Monday, January 28, 2013

Hello Family and Friends!

So, this week has been semi-crazy. Not totally crazy. Only semi. I will explain later. But first I have many, many impressions of Mexico. Enjoy!

1) So, for some reason, the members this week were feeling overly generous with their food. I am going to walk you through a typical day in the life of Elder Nielsen and food. So we go to visit Sister Yolanda in Atotonilco to ask her for a reference. We talk, finish the visit, and then she invites us to eat (once I again I will mention that it is EXTREMELY rude to deny food, even if you are not hungry). So we accept. She gives us tortillas, scrambled eggs, and beans. My companion asks for Round 2. Now I am in a predicament. I am literally double the size of him and if I do not accept Round 2 as well she will automatically be offended and think that I did not like the food. So out comes Round 2. Then, literally an hour and a half later, we go to the Comida. Steak, potatoes, lettuce, avocado, beans. So now I am overly full. Then we go to visit investigators. We enter the house and the mom tells us that she has just cooked up some pozole and tacos. When she sat the bowl down in front of me I am sure that my face was an exact replica of Bruce Bogtrotter when the Trunchable set down the giant Chocolate Cake in front of him in the movie Matida (you are welcome Gina Risetter for this reference). Literally, if you want to know how my eating experience was with the pozole, watch that scene from Matida.

2) Another fun food experience. Every Tuesday we eat with a Sister called Sister Minquiz. She owns a restaurant on the highway that leads to Tepalcingo. I will only say one thing about her food. She likes to use chili. Lots of chili. One day she served us, straight-up, gigantic chilis covered in cheese.

3) Another comment about food. If you want to get fat here in Mexico, the equivalent of the Twinkie, Hoho, Ding Dong, etc. are products made by Bimbo (awkward name right?). Maybe I indulge in a few of these at the end of really long days. Maybe I do not.

4) Chips here have one of two flavors. Lemon and Salt. Or different gradations of chili.

5) This week I saw a straight up, massive Iguana running up a wall. That was a new one.

6) It always picks my spirit up when members offer the missionaries something to drink and they suggest coffee. And they are not joking. HELLO PEOPLE.

7) So soccer. The rumors are true. Mexicans LOVE soccer. It is actually sort of amusing because every weekend there are huge soccer matches in the pueblo. But the players are not exactly spring chickens anymore. There are literally 50 and 60 year old men running out there with the 20 year olds. Also, they take it SO seriously, as if it were the finals of the FIFA World Cup or something.

8) Last story. And probably my favorite. We were walking out of Atotonilco to catch a bus back to Tepalcingo and this lady calls us over. She begins talking to us, tells us she was meeting with the missionaries before, and my companion says that we can come by and teach her again. She says (wistfully I might add, while extending her hand and rubbing his arm), "No, you boys cannot give me what I want." Later, in possibly one of the greatest Freudian Slips ever, Elder Romero means to say, "Ella tocó mi brazo" (She touched my arm) but actually says, "Ella tocó mi corazón" (She touched my heart).

So there was a lot in there. But there you go. So big news this week. Every year in Tepalcingo there is a massive Fair. Our little pueblo literally hosts the 2nd largest fair in Mexico. Millions of people come, from all over Mexico. During our interviews with President Kusch this week we told him about the fair. I guess he did not know the gravity of the situation because the next day he called us and told us that he will close the area and take us both out, probably within a week. So yes. I will be in my fourth area with less than 5 months in the mission field most likely in another week. I will let you know what happens!

On the brighter side of things. We are going to have baptism this Saturday! Her name is Nancy and she is twelve. Every member of her family are innactive members, and she is the only one that has not been baptized. She is an example to me. She has come to church 5 or 6 times without the support of her parents and she loves it. There are no excuses. When we want to do the right things there is nothing that can hold us back.

