Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Last Stand

Hi family!
Well, it's a little bit bitter sweet to be writing home now.  It's been quite the ride the last couple weeks, and years I guess.  Sorry about missing last week, we had a pretty intense couple of weeks working down in Saratov working with the companionships down there.  Man I love that place so much.  I guess to give you a heads up of plans for the next little bit i'll write that in so that you aren't surprised by anything:  this week i'm going to head out to Penza and do a couple days of work out there and head back on Saturday, then be here for my last Sunday in Samara (ouch) and jump on a train back to Saratov that night with Elder Glavatski.  we're basically just going to do round two of what I just did, except this time it will be two of us rather than a three sum.  We'll be there for a week, then next Monday (16th of December) we'll jump a train back to Samara, work that day (Tuesday) in Samara and then the middle of the night take off to the airport...pretty weird to write that.  What I mean is that I think president will give me a chance to write a quick message to you this weekend, but this could be the last email time.  sorry that took so long to explain, wanted it to be clear.  We'll try to keep the tears back...
So, that being said- there isn't a ton to write about.  There was lots of contacting and pretty tiring work down in Saratov- it was such a blast though.  Just raw missionary work.  Definitely can't replace that!  I just headed down and worked with a different companionship each day, then get up a lil early the next day and head to the next companionship and work with them.  Thanksgiving was riding in the car back to Samara, which was sweet and some sick work that night in Samara!  It was fun to give all the missionaries a little bit of a pump up every night and things, I guess you don't really understand what it feels like to be coming to the end after two years. 
I guess all of that "information" out of the way, I would just like to write a little bit of a wrap up because I don't think i'll get that chance again-  I think probably the biggest blessing that I have seen was to just be standing in the branch yesterday with my friend Sasha and just chat, then to have heard he received the aaronic priesthood yesterday.  I think that is what I have worked for the last couple years to have happen- I can't really explain the kind of brotherly love that we have.  That moment for me was the period mark to the last two years to look back upon some of my favorite memories in my entire life and some good sweat with gratitude for the gift that my Heavenly Father has given me to be a missionary and represent Jesus Christ.  Don't worry- I am not giving up when I say that it is the period mark because there is a lot of work to still be done.  However, the term that I have been granted to represent Jesus Christ in a specific area has been the greatest two years of my life.  I am grateful for the confirimations that I have received of the divinity of this work, that starting from the time that God the Father and Jesus Christ came to Joseph Smith and began this last "harvest" in his vineyard to this time, Heavenly Father has been in the details of bringing his children back to the fold and fulfilling his promises.  The Book of Mormon testifies and teaches us of this, anybody that will read that book will be immediately blessed in their lives.  There is no greater tangible, physical gift that we have from Heavenly Father besides our families.  There is definitely no greater work than this- and even better that it is not just a work to make people live better lives (although it does that)- it is to allow us to achieve eternal life with our families.  I can't really imagine what that will be like.  Of course, it is all made possible because of the atoning sacrifice of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  The reality of his sufferings for me personally have become much more real as i have been able to stand where he would stand, try to love people like he would, be made fun of maybe a little bit as people would have mocked him, and taken a couple steps that he would have for my Russian friends.  I love my Savior, he has been with me all the way.  We have a pretty cool blessing to remember his birth together as a family pretty soon. 
Sure love you all family, I'll be happy to hear from you, but if not, we'll see you later!
Elder Nielson
ps here is a little shot from today- we ran all around the area to get some pictures- I realized  I didn't have many of my area! Great snow today!

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Church in Russia

The following is the wonderful story of the Church in Russia.  What a wonderful thing to be a part of this work in this prepared land!!

So much to do, so little time!

Elder Nielson has been travelling a lot these past few weeks and knew he would probably miss emailing this past week.  I thought I would post some great pics in its place...Enjoy!

 Sasha's baptism!


Elder Nielson's efficient way of eating...make a big "vat" of rice and meat once a week and eat it all week long!
Hey fam!
Sorry about last week- I promise that I wanted to get a good report written up for ya, but it just kinda didn't work out. Gotta love them transfers!
First and foremost- as far as the last transfer goes for me, I didn't get one. But we have some good plans for this upcoming cycle. We ended up with an odd number of elders and so since we just had a lot of things going, it didn't make much sense to leave for a few weeks. However, we needed some new blood in here and so I am currently in a three-some- kinda funny! Anyways, Elder Davydov came up and will be with Elder Whittemore and I'm just kinda the third wheel here to work in this area and go out on exchanges with our driver. We are especially focused on beefing up Saratov a little bit (trying to get things going to create a Stake!) and so I'm taking off in about a half an hour here to go and work down there for the next several days. Because of that- I'm pretty sure that I'm not going to be able to write home next week...sorry momma...
But, we have had a good week around here. We were kind of in rebuild mode after having transfers and zone conferences that made us have to be working in different areas and things and so we had a lot of working on the streets just building up the pool to work with. Gotta do the time to do the crime! So, we had some fun little successes with that. Definitely affirmed my theory that it doesn't matter if it's 32 degrees or -32 degrees….it gets pretty cold after a few hours of walkin’ around and standing and talking! It's still pretty mild, but definitely not warm right now!
Anyways- it's been a good week with Sasha. Unfortunately he hurt his back at work and so wasn't able to make it to church to get the Aaronic Priesthood. Just a little side note- I'm not sure if I had said this earlier but he works all night on Saturday and gets off at 8:00 in the morning and still comes to church on Sunday at 10:00. Pretty cool. Luckily he got "raised up" this week and in a couple of weeks will not have to work at night and not work at all on Sundays! Blessings! Anyways- we had a great meeting on Saturday with him and taught him about the priesthood and he is just ready and things to continue progressing in the gospel. I know I already said this to mom and maybe Sarah- but he is just such a treat to be around. With a lot of these members (especially priesthood holders) it is almost baffling to try and think where they come from. The Russian people are great and things, but guys like Sasha that are in our branches are just a different breed and for some reason the gospel just makes sense. It is so evident when somebody has the blood of Israel in them!
Well, besides that we are just working- truckin’ to the end as those mudflaps told you, dad! It is such a blessing to be a missionary and have the name of Jesus Christ on my chest and testify of him every day. I love my mission.
Love you all, have a good week! Don't forget to read and pray!
Elder Nielson

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Top Ten Week

Good morning everybody!
Well, it's just been another awesome week chalked up for the mission. Glad to hear you all had a good week and glad to hear that sister Sarah had a good birthday! Don't worry- Sasha gave me a hug for you!
Definitely we've had one of the "top ten weeks" of the mission to go on the highlight reel- obviously the number one would be Sasha's baptism! It is a pretty big privilege to have been able to teach and help him grow in the gospel. We had a good little lesson on Tuesday before a week of zone conferences and just talked a little bit about baptism- it was so sweet to just ask him why he thinks he should get baptized and he just answered, "1- we can get the Holy Ghost, 2- we join the church and accept the teachings, and 3- we receive remission of our sins!"
Anyways it was really cool...great weekend.
I am so sorry we got a bunch of things going on in the office and interviews to translate for and had some stuff to help president with and now have an investigator showing up and time to punch in the number and get to work! I promise I saved time to write a good report, but I guess that will wait till next week! The church is true! Love you all!
Elder Nielson

