Monday, September 29, 2014

God is our Father and is Mindful of us

Dear Family,                                                                                                              

Sometimes the weeks in between mission activities can feel a little like that, another week come and gone, but one thing I have done in the offices is that I have tried to find ways to make my time more valuable. Time becomes to a missionary something that rises and falls in value as we use it wisely or foolishly. When I am able to focus on helping someone else, or I do something that helps me to develop a Christlike attribute, I feel that my time is of great worth, but when I find myself with mixed up priorities that end up robbing time it´s not very valuable an experience. I want to use all of my time to become more converted, all of my time isn´t even mine, so I had better use it right?

You mentioned Ashley does ranger training? What´s that? The two options I can think of don´t really seem to match her: park ranger and power ranger. Well power ranger is out, since I´m fairly certain that show was limited to the 90s and early 00s. Park ranger...well unless Braden wants to go to medical school to become a wilderness trauma doctor I don´t know that it would be too great an investment. Whatever it is, I wish them success in their endeavors!

Conference actually got moved to the following weekend due to elections for regional and local mayorships. Elections are mandatory and require people to go to whatever region their state ID says they are from. Also all meetings (God´s true, restored church or not) are cancelled with heavy fines in place for those that don´t obey. This week that´s coming up, attendance for investigators counts if we take them to a members home to watch the priesthood session together, and the week after if we get them to come to the stake center to watch the sessions of conference. I´ll probably watch it in English this time, just because we will watch it on the office computers and the financial secretary Elder U wants to watch it in English as well. I imagine with the language change deal there will be a few Spanish speakers as well though. Did Presidente Uchtdorf give his talk in German?

Transfers went smoothly and we welcomed a group of 9 Latin elders, 8 American elders, 2 Latin sisters and an American sister to MPLN. These recent groups we have been going to the airport the night before to pick up the North Americans coming in from the Mexico CCM then sorting them into the nearby zones to stay the short night before the training that starts the next morning at 7:30. After the world-wind night it definitely makes me remember my first night in Perú and so I try to keep an open mind and answer as many questions as I can. They definitely come in with a deer in the headlights look and it doesn´t go away for a week or so haha. On Friday we welcomed them back with their trainers to do a training focused on the 12 weeks program and a few of the aspects of the mission manual and studies we want them to implement (strict adherence to the mission schedule and a guided study for their first 6 weeks).

In between the two trainings, we visited district meetings of four of the zones (two per day) and did a work visit on Thursday. I went on the work visit to Wiesse 2. It´s one of 4 areas in the Wiesse ward and one of two that doesn´t include part of a further city region called Jicamarca. At 5 after the afternoon district meeting I left with Elder N from Bolivia and Elder P from Arizona to get to work. While we were walking we talked about their area and a little of what their plan for the day was. Well, Elder P got sick after eating a few too many mandarin oranges the day before and so during the hours of the visit they planned to try to recuperate a few of the fixed appointments they had missed. With that in mind we headed to a shoe shop and found the first appointment Hermana E.  Hermana E doesn´t really have a really firm interest in the church yet, but her son, I think it is, is a member. We taught her why it´s so important that she come to church, focusing on the fact that she also has a younger son (4-6 years) that will be entering a pretty formative period in the next few years. That was a pretty good start and I was excited to be teaching new people and helping the elders to organize a little better their teaching. Next we took a moto out to one of the further parts of their area and taught an older woman whose husband is a member of the military as well as her two adult sons. They are all investigating, but it’s hard because the men are only there every 15 days due to their assignments in the base. That makes it difficult to come to church every Sunday especially because the Sundays they are home, they usually have a ton of things to do around the house. Same kind of lesson in that house.

After that we proceeded to walk around their area as the fog rolled in trying to find people who would let us teach. Don´t get me wrong, we went to specific houses of people they are currently teaching or have contacted in the past, but nobody wanted to let us in because it was really cold and many weren´t home. Coming up over one of the hills I was praying we could find somebody to share with in part because my being there was making Elder N nervous as their plan fell apart, and we decided to visit an active member´s house. Well, a computer technician let us in, but he turned out to be from the next ward over and an RM, so we shared a quick message about the mission never really being over and asked him if he knew any of the neighbors around there. He said no, but he mentioned a few people from his ward that could use a visit. I passed on that information after the visit, but it was great to just find someone after a long time just walking in the cold. Good spiritual experience just knowing that God is a Father and is really is
pendiente (mindful) of our needs and righteous desires.

