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Monday, November 02, 2009

Tricks, Not Treats 11/02/09

Dear Family,

I now understand why it's a bad idea to do pranks on new missionaries.

I met Elder Smith on Tuesday at the mission office in San Jose on Tuesday. He's from Gilbert, Arizona, enjoys playing the guitar, and is distantly related to Joseph Smith.

We arrived in Salinas, and he was wide-eyed and commented often on how "ghetto" it was. He also asked several times "Is this legit?" Having been isolated from the teenage lingo for a year, I had no idea what he meant. I reassured him often that Salinas is perfectly safe, but just to never go on the east side of town after dark.

Around 8:30 pm, we were just finishing up for the day, and getting ready to head home when we got a phone call. I answered, and the voice on the other end told us to meet on Soledad street. Elder Smith asked what was going on. I told him that it was three guys I met the other day, and that they wanted to talk to us on Soledad street - deep in the heart of eastside Salinas.

We drove to Soledad street, got out of the car and started walking around the dark sidewalks. Some guys came up to us and we started talking to them. They seemed alright, but not all there mentally. I could tell that Elder Smith was a little nervous. I told the guys that we had just been put together as missionaries, and if they could take our picture. I got out my camera and handed it to them. I then told Elder Smith to give them his camera too, which he reluctantly did. We posed for about three pictures. Without warning, the guys bolted off, with both our cameras. I chased them for a little, and yelled, but to no avail.

Our cameras had been stolen.

I apologized to Elder Smith, and he suggested that we get home right away. I agreed. In the car ride home, I told him how some people just do bad things, and you never know who you can trust. He was pretty quiet.

We got to our apartment, carrying his luggage up the stairs. We opened the door to our apartment, and saw two figures sitting in the kitchen. I turned on the light, to discover that the two guys who stole our cameras were IN OUR APARTMENT!!

"WHAT THE!?"

I walked into the kitchen towards them. One of them walked right at me. We paused a second in front of each other. I gave each of them a big hug, and we started laughing.

"Elder Smith, I'd like you to meet Elder Thompson and Elder Fox, the Salinas 3rd ward missionaries." Classic.

Elder Smith took the joke well, but I think the emotional damage is still there. For instance, he insisted on buying several locks for his bike, and is suspicious of everyone he meets that they are a "thug."

So this week has been fun. There's way too much to teach Elder Smith, but luckily he is a quick learner.

Me: "And now, Elder Smith, I'd like to show you how this magic box works. You put food in it, push some buttons, and it magically heats it up."

Elder Smith: "I'm not an idiot, you know."

Me: "That's the spirit!"

I'm glad everyone had a great Halloween. I hope to see a picture of Aunt Rachel dressing up as Mom. We didn't have much success proselyting on Halloween. For instance, at about 11am, we saw a guy walking down the street wearing a hockey mask.

"Hey, how's it going?"

"Rawwwgh!"

I love Halloween.

Love,

Elder Karlsven

Do Not Joke With The Mission President 10/27/09

Dear Family,

News: Staying in Salinas for at least 6 more weeks. Elder Finlayson is on a plane right now heading home.

Earlier this week I went to a meeting in San Jose with about 15 other missionaries and President Jackson. Halfway to San Jose, I realized that I had forgotten my suit coat. Suit coats are required at all meetings. Well, I thought that surely it would be better to be on time to the meeting without a suitcoat than be late with it. Maybe he wouldn't even mention it.

President Jackson began the meeting.

"We'd like to welcome you all to this meeting. Where is your suitcoat?"

My face went bright red as he stared accusingly at me.

"Uh...I was never issued a suitcoat."

"What?"

"Uh...I mean, I forgot it."

I gave my excuse that I wanted to be on time to the meeting. He then told a story of when he had once forgotten his suitcoat and decided to not go to the meeting without it.
About half an hour later my body stopped shaking, and I could relax, so it wasn't that bad.

This is a recurring problem with me - forgetting the suitcoat. I remember going to a meeting in Los Altos with the ward leaders of the stake. We were on bikes and in a hurry, so we decided not to pick up our suitcoats in order to be punctual. We still arrived 10 minutes late, just for our turns to introduce ourselves to everyone and say something unique about ourselves.

"I'm Elder Karlsven, and I suffer from a rare medical condition which prevents me from wearing a suitcoat." I'm working on coming up with less lame excuses.

22 year old Danny McCoy's baptism happened on Saturday at 11 am. It went great, and I'm not just saying that. After the baptism, you could see how happy Danny was. He's the kind of guy that can light up a room pretty quickly anyway, but you could tell how filled with the Spirit he was with his joy and love throughout the day. Elder Finlayson confirmed him on Sunday. The only bummer was that his mom, who was against his decision to be baptized, never showed up.

I'm short on time, so I'll tell you about my new companion next week. I'll meet him this afternoon. He's probably just getting off the plane at the San Jose airport. I'm really excited and looking forward to the enthusiasm a brand new missionary can bring to an area. Pray for us.

Have a great week. Enjoy the cold weather in Utah.

Love,
Elder Karlsven

Investigators 10/19/09

Dear Family,

Lately I've been getting the same complaint from some of my friends. Here is a direct quote from an email from Rob Magleby:

"I will raise this complaint again:

Why do your parents only post your weekly letters once a month in a group? Make them stop! Is it because they don’t like logging into blogspot? I thought your dad had an internet site, he should be a pro. Just write home and tell your parents that the avid readers of your letters are complaining in the thousands and if they don’t want a revolt, they should just post them as they get them. I could go Decembrist any moment!"

I don't really understand the complaint either, but I thought you should know about it.

Yesterday, I met an investigator, Judy, for the first time. We arrived at her house and she warmly welcomed us, providing us with drink and French pastries. We taught about prophets, telling about Aaron making the golden calf for the Israelites when the prophet Moses was away (showing how truths can be lost or changed without a prophet around), and she asked several questions. She agreed to read Alma 32 from the Book of Mormon and pray about it.

This was not at all what I was expecting when Elder Finlayson told me how they first met her:

They were in the drive-thru at Foster Freeze waiting for their food. It was taking longer than usual. Judy was driving a car directly behind them. She began to become impatient, honking her horn. Then she started yelling. Eventually her impatience grew to a fiery rage. She put her car in gear and rammed the back of the mission car the missionaries were driving.

When asked what the reason was for hitting them, she said "I just want my food!" Knowing that Foster Freeze is pretty good, but wouldn't merit that sort of behavior, Elder Finlayson knew something was wrong. As she ate her two large ice cream cones, the missionaries filled out accident reports and got insurance information. Judy's anger soon calmed, and she remarked how much she likes Mormons, and asked the missionaries to come teach her.

I'm guessing that she is what could be referred to as a "two-face." Golden investigator one day. Unexpectedly moody the next. We're having lunch with her today. If any read this before 1 pm Pacific Standard Time, please pray for us that it will be a peaceful meeting.

Danny McCoy is the kind of person that can light up a room in a matter of seconds. Our main worry for his baptism is that Jon, the one baptizing him, won't be able to lift him back out of the water. Danny isn't overweight, but he's solid. Muscle doesn't float too well, I hear.

Danny isn't afraid to ask questions, even at odd hours of the day. Several times he calls us late at night or early in the morning, asking us some gospel question he has been thinking about. Way cool.
We began teaching his friend, Jessica, this week.

Yesterday night, around 9:20 pm, we were leaving the Simkins' home to get home and get to bed. Danny calls. He tells us that he and Jessica are at the church and to meet them there right away. Though I was exhausted leaving the Simkins, I was wide awake as we sat on the couches in the foyer of the church and answered her questions about life after death and other topics.

It's been a great week with much teaching. Next week I will be getting a new companion, as Elder Finlayson returns home to Las Vegas. Now is the time when you wonder whether your new companion will be the type you should make breakfast for the first morning, or if you should surprise-tackle him at a certain time your first day together.

Love,

Elder Karlsven

P.S. Happy Birthday to Mike!

NOTE FROM PUBLISHER: Rob, just be happy you can read Matt's emails.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Minority Report and Mormons 10/12/09

Dear Family,

I now know the temptation that many of my teachers in high school faced. That temptation is to just show those you teach a video, and let that do all the teaching. I'm just glad I don't have an office to go sleep in during our videos.

But I'm grateful for the videos the church puts out about Jesus and about the Restoration of His Gospel. They can be a great tool for helping others understand these things better, and also give more variety to the teaching. Also, because they are translated into several languages, it gives us something to offer to those who do not speak English.

But I think I've taken this video technique too far on occasion. A lot of times, we talk about prophets, and then refer to Moses, often citing Charlton Heston's performance in The Ten Commandments. I guess that's not so bad.

Another time, someone asked why bad things are allowed to happen to us, especially why God allows evil people to hurt others. We read certain verses from the scriptures that touch on this, but they didn't really get it. Eventually, out of frustration, I just recommended that they watch the movie Minority Report, and then they would understand.

In Los Altos we were teaching our investigator, Lenny, about the Plan of Salvation. We got to the Spirit World - where we go right after we pass away from this life. He had many, many questions about this. We answered what we could, but when his questions became more about what the Spirit World looks like, and details like that - I finally just told him to watch the movie Ghost.

I was told that unexpected things would happen on my mission, but I never NEVER thought I'd recommend to someone a Whoopi Goldberg movie.

People are really friendly here in Salinas. I love it.

This week, I had my first donut from Winchell's since we had them after Family Home Evening at home. I think the last time I had one was when I was 12. I was delirious with joy and sentiment as I finished my 4th donut. But a lot of those feelings could have been from sugar overdose.

I'm doing great, and I hope you all are too. You are in my prayers, and I'm again so grateful for your prayers for me and the missionary work.

Love,

Elder Karlsven

Conference Recap 10/05/09

Dear Family,

You know, since I've started taking notes at General Conference, I feel bad when I'm furiously writing notes for one speaker, and then for another speaker I can do little more than draw a rough sketch of the speaker's face. I suppose that's how the Spirit works though, letting the things you need to hear penetrate to your heart so you will remember them. I also suspect that the Spirit wants me to work on my skills on drawing facial features.

