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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Save The Date for September 28th!!!

Hi family,
We just got a letter in the mail from Elder Matt's mission president saying he is scheduled to come home Tuesday September 28th. We'll request that he fly in to the Salt Lake Airport. I'll keep you updated on more specifics....
Love ya,
Laurel Dean

Amazing Testimonies 08/09/2010

Dear Family,

Every 6 weeks we have what's called an Outgoing Missionary Fireside. It is held in a chapel in San Jose. Each missionary that is going home the following week gives their testimony, along with several musical numbers. It is one of the best meetings to bring friends along that you are teaching.

We brought Sudakar Sarredy to this fireside yesterday. This was probably the best one I've been to. Over 500 people came. There were a few musical numbers, some with Polynesian singers. I wish I would have recorded some of the testimonies, because they were short, but very powerful, coming from the many different perspectives of different missionaries. New Zealander, Fijiian, Taiwanese, Mongolian, Samoan, Canadian, Australian, and of course Utahn missionaries spoke. Testimonies were given in English, Spanish, Mandarin, Mongolian, and American Sign Language. A senior couple also spoke, along with a missionary that couldn't serve a regular full time mission because of physical and mental incapacities (He helps out in the mission office). There was a strong love felt after each testimony. It meant a lot more to me than other outgoing firesides probably because I've served around and with several of the missionaries that spoke. When you know someone better, you know when they are being sincere, and their sincerity is that much more powerful.

Brother Sarredy loved it. As I spoke with him in the cultural hall afterward, while everyone was greeting and getting pictures with the departing missionaries they knew, he said with his Indian accent, "There is something special about LDS. It is not like other churches."

As we walked out of church, Brother Sarredy went on about how amazing it was that a young boy with "a doubt" prayed and "now lots of miracles." Brother Sarredy is a great man. He has expressed that he wants to be baptized when his wife and son get back from India at the end of August.

Great day. I have 1 minute left on this computer, so I love you guys. See you later!

Love,
Elder Karlsven

Great Week 08/02/2010

Dear Family,

Okay, I have 9 minutes to write this. Here's the good stuff:

We began teaching the Velasquez family 2 weeks ago. We met them when we were looking for Fernando Velasquez's brother at their home. Anyway, we invited them to church this week, but Fernando had a sprained ankle, so he said next week would be best. He also said that he wants to take it slow because he hasn't been to any church for 20 years. So, of course, we sent a member of the church over there to invite them to come to church with them, and that they would pick them up Sunday morning. Fernando still seemed hesitant, but he said it would okay for the member to come.

Sunday morning. 10 minutes before church. I was handing out programs for Sacrament meeting when our Ward Mission Leader comes up to me and says, "The Velasquez family is here." It turns out that Fernando actually got up early and got his wife and daughter up for church. It was fast and testimony meeting (a risky meeting for new people at church in case a crazy person gets up there) but every testimony was appropriate, and several very powerful. Great day.

The other highlight of the week was when we met with our long-time investigator Sudakar Sarredy from Hydrabad (sp?), India. This appointment was different than the others. He explained that he has gone through a "personal apostacy" but now nothing holds him back from being baptized. He told us about his desire to be with his parents and his wife and son "in the heaven."

Awesome.

So yeah, in short, this mission is pretty sweet. I love doing this work. I'm pretty bummed about having to go back to regular work soon

Love
Elder Karlsven

Can't Fool The Mission President 07/26/2010

Dear Family,

Every Monday morning we have a conference call with the mission president and all the zone leaders in the mission. We report on "key indicators" which are just the number of people who are working towards a baptismal date, coming to church, being taught by the missionaries and a member, or who have just started meeting with the missionaries. Typically our zone has a lot of people doing one or two of those things, and barely anyone doing the others.

For example, most of the other zones had about 15 or 20 investigators come to church. Ours had 6. So here's what you do on the conference call:

Mission President: Los Altos zone, how did you do on getting people to church?

Me: Well, the good news is that we DOUBLED the number of people that came to church last week! (Last week was the worst week of the year for our zone getting people to church - only 3 came)

Mission President: Excellent, elders. Good job. How many came?

Me: I think our phone battery is low. You're voice is fading, President. (I say this as I move the phone farther and farther away from my mouth)

As you probably could guess, this doesn't ever fool the mission president.

