Monday, September 17, 2012

Hey there family!
I am sure glad you enjoyed the pic of the hat, because I sure enjoy that hat.  I hope I am not too obnoxious, but I will be warm that's for sure!  It's still pretty warm here and so for now it is my planning hat in the evenings.  It sounds like in the twinkle of an eye here we'll be having some of that nice ear-frost biting weather that guy was tellin’ you about momma.  But I am ready.  
 Those were fun little reports to get, and as you say- no news is probably good news.  But thanks for your descriptions and comments as well dad, that was a really nice letter to read.  I hope you enjoyed some time takin’ care of momma there in Arizona.  And Grandma, I love you too.  :)  I hope and continue to pray for each of you, but especially Grandma as she's going through this.  You never really understand the testimony and the beauty that the gospel is until that faith is tried.  We are very blessed to have that.  
 Dad, you had asked a couple questions that I wanted to answer real quick...first was about the Syrian friends.  Maybe I never told you, I can't remember if it was when we talked on mother's day.  But, Elder Taylor and I had dipped back by their house again and their "land lady" came to the door and told us they had left to Germany.  For whatever reason, they knew German very well and had the intention to go there but more down the road.  Anyways, that was such a relief to hear to me that they are somewhere safe, somewhere that they actually speak the language, and somewhere that the gospel is established.  So, I already have my plane ticket to Germany to find those two.  
 As far as exercise, it is mostly just doin’ some mean pushups and sit ups and stretching.  I feel like an old man. Eric Mcgill always talked about being tired and now I understand.  My exercise has been pretty lame the last week- I ate something that didn't comply and I have spent a lot of time in the special room and couldn't eat too much or I'd have issues.  Exercise was more spent to stretch out we'll just say. I had been getting’ pretty skinny, but now am officially down a belt hole and the shirt collars are becoming more of a v-neck.  I'm gonna be a bean pole!
As far as the week goes, it has just been a great week and we have been spinning we've been goin’ so hard.  The first part of the week was spent doing a lot of contacting...gotta do it sometime.  But Thursday we got to have what is called a culture night, which once a cycle we have so we don't go crazy.  We went to some conservatory here and there was a violinist that played some good stuff with an orchestra, then he came out with an accordian.  It was pretty cool, brought back some good Amy Merkley memories.  I wanted to send you some pics of the wall, they had the composers heads such as Bach and Mozart carved in with their names all written in the Russian alphabet, it was pretty cool I thought mom would be pretty pumped on that.  That's my tourist bit.  
On Friday, we had a sweet old lady call us that had been baptized about a year ago, and then moved outta the city, call and say she was comin’ back and wanted to meet.  We went to the branch and she was there with her son, who is 28 and not baptized.  We were able to teach them, and are totally gonna be baptizing her son, Gyorgi (George) soon!  It was a way cool meeting, but at the end she tells us she has nowhere to sleep tonight.  Holy cow, we couldn't just leave her so we got a hold of a member, Lyba (my favorite member in Russia) and she said she could stay there so we had to take her there and sprint home to get home on time.  It was a crazy night.  but, very good and very rewarding.  We had a great day with some good meetings on Saturday, and yesterday was just a doozy of a day.  We usually have members come up and ask us to give blessings after Sacrament, so yesterday we had to do that and had the branch president needing help, and we did some work with our Elders quorum president to get a home teaching program up and going.   Mom, you had asked if a stake would be here.  The answer is yes there will be here in Saratov IF people start to do their home teaching.  We have about 400 members in this branch alone, but only 50 active, if that.  And maybe 6 or 7 solid priesthood holders.  It is so exciting to think of what could really be done, and our branch would be the stake center!  Plus, we are going to have another companionship here in our area, it is just so ready for so many great things. 
I feel like I am telling you just a lot of random things, but man so much went on and there is so much growth occurring here.  I am so blessed to be on a mission and see changes in myself spiritually, attributes wise, and even physically.  I love it.  And I also love you. Have a great week.  Love ya!
