Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Hey everyone! I am writing to you all today from my new area in..... TUCSON! Yep, I'm still here. But I did get transferred to south Tucson. I'm now in the Saguaro branch with Elder Strong. P-days got switched to Tuesdays on transfer week, so now we get calls on Sunday nights, work Mondays, and get transferred on Tuesdays. These last few days have been pretty hectic to say the least. I'm looking forward to serving in this new area. It's supposed to be a relatively tough area to work in but it's filled with people who speak Spanish so I'm excited. That's one benefit to having stayed in Tucson my entire mission. Even though I'm not right on the border, there have still been a relatively good amount of Hispanics in all of my areas so far. I know some Spanish missionaries that have gotten stuck in English areas for nearly their whole missions.

Anyway, the Saguaro branch is fairly new and small. It was created right before I got to the mission field out of the Valencia branch and we average 60-70 people at church every week. That means there's a lot of good work ahead of me though! Elder Strong is from Taylorsville and has been out for three transfers. He seems pretty cool so far so we should do well. Supposedly, there is a family of four that's about ready to be baptized here pretty quick so that's exciting.

It was tough to say goodbye to everyone in the Sonora branch. I grew really close to a lot of the members and recent converts. I'll probably be seeing a lot of them again though because we're all still close. The missionary that's taking my place is named Elder Anderson and I've heard really good things about him.

Last Thursday we had the opportunity to go to the temple. It was an incredible experience! The Gila Valley Temple is really small but very beautiful. It was so awesome to take a little road trip over there and be with President and Sister Walker in the temple. We get to go every three months and I already can't wait to go again.

Well, I'll probably have more info about my new area/companion/people to teach to talk about next week. Have a great week!

Elder Olsen

Monday, July 26, 2010

Hello everybody! This week has been a little bit difficult but we're all learning and growing from it. We've been having a really tough time getting people to keep their committments, especially coming to church (nobody came yesterday). We've been trying to brainstorm some good ideas and I think I finally came up with one that we're excited to try. We give people for things that they need to do in order to gain a testimony and progress towards baptism. They are: read from the Book of Mormon, pray to know that it's true and that Joseph Smith was a true prophet, attend church, and meet with us regularly (on a daily basis if possible). It's interesting to watch because if anybody does all four of these things together and consistently, they gain a testimony really quickly. If they miss one then their progress is delayed.
In Alma 32 there is an analogy about growing our testimonies. It all starts with a seed. I figure if they've decided to investigate the church, they've already planted that seed in their hearts. If the seed doesn't grow, it's not because the seed isn't good like Alma said. We have to nourish it or else it won't grow. For example, give it water every day, give it sunlight, give it good soil, and fertilize it once in awhile. It's the same concept with our testimonies of the gospel. The idea I got is to buy a seed of some kind and plant it with the people we are teaching. Then they have to do certain things throughout the day to nourish their testimonies before they can nourish the real seed. For example:
watering the seed=reading from the Book of Mormon
putting it in the sunlight=saying their prayers
good soil=meeting with us
fertilizer (once a week)=coming to church (once a week)
This way they'll be able to see that if their testimony didn't grow it's because they didn't nourish it enough (the real plant will likely die too). We haven't put this to the test yet but I think it will yield some good results and help people see the importance of doing these things daily! I think we'll probably try it out this week.
Jessica, or Yessica, finally got confirmed yesterday which was good news! The other people that we are teaching seem to be making slow progress but they're not giving it enough effort quite yet. Hopefully we can get that to change with this new idea that we got. We saw a really cool miracle with Carlos this week. On Friday night after he said the closing prayer, he stayed thinking for a minute. Then he looked up and told us that he hadn't smoked or had a drink since he met us! We haven't even talked to him about the word of wisdom yet, and the guy that referred him to us told us that he has been a super heavy drinker for years! It was really awesome. Unfortunately he couldn't come to church yesterday because his Jehovah's Witness friend heard that we had been seeing him and made sure to come by and pick him up to go to their church. He's got his doubts still but he can't deny the miracle that happened.
Well, we had a zone conference on Friday and we found out some more details about all of the changes that the mission is undergoing. We have four full-day leadership meetings within these next two weeks, which means my greeny will be on an exchange with the other greeny in our district for four days trying to speak Spanish! That should be an adventure for them. I remember how that was for me. I'm sure they'll do a good job though.
Well, that's all I've got for this week. I hope you're all doing well! Pray that this law here gets overturned.
Elder Olsen

Monday, May 24, 2010

more transfer rumors...

Hey everyone! It's transfer week once again and we should be getting a call tonight. In my interview with President Walker last Wednesday, he basically told me that I would be staying in my area another transfer but that I would be getting a new companion. That pretty much dashed my hopes of ending up in El Paso (sorry Justin), but i trust I'll be where the Lord wants me to be. The rumor that is floating around now is that I'll be training so we'll see what happens. This is a huge transfer for the mission. Not only are we losing a third of the missionaries (three zones) to a different mission, but 17 missionaries are going home. They all happen to be really good ones too, and make up a good portion of the leadership in this mission. To go along with that, we should have 18 new missionaries coming out. I can't remember if they're coming out this transfer or the next, but the mission is about to get very young and very different. It should be an exciting time though.

So some other big news is that the Gila Valley Temple was dedicated yesterday! We got to watch the cultural celebration for it on Saturday night and then the three dedicatory sessions were on Sunday. We went to two of them, one in English and one in Spanish. It was an awesome experience! There were several awesome prophecies fulfilled by the building and dedication of that temple. The mission is already seeing a lot of miracles from it and I'm sure they're just beginning. Unfortunately, the dedication caused some problems for some of the people we're teaching. They didn't have recommends so obviously they couldn't go. The normal church services were cancelled so they were left with nothing. We tried to set up a small gospel principles class in the night but nobody from any of the three companionships in the branch came. It's alright though because in the end we're going to gain a lot more than we lost.
So how cool is that new conference issue of the Ensign? It's awesome with all those color pictures to go along with some incredible talks! I've only had it for a few days and I've already read a good portion of it. If you haven't picked it up yet, DO IT!

I almost forgot some other big news. We moved again this week. I've had pretty bad luck with apartments so far on my mission. Apart from moving when i get transferred to a new area, I've had to move three times in the middle of transfers, the reason being that the apartments were so trashed. We undertook the task of the century on Friday and we're still not done. The apartment I had been living in has housed missionaries for A LONG time. To give you some idea, we found Ensigns in our apartment that date back to 1993. There were large holes in the walls, there were tears and stains in the carpet, the hot water didn't work in the sinks, the dishwasher was broken, the toilet didn't work right, and the cupboards were FULL of expired food. I started cleaning the place when I first got there with Elder Farnsworth but you wouldn't be able to tell. I threw away about 6 large boxes of food that had been expired for at least a year or two, including a few things that expired in 1999! I can't even begin to describe how filthy it was. We basically filled up an entire dumpster with junk. We also found some interesting things, including a full set of golf clubs, a couple of large knives including a machete, and a lizard frozen in a tupperware container in the freezer. It definitely feels good to be in a clean apartment now where things work, even if it was a huge project.

