Thursday, December 20, 2012

A life changing experience

The end of Christopher's mission is coming close.  Christopher actually had the choice of coming home at the beginning of December to get ready for school and Christmas or staying one more month and finishing out his two years.  He is loving his mission so much, that he decided that he didn't want to cut anything short.  I am sure that the people that he has taught and baptized in the last couple of weeks are also grateful that Christopher decided to stay as well.  He will miss his birthday and Christmas at home, but they are just one of many birthdays and Christmas's that we will all have together.  This last month is the last month Christopher will have as a missionary and so spending it in the mission field is the better choice.

Christopher has shared a lot of personal stories about some of the people that he and his companion have taught recently.  I won't go into the details here but as Christopher reminds us every week in his letters, miracles are happening all of the time.  For example, one of the things that Christopher and his companion have been doing is trying to find some of the less active people in the Ward who they have not heard from for quite a while.  In some of their most recent contacts, the person that they were actually looking for had moved but the person who lives at the location now, has been interested in learning more about the gospel.  These kinds of contacts have turned out to be some of the best teaching experiences that they have had.  Some of the people have even listened to the spirit and have decided to attend church and even be baptized as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Another example was a family that had attended a neighborhood party with some of the families that are members of the Ward.  Christopher and his companion were also at the party but did not want to seem too over-bearing with regards to many of the neighbors who were there to just have fun.  Christopher had wanted to speak with one family all night long but just did not have the chance to really get beyond just some simple chit-chat.  Later on that evening and the next day in his prayers, Christopher had asked to find a way to be able to introduce the gospel to this family.  Well, both Christopher and his companion had just received a few new referral cards from Salt Lake with the names and addresses of people that had expressed interest in hearing more about the Church.  As Christopher looked at the names, the one that popped out was the name of the people who he had just met a couple of nights before.  Of course that was their miracle opportunity which allowed these missionaries to teach and share the gospel.  As Christopher put it in his letter, "A miracle?  I think so!!". 

Christopher and his companion recently got the opportunity to attend the temple twice in one week.  Attending the temple as a missionary isn't as common as one might think.  Since the missionaries have a calling to be missionaries, most of their time is spent doing missionary work rather than temple work.  One of the temple sessions that they attended was a sealing of a couple who had recently joined the Church.  Christopher said that going to the temple that week was really an eye opening experience for him.  Not so much because there was anything new at the temple but more for the new things that he discovered in himself by being in the temple.  He told us that over the last two years as a missionary, he feels that so many things have changed in his life.  Being a missionary has been one of the greatest things that he has ever done.  From the many things that Christopher has said about his mission experience, I really believe that he is going to have a hard time coming home in the next couple of weeks.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Walking in the foot steps of a prophet

In the past month a lot has happened to Christopher as he is serving in Penn Yan.  Christopher is still a zone leader but he is also now a trainer as well.  Being a trainer for his last couple of months, he obviously also has a new companion.  So instead of both of the zone leaders in the area being companions, Christopher's mission president decided to split them up and allow them to use their experience to help train some of the new missionaries.  Christopher and his companion have seen several new baptisms over the last month and has been very excited about the decision that each one of them has made to be baptized members of the church.

A few weeks ago Christopher sent us a letter which included a very cool story.  The way that Christopher described it, "So this is probably the coolest thing we did".   You probably remember through church history that the night of September 21st was the first time that the angel Moroni visited Joseph Smith.  Then on September 22nd, Joseph Smith went to the Hill Cumorah and saw the plates for the first time.  At that time, Joseph was told not to take the plates from the hill side but to visit the place where the plates were buried, each year for the next four years.  So how does this story relate to Christopher and his experience.  Well, just last month on September 22nd, Christopher and about 12 other missionaries (mostly senior couples) and led by the mission President, made the same walk that Joseph would have made from the Smith home to the Hill Cumorah.  When they arrived at the hill side, President Christensen took them all on a very detailed tour of the area showing them all of the landmarks and talking about all of the events that happened there.  President Christensen told them about a 450 year old Sugar Maple tree that is still growing on the hill.  This tree is oldest tree in New York and likely the oldest in North America.  He told them that he feels that this place was most likely the place where the plates were buried and the place that Joseph visited on the same day for four years as he was instructed to do.  I'm sure that there was a lot more that was talked about during their walk around the Hill Cumorah and Christopher will probably have a lot more to tell us when he gets home.  But what a great experience.  An experience that only a few will ever have.


The stories don't end there however.  Just a few weeks later Christopher told us about a district meeting that they held at the John Young home.  For all of you who don't know who John Young was, he was the father of President Brigham Young.  They stayed there and toured around Mendon, NY which is also the birth place of Heber C Kimball.  They visited the site where Brigham Young and about 35 others were baptized.  They toured the Tomlinson Inn where Samuel Smith first gave a Book of Mormon to Phinaeus Young who then gave it to John and Brigham Young.  They visited the cemetery where Brigham Young's first wife was buried and then rounded out the meeting back at the John Young home.  How many missionaries can say that they had a district meeting this cool.

Christopher also had a chance to travel back to Arcade where he had spent several months serving.  He went there to attend the wedding of a couple that he had taught before he left the area.  During his visit there he was able to see a lot of the people that he had worked with and served.  Especially one of the senior couples in the area that he especially loves and admires.  Christopher was very excited to find out that the Arcade area is still doing very well and that there were six more baptisms scheduled in the coming weeks.  The branch there is still doing great and the members are as helpful and supportive of the missionaries as they have always been.  Christopher said that the Arcade area was probably one of the best places that he had ever served.