I think someone a while ago asked how we find our investigators. I thought I'd just tell you how we found the ones we are currently teaching.

Velasquez Family: There were a bunch of guys hanging out outside of a house. I spoke to one of them who had 2 different colored eyes. He gave us his address. We went there a couple days later and found his brother and his brother's daughter home. We gave them a picture of Christ (that we had intended to give to an investigator nearby, but who wasn't home) and asked to share a 5 minute message on Jesus. They let us in. We've taught them twice so far.

Sarredy Family: I'm not sure how they were first introduced to the church, but they are all from India. They have been coming to church for 3 years now. The husband is finally starting to talk seriously about baptism.

Chang Family: The husband is half Chinese and half Jamaican (I hadn't met anyone with a mix like that either). His wife is a member. They graduated from college not too long ago, and were married a month ago They moved into the ward when they got married, and the bishop from their old ward sent an email to our bishop to go meet them.

Dennis R.: After going to a member family's home to leave a blessing on their family and home, we walked across the street to a guy and his 2 sons. We introduced ourselves and asked if we could visit him another time. He said to come back in a couple weeks because he was going out of town. It didn't seem promising at all. But we returned, and brought a member with us that was baptized last year. Dennis let us in. He and the member were a perfect match, coming from the same background of gangs and poverty, but wanting to change since having children.

Banos Family: Shortly after I was transferred here, we were biking to an appointment. I saw a Hispanic lady unloading her car. I stopped and asked if she needed help. She declined, but then I asked if we could come back and teach about Jesus Christ and his restored gospel. She said yes. We've taught her and her 4 kids several times since then.

Irfan: Irfan is Islamic and is from India. He visited the Hawaii temple and agreed to have a Book of Mormon delivered. So we got a text message telling us his info. We called him and set up an appointment. We came, answered his questions about the Book of Mormon, suggested a passage for him to read, and he said that we could come back in a week.

So there you go. That's missionary work here. I enjoy learning the stories of different people, and especially asking what makes them want to meet with us. Some just want to learn. Some have specific questions. Some are going through a rough time and want some help. Following the principles and commandments of the Gospel are what help. Loving ward members do a lot too.

Have a great week. Meet someone new at church this week.

Love,
Elder Karlsven

I Heard That Will Smith is Mormon 07/19/2010

Dear Family,

I think I mentioned a couple weeks ago how we went up to a bunch of guys getting ready to play softball, taught them a couple parts of the first lesson, and then passed around my planner to get the names and addresses of those who would like a Book of Mormon delivered to them. One of the names that was written was "Will Smith." That one has got to be fake, I thought. But I gave the phone number a call, and was able to set up an appointment with the guy.

We get there and Will greets us at the door. Will is a large African-American with thick dread locks. He lets us into his dimly-lit apartment and we sit down with three of Will's brothers (named Deravante, Dante, and Day-tron).

Possibly the best lesson of my mission. I'm not even kidding. They asked a lot of questions, which is almost always a good thing. We could tell from them explaining back to us what we taught that they were beginning to understand. I felt that this was one of a very few number of lessons I've taught that has truly been led by the Spirit to teach to a person's needs, and not just teach the doctrine. This lesson began to let us know where Will and his brothers were actually coming from, and what they care about, and what they are interested in. It's a lot easier to teach when you begin to really know the people you are teaching.

Later this week, we had our first meeting with a new investigator, Irene. Irene is about 60. She has 3 kids, and she is Hispanic. We brought an older man, Brother Lundstrom, to this appointment. As we began to teach, all was going well and had the same feeling as the lesson with Will. Elder Tobler asked Brother Lundstrom "How has the Gospel blessed your family?"

We then heard a 5 minute lesson about temples, baptisms for the dead, getting "sealed" and a bunch of other stuff that confused Irene. No bueno. But eventually the subject of the lesson turned back to things that actually applied, and Brother Lundstrom redeemed himself by telling us all how he joined the church. Good man.

So yeah, I'm enjoying the teaching. I really wish I could have began the mission having the knowledge and understanding of my purpose as a missionary that I have now. It could have prevented a lot of dumb ideas, wasted time, and frustration at earlier times in the mission. I'm not thinking about going home all the time, but I do keep having recurring dreams where I've been home for 3 to 6 months. Is that normal? In some of these dreams I have a giant afro. I know that's not normal.

