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Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Week

Dear Family,

So we said goodbye to Elder Jackson today. He flies home to Mapleton tomorrow. I gave him our address and phone number so he can come over, chat it up, and show some pictures.

We drove up to San Jose today for transfer meeting, and the whole way up Elder Bourne explained the whole 42 year history to Star Trek, including all the movies and the different tv shows. I feel this is the beginning of a beautiful companionship.

I guess now that I'm healthy again (so you don't worry) I can tell you that for the past 2 weeks I had bronchitis. Not very fun, especially since I still had the energy to work, but was very contagious. With San Juan being so small, I think I infected about half the town with handshakes alone. We had to stay inside for Elder Jackson's last week, which must have been hard for him, but he should have thought about that BEFORE I got sick.

Okay, I have a question for mom, or anyone else who feels qualified to answer. What are some good techniques to settling kids down and keeping their attention while you are teaching a family? We always try to get them involved by giving them an assignment to write something, draw something, or answer questions. What has worked with the kids at Westridge? Remember, I don't have access to any cool instruments from Africa or Indonesia.

So yeah, it turns out staying in with bronchitis isn't a very effective way to do missionary work. But mom and dad, you should know that President Jackson's wife is very aware of every missionary's health, and is not afraid to send one to the hospital if she hears them sneeze or cough twice in the same hour. She's a very nice lady.

Yesterday we went to a fireside for the outgoing missionaries. They each bore their testimonies, but my favorite part was when they have recent-converts speak. Hearing their testimonies and their gratitude for missionary work is really uplifting. It reminds us how this gospel can really bless people and help them find hope and peace. It's easy to forget that when so many seem uninterested. But it's worth having 1000 doors slammed in your face in order to find the one that will accept the gospel. 1001 doors slammed is pushing it though.

I hope you all are doing well, eating all your whole grains, and following the counsel of the Prophet. If anyone sees Guy Francis, tell him "Oogaleeboogaleeboo!" for me. He'll know what it means.

Love,

-Elder Karlsven

One month in Calif

Dear Family,

I apologize for not being able to write yesterday. We taught a guy named Dan the first lesson in the morning. Later we played several games of flag football with our zone in Gilroy, the garlic capital of the world. Of course, I scored several touchdowns and injured several other missionaries in the process.

So our efforts in finding people to teach have not been fruitless. We've tried several techniques. The usual tracting and street contacting, and a few others. For instance, being inspired by Sanka from Cool Runnings, for a few days we would dance and sing on the street in the day time. Our songs went a little like this:

"Some people say they can't believe,
San Juan Bautista, they got the missionaries..."

But yeah, this place has some golden investigators. We're teaching about 5 different people, and 2 or 3 are progressing well. The other night we had dinner with a member family and a family we're teaching. We planned to teach a lesson afterwards, but the member family's dad insisted we watch several scenes from Ben Hur. But I can't complain about Charleton Heston.

So right now I'm in a group of 3 missionaries. Elder Jackson, Elder Bourne and I. A trifecta of gospel teaching. Elder Bourne will stay when Elder Jackson goes home. Elder Bourne is an AMAZING teacher. We taught a recently baptized family with 3 little kids yesterday, and I felt like sitting down and drawing pictures with crayons with the kids while he taught. He's that good. I've learned a lot from Elder Jackson, and I have much to learn from Elder Bourne. Not to be one to hinder their progression, I try to help them learn patience, clogging the toilet often, spilling salsa on their white shirts, eating toast on their beds, getting crumbs everywhere, etc. I figure it's the least I could do for them.

We haven't gotten much guff here about Proposition 8. A couple times people have responded to our friendly greetings with "No on 8!" or "You're taking away our rights!" but no one is brave enough to say anything until we are already several steps past them.

Anyway, it's always good to get emails. Regular mail is good too, especially for non-immediate family members, since I can't email them back. I hope you're all happy, and if you're not, I hope you're not being dumb by not praying or reading the scriptures.

Thanks for the support! I love you all! Everyone reading this should watch an extra 1/2 hour of tv to cover all the time I'm no longer watching.

Love,

-Elder Karlsven

Monday, November 03, 2008

How was my Halloween? -- Nov 3, 2008

Dear Family,

How was Halloween, you ask? Well, let me tell you. Out of all the missionaries in the whole San Jose mission, we were probably the only 2 that actually got to stay out until about 10 pm. We were helping with the town Halloween Block Party.

The party was on 3rd Street, so basically right outside our cottage. We made friends with all the people at the local bakery, which is nice because it gives us an excuse to go there and smell the goodness of a small town bakery. The manager's name is Susanna, an enthusiastic business woman who is from Brazil. Everyone in town knows her and she has warmed up to us. She was setting up the whole block party, so she let us help out with it. This help was sorely needed.

We would have our own booth, so we needed to come up with games or something for kids to play. After much pondering, I suggested the balloon stomping game where you get a bunch of kids, tie a balloon to one of each kid's ankles, then have them all start trying to stomp out everyone else's balloons, or what I like to call "Begin the Chaos!"