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Good morning everybody-
Well we have had some good times around here- just doin’ some work and finding and teaching! Glad to hear your all doing well, glad to hear that you had a good time with the one and only Elder Taylor! So crazy to see!
Of course the number one highlight for the week is with Sasha- we basically finished up all the lessons and he passed a baptismal interview yesterday morning! So, we're planning for this Saturday with him! It was pretty cool to sit there with him for about 20 minutes as we waited for the meeting to start- we just kinda talked about how we had met and things and just the way that Heavenly Father had prepared him for accepting the gospel. He had told me that he noticed that as he started meeting with us, he noticed that his life just became more in order and things, but in particular as he began reading and understanding the Book of Mormon he noticed how he got the order in his life and things became more clear for him. Anyways, just another testimony of the Book of Mormon and the power it brings as people will just read it!
Besides him, we've got some other great people that we are working with- it has been a fun last couple of weeks. We've been working with a Sergei guy that had met with missionaries a few years ago and still has "I need thee every hour" memorized! Haha so funny the random things we run into! But he loves the church and is going to get baptized on the 30th of this month as well.
Anyways, we're running low on time. The church is true- I am so grateful for the confirmation that I see of this every day as we do the Lord's work! Love you all!
Elder Nielson

Monday, October 28, 2013

[His letter is so short, so I will add a couple of comments. First, we were online at the same time early this morning and he said this Sasha had just arrived and so he snapped a picture (attached). Also, yesterday was such a special day for us as we went to hear Elder Taylor speak (I’ll include a couple of pictures from going over to his house in Mountain Green, UT – just a few miles from Snowbasin). Elder Taylor and Elder Nielson were companions twice, first as very new missionaries, and then later they were together for 10 months serving as assistants to the mission presidents. What an awesome report and these two are nearly twins! It was so funny to have him come up to Sarah and Tanner and basically know everything about them! What a treat it was for us]
Well, so as you see, we are in a little bit of a rush, Sasha showed up here at the office (we usually meet with people here, it's just convenient and really nice). He could only meet right now so we are ending p day a lil’ early.
He is basically the highlight of the week, it has been such a joy to be helping him progress in the gospel. We had met with him about two weeks ago and he had some concerns about the difference between just science and religion and the way things have come about. Finally last night on our meeting he told us that he has changed from this thinking of just science being the only thing, to now being able to find answers on his questions and believing in God. You can see in his eyes that he is just happy. He already lives by all of the commandments and is just excited for his baptism on the 9th of November.
 Anyways, we are praying our guts out and he is going to be a blessing to the church here in Russia.

Besides that, things are going great, we are happy and healthy! Loving the mission!
Elder Nielson
Elders Nielson and Whittermore with investigator
Little Tanner and Sarah (Chris' siblings enjoying some of the Russian hats Elder Taylor brought back)
The family enjoying a visit with Elder Taylor.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Good morning everybody-
Things are going good around here, just keepin’ up the work and we have had probably the best week of my mission and have found so many great people!
We basically had a clean week this past week to just do some finding and teaching...and the baptizin’ is comin’ soon! Stay tuned...anyways, we have been able to see how the Lord really does go on our right and our left- the most important thing is that we are moving somewhere and relying on Him!
Like I said we spent a lot of time on the streets, but have found some sweet people, which we got some meetings with and I think I've recited the first vision about a hundred times, and at the end of the week we pulled out our planners and tallied up our lessons to find that we by far taught more lessons this week than any other week of my mission. We especially had the chance to meet and teach a kid named Sasha- he wanted to hear about the Bible because he hadn't read it before but wanted to. Anyways, he is just the most humble seeker of truth- he's 19 and a DJ! Anyways, he readily accepted a baptismal date for the 9th of November and had a good experience at church yesterday (even though he worked all night and got off at 8 in the morning) and just loves the Book of Mormon and I lent him my Bible. It's so refreshing to be around him and we have been praying super hard for him.
This is something that I have learned this week that has contributed to many good things happening and the blessing of meeting and teaching him- the simple blessing of prayer. There's a quote that we as members of the church we often live far below our privileges that are granted to us by the Lord. I think that us as missionaries fall into that category, and I have definitely lived far below my privileges to call upon our Heavenly Father for help. It doesn't mean that I haven't prayed, but I definitely have underestimated the fact that we are able to speak to our Heavenly Father as a man speaks with his friend and the ability to have Him open the windows of heaven and pour His spirit upon us. Who wouldn't want that? I have seen that as we have done that, faith has turned into confidence in the fact that He is with us, that we will meet prepared people, that we will know what to say, and in the fact that we are representatives of His one and only true church here on the earth. It isn't just some psychological game that many people attribute it to be, it is in fact the power of the Holy Ghost that has the ability to change lives of any person on the earth and confirm eternal truths in our hearts. Truth being that Heavenly Father and His Son came to Joseph Smith, that Thomas Monson is a prophet, and that Jesus Christ is our Savior. It's a great blessing to be a missionary.
Love you all, have a good week!
Elder Nielson

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Hey family!
Well thanks for all the good letters and the birthday wishes! You’re all the best, we definitely had one to remember yesterday. I will tell you about it...
First off, we had a good week of going to these zone trainings with president that were more of a mini zone conference that were just for the morning hours and a little into the afternoon to help with some training and get everybody pumped! It was really fun, we had some good things happen on the way. On Wednesday, we were here in Samara and had a fun afternoon- I was with an Elder Bucanov and we found a kid that was on his way to take a test and then was willing to meet. The first thing he said was "I need to repent." Man we were so excited! So we met with him, had a restoration lesson, invited him to baptism and he accepted and it was just awesome. We were on "bro hug" basis by the end of the lesson. Unfortunately, the next night, I called him and had a twenty minute phone call after he had said that it wasn't for him after reading the Book of Mormon. I was stumped, heart break hotel! But we keep movin’ on! It was a cool experience though, just too bad we couldn’t move forward. Anyways, had a lot of other good things, and then a great day yesterday!
So, we got up and had a good ol' bowl of cereal for the birthday breakfast and did a little contacting on our way to the branch building. We ended up getting to watch conference for birthday church! Russians love their birthdays, so Svyetlana came to church with a nice tie for me and things, and even Natasha that we had taught a year ago came to church with a present from her and Masha with a big card that Masha painted! Good memories. Usually we watch conference in English but I decided to sit in on the Russian translation for my last time and that was so cool to be with my Russian friends- we had a bunch of members from both branches here in Samara (they usually combine to watch conference) and so I got to be with them. It was a really touching day to sing hymns with them and feel their faith in the apostles and prophets. Anyways, after conference we had to help pick up the chairs and things, and when we came down stairs, Svyetlana and a bunch of other members had written little messages and put them in balloons and had "Happy Birthday Elder Nielson" written on a chalk board and everyone was in the room and sang me happy birthday. Man- of course my Nielson blood kinda cringed at that, but it was the best birthday ever. We got a picture, don't worry momma I just don't have it right now. Anyways, that was really cool. Basically we left from that and had a lesson and then the rest of the day and the whole night just pounding the streets and finding and teaching people the gospel on the streets! It was the best- I'll always remember that birthday. And we did find some good people by the way.
Well, things are just great. I love my mission in Russia, hope you all have a good week!
Elder Nielson
PS here is our birthday party last night with our birthday hats!- nothing tops off a long day like a bowl of cereal and this granola stuff they have here with some yogurt! I can't even express how happy that hat makes me every time I see it.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Good Monday to everybody!
Good to hear from you all this week, good things goin on all over the world it sounds like!  Ha we had a pretty good week this week with the closing out of transfers and just keeping that all going and then just doing some good, raw missionary work around these parts.  Doesn't get much better than that!
Of course, the biggest thing is missin Elder Taylor around here. it is weird- feels like we were friends all through high school and stuff and there were just a lot of jokes made this week that nobody laughed at...I guess lookin at each other for a year made us have a few of those.  Anyways, just kinda made me have a lot of thoughts about my own mission and the reality of the time restrictions- I definitely love the mission.
So, we had a few good meetings this week and unfortunately haven't been able to get a hold of the miracle man Sergei and a couple others.  However, we have had a couple of sweet experiences.  First, we have a kid named Dimitri that wants to quit smoking and considered himself an athiest, but feels the spirit when we pray.  He loves it and it has strengthened my testimony of prayer so much and the power and influence of the Holy Ghost on somebody.  Last night we had a lesson with an older man named Aleksander that just went a little off for the first little bit but after settling him down for a minute we finally got around to the first vision- there wasn't necessarily some loud spirit that was there when we told him the first vision, but it was so interesting to watch as he changed and was willing to listen, then accept a baptismal date afterwards once we had told the first vision.  The Holy Ghost is real and acts upon people and changes them!  I've had my testimony grow so much of this as I have seen these things happen.  It's the kinds of things that you always hear about...but Heavenly Father gave us the opportunity to see it happen!
Anyways, things are just goin good and we got some great weeks ahead of good work!  Have a good week!
Elder Nielson

