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Monday, January 11, 2010

Conducting Lessons 01/11/10

Dear Family,

I'm blown away that Weston is already talking. Still, of the words mentioned that he can say, I don't think "gwamma" counts. I think "gwamma" is actually a certain cut of meat served with curry in southern India. Ask him if that's what he's talking about.

Yesterday was the Outgoing Missionary Fireside where the missionaries going home give their testimonies with several musical numbers as well. The best part about this meeting is that at least 3 or 4 people investigating the church make the decision to be baptized after attending it.

It was my job at this meeting to conduct the music. The chapel was filled and most of the gym in the back was filled with people as well. Remembering the example of the chorister in the Hollister 1st ward, I put on a big smile and prepared to sing energetically while leading the opening hymn. What I didn't realize was that from where she was sitting, the pianist couldn't see my waving arm. The first verse went alright, but as I began the second with an enthusiastic down beat, I suddenly heard my own voice singing...alone.

Apparently most people follow the sound of the piano, and not the person conducting the music.

There's not much else to mention for this week. We're getting back in touch and teaching all our investigators after the holidays when most of them were on vacation or didn't have time to meet. No new words of wisdom from Elder Karlsven this week. But when you get the chance, share your testimony with someone sitting with you on the ski lift. Some members told me they did that this weekend. Don't be afraid to begin with dad's classic line, "So, where you from?" Then, of course, end with "y'all come back now, but send your friends to Colorado." Take off your reflective goggles and look at them with crossed eyes as you ski away.

Love,

Elder Karlsven

Tracting in the Dark is Scary 01/04/10

Dear Family,

It gets dark around 5:30 or 6 pm every night this time of year. Around 6:30 a few days ago, we were knocking some doors. Elder Valencia and I came to a dark doorstep. As we stepped onto the porch, no motion sensor lights came on, so we were looking for a doorbell. As we were searching, the porch light flicked on and the door opened. It was an older Hispanic woman just heading out. As soon as she saw 6 foot 7 Elder Valencia, she got a frightened look on her face and began to scream loudly, and in short intervals several times.

"AAAAH! AAAAH! AAAAH!"

She quickly went back inside and shut the door. After a moment, we controlled our laughter and decided to knock on the door. We heard her on the other side of the door.

"AAAAH! AAAAH! AAAAH! What do you want!? What do you want!?"

"We don't want anything."

"WHO ARE YOU!?"

We told her who we were and she cracked the door open.

Again, she lost it, "What do you want!? AAAAH! AAAAH! AAAAH!"

"Ma'am, CALM DOWN," I said. She finally went silent.

We gave her a card to get a Together Forever DVD and left.

I'm very impressed with the members of the ward here. I'm learning a lot more about sharing the gospel than a lot of them are after our visits. Often I've seen how when an older couple has lived in the same place for decades, they lose hope and enthusiasm for missionary stuff. Not so here. Many 70+ year olds here in the ward have more energy and hope for the work than many of the young missionaries.

I hope you all had a happy new year. I remember how weird it was to think I would finish my mission in 2010. It hasn't gotten any less weird.

Oh yeah, and I thought that was a really cool gift Dave gave to the family, doing the genealogy for Dad's side of the family. Thanks, Dave!

Love,

Elder Karlsven

Mmmm...Banana Cream Pie 12/28/09

Dear Family,

The biggest Christmas-time tradition I missed this year was skiing on Christmas Eve as a family. But all the feelings of loss from missing that were forgotten when the Davis's here called Mom and Dad and got the recipe for my favorite holiday dessert - banana cream pie. It was almost as delicious and artificial as I remember Mom's to be.

On Christmas day, we had 3 huge meals in 6 hours - 2 of which came with homemade butter syrup (much like the kind they have with the Magleby's Fresh waffles). The expected stomach-bulging pains came and went. Totally worth it.

2010? The biggest concern about the new year is whether we will call it "Two thousand Ten" or "Twenty Ten." Whenever I say "Twenty Ten" it sounds like how they would say it in a bad science fiction movie taking place in the future. I don't like it.

I've never been one to make new years resolutions, and now as a missionary I will continue to not make any. However, I really am excited to continue inviting the children of Heavenly Father, our brothers and sisters, to Christ. No, seriously, I am. I remember reading the words of one of the apostles telling us that our love for others is rooted in the knowledge that they are our brothers and sisters.

This love can quickly be lost after knocking on people's doors for as little as 10 minutes. "A lot of our brothers and sisters are jerks," I remember telling one of my companions I was with.

Yesterday as we pulled up to a circle of extremely large houses, I feared that the Spirit would be quickly lost after knocking the first few doors. Before we knocked on the first door, Elder Valencia and I prayed together. I prayed that we would remember that these people are our brothers and sisters, and to not lose love for them or get angry while we knocked on their doors.

