Monday, June 24, 2013

Hello Family and Friends!
I hope that you all went to the missionary work broadcast yesterday! It was amazing. The Lord is truly speeding up his work and I am so grateful that I have the opportunity to serve a mission during this historic period! This week has been amazing for Elder Lopez and I! But before all of that...Impressions of Mexico! (And yes...I realized that I just used a lot of exclamation points, but I am so happy!)

Impressions of Mexico!

1) So in addition to the missionary work broadcast, this week was also the long-awaited soccer match between Brazil and Mexico. The moment the match started the pueblo literally shut down. The silence in the streets was thick. The only thing you could hear was the same sound of the commentaries about the soccer match from the windows of the houses as we passed by. Soccer > Life in Mexico. I heard that even the government stopped working to watch it. 

2) We are now officially in the rainy season. And when it rains. It rains. And also when it rains, it is more than probable that Elder Nielsen and Elder Lopez are stranded on a hill, drenched from head to foot, with nowhere to go. True story from this week.

3) Thankfully I still do not understand the nasty words in Spanish. I do not want my companions to teach me them or even tell me when people are saying them. The only thing they tell me is that little kids use them a lot when they are talking to me...oh.

Well. The first big announcement is that Eli was baptized this Saturday and confirmed on Sunday! His mom, named Concepcion, was a less-active member that we helped to reactivate. One day we went to teach her. She was not home but Eli was and he invited us in to talk. We taught him the Restoration and he immediately accepted a date to be baptized. Teaching him and seeing his faith grow has been a very rewarding experience for me. He wants to be a better person and leave his past mistakes behind. I had the opportunity to baptize him. The water was Titanic-cold but after he was baptized (and also after he was confirmed) he looked at me and told me that he felt so warm. That he felt different. He is going to begin his journey now in the gospel! I am so excited for him!

It is such an exciting time to be a missionary. I realize that I am about to complete a year in my missionary service and I just keep thinking about how fast time has passed by. I have truly learned so much and I felt my faith grow. I want people here in the pueblo to accept our message so badly. Because I know what it will do for them. It will change them. It will allow them to progress back towards their Heavenly Father. But more than anything, I have realized lately that the message that arrives closest to my heart, that I want everyone to know and understand is the power of the Atonement to change a man's heart. Think about it. Change is always possible. We can be better. We can be healed. We are understood and known. We are listened to and loved. We have someone that gave everything so that we could gain everything.
I know that I am known and loved. I wish to be faithful and valient until the very end. When we are loyal to God and the Savior, everything else just seems to work out. I know God lives. Jesus is the Christ. Families can be eternal. The power of the priesthood is real. The Church was restored through Joseph Smith. The Book of Mormon is the word of God. It is through the Atonement that we can have hope in gaining eternal life. This is my testimony. And I am so grateful that I have another year to share it as an authorized representative of Jesus Christ!

I love you all so much.
Elder Nielsen

Monday, June 17, 2013

Hello Family and Friends!

Well, this week was difficult for Elder Lopez and I, but we are pushing through it! The bitter always has to come with the sweet!

Impressions of Mexico!

1) If you want to start a business here in Mexico...sell beef jerkey. Everyone here loves it. They ask me repeatedly to tell my parents to send it to me so they can have some. Because honestly, it does not exist. 

2) T-shirts are commonly used here as mops, rags, and towels.

I am grateful for weeks that are trying. They remind me really of who is in control. We had to stop teaching a family of five this week that we have been teaching for almost 3 months. They are wonderful and we love them but they have just stopped progressing and have lost the desire to be baptized. When we left their house, after telling them that we would not be able to pass by very often, I truly got a little emotional. I feel love for them and it hurt me to see them make the wrong choice. But we have to keep moving forward right?

I think about those early pioneers and saints that crossed the United States in order to make it to the Salt Lake Valley. Their faith and determination amazes me. They were willing to leave everything behind and keep pressing forward through every type of adversity imaginable because they knew what was right and they knew what they wanted. They had a goal. They wanted to reach Zion. And so they were willing and obedient. They sacrificed. They put everything on the line for the Lord. Sometimes that it was what we have to do. Keep walking forward, but with good cheer. This life is meant to try us to the core and prepare us for something better but we have also been promised that in those moments of trial, we are entitled to the peace of the Holy Ghost if we are faithful to the commandments and to our Heavenly Father. We are also meant to find joy and happiness and beauty on the trail.

My mission has caused me to reflect on how much I still have to learn and how much growth I have yet to experience. It has been hard and trying as it should be. But I can not deny the absolutely beautiful and spiritual moments that my Father in Heaven has granted unto me. I would not trade away this experience for anything. Because, if nothing else occurs, I can say with a smile (and sometimes tears) that I know my Father in Heaven lives. Jesus is the Christ. The Savior and Redeemer of my soul. It is through his atoning sacrifice that I can be made whole again from the hurts and struggles of this life. I will forever be grateful for the strength and healing I receive through the grace of his Atonement. God loves us. And because he loves us, he chastens us so that we may become stronger and more like him day by day. I hope that we can all press forward. Peaceful and content with trusting in God and his timing for us. And know that there is always a chance to change. 

I love you all very much.

Elder Nielsen

Monday, June 10, 2013

A Home For Sale Here In Yautepec!

Hello Family and Friends!
This week has been so good for Elder Lopez and I! New investigators coming out of the woodwork, success with less-actives, and we continue walking, and walking, and walking!

