Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!

I just had the thought that for the entire year of 2013 I will be living outside of the United States in Mexico. Wooh.

Impressions of Mexico!

1) So we are teaching two investigators named Claye and Agustin that are very poor and living in, let us just say, very humble circumstances. We arrived at their house to teach them a lesson and while we were waiting for them to set up the chairs my companion leans over to me and says, "I really have to go to the bathroom" and I said "Well ask them!". Well...he asked them and they said sure and pointed to literally a solitary toilet that was in the center of their front yard. They then proceeded to walk into their house, shut the door, and told him to tell them when he was done! I just had my back to him and was laughing as he was doing his business.

2) So. I have finally figured out Mexican culture. If you have ever seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding, you will know what I am talking about. The way to win the trust, love, respect, etc. of the Mexican people is 1) Eat their food. You have to eat something when you go into their house or you offend. If you reject something they offer you, even if you feel like you are going to barf if you shove one more tortilla down your throat, you just have to eat. Sometimes I literally pray that God will let me finish the taquito without throwing up because I am so full. 2) Listen to them. Mexicans LOVE to talk. Not talk, like have a conversation. They just LOVE to talk to you. You just need to listen and nod in the appropriate moments. For example, one investigator likes to talk so much that our last lesson was literally three hours. THREE HOURS.

3) During these holidays fireworks are super popular. They set them off all through the night. Good thing I am dead tired and it does not bother me.

4) So the Jehovahs Wittnesses are BIG down here. You can always tell who they are because the women always carry umbrellas to guard them from the sun and the men always have sholder bags and wear brightly colored long-sleeved shirts. I always feel slightly uncomfortable when we start to walk down a street and there are literally 20 of them knocking doors in the same street. 

Illegal things that Mexicans do in the Open:

1) Sell pirated DVDs. Literally I do not think the legal ones exist.

2) That thing when you raise roosters to fight each other. We ate with a sister and she has literally 60-70 chickens and roosters. I asked her innocently whether she was raising them for the eggs or to eat them or to sell them. She told me, "No, they are the chickens that fight." That is when I noticed the painting on her wall of two roosters brawling to the death. Awkward.

Well, there is some more culture for you all to ponder. I really love the people here. They are the sweetest and most giving people you will ever meet. I am glad that I have the opportunity to serve them for two years of my life. The more I understand their culture and their way of living, the more I love them and want to serve them. That seems to be the pattern, right? The more we serve someone, the more we give of ourselves to help them, the more we love them. I have felt this during my four months here in Mexico.

So, this week was tough. A baptism fell through and we were not able to have very many appointments because of the Holidays and because my companion was very ill. But I am peaceful about where I am. I trust completely in my Heavenly Father. And I am so happy. I guess that is just how I have been feeling. Peaceful. Calm. Hopeful. We currently have 5 investigators with dates to be baptized and we are finding new investigators every week. God is providing miracles for us and blessing us. The members are inviting friends to church and activities. All is well when it comes to missionary work in our little pueblo Coahuixtla. 

I just want to let you all know that I love you. That you all mean very much to me and I hope that you are always looking forward to life and not living in the past. Satan would have us live in the past or the future. Constantly worrying about what is to come or feeling guilt and shame about what transpired before. God would have us learn in the present. We have been sharing the message of the wife of Lot with a lot of less-active members that are scared to return to church because of feelings of shame or guilt. I can just imagine what was going through her mind. She was curious, she was focused in the world she left behind, she could not let it go or imagine that things would get any better in the life that lay ahead of her, so she turned back. Always stay present. That is where God is. That is where peace is. That is where we find true happiness.

Well, I love you all. Jesus is the Christ. The Savior of our souls. Yesterday, Today, and Forever. I love him so much for what he did for me. I can never repay him. I just love him and I try to declare his name and teach the Atonement to every man, woman, and child that I can. 

Once Again Happy New Year!
Elder Nielsen

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

¡Feliz Navidad!

Hello family and friends! Merry Christmas! I hope that you are all doing extremely well and enjoying the Holidays!

Impressions of Mexico!

1) Let me preface this story by saying that it is very common here in Mexico to greet others by giving them a kiss on the cheek. So we were sitting in a family home evening and our seventeen year old female investigator walks in. I reach out my hand to shake hers and we shake hands. I then turn my head to look at something, expecting her to go shake the hand of my companion. Before I know it, she lays one on my cheek. My companion cannot stop laughing and I am literally in shock.

2) Toasters do not exist here. If you want toasted bread you need to go to the store and buy "pre-toasted" bread called Pan Tostado. 

3) My companion and I were walking back to our apartment with our laundry and awkwardly ran into a HUGE procession of Catholics hoisting an image of the virigin Mary, chanting some song, and they were all holding candles. They all stared at us as we waited for them to pass.

4) The Mexican people put salsa/chili on literally everything. Fruit (super popular), popcorn, potato chips, etc.

5) President Kusch gave us the new composition of the mission after the new changes. Right now we have 190 missionaries, after the changes we will have: 90 Latino Elders, 60 American Elders. 100 Sister Missionaries. Wow.

6) This week we had a Christmas Conference with the mission president and his wife during the which we did Christmas skits, White Elephant, ate, and had a devotional. It was actually super fun! Today we will be eating with the large Mormon family called the Torres family. What is traditional in Mexico on Christmas is to work on the 24, have a huge dinner/fiesta with your family during the night. And then basically do nothing on the 25 except take the day off from work. Traditional food: Turkey, Cold Apple Salad, Bread, some type of Cake.

So there is a little something for you all!

Just one spiritual experience that I would like to share with you all. Yesterday we were walking down the street towards the house of a less-active sister that we wanted to visit with. We ran into another sister that we know really well called Hermana Lina. She told us that she was bringing food to her sister, who is also a member, and asked us if we would visit her with her. We said yes and went. We entered into the house and that was when I saw Hermana Merced for the first time. She was so small. Skin and bones and very weak looking. She was lying on her back on a bed in the middle of the room. It was super hard for her to speak and she could not move. Hermana Lina told me that people rarely visited her and that she basically just lied on her back all day on this bed. I cannot describe in words how much love I felt for this woman. I just felt so much compassion for her. I had the beautiful opportunity to sit on her bed, lay my hands upon her head and give her a blessing of comfort. Even though she could not speak to me, I felt the Spirit so strongly. Almost more palbably than I had ever before felt it in my life. Just pure love for her. Just a small degree of the type of love Christ feels for her. This was one of the best Christmas presents I have ever received. The opportunity to bless this amazing woman who I know God loves very much. I was sad to leave. I just sort of stroked her hair and said "Bye, bye Sweetie" and left with a huge lump in my throat. I will never forget this experience as long as I live. How blessed we are to have these moments in our lives when we can feel pure joy and experience just a small part of the love God has for others.

