Monday, May 30, 2016

The last e-mail!!!!!

Dear Mom and Dad,

I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure I don't just have my "last three days", but have three days that put a giant exclamation point on all that I have done here in Japan. I have literally given everything all I could, everything I possessed, to the people here in Japan. It's difficult to put 2 years of  daily preparation, study, planning every hour, goal setting, following slim leads based on simple hopes and the promptings of the Spirit, embarrassment, frustration, pain, sorrow, joy, confusion, and sometimes just plain ridiculousness into words. But one thing, I can say is that if I had not put my whole heart into every single day of these last two years, I would not be half the man I am today, and hundreds if not thousands of individuals would not have had the chance to learn of the message of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ that we bear as missionaries. 
One may try to deny the lasting significance of what we do on others' lives, but I have personally witnessed the power of the Book of Mormon and of the simple faith to read it daily, to pray about it, come to church weekly, and to keep the commandments of God. These things change lives. They've changed mine, and I have the written and verbal testimonies of hundreds of others which testify that they too have been changed. I've seen addicts gain freedom, marriages repaired, foreign languages mastered, fears conquered, and hearts filled with love for their fellow man.

Thank you for encouraging me and preparing me to serve! I owe everything to you!

                                                            MTC companion reunion!

Monday, May 23, 2016

2 more weeks!

The sweet, elderly man that we met came to church again this last Sunday, and being the second time, he was a lot more perceptive and aware of what was happening than his first time. If I'm being completely honest, I haven't had investigators continue coming to church continually for multiple Sundays in a long time. The more comfortable and more familiar people become with the sacrament service, what will be involved, and how they can prepare, the more capable they are of having a really spiritual experience from it. 
We are still talking with our friend from Brazil on Facebook, and he has continued reading the Book of Mormon although we haven't been able to meet with him again in person yet. 

I don't know if any of you have every played the impossible game on your TI-84 and 86 calculators, but it's the kind of game that actually has some parallels to missionary work and life in general. The actual game itself doesn't change but goes on infinitely. After playing the same first part of the game so many times you get really good, but you often forget that the next portion is new. Then, you forget the principles you just practiced a billion times and have to go back to the beginning. In missionary work, it is so easy to get into the everyday rut of just talking to people, but in order to reach our full potential you cannot just think you know everything, lay back, and relax. I have a testimony that constant, prayerful effort is constantly needed if you want to achieve anything of lasting worth in this work or in this life. 
I know just the same as when I left that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in God's Kingdom on the earth in these latter days. However, I have been humbled in many, many ways. 
Bennett, way to push through and make High School something great! You are so great in so many ways, and now you will have the rest of your life to continue to develop those skills!

Love you!
Elder Christensen

Monday, May 16, 2016

"Boys be Ambitious!!".

I heard a phrase from an 89 year-old son of God that stuck with me and echoed in my heart. We had just finished helping him carry his bag of books, which, since he was carrying a cane at the same time, was causing him some difficulties especially as he was trying to ascend a nearby staircase. He turned to us and after expressing his thanks he told us in a raised voice, "Boys be Ambitious!!". 
The next day during breakfast we watched a conference talk from April 1972 entitled "Know Thyself, Control Thyself, Give Thyself". I recommend that you watch it rather than read it. Reading just doesn't quite do it justice. As a missionary nearing his final 2 weeks, any other words could not have had greater impact on me than those did at this time. 
As we near the end of my service in any field, I am sometimes tempted to say something like this, "Self, you have worked pretty darn well up till now, and you deserve a rest. You've done your fair share and probably even more than your fair share. The end result won't even change that much. You have a guaranteed place in the hearts and minds of others." 
It is at times like these that I am reminded of the Savior's warning to such in Luke 12:20, "Thou fool, this night shall thy soul be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?" 
This work is not finished until the Lord comes himself and declares that it is.

The same man that we met ended up suddenly walking in to church on Sunday, which caught us completely by surprise, and expressed that he was simply filled with happiness and gratitude. 
(He also added "Girls be Ambitious" to the phrase for those who were worried)
He left the building telling us that he felt cleansed and full of joy. Now, I might be just an overexcited missionary, but I can testify that THAT is the power of the Atonement and the effect that the love of God has on those who are humble enough to let it into their hearts. 
Be diligent, be humble, be ambitious. 
Elder J is pushing right along, getting down to work, and never losing focus! He's a blast to be around and is always on top of what we need to be doing.

We've seen some incredible miracles this last week. By following an impression of the Spirit on Wednesday, we were led to meet a new friend from Brazil, he came to church yesterday and is a stand up young man!
I love you all!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

May 2, 2016 Home Stretch!

Ah yeah! Way to go Aaron! What's been the most fun part about driving so far?
Summer is definitely a great time to drive, but I feel a little bad for you that you don't get to drive the Mazda to school in the winter time. There was nothing quite like that car! 
It sounds like you avoided a stressful driving test :) I'm glad that you still remember it, Mom!
There's nothing more encouraging to oneself than seeing your driving instructor blowing up about how bad of a driver the last student was. I was confident in my ability, but no one likes to drive with the constant pressure of being berated for even the slightest mistake. It is not a good environment to learn. How was driving with Mr. Eiguren, Aaron? 

