Saturday, June 29, 2013

My district at the MTC.
All the hermanas are going to the Chile Osorno Mission, like me.
The two elders on the right are going to the Cusco Peru Mission.
I love each one of these wonderful people!
Hola mi familia y mis amigos,

I'm amazed how much Spanish I've learned in these few weeks. During class time, the teacher speaks primarily in Spanish and I can understand most of what's being said. I can communicate so much with the very very basic Spanish I know. I know that this wouldn't be possible without the Gift of Tongues (which is where the Lord blesses people with the ability to say what He needs you to say in the language of those being taught). I've seen this gift at work already and I know it will get better as I qualify for it by SYLing more and more (speak your language). I feel like I can say and understand much, but I also know that everyone speaks pretty slowly at the MTC. Chileans speak Spanish very fast, and they tend to drop off parts of their words. I also learned that most of my companions in the mission will be native speakers, which means I won't be saying much of anything in English for a good 2 years.

I'll try to answer your questions:

As for sleep, it's been fine :) I get to sleep faster than normal and I wake up before the alarm goes off. However, missionary work is exhausting. It's difficult to stay wakeful while studying, but that's how it seems for everyone.

I haven't used the sheet because the MTC already provides all the bedding we need while we're here. I also haven't used the backpack while I've been here because you can't take backpacks into some of the buildings. I thought people at the MTC would know more about the specific items I'd need in the field, but they don't. The classes are focused on being able to teach the gospel and speaking Spanish, and I haven't gotten to ask anyone who's been to my mission (most of my teachers have served in California or the Dominican Republic). I don't think there will be problems with the backpack, but I really don't know any more than when I left California.

The worldwide broadcast was super cool :) There have been apostles and mission presidents in the MTC all week, but they stay in a big building that was blocked off to missionaries. (I think they don't want missionaries swarming to shake hands, because then they wouldn't be able to get anything done). Last week, when Elder M and I were leaving the temple, we saw Elder Holland :D :D :D  He was walking into the temple and we were about 20 feet away from him and I wanted to go talk to him so much! However, he was talking with someone else and you're not supposed to approach apostles unless they approach you. Still super cool! Just seeing him made me want to be a better person. I want to be that type of man who always has a powerful spiritual presence about him.

Our lessons with the progressing investigators are getting better. We still have a long way to go, but we're getting better at asking questions and really helping people understand why the gospel is relevant to them. It's a struggle, and one of our investigators keeps falling asleep during our lessons, but we're improving. Much better than our first lesson where all we could do was bear our testimonies in Spanish and leave.

My companion, Elder M, has been struggling with Spanish ever since we got to the MTC, but in our last lesson with Lucio, he was able to speak with the spirit and was able to ask inspired questions. It really boosted his confidence and I'm super excited for our next lesson. :D

The first few days felt like 2 weeks, but these last few weeks feel like just a few days. I'm so amazed that we leave to Chile in just over 2 weeks! I'm not district leader anymore, but my companion, Elder M, is the new district leader, and the other elders in my district are the new zone leaders.

I don't have any more time to email now, but I want all to know that the church is true. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is truly Christ's church on the earth again! Joseph Smith was a prophet of God who truly saw Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ in the Sacred Grove and he was an instrument in the Lord's hand in restoring His church. I know that the Book of Mormon is truly inspired. The accounts it contains are true and are applicable to everyone.

Near the mail room, there's a painting of the stripling warriors that I particularly love. They were all strong, courageous men who trusted in God in all that they did. In the painting, they are all lined up together awaiting commands from Helaman. Every one of them has bloody bandages and wounds, but they are all smiling. They have the spirit with them and support each other in everything they do.

I invite y'all to learn more about the Army of Helaman.

