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!