture in D&C that promises our mouths will be filled. For the past 12 months that scripture to me has meant one thing - Tagalog. That was the only kind of “filling” I have wanted and needed. Now for the first time it took on a new meaning, I need to know what to do. I hope I can be what I need to be.

One of the families in the ward gave us a papaya this week that was larger than my head! The other sisters are not fans of papaya…yet… so I ate the whole thing basically solo flight. It was delicious. They have a fruit here that is a sour mango of sorts and it is my favorite. I buy multiple every week from the same nanay on the corner near the church. This week when we went to get my weekly dose of Indian mango (which is what they are called) she threw in a few extra because we are friends now. Moments like that, although they are not directly related to the gospel, add to that fullness of joy.

Speen – thanks for the reference a few weeks ago to your 10 day being a little high in the temps. Bro I adore you - you’re the best ski buddy I ever had but there is little sympathy coming from my corner of the world for the Elder who has a Walmart in his area and people who make your food for you every day.. haha love ya kid.

Owey - have the best birthday ever! I can’t believe how old you are getting. I promise I will be there for your next one.

Mahal Ko Kayo

Love from the pines, sister meish


Monday, June 3, 2013

Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes

Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes. How do you measure a year in the life? In the last 365 days I have measured my time different than ever before. In the last five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes (and 2 days) I have learned and continue to learn a new language. I have become professional at opening a tin can with only a knife. I have memorized nearly all of the efy songs ever written. My time has been measured in small scabs on my hands each week from doing laundry by hand; in falling in love with the invention of the rice cooker and in endless amounts of rice. Time has been measured in 4 pairs of rubber shoes with holes; in countless conversations started by explaining how I can speak Tagalog. It has been measured in scrambled moments of filling baptismal fonts. Measured in marked up scriptures and preach my gospel; moments of sitting on cold cement floors singing hymns and talking about the gospel, candle light lessons and fire flies in the coconut trees. I can hardly believe that so much time has passed, but yet it seems so long ago that my life wasn’t measured by such things as cups of rice. I am so grateful for the time I have been given here, and so excited for what is to come.

So we rarely go entire days that the water doesn’t go out and we are no strangers to rationing 2 gallon water jugs for all of our showers. But because water has been on my mind this week, a great deal because of the lack we have but also partially because every day we are trying to find people to invite into the water. I was thinking how Christ is the “living water.” We need water to live, to survive. When we don’t have water, to drink or to shower we would do nearly anything to get it. I think that as I have come to better understand how literally Christ is our living water I have realized how when we are without the gospel we are thirsting in the same way.

Some time ago we found these rotisserie chickens in Centro and bought them because we didn’t want to cook…. So now I officially eat bananas regularly AND chicken on a chicken! And yes, my fellow sisters all make fun of me for calling it chicken on a chicken.

We have been really working with the Loma family and Sister Karin and they are doing very well. I love sitting on sister Karin’s bamboo seats and watching her son learn to walk. It is so fun to be a part of their lives. I think that is one of my favorite parts of my life here; meeting such a wide range of wonderful people and being able to share parts of their lives with them.

In Megs’ last email she talked about how everyone is Christian in the Dominican Republic and a lot of the graffiti mentions God. Here all of the jeepneys and tricies have god in some form written on them, things like “God’s Gift.” We have a lot of the same problems that people think as long as they believe in God it doesn’t matter what their religion is. I have been working through figuring out my clear and understandable answer to the question, “what is different between your church and the Catholics?”

Well my mother’s day accolades are extending…. Yesterday in sacrament meeting we were helping Sister Karin with her kids. Mom, I have NO IDEA how you handled us all in sacrament meeting when we were young. I spent the hour pouring my water bottle into her saved sacrament cup and left with pen, candy and the noted water above all over my skirt haha.

Well, happy 1 year anniversary to me… Weird! Love you all!

Sister Christensen