Monday, August 26, 2013

Hello Family and Friends!

So I am here with my new companion Elder Albizo. He keeps trying to convince me that his native city, Ciudad Juarez, is not dangerous. Sorry. I am not going to buy that. I have heard too many things already. But he is very nice. A little reserved, but a great, hard-working, obedient missionary. And that is what I wanted!

Impressions of Mexico (again, if I repeat, I am sorry. It has been 14 months after all)!

1) Mexican drivers are not afraid to use the horn. Literally if traffic is blocked for even 5 seconds, EVERY single driver of the cars, buses, and taxis start to lay on their horn until the traffic starts moving again (I would like to see what their reaction would be on the 91 freeway at 5 pm).

2) It is not uncommon to see nuns and Catholic priests walking around in their robes in the middle of the street.

3) If a local hotel or motel has air conditioning then it is considered nice. Very nice.

4) Dryers, like to dry your clothes, do not exist. Your dryer is the sun. And if it rains, and you are not home to get your clothes into the house quickly, then you are out of luck. That has happened to me on more than one occasion. And it will happen again.

So, just like I thought it would happen, things have been picking up here in the branch! I love the way Elder Albizo teaches. He thinks about everything he says and always says what needs to be said instead of just talking or speaking empty words. There is meaning behind everything. I have much to learn from my new companion. We have also been teaching a new family that came to church yesterday and have been picking up other great new investigators! I know that the Lord has been blessing us because we are united as a companionship and have a desire to serve others. We have been bolder. We have been contacting more people during the day. And we are happy. Not without our difficulties and concerns. But happy and content with where we are and where we are going.

Last night as we were returing traveling home from Cuautla to Yautepec, I started to think about a scripture that is very famous but that has always meant so much to me. 

"And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them."

I have met so many people that have told me that their lives were easier before they were baptized. That everything started to go wrong when they became members of the church. And so, they preferred to leave. Stop believing. And take the easy road in this life. A path that is so easy to follow because it does not require change or growth. It does not require sacrifice or even the acceptance of the fact that there is something greater than just the individual with his or her worldly cares and values. I know that there are things greater than myself. I have been so humbled as a missionary. Honestly, before my mission, I thought that I would come to the mission field and knock 'em dead. Tons of baptisms. Tons of investigators. That I would be that perfect missionary from the get-go. When things did not work out like that. When problems started to arise and I started to come to the realization that I still had so much growth to experience and so much more to learn, I started to get discourged. I was angry that I could not be perfect. Special. The best teacher. The most "successful" missionary. The Lord quickly began to show me my weaknesses and the necessity that I had to rely on him completely. When we come to him, he shows us our weaknesses. But I can testify now, as a missionary that has been humbled in so many ways, that he shows us our weaknesses because he so desires that we have greater faith in him. He prepared a Savior before this world came into existence. He has provided a way for us to return to live with him again. Faith and repentance. Trust and submission. Loving, serving, and looking-outward. Then, when we trust in Christ and demostrate that trust through our actions and obedience to the commandments, our weaknesses become strong unto us. He does not take away the weakness. But we become stronger because of the weakness we have been given. We realize that we would never reach exaltation and eternal life without that specific set of weaknesses. We realize, as I did, that God lovingly gave us that weakness, as a gift, so that we could live with out families eternally and with those we love in his presence. I will never complain again for the weaknesses that I have. I am a better man and missionary because of them. And I am content with my mission and my life. 

I love my Savior Jesus Christ. I love my Heavenly Father. I love being a missionary. I try my best to truly enjoy every single day of my mission. I am trying to be more grateful and content every day. I testify that Christ lives. He lives. This life, well, is hard. But there is so much beauty in it as well. Sometimes we get so entrenched in the mud that surrounds us. In the mundane and unimportant things. To be more happy, I think that we should all look a little more for the spiritual in the things that surround us. I need to learn to trust more. Complete trust will guide us back to our Father in Heaven.

I love you all so very much.

Elder Nielsen

Monday, August 19, 2013

Hello Family and Friends!

Well, I am sitting here in an internet cafe in Cuautla awaiting the arrival of my new companion. His name is Elder Albizo and he is from Ciudad Juarez! I think that he has about 9 or 10 months in the mission field. I am excited to meet him. And yes, that means that I had to say goodbye to Elder Lopez this morning. We were together for almost six months in the branch and I am going to miss him a ton. It is like sending your kid off to college but I am confident that he is going to continue doing amazing things in the mission field. I can truly say that I love him as a companion, brother, and friend. And yes, that also means that I will be in Yautepec for another transfer! My sixth transfer to be exact. I arrived in the pueblo on February 3rd and this transfer ends September 30th. Basically 8 months by the end of this transfer! I say it every week, but, I have truly grown to love the members in this little branch. They are literally SO weird and funny. But I have just learned to laugh and be patient. They are human just like me. We all make mistakes and we all have a ton that we still need to learn. So we just have to work hard together and make the best of the of the not-so-great situations. I am excited for this transfer!

