Friday, October 29, 2010

In the Land of "Tennis Shoes"

Hello Family!

Greetings from Mexico. Ok, first I´m going to try to answer all of the questions that you have.

First, we go to an Internet cafe in the centro of San Juan to print our letters in the morning. Then we go and do all the other things we need to do on P day, shopping, cleaning the apartment, then later in the day when we have been able to read and think about our letters we go back the Internet cafe and write our letters to family and to the Presidente. The ward we are in is a full ward. It has about 130 active members, we are trying to change that. It´s a mix of old and young, but mostly middle aged with little kids. The octagonal patch of grass you saw was just grass. There is a basketball/soccer court outside and grass and things to play with for the members. We walk everywhere we can, but our area is the largest in the mission, and we have to travel 1.5 hours or so to get to the end of it. We take combis...hippi van taxi things to get to a colony, then walk around the town. We really try to only work close to the chapel because people here are poor and will be inactive simply because they don´t have the money to make it to church. It is about a 10 minute walk to the Aurrera Bodega (Mexican Walmart) where we do most of our grocery shopping. Everything else we buy on the street because there are tons of street vendors. We are actually pretty spoiled here, we really don´t do any cooking. There is a calendar that is sent around Relief Society to feed the missionaries, and it is full.

The schedule is like this, 6:30 wake up, and prepare for the day and study. 11:00 we leave he house to go work, about 2 everyday we go to a members house and they feed us a comida, meal. Then we work straight until 9 when we need to be back in the apartment. We eat a little when we get back to the apartment but mostly cereal and bread. People here don´t have siestsas, they usually work 10 to 14 hour days and don´t have time for them. We don´t have time for them either. For food with members we usually first have a soup of broth with noodles or vegetable or something like that. Next we have a main meal of something that has meat. Tacos, flautas, is actually pretty good now that I´ve been here for 2 weeks. As far as soda and water, we drink the water. People usually buy huge containers of bottled water and then put different flavors in, Jamaica is one of the more common ones. Then sometimes we get dessert. People here really like flan, I really don´t like flan. But I eat anything now, and usually a lot of anything. I´m getting used to eating good things, and BAD things. Most of the food is really good. Most of it is pretty spicy, but I´m starting to like spicy too.

There actually are pyramids where we live. Our area is a huge circle surrounding the main pyramids at Teotihuacan. The biggest one is the Temple of the Sun, and another one is the Temple of the Moon . I think those are the ones from Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites. We were going to go today, but the other Elders in our district didn´t have any money. We will probably go next week, I will send pictures when we do. The main industry is the Pyramids, people work at the Pyramids, the restaurants surrounding them and the little shops and stores, or tents there selling Aztec and Mayan style gifts and things. Also, a ton of people have stores, for gifts, food, you name it, hair cuts, whatever. They live in or above their tiendas. There are also a ton of taxistas, because the traffic is soo bad that no one drives anywhere.

The truth is we are about an hour and a half from Mexico City. Teotihuacan is the name if the municipality, but there are a ton of little pueblas and colonies in Teotihuacan. There is a ton of empty space here, and we don´t really have any smog. There are a lot of roads that are not paved, so we usually get pretty dusty by the end of the day. The weather here is good. There are cactuses everywhere, they are equivalent to sagebrush in the Tri-Cities. Actually this place reminds me a lot of home which is good and bad. It is usually 70 to 80 degrees and sunny everyday. In the winter they say that it will get down to 5 Celsius, but I don´t know what that means since I don´t know Celsius.

The apartment is not one that other missionaries used. The area has been closed for 6 or 8 months. It is nice, an entry room/kitchen with a sink where we have our study everyday. We don´t have anything to cook on except this little stand a lone burner, but we don´t cook. Milk, cereal, bread, jam and apples is what I snack on, but we´re hardly ever at the apartment so it doesn´t matter. We have a bedroom and a bathroom, more than enough room for the two of us. I haven´t seen carpet since the U.S, because people here just have tile floors. I don´t know why. I get a long with Elder Llanos, but he is very demanding. Sometimes I get annoyed or frustrated, but in the end we get along. I love him, he is my ´´dad´´ or trainer and has taught me soo much.