Every area I've been to, the hardest part of the day to find something productive to do is from 7-9 pm. It's dark - so most people do not want to hear you ring their doorbell, or they're waiting for their next victim to come knock on their door. Both situations do not usually turn out well for us missionaries.
Yesterday was not a day where we had this problem. I woke up eager for the day - General Conference, and then we were booked with appointments until 9pm. Around noon, we checked our messages; all our evening appointments had cancelled.

Dang.

But the Lord does provide in times of need. As the 7-9 pm dead hours approached, we wondered what we would be doing.

We get a phone call. It's the Spanish ward Elders. They need a ride. They won't tell us why they can't drive themselves. They give us instructions how to get to where they are.

As I pulled to the side of the street, we saw both of them standing next to their car. No flat tire, which was what I suspected. Maybe out of gas?

Nope. When we got closer, we saw that both airbags had deployed, and the front bumper was pretty banged up.

On the bright side, I guess we don't need to wash and wax their car this week.

Also, I wanted to give a shout-out to Kacy Faulconer (I assume someone is posting these letters on my blog). I was pleased to see that she was quoted in this month's Ensign magazine, page 27, saying how a blog should not be used for complaining about people or things (or something like that). Good for her. I will probably continue to not follow that counsel in these letters.

Anyway, I was glad to hear that everyone had a good time with family and watching Conference this weekend. Have a great week!

Love,
Elder Karlsven

P.S. Essay question: Which was your favorite speaker at Conference and why. 200 words or less. Illustrations optional.

Hump Day 09/28/09

Dear Family,

It was perfect - the "Hump Day" package I mean. It arrived right on my year-mark. It was very satisfying, lying on my bed, eating the homemade cookies, listening to the tape of the family, and looking through the Zoo Books magazine about camels Mom sent me. I especially liked the part of the tape where the Vistaunet family spoke. My companion thought that there were 3 or more men in their family because Steve kept doing different voices. The Hump Day song by the hit band Tijuana Bible was also great to hear.

I've been thinking about it, and decided that really all that's left is doing what I did for the past year, but just one more time. Also, if I schedule things out right, I can do the same amount of work I did, but in half the time. So I guess I really only have 6 months left. I'll bring this up at interviews with the mission president this week.

It doesn't seem like I've been out this long, until I start to think of all the people I've met, and big things that have happened since I've been out. There are so many good memories from each area I've been in (which is only 3 so far, but still). Ushering at the Catholic Mission in San Juan Bautista. Having an explanation of why metal forks should not be placed in the microwave - this from the man WHO INVENTED THE MICROWAVE OVEN. Reading past entries of my journal is always great.

Anyway, I think I've made the Salinas 2nd ward Elders about 20 minutes late for an appointment, so I'll have to end here.

I'm excited for the next year, now that I have a year of experience of what NOT to do.

The mission is great. Tons of blessings, and my testimony gets more sure and more expansive as time goes by. I love you all, and thanks again for all the letters and support.

Have a great week, and enjoy General Conference this next weekend.

Love,

Elder Karlsven

Lack of Laptops 09/22/09

Dear Family,

When I think about it, leaving Los Altos was probably harder to do than leaving home for my mission. I hope none of you are offended by that. But I'm not one to live in the past (my only regrets in Los Altos is not getting a picture with the guy who invented the microwave, and the founder of KFC) - I'm really excited to work in a city where many can be labeled "poor and humble," even though many don't or claim to not speak English.

The majority of our ward missionaries here play for the Hartnell College basketball team. One we went out with this week is named Bo Hunter. Not only does he have a name fit for a celebrity, but I found out he went to Provo High. He was a freshman when I was a senior. It was nice to get updates on mutual friends in Provo from him, and to know that D-Wing of Provo High is somehow still standing even though we were predicting its collapse since I was a freshman.

I also found out that at one point, Kenyn Koop was seriously considering coming to Salinas to play for Hartnell College. I heard that from Coach Vasher here (who also happens to be in our ward's bishopric). Man, that would have been awesome to have him in our ward. I could've have brought up all the embarrasing scout-camp stories about us when I bear my testimony in church. On second thought, maybe it's better that he didn't come here.

Our ward is great, and is a bit different than that in Los Altos. For instance, the lack of lap-tops in ward council meeting tells me we aren't in Silicon Valley anymore. Also, there are more who work blue-collar jobs, which is a nice break from having to interpret computer-programmer lingo at every dinner appointment.

I can tell Elder Finlayson has worked hard here. We have a baptism coming up in October. It also seems that wherever we go, he can point out some sort of service he did for one home or another. And not just little things - but things like painting an entire outside of a house, removing huge trees, planting new trees and bushes, etc. He loves to help people.

The ward is great. The bishop is great. My only awkward moment at church was when I called Brother Birchall "Brother King" even after I had asked his name twice and he had given me a business card to remember it. I still maintain that he looks like a "Brother King."

Have a great week. I'm praying for you - so the least you could do is do the same for me!

Love,

Elder Karlsven

Transfer 09/14/09

Dear Family,

I was expecting to stay in Los Altos into October, but I've been transferred down to Salinas. My companion is Elder Finlayson, from Las Vegas. That's about all I know about him.

The Salinas population is about 70% Hispanic, so I see my Spanish-speaking skills increasing from "Hola" to "Que Onda," and even more. I miss a lot of people in Los Altos, and I'm glad that I will have many opportunities to keep in touch.

We have a dinner appointment in 15 minutes, so I'll have to wrap this up. I hear a lot of people in the ward like to BBQ. So far so good.

Until next week!

Love,

Elder Karlsven

Braveheart Style 09/08/09

Dear Family,

Yesterday, I was very pleased to know that a great American Labor Day tradition is being carried on in the Bay Area of California. That tradition is the stake-wide pancake breakfast. I'm talking buckets of pancake batter, sausage, eggs, hashbrowns, etc. You get the idea.

I also discovered another blessing of being a missionary - it's easier to get seconds and thirds without shame or being rebuked. This is because: A Most people just see the white shirt, tie, and nametag, so when you get in line again, they don't see you as a glutton, but just as another missionary that just showed up. And B. Missionaries are always assumed to be hungry and needing to be fed. This assumption is correct.

In the next coming weeks we'll be starting doing service at the Senior Center in Los Altos. Sounds boring, you say? Well, I should also mention that one of our responsibilities is to help them stay fit - and what better way to stay fit than by doing Wii Fit. I just can't wait to see a room full of 60+ year olds playing Wii.

Lately our Mission President has been trying to help us become better speakers. To those who haven't really heard my voice, you'll be surprized that I'm not quite the charming, smooth, loud-speaking handsome and attractive young man that I come off as in these letters. Yep, I need to work on speaking louder and with more inflection. For this purpose, we've taken to reading aloud the scriptures in companion study, but doing it in the fire and brimstone preacher style. One of my favorite chapters to do this with is Alma 44, the battle between courageous Moroni and vengeful Zerahemnah and their armies. My favorite is verse 14, where one of Moroni's soldiers has cut off the scalp of Zerahemnah, puts it on the tip of his sword, and says:

"Even as this scalp has fallen to the earth, which is the scalp of your chief, so shall ye fall to the earth except ye will deliver up your weapons of war and depart with a covenant of peace."

Awesome.

I like reading more spiritual verses as well, but still, that one is my favorite right now. I like to imagine one of the warriors from Braveheart saying it.

The work is coming along. Blessings have come and I'm told more are in the pipeline. I hope the same is with you.

Love,

Elder Karlsven

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

What's the Theme of Tetris Again? 08/31/09

Dear Family,

On Thursday night the Elders Quorum and us missionaries helped a friend of an elder move. I think all 8 or so of the people that came to help work as engineers of some kind. Needless to say, that was the most efficiently filled moving truck you'll ever see. You know how whenever a bunch of things need to be put into a confined space and someone says how it's like playing Tetris? Well, not only was this comparison made several times by several people, but the majority all started humming the Tetris theme music. Hilarious.

Not many funny experiences while knocking doors this week. Yesterday we were doing it in a very Hispanic area. With those who speak little or no English, we offer to watch a video about Jesus with them (The video can be played in several languages, including Spanish). This time, we made the mistake of using this approach during a soccer game. All television sets were occupied.

It's good to hear that the missionaries from the ward are all doing alright. In the ward next to ours, a senior missionary couple, the Hulls, that went to England for a public affairs mission recently returned. I looked through a bunch of their pictures of other missionaries. Unless Luke Rowley gained 150 pounds, I didn't see him in any. Did Luke Rowley gain 150 pounds?

Has anyone heard from Zoram Quintana?

Elder Galletti and I are still doing our thing. I think I'm eating healthier than I ever have in my life. He cooks and teaches me how to cook for a healthy, low-meat diet for lunch. Then we get fed healthy, organic foods for dinner. I'm looking healthier every day, but I feel like I'm betraying my steak and beef-loving heritage.

There will be some good stories to tell next week, I promise.

Love,

Elder Karlsven

P.S. I'm taking a poll on this question - J. Golden Kimball: Great apostle, or the greatest apostle? email answers to mattkarlsven@myldsmail.net

Mmmmmm....Es Cargo 08/24/09

Dear Family,

I'm glad that Mom and Dad got to meet Jeff Merrick. He's one of the most dedicated and hard-working guys I know. He helps us a lot with the missionary work here.

Homesick moment:
Even though members of the ward often talk about Provo, I don't really get homesick until they mention something that I truly cherished there, and had almost forgotten about. This time it was when the McPhies in the ward said how much they liked to go to Burger Supreme in Provo. Oh man, I miss those Gyros.

Our 2 hours of knocking doors yesterday brought many blessings. We got 3 return appointments, and one family even let us in to teach a lesson about the restoration. They are from Myanmar, and have only been here a couple of months. They speak English alright (all except the father) and they said they came here to escape the persecution the government puts on Christians in their home country. They were very excited to hear about the Book of Mormon and the things it told about Jesus. Man, that felt good to teach and hear how they felt about following Christ. Sometimes you get so caught up defending the gospel that you forget how much deep joy and satisfaction of soul it brings.