Most of the letters that Christopher sends home include personal stories of the people that he and his companion are teaching.  I won't include the stories here, but they are great.  Stories about meeting and talking with people just by chance and having them literally ask for a copy of the Book of Mormon.  People truly wanting to know more about the church after having read a little bit about the church and people who thought that the church really didn't have much for them, changing their whole lives so that they could be baptized.  Christopher can't believe that he is down to his last two months of his mission.  We can't believe it either.  The time has gone so fast. 


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Learning the right lessons from the scriptures

Penn Yan seems to be the place to be these days.  That is what Christopher has been telling us.  Over the last several weeks, Christopher and his companion have had a lot of success.  Christopher has told us all about many of the people that they are currently teaching and just how excited he is about some of the baptisms that have taken place and others that are coming up.  Christopher wrote us a few weeks ago and told us that many of their investigators have come to church and are preparing themselves for baptism.  At that point in time, transfers were coming up and he was really hoping that he would stay in Penn Yan.  Thankfully, transfers came and went and he and his companion are still together in Penn Yan. 

Of course, one of Christopher's favorite things to do and one of the advantages of serving a mission in upstate New York is that they can take their investigators to the Sacred Grove.  Being so close to many of the church historical sites allows them to actually show people where all of the events that they teach them about, actually happened.  Imagine serving a mission where you can teach people about Joseph Smith and the first vision and then take them to the place where it happened.  There is only one mission where that can happen and that mission is right where Christopher is serving.  Talk about the ultimate object lesson!

Music is still a big part of Christopher's life and has been a big part of his missionary life as well.  In one of the previous blog entries, I posted a link to a video of Christopher and his companion playing guitar at a backyard BBQ.  Well, both Christopher and his companion have continued to use their talents in the same way.  They have been planning a BBQ, movie and music night at the church building and spent a lot of time contacting members of the church in the area to tell them about it.  They also let all of the other missionaries in the area know so that they could bring the people that they have been teaching.  When the night finally came, Christopher said that they probably had more non-members of the church there than they did members.  Some of their friends from a nearby Methodist church came to play some music and then after dinner, they showed "Finding Faith In Christ" on an outside movie screen.  Christopher said that most of the people stayed for not only the music and dinner, but also for the movie afterwards.  He said that the whole night went really well and that everybody seemed to really enjoy it.

In Christopher's last email, he told us all about the greatest day and also the worst day of his mission.  They just happened to be the same day.  It was the greatest day because one of the people that they have been teaching for the past several week, was finally baptized and confirmed a member of the church.  They also set a baptismal date for another one of their investigators with whom both Christopher and his companion have been working very closely.  Those kinds of days are always the greatest.  But then Christopher told us about something else that happened that day which wasn't quite so great.

Christopher said that they had been approached by a guy that was an Evangelical Christian.  This man told them that he wanted to take them to lunch and talk about Jesus.  Christopher was a little apprehensive because something like that usually means that they are really looking for a Bible bash.  At first this man acted really nice towards Christopher and his companion, but then as they started to talk, all of the anti-mormon stuff came out.  This man told Christopher and his companion that they needed to stop doing what they were doing or they would go to hell.  After it was all over, both Christopher and his companion felt awful.  What made them feel so terrible was the fact that this man spent all of his time trying to tear others down rather than using his knowledge of the scriptures to build people up.  The most interesting part of this whole experience was the analogy that Christopher drew between this man's actions and the practices of the Pharisees of the New Testament.  If you recall, the Pharisees of the New Testament would spend their time planning how they would attack the Savior and his teachings.  They would approach the Savior and ask seemingly innocent yet very deceptive questions in hopes that they would be able to catch Jesus in some kind of lie.  Of course they were never very successful at this tactic mainly because the Savior could see right through them from the beginning.  Christopher pointed out that the practices of the Pharisees and those of this man, were very much the same.  He approached these missionaries in a very deceptive manner with the intentions of contention rather than love.  I guess there are all kinds of lessons that can be learned from the scriptures.  This man seemed to be more interested in learning from the Pharisees than he was learning from the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Despite all of that, Christopher said that overall, their week and especially that day was still one of the greatest of his mission.  In fact as Christopher is working through the last few months of his mission, the days and weeks just get better and better.  The only problem, according to Christopher, is that they are also going by too fast.  Oh did I mention, Christopher's release date is January 2nd.  Just a few months away.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Good news from the mission

Being a zone leader is one of the best things that has happened to Christopher.  He told us that in one of his letters that we received several weeks ago.  Christopher said that he loves the extra responsibility and loves having the opportunity to teach and share his testimony with the other missionaries in his zone.  He told us all about his first zone leader's conferences that he and his companion attended.  It was a day where all of the zone leaders got together to discuss what is happening in each part of the mission.  As zone leaders they talk about what is going on and spend time coming up with new ideas on how to be more productive as missionaries.  Zone leader's conference is also a time when the mission president has an opportunity to speak with the zone leaders and teach them gospel principles.  Christopher said that he really enjoyed attending zone leader's conference and really looks forward to putting into practice all of the things that he learned.

Recently both Christopher and his companion spent a very busy Sunday taking care of just about everything.  During the entire three hours, both of them seemed to be very busy in one way or another.  The meetings started out with Christopher and his companion speaking in church.  They were assigned the topic of commandments and Christopher choose "Love" since that is the greatest commandment of them all.  He didn't give us a lot of details about his talk but he said that he felt it went very well.  Then after Sacrament meeting ended, Christopher and his companion were asked to teach the Gospel Principles class.  And finally during the third hour, they both taught the young men's class since one of the leaders couldn't make it that week.  So it was a Sunday of two missionaries doing what they do best.  Teaching the Gospel to others.

