Friday, August 31, 2012

Well good day to you my family!
It has just been goin in good ol' Zavodskoy!  First I gotta give a big happy birthday to papa!  I hope you had a good day filled with burritos and pepsi and definitely had a lake run in my dreams that night in your behalf.  Also I had to check out the glory day pics on the calendar to remind me.  Well done with the calendar.  I am definitely in the process of trying to get a birthday season package together, because there are just fun things here.  Man that is so crazy that we are hitting both birthday and football season back at the ranch.  I can't believe it, what a good time.  The air is definitely a little bit more crisp here in the mornings, and it definitely brings back a load of memories.  Good times.  That is fun to get the lone peak knight reports, another thriller with the mighty mustangs it sounds like.  Again, good times!  I just have one request, I know I made the comment about not havin much time to email, but I love reading from you guys too!  So don't worry about holding back on me, I always have to hear myself talk enough here anyways.  And I will do my best to keep you with the most up to date analysis of the big Zavodskoy!  To answer your questions mama, I haven't gotten the letters yet, but I don’t know that there has been a chance to get things from the office yet.  So, we will definitely keep a keen eye out.  We are already back to zone conference next week, so I would assume that would be a good opportunity to get mail.  As far as things in a package, the granola bars were awesome to have some snacks on the run, peanut butter, and green chilis were awesome.  Basically, everything there was great!  as far as supplies and things go, i can get all that kinda stuff here and it is the American brand of things so no stress on toothpaste and things.  It is crazy how much those kind of things spread!  American companies and products are pretty much everywhere, so we get along alright.  There is just always that Russian twist to everything, you just gotta learn to not expect anything to go right or be perfect, and you can be a happy Russian. 
As far as things go here, things just continue to go.  Man it is so crazy how fast time just continues to fly by.  Can you believe i passed my 8 month mark?!  I am still just a puppy on my mission i swear!  it has been so good to serve with elder Whittemoore.  We get along real well, he is definitely outta the Andrew Gifford mold and we have a good time just doin the good work. It has been interesting to be with a new missionary.  His faith and desire just drives all areas of the work, it makes me wonder why we can't all just stay that way.  It is so fun to serve with.  He does struggle a bit with the language, so it has been a little interesting trying to help him out with that.  It has also helped me to realize that there seems to actually be progress with this language with me!  It brings back some painful memories of those first few weeks at church of not understanding anything, but it is fun to feel that I can start to talk to people now!  But there is so much to go, so it's all good. We have had a lot of time on the streets this past week.  It just happens that way sometimes that everything begins to fall through, and so it is time to get new blood flowing through the area.  The Ivan scene continues to be quite the interesting episode.  We met with him on Wednesday night- it was pouring rain so we couldn't do our sports night, so we played ping pong in the branch with him- and were able to get him refocused on a baptismal goal.  he recognizes that he just wanted light immediately and that he needs time.  So, we are going to work with him for a more long term goal to be baptized on the 29th of September!  He came to church, and hopefully comes tonight with us to family night here at the Stephens.  We were very blessed with just finding some cool people on the streets and are pretty much just into doin the dirty work mode of missionary work here to get investigators that we can meet with.  I had some good Troy memories as we went over to serve one investigator and put these styrofoam tiles on the ceiling at his apartment.  i must say, we did a fine job. 
I hope all things are good at home, my time suddenly ticked faster than I thought!  i wanted to get a lil' note to lil bro and lil sis as they start school. :)  i love you all and pray that all is well, have a good week and we'll cya next Monday!
Elder Nielson