I love you all. And I know that true love and joy is only to be found when we are serving our fellow man.

Elder Nielsen
The House of the Lord

I'm at the Mexico City Temple!  I'm standing in front.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Merry Christmas Family and Friends! know the drill: Experiences and Impressions of Mexico!

1) This week we went to the temple in Mexico City! It is about a 3 hour car ride from my area and we went with our entire district. So to begin...Mexico City...or D.F. Is the dirtiest most polluted city I think I have ever seen. It is literally in a valley and surrounded by mountains but you cannot see them because there is so much pollution in the air. And there are people EVERYWHERE. Cars zooming by in every direction, skyscrapers, stores, etc. Reminded me more of Los Angeles or other big cities in the United States. But the temple was amazing. As missionaries we are always told that we are some of the biggest targets of the adversary. And boy have I felt it. Almost six months of constant pounding in every area of my life. The difference was palpable when I entered the temple (the only place where he is not allowed). I just felt so much peace. So much love. And for it all being in Spanish I did surprisingly well! I remember when we were getting ready to leave I started to get a little sad because I knew I was reentering the battlefield. But God has been strengthening me everyday and for that I am so grateful.

2) So, I have actually started to work out a half hour more everyday. I get up at 5:55 a.m., say my prayers and then work out for an hour. We actually have this weight that has two concrete blocks attached to both sides of the bar. Literally every part of my body is in pain but I need to do it. I do not sweat as much here and the tortillas are thicker.

3) So, this week has been a little slow for one reason. Elder Ramos has been having problems with his stomach. Like we have to return to our house every 1:30 to 2 hours so he can do his business. Just so you know.

4) So...the drunks. For the most part they are actually just super funny. I thought I would share some experiences. A) Yesterday one asked me if he could have my tie. B) One kept saying he was King Solomon. C) Most of them just shout at us to preach to them something from the Bible. D) This one is my favorite. There is this one that sits in the same corner every day and every time we walk by he just starts shouting and babbling. Literally he his not speaking a language. Just starts babbling. 

5) Good experience this week. We went to visit a less-active sister named Alicia Ortiz. She was not home the first two times we tried and the third time we found her. We taught her a lesson of the Gospel or Doctrine of Jesus Christ and invited her to church. She seemed attentive and told us that she needed to return. We left not really thinking much of it, because, well, my four months in the mission field have taught me that when less-active members say that they are going to come to church there is like a 5% chance that they are telling the truth. Anyway, about 40 minutes into the Sacrament Meeting I turn to look at the door and she came to church with all of her grandchildren. At the end of the services we went to talk to her and she was just so appreciative and starting saying that she was at church because of us. Because we spoke plainly with her but with love. That was nice to hear.

Anyway, those are some of my experiences this week! This week has been a little slow, but good. We continue working hard and the Lord is blessing us little by little.

During this time I have been thinking a lot about the Savior. His teachings. His love. What he really means to me. Especially the Atonement. I think of that night when he was born. My favorite story is in Luke:

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

I think about how glorious that night was for the people that really knew the significance of the life of the Savior. Their King, their Savior, the Redeemer of their souls was finally born. He would go on to teach, to heal, to love, and ultimately atone of the sins of the world. He would be rejected, spit upon, slapped, and mocked. He would be crucified and buried. But that was not the end. He would raise from the dead three days later. And with triumphant words angels would declare, "He is not here, for he is risen". 

We also have another record of the coming of the Savior. But to a different people. On a different continent. This is possibly my favorite passage of scripture. Read it slowly. Think about the words and phrases you are reading. Think about what the Savior means to you. Apply this to yourself:

And it came to pass that while they were thus conversing one with another, they heard a voice as if it came out of heaven; and they cast their eyes round about, for they understood not the voice which they heard; and it was not a harsh voice, neither was it a loud voice; nevertheless, and notwithstanding it being a small voice it did pierce them that did hear to the center, insomuch that there was no part of their frame that it did not cause to quake; yea, it did pierce them to the very soul, and did cause their hearts to burn. And it came to pass that again they heard the voice, and they understood it not. And again the third time they did hear the voice, and did open their ears to hear it; and their eyes were towards the sound thereof; and they did look steadfastly towards heaven, from whence the sound came. And behold, the third time they did understand the voice which they heard; and it said unto them: Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name—hear ye him. And it came to pass, as they understood they cast their eyes up again towards heaven; and behold, they saw a Man descending out of heaven; and he was clothed in a white robe; and he came down and stood in the midst of them; and the eyes of the whole multitude were turned upon him, and they durst not open their mouths, even one to another, and wist not what it meant, for they thought it was an angel that had appeared unto them. And it came to pass that he stretched forth his hand and spake unto the people, saying: Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world. And behold, I am the light and the life of the world; and I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world, in the which I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning. And it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words the whole multitude fell to the earth; for they remembered that it had been prophesied among them that Christ should show himself unto them after his ascension into heaven. And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto them saying: Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world. And it came to pass that the multitude went forth, and thrust their hands into his side, and did feel the prints of the nails in his hands and in his feet; and this they did do, going forth one by one until they had all gone forth, and did see with their eyes and did feel with their hands, and did know of a surety and did bear record, that it was he, of whom it was written by the prophets, that should come. And when they had all gone forth and had witnessed for themselves, they did cry out with one accord, saying: Hosanna! Blessed be the name of the Most High God! And they did fall down at the feet of Jesus, and did worship him.

I have so much love for my Savior. The more I preach his name the more I feel love for him and what he did for me. He atoned for our sins. He died for us. He conquered both physical and spiritual death for us. But most importantly, he loves us with a love that I cannot imagine or comprehend. I want everyone in this world to feel his love. Feel his power to forgive, to heal, to cleanse, and strengthen. He can make us feel whole at any time. We only need to begin the process.

I love you all. I hope that you are all doing very well and that you are happy and content. And once again, Merry Christmas!

