Monday, September 24, 2012

Well Hello Everyone!

This is your weekly email from Elder Nielsen in the field. I would like to start off with a few more observations that I have had from Mexico!

1) We went to the house of a member for our "comida" which is everyday at 3:00. They had completely forgotten and asked if they could order Domino's Pizza for us. I think I almost cried with happiness. It tasted so good.

2) The Police in Mexico are really scary because they always have these MASSIVE guns slung over their shoulders and when they ride in the back of trucks they are literally pointing the guns at the people walking on the sidewalks.

3) Oftentimes little Mexican children will run up to me and ask me to speak English to them. Once I do they either get really nervous and run away or they cuss at me in English. One or the other.

4) Everyone is addicted to Coke (the drink). Everyone.

5) Aerpostale and Crocs are the two most popular brands that I have seen thus far.

6) Every week we help a sister in our ward with her English class because the students want to practice with an American. Last time was sort of really awkward because I had to explain to a roomful of Mexican citizens how I felt about illegal immigration as a citizen of the United States. But it has actually been really good that we have been doing this because we have a family home evening planned tonight with 4 girls that attend the class in the home of this sister!

7) We had a lesson yesterday with a young mother who just had a baby and while we were talking to her about the Book of Mormon she just whipped it out (you know what I am talking about) and suddenly it was feeding time. I do not think I have ever felt more uncomfortable during my entire life. But apparently it is normal.

8) Whenever the members sing hymns it is always really off key which is pretty funny.

Just some more observations for your amusement and edification. The work is getting better but it is still really difficult because of the "no street contacting" and "no door approaches" policy which is about to become policy for every mission in Mexico. We have definitely had to get creative. We have been searching the area book for old investigators, visiting inactives and part-member families, and visiting members and pretty much getting them to help us either by providing references, service, visiting inactives with us, or volunteering to accompany us to lessons. Also my Spanish is slowly improving everyday which I am grateful for. It still continues to be my biggest challenge though and I worry about it a lot.

For the rest of my letter, I want to share with you all something I wrote in my journal this week. I feel inspired and I hope that it will help someone.


Well. Once again it was a bitter sweet day for me as a missionary. We started off with a meeting with our entire zone, President and Hermana Kusch, and the assistents. Something really struck me during Hermana Kuschs talk. It was a video of David A. Bednar and he was talking about revelation and the Holy Ghost. He said that most of the time life is like a foggy day and that normally you only receive enough light to be able to see where you are going for one or two steps. Then, once you take those one or two steps, you receive just enough light to be able to walk another one or two steps. This really stuck out to me because it is a perfect analogy for how my mission is. It is scary, dark, and foggy, and most of the time I receive just enough light to move forward and keep moving forward. I think the reason why I am still here is because God provides me with that comforting, hopeful, peaceful light everyday. Even though I cannot see the future or where I am going, he can. He knows who I need to meet, where I need to be, and the experiences I need to have in order to reach this end goal he has in mind for me. So what is the light that is so enticing and comforting to me? The Holy Ghost, the scriptures, Preach My Gospel, prayer, other people, and my Savior. God works through these mediums to guide his children through the fog. The more we access and learn to love these mediums, the more inclined we will be to act in faith and continue following the light and the plan God has set for us, instead of giving up and wandering off in the fog and losing ourselves. In the end, on this mission, God must be my best friend, my confidant, my ally. He the Savior and the Holy Ghost are oftentimes the only ones I can turn to for support, guidance, and comfort. These first 3 weeks in the field have been humbling for sure. Once again, God has seen fit to remind me that all my efforts are in vain without him. He has also seen fit to teach me greater patience. I found myself praying one today, "Heavenly Father, I am doing everything I am supposed to be doing. I am obedient, I study hard, I work hard, why I am not seeing miracles?" The answer I received came from a song that I love called My Kindness Shall Not Depart from Thee. "How long can rolling waters remain impure. What power can stay the hand of God? The son of man hath descended below all things, Art thou greater than he? So hold on thy way, and I shall be with thee. And mine angels shall encircle thee. Doubt not what thou knowest. Fear not man for he, cannot hurt thee. And with everlasting mercy will I succor thee, and with healing will I take thee neath my wings. For the mountains shall depart, and the hills shall be removed, and the valley shall be lost beneath the sea. Know my child, my kindness shall not depart from thee." I just kept getting the overwhelming feeling that I needed to just keep going. Keep walking. Keep trying. And lose myself. Rely on others and show more gratitude for the amazing light that I receive everyday. My desires are righteous. I want to help others. And I know God will bless me when it comes to the language and all other things that I need because he did not send me here to fail or lose faith. He sent me here to help others and grow rapidly. I love the scripture in Doctrine and Covenants 88:49-50 "The light shineth in the darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not, neverthess, the day shall come when you shall comprehend even God, being quickened in him and by him. Then shall ye know that ye have seen me, that I am, and that I am the true light that is in you, and that you are in me, otherwise ye could not abound." My goal is to trust that light always. How could I not? How can I forget my testimony and the amazing things the Lord has done for me so easily once hard times come? I know and have a testimony that Jesus Christ lives and is the Savior of the world. I know that he suffered for and felt every pain I have felt and that he stands there, ready and waiting to succor me and give me the comfort and strength I need. I need only come to him. I know that no matter how hard life gets, no matter how dark, God stands there always, and the light of the gospel can always pierce the darkness. The darker it gets, the more brilliant the light shines. I know that this gospel has the power to make people happy. Truly happy. And I know, without a shadow of a doubt that what I am doing right now is what God wants me to be doing. I am exactly where I should be. And I want to be here. Everyday I gain an even greater desire to be here. And I know that there is purpose and reason behind everything. I want to close this entry with one last scripture. My mission scripture. The reason why I am here. "And now, behold, I say unto you, that the thing that will be of the most worth unto you will be to declare repentance unto this people, that you may bring souls unto me, that you may rest with them in the kingdom of my Father, Amen.""

