Monday, August 7, 2017

The Best Two Years .... My Final Testimony

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....."

Monday, July 31, 2017

After A Storm of Hard Weeks.... Comes a Miracle!

Well people of the States... (No! I'm not trunky!!)

So this week was a good week! We went to Huánuco for Multi Zone Conference and Activities,! It really was was a sweet few day, and I got to see my old pench! We were divided into 6 teams and we played some Olympic games that President and the office had put together. I can say that my team, if we were in the Winter Olympic Slopestyle Competition for snowboarding, we would be called Ghana Africa.  It's because the people who were on my team were such great people, but WOW, I didn't think a whole team could be so uncoordinated!!! haha  The funny thing is that we still took 3rd out of the 6 teams, yeah, we weren't too bad! The Conference was great and I was asked to bear my final testimony. It was a great opportunity, and made me really stop and think about the things that my mission has done for me. I've learned so much, and been through so much, and it's made me who I am now.

The rest of this week was truly something remarkable. It was sort of a miracle, a tender mercy for sure. So, we found this guy named Nikolas on Thursday, the day we returned from Huanuco. We went to his house to visit him. We were talking and he had to take a call so he left the room. I told my comp "Baptize him right now!!"  So when the brother Nikolas came back into the room we talked about the Authority of the Priesthood, and the greatness of the gospel and all it has to offer us, then my comp looked at me with the funniest look, like "what should I do now?" And I said, "just say it!" He invited him to be baptized, and the brother Niko said, "Of course, can it be tomorrow?" I said, "heck yeah if you really want you can do it right now!"  He said, "how about next Saturday?" My comp said, "even better, Saturday would be perfect!"  He accepted, and then told us how he had felt in the past. He had been searching for the true church that would fit everything he wanted in a church but all of the other churches discriminated against him and wouldn't let him be baptized. What a blessing that we found him and could teach him!  After teaching him for just a minute the light in his face changed, he loved what we were teaching him! It all made sense and he knew it was all true! He is forever content with what we taught him, and he's so excited to be baptized and be a member! So this Saturday is THE DAY we are going to have a baptism in Carhuamayo! There hasn't been a baptism in this branch for a long long time! And it's my last Saturday in my area. What a great way to end my mission!  This gospel is great and brings so much happiness to people! I'm excited for Nikolas to be a part of this church! It's true! And I love it!
One more email, next week, and I'll wrap it all up! See you very soon. 16 days! Love you all!

Con amor!
Elder Christensen
I love his rosy red "Cerro Cheeks" (and white eyebrows).
Everyone in the city has rosy red "Cerro Cheeks" from the bitter cold.
Luke said today that some people who have always lived there, have scared cheeks from the bitter cold and high altitude.
 Elder Alvarez, Elder Bolanos and Elder Christensen
Elder Alvarez with Elder Christensen
(Luke's companion in his last area in Huanuco)
Luke's friends who have returned from their missions
came to visit me!
Andrew, Scotty and Tanner

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Hardest Week of My Mission...

Hey Everyone,  

I hope it was a great Pioneer Day for you all. WELP! Let's get down to business here.

To start off.... we had probably the hardest week of my mission. I can say that straight up, it was basically just Satan trying to attack me so that I didn't work. We have a goal for the rest of this transfer to do at least 3 big services a week, and a bunch of smaller services during the day on all the other days. But the crazy thing was that not one person wanted to receive us and let us serve them.  We tried to make at least 20 contacts per day also, but I guess we didn´t need the blessings during this week because nothing was going on for us. But, lucky for us (or blessed we are) the zone leaders swooped in just at the right moment on Thursday to lift our spirits and help keep our motivation up! We walked around, did a bit of service and then while we were walking we saw a herd of sheep. I said, "RUN" so we ran toward them and talked to the old lady that was shepherding the herd. I asked if she would let us take a picture. She grabbed my cheeks and said "Oh, gringito, of course, anything for you!"  then she started laughing. We entered their house and talked to the people there and told them who we were and who and what we represent. They were all elderly people, and one lady that was like 30 years old also.  They told us that they were cousins of some man named Amansio, who is the 1st Councilor of the Branch here in Carhuamayo. We asked if we could visit them and they said, "well, of course you can come visit us, but we don't live here, we live in Lima."  I looked at Elder Bolaños and said, "OF COURSE! the only people in the past week that are cool and willing to talk to us and listen to us, and they don't even live within 9 hours of Carhuamayo! They don't even live in our mission!" Isn't that just the way that a hard week goes! One thing after another! It's hard here in Carhuamayo. The people are so different than in other areas of the mission. They do not want to hear the message that we have to share with them. They don't want to change. They are very set in their ways!

