Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Hello family!
Well I'm writing this week from a little booth in the Russia post office.  So funny.  We finally tracked it down somewhere near our new house and are just living the dream here in Kazan.  We had quite the week and got quite the schedule a'brewin for this coming week.  It is hard to believe that we are already to the last week of this transfer cycle again.  Holy cow this one flew by.  I really hope I get to stay here in Kazan and also would love to work another cycle with Elder Taylor. Before I forget, the office couple did call and say that the package has arrived and so I will be able to pick that up when I go in to Samara next week I believe for visa trips.  Yes, I have already been in Russia for three months!  What the heck?

We had such a good and fruitful week this week.  As far as to answer your questions dad, we were able to meet goals this week.  Our mission has a pyramid, maybe you can see it in the background of the photo I sent of Elder Christensen and I.  As far as stats (cause we're all about stats) we have a pyramid that if we find 16 investigators, have 7 progressing investigators, have 4 at church, and 3 with baptismal dates, we average getting one baptism.  So our goal is to have that pyramid full.  I thought you would like that, my accountant father.  A lot of the time is spent in contacting, because as you know, people have a hard time just meeting again to become progressing.  They are new if we teach them and pray with them and give a commitment.  We go through a lot of new investigators.  This week we were able to get 11 new investigators!  That is a solid week.  We had the zone leaders come visit and it was such a blast to work with them.  Those have been my favorite days on my mission, when the zone leaders came about 6 weeks ago and then again.  We then all headed together to Ul'yanovsk to go on exchange there.  It was way fun, but spent a lot of time travelling.  So, for having two days out of our area, it was a good week.   I had a good experience that has taught me a lot about the Spirit.  A lot of time is spent in our lives trying to figure out whether the Spirit is speaking to us or not.  Especially in missionary work, a lot of focus is used and even wasted.  But while in Ul'yanovsk I was working with Elder Hughes and we had spent a solid 6 hours out on the streets just (in the words of Elder Hughes) getting our faces kicked in.  We had about 15 minutes left for the evening and just had no idea where to go.  We had prayed a few times throughout the day, and just had no sense of where to go or anything.  We spent a second on a street corner just trying to figure out what in the world to do.  Finally, we just had to start heading home.  Of course, about three minutes later, a girl and her boy friend came running up behind us, basically saying, "we're interested, do you have a book?  Yes we'll come to church..." For sake of time I will spare some details.  We spent a second to just stand there, pretty stunned at what we just saw after a long day of people not even stopping to talk.  Of course, Heavenly Father sent us somebody who was prepared.  Do I think it was the Spirit's direction to stop on the corner? No.  However, I have learned so much that as long as we are living righteously and looking for the Spirit in our lives, we have the Lord's promise.  So much as we try our best, we can move forward and do that which is best.  Heavenly Father has given us the ability to do that which is best, and sometimes we have to trust that and move forward.  It was a way cool experience.
Elder Taylor and I also had a great evening back in Kazan following this trip.  We had six meetings set up for Saturday, that every single one of them fell through.  Good times.  However, we ended up getting a hold of a way cool couple and were able to meet them at the park.  They didn't even want to spend time looking at photos or getting to know us.  They just wanted to know our purpose and our message.  It was pretty cool.  So, we threw down the Restoration on them, and they are in line to be baptized on the 16th of June!  We are so excited, they also have 2 daughters that they had asked if they could get baptized with them!  So keep Sergei and Tonya in your prayers! 