So yeah, we're doing good this week.

While Elder Galletti has had some "firsts" on his mission (first time mowing a lawn, first 'Jumble Juice,' etc.) this week I had my first helping of es cargo and later the first time to eat mussels. Both delicious. And they didn't even squirm that much going down my throat.

This week we've been taking pictures of some families in the ward, which we will use for helping them remember to share the gospel (I don't tell specifically what we will do because some members read the blog). We ask to take their picture, they suspiciously ask "Why?"

"Um, no reason," we say.

"Hmmm, this isn't going to go on the internet or something is it?"

"It's for a missionary thing," we say.

"Oh, alright then."

I'm tempted to use the "It's for a missionary thing" line for other things.

"Sister _______, you need to get us 2 gallons of ice cream, and a big chocolate cake. It's for a missionary thing."

"Brother ______, we need your credit card. It's for a missionary thing."

"Come on, how can we share the gospel if you don't give us the keys to your Mercedes, Brother ______?"

I suppose I should count my blessings and not abuse the great blessing of helpful ward members.

Thanks for the emails everyone. Remember to search, ponder, pray and do. Then rinse and repeat. Simple.

Have a great week!

Love,

Elder Karlsven

Jumble Juice! 08/17/09

Dear Family,

Elder Galletti is recovering from his sickness, and life is getting less boring by the minute. We've made it a point to periodically get what he calls a "Jumble Juice" (that's how he says Jamba Juice). I'm supposed to be helping him with his pronunciation, but I find that instead of correcting him, I just start saying things the way he says them.

People from our ward often go to visit Utah, and even Provo. I've realized that to save on postage, I can just give stuff to them to deliver to Mom and Dad. Our Assistant [to the] Ward Mission Leader, Jeff Merrick, will be stopping by soon with a bag full of the mail I've received so far on my mission. He's a great guy, and not a serial killer to my knowledge, so please treat him kindly. He has been a member of the church for about 5 years now.

Before I gave him my letters, I went through them to make sure there weren't any addresses I needed before sending them home. As I did so, I wept as the pile of wedding announcements I had received got bigger and bigger. I've wondered why it is so disheartening to hear of others getting married and moving away. I wasn't planning on marrying any of them myself. And several I didn't even expect to see again anyway.

Then I realized that what I really was losing were people who knew the Matt before the mission, and would be so impressed to see the new and improved Matt after the mission. Now, the people I meet will only know the post-mission Matt, which probably won't be that much to look at. They won't appreciate it because they didn't know how much worse the pre-mission Matt was.

It's like when I was living at home, my room was a total mess. So when I made even a little effort to clean it, Mom was ecstatic when she saw it, even though it still needed a lot more work done. When other people saw my "cleaned" room for the first time, they only complained that the path through the clothes and junk on the floor was too narrow, or tried to guess what it was they smelled coming from under the bed.

Because of this, I've decided that my pick-up line for after the mission will be "If you think this is bad, you should have seen me two years ago."

Our Mission President has asked us to knock doors for two hours on Sundays. When knocking doors in apartment complexes, we've found that often, the people in one complex have something similar about them. Sometimes they are all Spanish-speaking. Sometimes they are all Chinese, or all from Taiwan. Sometimes every apartment smells like curry. The other day, we found a complex that was all Jehovah Witnesses. Though none were interested, most were very nice, and only one tried to Bible bash with us. Every once in a while you find an apartment complex where the only thing in common with everyone there is that they all hate missionaries. I try to avoid those ones.

Well, my time is about up, so again I thank you for the many emails this week. Good luck, Mom, with the new school year! And happy (belated) birthday, Brigette!

Love,

Elder Karlsven

He's a Vegan Now? 08/10/09

Dear Family,

For most of my life my philosophy on a balanced diet could be summed up as: Avoid any and all foods that distract from the meat in the meal.

The other day we found ourselves eating at a vegan restaurant. Even more surprising, it was delicious and I felt good afterward. I won't become a vegan, or even a vegetarian, but since having to be awake, alert and energized working 10am to 9pm every day, I've realized the blessings of being able to "run and not be weary" and "walk and not faint" when following the "eat meat sparingly" part of the Word of Wisdom. A meat-induced coma after lunch can be a huge stumbling block for a missionary.

This morning during study we were reading a talk by D. Todd Christofferson that spoke about keeping the missionary purpose(Helping people develop faith in Jesus Christ, repenting, being baptized, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end) the reason for your missionary work, and not let the means of doing this become the goal. In other words, finding people to teach who will progress in the gospel, and not finding people to teach just to teach. Sometimes it's hard to keep this in mind when you're just happy to find a handful of people who are willing to listen, but then refuse to act on your words to find out if the promises you give to them are true. It just made me laugh a little when I thought of some of the people I've taught in the past who were mentally not all there, just wanted money from the church, or just liked having missionaries over (and had been taking the lessons for over 2 years without any progress). I think at some point, trying to teach these people the gospel, turns from a hope to a delusion.

But I still love teaching.

Elder Galletti was sick this week, so we didn't go out a lot. I learned my lesson from when I infected half of San Juan Bautista with bronchitis.

Thanks for the emails, everyone. I'll write some better emails next time, I promise.

Love,

Elder Karlsven

Good Eating! 08/03/09

Dear Family,

I found out yesterday that Elder Galletti and I will be staying in Los Altos for at least 6 more weeks. But I'm not complaining. One difference between me and Elder Galletti is that when I look in our fridge, I start getting ready to go to McDonalds. When Elder Galletti looks in the fridge, somehow he thinks of delicious things to make, and then he even makes enough for both of us! I often say to him, "I don't care what everyone in the mission and the ward thinks of the French. You are a nice guy." He appreciates my compliments.

The other day we made Ratatouille at an investigator's house. Or rather, I cut some vegetables for Elder Galletti as he made Ratatouille. He made me chop up three onions, and I was literally sobbing by the time I was done. We decided that hiding onions in our scriptures would help people think we were more sincere when our eyes tear up any time we open them.

Even though it was mostly vegetables, the Ratatouille food was much better than the movie.

Last week tracting was heaven. This week tracting has given me a testimony that there is opposition in all things. I remember one door we knocked and I felt like I needed to use the somewhat controversial door approach, "Hi, we're here to annoy you. Is it working?" They answered the door -a man only in his 20's and only in his underwear- and I chickened out. Instead I said, "Hey, how's it going?" He said 3 words, of which one was an obscenity, and then slammed the door.

"What did he say?" asked Elder Galletti.

"He said he's already a member of the Church and is on his way to the temple," I responded.

"Oh."

It's been a slow week, but all the ups and downs of serving here have shown me that when it rains, it pours. You just have to be patient, diligent and remember to have fun until it does.

Love,

Elder Karlsven

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

No Love for Bud 07/27/09

Dear Family,

Each Sunday, we pass around a calendar in Relief Society so the women in the ward can sign up to have us over for dinner with their families. This calendar not only gets us opportunities to meet and help members with their missionary work, but I use it also to judge our standing in the ward.

It's simple - No one signs up for dinner=They don't like us.

What worries me is that I'm starting to notice a trend. You see, on several Sundays, my companion and I split off with two members, one going to Relief Society and the other to Priesthood meeting. We present a short (2 or 3 minute) lesson on missionary work, and then ask them to do something that week to share the gospel.

I've noticed that whenever my companion, Elder Galletti, goes to Relief Society, the dinner calendar gets full of people wanting to have us over, which is great. Whenever I deliver the message to the Relief Society, not only does no one sign up, but this last week one of them even crossed themselves off the day they had previously signed up for. The women of the Relief Society can be ruthless.

This week knocking doors has actually been effective in finding people to teach. We've gotten 4 return appointments this week from tracting.

I don't know how much longer I'm going to stay in the Los Altos ward, but I'm not too excited to leave. Coming to a new ward is a process. First you hate them, then you get used to them. After long enough, you get so you depend on them. Then you've been institutionalized. I think "Red" from The Shawshank Redemption said that. Not only have I been institutionalized by the Los Altos ward, but I've come to love many of the members here. Because of this, I plan to offend in some way the ward right before I go - that way it will be easier to leave.

One funny thing from a dinner this week with the Taylors (whom we begged to feed us because no one else would). Brother and Sister Taylor have two little kids. I'm not good at judging ages of children, but the younger of the two, nicknamed Bubba, is young enough to not be able to say much, but can walk and EATS A TON. With us eating outside for the barbeque, one of the challenges was for the Taylors to keep their kids from running off into the road. Every couple of minutes, Brother Taylor got up from his chair, ran off, and returned carrying a smiling Bubba back. One time when Brother Taylor went to get Bubba, we heard several seconds later him say, "Hey, it works." We turned and saw Brother Taylor holding a cookie just out of reach of a crying Bubba (who wanted the cookie), leading him back to us. You might think this was something cruel to do, and maybe it was. But to see it was hilarious too.

It's been a great week, and we've had a lot of blessings. Blessings to be led to some people open to hearing and learning about the gospel of Jesus Christ, and blessings to have felt the Spirit guide us. After following the feelings the Spirit brings, I've seen immediate blessings come several times this week. I guess Heavenly Father wanted to make it obvious to me that the good things started to happen specifically when I follow the direction of the Holy Ghost.

Sometimes it is still hard to overcome hesitations, but I know, especially this week, that the fruits of the Spirit do come when you follow the direction it gives you. I hope I never forget how worth it it is to follow all that God asks us to do, if only to have the blessing of the assuring encouragement, love, and direction that come from the Holy Ghost.

Have a great week everyone. Elder Galletti and I appreciate your prayers.

Love,

Elder Karlsven

Referrals 07/20/09

Dear Family,

Since the ward has found out that Elder Galletti is from France, suddenly we've been getting a lot of referrals for French-speaking friends of members. Referrals are as interesting as they are varied:

Class 1 referral: The members invite you to dinner with their friends. They have talked about the Church and about what missionaries do. The friends are interested and expect the missionaries to teach them more about the Church as the member promised we would. Awesome!