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Well good day to you back at the ranch!
 First things first, I am attaching pictures for ya here!  So our first one on the list is me and my new companion Elder Whitermore!  I am going to be kicking another one out here in Zavodskoy and I am very happy about that.  There is so much good to be done here and I love this branch.  Some of my favorite members are here and I am very happy to do the work here.  Elder Whitermore is from Texas and is starting his second cycle here, so I will be doing the second half of the training with him!  I am so excited (and a lil’ intimidated) to have some new blood flowing through this place, he is the first missionary that is younger than me here in the mission and I am so excited to do the work with him because he is just a new little fireball (actually a big one, he is a bowling ball)!  Anyways, we are very ready to get the work just rollin’ here. 
Our next picture was our last meeting yesterday with our “boiz”… Ivan and Sergei.  They are back on track so to speak, and we had a nice little meeting for Elder Cowley to share his testimony with them and parting words.  They came to the train station with us for a crazy evening and have already taken in our new friend Elder Whitermore.  Just a quick update, Ivan seems to have gotten over his whole rebellion against us and recognizes what he needs to do and that his conversion and preparation will come with time.  So, I am very glad to stay here and help out our friend get ready.  Sergei is a little bit more wild and doesn't have quite the motivation, but shared in priesthood yesterday an experience he had of sharing the gospel with someone.  Elder Cowley and my jaw dropped as we listened to him.  It was pretty cool, so we will see what kind of progress we can make.   There is not a ton to report on, some good times on the streets, Jehovah's Witness meetings (Old Testament in Russian- tasty), and now the new companion would highlight the week!  That said, I wanna answer some of dad's questions because I haven't explained some of that very good. 
Dad’s question 1)      Eric McGill talked about how they give a short lesson to see if someone is interested enough to move on.  If not interested, they just skip until they find someone ready.  What do you do for a first approach to people you find or meet or run into? Well, I have found that with some things my patience has grown, and with others my patience has shrunk.  As Eric said, I like to move on when people start wasting our time.  Many times a day I will have to tell a babyshka thank you for the story about World War II and communism and give her the pass along card after about 20 minutes of listening.  As far as a first approach, we mostly just say "hey we are missionaries, how are you?  Yes, we share a message about Christ.  No we are not a sect.  Yes we are from America, and yes Russian is very hard.  No we don't study here, but we would like to meet and share this message that can help you/family/etc."  Most people recognize us, and of course the conversation varies upon the situation.  But, the above statements are made a lot, and a lot of conversations have to be cut before you get caught having to learn a person’s entire genealogy.  For me, on a bus, I just start to get to know somebody and the conversation always gets directed to the fact that I am here as a missionary and want to share a message about Christ for them and their family.
Dad’s question 2)     At what point do you introduce Joseph Smith?  Is that hard? We introduce Joseph Smith right off the bat a lot.  Mostly it is through the Book of Mormon.  I like to just carry one in my hand and so the attention is always directed and there are pictures in the front to help explain.  People usually see that and are turned off or are willing to talk about it, which always brings up Joseph Smith.
Dad’s question 3)     How would you compare the branches you are in in Russia to the various wards you have been in USA or have visited in USA? The branches here are pretty small, we have a very strong branch with about 60 solid members and 10 active priesthood.  The main difference is the Russian's ability to organize things.  The teachings and doctrines are still the same, most people have been baptized for over ten years that are actually active.  But the main thing is the fact that they just do not organize many things very well.  It is a little wild sometimes.  Good times.
Well darn I am running outta time, but wanna answer more, those are good stuff I wanna describe but just haven't had the direction in my letters, I will be sure to keep goin’.  Those are fun. 
I sure love you guys and am so grateful for you.  I feel so much support and love from you and hope you all know that.  For now, we are gonna roll up our sleeves and do the good work!  ‘Till next week!
Elder Nielson

(The pictures Elder Nielson sent will not fully download.  Sorry we can't post them today.  He looks good and happy as always!)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Well hello to ya there Family!
Well jump aboard the rollercoaster!  Holy cow what a week it's been.  It sounds like you can all relate and it sounds like it's been good for you as well.  I am glad to hear that you were all able to make it down to the big AZ for a quick visit with Grandma.  You even did it Russian style!  Now you just need to be in a sweaty prison bus weaving in and outta potholes.  Well done!  I am glad to hear that you were able to spend that time together.  We are definitely very blessed to have the comfort and knowledge of the plan of salvation and the hope of things to come in times like this.  It is hard to explain this, but as we experience and feel these blessings, we know it's true and good.  We are definitely very blessed with the gospel.   I am also just happy to hear that it sounds like things are just goin’ good.  I liked to hear about the tennis game, I will definitely have to rotate in at some point.  Well done my friends.
Well as for my week here it's been an interesting one.  A rollercoaster if you will.  We kicked off with some good times with Ivan at fam night here in the center and also sports night on Wednesday.  We have a fun line up of activities to be with him at.  We were definitely up and goin’ for a good downhill stretch to get him ready for baptism.  Things were great and we had some other good things happen, but then hit a road block as we went over for just a few minutes to talk with him at the member's house on Friday night.  We had to squeeze in our time because we were then going over to our branch president's place, which is pretty important.  So we dropped in for about 20 minutes and talked to him about prophets and it was just great.  However, on our way out the member, Galina, stops us and asks if we could fast on Saturday.  We said "yes, probably.  How come?"  And she replied by tellin’ us that we should fast to help Ivan quit smoking.  That was one of those moments that makes the blood run cold.  We turned to him and asked him if there has been a problem, and he said there has been.  That was a super bummer because we had talked about how he couldn't smoke two weeks before baptism and that we would have to push it back.  It was a little tough too because we were under the impression the whole week that he wasn't smoking and things.  He got really down and we had to hurry out the door to make it to president's place, which fell through anyways, and then the rain came. And we had 15 more minutes.  I was definitely hit with the realization that I was in fact on my mission.  It was fantastic.  We definitely ate some leftover cake that night to calm our sorrows.  Good times on the mission.   Saturday was an interesting day as we went clear out to the boonies with some members and Sergei (Ivan's bud) for a little activity.  It was just a crazy few days.  However, Ivan did come to church yesterday and stayed for a couple hours which was super cool.  However, we dropped by yesterday later on and Galina was the only person home.  We ended up just talking in the doorway with her for a while about the whole situation, because she knows better than we do.  She is like Sergei and Ivan's momma.  Long story short, we got some work to do with these guys, but it is good to have that outta the way. It was a weird few days that's for sure.  But now we know where we are going and we are just gonna do some real work with them now.  The worst thing we can do is slow down or lose enthusiasm, because that just brings loss of faith.  We are super excited to kind of start anew, and it is going to be a solid week.   We have so many good things going on here, and are just having a good time.  I don't know how much I have mentioned of the branch, but they are so great here.  We were over at some members to meet with a less active family, and they have been baptized since 1994!  I can't believe how some of these members have stayed active for 20 years, and were probably the first in Saratov to be baptized.  It is very difficult to be a member here in Russia, and I have grown to love this branch so much.  They work very hard to remain active and they are just happy and so blessed because of it.  It's been so fun to be here in Zavodskoi. 
As far as things to report, there weren't too many big highlights for that, but here are some photos!  I can't remember what I have sent you, so don't be offended if I have sent these before.   Well I take that back because the computer is being funny and I'm running outta time.  I will be prepared and get you some fantastic shots of the place next week for sure!   We find out about transfers already, can't believe it, so I'll be sure to get some good shots to ship on home to ya!  I sure love you all and hope things continue to go good.  Good luck to big Tanner J getting’ out on the mission, love ya man good luck. And I love you too fam, hope all is good!  We'll go get 'em for another big week here!
Love ya!

