Monday, December 29, 2014

Happy New Year! December 29, 2014

Dearest Family,
I'm so glad that everything went smoothly with Skype and that I was able to see all of your smiling faces and to be reminded of how fortunate I am to have such a loving, talented, good looking family. I definitely underestimated how emotional it would be, and the last few days have been pretty difficult as well. Most of my frustration comes from feeling like I have good goals but not seeing any way to accomplish them or being told that I'm not doing something right when I'm trying my hardest. Learning to deal with frustration and failure has been a big part of my mission so far, and even though I wish I didn't have to learn this lesson when salvation is on the line (no pressure right), I know deep down that this is what I need. There have been a ton of moments where I've been tempted to give in, not to go home or break any major rules, but to slacken my efforts, be a little less patient, and simply let life happen to me. I wish I could say that I've never given in, but that wouldn't be the truth. However, if there is one thing that I know, it's that I will eventually get back out there. This week we had some incredible miracles happen, whether I was on exchanges with the Assistants, giving a man from the Yakuza (Japanese mafia) a Book of Mormon, or meeting an incredible young kid on the street  and giving him a church tour. For all the little failures and mistakes that we make, we would do well to remember all of the times we succeed as well. I don't know if you've watched Meet the Mormons, but the final story really touched me and inspired me to learn to learn from the past but not live in it. For those of you who don't know, that story was about a missionary mom who as a young teenager had a young child, was homeless, family less, and without much hope in the world. Through a series of heaven sent events, she found the church, married, and has now sent her son to share the wonderful message that saved their lives. I plan to watch that movie many more times after my mission!
Nature has been one of the main things that I've missed on my mission so far, but as long as you get to  enjoy it for me, pictures will be enough.
Christmas here was another hard day of working, and caroling was both successful and awkward at the same time. Some of the people we caroled to weren't too enthused about us visiting, so thankfully we brought gifts as peace offerings! Still a wonderful experience, but I'm definitely grateful for the culture of caroling that exists in America.
One thing I study on Sunday was specifically the purpose of fasting, but also the purpose of all the many little rules and responsibilities we have in the church. As we discussed fasting, I remembered that even though I was hungry, fasting had a sort of cleansing effect and helped build my self control, at least with regards to food. We are commanded to be perfect, even as our Heavenly Father is perfect (see 3 Nephi), but that's a pretty impossible goal and impossible to know where to begin. Through commandments like fasting, tithing, the word of wisdom, sabbath day observance, service, education, we are gradually overcoming the various elements of the natural man and becoming more like God by setting smaller, more attainable goals. We are fighting laziness, ignorance, gluttony, greed, anger, impatience, and every other bad attribute and replacing them with Christ-like ones. So if anyone ever wants to overcome a bad habit or improve themselves, simply let them know about these simple, time-tested methods and let them try it out for themselves. 
With love,
Elder Christensen
Odawara District

mission Christmas Conference

Monday, December 22, 2014

December 22, 2014

Snow hasn't quite come yet so I'm still waiting
for Christmas to come here in Japan! We don't go down to the beach as
much as we probably could, but in Japan there are never a shortage of
people no matter where you go. If we were to talk to every single
person, we wouldn't really even move much (I've actually experimented
several times :) ) Once we spent an hour and a half moving about 200
yards. I don't have any beach pictures yet, but I will include the
castle and a pretty amazing picture of Mt. Fuji when I went on splits
with Elder F in Hiratsuka!
Okinawa is in the Fukuoka Mission! I still haven't heard much about it
from Elder N but I'll do my best!
Our branch president was just moving nearby, but he actually doesn't
live in our area! Many of the members are called to come here to
strengthen the branch.
There is so much I want to say, but time is pretty short again today
since we went to lunch with a less active sister and are preparing to
go caroling again!
Yesterday was one of the most incredible days of my mission, and once
again it took until the very end of the day. The entire day we spent
caroling and visiting investigators and less active members, although
most of them weren't home. However, I had been making a goal to listen
more to the Spirit during the day so I tried acting every time I felt
something I thought was a prompting. At first it was to house in an
area around a member's home after a carol even though time was tight.
The other elders found a man who said they could come back and share
their message. Then, I began talking to a couple, but the husband left
so I was left with the wife. The sisters came over and struck up a
conversation, and she gave them her email and even said we should call
her mama because we are all so young. I felt kind of disappointed
because I had yet to have someone ask to meet with me (I know it's
selfish but that's how I felt). I kept talking to people as much as I
could, and the very last man I spoke to listened to everything we had
to offer about the a Book of Mormon and Prayer and agreed to meet next
Sunday after he come to church. He told me afterwards that he had
recently been wondering about religion since many Japanese people say
they are Buddhist but their beliefs don't really affect their actions.
He said that he desires the kind of faith that changes people's lives.
God is mindful of us. He knows our thoughts and the desires of our
hearts. He has promised that he will bless us for our efforts, and I
testify that this is true. If we seek after Him with all of our might,
mind, and strength, we will find Him, and it will truly be glorious.
This Christmas and next year, let us seek after Him in all that we do.

