Monday, August 26, 2013

Leaving Goa

"You cannot have adequate faith in a God you do not adequately know.”

Well, the inevitable has come to pass.  After seven lovely months I am leaving Goa. It has been an emotional few days. Good-byes are never easy. Actually, in truth it is painful but I am grateful for the lessons I have learned and for the people that have changed me forever.  

In a letter from dad a while ago, he mentioned a few statements on life made by a man who seems to have a pretty good grasp on what is important.  One of his statements was: "Life is love. Vital and Intense." This struck a chord with me this week.  The love I have gained for the people here has become a vital part of who I now am.  The moments I have spent teaching in the simple homes of these people, eating adobo at Nanay Enciso's eatery, hiking up mountains, watching two brothers dressed in white standing in the baptismal font, weddings and Home Evenings and so much Bikol; these are all things that I will take with me when I leave here tomorrow. These are things that I am so grateful for. These are small snippets of the vital love that I have developed for these people. Love is also intense. It is not easy when you open up to people, especially on the mission knowing you will not stay forever; you open up to loss.  But both the intensity and vitality are things I wouldn’t trade for anything.  I spoke in church yesterday and the bishop brought out a giant roll of tissue. Haha, he knows me too well.  

On Saturday we had our ward Family Home Evening - which turned out great! Sister Simbol and I did the lesson and then each auxiliary gave a presentation. The primary was the best. They danced for us and some of those little girls could do hip shakes that would put Shakira to shame! The announcement came that I was leaving that night at 8pm while we were at the chapel. Sister Simbol and I both got teary eyed as soon as we read it.  I am sad to be leaving Sister Simbol. She has become a dear friend and truly my sister. We go home together though and will luckily be able to see each other once a month at Mission Leadership Conference.  The members knew instantly why their missionaries were red faced and choking down tears and they said jokingly they were going to start a petition to the Mission President to stop me from leaving. I support them.  But, I know that there is a plan and that I have different lessons to learn. Whatever happens - the Lord is in it.  One of my favorite LDS songs' lyrics say...

"I feel it deep in my soul,
and it speaks the truth that I know.
and it guides my life, so i'll go..."

The evidence that I have been on the mission for a while is the dirt that is stained under my toenails and my scriptures are having a rough time. The binding is toast.  So we stopped by a book binding shop to see if they could assist me.  A man came around the corner and the yeasty smell of alcohol was so strong! He recognized us as missionaries and started stammering on about Joseph Smith, trying really hard to work on his English in his drunken state.  Then he suddenly shouted "leave me alone!" The weird thing was that he had the biggest smile on his face and gave me a high five after.... Sister Simbol and I were dying laughing and she said: I don’t think that was what he meant to say - his facial expression didn’t match his words.

We were teaching a less active family this week and started the lesson by asking them in what ways the gospel has blessed their life.  The answers were mostly... in lots of ways, it blesses our family and other generalizations.  It reminded me that it is important for us to come to know our Heavenly Father specifically.  If we can hone our testimony into specifics, it will be stronger.  If  our prayers are specific they will be a greater power to us. If our study of the scripture is focused on learning specifics, we will understand more.  I am working on honing my testimony into specifics.  

I am so proud to be a "Mormon missionary." I know the church is true.  As I have spent hours in study at my little wooden desk here in Goa, I have come to know more that Jesus is the Christ and the Book of Mormon is the word of God.  I know that there is a plan and that we are all children of God.  I love you all so much! ingat palagy! 

Love from the pines, 
padangat ko kamo!
Sister Christensen

"Don't just be a human being.  Be a human DOING!!" - Sister Simbol



Monday, August 19, 2013

Finding Stephanie

Sister Camella

Belief is very powerful. It is what helps me putter along here when things are good or bad. We had a week full of miracles.

I am learning more and more that God’s influence is in the details of our lives. He knows his children and His spirit is always there. Because he is a loving father, I don’t think we have any understanding of the blessings that await us beyond this life if we are true. In contrast to what will come, my mission has been a close-up observation of the suffering, hardship, and difficulties of this life.

