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