Monday, December 31, 2012

Hey there family!
Well it was good to hear from you once again, it feels like we never even got to talk!  But it sounds like you had a good Christmas and that you all were able to enjoy a good time and keep up the good skiin traditions and'll have to pass along a little hello to Troy for me.  It was was good to talk to all of you and see each of you, your all a lil different and things but your all the exact same.  I woulda thought that I was talkin to you from the sweet dorm room out in Virginia.  Crazy how fast time is flyin by.  I can't believe it.  And that 40 minutes was way too fast, but I agree with ya dad, it was good to have us all together. It sounds like things are goin well back at home. I appreciated your testimony about goin to church momma and it sounds like the ward back home is doin well.  You'll have to tell everybody hi.  That is cool that Janet and Brother Mcgill got my letter and I can't remember if I told you that we wrote Tyler a letter, but it turns out that Elder Broekhuijsen and I had a common friend, so we thought that would have been funny to send him.  And that is a sweet lookin structure with the temple being put together, that sounds like a fun thing to watch there at work dad.  Pretty cool stuff.  Let's just transport that on over to samara here! 
As far as the week goes, mine has got to be up there with probably the most crazy of my mission weeks.  we had a lot of way good things happen and just a lot goin on.  So after we talked on Tuesday, we had the next day on Wedensday getting all in for zone conference and for interviews.  That made for a good day of makin sure people were getting in on time and everything to make sure that all had time to interview with president.  He is such a good guy to take the time and interview with everybody.  We then had the big conference the next day here in samara!  it was a really good day and I learned a lot, besides the fact that the two dummies that had to order food (me and Elder Taylor) somehow undercounted and sent us sprinting out the door into the falling snow once lunch started to go find something for a couple of missionaries that we had missed.  Ya baby.  It then came time to get a couple of missionaries out the door, and so we had to step out and order them a taxi.  there is really sparatic traffic and things here especially with snow, and russian customer service doesn't exactly get five stars, so with that we went to get them a taxi and all taxi services and any friend taxi drivers we have here would say "no we're not taking orders" or "we don't have anybody going to that area".  So we got to spend the last couple of hours gettin that figured out, but hey people made their trains and it was a good conference.  Phew.  The next day we had a guy come meet us here in the office that had called up Elder Taylor and had been reading the Book of Mormon.  Turns out, he's read pretty much the whole book and was pretty down for everything.  He showed up to church yesterday and after the meeting we finished up the restoration and set a baptismal date with him!  Sweet!  Heavenly Father is lookin out for us.  But after that meeting on Friday we ran out and went to catch a train down to Saratov.  We made it and rolled on down to Saratov.  The trains are definitely going to be a good memory for a long time.  It was so darn fun to come rolling into Saratov as well, I haven't been back to a place I've served before and that was so fun.  I felt like I was comin back home.  We got in about midnight and then got up for round two of zone conference in Saratov.  This one went a lot smoother and required a lot less logistics.  and we were back in the ol Zavodskoy branch which made it even better.  After the conference, we did a lil clean up and then I got to call my old buddy Sergei!  He's doin good but his buddy Ivan, not so much.  It  turns out that just his last week the police from another city called up Sergei and wanted Ivan.  He had done some crime in that city and basically ran outta there and has been basically not being honest to anybody.  so, they came and picked him up from that member's house and took him to da clank.  That was a little bit of a bummer to hear.  But, it sounds like Sergei is doin well and actually progressing to baptism.  Elder Taylor and I actually had some time to run by and drop by that member's house- Sergei's "mom" Galina.  It was so good to see her and we just talked for a bit and prayed with her.  It was really cool I love that place so darn much.  We then ran outta there to catch our train back home to samara to get up and go to church and have a good day yesterday!  Ya baby.  So if you were wondering, that's what happened this week.
Well I sure love you all and again had such a good time seeing you all.  It definitely motivates me to be a little bit better seeing what we can give somebody else.  Have a good week and we will see you next week!
Elder Nielson

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Our Family All Together Again...Merry Christmas!

This is what we got to see when we answered the call.  A real live Russian fur hat staring at us
The time went by so quickly...a full 40 minutes!
Great family picture of all the kids together

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Hey there and Merry Christmas Family!

Good day to you all I hope you all had a good week and I got some fun's always a treat to hear from all of you. We've had a way good week hear, and it will only get better tomorrow! Woo! We're all geared up for the big skype home. So I'm planning on 8:00 p.m. our time which is 9:00 your time is what I've heard....I guess we have a 11 hour time difference. You might want to check my sources on my time zones. but it'll be a party!
But for the most part it sounds like things are going along well there at the ranch and that you all got your big Christmas parties going on and everything. Your havin’ all the neighbors over for a party? Wow look at you go there! And thanks for the fun Siberian cabin looks like you had some successful gingerbread house making. Good work I'm glad your all havin’ a good time.
Well as far as these parts go, it's definitely been a different week of missionary work than I'm used to. We had to spend a good amount of the week down here in the office preparing for zone conferences and getting schedules put together for visa trips and all that good stuff. It's pretty fun, a lot of the staff here are just local church members and they are super fun to work around with. It's fun because there are a couple members from the old branch I served in on the other side of the city and the other half are here in the branch I am in now with the branch president. We have had a party with all of them. Today we just came down actually to write and polish off a couple things for getting trains and stuff coming in and they had a whole Christmas party put together with the whole office staff and President and Sister Sartori so I just got my writing interrupted by going and eating all this pork and fish and chicken that they grilled up outside on this little sishcabob thing. It was our own homemade Tucano's! I had to turn my little light over to red...I'm about to explode right now. I took a picture and we have some good ones from the week, but I forgot to bring my cord so week will be some fun ones. :) We also have been able to work a little closer with President Sartori and it has been really fun to be around him, I think we're actually skyping from their place tomorrow, so hopefully you'll get to meet them! Have my parents meet my other parents.

