Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Gustavo, Reyna, and Daniel, and What Matters Most

Dear Familia,                                                                                                                                       

I didn´t plan on writing this late, but I guess that’s how it goes. The bishop´s family in the ward is going through some difficulties. We had a family night with them tonight and we ended a little late, but we helped them come closer as a family, which is really really important in a ward. If the bishop is distracted, the work can get complicated and that’s not something that we want here. The bishop is a key player, and if he´s on the bench, well you have to enter sports rehab and get him off the bench, things just don´t work as they should without him!

Your questions:

How are your glasses?  are you rotating pairs or using the damaged ones?  Would you recommend Kolby bring contacts or not?
Well, my other glasses fit my face really small, and I would probably only use them if my glasses that I do use outright in half. I still use my glasses. I wondered at first if it would give me a headache to have a little spot in front of my left eye all day, but it’s amazing that when Heavenly Father designed our bodies, He designed them to adapt to uncomfortable things. I hardly notice the spot anymore. There are a couple missionaries in the mission that use contacts, and they use a daily disposable kind and receive a package every 3 months with 90 pairs. It seems like it would be a little tedious, and really I’m glad that I don’t have to worry about cleanliness like that, just have to polish the lenses every day because of all the dust. I recommend glasses, even though it’s a pain at first.

Who are the missionaries pictures playing Jenga?
Going back and looking at the pictures, the skinny one in the checkered shirt sitting on the couch is Elder Guzman, he´s from Honduras and has about 3 months, the other in the checkered shirt is Elder Valenzuela, he was in Comas with me and is also from Honduras. The one in the blue shirt (who lost) is Elder Rosales, he´s from Piura, and he just got to the mission when I got here to Collique. Squatting over the tower in red is Elder Gutierrez, boliviano he was serving in Venezuela, but got here in lima a month and a half ago because of the political unrest there, he will likely finish the mission here, along with the other 20 or so missionaries that were reassigned here. The one in glasses is Elder Oliva, he wears glasses only sometimes, because he´s a little like Braden, doesn’t require them for everything like some of us, how blessed :)

Do you like Mole?
It was good, we made it a little bitter because we used a little too much tomato, and in Guatemala, they put it on fried bananas, but Elder Oliva told me they put it on chicken in Mexico. The sweetness of the bananas was really a plus, on chicken I’m not sure I would like it. It´s a chocolate based sauce, basically a dessert.

Do you use the flea collars I sent and should I send some with Kolby?
I never used them, I think they are still somewhere in my suitcase. The thing was that the time I had bed bugs, I was sleeping on a mattress on the ground because we were in a trio, so they wouldn´t have done much good. What did work was the repellant that I brought. I put it on every night and every three days I sprayed down my sheets, and didn’t have too many bites. I´m not exactly sure what his mission climate is like for that kind of thing, missions vary a ton! Here is the email of an elder that will return soon to what will be Kolby´s mission, you should recognize the name, he was my second companion Elder Gaibor. You can send him a note to see if he will continue talking to you from his home email. He finishes in May, but he´s a great worker and will no doubt be an asset to his home ward if Kolby ever gets there. He speaks pretty good English, so don´t worry about translating your letters :) he can use the practice for the end of mission English exam.

Well, about out of time, but just wanted to say that Gustavo, Reyna, and Daniel all got married and baptized this weekend, being baptized in a massive baptism ceremony with 10 other new converts from the stake. The activities have really been animating the members in the stake to participate in the mission work, and we had a spectacular turnout of 186 for the baptism. I went first baptizing hermano Gustavo, but when I finished, i stayed in the passway helping direct the flow of people getting baptized and mopping up the font water so people wouldn´t slip. I should have been freezing cold because (same as my own baptism - I guess it’s a weird memory thing) here they don´t heat the water for the baptisms. In fact, they don´t even have the capability to do so in the majority of the mission’s chapels. I felt absolutely happy, just deep down inside I felt good. Members were telling me to go change saying I was going to die of a cold, (that’s a pretty common thing, it’s 65 degrees outside and they say I’ll die of a cold ha :)) but I felt warm and just joyful, knowing that after such a long struggle, these three people were able to be baptized!

