Monday, August 5, 2013

First Apartment ... and Honoring Elder Walker and Elder Strong

August 5, 2013

Hola Familia!

I’ve been in Texas for 3 weeks and it’s awesome! I’m serving in the North Donna area of McAllen; it’s very poverty-stricken. My companion in Elder Sanchez from Mexico, and his old high school is now the Mexico MTC. On my first day here with Elder S. I had the opportunity to give 3 blessings all in Spanish. Holy cow, I didn’t even know what I was saying but I felt really good, and that is the Spirit, so I know that what I was saying was good. The second day, we had a lesson at a member’s house with one of her friends, it was going really well – Elder Sanchez is a HOSS missionary – and he kind of looked at me and I felt super prompted by the Spirit and then I asked the lady we were teaching if she would change her life and be baptized, and she said YES! It was awesome! We are still teaching her and hope to set a date soon. Also my first week we taught someone in a drug cartel and that was a cool experience, too. We hope he’ll come to church soon.

We are on bikes and I don’t think I’ve ever done a harder workout in my life than those first two days – nothing at Ensworth or working out with my friends at BYU can compare. I’m sore all the time, it’s SOOOO hot here, I completely sweat through my shirt every day, and I’m sunburned to a crisp so when I take off my watch it looks like I’m wearing a white wristband. I’ve been chased by a dog every single day, and nearly bitten, so I’ve mastered the sprint technique to get away and if that doesn’t work, then I swerve into the dog a little bit to get it to move away. Haha – it’s all good!

Something really humbling and special to share: About 18 months ago two missionaries in my area were killed by a drunk driver while they were riding their bikes: Elder Walker and Elder Strong. We taught someone this week who was last taught by them and it was a really humbling experience. I later talked to a member who told me that one of these Elders said the day before he died: “I will always be a missionary.” And he is. EVERYONE here knows Elder Walker and Elder Strong, whether in the Church or the community. These missionaries are definitely still working down here.

There are people who are prepared to receive the gospel; we just need to give them that opportunity. It is such a blessing and an honor to talk to people about the gospel and how they can turn their lives around. Member work is HUGE! When we have members at our lessons with investigators, they are much more receptive to our message.

I’m so happy, I don’t see how this isn’t the Lord’s work. I bike around all day in 100-plus heat being chased by dogs, still not really knowing the language, and always sweating, but I absolutely love it! Heavenly Father has His hand in this work and I’ve seen miracles every day. I hope everyone is doing well and if not, say a sincere prayer for help. He is always listening!

Con Amor (with love),
Elder Christiansen

First apartment, looking into kitchen.
Ethan's desk is in the foreground.
Elder Christiansen at his desk in his apartment. What a face!

Trying on a suit left by a previous missionary -- it mostly fits!

Missionaries in Donna, TX gathering around a white-painted
bike, honoring and remembering the lives and service of
Elder Walker and Elder Strong, missionaries who were
killed by a drunk driver 18 months prior. This group
met to sing hymns and express gratitude for these elders.
Elder Christiansen is second from right, beside a local member.