Saturday we were invited to go have lunch with President and Sister Erickson (long story short: Elder B and Elder M changed his flat tire at a massive baptism a few weeks back and he decided it was worth a lunch). We took the city bus system to about 8 blocks from their house and then took a wrong turn so fixing our mistake we took a taxi for 5 soles (really cheap and he knew the neighborhood better than we ever would have) to get to residentes door. His house is well outside the mission so generally only the missionaries who are finishing their missions go there for the goodbye dinner. He lives in a penthouse/condo with the floors below occupied by two other Lima mission presidents. The view from 21 stories is incredible and we could see the ocean while Sister Erickson served us guacamole and tortilla chips (first time in 19 months!) After the appetizer, we sat down to eat and President brought out filet mignon cooked medium rare, baked potatoes and mushrooms with steamed broccoli. He offered to cook the meat more if we liked, but he´s a pretty big fan of it that way, and well, he can be pretty persuasive. It was soooo good. He mentioned that he usually cooks that for  the departing missionaries as well. I took advantage of the opportunity to take a picture with the two of them, because I know you still wanted that haha.

I love you all, that was how my week went, I guess a little more spiced up than the regular weeks between activities. Next one are the interviews and room checks again. I can´t believe it’s already been 3 months! Time to clean your rooms there, too. I imagine Melissa´s neater now than before? Have a great week.


Elder Nelson

p.s. Melissa never was unorganized before, I just like seeing if she´ll react when Mom reads this :)

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


Dear Familia,

You hit the nail pretty much on the head. While it´s true Elder B is my assigned companion and we train together, set up conferences together, eat together, the whole shebang, the offices much of the time is a wash of missionaries in a group. If the financial secretary needs to go to the bank, and his companion isn´t around he can grab any one of us to go with him. The same goes for just about anything. For example, yesterday a sister from the Iquitos mission who had gone to the border to fix some visa issues lost her passport on the plane from the border. Well, being American she can´t travel from Lima to the jungle without her passport, so she got stuck here in Lima. The travel agency got her from the airport to our offices, but the personal secretary was already busy in other things so he asked if the records secretary and I could figure out where she could work for the day until the evening flight came in and hopefully her passport would turn up or she could get a workaround fixed up. So that´s what we did. We called the sister leaders from the closest zone and she went with them to teach during the day, then when the time came she went with Elder M and I to the airport to catch her flight using a photo copy of her passport and a police report saying it had been lost that we obtained through the travel agency (they said they keep copies because about 2 in 5,000 missionaries end up losing their passports the exact same way every year in Perú). Anyhow, all that time my companion had gone with the personal secretary to accompany him to center of Lima. The thing is that nobody ever gets left without a companion, but all of us share in a group companionship until it comes to official things like conferences, meetings and proselyting.

Elder B is an excellent teacher. He can be hard on people, for example someone that supposes we don´t believe in the Bible as much as in the Book of Mormon, he would respond shortly that we do and that he does in fact use the Bible more than the Book of Mormon in teaching. However, he teaches really detailed, and knows the scriptures better than probably any one of my companions. He continues to learn English every day. At least once a day he´ll ask me about some word or another and usually it´s not a basic question. For example, the other day he asked why it´s "everyone believes" instead of "everyone believe" because technically when talking about a group of people, "they believe." The same pattern can be shown in the majority of verbs because "everyone" in grammar is treated as a singular pronoun even though it refers to many. He can speak fairly well, still has an accent but definitely is progressing, losing it little by little and learning new words all the time (last Sunday’s word was franchise or in Spanish concesión and franchiser, concesionario.) 

Stubbornness is a dual trait I have come to know very well. I am possibly one of the most stubborn people I know. I think stubbornness is something learned from a sincere conviction of one´s beliefs. I´d love to say that every time I have ever been called stubborn it´s been because I didn´t want to give up a principle of truth, but I don´t think that´s true. Stubbornness is manifested in my life by an unwillingness to change or to consider other views. It´s a blessing and a curse, the latter of which I am slowly trying to get better at. You can think of it like a toddler throwing a fit. He thinks he should go out to play but his babysitter says he can´t because the clouds are dark and it looks like it will rain soon. The frustration builds as the rain starts to fall until he becomes teary and violent in his own toddler way. His mom gets home and he continues to rebel unknowingly at whomever the adult is whose legs he throws his fists against. Even when it´s explained that it could be dangerous, as it´s a full out thunderstorm, it doesn´t make sense. Looking out the window through bleary eyes that suddenly go wide, he sees a bolt strike the trampoline and it finally dawns on him that those he blamed most were those who wanted his safety. He falls into his mother´s arms, exhausted from his fit, but somewhat embarrassed for not having believed.