Other than that, we had time to get a couple lessons in and were able to go meet with this girl that we had found knocking named Yolandia after some play. She was so cool but we didn't find another man so we sat out in the stair well of her apartment and she sat inside and we taught her. Haha pretty funny, but she was pretty into it so we are super excited to meet with her. We also have a few others and an investigator that was already here working for baptism, so we are going to be having some great stuff going on in this area! Man it's so fun. We also had a big Christmas activity on Saturday at our branch combined with the other branch here in Samara...they put on a show for us and let me tell ya...I was not in Kansas anymore Toto. There is definitely a different taste for entertainment around here and they were doing some musical thing that was so darn funny, but they all love it. One of the songs was President Bogdanov in the mission presidency singing "we love boogy woogy". It was so darn funny with his thick Russian accent just belting out "Boogy Voogy!" We were dyin’. Church was also a good time, it's really fun to be in this branch because I have come down a couple times for different activities that I already knew some of the members so church was really fun yesterday and it didn't require much adjustment. So it's just been a really good week this week despite the cold and with a lot of new things going on.
As I said, I don't really know exact temperatures and things, but all I know is that it is so darn cold here. Its pretty fun. Luckily I have my fur enveloping my head, so I don't have too much to worry about. :) Just thought you would like that report.

Well besides that, I am super lookin’ forward to seein’ you all tomorrow! I've definitely had my time to think about a lot of things over the past week with it being Christmas and the unbelievable fact that I've been gone a year. There's definitely not much more to do than just keep on doing whatever the Lord expects of us, so that is the goal for the next year. That's something I've learned a lot of on my mission, and then it is amazing the changes that have taken place in my life as I have tried to simply do my best for Him. There are a lot of things in life I will do a lot better as a result of my mission. I hope that this continues for the second half of my adventure and I sure can't wait for it cause I can control that. I have loved my mission so much.
Have a good time today and we will see you tomorrow!

Elder Nielson


Monday, November 19, 2012

Hi Family!

I don't know if you remember me, but this is your son in Russia. Oh my gosh I'm so sorry it has been such a mess of Russian governmental post offices and exchanges that have made a little bit of a mess in writing home. I am super sorry about that, and as you can imagine it's not a missionary's favorite thing to not hear from home. Although I might not give the best replies sometimes, keep the email's coming because that is always an uplift and fun to hear. Even if it is a tough time, I just like to hear your thoughts. With email and stuff, it doesn't seem that I am very far away from home. Thanks for your letters this week. It is fun to hear about all that is going on. So thanks. It is funny to listen and think about the things that you face and realize how they aren't a ton more different than the things we face as missionaries, it just seems that our highs and lows are closer together and so you get over things fast. And you have no choice. There is so much to learn as a missionary and I love it.

The last week has been a blur, and things are definitely not slowing down. Due to the fact that we have this cycle as 5 weeks, we are cramming everything that we usually do in 6 weeks into 5. This coming week I'll be doing some travelling with you, we're getting on a train tonight to a city called Penza to work tomorrow and Wednesday and Thursday with the 4 elders and 2 sisters there. We are so excited to get there and just floor the place to the ground. Things have been slow there and to be honest the only solution is to go in and destroy it and get the faith up. I'm so excited. Maybe we'll all do the pay day chant together or something. We will then go to a city called Orenburg next week and then have exchanges with the other district leaders in Samara here, it'll be so good.
I don't know if I was down, but mom I think you mentioned that I seem to be a little bit more up now. I don't know if I am better or worse, but we have been pushing to simply give 100%. It seems that through the mission here, people are just down and we keep looking for some solution to help people get up. But, what I and my companion have been learning lately has been something that will stick to me the rest of my life. First, there must be faith. We can't do anything or expect Heavenly Father to do anything if we don't have faith and simply read pray and go to church. Not only does faith give us hope, but it is confidence in the Lord, which gives us confidence in ourselves. I've been trying to figure out how to be myself doing the whole zone leader thing, and have learned that when we are confident in the Lord, we have real confidence in ourselves. I think a lot of people could use that. We also have to start thinking about other people. I have learned that any hard time that I have had on my mission and when I have had low energy, it is because I am simply thinking about myself. It is crazy how the second we begin to think about other people that we are given power to do anything. When I start to get tired or if I am down, I just think about somebody- an investigator or a struggling missionary- and I get to work. This is what I have learned to be real charity. I can't say I've mastered it, but I have seen how that has changed my missionary work and I don't see how faith and charity wouldn't bless our personal lives. There are a lot of things I hope to never forget.

We continue to work with Natasha and Masha, I have some pictures but don't have the ability to send right now so remind me next week. They are so rad- me and the ol’ companion Elder Taylor went and taught them tithing and it was so awesome. First time I've ever taught that- crazy huh? But they are so great and the husband in Moscow is basically indifferent to the whole situation. Don't know about the relationship there. But hey it'll be good. We had also met this other Natasha girl on a bus stop the morning that Brother Galloway came out here. She is also so awesome- she's 18 and just wants to do what God wants her to do. She will get baptized, I don't doubt that. Unfortunately we just lost her because we split our areas for a new companionship here and they will teach her. But hey, she'll get baptized. That makes me feel good. We are working with various other people, but due to the area split, we are doing some rebuilding here, which is totally cool. I love the contacting- that's where you see the most miracles. And it's fun. Man I wish I could write more and tell more stories, but the timer just popped up. Ah!

I sure love you all and can feel your support and think of you often- without getting distracted of course. I sometimes wonder what you would think if you saw some of the funny stuff and some kid tryin’ to speak Russian here. It's so awesome. Love you all, have a good week and see you next week!

Elder Nielson

Monday, November 12, 2012

Another week...and no email.  Ugh! We received an email from the mission office saying Elder Nielson couldn't find an open internet cafe.  He was going to try later in the week.  It was also reported that they had made some soup that he liked so much that he was going to make a big pot of it at his apartment...said it reminded him of home.  Ahhh!  In the meantime, enjoy this picture we received from the mission home of the last zone conference held on November 1st.  Elder Nielson looks giddy!  We know he is loving every part of his mission!  Until next week...

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

No email this week from Elder Nielson...Booo!  There is apparently a Russian holiday and all offices and businesses are closed so he was unable to email.  Here are some great pictures though, from our friend Rob Galloway who was able to visit Chris in Samara with permission from Chris' mission president.  Apparently these two Elders, Elder Nielson and Elder Broekhuijsen are quite a dynamic pair.  I couldn't get over how clean their apartment is!  Enjoy!  
 Samara Airport
 Chris says hello to his old Young Men's leader
 Elder Nielson looking daper in his hat.
 Fellow Lone Peak Knight, Elder Broekhuijsen
 Wow...super tidy!