Elder Nielsen

Monday, December 10, 2012

Happy Holidays!

I hope that you are all doing very, very well. Life continues on in our little pueblo of Coahuixtla! We worked extremely hard this week and the results are starting to pay off! We have four investigators with dates to be baptized currently, four in the chapel on Sunday, and we found seven more to teach during the week! We are truly being blessed right now. The Lord is watching over us. So...some impressions of Mexico!

1) My companion and I bought gas this last week to heat the water and I took my first hot shower in Mexico on December 06, 2012. Maybe I danced on my way to the bathroom. Maybe I did not. 

2) I have been making sandwiches a lot for myself in the mornings when I get hungry. This last P-Day we went to Sams Club to buy in bulk and I decided to buy some tuna for myself. I was actually super excited. Then, the next day, I open the can, and start to press down in the lid to drain out all of the water. Before I knew it, the can of tuna exploded all over me. I was dressed. I was showered. And I was mad.

3) This week we did two service projects. One was clearing out about 50 years of weeds at an elementary school. Literally though, I do not even think they can be classified as weeds anymore. More like large trees and bushes. We just left the mountain of debris in the center and the teachers said they would burn it later. We also helped a less-active member build a brick wall in front of his house. So I am pretty much an expert in masonry now if anyone wants to hire me when I return.

Anyway, this week was just like every other week here. Work, meeting different people with different takes on life, and having the wonderful opportunity every day to put the name of my Savior on my chest and represent him in word and deed the best I can. The less-active member that we helped this week with his brick wall told me something interesting that I want to share. At first I was a little hesitant to build his wall because I did not want to ruin it or make a mistake. He then looked at me and said, "You know Elder, I have come to find in life that when people say they cannot do something, it is just a polite lie to themselves. What they are really saying is that they do not want to. Now what do you say? Do you want to learn?" It humbled me and taught me a very important lesson. This life is about learning, making mistakes, and enjoying every step of the process. We really are a lot more capable than we think, we just need to take that first step and try. He also asked me if I ever imagined that I would be in the middle of Coahuixtla, Mexico setting bricks during December. Really, no. But I am so grateful for this opportunity that God has given me to be in the middle of Coahuixtla, Mexico, setting bricks in December.

Anyway, I love you all. You mean very much to me. I am so grateful for the opportunity to serve a mission and be a representative of my Savior for two years. Oftentimes I feel very inadequate. There is always something to improve, something that I could be doing better. But the beautiful thing about the Savior is his love for us where we are right now. He loves what we were, what we are, and what we will be be. He just loves us perfectly. And we have the beautiful promise that if we just continue on faithfully, keeping the commandments, with faith, repenting, and trying our darndest to follow the teachings and examples of our Savior, that we are all right. Everything is all right. That is the message I get a lot. Peace. Everything is all right. Because, as it says in John, we will never find peace in the things of this world, but we will always find peace in our Savior. Things are far from perfect here. Far, far, from perfect. But something that I have found is that if we pray, become present, and then ask Heavenly Father for peace, he will always grant it to us in one form or another.

It is my testimony to you all that God answers prayers. He has answered some prayers for me this week that have brought me consolation and have strengthened my resolve. It is also my testimony to you that God is always there. His love is everywhere. It is in everything. We need only search for it and we are promised that we will find it.

I love you all. Keep your heads up. Keep trying everyday to improve and love and serve others. Look out, and look up.

Elder Nielsen

Monday, December 3, 2012

Hello Family and Friends!

First of all, I hope that you are all doing very well and enjoying the holidays! Believe it or not it is beginning to look a lot like Christmas down here in Mexico as well. A lot of the members have their fake Christmas trees up and a few houses even have Christmas lights! Speaking of Christmas lights, our landlady runs a little store in front of our apartment and in front of the store are two giant bottles of liquor (like bigger than me) and she even decided to drape a few Christmas lights around them as well! Pretty festive if you ask me. Anyway, I guess I will give you a few impressions of my new area!

1) So last week I misspoke. We actually live in a Pueblo outside of the city of Cuautla. So...very rural. It is actually super quiet and calm here. Very rural. A lot of farmland surrounding us. Very different from Iguala where it was super loud and taxis were zooming by in very narrow streets.

2) It is not uncommon to see men riding horses and donkeys in the streets. They are also wearing cowboy hats 95% of the time. I feel like I am in the wild west sometimes!

3) There is this Hermana in our ward named Hermana Tomasa. Like...the feminine form of Tomas. I thought it was just a little strange.

4) One of the members has this dog named Annie. She literally follows us around everywhere. If we go into a house for an appointment she just waits outside until we are done. And when we leave she continues following us. I want her for my own.

5) FUNNY STORY: So we were walking into the front yard of an investigator but to get to her house we had to bend underneath her clotheslines that had clothes hanging on them to dry. My companion went first and while he was bending underneath the clothesline the bra of the investigator attached onto his backpack and I could not tell him because I was laughing so he just went up to the lady and shook her hand and she awkwardly pointed at her bra. He saw it. He was so embarrassed. And he had to carry it back (holding it with two fingers) and hang it on the clothesline. 

6) The ward has about 100 people that attend every week. And about 80% of the ward consists of three main families that live in this pueblo. They were some of the first to join the church here in Mexico and so they had children, their children had children, their children had children, none of them moved, and thus you have our ward with a few other families mixed in there. A lot of the members do not have a lot of trust in the missionaries because for a about a 7-8 month period there was a long string of SUPER disobedient missionaries but Elder Ramos and I are working super hard to visit all of them, teach them, and gain their trust. It seems to be working because we received a lot of references this week and found 8 new people to teach! We are just starting but I think we are going to be really successful!

So. There you have it. My impressions from this week. I am very happy right now. Very content. We are working hard and having success and I come home exhausted everyday (which in my book is very good). This week I was reading a little in Doctrine and Covenants Section 88 (one of my favorite sections) and I want to share a verse that I really love from this section.