Well, I love you all. This week has been difficult for me. I came down with a super, big head cold and was physically exhausted. I just felt very ineffective. I hate that feeling. Also the knowledge that I will have transfers again and will probably leave this area in a week is affecting my desire a little. I do not want it to though. I have been praying that God will help me to remain focused and obedient always. I have such a strong testimony of this Gospel though. Even though I make mistakes and I am not perfect (by any stretch of the imagination), I have come to a knowledge of the Atonement. I love teaching the Atonement to people. The miracle of forgiveness. The knowledge of a Savior. I walk them through it all. Gethsemene, Calvary, the Resurrection. If there is anything that they understand, I want them to understand that. I know that Christ lives. I know that in the Garden of Gethsemene that he suffered for me and for you. Suffering so great, and so agonizing that it caused him to sweat drops of blood from every pore. He literally, one by one, saw our faces and then proceeded to feel what we have felt. Physical and Spiritual illness, pain, disappointments, regret, sin. He did it, because he loves us. It is the greatest example of obedience and love that we can ever find. Then, he was rejected. Crucified for us, and for the sins of the world. Then, he was resurrected. He conquered death and the grave for us as well. He did everything for me. I can do just a little for him. Every day I pray that he will bless with his love and with his attributes so that I can be a more profitable servant. I have no regrets about my mission. I have made mistakes, it has been so hard, but my personal growth has been great. I am not the same person I was 7 months ago. He is shaping me and molding me into the person he would have me become. Sometimes I just have to breathe, close my eyes, and say, "I trust you." And let him do it. It is so hard. But it is worth it. I do not understand why things have happened the way they have happened, but I have faith that there is purpose behind everything in this world. God is all around us. He is in everything.

I love you all very much.

Elder Nielsen

Thursday, January 24, 2013

I enjoyed every bit of this!

Men riding horses through town

From our apartment in Coahuixtla we could see this
semi active volcano!

The field is ready to harvest!

The best cook in town, Hermana Lina

Hermana Alicia and her grandchildren
(We were about ready to baptize one of
her grandchildren before my transfer)

Monday, January 21, 2013

¡Muy Buenos Días!

Happy Monday! I hope that you are all doing splendidly well! Everyone. Listen. We have had a miracle here in Tepalcingo. It is actually raining here today! And cold! I never thought it would happen. Now I know that God answers prayers. Anyway, in lieu of many impressions of Mexico this week, I only have two. I am sorry but that is just how the cookie crumbled this week.

(The First Story Will be Told in the 3rd Person for Dramatic Effect)

1) So, Elder Nielsen and Elder Romero are walking down the street and have, more or less, 20 minutes before the ward activity. Elder Romero tells Elder Nielsen that a family that he was teaching with the Elder that was here before lived really close. Therefore, Elder Nielsen and Elder Romero decide to go visit them. They knock on the door and immediately it opens. The Elders enter and automatically feel uncomfortable, for they have just walked into a room FULL of Catholics sitting in front of an altar with a large painting of the Virgin Mary, two crucifixes, two burning candles, an open Bible, and burning incense. Elder Romero says he needs to use the bathroom and leaves Elder Nielsen out there to talk with the people. Well, while Elder Romero was in the bathroom the Catholics begin their worship service (which included a rather elderly woman chanting prayers and singing hymns while the rest of the people repeated it after her). Elder Romero (who was Catholic) comes out and tells me that it is supremely rude to leave during one of these, so, we had to stay. So yes. The new gossip of Tepalcingo will be that the two Mormon missionaries sat in on a 45 minute worship service of the Virgin Mary. Despite feeling uncomfortable at the beginning, Elder Nielsen was interested and listened and observed the entire service. Oh yeah, because of this, the Elders arrived late to the ward activity.

2) We have a cat (yet to be named) that lives right outside of our apartment. Well, he always had a little cat that accompanied him everyday. For the last two days we only saw the big cat and not the little cat. Well, last night while we were planning, we heard a lot of noise outside. Our cat was being attacked by two MASSIVE black cats. Elder Romero chased them away with a broom. Then the lady that owns the house we stay in told us that the same cats had come earlier that week and killed the other little cat. Sad. We are thinking of doing night watches or something to protect our friend. I will let you know how it goes.

So there is some culture/awkward & uncomfortable experiences for you to ponder in your hearts.

