Monday, May 26, 2014

Hello Family and Friends!

We have two areas in our zone. One is called Cumbres. And the other is called Cima. I want you to Google translate those two words to find out what they mean in English. Then you will come to a realization of how the terrain is here in Acapulco.

Impressions of Mexico!

1) Well I guess this first one is sort of an impression/funny story. So, we were on divisions this week with an area in our zone. I ended up staying in my area with an Elder that is in his first change. We were walking back towards our house at the end of the day and started getting close to a street corner, on the which we saw three of the largest pitbulls that I have ever seen in my life. We could see clearly that two of them were tied and innocently assumed that the third was tied as well. As we got closer, well, I guess the third pitbull got scared and....the chase began! I got out of the way and he kept chasing my companion about half way down the street. Yes, after almost 23 months in the field I got chased by my first street dog in Mexico!

2) There is a part of our zone that's not located on the coast of Acapulco and the areas are called Renacimiento and Zapata. Well, the form of public transport in this part of Acapulco are pick-up trucks. The back of the pick-up truck has a covering like the wagons did in the old west and they just put two wooden benches on both sides of the back of the truck. They get pretty full so people that don't get a seat just sort of hang off the back. HELLO PEOPLE.

Well, this week was honestly super difficult. It was just one of those weeks when it seems like everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. I had a few weak moments but tried to remain positive, faithful, and hopeful for most of the week. But I learned a lot from this week. It was just another testimony to me that God expects our loyalty and faith in both the good and bad. In both the sunshine and rain. To keep studying the scriptures with faith and real intent. To keep praying with faith and real intent. And to keep serving others. I just remember on Saturday night being SO ready to go to church and take the sacrament. Taking the sacrament every Sunday has really become something sacred to me. My mission president has really prompted us repeatedly to gain our own testimonies about the importance of taking the sacrament and church attendance. During the sacrament I feel so much peace. It is a moment that I can just think about my Savior. Think about his Atonement. And remember the great things that he has done for me in my life. I commit to changing. When I take the sacrament in this way, church becomes a sacred experience for me every Sunday. I leave with energy, peace, and hope.

Well, that's the way I left church yesterday. Right after the services we felt inspired to visit a referral that we had received from a less-active member but that we hadn't been able to get into contact with. When we got up to her house she was outside washing dishes. We asked her if we could share a message with her about the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. She said yes. She (Edith) lives in very humble conditions and told us that she didn't have chairs to offer us so we taught the lesson in front of her house standing up. But it was so spiritual. We taught her the restoration and she easily accepted a baptismal date. At the end of the lesson we invited her to say the closing prayer. She started to say it and burst into tears. She just said that she felt so much peace and relief. We let her know that it was the Spirit teaching her that this message is true and will bless her life. God blessed us with the opportunity to find many more new investigators after church and they all accepted the challenge to be baptized.

After a week of so much trial, it was such a sweet blessing that we received yesterday. I actually started tearing up as Edith said her closing prayer. I just felt so grateful for the mercy of God. He loves his children so much. This work isn't about me. It's about God reaching out to his children through his Spirit and guiding his missionaries to where they need to be. I'm so grateful for a loving Father in Heaven that knows me personally, intimately, and deeply. I'm so grateful that he answers prayers in the moment when his children need it. I'm so grateful for growth and change. I love this gospel.

I love you all!

Elder Nielsen

Monday, May 12, 2014

Hello Family and Friends!

So, the apartment where we live is literally in the middle of a steep hill. In order to arrive at our house we must climb, (I counted them), 134 stairs. Sometimes multiple times every single day. That, in addition to the steep hills. And the humidity. Needless to say, I end every day drenched in sweat (sorry if that's gross...but it's true). Oh yeah, our house has water problems a lot so we usually shower with a hose like 2-3 days a week. I prefer it to showering with buckets (done that too). Just a random stream of thought right now. But I'm really loving Acapulco!

Impressions of Mexico!

1) So you know how on some buildings if they don't want people jumping the walls or climbing up the gates that they will put some type of barbed wire or spikes on top of the wall or gate? Well, in Mexico they use broken glass bottles! Like literally they just break beer and soda bottles in half and place the part with the jagged edges upward to try to ward off anyone that tries to break into their homes.

2) Acapulco is full of mango trees. And I guess right now mangos are in season. It's actually pretty dangerous because you'll just be walking down the streets and mangos will just be literally falling from the trees. Some have almost hit me in the head. They are all over the ground as well. Needless to say, the members have been offering us A LOT of mangos lately.

3) I mentioned this before but just to remind you, usually when we eat with members they make us water by blending some type of fruit and putting its juice and pulp in water. The only not so good part is that a lot of Mexicans do not like to add sugar to the water. They hate it actually. So it gets pretty bitter sometimes. And sometimes they don't blend the fruit really well so it's just like water with fruit chunks.