I love you all so much! Don't spoil the Hobbit for me either!
Elder Christensen

Castle in Odawara

Monday, December 15, 2014

December 14, 2014

Sometimes, it's still just difficult to manage time so we ran out of
normal time last P-Day before we even realized it, and this week we
spent the day helping our Branch President move into a new house so
time is pretty tight today as well. I want so badly to let you and
everyone know how much I love you and want to help you all as best as
I can.
We normally walk or ride our bikes still! I actually sent my bike
through a transport service offered by the mission so that was pretty
The scriptures have become a regular source of strength for me so
those gifts are truly invaluable! The Branch is small, but the members
have fiery strength and a powerful love of the gospel. They don't have
a choir, but they are anxiously engaged in helping the missionaries
and there's a caroling activity coming up which I'm so excited for!
With busy schedules it's difficult to coordinate effectively, but I'm
learning as I go and doing better than before!

I didn't see Mr. Carswell, but if anyone comes to Odawara let me know!
Elder N is a convert of several years, but neither of his
parents are members yet. They are still supportive, which I'm sure is
a source of comfort to him! He's from the lovely Fukuoka, Japan area,
although many Japanese missionaries go to Hawaii and California too!

Today has been pretty short on time, and although teaching
opportunities are still few in number, we saw several miracles that
stood out in my mind. One came has we were contacting on a small street, and
we saw a small alcove with a few old, rusty looking doors. It appeared
as though no one would possibly live there, but we went anyway. In one
of the apartments, lived a small old woman who had received church
pamphlets many times, but had never met missionaries before. We
visited again today with the sisters, and she had already begun
reading the Book of Mormon and agreed to take lessons starting this week.
 I have yet to see a lack of miracles when we have really
apply ourselves and push through even the hard days. The gospel of
Jesus Christ is real, and I testify with all the energy of my soul
that all people, no matter their religious, monetary, or social
background, can find the happiness and joy that they are searching for
if they are simply willing to test out our message to come and see. No
matter when and no matter where we will welcome you with open arms and
loving hearts!

I love you all! Congrats Aaron, keep making me proud!
Elder Christensen
rainbow in Odawara

Thursday, December 11, 2014

December 11, 2014 e-mail from Odawara

I'm so sorry! Yesterday was our temple P-Day,  but since it's so much
farther than Hachioji we spent around 4 hours on trains and didn't end
up having any time to email before we started proselyting for the day.
I wasn't entirely sure if I should email even though it wasn't P-Day,
and I had originally planned to just write next week.
Elder Nishidome and I were thinking about calling on our Friday during
the earlier part of the day, which will still be on Christmas Day for
you guys! We haven't picked a specific time yet, but is that ok?
There are gifts for Amanda and Blake in the package as well, but they
are Christmas gifts so you should probably wait :) I got your package
with the advent calendar gifts, and I have to say that it's been a
highlight of my December to open them with my companion and share the
scriptures with each other. I've been able to share the blessings of
American gifts with the people of Japan so thank you! I haven't
received the gift from Blake and Amanda yet, but there is a Christmas
conference at the mission home during Christmas week so I'll probably
get it then.
I just want to say thank you for sending such wonderful stories about
Grandpa and his amazing life experiences. I've come to treasure them
and the other stories of our ancestors so much recently!