This week actually went by super fast. We had a mission conference in Cuernavaca (which is basically like the United States, but in Mexico...very modern) with Claudio Zivac of the 70 which required us to leave Tepalcingo around 3:00 p.m. on Thursday and not return until 8:00 p.m. Friday night. But it was a nice break. And I learned a lot. I actually felt really in tune with the Spirit. Not that anything that was said was particularly profound or new, but I was open to be being taught by the Holy Ghost and received specific impressions on what I needed to do here in Tepalcingo to progress the work. During the prelude music, an Elder was playing the song, "Savior, May I Learn to Love Thee" and I was thinking about the words. Really thinking about them. I thought about the words, "Pause to help and lift another, finding strength beyond my own. Savior, may I learn to love thee, Lord, I would follow thee." Also, in the hymn "Because I Have Been Given Much" with the words, "That he too may be comforted". These lyrics really hit me. During the week I had been feeling down on myself. I felt like Emma Smith when she said in the Restoration video to Joseph, "Do you ever wonder if the Lord asks too much of us?" I had been asking that question here in Tepalcingo because of the relative lack of success that I have had and the trials of this area. But through these two hymns God, so lovingly, reminded me of my purpose as a missionary. It is not about Elder Nielsen. It is about other people. I know that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has "comforted" me. During my prayers I thought about all the many blessings I have received as a member of the church. The temple, the priesthood, a close family, divine help, etc. My goal is to invite others to partake of the same blessings, "That they too may be comforted." I have started to view the people differently. Now I do not see a dysfunctional family that have problems with alcohol, rather, I see a family dressed in white, being sealed in the temple for time and all eternity. I do not see a youth that is struggling to gain a testimony, rather, a strong, proud missionary that proclaims what she knows and brings others into the waters of baptism. My focus is beginning to change. My prayers are becoming more about them, and less about me. Praying my guts out that they will read, pray, come to church, tell us what they need, etc. I felt very close to the Spirit this week as a result. It is totally and absolutely about love, missionary work that is. I intend to love more, and more deeply for the rest of my mission.

Well, I love you all. You mean very much to me. It is my testimony that Jesus Christ lives. Come to him. There is life after death. We will all be with the ones we love again. There is no trial too great, no addiction too strong, no place too dark, that cannot be penetrated by the light of the gospel. I have seen it. I am so grateful for a loving Heavenly Father that knows me and tries me everyday. He is not letting up because he knows it will make me stronger and a more profitable servant. I am happy. Stressed to the max and tired...but happy. I hope that you are all happy too.

Elder Nielsen

Monday, January 14, 2013

Hello Family and Friends!

It seems like everytime I enter a new area, I have more impressions of Mexico. So here it goes. Enjoy!

1) First of all, I am going to have SUPER buff legs after my time here in Tepalcingo. Basically the entire pueblo is built into a hillside. Elder Nielsen + steep, constant inclines + unimaginable heat = Death.

2) So a few interesting experiences with dogs this week. We were teaching a family outside of their house and during the lesson, their dog goes out and stands right outside of their fence in the front yard, and starts to howl at the moon. Literally, howl. I had never seen that before. Also, as we were walking down the hill one day, another dog was running up in the different direction with a full, straight-up dead squirrel in his mouth.

3) My companion told me that there is a fun rumor going around Tepalcingo that Americans like to steal their children, take them to the United States, and kill them. All I could say when he told me that was, "Oh..."

4) We were eating in a restaurant that one of the members in the branch owns. On the wall, there were two pictures of temples, and in the center, a prominently placed painting of the Virgin Guadalupe. HELLO PEOPLE. This also reminded me of another Elder that I saw that was wearing a rosary. HELLO PEOPLE.

5) I have come to find out in Mexico that toilet seats are completely optional. Like, there is a 50/50 chance that the toilet will have one. I lost out in my current apartment.

6) When I was waiting in the bus terminal to travel to Tepalcingo (it is about an hour bus ride from here to Cuautla) this lady that had underwear on the outside of her pants came up behind me, pointed her finger at me, and started yelling at me. I swear that it was not Spanish though. It was her own language.

So there you go! Some more impressions from south of the border. 

So, Tepalcingo. Tepalcingo is a branch. A very, very, tiny branch. Like, in Sacrament meeting this week, we had an attendance of 39 (including us and the babies). The city is overwhelmingly Catholic and I have come to find out that this is one of the areas in the mission that nobody wants to go. That makes me even more excited to work here! Something interesting though is that, our tiny little branch has a brand new chapel that was built here three years ago, that is the size of a Stake Center. 39 people. Stake Center. The Member of the Quorom of the 70s that dedicated the building said that one day there would be Stake in Zion in this area. We will see!