It was so much fun. Little kids are hilarious! There are the ones who won't stop asking you the same question over and over again ("Can I do it? Can I do it? Can I do it?") while I can't respond because I'm about to pass out from blowing up so many balloons. Then there are the quiet ones that don't know what's going on, but their parents kind of nudge them around everywhere. One little girl about 4 years old was like this. Blank face. Totally oblivious, with a balloon tied to her ankle. We yelled "GO!" and immediately some snot-nosed boy stomped out her balloon. So sad, yet so funny. My cheeks were aching from laughing so much. There were also several kids that started crying when their balloon got popped, so I quickly brought them another one, which seemed to remedy the problem.

So we did this for about 2 1/2 hours (7-9:30pm) until we decided to have a go at it ourselves in an adult round. Looking back, it may not have been the most missionary-smart thing to do, but it sure was fun! We had Susanna record this round on Elder Jackson's camera, and as we watched it later, we freeze-framed it in a couple places where we were both in somewhat compromising positions with girls who were in on that round. Let's just keep that our little secret.

I can't remember if I told you all about my trainer. His name is Joshua Jackson, from Mapleton, Utah. He was AP when President Jackson and Sister Jackson came in, so they trust him, which is good. He goes home after this transfer (a couple days before Thanksgiving) so I'll get a new companion in San Juan then. I told him to stop by the house when he gets back.

Today we had some delicious hush-puppies and fried catfish at a former-investigator's (no longer being taught) house in Hollister with the six missionaries who live in Hollister. Total Larry the Cable Guy! He told us in detail how to catch catfish ("So ya shove yer arm under this rotted tree stump in the watah, feel around for somethin' slimy, then stick yer hand in its mouth...") and lots of other good information. He was a nice guy, and the food was SO good.

San Juan is so small that we mostly walk. But our area includes several neighborhoods in the outskirts and in the hills, so we drive as well. I got a bike free from a missionary that broke his wrist mountain-biking, but unfortunately we don't do much biking. Biking in a white shirt and tie is my favorite. Thanks for those things that go on the ankles to keep my pants clean while biking, by the way. They've been great.

I got the tape you sent. It was really fun listening to it. I'm trying to fill up the other side with some good stuff.

Things are pretty crazy here with Proposition 8 and all. As missionaries, we have to stay neutral with everything political, but the members are great on following the prophet's counsel for California members and supporting it.

As always, thanks so much for the letters and the emails. They always brighten the day.

Until next week!

Love,

-Elder Karlsven

P.S. The scripture for my plaque should be Ether 12:27. Thanks, Mom!

If You Could Hie to San Jose -- Oct 27, 08

Family,

So throughout my mission I will be able to use the mattkarlsven@myldsmail.net email address. I can only send emails to immediate family members, but anyone can email me, and I will get back to them as long as they give me their address and are willing to wait for a real non-virtual letter.

This week has been good. I have trouble distinguishing between days because we do mostly the same things on each. I just remember people we talk to.

We taught my first real sit down lesson the other day to a girl named Micaela from Mexico. We brought a ward member, former bishop Hill, and the lesson went really well. We started with the first lesson, and then she asked us why people pray to Jesus and not Heavenly Father. So we went in that direction the rest of the lesson. The Spirit was really strong, but she was still hesitant when we asked her to pray at the end of the lesson. I could tell she was uncomfortable praying in front of others, so I asked her to pray as soon as we left and she said okay. It's a very different feeling teaching a lesson with the Spirit there in the MTC as compared to investigators. In the MTC, a lesson like the one we gave Micaela would have left everyone bawling. But you have to be more patient with investigators to help them understand.

Let's see, we tracted to a home the other day that was full of drunk guys. But they were the friendly type of drunks. Drunk people are a big waste of time to talk to about the gospel, but for entertainment purposes, they're great.

But I'm getting pretty tired of drunk people pretty quick. After it gets dark here (around 6 or 7 pm) everything shuts down except for the few bars in town. One of note is called "Mom and Pop's Saloon." What? Is this like a family restaurant/place to drink your troubles away? So yeah, at night this place is pretty boring and lame. What this town needs is some good church mutual nights, or a nice late-night service project. We're working on that.

I'm getting better at tracting and street contacting. Now I just treat it like a regular conversation and then bring the gospel into it. Example:

Me: Hi, how are you doing?

Person: Oh. Hello, fine, thank you.

Me: Do you live around here?

Person: Yeah, just down 4th street.

Me: Oh yeah? My buddy and I just moved in on 3rd. Nice town.

Person: Yes, it is. I've lived here for 15 years and it's great.

Me: So you're good for getting baptized on the 12th then?

Person: Excuse me?

Me: Alright great. See you then!

And that, my friends, is how you do missionary work.

In response to Dave's question, no I wasn't able to bring along the 40 lb. prayer rock he sent me in the mail. It's in some bushes outside the Dan Jones building at the MTC.