As far as teaching goes, it was kind of slow this week but we've found a lot of good potential. Elba is still doing well and wants to be baptized. Hopefully I'll have more updates next week. Thanks for all of your support! I had a really cool quote to share but I left it at home so I'll share it next week.

Elder Olsen

p.s. I saw Pete Stevens riding his bike earlier in the week. I don't know if any of you remember that story but it brought back some funny memories. I also saw the Contreras family from my last area. We were out tracting in a trailer park and they pulled up by us out of the blue! I guess they used to live there and are still trying to sell their old trailer. It was awesome to visit with them again for a few minutes. I guess they're still about the same as when I left the area, but I know one day they'll be an awesome active family.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Hey everyone! This last week has been pretty good. We found some new solid people to teach. Things are starting to pick back up in this area little by little. One of the people that we found this week is named Elba. She is almost 70 years old and lives alone and she's a great lady. She already has a strong testimony of the Savior and does community service multiple times a week. We've had some awesome lessons with her so far! We also found out that her son is a member back in Utah. She came to church yesterday and had a great experience. Sometimes as missionaries you find someone new to teach. Sometimes you find a baptism. Elba has a baptismal date for June 12th and she's going to make it!

Also in church yesterday, Juan got the priesthood! It's such an awesome experience to see the people you teach progress after baptism. We also found some other really cool people this week. One guys name is Alberto and then we found an awesome family of 6! There's not a whole lot to say about them yet but I'll keep you posted. Unfortunately, we don't have church next week. I've never really seen that before but due to the dedication of the Gila Valley Temple, all church services are canceled on Sunday. We're going to the dedication instead, but the people we're teaching can't go so it's kind of tough.

I know these e-mails are getting more and more boring. This transfer has been a little bit tough so I've kind of lost a desire to write more. I'm going to start writing down the interesting things that happen throughout the week so you guys don't fall asleep reading this. I'll just leave you all with my testimony.

I've been thinking a lot this week about faith. Faith, faith, faith. It seems like we're always talking about it. It's a fairly easy subject to discuss on the surface but it goes a lot deeper. There is a reason faith is the first principle of the gospel. If we have faith, everything else falls into place. If not, then we can't progress until we develop faith. Almost everybody we talk to says they have faith, but faith is a lot more than just a belief. Faith is a principle of action! Like the scripture in James 2 says: "Faith without works is dead." If we truly have faith we're going to show it, not by what we say but by what we DO. A favorite example of faith that we share in the church is 1 Nephi 3:7, when Nephi was commanded to return to Jerusalem to get the plates. "I will go and do" is a great attitude to have, but i don't think that's really the part where Nephi showed his faith. He showed his faith when he WENT and DID. Faith begins with a desire. We have to want to believe or want to see a miracle. Then we show our faith by doing our part and TRUSTING that the Lord will do his. It's so hard to have actually have that trust sometimes because we're human and we want to see things with our eyes. I know that prayers of faith our answered, even though we can't see our Heavenly Father. I've seen it many times throughout my life and my mission. If we had the faith of a mustard seed, we could move mountains!

Elder Olsen

Monday, May 10, 2010

Hey everyone! This week has been pretty good. I got to talk to my family yesterday which was awesome! I don't have a whole lot to say again (sorry I know my e-mails are getting short and boring) but yesterday we had an incredible sacrament meeting! To start things off, Olga got confirmed finally! Then the two people that gave talks were Juan and Julia! They did so awesome and the spirit was incredibly strong! Juan's closing remark was "I don't just believe the church is true, I KNOW this is the the only true church of Jesus Christ!" He just about shouted it into the microphone! He also invited his family but didn't tell them he was going to speak until it got announced in sacrament meeting. It was very rewarding to see all these people that I've seen get baptized up there bearing their testimonies for everyone to hear.

The other big news from the week is that Juan and Olga are now DATING! They went on a date earlier this week and I guess they made it official, but SHHH, it's a secret so don't tell. Hopefully it turns out well for them! The branch also got to go to the Gila Valley Temple open house on Saturday. I must admit, I was pretty jealous that I didn't get to go but it sounds like it went pretty well. It will be dedicated on May 23rd! We are already seeing so many miracles in our mission because of it! Our mission president also told us in zone conference last week that once it is open we'll all be able to go once a transfer (every six weeks)! If I somehow end up in the other mission when it splits at the beginning of July, I'll at least get to go once before that. The Albuquerque Mission has a temple too so it's a win/win situation!

Well, sorry this is so short again. I forgot my camera too so the pictures will have to wait another week. Have a great week everyone! Thanks for all of your letters!

Elder Olsen

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Hey everybody! This week has been a bit of a struggle but not too bad overall. Olga got baptized on Thursday which was awesome! She had a great experience and she's doing really well. I forgot my camera but I'll try to send pictures next week. She was just telling us last night about the incredible change that she's experienced in her life in such a short time. She just saw a friend the other day that she hadn't seen since she began talking to us but her friend noticed a huge change in her. She's so much more happy and satisfied with life. She has work and she has people around her who care. The gospel really does work miracles.

I really don't have much to say this week and I'm not in the mood to write a whole lot so sorry. Hopefully next week will be a little more eventful. I'm sure by now all of you have heard about the new Arizona immigration law. If it ends up going through it's going to be a BIG deal. There's hardly anyone in Tucson with papers and if they all get deported this place is going to die. The economy will go in the toilet and they'll all be sent back to Mexico where there is no work. Basically this law will permit police officers to pull you over if you have dark skin and ask for proof that you are a citizen. It's a little more complex than that but that's pretty much what it comes down to. It's really racist and going to cause all sorts of problems if it goes into effect. There are only a handful of people with papers in our branch. Even members of the branch presidency are planning to move. Several people have already left to go to other surrounding states. It's really going to hurt the work here and hurt the people. Hopefully there will be someway to resolve it.

I just noticed that that's kind of a depressing paragraph but that's what's happening right now. We're right in the middle of it. People are super scared that their families are going to be split up. The members of the church have a lot of faith that everything will be ok though. We've just got to pray a lot to get it resolved. Once again, sorry for a boring e-mail. I hope you're all doing well! I love the church and I know it's true. When things get tough it's just an opportunity to build our faith even more.

Elder Olsen

Monday, April 26, 2010

Hey everyone! I don't have a whole lot to share this week. It's been kind of a rough week but it turned out pretty good. We had seven people come to church and there's a lot of potential in them.