I believe that would be the bulk of things to report on a great week here in Kazan!  Thanks so much for everything you do my family!  And dad don't worry about it, the aerobie was nothing but a joke.  For whatever reason, the markets here just don't carry those.  And I will look for a Rob Galloway roaming the streets of Samara soon!  You will have to let me know why he is out of the ward boundaries.  I sure love you all again, love the reports I get and am happy to hear that things are going well back at the ranch!  Till next week!
Elder Nielson

Mother's Day Skype

What a great 45 minutes it was to talk with Elder Nielson!  He had us laughing and crying all at the same time.  The thing we noticed the most is how happy he is.  There must really be something to this "obedience brings happiness" idea!  :)  Here is our latest family picture with Elder Nielson out on the mission!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Good morning fam!
So I had this crazy dream last night that I got to talk to you and things....holy cow that was so fun but feels like that never happened.  So good.  I loved seeing you and just talking with you.  I was right back in my cell at SVU!  Man I was so glad we got to do the Skype and all, that was so fun.  And you got to see one of my Russian mamma's.  They are so awesome aren't they?  She gave me a whole low down on things after I chatted with you just on enjoying the mission.  But I have never seen them at church, and now they said they'd come so we'll see!  That whole evening was just a treat.  Elder Taylor and I were saying how it's a good thing we can only do that twice a year or we might be a mess!  So...happy mother's day to you momma!  And Grandma ‘Net and Grandma Nielson!  Definitely would have loved a giant conference Skype session with all.  45 minutes just wasn't enough.

Well I will maybe try to give some highlights from the week and maybe take a second to try and attach some photos.  What a mess.  I am sitting next to some 10 year old gamers in this little internet cafe.  It's just like we talked about last night. 

We had a week of pounding the pavement here in Kazan.  We spent a lot of time on the streets.  I don't know about other places, but I have yet to meet a Russian that actually plans in the first place, and then follows through on plans.  But it's all good, those that are prepared will follow through.  And then we just get some funny stuff on the streets anyways.  Probably the highlight of the week was yesterday at church.  That crazy Raisa lady that I told you we had talked to showed up to church.  I had no idea she walked in and then I all the sudden hear someone like, "where's Taylor?!"  It was pretty funny.  Anyways, she ended up just taking us outside and talking to us for a minute and leaving.  I can't remember what she was saying, but she was just all over the place and Elder Taylor and I were dying just talkin to this crazy old lady.  Man they are so funny.  But this really nice girl named Albina just showed up off the street to which was awesome!  She lives right by the building and decided to just come and check it out.  We hope we can meet with her this week and hopefully get her going on things! 

After church this super Muslim kid wanted to meet with us.  We were so pumped to have a meeting that we were like heck ya!  He actually came to the building with his buddy and they did some work on us to convert us over to Muslim.  It's pretty funny- some of the Muslim people are just so staunch.  But always super nice.  Man good times in Kazan.

We also were able to have a sports night on Friday night which is so fun to do.  You feel a little naked being able to run outside in regular clothing.  But sports night is just an evening that we gather and get investigators there...and play sports!  It is pretty fun and a good way to get some investigators.  We only had like 6 people, but we are definitely upping the game next week!  We spent like 30 minutes sprinting all over the place looking for a frisbee.  They don't believe in those around these parts.  If an aerobie [Frisbee] ever snuck it's way on over to Russia, I would not be upset.  But we got a kid that was just walking by to play with us and he ended up becoming a new investigator!  That's what I'm talkin’ about!  I think he was just sold on my Nike's.  That is a joke...but kinda seriously.  ;)  Anyways, those seem to be about the highlights outside of just some serious contacting out on the beautiful streets of good ol' Kazan!

