Monday, August 31, 2015

Sam sent the following email & pictures on Sunday, August 30, 2015:

From: Samuel Christensen <>
Date: August 31, 2015 12:30:57 AM MDT

Hey guys,

We had a good week. Last Tuesday we played basketball and that was fun, then this morning we played soccer and that was fun even though I'm not good at it and felt like I was embarrassing myself for most of the time. We had a good week. We found probably 15-20 less active or active member houses this week that I didn't know any of. It's good to know those so you can have more back up options for when stuff falls through. Tuol Tompung right now is back up city. For the most part, we can almost always get something else to do if our original plan has fallen through. Elder Kim is fun- he's go-go. We had the most total lessons this week that I've had on my mission. 

The piano class is pretty good. We've got a few students who are steadfast, and they're learning. It's good because I'm trying to give them the basics and a foundation to learn. A few new people came to the class on Saturday and that made it hard to teach on several different levels, but one of the new guys was just like "why do you have to count (like the rhythm) when you play?" Like he didn't see the need to. And my every-week students were more than happy to explain why it is essential as that was our curriculum for the first 3 or so weeks of class. I copied the book for 2.50 and they bought them.

We have a few really good investigators who are just struggling with getting to church on Sundays. But there's a lot of potential for them.

I get to teach Elder Kim some cool English words like "fruitcake" and various other words as the situations direct. His English is really pretty good.

Last week I was the only teacher for our English class of 36 students, and also the only one who can read and correct homework, so we're doing the best of that that we can.

I really like this area, the members, the ward. It's all good! I can't really think of too much else to share, so I guess until next week!

 Good luck with school starting and all the other stuff you guys've got going on!

This computer isn't working so I'll send you pictures next week.
Sam & Elder Zierenberg (Sam's MTC companion)

Elder Christensen & Elder Holland

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Sam sent the following email & photos on Sunday, August 23, 2015:

From: Samuel Christensen <>
Subject: The Quote Machine
Date: August 24, 2015 9:57:41 PM MDT

Hey guys,

Yeah, we're having our P-day on Tuesday because yesterday was the mini-transfer for the guys going home. So Elder Myers officially died and is on his way home now and we're back to being in a normal companionship. It's more effective that way. We had fun in the threesome, but it's hard to work efficiently.

We spent most of the week visiting people trying to get them pumped for Holland and to understand the significance of him coming. I was thinking, because we try to get people excited for all the activities that the church does telling them how they'll be so good (Pioneer day, Ward and stake conferences, etc. etc.) and sometimes when we're telling them these things, I'm like you know what, I think we're hyping this up a little too much. Like they'll come and then something goes wrong or it's just lame and it's embarrassing. But this last week I realized that Elder Holland CAN NOT BE OVERHYPED! That guy always delivers. And deliver he did. I guess there's not much else to do than hit you with some of the notes of quotes I took from the Machine in his general session:

-He loves Cambodia. Wants to run away and stay here and then they'd all be looking for the lost apostle in cambodia. Classic, he's playing the crowd. Also, all of this was translated by the North Stake President Eng, who went beastmode and translated really well
4 of many reasons why people should join the church
1. God the Eternal Father appeared to man on earth. Because of that we have prophets and God's Priesthood that we have commissioned authority to use.
2. When they found the Dead Sea Scrolls, they built a museum to show off extra writings about Jesus Christ. There's about 10-12 pages of them. The Book of Mormon talks all about Christ and is 532 pages. Five hundred and thirty-two pages.
3. You can have your family forever.
4. Look what the church does for us, for youth. It's making us into good people. How can you argue with that?

"There are endless reasons why, if you knew what I know, you would join this church. 
"Accept the gift. God is giving us a gift. The gift of a lifetime."
He left a blessing on everyone there "because you're faithful, because you came to church today, because you're trying, because you're raising kids. I bless you with every righteous desire of you hearts....This is that blessing as though my hands were laid upon your head."

I got to see a ton of people from Teuk Thla who I hadn't gotten to see at all since I left, so that was a great reunion. No one came down from Battambang. There was just shy of 2,000 saints strong in the special building they rented out for it.

Then we had the special missionary meeting after and got to shake his hand. He commented on my red hair. Everyone keeps saying my hair is a totally different shade, like not really red anymore. How old does hair change usually occur at? Here's quotes from his missionary devotional, and I don't have pictures of it yet but hopefully next week.

"love and loyalty shared is never love and loyalty divided. Love shared is multiplied."
"We don't just send everybody to Cambodia."
"This [your mission] is as close to real life as you're ever going to come."
You can't go back to what you were before.
"If you did this right, you're changed forever."
What we want from our investigators, God wants from us.
"You can promise God at least one convert: that is your soul."
"It's one thing to lose sheep, it's another to lose shepherds."
"Apathy is a lot more dangerous than apostasy."
"Why is it so hard? Because salvation is not a cheap experience." --we knew that one was coming.
"The road to salvation always goes through the Garden of Gethsemane."

