Monday, June 25, 2012

Hey there my fam!
Man thanks so much for all the nice emails from each of you.  I sure wish I had time to write back individually, but man I sure love hearing from all of you.  It sounds like you are doing so well and it is so fun to catch a glimpse of what's goin’ on at home.  I love the pics, it looks like lil’ Tan is just bein’ the man.  That is so fun to see.  I don't know if I told you, but that package was some good stuff, but best of all was to see the pics.  Now I know how you feel!   I will attach a couple here, one is us with a couple members.  Eugene and Anna are the younger couple, and Anna's mom, Luba, is on the end.  Luba is probably one of my favorite members.  She's been a member for almost 18 years now I thought I heard and she is just the happiest, kindest woman.  Man I love her.  I also had to take the other shot, because this is just Russia.  We got some beautiful sunsets, and not quite as pretty storage units.  It's a little extreme, but it is so good.  Man it’s so weird to think I'm on the mission...and been gone for 6 months!  ah! I sure loved hearing just what's going on around home.  It sounds like you had such a nice time in St. George and I am so glad to hear that.  And the Book of Mormon challenge and discussion at the end sounds like a great experience all around.  I would be lying if I said that would not have been fun to be there, but what motivation it gives to try and give that kind of a setting to a family here.  Yup momma- it's the good work alright.  And Em and Jackson it is so fun to hear what's all going on with you guys.  I love hearin’ mission stuff from you Jackson- I think we got some pretty similar stuff to share.  We're gonna have some good story time in a little bit.  And Em I love to hear just all your stuff.  It sounds like you all might be goin’ on down to the ranch.  That will be such a good time, and it sounds like a pretty special time right now.  You and I all get some pretty special strength from Gma going through her time right now.  What a special testimony of the Atonement she has.  I love getting a report every week from her.   Dad- you had maybe asked for quotes or things that I use to motivate.  I can't say I necessarily have a quote, but my favorite thing to do is this...I had memorized "Abide with me 'tis eventide" in the MTC in Russian.  On those nice and long and hot days with some friendly and not so friendly Russians on the street, I find myself singing that to myself a lot.  It has grown to be a special little memory for me.   Well as far as for things here in good ol' Saratov, we have been blessed with such a good week.  Man it is so good here.  We were again on exchanges with our district leader here and that, as always, is just a blast.  We had a good time and got to know those two missionaries pretty well.  That is the best part of exchanges.  We were back together for a good day on Thursday...we had to do weekly planning for the afternoon, but had a meeting in the middle of it.  By the time that was over, it was a little late, so we just dipped in the store and grabbed a loaf of bread and some juice and sat on a bench for a minute for dinner.  We called some peeps, and one of them answered named Sasha.  He had been an investigator about a year ago and we had met with him once, but he wanted to meet that night!  So we went to Luba's house and met him there, and ended up setting a baptismal date as well with him!  Woo so good!  We have been so blessed with some of these old investigators comin’ outta the woodwork.  We also dropped by Tatyana (our other baptismal candidate) on Friday and gave her some snickerdoodles...ya I'm domestic alright.  She was doing well and asked us some real good questions about the Book of Mormon.  It was so good, and we also agreed to pick her up on our way to church.  This made for such a good day at church as we had 5 investigators there!  We were so pumped, it was such a good day yesterday.  Tatyana stayed for the full three hours and just drank up a conference issue of the Liahona.  I had a pretty good lil’ conversation with her about everything from temples to baptism as she flipped through the pictures.  I am pretty excited, it was nice to have a chance to just chat for a little.   We also had quite the experience on Saturday.  We called a lady at lunch time and she wanted to meet at the park a little later.  So we were all pumped to meet and got there to the park.  When she shows up she just goes, "can I run to the store real quick?"  We didn't know what to say so she just went and came back.  We started talking again and all the sudden she pulls out a beer and cracks it open.  We were just like hmmm...don't know ‘bout that one.  Anyways she wanted to then start walking and takes us by this big fountain in the middle of the park and just says here watch my stuff.  All the sudden she steps up on the fountain and just takes a lap around the fountain and comes back and we started walkin’ again.  I gotta say it was one of the strangest meetings I have ever had.  Man we were just crackin’ up.  Needless to say, don't know if we'll be meeting anytime too soon again with her.  Good times. We then went to this little cafe thing to meet this Armenian guy named Papo there.  He was way cool and was just chillin’ there with about 5 or 6 friends and nobody else.  They were a pretty rough bunch, but were way cool and had us sit down.  Anyways, they were basically smoking the whole time, but were asking us some of the best questions about repentance and things.  Kinda ironic.  In the end, it was so awesome and we got like 4 new investigators as a result.  The coolest was at the end, Elder Cowley and I asked if we could pray with them, they said of course.  So Elder Cowley gave just a nice simple prayer, and by the end, all six of them were just paused and just sat there for a second.  It was one of the cooler experiences I have had.  You could tell the Spirit was really touching them, despite the fact that they were a little bit of a rougher bunch.   Well I believe that sums up a great week here in good ol' Zavodskoi.  The work is good.  I know it is so true, and it is fun to feel that as we grow to know of the surety of the gospel, it really does convert us in the sense of literally changing us.  I love this gospel and love each of you.  I keep you and our family in my prayers, and especially have a special spot for Grandma Nielson right now.  Love you all!