He that ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth;

I am so grateful for my Savior Jesus Christ and for what he did for me. This week I have had the opportunity to talk about the Atonement with a lot of the members and it has caused me to reflect on what the Savior has done for me. He literally has saved me and I know without a shadow of a doubt that he has the power to save anyone from anything. Sometimes we have a hard time forgiving ourselves. Sometimes we feel very alone. But we are never alone. Because we have a Savior who "comprehended all things" so that we never have to be alone in this world. Choose to walk with him. Let him in. Let him begin to heal you. How do we do this? By small and simple things are great things come to pass. The scriptures, prayer, church, repentance, faith. I have such a strong testimony of him. I love him for what he did for me. I can never repay him. These two years are nothing compared to the sacrifice he made for me. Everytime things get hard I just think about the Atonement and then I tell myself, I have no right to complain. I should be happy and have peace every day, every moment of my life because I know: That God lives. That Jesus is the Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of my soul. That through repentance, faith, the saving ordinances, and enduring to the end, we can all return to live with our families again, bound for eternity. That the true Church of Christ has been restored. That the Priesthood of God has been restored. That we have a living prophet today. I have been so blessed to have this knowledge since my youth. The more I think about it. The more I teach it to others. The more special it becomes to me. The more I serve others, the more I feel love for them. The more I give, the more I receive. So, we should be happy. We should be joyful. We should do as it says in Proverbs and seek and pursue peace in our lives. It is strange spending a Christmas away from home but it has caused me to reflect on what Christmas really means. It is all about the Savior. And on Christmas morning I am going to wake up at 6:30 a.m., get ready, and read my favorite stories about the Savior in the New Testament. And be very content. I am very excited.

I love you all. I hope that you are doing well and enjoying life. Look out and look up!

Elder Nielsen

Monday, November 26, 2012

My favorite family, Hermana Gabby, Hermano Martin, and Krystal

My parents sent me a liahona!  I wonder if it's the original?

I'm with the Iguala Zone on a hike on P-day

Hello Everyone!

Well....drum-roll please...I have been transferred! I am now emailing you all from a city called Cuautla which is in the state of Morelos. I want you all to try to pronounce the name of my area. My area is called, Coahuixtla. And my new companion is Elder Ramos and he is the District Leader here. He is actually from the same city as Elder Miguel and they were companions before so he was able to tell me a little bit about him before I came. From what I have heard he is a really hard worker so I am excited! Transfers are super interesting to me. So, I found out Saturday at 7:00 p.m. that I needed to be on a bus, Monday at 7:00 a.m. to a completely different area. That means packing, saying goodbye, and going to the appointments we had, in less than two days. I am going to miss our converts David, Cinthia, and Susy and some of the members a lot. I did not think that it was possible to develop such strong relationships with people in such a short amount of time, but it is. But now I am off on another adventure and I am very excited.

My new area: It is probably about 20 degrees cooler hear than Iguala. The area is actually famous for being very cool. Praise the Almighty. Elder Ramos told me that we have a lot of work to do here because the assistance at church is pretty low and the members have lost faith in the missionaries because of previous Elders that did not want to work. But I am up for the challenge! On the bus ride here, I was completely struck at how beautiful Mexico really is. Dense, green forests, the whole way here. It was nice. And, the most important part, my new toilet flushes like a regular toilet! Once again, praise the Almighty.

Only one impression of Mexico this week that I thought was really funny. So we were walking back to our apartment at night and we got stopped by this man riding a bike that had, well, been having some fun at the bar that day. He kept saying that he wanted us to teach him but that he already knew a lot more than us because he is "King Solomon".

Now I am going to answer a few questions that I have received.

Who does your laundry?  

With Elder Miguel, we took our clothes to a Lavanderia. But it was a little pricy. I think in this area that we will be washing them ourselves. I have seen people outside their houses scrubbing them themselves and I have also seen others with their own washing machine and drier. Who knows how it will be.

How many meals do you eat?

One big meal everyday at 3:00 p.m. with the members. The rest is on your own. I have found that I have a few little snacks during the day and chow down at 3. Everyone has told me that I have a lost a lot of weight. I think they are telling the truth because my clothes are starting to get really baggy.

What time do you start your day?

Because I was in training, we started our day at 12:00 p.m. After four hours of studying. One hour of personal study. 2 of companionship, and 1 of language. But now we will be starting at 11:00 a.m. because we take away one of the hours of companionship study!

Are the seasons in Mexico about like they are here in California?

I cannot speak for all of Mexico. But at least were I am...there are no seasons. It just transfers from being really hot to slightly hot and back to really hot again. But I have high hopes for this area.

Do any of the missionaries ride bicycles?  

No. We all walk. Everyone besides the mission president and the assistants. If we really need to get somewhere quickly we take a taxi or a bus.

If you have anymore questions, email them to me!

Anyway, I want you all to know that I am very happy. I am happy because I learn everyday how important I am to my Savior and my Heavenly Father. And how perfect their wisdom really is. I found myself a lot in my first area asking Why are things this way? But I have learned the importance of not asking why and instead asking How? Saying to Heavenly Father...This is the situation you want me to be in, how can I face the challenges that I have and do what you want me to do here. As we humble ourselves and tell him, you know better than I, we are going to find happiness. I know this from experience. It is freeing. And as we try to draw closer to him everyday through our actions, he will show us even greater love in return. This life is hard. But it is also so beautiful. I am of the firm belief that it will all be worth it. I want to leave Mexico knowing that I did all I could do. And have no regrets. And I want to feel the same way about my life as well. God is in control. And Jesus Christ lives, loves us, and is the Savior of our souls. All of you need to read 3 Nephi 9:13-22. Those verses were really impactful to me this week. As always, apply them to yourselves! 

I love you all very much. I think about you often. And I pray for you. Pray for me and we will both be edified together.

Elder Nielsen 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Hello Everyone!

Well, as usual, I will start off this week with some funny experiences/impressions of Mexico!

1) I am so glad that I have had the chance to be a valuable resource in helping Elder Miguel learn the English language. Every Elder that cannot speak English is supposed to be studying English while the gringos study Spanish. I can successfully say that I have taught Elder Miguel two phrases. 1) "Can I get an Amen!" (Said in the African American preacher voice of course) and 2) "Let's blow this popsicle stand!" 

2) We were eating in a restaurant with a member and, of course, I ordered Yoli to drink (I think I already talked about this but it is my new addiction). The waitress brought out the drink but in this cool, old glass bottle (like the old Coke bottles in the United States). I may or may not have paid the waitress 5 pesos under the table to take the bottle with me.

3) I hate it when this happens but sometimes when I am talking to members, I will just randomly blurt out something in English without thinking about what I am saying. They just blankly stare at me. Always uncomfortable.