Again, it was such a treat to see each of you last night and chat with ya.  And I was glad to let you catch a bit of a glimpse of the special place that I am at.  There is not much I can say to portray Russia to ya.  This is the good work that's for sure.  Mark's mom was going off about how beautiful our family is.  Man, I am so blessed with the fam that we have.  I have found that my two greatest missionary resources are: 1) the Book of Mormon.  Of course nothing can replace that.  I have gained such a love for the testament of Christ which the Book of Mormon is.  I hope that our family continues to read it because there is nothing better for our testimonies, and for our family than to read from the Book of Mormon.  and 2) is my picture of our family.  People just love to see my pictures, yes of course they love to see our lives but they notice something different almost every time.  Sometimes they have a hard time grasping that we have what we have because of the gospel, but I have come to learn how true that is.  The gospel in our family and our individual lives is everything.  There is no problem that can't be solved and no conflict or fear that can't be overcome by the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I love that our family is a living example of that.  I can't wait to see that enter into somebody's life here in Russia.  They have such a desire to have that happiness, it's just my job to find those that the Lord has prepared to have that real happiness in life.  I love you so much and am so grateful for the gospel which we have.  Maybe look for a way to share it with someone, and you will be surprised what will come into your life.  Sure love ya fam, keep on keepin on!  (thank you preston)
Elder Nielson
PS I think that this is saying that my cam isn't compatible with this.  I'll keep trying, have a good week!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Well hey family!
I am back in cozy ol' Kazan on a nice warm day today!  We had some weird cold weather last week but it looks like things are warming up round these parts.  (I know... crazy of me to think that it would actually get cold here in Russia!)  But let's get down to business first.  The hour to write home and things just could never be long enough.  I will try to get some pics attached to this one.  I have tried the last like 4 weeks so we will see.  Hopefully a pic of Jamala, Kremlin, and a good send off this morning on our way out the door.  Good times.  We will hopefully have some good pics after our visit today with our English speaking Russian grandma.  Will explain in a minute...stay tuned my friends.  Ok drum roll please....we are going to be able to use Skype from a member's house next week!!  His name is Mark and we will go there at 7:00 our time in the evening.  I want to say that would make for about 9:00 a.m. in the morning there in Utah.  I don't know with daylight savings and things.  But so you know we will try to be there at 7:00 p.m. our time, and I will either talk then, or at about 7:50 after Elder Taylor.  Sorry that has been so un-planned.  We are a couple of rookies that didn't really know what was going on and then it snuck up on us.  We will have 45 minutes, so make your Grandpa Arnett list!  I am super excited it will be fun for sure!

Well, it has been quite the interesting week this week.  Russia tends to be pretty interesting every week.  I spent most of the week working in Tolyatti while Elder Taylor had a leadership conference and visa trip.  We just didn't find out about that until about two days before so that's why we had to leave the house so fast and get the house moved.  Holy cow that seems like a dream and a half ago.  So I spent some time with Elder Maloy down in Tolyatti.  It was really fun and we had some sweet stuff happen.  I got a couple awesome babushka stories for ya.  On our first night Elder Maloy and I stopped a babushka and started talking to her. She asked what we were and we replied by telling her that we were missionaries, she just goes "oh how beautiful!  how clean!  ah, lads, go SERVE!"  and like pushes our chest.  Holy cow I was rolling I was laughing it was so awesome.  Man I love the funny people here.  Then last night we were talking to this babushka.  She started going off about how she has a neighbor girl and this and that.  So we show her a Book of Mormon and she like rips it out of Elder Taylor's hands and has it like two inches away from her face.  Ah she was so funny and just her little hat and things were awesome.  But she told Elder Taylor to call her right there so that she had our number, and when he called like 5 seconds later she freaks out and is like "holy cow who is calling me?!"  and answers and is just like "who is it?!' It was so funny she was so excited and Elder Taylor is just like "wo lady it's me you just told me to call."  We could not stop laughing.  But hey, we got the referral alright.  Ah such good times.  So I spent the week in Tolyatti just doing the good ol' work.  Oh and I taught the little group at family night how to play Don't Eat Pete!  It was so fun.  "NE KYSHAI PETRA!"  I thought you'd get a kick out of the Russian version dad.  Anyways, I will have to show you this stuff on the Skype, because it is all ten times more funny in their dramatic Russian.  I completely agree with you dad.  It is pretty crazy to walk away and be like "hmm...I was just having a good time with that guy.  In Russian!"  It is pretty crazy how much we are blessed to speak and understand.  Although, I will be very honest that there is a long, long ways to go on that.  Our English speaking Russian g-ma is just a joy for us to be around.  We were able to meet with her and just chat and walk and got her a Book of Mormon.  I am so excited to just slowly but surely help her progress.  We are actually going right after this to her art school in the center of the city.  I am super excited.  She is going to show us around and take us down the main street there.  It is such a cool street with a whole bunch of cool historical stuff.  We got our own tour guide!  And we actually understand her as well.  It is fun also to talk to somebody just about the communist life experiences and understand it.  I can't wait to be able to understand people well enough to talk with people about that.  pretty crazy stuff.  We also had quite the experience at church yesterday.  This older guy got up and just started going off.  I didn't really understand him, but it was alright.  But then he hit a second gear and was just like yelling and this and that about his granddaughter getting to go the temple or not.  Anyways, it was crazy.  Finally, a member actually walked up and told him to finish, and he did.  Luckily that was all that happened.  We were pretty stunned sitting there.  It was pretty good. 
Well for the most part I believe that does it for things that happened this week.  We spent a lot of time on a bus hauling back and forth on some crazy roads.  It is pretty funny, the roads are better in the winter here because the potholes are frozen in.  We were going at crawling speed for a while just weaving in and out of big ol' craters in the road.  Good times. 