Elder Nielson
Good Mornin to ya family! Ready set go!
Off to the races to throw a week into a letter.  Man it's been so good down here in the Zavodskoi.  There are some good things goin’ on round these parts and the work is just good.  Thanks for sharin’ some of Brayden's letter with me.  That is so fun to read about a bro doin’ well.  It is funny to try and look at Spanish...I can't even fathom to think in Spanish right now.  Any other language that comes to the head is this weird Russian thing I'm tryin’ to speak.  Isn't that cool though to picture all of us just talkin’ in all these different languages.  Pretty cool.  I actually got a great letter from him last week at zone conference it was so darn good to hear from him.  It's fun to think and picture all the bros out just doin’ the good work.  I am definitely blessed with a cool group of buddies. 
  Well it's been just a solid week goin’ on here!  We have had some great ups and good stuff goin’ on around here. We kicked off the week celebrating Elder Cowley's big 20th birthday!  I like it when my companions have birthdays.  We went and got some McDonalds to celebrate.  There are McDonalds in about every large city out here, they are just so darn expensive that I've only experienced the Russian Mickey D's twice.  You would think you were right back in Highland across from Lone Peak.  Funny side note, the McDonalds' here are so cool.  People dress up to go to McDonalds pretty much.  It's pretty fun, quite the treat.  So you better believe that I celebrated Elder Cowleys birthday with a couple Big Mac's.  It's the least I could do.  That was fun, we had a couple members come with us.   I had quite the experience with them the night before.  There is a member named Nastya in the branch who is 19.  She has kinda had a rough go at it but is such a sweet person.  She is currently living with a guy named Tolya (who is investigating and comes to everything) and they have a lil’ baby.  Not the most prime of situations.  Anyways Elder Cowley and I have tried to talk about how to talk to them about this situation because that just doesn't fly.  But on Monday night we were walking with them and some other members and Nastya goes "Nielson, come here" just as we were walking.  She kinda pulled me back behind everyone and I thought she just wanted to ask me something for Elder Cowley's birthday.  But instead she just starts goin’ off about how Tolya (her “boi”) and her have had a bunch of conversations and that he actually wants to have a feeling that the church is true.  I was pretty stunned.  She said that he knows and understands that it's true, but wants to feel it.  So, they want us to have a meeting and things. Of course, that gave me an opportunity to talk to her about their living situation because they can't feel the Holy Ghost when they are doing that.  It was pretty cool because she was like "I know, I know.  I wanna first talk to the branch president and then we'll talk about meeting."  It was a pretty cool experience, we have not yet had the chance to meet but were able to eat at McDonalds and go to sports night with them.  We were very happy about that.  
Elder Cowley also got a good lil’ birthday present on Tuesday night.  We had a meeting set up with a lady named Tatyana who was from the area book.  She had come in contact with the missionaries about 4 months ago, and that was it.  So we met with her and Bro. Potrunin at the branch.  Turns out, she's gettin’ baptized on the 14th of July!  It's raining in Zavodskoi!  It was a pretty dang cool lesson and we are so excited about her.  We were able to teach her the plan of salvation on Saturday and she is just awesome and so accepting.    
As far as the rest of the week went, it was a pretty norm missionary week.  We had the zone leaders come to us on exchanges which was a party.  I got to work again with my old comp, Elder Christensen which was so fun.  It's cool to see how each of us have progressed.  We also had a lot of time to chat just about the area and our companionships, it was a good couple of days.  And it's fun to be the recipient of exchanges.  Having been with the district leaders before, we were always having to go to other areas.  So that was very fun.   Church yesterday was just a party as always.  We unfortunately had nobody show as far as investigators, but it was a fun day at church.  Yes momma, I got up and played some prelude out of the good little book you sent me and won the hearts of some of the members.  Had to let you know that one.  ;)  They are so funny here, I think we started like 8 minutes late and then ended about 15 minutes early.  We were crackin’ up.  I guess they were just running on the timetable of the Spirit.  I had the funniest thing happen after Sacrament meeting.  I took the trays of bread to the other room and was just going to dump the extra pieces of bread into the garbage can.  Holy cow that is a no can do here!  It was so funny, Bro Potrunin and Dima were just like "Elder stop!  What are you doing! AHHHH!"  It was so darn funny.  They wanted the leftovers and threw them down after the meeting.  They scared me so bad though we laughed for about 5 minutes about it.  They sure know how to conserve here.  After church, it was pretty cool.  One of the members needed a blessing and Bro Potrunin grabbed me to help.  I had only done the annointing part in Russian before, but Roman (who we were giving the blessing to) asked me to seal the annointing.  It was pretty darn cool to give a blessing in Russian to somebody.  Man it was such a good and very fast week.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Good Morning to ya family!