Class 2 referral: Member takes one of their friends to a Church activity. The member introduces the friend to the missionaries. Sweet!

Class 3 referral: Member gives you one of their neighbor's names and tells you that they are friendly. They have instructed their neighbors to give missionaries a glass of water if they come to their door. Okay.

No-Class referral: Member tells you an address to go to. They can't quite remember what the person's name is, but know that it starts with a "B." They tell you to visit the referral but forbid you to mention the member's name. Lame! No better than tracting!

But we're grateful for any referrals we can get.

This week we had dinner with some the Barneys (members in the ward) and their elderly French neighbors, Nicole and Charlie. It took the Barneys a while to convince them to have dinner with the missionaries because Nicole and Charlie thought we would demand that they go to church.
When we came for dinner at the Barney's house, Nicole was very happy to see us, giving hugs and kisses. Charlie was also friendly, but less excited as Nicole. Elder Galletti started speaking to Charlie in French, so I began a conversation with Nicole. She had a French accent, so it was hard to catch everything she said. But she showed so much emotion while she spoke, I thought I could just mirror her facial expressions and it would be good. It was at first when she smiled and laughed as she told me stories about how she and her husband met, and her first camping trip with him, etc. I smiled and laughed too. Then for a little bit I didn't know what she was saying, but she was smiling. I smiled and then chuckled a bit after something she said. She looked at me confused. I asked her to repeat what she said. Apparently she had just told me about how her two younger sisters died of cancer.

Awkward.

Well, we're in a rush, so I'll have to end it here. Thanks for the emails, everyone. Have a great week!

Love,

Elder Karlsven

French Lessons 07/13/09

Dear Family,

7 days. That's the longest time I've ever spent with a Frenchman. And it hasn't been at all what I expected.

From what I hear, Elder Galletti's last companions weren't the most charitable or patient missionaries, and Elder Galletti had a hard time with them. But this works out great for me, because even though I'm pretty mediocre at best, he says I'm the best comp he has had yet. I like this guy.

After dinner the other day, it was decided that we would play a game of Apples to Apples. Although Elder Galletti can speak English pretty well, I guess 6 months in the United States isn't enough to build a vocabulary suitable to play Apples to Apples. The first round we were supposed to choose a card from our hand that had a person, place, thing or event that could be described as "Nasty or disgusting." The cards laid down were "dirty dishes," "mold," "mud," and "Swan." Guess which card was Elder Galletti's. The rest of the game went on like that, where if there ever was a card down that didn't make sense, it was probably his. Hilarious. What's even more funny is that he ended up winning the game.

Our relationship is developing as I teach him English words and he teaches me French.

He points to a lamp. "How do you say that?"

"Alligator," I respond.

"Okay."

I'm sure he admires me because the other day he gave me a French nickname that means "brave" or "strong." I'm not sure exactly how to pronounce it, but it sounds like "le inn-kom-peh-taunt." Pretty cool, huh?

Oh yeah, another story this week. For the first time in about 2 months, we got a new investigator from tracting. We were walking home from dinner, and I got the feeling to check on this potential investigator who lives nearby that I haven't seen in 4 months. It didn't make sense because the last time we went there, the people said he didn't live there anymore. We went anyway. No one answered the door. But then after knocking 2 more doors a guy answered. His name was Frank. I began:

"Frank, have you ever read a book or watched a movie that just inspired you to do something different in your life or become a better person?"

"Yeah."

"What was it?"

"Grand theft auto."

Somehow we ended up talking about the Book of Mormon. He invited us in to talk and for something to drink. He told us all that he knew about Joseph Smith, which was essentially what has been about him on South Park. In the short time we had, we told Frank about the First Vision of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appearing to Joseph Smith when he prayed to know which church was true. Frank had the classic question, why does God let bad things happen to people. Long story short, we got a return appointment with him. No matter how far Frank progresses in the gospel, I feel very very blessed to have found someone to teach. Plus, it really strengthened my testimony of being led by the Spirit where to go.

This has been an eventful week and I wish I had more time to tell more stories that have happened.

Enjoy the week, everyone. And remember, contrary to popular belief, Joseph Smith was never given the ability to have "ice breath."

Love,

Elder Karlsven

New Companion 07/06/09

Dear Family,

Elder Uelese is headed back to New Zealand with 2 huge suitcases full of clothes he bought here that he will probably re-sell in New Zealand for double the price.

Meanwhile, I'm chilling with my new companion Elder Galletti. He's a Frenchman. However, he doesn't seem to be the stereotypical stuck-up, America-hating, cheese-obsessed person you would expect a French missionary to be. From the 4 hours we've been together, we've already found that both of us ski, both play guitar, and both do not enjoy eating snails. A match made in heaven.

For lunch, he enjoyed the first Whopper he has had in his life. I enjoyed the first Rodeo cheeseburger that I've had in 9 months. This is the beginning of a beautiful companionship.

Apparently most of the San Francisco missionaries had cars, so he is a little bummed that we only get a car 2 days of the week. I can't wait to see the look on his face when he gets on the rickety old Schwinn bike in our apartment. I told him that I will train him for the Tour de France.

So that's the update. Still in Los Altos, but a new companion. I'm sure I'll have some good stories this coming week.

I love you all. Life's a garden - dig it.

Love,

Elder Karlsven

Friday, July 03, 2009

Dollar Menu, Hispanic Girls, and Free Food! 06/30/09

Dear Family,

I hope mom finds time to forward this email to everyone even though she is partying in southern California. Happy birthday, Kaylee!

Temperatures are nearing the 100's and our mission president still refuses to budge on his policy against companions practicing baptizing each other in our apartment complex pool. He can be so unreasonable sometimes!

Mom and Dad keep asking for more day-to-day details of my mission life. I was reviewing the last week in my planner, and now I just realize how boring this week has been. We would go visit someone, most of the daytime visits fell through, then we would tract or talk to people on the street. Add in meals, showers, and a little teaching, and that's my day. I guess it wasn't boring for me, but not too many good stories to tell this week. My farmer's tan/sunburn is coming in nicely, something I've been looking forward to.

Elder Uelese has been telling me about things he will miss when he goes back home to New Zealand:

-Dollar menu
-Hispanic girls
-Free food all the time

He is a very wise man.

Enjoy the sun, everyone. And remember, if the sunblock you use is less than SPF 30, it probably causes more cancer than it prevents.

Love,

Elder Karlsven

And We All Thought Matt Was a Hoarder 06/23/09

Dear Family,

I think all too often we overlook the good parts about having a trunky, going home in two weeks, companion. For one thing, anything that he doesn't have room in his luggage for, you get first dibs on. Also, now all the friends he's made throughout his mission want to come up here and take us out to eat. He has to worry about adjusting to regular life, and I'm reaping all the benefits!

This week we helped out one of our...hmmm, how can I put this delicately...crazy investigators. Something in her mind prevents her from ever throwing anything away. This includes garbage and rotting food. Our first task was to throw away all the rotting fruit laying around. I picked up a basket of rotting fruit, and immediately a swarm of fruit flies flew into my face. At this same time, our investigator asked me if that fruit was still good or not.

This was only the beginning.

Her refrigerator had broken down about a week before we came over. I opened it up and saw that she had not thrown anything away, and now all the food, ALL the food, was moldy. And not just a little moldy - for example, a mushy tomato in there was halfway covered in fuzz. SICK! Some dark brownish-red liquid was pooling at the bottom of the fridge.

After emptying out the fridge and gagging several times, I started to work on the clutter in the kitchen. The whole apartment had clutter of junk about 4 or 5 feet tall. There was one about 3 foot-wide path through the apartment. The investigator wouldn't let me throw anything away - used napkins, empty yogurt containers, milk cartons, etc - so I had Elder Uelese distract her while I at least tried to uncover the floor a little bit in the kitchen. I found that the deeper I dug, the wetter and smellier the pile of filth became. That bottom inch of the junk was soaked in garbage juice.

We ended up filling about 10 garbage bags before she wouldn't let us clean anything else up. Well, at least the rotting food won't be a problem for a little while. As Elder Uelese and I left, we pondered how a person can get to the point where their apartment is a health hazard - also, how we could get the garbage juice smell out of our hands.

On another day, we helped some members move out of their apartment. They decided to move out about a week earlier than they told the ward, so we ended up being the only ones to help them. No one we called to help answered their phones. Yeah, we were moving furniture and lots of unboxed stuff for 10 hours that day.

Ether 12:4
"Wherefore, whose believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world..."

True dat.

Elder Uelese will go home on July 6, and I think I will stay in Los Altos for another 6 weeks. Elder Uelese along with 16 other missionaries had their outgoing fireside on Sunday. Each said a 2 or 3 minute testimony. Elder Uelese's was mostly about food that he will miss, and missing getting so much free food. I felt the Spirit.

Despite the difficult and sometimes disgusting work we did this week, we still had a lot of fun. Our teaching pool is slowly growing, and we are grateful. I'm going to miss having a huge Kiwi for a companion when he goes home.

Happy Father's Day, fathers!

Love,

Elder Karlsven

White Man Can't Jump, Shoot or Play Defense 06/15/09

Dear Family,

In answer to Mom's question, one piece of advice I'd give to those preparing for a mission is:

Don't be afraid to loot the church building for paper towels, toilet paper or anything else you need. It took me 8 months to figure that one out.

Right now our companionship morale is pretty low. Mostly because in the past week we've gotten schooled in basketball by 2 really short Hispanics, and then 2 men in their 50's. In our defense, we are both out of shape, and they were shockingly talented outside shooters. The park we played at is full of just about every race but white. I felt like Woody Harrelson in White Men Can't Jump. Except in my case it would be White Man Can't Jump, Shoot or Play Defense.

So this week at district meeting we're supposed to review all the different things we've done to find new investigators and then assess which ones actually helped and which didn't. I don't know how other missionaries feel about it, but all our finding techniques seem pretty hit or miss. All of them have gotten us new investigators, but sometimes none of them get us anything. I'm not sure if any one finding activity is better than any other. We'll see how it goes.

