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.

Sitting at a fountain

Standing in front of the church

The city of Taxco

Historic Santa Prisca Church

Statue of Christ

Overlooking the city of Taxco

Elder Miguel and I walking through a rural part of our area

Hello all! As promised I said that I would write an extra long letter this week because I did not really have time to write last week so here it goes.

Letter From Last Week:

So, first of all, this last P-Day was crazy! We went on a trip to Taxco which is this beautiful city built into the mountains about 30 minutes from Iguala. Impressions of Taxco: The weather was cool, breezy, and so nice that I am trying to figure out how to convince President Kusch to transfer me there for the rest of my mission. The streets are SO narrow with little taxis zooming by in every direction. We toured this old, baroque-style church in the center of the city which was pretty ornate and beautiful. We ate at a McDonalds (which was heavenly) and saw the whole view of Taxco from a viewpoint at the top of the city which was pretty beautiful. Taxco is also famous for selling silver or "plata" so there were literally like 100 stores selling silver merchandise which was fun to look at. So, in the end, I loved the city! (Pictures are forth coming).

So, I guess it is time for impressions of Mexico:

1) McDonalds in Mexico is actually like a classy restaurant. Clean, nice music playing, etc. Very different from the United States if you know what I mean.

2) The people feeding you will get offended if you do not eat at least two plates of food.

3) Tortillas. Like a huge monstrous stack of tortillas are served with every meal. You are expected to partake. And partake heartily.

4) The cab drivers will try to charge white people more for cab rides than Mexicans. Too bad I live here and know how much a normal cab ride costs. Sorry, not sorry.

5) When it storms, it storms. Like thunder that shakes the house and makes it sound like World War III has started.

6) Every morning a symphony of roosters sound off. I think I can replicate their calls now.

Anyway, spiritual stuff. I have been reading in Mosiah Chapters 11 through 23 in the Book of Mormon this week and they have really spoken to me. It is funny how real the scriptures are becoming to me. The more I study them and come to truly know them, the more I love them. The advice, the hope, the love, and the warnings raise me up every day. I compare it to plugging my spiritual charger into the wall and receiving spiritual energy each day. Anyway, in Mosiah 16: 8-9 it says, "But there is a resurrection, therefore the grave hath no victory, and the sting of death is swallowed up in Christ. He is the light and life of the world; yea, the light that is endless, that can never be darkened, yea, and also a life which is endless, that there can be no more death." I love this. Because we have Christ we have light, we have hope that death is not the end of existence, that we continue to live, learn, and grow.
How do you describe a week of growth and learning in the mission field in one email? It is impossible. But I want to tell you that I am working hard, I am being obedient, we are finding people to teach, they are progressing, and that every day God shows his love for me. I have such a strong testimony that his goal is to shape us into something greater than we could have ever imagined for ourselves. Sometimes this process is very hard because we have to let go of and change some very ingrained habits and thoughts. But he is always there, he is always with you. He is walking with you and guiding you through that process.

To end this week, I want to tell you about a sister in my ward named Hermana Gabby. I love Hermana Gabby. I first met her when my companion said on my second day here that we were going to help out a sister in our ward with her English class every week because they wanted to talk with an American. Through stories she has told me, I can tell that she has had a really hard life. A lot of trials. And a lot of tears. But she is an example to me of someone that has allowed the gospel into her life. She is now sealed in the temple with her husband and children. She also decides to be happy even when she is suffering or things are hard. She always tells me to just smile and remember that life is supposed to be enjoyed, not suffered through. I am glad that I have had the opportunity to meet this wonderful woman and learn from her. I am going to include a picture of me and her on this email. I love you all. So very much, and can read my letter from this week!