I love you all very much.

Elder Nielsen

Monday, September 17, 2012

My first baptism! With Elder Miguel and Lizeth. This was such a great experience!

Our dogs, Luna and Estrella! In front of my apartment.

In Mexico! My trainer Elder Miguel and our apartment

My MTC District, Elder Davis, and President Bradley


Hello Family, Friends!

Well, let me start off by saying that I am beginning to understand what people meant when they said that the mission would not be easy but that it would be worth it. It is very, very, very true. This is definitely the hardest thing that I have ever done in my life. But then again, and more importantly, it is the most rewarding thing that I have ever done in my life. So there you have it. Just as always, there is light and there is darkness. This area, Tamarindos, is very, very, difficult. We are barely teaching because we are not allowed to contact and many of the referrals we have received from the members (barely any) have fallen flat. We have fasted, prayed, been obedient, and are working hard yet the work continues to be very, very difficult without much success. But I can not help but think that God is trying to teach me something. The scriptures are filled with examples of this. Moses, Joseph Smith, Alma the Younger, Job, all experienced intense light but also intense darkness. They had to taste the bad in order for the good to taste even sweeter. With every action there is an equal and opposite reaction and with any blessing will come equal and opposite opposition. So, along with this, I want to share a personal experience with all of you. We were walking to the chapel for a ward activity and it had been a pretty rough day (diarrhea--always, hot, sweaty, tired, no success, yah know, the works) and I had been praying hard to find someone to teach. Well, it looked like it was not going to happen because it was pretty late at night. Then this voice comes into my head (from the adversary), with thoughts like this "Give up. You will never succeed here. The language will never come. You are waisting your time. Give up and go home." But immediately after this, and I mean immediately, I felt an outpouring of the Spirit. So strongly. Like a feeling of purity, joy, and happiness. Even though I feel like I am having no success and not progressing at all, I learned two very important things from this experience. 1) If I was not being effective, or about to be very effective, the adversary would not be trying to send me packing. He knows and I know that what I am doing is so contrary to what he wants. 2) God is pleased with my efforts. He does not expect perfection. And he has not sent me here to fail. And most importantly, he will be there always to comfort me and give me the strength to keep walking.

I guess what I have learned these first two weeks most importantly is the idea of "just keep walking". No matter how you feel physically or spiritually, just keep walking and moving forward. I am constantly reminded of the quote that I love "...but for those that can do, they must just get up and do. And if something is wrong, they should not just whine about it, they should get in there and do something about it. Change things!" Every day I am changing, everyday I am improving, and everyday I learn something new about myself and how I really am. The language is so (SO) tough. It continues to be my biggest barrier but I am committed to continue to study and learn and never doubt that God will make up the rest.

Impressions of Mexico/Observations:
1) On the Mexican Day of Independence (sort of like the fourth of July in the United States), if you are not Mormon, you are drunk and partying. We got stopped by two drunk men that offered me money because I am a Gringo.
2) Just to give you an idea of how many Hispanics there are in Southern California. Every time I tell people where I am from, they go, "Oh, I have family there. Do you know Anahem, Fullerton, Brea, Santa Ana, San Diego, etc.)
3) The food here is really (REALLY) good. The members feed us everyday besides our PDays around 2 or 3. A lot of chicken, tacos, soups, enchiladas, etc.