I'm at the Apple Store again, typing on a MacBook Air, and an employee keeps asking me if I have any questions. I think he remembers me from last week. And I think he wants me to leave.

Thanks for the emails, and I'll try to start putting more detail into my letters like mom and dad keep asking. Usually I don't remember the details, so I'll make an effort to do so this coming week.

Talk to you all later!

Love,

Elder Karlsven

Ukulele Woes 06/08/09

Dear Family,

First off, thanks to Mom for sending me my ukulele. Our goal is to get some songs together where Elder Uelese and I both sing and play our ukuleles. The problem right now is getting both ukes in tune with each other. I'm starting to think that my uke isn't really the top-of-the-line model I thought it was. It doesn't stay in tune for more than an hour. Kamalei gave me a reject ukulele!

I love Elder Uelese and all, but I think he's getting a little trunky. Don't worry, he still works, but whenever something bad happens, he always tells me how excited he is to not have to go through those things when he's home. This is usually when we get rejected at a door or talking to someone on the street. The latest time was when we were teaching a lesson yesterday, and afterward ended up sitting there for like 10 minutes while the a member and our investigator talked about their jobs. Computer-talk to the non-computer-nerd is BORING. I feel sorry for Elder Uelese - while I can at least fake interest in nerdy things, he can't stand it. He tells me every day how much he can't wait to level someone in rugby when he gets home. With my frail bones, I pray he can hold out until then.

But we're doing great. In the past couple weeks I realized that something has happened that I never expected would ever happen on my mission. People are not only remembering, but pronouncing my name correctly! I was told miracles would happen on my mission, and now I know that is true.

Anyway, we're at the Apple Store at a mall doing email this week because the libraries don't open until later this afternoon. I'm starting to get bad looks from the workers, which makes me think that their bright and chipper faces that greeted us when we first came in the store were not as sincere as I thought. I'd better get going.

Peace out, family.

Love,

Elder Karlsven

International Week 06/01/09

Dear Family,

This has been a very...international week. We were street contacting in a park near our apartment, and saw a bunch of Asians setting up a volleyball net. We went to talk with them, and before we knew it, we were spiking balls at cowering Asians left and right. They spoke broken English, but has mastered words you use in sports such as "Amazing!" "Miracle!" and "I go!"

Later we were invited to a family home evening with some ward members who speak Russian. Once a month they invite other Russian-speakers to this home evening with them, members and non-members. In theory it is a great chance for us to teach people about the gospel. But when the only Russian that speaks any English is an old man that knows only enough English to be able to flirt shamelessly with the other men's wives, it's not the best environment for us to be able to teach with the Spirit.

On Saturday night, after we had dinner at a member's apartment, we were walking out of their complex when we heard some sort of drum going in another apartment. I think the drum is called a Tabla, and it's from India. We knocked on their door and an Indian lady answered. I saw the drum in the room and I told her how we had heard it and were curious. She opened the door a little further and we saw about 8 or 9 other Indians sitting in a circle on the floor, an older man playing the Tabla.

"Yes, we were just praying," she said.

"Oh, can we join you?" I asked.

They let us in and we sat in the circle as they sang some different prayers to the beat of the Tabla. Between songs they told us what the songs were about and some of their teachings. I did my best to look interested and engaged, but a lot of the things they said I had no idea what they were talking about. I'm sure that's how a lot of people we teach without a Christian background feel. They let me record one of their prayers on my camera and then, recognizing that we are ministers, asked us to teach a little about Jesus to them. One of the women then went into the kitchen and returned with a pot full of some sort of brownish semi-solid goo. She went around the room plopping a scoop of it into each person's hand. Mmm, mmm, good.

Whenever we are around people speaking another language, Elder Uelese either imitates their language, or whispers to me his made-up translations of what they are saying. In both cases, I often start laughing and everyone looks at me wondering what the dumb white kid is laughing at. I'm working on it.

Anyway, I'm doing great, having lots of fun, and doing my best to love others and share the gospel. Thanks again for all the prayers, emails, and support. Have a great week!

Love,

Elder Karlsven

Sunday, May 31, 2009

"Pahlangy" (Pah-long-ee) = White People 05/26/09

Dear Family,

So I've been going through last week in my planner trying to find something worth telling you all. A spiritually-uplifting experience, a funny story, even something I heard someone else do this week that you all might like to hear. I got nothing, and right now I'm sitting next to an old man and a homeless guy, who are both talking to themselves, and each has their own distinctive smell. So I'm having a hard time focusing.

Elder Uelese often talks about some sort of animal called a "Pahlangy" (Pah-long-ee) that he and other Polynesians like to cook and eat. He also sings a lot of songs about hunting and killing Pahlangies. So I've been looking for a restaurant that serves Pahlangies, but haven't found one yet. Then the other day a Samoan member of our ward said that they used to be in the Tongan ward before they came to this Pahlangy ward. I was a little confused, because most of the members of our ward are white Americans, and wouldn't know much about Pahlangies. If anyone knows where I could find more info on Pahlangies, let me know.

Anyway, thanks for the letters, everyone, and if you see Kenyn, Nate, or any of my other friends that recently came home from their missions, just yell really loud at them "Ooga-booga-looga!" for me. It's a missionary thing. If they truly served with all their heart, might, mind and strength, they'll know what it means.

Love,

Elder Karlsven

Exploding Tires! 05/18/09

Dear Family,

What a week it's been. Being with Elder Uelese reminds me a lot of when I was living with Kamalei. Except Elder Uelese is three times as big as Kamalei, has a New Zealand accent, and we don't spend 6 hours a day playing Guitar Hero.

We've taken to street contacting using a ukelele. As Elder Uelese promised, it worked like magic. We were walking down a main street in Mountain View - I was playing the uke and then some people shouted to us to come over and play them a song. We hadn't prepared anything, so I just played some chords and Elder Uelese made up some words, and it wasn't bad. After we finished, we not only were able to give them a Book of Mormon and teach a little bit, but one of them gave us a dollar each! I just wonder what the Bishop is going to say when I give him a tithing envelope with a dime in it.

Elder Uelese says he is a professional rugby league player, and I believe it. He has some pretty good stories. Mostly about injuries or concussions he has gotten while playing. One of my favorite stories though was how when he and another Elder spent a P-day training the San Jose State rugby team. One thing led to another, and they ended up helping the team beat the number 2 rugby team in the nation, and even got their photos on the front page of the San Jose State magazine. That story needs to be made into an inspirational film.

Another good thing about having Elder Uelese as a companion is that people are less likely to yell things at us or start arguing with us. And the people who still do these things are more likely to be beaten up - by him. Man, I love Polynesian missionaries.

Let's see, oh yeah, Saturday was my birthday. I got mom's birthday packages on time, which was sweet. Then went and street contacted in downtown Mountain View where a bunch of booths for different companies and products were set up, along with some bands and attractions. Pretty fun. I even gave myself a birthday present by going down this HUGE slide they set up. It didn't seem as awesome though when I had to wait for 2 moms and their respective 3 year old children to go down before me. But still, it was sweet.

Then we celebrated with shish-ca-bobs (sp?) and ice cream cake at dinner with some members. Not such a bad birthday after all.

A few minor drawbacks to a Polynesian companion:
-He eats as much as I do, and it's a race on who gets the leftovers first.
-Having to keep my back straight as he bench-presses me.
-Having to replace 2 bike tubes for him after they exploded under his weight (this is true).

Actually only one of the tubes actually exploded. The other one just got a hole. The exploding tube:

We were riding back home from dinner and went down a road with some police cars and a gathering crowd. They were all looking at a car that had crashed and was now on its side. I was ahead of Elder Uelese, and right when we passed the crashed car, I heard a BOOM! behind me. It sounded like a quieter gun-shot or a really big balloon popping. I looked back and saw that Elder Uelese's back tube had exploded and was completely flat. Of course, now everyone who had been looking at the crashed car was now looking at Elder Uelese. No one made a sound for about 3 seconds. Then this big, fat Hispanic guy from across the street just starts busting out laughing at us. Everyone else started laughing too. We walked our bikes away in shame.

But it really was hilarious.

Anyway, thanks for the updates and good luck Dave and Brigette with getting the new home and Joe and Meagan visiting Europe. Have fun everyone, and enjoy your week!

Love,

Elder Karlsven

Obedience 05/11/09

Dear Family,

For the past 3 months I told Elder DeAngelo a lot about how San Juan Bautista is and about how it was to be a missionary there. For some reason, the weird and more negative stories (strange people, chickens everywhere, small population, etc) were more fun to tell than the positive ones (making good friends, everyone knows you, spiritual lessons, etc). Well, as luck would have it, he just got transferred to San Juan, and I'm sure he's thinking it's not going to go too well. And it's all my fault! Meh.

My new comp is Elder Uelese (Weh-less-ee) from New Zealand. He's a pretty big guy, and he seems pretty solid, especially after the car's rear suspension went down a good 2 inches after he put his dumbells in the trunk. Then another 3 after he got in. I don't know much about him now that I've known him for about an hour. But I've heard a lot of good things about him.

Well, we're off to a pig roast in San Jose. It was great talking to everyone yesterday. Oh yeah, a good excerpt of the phone conversation:

Family: So how is your missionary experience different than you expected?

Becky: One thing is that all missionaries aren't perfectly obedient.

(phone beeps)

Family: Oh, I think that means it's been an hour. How long can your phone call be?

Me: 40 minutes, but that's not that important. Now, let me tell you more about these disobedient missionaries...

I'll talk to you all later. And if you see Nate Perkins or Kenyn Koop, give them a pat on the back or a hearty handshake for me.

Love,

Elder Karlsven

Santa Cruz 05/04/09

Dear Family,

Although my sickness had barnyard-esque symptoms, you can rest assured that it was not the swine flu. Thank you for your concern.

In less than a 10-minute time-frame today, I saw 6 people with dreadlocks, 3 street performers, and hundreds of otters and surfers in wetsuits. That's right - we visited Santa Cruz.

