My time here in the mission is short, I still have work to do and I will work harder this coming week than I have my entire mission. I want to leave here knowing I gave it my all, until the last day.
I was a little disappointed that Nikolas did not get baptized on Saturday as planned. He had an emergency and had to go to Lima. His baptism is now scheduled for this coming Saturday, but unfortunately I will not be here, I will have already left to return to Huancayo. This past week was a good week though. We spent one day harvesting Maca. I really love Maca, it's like a potato only so much better. It's kind of like a turnip. It's sweet and it's so good. It is only grown in the high Andes Mountains around 12,000-14,000 feet. I'm going to bring some home!!! It was a great service to help with, the people were so grateful for our help. I love these people and I love serving them.
This week will be short and I know it will go by way too fast. I will be going to Cerro de Pasco on Tuesday for divisions and I will return on Wednesday. Wednesday night there is a farewell for me with our little Branch. Thursday we will be doing service and we are going to make Panchamanca. Friday I will pack my things and head to Cerro de Pasco. It is much easier to get a bus in Cerro, and I will be able to have a seat to sit in for the 5 hour bus ride to Huancayo. The bus out of Carhuamayo is usually full and there is standing room only. It's just too far to stand for 5 hours, especially when you're dead tired anyway. I will spend Saturday traveling to Huancayo. Sunday we will attend church with President Silva and his family. We will have interviews, meetings and trainings on Sunday and Monday. On Tuesday we will get on a bus and head to Lima where our flight leaves late that night. I will fly through the night and transfer planes in Los Angeles before heading home to see you all on Wednesday afternoon. There will be 8 of us arriving at the Salt Lake Int'l Airport. As much as I miss you all, I do not want to leave this place to come home. I am teary eyed as I sit here and type this email thinking about leaving the place and the people that I have grown to love so much.
As I come to the last week of my mission I have thought so much about the journey I have been on over the past 2 years. It has been the craziest, hardest, happiest, saddest, most stressful and most joyful 2 years of my life! I could never have imagined how fast it would actually pass by. I really can't believe that it's time to pack my bags and go home. I have such mixed emotions about leaving. I love it here so much, and I love the work I'm doing. I've learned so much, I've been humbled and I've grown so much that I don't want it to end.
As I thought about it today it really kind of all seems like a dream... it really went that fast. I feel like it was just 10:30 at night and I was going to sleep, dozing off into a sweet dream. After a few hours passed I was in a building where the people there were teaching and training me to become a great and knowledgable person. They were training me to become a soldier in God's Army. I left the building and got on a bus, so ready to save the world. I almost felt as if I was Master Chief from the Halo series!! When I arrived at my destination I was assigned a place to bunk and given my assignment. But the assignment I was called to was the hardest assignment out of everyone. I left with my trainer very nervous. In this place I suffered so much that I almost thought I couldn´t do it. So many times I thought I couldn't last another day. With much encouragement and help from the Lord I was lifted every day in some way. I prayed more than I ever had. I studied more than I ever had. I felt frustrated more than I ever had. And I had only my Savior and my Father to lean on, but who better, there is no one. The people in this area I was called to were hard, they didn't want to change, they didn't want to listen. I knocked so many frozen doors in that little town with no success. My hands and feet were frozen all the time. We had no heat in our room, so we never got warm. My cheeks were "Cerro" red from the cold temperatures, and high, high altitude of the Andes Mountains, and it was summer there! I'm pretty sure I am the only person to ever start my mission in this little town that I call "The Devil's Playground" (Carhuamayo). I now know, and truly believe, it is because my Heavenly Father needed me to become who he needed me to be, and who I needed to be, and fast. I learned more than I ever have in this town and I had my first baptism here in the river.
Then... I was transferred to another "base" where in my dream seemed like just a big circus tent. This was a very warm and very beautiful, lush green place, called the jungle...where the Acrobats, Lion Tamers, Clowns, and Carnies all want to become your friend. Everyone was so friendly and happy and they all wanted to get to know us! I worked so hard here in Tingo Maria and I was drenched in sweat all the time. There is no air conditioning and it was over 100 degrees every day. Here, I was able to take many into the waters of baptism. I was in Tingo Maria for such a long time that I couldn´t bear to think of the fact that one day I would have to leave the comforts and beauty of this place.
Next, I was sent to the "Sahara Desert", of Huanuco, so that I could see miracles and meet some of the greatest people I would ever meet. I then travelled to the high mountain ranges of the Andes to work with the people there and see many lives change. I loved Chilca so much. I loved everything about it. Chilca holds a special place with me, because this is the area where I gained the most confidence and my testimony soared and I felt like I was being effective in the work. I had now been out a year, my Spanish was good and felt like I could communicate my message. I was blessed here and was able to be a leader and help other missionaries. I learned so much from my experience of being a leader... it's hard, but it's so good when you see that you can help make a difference. I knew that I could finally be effective and work day in, and day out to teach these people about the Plan of Happiness and Salvation.
After this I was sent back to the jungle of Pichanaki, where people are warm and friendly just like the beauty that surrounds. After a short stay there I passed back through the Sahara Desert (Huanuco) where I served in 2 different areas, walked the dusty roads, and had some of the greatest experiences ever.