Well, after a day filled with missionary work and teaching the Gospel, and I am sure their entire week was no different, one of the things that Christopher and his companion like to do is play a little tennis on P-Day.  The problem is that they are both a little crazy when they play tennis.  In fact, as of a couple of weeks ago, their tennis play had to be put on hold because they ran out of rackets.  Over the last month they had been able to round up 4 different tennis rackets and over that same period, they had succeeded in breaking the strings on all 4 rackets. Now they are stuck with broken rackets and no way to get them fixed.  According to Christopher, the nearest repair shop is in Rochester and that is much too far away.  So until they are able to find another solution, their tennis playing days are on hold.  From the looks of this picture, I'm not sure if their problem is just broken strings or maybe taking out the frustration of losing a game on the racket instead of the ball.

Christopher was really excited for the Hill Cumorah Pageant to begin and the time was finally here.  Christopher told us that he had already been twice and planned on going at least five times more.  In his letter, Christopher said that he feels sorry for other missionaries who do not have a Hill Cumorah Pageant or Sacred Grove in their mission because those places are so amazing.  There are so many people who come to the Pageant every day just to feel the spirit and learn of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. 

Speaking of all of the people who attend the Hill Cumorah Pageant, we had another interesting thing happen in our family related to that.  As a family we were all attending a missionary homecoming of a friend our second son.  After the meeting was over, our daughter received a text message from one of her high school friends.  Attached to the text message was a picture of her, her husband along with Christopher and his companion.  Our daughter as well as her friend had graduated from high school with Christopher's companion so she obviously knew him and knew Christopher sister as well.  Anyway, we were really excited to see the picture of Christopher that was taken just the night before.

Besides attending to all of the extra responsibilities of a zone leader, Christopher and his companion have been doing a lot of tracting and teaching of their own.  Christopher has told us all about some of the people that they are currently teaching and just how well many of the lessons have gone.  Some of the stories that he has told us involve just teaching by the spirit.  There was a recent experience where Christopher felt like they should just listen to the questions that were being asked and answer them by the spirit rather than teach a formal lesson.  Christopher said that this was probably one of the best lessons that they had ever taught even though they weren't actually teaching a formal lesson.  He felt like they were being guided in how to answer the questions and what to say in order for them to be well understood.

In addition to tennis, both Christopher and his companion are very musical.  Music has really played a big part throughout Christopher's mission and recently they both had the opportunity to share their talents with a group of people from the local Methodist church.  Christopher and his companion attended a backyard dinner with this group and decided to entertain them with a John Meyer song.  One of the group members recorded the song and ended up posting it on Youtube.  We were pretty amazed when we saw this video because we had really never heard Christopher sing before.  So if you haven't already seen this video, and I am sure you probably have since his mother practically emailed it to the world, well here is your chance to see it and be amazed as we were.

Things are going really well in Penn Yann according to Christopher.  In his most recent letter he told us about attending his second zone leader's conference and just how great that was.  He also told us just how excited he was because they finally had a baptism in the branch.  He also said that they are currently teaching a lot of really good people and hoping and praying that they will receive and accept the message that they are sharing.  I told you in the last blog entry that there is a couple from our Ward here in Utah that are serving a mission in Rochester as well and that Christopher is their zone leader.  Well we received a phone call last week from this couple just to tell us all about the zone meeting that Christopher and his companion conducted the day before.  They told us all about how well it went and just how impressed they were with Christopher and his abilities.  As parents, it is always great to hear good news from the mission.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

New area and new responsibilities

A lot has happened with Christopher over the last several weeks.  Unfortunately, we don't know most of the details.  We have received several short emails from Christopher and he keeps telling us that a lot is going on but he hasn't had time to write us about it.  So here is what we know.

About three weeks ago Christopher was finally transferred out of Arcade to a town called Penn Yan.  This is a little town just southwest of Rochester in the Finger Lakes area of New York.  Along with this transfer, he obviously has a new companion now and a new responsibility.  Both Christopher and his companion are new zone leaders in this area.  They were double transferred in to Penn Yan which means that neither one had been a zone leader before and neither one had served in this area before.  So both of them are starting out with a new companion, new area and new leadership responsibilities.

There is also kind of a "it's a small world" story between Christopher and his new companion.  Follow closely here as I try to explain how these two missionaries have known each other for years even though they had never really met before.  First of all Christopher grew up in Pleasant Grove, Utah and his companion grew up not too far away in a neighboring city.  But that isn't really the interesting part of this story.  Christopher has a younger brother who recently returned home after serving his mission in Independence Missouri.  While Christopher's younger brother was in high school several years back, he dated a girl who also attended the same high school and grew up not too far away in a neighboring city.  If you caught the subtle hint here, both Christopher's younger brother's former girlfriend and Christopher's companion's older sister, are the same person.  How's that for an interesting coincidence?  Anyway, Christopher has told us in almost every email that he has sent one since the transfer, just how great both he and his companion get along and just how busy they have both been.

So here is another little "it's a small world" tidbit as well.  Just recently a senior couple in our Ward was called to serve a six month mission.  It just so happened that this couple was called to serve in the same mission as Christopher, in the Rochester, New York mission.  Since this couple will only be serving for six months, they will be serving for the last six months of Christopher's mission and will probably return home at the same time as Christopher.  Oh, but the story gets better.  Christopher told us in one of his recent and very short emails, that with his new calling as zone leader in Penn Yan, he is also the zone leader over the couple from our Ward.  The way we see it, the Prophet just needs to call a few more Pleasant Grove missionaries out to Rochester, New York and the Penn Yan zone would be great place for a PG missionary blitz. 

