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