Then at the end of the meeting as he was stood up and was leaving he stopped. We were all standing there, the postlude stopped and he said, as close as I can get it, "I blink twice, turn around and I see myself. Someday some of you will be doing this. I didn't see myself doing it, but you don't think about it at that time. Good luck, work hard." Then he peaced out to the airport. A prophecy!

It was great, classic Holland. He's a great speaker and we got him pounding the pulpit a bit too, so we got our money's worth.  

I got the piano book and found out it's actually 22 bucks here, so that's good. I still don't do a very good job of wearing sunscreen. Mostly like never. ahhhh, darn it!

I love and miss you guys!
Elder Holland, i.e., "The Machine"!

Sam & Elder Myers who is just completing his mission

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Sam sent the following email & pictures on Sunday, August 16, 2015:

From: Samuel Christensen <>
Subject: How many more "accessory" tendons does Nate have left in his wrist?
Date: August 16, 2015 9:47:04 PM MDT

Hey guys,

We got our mini-transfer calls last night and the results are in: I'll be the same. But I'm officially with Elder Kim and we're still Zone Leaders for South Zone. We're treading water for a few weeks until the new group of missionaries comes in, so it's a strain on the mission right now. Myers will die next week on Monday after President Holland comes. Which will be HUGE, by the way! We're pretty amped for that and he's going to meet the missionaries too. WOWOWOWOOWOOW What?! That'll be so sick.

Wow, there's a lot going on at home. I gotta be honest. Well like all of you guys are always in my prayers in my heart all the time, but like sometimes I don't actually always pray out loud for stuff at home because it is far from my thoughts and there is a lot of stuff here that we're worrying about and hoping for and praying about. But I'll definitely find some place to fit you guys in there.. Haha jk

Our missionary work is going pretty well. Like we could always use more really good people to teach because we've got some halfers. One guy we've known for only like a month casually said that he's read the book of mormon once through already and has started reading it a second time. But like I don't know how that can be true. Like the guy's only come to half of one sacrament meeting. Hmmm, but I don't know.

I got to go on exchanges with Elder Cook, my old companion, last Friday. He's finally down here in the city and it was good to reconnect. Like he said, we were with each other for 3 months, 24 hours a day. I won't even be with my wife that much within like the first 6 months of marriage. So we know each other pretty well even though we've been away a bit.

Teaching piano class is going pretty well. It's fun because I can always see the growth and the learning in them (even if we're re-learning something I've taught like 5 times before. Still trying to get those note values down..) But it's fun and I like doing it. I haven't gotten the book [I sent Sam a package containing a piano instruction book] yet, but learned that they sell them here at the service center probably for like a nickel...[Nice.  I think I paid $23.00 for it at Deseret Bookstore :)] So that's kind of awkward..

If you guys could help me out with those questions I emailed you that would be great because we're curious and I don't have internet or lots of resources.. [The questions Sam had sent us were: When is it in the plan of salvation that we will have the chance to get married if we didn't get married in this life? After the resurrection?  Why do we use olive oil for priesthood blessings? Or oil at all?]

We got our CBRs (Convert Baptism Records)(the things they have in places where they don't have iPads) reorganized into a nice stack of 8 different binders.

I've started making up and assigning homework for english class and giving out candy to those who do it, and they're all just jumping on the wagon. Of like 37 people in our one class 13 did their homework in only like the third week of assigning it. So I correct them all and give them feedback. That means I get to read sentences like this (this assignment was to tell me about yourself so I can get to know you) : "I like baby because I have funny personality." Good.  Or this one "Give a handshake when you meet sister." Why not. Or "My favorite hobby is lonely." Tragic.

None of us has ever seen God or Jesus Christ (lots of Cambodians excluded), but we believe in them because we believe that we, ourselves, don't have the power or the ability to overcome our struggles and trials on our own. You've got to be humble and see yourself in the fallen and desolate state that we're in and realize that we all need help. We all need to depend on something that's bigger than ourselves. If you think you don't, then you're overly-prideful. I get to see a lot of people everyday who humble themselves and cry to God for help, and then they listen to their feelings and know that they're not alone. One guy this week told me that he found out the difference from Buddhism and Christianity (since he's been learning with us); that Buddhism shows you a good road, how to live a good life. Christianity, the same. But Buddhism drops you off right there. You're on your own. Christianity, you can pray and have help and guidance always there beside you. Now you tell me which one is better. He also touched on the famous Cambodian rumor of Christians that they don't cry when someone in their family dies. Which we always say is wrong because, well, it is. But he knew that, but having learned the Plan of Salvation a week back, said that while we can cry, we don't really have a huge need to cry because we know where our people have gone. Buddhism, they don't know. For us, we know God's plan for us. How great is that! Many people out here exercising their faith and seeing the fruits of it. We had a baptism yesterday for a longtime investigator, Odom. He's really good and really cool.

Miss you guys and love you! 
Sam is on the far left.  His companion, Elder Kim, is on the far right.
And his other companion, Elder Myers, is in the center with Odom.

Above:  Sam & Elder Myers
Below:  Sam, Elder Myers, & Elder Kim

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Sam sent the following email & photos on Sunday, August 9, 2015:

From: Samuel Christensen <>
Date: August 9, 2015 10:46:51 PM MDT

What's up guys!