Now, here is the exciting part, we have 5 baptisms planned for this Sunday! The family Martinez-Avila, and a little boy Ramses. The family Martinez-Avila were the ones that showed up to church all by themselves. They were golden. We taught the first lesson and everyone prayed, everyone received an answer except the dad, Jose Luis. His sister is in the hospital with skull fractures because his brother in law beat her and his business wasn´t going very well. So he was really confused and frustrated, but most of all he couldn´t let anyting go. He was blaming God for everything that was happening. He was looking for a change and knew that the Church was the answer, but he couldn´t receive and answer. So we had a lesson on humility, how God makes weak things strong if they let Him. I shared my experiences about my junior year in High-School and how that was when I was truly humbled, yet that was when I truly found God. I challenged him to let everything go for 5 minutes, trust God for 5 minutes, and pray. We gave him a blessing, and left. He received his answer! He now has a strong testimony of Joseph Smith and is excited to be baptized with the rest of his family this week.

Ramses is a 10 year old son of an inactive family. He is the only member of the family who has not been baptized, so we will be completing the family this week. He was just waiting for us, he wants to be baptized and has a testimony of the truthfulness of the Church. The truth about him is, he was going to be baptized when he was 8, the font water was ice cold, and he ran out of his baptismal service. I hope that doesn´t happen again.

As far as language goes, I´m struggling, but doing ok. People understand me more or less. I´m just frustrated because I have to focus so hard on the language that sometimes my teaching isn´t very good. It is very, very, very humbling to try to teach people in a new language. It makes you realize that we really can´t do anything without God, we are really only instruments to be played when He wants. Some days my Spanish is good, others not, but on the whole it is getting better. God is on my side. Christ died so that I could struggle through Spanish lessons. As far as participation goes, my companion and I teach every other principle in a lesson, and we both contact people.

Dad, thanks for the email it really helped. There will be bad moments in the mission, but never bad days. Something good happens everyday, we just have to be able to realize it. I admire you soo much for serving a mission, especially one that was in the States where people don´t listen very much. We taught close to 20 lessons last week, so at least people are listening. Missions are hard, probably the hardest thing I´ve ever done. But knowing that you did it makes it easier for me.

Mom, I love you. My homesickness is getting better. As far as things from the U.S., a hug from each of you would be nice, but that´s not possible. I don´t really know of anyting in specific, thanks so much for the support and prayers.

Darci, thanks for the letter before I left, and thanks for going to all those places for my razor. I love you. Thanks for being such an awesome example to me.

Cameron, Kolby and Melissa, practice the piano. There is not a single person in the whole ward here who knows how to play piano, so we use a CD. Pretty lame. I love each of you and pray for each of you individually everyday. Work hard in school and never be afraid to pray for help. He knows more than you do. You are all so blessed to go to the schools you do. There are lots of people here who don´t go to school because they can´t afford it.

I love you all so much.

Elder Nelson

Monday, October 18, 2010

Hola from Teotihuacan!

Hello Family!

It was sooo good to talk to you in the airport. We landed on time in Mexico City, went through customs and we were picked up by the secretaries. They took us to the Temple where Presidente Hicken was waiting for us. We left our suitcases at the chapel by the Temple and went to the Mission home for dinner and interviews. My first meal in Mexico was pizza! People drive soooo crazy here in Mexico, I really thought we were going to get in a crash, but we didn´t. The mission home is about an hour out of the mission. Presidenr Hicken is awesome, the one thing he said was his goal for us by the end of our missions was for us to have a rock-solid testimony of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. They told us that our mission was different from all the other missions because our mission has millions of people just waiting for the truth. They have the numbers to back themselves up too.
The lapel pin you saw was the lapel pin for the mission, all the elders have one.

The mission Home is in the rich part of Mexico City, our mission is not in the rich part of Mexico city. We spent the night there and had training all morning about different things that we have to do in the mission like finances and stuff. Then we went to the Temple again for assignment and to receive our trainers. My companions name is ELder Llanos, he is from Lima, Peru. He doesn´t speak English. He is a really good elder, and we have been working this week. He´s short, but walks really fast. We have been assigned to re-open the area of Teotihuacan, it is about an hour and a half out of Mexico City. So after we got assigned to our area, Presidente talked to individually about our area. It had been closed for 6 months because the members had not been helping the missionaries enough and because there is a shortage of missionaries here they pulled them out to put the missionaries in the place that would be the most effective. I sent some pictures, me and my companion, and the view from our apartment window in the morning. We live on the street Pemex, half way in between San Juan and San Lorenzo. Teotihuacan in the municiple name, and the others are the names of some of the pueblas that we work in.