We moved up Olga's baptismal date to this Thursday because we have stake conference this weekend! She had her interview yesterday and she is solid and ready to go. We tried to get her to have a member baptize her but she asked me to so I'm excited for that. It's really been neat to see that change come into her life. She's seeing a lot of blessings too. It's been amazing for me to see the past couple of months how quickly the gospel can change lives.

We have also started focusing a lot on the Valenzuela family (I think I mentioned them about a month ago maybe). They have been investigating the church for a really long time but it seems like a lot of the previous missionaries have just been waiting around for them to get baptized. We set up daily contact with them and we are reading from the Book of Mormon together every day. We decided to start it from the beginning and now they are getting really into it. Things are going really well with them and I'm excited!

I'm sorry I don't have a whole lot to share this week. Hopefully next week will be more interesting. I love you all so much! Have a great week!

Elder Olsen

Monday, April 19, 2010

Hey everyone! This week has been a bit crazy. It began last Monday when we got transfer calls. We weren't really expecting anything to happen but Elder Farnsworth got a call to serve in El Paso. My new companion's name is Elder Moore from Minnesota. He's only been out two transfers and he's been in the Gila Valley for his whole mission so far and it's almost all white over there. They did over 90% of their teaching in English so he's struggling with Spanish a bit but he'll get there. He's very dedicated and hard-working so hopefully we have an awesome transfer!

Also on Monday night, we had an incredible lesson with Olga. She told us that she liked the Book of Mormon and all of the things that she was learning but she wasn't sure if it was true yet. We read a bit with her and then watched Elder Holland's Book of Mormon talk from last conference. Then we all knelt down and prayed and promised her that she could receive an answer. She offered an incredible prayer! It was so simple but she asked directly if the Book of Mormon was true and if this church was true. Then we waited for about five minutes. The spirit was incredible! It may have been the strongest that I've felt it so far on my mission. After about five minutes she looked up with tears in her eyes and told us that she knew it was true! She told us that she felt an overwhelming burning sensation in her chest and that now she knew! It was one of the coolest experiences of my mission so far and she is preparing to be baptized on May 1st.

However, we all know that there is opposition in all things. It came last night and it came hard. We were eating dinner when we got a phone call from her telling us that she was getting kicked out of her trailer. Until a couple of weeks ago, she had been out of work since December, and consequently had fallen behind on her rent. She came home from church and they told her that she had to be out by that night. We left dinner and went over to see what we could do. We helped her pack everything up and made a bazillion phone calls and finally we found a member that is going to let her borrow a trailer for a couple weeks. We're not quite sure what she's going to do long-term, but we're grateful that we were able to work something out for now. When we went over to unlock the trailer, the member that is letting her borrow it told her his conversion story and bore a powerful testimony. Hopefully what could have been a faith breaking experience has turned into a faith making one.

While all this was happening last night something else kind of crazy happened. We went to the dumpsters behind the Family Dollar to get some boxes for Olga to put her stuff in. While we were looking, we found a box that was full of stuff. Elder Moore opened it up and found a soft cooler filled with all sorts of merchandise from the store. Somebody from the store had apparently been putting it there to steal when they took the trash out. We took the cooler into the store and the cashier saw us and looked away really quickly. She seemed really frantic so we went to the only other employee in the store, but she looked just as shocked when we talked to her. They ended up telling us some story about some guy robbing them but it was obvious when we left and thought about it a little more that they were the ones who had been in on it. Unfortunately since it was about 8:00 on Sunday night, they were the only ones working but oh well. We did what we could.

Well, that's just a little piece of this crazy week. You never know what you're going to get on a mission! That's what's so fun about it. There's also nothing I've experienced as rewarding as seeing someone change their life and enter onto a path of happiness and blessings that will last forever. This really is the work of the Lord and there's nowhere I'd rather be. I love you all!

Elder Olsen

Monday, April 12, 2010

Hey everyone! I don't think I have a whole lot to say from this last week but I'm finally sending more pictures! Frank and Juan were finally confirmed yesterday which was really exciting. We had a really good fast and testimony meeting and we got Juan to go up and give his testimony. It was so rewarding to see him up there in front of everyone and testify of the truth! Elder Farnsworth and I also gave our testimonies and it was a very spiritual meeting to say the least.
We have been finding some awesome new people to teach and we have several baptismal dates for the beginning of May! One of them, who we've actually been teaching for a couple weeks now, is named Olga. She is passing through some incredibly difficult trials in her life right now but she is showing some great faith. She has a hunger to learn and hear the word of God and she's been progressing really well. On Tuesday we watched The Testaments with her and she was speechless afterward. She tried to express what she was feeling but she couldn't quite get it out. She had this look on her face when it was done that I'll never forget. It was a look of amazement and happiness and peace all at the same time! There was an incredible spirit there! She is working towards being baptized on May 1st and is well on her way. I think she is already finished with 1 Nephi!

She also saw a really cool miracle this last week. She has been out of a job since December and doesn't really even have food in the fridge right now. One day she went to do her laundry at the laundromat and she decided to take the Book of Mormon to read while she waited. After a few minutes of reading, a complete stranger walked up to her and offered her a job cleaning houses! She is so sincere and we're really excited. She also has two sons who we are working with, Angel (18) and Isaias (13).

We get transfer calls tonight again but I bet we'll both be staying in this area. There will probably be some surprises though so we'll see. President Walker is going to be making a lot of changes before the mission splits at the beginning of July so anything could happen. Until next week...

Elder Olsen

front left to right (Elder Kasat, Elder Jenne, Me, Elder Cuevas) with the branch president's family in the Valencia branch

Julia's baptism

Frank's baptism

Juan's baptism

There are A LOT of members of the "cool church" in Tucson.

district meeting

Monday, April 5, 2010

conference+baptisms=great week

Ok, I have absolutely no time this week, even though there is a lot to tell. Most importantly, Frank and Juan both got baptized this last Friday! It was an incredible baptismal service and a ton of people came. They are not confirmed yet because of conference but that will happen this next Sunday! Juan is so solid! He has such a strong testimony and is finding every way possible to get involved. He loved conference and came out teaching with us right after. He's going to be a valuable asset for us and help bring many more people to the truth.

So as missionaries we have this rule that the passenger has to back up the driver whenever we back up in the car. On Thursday, Elder Farnsworth was driving and I was backing him up. When he had backed up far enough, I went up to the side of the car to start to get in like I usually do. This time though, he wasn't watching me and kept going back, and for some reason my foot was behind the front wheel of the car. My ankle got ran over and twisted up pretty good. It was pretty black and blue but I managed to limp around. It's actually getting a lot better now. The reason I tell this story is because Juan had asked me to baptize him the day before. I was already kind of stressing out about it because he's about 300 lbs. Not being able to put any pressure on my foot really worried me that I would drop him. So I called him up on Friday morning and told him I might not be able to do it. He was insistent that I do it regardless of the risk. I was stressing out about it pretty bad but then we called him back and asked if Elder Farnsworth could be in the water with me to help just in case. He loved the idea because originally he wanted us both to baptize him anyway! So it all worked out just fine. We both baptized him and everything went smoothly. Frank is doing awesome as well. Elder Farnsworth baptized him.