Love the peptobismol wall color!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Men at Work

Well hey there fam!
Well it sure doesn't seem like your too far away at all after a surprise visit from good ol Bro/ Bishop Galloway.  Man that was so crazy.  Things are goin so good, and it's just been a solid week of poundin the pavement around here.  Thanks for the fun letters, and especially the fun package.  I'll try my best to keep the wrapped stuff till Christmas...that is my year mark!  What the heck!  I’ve only been out a couple months...I promise.  Crazy how time is goin by.  I will be sure to eat some ramen and pancakes and everything with you in mind.  I'm already excited. I still can't really get over that he (bro Galloway) was able to come out here.  I sure gave him the full experience.  We have a taxi friend named Oleg that I called to go get him.  I could hear him trying to find "roob"  and asking Bro Galloway on the other side of the phone what his name was and Bro Galloway just sayin "What?"  It was so funny, we were cracking up on the other side of the line.  But hey, sounds like he is still alive and my broken Russian got him around enough.  What a good guy.  I hope I didn't disappoint, President Sartori had called me and told me about it, but i didn't know that he had lunch or something in mind.  Anyways, it was a really fun little adventure and I am glad he gave you a good report.  And glad you got to see me in my Sergei get up.  haha I think I'm too proud of that. He reported well though, we do have a great place here and are having a very good time.  And yes, I am very happy.
 As far as things go, we are continuing to meet with this Natasha lady and her daughter Masha.  The one that thought we were beautiful.  I gotta give you an impression of the way she talks, so dramatic.  i think of dad everytime acting like his spanish friends.  Anyways, she is progressing very well and we are going to go over tonight to meet again.  Yay! we have had a hard time to get meetings to go through, but it's all good.  We are able to stay busy enough with things in the zone and it's fun contacting with elder Broekhuijsen (i finally learned how to spell it right, his dad is from Holland)  because he likes it as well.  it helps a lot to have a happy companion.  you will have to find his family, they live over by 6000 West in highland there.  Anyways, we have had some good times with Natasha and Masha, she is just a little hesitant on baptism because she doesn't feel worthy enough.  That is actually great because she actually understands what it means.  We are also working so that when her husband gets home from Moscow he will allow us to continue to meet with her.  There is some phobia here about "sects" goin around.  Kinda goofy, it shuts off a lot of people.  It cracks me up though because i want to know what some people are picturing we do at our sect.  Anyways we've been praying hard that his hart is softened.  anyways, at our last meeting, it came out that she had stayed up till 2 in the morning finishing the Book of Mormon and even the alphabatized section at the end.  i think the Russian versions have the bible dictionary.  That was pretty cool, we are so excited to meet with her tonight.   
As far as other things go, we have had just some great times on the streets and other people we are working with, just have a minute before i have something noteworthy.  I am glad to hear that things are going well and that everyone is happy back at the ranch.  Congrats lil tanner on passing the sacrament and getting to the temple.  That is so awesome, just keep doing that my friend.  And thanks for the world series reports.  Haha  well I sure love you all and will look forward to next weeks reports!  Love you!

Elder Nielson

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Rainy Days and Mondays...

Hey there family!
Well those were a fun couple of letters to get and hear how it's goin’ on back at the ranch.  It sounds like you were able to have an enjoyable time down at Grandma's and with everyone down in Arizona.  I like what you said mom, man we are lucky to have the gospel.  There are some things that I don't think we can describe and that's one of them. Especially in Russian.  I'm glad it went well and hope you had a good time as well.  
It is fun to hear about what is going on, here are a couple pictures of what's been going on in this neck of the woods.  The first one was from last week when we were on exchanges with the assistants.  I was with Elder Langston and we stop a guy on the street and tell him we’re here as missionaries and help people.  He said "oh really, well come with me"  and mumbled some mess of Russian that I only caught “grass” from.  He takes us back in this little nook and tells us he wants all this weed stuff cleaned outta there and then left!  There was some other guy back there pullin’ weeds but he didn't even notice us.  Man we were laughin’ so hard.  So this is my contribution to the service.  I guess we are here to serve after all.   The next one, we had to get a picture with the cherry chip cake.  This is my new Sergei cap that shields me from the elements.  I am a real Russian taxi driver now.  We did a pretty good job on the cake I must say, those mixes are tougher than they look.  Way to go on the cherry chip, you know me mama.  As far as some random stuff goes, we have had some funny eats in the last couple of weeks.  It seems like with each companion we go through phases of what we eat.  Our thing now is there is this guy that sells stuff on the sidewalk and has these 1000 kg bags of potatoes, so we got one and just make a cauldron of mashed potatoes at night while we talk to the district leaders.  It's pretty tasty, we got some stuff to make up some chili and made a large vat of that, so that on top of the potatoes it is so delicious.  And it saves us so much time for the rest of the week.  Besides that, we seem to throw down a lot of egg sandwich things.  Just throw it on bread and call it good.  My favorites though are the perojshki things here, I probably told you about that are basically a scone with mashed potatoes.  You can get them with meat or other stuff, but the potato ones are so darn good.  
 As far as the city goes, I will have to think of some fun things for next week.  For now, there is a ton of construction starting to go under way because Samara will be one of the cities elected for the Fifa (world soccer championships) to be played at.  Pretty cool!   Just might be makin’ my way on back here in 2018.  And I don't even care for soccer!  And I just realized the title of the email....I am not down….but it is a rainy day and a Monday here.  The Fall rains like crazy I hear, so we will see!
Well as far as the week goes, it's been just another one in the record books.  Elder Brookhousen is really fun to serve with, it is fun to work with someone that's just fearless as he is, and nearing the end of his mission he speaks so well.  I've been able to learn a lot.  And it's fun to be with a fellow Lone Peak Knight here, keepin’ the blood pure.  Ha, but we can share and connect on some stories and stuff.  We finally had a chance to meet with that Natasha lady earlier in the week and yesterday and she is so awesome!  She has a 10 year old daughter and her husband is getting back from business in Moscow at the end of the week.  We are praying hard that he won't be against any of it.  She just feels unworthy of baptism right now, but we are so happy to work with her.  Very exciting, and not to mention a family!  Ya baby!  She will get baptised.   I also had a chance to hear that Sergei down in Zavodskoy is progressing well towards baptism and even thinking about the mission!  Man he's such a bratan!  (russian bro)  Ha, they are funny with their slang here.  It's the good news.  We have had somewhere around 1,923 meetings fall through the past week, but it's ok.  It's made for some great times on the streets and we have found some way cool people.  It's just a matter of them choosing to accept or not. 
I am blessed to learn so much here in many different aspects of things.  I love it.  We also had a chance to do sister interviews here with a couple of the companionships.  They are so funny and people just like girls better than us goofy elders.  The whole age thing will be so interesting- I don't think that sister missionaries realize the effect that they can have.  It's exciting to hear about all the people at home thinking of going.   Also, mom and dad- the senior couples do so much here as well.  People respect and love having the seniors- not that I'm considering you senior people...yet- but they can also do many things that we can't do- and there is so much to be done.  Just sayin’.  :)
Well things are just good on the good ol' mission.  I am so blessed and happy every day that I can be here.  It doesn't go without the downs, but those are drowned out.  I don't wanna sugar coat it too much.  But what a blessing we have to take part in the work that our Heavenly Father needs done on the earth.  I sure love you all and hope all is good.  Look forward to next week!  
Elder Nielson