On Friday, we had our first baptism. Lizeth is a 28 year old single mother of two and decided to be baptized. (Pictures are forthcoming). It was a great day. But also very stressful. I got to perform the ordinance which was awesome. But let me tell you something about Hispanic culture. It is called Mexican Standard Time by the missionaries. Her baptism was scheduled for 6:00. She did not arrive until 6:30. None of the members on the program that were supposed to give spiritual thoughts and prayers ever came and there were just a few scattered members present. I was like stressed out of my mind because I thought that this was a disaster but my companion (who has been here for 20 months) was completely calm because apparently it was completely normal. It was so spiritual during the closing prayer. I was just sitting there and decided to forget about my fears and stresses and became present. I felt the joy of my Heavenly Father. I felt his love. It was like pure joy. We had brought someone to Christ. We had brought someone to the waters of baptism. She was confirmed on Sunday. We have some work to do now because she was our only progressing investigator but this made me so happy!

Well, I just want to let you all know that I love you lots. I think about you and pray for you. I know I say this every week but it is true. I love you all. We are all going through this fun journey of life together. We are all strengthened by and learn something from each other. What a blessing.

Scripture assignment for the week.
Read in the four gospels about the Savior and his final moments. Starting with the Atonement and going to the resurrection. This goes along with light and darkness. Sometimes I think, Why me? Why lay down your life for me? But he did it because he loves us. Perfectly. And he was willing to suffer for our sins, and then suffer pain, humiliation, and torture at the hands of those he had performed miracles for. Because he loves us. So he died and was laid in the tomb. Things were so dark. But then, just as always, there had to be an equal and opposite reaction. The beautiful words spoken by the angel to Mary Magdalene made up for every ounce of darkness that had passed. "He is not here, for he is risen". Because of Christ we can conquer our difficulties. We can conquer our infirmaties. We can face our struggles with courage because we can always know that we are not alone in this journey. And we will conquer death. I find my strength and comfort in prayer and the scriptures. They build me up daily and I LOVE studying in them. I also find strength in you all. I look forward to each Monday when I get to read your thoughts and letters.

I think about you all. I love you all. This is so hard. But it is also so worth it.


Elder Nielsen

Monday, September 10, 2012

Hello family and friends!

Well...I have completed my first week in Mexico and I have a lot to say and share so bear with me!

I guess I will start with fun facts and funny observations.

1. Sometimes if we are tired and/or late for an appointment, we take taxi rides. The best way I can describe a taxi ride in Mexico is as follows: Imagine that you are at Disneyland. Now imagine that you are on the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland. Now you know what they are like. I play the music that goes with that ride in my head whenever we are in a taxi. It is literally SO scary. There are people walking everywhere, cars everywhere, and the streets are super narrow and I am pretty sure that they do not have traffic signals. So yeah. I need to be pretty careful as I am walking around.
2. Sometimes I do not know if the Mexican people know what they are wearing. Case in point, we went to visit the relief society president and she was wearing a shirt that said SEXY across the chest. I was super confused.
3. We have two dogs at our apartment (we live upstairs from a couple that are members of the church) and their names are Luna and Estrella (Moon and Star). I really like them. They are the dirtiest dogs that I have ever seen but they are always excited to see me.
4. Okay. Legitimately. It is SO hot here. Like, SO hot. The members frequently comment on how much I sweat. I literally feel sometimes like I am sweating from every pore (?). So the first thing they do whenever we enter their houses is point their fans directly at my face and say ¿Quiere agua?
5. Oftentimes the only word I can pick up in conversations is "Gringo".
6. You have to be careful when people offer you water here because water can mean two things. Either pure water or water mixed with some type of fruit juice. I have been deceived many a time.
7. Mexican children are SO cute. Especially when I can understand what they are saying in Spanish.
8. I have learned the importance of body language here. Since I can not really understand what people are saying a lot of the time, smiles, laughing, and feelings of love go a long way.
9. People ride around the streets with little carts announcing over a loud speaker what they are selling (tamales, pan, tortillas, etc.)
10. Dogs are everywhere. EVERYWHERE.
11. So far the food that I have tried has all been really good. No complaints and nothing weird. But it is only the beginning.