Well that’s it for time, I love you all and will send baptism/marriage fotos next week!


Elder Nelson

Earlier in the day he wrote:

Dear Mom,                                                                                                                                            
I am replying to this letter first, but the full reply to the main letter will come in the afternoon, when I have my time to really write. I don´t remember any specific lecture or speech to be honest, I think that’s also something that parents and leaders think of. They remember things much more vividly than those who are their responsibility. What I do remember is that I was terrible, and very very prideful, and to be honest it’s something that I still work on quelling. I don´t have all the patience in the world, and I get frustrated quickly, but I am learning how to manage it and how to blow off steam without letting it affect the other activities I have.

Leadership teaches a lot of things, and I have been profoundly grateful to have the opportunity. I still don´t feel necessarily like I am the best fit for it, but I do my best, and the things turn out well. I´m still shy haha, but that’s something that I don´t think will change. It takes me awhile to let people into that inner circle, and now that I think about it, I think I created that circle and then tried to push my family out of it when I was younger, and that's where all the conflict came from. Now I realize that that’s the last thing I should have done, and that the best decision I ever made, I made in a car ride with Braden, I decided that I would call each of you every single week, once minimum to my siblings, and obviously more for you and dad. It changed everything, and I feel like during those 4 or 5 months, I got closer to each of you than I ever have been. It´s a type of repentance, I recognized that my family relationships weren't where they should have been, Braden helped with that part, and then I started to ask forgiveness, or better put, rectify the wrong. I´m beyond grateful for that decision, and for the family relations that I have now. Families are eternal, but if we don´t choose to be a team that doesn´t ever split up, you can end up losing what should matter most in our mortal experience. 

Well, times ups for the morning. I love you all, and I hope that you find joy in your daily decisions, it´s really what we are here for anyway right?


Elder Nelson  

Monday, April 21, 2014

Spiritually Soft

Dear familia,                                                                                                                                       

At the Bishop's house
I´m not sure how exactly it happened, but Easter snuck up on us and then went without too much fanfare. The problem is that they don´t celebrate "Easter" like we do. They celebrate "Holy Week". Part of the tradition is that the Catholics make pilgrimages to the crosses that are mounted on the tops of the hills around the city. Other than that, the televisions are chock full of Programming about Christ´s life and especially His last week. The people even tend to start to insert details from the movies and not from the Bible when they talk about events of the week in a doctrinal setting, sound familiar? I think mom might have heard that a few times being in the Stake Primary haha "I saw the movie!"

We don´t eat ham here, or very rarely and never in the giant spiral cut ham style. For example, we had a lonche, which is like a light meal that we eat around 8 or 9 if we are in a house visiting, and they gave us bread with fried eggs in the bread, like a sandwich. The egg had pieces of what I think was ham or hot dog fried into it, omelet style. They also served an herbal drink that I think translated is chamomile. For the record, the people don´t use packets that have the tea plant in it, they buy chamomile in the market place, clean it up and then boil the same plant. It´s been approved, I think almost because there really isn’t anything else to drink.

WOOHOO for Kolby´s scholarship, 4 years full tuition? That´s a great security to have coming back from the mission. The other day a member asked me if I could help for 5 minutes of geometry homework and I totally said sure of course, I’m a math whiz....I couldn´t answer the most basic questions about trigonometry in spheres. I do believe i will be toast when i get back to academic learning. Best just to focus on what I’m doing here and not worry about that until later.
(Misunderstanding:  Kolby's scholarship is one year tuition, renewable just like yours.  NOT a Monson scholarship.  But still pretty good :)   Eh, an older brother can hope right? I’m still proud of him, he´s awesome