Last week, without directly saying anything to one another, Sister Simbol and I decided to push our effort up a notch. I honestly believe that as we strive to do our best, as imperfect as it may be, God does carry us and fill in the missing pieces.

On Saturday we had a half day mission workshop where the leaders and ward missionaries came in the morning and we had a discussion about member missionary work. Our theme was "shoulder-to-shoulder, arm-in-arm, it takes all of us to do the work of salvation." We downloaded parts from the world wide broadcast in July and used that to try to raise excitement about missionary work. I have made promises to myself that even when the time comes that I am not wearing a name tag I will still be a missionary. And I will always do my visiting teaching and I will sit by people that are new in church. You just learn so much on the mission. After lunch we split into groups and went and visited less active members of the ward. It was so wonderful and it made a difference on Sunday!

We weren’t able to visit the family far away in the mountains this week because of the half day mission conference but we were texting them and inviting them to church. When we walked out of Relief Society on Sunday this woman was sitting on a plastic chair outside the room! After church, Sister Simbol and I split up, each taking a woman from the RS as our companion to teach different investigators. I went with Sister Rosie and asked her why she came to church? What made her come all this way even though we didn’t visit her this week? She said, "I can’t forget what you said about there being more than this. I never knew that there was something more than this life. I thought this was it." She lost two of her children and I could see that thirst for the knowledge that the gospel gives to us. She told us she is not educated and doesn’t have a religious background but she just wants to know. If there is something more she wants to know how to get it.


There was a day that all of our appointments fell through so we bought a bag of salted peanuts and began to walk. We passed a long road that was lined with only trees and no houses. Sister Simbol and I looked at one another and said “I wonder where that goes?” We decided to find out. We found a beautiful rice field that looked more like a painting than real life. We continued to walk when we passed a girl hanging her laundry on the fence of an old, empty rice mill. We asked for directions to get out of the winding path and she came down from her post to show us. Her name is Stephanie and she is 18. She never knew her parents. They died when she was a baby. She has one brother but when she was 11 he left for Manila and she hasn’t heard from him and she doesn’t know now if he is alive or not. We began to share with her the gospel plan and she said she just has so many questions about why she has gone through what she has. We taught about the Restoration and left a Book of Mormon. Two days later we returned and she had read through 1 Nephi 3. She is thirsting for that knowledge that she hasn’t been able to find anywhere else. Before we left she prayed thanking God for sending us.

We didn’t know about the family in the mountains. We didn’t know about the small bamboo home tucked away on the side of a rice field where an 18 year old girl lives alone with so many questions. We didn’t know about these people but God did. He knew them. He knows their hearts and their desires. I know that God lives and I know that the healing balm of Jesus Christ is what will take us all out of the poverty and hardships we face here on earth.

Transfer announcements are on Saturday. I have no idea what’s coming but I would be quite happy to stay with Sister Simbol in Goa for a little longer.


I was grateful for the gift of tongues this week as a kind woman rattled off in Bikol and I was able to understand. It took me right back to the first few weeks and months here on this island.  

Surprisingly, I have become a banana addict. Yep it’s true. I guess the mission changes us in many ways.


Owey, your letter was the best. It sounds like you are a little star as a keeper.

salamat sa sulat ninyo! sobrang nagpapasalamat ako para sa indong gabos and ang supportahan nyo. kayo ang inspyrasion ko digdi sa mission. padanga ko kamo!

Sister Christensen



Monday, August 12, 2013

Pencil Skirts and Rats

I definitely jinxed myself my mentioning to you last week that i apparently have mountains yet to climb. We literally went mountain climbing this last week. Literally. Hiking. In a pencil skirt. Not an easy thing; but so very beautiful.


This last week I reached a milestone of turning one year old as a Filipina. It is hard to imagine that a year ago we arrived; jet lagged and wide-eyed in the Pines. Time is something I will never fully understand. Yesterday in church the speaker didn’t show up so they asked me to take the time. I titled my talk, well if it actually had a title, "Things I have come to know in one year." One of these things I listed was that I have come to know that God lives and that he is our literally father and because of his fatherly position he knows us individually and is in the details of our lives.