Elder Connor Christopherson

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Connor with his companion at the MTC

The weeks are starting to go fast and blur together. We began teaching new investigators (teachers acting as investigators, but you need to treat them like their real both in and out of the lessons, because even though they are acting, the revelations of the Holy Spirit that can be felt in these lessons is real and can really impact them. Many people act as people they know when taking the part of the investigator and it can help them to know what to say to their friends. The purpose of a missionary is to invite "others" to come unto Christ, which includes EVERYONE!
Ok... what now. I got the socks in the mail. Thanks :D I also got a dozen Cocoa Bean cupcakes from Sister Webber. Thanks for that :) The district loved them!
Tomorrow, the prophet, Thomas S. Monson, and several of the apostles will be coming to Provo for a worldwide broadcast on missionary work. It's going to be at the Marriott Center and I'm singing in the choir. The choir consists of about 2/3rds of the MTC (regardless of singing ability) and a thousand members from around Provo (they had to audition). It's funny, because President Monson will literally be preaching to the choir. :P I wonder if you at home know about the broadcast or were going to watch it. I don't know who it's aimed at except that it's a worldwide broadcast. I'm super excited. :D Another reason that President Monson will be here is because all the new mission presidents are arriving. Several sections of the MTC have been blocked off because the mission presidents will be having training meetings. The guys in my district who are going to Cuzco, Peru actually get to meet with their mission president later today.
I know it's week 3 and I haven't uploaded any pictures yet. I'm sorry about that … but I left my camera in my room, so sorry to leave you hanging! I might get a chance to get some photos uploaded later today, but that depends how long it takes to do laundry.
We had an interesting devotional on Sunday in that it was broadcasted from West Campus (the temporary MTC in Wyview and Raintree). The whole thing was basically us watching old Mormon Messages from the 70's and 80's. The speaker really made the cameramen and media people work hard because he kept asking people to stand if they were going to certain missions or if they liked the MTC food or random stuff like that, and the camera people had to constantly change cameras. It was rather funny.
I don't know what else to say... I love getting letters :) Some hermanas in the district get about 3 letters a day while some elders have only gotten 1 or 2 letters the whole time they've been here.
Oh, hey! This computer has a timer on it. It says 2 minutes left..... The other computer didn't do that.
There's an hermana in our district who's been having medical problems and feels constant pain in her stomach area. What's cool is that, although she felt constant pain, she always had a smile on her face. She didn't use the pain as an excuse to not work hard. The elders in the district got to give her a blessing and it was a super cool spiritual experience. She had a procedure done in a hospital and I think they've figured out how to treat it.
To tell me if there's anything specific you want me to talk about. There's so much to talk about that I can't do it all justice, so ask what you really want to hear about.
I love you all. :D
Elder Connor Christopherson

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Hola everyone! Where to start?
Happy Father's day! :D Thank you, dad, especially for your diligence, hard work, and patience with me.
Also, Happy Birthday, Maia :D :D :D I really liked your letter where you basically complained that is trying to turn me into a chubster by sending me cookies.
Thanks for all the mail. :D It's really nice. And yes, I did get the package with the clothes I left behind. I got one yesterday that I think has the Dog Dazer in it, but I didn't open it yet 'cause there just hasn't been time and I keep accidentally leaving it in the classroom :P
I also got the Spanish hymnbook. Thanks for that. I wasn't able to find a spiral bound one in the bookstore, but I hear you can make any book spiral bounded at Kinkos. I don't know how much that costs or if it'll work with a Spanish Hymnbook, so if it doesn't work out, don't try too hard and I'll use the big one I already have.
Also, could I have one more pair of athletic socks? We have gym time almost every day and my one pair gets stinky. :P
Ok, done with business items so I can talk about the MTC. I'm amazed how much I'm learning every day. Every day feels like 3 days because we do so much. It's taken time, but I feel like I've gotten used to the MTC and the schedule. We finally got feedback on the lessons we had with Santiago. It was basically the same feedback for the whole class: we were more worried about what we were going to say in Spanish than we were about inviting Santiago unto Christ. The lessons with Santiago felt like challenges and trials rather than opportunities to love and invite. As a result, our lessons were very very boring and impersonal. Now we've seen what we can do and what we need to improve on, we're taking a short break from investigator lessons to prepare and learn the best ways to teach by teaching each other and seeing demonstrations.
It was really hard to accept at first, but now I have a testimony that it is more critical to love who we teach and to really get to know them. Knowing what to say in Spanish is second to the Spirit. You need to have faith and rely on the Holy Spirit or you can't be an effective missionary. To teach, you need to understand who you're teaching, and they need to understand you. Missionaries need to know what others expect from us and what they need, and we need to be completely transparent in our purpose, to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.
Ok.... 2 minutes left. Elder D and I need to teach a lesson this Sunday in English to the District. We had a lot of trouble making progress in our planning. We just couldn't agree on anything and couldn't communicate. We got super frustrated with each other. We decided that the next time we had to study, we would just try practicing teaching each other so we could see what worked and what didn't and see common ground. There was tension in the air in the 4 hours before we got to practice, then Elder D said a beautiful and sincere prayer that we would get along and work together. I taught him the lesson and the Spirit was really strong. Our prayers were answered and we're both super excited to teach this Sunday.
I have pictures, but no time to attach them! I'll attach them next week
Love you all,
Elder Connor Christopherson