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

(Just an update...In the past couple of weeks Elder Nielson's homecoming date has been up in the air.  We were given permission to talk briefly on the phone just the other night so Elder Nielson could tell us what had been decided between him and his mission president.  After all is said and done, Elder Nielson will be arriving home on December 18th!  We can hardly wait!)
Hey family-
Emailing is a little boring after being able to just talk for a second! Just kidding, it was good to get all of that out of the way and just focus now on what we got. Anyways, it was good to hear all your happy little voices there!
We're already back to transfer Monday- can't believe it. We had quite the last couple days with Elder Taylor and with him heading home and coming through our apartment. Because of travel and things he had to come in a day early and so we had a couple of days to do some work together and meet together with some members and converts that we have grown to love. It was a fun couple of days and then at about 1 this morning, they took off to the airport! You gotta be looking for a call from him in the next couple of days- I hope it's alright that I gave him your info. Hope it hasn't changed! Or that I remembered correctly! Haha… anyways, we went out on a bang for him by going on all the busses and public transports that we could find and "dan jones" style preach the gospel. He was pretty sad to leave and it was sad to see him go, but I guess that's a good thing. As he said, "we'll see each other way too soon."
We had a good week like I said down in Saratov and here in our area. I had one experience that I wanted to share- while down there in Saratov. I was with Elder Davydov from Kiev and on a lesson with a woman that they had been teaching forever. She's way awesome, just hasn't really had something click and is just "busy" like most people are. Anyways, after lots and lots of meetings, it seemed that on this meeting she finally allowed Elder Davydov to explain the value of reading the Book of Mormon (don't know how that's been missed...) and she really understood, but then said how she just doesn't understand everything that is written there. This is where I jumped in and just shared my experience when I was 15ish years old and President Hinckley gave us the 100 day challenge and for some reason I decided to read it. I finished by the end of the year, definitely didn't understand anything, but had just felt that it was true. I don't even recall a magical Moroni 10:3-5 moment, just with time I knew it was true without understanding anything in particular. Anyways, I shared that and she just looked at me and said, "I'm going to read the book every day now. I don't know what you said, but it convinced me to read it." she went off about how they have been meeting for over 6 months now and almost arguing even at times to try and teach her the message, but for some reason she legitimately (and since then has been reading) promised to read every day. Obviously, we know that it was the Holy Ghost that convinced her and that touched her heart. In Preach My Gospel, there's a quote from Brigham Young that says (paraphrased) "I could hear a man explain the Book of Mormon with the most eloquence and beautiful words, but if I heard a simple man simply say that he knows the Book is true by the Holy Ghost, I would be convinced..." something like that, you'll have to find it. Anyways, I for the first time was a personal witness of the divine power that comes from a testimony of the Book of Mormon. I personally didn't really feel anything when I shared my experience, but I was very humbled because as soon as she said that, I knew where the real power had come from. I am grateful to represent my Savior and help people to feel of His power which is from the Father, through the Holy Ghost. We are given no better tool than the Book of Mormon not only for doing His work but also in combating against the adversary. I challenge you all to use it!
Love you all-
Elder Nielson

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Hey family!
We've had a great week here around these parts- probably some of the best days and most spiritually gratifying and just straight gratifying days of my mission. I'm a little short on time, so I'm gonna go straight into them.
As I had said, we were planned to take off to Penza last Monday for some exchanges and had gotten stuck in the big office having to get a couple things to help out the office couple and finally at about 5:00 got outta there. Of course we had to buzz back home to pack up our things to be done by 6:00 and so we could work until we had to get to the train station so we were just hurrying back to the apartment that is about 15 minutes away to salvage whatever time we had of p day with our arms full of supplies and mail to take with us to the Penza elders and sisters. As we were walking, I just had the thought of "we had sacrificed all p day and so there has got to be some kind of blessing on the way home here" we continued on home. Honestly, we try to talk to everybody when we're outside, but at this point we were in the right to just buzz home...right? Anyways, we passed a guy that was on the sidewalk that was just lookin’ toward the building with his back to us, and I just had a feeling to talk. Of course, we walked past, and then there was definitely the feeling to go back and talk to this man. Pretty weird- but we went back and pretty openly and honestly told him that we had felt that we needed to come back and that we have the message for him and that it is what he needs and he was just open to the message and went and sat down on a bench with us and is pretty clearly going to get baptized.    I am grateful that I was able to be in the spot that the Lord could direct us- haven't really ever had that happen in that way before that I felt that the Lord directed us to somebody. It is a great blessing to have seen that end in a result.
and if that isn't enough...
So we had quite the exchange in Penza and we just tore down the walls doing work and staying out as long as possible for a couple days and sprinting to the train station to get back to Samara on Thursday morning pretty tired, and with the sniffles from some good work in the cold rain in Penza. That morning, we had the zone leaders here in Samara come over to exchange with them as well- so I worked the day with an Elder Bateman in our area here. Our apartment here in Samara sits on a street that for the last five years has just been hounded by missionaries as we have transfers, visa trips, zone conferences, and everything else that puts a bunch of missionaries into our area. Anyways, we left the apartment after lunch to go do some sweet contacting and going down this same road, stopped a man and he said it would be interesting and invited us to his house just about 5 minutes from our home in an hour.   so we went back. Turns out he had met with missionaries 10 years ago, but we didn't think much of it, and had a hard core Jewish wife that then moved to Jerusalem with his 2 sons a couple years later. He stayed alone in Samara and works some construction- anyways we began teaching the restoration lesson, and as we came up to the restoration part he says, "oh ya, something about a pillar of light right?" Of course we were a little stunned by that and said the first vision, invited him to baptism in Christ's church and he goes, "Nielson, when missionaries came to my house 10 years ago, I knew in my soul that it was for me. I've gone full circle now and now I have mormons in my house again and now I'm ready." Anyways, he told us a little more story, gratefully took a Book of Mormon, and we even came back that night with Svetlana and taught him the word of wisdom. Pretty cool huh? I don't really know where that came from other than the simple fact that Heavenly Father knows where his children are and is preparing them to receive the fulness of the gospel. I know that there are many others like him and I was grateful to have Heavenly Father allow us to be in the position to meet him.
I sure love you all and hope you are having good weeks with school and everything, we sure are having a good time.
Elder Nielson