Our area is ginormous! We walked 5 hours one way and still didn´t get to the end of it. It is not all city, because we are pretty far out from Mexico City. There are a lot of dirt roads, and everything is really dusty here. We live about a 15 minute walk from the chapel, which is pretty nice.

O by the way, Kolby can have those shoes if he wants.

After receiving our assignments the mission van took us to the bus central, we got out on the side of a super busy road, wound our way through the bus central and got on a bus. After 45 minutes we got off with all our stuff and got on a really old bus/taxi thing. It was really old, had skull stickers on the windows and a statue of the crucified Christ hanging in the front. Welcome to Mexico. After a half an hour we got off in San Juan. The Bishop picked us up and took us to the apartment, then to a dinner appointment that was waiting for us. All the houses here are really small and old. All of them have huge gates in the fronts, and they are really close together. This house was no different, and it was on the military base that is in San Juan too. A sweet little sister cooked for us and she had two kids there with her. No one here really speaks English. The first real meal I had in Mexico was beans and eggs. They put Chili´s on the eggs and it was super spicy. My mouth was on fire by the end of it. Sorry I´m not putting enough details but I don´t have much time.

The next morning I got up and went to take a shower and it was ice cold! Like really really cold. We don´t have hot water here, or we didn´t until we bought the gas tank and connections. To tell you the truth, this really is work. I love you guys and miss you all. I am a little homesick, but I need to just lose myself in the work because I am where I am supposed to be. The Spanish is frustrating at times, people talk way fast so I only understand 60 percent, and people don´t really understand me yet. Enough complaining though. God has blessed us and we are working hard. He will take care of us. We had a family of 4 show up all by themselves on Sunday! Letters take 2 weeks, packages take 2 months, so it takes a while for things to happen here. I never realized how much I love each of you before I got out here. Tell Darci thanks for the letter. I love you all so much and pray for you everyday.

Love From Mexico,


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Let the Adventures Begin!

We had the wonderful opportunity to talk to Braden for about 45 minutes Monday morning while he was waiting in the airport to go to Mexico City. He sounded much healthier than when he called for 5 short minutes the Thursday before to tell us his flight plans. Prayers and Dayquil....

He said there were 10 Elders going to Mexico City on his flight, as well as 4 missionaries going to other places in Mexico, but sharing the same flight. He said the week had gone very quickly since getting to go into Salt Lake City for his visit to the consulate. He had an informal P-day on Saturday to wash and pack his things. He had 2 suitcases, one weighed 49 pounds and the other 51, so the people at the airport said they would take them. On Monday, he was excited to be leaving but on Sunday night he was a bit nervous. The nervous was gone now and he was anxious to be going. He said he had no regrets about staying longer in the MTC. His roommates were native speakers and that helped him a lot. He understood just about everything they said easily. Our whole family got to visit with him, as they stayed home from the first hour or so of school. Brett commiserated about BYU football, Kolby talked running and soccer, Cameron spoke about his class load, and Melissa shared a little about school as well. When his time was about up, he had to go get something to eat. Saying good bye and pushing the "end" button on the phone was gut-wrenching all over again for his mom. Christmas can't come soon enough!

I love technology! I searched for his flight and watched the little plane take off. I had alerts sent to my phone so I could tell during the day when he left the tarmac and when he touched down again in Mexico. Unfortunately, you cannot monitor flights over Mexico, so my little cartoon plane stayed on the border near Juarez all afternoon!
Then began the wait for some word that he had arrived safely. Some missions send emails, some with pictures, and some don't. We really didn't know what to expect. Today we got a sweet, albeit short, email from President and Sister Hicken with a picture!
Here it is:

We received your son Monday along with 9 other Americans. We are so excited to receive missionaries from the US as we haven't been able to get Visas for a long time. Your son seems to feel good and looks terrific. We kept them at our house over night and fed them breakfast, did a training and took them to eat at a place that serves Tacos al Pastor, a truly Mexico City dish that is so good! Then it was off to the stake center to meet their new companions. Your son was placed with Elder Llanos in Tecamac a small city just outside the large city of Mexico City. Elder Llanos is an outstanding Elder who is well qualified to teach and train your son. The area he is in, is one of the favorites with the missionaries as they say the people are humble and waiting to hear about the gospel. Thank you for raising such a fine young man, President and Sister Hicken.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Back from the Consulate...

