Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Good morning family!
It has been another wonderful week here in Kazan...just livin’ the dream on the mission you know!  I don't know that I have time to write back, but definitely appreciated the nice letters from Grandma Nielson and Arnett and loved to hear from them.  I might not always get much written back, but I love to hear from you and love you two!  And Grandpa Nielson and Arnett as well of course.  I will do my best to answer questions and report a little on this last week.   First, I gotta report on the new comp.  Holy cow, he is so cool.  We are way good buds already and have had a hoot this week working together.  I am excited for this cycle and what we will do here.  He is only on his fourth cycle and has been in country about 4 and a half months.  So our Russian is just dazzling.  Its a good time, but we are both young in mission years and get along so well that we have a good time and find a lot of super cool people.  The Russian is coming along, ever slowly but surely.  We were talking to some people yesterday and I suddenly was thinking, dang we're totally jokin’ and havin’ a good time with these guys, in Russian!  Pretty cool to think about.  It's always difficult to understand and express myself, but it makes for a good time and keeps us humble.   The drama continues to unfold with the brothers as we got a hold of them and found out they were in Moscow.  I hope they have returned by now and have gotten documents and things in order.  I prayed pretty hard that day that the authority helping them would have their heart softened.  We really didn't have much happen this week in the way of investigators progressing.  It's funny you say that about trying to get people progressing dad.  We call and call and plan and plan and it just seems to not be a Russian priority to show up to things or plan out their day.  Definitely gets disappointing, but makes for some fun hours on the street finding people.   We have one young guy thata is way cool guy that we had met down in Ulyanovsk on splits.  He is studying there, but lives here and speaks English.  So, a miracle, if you will, to find somebody that lives in our city but in a city about 5 hours away.  But we have met with them a couple times (them being him and his girlfriend) and are excited to get him moving on now.   I love being here in Kazan because there are tons of universities so we find tons of young people.  They are way fun to talk to and are willing to listen about things.  We had a couple funny things that I gotta report on though.  First, last night we met a couple guys from, yup you guessed it, the same place as the brothers. They actually know them.  When we asked their names we didn't hear one and asked again and he said " ben laden."  Haha we lost it we were laughing so hard.  So good.  We also found a new lady who was named Anastasia.  So we found Osama and Anastasia from Russia.  The other story was we were just walking at night and saw this bum kinda digging through some trash on the ground.  All the sudden he just stands up and throws this peice of paper.  We realized after a second that it was a paper airplane.  It went like two feet and then just crashed and he just sat there and watched.  Haha I am laughing just writing this.  It was one of the more random things we had seen.  So good.  Just had to let you know some of the fun stuff.   We also were walking home the other night and had to grab something out of the store.  We grabbed an ice cream cone (they are like 40 cents here) and were just walking home for the evening.  We came up on a kid and tried to talk to him.  He turned and indicated that he was deaf.  But he whipped out his phone and typed in, "how many rubles?" Haha I expected him to say hi or something.  So we were just like wait here man.  And we sprinted back to the store and grabbed him a cone.  It was fun, made his day and gave an invitation.  Just some of the good times on the mission.   We look forward to now moving forward with these people that we found.  There have been some special people that we have met and continue to meet.  We get good laughs every day from the fun Russian things we see, and just keep working and doing our part.  We know there will be something special that happens here.  I agree with you Grandma ‘Net that this is definitely a time to have missionary work exploding.  See what you can do at home to help the work progress.  You would be surprised what would happen when the members get involved, because there is always more to be done.   Tanner it sounds like your ballin’ hard and havin’ a good time at the Hope of America.  Good times, wish I could be there to do all that with ya.  Sarah, I am so proud of you and heard about the patriarchal blessing.  Well done sis.  That is something special and I hope you continue to grow and just have fun.  And I'll be lookin’ forward to seein’ a t-bird strut when Em and Jackson come out.  Its a good neck of the woods to be in.  And, of course as always I love you momma and dad.  I appreciate all you do for me and feel all the support of your prayers.  Love you!
Elder Nielson

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

First six weeks...