 Elder Nielson

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Hello my family dear!
Man it is so good to hear from ya and it sounds like each of you are just doin’ well, holdin’ down the fort!  Way to go.  I had a fun time getting to open my lil' notes you all sent me!  Ya baby, zone conference means mail time!  Thanks so much all that contributed, I'll be waiting for the next batch around.  I have a good family.  And thanks for the picture, I'll knock some babyshka's socks off with that number of vnychkee (grandkids). 
Tanner, it sounds like your just doin’ well, you’re the man, as usual.  I am glad to hear that your getting’ to play some ball and having dad as the coach- your a lucky guy.  Sounds like we got an up and rising Gary Sheide.  And good luck with the basketball tryouts- I'll be excited to hear how it goes and I'll be sure to wear the elite socks in your honor.  There is a little Nike random shop here that I've gotten Sergei and Ivan hooked on finding "fresh" stuff.  So funny- I wish you could hear them say it with their Russian accents.  And dad it sounds like your keepin’ just busy and things are going well, and thanks mama for the thoughtful letter.  I sure wish I could do a personal letter to each of you every week because it is fun to hear all your thoughts and things and what's going on.  
We have had a great week hear in the big Zavodskoy- “Geneva Road”.  I am so grateful to be serving here, I would love to stay for a long time, and I already have.  Crazy to think that 9 months is creepin’ up on us, and that I just passed 6 months in the country.  Hopefully with the “boots wit da fur” I'll blend right in as a true Russian real soon here (had to throw that in for Sarah).   We were so blessed with an awesome and brief zone conference this past week.  We had President Malm of the seventy who did a mission tour and did much of the teaching at our conference.  I love the zone conferences and being with a group of missionaries, it is fun to realize how good of friends you make on a mission.  President Malm taught us some very good things that touched me very well and motivated me a ton to do the work here.  He taught us about how we really don't understand who we really are.  The theme of the conference had been how we want to become "always" missionaries.  But, he began to just very simply unfold the plan of salvation and how we all lived together- even all these people on the streets were there and accepted at some point the gospel and said "yes".  Really when we think about it, everyone here on earth are "yes" sayers.  We, however, promised to come here and even promised to help further the work of our Heavenly Father.  What really got to me, is to realize the fact that I promised somebody, somewhere that I would find them.  At the end of his comments, he said, let’s have somebody get up and bear testimony of what the spirit is teaching them.  Of course, I looked up and he chose me.  Man- it was a great experience as I was able to bear testimony and realize and have the spirit seal to me that I really am here to find that person I promised.  We then of course continued after lunch to talk further about what we are really wanted to become and the next level that we are striving for.  It was kinda that football practice mid-season that you realize we've done pretty well, but there is a whole new level to be achieved.  The thing is, it was a time that I felt real motivation.  It wasn't just an empty motivation, meaning that I just wanted to go talk to people, but rather a realization of what we're really doing here.  It's interesting to realize how good you really aren't.  However, it has been interesting to be a little bit of a different missionary and doing things the Lord's way- as President Sartori put it- being always missionaries.  What it is that provides us strength through anything is a real understanding of true principles of the gospel.  At this point in time, it is the understanding of the plan of salvation and that perspective that I try to teach investigators being engrained into me.  What a blessing I have to be on a mission and to have the time to learn what my testimony really is and to look at things as they really are.  I won't lie- the work can be very hard at times.  As President Sartori put it- sometimes they are just mean.  However, that doesn't bother me, when these things are realized.  Nothing can really stop the work from progressing because in the end, the truth and eternal principles can overcome and can help us overcome all.  We are so blessed to have this.   I love you all and hope all is well with you at home.  Have a good week!
Elder Nielson
The markets are getting back into winter season!  I was first in line for some of this.  Woof!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Hello my family!