Taking a windy road into the Eucalyptus-tree-filled hills of Santa Cruz, we approached the area known as the Mystery Spot. The Mystery Spot is renowned for its strange effects on certain laws of physics and perception as well as its ability to distribute large amounts of bumper stickers. Balls roll UP slopes instead of down, people change heights and size depending on where they are in the Mystery Spot, the downward pull of gravity is not a factor in the Mystery Spot.

I'm sure you can read a lot more of the fantastical descriptions of this place online. But to tell the truth, I was a little disappointed about the whole thing. Most of the tricks didn't seem amazing, or even made you wonder how they did it. Actually most of the effects were based on that you were in a crooked house on a slope. I guess I've just lost my childlike imagination and wonder about things like that. I hope it comes back someday though. I'll just have to wait until I'm old and senile I guess.

Seeing the ocean was great, and seeing surfers wipe out was even greater. Santa Cruz would be a fun place to surf - I mean serve.

We've had some great lessons this week. We have two investigators preparing for baptism in a few weeks - Gian Singh (An Indian from Fiji) and Florence Ting (Chinese lady that we've been teaching with Elder Young - from Provo High).

We also had a very spiritual lesson in a Starbucks this week. It was the first time teaching a 25 year old named Lewis, who studied to be a Lutheran preacher, but then 3 years ago decided to convert to the Greek Orthodox church. Lewis lives with his parents, so he wanted to meet at Starbucks instead of his place. Not the best environment to teach, but we agreed anyway. We brought Dave Barney, a member of the ward to help teach Lewis.

As we taught, Lewis had a lot of really good questions. Honest, sincere questions and not wanting to bash (most of the time) even though he knows the Bible really really well. As Dave Barney testified of his own getting an answer that the Book of Mormon is true and that Lewis can get an answer too if he reads and prays with sincerity, real intent and faith, I remember how all our loud, distracting surroundings melted away and the Spirit could be felt and recognized. Great lesson. Members helping out with teaching investigators makes it SO SO SO much better (most of the time). And yeah, we probably won't be teaching Lewis at Starbucks again in the near future.

Anyway, I'll think of some good stuff to tell you all when I call on Mothers Day, and you all do the same. Can't wait!

Love,

Elder Karlsven

No Bueno 04/28/09

Dear Family,

Been inside most of the week. Yep, sick again. I thought it would be nice to have hot weather when you are sick. Not so. The most miserable day was I think Wednesday, the hot sun beating into our apartment, where for 5 hours I was sprawled out on the couch, drenched in sweat, periodically swaying in and out of consciousness. I realized my appearance that evening at our dinner appointment probably concerned the family when I had to stop them from calling an ambulance. No bueno. Absolutely no bueno.

We passed the time playing Settlers of Catan. This helped take my mind from my ever-worsening illness, but it also brought back bad memories of family feuds back at home caused by playing this game. I was shunned by our district at district meeting, and the mission president refused to shake my hand. All because of the symptoms of my sickness - cough, runny nose, weakness, sickly composure, and a near-uncontrollable urge to complain about it constantly. This week has been as much a mental and emotional battle as it has been a physical battle against the adversary and the bad-health he sends to me.

Okay, it wasn't THAT bad. But having to stay inside is so boring, especially as a missionary. I got some anti-biotics, and just finished taking them all, and I've improved a lot. So this week we are back to work at full-throttle.

One thing of note happened this week - I may or may not have accidentally gone outside of the mission on a split with Eddie Baik from the Elders Quorum. He was driving me around, looking for a less-active member that lives in Los Altos Hills - lots of winding roads, and few street signs. The man we were looking for lives on the north border of the mission. We were driving along and start passing several software companies that Eddie says are based out of Palo Alto. Huh? We realized we probably missed a turn, but cannot find a place to turn around. We finally turn around in a parking lot at a building for Stanford University. So, as any missionary would, I had Eddie take a picture of me in front of the Stanford sign (for bragging rights) and then we rushed back into mission boundaries.

Let's just keep this a secret between me, you and the world-wide-web, okay?

Not much else to report this week. But with my health back, I'm sure the coming seven days will be eventful.

I love you all. Thank you so much for your prayers!

Love,

Elder Karlsven

Questions and Answers 04/21/09

Family,

Wow, Mom is moving from music teacher to regular teacher? Are her students going to put on a surprise concert for her like in Mr. Holland’s Opus? Hopefully her opus will be better than Mr. Holland’s. That one was terrible!

In Mom’s last email to me she asked a few questions. In response:

Q: What's your apartment like? Do you share it with other Elders? Or is it just you and your companion?
A: My apartment is acceptable. There are several large and mysterious stains on the carpet that won’t come out, but other than that it’s pretty good. Just Elder DeAngelo and I. Living below us is a large man named Roy that is drunk often and occasionally waits for us to come home at night to talk to us. The last encounter with him he started crying and hugged me several times, and then told us several graphic details about his life. Ugh.

Q: Are you cutting each other's hair? Or going to a professional hair style place?
A: We met a man named Al Galedrige who runs a barbershop in downtown Los Altos. He is a balding 81 year-old that has been cutting hair for 63 years Very talkative and also losing his hearing. Great guy. Gives 50’s style haircuts, which luckily is exactly what I like. We go to him

Q: Are you taking care of your suits? Getting them dry cleaned occasionally?
A: Yes, mother.

Q: Do you cook much? Or is it cold cereal in the morning and meals with members in the evenings?
A: Member meals are almost always delicious and even occasionally nutritious. The extent of my cooking is melting cheese on nachos in the microwave

Q: Are your shoes in good condition?
A: Yes, mother.

Q: How are your teeth doing?
A: I counted them this morning. All present and accounted for.

Some missionaries hate it, but I love being looked at on the street and having weirdos (and some normalos) come up to us to talk. Maybe I was just starved for attention before I came out here, but I like it. I’ve gained about 10 pounds in the last 3 weeks. I’m trying to convince myself it’s from the muscle being built in my legs from biking. But I still haven’t forgotten my initial goal of gaining 200 pounds on my mission.

I’m sorry to hear that the ski season is winding down. I hope you all enjoyed it.

Oh yeah, I should mention that Elder Ames, serving in the ward next to Los Altos, from North Pole, is good friends with Nicole Jensen (our cousin). Small world.

I’m happy and having fun while simultaneously working hard. Sounds impossible, but it’s true.

Love,

Elder Karlsven

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Best Investigator! 04/13/09

Dear Family,
I love holidays. I also love asking Hindus if they would like to watch a movie about Jesus on Easter.
Easter church was terrific. Before Sacrament Meeting, Ken Smith, a mild-mannered member of the ward told me that he had brought a friend to church he met while running at the Stanford track. I was informed that this 33 year old friend, whose name was J.R. would be sitting in the front right pew. We walked into the chapel and sat down near the back just as the meeting began.
It took little time to spot J.R. in the congregation. While the Brother and Sister Bennett each spoke about Christ's Atonement, about every 4 or 5 sentences or so there came an enthusiastic "Amen!" from his direction. Brother Bennett opened his talk with a joke about if he should thank the choir for singing even though he had been in it. J.R. found this hilarious, laughing hard, and clapping his hands loudly. I remembered that Ken Smith told me that J.R. would be coming to our small gospel principles class too. Yes!
In class, we found J.R. to be the most positive man in the world. Very talkative, and 90% of the time he was giving someone a thumbs up. If someone came into the room without shaking his hand, he would scold them and then give them a big hug. I especially liked it when this happened to an old high counsellor who definitely was not comfortable with being touched.
We decided to teach the 1st lesson (The Restoration) for J.R. in class. It was going well until I made the mistake of asking J.R. a question.
"J.R., how has learning about the Bible helped you to be so happy?"
He spoke until the end of class on that and other various subjects. But we didn't mind because in the process he made several new friends in the class. He told us that many people think he is on some sort of drug which makes him so energetic and happy (that's what I was thinking), but then he shouted "The air I breathe is MY drug!" And then he took a big breath through his nostrils.
He came to Elders Quorum with us and, as can be expected, he participated heavily in the lesson. Most of the Elders loved him - inviting him to choir, more activities and church next week. J.R. happily agreed. As everyone was getting up after Elders Quorum, J.R. yelled out to everyone his phone number. He lives in Palo Alto, so teaching him may be difficult, but he's really what made church exciting.
We had two dinners on Easter, which was heaven. We also checked up on a media referral for a man in his twenties named Jay, who asked for a Book of Mormon delivered to him after looking at mormon.org. We visited him with Jeff Merrick, our assistant ward mission leader, and found Jay to be very pleasant, even allowing us to teach him a first lesson. He has a Mormon friend who goes to BYU now, and took him on a tour of the temple grounds in Salt Lake City, which is really what made him curious about Mormons. While we were there, he took a picture of us on his iPhone and sent it to her. That must have been a pleasant surprise for her.
I'm glad you all had a good Easter. I just finished one of the big solid-chocolate bunnies given to us yesterday, so I'll definitely need a nap in the next 10 minutes. Have a great week!
Love,
Elder Karlsven
P.S. Happy Birthday Joe!

Chastised about his bike. 04/06/09

Dear Family,

A kindly member of the ward fixed up my bike the best he could. While he was fixing it he told us fascinating stories about his mission - mostly about how well he took care of his own mission bike. The problems with my bike fueled his vigor for sharing more about his mission.

Him: When's the last time this chain has been oiled?

Me: Well, I'm not sure, it was another missionary's bike before I...

Him: (interjecting) When I was in the Dominican Republic it took two months to order bicycle chain oil, but I still oiled my chain twice a week. Now, do you not know how to shift correctly, or do you just LIKE destoying gear-shifters?

Me: What?

Him: That's what I thought. You missionaries are all the same. When I was Zone Leader, I told all my missionaries to... (etc)

Nah, I'm just kidding. He's a really nice guy. My bike feels and rides a lot better than it did before, although there are a couple problems I will have to take it into a bike shop to get fixed. No biggee.