I’m not sure how the missions are in Ecuador, but I do know that since April 14th, the South America Northwest area has had a focus much like Gordon B Hinckley´s before the years end Book of Mormon Challenge. If he starts reading the Book of Mormon for minimum 15 minutes every day he will likely be where we all are in the Region when he gets to the mission. As for food, the Ecuatorianos say that the food is the same, less bananas and with different names for the food, but it’s essentially the same: chicken and rice, potatoes, spaghettis, beans only occasionally. But you have to understand, when I say rice, it’s not just your average portion of rice. It’s about three times that amount or more. Get ready for half a plate of rice in every meal haha. Here we don´t have a pensionista, but we do have laundry service, so I don´t eat quite as much rice, but we don´t really take time to prepare food, normally things like bologna and bread sandwiches, hardboiled eggs, yogurt. The members here and the investigators almost always give us food at night, and a popular one in this season is mandarin oranges. They´ll give us two or three just to carry home, and so I get more than enough vitamin C!  Honestly, in the missionary schedule there isn’t a lot of time to be spent cooking or looking for recipes, so I’d recommend bringing a knowledge of basic cooking techniques, especially with basics like eggs, sugar, flour, salt, potatoes. Also, if he wants to practice, look for a gas stove or oven, because no one has electric.

The worst bugs that happen here are when the apartment in which you live has bed bugs. That’s only happened one time, and it was a major pain, but other than that, I only get occasional bites, that really aren’t anything new, we don´t have to use repellent, nor is it necessary. We are on the outskirts of the city, but it’s still house to house to house without spaces in between, that’s just how Lima is.

Really spiritual experience this week. Elder Oliva and I were on our way to an appointment about 4 weeks ago when a woman stopped us on the stairs to talk. She said she was a member that was baptized in Tumbes (the border with Ecuador) with her husband and her two oldest children. She said they had lived in Lima for a while, but they had lost contact with the church when they got here. Well we tried to contact her in her house for a couple of weeks without any luck, and then finally found them, but her husband had heard some anti-Mormon family members talking about polygamy and decided he didn´t want to come back to church for that. On top of that, he’s a carpenter that works in Chorrillos, two hours away in Lima, and has a crazy schedule that makes it extremely difficult to find him. Well in Holy Week, the majority have vacations and the majority either go to the beaches to get wasted, or just go ahead and do it right here in their own front porches. 

Wilson didn´t do either, and we find him and Raquel (esposa), with Emili (16), and Viviana (12) at home on Sunday night! We talked about a few things, and then started in on the lesson about the restoration, and I could tell it was different, because we asked him what he remembered about Joseph Smith, and he told us the whole story like a missionary, he just didn’t quote the first vision to us (by the way Kolby could work on memorizing that in Spanish if he wants something to do). Most inactives tell us weird stories like two angels appeared to Joseph Smith, or that he went to the jungle and saw aliens or that he was trying to fight the other churches, but he remembered it all, how it happened. He was spiritually "soft". We had the whole lesson and only at the end he asked us about polygamy and how it can be that if marriage is eternal that an apostle whose wife died could get married again.

At the end of the lesson, we asked him to give the last prayer while we all kneeled down. He gave a prayer of pure gratitude, for sending the missionaries, for the opportunity to come back, for showing him that he still loves him and his family. WOW. I teared up mid prayer and now we know that he and his family are going o come back. There’s no doubt in my mind that he has had experiences in the last week or so to prepare him for this decision.

Question of the week: What are we doing now to be spiritually "soft", i mean really malleable, teachable and humble? The Master needs soft clay to be able to shape and mold us and if we let ourselves dry out, we end up breaking on our own stubbornness, or "kicking against the pricks". 

I love you all, I hope things are going wonderfully there and that this week has given you the chance to re-center your lives on Christ and remember the infinite gift of His atonement.


Elder Nelson

PS I will try to send pictures, but I won’t promise anything, it’s that there are various missionaries who have lost their memory drives to a virus in this cafe and so I don´t want to risk plugging mine in here. Maybe later today or next week we will be looking for a different cafe for the zone.

Stake Activity


ps mother’s day is around the corner, I already have a place to skype too. The owners of our house will let us use their den to host the zone for skype calls.
Aqui algunos fotos de Pday hoy. We played Jenga and spoons, made French toast, and enjoyed a little bit more laidback pday than we normally do.