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Birthday Season

Hey family!
Glad to see all of you doin’ good and looks like you’re all keepin’ birthday football season alive there! You all look great there at the BYU game! The birthday season is definitely exciting out here too and things are just going so good right now- I can't explain how fun it's been this last week and how much we have been blessed, it is just some good times on the mission.
So, since we got back in on Monday, it has just been go time in our area for the week. Honestly, we came back and hadn't had too much work done in our area for the last few weeks, so we started building this place from the ground up! It was so fun to come back into the normal groove of things after being fired up for the last week and have been very blessed as we have tried to just put everything on the line to do the work. Of course, to get some new people, we just spent the week on the streets. The weather is so good here and so we started on Monday night just talkin’ to everybody and have found some great people. We had to go down to the senior couple's apartment here to help them translate on Tuesday morning and talked to a sweet couple of kids passing by, we got their numbers and (as we were taught to focus on at these past zone conferences) asked if they knew anybody that would like to meet with us. They didn't, but gave us their number. The next day, we called him up and he said it wasn't too interesting to meet, but said he had some friend that would be willing. Anyways, he gave us this kids number and we called him and got a meeting that night! His name is Leyonti (some old Russian name) and is just a prepared person for the gospel. We had a great meeting and the next night (Thursday?) met again, taught the restoration in full and set a baptismal date with him- he is just a great kid! Anyways, we were blessed throughout the week with little tender mercies like that as we tried our best to just do everything for the work. The stops are all coming out! haha
We have been trying to make p day focused too, and so today and last week we have tried to get as much food ready for the week so we don't have to spend time on getting it ready- I just had to report that our food today that we prepared were some canned beans that we found and cooked up and mashed with some chicken and have a pile of burritos now in the freezer for the week. haha I thought you would like that one momma. We are pretty excited about it- efficiency baby.
Anyways, things are so good, we are just excited about everything and the whole mission is just pumped up after all of these conferences with President Bennett- we are doing everything to make sure that fire doesn't go out. We definitely owe it to our Heavenly Father and our friends here to do all we can. Anyways, we're going to be exchanging this week and taking off to Penza tonight for a couple days and are excited to see the miracles that the Lord has in store there and in Samara here. He is definitely in the details of our lives and this is His work.
Hope you all have a good week!
Elder Nielson
P.S. Here is us with the man- this isRoman our driver for the mission. He has been around for 20 years and is the best. (and of course,Elder Whittemore pictured as well)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

No email this week...Boo!

Elder Nielson is busy with zone conferences and such and had no time to email us this week...but Sister Olsen from the mission office sent us this great picture of him and Elder Taylor who has been his companion since last December, but was recently transferred.   Until next week...

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Break Up...

Hey everybody-
Well, we're already back to another big transfer Monday madness and it finally happened...the band's breakin’ up. Elder Taylor is headed off to Izhevsk for his final transfer and walkin’ out the door on me. I'm just kidding, that's just the biggest news from the week, it's like my mission is walking out the door. After 10 and a half months, it kinda jerks on your heart strings to lose a buddy like him. I'm super grateful I got to serve with him for so long and learned a ton- we are probably the most prepared people for marriage on the planet. Anyways, we'll miss him. I hope you have a chance to meet his parents somehow and of course get to his farewell sometime in October. I'll be stayin’ it around here a little longer with my other past companion, good ol Elder Whittemore. I'm super excited to be with him again, and it's going to be a fun upcoming few months with him. Good bros...if you can say that.
The storm definitely hasn't cooled down around here, I think I have had more action the last two weeks than I have had my Anyways, we had Monday evening of kinda getting things settled down around the mission home for president and then took off early Tuesday evening to Izhevsk to have a greeting fireside with president, then to Kazan on Wednesday and Thursday to Ul'yanovsk...don't know if any of those cities ring a bell. It was super fun to be back in Kazan and see some familiar's been about a year and a half already and they were all so fun to be around and catch up on things. They were all super funny to have remembered me as not knowing a word of Russian and then they all were pumped to have me translate for president. Kinda fun, anyways, we got back super late on Thursday night to Samara. We rolled from all this mission tour stuff right into transfers and have had some pretty intense past couple of days- we typically didn't go to drop off leaving missionaries, but president asked us to come for his first time and so we got up at about 12:30 this morning and took them out to the airport and got back to our place at about 4:00 with missionaries rolling in on trains and needing taxis for the next couple hours...basically we are running on fumes here. We buzzed over to the train station and helped an incoming group and now it's about 11:00 and we're here in the office. Just wanted to give you a taste, Elder Taylor takes off tonight on a bus...we might take a couple minutes to go take some pictures or something and then get right back into the swing of things. I think I have owned more Russians’ faces at the train station getting people in and outta trains and things than I ever imagined. Good memories. They don't respect lines too much.
Anyways, we had a good last lesson with Svyetlana with Elder Taylor and she's doing great- she talked about how she realized how this is what she felt like she had been missing her whole life. We'll keep working with her with her post-baptism lessons, but it was super good to hear that. Elder Taylor and I were just talking about how I kinda didn't expect to have a story like that. It is a huge blessing to observe that in somebody's life.
Ok, it sounds like you liked some random stuff, so I thought of a couple other things to share:
1- They love dill here. They eat it with anything- any time that there is any kind of a main dish, there is a bowl of dill on the side- especially with borscht. Some of the Russians just eat it plain off the bushel.
2- Saturdays are hoppin’'s the day that everybody get's married. We are in a quieter place of town, but there are these little agencies where people get their marriage license and then they all caravan down the street just laying on their horns and waving out the windows with decorated car hoods. Pretty funny.
3- Like I said, they haven't quite mastered courtesy with lines and things- if you aren't standing right behind somebody, a babushka will snake her way right in front of you at the grocery check out, or if you need something you just yell at the person at the counter even if they look busy, and they get it for you. Or I have thrown a couple elbows (not really) getting out of buses and marshrytkas because they will be climbing on the bus before the door even opens and you are trying to get out. Just another funny little idiom.
Anyways, have a good week.. We'll have a good one here.
Elder Nielson
PS here's a picture...I had to check to see if I had sent it. On one of our trips to Tolyatti our driver, Roman, stopped and showed us this big look out over the river. Anyways, give you a taste of the mighty Volga! and a birds eye of Samara...


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Ready, Set, Go!