It was an awesome week overall, capped off by an awesome conference! It was so relaxing and rejuvenating at the same time. I have to go now but I love you all! Have a great week!
Elder Olsen

Monday, March 29, 2010

Hey everyone! I have to split time with my companion this week so I only have a few minutes. We have seen a bunch more miracles this week but I probably won't have time to share them all. Everything is going very well in our area though!

Our lessons with Juan this week have been incredible! He is seeing so much opposition from co-workers and family members but nothing is stopping him. I won't go into much detail but let's just say that he commits to live all of the commandments before we can even finish teaching them! The other day, we watched Elder Holland's talk from last conference about the Book of Mormon. When it was done, he told us he didn't feel like he was "running fast enough." His baptism was scheduled for April 10th but because he's been to church enough, we were able to move it up. He will now be getting baptized on April 2nd, which I believe is the 3 week mark from when we met him! What an incredible experience! He's already been helping to fellowship the other people we are teaching.

Frank Robles (Julia's son) will also be getting baptized on the 2nd! We had some pretty cool experiences with him this last week as well, and both of them had their interviews yesterday. They are ready to go and excited!

After the cool experience that we had with Raymond last week, we couldn't find him until Thursday. When we finally found him, he was so happy to see us! Since that lesson when we brought Juan, everything in his life has taken a turn for the better. He and his girlfriend both got new jobs and their relationship is solid once again. In fact, it's so solid that they've been planning their wedding! We went to the church with them and had a very spiritual lesson on the Atonement and then we set a marriage/baptismal date with them. They are going to be married in the church on May 1st and right after he's going to be baptized!

I'm so happy to be a missionary. All of the difficult times and struggles are all worth it when you see people embrace the gospel. I love the church and I know it's true! Thanks for all of the support you all give me!

Elder Olsen

P.S. See you next week Mom!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Awesome Week #2!

Hola todos! We've had another incredible week here in the Sonora Branch, maybe the most successful week of my mission so far! We set records for lessons taught in a day and in a week, but most importantly, we are seeing tons of progress with our investigators! I don't even know where to start but this week has been filled with miracles!

First off, Juan is progressing incredibly fast! We had some of the most incredible lessons with him this last week. We usually end up spending at least an hour with him every night and he doesn't want us to leave. On Monday, we had planned something to teach him but then we felt prompted to teach him the word of wisdom. He is now 32 but he has been an alcoholic since he was 7. He was addicted to alcohol, coffee, and cigarettes. He had tried to quit many times before but he always fell back into his bad habits. We had an incredible lesson with him and he got really excited. To make a long story short, we dumped out all of his beer, crumpled up his cigarettes, and flushed his coffee down the toilet. Then we all knelt down and he committed to his Heavenly Father that he would never touch them again. He stopped them all cold turkey and his been clean for a week! Tell me that's not the power of God! We have seen an incredible transformation come over him since.

On Wednesday, he became a missionary. We had been really struggling with Raymond (who also has some word of wisdom problems) so we decided to take Juan with us to share his experience (they live in the same apartment complex). We then had another incredible experience. Juan took charge and basically taught the lesson! At this time we had known him for less than a week. For about 20 minutes he told Raymond the blessings he had seen and gave him encouragement! Then we all knelt down with Raymond and he offered a very heartfelt prayer, committing to keep the word of wisdom as well! We were all so filled with the spirit afterwards. Juan practically skipped back to his house because he was so happy!

That same night we had another sweet lesson with Frank (Julia's 14-year-old son). He has had a lot of negative peer pressure and he's kind of stubborn and very sensitive. He really wants to know if it's true though. We went back and shared the first vision with him, and then knelt down to pray. When we finished the prayer he didn't move. He stayed kneeling down for about 10 minutes and he was sobbing the whole time. The spirit was so strong! He now has a baptismal date for April 3rd!

Things are going pretty well with the other families we are teaching, the Valenzuelas and the Lopez. They are both still kind of at a standstill but they are making progress slowly but surely. We have awesome lessons planned with both of them tomorrow so we'll see how that goes.

I also got to go on exchanges with Elder Muniz (my trainer) this week so that was pretty cool. He is my zone leader now and we had a lot of fun. He also said that my Spanish has gotten a lot better so I was pretty happy about that. All six of the companions that I have had so far (including the MTC) are very close to me. Three of them are in my district and the other three are in the district that I just left. It's been really cool to get to work around all of them still! Just another tender mercy I guess.

I could go on and on about the other awesome experiences we had this last week but this is getting pretty long so I'll wrap up. I hope you all are doing amazing! Thanks for all of your support!

Elder Olsen

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Awesome Week!

Hey everyone! We have had a great week full of miracles! First and foremost, Julia got baptized on Saturday and it was a great experience for all of us! We had some really good lessons with her leading up to her baptism. The other day we shared the prophecy of the gospel going for the the Lamanite people in the last days (2 Nephi 30:5-6). As she read it, she choked up and didn't talk for a few minutes. It is SO awesome to see that prophecy being fulfilled.

She also became the answer to one of our prayers the other day. We were eating with the Banuelos family and Hna. Banuelos was really stressed out because their car had just broken down and she couldn't find a ride to the relief society activity that night. We left them with a prayer that she would be able to find a ride somehow. For some reason, Julia felt like she should swing by on her way to the activity to see if Hna. Banuelos wanted to go with her. How cool is that?

After church yesterday we went over to see the Lopez family and what do you know? There's Julia and another member already there, fellowshipping the other people we are teaching! She's excited to come out teaching with us sometime and share her testimony with others. Speaking of the Lopez family, they are doing really well. They have been going to all of the activities and even volunteered to help clean the church one night! Reina (the wife) has become really friendly with us too! She has given us food multiple times and signed up to feed us next week. She's also making some really good friends in the church so we are definitely seeing some progress there. They'll get baptized as soon as we can get them married.

The Valensuela Family was out of town this last weekend but we had a really awesome family home evening with them and the Banuelos family last week. We watched the Joseph Smith movie and it was really powerful. They learned a lot of things and the members were awesome! They have been praying for the faith to get baptized soon!

As far as Raymond, he's been super busy with work lately and hasn't been able to make it to church yet. We haven't even been able to see him much lately but hopefully we can soon. Even without him, we had six people come to church! We will likely have even more next week!

One of they people that came is named Juan. We found him a few days ago just out in a parking lot. He invited us to come back the next night so we did and we had an awesome lesson with him for about an hour and a half! He asked the perfect questions and the whole time he was really excited! The spirit was very strong and we set a baptismal date with him for April 10th! As we began to sing the opening hymn in sacrament meeting, I looked over and he was crying. He couldn't sing at all because he was so emotional. He had a great experience and is excited to learn more!