It's too bad I missed Weston's blessing. I'm glad you all had a good time though. But probably about the same time this was happening, I was eating a baked potato and ribs at a member's house. Mmm, mmm, good.

We're trying to think of new ways to talk to people about the church and the gospel. One is to set up a booth with a sign on it saying "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" on it or something and then have some of our materials there to give to people and answer people's questions. Another is to start teaching a class a couple times a week where people can come with questions that can be answered through the scriptures (e.g. Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where do I go after I die? Do robots go to heaven? What about a robot with a human brain? etc.). I'm trying to think of other things we can do just to meet people in a relaxed setting. Any other ideas? Seriously, anyone got anything? Dave and Brigette (or anyone), what are some ways you've gotten word out about your businesses?

We had exchanges with the Spanish speaking missionaries a while ago, and it was a lot of fun. The Spanish speakers were always friendly and thrilled to hear me struggle to say a few things in Spanish. I mostly just played with their kids. Also, lots of Mexican food. Very good.

Well, the library is about to close so I should wrap it up. I hope you're all well and preparing for a safe, wholesome, happy Halloween. Limit your candy-corn intake or you'll regret it later. I speak from experience.

Bye for now!

Love,

Elder Karlsven

Email from Elder Matt Oct 20, 2008

Family,

I've moved into my first area and it's a good one. Beautiful San Juan Bautista, a town of about 1700 people strong. Not nearly as boring as it sounds. It's full of really good restaurants (they don't allow franchises here) and an unnecessarily large number of antiques stores. Many wonder why this town is struggling economically and can't seem to realize that a town this size just cannot support 16 antiques shops.

Another interesting thing about San Juan Bautista is that it is completely overrun with chickens - roosters and hens. So many roosters. They are everywhere, and no one can do anything about it because there are a bunch of laws put in place to protect them. But I am glad, for they brighten my day, except at 5am every morning when the five roosters living in our backyard wake us up.

Oh, and did I mention our backyard? Yeah, we have one. Also, we have a small cottage-esque house we live in, right in the middle of town. Very cool. There is a little path that leads to our house which is behind an antique store and a hat store. Each morning one of us takes some time to water our rose bushes, which is part of the lease agreement on the house. Really, it is.

Elder Jackson is my trainer, and this is his last transfer before he goes home. He is a really really good missionary. Especially at tracting. Often when I start the conversation at a door, the person responds somewhat angrily with something like "Oh, no, I'm not interested. I'm Catholic." I then start to sweat a lot and look around nervously. After about a second Elder Jackson jumps in, saving me and we have a friendly conversation. We've made many friends, and it is such a small town we see them all the time.

Right now I'm in the local library, which is small, but not too bad. Hopefully, we will in the next couple weeks start reading books to preschoolers here for our service. Awesome.

There are a lot of schools that take field trips to see the Catholic Mission here. It's a cool looking building, but we haven't had a chance to go into it yet.

The last missionaries in this area I guess was a senior couple back in the 80's sometime. Other than that, there haven't been any here...until now! There are about 20 or 25 members here, but most of them are less-active. We've met with many of them and they are all friendly and welcoming. The active members though are really REALLY awesome. They are very excited about having missionaries here and have provided us with food, cleaning supplies, and dinners just about every night. So nice. Our ward mission leader and bishop are also just about the most helpful, kind, enthusiastic and excited, good people you'll ever meet.

The people here are mostly all friendly, even when we go tracting. Only a couple of times have people said bluntly or a little rudely that they are not interested and shut the door immediately. Most we are able to talk to for at least a little bit. This is a lot because of Elder Jackson's speaking abilities. I'm getting a little better, but a lot of times I talk myself into a corner and freeze up. Example:

Big Angry-Looking Guy (B.A.L.G.) answers door

Me: How are you doing?

BALG: Can I help you?

Me: Yeah, we're the Mormon missionaries and we just moved into town. I'm Elder Karlsven (shakes his hand).

BALG: Yeah, we're not interested. We're Catholic.

Me: Well, uh, um...these are some nice plants you got out here. What kind are they?

BALG: Grass.

Me: Um, yeah, that's what I thought...uh, well do you know anyone who would be interested in our message about the restoration of Jesus Christ's church?

BALG: Look, I gotta go.

Then Elder Jackson would swoop in and save the conversation. We make a good team.

So yeah, I'm doing well living with Elder Jackson in our cute little house. And the members are taking real good care of us.

You can send things to the mission office at:

California San Jose Mission
3975 McLaughlin Ave. Ste. A
San Jose, CA 95121

We have a P.O. box here, but you should send mail to the mission office and they will forward it here. Packages can be sent there, and if you send it with USPS in a flat rate box they can forward it here. Otherwise, I can get packages about once or twice a month.

Thanks for all the support and your prayers. They are needed more than ever now that it counts.

Hope you're all having fun and doing well. I'm not sure if these computers will let me load pictures, but I will try soon. I love you all!

Love,

Elder Karlsven