4) To climb up to our apartment, there is this SUPER tight spiral metal staircase that we have to climb. I have become the master in bending down and contorting my body in just the right moments. But one day, when we were leaving the apartment, I do not know what happened but suddenly I tripped and fell down a few stairs and was literally hanging over the side of the rail holding on and staring at the ground. I almost died. Not really. But almost.

5) We have an investigator named Nacho. Nough said.

Well, I hope that you all are doing splendidly well! It is Thanksgiving this week right? I cannot remember the exact date but...Happy Thanksgiving! Anyway, this week was really good! We worked super hard and were able to get four new investigators! So things are starting to pick up and look good. I have realized that I do not talk a lot about experiences that I have during lessons and so I have a really cool one that I can share this week. We have two investigators named Edalit and Lucio. They are a really young married couple and she is pregnant with their first child right now. Yesterday, I was on divisions with one of the Zone Leaders and we had our second lesson with them. We started off very casually and I asked her, "So Edalit, how did your reading in the Book of Mormon go?" And the first words out of her mouth were, "Well, it says that we need to get baptized to progress in life right?" (Cue Jacob's jaw dropping). I was like "Yes! And we want to talk to you both today about the gospel of Jesus Christ". So we taught the lesson, faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. After this I asked Edalit if she had prayed about the Book of Mormon. She told me that she had prayed and received overwhelming feelings of peace and comfort and love. And then she said very confidently..."I know the Book of Mormon is true". Her husband then said he had felt the same feelings. I then challenged them to be baptized in two weeks and they both said "Yes!" without hesitation. They want to build a strong family together and they know our message is true because they actually read and prayed. I was so happy. I feel very blessed.

I have had the chance to read in the New Testament and this week I was in Luke and when I started reading this story, I felt the Spirit so strongly. I just want you all to read it as well and take your own message from it.

And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat. And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner. And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on. There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.

Well, things are better. I am being more patient with myself, and with others, and thanking Heavenly Father everyday for the opportunity to represent his Son, and my Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ. What a privilege it is to wake up every morning and put his name on my chest and to go out and work on his behalf. I am so grateful that my Heavenly Father loves me. I can feel his love always when I seek after it. He is always with me. Through everything, he is walking with me. And the more I dedicate myself to him, the more I try to emulate my Savior and his attributes, the more I forget about "Jacob Nielsen" and start focusing on others, the more I feel his love. So much so that it flows over me. Hard times are going to always come. But we can face them always with confidence and without fear because we know that Jesus Christ is the Savior of our souls and we know that we have a loving Heavenly Father that will always protect us, and guide us as we draw ourselves closer to him and his will. 

Well, I love you all very much. I miss you but I am so excited to be here, climbing the mountain and trying to enjoy and learn from every second of it. Your prayers, letters (thank you Buckners and Fowles and Gina!), and emails mean so very much to me. Just go out and work, love, and live. That is what I am trying to do everyday. And enjoy it! We have cambios (or transfers) this week so I will let you know what happens!
Until Next Week!

Elder Nielsen

Monday, November 12, 2012

Hello Everyone!

Impressions of Mexico: Our Bathroom

1) We do not have hot water. Which makes bathing myself at 7:00 a.m. everyday one of my greatest personal struggles. There is like a literal personal war going on inside of me as I stand in front of the ice cold water every morning.

2) In order to flush the toilet we have to open the back of the toilet, stick our hand in the water, and pull on this cord thingy. The first time I did it, I was like, "You have got to be kidding me." Now it is completely natural.

So I hope that I did not gross you all out too bad. But it just gives you an idea of our living conditions here in Igualita. So, I hope that you are all doing amazingly well. I am doing pretty well. This week Elder Miguel and I changed our approach in how we are going about working with the members of our ward. We set appointments with them, teach their families, and tell them about the current situation of missionary work here in Mexico. Then, at the end of the lesson, we invite the head of the family to say a kneeling prayer, asking Heavenly Father to provide someone for us by the next day. Then we go back and check with their family the next day. I cannot tell you what a spiritual experience it has been to be present during those prayers and to feel the Spirit of those prayers. We always ask them if they believe that God is a God of miracles. We always ask them if they believe that he can provide people for them. Something I have learned about God is that we merely need to ask for the righteous things that we desire. Why would he not give them to us? It may not be on our limited timetable, but he will always succor and support his children that humble themselves before him on their knees and ask for righteous things.

I know that the hand of God is moving in this area. It is still REALLY slow. And I am working on being patient and staying present. But I know and can honestly say that I am doing all I can do to help the Kingdom of God grow in this area. And it is a really good feeling to know that. I am not perfect. Everyday I make so many mistakes. And I am learning everyday even more things that I need to improve. But I know that God is walking with me. And I know that the Savior is working on my salvation during this process, just as much as the salvation of his other children. I want to climb this mountain that the Savior has placed before me. 

I want to share something that has really helped me. Everyday, during my prayers, I ask God for one special spiritual experience. And everyday that I ask for it, he grants it to me. Whether it is being able to sit and meet a handicapped daughter of a sister in our ward, or read a scripture that fills my soul with joy and understanding, or see a beautiful sunrise when I leave my bathroom in the morning, everyday I ask for it, God gives it to me. And he helps me recognize that these are his gifts to me. His son. His son whom he loves. I think you all should know by now that these first couple months have not been easy. But what I am so grateful for is that they have caused me to draw even closer to my Heavenly Father and Savior. To literally seek after them in all things because if I cannot feel their presence, if I cannot feel the presence of the Spirit, then I truly am alone. So, even through it all, through only teaching 2 lessons with investigators, through the heat, the bathroom, etc. I still feel loved. I still feel safe. I still receive peace, something that we are always entitled to have. I needed this period of refinement to help me grow. To help me gain a stronger testimony. So that I would know, without a shadow of a doubt in my soul that I cannot save myself. Only Christ can do that. Surrendering myself and humbling myself has been so hard. But I have to trust that God knows my life. My existence from the beginning to the end. He knows what is required of me now, that will help me help others later.