Hey fam!
I thought I'd mix up the title this week, we have had a good doozy of a week for the record books. Anyways, thanks for the letters from everybody and it was good to hear from you!
So, we'll kick things off with a quick run down of the week- we had time for a lesson on Monday evening with Svyetlana and she is just doin’ well and things, it is fun to see the growth there. She was called as the librarian in the branch. Good for her. So, since then we have basically been doin’ some good work with President Schwab- Tuesday was our first mission leader council thing with president and that was good to give him a feel of the mission and things. I had a sweet moment when we all did reports on our zones and the sisters shared a report for all sisters (which was a good report) and Elder Taylor (who was conducting) commented on the fact that it was a good report. I was sitting behind the computer to type the minutes of the meeting and was just kind of thinking out loud and just kinda blurted out, "I liked that one..." pretty much everybody went quiet and president looked over at me and said, "nice comment Elder Nielson!" Man we just lost it after that. That definitely made it on Elder Taylor’s wall of pink sticky notes that he writes down all of my dumb comments on. Reminds me of Will Burgess. Anyways, sorry mom and dad, I guess the family name isn't being too well represented.
So, after that president wanted to do a quick little zone conference type meeting to meet all the missionaries so Wednesday we had that meeting and had our typical running around to make everything run smooth for a couple of hours. Right after this meeting, we got our stuff together and jumped in the mission van with president and rode down to Saratov. We did the same kind of meeting down there in Saratov and basically spent the last half of the week around with president to translate for interviews, getting laptops and programs up and going, and all that kind of thing that they haven't had time to do yet. They are also doing a simple fireside in every branch of the mission and so the evenings we have been going around and help out with the projector and things and translating for those as well. Basically, in all of this we just scrape out an hour here and an hour there of contacting. Pretty much, we were going non-stop with him headed home from Saratov yesterday and hit a couple other cities on the road back to get home at about 9:30 last night. Woo! We're taking off in the morning for round two tomorrow, so buckle up!
Anyways, although we didn't have much time to do too much missionary work, I was filled with gratitude for my mission as we went around. Coming a little bit closer to the last few months of my mission I kinda got a little bit discouraged thinking that regardless of the fact that I haven't seen nations get baptized, I was more just kinda bothered that maybe I didn't feel the love that I expected for Russia and the language and those kinds of things; instead maybe I more loved missionary work...if that makes sense. Not gonna lie, from first glance it is kinda difficult to love the place. Anyways, we were able to go around to these branches and just riding down the road and looking at the miles of sunflower fields (pretty cool) I was able to realize how much I love it...and especially Russia. I can't explain the amount of respect that I have for the saints here and how loving they are, even being in branches of members that I didn't know. I was able to see old members that I had known in Saratov that I love and can now talk openly with them now and just be friends. Of course, it is the gospel that binds us all together, but my stomach takes a cringe when the thought of "coming to a close" creeps into my mind. I love these Russian saints and the privilege it is to be here, it's humbling.
Love you all
Elder Nielson

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Hello everybody!
Well, glad to hear you all made it to Torrey and back...still have no idea where that is. But that was fun to see the pics and video, I now know. Thanks for sending that.
We've been pretty busy around here with everything that is going on. I'm sure you are wondering about the Schwabs. Man they are just awesome. We are so excited and President Schwab especially is just perfect. It is a little bit nerve racking to be sending our old one out and picking up a "new guy" from the airport and things, but holy cow he is just awesome. Most of our time has been spent takin’ care of them and already have some great memories and things.
Earlier in the week we had a few days to get a little bit of work done which was sweet. It's kind of funny because we'll get slammed with administrative stuff and then all the sudden we get that done and haven't been able to find any new people to meet with and things, and so we just have an open day with no appointments or anything set up- basically we had one of those on Wednesday which was actually way fun. We just owned the streets all day and got let into a guy knocking and got him a Book of Mormon and things. I love those kind of days- Heavenly Father always makes something happen for us and it's just fun.
Anyways, that was the first half of the week and then Thursday was the big day we have been waiting for- we went to the airport in the afternoon and picked up the Schwabs! That was super fun and we brought them back here. I have so much respect for these mission presidents coming out- we had a couple of questions with him for some of his scheduling and we sat down and looked at a calendar, and he just looks up with this helpless face and just says, "what day is it today?" It was so funny, the poor guy is just sent out here and just thrown into everything cold turkey after a huge long flight and time change and everything. Anyways, so we have basically spent the last few days of pretty much every minute with him just catching him up to speed and things. They came to church with us and bore their testimonies yesterday and the spirit was just so strong and perfect, they are great to have out here.
So, there wasn't too much to write, so I figured I'd give you a countdown of some good things about Russia:
6) They have just pride in who they are and what they have that's for sure. They love their language, culture, everything and they will let you know about it. They love that their language is difficult and I can't tell you how many thousands of conversations I have had of just saying, "yes your language is hard, yes I like it here, yes the Volga [river] is beautiful, yes I like people here..." etc.
5) They love to help people out- a lot of times they may seem a little bit crusty but if you will ask a person on the street for directions, they will throw themselves in front of a bus to show you where to go. Often, I'll just ask somebody for directions to get a conversation started and never ever get around to anything besides them just taking us or showing us where to go and explaining every possible way to get somewhere.
4) Everything is a memorial here to somebody. For example, they just put a plaque up of a guy that played soccer for the Samara soccer team up on our apartment. He played 40 years ago. But there are some sweet big statues or squares with some cool stuff on it. A lot of big things that we don't really have back in our neck of the woods.
3) They love to be dressed up and feel fancy. - the girls love the hi-heels and even men are always in collars and things. They feel all fancy going to their little plays or shows or symphonies and honestly you can tell they love to feel cool. It cracks me up.
2) A lot of times they think that they just HAVE to give you something. For example, I have a lighter that a guy gave me in Saratov on the bus just because, or I've gotten multiple chocolates from old ladies on the little Marshrytka vans, or easter eggs, or other lighters (they all pack lighters- don’t know why they give me them), or even an ice cream from a guy on the tram. That's my favorite one. Anyways, they always feel the need to give you something. I always laugh about it and there is no refusing or you'll offend somebody.
1) They love to see us with just big smiles- it stops a lot of people. They may not hear anything or listen (or maybe understand us) but they just have a desire to be happy. That has been my biggest tool on the mission.
Anyways, don't know if that gives you anything. And I don’t know why I had 6 things but it gives you an idea. But, things are good and we are just keepin’ on. Got some good weeks ahead travelling around with president and so we're looking forward to that! Love you all!
Elder Nielson