Well it has been just another week of pounding the pavement here in good ol' Zavodskoy.  I'll try to update you on what life is all about here in this neck of the woods.  We are a little more settled in now and will not be doing quite the travelling that I would do when I was with the district leader as a companion, but nonetheless who knows what to expect in the good motherland of Russia.   First, I will try to describe the pics sent last week.  Isn't that fun?  The one with the lady is Jamala that we had met in Taglyatti.  I was there with those other two missionaries, Elder Glad and Elder Wiseman, while Elder Christensen was on a visa trip.  Holy cow that was a solid two months ago probably now.  Man I sure loved her she is the Uzbekistani version of Kim Jensen that I had described that we found a while back.  Her little daughter there was so cute.  She had six of them, that one being the youngest.  Supposedly she still asks where Nielson is.  :)  She's awesome.  The other pics were of course us at the mosque in the Kremlin back there in Kazan and then Elder Taylor and I with a couple of the members, Sasha and Oleg.  They crack me up.  And then I also believe I had sent the priesthood from up there in Kazan.  Just to fill ya in on that.  
As far as the new pad, it’s a pretty nice place.  I'm not complaining for sure.  The "neighborhood" is right across from the market, so I think we might have market day today.  Fresh ties.  Boo ya!  The branch here is the coolest.  They are so loving and it is more deep Russia then the melting pot of Kazan if you will.  They have been so fun and it's been fun just getting to know all of them.  They are so willing to help and are very endearing to the missionaries.  Saratov is one of the strongest points of the church here in Russia.  This is where they have hopes of building the next Stake up!  There are about 50 that regularly come and probably 300 in the branch.  But those that are strong, are as strong as anyone.  A lot of them have been members for 10 to 15 years which is so awesome, and they understand how important it is to help out the missionaries.  It's definitely not perfect, but man they sure make up for it.  There is definitely some work to be done to build up the church that's for sure. It was a doozy of a week that we had.  We spent a lot of time doing some good old finding.  Gotta find to be able to teach!  But holy cow we were so blessed.  There were some pretty random people that came outta the woodwork that had met with missionaries about a year or more ago, that we are so excited to meet with. 
We meet a lot with a guy from Azerbaijan named Kacym.  He cracks me up because he speaks a little English and it sounds like king Julian (Madagascar) to me.  He is in the process of reading the Book of Mormon because he thinks that is what he needs to do to be baptized.  He's a good guy.  We also have family night tonight at Stas and Galina's house.  They are a couple with a 12 year old daughter and they are the coolest.  They have a couple friends who want to come, so we are going to go give the spiritual thought tonight at family night.  I am going to send a picture of a couple that we met named Valentina and Vitali.  They had met with missionaries and just wanna talk with us and drink some tea.  (EVERYONE here drinks tea)  They were funny, so we got a picture.  We hope to just drop by every now and then to keep in contact with them and hopefully help them decide to think about the church.  We also met the coolest lady also named Valentina.  She works at the carbonated water stand on our way to the branch.  We were talking to this guy and we could see her watching us.  So we waved, and when the guy left we went over and talked to her.  She gave us some soda and speaks English.  She is so darn cool.  She is like 65 and retired, but thinks it would be boring to just sit inside, so she works a little drink stand and likes to talk to people.  She took a Book of Mormon and we say hi to her every day on the way to the branch.  She will have some days off and wants to meet with us then!  She's the coolest.  We want to meet her husband too who works right now as a cook at the kid's camp.  Ha they are the coolest sounding people.  And she is seriously interested and so we are so excited.  
We also had zone conference this week just in the center of the city.  Holy cow I don't know if I've said much about my mission president.  Man I love him and his wife so much.  They just make ya feel so darn good.  We had some good stuff that we learned and it is always a good boost to have.   They then came and helped us (Elder Cowley and I) on a lesson on Saturday!  Man they are so good to have.  They also got to meet Valentina which was cool.  It made us feel like champs to do some translating for them and to translate the lesson we had.  It was good to feel like you actually kinda do understand stuff, but man there is so much to go still that's for sure on the language.   Well I believe that about does it for another week on the mission!  Man it is so good to serve.  We talked a lot in zone conference about conversion.  What a blessing it is to think that we are able to progress and become better thanks to the infinite sacrifice of the Atonement.  Even better, we can make mistakes and receive forgiveness...and even after all this still be blessed with the chance to continue to get better every day.  As my thoughts reflected on this, I was hit with a tender realization of how the Savior has done this with me personally.  What a blessing it is to realize that we can be at the lowest of times and grow to become a converted, and new person through the Atonement.  Only our Savior knows us personally and can help us in our own unique problems and challenges to grow into that which He sees in us.  Man I love you guys and hope all continues to be good.  I am glad to hear that all is good and pray for you!  Love you!