I love my Heavenly Father. I love my Savior Jesus Christ. I love this church. I know that this is how the Lord wants his work to be done. Through the members. It took me, what, 10 weeks to come to this realization and accept this, but I now know that it is his will. I have faith and hope that all the promises that God has made to me will come to pass. And during hard times his Spirit whispers to me, "My son, peace be unto thy soul, thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment. And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high, thou shalt triumph over all thy foes." So, how am I going to endure it well? I am going to stop complaining. I am going to love the people. I am going to work my tail off. And I am going to seek after the love of my God everyday until the end of my days. 

I love you all. You mean a lot to me and I hope that you are well and happy. Remember that true happiness is to be found when we look up, and look out.

Elder Nielsen

Monday, November 5, 2012

Well Hello Everyone!

First of all, thank you for your emails, letters, etc.! They really help pick me up! I guess I will start this letter off with some impressions of Mexico/funny experiences that I have had during this week.

1) So, I have already told you but every week we help a sister in our ward with her English class named Hermana Gabby. Usually after each class she brings us tortas (sandwiches) and buys us juice but this week she completely forgot! She decided to bring us to a little market to buy us some food. While we were walking through the market we passed by a fruit stand and the lady that was selling started trying to get Hermana Gabby to buy some apples. Hermana Gabby told her that her apples looked delicious, then, the lady looked at me, looked back at Hermana Gabby and said, "Not as delicious as that white boy you are carrying"...I was uncomfortable and flattered at the same time.

2) So, this week we passed through Halloween on the 31st, and the Day of the Dead on the 1st and 2nd of November. There were literally children everywhere at nightime chanting this creepy song that I could not understand. I guess it is their form of Trick-or-Treating? But anyway, the Day of the Dead is REALLY big here in Guerrero. People create little memorials for their departed ancestors, present offerings to them (their favorite things) and kids get school off. The only thing that I missed from home on Halloween was that I wanted to watch Hocus Pocus. Like, REALLY BAD. But I suppose the work of the Lord is more important.

3) I did not tell you all but last Sunday I gave my first talk in my ward about missionary work. I was talking to Hermana Gabby afterwards during the week. I sort of told her confidently that I had written the talk all by myself, expecting praise. She then said, "Yeah, I could tell." But later she told me that even though the words and grammar were not perfect, she was drawn to me because my words and manner of speaking had a certain commanding spirit in them. I thought that was pretty cool. But really, language-wise I am beginning to understand a whole ton more.

4) So, we all know Applebees in the United States. Apparently here in Mexico, Applebees is like a ritzy restaurant. Like it has valet parking.

5) We ate with the Bishop that just got released this week and he literally had the UGLIEST dog I have ever seen. The skin of the dog was jet black and shiny but it was really wrinkly and saggy. I really cannot describe it but apparently it is the type of dog that they eat in some places in Mexico. They kept joking and asking me if I wanted the head or legs...sad.

6) This week both Elder Miguel and I got head colds. Mine was not bad enough that I could not go out and work but Elder Miguel was really sick. So, I had 3 days to do a lot of studying. A lot of studying.

All in all, I have been really happy this week. It was far from perfect, and due to ill health we were not able to work a ton, but we have a solid plan for how we are going to find new investigators working solely through references from the members. We are going to pull out all the stops. We pretty much just enter their homes, and give them very specific challenges such as, Will you share this pamphlet with a friend by Friday, or We would like to hold a Family Home Evening with you and your family this Thursday at 6, will you pray and also invite a friend that you feel would like to here the gospel? We still have a lot of leg work to do but I am confident that we will see the blessings. Other than that, we spend a lot of our time looking for less-active members to teach and reactivate. Which is also a very rewarding process. We have already seen 3 or 4 families start to come back because of our visits and lessons. And we found two new invesitgators to teach this week which is exciting!

So, big news. At least for me. I finished the Book of Mormon. I was actually sort of sad when it ended. I started after a week here in Mexico and finished on Thursday or Friday. I cannot really tell you all what it has meant to me to read from this book everyday. The Spirit has whispered to my soul in so many different chapters and in so many different verses that this book is the word of God. That it is true. It has raised me up, edified me, strengthened me, and given me the courage to face the work here in Mexico. That book really will change your lives if you will only read it. It has made me happy and content. And I cannot wait to read it again. I am going to take a break from it and read in the New Testament though for a while. I feel directed to go there next.

So, this week I have been thinking a lot about patience and faith. Not exactly two of my strongest Christ-like attributes to be honest. I like to rely on myself a lot and get super impatient during trials and hard times. I was studying in Mosiah 24:9-16. It was so beautiful and enlightening to me. It talked about burdens being made light, and the Lord succoring and comforting his people during trials if they will only show him their faith and be patient. I have truly felt that this week. It has been a week of surrendering to the circumstances in which I have been placed. And after I have done this, the Lord has opened up to me and has poured out his Spirit to me. He has answered prayers and concerns. He has not taken away the trials or challenges, but he has made them easier to bear. I testify that God works through power. His goal is to empower us. To reassure us that we can do anything, absolutely anything if we trust in him. And we are always entitled to peace. No matter if the world is crashing down around us and we feel like we are failing in every aspect, we can still feel peace and rejoice in the truths that we know and the love and the Spirit that have been manifested to us. Just like Matthew 11:28-30 says, we need to drop our own self-inflicted yokes and take up the yoke of the Savior which is easy and light. I do not think it is easy and light because we are free from challenges and burdens. I think that it is easy and light because we know in whom we trust for our protection, our light and knowledge, and our peace. 

I love you all. I pray for you all. I hope that you are all happy and doing splendidly well. But most importantly, Happy Voting Tomorrow! I will be in Chilpancingo for a zone conference!

Elder Nielsen

Monday, October 29, 2012

Letter on Security in Mexico!

Dear Family of a Missionary in the Mexico Cuernavaca Mission:
We want to make you aware that at upcoming zone conferences in November representatives from the Church Security Department will be making a presentation to our missionaries regarding safety and security while serving in Mexico.  Please know that this security training is preventative in nature; it is not being provided because of specific issues in the mission.  While we acknowledge that we serve in a nation that has and is experiencing danger in many places, missionaries generally are not in areas, or with people that would put them in harm’s way.  We also know that these good elders and sisters are under the watchful care of a loving Heavenly Father.  Please be assured that we will always do our best to educate and protect our missionaries, and your children.


President Bruce C. Kusch
Sister Alynda Kusch
Mexico Cuernavaca Mission

Hello All!