I have seen example after example of this over the last year but on Saturday one such example presented itself which led to the hiking mentioned above. About a month ago as Sister Farnes and I traveled to the transfer point in Naga a young mother and her daughter with dark curly hair sat in front of us. The little girl kept peering over the back of her seat to glance at the two American girls. i gave her a piece of candy and started in on the usually "OYM or open your mouth" questions.. Hi, what’s your name; is this your daughter? How many kids do you have? Where are you from? We chatted for the better portion of an hour and we explained who we were as missionaries. She lived in our area and seemed very excited for us to come to her home for a visit. We took her number and then went on our way. She continued to text randomly saying hi and asking how we were doing. We finally were able to schedule time to go visit and she called us leading up to our visit to make sure we were still coming. Well, we started up on the journey, knowing in advance it would be far but we underestimated what "far" meant. After an hour of literally hiking up a dirt trail we arrived at a beautiful rice field community nestled at the base of the mountains. This woman was so excited to meet us and was introducing us to all her neighbors, who happen to be all her relatives. I think I am the first white person to have walked up there – ever. To say we had more than the normal amount of stares would be an understatement.


We began to teach them and tell them about the gospel. Because of the distance they have never had missionaries from any sect come visit them. They had so many questions about why there are so many churches, if there is a life after this, and what baptism meant to us. They were thirsty for knowledge about their father in heaven. I was reminded as this scene unfolded before me of two things.. 1) that god is aware of us and will bring about a way for all of his children to hear of his truth. and 2) that it is true that when people hear the truth of the gospel, if they are listening with spiritual ears, the veil will seem thin and it will be as though they have heard these things before.

This week we also had a family home evening with all of our recent converts and a few investigators. As I sat on the cement floor looking around at all these people that mean so very much to me, I was filled with gratitude. I love these wonderful people. I love the joy that they bring me and the hope that this gospel brings to all of our lives no matter where we are in the world.


I am trying to keep track of miracles that happen each day... yesterdays was that john Paul Loma came to church in a white shirt and the tie we bought last week... in a very Owen like manner, he showed us how he was going to pass the sacrament. hand behind his back, posture straight, and goofy smile on his face. Sister Loma was so proud of him and so was I.

Something that is less miraculous and more funny....My clothes got wet in the rain last week and I have been lazy and haven’t done my laundry because it takes so long. So my wet clothes sat in my laundry bin all week. I pulled them out today and one of my shirts had started to mold. Oops. So there I was doing my neglected laundry and suddenly a giant rat leaped from a pipe and scampered across my feet. I had convinced myself that I had overcome the girly-screaming thing. Cockroaches, spiders, ants in my clothes, and other insects of unusual size have become quite passé. But this was so large and its eyes were so beady, my screaming-girl thing came back in full force today thanks to Mr. Squeakers. Sister Simbol said we will buy rat traps... I don’t know if I want to find a dead rat either though. hah


Yesterday was one of those days that i just wanted to shout: The church is true. My heart was so full of gratitude and love for my savior and the gospel. I know that Jesus is the Christ and that this is his gospel. I couldn’t be more grateful to spread this message of good cheer to the beautiful people of the Philippines.


Love you all! Have a great week!

Sister Christensen

Monday, August 5, 2013

Nanay Parola



Hola como esta.... spanish ba iyan? hindi ko talaga alam pero ayos lang.

We had exchanges this week in Naga and as always it was so fun to see another area and work with the wonderful sisters that are in the mission. It was so weird to work in Naga City. I have always been assigned to the small towns full of nothing but rice fields and coconut trees, where everything is on island time. So it was a different experience to be in the busy city. There is much more traffic and everything seems to be moving at a fast pace. The good thing about Naga is that there are lots of restaurants. We decided to splurge and buy Burritos at the only Mexican place I have seen in a year. It wasn’t too bad.

