Monday, March 26, 2012

30 minutes in 30 seconds!

Well Hello Family!
I will do my best to include what has happened this week and hope that you can get a taste of what’s really goin’ on here! What an awesome week it has been, nothing short of a great week to log away on the mission. I will do my best to answer questions and things as well. Goodness, I thought the MTC was hard to explain! I must first sadly admit that the market is closed on Mondays. Too bad. But we were able to get into a shop and get me a fine coat. Kazan is a very advanced city, and so to be honest sometimes it doesn't feel like I'm in too whacko of a place. Of course then I try to talk to somebody. But for the most part it is super nice. The food she made was good stuff momma! They have this stuff that are these little noodle spheres with meat in the middle, about the size of a marble. They are dang good. And she made some soup that was super good as well. My favorite is this stuff called plove, which is a rice and chicken thing with some seasoning. It is super good. For the most part, there isn't too much strikingly different. The ice cream here is crazy good. It's like they took the cream straight outta the cow and mixed it with sugar and froze it. Most of their food is pretty good because it's all real stuff. As far as people go, a lot of drunk people, and everyone and their dog smokes. The old ladies are just as you picture. They always walk in couples with their arms linked and just babble a hundred miles an hour to each other. It's funny. The old guys are in their sweet hats and pretty much just hang around and smoke. Funny people. We are in by nine every night, 9 30 if we are teaching a lesson. At least half of the people we talk to are Muslim, there really isn't too much of a distinction. I hope that answered a little bit...the weather is really nice today. It is pretty random, and should start warming up. And yes momma, I'm nice and toasty. I will do my best to get pictures, we email from an internet cafe that we don't know if we have access to send pics. We will check in on that, so stay tuned. To be honest we really haven't had the time to take pics. But we are going to the Kremlin in the middle of the city so we will have some cool ones.
So I gotta first talk about the brothers we found last week. Holy cow I cannot say enough about them. They are 23 and 25 and have been the greatest blessing to my life. I could very have well been called to Russia for these two and I would be fine with it. They have the kind of faith I would love to have someday. I learn from them when I teach them. It is a pretty incredible experience. We taught them that night and Tues, Wed, Thurs, and Sat. They came to church yesterday, and are asking when they can be baptized. We had them pray on Tuesday and that could have been the sweetest experience of my life. I wish I could send a recording so you could see, and would like for everyone to see how to pray. They both took a turn and prayed literally as if they talked to God. Every time since, they pray just as good as that. It raises our spirits every time we meet with them. They believe that they came to Russia to find work but "found something much better. The best thing they could find." I love them and will be friends forever with them. we came in on Tuesday to see them writing his friends on facebook telling them to visit They are unbelievable.
We also found a beautiful family last night with 3 kids. I can't wait to teach again and us and the member we taught with are so excited to set a baptismal date with them. I wish I could tell more of what's gone on, but just know how great of a week it's been.
I must also report that we met a lady on the street. She was a babushka...we taught a bit and I said a prayer with her. She had me repeat it in English to hear. There was a sweet spirit there, and she pulled in and laid a fat kiss on my cheek. It was so funny. I didn't know what to do. Good times on the mission.
Dad I forgot-I got your dearelder check on Tuesday. We get mail when the leaders come, and we had zone leaders on splits. I can only talk to family on the email, so tell Collin and Ty hi and look for a letter in a few weeks. I am grateful for my knowledge of the gospel. What a blessing it is. What a blessing the organization of the Church is, in a small inexperienced branch you can see how blessed we are to live where we are and have the strong ward we do. I love our family. I was proudly showing you to a lady on the bus yesterday. She loved it. I love you and love my chance to bring what we have to these people here. Til’ next week!
Elder Nielson

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

March Madness in Kazan

Hello family!
Greetings from a sunny day in Kazan! Things are beginning to warm up here and we are happy to be here. I am writing on market day! Whether I will need it or not we are headed off the the market right after this so i can become a true Russian. Our investigator, Andrei, said the other day that I am a pure American in my Mr. Mac rain coat and other American gear. I got a thing or two for him to see after today. It has been a good week, I will try to do it justice. all ending with perhaps the most blessed of miracles that occured last night. I don't know if I will ever have another experience like it, but I will do my best to explain.

