Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Hello Family and Friends!
Well today I turn 20 years old! And I will be celebrating it by eating Subway (fine dining), picking up a piece of cake next door, and then picking up the new sister missionaries that are going to be in my district! Actually something funny happened this morning. We were in the middle of our personal study and our cellphone rang. It was President Kusch. He and Sister Kusch sang me Happy Birthday which was cute. Thank you for all of your letters!

Impressions of Mexico:

1) There is only one company that provides gas for cars here in Mexico called PEMEX. I like it. It is sort of old fashioned. You drive up in your car and there are servicemen that do everything for you (fill up the tank, clean the windows, etc.)

2) The weather here is now officially wacky. Everyday. From the moment we wake up. It is so, but, so hot. Until about 6:30 at night. When, out of nowhere, in comes the dark, black, threatening clouds. It begins to rain. With loud cracking lightening and thunder. This has been a daily event for about 2 weeks now.

3) This week we had a mission conference in Acapulco with Donald Hallstrom of the Presidency of the Seventy. Oh Acapulco. I am almost positive that the humidity level was about 100%. We left the chapel and literally I was bathing in my sweat (graphic, but you get the idea). I have 0 desires to return again to that city in the month of May.
So this week are the transfers and Elder Lopez and I will be staying together for a third transfer here in Lomas del Real. My district is going to be small (there are six of us in total). 4 Elders, and 2 Sisters. And I am the only white boy. I am so excited!

During our mission conference, Sister Hallstrom was talking about the need we have to always be pointing our eyes, our desires, and our faces towards the Lord. She brought up the story of Peter walking on water (my favorite) from the Bible. She said that she imagined that when Peter accepted the invitation of the Lord to follow him, that he began with so much hope and faith, but, more importantly, that his eyes were fixed on those of the Savior. But then, the scriptures say, the winds and the waves (trials, temptations, problems) began to be boisterous and the attention of Peter turned away from the Lord. This is the moment when he began to sink. Realizing immediately that the cause of his fall was because he had taken his mind and sight off of the Lord, he immediately cries, "Lord, save me" and immediately the Savior stretched forth his hand to rescue him. I hope that this helps someone because it helped me so much.
I love you all so much. I know that what I am doing is right. This week the Lord blessed our companionship with new investigators that have accepted the challenge to be baptized and we are so excited to work with them and see their faith grow. I cannot think of anything more rewarding that I can be doing with my life. Life is hard. Sometimes we feel inadequate or not fit for the task at hand. Sometimes we do not think that we are good enough. What I have learned is that when we are obedient and when we love with all our hearts those that are around us, then we are good enough. God and the Savior love us so much, and because they do, they are constantly giving us hurdles, chances to change, and chances to be just a little more upright. There are so many in this world that have no hope. They do not feel loved. I find myself now literally sad when people reject our message because I know what it could do for them. Through this gospel I have become rooted. I know that I am a son of God. I know that he loves me. I know that Christ lives and is the Savior of mankind. There is so much healing, happiness, and peace to be found if we are striving to be pure, obedient, and loving.

I promise you that if we trust in the timing of the Lord, that he will bless us. Every promise will be fulfilled. I know, that the Atonement of Christ is real. It is through this Atonement that I have hope to be better. To change. To become more and more like my Savior each and every day. I will ever be grateful for the opportunity my Heavenly Father has given me to be a missionary and a minister to his children here in Mexico. I love them so much.
Elder Nielsen

Monday, May 20, 2013

Hello Family and Friends!
This week was huge and I am absolutely physically exhausted. But first and foremost...Impressions of Mexico!

Impressions of Mexico!
1) To travel between Yautepec and Cuautla for our district meetings, we are usually forced to take this large bus named Estrella de Roja. Well, it is very common during these bus rides to have people get on just to sell something for 5 minutes and then they hop off again. I have had flan, bread, and various fruits that I still cannot identify by name shoved in my face thusfar.