Saturday, June 8, 2013

June 8, 2013
Hello everyone :D :D :D

There is SO MUCH for me to say and only about 20 minutes to type it all, so these sentences may seem jumbled together to get the most information in.

Where to start....... My district has 6 hermanas and 4 elders, who all arrived yesterday, but the rest of our zone has been here at least 2 weeks. All the hermanas are going to the Chile Osorno Mission, but 2 of the elders are going to Kuzco Peru (which has Machu Pichu). My companion is Elder M from West Valley, Utah. I wish I had a picture to show you, but there's so little time here! Elder M is very hard working and diligent. I really appreciate that about him.

Oh, and I’m the district leader. I already started feeling overwhelmed before I was given the assignment, and especially stressed immediately after. The district always goes to me now when they have questions, and I need to have answers and be ready to lead. Although I was stressed at first, I realized that the Lord qualifies those he calls to serve. He’ll give me strength to do everything I need to do. It also helps that I have a great companion who reminds me what to do.

I love the MTC, much much more than I thought I would. I had no idea how much I would learn and grow in just the first few days. I've heard that my mission would be the most difficult years of my life, but I could not have imagined how much work there is to be done. We were given a schedule on the first day that gave a general layout of how the next six weeks would go, but we learned that much of that time is flexible. Don't get me wrong, that is not free time. We study constantly.

We've already taught our first investigator on Friday morning, which was super scary, because I could only understand half of what he said. He's not a real investigator (he's probably an RM here to help) but we treat him like an investigator. He will only speak Spanish and we only see him when we go to teach him. We're preparing our second lesson with Santiago tonight.

One thing that couldn't be emphasized more in the MTC is that everything we do is about others. Our planning, personal study, companion study, and language study are all centered on preparing to teach Santiago. Also, it's more important to deeply care about the investigator. If we don't listen to what he says and what he needs (even if we can't understand what he's saying) we can't bring the Spirit into the lesson. Making sure that the Spirit is present is more important than learning the language, but learning the language is still very important.

We do something called SYL (speak your language), which means we try to use Spanish first, always. Whether we're in the dorm, in class, or personal study, we do everything we can to use Spanish words before trying to speak in English. As a result, I keep trying to type things en Espanol only to realize that you probably can't understand that.

Only a few minutes left... what else is important to say? Many of the facilities here are similar to those at BYU, including the food, but the food is noticeably better here.

The MTC is a sacred place. I've worked harder this week than ever before. I can't believe it's only been about three days. It feels like it could have been two weeks. All of our time here and in the field is dedicated to the Lord. It's very difficult, and I feel absolutely exhausted, but looking back to Wednesday, I've grown so much.

I know that this is the Lord's work. I know this church is true. I know the Book of Mormon is the word of God and I'm so excited to share it with the world.
I'm sorry I couldn't talk more about the details of my time here. As I said, I could probably spend a few hours trying to tell you everything that's happened, but that time just isn't available. I love you all!!!

Elder Connor Christopherson

Friday, June 7, 2013

Connor's missionary farewell at church -- Dad, brother Max, sister Maia, and Mom.

Connor reported to the Provo MTC on Wednesday, June 5. We haven't heard from him yet (argh!), but here are some photos taken right before he entered -- with his grandmother, Aunt Gay and cousin Ben, who were good enough to pick him up at the airport and deliver him. He looks like a proper missionary! :-)