Well, I could go on and on about all the other awesome people we found this week and how they're doing but I think I'll wrap up now. We are definitely being so blessed right now! We've seen so many miracles this week! The church is true! I love you all!

Elder Olsen

P.S. Today is my 8 month mark. I'm 1/3 of the way done now. CRAZY!

Monday, March 8, 2010


Hey everyone! The biggest news from this last week is that I've been transferred but... just down the street again. The Douglas rumor proved to be false but I did get transferred so I guess it was half right. I have been transferred into the Sonora Branch which borders my last area. In fact, I was actually already in my new area when I received the transfer call. There is still some debate on what the borders are between the two. I found out that I've already done significant amount work in my new area because we worked in it a bit on accident my first couple months here. Anyway, I'm really excited! I loved the Valencia Branch but this was a much needed change. My new companion is Elder Farnsworth from Bountiful. He's only been out about a month and a half longer than me, but we have great unity already and we're going to do some good things! The thing I'm most excited for in my new area is the member support. The members are incredible and help us so much!

My first week here has been pretty good. We are teaching some solid people and we have a baptism coming up this next Saturday. Her name is Julia, and ironically enough, Elder Muniz and I had talked to her before because of the area boundary confusion. We had actually started teaching one of her sons, but one day she came out and told us she didn't believe in "the book of the mormons," and that her son wasn't interested either. She was even a bit hostile with us. Fast forward six months and now she's getting baptized! A member that lives nearby actually referred her a few weeks ago and I guess that changed her perspective. That's what made the difference in her joining the church! Members are SO crucial!

We are also teaching a couple other families. The Valensuelas have been investigating the church for about 15 months now. They are pretty much members but haven't taken the step of baptism. Last night we went over and went back to the basics. We shared the first vision and it brought the spirit in very strongly. They said they believe the Book of Mormon is true and that they need to get baptized. They just don't want to be pushed into it. We have a family home evening with them tonight in the house of some members! I'm excited to work with them and I think they will take that step in the near future.

Another family is the Lopez family. The husband is ready to get baptized but the wife doesn't want to. I guess she's started to change this last week though. She's become more friendly and open to us. We had some really good lessons with her and I think she'll accept the gospel in time too. The other thing is that they need to get married, so they may be a bit of a project.

So now I have a story. Once upon a time a few weeks ago Elder Jenne and I were at Wal-Mart. All of a sudden a lady shouted out his name. We came to find out that it was a girl who had recently been baptized in Douglas. She was with her boyfriend (Raymond) who would have been Elder Jenne's first baptism (he started his mission in Douglas). The couple had even separated so that he could live the law of chastity and get baptized. Unfortunately, Satan attacked him hard on the day of his baptism and he couldn't do it. Then they found out that his girlfriend was pregnant so they moved back in together. All that happened about 9 months ago in Douglas and then we randomly ran into them at Wal-Mart up here in Tucson! They moved up here with their new baby for college and work. We got their address and told them we'd go by. As it turns out, they live in my new area! We went by the first day I got to this area and found out that he's been reading the Book of Mormon and has gotten through 3 Nephi 27! He is ready to be baptized! The only thing holding him back now is that he and Michelle (his girlfriend) aren't married. But... they want to be! They just want to have a small wedding to get it taken care of and then have a party with their families some other time. It may happen as early as this week! We are really excited for them and there is no way that we ran into them that day at Wal-Mart by coincidence.

So that's what our teaching is looking like these days. As far as my last area, I think it's still doing really well. They could have a lot of success this transfer. It was actually kind of weird because we just switched companions. I took Elder Kinsey's spot and he took mine. I think it is going to be a good experience for both of us.

Church yesterday was pretty interesting. There were two baby blessings scheduled during sacrament meeting, but then the parents of the two babies decided to bring up their other kids to get blessed as well (even though they were older). More and more just kept coming up. When all was said and done, we had two babies blessed and four other kids received their baby blessings. I can't say I've ever seen that before. The branch presidency looked confused. They didn't know what to do so they just blessed them all. We also ran out of water for the sacrament so that took some extra time. We ended up with less than 10 minutes for testimonies. In priesthood, four men received the Melchezidek priesthood! It took the entire time but it was pretty neat.

Wow! This e-mail is really long now. I love you all!

Elder Olsen

P.S. Since I still live close to Elder Jenne, we're going to record the song we wrote one of these days. Then I'll attach it so you can all hear it!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Hey everyone! This week has been pretty good overall. The biggest news that I have today is that I will be being transferred on Wednesday morning. I thought I would be transferred the last two times too because of rumors from the zone leaders, but this time is pretty concrete because President Walker told me in my interview on Thursday that I would more than likely be leaving. I won't find out for sure where I'm going until tonight but there was a rumor floating around that I might be going to Douglas, Arizona, which is right on the border. I've heard good things about that place but I've learned not to trust the rumors, so we'll see what happens tonight.

Gabriel and Catalina have finally returned from California! We were able to see them on Saturday night and they came to church again on Sunday. Apparently, they got a lot of negative family pressure while they were over there though. I guess Catalina stood up for us a bit though. She's still not sure so we'll see what happens.

The Contreras family came to church again this week which we were really excited about! We made a lot of progress with the dad this week and they're doing great! It's been a long process for them but everything is finally starting to come together.

We found another lady earlier this week named Rosa. We have taught her every night (long lessons) since we met her. She loves having us over and she LOVES to pray. Earlier this week we asked her to give the closing prayer so we all knelt down and she began but then she never stopped. She just kept going and going and going and going. When all was said and done, she had prayed for 25 minutes! It was a great prayer but it was the longest public prayer ever! So Elder Jenne and I decided we would teach "prayer" the next night. We did and it went really well. We all knelt down and asked her to say the closing prayer again. Not to be outdone by the previous night, she prayed for 35 minutes this time! They are really sincere and heartfelt prayers though, so if that's what it takes to get her an answer it's worth it. It's just not something you see every day.

Rosa also has also started to do missionary work for us. She took the "Finding Faith in Christ" DVD over to her friend's house to watch it. Then she told her friend (Norma) about us coming over every night and Norma asked if we could come visit her too! We visited her and we have started to teach her, her father (Marcario), and her son (Cesar). They all have baptismal dates for March 27th and want to get baptized! The only thing that will hold them back is being able to get to church every week.

We also had another cool experience the other day. We had been trying to visit a lady but she wasn't home, so we were walking back to our car when another woman saw us and stopped us. She asked who we were and then told us that her mother-in-law is a member down in Nogales. She said she had seen us in the area before but never got up the nerve to come out and talk to us until now. She told us that she wanted to start learning and come to church and just "get a new start", including getting baptized. She is a single mother raising four children under six but she is excited to learn and make time for the the gospel of Jesus Christ.