So the bad news of this week is that Lookpu Pan passed away. We got a call last week during email saying that he was pretty much dead and to go see him. We went over there and he was still alive. He'd fallen off his bed and gotten pretty bad, but they'd dressed him in a suit and shoes and stuff: the burial clothes. He was still alive and they were preparing for his death and funeral. We gave him a blessing. He didn't die that day, his condition got better the next day, and even better the third day. He ended up dying on Friday night at like midnight, and I think it was due to malnutrition. They didn't feed him enough food and they never called a doctor to help him or took him to the hospital. We did all we could and gave them Ensures and I don't think they really used too much of them. They were ready for him to go. I only knew the guy for 3 months since I've been here, but we figure I've been to his house to visit him between 50-60 times, so we got to know him pretty well. We didn't think we'd be visiting him for the last 3 months of his life because we weren't expecting him to die. He was only 60, but that's what happened. Sometimes during it it felt like it would never end, like we would do it forever. But I'm really glad that we did it and helped him exercise and were just friends with him because it definitely lifted him and made the last three months of his life more enjoyable. It gave him something to look forward to.

Piano class is still going. I've got a few people who are regulars, and then some swingers. But it's exciting because they're really learning, and they're excited to learn. I'll need to start going out of a book soon, but for now we've been doing a lot of rhythm. I'm teaching on Mondays and Saturdays. The last rhythm we clapped on Saturday they figured out how to do it and it probably seemed like just a boring old rhythm, but they were excited when I plunked the rhythm on the piano as they clapped and I played the notes and it was the first line of the Spirit of God. So it's coming for them and they were excited for it.

I got to have my first interview with President. It was a little shorter because he was running behind. Totally different from President Moon, but very smart and capable just the same. He says that there are several reasons why missionaries find happiness in their missions. 2 of which he named as service and discipline. It's cause I told him how when I go home I think I'll feel like everything I do doesn't have purpose; like you're just doing stuff for yourself. He said he felt that way when he first got home. But he said that getting married and raising a family is back like in the mission field.

We had our Zone Training on Friday. We've got a good zone. Our results from last month were really positive and we exceeded 2/4 of our goals and were very close on the others. These guys should be proud because we set difficult but realistic goals and we achieved them, which previously didn't happen much.

We've gotten a few new investigators, but they don't seem great, so we continue to try and find some really good ones. Some we need to drop. As one guy said at the zone conference, this work isn't just Moneyball. We focus a lot on the stats, but in the end it's kind of out of our hands and in the Lords, so we just do what we can.

We're having a fun time. Good luck with everything going on at home. Miss and love you all!

Sam’s caption:  “This is what we deal with.”  [The missionary is Sam's companion, Elder Myers]

I (Heidi) think this might be a hearse.  It looks like there’s a casket inside it.  
Maybe it was for Lookpu Pan?

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Sam sent the following email, photos, and video on Sunday, August 2, 2015.  Sorry for the week-late posting.  We were away on Trek this past week.

From: Samuel Christensen <>
Date: August 2, 2015 11:26:40 PM MDT

Hey guys,

Last weeks inaugural piano class was a success with 9 people coming out for the first class. It's kind of going to be tricky to teach them piano with only one piano, but the least we can do is give them a little bit of a musical background. They really, really want to know how to play, so that's the first difference and what sets them apart from the average teenager in America... If I can get a book just of basic stuff like you were telling me about, that'd be good to have an order of stuff to go off of. I don't know that it will be popular for a really long time, but it is right now.
Sam's first group piano class
We're gelling better in the threesome. It's fun.

Happy birthday Nate, Bompa, and anniversary G&B. Good luck on trek, that'll be fun. I would, indeed, love to see Nate square-dancing. If there's any way you could get that on film...

I put a video in the drop box for you. It rained like crazy this week. Mostly everyday starting at about 4 or 5 it just starts to pour and doesn't stop. That just destroys proselyting because no one wants to go anywhere in the rain. We always ride through the rain and get soaking wet, but I'm not sure people always want soaking wet people in their house. We're thinking maybe the best use of time we can do when that happens is to go change out of our stuff and help people with flooding problems.

Interesting to hear about the church and BSA.

We have a great investigator named Sopheak. She's very faithful. She doesn't think she's very smart or intelligent, but she is and she is very trusting and good at applying her faith. She used to drink coffee everyday, but since she heard (not even from us) that we don't drink coffee, she stopped drinking it completely. Then we taught her the lesson. It's very hard for her but she's great at it because she knows it's wrong now and wants to stop. She has no problems with tithing. She only has a 2nd grade education and is embarrassed about that, but she's super good.

I'm really grateful and glad for the opportunity I have here to be serving a mission. It's great. But I'm not saying that to be that guy, so yeah.

Have a good, safe week!

Left to right:  Elder Kim, Sopheak, Sam, Elder Myers
I don't know who the little girl in front is...maybe Sopheak's daughter?

...the rains came downs and the floods came up... :)