Was conference good or what? President Monson doing his thing, the women speakers didn't have big fake-looking smiles on, and I was very pleased when President Uchtdorf delivered yet another talk based on airplanes.

I hope Elder Perry's talk on member missionary work sunk in with the ward here. If not, we're going to force it down their throats when we have dinners with them. It did make me miss Provo canyon when Elder Perry was talking about the stranded sheep. I must have gone up Provo canyon over 100 times in the few months before I went into the MTC.

We played ultimate frisbee with our zone today and had a barbeque. Elder Ames is new in our district. He comes from North Pole, Alaska. He's a little on the chubby side, and somewhat overly-jolly, which makes me suspicious. I'll keep an eye on him come Christmas time.

Not many really good stories to tell this week. We did meet some really really friendly athiests from India yesterday. They invited us in, gave us water and candy, and didn't listen to anything we said about the gospel. They were a lot nicer than the Baptist, "Christian," or lady that didn't speak English we tracted into earlier. Respecting and loving people of other faiths is so important.

I'm doing well, staying fed, and preaching the gospel. So Mom, you have no need to worry, I'm so spoiled compared to Dave, Mike or Joe when they served.

I love the blessings of the gospel, especially the Spirit that comes when you share it with others. I'm very grateful to be here, especially now that barbeque season is coming around.

Love,

Elder Karlsven

Baptism! 03/30/09

Family,

Ben's baptism went off without a hitch, and his father who has not come to church for 25 years came to see him confirmed in Sacrament Meeting. Really cool. Maybe in another 25 years he'll let the missionaries teach him a first lesson.

Today was transfer meeting, and all that really changed was that our car was given to some Spanish-speaking missionaries that are opening a new area. So it looks like my thighs are going to be extra toned after being on bike this coming transfer.

This week I've discovered that Indians (people from India) are some of the nicest people you'll ever meet, but are also very hard to explain gospel doctrine to. Well, actually I take that back - many have come to believe in Christ, but now I wonder if they need to stop believing in their other gods to be baptized. Do they really need to follow ALL of the 10 commandments? (Disclaimer: Just for clarification, mostly for mom, I'm joking here, okay?)

After this past week I wonder how I will keep from gaining 200 pounds if I ever get put in a Polynesian ward. This week we had a huge barbecue with the Latu family (Brother Latu I found out was Mandy's district leader for a time in New Zealand) and then the Tangi family gave us an entire cake. Not leftovers, but a whole cake, for no real reason. Sweet!

Again, thanks for all the support, the letters and everything else you all do for me.

Love,

Elder Karlsven

No, he does not work at a department store 03/23/2009

Dear Family,

Ben's work schedule got changed, so we had to push the baptism back to Saturday March 28. I don't know if I mentioned this, but now our main concern is how Bret Jepsen, our nearly 7 foot tall Ward Mission Leader is going to baptize Ben, who is about 5'5" and a bit stocky. Bro. Jepsen is working with his chiropractor about this.

We've been going around trying to set up more regular service activities to do around the city. One that looks promising is to take an hour each week at the Center for Performing Arts and explain and answer questions about the artwork being displayed there. Good thing I know so much about art (joke).

This last week we got to usher for the School of Music and Arts. It was a percussion show that wasn't too bad. Made me want to watch the movie "Drumline." But then I remembered how terrible that movie really was.

We often get questions from customers in department stores asking where things are. I have helped several of them. One lady that realized I didn't work there looked at my nametag and then said that if I could tell her where the bathroom mats were then she would convert. It saddened me to find out later that she didn't really mean what she said.

I really like riding a bike as a missionary. I almost wish we didn't have the car 3 days a week. We'll see if I still feel this way in the sweltering heat of the summer.

Although the work is hard is several ways, I feel so spoiled here. Delicious food, good ward, lots of things to do for missionary work, and did I mention the delicious food?

Speaking of the food, we're got dinner in half an hour, so I've got to run. Have a great week all!

Love,

Elder Karlsven

Sunday, March 22, 2009

All-American Handsome Missionary 03/16/09

Family,

Hmm, highlights of the week:

-Tracting: Door answered by a nice man with a sweet prosthetic leg. He shut the door before I could ask if I could touch it.
-51 year old female investigator told me I am "All-American handsome."
-Visited our Chinese investigator Florence, and brought along the Mandarin-speaking Elders, one of which is Landon Young who I know from Provo High.
-Tracting: Door answered by angry naked man.
-Planned Ben Prudence's baptism!

And now some more questions from my young Texas cousins:

Jonathan: Did you buy 8 new white shirts before you left on your mission?
-My mom (your Aunt Laurel Dean) bought me 8 white shirts. I didn't really know why I would need more than one, so I threw away 7 of them. Now I just have 1 greyish brownish yellow shirt.

David: What do you do on your P-day?
-Buy industrial strength laundry detergent with extra bleach.
-I also enjoy answering questions from my cousins. Keep them coming!

It hasn't really been a special week. We just keep waking up and doing our thing each day. I feel really spoiled here. Lots of people in the area. Lots going on. Great members who feed us well, and some of which are even willing to keep their covenants and help with the missionary work. The only thing I worry about is which part of my bike is going to fall off first. I'm thinking it's the pedals, but the front wheel is making some weird noises too lately.

Don't worry, dad taught me enough about bikes to be able to keep mine together for at least a little while longer. Which reminds me, please send duct tape.

Thanks for the emails, and I hope those who are sick get feeling better.

Love,

Elder Karlsven

P.S. I was joking about sending me duct tape. A package with duct tape in it is not necessary, mom.

Investigating Google 03/09/09

Fam,

We've got a baptism on the 21st! His name is Ben Prudence. His dad is a less-active member and has been since before Ben was born. His mom is not a member, but Ben was blessed as a baby by Bro. Hansen (in our ward) and the spirit told him to say that Ben would one day become a member of the church. 24 Years later, that is being fulfilled. Really cool. It made us happy. Our ward mission leader is going to baptize him.

Have I talked about our ward mission leader? The first time I saw him, it was from a distance at stake conference, and the only words I could come up with were "He's gigantic." I stick with that description. His name is Bret Jepson, and he played basketball for BYU a few years ago. I bet he's over 7 feet tall, easy.

About an hour ago we got finished with a tour of Google headquarters. I've decided I need to change my major to whatever will get me a job there. Very relaxed atmosphere, tons of cool computer stuff, free food galore (and it's GOOD). They have dozens of "google bicycles" just sitting around for people to hop onto if they need to go to another building. On-call masseuses, etc. Yeah, paradise. We were led around by 2 church members that reminded me a lot of Mike - computer nerdy, but still cool and funny. We helped ourselves to lunch - I had some pizza, chinese food, and a club sandwich - all of which google somehow engineered to be healthy for you.

My one criticism of the place was when we first got there. The member taking us around forgot to have his ID out, so this 5'5", thick-glasses wearing, somewhat out-of-shape security guard comes out of nowhere and asks us bluntly and with a distinct nasal tone "What are you guys doing here?" There was nothing wrong with what he did or said - the member pulled out his ID and everything was fine from there - but I was just disappointed that this was the type of man google chose for their security force. Don't get me wrong, there was nothing wrong with the security guard as a person, but seriously, he wasn't intimidating at all. He was probably a smart guy, but brains over brawn isn't really the idea in the security guard world. Just my opinion.

The weather has been perfect this week. I am so spoiled here. Oh, but I love it so much.

And here's a shout-out to my good ol' pops: Happy Birthday!

Love,

Elder Karlsven

The Bike Crash! 03/02/09

Family?

What a week. So the other day, my comp and I were riding bikes back to our apartment at about 4 pm. I'm on an old, at least 2 year old bike, that I got from a missionary who went home 2 weeks ago. The back brakes don't work, the gears slip, and the whole bike creaks and groans when I peddle. It's a piece of junk, but it was free, so I kept it.

My comp bought his bike brand new here about a month ago. He likes to play a game where he swerves really close to me, while I can't do anything back without my bike falling apart. On one occasion, he got within about an inch of me, so I got the bright idea to grab his handle bars and shake them. It worked, but all too well. He lost control, and I did too. We both ended up on the asphault. I went between the bikes and cut up my thumb either on the road or when it got caught in his spokes - I'm not sure which. I was pretty excited to have my first wreck on my mission, but what made it all the better was that there was this guy with a leaf blower across the street that saw the whole thing. He was laughing his head off! I would be too, I guess.

Some questions to be anwered from my little future missionary cousins, David and Jonathan Jensen:

David: How old are you?
-20 years old

Jonathan: Are you having a good time on your mission?
-Yes

Jonathan: What do you like to eat?
-Whatever is put in front of me. Right now I'm in the mood for waffles.

I'm happy, being well-fed, and dreading the day my metabolism slows down. Later!

Love,

Elder Karlsven

P.S. Missionary piece of knowledge: Shout stain remover gets blood out of a white shirt really well.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Q and A's of Los Altos 02/23/2009

Family,

Okay, looks like this is going to be another one of those Q&A emails. Thanks for the Q's, and enjoy the A's:

Q: Los Altos is probably very different from San Juan Bautista.
Any chickens walking around? Any Antique Shops on your street? Any friendly bakers? Any naked sun bathers? Any Catholic Missions or Monasteries?
A: None that I've noticed...yet.

Q: What's your companion like? Where is he from?
A: My companion, Elder DeAngelo, runs about 5'9, 160 lbs. In profile, he resembles some sort of bird, I can't decide whether it be an eagle or a vulture. His first name is Matt, and he has one sister and three brothers...strange. He is from Virginia, but his dad works for the government, so for 6 months before he left on his mission he was living in Jordan (the one in the Middle East). He has some good stories.

Q: Was he in Los Altos before you got there? How long has he been on his mission?
A: He has been in Los Altos about 7 weeks. He has been on his mission about 7 weeks.

Q: Which one of you two greenies is the Senior Companion?
A: We agreed that we would be co-junior companions, and that the Lord would be our senior companion. That way, neither of us will feel bad when we don't know what the heck we're doing.