Well hello family!
What a couple of fun letters I was able to read today.  I appreciate all the love and support I feel from you at home.  I can picture all that's going on and it sounds like everyone is doing well.  Good to hear.  Yes, things are warming up very nicely here.  It sounds like we got about a week of beautiful weather and then we'll be sweating our brains out in nice and hot humidity.  Not what you picture when you think of Russia!  And funny to think we were walking through snow on ice covered streets a couple weeks ago.  Yes sorry moma, I couldn't get the pics to attach last week.  So, we'll try again!  This week we were able to go to the Kremlin here.  The city center is so cool it has a little bit of a D.C. feel to it.  It is in the other area across the river, but we still have a great area of course.  It is a cool place with a big Russian orthodox temple with the big mosque right across from it in the complex thing.  Really its like a big fortress from like 1000 years ago, kind of a castle.  It's a cool place I'm in.
Well tranfers came around this week and I was able to escape the destroying angel.  Elder Christensen unfortunately was made a zone leader and has left me. He was such a blessing and I will definitely miss him.  He is a great missionary. My companion, Elder Taylor will be the new district leader and I am so excited to work with him.  We will continue to travel around and visit the other elders in our spread out district, but I love it.  It makes the time fly though.
So, things continue to look just wonderful in good ol Kazan.  I hope I can spend a lot of time here.
Things were quite interesting this week as we continued to do the work.  We spent Tuesday and Wednesday with the south elders in Kazan. As I said, that half of the city is across the river and is a very cool place.  Very cool Russia is all I can explain it as.  And it is very well kept, so it was just a couple of great days.  We were able to find a bunch of people and hopefully jump start the area.  We spent the latter part of the week back at the ranch on the north side of the city.  The suspense with the brothers continues on.  It causes for some deep mulling over of things as I try to wrap my mind around what they are going through.  But we continue to pray for them and try our best to stay in contact.  They have found work but it just isn't enough. So, we will continue to pray and hope for their happiness.  Heavenly Father has a good plan for them in store.  Whether in this life or the next, they will accept the gospel.  We also were able to meet with some ladies that cracked me up.  Elder Christensen had found one of them a few weeks ago with the zone leaders.  She brought her friends and they are excited to meet again and so we are excited for that.  They remind me of Grandma Sher and I get a kick out of it.  I wanna learn how to ask if they wanna grab a "peps" and eat some spanish food with me and Skeet.  They are awesome.
We then were able to watch conference this weekend!  How awesome was that?  Holy cow I love what was said.  It is so interesting how it so applies to what we are trying to get into people's heads here.  Basic principles, repentance, and the gospel blesses families.  Man, that was awesome.  And I just want to go and sit on a bench with Elder Holland.  Holy cow, his talk was awesome.  We were able to watch some in English on a member's iPad.  Haha kinda funny-people here love technology.  They might not be able to put food on the table, but they have an iPad dang it!  We had a couple of great investigators come that will be so ready to be baptized soon I hope.  I don't know how anyone couldn't after watching that.  It was such a blessing to see our prophet.  It adds a little more meaning when you are on the streets trying to struggle through a different language testifying to someone that we have a prophet of God who receives revelation for our families.  What a blessing we have to have a prophet.
Well I hope all is well.  Grandma 'Net I hope your knee continues to
heal- you'll be running laps around me in no time.  And Grandma Nielson I hope and pray that the treatment gets better.  Sure love you family. Thanks for the pic - man we got a good lookin' fam!  Thanks for the update Tanner- keep playin' hard.  Good luck with grad and stuff Em and Jackson.  Sarah - your the bomb. Just keep it up. :)  and I love you mom and dad.  Thanks for everything you do.  I love you all!
Elder Nielson

Monday, April 9, 2012

Hi Family!

Well hi family!
I am writing already on my last week of cycle one!  What in the world!  What a crazy 6 weeks it's been in good ol' Kazan.  I am going to do my best again to try and report this week, but probably won't get the hundredth part into my epistle.  It was a crazy week, lots got done and we've been all over creation!  No, we have not had the opportunity to watch conference yet.  I believe this weekend we are, so we are excited to get some investigators out to the branch for that!   We left Tuesday morning to Tagliatti for the middle part of the week.  Elder Christensen was due for a visa trip, so we had a beauty of an 8 hour bus ride there.  I spent the time there with Elder Glad and Elder Wiseman while he went to Keiv for the day and back.  Kinda funny how they have that so coordinated with all the missionaries.  But my pictures are first at this lady's and her house.  I found the Uzbekistan version of Kim Jensen!  Haha she was the kindest lady.  We went to teach her for the first time there in Tagliatti.  She was so nice and listened, and then brought out all this food for us!  It was so awesome.  She had five daughters, so we were nervous for just a marriage auction, but it ended up being so good.  It was only us and the lady and her youngest daughter and then all the sudden the others brought in all this food!  The rice is called plove.  It's so good!  And she also made this stuff called peroshki in Russia.  But hers was Uzbekski so I don't remember what they were called.  But they are like a scone filled with potatoes in Russia, but the ones she made were only filled with onions.  Weird I know, but trust me on this one.  It was awesome.  She is from Uzbekistan and grew up in Turkmenistan.  Crazy.  The other pic I just included to show the coat.  Yes, that is fox fur.  Nothin’ too fancy, but it’s a good coat. :)   We came back to find our area somewhat falling to pieces.  We had some great meetings on Friday and Saturday.  Friday we met a kid that I found with the Elder I was working with in Ulyanovsk that lived here in Kazan, so we met and he's way cool!  Miracle there.  We had some other great meetings, but our solids are kind of dying.  If that makes sense.  I am rushed on time, so this is kinda a mess.  On Saturday we met with a family that is from Kyrgistan.  Pretty crazy again.  I want to take a picture of the house we were in.  It is crazy.  This little pieced together was pretty humbling.  But it was nice and warm on the inside, the outside was something I have only seen in pictures.  We will see where they go.  They are staunch Muslims, and gave us the whole singing prayer at the end which was really cool.  I got quite the culture experience this week. 
The others were a little disappointing.  We went yesterday to find our progressing couple drunk as can be for the third time.  Needless to say, I don't think we'll be back there for a while.  We have also not been able to get a hold of the brothers.  We have been a little panicky about that.  We asked about their family  and hadn't heard anything since.  We have been very down about that.  However, we just had nothing go good yesterday.  Everything fell through and nobody would even say hi it felt like.  We stopped and both had the strongest impression to go to them. We already had several times this week.  We got there and rang the doorbell.  One came to the door!  We were so excited and praying someone would come.  He apologized and said they had been in Moscow this week trying to get visas renewed.  We were so relieved.  However, this is where it gets juicy.  He started telling us how he has so much problems.  They got a bunch of money stolen and don't have the money to renew a visa, or just live.  So, they are going to be forced to go back to their country.    He started crying a bit.  This legitimately broke my heart.  He is just this big teddy bear.  He said we don't understand what's going on, and they have no idea what to do.  He's right- I can't even fathom the situation they are in.  We both had the impression to give him a blessing.  We went in and talked and explained what a blessing is.  Elder Christensen did a beautiful job telling him how everything we have taught is true.  He replied by saying, " you believe me, I know everything is true.  I know the book is true."  Holy cow if that isn't some power.  They blow me away.  I was able to give the blessing, both of us had the impression that everything will be ok.  so basically, they gotta find work today or else go back.   I have not quite prayed as hard before as I did last night.  If I could ask a favor at home, please pray for these friends.  I feel so at peace about the situation, but we are definitely trying our faith.  We feel so strong that Heavenly Father has prepared them for something great.  As they  said, "we will meet in a couple days.  I just want it to be like how it was."  I firmly believe it will.  What a blessing we have had of knowing these two.
Having had it be the end of the cycle, I've had some time to think about what I've learned.  What an appreciation I have gained of what we have.  I am truly humbled to recognize this.  I am sure if anybody saw our home, they would be blown away.  To have a car, a big kitchen, a personal swing set for their kids-the temporal blessings we have would blow them away.  However, if they could only be there.  This would really blow them away-to feel the spirit of our home.  To be happy and have a happy family.  To have the Rios's walk by and say hello and Kim Jensen saying hi.  The love and happiness which we have is truly what's the difference.  And that's because we have the gospel.  Our picture seems to glow when I show it to people.  I am so grateful for the blessings which we have to enjoy.  I love each of you and hope you can remember to remember our loving Father in Heaven.  Love you!
Elder Nielson