Monday, October 15, 2012

Well good day to all!

Man those letters were so fun to get from everybody! I sure wish I could reply back to each of you, the keyboard is super sticky at this internet cafe so I type really slow! But thanks for all the birthday wishes, I just had my own little party. We had a great day on Saturday being able to watch conference and then having some meetings. Woopee! I don't think I woulda known I had a birthday, but it was a great day and I had some fun cards to open that night. Thanks so much for always thinking and being so nice to have fun parties, we have eaten really good the last couple of days! I treated myself today we went to the market and got me a nice jacket- yes I am a fruitcake like Jackson in my European palto? I don't know what they are called in english- maybe that's it. I am a legit Russian- wait till you get a pic. Man it is so fun to hear about everything that's goin’ on back at home. Congrats to little Tanner on getting the priesthood! I hope you had a chance to write down how you feel, I thought a lot about you as we watched conference. Just take every chance to go to the temple and be a good holder of the priesthood- there is a lot to distract you from that now a days. Be better than your big bro. :) And thanks for droppin’ me a line big Sarah! It was fun to hear about you- winning the championships and all- take me back! Minus the winning part. Man it's so fun to hear from you, I wanna talk to ya more. And Emily and Jackson I got your notes in the package- thanks so much I love thinkin’ about havin’ my buds here and havin’ Jackson as a companion. And as always, thanks for the nice thoughts mom and dad, you’re always the best. I really do now know that I am one of few to be blessed with the home and family we have. Such good stuff, I hope you enjoy your times with the family and memories. I am glad to hear that it seems that many are coping well with grandma- I don't know how many people here would be smiling and looking at all the positives that come from that experience. I have definitely felt some helping hands and had a little more eye of the tiger in my work here.

Well as far as things going on here, things just keep on going. Elder Brookhousen and I are just cookin’ along getting’ stuff done. I will have my visa trip this week, I don't know where we are going, I think Kiev. They are doing renovation at the temple, so we won't have a chance to go, but it'll be a good time regardless. Make some friends on the plane. We have had a few people in and out of the place which is fun- it's really cool to be here in Samara- everyone passes through us if they are going somewhere or for visa trips. I also love serving here- holy cow this city is so nice too. I first came and thought it was a lil’ dumpy, but after getting back from the big Zavoskoy I woulda tought I came back to America. It's good stuff. We were able to do exchanges with the assistants this past week which was super fun. I got to do some work with Elder Taylor again and it was so darn fun. We had a couple meetings and found some good people on the street- felt like we were back in the ol’ sadal. We also used some fancy things called oreos and peanut butter to mix up some death shakes with the four of us back at the apartment that night. So good! We then had a little zone training thing for the day- it was some sort of mini zone conference to go over some training and things. It was fun, Elder Brookhousen and I were in charge and it went relatively smoothly. Phew! Minus the part that in the middle of our teaching segment everyone pretty much had to leave to get trains back to their cities. That's just the nature of the work here. And then conference- man it was so darn good. We were able to go into the bishop's office to watch in English. Man I had to wipe off my singed eyebrows from Elder Holland. Man that was so awesome. I was ready to go tell the world to get to church. We were blessed to have a couple investigators come, and after the session we ran out and caught them, and took them in a room and asked them to be baptized! They were a little taken back, but now they know the goal! Haha good times. I sure can't wait to just find that one bro. It'll come.

Well it seems that I have run outta material. Thanks again for all that you do. And thanks for the nice birthday notes and just notes from all- Arnetts included. I have Cooper's Chuck Norris jokes up on my wall just in case. I was dying when I read his note. We are off to a lesson so we will see you next p day! Hope you all have a good week- can't emphasize enough to you how blessed we are with the things we have. The gospel and our family are two things that many people everywhere don't have. I hope we all remember that and treat both of those things with the respect that we should. I sure love you all and can't wait to hear from you all next week! Love ya!