I guess one bright spot in the week was that Rolando did show up to church on Sunday. He was late, but he did come! I do think he'll choose to be baptized, but probably not while I'm here! He's such a great guy and he'll be a great member.

Through it all we learn though, and I do want to testify to you all that God tests us to see if we can expound our boundries. He wants us to follow Him, but he doesn't want us to follow him blindly.  If you don't know why He exists, or what He's all about, try and find him for yourself. He is there, He is never far, and He will make Himself known to you if you truly have a desire. You will find tests, trust me, I think I have been tested more than I ever thought I could be here on my mission, but if I can get through those hard times, you all can too. God loves you, I also LOVE you, and I'll see you soon. Tune in ... only two emails to go.

Love you all,
Elder Christensen

Monday, July 17, 2017

Great Things Will Happen in My Last 30 Days!

Well everyone, this week was a pretty dece one. Not too many things have happened this week, so I`m going to keep it kinda short.

Tuesday afternoon we went to teach a man named Rolando. Rolando has a decent religious background, he knew about Jesus Christ and he knew the Bible. We talked to him for a while and he just didn't want to accept anything that we told him. We started to teach him about repentance and what the process to repentance is, and how we know that we have been forgiven and are clean after the proper repentance process. Then we went into The Restoration. We talked about Joseph Smith and how we have a living Prophet on the earth today. The spirit was so strong, and the words that we were teaching were perfect and definitely coming from the spirit. After we were finished teaching he just sat there and looked at us with the most puzzled look on his face. I don`t know how, (well, yes, I do know how) it was the craziest thing, he told us that it all made sense and he believed everything we had just taught him! I flipped open the Bible and it literally went straight to Revelations 14 where it talks about how an angel was going to bring the everlasting gospel back to the earth in the last days. And then we showed him and read some other scriptures. The whole time he had the funniest look on his face. But, the look of "Yes!" It was almost as if he had soiled himself, (not lying!!! haha) Then he said, "I know that you both speak only the truth. I will start visiting your church."  I told Rolando that I know for a fact that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God, and that there really are living prophets on the earth today. I do know that Joseph Smith restored this gospel and that it was so perfectly set up for us today, so that in these last days we don't have to live without a purpose. We know what we have to do to return to live with our Heavenly Father. We just have to be obedient and follow His ways. The last dispensation has arrived, and we are in the last days! Believe in God, or don't believe in Him, it`s a choice. But I know with all my soul that this work is real, and it's so we can be happy. Thomas S. Monson is our prophet on the earth today, he has been chosen to lead us today, just as the prophets of old were called to do the same! Rolando wasn't able to attend church on Sunday because he had a trip to Lima planned, but we will be in contact with him, and he says he will be there next Sunday. The spirit is working on him and hope that we see him in the waters of baptism soon!
Saturday we went to this town called Paucartambo which is about an hour and 15 minutes into the mountains, toward Brazil. We went to do service, and help someone move. We spent the whole day just moving things! We were so tired! As we were finishing a lady came up and said, "You are Mormons, right?" We said, "yes", and then she gave us free juice, some crackers, and some bananas, and then told us that she has a daughter that was a missionary a few months ago, but is home now and is going back soon to Bahia Blanca, Argentina to finish her mission in August.  That is the same mission as Daniel Tree (a good bud of mine). I wish I knew what her name was?? 

It was a pretty good and fast week all in all! The work is slow, but things are happening. Pray for Rolando! Love you all and I'll see you in 30 days!

Elder Christensen

Monday, July 10, 2017

Famous in Peru


Well, another crazy week happened here in Carwashmayo (Carhuamayo)! It actually was a very normal week of service, service, service.  We ran into this pastor of another church and he was saying many bad things about our church. It's so hard, but we just have to say something nice and then walk away! Ya know, it's pretty typical around here!

But the coolest experience of this week happened on Friday when some lady came running up to me and said. "Hey Mormon, stop!  Where are you from gringo?"  I said, "I'm from the United States of America".  She laughed and said, "oohhhhh, just what I'm looking for!" I said, "what? why?" She then went on talking about how her sister-in-law (or cousin?) wanted a gringo from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to go to the little village that she lives in, it's like an hour into the mountains. It's a place where there are old traditional, Peruvian people that are just all about Pishtacos and potatoes, and many other old, ancient beliefs. (Remember a Pishtaco is a "boogeyman" in the Andes Mountains of South America, mostly in Bolivia and Peru. The Pishtaco is an evil monster or "white" man that kills Indians and eats their fat!) So, they want ME to go to Ulcumayo, in the mountains, and talk at the Anniversary Celebration of Ulcumayo, just like I did here in Carhuamayo. The lady then said that she had seen me all over National news in Peru, and all over Facebook in Peru!! She said that all of Carhuamayo is talking about how they have a North American resident, and how my speech changed the history of Carhuamayo, and she wants Ulcumayo to be the same. She wants Ulcumayo to receive the same interest that Carhuamayo got. The only problem is that it's not until September. I said, "Ah, I won't be here in September, but if you want, we can send another North American to speak in Ulcumayo". She agreed and said yeah that would be fine if we sent someone else. So I guess I'll work on getting that set up! People are starting to know who we are, and that is what we want. The work is slow here, but we are doing a lot of service and helping where we can in this little town. I guess we can't focus on what we can't do, but what we can do. We are here to share the gospel of Jesus Christ by word and by example. We will keep working hard, until the end.