There have been so many new things to do, the new apartment (which is
an actual house with an elevator) was a mess, and we had a lot of
organizing information that needed to get done so our minds have been
all over the place.This last week was a whirlwind of new events and a
lot of reevaluating, but I think I'm starting to get the hang of
things again now! The branch here in Odawara consists of around 25
active members and a decently sized group of less active members. We
have 6 missionaries working here, 4 elders and 2 sisters. Progressing
investigators are few, and we don't have many potential investigators
to work with, which means we are doing a lot of finding! The setting
here in Odawara is completely different from Hachioji. We have a giant
Japanese castle, a beach, and a very spread out population, which
means that tracking has usually been the most effective form of
contacting. I've found that I've gotten a lot better at boldly
inviting the people that we contact to take steps of faith, but I
frequently feel like the invitations aren't personally tailored to
each person. Each person is a unique individual with years of life
experience that defines who they are and how they act, and by myself,
there is no possible way I could find out enough about a random person
in 5 minutes of conversation. In essence, the  Holy Ghost is the means
by which we can come to understand these people and their needs, but
as with all things, it's easier said than done. Listening to the
quiet, subtle promptings of the Spirit is a skill that takes patience,
diligence, faith, and obedience. In a bustling place like Japan,
recognizing the Spirit has been a struggle unlike any other. You are
surrounded by people, but feel very alone in the midst, and I
frequently wonder how I can possibly talk to all of them. The answer
thus far has been one by one. Whether it's playing basketball with
high school kids, talking to fishermen on the beach, streeting in a
crowded market, there are opportunities everywhere to talk to people,
and we just have to be willing to step out of our comfort zone and be
bold, tempered with love. In the end, we decide the kind of missionary
that we become by the effort that we put into our work. As members,
the only thing stopping us from opening our mouths and sharing the
gospel are the barriers we create ourselves. However, we can change,
and we can help other people change as well! First, we lay down our
"weapons of rebellion" and our preconceived notions of knowledge and
let the power of Christ's Love and Atonement first cleanse and then
empower us with blessings from on high. For God's ways are higher than
our ways, and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. We now see
through a glass darkly, but with His guidance, face to face.
Sorry again for making you wait, but I hope you know how much I love you all!

Elder Christensen
1. Christmas in Japan
2. Playing some ball

Monday, December 1, 2014

Why I otta go to Odawara........ December 1, 2014

Dear family,

Your thanksgiving looked like a blast with all the family members! I'm
so happy that you get to spend so much time together, even if I only
get to share in the joy vicariously.
The time difference is 16 hours, and we get to choose the time when we
can call during the week of the 22-26 so I might just call you on the
evening of the 25 in Boise. I'll talk with my companion when I
transfer and we can work out a good time for all of us! I sent you all
a gift too so hopefully you get it before Christmas!

First of all, I will be transferring out of Hachioji for the first
time and heading over to a town called Odawara to be with Elder
N my first Japanese companion. I guess this means only
Japanese speaking from now on, so that's pretty scary, but it's also a
great opportunity to learn and grow! For Mom, Dad, Amanda, and Blake,
Did you have native speaking companions? How was it?
We had interviews with our mission president, and he told me that I
need to be bold in my invitations with new people, potential
investigators, and investigators, which is something I've struggled
with my whole life. I am just not comfortable being up front when
asking people to do things, but as I've tried to stretch myself beyond
my own doubts, I've seen the truth of that advice and hope to continue
to improve! One of our potential investigators agreed to take lessons
from the missionaries, and even though I won't be able to teach him
since I'm transferring, I hope to keep in contact with him and help
him as best as I can!

One more miracle! Housing normally hasn't been very successful in
Japan up this point, but I know that there are still prepared people
to be found. We were returning from visit is less active and I noticed
a home with a ton of Christmas decorations. In Japan, that's pretty
rare so I decided to go check it out. They weren't home, but I
remembered some advice in PMG that sometimes we are led to certain
people and homes, but there neighbors, etc. are the ones who are
prepared so I knocked on the next house over. Long story short, a
single mother and a 3 year old son answered, and they agreed to let
the sister missionaries return and teach them. It truly was a tender
mercy and a miracle!

I'm so grateful that I get to have such an amazing family to learn
from and to share my experiences with!

Love, Love, Love,
Elder Christensen

 Boy Scouts in Japan at an Emergency Training activity