Elder Nielson

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Hey there family!
Well there is definitely a little more of a tender feeling right now writing to you all.  What a mix of feelings the news about grandma brings.  I look outside the window right now and the sun is shining really pretty and the leaves are all changing, and I don't think that grandma would want it any different.  I hope you are all coping with everything well and I will definitely keep you in my prayers.  You will have to keep me updated on your Arizona visits and everything.  What reality this adds to the work that I get to do.  I can't wait to find that one person that will let this into their lives.  I am sure that grandma is happy now and probably making lots of cinnamon rolls.  I am super blessed now to have her spirit to support me.  Sure hope you can all feel my love as well.
Well besides that the report was really fun of things going on in the family with little Tanner now becoming big Tanner.  Man, that ward is gonna be so blessed to have another deacon and a boss like Tanner coming in.  I hope you had a good time with your birthday and are lookin’ forward to the priesthood.  It sounds like you all had a good time watching conference together as well.  It was fun to sit in testimony meeting yesterday and have all the members talk about President Monson and how excited they are to hear from him.  We will be watching this coming weekend and I am so excited.  Can't believe it's been six months since I watched it in Kazan and a year since I watched it in Buena Vista.  Man good times and a lot of change since then. We already caught the news about the age shifting for people to serve on missions.  So crazy!  That's like in a year for little Tanner already!  That’s a joke mama!  And you'll have to pass on my good lucks to big Andrew takin’ off on the mission.  Man he's so lucky, I am in denial still thinking I am still just a fresh missionary.  I always will be, but that will be so fun for him.  And congrats to Jenni on the wedding, you will all have to put ribbons down the car and parade down the streets blaring your horns like they do here.  Saturdays are crazy, and Russians love their parties.  
 As far as the week goes, it has been just a whirlwind.  I have no idea where the time has gone.  I love it here in Samara.  I definitely still miss my peeps in Saratov, but I am so excited for what lies ahead here in Samara.  It is such a nice city.  It's funny how your perspective changes.  It's awesome and my companion, Elder Brookhousen is so darn fun to work with.  We just get on the buses and marshrytkas (little mini van things that fly around) and destroy those things.  Everyone likes to make a joke of the crazy American "sectanties"  since Samara is kinda the hub of the mission. We just had missionaries in and out of our apartment all week long.  We had about ten in the apartment because there was a little leadership council for all the district and zone leaders, so we just had a party in our place.  I thought of dad as Elder Brookhousen and I had to get up earlier and mix up some pancakes for everyone because all we had was milk and flour.  It was a good time.  We had that "conference" thing for a couple of days and it was fun to be around a bunch of the other missionaries that I hadn't seen in a while.  So that was a good time, and then there has just been a whole load of planning and organizing we've had to do around the place. 
Our zone covers Samara and Orenburg and Penza, so we'll definitely be on the travelling wagon again which I’m so excited for.  The trains are so fun here.  We had a couple of miracle ladies that we ran into on the street.  Every now and then some ladies will just say "oh how beautiful!"….when they see us and keep talkin’.   It sounds so darn funny because they are so dramatic in their Russian, but hey it's pretty nice I guess.  They just don't see many clean dressed smiling young men round these parts.  So we ran into a lady yesterday that just kept on dropping the beautifuls on us, we were dyin’. But she was so interested and called us last night saying how she had already read the introduction.  So keep Natasha in mind. :)  We are doin’ a lot of building up the area, sometimes the areas just get a little stale here so we're excited to just do the dirty missionary work.  Here's a couple pictures of command central and we have also turned to candle light for our spiritual planning in the evenings.  Just one of those stupid missionary things.  And also, here's one of us signboarding- asking if life is after death.  A lot of fun things and just some great work to be done here.
 I've been doing a lot of thinking as well about developing charity and I've just learned a couple things.  What I've found is that I always thought that charity was just looking at somebody and thinking that I love them, finding something good in them.  That's a great thing, but oftentimes that's pretty superficial.  As I've mentioned, if I am being completely honest it is a little bit hard sometimes to just say I love a Russian.  However, I don't think that really is charity even if I did force myself to say that.  What it really is… is that turning outwards and forgetting yourself.  I think that learning to look at someone is definitely a by product of this.  It may be something that you all already know, but when we forget ourselves- that is charity.  We grow in faith and are more obedient.  Then we are able to look at others with the love that our Father in Heaven has.  I think especially in light of grandma, she was such a good example of that.  Maybe we can try to do that a little bit better.  It is pretty amazing what the Lord can do for you when you simply try.   Well I hope you all have a good week and are able to have peace about everything.  I am so grateful to have a testimony that everything will be ok.  We are so blessed to have a loving Heavenly Father and Savior who simply want us to be happy.  Have a good week and 'till next one!  
Elder Nielson
 p.s. yes I totally got the package...don't be mad at me for having to finish off Fast Sunday by breaking in and stealing a pop tart!  Haha thanks so much I love you guys so much.  Your too nice, we will have some very big parties here with some good food.  Happy Birfday!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Hello family!
I am actually getting to write this round on time today!  Yay!  Sorry about the big situation, it seems that things haven't been slowing down and have no view of slowing down.  President Sartori had come down to Saratov to do a little fireside and training with the missionaries, which was awesome.  We had an interview with him on Saturday that basically took the whole day to ride in and meet with him in the center branch of the city.  I got to meet with him, and he told me the transfer information...I got a little switched around and will be a zone leader up here in Samara.  Whew...I am a little in a daze…that came outta nowhere.  I thought for sure I was going to have another cycle down in Zavodskoy but am super excited to work up here and carry out all those different responsibilities that will be on my plate.  I agree with Elder McGill, it is time to even push harder even though I am so flippin’ tired, and I haven't experienced nothin’ yet it sounds like.  
That is the most exciting news from the week, and before I knew it I was on the overnight train and pulled into Samara this morning.  Crazy crazy.  Those were some great reports from each of you, it is so good to hear from you and it makes my day all the time to hear what's goin’ on and all of your thoughts and things.  Just so ya know mama, I love seeing pictures too so don't be afraid to send pictures and things.  It just sounds like football season is in the swing of things and it's just keepin' on even without me.  Sometimes you just imagine that everything at home has frozen.  Not quite, you were right mom, it's starting to dawn on me that I'm not quite the 'puppy' missionary anymore, I'm comin up on 10 months!  What the heck!