It's kind of sad that I have to leave all these awesome things behind now to go to a new area, but I'm glad I'm leaving the area how it is. Elder Jenne and his new companion could have 5 or more baptisms next transfer! It's hard to leave behind but I'm also excited for a change.

Thanks again for all the support you all give me! Have a great week!

Elder Olsen

P.S. Elder Jenne and I also wrote a sweet song this week. Maybe I'll attach the lyrics next week.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Hey everyone! This last week went pretty well over all until Sunday. We kind of had a let down yesterday but we're trying to stay positive.

We had some awesome lessons with the Contreras family this last week. We went over on Tuesday night and taught an awesome lesson about temples and how they can go there as a family once Evelyn and Roberto get baptized. We then set a baptismal date for the 27th of February which they were all excited about. I even jokingly said to mark it down on the calendar and the next think I knew, Evelyn jumped up and wrote it in. The only thing holding them back is the dad. His wife really wants him to baptize the kids, but he's not quite ready. We scheduled an interview with him and the branch president for Sunday to see if he'd be able to do it and we also set up the the baptismal interviews for the kids as well. Unfortunately, when we went by on Sunday morning, they weren't there. They just completely ditched. We haven't been able to see them since so hopefully we'll find out what happened tonight.

On to some happier news now. We found a really cool family this week! They are the Lopez family and have five kids! We were actually out trying to contact a former investigator in an apartment complex and some little kids asked us to play soccer with them. We played for about twenty minutes and then went and met the mom. We taught her breifly but she was just about to leave so we said we'd stop back another time. The kids were very insistent that we come play soccer with them again so the next day we went back. As we started walking in to the apartment complex, the kids went nuts! They started shouting "THEY'RE HERE! THEY'RE HERE!" We felt like celebrities! Then they all ran up to us and gave us hugs. We played with them again and then went and talked to both parents. We taught them a really awesome lesson and they are very interested in learning more. We are very excited to keep teaching them.

Yolanda (the cool lady we found last week) hasn't been home lately. We think she may have gone to Texas already, but hopefully we can get back in touch with her somehow. Gabriel and Catalina should be back from California tonight or tomorrow. We'll start teaching them again and hopefully they can get baptized soon. The English missionaries have started teaching the Julia lady that we found last week as well.

Miguel Ortega came to church again even though we still haven't been able to see him. He is always super busy and never home, but we're going to try to see him again tonight. He and his wife are going to have their baby blessed on March 7th so that's a good step.

I guess I'll wrap up with a funny story from this last week. Elder Jenne and I were contacting a guy that was outside his house when his son came out (probably about 30 years old). I began talking to the son while Elder Jenne talked to his dad. I could tell he was really drunk but we started talking for a bit. After about five minutes, he randomly gave me a hug and told me he loved me. Then he went inside. In a few minutes he came out with a shot glass of vodka and offered it to me. I declined but he just kept telling me how good it was and insisted that I drink it. After I turned it down three or four times, he went back inside looking dissappointed that I hadn't accepted. A few minutes later he came back outside. This time, he had put the shot glass on a barbie plate and cut up a lime to put on the side. I guess he figured that this extra effort would change my mind but I had to turn him down a few more times. I guess I didn't offend him too badly though because I got another big hug and another "I love you" before we left. I have a feeling he doesn't remember any of this.

Anyway, that was our week! Lots of ups and downs and everything-in-betweens just like always! I love my mission though! Thanks for all the support you all give me!

Elder Olsen

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Wow! This has been quite the week! A lot of things have happened this week and I'm not quite sure where to start or if I'll remember them all. First and foremost, we just found out some HUGE NEWS about this mission about five minutes ago. I guess it's still kind of a secret because President Walker hasn't announced it yet, but we found it out from the church website so I think it's ok to share.

The boundaries for the Arizona Tucson Mission are getting redrawn in June. They are forming a new mission called the New Mexico Farmington Mission which will take about 1/3 of our mission boundaries including El Paso, TX (where a good portion of the Spanish work is). That means that if I get transferred to New Mexico or El Paso by June, that's where I'll be to finish my mission. I'm kind of split on where I'd like to be. I love President and Sister Walker and everything about Tucson, but El Paso is where every Spanish missionary wants to be (because it's about 85% Spanish). Needless to say, these next few months will be very interesting.

The other big news... THE CONTRERAS FAMILY FINALLY CAME TO CHURCH!! We have been working with them sooo much and it's finally paid off. This last week we baked Evelyn a birthday cake, bought them a framed picture of the new Gila Valley Temple to put up, and on Sunday we went and made breakfast for them. Everything is looking good to get Eveyln and Roberto baptized soon. We're still not exactly sure when but we're hoping before this transfer is up which is about 2 1/2 weeks.

Gabriel and Catalina went to California for a funeral this last week so we haven't been able to see them. They won't be back until this next weekend so it looks like their baptismal dates will get pushed back a little bit. Hopefully we can get them baptized before this transfer is up too (I have a feeling that I'm finally going to be leaving the Valencia Branch).

Elder Cuevas and I had a really awesome experience when we went on exchanges together this last week. Everything we had planned for the first couple hours of the day had fallen through so even though we already had plans of where to tract for the day, we decided to put it in the Lord's hand. We prayed and felt prompted to contact former investigators, and if they weren't home we would knock around where they lived. Sure enough, the former investigators that we tried to contact weren't home, so we decided to knock around. The first door we knocked, an 80-year-old woman answered the door and invited us in. We taught her about the restoration of the gospel and the spirit was very strong. Afterwards, we offered a prayer and got ready to leave. As we stood up, the spirit hit her so hard. She clutched the Book of Mormon to her chest and let out a little gasp and then said: "I feel SO good right now! Wow! I am so happy! You have just brought me the most wonderful feeling I have ever felt! Thank you so much!" She was more overcome with joy from the spirit than anyone I'd ever see before. She could barely even breath she was so happy! It was an incredible experience and one I'll never forget. It was amazing how the spirit led us to her and then touched her like that. The only downside is that she's going to Texas for a couple months now. I'm confident that one day she will be a member of the church. It wasn't a coincidence that we met her.

As if that wasn't enough, Elder Jenne and I had a similar experience doing the same thing on Saturday. One of the first doors we knocked, an African-American lady named Julia answered it and invited us in. She said she had just moved in a week ago and that she was looking for a church. She already had a strong testimony of the Savior but she hadn't been able to find a church that was right yet. We taught her about the restoration for about a half hour and gave her a copy of the Book of Mormon. Everything went so well and it just made sense to her! She was really excited to read the Book of Mormon and come to church. She also felt that it wasn't a coincidence that we had found her. We had a good closing prayer and some 'hallelujahs', although this week they didn't come from Gabriel. She doesn't speak Spanish so we had to pass her on to the English missionaries, but I know we were led to her as well.