[a couple of more funny little things Elder Nielson commented on from questions we asked him]
Ya it has been good to have exchanges and things going on. It is interesting because it makes me more physically tired and things, but I am more energized and excited as we get to just get out and do normal work. I'm sure you saw it sometimes that missionaries sometimes look for any excuse to not do that work, but it is fun to get out there and encourage them to do some work and be excited about it. I have definitely seen what President Bangerter talked about in my setting apart about being hard working and obedient, because that is what we do on exchanges. Kinda cool. Sleep is fine, the sun is setting earlier and raising now later which is good. I still wake up at about 5:30, but for most of the summer I would wake up at about 4:00 ish because that is when the sun comes up. But sleep is fine- good exercise is key to get that blood pumpin!
Ya we have heard plenty about that guy that got stuck in Moscow or whatever it is. I swear everyone here knows more about America and what is going on than I do- they just assume that we care as much about all that gossip kind of stuff as they do. Haha but we don't really see too much as far as tension goes- if people are mad at us it is something to do with World War II or something dumb like that and we are just like- "man that was like 40 years before I was born". They think that we are taught that America won the war- I don't even know what to believe anymore!
Thanks for the prayers and everything- we are totally safe and things. And especially right now we're just doin’ everything to make sure that President Schwab is feeling comfortable and keeping his head on. I cannot believe how much that man has to do- and on top of that he has no idea what it is, he just hears that he has to do it so we just kind of follow him around like a couple of puppies. But we are good puppies that will catch a frisbee from him!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Good morning everybody!
Well, that was a great round of emails from this past week, thanks for all the fun updates of things going on and glad to hear that you are keepin’ busy and involved in some good stuff.
We have had a good run at it this past week, we are doing a lot to get ready for President Schwab coming out and we are getting pretty excited. Just a quick update, he'll be getting out here on Thursday and the Sartoris heading home on Friday, crazy how this has all come up so fast. I swear it should still be 6 months out like it always has been.
Anyways, we took off on Monday up to Tol'yatti for some big exchanges. Elder Taylor took off with Elder Owen up to Izhevsk and I stayed there in Tol'yatti again and was with my other old companion, Elder Whittemore. It was a super fun couple of days and we were able to get some good work done. Honestly, we were still pretty hammered from our last week Saratov exchanges, but we went for it anyways and were able to get some good things done and hopefully got some missionaries excited in those areas. I wish I had a good story for you, but honestly, we just had a few days of raw missionary work with them, that is: finding people, and had some good successes and things. I like those kinds of days because you just keep on working and working and Heavenly Father just blesses you throughout the day. Pretty simple.
So, we headed on back here to Samara on Thursday morning and had a sweet lunch here with the office staff and President and Sister Sartori. It was a Russian barbecue for them heading home which was super fun. I love all the staff workers down here in the office, they are all fun to be around. I also think that President Klimov (one of the branch presidents here) may have emailed you a photo from that of me and president...just wanted to see if that made it. So, basically from that point on we had to spend some time getting things together for when President Schwab comes. We had to work on the upcoming transfer and things like that because he won't know anybody and things like that. Honestly, that is kind of how the rest of the week went. On Saturday evening we also had a fireside for president here in Samara and he spoke and gave a great talk. It was a good way for him to go out, and it was really cool too because Svyetlana gave the closing prayer. She is integrating well and just happy to be there.
That pretty much sums up the week, everything is going well as usual. I just had some interesting thoughts today as we were studying- honestly I was a little down just because of the fact that sometimes I see how easily people can be influenced by Satan.  Anyways, I was just reading and got to Alma 7- these are some verses that are often quoted about the Atonement, they are some good ones that I was excited to read as a good pump up. I would love to help people catch it. Something else kind of hit me though- right before those verses on the Atonement, it mentions of the Savior's humble and simple coming into the world. I was taken back a little bit to think of the simplicity in which our Savior came to the world and how that simple event really is what we are trying to turn people's hearts to. That simple night of His coming definitely has gained much more meaning in my life as I have tried to explain the greatness of a Savior when people have a hard time accepting such a simple thing. I am grateful for that though- there is just something warm and tender about imagining the simple form that the Savior took upon to help us out. I know that anybody that accepts this Savior into their lives will see themselves changed and their families will be happier- that's what we all want anyways.
I am super grateful for what the Lord has taught me on my mission. I hope you have a good week this week, I sure love you all.
Elder Nielson

p.s.- here's a shot from out there in tol'yatti. we felt pretty cool- pretty much we were hackin through this jungle until we baptized a family of 4.


This is outside our apartment.  We always see guys squatting like this and eating sunflower seeds and drinking a beer!  Ha!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Hey everybody-

Well we're back already to Monday- I have no idea where July is going.  We were able to have a good solid transfer week and are pretty pumped for some big exchanges and things for the next couple weeks.

So we had the typical transfer week with running back and forth to the train station and getting people in and out of the apartment and welcoming in the new group and everything- honestly I don't want to bore you too bad with all the details and things. but that was how the first bit of the week was spent and then our "mission leadership coucil" on Thursday- we used to just have the zone leaders but now with the influx of sisters we now have sister leaders that come to those meetings once a month. (that is what you got the picture of)...good times.

However, we had the last little bit of the week to do some good work. we are really making a big emphasis on pushing all of this "work of salvation" broadcast and trying to make the member involved in the work here.  I hope that everyone back at home paid attention to that, I would honestly encourage watching that a second time. it is pretty awesome stuff, we are just trying to find the best ways that we can get people excited and helping out in the work. we are all super excited about that.  So, we have been trying to get together with the branch president and help out with branch council and things to try and get something going.  Super exciting.

As far as other things go though, Svyetlana is just doing great.  I always just kinda pictured baptism as the goal (which it is) but that getting somebody there is just all that matters. however, the real joy comes from watching these people grow in the church and having them testify in meetings and seeing what happens as a result of baptism.  It is a big blessing to see that take place in her life, even just a week after baptism. so that's exciting and fun to watch. of course we are working with other people and finding some great ones on the streets, Svyetlana is just kinda the star for right now. haha

Quick funny story- we're walking down the street last night with a member on our way to a meeting and all the sudden we hear down the street "no way! no way!" and all the sudden we see this kinda larger man (he looked like Newman from Seinefeld, don't know where that came from) running out from the trees and yelling "no way- it is just too far. mormon missionaries made it out to Samara?! there's no way!"  We were kinda taken back for a minute, but this brotha came running up to us and turns out he is an American guy from Florida.  Sounds like his parents were Russian and they moved toAamerica when he was six and so he speaks Russian but is a straight up American.  Gosh we were crackin up- we didn't know what to do with ourselves. He knew everything about us, he gave us his number and things because he is here for a month with his wife from here, so we'll see.  But definitely one of the more random things I've seen in my time.  Good times, we ended the night with a good smile on our faces.

Kinda goofy but all in all, things are just going great, we just keep pushing and good things happen every day.  I am blessed to be a missionary.  I hope you have a good week. love you all.

Elder Nielson
ps first picture is us with Svyeltana on a bench, she looks a little more like herself. there was some hat party they were doing at the branch so we were trying the hats on.  I like this picture because this is where we always meet, I'll always remember this spot. and it gives you a good taste of Elder Taylor. haha
the other is at her baptism. good times.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Game Film

Hey family!
I had to go with the title this week because sometimes when I write home it feels like when we would watch game film back in high school or college after our games or practice and sometimes you felt really good going into game film and excited to have the coaches be excited when you make a good play, or sometimes there isn't much to report and it's like those bad game film times that you just aren't too excited about, except on a mission we don't get chewed out...anyways, I feel like that sometimes going into writing home. haha however, this week had some really good game film.
Probably first and foremost is that our investigator got baptized this week! woo!  I also don't really know where that came from besides the fact that she was totally ready and it was just a matter of her deciding to go.  I'll put a picture on for sure.  Actually it turns out that we only took those pictures on Elder Taylor's camera, but he forgot it.  Bummer, next week they will come.  After the baptism on last Saturday, a lady told some other missionaries here in Samara that she wanted to be baptized this saturday, so we used that as a chance on Tuesday to tell our investigator that we would have a service and she could get baptized on Saturday.  She totally took it and made it happen!  The other lady ended up getting sick unfortunately, but we had a really nice service and it was so good.  She testified at the end which was the most gratifying part and also stood up yesterday in sacrament meeting and bore her testimony!  Oh man, it was so great.  She definitely is going to be a great member and things and is super converted.  She told Elder Taylor that she didn't really understand why we were meeting and things until she got an answer that the Book of Mormon was true.  That was great to hear, she loves the scriptures and was just so happy afterwards.  Don't tell anybody, but she just came up and gave us the biggest hugs after the service, we had to do the awkward missionary stand there and take it, but it was really cute.  It was a great time.
That was definitely the highlight of the week, we are working with some other people, had the final Ukraine visa trip on friday, and then are now a little full with the transfer going on and everything again- can't believe we're already back to that time.  We sent off the group going home last night and so had a late night (you might be getting a visit for the Stevens..a senior couple that just came home, just fyi- they are great people from Morgan as well) and then our exercise this morning was to take a lil jog to the train station and help a big incoming group from Saratov.  Good times, funny lil memories.
Anyways, it's all going great, hope that you all have a great week and thanks for all the prayers. they are felt that's for sure.