 As far as things that have gone on, Elder Whittermoore and I were able to finish out our cycle very strong and had a very good time together.  We were able to work to learn a lot of good things from each other, and it ended on a high note.  We got along really well and had a lot of the same likes and dislikes.  He was Andrew Gifford and Jackson mixed into one person.  It was a good time.  It did get a little bit difficult as I was able to have Heavenly Father shaping me in ways that I couldn't really see, and that is what made it difficult.  Sometimes, we just need to look through our Heavenly Father's eyes.  We were able to have an awesome lesson with a guy named Sergei and I am sure that he will soon be baptized, he is such a good guy and there's going to be so many good things going on down there.  It was a little bit of a quick good bye to everyone else there.  We had found out late on Saturday and had a train pulling out at 4 on Sunday, so it was a little bit of a disappointment.  I was able to say a quick goodbye and parting words to Sergei and Ivan, but it was a little anti-climactic.  But it's all good, I'm sure everything will keep up there with them.  There are also some other members that I will definitely miss, but I am super excited to just meet some more and the work goes on! As far as other things go, there really isn't a ton to report from the last Friday, I will get on the picture sending mama, don't you worry ‘bout dat.  It is actually really fun right now I get to be with Elder Taylor, my buddy from Kazan.  We've been laughin’ the whole time, so many good memories from that cycle together in Kazan.  It will be fun to work with him, he just got assigned to be the new assistant here and we will be in the same district. 
Which reminds me, I will be with Elder Brookhousen who has been the former assistant and will be wrapping up his mission, probably with me.  Crazy stuff to have all these guys becoming 'old' on the mission.  He also was a Lone Peak Knight, totally hung with Zach Hyatt and Nate Garrett and we will be working together.  Well I am super excited about this upcoming cycle.   It's been a blessing to have this mission in my life.  I've been realizing lately how much the gospel has had an impact on my life.  Everything I have and that we have and enjoy can be traced back to the gospel.  Anything that is good comes from that, and I have realized how my knowledge and conversion has come through the Book of Mormon.  I have begun to realize that that book is everything to me.  I hope that I can continue to read it and hope that you will also read it together.  I love each of you and hope you can feel that and have a good time together.  ‘Til next week!
LoveElder Nielson 
We didn’t receive a letter on Monday and assumed he was traveling out of the country.  Apparently, it was only that they couldn’t find a computer to use to type their letters!]
 Hello Family! Good Monday...or Friday morning!  Who even knows which day it is anymore!  I hope you got the message that everything is good here, just had trouble finding a computer on Monday.  Made for quite the goose chase of a p day on Monday.  P days just don't seem to be what I expected, then again I don't know if anything is here.  Good ol’ Russia for ya.  We got a new senior couple here, and so we were able to come before district meeting and write!  So thank the Childers!   It's been a great week and just good times on the mission the last little bit.  Thanks for the fun reports, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit jealous of your little retreat and imagining watching some fine college ball. 
Sounds like you’re all just doin’ well.  And go get 'em coach Nielson and lil' Tanner in the flag football.  Make me proud.   Just answering a couple questions:  #1 I will have the eyes peeled for a large suitcase coming through here.  Man you guys sure know how to treat.  I have been trying to get something to make it there in the midst of birthday/Christmas season myself.  P days and Russian postal services just seem to be working against me recently.  The postal is pretty funny, you gotta go to a post office and wait forever in a line (reminds me of the DMV) to have a lady talk too fast through a glass window to get a couple of envelopes.  They then stamp them themselves and it is just a nice time.  And the same thing with boxes. 
Which brings up #2  dad had asked about the transfer and visa trips.  I should be having a visa trip somewhere in the next few weeks.  You kinda just find out a few days before seems to be the trend.  As far as transfers, we find out tomorrow!  What the heck, can't believe it's already been 6 weeks.  We have been working to divide our area, there are going to be two more elders moving into Zavodskoy and so we are pretty excited about that.  It'll help a ton.  We went and checked out an apartment yesterday, so funny all the registration and everything required.  I have no idea what will happen to me. 
 And #3 as far as study goes, I just read some good ol' 30 minutes outta the Book of Mormon everyday.  The last 15 minutes of study are usually on attributes or something outta Preach my Gospel.  I'll every now and then read outta Preach my Gospel in Russian, but it would be more language study than spiritual study if I read in Russian.  Good deal.  (I had to throw that Troy Diederich flavor in)…..and by the way, happy birthday Brayden!  And fun letters from Tanner and Eric. Well as far as the week goes it's been quite the road.  I would love to just have a solid week of normal missionary work.  T
his past week Elder Whittermore had a visa trip so I spent a day here in the center with Elder Glavodskee which was a good time.  Then, on Friday Elder Whittermore got pretty sick so we spent most of Friday and Saturday inside which was a little bit of a bummer.  Our area book and branch list is organized to perfection, we'll just say that much.  I didn't have much to do.  It just seems sometimes that we have all this stuff going on, and there isn't just time to do normal missionary work.  It's fun though and definitely keeps time flying by.  
 I have got to tell you about Sunday though.  For some reason, we didn't have many priesthood holders show up, and the Stephens (senior couple) to do training on branch counsel.  So, I was running back and forth between helping translate for them, talking with an investigator that came, playing the piano, and finally got settled in having to bless the sacrament.  It seemed that finally things settled down as the meeting started, but when we began to sing the sacrament hymn, Sasha and I raised the sheet on the sacrament to see that there was no bread!  AH!  It was just like a movie.  So funny.  So he ran over and told the branch president and sprinted out the door to run across the street and buy some bread and so we did the talks first and I had to run down and translate for the Stephens.  Holy cow it was hilarious.  Who woulda thought.  Everything ended up alright, except we just ripped the bread in half and so the pieces of bread were huge for the sacrament, and I couldn't help but chuckle a little bit as I watched the whole congregation put this massive piece of bread in their mouth and have to chew all big.  It was a good time, good story. 
I have been very blessed the last few weeks to learn a little bit about our Father in Heaven's perspective.  I am kinda in the stage of being between a "newer" missionary and becoming that missionary which we all aspire to.  I have especially been wanting to develop patience and charity.  It seems that as I prayed for patience and love for everyone, it was just getting harder to love people.  It seemed that more people were just wasting our time and seemed to have nothing good happen.  We have so many great things in this area, and then all the sudden it seemed that we didn't.  It seems that I was just pushed to my breaking point many times, and even just didn't react in the most Christlike way, then would get more frustrated with myself. Even the thought of not getting any help from Heavenly Father came to me.  It finally seemed that on Monday during personal study that I realized - He had been answering me.  Heavenly Father had definitely sent me some things that only I could have dealt with…with the help of our Savior and His love, and I hadn't necessarily done so.  I then realized, things just didn't bother me as much.  What is really happening is that process that we call repentance.  What a blessing I have been able to observe as our Heavenly Father has helped me in His own way to begin to change and hopefully one day begin to achieve and develop some of those things which compose "the" missionary.  As we learn to rely on Him, we learn to have our will in line with His.  His will is nothing but to do that which will help other people, and so we develop that charity within us.  And that love for Him, and for others, which is true love for ourselves, is repentance.  But it comes with a price, and I have definitely been able to see that taking place within me.   Well, I believe that does it for the time being!  Monday will come fast again now for sure!   By the way, Ivan just seems to kinda be going downhill.  We do all we can to chat, but he is just having a hard time.  As for Sergei, he is a lil' different.  He was the crazy one with the beard, and is showing up to church in a whiteshirt and a tie.  Both deserve it, but there is just a little bit of a different look in Sergei.  I love that guy.  I sure love you too my family and hope that you continue to pray together.  Don't know why I say that, but there aren't many families that get to.  We are so blessed with this gospel, sure love ya!
С Любовю, Старейшина Нильсон