2) I would say that if I could classify a group of people that are the most scared of us, it would have to be Mexican woman that are 75 years old or older. I do not know why, but everytime we pass by they give us the most piercing stare. And so, naturally, I smile and say ¡Buenas Tardes!...and...they just continue staring. Literally, they do not even flinch.

3) Images of the Virgin Guadalupe are to be found literally everywhere. Some common examples are:

A) Hats B) Mugs C) Painted obnoxiously large on walls D) Notebooks E) As Stickers on Cars and Buses F) In protected glass cases, surrounded by Christmas lights, in front of the houses of strong Catholic families.

4) Speaking of the Virgin, I saw the greatest sign ever above the door of a house we passed by; and it read: We do not accept missionaries or religious literature of any kind because in this house we worship the "la Virgen de Guadalupe". I wanted so badly to knock on the door but my companion convinced me not to.
So, as I said before, this week was really big for me. One of the highlights was the chance that I had to go with my District to the temple in Mexico City and spend the day there. The Spirit in the temple is so strong. I remember crying because it was so nice to be out of "the world" for those few precious hours. I remember looking in one of the eternity mirrors and having the thought come to me of what God sees for me. He wants me and all of us to be with him for eternity. Perfect, pure, and proven. Sometimes I am so caught up in the now. How I feel right now. What I want right now. What I want to change right now. That oftentimes I forget about eternity. God is preparing, teaching, and tutoring me so that I can be prepared to be with him again. I know that I have challenges to face and mountains to climb that will test me to the very core. But I understand even more now the necessity of these challenges. They polish us, refine us, and prepare us.

I also received a phone call from President Kusch this week, I will be serving as a District Leader starting this next transfer. I was so nervous because the thought came to me of all the things I have to change and be in order to be a "good" leader. Then the thoughts came to me, "just love my missionaries" and "be who I have made you to be".
I love you all so much. I know God lives. My relationship with him has developed so much because I have been, in a way, forced to rely on him and his love. I have literally had to walk with my Savior each day. I do not know what the future will bring for me, but one thing I do know is that I can have peace if I am striving to be faithful and loyal and loving in all that I do. I truly have so much love for the Savior. I was watching Finding Faith in Christ this week and looking at all the miracles that the Savior did. I was so struck by one scene in particular. A leper approaches the Savior and tells him, "Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean." And the Savior responded and said, "I will. Be thou clean." That is the promise that keeps me going. Restoration. Healing. Cleanliness. Purity. I know, that one day, I will see my Savior and be so grateful for every trial that has come my way. I know that I will feel his love even more profoundly than I have felt it during my life. He lives. Jesus is the Christ.

I love you all and will talk to you soon.

Elder Nielsen

Monday, May 13, 2013

Hello Family and Friends!
This week has been very fulfilling for me. I have learned a whole heck of a ton and have grown a lot. But before all that...impressions of Mexico!
1) I have finally, and successfully, put together a list of common nicknames here in Mexico and would like now to share them with you all.

A) Fransisco: Pancho or Paco B) Jesús: Chucho or Chuy C) Alberto: Beto D) Enrique: Quique (My Favorite) E) Luis: Guicho
F) Alfonso: Poncho G) José: Pepe H) Ezekiel: Cheque

2) So you know how in Africa the women sometimes walk around with pots of water on their heads? Well, in Mexico, it is the same, but with hats filled with sweet bread. Little boys will go around from house to house with a sombrero filled with bread shouting "Pan!" "Pan!"

3) The Area Presidency has recently laid down the law that every missionary that does not speak English is now required to learn it. Well, I, being the only Gringo in our district, have suddenly been transformed into an English teacher. And they all want to practice with me. The nightly conversation with my District Leader usually goes exactly like this (Imagine the following in extremely broken English).

D.L. - Hello? Me: Hello? D.L. - How are you? Me: I am fine and how are you? D.L. - Good. Thanks. And you? Me: Fine. D.L. Are you in home? Me: Yes. D.L. - *Starts to say something in English again, pauses, and then reverts to Spanish for the rest of the conversation.