I think a lot of the time we don´t follow everything that the prophets have said or even what our parents or other leaders have said or even what we ourselves know about our own character. The reason is because we don´t see the problem for what it is. In Moses 6:27 the Lord describes the state of the people in Enoch´s time as having hardened their hearts and closed their ears, and that their eyes cannot see afar off. Sometimes we just can´t see far enough to transcend our own myopia and become what the Lord wants us to be. In short, we seek to council the Lord (Jacob 4:10) when we know that He knows what´s best, only because it´s a hard thing to do.

Anyhow, being stubborn is me, but I know that it´s been something damaging in the past and I am working hard on beating it. Stubbornness in a lot of ways is a manifestation of pride, and in the Lord´s work there is no room for personal pride, only pride in our great God (Alma 26). 

Most of the misconceptions we have in trainings come from not having said it well the first time, or it´s because as time goes on, new missionaries come in and sadly some of the trainers pass on bad habits, and what is knowing rebellion to them is something normal that their trainer did to the new missionary. It´s all a cycle and the answer is to teach well and publically as much as we can and to correct the disobedience always. As soon as we let something slip by thinking it is just innocence (which it well could be) we are perpetuating it.

This week there was another massive wedding in the stake center adjacent to the offices. We got everything set up 4 hours earlier this time around, so we were all much better rested when 23 couples came streaming in the door early on Friday morning. President Erickson was pleased because he saw that we were basically on time with everything that went on. Not one couple came late and all of the witnesses also arrived early. The Independence Zone created a choir and sang several family-centered hymns and the city officials came away impressed at the orderly presentation once again. One of President’s counselor´s wife is one of the public relations reps in the area or something like that and so she interviewed several of the couples for the marriage. She said the last one was posted on the church news website with a bunch of pictures. It´s at the Peru branch of which is In October there won´t be one in the offices and we are somewhat relieved because it´s a LOT of work. The next one is the22nd of October in La Parque de la Reserva Circuito Magico de Aguas, that one park with the lights and fountains I told you about last time.

In events like the marriages we are helping so many people on a bigger scale come to know many more members of the church than on the stake level activities. One of the bigger examples of that is that the zone leaders go to do the paperwork necessary for the marriages. Well, they are really great missionaries and have given a Book of Mormon to N, the lady at the city offices that handles marriage papers, and she´s actually shown a lot of interest in the Joseph Smith story. As well, having the balloon arch and the announcement out about the marriage brings a few curious onlookers into the chapel every marriage. The missionaries are stationed at the door contacting everyone and handing out church literature to read while they wait for the ceremony to start. It´s a marriage, but really it´s a giant proselyting event.

I love you all, I know that this is true, and that everything we do has to be focused on spreading it because we still meet people in the street who say they have never talked to a Mormon before. If we open our mouths, they will be filled with the words to say to enlighten the lives of our friends and neighbors. It only takes that first monumental effort of opening our mouth.


Elder Nelson

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Take Time to Prepare....

Dear Familia,                                                                                                                            

Thanks so much for the package, the letter from Grandma N was especially good. I know she goes through an effort to write and so make sure she knows I received it and that I loved reading it. The food is definitely great, haha I started right in on the pretzels and the 6 packages of pop tarts were just perfect for 6 elders in the offices. 

This week we did three more special conferences and we also did a pair of work visits and an ammonita (morning visit to verify studying/obedience/planning). The conference format this time consists of two practices, a lesson about English study and a training about having a firm mind. The two practices were about lesson 4 and 5 and President and I started by giving one and then Elder B and I gave the other. The first week we did it, I hadn´t really had sufficient time to study the lesson plan President had given me and I came in somewhat prepared. The lesson came out alright, but it definitely looked lopsided and I didn’t really like how it went. So the last weekend I dedicated more time to really study out the principle of tithing and fasting and was able to find a few scriptures, for the first time reading it I understood what Isaiah 58 really meant. Maybe it’s because it’s the bible in Spanish or maybe just because it’s Isaiah but I hadn’t really caught what the versus meant other than that they were about fasting before and that if we do it we´ll be blessed. Really, if anyone has ever wondered why there’s a fast offering and why the fast offerings fund the bishops storehouse they should study that chapter. It´s the true law of the fast and it explains it perfectly!  So that was a good experience being able to see that with a little more time and preparation, the lesson flowed really easily and we were even able to vary it a little (other pattern for the investigator, new doubts or other questions to test our testimony of it) and keep it fresh for the zones. The two practices are really good, and it seems to be getting out a lot of questions and common doubts the missionaries have about teaching these principles. 