Wow you are all sounding so good and it was so great to get all those great reports.  It is just fun to hear from ya, thanks for making my day!  Things are also going well here in good ol' Zavodskoy and we continue to just do the good work amongst our brothas here.  It's been a good ol' week and we got some good stuff here!  First off, thanks for the fun letters from the ward bros.  Man they sound so good, how ‘bout big Tanner bein’ big brother Tanner?! That was fun to read, you will have to tell him I love him and drrrrrr for me.  And then also big Brayden being the zone leader!  I bet he is just doing so great, it sounds like he loved his area.  And, of course it was so fun to hear from you guys.  Sarah, way to be doin’ it big at the big LP and just havin’ a good time.  Just enjoy and wear out the white jumpsuit.  Tanner, that was a fun little letter, and we'll have to order up a thunderstorm bike ride for a year down the road.  And of course thanks for the letter Emily!  I love hearin’ from you and hope you are havin’ a good time up with the mighty miners!  Man you guys are just makin’ me proud.  Haha  way to go.  And mom and dad- just love you guys, thanks for the nice notes. :)
 Well to give you a little bit of an update, I will...tell you.  We had a sweet week with some investigators comin’ to play!  Ivan has been a little bit of a goof ball.  We couldn't get a hold of him Monday, Tuesday he wasn't at his house for fam night, and he didn't come to sports night Wednesday.  Super bummer.  We tried to get a hold of him, but he didn't answer.  He did show up to Sacrament though which was cool and sat with me, but then bailed while I was talkin’ to someone, so we really don't know what the deal is there.  Bummer is all I got to say.  We're still hoping for the 29th with him, but obviously gotta talk to him and things and get him real about this.  On the other hand,  Sergei has been makin’ quite the come back!  It has been interesting to talk to the members (the one's they live with) and hear their opinions from working with them and just having them basically as their two sons.  Sergei is definitely a little more wild, but Galina tells us how he is just obedient- the most obedient of her "sons".  (they have a son my age in the army right now- it is mandatory to serve a year here)  He also loves to pray and she told me about how he will say "let's all hurry and get together and pray so I can get to bed!" or "who's gonna pray with me before I leave?"  It is pretty cool, and he is always with us to come to activities.  He has had quite the past as well he had us come over the other night and then he walked home with us.  It's getting pretty dark now by 7:30 ish and so he wanted to walk us home.  He was telling us all ‘bout his old stuff, and even dealings with the mafia.  Pretty crazy stuff- who knows what's gone on here.  But we are crazy excited to work more with him, he came in a white shirt and tie yesterday to church and looked way good.  
 We also have been very blessed with a guy named Roman.  He is 28 and we found him on the street last Sunday.  He was walking in front of us, and we caught up to him thinking we were talking to the typical Zavodskoy punk.  He ended up being so cool and was just this quiet guy that long story short is looking to change his life- he also has some head problem that he has these really bad headaches and it feels better when he prays.  So we've gotten a call about every day to pray with him!  So cool- we were able to set a date with him as well for the 29th!  We had to tell him he would have to quit smoking, and he just stared at the ground and sat there....and sat.....then just looked up and said "ok, i will"  Ya baby!  So we are so excited for him. 
 We just continue to find and do the work here, it is just good.  To answer questions about the place- Zavodskoy is definitely an interesting one.  We have the greatest branch, but I don't know that it would be my first place to go on vacation.  Saratov is pretty much the armpit of Russia most say, and Zavodskoy means "factory" so we are in the factory area, I like to think of it as the Geneva Road of Saratov.  But it is so good, there are definitely your selection of crazies, but also those who are so prepared, those that are not quite as wealthy and looking for things to change them.  We spend a lot of time on the streets and have some pretty dusty and dirty shoes by the end of the day- the interstate UDOT project hasn't quite hit Saratov yet.   I want to attach a pic of us all over at Stas and Galina's- the "family" of Sergei and Ivan at family night.  The Stephens came and it was fun and some good translating practice- it was Ivan's birthday so the Stephens came. Well time is running out, but I just hope you feel my love for each of you.  I also pray for you and hope for your success and that all is good at home!  I love you all and am so grateful to have the peace that we are an eternal family!
Love you!
Elder Nielson