I'm pretty sure there were some other things that I was going to mention but I can't remember them now. I hope you are all doing well! Thanks for all of the support you give me! Have a great week!

Elder Olsen

New Mission Boundaries

Sandra's baptism (wearing black in the middle)

Jose's baptism

Evelyn's birthday

Breakfast with Eveyln and Roberto Contreras

Monday, February 8, 2010

Hey everyone! I only have a few minutes this week so I'll be pretty brief. Things are going great here! Catalina and Gabriel came to church again this last week and they are getting closer to baptism. They have dates for the 13th but it will likely be pushed to the 19th or 20th because they are going out of town. Hopefully everything will go well! We've had some great lessons with them again this week. We ran into an obstacle because Catalina didn't want to give up praying to the saints, but I think we've taken care of that. She has had some awesome experiences praying the right way. Yesterday morning we went over and cooked them breakfast which was pretty fun. We cooked pancakes, eggs, and hashbrowns. We were going to cook breakfast for the Contreras family too but they called and postponed until next week. Hopefully that will help them come to church.

Jose Morales (Sandra's brother) got baptized this week! Catalina and Gabriel were able to attend the service to see a baptism for themselves. It went really well and he's on fire! He will be receiving the preisthood next week and go to the Mesa temple as well! Even though we weren't the ones teaching Jose, it was great to see him take that step. It's also cool because Elder Jenne and I were the ones that actually started teaching him when we were on an exchange a couple months ago. I also taught him with Elder Cuevas for awhile before I got transferred. He's doing great and I'm so happy for him!

One last little random story. A couple weeks ago some guy in his 80s showed up at church. He said he is from Canada but he had just come from Mexico, where he was helping the missionaries by getting them referrals. Apparently, he'll be in Tucson for awhile now. He travels around and helps missionaries in different areas for awhile and then moves on. I guess he just lives in his truck in church parking lots. He's kind of an interesting guy but it's cool what he does.

Anyway, that's all for today. I love you all!

Elder Olsen

P.S. I have a few more things to add to the "Gabriel's pockets" list. Two empty lighters and a little Dora the Explorer pouch that holds his "medicine" (lip gloss and fingernail polish).

Monday, February 1, 2010

Gabriel's Pockets

Hey everyone! This last week has gone pretty well. We've been pretty busy all day so I might not have much time to write today. We actually just got done helping Hermano Santiago (our branch mission leader) move into his new house. Before that we played basketball with him and our branch president, and we delivered a dryer to one of our investigators.

Catalina and Gabriel (the older couple) are still progressing well. The thing is, we're not sure if Gabriel is really accountable. Sometimes he's with it and sometimes he's not. He's the funniest guy ever though. He lives to collect cans. Every day we see him out and about, cruising the streets at about .00000001 mph to look for cans. It's pretty much a full-time job for him. I guess when he gets enough he goes to turn them in for money. This morning we went over to deliver a dryer that one of our members gave them. He took the opportunity to show us all of the things he carries in his pockets (everything that he likes). He had his wallet of course, but he also proceeded to pull out about ten bags (for collecting cans), his glasses, some random business cards and instructions for things, a full can of Pepsi, some body jewel sticker things that he found, and a spoon (in case anyone invites him into their house to eat). He pulled out a lot of other things that I can't remember and I'm pretty sure he had other things that he didn't show us. Hermano Santiago gave his testimony in sacrament meeting which earned another hallelujah from him, although it wasn't nearly as loud as the one a couple weeks ago. He's a character for sure.

Speaking of sacrament meeting, I had the chance to speak in Spanish for the first time. I spoke about the importance of missionary work, surprise surprise, but it went pretty well. Now, giving a talk in English seems super easy though.

We made some good progress with the Contreras family this week. Reynaldo (the dad) just got his appendix out so we were able to go give him a blessing. We also did some service at their house on Saturday morning and played soccer at a park after. The almost came to church this week but they called at the last minute and said they wouldn't be able to come. We're making some good progress though. I have a feeling they'll be back pretty soon.

I can't remember what else I wanted to say from this week. I'll probably remember something right after I send it but if I do, I guess I'll just add it to next week's e-mail. Have an awesome week everyone!

Elder Olsen

Random fact for this week: Circle K pretty much has a monopoly on gas stations here in Tucson. We checked on a GPS the other day to see how many we have around us. We have exactly 50 in a 6.5 mile radius from our apartment!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Hey everyone! This last week has gone pretty well. We are starting to see some good success in this area. We have been teaching a lot of lessons and seeing people start to progress.

The only problem is that everyone we are teaching wants us to come in the morning while we're supposed to be studying. We've been skipping our studies a lot to go out in the mornings, but then we're left with nothing to do at night. Maybe we'll just start studying at night.

On Thursday I think we set a record for the earliest lesson taught. We met up with a man we are teaching named Arnold at a donut shop at 6:00 in the morning! We met up with him and had some donuts, and then gave him a tour of the church and a lesson. It went pretty well but he had a conflict this week and wasn't able to come to church. Hopefully he can make it next week.

Speaking of church, Catalina and Gabriel came again! No hallelujahs this week though (except a quiet one during a class). They are progressing really well. We had a couple lessons with them in the chapel this last week too, and the spirit was very strong. After we taught them the plan of salvation we asked Catalina to pray. She gave an awesome prayer and then we just sat for a few minutes to feel the spirit. We could all feel it very strongly and it brought her to tears. It was a great experience, and we have felt the same spirit in other lessons with them as well.

We also had a nice surprise at church. A man we have been talking with named Miguel Ortega, just showed up even though we haven't been able to see him in almost two weeks. His wife has been a member for a long time but she is inactive. Apparently he promised his wife's dad when he married her that he would study and learn about the church. They have been married for eight years now and I'm not sure if he's ever given that promise a decent shot. He's been to church before and knows a lot already so hopefully he can take that step. We didn't ever have the chance to tell them that we switched buildings, but apparently they called somebody from the branch to find out where it was and when it started. Then they traveled a half hour to get there! Sacrament meeting was all about families, which worked out perfectly since they just barely had their first child. We're definitely excited to help them start seeing the blessings of the gospel!

A quick update on Sandra. She's doing awesome! She takes her scriptures everywhere she goes and she's always reading and learning more. She fed us dinner a couple times last week and we talked to her a about temples. She's going to prepare to go on the 20th of February! She's also going to try to find some time to come teach with us later this week.

Just one last random tidbit from this week. On Saturday, Elder Jenne and I were driving along when we saw a wooden sign on the side of the road that said "Garden of Gethsemane" with an arrow pointing off the road a bit. We pulled over to check it out and found a random little park with a bunch of old, crumbling statues of Christ. It had a lot of the events from his mortal life which was pretty cool. Ironically, it didn't show anything from the Garden of Gethsemane. I guess maybe that's a good thing though. Anyway, that was just something cool and random that we found.