We started out the week pretty well. Monday night we had to run a relief society dvd to a lady in the ward and she gave us some legit Russian food that was super good. We couldn't find our way home, so as far as proselyting that night was a little bit of a bust. However, Tuesday was a great day. We were able to find 4 new investigators! The goal of the mission is to find 1 a day, and we were very blessed that day with 4. Tuesday morning was a pretty wild time as well. On monday, the members asked if we could help move 'a little' snow for a member who got in a car accident and needed to put his car somewhere. So we rode to the edge of the city on the bus where a member picked us up at the stop. We walked up the hill to their house. All I can think of to describe the houses is Charlie and the Chocolate factory's house. They were funny all pieced together. Anyways, so in the midst of a blizzard we shoveled a mountain of snow to clear a spot for this guys car. It was a pretty crazy morning. We kept on asking eachother what in the world we were doing. I felt like rocky workin out in the mountains of Russia lifting snow and stuff for a work out. The rest of the week seemed to just go by. we continued to find Wednesday and Thursday. We are pretty much starting from scratch here and so most of our efforts right now are in finding people to teach. Friday was slow as Elder Christensen was sick and so we were in. It was kinda nice though because then I used the day to organize the house and the area book. I finally just started calling people in the back. I have no idea what they were saying, but hey we got in contact with some former investigators. It was a fun little hour of Russian struggle.
Finally, I must describe yesterday. church was a little killer. It gets a little tiring when a guy rambles for about 30 minutes and you can't understand what he's saying. We will see if our 3 investigators come again. But church was good. We then had some time to contact last night. Our lesson fell through, as had every lesson fallen through throughout last week. We were walking and just couldn't find anyone. So we decided to pray where to go. We started down a random street and were just getting owned by people. Nobody wanted anything to do with us. Finally we had to turn around after about 40 minutes. this is where march madness occurred. We were bored and decided to try to speak english for fun to someone. We were shy for the first couple people, but then my companion just walked up to this guy and asked in Russian if he spoke english. The guy turned to him and said "I only speak english". So we talked for a minute with him and he offered for us to come to his house. We, of course, accepted. crazy huh? We talked a little about what we do and felt prompted to teach restoration. Time is short so I will give you the highlights. I'll give you some of these two brothers comments. Consider it the shining moment for the year..."Can we come help you talk to people about God?" "People don't just get how to find happiness. They use like money and alchohol and girls and stuff." "Oh the priesthood like God's power." "People need to know where we came from, why we're here, and where we are going." "Yes we will be baptized the 14th of April."
I was about in tears by the end of our lesson. Heavenly Father truly was looking out for us. We are going to bring them a Book of Mormon tonight. Elder Christensen said it perfect when he said following our meeting," I could never deny the existence of a God following that." What a blessing these two are. I do not know if i will ever find anyone prepared and willing as these brothers are. I have such a love for our Heavenly Father following that. He does not care who we are, what we have done, where we have been. His love is extended to all and the mercies of the atonement of Christ allow us to turn to him at all times of life. I can't wait to teach these brothers this. I love my mission.
Well that is about it. Mom it sounds like we basically will never get mail, we are about 9 hours away from the office, so whenever they come we'll get our mail. I think email will suffice. :) It will be a fun week and we will have some fun travelling around to visit the district. (Elder Christensen is the district leader-yup he's the man.) So we'll have some good 6 and 4 hour bus rides in the next few weeks but I'm excited. Tanner, it sounds like your ballin well. Well done my friend. Mom and Dad you sound great, and Sarah I love ya buddy. Em and Jackson, hope all is well. sure miss and love you guys, but wouldn't rather be anywhere else. I love you all.
Love,Elder Nielson

Monday, March 12, 2012

Greetings from Russia!