Christopher did include one short story in his last email right after he told us again how busy things have been and how little time he now has to write home. Just to give you an idea of why he has been so busy, Christopher told us that their new area is actually quite large in comparison to other areas in the mission and that not a lot of missionary work has taken place there recently.  Christopher told us that just in the last couple of weeks, both he and his companion have picked up somewhere between 20 to 25 new investigators which means they must be doing a lot of contacting, tracting and teaching.  But that isn't the story that I promised at the beginning of this paragraph.  Christopher told us that both he and his companion have made friends with a group of older folks from a Methodist church.  He said that this group likes to do a lot of things together including weekly bible study.  Well a week or so ago, this group invited Christopher and his companion to go out to dinner with about 20 members of the group.  Christopher said that it was a lot of fun and that the members of this group are such great people who get involved with all kinds of community activities.  As a result, Christopher said that he and his companion will be getting involved doing some volunteer work with this group which is a great way to show how people of all faiths can come together for the greater good of the community.

So there you have it.  You now know just about as much as we know about what has been going on with Christopher over the last few weeks.  It seems that things have become much busier for Christopher which is a really good thing.  The best thing that can happen to a missionary is for him to wear himself out doing the work.  And that seems to be what Christopher is doing now.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Being fishers of men... and fish

Transfers are coming up soon and Christopher has a feeling that there might be a change in the wind.  The fact that he has been serving in Arcade for the last six months and the fact that he has had the same companion for four and a half of the six months, is probably a good clue.  Christopher has told us that he doesn't know if he will get transferred to another area or if he will get a new companion.  By this time next week, we'll see what happens. 

It has been stated many times on this blog that Christopher has told us just how much he loves Arcade and the members of the Branch there.  Both Christopher and his companion have had some really good success and the blessings are still flowing.  This last week they had another baptism which totals up to be about eleven baptisms in the last six months.  Christopher also said that they are currently working with some really good people now and hopes that they progress as well.

The members of the Branch have been really good to help the missionaries.  Christopher told us that they have been teaching some of their investigators at one of the member's homes in the area.  Not too long ago they had an appointment set up to teach at the member's home but the person that they were to teach, was running a little late.  The family who owns the house lives right on a lake.  So, while they waited for their investigator to arrive, Christopher went out in the backyard of the home to take a closer look at the lake.  The first thing that he noticed was that this lake seemed to have a lot of fish swimming around.  So, Christopher decided to do a little fishing.  Of course being missionaries, he didn't really have a fishing pole handy so he started looking around to see if he could find a net or something.  As it turned out, there just happened to be an old fishing pole with a rusty old hook still attached, just under the deck.  That seemed to solved the fishing equipment problem, but what about bait?  Well, it wasn't long before he solved that problem as well.  Like every fisherman knows, old stale pizza fresh out of the garbage works perfect for bait.  They baited up the hook with some pizza bits and before you know it, they were catching fish faster than you could imagine.  Apparently the fish in this lake must be tired of the bugs and worms around the shore so when they got a good look at the old pizza bits, they just couldn't resist.  Of course Christopher had to send us some pictures, so here you go.

Oh but the story doesn't end there.  They were so successful catching fish with pizza bits, that they decided to try it again.  The result was something even bigger.  Take a look.

From the looks of it, Christopher and his companion will be eating a lot of fish for the next few weeks.  I think we better send him some good fish recipes.

In Christopher's last letter home he talked about all of the work that he and his companion have to do in order to make sure that they stay busy and use their time as effectively as possible.  Christopher told us that they spent a lot of time over the last week making a lot of phone calls and planning out who they were going to see and what lessons they had to teach.  From what he said, all of the hard work really panned out.  Christopher said that during the week, they had a lot of teaching appointments lined up and they would probably be busier than they have ever been.  In fact, they were so busy that they skipped their P-day so that they could spend the time teaching and working.  But as a missionary, being too busy is a good problem to have.  Then to follow that up, Christopher said that they had a zone conference in the Sacred Grove as well.  The speakers at the conference were Alex Boye of the Tabernacle Choir and Elder Duncan of the First Quorum of the Seventy.  Christopher said that it was just an amazing day.

Needless to say that a lot of good things are happening with Christopher right now.  He is down to his last six months of his mission and he realizes that the time is going by fast.  With the Hill Cumorah Pageant coming up in July, he is kind of hoping to be moved to an area that is a little closer to the Pageant.  But, we'll see.  He just wants to be able to spent his time serving well.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day is a time when missionaries call home

Transfers came and went and Christopher is still in Arcade, New York with the same companion.  By the end of this transfer both Christopher and his companion will have  been together about six months in the same area.  But given the fact that they have been very successful in Arcade, staying together for another transfer is probably a good thing.  So far, Christopher and his companion have had ten baptisms in the Freedom Branch in Arcade and they are hoping to have at least a couple more in the next few weeks.  In fact, Christopher told us that the Branch President called Christopher's Mission President to request that he keep Christopher and his companion in the Branch for a little while longer.  Hopefully things will go as well this transfer as they have in the past and they will be able to continue having success. 

Today, being Mother's Day, Christopher was able to call home and we were able to talk to him for a little over an hour.  Again, Christopher told us just how much he loves being in Arcade and how well he and his companion have been doing there.  Christopher told us that Arcade has definitely been his favorite assignment in the mission so far and that his current companion has been his favorite.  There is an interesting twist to this companionship however.  Christopher's companion is mildly autistic and at times this has proven to be very frustrating for both of them.  There are a lot of stories that Christopher has shared with us that I won't include here.  But they are stories about some of their good times, frustrating times, humorous times and progression.  Both Christopher and his companion have both learned a lot from this companionship which has caused them both to progress in the Gospel and in life lessons in many different ways.  This is actually the main reason why Christopher also requested that his Mission President leave them together for another transfer as well.  Their time together as been very rough at times, but the blessings and lessons learned, have been worth it all and more.