Elder Nielson

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Well hello family!
Man, sorry I got all in the mix of transfers and got me cheated an e-mail day.  But it's all good because we can write you right now.  I don't know what you know, but I am now down in Saratov!  It's so good here, good things afoot round these parts.  We left Kazan last Monday on a good ol’ 9 hour bus into Samara and worked the evening there.  Yes father, I then left at about 4 the next morning to go catch a plane to Moscow, from there to Lithuania, got back on the exact same plane a couple hours later, back through Moscow and then to Samara.  It was a good time.  I was with a senior couple who came out a week after I did and Sister Moe who travelled out with me.  That was a good time navigating the airport and where we needed to be!  Good language practice!  We then worked that following afternoon in Samara, then jumped on an overnight train down here to Saratov!  I was so hashed I slept the whole way like a baby.  Good times!  So that is what was going on while I was missing out on writing you.  All in about 2 ½ days.  Good times on the mission.
So I gotta first say thanks so much for the fun package!  Holy cow I finally got it when I got down here a couple days ago.  So funny.  I gotta say, my favorite part was the pictures.  Man you all look so darn good and it was so fun to see you all.  Good things.  We got a good lookin’ fam if I do say so myself.  I got pretty famous down here for that big ol’ package.  Pretty funny.   We had such a good last week up there in Kazan.  Sergei and Tonya came to church which was so awesome.  I am anxious to catch wind of what happens with them.  There were so many cool investigators.  I really grew to love the branch there. Hopefully you get this picture of us 4 missionaries with the priesthood of the branch.  You sure don't realize how much you love 'em till you gotta leave.  There were a couple minutes extra in the sacrament meeting, and so they had me speak.  Whoa- bring back some good memories from my first Sunday.  I would be lying if the combination of memories, Spirit, Sergei and Tonya, and the fact that I was leaving after a solid 3 months didn't get to me and I went all softy Nielson up there at the pulpit.  Man so good. I sure hope I get to head back up there at some point in the next time.   So I came down here to Zavadskoi area of Saratov.  It is definitely not the nice Muslim population of Kazan, but man I already love it so much.  It's definitely real Russia here.  Not as many people stop and talk, but those that do are so prepared I love it so much.  They are very real about things.  Our branch is about the size of our Kazan one, we have about 50 members that come.  And they are da coolest.  Our branch president is so good and I had a great day at church getting to know them all.  As far as the work goes, I kinda am coming into a dead area.  A few things have gone down that have left the area basically missionary-less for the last 2 weeks, and it sounds like there wasn't too much before that.  But it's ok- I like working on a clean slate like this.  It's been such a blast the last few days.  I am working with Elder Cowley now.  He is such a good guy.  He's been out about a year and just is good for anything.  He's a little more quiet so it's been a good opportunity to really stretch outta my comfort zone.  But we work well and are happy together.  Like I said, there are so many prepared (and I mean legitimately prepared) people here.  So long as we are doing our part and working hard with faith, they almost come to us.  It is so good I love it here so much I can't say enough about it.   Last night we had such a cool thing happen.  We are just going through the phone and calling all the investigators saved in the phone.  Most didn't answer, and our lessons fell out last night.  We were heading to drop by a less active, when we got a call from an investigator we had called that had met with missionaries a bunch a year ago and wanted to meet at one of the member's house!  So we got right on that.  He ended up being so cool and had been taught pretty much everything.  As we prayed to start, I had the strong impression to simply testify of the Savior.  So after a minute, I did.  It was nice and brought a nice Spirit, Luba (the member)  also then testified, then Elder Cowley.  It was just a large testimony meeting and there was such a sweet Spirit.  Anyways, his name is Sasha and basically told us without us asking that he will be baptized if he finds the Book of Mormon to be true.  He hasn't read in a while, so that was his commitment.  Man we were so excited and so blessed.  Heavenly Father was definitely looking out for us.  IT"S RAINING IN ZAVADSKOI!!! That's the slogan. 
Well I am writing from the senior couple's house on a good computer and hope to get a few photos attached!  It sounds like you are all doing so well and I am so glad to hear it.  I will tell you what I told the branch in Kazan- please read the book of Mormon together as a family every day.  Pray together.  I have gained such a strong testimony and we can't miss out on those blessings Heavenly Father wants to give us from that.  How blessed we are to have the gospel.  I love you so much and pray that all is good!  Love you fam!

Elder Nielson