Monday, September 17, 2012

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

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