I hope you're all doing well! Have a great week!

Elder Olsen

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Hey everybody! I'm writing a day late this week because it was Martin Luther King Day yesterday and none of the libraries were open. We have had kind of an interesting week. The biggest news is that I'm staying in the Valencia Branch for at least another six weeks! The transfer week rumor was that one of us would be leaving but we waited and waited for a call last night and it never came, so it will be my fourth transfer in this branch. I was kind of thinking I'd be transferred but I'm happy to be here still. The branch members are really awesome. Hopefully we can see some good success this next transfer!

Things are still about the same with Jose. We taught him about four times last week and each lesson lasted about 1 1/2 hours. He likes to get into really deep stuff, so we have to kind of bring it back to the simple things like gaining a testimony first. He's really fun to teach though! Every time we go over there he comes out and tells us that he feels pretty much content with what he has, but by the time we leave he's intrigued again and wants to keep studying. He says he's not going to give up trying. He may be a process but I think he'll get there eventually, even if it's not with Elder Jenne and I.

We had some good lessons with the Contreras family this past week as well. We got the entire family together and read the story of Ammon and King Lamoni. We're trying to get them interested in the scriptures again so that they can get their testimonies back. The kids really liked it! Last night we watched the full length Joseph Smith movie with them (don't ask where I got it). There were a lot of distractions but it went pretty well over all. Reynaldo (the dad) was focused the entire time and had some good questions for us after. They are making progress slowly but surely.

On Thursday we met an interesting character. We were coming out from a lesson and a guy came up to us and started talking to us. His name is Daniel and he is currently living on the streets. Supposedly he has a home but he's on a "mission" right now too. He was drunk but he seemed pretty sincere at the same time. He asked us to read him Psalms 100 so we did and then we told him about the Book of Mormon. He asked if we could give it to him and then asked us if he could be baptized! We talked to him for about a half hour and it went pretty well. There are a lot of things we would have to work out/find out for him to get baptized, but we're going to work with him, if we can find him again...

On Tuesday we were teaching a lesson to someone on their doorstep. In the middle of it we heard what sounded like a gunshot. We came to find out the next day that their was a shooting a few houses down from us at 3:00 in the afternoon. That comes right after the shooting in front of Jose's house the week before (in the same neighborhood). We are working in the ghetto for sure but we're being careful, don't worry!

We met an elderly couple earlier this week and began teaching them. Their names are Catalina (74) and Gabriel (88) Rodriguez. We had another couple in the branch pick them up for church and it went really well. So well in fact, that at the end of the concluding talk in sacrament meeting, Gabriel started to stand up and shouted HALLELUJAH!! It just erupted out of him and cut through the dead silence of the meeting! EVERYONE in the congregation turned to look at him simultaneously. It was one of the funniest moments from my mission so far. He added a few more in priesthood meeting as well, but not quite as loud.

I'm sure there were other exciting things that happened this last week but I can't remember them all. Things just fly by out here and you don't have long to dwell on anything. I love this work! The church is true! Thanks for all of your support!

Elder Olsen

Monday, January 11, 2010

Hey everyone! This last week has been pretty good overall. Nothing much out of the ordinary happened but we're having some decent success teaching.

The Contreras family still didn't come to church but we're making progress little by little. We found another family that lives close to them called the Felix family. They are a family of five and appear to be sincerely interested. Jorge (the Dad) asks a lot of questions but so far we've been able to answer them all. They have committed to come to church next Sunday so we're excited for that.

We had a cool experience last night while teaching a man named Jose Reyes. Jose is 47 and just got out of drugs and alcohol a few years ago. He has finally gotten his life together and is working on his Associates degree right now. He has a very strong relationship with God but no religion in particular right now. He just tries a new church every week. We have had some very long and deep religious conversations with him, but he still lacks a testimony of the Book of Mormon. Last night he came out and basically told us that he felt he had enough on his plate right now. He was satisfied with what he already knew and had decided to follow that. As we began to give strong testimony as to why he NEEDS this book and that it's not just some other religious text, we saw a transformation come over him. He sat quietly and listened which has never happened before. The spirit came immediately and he really began to ponder. We also had Hermano Santiago (our branch mission leader) with us which helped a lot. Something touched him and a lot of things that we were saying rang true. He's still got a long way to go but he told us he would keep studying and praying to know for himself.

I appreciate all of the letters and nice gifts I have received lately. Thanks so much for your support! I love you all!

Elder Olsen

Monday, January 4, 2010

Hey everyone! I don't have a whole lot of time this week so I'll be somewhat brief. I hope you all had a happy new year! We celebrated by sleeping because we had to be in by six that night.

On Saturday we got to see Sandra get baptized! It was an awesome experience and the spirit was so strong! She asked me to speak at it and it went really well. After she was confirmed she was in tears and said that she felt all sorts of energy fill her body. We all felt it too! Afterwards we all went to a Chinese buffet to celebrate.

As far as the people that we are teaching right now, the Contreras family is doing really well! The father and son have been in Mexico for the last two weeks but they're finally back. We have had some awesome lessons with the mom and the daughter lately. Evelyn (9) is super smart like I mentioned last week. She blows us away every time! She reads and prays every day and marks her favorite parts. Then she gives us a summary of what she read. She remembers everything she has been taught in the past perfectly. A few days ago we decided to review the plan of salvation with her. After a couple minutes, we realized that she already knew it backwards and forwards. We asked her to teach us the rest, and she did without missing a single part. Then she proceeded to give a very heartfelt five-minute prayer. If we can just get the family to come back to church they'll be on fire!

We have also been teaching an older lady named Angelita who we found on Christmas Eve. We have had a couple really powerful lessons with her as well. She already knows some members in our branch, so hopefully she'll be able to come to church this next week too!

On Friday we went on exchanges with the zone leaders. One of them came to my area for the day but he only speaks English. It just so happened that on that day, I had the top three most intellectually intense lessons of my mission, and I was by myself. One was with a Seventh Day Adventist, and we discussed the abilities and nature of the dead. Another was with a very devout Christian who persisted in talking about the rapture for over an hour. And finally, we talked to a man with no religion in particular but very strong opinions about God. With him we talked about everything from the baptism of babies to the unpardonable sin. I found it interesting that the whole world has such different perspectives and beliefs, even though they all use the same book (the Bible). There are all sorts of deep doctrines and things we don't know, but that's not what we really need to focus on. The Gospel is very simple. All we do is follow the perfect example that Christ showed us to the best of our ability. If we're sincerely trying to do that, all the other stuff falls into place. Of course, it's also nice to have The Book of Mormon to clarify a lot of things!

Well, this has gotten longer than I expected. I still need to e-mail my family. Thanks for all of your support!

Elder Olsen