Hello Family from sun shiny Kazan!
Yes I am really here in Russia...kinda crazy to really think about. I will try the best I can to portray what the last week has been. I will definitely chalk it up as probably the craziest week I probably will ever have. That is until next week comes around. So, here we go! So we had a quick layover following our chat on Monday in New York. That is a crazy airport. Anyways just got on a plane from there to buzz straight to Moscow. I could have sworn Sister Moe and I were the only Americans on the plane. But it went pretty quick actually. We then landed in Moscow to begin a crazy day. We met a couple of nice American ladies that took us to the embassy down there in Moscow. Holy cow-we were in the part of Moscow you never see. I felt like I was in a dream the whole time and should have had Jason Bourne sitting in the seat next to me. The traffic there is absolute chaos. Russia in general is pretty unorganized in the traffic. I have no idea how we didn't die. Anyways, we then got registered for our other passports and then split from our other missionaries. They headed off to another airport and we were shipped back to Moscow airport. That was the craziest car ride I have ever had. They just sent us with some guy's friend they knew. He didn't talk the whole time and drove seriously like something from a movie. We were flying up and down the back roads and just in and out of the lanes that aren't painted on the ground. How we didn't die, I have no idea. That was miracle #1 from the week. We then were dropped off at the airport to wait there for 6 hours. It was pretty killer. Travelling is not on my top ten favorites I don't think. We pulled into Samara at about midnight and I swear the pilot just pulled into the parking lot. It was so funny to see the difference. Of course President and Sister Sartori were there to greet us and we got to bed about 2 or so. The next day was a bunch of orientation type stuff, which is when you got the picture. I met my trainer, Elder Christensen that afternoon and we had a quick meeting. Elder Christensen is from Murray (Utah) and has been out about a year. He is awesome. He is a little Taylor Walkenhorst-esque and is just patient and very good to me. He has been a great companion the last week and I am excited to work with him. We then were put in the car with the mission driver who I can't remember the name of and we were taken a couple hours to Tallyati where we would have zone conference the next two days. That was actually very nice to be in a meeting house and around other English speakers. They were all super nice and it was a very enjoyable couple of days. From there, we took off on a bus (Saturday morning) for a six or so hour ride up to beautiful Kazan! It was so nice to finally get to an area where I am supposed to be. It is a very unique city that is split by the river. We are in the north area and another companionship is in the south. And yes dad, I believe there are about 56 missionaries in the mission. Anyways the city is kinda it's own country. It is its own republic with like its own King. Pretty funny place. It's got a lot of Muslim mixed in the population and so there are just these super cool mosques and Russian cathedrals everywhere. Last night the mosque that is so cool across from us was doing the whole singing prayer. It is so cool here. I love the Muslim people here. They are so nice to us and will actually hear us out. It is such a wonderful place I am in.
I gotta explain real quick-holy cow it really is cold here. I am not gonna lie the last two days have been crazy cold. But I'm all bundled up and am taking it on like a champion. Scary thing is, everyone says it's all warm and just heating up here. It is a good time with that. I love the glittery snow here.
Yesterday was such an awesome day. It was my first day of being a normal missionary you could say. We travelled about 45 minutes to the branch building which is super nice. We had about 30 people at church, which supposedly we usually have about 50. It was some work day yesterday or something. But as I'm already playing the prelude music, Elder Christensen comes and tells me I will be giving a talk! He spoke before for about 20 minutes and I spoke for about ten. Wow welcome to Russia. I would like to say I gave a coherent talk, and all the members were so nice to me and said thank you thank you for piano and the talk. They are just as you picture them. Man, I love them so much. They were so funny yesterday. I can't wait for Sunday to come back around. I have begun to feel that love people talk about. They were so nice, and when we find the right people, they are so kind and accepting of us. I have a ton to learn, and really only understand nothing of what anyone says, but holy cow I love it. It truly is the Lord's work. I could feel the spirit so strong as a small group of us partook of the Sacrament. It was just the same as home. But something was just a little more radiant in the way it felt yesterday. It is a special place I am in. I wish you could be here to give a taste of what it really is like. I don't think I could do it justice. But overall, I love it. Yes it's hard, yes I don't understand anything, but I have such reason to be happy. They don't show it much, but when they do these people are so happy. I have loved to feel how the Spirit really can radiate from us. What a blessing it is to be a light to the people around us, even if it's just a quick hello. Hopefully this gave a good taste of how it is. It's tough, but I can't tell enough how much I love it and love Russia. I love you and am so thankful for you. I want to find a family like ours. Love you family!
Elder Nielson

