Monday, July 30, 2012

Hey there Fam!
Good Monday mornin’ to ya’ all!  It has been just another solid week of the good work here in the greater Eastern Europe area or wherever I've been.  Thanks for all the reports, it sounds like life is just going on back at the ranch.  We always talk about how it is funny to think that things are actually going on back at home, it feels like everything should just be paused.  It sounds like you all had a good week, and a good mouthful of baseball this past week.  Good work to lil' Tanner just gamin’ it up.  Your makin’ big bro proud, and a little jealous too.  It sounds like you’re having a blast which is so good to hear.  Sounds like those good lazy summer days are hittin’ now and I am glad to hear you are doin’ well.
This week has been another whirlwind of a week for this missionary!  What a good time it's been.  We started out the week having a solid family night here at the Stevens' place with Ivan and other youth here.  It was a super good time, and it was good to get Ivan alone.  We love Sergei, but at the moment Ivan is a little more honed in on the spiritual side of things, so it was good to have some time with him.
Tuesday and Wednesday was spent with just some solid missionary work, I believe that is all that needs to be said.  Just a good time.  After sports night on Wednesday night, I went with 5 other elders over to the zone leaders place here in the center of the city.  It was a good time to be all together.  We finally got 2 new missionaries this past cycle, and so I am finally not the baby of the mission!  I was assigned to bring the ice cream for milkshakes that night, so we all had a good time and got to know one of the new elders.  Good times!  That has been one thing that I have learned about a mission, you can work hard and have the spirit, but be yourself and have a good time!  But you better be working and obedient!
We then took off at about 4 in the morning to the Saratov "airport" (more like a long driveway) to fly from there to Moscow.  We then jumped a plane from Moscow to Kiev!  Man we were so lucky.  We got there at about 12 and got in a shuttle-van to the temple!  It was so great.  Definitely the highlight of the week.  Man, that place is just heaven.  We got there and had until 7 that night, so we were able to do baptisms.  It was really cool to baptize and confirm each other in Russian, quite the cool experience.  We had a minute and then were able to go grab some grub and then come back for an endowment session!  Man we were so lucky to have so much time, I guess that's not a very common occurrence.  So that was quite the treat to then do the session in Russian!  I would be lying if I said I caught every word, but for the most part it's pretty understandable. Plus it's a little hard to focus when you've been awake since 2 that morning. It was pretty darn cool, definitely gave me some new perspective. anyways so that was darn cool and we the had a little time to sit in the Celestial room and then we were off to the races to fly directly to Samara, work the day in Samara, then catch an overnight train back down here to Saratov, arriving on Saturday morning at about 8.  Man it was so good, and I love those train rides.  But I was really touched by that time at the temple, it was such a special place.  We were talking to the worker at the front who lives about 1000 kilometers away and comes for a couple weeks at a time to work at the temple.  There is definitely a special feel at that temple (as there are at all temples, of course).  But it was so interesting to be at a place where all the workers, all the maintenance workers, were at one point not too long ago baptized by somebody like me.  It was very touching to be at the temple where probably a lot of people there are sacrificing a lot more than a couple bucks on gas and a couple hours to be there, not to mention that they all have probably only been members for 10-15 years at the most.  They are so reverent and maintain the grounds so perfectly, it was really special to me.  Definitely a humbling and touching trip to the temple.  That was my favorite part of the week.  I don't think I got a picture of us in it, but at least here is a picture of the place.  It is heaven there.  They even have a drinking fountain and grass there!  Haha it's been a while since I've seen those.  Not to mention it is nice to walk into a building that smells good, has air conditioning, and people actually are happy to see you.  Man that was heaven. 
Well after that we were able to do our weekly planning, and then bust outta here to go up to the other side of the city with Ivan to watch a baptismal service.  That branch has the font, so, if all goes as planned, we will be back there with him!  Woo!  Man I love that guy, we have gotten pretty tight with him.  He really enjoyed the service (which is a good thing we came, I have to say for mom that yes I did play the piano right away when I showed up) and he talks as if his baptism will be tomorrow.  We have been so blessed by having him here, it has been all him and Heavenly Father working within him, we have just kinda been here to be his smiling American friends.  He also completely stopped smoking on Friday, and as far as we know has been going strong since.  Man he's so cool. It's pretty crazy, I don't remember if I said last week, but his parents have passed away, and Sergei's also left him when he was a child.  Somehow, they are now living over at a member's house until they get an apartment in 6 months from the government.  But it has been so awesome to have that support from those members, I will have to explain more about that next week. So they keep Ivan shooting pretty straight. We are among some pretty special people.
Well, I believe that does it for this week!  We just continue to work our little tootsies off here in good ol’ Zavodskoi.  I tossed this picture on with the geese at Roman's (the member that I sent a picture of us with) neighbors' house.  He is so funny, he reminds me of Preston.  He recorded these geese on his phone and then came walkin’ up to me at church and put it up in my ear.  So funny.  Well, time to get to work- what a blessing I have to do this.  That was some good flashbacks I had in the temple, it seems in my setting apart that I remember hard work and obedience being mentioned a ton.  That definitely sent me back with some good resolve to come shred up the place for the next couple weeks.  I love the temple, what a blessing we have to have the Lord's promises with us.  Just another testament that this is all true!
Elder Nielson

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