I don´t know if they are doing it as well in the states, I can´t remember if it is an area wide standard or worldwide, but now we teach lesson 5 before and after baptism. It used to be just for after, how it says in Preach My Gospel, but teaching it before makes a lot of sense from the standpoint of wanting these people to continue active in the church. The lesson is all about how the church works, what is expected of the members and how they can continue to develop themselves spiritually through continued study and covenants. It makes total sense and I´m glad that now they require it. We are seeing an upswing in retention rates since we started measuring it and I think that’s the cause. The saddest "statistic" that I´ve heard while here is that only about 33% of the church members here are active and that mirrors the convert baptism active rate after 5 years. That means that for however many people that we love and teach and baptize, only a third are still active after 5 years and probably many more have passed through a period of inactivity in their first 10 years. I don´t remember how many less active members of our ward there are, but I do know that it´s just as important there as it is here to rescue those who have gone astray. I hope the rescue is happening there as well!

As for getting...heavier. Well, I´m still thin if that´s anything to say, I just seem to be figuring out where to stash another two pounds (on average) every couple of months. I weigh about 67 kilos, which is just shy of 150 lbs. Heavier yes, but outside of the normal, nope. Same old same old. One thing I noticed the other week, sometime in the course of my mission, the mission got a pouch mail box in Salt Lake. The number is 30150 I think. That might be an easier way for those who send mailed letters in just because it'll cost less and come quicker. If you could post that on the blog or wherever the mailing info is posted that´d be great. In the package there was mainly food, a couple of toothbrushes, the photo album and quotes as well as the letter from Grandma N. I already have a calendar that will last into next year, so don't worry about making a new one yet. I´m set for a long haul, don´t worry about me! I love being here, and I wish it could be longer. President asked one of my friends here Elder D to extend his mission the other week (he finishes in March and will extend to April I think) and it sounded really nice to know you have a little more time. 

I love you all, I know things are super busy but I also know there are people that deserve our time when it comes to sharing the gospel. Take the time to "contact" the grocery store clerk or the teachers at school, your friends who haven’t or have heard of why you´re so different, clients at work or whoever else. You´ll be glad you opened your mouth when the Lord fills it with a firm testimony built on experience!


Elder Nelson

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Leadership Council, and He knows us by name..

Dear Familia,                                                                                                                            

There´s definitely not two Elder Cameron Nelsons, there is an Elder Rxxxx Nelson, two Elder Nxxxn's and a Hermana Nelson, but with my being here, it´s fairly difficult for the package to go to the wrong place. I´ve talked with the supplies secretary and he said nobody else with our last name has gotten a package, so maybe it would be a good idea to check with Vanessa. Typically on arrival, we sign a receipt saying that certain things have gotten here, for example two cards Elder Nelson, 1 package Hermana G, 1 card Elder S, so she ought to have a record of it getting here. Hope that helps!

This week we had the mission leadership council on Wednesday and then turned around and had a special conference (like a multi-zone conference but shorter) on Friday. The mission leadership council has always been one of my favorite meetings. It´s held on the first Wednesday of every month and all of the zone leaders as well as the sister training leaders attend, along with President, Sister Erickson, the secretaries and us. This time the agenda had a pretty good chunk in it for us, and so we started preparing maybe a week before council. My topics were presenting and discussing a mission-wide definition of what should and should not count as a baptismal date in terms of key indicators and also how to help disobedient missionaries. They are two topics that I felt really comfortable handling and so I was fairly excited to be able to lead a good discussion on both. 