The other pictures are of us in the bishop’s house and the tacos the high councilman assigned to missionary work prepared for us. The other foods are a plate of mole (brown stuff, ask Braden what it’s like, Guatemaltecans make it with bananas) and Pollo con crema that we also prepared at a members house (guatemaltecan food)

The one of the congregation is from a stake wide activity we organized about the tree of life. The people watched Mormon messages while they waited for everyone to finish the rope line to the tree. About 180 people showed up, huge success!
P-day Jenga

Pollo con  Crema

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Personal Conversion and Pick Axes

Dear Family,                                                                                                                      

What happened? I thought I told Melissa when I left that she wasn’t allowed to grow anymore. She just went right ahead and did it, without even asking permission! Well it´s true, she does look a lot older, and the set of activities you described don´t quite fit the little sister that I once knew. It seems strange but sometimes I feel like time there is just paused and whenever I get back it will all resume but with a different me. Cue insert from my letter to president this week:

"My personal conversion has been on my mind a lot lately. Maybe it´s the spirit whispering to me, but it seems like that has been a focus of the last Mission Leaders´ meeting as well. I sometimes wonder what I am doing now to become better, more converted to the Lord. Sometimes I wonder if the way that I lead the missionaries in the zone, with Elder Oliva, is the way in which Christ would lead them. I´m forced to conclude that I fall short, and the things that I am working on developing are showing love for them immediately after correcting them. It´s hard to figure out the right balance, and I think that´s probably the central fight for any leader. When am I too friendly or too much of a leader? 

Every week now I feel more and more the guidance to change some aspect of my character, and I know that it´s an effect of being a missionary and being open to receive the guidance of the spirit. I love the mission! I will never be able to fully express how I feel about this service."

This week we finished up the papers for two marriages in our area and one marriage in another ward, while at the same time finding out after traveling to three different city centers that a couple from one of our wards won’t be able to get married for another 3 to 6 months-ish. The thing is that the man´s birth certificate says "una niño" and not "un niño" and well, gender on a birth certificate in a country in which gay marriage is still illegal (hip hip hooray for that :)) is kind of a big deal. The paperwork to change it will take 3 to 6 months, unless the records missionary in the offices can sweet talk his way into moving it up the waiting list. They´re going today to try to fix it.

This week we have been in the preparation mode for ward conference. Ward conference here in Peru is a lot bigger than it was there. There are activities all week long with the whole ward leading up to the sacrament meeting on Sunday. Monday was family night in the individual families houses, Tuesday a family night put on by the missionaries, Wednesday a trip to the Lima Temple in the minibuses of a few members, Thursday a talent show, Friday a mistura, which is like a cook-off of typical foods from everyone´s regions, Saturday the ward all came to clean the chapel, and then Sunday there was the ward conference. 

The area presidency announced a new focus on reading the Book of Mormon as individuals and families completing it by the end of the year, reading 15 minutes every day. The announcement came with a letter to every member, a chart to track your reading, and a set of 5 bookmarks to cut out and share with friends with a Book of Mormon quote by Marion G Romney on the back. This new focus will guide a lot of the member and missionary efforts during 2014 and we will be working to emphasize it to every member less active that we find or contact.

The other thing that was going on this week is that the four elders from our ward with two elders that already have their mission calls to Spain and to Argentina went up into the hill and we were asked to build a room onto a house for a family that is starting to investigate the church. Before you get thinking that it’s too big of a project for full time missionaries, you have to realize when we add a room onto a house it means digging 6 holes, putting down posts, nailing corrugated steel to the roof and putting up panels of press board on the sides. It’s a bigger project than I´ve been a part of before, but reminded me a lot of building the food storage shelves in the basement. The only difference is that we needed to use a pickax and spike to even out the ground and dig holes for the posts. We are going back to finish it this week and I will take a few pictures, the elder taking pictures had his card wiped by one of the computers in the internet cafe.