I just want to tell you all once again (and every week for that matter), that I love you. I love the chance that God has given me to serve him and his children that he knows and loves here in Mexico. I have found that smaller and simpler things make me happier than they would have before. For example, this week we were walking back to our apartment and this man stops us in the street and told me that his son wanted to talk with me in English. I bended down to his level and started talking with him. We had a short little conversation and parted. I do not know why, but I remember feeling so happy in this moment. I felt happy, because the little boy was happy and smiling and so excited to talk. I am starting to learn to be happy and find joy in day to day experiences and little successes that I receive from the hand of God. I was reading a conference talk this week by President Uchtdorf and he said something that really struck me. He said that he could not imagine the Savior, during his ministry here on the Earth running around with his "To-Do List", checking it off as he went a long. He said that the Savior lived every day purposefully. Every day had meaning. Every moment had value. That is how I want to live my life. Despite the circumstances, despite the trial, despite the moment, I want to find meaning. I want to look back on my life when I am old and know that I did all I could do to help others and grow into the man God wanted me to become. We are so blessed. Being here has made me realize how blessed I am. We have so much to give to others. We need to give. And what a better gift than the gospel of Jesus Christ? What a better gift than the knowledge that God is with us. He is all around us. And that he is in everything. And that he loves us. That there is life after death. That there is meaning in how we live our lives. And that there is a Savior and Redeemer of our souls that knows exactly how to comfort and help us. I guess I knew these things intellectually my entire life, but, being a missionary has allowed me to feel the truth of these things stronger and stronger every day.

So, become converted. Do what you have to do to both know in your minds and feel in your hearts that the message of Christ is true. That he lived for us, suffered for us, died for us, and was resurrected for us. And that only through him can we find happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come.

I love you all! Things here are hard and I would lie if I said I am not discouraged at times. But then I think about what I know and the message I have to offer and I get excited again! God loves us. Look out, and look up!

Elder Nielsen

Monday, January 7, 2013

Hello Family and Friends!

How are you all doing? I sincerely hope that you are all doing well and that you are happy. I also hope that you are starting off the New Year right! Well, some big, shocking news that I had this week. My companion got a phone call on Wednesday from the Zone Leaders and they told him that he was going to train a new elder for his last two transfers. I thought that he would leave Coahuixtla and that I would stay because I only had one transfer in the area. Then, on Saturday, we get the phone call, and I had transfers, not him. So I am now emailing you from Tepalcingo, a pueblo in the northern part of Morelos. My new companion is Elder Romero from Puebla, Mexico. This is actually his last transfer so he will be finishing his mission with me (lucky him right?)

Impressions of Mexico!

1) So yesterday was Día de los Reyes or basically the day of the Three Wise Men. It is Christmas Round 2 here in Mexico. I actually asked Elder Ramos what day would be more common for children to receive gifts if the family does not have a lot of money and he said el Día de los Reyes! On this day they actually eat this sweet bread called Rosca de Reyes that has gummies and chocolate inside of it. Also, (and no one told me before I bit into it) little plastic toys. I know that you are all jealous.

2) This was a funny excuse that I heard from someone that did not want to talk to us: "My brother cannot come out and talk right now to you guys because he is vomiting". We tell the kid to go back and tell him that we will wait until he his done. He comes back out again and tells us that his brother cannot come out and talk because he is about to leave for work.

Well, just a few this week because I wrote a ton last week but, honestly, Mexico never ceases to surprise me. 

I am so grateful for the opportunity that I have to be a missionary. I have not had as much success as I would have liked to have but I can honestly say that I have done my best. And that is all we can do right? Our best. And our best is never perfect. But it is all our Heavenly Father requires of us. I love this gospel so much. I love my Savior Jesus Christ so much. He means everything to me. I have felt his love. I know that he lives. I know that he is the Savior and Redeemer of my soul. And I know that I will look back on these two years of consecrated sacrifice with peace, knowing that I gave my all, my talents, my times, my love, my experiences...everything, to help The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints grow. To bring other souls to know their Savior and Redeemer in a more personal and intimate way. I would be a liar if I did not say that at times I am lonely, discouraged, scared, etc. But those feelings are always swallowed up in what I know to be true. What I know to be right. 

So, I left Coahuixtla in peace. When I arrived there were 0 investigators. When I left there were 5 that had dates to be baptized. And now I will give it my all here in Tepalcingo. The Lord will bless me. I know it. There are challenges to be had and joy to be found in this Pueblo. 

I love you all. You all mean very much to me and I pray for your happiness and peace.

Elder Nielsen

(A Short Letter this Week but I have Pictures to Make up for It)