What a fantastic way to spend your last month as a senior, Bennet! It's kind of interesting how my last month as a missionary is at the same time as your last month. How does it feel to almost be done? Is there anything that you still want to do before the month is up? 
After high school, people tend to split up and go their separate ways, and on a mission, I'm not sure when I'll be coming back to Japan again. For the last few years, your classmates and teachers have been a huge part of your life, helped you get where you are now, and you've helped them get to where they are now. No matter where they go, and no matter where you go, don't forget them! Separating physically from those we love is necessary, but just keep doing your very best whatever your calling or position in life. Take lots of pictures for me! I love you!

Right now, in Fujisawa we're planning a talent show for the Saturday before I get on a plane to fly home, and I'm working with the other missionaries and some members in our ward to perform a piece and invite as many people as I can from my past areas to make it a night to remember. It will be a wonderful way to see my mission come full circle.

I have come to the sure knowledge that this church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints contains the fullness of Jesus Christ's gospel, the keys of the priesthood of God, a living prophet in Thomas S. Monson, and is the only church with the ordinances necessary to return to live with God again. I know these things of myself, and I have felt the Holy Ghost confirming to me that it is true. Please come and see!

Elder Christensen

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

April 26, 2016 E mail

April 26, 2016

Dear Mom,

Elder Johnson is too good of a person for me. Really! He is a second transfer missionary right not, but he is more than ready to tackle the many stresses and difficulties of being a missionary. He is focused and determined and willing to make good goals and to go for them. He has gone through his fair share of trials, which I was surprised and humbled to hear. I think I often forget how blessed I have been to grow in the situation that I did, but also I have grown in my respect and love for everyone who has made it where they have in spite of many mountains to climb. His faith in Christ is unshakeable, and his desire to share the gospel has been nourished and nurtured before entering the MTC. 
What sort of conversation did you have with his Mom?

I unfortunately don't have as much time to write as I would like, but to put it simply.
This transfer we are going to serve. We are going to serve until the very moment I get on the plane, and I fully intend to serve on the plane, in the airport, and until President Scoggins releases me. I love my Heavenly Father, and I know that He will fulfill all His promises to us. 

Elder Christensen

Monday, April 18, 2016

Back to Fujisawa - the final stretch!

Dear Mom,
Honestly, I have been about as in the dark as you can be about the earthquake news, and all the information I've heard has been second-hand. There really is a missionary bubble when it comes to world events, but one of the men we are teaching has a friend living in Kyushu, where the earthquake struck. That friend is currently living in their car since the roof to heir home caved in making it unsuitable for shelter. The missionaries in the Tokyo South Mission have been advised to double check their 72-hour kits and emergency water, but no other warnings have come so we're doing our best with the many blessings that we have been given.

It's finally down to the last six weeks of my time in Japan. And with the announcement of transfers this last Saturday, I've been asked to serve back in the Fujisawa Stake in an area I already hold dear to my heart although I've never served there personally. Fujisawa Area is home to the stake center and a culturally diverse population. My companion, Elder Johnson, is a second transfer missionary from North Ogden, Utah, and a lover of sports and of making the most of life. He, at the beginning of his 2 year mission, and me, nearing the end of mine, will be yoked together, so to speak, for the next 6 weeks. I pray that as we both serve every day with all our might, mind, and strength that our efforts will be guided by the Spirit so that we may touch, no, change the lives of many forever. We are all given only a short time on this earth, and it is completely up to us how we spend it.  I am so grateful to Sister Whitesides and the love-filled, inspired life she lived. I remember every Sunday she would sit in the back right corner of the chapel waiting to welcome us with the sweetest smile you've ever as seen we walked in the doors. For a kid like me, I feel like I was loved and cared for by this loving, daughter of God, and when I passed the sacrament as a deacon and as a teacher, she was still there, quietly taking the bread and water.  Her actions were small, but impactful. She has moved on to the next stage in this grand plan of happiness. 

Sister Gay Whitesides and Nancy, thank you for always welcoming into your home when I came by as a twelve and thirteen year old boy and for always giving fast offerings when I came by. I did not understand the importance of fast offerings at the time, nor did I give much thought to what I was doing, but as a young man learning his priesthood responsibilities, it was truly a priceless lesson.  My role really wasn't that big. I simply received the fast offering envelopes and walked to the houses I was assigned. Yours, Sister Erdman, Sister and Brother Jackson, and one other home that I can't remember, but they didn't speak to me much. Then, I turned that envelope in at church and went about my merry way. But, I can't help feel now that we were part of something bigger. That offering went to the Bishop who then used it to help others in need, perhaps in dire need. You were part of miracles, and you helped me be a part of it too. 

When you look at life from an eternal perspective, meaning, looking at life believing that that there is a purpose for why we are here and meaning to every action we make, it's amazing how much more meaningful life becomes. There is a purpose to our life, and that is to "prepare to meet God" (Alma 34:32). My membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has brought many, many blessings to my life and a joy, a happiness, that only get stronger as time passes and experienced gained. If you feel that your daily efforts just don't pay off as well as you hoped  and that things just don't seem to turn out as well as you had hoped, I invite you to meet with the missionaries, they can help!

I love this gospel, I love Japan, and I love you!
Elder Christensen

Monday, April 11, 2016

Quick note April 11, 2016

April 11,  2016

There is so much joy to be found in sharing the gospel! In the moment, it is almost always stressful and their is often anxiety, but afterwards we have done all that we can, I have a testimony that God works wonders.

I'm running out of email time, but I shared a story with Dad that really strengthened my testimony this week! 
Things are going well in Machida!
I love you!
Elder Christensen