Picking at the rocks to put down the post, one of the stones came loose and flew up, hitting my glasses right in front of my eye. To be honest I am pretty lucky I was wearing glasses because anyone else would have had their eye damaged by the rock. My glasses are okay, there’s just a small chip in front of my left eye that I have to learn to ignore haha.

I´ll try to send a few photos later, this computer isn’t one that I trust too much to plug in my camera.

Happy birthday to Joe! and to Melissa! Every day I am reminded of what a spectacular family I have been blessed with and I wanted to thank you both for the support you give me. Keep making righteous decisions and you´ll always have sufficient for your needs! I love you both.

I love you all really. I hope that conference hasn´t faded from your minds yet and that you are on pins and needles waiting for your conference edition Ensigns!


Elder Nelson

Monday, April 7, 2014

Marriages Made Easier

Dear Family,                                                                                          

Thanks for the package downlow. I´ll save it in my USB drive for the next time I want to send a package, possibly at the end of the mission. The tie was for dad and the bag is for Kolby, unless it looks like a purse (then its Melissa’s birthday present with the earrings) The hoodie yes was a hat haha, chuyo is a half quechua word that means that kind of hat, still don’t get the chance to use that word too often here in Lima. Yep I got the package last week, and Elder Oliva loved the chocolate eggs haha. There aren’t really mated milk balls here so it was a welcome treat and they hadn’t melted! Thanks soooo much for the pants and shirts, much needed! 

Iqueña means she’s from the city of Ica. The majority of Limeños aren’t really from Lima, they are from all different parts of Peru and moved to Lima to look for better economic opportunities or to escape the terrorism years and years ago that was a little more prevalent where there wasn’t as much communication between pueblos.

Sorry I cut the email off. What happened was that I was doing the informs at the same time, waiting for Elder Oliva to finish with the written informs, and it turns out that I had been doing the same inform as he was doing, so I had to go back and do it from the start again. No biggy but it ate up any hope of a regular internet time. 

Turns out that Reyna and Gustavo probably won´t be getting married this month after all. We are still working on the birth certificate but everything has a period for the municipality to finish working on it, and then the marriage has a period of time that you have to open the expediente before having the ceremony. 

Another big piece of news about marriages that I´m not sure I’ve told you yet is that before, if we wanted a birth certificate from anywhere outside of Lima, we had to pass the information to the records secretary and he would figure out a way to get it sent to the mission offices from another part of Peru. Well, as of this last month, they gave us full permission to zone leaders to go ahead and use all the means of internet necessary to find the certificates. That means that the general protocol for looking for the certificates will be: look for where they are from, send an email or call the closest ward to the city center in wherever they are from, and ask for them to go to the archives and look up the certificate to get it sent fastest. This cuts the time spent waiting by at least half, and we should be able to help a lot more people get married and ready for baptism.

What’s going on now is that the people are super excited to be baptized and so we start helping them to get their papers together to get married. Then, we find out it will take a while, but we continue teaching and helping them come to church and learn about the gospel. At the end of it all, they get discouraged having to wait so long for their birth certificates and end up stopping their investigation.

It´s super tough to see that happen over and over again, and so it creates a huge pressure to get the papers together the fastest possible.

Anyway, I absolutely loved conference. I started out really excited to hear it, and when it started with Elder Holland, he got me pumped up. I felt like the whole conference was directed towards missionaries and members trying to be missionaries. Two other major themes for me were obedience and temple covenants. I think it’s amazing how each and every one of us can go into conference with different needs but we all come out of it feeling as though the central theme of conference was exactly what we needed. 

It´s a little like the Atonement. We might think at different phases of life that the atonement is working more on specific things. Sometimes, it’s the active mistakes that we make, when a real repentance is necessary to become spiritually clean.
At others, it takes on a fortifying role as we seek to become more and more righteous, smoothing out the chinks in our armor if you will. At still others, the atonement takes the form of our spiritual comforter, which lifts us up when we are downtrodden, and helps us to overcome trials that seem just too hard. Whatever the application, the atonement is infinitely powerful to right what feels wrong in life. What are the ways in which you are currently using the atonement in your life? What´s something you´d like to learn more about in regards to the atonement?