So. Area and living conditions. I am living in a larger city called Iguala but our specific area is Tamarindos. I guess it is considered middle class Mexico but compared to the United States, the living conditions for people are pretty poor. It is actually really eye opening sometimes. The people are so happy, so content and hospitable (way more than the U.S.), yet they have so much less and have so many more trials when it comes to living. Our apartment includes two rooms and a bathroom that are not connected. A word about bathrooms in Mexico, everything is in the same rooms without dividers. So toilet, shower, and sink are all next to each other. Interesting. It is stinking hot in our apartment but we each have a fan that we point at are faces whenever we are there so it is ok! The members feed us everyday like clockwork. And when the members feed you...they FEED YOU. You are not allowed to leave unless you have at least two helpings. They just keep piling it on. And they never believe you when you say you are full.

Investigators and missionary work. Okay. So due to both safety concerns and inspiration by the first presidency. All the missions in Mexico are no longer allowed to street contact or knock on doors. Like none. We can only work through members to find people to teach. Naturally then, this has made finding new people to teach very difficult because the members are very hesitant to work with the missionaries. So most of every day we spend time with the members, getting to know them, building trust, and trying to move the work along. But we do have two investigators right now that are progressing.
1) Lizeth: Is a young single mother that had been investigating the church before I got here. She is very interested. She has attended church four times in a row because she is very good friends with a member family and is reading the Book of Mormon. She has agreed to be baptized on the 22!
2) Francisco: We met Francisco when we were coming back to meet with his mother who initially expressed interest. He is 19 and does not really have any religious backround. We taught him the first lesson yesterday and he agreed to baptism if he feels that the church is true on the 23.

My companion/trainer is Elder Miguel. He is a native of Mexico and knows very little English so sometimes communication is a pretty big barrier but I am working on it. I know I will look back on this experience and thank Heavenly Father for it but right now it is very difficult, I am not going to lie. I usually can not get the gist of what people are saying so I end up just sitting back. I was starting to have doubts about why I was here and what my purpose was for being here. I just felt like a drag and not effective at all because I can not communicate. With these thoughts came uncharitable thoughts for my area, the people, etc. During my prayers I started praying for charity. I started praying that even though I could not understand what people were saying that I would be able to love them. Today, as we were driving home from playing volleyball with some elders and sisters in my zone, I got my answer. I saw this old lady pushing this cart. And that feeling of love and charity came to me. It was pretty overwhelming. I started to tear up. Because I thought, this life is not just hard for me, it is hard for everyone. Everyone is struggling but they just keep walking. They keep pushing. They keep trying because life is also pretty joyful sometimes. I know one day that I will wake up and be able to understand and communicate. I know God knows me and he knows that I am doing my part to learn it. I am so blessed. Even though I am hot, tired, sweaty, and feel like nothing is happening sometimes, I know that he cares about me deeply and that he did not send me out here to fail.

Ultimately, I love you all. I think about you and hope that you are doing well. That you are enjoying life. That you are thinking about others. I am a first hand witness to how miserable life can be when you only think about yourself. It is not fun at all. So my goal this week is to serve someone whenever I start thinking about myself and complaining. I am restarting the Book of Mormon as well. I find such love and power in the scriptures. If you are not reading them everyday, start! Just do it! We can find so much power and strength and guidance by reading them. They truly are my friends and I am recharged when I read them. Prayer, prayer is so vital. He cares about you. He is there. He loves you. But must importantly, think about the Savior. Read about the Savior. Study his life and thank God everyday that he sent his son to this earth to save and redeem us and to heal us. Without Christ, this life would be meaningless. Do the simple things and life will improve. I promise.

I love you all. You mean a lot to me. I am going to keep walking and keep trying and give everything I have. And I am not afraid because I have some very important people walking with me. My God. My constant companion the Holy Ghost. And my Savior Jesus Christ. They are walking in front of me and behind me, on my right and on my left. They give me the strength to keep going.

Sorry this is long. It is a lot but I had a lot to share. Write me! I find strength in your letters. And thank you for all your thoughts and words.

Elder Nielsen

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Hello everyone!

Jacob made it safe and sound to Cuernavaca, Mexico on Monday!  He was able to send us a very brief email from the mission home.  He met with his Mission President  in the mission home and then all the new missionaries went out to dinner with him and his wife.  His new companion’s name is Elder Miguel, who is a native speaker.  His first area is called Tamarindos and it is in the Iguala Zone.  I am really looking forward to receiving our first newsy email from him. 

For now, you should write your emails directly to:    He will keep us updated on the best way to communicate with him.

We are so excited for Jacob and the wonderful experiences that await him!