So I had a very cool experience this week when my companion and I went to visit a member in our ward. Her name is Hermana Veronica. Let me just tell you that she could probably start her own church with all the references that she has given to the missionaries in the past. So, since we do not have that many investigators right now, we went to her house hoping that she would have somebody prepared for us. Well, she did not. But what she gave us was worth much much more. First of all, she told us that all her life, she has and will only ask God for two things. 1) She desires to know all of her grandchildren before she passes away and 2) She wants with all of her heart to serve a mission with her husband. I think that is amazing in it of itself. That those are the only two things that she really desires in her heart to have. We later asked her during the visit how she comes up with so many names to give to the missionaries. Once again, she had two answers. 1) Wherever and whenever, she is always kind and friendly with others and is not afraid to talk about the gospel with anyone. Whether in a bus, in the grocery store, in the street, etc., she is always willing to talk to and be friendly with everyone she comes in contact with. 2) Service. She has found throughout her life that service has been the best way to share the gospel with others. It opens their hearts, and makes them more accepting and willing to listen. It reminds me of phrases like, "I would rather see a sermon than hear one" and "By their fruits ye shall know them". She said whenever she feels sad, she simply gets up and serves somebody else and immediately the sadness is taken away. Immediately she feels better. She told us that whenver she thinks about her own conversion to the Lord, it fills her with so much fire and passion that she needs to share it with others. She considers it her duty, responsability, and privilege to be a member missionary. 

During this conversation I felt the spirit so strongly. And I learned so much. It is true. Every word she said is true and I need to implement a lot of her qualities into my own life. Not just as a full-time missionary but also as a member missionary when I return home. 

Impressions of Mexico:

1) Elder Miguel and I chased this MASSIVE grasshopper out of our room and it started to fly away off of our balcony. About two seconds later we saw a bird swoop down and snatch it out of the air.

2) Animals I have found in our apartment on various days: A dog, a cat, pincher-bugs, spiders, coackroaches, grasshoppers, and lizards. I am sure the list will grow larger in the weeks to come.

3) There is this river that runs through the middle of Iguala just does not smell pleasant. Anyway, a few days ago as we were walking over it on a bridge Elder Miguel started laughing and told me to come look because he saw a dead dog in the river. It was a sad day for me.

I just now realized that they were all about animals this week. Oh well.

Anyway, other than that, this week was pretty uneventful and a little discouraging, but that is okay! We are trying to figure about the best and most efficient way to work with the members which has been difficult but we are working through it. What I am grateful for is that God continues to provide me with spiritual experiences almost everyday that lift me up and give me the energy to keep going and working as hard as I can.

I love you all and hope that you are doing well!

Elder Nielsen

Monday, October 22, 2012

Hello Family and Friends!

Well I want to start out with the impressions of Mexico before I do anything else:

1) In our District Meeting this last week, an English Elder was talking about his area and then suddenly stopped and turned to look at me and told me that he forgot how to say the word "catalyst" in Spanish and asked me if I knew how to say it....Nough Said.

2) I always find it really amusing whenever anyone here tries to pronounce English-Based names, products, etc. in a Spanish accent. Some good examples thus far include Miley Cyrus, Iron Man, and Crayola.

3) Mexican children sometimes stare at me like I am from outer space or something. Whenever I make eye contact with them, they quickly turn away and wait for me to not be looking so they can resume staring.

4) We finally received the ward list (after 7 weeks of asking for one), and realized that if every member that was on the list actually came to church we could have three large wards.

5) This is what I like to call Elder Nielsens Guide to Mexican Salsa:

When the Members Say:

1) It is hot = Death

2) It is not that hot = Death

3) It is just a little hot = Just code for Death but they really want you to try it.

4) It is not hot at all = There is a 50/50 chance that I will die or live.

5) It is basically watered down tomato juice = I partake and enjoy.

Well I hope that you all enjoyed that. It is all true. Every word. So I had an experience this week that I learned a lot from. On Wednesday Elder Miguel and I were walking to the chapel for Ward Council through the Centro. I was feeling happy so I decided to sing hymns in English in order to annoy my trainer (By the way, if you want a perfect example of our companionship, pop in "The Best Two Years" and view the interaction between the new missionary and his trainer before the trainer starts to change...yeah). Anyway, back to the experience. So we were walking and we walked past a young man and woman and they sort of gave me a funny look as we walked by (which happens all the time so I did not think anything of it) and we kept walking. About two seconds later the young man called, "Hey Mormons". We turned around and went back to talk to him and that was when it all began. To make a long story short...The young man had been in and out of prison about 12 times in the United States for stealing cars and was finally deported back to Mexico because he was an illegal immigrant. Therefore, he could speak English and kept telling me (using profanity about every other word) how he hated God, that he made it through his experiences by believing in La Santa Muerte, and that he hated me and his life did not mean anything to him. The girl he was walking with was his cousin and she told Elder Miguel how she was raped when she was 10 and that she does not believe in God because of this and because she feels like he is not listening to her. I do not think that I had ever met someone (the young man) that was devoid of light before in my life. Like literally, there was zero light in his eyes and soul. During this conversation (more like him shouting at me and cussing at me) I realized that we were in a very dangerous situation. He started asking me if I wanted to see his gun and saying that I needed to get out of Mexico or he was going to kill me. And all I can remember was just praying in my mind. Praying harder than I ever had before that God would deliver us without injury or harm. I was so scared but I remember just praying. And staying very aware and ready to react as well. I got the impression to just stay put. Eventually he demanded that I give him 20 pesos (which is literally the equivalent of a $1.50 in the United States) and left. I remember making it back to the chapel and wanting to crumble. This week has been so difficult and that was just the cherry on the cake. But then I started to think about these two individuals. And all that they had gone through and seen. And how lost and broken they are. And I started to feel sad for them. Really sad for them. That night, when I knelt down, I prayed for them that they would find some peace. That they would not harm anyone else. And that some way God would be able to get through to them and help them. For the first time in my life I truly understand the scripture in 3 Nephi 12:44-45:

"But behold I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father who is in heaven; for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good."