I had another really amazing experience, but some things just shouldn't be shared in an email... so I'll tell ya in 5 weeks. I love you all.

Elder Christensen
Jersin (the newest missionary, haha) and Luke
 BBQed Alpaca burgers
 An old sheep head and yes, it's real!

Feed My Sheep ....

Monday, July 3, 2017

My Last Transfer ... My Time Here is Short

Well hey there!
It truely was a great week in the vineyard, but not too many stories to tell this week that were absolutely amazing! So this week is transfers. I will be staying in Carhuamayo with Elder Cartagena to finish my mission .... 6 weeks to go! President told me that he would like us to concentrate on service here in Carhuamayo. It is very difficult to find investigators here, so we may be doing service and getting to know people in that way, and hopefully it will help us find those who have been prepared to hear the gospel. So we'll be doing service, service, service for the next 6 weeks!

On Friday we went to the swap meet in Ninacaca. We started to preach, but not like other times, we were preaching like this word had never been preached before!! We went with our pensionista, her daugher, son-in-law, and nephew. It was truly a great experience! Preaching in public, on buses, etc. seems like the only way we are going to get our word to the people here. Hopefully someone will show interest sometime. While we were in Ninacac we got to go see the cows, llamas, alpacas, sheep, and many other animals.  I tried to get a sweet authentic Peruvian picture with an alpaca, but the sun was way too bright, and I couldn`t see anything, and I was squinting way too hard, but I got some cool pics! After playing with the animals, people just started to come up to me and ask if they could take pictures of me, and with me. So I said ahh OF COURSE! haha They love me here because I have blonde hair, blue eyes and I'm American! I'll just be a nobody when I get home, I'll just blend in! haha I took some pictures with a few people and more and more people started to approach me, then I decided it was the perfect time to tell them who we were. A lot of these people were from other towns and villages near Carhuamayo. They listened to me and then wanted more pictures! We "planted" lots of "seeds" that day! The opportunity to plant those seeds is evidence of God's love for those people. Hopefully, someday, future missionaries or members will harvest those seeds. I guess I did my service too, because I feel like I had my picture taken a ton that day, but the sad thing is, is that no one took pics on my camera! 

We have been working with our pension's son-in-law, trying to get him to marry our pension's daughter so that they can be baptized. It is just so expensive to get married here in Peru, so no one gets married. It's just easier to live together and pretend to be married. Well, on Saturday at like 8 o`clock in the morning we went to our pensionista`s ranch. They put me in charge of making the pachamanca (chicken, and sheep) and a toooooooon of potatoes. So I made and tended the pachamanca while my companion and like 15 others harvested potatoes. My pench and her husband own a restaurant where that's all they serve is panchamanca and potatoes. I eat it everyday! And I love it, it's such a great Peruvian food! (Panchamanca is a traditional Peruvian dish where meat is cooked with hot stones in an earthen oven. The meat, usually lamb, sheep, chicken, pork or guinea pig, is seasoned with an Andean spice called Chincho, wrapped in banana leaves or corn husks and cooked in an earthen oven. This dish is specific to the central Andes Mountains and especially in the region where Luke is serving.) This is probably a service we will be doing a lot since our pension needs a lot of help.  After we finished cooking and harvesting the potatoes, I carried heavy sacks of potatoes which weighed +200 lbs down the mountain. I still can't walk, but it was an amazing day. I learned a lot, and service really makes you feel so good! I want to make Panchamanca for everyone with Grandpa Vern when I get home! So after we returned from our all day excursion at the ranch, our pench`s son-in-law announced that they might just get married in the next few weeks! Pray that they continue to feel the spirit and want to take this step! Service really does make miracles happen. D&C 4:2 "Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day."

Love you all, and I'll see you in 6 weeks! Until then .... I'll be working hard!

Elder Christensen

 Luke's Pension's husband
Headed to the ranch to pick potatoes and make Panchamanca

 Jersin, the pension's nephew
I asked Luke if he could bring him home!
 Luke making Panchamanca

Some of the potatoes harvesters eating lunch