Impressions of Mexico!

1) In some parts of indigineous Mexico, to ask for the hand of a young girl, you have to bring a large banana and four cartons of beer. And if they say yes, they have to bring the family of the husband four cartons of soda. I thought that it was strange when I first heard it as well.

2) Another bit of gossip that I heard about us this week is that we purposely go and look for single people to teach and baptize so that we can marry them to other single people that we have taught and baptized :0

3) I have literally seen people enter stores and say that they are so thirsty and that they want to buy water. They then proceed to pull out their soda of preference from the refrigerator.  Soda = Water.

This week has been a little slow missionary work wise in the branch. We did not find a lot of new people to teach and there was a ton of opposition but I am confident that things will pick up with my new companion. During my personal studies I have studied a lot about the repentance process. It is literally so beautiful. The chance that each and every one of us have to change and be better. Sure, it takes a little bit of teeth-gritting and a lot of prayer and trust that Heavenly Father will help us change, but we all have to start by believing that change is possible. That our habits, ways of thinking, and actions can become aligned with Christ. We have taught so many less-actives and investigators that refuse to accept that change is possible. There are others that desire to change so badly but believe that they can never receive forgiveness or that the feelings of guilt that they experience can never be swept away. I know that they can be. I know that people can change. I have started with myself and have seen miracles occur when I trust in my Heavenly Father. I know that we can all draw closer to the Savior daily if we desire to do so. The Atonement is real and allows us to make these changes. I was reading this week in the Book of Mormon the story of Abinadi. He testified so boldly of the Savior until his death. I imagine that he knew what was coming, and the way that they were going to kill him, yet, he continued to tell them what he knew to be true, simply because he was obedient and he knew that he had to share it. I want to be more bold like him and like the other prophets that testified of Christ in the Bible and Book of Mormon. They were willing to put everything on the line, including their lives because they knew that this was the only path that men could follow that would bring them true happiness in this world and in the eternities. I also think that they loved their fellow man so much that they were willing to sacrifice everything so that they could gain everything. That is what Abinadi did, and that is what every single one of us needs to do. I am learning that more and more each day as a missionary.

Anyway, I love you all so much. I know this is the Church of Jesus Christ. I know God loves me and I know that he puts plans in place to save his children. I know that our trials and weaknesses are hand-picked for each and every one of us. I know that if we trust in God, all things are possible. He answers prayers. He is real and so actively-involved in our process of conversion and salvation. I hope that we can all learn to trust in him a little more day by day. I love you all and will let you know how my new companion is next week!

Elder Nielsen

Monday, August 12, 2013

Hello Family and Friends!
Tired, but content. Elder Nielsen has learned a lot this week. But first...

Impressions of Mexico!

1) So Saturday nights in little pueblos are not always the safest for the missionaries. For one reason and for one reason only...FIESTAS! If there is one thing that the Mexican people know how to do well, it would be throwing together a good party. They range from small, family gatherings, to shutting-down the pueblo, but you can be assured of a few things, they will be loud, they will have banda music, there will be mountains of tamales, mole, and tacos, and there will be many people drinking. Elder Lopez and I were walking to an appointment Saturday night and were about 30 feet away from a group of 30 men that were drinking in the street. I think right when I said "Oh no..." WHAMMM. One of them got angry and took out his anger by literally breaking a bottle of beer on the head of one of his friends. Fists and drinks started flying and Elder Lopez and I just looked at each other, turned around, and started walking as fast as we could. Crazy.
I know that Jesus Christ lives. I have spent a lot of time reflecting on what his life means to me during the course of my mission. I have learned what it means to let go of what we think we need or want and trust in the power of the Atonement to change us. I have seen those changes. I testify that the Atonement is real. Christ truly did give himself for every single one of us. He took it upon himself to provide the means so that we could experience joy, redemption, forgiveness, and eternal life. He did it to make us more worthy, more pure, more tried, more proven, and just better. Trusting that these changes will come with faith and hope is not always easy. It requires a constant, diligent surrendering of ourselves to God. And an inward confidence that helps us know that we are more powerful when we humble ourselves by the side of our beds and lay everything down at the feet of our Heavenly Father and Savior in prayer. I am so grateful for the opportunity that I have to be a witness of these things. To help people understand that lives can change, wounds can be bound up and healed, sins can be forgiven, help is always near, and that they are loved, cherished, sought after, and pleaded for by a loving Heavenly Father and Savior.

