Monday, October 21, 2013

Hello Family and Friends!

So today has been strange. Every Sunday we have to take the four hour bus ride from Altamirano to Iguala because we have to attend the district meeting here in Iguala on Monday. Today I decided to go visit my old stomping-grounds in my first ward where I was trained, Los Tamarindos. I am currently sitting in the internet café that I always used to go to with my trainer Elder Miguel, we already saw my old apartment, and later on today we are going to visit some of the members that I love very much and my converts here in Iguala! Weird. But I am enjoying it very much. I cannot believe that it has been a year since I have been here.

Impressions of Mexico!

1) It is customary here in Mexico to eat the entire chicken. Like, they waste nothing. One time they gave me an interesting-shaped piece of the chicken while eating with the members and I started picking away at the meat...only to realize later....that they had given me the part of his head, surrounded by meat. I realized this as I started picking at his brain. They also enjoy eating chicken feet here.

2) The members in Mexico are so humble. Sometimes we enter homes of members where all the members of the family literally live in one, tiny room. And yet, they so happily feed us and give us the best they have to offer. I love them very much.

3) Members that have cars here change their cars so often. Like they buy a car. Get tired of that car after like a month, and then sell the car so that they can buy another car. And a lot of the cars are so funny. They just will not let them die. There are cars from the 70s or 80s that do not have the floor in some parts, windows, some of the doors do not open, etc. but they continue using them until the bitter end.

So, I just wanted to tell you all a funny story first (well, at least funny for me). Sometimes when things are difficult in my area I specifically ask Heavenly Father to let something really funny happen the next day that will make me laugh. Well, Saturday night I asked him for that, and he answered my prayer on Sunday. So, the bus ride from Altamirano to Iguala has a lot of curves. The roads are SUPER-windy and the bus driver drives very quickly. My companion, Elder Millan, suffers from car-sickness (I think you all know where this is going). About 2 hours into the bus ride my companion looks at me and says, "If I get up and go to the bathroom, it means that I am going to barf." About 5 minutes later, he gets up and goes to the bathroom. He said that after he drained the toilet, a HORRIBLE smell shot up in his face, and then subsequently into the entire air-conditioning system of the bus. The people sitting next to the bathroom got up, gagging, and said that they would rather stand up the entire bus ride than sit next to the bathroom. THEN, the bus pulled over and a representative from the bus company had to examine the bathroom. THEN, everyone that had perfume or cologne started spraying it in the air. I was literally dying from laughter.

This week has been very long but very wonderful as well. It is hard being a counselor in a branch. The Branch President, President Montúfar, has been a member for about 2 years. He desires greatly for the church to grow, but lacks a lot of experience and gospel knowledge. My job is basically to guide him along and counsel him on the decisions he should make and what he should do to help the church grow and fortify the members. My companion is in charge of all finances, records, etc. Basically the job of a ward clerk. We work so hard and come home exhausted every single day. To be honest, we have not seen a ton of results or success yet, but we are confident that God is with us and that he is guiding us towards the people that need to hear our message and towards future leaders in the branch.

One of the fights that I have always faced as a missionary is the fight to have more faith and hope. I know that God lives and that Christ is his son and that this church is true, but so often I find myself turning to myself and depending on my own strength and intellect to solve problems that arise. It has definitely been a process of taking the knowledge and testimony that I have gained and turning it into real action and living it every single day. It is that process, I think, of literally turning ourselves, physically and spiritually, towards our Heavenly Father in every moment of our lives that really tests us each and every day. One day, about 2 years ago as I was walking home from a class at BYU a scripture popped into my mind and I felt that it would be an integral scipture for me during my service as a missionary. "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest, take my yoke upon you and learn of me for I am meek and lowly in heart. For my yoke is easy and my burden it light." I think that scripture was meant just as much for me as for any person that I have taught. There is so much peace and rest to be found when we put our faith and trust in the Savior. We act. We repent. We love every child of God we meet. We strive to literally be like him in all that we do. Because his path, in the long-run, brings so much greater joy and peace than our personal agenda, goals, desires, etc. I have been praying for more faith and have seen it developing. But I can always trust more. I think the moment comes for all of us, that humbling moment, when we realize that all we are, everything that we have achieved, and everything that we will yet achieve is completely reliant on the grace and mercy of the Savior and through obedience to the commandments and ordinances of the gospel. I think that in this moment, that beautiful moment, when we kneel down and recognize how much love the Savior has for us is when the gospel really clicks for us. And we also realize how much loving and trusting in him lightens our burdens and makes life not only bearable, but enjoyable, fulfilling, and worth every moment.

Full and complete trust. Faith and hope. I continue to strive to learn and grow in these areas. I know God lives. Jesus is the Christ. He is our Savior. Our Friend. It is through him that peace comes and remains. It is through him that complete repentance and forgiveness comes. It is through him that we can once again become pure, white, clean, and completely worthy to enter the Kingdom of God. I feel his love for me and for his children that surround me. That makes me love them even more. Do not be afraid to change. Change is necessary and so worth it.

Elder Nielsen

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