And I also realized something else. God is in control. He will protect me from harm. He is more powerful than anyone and anything and will always deliver his servants. I am so happy that he allowed me to have this experience because it taught me something about myself. There are things that I need to improve (developing more faith), however, it energized me because I truly saw and was reminded how much the world needs the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I guess that is what I wanted to share with you all. I look back at my first seven weeks in the field and much of it has been trial. But there are beautiful moments laced in there that make it all worth it. I want you all to know from the bottom of my heart that I know Jesus Christ is the Savior and Redeemer of the world. That men and women can only truly find what they are searching for in this world if they come unto him, surrender to him, and then seek to do his will. There is healing, a sense of belonging, and true happiness and joy to be found if we engage in this process. I know that the Book of Mormon is true. I have had the pleasure to read in 3 Nephi this week and I cannot tell you how much joy it has brought me. I know that God is there. I know that he answers prayers. It may not be on our own time table but they are always answered. Most of all, he loves us. I hope that we all have the courage to pick ourselves up and change. Something that I have realized is that I cannot change anyone else. Their habbits and desires and their choices are theirs to make and choose. But I can change myself. I can improve myself. And I can always continue on my journey back towards my Savior whenever I desire.

I love you all. You mean very much to me. Pray for me and I will continue praying for you. This gospel is true. And even though things are tough, I am happy.

Helaman 3:35

"Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sancitification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God."


Elder Nielsen

Monday, October 15, 2012

Susy, Cinthia, and David are baptized!
The baptismal font

Our ward missionary, Pepeo

Hello Family and Friends!

Well today marks my first day in my second transfer in Mexico! Every missionary has a minimum of two transfers with their trainer so alas, I am still emailing you from Iguala, Mexico. But I am happy. And what a first transfer it has been...a lot of learning and a lot of growing. But I feel like I am definitely getting in the swing of things. The language comes more and more everyday. For my language study I have decided to read the Book of Mormon in Spanish from cover to cover and look of unfamiliar words and gramatical phrases that I do not understand. I hope that by the end of this that I will be able to improve my speaking ability! And over on the English side of things, I am almost finished with the Book of Alma in the Book of Mormon. It has been such a powerful experience to read the Book of Mormon again. Every morning I pray that the Holy Ghost will be my teacher and that I will be able to find the answers and strength I need to face the day. And it always works. The scriptures have so much power. Power to change lives. And they have changed mine.

Impressions of Mexico:

1) So Elder Miguel and I were walking back from the Centro and we walked passed this elderly woman that had on a sweater and pants and was complaining about how cold it was outside. I was sweating and I bet it was probably 80 degrees outside. On this same train of thought, there is one member of our ward that refuses to come to church because she says that the Chapel is too cold (it happens to be one of the few places in Mexico that has air conditioning). 

2) I have fallen in love with this soda called Yoli. It is unique to the state of Guerrero and is like Sprite but 10x better.

3) So. We have all heard about the water situation in Mexico right? I will include a picture of the water in our baptismal font. I want you to notice the color. To me it was a bright green with a tint of yellow. It made the baptism of our investigators that much more of a trial of faith.

4) The name of our ward missionary is Pepeo. Nough said.

Sorry. Not a lot this week. I have to work better on recording them and writing them down.

Anyway, I want to tell you about a beautiful experience that I had this week. So last week I was telling you about David and how he was heading towards baptism this last week. Well, we had also been teaching his mom Susy and his sister Cinthia but we did not feel like they were ready. Susy was never available to teach because of her work schedule and Cinthia seemed really disinterested. Anyway, we went to teach them on Tuesday and for the first time, all three of them were there together. During the lesson Susy interrupted Elder Miguel and asked us if we were curious as to why she was there (because usually she was never available during weekdays). She then told us that she changed her job so that she could be taught by us, be baptized, and attend church every Sunday. During the same week Cinthia grew more and more interested and receptive as well. We taught them everyday and they were baptized as a family on Saturday and confirmed as a family on Sunday. I cannot tell you how much this experience has meant to me. To hear their testimonies about how the gospel has brought them greater peace in their personal lives and as a family, to see their faith and desire to grow, and to see them enter into the waters of baptism dressed in white was so beautiful. People making changes, people giving up old habbits and ways of life, and people starting to believe and trust that if they walk hand in hand with Christ and Heavenly Father that they will receive something greater is what the mission is all about.

Again, how do you describe a week in the mission field in one email? All I can say is that my testimony of my Savior continues to grow each day. Serving a mission has taught me both how weak and dependent I am when I try to do things on my own and also how strong, capable, and happy I am when I rely on my Heavenly Father and Savior. It presents new challenges everyday that test every part of me, and I have found out that I can conquer any trial by using the tools I have been given. I have learned that God works through power. His goal is to build us up and father us. Allow us to become like him. I have learned that I still need to develop greater patience and love for others, no matter what they do, say, or think. I continue to understand, just a little more everyday, how much my Heavenly Father loves me, and how much he loves every single man, woman, and child that walks this Earth. I still do not understand it completely, but I continue to see his love manifest for me and for others everyday. And most importantly, I continue to develop even greater respect and love for my Savior and the Atonement. Every time I am tired, or discouraged, or feeling like I want to give up, I think about that sacrifice, and the miracles that it has wrought in my life, and then I keep going. There is a scripture in the Book of Mormon that describe exactly how I feel.

"And behold, when I see many of my brethren truly penitent, and coming to the Lord their God, then is my soul filled with joy; then do I remember what the Lord has done for me, yea, even that he hath heard my prayer;yea, then do I remember his merciful arm which he extended towards me." Alma 29:10

My goal this week is positivity. I want to smile more and be happy more. Not fake happy. Truly happy. I have the gospel of Jesus Christ. I have the privilege every morning of putting the name of my Savior on my chest and working on his behalf. Sure it is hard. But I should be happy no matter what. And to be happy, I need to remember, constantly remember what my Savior has done for me, and then put all doubts and fears aside, and go to work. I am truly blessed. I can feel that my Savior loves me. And there is nothing that can detract from my testimony that I know God lives. I know Christ lives and that he suffered and died. I know Joseph Smith was a prophet and that he restored the true church of God. The Plan of Salvation is real. The scriptures have the power to change lives. These simple truths make me happy. And I want others to know them as well.

I love you all. I love reading about your lives and experiences. I feel very blessed to know each and every one of you. And whenever you feel sad or discouraged, always remember to look up, and look out.

Elder Nielsen 

Monday, October 8, 2012

In front of Hermana Gabby's English class

Hermana Gabby is a great example to me of finding happiness in life even if life is tough.