Monday, September 17, 2012

Hey there family!
I am sure glad you enjoyed the pic of the hat, because I sure enjoy that hat.  I hope I am not too obnoxious, but I will be warm that's for sure!  It's still pretty warm here and so for now it is my planning hat in the evenings.  It sounds like in the twinkle of an eye here we'll be having some of that nice ear-frost biting weather that guy was tellin’ you about momma.  But I am ready.  
 Those were fun little reports to get, and as you say- no news is probably good news.  But thanks for your descriptions and comments as well dad, that was a really nice letter to read.  I hope you enjoyed some time takin’ care of momma there in Arizona.  And Grandma, I love you too.  :)  I hope and continue to pray for each of you, but especially Grandma as she's going through this.  You never really understand the testimony and the beauty that the gospel is until that faith is tried.  We are very blessed to have that.  
 Dad, you had asked a couple questions that I wanted to answer real quick...first was about the Syrian friends.  Maybe I never told you, I can't remember if it was when we talked on mother's day.  But, Elder Taylor and I had dipped back by their house again and their "land lady" came to the door and told us they had left to Germany.  For whatever reason, they knew German very well and had the intention to go there but more down the road.  Anyways, that was such a relief to hear to me that they are somewhere safe, somewhere that they actually speak the language, and somewhere that the gospel is established.  So, I already have my plane ticket to Germany to find those two.  
 As far as exercise, it is mostly just doin’ some mean pushups and sit ups and stretching.  I feel like an old man. Eric Mcgill always talked about being tired and now I understand.  My exercise has been pretty lame the last week- I ate something that didn't comply and I have spent a lot of time in the special room and couldn't eat too much or I'd have issues.  Exercise was more spent to stretch out we'll just say. I had been getting’ pretty skinny, but now am officially down a belt hole and the shirt collars are becoming more of a v-neck.  I'm gonna be a bean pole!
As far as the week goes, it has just been a great week and we have been spinning we've been goin’ so hard.  The first part of the week was spent doing a lot of contacting...gotta do it sometime.  But Thursday we got to have what is called a culture night, which once a cycle we have so we don't go crazy.  We went to some conservatory here and there was a violinist that played some good stuff with an orchestra, then he came out with an accordian.  It was pretty cool, brought back some good Amy Merkley memories.  I wanted to send you some pics of the wall, they had the composers heads such as Bach and Mozart carved in with their names all written in the Russian alphabet, it was pretty cool I thought mom would be pretty pumped on that.  That's my tourist bit.  
On Friday, we had a sweet old lady call us that had been baptized about a year ago, and then moved outta the city, call and say she was comin’ back and wanted to meet.  We went to the branch and she was there with her son, who is 28 and not baptized.  We were able to teach them, and are totally gonna be baptizing her son, Gyorgi (George) soon!  It was a way cool meeting, but at the end she tells us she has nowhere to sleep tonight.  Holy cow, we couldn't just leave her so we got a hold of a member, Lyba (my favorite member in Russia) and she said she could stay there so we had to take her there and sprint home to get home on time.  It was a crazy night.  but, very good and very rewarding.  We had a great day with some good meetings on Saturday, and yesterday was just a doozy of a day.  We usually have members come up and ask us to give blessings after Sacrament, so yesterday we had to do that and had the branch president needing help, and we did some work with our Elders quorum president to get a home teaching program up and going.   Mom, you had asked if a stake would be here.  The answer is yes there will be here in Saratov IF people start to do their home teaching.  We have about 400 members in this branch alone, but only 50 active, if that.  And maybe 6 or 7 solid priesthood holders.  It is so exciting to think of what could really be done, and our branch would be the stake center!  Plus, we are going to have another companionship here in our area, it is just so ready for so many great things. 
I feel like I am telling you just a lot of random things, but man so much went on and there is so much growth occurring here.  I am so blessed to be on a mission and see changes in myself spiritually, attributes wise, and even physically.  I love it.  And I also love you. Have a great week.  Love ya!
 Elder Nielson