Speaking of companionships, Christopher told us a funny story recently about he and his companion.  For those that know Christopher, he has always liked to "dress to impress".  Well, his companion has kind of a different view point when it comes to style and dress.  Christopher told us that after a lot of convincing he was finally able to talk his companion into changing up his style with a new hair cut.  Apparently his previous hair style was a bit military and just wasn't quite up to date, so a change was in order.  To say the least, once his companion decided that he would try out a new hair cut, people really noticed and it seemed to make a big difference.  After the hair style change, the next thing on the agenda was his style of clothes.  According to Christopher, this change basically came purely by accident.  A few weeks ago both Christopher and his companion decided that it was time to take their suits into the dry cleaners.  Of course, they usually only wear their full suits to special meetings such has Sunday meetings or mission conferences.  The rest of the week they just where the normal missionary white shirt and tie.  The problem was that Christopher's companion's suit didn't come back from the dry cleaners in time for the Sunday meetings and fireside that was scheduled for the next day.  Since Christopher's companion only had one suit, this left him without a suit for the meetings.  That Saturday night while Christopher was in the front room reading, his companion walked out wearing this navy blue suite that seemed to fit him perfectly.  The strange thing about it was that it was a suit that Christopher had never seen before and he wondered where it came from.  As it turned out, a previous missionary who had served in the area, had left the suit in the back of the closet after he had transferred to another area.  Christopher said that his companion looked great in this new suit and that it fit so well you would have thought that the suit was tailor made just for him.  The next day when they attended the fireside at the Church, Christopher's companion, sporting his new hair cut and suit, received all kinds of attention by all of the other missionaries.  The Sister missionaries especially loved the new look and even the Mission President commented on just how great Christopher's companion looked and told him that he should stick with this new style.  Leave it to Christopher to make sure that his companion gets GQ'ed up and is "dressed to impress".

Being a missionary and serving in places that might be new and different, presents all kind of unique experiences.  Many if not most of these experiences are once in a lifetime types of things.  In one of Christopher's recent letters home he told us all about one of these experiences.
"So this week I had an extremely unique experience...... I saw a pig be castrated..... it was really something and I can't believe how loud those things can squeal!!!! I actually felt really bad for the poor pig, he looked absolutely terrible after the whole thing was over. But ya, it was really something. That's just how out in the middle of nowhere we are! haha I'm sure I'll probably never see something like that ever again. So that's probably the highlight of the week! haha I also milked a goat this week too! That was pretty fun and another one of those things I might never again do. This coming week we are going to help out on a dairy farm, so that should be fun as well!"
OK, so maybe these weren't the most spiritual experiences that a missionary might have, but they were once in a lifetime experiences none the less. 

Speaking of unique experiences, Christopher also told us about a trip to the Palmyra temple with the youth and several other members of the Branch in his area.  The Palmyra temple is a smaller temple and usually does not have enough people to staff everything like some of the larger temples.  Therefore, they were required to handle just about everything that needed to be done in the baptistery from actually performing the baptisms for the dead, to confirmations, to acting as witnesses and making sure that everything was recorded correctly.  Christopher told us just how special this experience was especially when several of the Branch members brought names of their ancestors in order to perform the temple work for their own family members who had passed on.  Here is an example of another once in a lifetime experience.  To be performing temple work in the heart of the area where the Church was restored is truly unique. 

Anyway, it was great to talk with Christopher on Mother's Day and I know that he was really excited as well.  He sounded really good which has also been reflected in many of the letters that he has set home over the past several months.  His time in Arcade has really been a turning point in his mission and a great learning experience as well.  This will probably be the last time that Christopher is able to call home before he actually completes his mission.  Our hopes and prayers are that the last six months of his mission are just as successful as the previous six months have been. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Teaching about the restoration from right where it all happened

Just when you think that things for Christopher can't really get any better, he sends home a great letter telling us all about how great his week has gone.  In one of his recent letters home, he told us about receiving a phone call from his Branch President with some good news about the progress that a few investigators have made and their decisions to be baptized. He also told us about how great the Branch is where he is serving and how good they are about fellowshipping new members of the Church and introducing their friends and neighbors to the Gospel. All of this has done as much to help Christopher to learn and grow as it has the people that he and his companion have been teaching.  In his letter he said:

"I can't even express to you how grateful I am that I came on this mission! I had no idea what I had before I came out here. I didn't realize what the Book of Mormon truly was, what having a prophet and apostles on the earth really meant, what modern revelation means for me in my life and how knowing the truth could give me everything I've ever wanted. In the beginning I thought the end couldn't come soon enough, but now I feel like time is slipping away and I know I'm going to miss this so much. It's been an incredible experience and I'll never get to do anything quite like this ever again. I can honestly say now that I love my mission and that it means everything to me."
Christopher shared with us an experience that no other missionary in any other mission gets to have.  He told us that serving in the mission where the Sacred Grove is located provides them with a unique opportunity.  For any of you who have served a mission in the past, you can probably still repeat the first lesson which is all about the first vision, Joseph Smith and the restoration.  The lesson talks about how Joseph Smith was seeking very earnestly to know which church he should join.  Then after having read in the Bible that he should ask God and that God will answer his prayers, Joseph decided to go to a nearby grove of trees to pray.  We know this grove of trees as the Sacred Grove.  Being so close to the Sacred Grove, Christopher is able to not only teach the first lesson just like we all did as missionaries, he also gets to turn this first lesson into an object lesson as well.  After teaching investigators about Joseph Smith and the first vision, he and his companion can then take the investigators to the actual grove of trees where it all happened and let them feel of the spirit first hand.  No where else in the world can a missionary do that.  Christopher told us just how grateful he is to be in the Rochester, New York mission and to be serving so close to where the restoration of the Church all happened.