Elder Nielson

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Elder Nielson's week

Good mornin fam!
Well we have had a good week this week, glad to hear that things are going good on the home front and hope you all had a good time there in big St George. Looks like you had a good time, thanks for the sweet videos and pics, those are definitely the highlight of the week and it was fun to hear all of your stories this week...
Anyways, things are going pretty good around here. The big news you are all waiting for is with our investigator...things are going great with her. Basically she left the city and just thought things over and we met on Friday...basically she apologized and everything and is saying that she just wasn't quite ready yet and she was kinda "outside" of herself. Honestly we were super bummed after our last meeting but we honestly felt fine because she still had a testimony and everything, and turns out when we met Friday things are just fine. She even got a hold of our branch president and then came with us on Saturday to a baptism of a kid here in Samara which was really good for her. She made friends with another lady and it was a really good service and things and I think that she feels really good. Anyways, we are just going to keep working with her and getting her to feel that she is ready. She also came to church yesterday and stayed all three hours- we watched the big missionary/member missionary broadcast during second and third hour and I think it was a great thing for her to watch and feel the power of the apostles and prophet as well as see the support and love that is throughout the world for the church and it's members. That was awesome to watch, it is always a good reminder that the church is still true and functioning. But it was a great message and I hope that everybody is finding ways to help others be blessed by the gospel. That was way exciting to see and hear.
As far as other things go, things are going pretty well and just scootin’ right on along. We had a good couple of days on exchanges earlier in the week- we went out to Tol'yatti and honestly it's been way fun to just try and get everyone as pumped and working as hard as they can. It's been pretty fun, we have a ton of new missionaries that have come out over the last few transfers and so I always pick to be with that one and we always see a lot of cool things happen. Unfortunately, working with the younger companion we get the days without lessons, but it's ok because we just go out and find people and the Lord blesses us a ton with that. It's been a really good time.
In our area we have been working with quite a few other people- honestly the progress moves pretty slow with a lot of people just because they are pretty difficult to get meetings with but it has been really fun to see some great things going on in our area. As far as Dany boy goes, we have had a hard time getting a hold of him, but he is still around, just so you know. Turns out he's been in the middle of moving and so that has made it a lil’ difficult to get in touch. Anyways, just some random little side notes.
Well, we got a good week ahead and I got the final visa trip to Ukraine coming up- woo hoo...a lot of airplane food and sweating in an airport. haha But it's always fun to think a little bit and it always feels like I am coming back on my mission again as a new missionary when we fly back into Samara. Good memories.
Anyways, hope you all have a good week and we'll be looking forward to hearin’ from you this next week. Love you all.
Elder Nielson

Friday, June 21, 2013

Hello fam!
Well glad to hear that you all had a good trip and the fun stuff going on. Also glad that you had a chance to enjoy the letters from last week, it has been such a blessing the last few weeks of my mission to be serving. Things keep going good and we had another great week.
We had a good couple of first days and then split up for some big exchanges on Wednesday and Thursday of this week...we have really found that the best way to help missionaries out is just to get on exchanges with them as much as possible and just be as pumped as possible and trust that Heavenly Father will make good things happen. So, I actually stayed here in Samara with Elder Boyer (a Mesa dweller, former Toro) and Elder Taylor took off to Orenburg with his companion.
So- the big story of the week was with Elder Boyer. We honestly spent about five hours in the afternoon just pounding the streets- we didn’t have much success to be honest. We met a cool lady and also dropped by the former Natasha and Masha to say hi- they caught wind that we were back in the area. Anyways, they have slowed down meeting with missionaries, but they were pumped to see each other again and Masha made me a cute little book. Just a fun blast from the past. Anyways, it was pretty hot- not going to lie. We had a meeting in the evening at the branch and then had planned to end the night over at another set of elders for exchanges with them the following day- unfortunately we rode all the way out to the branch to have this guy fall through on we dropped our bags off at the branch and then just busted out for our 57th hour of contacting on the day. Within about three minutes, we stopped this husband wife and their little daughter walking around. They actually stopped and talked to us- they are definitely the type that I usually have low hope for because they just have things going good for them and don't need the gospel for the time being. But they stopped- long story short they talked with us and we even got them to come with us to the branch and showed them around- they just drank that place up. It's a pretty shabby building, but it was a nice little tour. However, we took them upstairs and showed them the nursery and primary room which was fun for their little daughter. Anyways- we were pretty pumped. But the biggest thing was that when we came out of the room, I kinda had a feeling to stop them- there was a good sized painting of the First Vision on the wall there. I don't know if you've really seen a good painting of that- but that thing just seems to glow. Anyways, we just stopped them and said, "you remember how we said that our church is different from others, this is why." We continued to just testify of the First Vision and pointing at the Father and Son appearing to Joseph Smith- there was definitely quite the tender spirit that was there as we were able to stand in a rather holy feeling place and have a family feel that together. Long story short, we got their number and gave them a Book of Mormon and they are pretty awesome.
I definitely have thought a little bit about what the difference has been with some of these cool events happening over the last little bit- definitely it has been the simple fact that the spirit has touched peoples' hearts and that is what causes people to change and moves this work forward. I had always heard that but never really knew what it meant. I will be forever grateful for my mission and what it has taught me because I will want to have the spirit in my life not only to help an investigator, but for the rest of my life. There is a "quickening" power that the Holy Ghost has that as we daily repent and do all we can, we are strengthened and obtain the happiness and peace that is written about in the scriptures. I think I tasted this a little before my mission and throughout my mission, but wasn't doing really what it took. Don’t take me wrong- I've worked hard and everything, but this hard work was done with the expectation that Heavenly Father would make something happen for me. However, I have seen that we are placed in the same circumstances, but have the ability to call upon heaven for help and our loving Heavenly Father can quicken us or touch the lives of others as we sincerely repent and have that change of perspective.
Anyways- just a couple of thoughts that I have had and I am grateful for the experiences that my mission has brought me, but even more grateful for the lessons learned and the spirit which is felt.
You are probably wondering about Svyeta and Danil- they are both doing great. We taught Svyeta tithing and are just getting her to the finish line. Danil came to church, unfortunately was too busy to meet but came to church and that is what is important. He most likely won't work out for the 29th due to that, but it's ok, he'll get baptized and will be able to be more ready.
Sure love you all, hope you have a good week.
Elder Nielson
P.S. here's a pic at "revolution square" on our way down to the office every day. good ol' lenin

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Hello everybody-

Hope your having a good ride down to big Sedona, be sure to say hi to Chief Yellowhorse for me.  Have a good trip and some good times down there for me will ya?!  Anyways, glad to hear things are good, things are going great out here, it's been a good good week. I'll tell...

