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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Twilight Zone 06/14/2010

Dear Family,

I went on an exchange with the Elders in the Los Altos ward this week (I served in that ward last year). It was really weird going back and seeing some of the people I knew there:

There was a lady that I taught, or tried to teach named Elaine. We never got through a lesson because she didn't care about learning or being benefitted by the gospel, but just wanted someone to complain about her family to. She wouldn't even want to learn about how the gospel could help with her problems. After 3 appointments of hearing an hour of complaining, we decided to let her know our purpose as missionaries and that although we care about her, we need to be spending our time with those that want to act on the message. She responded with 45 minutes of complaining about her family.

So I'm in Los Altos this week and who is on our list of people to visit? Elaine! I guess they had tried to teach her again, but had the same result. I had the privilege of dropping her again from the teaching pool.

Several other people we saw either had had a baby, or are pregnant. One lady that I knew from last year now had a 3 month old son, and she had totally changed her hair color and style. See what I mean? Twilight zone.

The strangest though. SO weird. We went to visit a part-member family. We came in the home and I heard the opera-like voice of the husband in the back room. I remembered him as a perfect guy to play Santa Claus. Big, and jolly with a white beard. Great guy. A man came into the room with the same face and voice, but with a skinny neck and body, and a little bit of loose skin. Though stunned, I still gave him a hug (disappointed at the lack of cushioning). He saw the look on my face.

"Oh, I guess you weren't here for my gastric bypass."

I imagine I'm going to have many of these kinds of experiences when I get home. I would appreciate a warning from you guys. If Dave now weighs 350 pounds, please send a picture. If mom has changed her hair color from brownish-red to plain brown, let me know. I don't know how much shock I can take all at once when I see all the changes.

Another cool experience in the 3 minutes I have left. We went to visit a member of the ward at about 8:40 pm yesterday. Not home. I looked at a house across the street with the lights on. Maybe it was the stories I've heard about people being found late at night when the missionaries wanted to go home, but I decided to knock on the door. A woman answered. After a moment, I recognized her. "Rita?" I asked "Yeah?" It was a lady I had taught in the Almaden ward in December. Wow. Miracle. Seriously, what are the odds?

Have a great week. Follow the Spirit to miracles.

Elder Karlsven

Loving the Area 06/07/2010

Dear Family,

Some events of missionary work that need to be recorded for posterity:

1. An appointment fell through at about 8pm on Saturday. We were standing outside the apartment complex, wondering what to do. We saw an open door on the second floor. We went up there and met a family with 3 small children, and none of them spoke English. Not even the kids. With big smiles, we said something like "Video, Espanol. DVD player?" They let us in, and we put in the Restoration DVD in Spanish. The kids were going crazy, jumping off of things and the boy and girl wrestled the whole time. The little girl was dominating the boy, pulling his hair. Then out of nowhere while the boy was lying on the ground, the girl came up and stomped on his head! The boy started yelling and laughing. We all busted up laughing.

We sent that family's info to the Spanish-speaking Sister missionaries with the label "Golden investigators."

2. As we came out from an appointment with a woman and her shirtless husband, we saw a car parked in front of ours. Two teenagers in the back seat. We pondered for a few moments, and then decided to put a Law of Chastity pamphlet on their windshield.

3. Two days in a row, we came to the church early in the morning. Both times, we found a hobo-lady sleeping by the air conditioning units outside the church. Both times, she got up, and walked away quickly when she saw us, not responding to our questions or offers of help. We are still wondering if we should count her on our numbers report as someone we're teaching attending church.

Quote of the week, said to a lady that said her kids go to a Christian school, but does not go to church herself: "Hello Kitty is only for 14 year old girls, the Gospel is for everyone."

I only have 4 minutes left on this computer to tell you about the best baptism I've seen. It was for Genia Vee, a 26 year old whose mom is a member of the church. Everything went great. Tons of people from her family and the ward attended. Tons of food. Polynesian baptism, so could you expect any less? We had a lady that was baptized about a month ago bear her testimony, along with some really good musical numbers. Awesome. That's how a baptism should be.

So that's the week. I love being here. My companion is great The ward is wonderful. The only problem is that the library computers don't give me enough time to email.

Elder Karlsven

Harvest Time 06/01/2010

Dear Family,

I feel like I'm being rewarded for those long months biking around in a white shirt and tie in hot weather, desperately looking for anyone to listen to us.

My new area: Santa Clara ward (just north-west of San Jose). In the past year, about 15 people have been baptized here (the rest of the wards in this stake have baptized 0 to 5 people on average the past year). We have a baptism of a Samoan girl, Genia, on Saturday. We had 8 people we are teaching come to church on Sunday (no other ward had more than 3).

My new companion: Elder Tobler from Layton, Utah. Very humble. Has no hesitations with expressing love and offering help to anyone (including me). Makes delicious crepes. It's easy to teach with him. Compliments me after every lesson we teach. Always looking for ways to become more like Christ.