I have faith in those things. I believe those things. I am constantly striving to put my life in line with that of the Savior. I love when we teach people and they tell us that they feel different when we enter their homes. I love this gospel. It changes lives. We were teaching Lupita (our investigator with the really sick daughter that suffered a heart attack) and she is an example to me of someone with amazingly great faith. She believes that God is with her. She accepted the message of the Restoration and told us that she believes that God has been preparing her to accept this message. She accepted a date to be baptized. Those moments, when people say "Yes!", when people say that they are ready to change and start anew make me so happy. We can all change. We can all be different. We can all be healed. We just need to trust a little more. Love and serve others a little more. Be content and peaceful with what we have been given. Be obedient. And then watch and wait for those miracles.
I love you all very much. I am learning and growing and striving to be content every single day. I love the people I serve.

Elder Nielsen

Monday, August 5, 2013

Hello Family and Friends!
This week has been very important for me. Elder Lopez and I worked so hard and gave it our all. We came back looking and feeling like zombies because we were so tired but it was so worth it!

Impressions of Mexico (forgive me if I begin to repeat, I have been here for a while you know)!
1) It is really common to find young men with squirt bottles and rags at every major intersection in Cuautla. They anxiously await for the signal, and if you say yes, they literally swan-dive on top of your car and clean your windows in 4.5 seconds. You should see it sometime. Truly amazing.

2) The equivalent of 7-Eleven in Mexico is called OXXO. There is literally an OXXO on every street corner and they are amazing for one reason. They have AC. And the AC is turned up to full-blast. So you can imagine what we sometimes do when it is literally 100 degrees and we have been walking for a long time...and then happen to pass an OXXO....

3) People here think that when you have the hicupps that someone that loves you is thinking about you.

4) We taught a lesson this week in a cement bathroom, outside of the house, on the side of a hill.

5) In Mexico every single person has two last names. They inherit the first last name of both their father and mother. For example if my father is Kurt Nielsen Wolsey and my mother is Mary Synold Holman, my name in Mexico would be Jacob Nielsen Synold. Everyone is shocked to find out that I only have one last name!
I had a really powerful experience this week that I want to share. We received a reference from a less-active sister in the branch named Wendy to go and visit her friend named Guadalupe. When we went to visit her, and I saw her situation, I literally got so emotional. Guadalupe is a single mother with two little girls, the youngest is named Noemi. Noemi is four years old and recently had a severe heart-attack that left her in a vegetative state. When we walked in, we saw them living in a small  room, and we saw the little girl lying on her back in the only bed they have. She had tubes leading into her throat and stomach and it was so hot (the roof was made of pure metal). Guadalupe sells clothes in order to make enough money for the treatments and special diet of her little girl. The first time we visited her she broke down into tears and told us that she still has faith that God can heal her child. That she has already been making improvements and is beginning to see a little and feel little things like flies landing on her feet, etc. We taught her the Atonement and then set an appointment at 12:00 pm to return the next day with the Relief Society President. That night, the sister missionaries called us and told us that there was a sister in the ward that wanted us to give a blessing and if we could go with them at 10:30 am the next day to give the blessing. Turns out that the sister in the ward took us to Guadalupe. When we arrived she was about to leave with her daughter to go the hospital because she had been vomiting, convulsing, and had not slept the entire night.

This next part is very important to me, and something that I will never forget. We were able to sit by the side of that little girl and give her a blessing of health with consecrated oil. I literally felt so much love for both the mother and the child. I felt something different during the blessing, I felt that God was literally working through Elder Lopez and I to bless this child. Immediately after the blessing, the little girl calmed down, she stopped crying and convulsing, and immediately started to sleep peacefully. Had we arrived at 12:00 pm that day, we would have been too late.
My testimony has been strengthened even more. The power of the priesthood is real. How grateful I am that God gives me the opportunity to bless others and serve others. That he brings us directly to those that need our help. How grateful I am that my mission has also taught me to love and minister unto others and to give all of myself in their service. Even thinking about it makes me a little emotional. Sometimes we do not think that we are growing or progressing as fast as we would like, then God gives us opportunities to see that we have, and that the growth will continue.

We are starting to see growth again in the branch. We have found new families to teach and we continue to try and strengthen and reactivate the less-actives and new converts!
I know that Christ lives. This life is just a small little blimp in the eternities. The choices we make truly have eternal consequences. So I think that we all need to focus a little more on eternal things. Christ rose from the tomb and because he did, we will all be resurrected. We will all be with those we love again. The Atonement is real. It is so real. I can feel the hand of God changing me day by day and helping me become a new creature in Christ. I will forever be grateful for the people I have met, blessed, served, and taught while serving as a missionary in the restored church of Jesus Christ.

Elder Nielsen