But, on a more serious note, I have been growing in such an appreciation for the Book of Mormon.  What a blessing we have to have that pure set of scripture.  I have become thoroughly convinced that if anybody will spend a legitimate amount of time in the Book of Mormon each day and pray, he can't fall.  Heavenly Father knew what He was doing by bringing forth that scripture for our day.   The doctrines are put forth purely, and we have perfect examples of people to follow. Most of all it contains such wonderful testimonies of the Savior.  There is no room for distorting the doctrines, or rationalizing actions.  The Book of Mormon is definitely for each of us and it has been such a blessing and tool on my mission.
Well I will look forward to chatting on Sunday night/morning! It will be a Happy Mother's Day for sure!  I love you all so much!
Elder Nielson

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Well good morning to my family!

First, let’s get apologies out of the way. I can't believe the kind of son I am to forget my Momma's Birthday in last week’s email! Happy Birthday Momma I love you more than you know and sure hope you had a good day. A card may be a bit delayed but is on the way none the less mother. I love you. Also, sorry if the letters wind down quick and have been picture-less. We only have an hour to read our emails, write home, and write our weekly report to president. so it gets a little crazy. All in an internet cafe with Russian computer functions that I can't figure out how to find my camera to attach pics. So I do my best! I am actually writing from a senior couples’ apartment right now. Elder Taylor and I had to come into Tallyatti again for his visa trips and a leadership conference. Another "surprise" of a travel to cap off a crazy week. So I will see what I can do with pictures. I have not had time to get any letters in the mail here. We do have Monday afternoon as p-day but the way things are spread out, we really don't have much time. So if I sound a little crazy in these letters, I am. Just kidding, I am doing quite wonderful. :)

I was very happy to here Preston made it back. HI PRESTON! DRRRRR! Man that's so fun. And nice work to my buddy [Tanner] getting to the temple. That is such a special experience. What a blessing we have of having a temple by our house.

You also asked about the branch. We average having about 40 people to church. Ours is definitely the largest in the district. We have about 150 members, 50 of them being active. No, there is another lady that plays the piano so I will fill in every now and then, but nothing too serious. We have a great core of about 20 members that are awesome. We are just so spread out here across a huge city that makes things a little difficult. Our branch president lives about 45 minutes away going on the metro and bus, etc. Transportation is very fun here. Definitely ain’t your ol’ I 15 to drive down.