Do I like my new area and companion? Oh yeah.

Mom asked what cities are in this zone. It includes: Santa Clara, part of Milpitas, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, and Los Altos. For some reason, it's really weird to be back near a place I've served in before.

Lots of teaching this week. Our zone is hosting the zone conference on Wednesday, so we've been setting things up for that too. Very busy. Busy trying to do meaningful things as a missionary is best. Otherwise being a missionary is SO boring.

So I am very VERY grateful to be in this ward, and I'm thinking I'll be here until I come home. I got no problem with that. Have a great week everyone!

Elder Karlsven

Transfer 05/24/2010

Dear Family,

The day before being transferred is always a good one. You find out on Saturday which missionaries are getting transferred, and then on Monday all the missionaries that are getting moved meet at the mission office. There you find your new companion, find out where you are going, and off you go.

When the ward finds out you are getting transferred, suddenly you get called on to say the opening or closing prayer at every meeting at church. A big chunk of yesterday was spent taking pictures and saying goodbye to different people. Each person you say goodbye to falls into one of four categories:
1. The church member that got to know you pretty well as you taught one of their friends, and they sincerely thank you for your service.
2. The church member that you've had dinner with a few times, but didn't get to know really well. They give you a hearty handshake, and a pat on the back.
3. The church member that acts like it's a tragedy that you are leaving, but then has to look at your nametag for 4 to 5 seconds before remembering your name. These ones may also ask you if you are a new elder in the ward when you've been there over 6 months.
4. The church member that is a little too excited to have another missionary replace you. This may or may not be because you knocked every door on his/her street and began every conversation there with, "Your neighbor here is a member of our church. He said you guys are a bunch of deadbeats and need our help..."

Investigators or members that helped you find and teach people the gospel are always the hardest to say goodbye to.

So now I'm in the Santa Clara ward, which is in the same zone as Los Altos (the ward I was in for a lot of last year). My companion is Elder Tobler from Layton, Utah. He's about as white as me. That's all I know about him.

So that's the news. I'll miss the Almaden ward, but I'm sure I'll keep in contact with a few of the people here. I got a feeling we're going to see a lot of success here in Santa Clara.

Elder Karlsven

Birthday!!! 05/17/2010

Dear Family,

To tell the truth, my birthday was pretty boring. I've always made it a policy to not announce my birthday to everyone, but let someone else do it. Little did I know that in Haiti, birthdays aren't a big deal, so my companion didn't tell anyone. As time went on at church, my countenance dropped lower and lower, and eventually found myself doubting my testimony. Not my testimony of the restored gospel, but my testimony of birthdays.

But I did manage to get a jar of the long-time coveted strawberry jam Sister Elsie makes. For the past 2 or 3 dinners she has given us, she had it on the table. I repeatedly said how much I love it, how I wish I could have it every day, etc. Despite all this, she never offered us some when they packaged up the leftovers for us, even though I knew that Brother Elsie knew I wanted some of it to take home - he would roll his eyes every time I mentioned it. He also knew it was me that told Elder Serat to call them before our dinner and tell them that that's the only thing I wanted for my birthday. "Mission accomplished" I thought as I walked out their door with a jar of jam. Brother Elsie somehow guessed that I had told Elder Serat to call them.

This week I had the opportunity of spending a few hours with the missionary I trained, Elder Smith. He's in our zone now. He's more mature and relaxed in the missionary work. And I was happy to see that he still uses his classic approach when we knocked a couple doors:

He knocks.
Big guy answers.
3 seconds of silence.
"Can I help you?" the man asks.
"Howya doing?" Elder Smith says quietly.
5 seconds of silence.
He begins, "Well, uh, we're just missionaries in the area..."

I love Elder Smith.

So that was the week. I'm 22 and already feel like a menace to society.

Oh, whoops, we're late for dinner!
Have a great week everyone!

Elder Karlsven

Am I Brushing My Teeth? 05/10/2010

Dear Family,

Even though half the time I held the phone an arm-length away from my ear while everyone was talking at the same time, I enjoyed talking to you all yesterday. There were some good questions asked. But I was disappointed that mom didn't ask the classic mom question "how often are you brushing your teeth?" I even had my response planned, "For the last time, Mom, I told you 'As Needed'!"

On Saturday morning, all throughout California, every ward got involved in a "Mormon Helping Hands" service project. Our ward and two others were to help clean up Almaden Lake Park. Just under 300 volunteers showed up and mass confusion followed. But as we put on our bright yellow vests, a sense of duty and purpose swept through the crowd. After 20 minutes of posing for group pictures (camera difficulties), we split up to take care of three different areas. Elder Serat and I went for the man-made beach to remove the heaps of driftwood that had collected there.

It's always good to do some real work outside. Especially when you spend all day every day walking and talking to people. Not much of a work out there.

But of course I'm exhausted and sore today.

Have a great week. Even though I tell you to have a great week every week, I really do mean it. Do it.

Elder Karlsven