4) Our recent convert named Gemma told us that her neighbor told her that she was praying for, because she had noticed that she had been talking to, and I quote, "Servants sent from Satan to deceive you". We are planning on contacting her neighbor later this week.

5) Mexicans get offended everytime you describe them as Latins. They are not Latins. They are Mexicans.
I have started to read Doctrine and Covenants this week and have been loving it! I read these verses this week in the 19th Section.

"Therefore I command you to repent—repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore—how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not. For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I; Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men."

I was reading these verses and suddenly started to get very emotional. My understanding of my calling as a missionary and as a member of the Church grew. I thought about what people will have to go through in the next life if they do not repent. If they do not use the Atonement of Christ during their lives. I thought about the beauty of the Atonement. It´s promise of Restoration and of Healing to our souls. It is literally the promise, that if we prove faithful, that we will be able to return to live with our Father in Heaven again, proven, pure, and ready to receive what he has waiting for us. How selfish it would be of me to not "waste and wear out" my life in order to bring this message to as many will hear me.
Well, here in the mission field I continue learning and growing. I am learning a little more, day by day, how to be a disciple of Christ and how to accept the timing of God in everything that happens. Sometimes it is so hard to accept weakness, disappointment, and failure. But I know that I have to do it. God strengthens me through my trials and weaknesses. But I have also learned recently that we also need to recognize how far we have really come. Our talents and qualities. Everything that is good about us. And then go about the work of healing and improving through the Atonement.

I love my Savior. Jesus is the Christ. He lives. He loves us. I will forever be grateful for him for the opportunity that he has given me to be a missionary. And for the life, family, and friends that he has blessed me with. The Atonement is real. It is through this sacrifice that I can heal and become whole again. I know that, one day, I will stand before my Savior and Redeemer. One day I will know, perfectly, his love for me. I so look forward to that day.
I love you all.

Elder Nielsen

Monday, May 6, 2013

Hello Family and Friends!

Impressions of Mexico!

1) So, yesterday, in keeping with the spirit of 5 de Mayo, my companion and I had our own personal battle in our bathroom...with 10 giant cockroaches. I killed 2 and my companion killed 8 (what can I say? Elder Nielsen and cockroaches do not mix well). It was a tough fight but we came out on top.

2) So, in America, if I saw somebody begging for food on the side of the road, I would say something like, "Well, the least I could do is offer him a piece of bread." The equivalent here in Mexico is a taco. It is the most basic form of food that the people think of when talking about giving food to the hungry or poor.

3) As missionaries, we always invite people to go to church. Well, after my experience here in the field, I would like to share with you the two phrases that, if said by an investigator, automatically tell me that they are not going to arrive.

A) Primero Dios. (God first).

B) Vamos a hacer todo lo posible para ir. (We are going to do everything we can to go.)

I do not have a lot of time this week to write, but I just wanted to let you know that I love being a missionary. This week I have really thought a lot about repentance. Repentance is truly such a beautiful thing. We are promised that if we really want to change, if we really are committed to living better, that the Lord will forgive us and that we can move on. I am really so grateful for the Atonement of Christ. I do not understand it completely. But I know that he came to this Earth and suffered for me and for each and every one of us. I will never tire of teaching that to people and helping them understand it. I have felt his love. I have felt the power of the Atonement and forgiveness and I know that he lives. 

This week I finished the Book of Mormon for the second time during my time here in the field. The Spirit has once again testified to my soul of its truthfulness. I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. That he restored the true church of Christ here on the Earth. I think about everything that he suffered. Everything that he went through to bring about this church. He truly is one of the greatest examples I have of a man of God that I want to emulate.

I just want to say that I know God lives. Jesus is the Christ. He loves us and knows us personally. Turn to him and you will find the peace that you are looking for.

Elder Nielsen