4) I ate pansita this week. Cow stomach that is. It looks like and smells like a cow's stomach I might add. She put it in this super spicy broth and gave us tortillas and Coke and white rice and beans. It was...interesting. It just tastes like your eating animal fat.

A lot of impressions this week. Mexico never ceases to amaze me. I truly love it here. I'm really going to miss a lot of aspects of the culture. I think one of the things that I'm going to miss the most is how loving the Mexican people really are. When they truly love someone they would give almost anything for that person. They are such a giving people and show their love to others through their actions. They just make you feel good as well. They make me laugh a lot. At the beginning of my mission it was so hard for me to love them. I mean, I didn't understand what they were saying to start off with and everything just seemed completely foreign to me. But now as the time has passed and my mission starts to come to a close I realize how my feelings have dramatically changed. I love the Mexican people. And I'm going to miss them a lot. These people will always have a very special place in my heart.

I think one of the most difficult things for missionaries sometimes is seeing people have spiritual experiences and even after all they have seen and felt, that they still just aren't ready to move forward. We had something happen like that this week. There's a man here that got baptized in December but never returned to church to get confirmed. We had a lesson with him and the 1st counselor of the ward Monday night in the chapel. I felt the Spirit so strongly. We testified to him of the power of the Holy Ghost and the importance of receiving that gift. He even cried and said that the message had touched his heart. He committed to come to church on Sunday to be confirmed....and then didn't show up. The Spirit can only touch our hearts. It can only testify of truth and help us feel God's love. But it can't force us to make correct choices. But even if the person does or doesn't make the right choice, we can know that we did our best and our duty if the Spirit is there.

I love the Holy Ghost. Being a missionary has taught me the stark difference between living with and without the influence of the Holy Ghost. Literally I just feel weak and ineffectual without him. He makes up all the difference. He is the true power behind conversion. We're just mouthpieces as missionaries.

I'm very happy right now. I feel peaceful. I'm really content with my mission. It's been such a hard experience but so worth it in every way. I can't imagine how my life would have been without it. I know that Christ lives. His Atonement is real. Just decide to repent and decide to change and you will know what I mean. It brings such joy. 

I love you all very much.

Elder Nielsen

Monday, May 5, 2014

Hello Family and Friends!

Week one in Acapulco completed! I absolutely love it here. It's so different from any other area that I've been in before. I feel like the Lord has prepared a lot of special experiences for me here. I feel very energized and very happy!

Impressions of Mexico!

1) So, people from Acapulco and the coast have a very distinct look to them. I mean not everyone is the same, but generally the people here have darker skin, but like...really dark, and a lot of them have curly hair. Their accent is also completely different. They talk very quickly and slur their words. I love it!

2) The main street that runs along the coast of Acapulco is called La Costera. It's very Americanized with really clean, well-kept streets, hotels, restaurants, movie theaters, stores, etc. I think it's so funny because if you literally walk from the Costera up into the actual city of Acapulco the entire vibe completely changes in an instant. It turns immediately into a normal Mexican city.

3) The buses that go up and down the Costera are literally insane. At night the people that usually drive them are young men and they literally have black lights and music blasting so high that you can't hear what the person sitting next to you is saying.

We are basically starting off from ground zero here in Costa Azul in terms of investigators but I am very excited to work here. It's the first time that I've served in a ward since January of 2013! I had gotten used to seeing like 30 people in church on Sundays so when I showed up this last Sunday and saw like more than 150 people I was shocked. The ward is really excited to work with us!

It's hard describing how I feel always. It's weird for me to see how quickly time passes by. It's exciting for me to see me face situations that would have given me anxiety, fear, and anger before and watch me face them with faith, peace, and hope now. I fully believe that our lives could change so dramatically if we would just let them change. We had to go to Cuernavaca this week for a leadership conference (it's like a 4 hour bus ride from Acapulco) and on the way back I just started thinking and meditating. I was reading in the first page of Preach My Gospel about the love that God has for each and every one of his children. In my minds eye I could see how sad he must get, as our loving father, when we make incorrect decisions and sin. But I also saw in my mind's eye the joy he feels when his children turn towards him, repent, and begin making correct decisions. I love my Father in Heaven.

I'm so grateful for the time that God has given me to serve as a missionary. I love my Heavenly Father. I know that if we pray and then listen for an answer, that God will always direct us towards the decision we need to make or help us feel what we need to feel in order to progress and change. I know that this church is his church. The Book of Mormon is true. Its witness and testimony of Jesus Christ, his gospel, and his Atonement is so powerful and has changed my life. I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet and that Thomas S. Monson is the Lord's prophet here on earth. These simple truths sustain me and I'm so happy that my mission has taught me to declare them with simplicity and on a daily basis.

I love you all so very much.

Elder Nielsen