Monday, February 29, 2016

02.29.16 The Kingdom of God Upon the Face of the Earth





Hey everybody!

How are you doing?!  Let me just say.. hearing about all of you guys and your accomplishments is crazy.  You guys are all-stars.  I mean come on.. Conner.. the President of the Marriott School of Business!  I didn't even know somebody could do that!  Good on you dear brother!  ¡Hay que echar fuego siempre!  Nate in medical school totally tearing it up!  Sounds like a pretty good dad if you ask me, giving little Robert a bath all the time.  And Karli, pounding out those clinical s!  Uuuusshh!!  You guys are awesome and inspire me to be better each day!

This week was great!  Really, I know that the Lord is smiling on this beautiful place in Costa Rica.  What a blessing it is to be a part of this great latter-day work.  

Elder Carter is such a great companion!  We are working hard and praying hard that the Lord might work His mighty miracles here.  I know that He is.  Lately,  I have been thinking a lot about our faith and the role of the Book of Mormon.  Here in Puerto Jimenez, I feel like I am walking through the Great Apostasy.  Honestly, these people are so confused about God, His nature, and what He wants for them.  We talk to a person in the street about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, and they have no idea what you are talking about.  They don't know what Priesthood authority is, what a prophet is nor was, what the Bible is and where it came from.  Like I said in my past letters, we have to be super basic.  Nothing less than the brutal truth works with these people.  So, Elder Carter and I talk to each man that we see, and tell them that God is calling them to be a worthy man, and to hold his power and authority to bless their family.  We have been seeing good results with this approach.

On Saturday and Sunday night, here in the center of Puerto Jimenez a bunch of the churches got together for a "campaña."  Basically it is General Conference of evangelical churches, but without Priesthood authority, revelation, or firm doctrine.  Elder Carter and I had to walk by in the way to our visits.  I kid you not, this pastor was screaming into a microphone.  It hurt my ears.  But these people were eating it up.  He yelled "Raise your hands if you feel the Spirit."  Well, we were passing by at that exact moment and he yelled at us "you missionaries in the street raise your hands."  We didn't raise our hands.  We heard him continue to say as we turned the corner on the other side that "there is no religion.. religion is God."  The best part about the whole experience is that we smiled and waved to a pair of our investigators that were at the event as we passed by.. I think they will like our church :)  

We have some great families that are reading the Book of Mormon and praying about it.  We are working hard with them.

Oh how important he Book of Mormon is.  A second witness of the divinity of the risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the doctrine that bears His name.  We are so blessed to have the knowledge of the Book of Mormon and to be able to read and learn from it.  We read with our investigators from the introduction of the Book of Mormon, "Those who gain this divine witness from the Holy Spirit will also come to know by the same power that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, that Joseph Smith is His revelator and prophet in these last days, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s kingdom once again established on the earth, preparatory to the Second Coming of the Messiah."  What an amazing promise for each of us.

What I continue to realize more and more is that our church is not like any other church.  It isn't like the rest.  It will not teach you that you can pick and choose the commandments that you would like to follow.  It will not teach you that faith is a passive word.  You will not learn in our church that becoming a follower and desciple of Jesus Christ is easy and takes no effort.  It teaches all of the contrary.  This truly is the kingdom of God upon the face of the earth.

I love you guys so much!!  Keep the faith!  The church is true!

Elder Nelson

Mi amigo mexicano siempre me decia "El reino de Dios sobre la faz de la tierra."

Monday, February 22, 2016

02.22.16 Week 2 in Paradise!

Hey!!

How are all of you?!  It sounds like you had a good time in St. George.  Buying some new clothes for Gertrudecita hahaha ;)  I hope that all is well with you and that everything goes well!