Speaking of food, Sister Simbol and I are becoming experts at experimenting with food. Most of our experiments include eggs because we don’t have much time to cook. This week we made a goal to eat healthier. We are always too tired to cook; so our meals turn into junk food. So we experimented with chop suey this week; Veggies, veggies and more veggies over rice. It was a very successful experiment.


I have two new skirts that were hand made by a darling Nanay in our ward, Cristina Parola. She has an incredible testimony and even though she is in her upper years she works with the missionaries more than anyone else in the ward. I think that half the ward members are members because they were referrals from her. She has 6 kids, one of them that married a missionary that served here and lives in West Jordan. I fully plan on visiting them when i get home so I have someone to speak to in Tagalog. When her kids were all very young Sister Parola's sister (who is also the one that married Tatay Eddie last April) referred her to the missionaries. At first she didn’t want to listen and told the missionaries not to come back. But her sister told her that she should listen to them again and so she tried again. She said that they were speaking in English and she would sweat so badly during the lessons because she was trying with all her might to understand the message they were saying. She decided that she wanted to be baptized but her husband was very against it. We have to have the spouses’ permission before baptizing the other spouse. Her husband wouldn’t sign the permission slip. So she found out when the missionaries were holding a baptism, which was out in the ocean in the neighboring town because there wasn’t a baptismal font yet. She grabbed her two oldest kids that were above 8 and headed to the beach. There were 27 other baptismal candidates that day. She told us that when she got to the beach there was a giant basket with baptismal clothes, she grabbed a pair for her and one for each of the kids. All the candidates for baptism lined up and one by one were baptized. She said when she got in the water the missionary’s face was so surprised, but he knew she needed to be baptized. Her husband ended up leaving her and she raised 6 kids on her own by sewing school uniforms for all of the towns nearby.


I have realized this week that the Lord requires us to make sacrifices. Sister Parola looks back with gratitude for the blessings the Lord gave her that time. Sometimes it is easy, especially when things are hard and it is easy to focus on the negative instead of all the good; especially the way God blesses us each day. I have come to gain a better understanding of why we are given trials - it is so we can grow and become better. It is like in running; if I sit on the couch, I am comfy but I will never get stronger. I have to go through the pain of the miles to really become a better runner. The miles usually look like blessings when all is said and done.


We are getting ready to split our area so we spent some time in one of our far areas, exploring around. One fun fact about the Pines is when you ask for directions, the person will explain the directions and then get up from their chair and take you where you need to go.

I found my next favorite food here. It’s called Champorado. Basically it is a rice soup combined with Hot Chocolate. It has been really, really, rainy here lately so I’ve been cold (I’m going to die in SLC in January). When it is cooler out this dish is so delicious!


In my last interview with president Bliesner he said, "Sister Christensen you have more mountains to climb before you are finished."  When President Reeder arrived he told me I would have to make the choice about whether I would go home in the late November transfer or the January 2nd transfer. I had my mind fixed on November because it is not very practical to get home a few days before school starts but I kept praying for direction. As I kept asking, I still felt unsure. Then, I randomly found this talk last Monday called "I know not but that the Lord commanded me." I read the whole thing through on our bus ride to Naga early Tuesday morning.  As I read through it I got my answer. While we were in Naga, my companion needed to meet with Sister Reeder. I was able to chat with President in their living room while I waited. The first question, the very first one, he asked was if I knew when I was going to go.  He told me he would support me in whatever I chose. I will see you all on January 2nd.

Well, have fun on your adventures! Bug good luck with tryouts! You'll kill it.

"A mission is a family affair. Though the expanse of continents or oceans may separate, hearts are as one." - Pres Monson

I think our missions are a little more literally a family affair than Pres. Monson meant but I am so grateful for the chance we all have to be tested and grow together. Thanks for your love and support. You are in my prayers every day.

I know that the savior lives. He listens to our prayers. He knows us personally and he is my strength every day.


Sister Christensen