Dear Family-
Well, I just got back from the consulate. We should receive our visas tomorrow and I should be on a plane by next Tuesday at the latest. I will probably be able to call once I get my flight plans. 5 minutes like before so I can tell you all the details of my flight plans. Going to the consulate was pretty much the same as going to the DMV, long lines. But they were friendlier than DMV workers and everything was in Spanish. I'm actually going to Mexico!

(He told us a few items he needed asap and the specifics, shaver info for blades, etc.)

Thanks so much for your prayers and support. Really there's not much more you can do to be supportive. I get mail on a regular basis and I don't have to be distracted by what is going on at home. Elder XXXXX (one of my good friends, he got reassigned to New Mexico) came to the MTC right at the tail end of his parents divorce, that would be really distracting. There were other Elders who wouldn't get mail for weeks at a time, so don't worry about being supportive. Everything is fine here at the MTC. I will contact you as soon as possible w/ flight plans.


Mom's Note:
Braden did call us Thursday night with much of this information as well as the flight plans. He will leave the MTC on Monday, October 11th. His flight is a direct flight to Mexico leaving SLC at 9:55 am. We will be talking to him from the airport when he has time between checking his bags and boarding the plane. He is flying with his companion, Elder Warr. There are also two other Elders going to other missions in Mexico.
We realize what a blessing it is for Braden and these Elders to get into Mexico. We will continue to pray for all the many missionaries who have been reassigned and are waiting for the authorities' hearts to soften so they can spread the "Good News" to the people of their country.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

By This Time Next Week...

Hello Family!

Good news today about my visa. I'm going to the consulate in 45 minutes to sign the paper work and get my fingerprints taken. That means I should hopefully be in Mexico by this time next week. It was kind of a last minute thing, we got back from the Temple and went to the travel office and they told us to be ready to go in an hour. It doesn't really seem real yet, but it will be really weird going out into the real world for the first time in 11 weeks. So that is an answer to just about every prayer I've said for the past 2 weeks. I'm glad I got to stay the overtime though because we get to go to the temple almost everyday. I think out of the 14 days extra I've been here we've gone to the temple 9 or 10 times.

Conference was awesome!! I loved it so much. I feel like I felt the Spirit so much more this time than in any other Conference. I talk about this more in my letter to Melissa, but we watched it in the Gym, with 2000 other missionaries all dressed up in suit coats. There was another 2 or 300 in the overflow. On Conference weekend, there is nothing going on except Conference. It was really nice because I could focus on Conference the whole time without distractions and really try to decipher what God was trying to tell me through the prophets. I think my favorite talk was by Patrick Kearon in the Priesthood Session. I wrote about it in Melissa's letter. I also loved President Monson's Priesthood address, but it seemed to me like there was something a little different this conference for him. He seemed much more serious, and much more animated in his mannerisms and speech. When he was talking about Satan and how he operates in the Priesthood session he seemed almost angry. I think it is a warning that the war against Satan is real, and there are real casualties. We know that the war will heat up before Christ comes to finish it, so we should be on our guard and step up our game everyday...because Satan is. He also talked about how Satan lulls some into carnal security. I think before my mission I could have fallen into that category. We think to ourselves, "well, I'm going to church and sometimes I read my scriptures so I must be doing enough for God." That is a very dangerous thought. One thing I have been working on is to always have something I am working on, something I am studying and applying. I think C.S. Lewis said that "Christ does not require much of us, He requires all of us." We can't afford to hold back any part of our hearts from God, he needs us to give it everything we have. In the vision of the tree of life, Lehi points out that they went forward, "fell down," and partook of the fruit. The fruit represents eternal life and salvation and exaltation in the Kingdom of our Father. But they fell down before partaking of the fruit. To me that meant that if are to truly make it, if we really want to be exalted we must wear out our lives in the service of the One True God. We must give all our effort, time, resources and heart to the Lord and allow him to carry us the rest of the difference.

The MTC had a choir that sang in the Priesthood Session and we wanted to do it sooo badly, but our departure date was too soon so they didn't know if we would still be here for it. That would have been the coolest thing, to sing to the world, recorded for the generations to come. But oh well, if God had really wanted us to do it He would have allowed us to.

I will try to write another letter after the consulate, I don't know how much time I will have or how much information I will have. I think I will be able to call once I get my travel plans. Thanks for everything, I love you so much.