For whatever reason, both Christopher as well as his younger brother who recently returned from his mission, love to speak in Church.  Most people hate getting the phone call from a member of the Bishopric asking if they would be willing to speak in Church.  But Christopher told us in his last letter that he just recently gave a talk in Church about resurrection and hopes that he will get more opportunities to do it again.  Of course unlike the rest of us, he has the right attitude towards speaking in Church as well.  He told us that he likes it so much because it gives him a chance to learn more about the Gospel.  He said that he thinks that he still needs more practice because he gets nervous just before he gets up to speak.  I think that being nervous before you speak is natural and probably helps you to focus a little better.  Christopher told us that speaking about the resurrection helped him to understand the first vision better.  The reason why is because of the experience of Joseph Smith seeing God and Jesus Christ as two separate beings with bodies that are the same as ours.  It also helped him to understand more about how both the teachings of the Bible and the Book of Mormon complement each other when it comes to understanding what it means to be resurrected. Anyway, it is always great to hear about how Christopher's mission is teaching him more about the Gospel and life.

We aren't quite sure what prompted Christopher to buy a puzzle featuring actors from the old TV show, "90210".  Christopher told us that they were at the Salvation Army store one day and he thought that the puzzle was kind of funny, so he bought it.  He and his companion put the puzzle together and then somehow, hung it on their wall.  So here is a picture of Christopher with is "90210" masterpiece.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A good problem to have

In Christopher's latest letters home he has expressed just how great his mission is going and just how much he loves the Arcade area.  Christopher told us that the branch members there are wonderful and very supportive of the missionaries.  Just a few weeks ago he told us that he and his companion had eleven investigators at church on Sunday and that wasn't even counting the regulars.  Christopher was really excited about that but we wondered what he meant by "the regulars".  Apparently, there are several people that attend church quite often in the branch but who aren't actually members of the church.  In fact Christopher said that there is one person who they have been teaching who has been investigating the church for about ten years.  He has become good friends with this person and loves to sit down with them and have gospel discussions as well as talk about other subjects.  Christopher has always been one for a good deep discussion about almost anything, so I am sure that he has really enjoyed engaging in conversation such as this. 

Anyway, over the past 3-4 weeks, Christopher and his companion have taught and baptised five different people.  According to Christopher, having that many baptisms in such a short period of time is basically unheard of in his mission.  He feels like both he and his companion have been really blessed.  In fact Christopher recently told us that both he and his companion have really been trying to put things in the Lord's hands especially with their missionary work.  During the same period of time they have been putting an extra effort into fasting and praying for the people that they have been teaching.  Christopher said that he could really see the difference that this has made in both his life as well as the lives of the people who have recently been baptized members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Christopher and his companion have been getting along great which has really helped in moving the work forward.  Of course there are always the little things in a companionship that drives one or the other a bit crazy.  Christopher told us that his companion loves to sing to every song that they listen to.  Granted that the variety of music that a missionary is allowed to listen to is very narrow.  Basically, they are only allowed to listen to church hymns, some classical music and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  Christopher told us that no matter what the song is, if it has words his companion loves to sing along.  I am sure that for his companion, he is just feeling the spirit of the song and wants to enjoy it fully.  But his singing might not always be up to "American Idol" standards.  So in order to keep the peace, Christopher has been playing more music without words.  I am assuming that by doing so, they can both enjoy the music without any distractions.  The way I see it, the Lord doesn't really care about how well you sing and if singing along with the Tabernacle Choir brings the spirit, by all means, sing along.  I'm sure that the mo'tab doesn't mind. 

Speaking of funny stories, OK maybe we weren't speaking of funny stories, but Christopher told us a funny one in his last email.  Just recently both Christopher and his companion were at a dinner appointment with a family in their branch.  After dinner it was time for dessert so the member family told Christopher's companion that there was some vanilla ice cream in the freezer.  His companion looked in the freezer and pulled out the first ice cream bucket that he saw and proceeded to scoop himself up a nice bowl of vanilla ice cream.  As he was digging into the bucket, something looked a little off to Christopher.  As Christopher described it, the ice cream looked a little more like wax than ice cream.  At that point Christopher asked the member family how old the ice cream was and they said that they had just purchased it from the store a few days ago.  With the reconfirmation that the ice cream was indeed good, Christopher's companion kept on scooping it into his bowl.  Still, something seemed off so Christopher told his companion to taste a bit of the ice cream before he scooped up any more.  Just to satisfy Christopher's concerns, his companion popped a bit of the ice cream in his mouth expecting to taste the sweetness of vanilla.  However, whatever it was that he popped in his mouth, tasted anything but sweet.  In fact it tasted so nasty that he almost puked right there.  At that point the member family walked over to see what was going on and discovered that Christopher's companion had pulled a tub of frozen pig lard out of the freezer that just so happened to have been stored in a leftover vanilla ice cream tub.  We never heard if they actually got dessert that night or if after that experience, they even had an appetite for dessert.  But they did get a good laugh over the whole incident and now they both know what pig lard looks like.