On this circle of houses lived several very rude and presumptuous people - slamming doors, accusing us of bigotry, not answering the door and then coming outside when we went to the next house, avoiding eye contact when we greeted them. Most would not even listen to ten seconds of anything we said.

This is why so many missionaries don't like knocking doors.

But this time, I remember standing outside each door with the absolute assurance that the person answering the door is my brother or sister. There was no anger or resentment in my heart or mind when they shut the door. My love didn't diminish as we knocked more and more doors. I really did feel peace. I knew how important of a thing we had to offer these people and they treated it like junk mail. But I also knew that God loves them just as much as he loves me. And I know he loves me A LOT.

Anyway, I just thought it was cool that the prayer really was answered that we would remember our relationship with these people and not get angry. There have been very few times when I haven't gotten at least a little frustrated when people reject our invitations.

Have a great New Year everyone. Don't be afraid to correct someone when they call it "Twenty ten."

Love,
Elder Karlsven

Away in a Manger Mishaps 12/21/09

Dear Family,

This week we've taken a couple nights to go caroling as a zone. On Saturday night while caroling, we came upon a cul-de-sac. Instead of going from house to house, we thought it would be a good idea to stand in the middle of all the houses, and have a few of us ring every doorbell at the same time so we could sing to everyone at the same time. I ran to two houses, rang the doorbells, and ran back to the middle of the cul-de-sac, out of breath and full of anticipation for the performance we were about to put on.

Nobody came to their doors.

We began to sing. After we finished the first song, a man finally came outside. We decided to just go to his house and sing for him. All of us standing on his driveway, we began to sing "Away in a Manger." What we didn't realize is that there are two different tunes that you can sing "Away in a Manger" and they sound terrible sung together. Half of us sang one tune and half sang the other. The man was nice enough to clap a few times for us. We invited him to a special Christmas Sacrament Meeting, and assured him that we would have nothing to do with the musical numbers there.

Later on that night, we went outside a grocery store to sing and give pass-along cards to the lucky customers entering and exiting the store. This actually went pretty well. We even got a fan - a little girl that watched us for 15 minutes, clapped enthusiastically after every song, and shouted out requests. It brought me back to the glory days of The Hypercubes (a pre-mission band I was in), except this time the one die-hard fan was not my own mother. Thanks for all your support, mom!

Well, family, I'll talk to you on Christmas. Our one appointment on Christmas is for dinner from 3 to 5 pm (California time), so any other time that works with your schedules will be okay for the phone call.

Merry Christmas, all!

Love,
Elder Karlsven

Testimonies 12/14/09

Dear Family,

Yesterday I attended one of the best sacrament meetings yet on my mission. 3 investigators came too. The Saratoga hand bell choir came and played Christmas songs in between youth speakers. One of the youth that converted to the church about 6 months ago gave a great talk.

There are a lot of elderly people in our ward, but they still help us out a lot with the missionary work. I hope when I'm in my 70's I have as much energy as these people instead of just squabbling with my decrepit old wife. Not saying that their wives are decrepit, but that I expect mine will be.

I was thinking about what I wanted for Christmas. Seeing as we were barely able to fit all the junk I already have in the car for the last transfer, I think I need something else that would actually help me in the work to bless the people I meet and teach out here.

Here's my request:
Option 1
-Will each person who reads this please write how they feel about the Savior, the Book of Mormon, or the prophet Joseph Smith, and how they came to know the truth of these things.
Option 2
-Write how you have come to know of the truth or blessings from living a gospel principle or commandment. Examples could be scripture study, prayer, giving service, paying tithing, following the Word of Wisdom, following the prophet, going to Church, etc.

Just keep things brief and simple. No more than half a page each. Try to especially think of something for Option 2, as some of those things I don't have much personal experiences in. That's something that I really feel will help as we try to help people have the faith to live the gospel and experience the blessings that you all have had. You can send them to my mom (laurelk@provo.edu) or to me (mattkarlsven@myldsmail.net, or

Elder Karlsven
3975 McLaughlin Ave. Suite A
San Jose, CA 95121

Thank you all so much! I love serving the Lord. I can sense that I have become a gospel-nerd, and get way too excited about these things, but I love it.

Merry Christmas, all!

Love,
Elder Karlsven

NOTE FROM BECKY: I"M SURE MATTHEW WOULD STILL LIKE TO GET A COPY OF A TESTIMONY FROM EVERYONE EVEN THOUGH THIS WASN'T POSTED UNTIL MUCH LATER.