On the home stretch tonight, answering a few questions: The seminary teachers are all volunteers in this ward, but often they are called to teach the course. They give a lot of their time and lots of times look for a companion to help them go out and pick up the youth for the early morning seminary. 

A Happy Happy birthday to Melis this Sunday, I´ll probably mention it again Monday, but enjoy being 15 and not dating, and driving, and being a teenager still, and not dating! I love you sis, you´re beautiful, remember your value before God, and make every decision this year based on your divine potential and goals. You´re awesome!

I love you all and hope that you all listened to conference, they’re inspired words from men chosen by  God himself to guide his people. Choose what you need to leave behind and just do it. Choose something to do better and just do it. Be valiant in your righteous decisions!


Elder Nelson

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Don't Procrastinate Obedience!

Dear Familia,                     

I´ll start this week answering the questions that you asked. First being: I will watch conference in the stake center in San Felipe, two zones of missionaries getting together to watch all four sessions in Spanish. We will likely bring Reina and Gustavo with us to watch the Saturday evening session after eating lunch with them in between sessions. They are actually more active than a few of the members!
My companion right now is just Elder Oliva. That happened a couple of weeks ago, and we have been putting a great effort into growing the area since then. The elders before us weren’t putting a full effort into achieving the area´s potential and so we are talking with absolutely everyone, working with members and really injecting some excitement into the ward.
Gustavo and Reyna have a few more obstacles to get over before the marriage, but we are hoping for the end of Abril they will have all of their papers in order to get married. They are working hard to do everything to get the money together right now. For example, they did a pollada this weekend and will do one more in Abril to fundraise. The other awesome thing about them is that they have opened up their house to host seminary during the week. The seminary program here is Monday to Friday at either 6 AM or 6 PM in two or three locations throughout the ward boundaries. The classes are around 8 students in each one, in which 6 go regularly. It´s great to see so much dedication to seminaries, getting up at 5 or 5:30 in order to get there on time.
Kolby doesn´t want to kill me right? haha that was the first thing I thought reading about Joseph in your letter. It´s true that we pass through a foreign land experience, but to be honest you get really used to everything within a couple of months. The only thing that I still have trouble with is the sheer amount of rice that they give me. The language and the customs and the people are all a sort of part of me now and nothing really shocks me except for being rejecting cold at a door. That still makes me sad.

We are teaching a man right now who got married to let his wife get baptized about 15 years ago. He has been going to church for three months now. His sons have all gone on missions and returned. He stopped drinking little by little but since two months ago he is dry as the sahara. He literally has no obstacles to getting baptized. We went to his house and asked him to be baptized so that he and his wife can be sealed in a year. He told us not until September. Investigating a little more, that’s when his son will come in a temple caravan to Lima and when his son will baptize him. We asked him if his son could come whenever and he said of course.  We asked him what would happen if Christ came next month, and promised him greater blessings for being obedient to this commandment. At the end of everything he told us not until September again, but firmly. He knows exactly what is righteousness and won´t participate in it. I told him from my heart that I honestly fear for him. I didn´t think I would say something so direct and cutting, but I said it tenderly, hoping it would reach him. At the end he still said no. 
It´s experiences like that when I feel powerless. We can teach the people a million ways why they need the gospel, but if they won’t use their agency to "work righteousness" we can´t take their agency away. I felt sad, a little, but not really more like a lot worried for this man. I don´t want anything to happen, but I have this prescience that says he won´t get baptized in September :/

I don´t want to finish on that note so I will tell you all how incredible conference is. It´s an opportunity to receive revelation from apostles and prophets in our days. They are literally witnesses of God, I think people discount that too much. They are witnesses of Christ and the atonement. Take this week to prepare yourselves, and don´t let anything, I mean ANYthing get in the way of seeing all of the sessions that pertain to you.

I love you all so much and hope that you receive the blessings you earn through obedience to the counsels we will receive this weekend!


Elder Nelson