Monday, November 4, 2013

Hello Family and Friends!

Well, another week has come and gone here in México. Time is starting to pass by really quickly now. I'm not sure how I feel about that...Just to paint a mental picture for you all. I am in the town square of Iguala. There is banda music (the Mexican form of country music in the United States) blasting outside of the internet café that I am in. I'm looking at a tree right now that literally has 10 squirrels jumping from branch to branch. It smells strongly of enchiladas, it's November and it is hotter than California in the dead of August right now, and there is a monster Cathedral painted neon orange that was playing Ave María from the belltower a few minutes ago. I love México very, very much.

(More) Impressions of México!

1) So the Day of the Dead was this week. They celebrate it every 2nd of November, and as far as I know, México is the only country that celebrates it. It is actually so unique. People literally loaded into the back of pick-up trucks in droves to go out to the cemetary of Altamirano. It is traditional to carry flowers (the two principle colors were red and yellow) and things that the deceased person loved (a favorite food, game, drink, etc.) and to spend the entire day at the gravesite.

2) Mexicans do not speak Spanish. They speak "Mexican". Like, a lot of people have asked my companion if they also speak, "Mexican" in Argentina. HELLO PEOPLE.

3) Every once in a while, members, who want us to try things that we would not normally try if we knew what it was beforehand, just put it on the plate without saying anything. After said item is consumed, they proceed to ask how it tasted, if we liked it, etc. That happened this week. They gave us meat that tasted like chicken, just a little tougher, but that had tiny, weirdly shaped bones. Missionaries know how to recognize a chicken when they eat it (most-commonly eaten meat), and I knew that what we were eating was not chicken but did not say anything. Turns out...they fed us Iguana...

We found out this week, that this next transfer we will be taken out of the branch of Altamirano and moved even farther away from Iguala to a branch in Michoácan named Huetamo. It is about 5 and a half hours away from Iguala and you need two buses to make it there. We are still going to be traveling to Altamirano once in a while to help out the branch president, but it just was not very effective for us to be there as full-time missionaries. So, in a week, Elder Millan and I will be opening up our third area together as a companionship! 

This change has been difficult for me. There have been a lot of changes, opposition, challenges, and bumps in the road. Doing simple things have helped sustain me.

1) Praying. But truly praying. I have started to truly learn that prayer is a literal conversation. Sometimes we just need to be quiet, be still, like the scriptures say, and listen. Pay attention to the images and feelings that God puts into our hearts through the Spirit, and let him teach us. Prayer has given me a lot of peace. When I pray with real intent, I am able to be taught and instructed from on high. I can come to understand the "Why" of things. I feel closer to my Father and my Savior. True prayer has sustained me.

2) Reading the Scriptures. I trust in the promise that is found in 2 Nephi 32. Feast upon the words of Christ, for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things that you should do. During my scripture study I both learn and also become more intuned with the Spirit. Reading favorite passages literally gives me more physical and spiritual energy. Thinking about my testimony of the Book of Mormon makes me excited to preach the gospel. The words found in the scriptures have given me direction, caused me to meditate and ponder, have been the catalyst for much needed changes, and have healed some of the wounds that I have had for a long time. The scriptures have sustained me.

3) Serving others. This is perhaps the biggest lesson I have learned as a missionary. When I strive to serve and love others and forget about myself, I truly feel closer to my Father. In some of the darkest moments in my mission, I have realized that my Father in Heaven has given me significant opportunities to serve that have lifted me and taught me truly how much he loves his children. I have grown to love the Mexican people and those that I have served and taught. I know God will always be with and support in unimaginable ways his children that strive earnestly to help, uplift, love, and serve his other children. Serving others has sustained me.

My testimony has sustained me as well. I have come to realize that my testimony is simple. But it continues to grow as I continue to comprehend the Gospel of Jesus Christ and serve God's children. He lives. God lives. Jesus is the Christ. I know that healing is to be found through his Atonement. His grace and mercy are sufficient to bind up the deepest wounds that we have received. I have felt his love penetrate me and others. I know he was resurrected. That life continues on and that one day, we will be with those we love if we prove to be faithful here on this earth. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-days Saints is the Church of Christ on this Earth. The Book of Mormon is true. I invite you all to improve your relationship with the Savior. When we realize how much we need a Savior, we will begin to change and become more like him in word, deed, and thought. I know that God loves us deeply and eternally and that we are eternal. I will praise forever the name of my God for the opportunity to be a missionary, and for the opportunity to serve his sons and daughters in Mexico.

I love you all very much.

Elder Nielsen

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