Transfer 12/07/09

Dear Family,

Wow, once you get used to a place, they just pull you somewhere else. I was really surprised when I got the call that I'm getting transferred. It's just like in a movie, where everything is going great, and nothing seems to be able to mess things up, and then something does. I remember writing emails to people with lines such as "I've never been happier on my mission than now," or "I'm definitely going to stay in Salinas for a few more months," or "If I get transferred, I'm going to punch a cat."

Don't worry, our neighbor's cat is fine.

So now I'm in south San Jose, in Almaden. I'm with Elder Valencia, from Dayton, Ohio. He seems cool, and looks like a killer volleyball player. That's all I know about him so far. I'll give some embarrassing details about him later.

I guess it's not so bad to be transferred. It just means that some other missionaries will have to worry about helping our investigators, and I'll just come back for their baptisms. Sweet!

I'm glad that Utah is finally getting some storms. I saw snow in the hills on the drive up to San Jose this morning. It made me homesick, but happy too.

I guess not much more to report. One blessing of being out of Salinas is that I can wear my solid blue Wal-Mart shirt without having to worry about being shot (just kidding, mom).

Have a great week, everyone. I'll tell you about our investigator's next week, if I feel like it.

Love,
Elder Karlsven

P.S. Yes, Elder Munday, the son of Elder Munday of the seventy, is in this mission. I don't know him very well, but he's 6 foot 6 and speaks with an English accent, so his story checks out.

NOTE FROM BECKY: Elder Munday of the seventy spoke at Stake Conference and mentioned that he had a son serving in the San Jose mission. The next day everyone in the family who was there emailed Matthew asking about an Elder Munday.

Thanksgiving 11/30/09

Dear Family,

On two occasions this week we were knocking doors and people let us in right then and there to teach a lesson. Just so you know, this very rarely happens. Usually we just try to get a return appointment. Awesome.

The day before Thanksgiving, we met a lady who immediately started crying in front of us. She was having a really hard time getting Thanksgiving dinner together for her family. She has 2 mentally challenged sons in their twenties, and was exhausted trying to take care of them.

We came back the day after Thanksgiving to see how they were holding up. Her solution to the trouble was alcohol. We got there, and sat down at the table with her, her brother, and one of her sons. Without warning, her son got up, ran out the door and down the street. She got up and started yelling. We walked outside to get him.

"Missionaries! Run!" she shouted.

We finally caught up to him and convinced him to come back to the house. Sitting with them all at the table again, he was next to Elder Smith, and was constantly hugging him, or getting Elder Smith in a head lock.

I asked her brother how his Thanksgiving was.

"Great," he said, "I gave out cookies to the homeless."

"Well, that's really nice of you," I said.

His sister cut in, "Tell them the truth! Tell them the rest of it!"

"What? I gave them cookies," he replied.

She shouted back, "There was marijuana in those cookies!"

As we were leaving, she tried to give us money to go get them some more beer. I thought it would be funny to use it to buy non-alcoholic beer for them, but in the end we just refused.

Later that night, we found ourselves eating dinner at McDonald's. McDonald's is one of Elder Smith's favorite places to go, and he finally convinced me to go there. As we were eating, I saw this guy nearby tapping his fingers to the music playing, like he was playing a piano. I started talking to him and found out his name was Jack and he is a songwriter. I told him that I was a songwriter too, but said it in a way that would make someone think I had real talent.
Of course the gospel came up. I began teaching him about all the teachings of Jesus Christ restored through Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. He stopped me and said, "Wait, I think my brother knows more about this." He pulled out his phone, called his brother Slim and put it on speaker phone. I gave Slim a brief overview of what I had just taught. Just as a mentioned the Book of Mormon, Slim cut in and rattled off a list of anti-Mormon junk. He wouldn't give me time to respond to any of his objections before starting up on another one.

I remember at the beginning of my mission I never thought I'd have a problem with being tempted to Bible bash. This was because I figured I didn't know the scriptures well enough to do it. Well, on that night, I had my first Bible bash, and it was over the phone with Slim. I didn't even realize it until an hour later when my voice was raised reading verses from the Bible into the phone, and all the workers and customers were looking at us. The Spirit of God was not there. Instead there was anger, impatience and frustration on both sides.

Lesson learned. Arguing, even if you can back it up with scripture, will not help anyone follow Jesus Christ. The Spirit that I lost did not return in full until church on Sunday.

Thanksgiving was great. They made it our Preparation Day. Turkey Bowl in the morning. Napping and eating the rest of the day. We purposely limited ourselves to only two dinners. Our first was at the Gordons. The food there was cooked a lot like Mom cooks, so that was nice. The only downer was the absence of banana cream pie.

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. I'm grateful for many things from all of you - your prayers, your emails, and Christmas packages (wink, wink).