Have a great week, everyone. If anyone sees Rob Magleby this week, smack him on the head and then say, "Elder Karlsven says 'Congratulations'." He got engaged and didn't tell me, or even write a letter to me asking for my permission. Lame.

Love,
Elder Karlsven

Meaningful Prayers and Lessons 07/12/2010

Dear Family,

Well, Mom, I'm going to be in some long meetings too this week. I guess there's going to be a lot of new training given to the missionaries in the MTC, so they want all the missionaries in the field to get the same training as well. This week we will have meetings on that stuff from 9am to 4pm, Tuesday to Friday.

We've been really tired this week. For the past 8 months I've had a car, and so of course I got weak and lazy. This week we've been trying to limit the use of our car because of the long drives we are going to make to the mission office for those meetings this week.

Biking.

Our tiredness peaked on Thursday around 3pm. We were visiting a couple that has recently started coming back to church. We had just had a big lunch, and biked to their place to read the Book of Mormon with them. Their apartment was hot. We sank into their couch's huge cushions. Elder Tobler offered the prayer. He bowed his head and rested his elbows on his knees to pray.

He finished the prayer, but his head didn't come up. I figured he was just gathering his thoughts, so I began asking the couple about how they've liked the past couples times at church. After about 5 minutes, Elder Tobler's head came up, and he had a confused look on his face. He just woke up.

He began to teach. Soon enough, I started doing the whole head bobble thing, drifting into sleep and then jerking awake over and over. As I listened to the wife talk, I started drifting again, until into my mind came what I thought to be a very profound, thought-provoking question. I became awake and alert, and began asking the question. Half-way through the question I realized that this profound question made no sense at all. I barely recovered.

But there are always great things learned when you spend all your time talking to different people. I learned from a Born-Again Christian to know the Bible better, and appreciate it. I learned from a guy that got back from Iraq a few months ago to be grateful for being able to experience life each day. I learned from a guy visiting from Norway to be glad I didn't go there as a missionary. Not a nice guy.

Thanks for all the support. I'm excited to see Kaylee and Weston in a few months. I'll start working on my homecoming talk to make it seem like I've grown or matured in some way here in California. Nah, just kidding. I'll probably just go up to the microphone, start crying for ten minutes, say "I promised myself I wouldn't cry," and then sit down.

You guys are a great family. I'm starting to realize that an eternal family may not be as crazy of an idea as I thought. I love you guys.

Love,
Elder Karlsven

July 4th Fun 07/06/2010

Dear Family,

It's been a while since I've gotten kicked out of anywhere as a missionary. For that reason, it was refreshing this week when we got kicked out of a shopping plaza and then the next day kicked out of a Home Depot parking lot. I guess someone called the police and complained about us at the shopping plaza. It was strange because we had only talked to 2 people (1 an Indian that couldn't speak English, and another a nice man from Jamaica) before a cop car showed up.
It was actually really nice talking to people in the Home Depot parking lot. I'd offer to help people unload their shopping cart. Most people accepted if they had lumber or concrete to get into their car. Somehow it just seemed natural after that to talk about the gospel or the church or what that person thinks about life in this area. I suspect that the Home Depot employee asked us to leave out of fear that we would make his customer service position obsolete.

As for 4th of July stuff, we didn't watch fireworks or anything. We did give away a ton of pass-along cards as people walked down the street in big groups towards the firework shows. It was interesting how varied the reactions to us were when we were on the sidewalk compared to how people treated us when they saw us in our church parking lot after they just parked their car there. Probably just not wanting us to call to get their car towed, they all smiled and greeted us like good friends.

But it's been a great week. Working with other missionaries. Talking to big groups of Asians. Even get several softball players' information to deliver copies of the Book of Mormon to each of them (their game had not started yet, so we started talking to them and eventually taught about the Restoration of the Gospel and the Book of Mormon). I really like talking to groups of 5 or more people. It can either go really good or really bad, depending on the reaction of the first person in the group to respond to you. It they want to listen, everyone else will, and suddenly you feel like a 19th century missionary preaching on a soapbox.

This is what I've enjoyed this week. The gospel makes us happy and better people, how much more simple of a message could you bring to anyone?

Have a great week, everyone. I hope the smog from all the fireworks in Provo clears up by the time I get back.

Love,
Elder Karlsven

P.S. Congrats to Joe and Megan! New baby on the way!