With all of the recent baptisms that Christopher and his companion have had over the last several weeks, Christopher told us that their teaching pool is getting quite low.  To him however, this has been a blessing and a good problem to have.  It is much better to have a low teaching pool because the people that you are teaching have gained a testimony of the church and have decided to be baptized, rather than the alternative.  Over the last year of his mission Christopher has told us that he actually likes tracting.  So I guess with their new found teaching pool problem, both Christopher and his companion will experience a little more of the tracting they love so much.  Oh by the way, one of "the regulars" at church who had been an investigator for the past ten years, as of the baptismal service that was held last week, they are no longer investigating. :-) 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The work is moving forward in Arcade

Transfers came and went and Christopher's former companion completed his mission and returned home to his family.  Christopher now has a new companion and both of them are still in Arcade, New York.  From what Christopher has been telling us, the work in Arcade has been going really well.  This is what he said a few weeks ago just before his former companion returned home:
"As far as missionary work goes, this last week was a really really good one! One of my best actually. We got tons done! We did a lot of finding and have a bunch of new investigators, some of them are quite promising too! I'm excited for everything that's going on here right now! This week is my companion's last so we're gonna have to do even more this week to send him out with a bang!"
About a week later Christopher sent us another letter with more great news.
"Things out here in New York are going well! This area of ours is booming!!!!!! We had 12, yes 12 investigators at church yesterday! Honestly we could have like 8 baptisms this next transfer. It's pretty nuts how blessed we've been as of late. We've just been talking to lots of people and finding more and more investigators and miracles are happening! Its incredible!"
In a later email Christopher told us more about the people that he and his new companion are now teaching.  He told us just how great they are and how excited they are about the church.  Christopher and his companion have set some baptismal dates with a few of the people that they are teaching. He is really excited to see them become members of the church and to watch them continue to learn and grow in the gospel.  It is great to see just how excited Christopher is about his area, his companion and all of the people who are members of the church as well as investigators. 

Christopher has been in New York for over a year now.  It is amazing to see just how fast time goes by.  It seems like it was just yesterday when we dropped Christopher off at the MTC to start his mission.  Christopher's new companion has only been out for a few months.  Christopher told us in his last letter that he really enjoys talking with his companion and that they both have some of the most "interesting" conversations.  Christopher has never been one for just the normal boring discussion.  Most of the time he likes to start a conversation by thinking "outside of the box".  Things like, if you had the opportunity, which person would you want to sit down and have a conversation with, Emma or Joseph Smith?  Of course the answer to that question for most of us would be obvious but for the sake of their discussion they talk about the "whys" and "hows" of the fictitious conversations they might have.  Think about it, if you could sit down with Emma Smith, wouldn't that be just as great of a conversation to have as it would be with Joseph?  There is always a lot to learn no matter what opportunities you are presented with and Christopher and his companion seem to like to explore those possibilities even though they aren't real.  Funny what missionaries come up with to pass the time while they are traveling to their next appointment.  Anyway, Christopher told us that his companion is way funny and that they have a lot of great talks.

Christopher mentioned to us a few weeks ago that he and his companion were going to help one of their investigators who they are currently teaching, tap Sugar Maple trees on a nearby farm.  That day finally came and Christopher told us that they tapped about 100 trees and that it fun but very cold that day.  We didn't get many more details than that so hopefully Christopher will send us some pictures so that we can see how it went.  Christopher did go on to say just how strange the weather has been in western New York.  Not a lot of snow but it has been very cold.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Getting stuck and working through it

After about five months in Buffalo, Christopher has been transferred to a small town called Arcade.  Christopher really enjoyed serving in Buffalo and he and his companion were doing really well there.  But his companion was called to help train a new Spanish speaking Elder.  When I say Spanish speaking, apparently this new Elder only speaks Spanish.  For that reason, the mission President needed a Spanish speaking trainer and Christopher's former companion filled the need.  Christopher told us that even though Arcade is a very small town, he really likes it there and also really likes his new companion.  The only problem is that his new companion goes home at the end of the transfer so they will only serve together for about six weeks.  This will be Christopher's fourth companion in four transfers. 

The other big news besides the transfer is that Christopher finally has a car.  For the past year he has served in areas where their only mode of transportation was by foot.  The interesting thing about this car is that it is actually a truck.  But not just any old truck, it is a 4x4 truck.  Christopher said that this is really fortunate especially due to the fact that this area of New York gets a lot of snow during this time of year.  When you combine that with the fact that there are a lot of country roads that they have to travel from time to time, a 4x4 truck will really come in handy.  Speaking of snow, it sounds like not a lot of snow has fallen so far this year.  Christopher told us that they got a little bit of snow a few weeks ago but since then it had warmed up and turned into mud.  I guess the 4x4 truck will probably do well in the mud also.   Then again, maybe not.

In a recent letter about a week ago, Christopher said that he and his companion teamed up with some kids from their branch on exchanges.  That day it just happened to snow quite a bit and the branch member that Christopher teamed up with, was driving.  They were both headed down one of the country roads outside of town when this kid from the Branch who was driving, turned to point out a "Dead End" sign.  Before they knew it, they were off the road and into a ditch.  Apparently the car was stuck so deep off the side of the road that there was no way that they were going to get it out without some help.  Both Christopher and the Branch member decided that it would be best to try to walk back to a house that they had seen.  It turned out to be about a two mile walk before they finally arrived at the house where they were able to ask for some help.  Luckily the owner of the house had a big enough truck to pull them out of the ditch and send them on their way.  Then to cap all of that off, Christopher went on an exchange with these same kids from the branch about a week later.  There must be some bad luck going on here or maybe there is some kind of lesson to be learned, but here they were a week later stuck in a ditch again on an unplowed snowy road.  This time they were in the 4x4 truck which was having problems staying in 4-wheel drive.  After several attempts to travel down the country road in a truck whose 4-wheel drive capability was in question, they finally gave up, turned around and went home. 

Christopher told us that there are some real advantages to living out in the country.  Some of those advantages include good food and a lot of it.  What he meant by that is that many of the members of the branch live on farms with chickens, pigs and maple trees.  Christopher said that the members have given them a ton of free eggs, bacon and a load of maple syrup.  In fact he told us that next month they are going with one of their investigators to tap 400 maple tree.  That sounds like a once in a life time opportunity for Christopher, who comes from an area of the country where those kinds of maple trees just don't exist.