Have a great week everyone. And remember, although it may be tempting to weld skis to a bicycle when the snow comes, don't do it. That path will only lead to pain, injury, and sorrow.

Love,

Elder Karlsven

Out of Shape 11/23/09

Dear Family,

Last Monday we went mountain biking in the hills just south of Salinas. For those who don't know, I would go biking as much as possible, even daily at times before my mission. And this wasn't in little California hills - I'm talking high-altitude Wasatch Mountain riding. Impressive, I know.

About 10 minutes into Monday's ride I was struggling for breath. I knew I would probably get soft on my mission, I just didn't want it to happen this early on.

Okay, I just got a notice on my computer screen that my time is almost up. I accidentally got on the "Express" computer area.

I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving. I've already had several Thanksgiving-esque dinners. I never thought I'd say it, but I'm already tired of turkey sandwiches from leftover turkey.

Essay Question: Which part (or parts) of the Thanksgiving dinner makes it different than any other dinner?

Have a great week!

Love,
Elder Karlsven

Relying on the Spirit 11/16/09

Dear Family,

I haven't been teaching this many people since my first month in the mission field. Maybe it's something about having a brand new missionary in an area that brings it to life.

I'm trying to think of a good story to tell from this week, but none are coming. However, I can honestly say that this has been one of the happiest weeks of my mission. The reason is that we are teaching so much.

We were teaching a girl named Pam earlier this week. She doesn't have much religious background. Before we began teaching, I asked her what made her want to meet with us (she was a referral from Danny McCoy). She then described the Spirit touching her at times in her life. But she didn't know it was the Spirit - she just described the feelings and what brought them on. She described it just as it has been described in the scriptures.

But she had never read those scriptures.

Alma 16:16
"And there was no inequality among them; the Lord did pour out his Spirit on all the face of the land to prepare the minds of the children of men, or to prepare their hearts to receive the word which should be taught among them at the time of his coming."

People are prepared to hear the gospel.

The Spirit is what drives this work. There is a quote in the Preach My Gospel manual that says something like, "You cannot be successful as a missionary without the Spirit." And how do you get the Spirit? You ask for it, and you ask for the Lord's help as you do your best to do what he asks you to do.

This was easy counsel to follow the first few months of my mission - I didn't know what I was doing, and it was obvious that I needed to rely on the Lord for help and guidance. However, as I got more experience, I relied on that for my help, and less on asking the Lord what to do, and how to do it.

Bad idea.

In the past few weeks I've learned:
1)If you are sure how you can help someone you're teaching - ask the Lord for help anyway.
2)If you aren't nervous knocking on someone's door to tell them about the gospel - ask the Lord for help anyway.

I've seen the change that has happened in myself and in the work as I've tried to rely on the Lord more every day. The help has come.

Have a great week everyone! A good story will be in next week's email, I'm sure.

Love,
Elder Karlsven

Service 11/09/09

Dear Family,

I was worried that Elder Smith wouldn't get a lot of teaching experience here, seeing as for about 2 months before he arrived, only one new investigator was found. This week we started teaching 4 new investigators! They are all at different points in their progression as well. One is a part-member family who have been taught several times in the past. Another is a Philipino lady who has a daughter in the Philipines who is a member of the church, but hasn't really been taught anything about it. Another is a guy who just got out of jail. The last is a Lieutenant in the Sudanese army. He is planning on running for President of Sudan in the near future. The cool part about him is that his story is legitimate.

One cool story this week. We had been asked to give part of a youth fireside on finding ways to serve other people each day. We weren't sure what we'd say, since we hadn't had much experience of that here. So on Saturday morning, just before we left the apartment, we prayed asking to have opportunities to serve someone we see that day. We left the apartment, and right across the street was a man and his son pulling out weeds. We went over to them.

"How can we help?" I asked.

"Thanks, but we've got it alright," he said.

Elder Smith bent down and began pulling weeds next to the man, and I picked up a shovel nearby. 2 hours later we finished the job, and he had told us all about his Native American heritage, his family, and his life history. Something about being a missionary can put people at ease to tell you all about themselves. Often however, it can get really awkward and a little frightening with the details they share. Luckily, this was not the case with this man.

Elder Smith is doing great. I love training. Having a new missionary has brought back the excitement about missionary work that I felt the first 3 or 4 months of my mission. It can be challenging at times weeding out his preconceived ideas about how missionary work "should" be, but I remember I had the same ideas when I was a new missionary too. He has a really similar personality to mine - but with a little Jim Carrey mixed in with it. Have fun imagining that.

I'm having a blast. I hope you all are too. To those going to the They Might Be Giants concert, I hope you're happy supporting one of the few things that's made a faithful servant of the Lord homesick.

Love,
Elder Karlsven