Wrong Card 06/21/2010

Dear Family,

My 4th of July plans? Basically I plan on joining several BBQs. I firmly believe that eating with others is the best way to get to know someone and invite them to learn about the gospel. I've never had a bad encounter with anyone at a BBQ. Oh wait, I actually remember this one time in my last area when I went up to a big family gathering at a park. They were eating, and I handed them a card. Unfortunately I handed them the wrong card - it was one that said "Where does my family go when we die?"

If I remember correctly, the lady's response was something like, "You got a lot of nerve to come to my daughter's birthday party and talk about our family dying!"

Eesh.

As for fireworks, we probably won't see any. We got to be in at 9pm. So the closest we will have to seeing fireworks will be the little kids throwing those Snaps things at us.

I worked with Elder Donnelly for a day this week. He has been on his mission about 5 months now. The goal was to help build our faith to find people to teach. As I looked at the map of our area, I saw that Santa Clara University was in our area. What a great place to talk to some young people, who will be more willing to learn! We went there, and began walking around the campus. Strangely, all the people we talked to were Catholics that said they went to Mass regularly. After about an hour, we started talking to an older man that was visiting the campus for the day. He told us that he was visiting for the Jesuit colloquium.

"Jesuit colloquium?" We asked.

"Yes, most of these men walking around here are Catholic priests. This is a Jesuit University."

"Oh."

I felt like a Jehovah Witness trying to proselyte at BYU.

Despite this hiccup, this week we started teaching 2 families - one from the Philipines, and another who are Born-Again Christians. Teaching a family is such a great feeling. A warm and uplifting feeling comes when the children begin to ask and answer questions. Kids have a way of understanding simple truths of the gospel better than a lot of adults.

"...and a little child shall lead them." Isaiah 11:6

Best excuse of the week: Marlin, who we had been talking to for about 10 minutes at his door said he couldn't hear our message because "I was just about to go eat a handful of trail mix and some peanut butter on a spoon."

No joke.

I love you all. Have a great 4th of July. I heard USA lost to Ghana in the World Cup. That's a bummer.

Love,
Elder Karlsven

Blessings! 06/21/2010

Dear Family,

Elder Tobler loves to serve others and offers to serve others all the time. This is a great thing because of his sincerity. However, sometimes it backfires. Over the past couple weeks, he offered to bake cookies for a number of people in our apartment complex. It seems like a good idea, but A: We don't got the time to bake, and B: We're not sister missionaries. I wasn't aware of the seriousness of the problem until the other day we were in the lobby of our apartment complex and an Asian man in his 30's walked by. I had never seen the man before. We said "Hi" to him.

He responded suddenly, "Where my cookies!?"

Nah, but I love Elder Tobler. It's just so easy to be relaxed and open up to a person like him. Plus he continues to make me breakfast a couple times a week, and the other day I looked down and realized that he had shined my shoes. I've sent a request to the mission president that he be my companion until the end of my mission.

At the beginning of the week, we made goals. Elder Tobler suggested that we make a goal to find 3 people to teach. I suggested that we try to find 1 family to teach. We agreed that either one would be great. We prayed each day for help, and every night we reviewed our efforts and made a plan for the next day to help accomplish the goal.

On Tuesday we went on splits with the ward. Elder Tobler and Brother Hardy went to an appointment. They got there, but the man's wife was sick so they couldn't come in. Elder Tobler suggested they ask a neighbor if they could have the lesson at their home. The man agreed, and they went to another apartment, met a lady that let them in to teach.

2 new friends to teach!

Then on Saturday we had the missionaries in the surrounding areas come into our area to help us find people to teach (we took turns doing this for each area in our zone during the week). Elder Tobler and Elder Wynn met and taught a neighbor of someone that used to meet with the missionaries.

1 more!

We were satisfied with reaching our goal of finding 3 people to teach, and began thinking of how to help other areas and missionaries to find. Sunday night came along. We stopped by an old media referal that had never been home. A family from the Philipines was home. They had 10 minutes to hear our message. They did, and they liked it.

A family!

The Lord answers prayers. Especially when you are in the Santa Clara ward.

I don't know how much this story will resonate with you guys, but to understand how much of a miracle this week was, you should know that on an average week, we find 1 to 2 people to teach.

I love you all. Have a great week.

Love,
Elder Karlsven