But nothing can compare to the end of my "life" in the mission, when I had the opportunity to go back to where I started in the beginning. The "Devil's Playground" was now mine again. I don't know why I was sent back to Carhuamayo for a second time. I always thought maybe I'd figure it out, and there would be one thing that happened that I would know why I came back here. Maybe because I needed to go back and prove to myself and my Savior that I could do it. At that point I had had so many experiences that I had already passed through and I felt like I knew what I was doing. I was brave and though no one wanted to listen to our message, I knew I could preach on a bus or a street corner or in an Anniversary Celebration where there were thousands of people listening to my last sermon. I'm going home now. I'm saying my goodbyes. The opportunity to spread our message at the Anniversary Celebration was a crowning point of my mission. But most of all, my most cherished memory will be the memories I have and the knowledge I gained knowing that I spent 2 years as a representative of the my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I start to wake up .... I look at the clock, I am in my bed, the clock says 6:30 a.m. I lay there and meditate for a second, I pinch myself, was it real? ... It was real! I then realized that it wasn't a dream, it was real, and I had passed through the best 2 years of my life. The hardest, most painful, most stressful and the greatest ever 2 years! I try to fall asleep again, I want to see what is going to happen next, but I can´t. It's over, the time has come to start real life outside the mission, even though I would rather stay in my dream, I can't, my life keeps going, and I know other good things await, I just don't want it to end.
I do want everyone to know that over these past two years I have come to know that God exists. He was there for me through the hard times and he was there for me in the sweetest of times. He lives, and he loves us, he wants happiness for us all, everyone of His children. That is why I've spent 2 years serving Him and doing the greatest work on earth, so that the people of the Huancayo Peru mission could also know happiness. One year and 1 day ago, on August 6th, I received the greatest answer to a prayer. I now know that this gospel is true. I will never doubt it, I cannot doubt it, I know it's true. I KNOW THAT HE LIVES and that He loves us. He helps us when we are down, his angels surround us, they pick us up and push us along when we need help. He is always there for us, but we have to let him in to our lives. I know that he manifest himself unto Joseph Smith so that in these last days we could have the blessing of the gospel on this earth, and the Priesthood in our lives, and each of us can know true happiness. I know that Joseph saw the Father and the Son. I am so grateful for the opportunities that have been mine as I have served. I have been so blessed to be called to this part of the vineyard. I will forever be grateful for all I, myself have gained because of this experience. I have grown in ways I never thought possible. I am changed because of these things. In this, my final email, as I complete my mission, I leave my testimony with you that God lives, in the Holy name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Elder Luke Christensen
Peru Huancayo Mission
September 8, 2015 - August 15, 2017
"And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right believing that ye shall receive. Behold it shall be given unto you." 3 Nephi 18:20
"My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes." D&C 121:7-8
This is an excerpt from a letter that I, (Elder Christensen's Mom) wrote to him just a few weeks ago. This is my view of some of the things that he learned while serving in Peru. We are all so grateful for his service and the experiences he has had. Our family has been forever blessed by his service ....
"I know that your mission has changed you to the very core, in body, mind and in spirit.... I know you’ve spent days without power, heat, running water, and even indoor plumbing. You’ve woken in the morning under a huge wool blanket, with frost inside your room, and able to see your breath in the air. You’ve walked the dusty roads of Huanuco, hiked the beautiful waterfalls of Tingo Maria, knocked the frozen doors of Carhuamayo and fried in the heat of Pichanaki. You have seen the beauty of the jungle, and you’ve felt the lack of oxygen and strength from serving in the high altitudes of the beautiful Andes Mountains. You’ve been places and seen things that most of us only dream about or see in a book. You’ve also seen people in deep despair, and you have felt those same feelings yourself at times, and you have hit your knees in sorrow many days asking for help, for guidance for strength to continue on, for help learning a language so you could communicate, for help to survive another day with a difficult companion, for help to not be homesick. But amidst it all you have changed, you have grown and you have become deeply acquainted with your Savior and felt incomprehensible joy because of the miracles you have seen and the blessings that He has so freely poured out upon you. You have seen people come out of inactivity, pull their lives together and leave to serve a mission of their own. You have seen people leave their home and move to a new city where the gospel could be a part of their lives, all because you promised them a better life. You have seen the gift of tongues work in your teaching many times. You have seen people struggle to get their families to church so that they could be baptized. You have stood in the cold river above Cerro de Pasco at 14,000 feet so that a sweet sister could be baptized and receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost. You have lived in one of the highest cities in the world, in a room that had no heat. You have been so cold that you thought you would lose a limb, and you felt like you’d never be warm again. You have also lived in the jungle and lived in a room with no air conditioning. You have sweat so much you felt like you’d never quit sweating and feeling wet. You have overcome fear, preached on street corners, on buses and in parks. You’ve even preached to a crowd of 3,000 people in your second language and introduced them to Jesus Christ. You have said goodbye to close friends and you have met some new amazing people. You have prepared people for baptism, only to be transferred before their baptismal date. You have encountered disappointment after disappointment, and you have felt joy and love more than you could believe was possible. You have learned to open your mouth and open your heart. You have been blessed to be in a country rich in culture with festivals and beautiful ancient traditions. You have learned humility living in a third-world country, and you have learned to love the little things, because that’s all there is to love! You have learned of the Atonement and how it works in people’s lives, and in your own life too. I believe that you have seen the Atonement work miracles. I believe that the lesson that encompasses all other lessons that you have learned is love....."