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Elder Nielson arrives safe and sound...Whew!

Dear Parents,
Elder Nielson and Sister Moe arrived early today.... 12:25 a.m...... in our Russia Samara Mission. They look wonderful and were handling the 'jet lag' very well. Thank you for sharing your delightful young missionaries with us. We can feel their strong spirits and love for the Lord in their hearts. We love them already !!!!
Attached you will find 3 articles that will tell you about our mission. Also you will find the photos we took this morning after breakfast with them.Sister Moe will be serving in Saratov, Russia in our Dachney Branch with Sister Pitchforth and Sister Callister.Elder Nielson will be serving with Elder Christensen in Kazan, Russia.
Our P-day is Monday, so you will be hearing from your missionaries then.
Love, Laughter and Sunshine
President and Sister Sartori
Russia Samara Mission
Любовь, смех и солнце
Сестра Сартори Российская Самарская Миссия

Elder Nielson en route to Russia!

At 7:30 a.m. on Monday March 5th, Elder Nielson called us from the Salt Lake Airport! So great to hear his voice again and hear him speak a little Russian for us. He talked about how special of a place the MTC is and how grateful he was for his time spent there. We can't wait to see the picture he got of as many former LP Knights that are all there at the MTC together the night before he left.
His absolute certainty as he, with all confidence, said that Russia has been prepared for the gospel and he was ready to go and serve, was such a boost to us.
I loved his comment to me (mom) as we were just about to say goodbye. I told him how proud we were of him, that he had always been so obedient and knew that his obedience in the mission will be a protection to him. (I have worried for his safety so much). Christopher said...ya it is something I have learned more here at the mtc and have come to understand that it will be true for the rest of my life, but mom, we as a family all can be obedient and have the same responsibility and receive the same blessings. Oh what we learn from these missionaries!
It was tough to say goodbye (although, Elder Nielson seemed just fine. Ha! He was just ready to get that plane in the air!) We all were feeling a little sorry for ourselves, when my husband got a text from his boss/good friend. He said he was bording a plane to New York right then with a bunch of missionaries bound for Russia! Chris (Dad) was trying to type a response back, when another text came in saying...Elder Nielson is sitting right behind me!! What a little gift we received at that moment when we needed it most.
We are so grateful for Elder Nielson and all a little happier as every p-day rolls around. Can't wait to hear about his adventures!
Elder Nielson leaving the plane in New York. Taken by our friend who flew with him that far. Such a great moment for us!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Let the games begin!!

Hello family!

We have made it to the final p-day of the mtc! And somebody is takin off to Russia on Monday morning! Travel plans are in hand, just pray for no visa problems pleeeeease. I'll give you the low down on this first, because that's the most exciting part of the week for sure. I report to the travel office at 5 in the morning. Sister Moe and I are the two that will be going to Samara, so I will be hanging out with a Sister companion-we will see how that goes. I might be a little nervous. But in all seriousness she's awesome-it'll be like travelling with Sarah or Emily. So we have a flight leaving to New York at 8:30 with a short layover there. We then have a direct flight to Moskow, arriving sometime Tuesday morning. We will be in Moscow for about 11 hours, I believe we are taken to the embassy there where we will get Russian passports for the whole visa trading deal every three months. I feel a little like Jason Bourne. Supposedly if we have time they will take us to Red Square which would be just fantastic. Following, we have a flight from Moskow to Samara, arriving in Samara at about 1:30 Wednesday morning! woo-we're in for a doozy of a few days. But it's all good because I am going and that's all that matters. They are supposed to get visa stuff in the next couple days confirmed, so pray for that. I really don't know logistics on calling and things, but I believe each time I land I will be able to call. At least count on some time Monday morning between 6 and 8:30. And then with time differences and things I don't know what to expect for the following calls. But that is the plan at this juncture. Much to celebrate about.

