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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