Elder Nielson
Good morning Family!
Man what a good few reports to get from you back at the ranch.  It sounds like things are going and time just keeps on a movin’ along.  Wow I can't believe you are already getting ready to go back to school and back to the band and football and cheering coming from the good Lone Peak across the way.  So good, I can sense it right now.  I will probably be washing the truck with Charley in my dreams tonight.  So fun and I also appreciate the theme email with all this included mama- nice play on words I gotta say.   First we gotta congratulate big Sarah for makin’ the tennis team!  Yea baby eat fuzz!  Well done sis, way to do it.  And of course, lil Tan it's so fun to hear what’s goin’ on with you as well.  Life sure just rolls on, crazy. 
Wow it is also so cool to hear about all the missionaries coming and going outta the 15th ward.  We are definitely making our contribution to this work, and we are so blessed because of it.  So fun to hear, you will have to pass a good luck a long to each of them and a good ol' "Da!" from Elder Nielson.   Also sounds like you might be making a good run on down to Arizona.  Grab a strawberry shortcake popsicle on the way and a Sandy special for me, but more importantly I hope that is a very good time and you all enjoy time together.  I sure wish I could be there with you, it will for sure be a very special time. We are so blessed with such a special family and I hope that you will all feel that and enjoy this time.  I will definitely be there with you in spirit for that.  :)
 Well we continue to be blessed here and the work just rolls on forward here in good ol’ Заводской!  (I finally figured out the Russian setting. had to have a little fun)  We were able to have exchanges with our district leader this past week and that was just a party as always.  We did some work round these parts.  It was really fun, I spent Tuesday here in the center of the city with Elder Bearden and we had a really good time.  Just doin’ the good work.  And then Wednesday I was back in Заводской with our district leader, Elder Главодский.  He is from Ukraine and so it was a blast working with him because we rolled the whole day in Russian.  I think I got a little bit of a taste of Ryan Jolley's mission.  It was super fun and was kinda fun to end the day realizing you just were hangin’ out in Russian all day.  We continued the rest of the week just doin’ the good work.   We continue to be so darn blessed with Ivan as we work with him to prepare for baptism.  Last Monday, he had not smoked for 4 days, but then told me he had smoked that evening.  What a bummer, we had to push his baptism back to the 18th, which is probably good anyways to help us prepare him because he has to go 2 weeks before baptism without smoking.  It's been so good to work with someone and see them changed just bits at a time as they strive to live the gospel.  He came with us to a fireside on Saturday where our 2nd counselor in the mission presidency spoke, but we really wanted him to meet President Sartori because he came as well.  That was really fun, my mission president is so great.  He has such a good spirit about him and so we just wanted to introduce Ivan to him because we knew he would be able to feel that.  I love President Sartori.  We then had a meeting with him on Sunday over at the members that he is living with.  We were able to teach him the plan of salvation, and this was definitely the highlight of the week.  We taught him the basic truths and it was very good, but as we got to the end, there was definitely a special spirit that filled the room.  It was so interesting to recognize the blessings of the plan of salvation as we taught someone that didn't know, but wanted to know.  It was very tender to testify of the fact and time we have to look forward to of living with our families in Heavenly Father's presence.  A minute after, it was even more special to then tell him that he will see his parents again and that he can help them receive the blessings of the plan of salvation.  This was definitely a time that my testimony grew of this plan, of the simple truths and doctrines and blessings that we receive from the plan of salvation.  There was a very special spirit there yesterday, and we were so blessed to have that there with us.  It was also cool to have him ask me after the fireside to baptize him on the 18th.  I love that guy.
Besides that, things continue to roll on as we work with others and try to build up this area.  i love how good it sounds things are going and hearing about everything, so tell me about it as well!  i always hear myself have to talk, so don't be shy to share stuff with me.  :)  I love you family and hope you have a good week!

Love you!

Старейшина Нильсон