Just a couple more business items. Don't know if you remember sister hope but she will be here tomorrow and if I have anything to send home, she will bring it home. So don't be alarmed. Also, I am just kinda stocking up on basics. Could you maybe just send a couple soaps and shampoos for elder Davis and I. We just don't know what to expect and thought we would just bring some over. That would be divine. Thank you Nu Skin. I believe that's it as far as business.

The travel plans were probably of course the highlight of the week. Last week seems like a month ago. We are just working on getting last minute things together and cramming all the Russian we can up our ears. We will see how that goes. I would like to think I know it decently well, but then we took some survey thing yesterday that I thought I did well on. However after we could listen to a native say the stuff we said, and I don't even know if they were speaking Russian. We are definitely in for an adventure. But it has come well and I feel that the progress I have had has been a blessing. I know the lord will continue to bless with the gift of tongues. It is fun to find some funny things to say. Our favorite is "вот" which translates directly as "behold!" but supposedly they say it for everything so it's pretty funny in english context. I know, I have a strange missionary sense of humor already. Also when people ask a question and nobody replies they say 'sailor's don't have questions.' pretty goofy but it's kinda fun the different weird translations.

They are sending us off well here though! On Sunday it was sad to have our branch president get released. Elder Davis and I got really close working with him and he will always be a special person to me. Luckily it was our last week and not in the middle of things. Our new branch president is brother Cranney who is the former mission president of Moscow. He had a lot to do with organizing the stake. He has been our first counselor and is so good to have around. I am happy for the new missionaries to have him. We also got to hear from Elder Holland last night! Holy cow he is my favorite. If I can be like one person it would be him. I was so excited when I saw him walk in. If you think he is animated in priesthood, you should come see him at the mtc. He knows how to speak with power. He spoke a lot about how we need to have our own conversion. We can't guarantee any conversions except one, and that's ourselves. He told us how preach my gospel was created not to teach us how to teach, but rather to convert the missionary in order to teach with the spirit. Yes it puts forth what to teach, but that won't mean anything if the missionary is not converted. Just another reason to love that book. and I think another reason that everyone could study it. I think that is why I have come to love it- because I have felt that it has began that conversion process because of the way that it puts forth the most basic doctrines of the gospel. We learned yesterday in a workshop about the doctrine. I love how Elder Packer taught us that true doctrine understood changes attitudes and behavior. Elder Bednar expounds more by saying that we can discern which doctrines will change someone in particular's attitude and behavior. I thought how much the world could use this concept. It's no wonder people are confused. I think that if people could utilize the doctrines of the gospel to change attitudes, parenting and raising good people would be monstrous. The principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ are infinite and eternal. I would think that this could apply to any need that needs to be addressed in any person.

Well I hope some of that made sense. I just wrote a bunch of thoughts I have had over the couple of the days. I love the gospel. It is for everyone and for every family. It is our source of hope and the means by which we can change and become even as our savior.

Thank you to all who have sent nice notes and packages. I haven't had the time to write most back, but appreciate the love and support. I love you family and love the support. Can't wait to bring our message that makes us happy to our family in Russia. I love you.

Elder Nielson

Elder Nielson, Elder Davis with Sister Hope who has become a good friend to these two Elders. Thank you Sister Hope for your kind words and pictures you have shared.