Well. Here it goes for this week. This week was so challenging. But also had its beautiful moments. So we had interviews with the mission president on Tuesday. This was a great experience. He told me that I was having a really positive influence on my trainer because of my desire to be obedient and work hard. What I found interesting during the interview was that he warned me about 3 times to never lose my desire to be obedient. I thought this was super odd, but I found out why later on that week. He also told me that my Spanish was really good for how long I have been in the country which was nice to hear and other things that lifted my spirits up. I left that interview happy and confident and ready to work. Then, this week happened. Almost all our appointments fell through. People we thought would progress decided not to listen to us anymore. And to top it all off, I had some pretty interesting conversations with my trainer.

Elder Miguel is a good missionary. He is very sociable and loves to talk tons with the members and develop relationships with the members. Which is great. I enjoy that too. But he is not very obedient to the mission rules and likes to drag me down with him. I talked about this with President Kusch and he just said that I needed to lovingly encourage him but that I truly did not have control over the situation because I am the trainee as of now. This week, Elder Miguel started crying and told me that he was totally focused on going home (he has three months left), and that he just wanted to be with his girlfriend, and things, and is not focused on missionary work. He also said he is sad because he has been a bad example for me and feels like he is not helping me at all and teaching me nothing. This was very interesting for me. It was my worst fear that I would have a trainer like this but God wants me to learn from it and grow. He gives us trials for a reason. I just kneeled down and asked my Heavenly Father what I needed to do. And he said that I needed to continue loving the people, but within the bounds the Lord has set (the mission rules). I know that the two must and should work together. That I will find the most success and fulfill my purpose if I learn to mix and blend these two aspects of missionary work together.

So, I will continue to walk. Continue to grow. And continue to try to help and serve others as best as I can. Everyday I pray that I can develop more charity, everyday I pray that I can develop more love for the people and know how to serve them. Everyday, God grants me the strength I need to do it. Sometimes I do not understand why. But, as Henry B. Eyring said in his talk on Sunday Morning, we need to learn to be humble, submissive, and accept the time table of God. I am going to work on this.

Conference was amazing! The Saturday morning session and the Priesthood session were all in Spanish so ask me how much I got out of those, but the other three I was able to see in English! For the first time I did not want Conference to end. I was edified and uplifted by the words of our Prophet, apostles, and church leaders and I am excited to study them later.

One last experience. So after a very trying week, God provided me with a beautiful experience. We have been teaching a young 19 year old named David, as well as his mother and sister. He is golden. He reads, studies, and remembers everything we give him and sometimes even asks for more. He loves the church because he told us that he knows it is going to put him on the right path in life. He told us that he has never felt so much peace and happiness before now. I am so happy that God always provides when we are obedient and we strive to love others. I should end my first transfer with his baptism this Saturday.

So, everyone! Keep pushing, keep trying, and keep walking. Love people, serve people, and be positive! God and the Savior are always there and present. Ready and willing to help and love you. I love you all. You all mean so much to me. I look forward to hearing from you.

Until Next Week,

Elder Nielsen

Monday, October 1, 2012

Hello All!

First of all, I am sorry but I do not have a lot of time to write this week so I will be brief but I want to tell you all how I am doing. Today we went to Taxco! It is this beautiful city up in the hills of Mexico about 30 minutes away from Iguala and the city is literally built into the hills. It has European style streets (very narrow), with beautiful Baroque architecture. The city also has amazing views. I took a lot of pictures so hopefully you will be able to see them soon. I do not know if all of them will send today. We also ate at a McDonalds which was heavenly.
This week, the work has been going a lot better. We have met this family with a mother and two kids named Susy, Cynthia, and David. They all came to church and are progressing so hopefully a baptismal date is soon!
I want all of you to know that God is real. That he lives and that he loves and knows each and every one of us. I want you to know that he has built me up everyday and teaches me something knew about myself everyday as I continue to ask him for help and draw closer to him. Read Mosiah Chapters 11 through 23 this week. Those chapters really spoke to my soul. It is so funny how real the scriptures are becoming for me. I know that when we read them with real intent, that we can receive so much guidance. I really wanted to say a lot more but I promise that I will write more next week. This is my first short letter. But hopefully you will see the pictures and that will make up for it. I love you all. I pray for you. I am safe and well. I hope that you are happy. 


Elder Nielsen