I will try to describe this whirlwind of a week. Holy cow it was crazy. I would be lying if I said I couldn't fall asleep standing up right now. We started off the week just with a good ol’ week. We are working with a 19 year old kid named Bylat who is looking very good for baptism on the 12th of May. We had a great meeting with him and are excited to work with him, he just had a little bit of an issue with answering his phone to meet again this week. Good times. We spent a lot of time on the streets this week and had a lot of fun and a lot of miracles come our way. One kid walked up to us while we were mid- getting rejected in a shirt and tie. We kinda joked with him because we were too and he goes "oh your mormons" we said ya, and he basically said "oh I've heard of you. I'm interested. Here's my number. Let's meet back there on Saturday." Our jaws were a little open and just handed him a Book of Mormon and he went on his way. It was so cool. We didn't get to meet with him, but are excited to get a hold and hopefully work with him. We also were walking on Friday and a lady says "you look like twins!" in perfect English. (just a side note, Elder Taylor and I may very well be twins. We are basically the same in every way and it is so fun to work. We work hard together, we are so drained every night, but we also have a blast working together. Also, we stand out like sore thumbs now that it is warm and we are in clean, white short sleeve shirts. We get some good looks from people.) So she says that in perfect English. We got talking with her and she is an English professor in the art school in the center. It was the first time I think I haven't had to carry on a conversation with a native Russian. It came up that we were Mormons and she said, "oh you don't have a good reputation. Like you have a lot of wives that's all people know." We got a good laugh outta that and said no we only have one momma. She then stopped and was like "the way I see you I can tell you come from wonderful families." We of course pulled out pictures and showed her. This was one of many times this week that people saw our pictures and exclaimed how happy we are, and how they see something different in our eyes and in our family. So cool. It is so fun to almost literally be a light house here in our white shirts. Anyways, she took us to her house to meet her grandson and we are looking forward to visiting with them. She wants us to come to her art school and show us around. Yes momma, you better believe the camera will be out. I do the best I can with that. :) We then found out that we had to move apartments by the 1st of May. Very convenient huh? Since we were having to come in to Tolyatti, we found out on Friday that we would be moving. so, Friday night, we ran and signed the agreements (with member help of course) and then ran home to try and begin a little bit of packing for about 30 minutes. Saturday was spent throwing the apartment together and cleaning it out and all our supplies, moving, and setting up another apartment. All in one day, all done by Elder Taylor and I. I think we deserve a medal, but we both would not have minded dying on Saturday night and Sunday. It is hard to be in a hot Sacrament meeting, in Russian, after moving apartments. Let me tell you. And now, I am somehow in Tolyatti, about 7 hours away from Kazan. I really cannot do justice to the days let alone an entire week, but that is the idea of things.

Ok, another apology. I just scrambled to type that to have a minute to attach pics, only to find that I do not have a cord for my camera. Man alive I am sorry but I will do my best to get you pictures next week. Just know that I am trying to get things to you and do my best. Man, I am just a mess aren't I? Well it has been such a blessing to be a missionary. Elder Taylor and I always talk about how it feels like we are in a dream. Every now and then, I kinda step back and have to take it in that I am in Russia, speaking to someone in semi-Russian, and a missionary. I love it though. Yes there are many disappointments that happen. However, Heavenly Father always has something greater in store if we remember Him. It also makes it fun to have a hard time, because then we always know that something great is going to occur. It's kinda fun to have the Lord's promise in things. He definitely looks out for us as missionaries and as members in His Church. I feel His love every day, and have learned a little bit what it feels like to have that towards someone. You are definitely forced into looking at someone as the next Elder's Quorom President or a fresh, clean new member. It changes the way you view people, because I know that is how Heavenly Father views them. What a blessing I have to extend the invitation to people to accept the wonderful gift of the Atonement in their lives and become what Heavenly Father knows them as. People have a hard time accepting it, but they always want it. I love the family we have and the light we have, which is the light of Christ. I love you and will see you next week!

Love Elder Nielson

P.S. sorry just realized, I believe we will call on Sunday evening, Sunday morning for you. We can Skype if we have a member with it, just don't know if we can find that. Love you!