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Hello my family dear!
Man it is so good to hear from ya and it sounds like each of you are just doin’ well, holdin’ down the fort!  Way to go.  I had a fun time getting to open my lil' notes you all sent me!  Ya baby, zone conference means mail time!  Thanks so much all that contributed, I'll be waiting for the next batch around.  I have a good family.  And thanks for the picture, I'll knock some babyshka's socks off with that number of vnychkee (grandkids). 
Tanner, it sounds like your just doin’ well, you’re the man, as usual.  I am glad to hear that your getting’ to play some ball and having dad as the coach- your a lucky guy.  Sounds like we got an up and rising Gary Sheide.  And good luck with the basketball tryouts- I'll be excited to hear how it goes and I'll be sure to wear the elite socks in your honor.  There is a little Nike random shop here that I've gotten Sergei and Ivan hooked on finding "fresh" stuff.  So funny- I wish you could hear them say it with their Russian accents.  And dad it sounds like your keepin’ just busy and things are going well, and thanks mama for the thoughtful letter.  I sure wish I could do a personal letter to each of you every week because it is fun to hear all your thoughts and things and what's going on.  
We have had a great week hear in the big Zavodskoy- “Geneva Road”.  I am so grateful to be serving here, I would love to stay for a long time, and I already have.  Crazy to think that 9 months is creepin’ up on us, and that I just passed 6 months in the country.  Hopefully with the “boots wit da fur” I'll blend right in as a true Russian real soon here (had to throw that in for Sarah).   We were so blessed with an awesome and brief zone conference this past week.  We had President Malm of the seventy who did a mission tour and did much of the teaching at our conference.  I love the zone conferences and being with a group of missionaries, it is fun to realize how good of friends you make on a mission.  President Malm taught us some very good things that touched me very well and motivated me a ton to do the work here.  He taught us about how we really don't understand who we really are.  The theme of the conference had been how we want to become "always" missionaries.  But, he began to just very simply unfold the plan of salvation and how we all lived together- even all these people on the streets were there and accepted at some point the gospel and said "yes".  Really when we think about it, everyone here on earth are "yes" sayers.  We, however, promised to come here and even promised to help further the work of our Heavenly Father.  What really got to me, is to realize the fact that I promised somebody, somewhere that I would find them.  At the end of his comments, he said, let’s have somebody get up and bear testimony of what the spirit is teaching them.  Of course, I looked up and he chose me.  Man- it was a great experience as I was able to bear testimony and realize and have the spirit seal to me that I really am here to find that person I promised.  We then of course continued after lunch to talk further about what we are really wanted to become and the next level that we are striving for.  It was kinda that football practice mid-season that you realize we've done pretty well, but there is a whole new level to be achieved.  The thing is, it was a time that I felt real motivation.  It wasn't just an empty motivation, meaning that I just wanted to go talk to people, but rather a realization of what we're really doing here.  It's interesting to realize how good you really aren't.  However, it has been interesting to be a little bit of a different missionary and doing things the Lord's way- as President Sartori put it- being always missionaries.  What it is that provides us strength through anything is a real understanding of true principles of the gospel.  At this point in time, it is the understanding of the plan of salvation and that perspective that I try to teach investigators being engrained into me.  What a blessing I have to be on a mission and to have the time to learn what my testimony really is and to look at things as they really are.  I won't lie- the work can be very hard at times.  As President Sartori put it- sometimes they are just mean.  However, that doesn't bother me, when these things are realized.  Nothing can really stop the work from progressing because in the end, the truth and eternal principles can overcome and can help us overcome all.  We are so blessed to have this.   I love you all and hope all is well with you at home.  Have a good week!
Elder Nielson
The markets are getting back into winter season!  I was first in line for some of this.  Woof!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Hello my family!
Wow you are all sounding so good and it was so great to get all those great reports.  It is just fun to hear from ya, thanks for making my day!  Things are also going well here in good ol' Zavodskoy and we continue to just do the good work amongst our brothas here.  It's been a good ol' week and we got some good stuff here!  First off, thanks for the fun letters from the ward bros.  Man they sound so good, how ‘bout big Tanner bein’ big brother Tanner?! That was fun to read, you will have to tell him I love him and drrrrrr for me.  And then also big Brayden being the zone leader!  I bet he is just doing so great, it sounds like he loved his area.  And, of course it was so fun to hear from you guys.  Sarah, way to be doin’ it big at the big LP and just havin’ a good time.  Just enjoy and wear out the white jumpsuit.  Tanner, that was a fun little letter, and we'll have to order up a thunderstorm bike ride for a year down the road.  And of course thanks for the letter Emily!  I love hearin’ from you and hope you are havin’ a good time up with the mighty miners!  Man you guys are just makin’ me proud.  Haha  way to go.  And mom and dad- just love you guys, thanks for the nice notes. :)
 Well to give you a little bit of an update, I will...tell you.  We had a sweet week with some investigators comin’ to play!  Ivan has been a little bit of a goof ball.  We couldn't get a hold of him Monday, Tuesday he wasn't at his house for fam night, and he didn't come to sports night Wednesday.  Super bummer.  We tried to get a hold of him, but he didn't answer.  He did show up to Sacrament though which was cool and sat with me, but then bailed while I was talkin’ to someone, so we really don't know what the deal is there.  Bummer is all I got to say.  We're still hoping for the 29th with him, but obviously gotta talk to him and things and get him real about this.  On the other hand,  Sergei has been makin’ quite the come back!  It has been interesting to talk to the members (the one's they live with) and hear their opinions from working with them and just having them basically as their two sons.  Sergei is definitely a little more wild, but Galina tells us how he is just obedient- the most obedient of her "sons".  (they have a son my age in the army right now- it is mandatory to serve a year here)  He also loves to pray and she told me about how he will say "let's all hurry and get together and pray so I can get to bed!" or "who's gonna pray with me before I leave?"  It is pretty cool, and he is always with us to come to activities.  He has had quite the past as well he had us come over the other night and then he walked home with us.  It's getting pretty dark now by 7:30 ish and so he wanted to walk us home.  He was telling us all ‘bout his old stuff, and even dealings with the mafia.  Pretty crazy stuff- who knows what's gone on here.  But we are crazy excited to work more with him, he came in a white shirt and tie yesterday to church and looked way good.  
 We also have been very blessed with a guy named Roman.  He is 28 and we found him on the street last Sunday.  He was walking in front of us, and we caught up to him thinking we were talking to the typical Zavodskoy punk.  He ended up being so cool and was just this quiet guy that long story short is looking to change his life- he also has some head problem that he has these really bad headaches and it feels better when he prays.  So we've gotten a call about every day to pray with him!  So cool- we were able to set a date with him as well for the 29th!  We had to tell him he would have to quit smoking, and he just stared at the ground and sat there....and sat.....then just looked up and said "ok, i will"  Ya baby!  So we are so excited for him. 
 We just continue to find and do the work here, it is just good.  To answer questions about the place- Zavodskoy is definitely an interesting one.  We have the greatest branch, but I don't know that it would be my first place to go on vacation.  Saratov is pretty much the armpit of Russia most say, and Zavodskoy means "factory" so we are in the factory area, I like to think of it as the Geneva Road of Saratov.  But it is so good, there are definitely your selection of crazies, but also those who are so prepared, those that are not quite as wealthy and looking for things to change them.  We spend a lot of time on the streets and have some pretty dusty and dirty shoes by the end of the day- the interstate UDOT project hasn't quite hit Saratov yet.   I want to attach a pic of us all over at Stas and Galina's- the "family" of Sergei and Ivan at family night.  The Stephens came and it was fun and some good translating practice- it was Ivan's birthday so the Stephens came. Well time is running out, but I just hope you feel my love for each of you.  I also pray for you and hope for your success and that all is good at home!  I love you all and am so grateful to have the peace that we are an eternal family!
Love you!
Elder Nielson