We actually had quite a bit of time to do some normal missionary work this week which was pretty awesome, but for some reason the fish just weren't bitin’ on setting up meetings.  Got to spend a lot of time doing some finding on the streets, but that never hurt anybody.  At long last, we had our long awaited meeting with our investigator on Friday night!  She called us and just like usual wanted to meet at the usual place on the usual bench and everything!  She made it back from Germany earlier in the week and she was doing well and had a good time in Europe.  Anyways, she was happy to see us and we sat down and started just making small talk about her trip and things.  Finally, Elder Taylor just said, "we have a lesson like normal"  she kinda got all funny and was like "no, no, I don't really have time, but I did want to talk to you about something..."  Honestly, my blood ran a little bit cold, I've seen that situation a few too many times.  Maybe I just need more faith.  Anyways, she just looked back at us and said, "does the 29th of June work FOR ME TO BE BAPTIZED! Can you get me ready for that?"  We assured her that we could, and we were so pumped!  That was such a good thing to hear.  Her daughter was fine with it and even said that she will probably get to that point in about 20 years herself.  phew!  So we talked a little bit and turns out she had drank a little coffee and wine on her trip which was a bummer, but it gave us a great chance to teach her a little bit about repentance and for her to have an opportunity to feel what the Atonement really feels like before baptism.  We were actually kind of happy to hear that to be honest.  Anyways, we had a good lesson even though she didn't have time we snuck it in and gave her Alma 36 to read, so we are super happy for her.  She is just a good lady.  And she understands that she needs baptism.  Pretty cool.

The next thing is what I gotta get written down because we had probably the best experience of my mission yesterday...unfortunately we didn't have Svetlana make it to church, her daughter was still in town with her but Elder Taylor had gotten a hold of this Danil guy to come to church.  He had found this guy about a year ago when he was serving in Tolyatti and the missionaries there called him and turns out that he had moved to Samara...that make sense?  So those missionaries sent us his number and things and he wanted to come to church when Elder Taylor called him earlier in the week.  Turns out about 4 years ago he had also met missionaries as well.  So, we get off the bus on our way to church and there is just this absolutely norm 25 year old bro standing on the bus stop waiting for us...pretty cool.  Anyways, we went to church and he just loved it.  We had a great Sacrament meeting with great talks simply focused on Jesus Christ (those are sometimes a little tough to come across).  He loved the hymns and the words and so we took him in a class room afterwards and taught him the Restoration.  When we asked him if he understood the difference between our church and others he said, "here there is just a great feeling and things that you don't find in other churches...I have never seen a group of people that are unified and just good like this.  I have been looking for something like this for a long time"  ya- we were pretty pumped.  So we taught the Restoration and had one of our best lessons together and read Moroni 10 with him.  We actually understood it and we said that he needs to get an answer about the truthfulness of the Book.  He cut us off and said "I already got an answer in there." Elder Taylor just said, "we are supposed to get baptized then, will you get baptised?"  He straight up said, "I will..."  We paused for a second and he just said "look at me"  and pointed at his eyes and he had tears in his eyes.  Holy cow- I can't really explain to you the sweet spirit that was with us there.  I don't think- in fact I'm sure- that I've had really anything like that yet on my mission.  It makes the rest of the year and a half 100% worth it.  Heavenly Father blessed us yesterday, it is interesting what happens when a person allows the spirit to touch their heart.  Anyways, he is our bro and we will keep workin’ with Danny boy to get baptized on the 29th of June as well.  That will be a good day. 

This is getting long, but I have to tell you something else- we had a girl named Elya with us on the lesson who was baptized about a year ago.  She has kinda been in and out of being active and is just a funny, 20 year old diva type normal girl for lack of a better term, she is a good buddy of ours.  Anyways, she really was able to feel the spirit on that lesson, it is evident that Satan definitely has been pushing her as well-it's way too easy for people to not stay active here.  She rode home with us and while we were walking she said to us, "when I was walking to church today I was thinking to myself that this was going to be my last Sunday."  It was a super big blessing to have seen that the spirit was also able to touch her and hopefully that very well could have saved her as well from a lot of heart ache.  Pretty cool that Heavenly Father is in the details of our lives in that way.  Big blessings these past few days. Anyways, as you can tell things are going awesome.  This is one of those times that you don't really have a desire to come off your mission.  It's been a blessing and we will pray for these people so that the Lord can continue to touch their lives.  Sure love you all and hope you have a good trip.

Elder Nielson

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Hey there everybody!
Glad to hear things are going good, things are just going awesome around these parts as well. It has been one of my more favorite weeks on my mission and there are just good things.
We had a sweet week kicking off with a couple of good lessons at the beginning of the week, especially one good one with good ol' Svyetlana. She is doing super well and is ready to get baptized. She leaves today to Germany to meet her daughter coming out from America and will be there until the 1st of June. She will talk to her about being baptized, but she will not really be stopped. She seems to just have a little more of a light in her eyes- I'm going to be honest I think this is the first time that I have experienced that on my mission. It was a blessing to sit next to her yesterday and just talk to her after church- she is happy with the gospel. It's a pretty cool thing to see and feel. She has a strong testimony, so we will wait and pray for her till she gets back.
Anyways, we took off on Wednesday morning with our driver, Roman, and headed up to Tol'yatti and picked up the zone leaders there. Elder Glavatski and I got dropped off in the city Ul'yanovsk and Elders Taylor and Whittemore continued up to Kazan. So, we spent a few days there in Ul'yanovsk and probably had a few of the best days of my mission. There are two companionships there in the city, both with a senior companion and a trainee- that was so fun to work with a "newbie" and just be pumped up with them. Anyways, Wednesday was spent working with Elder Tippets, one of the newbies. From the get go, we just had people stop and talk to us and just listen. It was so awesome, there must have been something in the air. After about 20 minutes, we stopped a kid named Dimitri and talked a little about the Book of Mormon. It was so funny, I would kind of explain something, then turn to Elder Tippets and give him the nod. It's like I would hit the play button on a cassette tape and a little tid bit of testimony would just explode out of him, then hit pause and explain a little more, explain what I said to him, then push play again and he would just testify. It was such a funny picture. Anyways, this Dimitri kid was just a cool guy and had about an hour so we went and sat down on a bench, prayed, taught the whole restoration and invited to be baptized, and prayed and got on our way. It was probably the coolest thing that I have had on my mission, Heavenly Father was definitely looking out for us.
We had the same thing at night when we were on our way home and had a kid stop us at about 8:30 and say that he wanted to know what we do because he felt like he couldn't get away from bad influences and he just wanted to get free of it...that tickled our fancies. We asked if he had time, so we plopped down on another bench and had a repeat from earlier, we taught him about the Atonement and Book of Mormon and gave it to him. Pretty cool. We ran home to make it home after that- anyways we just had things like that for three days out there in Ul'yanovsk. It was so darn fun…and fun to just get them pumped. That is probably my favorite thing to do. Anyways, we had a good time, and it was fun to be with Elder Glavatski, you will have to meet him some day. Me and him go home on the same day, he is the most humble just cool guy in the world.
Anyways, things are going super good around here. We are happy to be working with Svyetlana and others and just making a lot of good things happen. Good times. Hope you all have a good week, love you all!
Elder Nielson