(Elder Nielson spoke of pictures in his email, but there weren't any attached.  :(  We will hope for next week!)

Monday, April 2, 2012

Kickin' it in Kazan!

Hello family!
I am writing on a warmer and nice and muddy day in Kazan.  There is quite the weather here, I am going to try and get a couple pictures sent.  It is hard when all the functions are in Russian so I don't really know what to do.  But I'm tryin momma!  It has been a good week.  Definitely a wider range of ups and downs, but always a good week on the mission to cash in!

We started the week of course with a P day.  We then left early Tuesday morning to head out to Uleeyanovsk [I think this is Ulyanovsk….south from Kazan].  I don't know how to spell it with English letters.  But we headed out because we have to go on splits with the district due to Elder Christensen being the district leader.  So we headed out for a good 4 hour bus ride to hang with those two elders for a couple days.  It was a blast.  We jump started that area by finding 11 in two days.  What that means is that we teach them something, give a commitment, pray, and set up a return appointment.  The mission goal is to find 1 a day, and we blew that up.  It was so fun.  The area had been a little struggling, so we went to work!  They now sound like a lot of progress is being made.  I had a fun find there, we were on the Marshutka (these crazy little vans that run around the city) on our way home.  I got talkin’ to a guy across with his granddaughter who when his stop came asked to write down my number for them to call!  It was so sweet. Once he left, this other guy across asked me what we're all about.  I told him a bit and totally went ahead and said a prayer with this dude on this little bus/van thing.  It was pretty funny, but hey we find when we can!  My companion was just tearing up the back part of the van as well talking to people and so we were on clouds the rest of the way home.  Good times, funny people.  That's my favorite part.  So we travelled back and got back on Thursday.  We spent that day doing planning for the week and had a couple meetings that went well. We had a little bit of disappointment though.  Our brothers that we are teaching are so stuck in some job that they are just killing themselves to earn some money it sounds like.  Basically, they work about 16 hours a day splitting up the shift.  And they can't work out a schedule because they can't speak Russian.  However, we ran into one of them Friday evening when we were teaching an investigator on the street and one of them ran into us.  We had to ask him how his family was coping with their decision and he hadn't said much to them yet.  Anyways, we couldn't really understand him when we called yesterday because he can't express very well in English, so as of right now we really don't know what’s up with them.  Too bad.  I still can't wait to talk to them again.    The small family moved to Moscow which was too bad, but we had some miracles show up to church that we met with after.  The Spirit was very strong as we told the first vision, so we will see what happens!  All in all a wonderful week as always.  I continue to love this.  The language is hard, but I have learned a lot and will get it down.  What a blessed opportunity I have to serve!  I love you all and hope you know that.  More importantly, I hope you know how much our Heavenly Father loves us.  He truly does.  Hope all is well and c’ya next week!

Elder Nielson