Q: What's the city like? Big? Rich? Beautiful?
A: Yes, yes, yes. All admirable characteristics of both a mission area, AND a future wife.

Q: Are you using bikes? Cars? Walking?
A: Yep.

Q: Are there several investigators in progress?
A: Several investigators - yes. In progress? Um, define the word "in."

Q: Do you still have dinner appointments with the members?
A: One of the great parts of having more than 6 members in your area - dinner appointments just about every night!

So there you have it, all your questions answered. I'm doing great here. We played basketball and racquetball this morning at a sports club. I feel like such a spoiled missionary, and I love it! Thanks for the letters and emails everyone. Hope to hear from you all soon!

Love,

Elder M. John Karlsven

Transferred! 02/17/2009

Family,

Okay, I wasn't able to get a library card today, so I'm using a free-access computer and my time limit is 15 minutes. I have 6 minutes left.

I said goodbye to San Juan Bautista, and hello to Los Altos! We're right next to Palo Alto and the northern border of our mission. My companion is Elder DeAngelo, and this is his second transfer. He's a good guy, and has the greenie fire blazing as mine is dying down a bit.

I miss San Juan, or rather, I miss certain people in San Juan. I got to know very well the 7 or so members in San Juan we would see often, so I miss them, and also the Bracho family a lot - our last appointment we prayed one by one and asked if the Book of Mormon was true. Everyone felt the peace and joy of the spirit. So yeah, they know it's true. I'm bummed I won't be there for more progression with them, but I'm excited to be here in Los Altos, with several investigators and a bigger population.

I have 37 seconds left!

Bye everyone. I love you all!

Elder Karlsven

Happy Valentine's Day! 02/10/2009

Family!

Today is a great day. The sun is out, the chickens are roaming free, and I got mom's Valentines Day package. Thanks a bunch. And on top of that, I got a valentine from my good friend Amy Arnold. Attached to it was a playing card - the five of hearts. It said "Betting you'll be my Valentine" on it or something like that. Clever, yet still from the heart. As much as I was happy to receive it, I have to say that I was disappointed that I got the five of hearts, meaning that she sent out similar valentines to at least 4 other people before me that got the ace, two, three, and four of hearts. Nevertheless, any valentine is a good valentine.

Also, Elder Bourne and I got a valentine from Maggie, an investigator that is progressing nicely. After a car accident, she has been in a wheelchair and suffered a head injury, so we help her out with chores and stuff around the house. One of the things we helped her with was decorating the valentines she sends out. So yeah, I recognized the valentine she sent to us to be one of those that I had decorated with glitter glue. It made me smile.

I've been asked how I've liked going on exchanges with other missionaries this transfer. Well, first of all, I should mention that Elder Bourne and I have gone on more exchanges this transfer than any other companionship. 8 exchanges. 8! But I've loved seeing how other missionaries work with people in lessons, on the street, or wherever. It seems to be customary to complain about one's companion on exchanges. I'm just glad Elder Bourne doesn't snore, because that has caused fierce tension in many a companionship.

Okay, I'm about out of time here. I wish everyone a happy Valentines Day, and thanks so much for all the support. I'm loving the work 80-90% of the time, which is above average I think. And the rest of the time I am enduring it with hope. Either that or releasing my anger in a wrestling match with Elder Bourne.

Happy heart day!

Love,

Elder Karlsven

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Gettin' Close to Clint Himself 02/05/2009

Family,

Some have asked how the Pinewood Derby went. I apologize that I forgot to mention that it is customary in missionary work for all plans to fall through at the last minute, even Pinewood Derbies. At first I was bummed when we found out our investigators couldn't make it, but the next day, I found out that many of the adults (members of the church) at the activity brought much contention when the cars they "helped" their sons make didn't do well.

We just had a pleasant chat with a man named Don Heitkotter whose claim to fame is painting a painting featured in a 1970 Clint Eastwood movie. I forget the name of the movie, but the point is that I'm that much closer to teaching the gospel to old Clint himself. But I'm not sure how much Don is going to help out in getting ahold of Clint - Don said that if he ever sees Clint Eastwood again, he's going to punch him out for withholding royalties from him.

I apologize for the lateness of this email - we ran out of time on prep-day and then had two exchanges in a row. One was with the Spanish-speaking elders - so my staying quiet and smiling politely skills came in handy - and the other was with our zone leaders. I went with Elder Boland, our Australian zone leader remembered by most for his sailor's mouth and missing index finger (a tablesaw accident). But I will now always remember him for his pure heart. And the feel of the stump of his finger when I shook his hand.

It's always good to hear from everyone. Take care!

Love,

Elder Karlsven

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Toilet Woes. 01/26/2009

Family,

So I got to play Settlers today! But instead of Catan being settled, it was Zarahemla. I wonder how much money people make off of dumb little church games.

Okay, I'm really rushed right now, because I've unfortunately developed the bad habit of clogging toilets. So our plumber is coming over in about 10 minutes. We're on a first name basis (he's stopped by about 4 times now).

Tomorrow we're going with a family we're teaching to the Pinewood Derby at the church! Should be fun, although I fear that the parents there won't be the most Christlike when they see their kids' cars break or get beaten.

Thanks for all the support, prayers and letters. I love you all. Read, ponder, pray, and repeat.

Love,

Elder Karlsven

He got to pet a bat ray! 01/20/2009

Family!

Yesterday we took a trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium with two other missionaries and a lady named Sara that they baptized in December. Much was learned about the dark mysteries of the deep, and even more was learned about the hilarity of the otter and its many foibles. Those guys are crazy. Other points of note in the trip:

-The man that made our hamburgers for lunch had a striking resemblance to John Travolta.

-I got to pet a Bat Ray! At first I was planning to punch it for what the rays did to Steve Irwin, but its cute face melted my heart. I fed it a piece of dead squid.

-The man that looked like John Travolta was not nearly as friendly as I imagine and hope the real Travolta is.

The work has been slow lately, even though we're teaching about 8 investigators. About half of them are sick or out of town. But the lessons we teach are getting better and better as Elder Bourne and I are learning how to best teach together. I'm learning tons about the scriptures and church history, because so much of it comes up with people we talk to.

I know this is where I need to be right now, and I'm so happy to be here. This will probably be my last transfer in San Juan Bautista, so I'm trying to work extra hard. The citizens of San Juan will be slow to forget the name Elder Karlsven. Although few have yet to pronounce it correctly.

Enjoy the snow in Utah. We're in short sleeves here!

Love,

Elder Karlsven

Mission questions and answers 01/12/2009

Family!

I've been informed on some of the questions people want answered about my mission. Here are some of them:

Q: What's your mission president like? Personality? Traditions? Leadership style?
A: I don't spend a lot of time with him, but from what I've seen and heard, the answer to all of these is: Crazy. But in a good way.

Q: What are some of your favorite things about your mission so far?
A: Hearing investigators read James 1:5. Then showing off how I know what the word "upbraideth" means.

Q: What are some of your challenges so far?
A: Getting out the door right at 10 a.m. Also, trying to strike up conversations with people who don't speak English.

The other day we set up a little booth outside the local grocery store here, The Windmill Market. We had a nice little table with pictures and some of our pamphlets and stuff. Although in theory our plan seemed foolproof to get us some new investigators, we ended up becoming more or less like Wal-mart greeters in that no one knew why we were there and most people tried to avoid us. But I got some ideas for next time that should get people's attention. Once we talk to the Fire Marshall about it, we should be good to go.

I had a good story to tell, but I'm not sure it's the kind of story that's "for the whole family." I'll just say that I've learned that no matter how many times you take the same path to an investigators house, you STILL need to check for old men sunbathing around the corner...in the nude.

Love,

Elder Karlsven

P.S. There is no such thing as evolution, just a list of creatures Chuck Norris allows to live.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Jan 7th 2009 email

Dear Family,

It seems President Jackson doesn't want to break up a powerful companionship - Elder Bourne and I are both staying in San Juan Bautista!

First of all, holy cow, Caitlin Perkins is getting married! Nevertheless, that's no excuse for her not writing back to me. Let's just say I'm not so much angry about it as I am blinded with rage. If anyone sees her, tell her congratulations for me, but do it with clenched teeth and glaring eyes. Thanks.

Earlier today we were fixing traffic barriers for the city. Keeping with the rustic and quaint look of the town, the barriers were old, bent and broken, and most of the bolts were rusted over. But working on them was nice because - 1. Manual labor feels good after not doing any for so long and 2. It reminded me of the countless hours I spent in Mom and Dad's garage taking apart that old antique piano, but this time I had the comfort of not being in danger of a gigantic iron string board falling on me.

I don't remember if I told you all this before, but while we were caroling with our district we got a really good excuse from a man and his wife for not wanting to watch the Christmas video we were giving out:

(After we finished singing and are talking to them)

Missionary: So during this Christmas season, we're sharing this free DVD called Joy to the World with families. It can really bring the true spirit of Christmas into a home.

Man: Um, yeah we can't really watch that because um... (all the missionaries watch him closely in anticipation)

-(We hear a dog bark in the backyard.)

Man: ...we have dogs!

His wife: Uh, yeah, they're much too loud to watch a movie.

Missionary: Oh, okay, well Merry Christmas.

-(Missionaries sadly walk away.)

END SCENE

"We have dogs"?! What? I guess the dogs could have had some sort of rare illness that required constant care, leaving these kind and caring people with not even 20 minutes to watch a Christmas video.

Or maybe that was just a really lame excuse.

So yeah, I'm very glad to be staying here for at least 6 more weeks. We have several investigators and even 2 or 3 that are progressing well. Elder Bourne was made district leader, so that means we will be going on several exchanges (switching one of us with another missionary for a day). Those are always fun, and it's really good for learning from other missionaries. I'm excited.

I'm very happy, and every day has surprises. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Jesus Christ's church. It is led by a true prophet of God. The scriptures have the word of God, and they carry a Spirit with them that is so powerful. I'm grateful to be out here, and I hope you all are happy.

Love,

-Elder Karlsven