Starting off on the baptismal date, the topic was chosen because we had been asked to reemphasize the revealed standard of the church on readiness of baptismal candidates, as found in Doctrina y Convenios 20:37, so we read that and started to analyze it in applicable terms and not just the somewhat abstract terms in the scriptures. I mean, we started to define what we feel a "broken heart and a contrite spirit" mean, as well as testifying before the church of the repentance made and the good works required. I felt good about the way the mission talked about it, and we came to a consensus on how to be more united in the way we count baptismal dates. We decided or reaffirmed that:
1.    Minors must have written permission in hand in order to count as a baptismal date.
2.    Couples living together must have their papers turned in to the city municipal office in order to be married in order to count as a baptismal date (that´s so that the indicator depends solely on their desire to be baptized and their repentance, not on an earthly process that sometimes gets mixed up by human error)
3.    If they stop attending church for more than one Sunday, they must show consistency in having attended church before in order to continue to count as having a baptismal date (this shows that they have truly changed and having come to church the minimum 3 times isn´t because of a couple of really charismatic missionaries)and finally
4.    If there are further transgressions to be cleared up, especially those confessed in interviews, the district leader will be the judge of if the person should have additional time to fully repent.

In coming up with these standards or really cementing them, we were able to discuss what is best for the mission of course, but I could listen to some of the leaders and their concerns about the investigators they teach. I couldn´t help but think again about how very different the lives of our investigators are. They literally live without the gospel in the form that we understand it. When we bring the message to their doors, there’s a veritable light that we bring and their decision to be baptized is a decision to keep that light by way of repenting and continuing faithful in the church.

On the topic of disobedient missionaries, I started off sharing DyC 50:4-7. It´s about how in the early church, Satan had deceived many of the members into thinking that his falsehoods were revelation and that basically what was bad was good and good was bad. President used it a few months ago in a training and it shows so well how missionaries give themselves over to living below their privileges, even when we already know it’s best to not even dabble in the disobedience in the first place. The last phrase is also very important. I know that in DyC it´s applied in a different way, but it says but wherefore, these will be rescued. I took that to mean that those people who have been tricked by the enemy into being disobedient will be rescued. That should be our intention whenever we take actions to correct a disobedient missionary. I then listed and we discussed several of the things that we can do as missionary leaders to help those missionaries to come back and repent while in the mission and ultimately remain faithful after the mission. They are things like reviewing their proselyting plans, their cell phone, their electronics, having regular interviews, and genuinely being up front and honest with their missionaries. We talked about some ways in which the zone leaders can take disciplinary actions to correct missionaries and I think the overwhelming influences in doing that have to be a non-tolerance for disobedience and at the same time, an overwhelming love for the missionary in question. Desiring what´s best for someone changes an interview from an interrogation or a "burn" situation to an open dialogue in which you can help the missionary see his errors and it helps a lot, especially because in most cases, pride is a factor. I mention that because I have seen how coming across too strong while correcting a prideful missionary just causes him to shut you out and become combative against whatever help I might have had to offer. That’s why it´s the most important to be listening closely to the spirit when we go to correct anyone.

Anyway, that was what I trained on. Elder Barrientos trained on how to work with recent converts and how to look for the best uses of our time. President Erickson talked about the Godhead. He presented us each with a copy of an Elder Holland talk that he gave in the mission presidents´ seminar that goes into some pretty close detail on why we  should start with the most basic when we teach people about our Heavenly Father. One of the most spiritual things from his training was when he put about 9 scriptures up on the board and as we read them he asked us to look for similarities. As we read each one I kept thinking well, it's a direct revelation to a profet of God. Or sometimes it seemed like they were all times when He called his profets to attention or corrected them, but that wasn´t it. In all nine of the scriptures, He called the profet by his name before beginning to reveal His will. President hit that point really hard. He said that the first vision started with Joseph´s name, and that God is a personal God, who knows us personally. We have to teach that to people because they don´t know Him like we do. We teach that God is literally our Father in heaven and that he knew us before the existence of this earth. We teach that he demands spiritual progress and that we believe that we can one day become like him. We teach that He and His Son and the Holy Ghost are three distinct beings and that He and His Son have actual bodies of flesh and bone. Of all the eternal truths we teach to His sons and daughters, this is the most surprising and the most life-changing. If I know that I have a Father in Heaven who wants to communicate with me, I will read the scriptures, I will pray more than just when I need something, I will do everything possible to know Him and to follow His plan.

Anyhow, that´s my fill for the week, I know it´s true, it´s something that will definitely change your life if you haven´t knelt down to find out if it´s true. Do it tonight, once you do, you´ll have a different perspective on the commandments.

I love you all. I am praying for AJ and his family, and I know that it´ll all work out how things should. It´s part of the plan and there is no test or trial that is too great for the atonement. Congrats to Josh, I know he´ll do great, and good luck on keeping focused this semester, I know how that is!


Elder Nelson