Christopher has told us several times over the past couple of weeks that he really likes it in his new area in Arcade.  In fact he told us that he has become a real hit with the ladies in the area.  Well, at least with the ladies under the age of eight years old. Apparently several mothers of these young ladies have told Christopher that their daughters have a crush on him.  In fact one of the little girls herself told Christopher that right to his face.  Christopher said that one night he and his companion were at this girl's house eating dinner with her family.  After dinner Christopher and his companion presented a little lesson to the family and then played a game of hangman.  Throughout the night this little girl would make sure that she got the seat right next to Christopher.  Then during the game of hangman this little girl started edging closer and closer until at one point Christopher could feel this little hand on his shoulder.  He then quickly glanced over at this little girl, caught her eye and immediately she pulled her arm way as if she were shy and a little embarrassed.  According to Christopher, this little girl is anything but shy.  Christopher got a good laugh out of this and figures that this probably won't be the last time this little girl makes a move. 

Time is really starting to fly by for Christopher.  He told us that he and his companion have been teaching a lot of lessons and just working hard as missionaries.  He recently sent us sever pictures of some of the people who he had been teaching and have been baptized.  He said that the days just all seem to merge together and that sometimes it is hard to remember everything that has happened over the past week because it is just filled with so many different experiences every day.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Christmas is even better when a missionary calls home

The holiday season is here again and it is great to hear from our missionary at Christmas time.  Last year at this time Christopher was at home getting ready to enter the MTC while his younger brother was calling home on Christmas day from his mission.  This year the tables are turned.  Christopher's younger brother is now back from his mission and talking to Christopher from home.  Anyway, this is the second time that Christopher has been able to call home since he left a year ago.  The last time Christopher called home was on Mother's Day about six months ago.  On Christmas day Christopher called us just as we were getting home from our Sunday church meetings.  It was really good to hear from him and to talk to him for a while.  He told us a few stories that I won't be able to share on the blog but in addition to that, he also just let us know how he has been doing.  We didn't know this before but is current companion is one of the Spanish speaking Elders in his mission.  I asked Christopher if they teach many Spanish speaking people and he said that they do occasionally.  Christopher told us that he will probably be getting a new companion in he next week or so because his current companion has been assigned to train a new Spanish speaking missionary.  We haven't heard yet where Christopher will be transferred to, but we expect to find out on his next P-Day.

Christopher told us that Thanksgiving went really well for him.  They were invited for Thanksgiving dinner by several different families but since they don't have a car, getting from one place to another can be kind of difficult.  So rather than trying to travel around from place to place, they ended up spending most of Thanksgiving with one family.  As a result, Thanksgiving turned out to be one of Christopher's greatest teaching experiences.  Christopher told us that he and his companion went to dinner with the family of a recent convert to the church who lives in their Ward.  Most of this member's relatives aren't members of the church which provided Christopher and his companion with a great teaching opportunity. 

Having several LDS missionaries show up at a family Thanksgiving dinner must have felt a little awkward.  Luckily for Christopher, he noticed that there were several musical instruments laying around.  According to Christopher, all of the instruments were one's that he could play.  Christopher started out playing the ukulele for a bit and them moved on to the banjo, piano and finally the guitar.  He taught his companion to play a part of a song on the ukulele and then taught another missionary a small part on the piano.  At that point they were able to put together an ad-hoc little band to kind of break the ice with all of the family members who had never really had much contact with LDS missionaries before. After this little impromptu concert, the conversation obviously turned to music.  As the night went on, eventually the conversation transitioned from music to missionary work and the gospel.  Not a big surprise for those who are members of the LDS church since music and the gospel basically go hand-in-hand.  There were quite a number of people listening in on this discussion for a while and Christopher said that he suddenly found himself teaching these family members all about the restoration and answering many of their questions.  Before the night was over, Christopher said that he found himself bearing one of the most sincere testimonies that he has ever given on his mission.  We haven't heard if anything more came out of this experience, but one thing is sure, it had a great impact on Christopher.

For exercise, Christopher and his companion like to play basketball.  They routinely get up early most mornings, run down to the church and shoot around in the gym for an hour.  Since there is only two of them, they have a certain drill that they like to run.  Christopher tried to explain the drill but I don't really get it.  It seems to work for them and they have a good time getting some exercise in the morning.  Speaking of basketball.  Christopher told us a good story during our Christmas day phone call.  Apparently there is an Elder in their mission whose forearms aren't completely developed.  Every once in a while several of the missionaries get together for a little 3-point shooting contest and this includes the missionary who is missing part of his arms. At one point this missionary stepped up and wanted to challenge another Elder in the contest.  One of the other Elders agreed and the contest began.  Christopher didn't give us all of the details about how it went but the result was that the Elder with no arms ended up beating the other missionary.  Christopher said that the funny part of the story is that now the mission President won't let the losing missionary forget that he lost a basketball 3-point contest to a kid with no arms.  That just goes to show you, if you want it bad enough, there is always a way.    

A few weeks back Christopher said that he attended a zone conference in Rochester.  That evening after the conference, several of the out-of-town missionaries stayed overnight at the mission home.  After the other missionaries had gone to bed, Christopher stayed up and took the opportunity to sit down with his mission President and have a good conversation for a couple of hours.  Christopher didn't really go into detail about the conversation that they had, but he did say just how great his mission President is and how much he respects and admires him.  Christopher feels that he has really been blessed to be called to the Rochester mission and to have President Christiansen has is mission president.

Christopher told us about one small experience that he had just a few weeks ago.  One morning he and his companion decided that for their companionship study, they would spend their time studying more about priesthood authority.  The thing that they didn't know at that time was that later on in the day they would be using everything that they studied to answer several questions from one of their investigators.  Christopher felt that both he and his companion were lead to exactly what they needed so that they would be prepared at the right time to provide answers to questions that the might not have otherwise been able to answer.  For Christopher, this was just another one of the small miracles that happens while serving a mission.