Impressions of Mexico!

1) Okay. So, the Relief Society President here in Lomas del Real truly is our best friend, but she is also a little crazy. Every time we eat with her, something horrible happens.

Meal 1) She gave me a seat that had a broken leg. I collapsed during the middle of the meal.

Meal 2) She left little pebbles in the middle of the beans. And I bit into them.

Meal 3) She made cucumber water but did not put sugar in it or anything. It was the most bitter thing I have ever tasted but she made us drink it.

She also tells us on a regular basis that the moment her son returns from his mission in Guatemala that she is going to go inactive in the church, or, as she puts it, "I am going on vacation." And also that if we drink Coke that we cannot participate in the Sacrament the following Sunday.

2) Smiling in pictures is still a problem here in Mexico. Literally I have to force them to smile in the pictures that I take, because, if I did not, they would never smile. Weddings, birthdays, holidays, the occasion does not matter, everyone in the picture looks like someones has just died.

3) Everytime it rains on a Sunday here in the mission field, the number of people that attend sacrament meeting goes down at least by half. Well, yesterday it was raining all day and our branch mission leader got up to give a talk. He said something that I thought was funny and true. That everytime it rains, the Lord is cleaning his flock.

4) In English it is hahahahaha. In Spanish it is jajajajajaja.

Well, Elder Lopez and I continue to teach and reactivate. And we have truly seen miracles in our area. We had been teaching a less-active sister named Betty and her husband Elías for quite some time now, but she had said that she was not going to return to church until her husband got baptized and Elías, well, he told us plainly that he had no desire to change. So we invited him to pray and had stopped visiting him regularly. On Saturday night, the thought popped into my mind that we should go and visit them. So we went to the their house and Hermana Betty answered the door. She had been coloring her hair but was so excited and grinning from ear to ear. She said, "Guess what Elders, yesterday, during dinner, Elías told me that he had prayed and that he wants to be baptized. And we are all ready to go to church tomorrow!" *Cue Elder Nielsen jaw-drop/shocked face.

I feel humbled right now. I am so grateful for the love of my Father in Heaven. He continues to teach and tutor me every day. I know he lives because I have felt his love. And it is so gratifying to be able to try to express that love towards others each and every day. The message that I have to share is one of hope, love, and peace. It is so perfect to me, the gospel. And the more I apply it and live it, the more perfect it becomes. Every day I am more willing to be humble and submissive to what my Father wants. Every day I am learning and growing. Every day I see miracles, big and small.
I am so grateful for the chance my Father in Heaven has given me to serve him and be one of his missionaries. To have the opportunity to teach and testify, to serve and bless, and grow personally, it is just amazing and wonderful. God lives. Jesus is the Christ. It is through his Atonement that healing comes to my soul and to the souls of so many that have been battered and bruised by the trials and harships of this life. I know that he knows me. And that I can change. There is hope. And there is so much light, life, peace, hope, and truth to be found in his restored gospel. I love you all so very much and I love the people I serve.

Elder Nielsen

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

In Acapulco with Elder Becerra 

At the Temple in Mexico City

Monday, June 3, 2013

Hello Family and Friends!
This week Elder Lopez and I walked. And we walked. And we walked. And...oh...we walked some more. Maybe I do not have feeling in my legs and feet right now but that is okay because we are happy, healthy, and working hard here in Yautepec!

Impression(s) of Mexico!

1) My favorite thing to see and hear happens every time we go to a sketchy apartment complex in our area called La Gema. Here in La Gema you will find gangsters. Sitting in their cars. Blasting American rap music. And slowly bobbing their heads up and down. The funniest part for me is that I know that they have no idea what the rapper is saying.

My companion and I had a very special experience yesterday. We went to visit a less-active sister in the branch named Virginia. Virginia is a single-mother with three children, and, in addition to working, cares for her aging mother that is now bed-ridden. Her oldest daughter Cindy has a physical-handicap and Virginia told us plainly that Cindy had no interest in the church. Yesterday, Cindy sat in on our lesson about the Gospel of Christ. As we were talking about baptism, the impression came into my mind to invite Cindy to be baptized. Then, as it always does, immediately after the doubts came into my mind. But the Spirit kept telling me to invite her, and so we did. And she accepted! As we were telling her about the blessings that would come into her life by accepting this gospel, she began to cry. The Spirit was so strong.

I feel my faith growing. I realized a few months ago that I needed to allow my faith to grow. I needed to believe more deeply in the power that God has to save his children. So I have been letting go of what I want and putting my life in the hands of the Lord. This week during one of my prayers, I told him that I just wanted him to use me as a tool in his hands. My talents, my experiences, who I am, I just wanted to be useful in helping less-actives to return and inviting others to unite themselves to the gospel of Christ. And I have seen his hand in my life. New Investigators. New less-actives that we have begun to teach. More powerful lessons. When we exercise faith in God he answers us.
I know that my Savior Jesus Christ lives. I know that this is his gospel and his church. I know that through trials and problems, I am made stronger. We have to be refined. We have to pass through what seems to be insurmountable hurtles in order to truly become what God would have us become. But, the moment, and literally the moment that we are willing to let him in and begin to help us, we will see the changes. We will see our growth. And we will feel, see, hear, and know of the love of our Father.

I know what it means to feel loved by a Father in Heaven, that with mercy, charity, and patience, lets me know on a day by day basis that I am his, and that one day, if I am faithful, I will be with him forever.
I love you all.

Elder Nielsen