This week was great!  Elder Carter and I are working really hard down here to get a branch.  We have found a few issues in our path to get a branch, but we are moving forward and working around them.  Puerto Jimenez is a touristy place, but the locals that live here are farmers and "people from the campo."  So, most people are very uneducated and about half don't know how to read.  Of those that know how to read, very few can afford the glasses they need to be able to read.  So we have seen that the message of the restoration goes right over their head.   So we have had to learn how to simplify everything that we teach.  We are using a lot of diagrams, pictures, and other visual aids so that they can understand the message.  

The evangelicals are thick down here.  Really though.  Each little neighborhood that we visit has it's own church built there.  Sure enough, each night at sundown all you can hear in the streets is the loud singing and bands of the evangelical churches, accompanied by a few words from the Bible yelled into a microphone by pastor.  These people just eat it up.  It really is something remarkable.  These people just like people to preach to them.  Many times they don't really want to learn, or do anything, or have much responsibility.  So when we show up and tell them that they really do have to keep that commandments, and that they really do have to go to church each week; they aren't very happy about it haha.  We had an ivestigator come to church and he is a really good person.  He has kind of a passive faith in Jesus Christ.  After the services, he came to us and said that he thought is was boring.  He said "nobody was clapping, preaching, or talking in tongues."  Oh, side note, most of these churches fall on the ground and talk jibberish and they say that it is the gift of tongues and that it happens when they are full of the Spirit.  So, as you can imagine, teaching somebody that the Spirit is a soft voice that prompts us and that we have to be listening for it doesn't really work in their head.  Just a bunch of thick cultural differences that I attribute to the lack of education.  However, in the end I think that it is a good thing.  Almost everybody has faith in Jesus Christ that we can add too.  We hav several families that are reading the Book of Mormon and praying to know of its truthfulness.  

This week we had a miracle in church.  Last week Elder Carter and I set a goal to have an attendance of 35 people.  We worked hard all week, inviting everybody to church.  When Sunday came the Lord blessed the group and we had 35 people there.  There weren't enough seats in the place!  So, Elder Carter and I had to stand in the back with an investigator because there was no place to sit.   I spoke again.  This time I spoke about following our leaders with faith.  I think the memers enjoyed it.  Some of the talks are just so dry.  I try to do something to liven them up a bit.  Next time I am starting with "a little seed began to grow..." haha.  

This week we had a district activity on the beach.  All of the priesthood came from the district to Jimenez and we ate some chicken and rice on the beach.   We are just trying to get everyone excited about the missionary work here!  Also, today we went to see the crocodiles on the edge of some murky bog.  Pretty cooll!  Usually you can throw meat to them and they will go after it.  We didn't have any though.  I am seeing lots of exotice wildlife.  I've seen toucans, giant parrots called "lapas" ( in english I think they are called Macaws or something), and monkeys all over in the trees.  Truly this is paradise!

I love you guys so much!  Keep the faith!!

Elder Nelson 




Sunday, February 21, 2016

02.15.16 The Lord Sent Me to Paradise!

Hey everybody!!

I hope that everyone is doing well and that the Lord is pouring out his blessings on each one of you.  Thanks for all of the news from home!  I love to hear about what each one of you is doing and how life is treating you.  

Well, like I said, I had changes on Friday.  They sent me to Puerto Jimenez.  It is located on the Osa Peninsula in southern Costa Rica.  On Friday, I hopped on the bus at noon and we rolled in here around 8:45.  It was a long bus ride!  There are two ways to get here on the road.  Drive down the coast, or over the cerro de la muerte "hill of death."  When I got here we went straight to our house.  We live on the third floor of an outlet mall.  It is so nice!!  The only downside is the oven-like quality that is has haha.  It is so hot.  Like really, really hot.  Like, you guys probably have no idea how hot it is.  The other day it was 93 degrees in the place with about the highest percentage of humidity that I think is possible.  If it were any more humid we would be drinking water instead of breathing haha.  Sometimes it is hard to fall asleep with the heat, but we have an industrial fan that helps us out :) However, I am in paradise.  Honestly, I am in the Garden of Eden down here!  We are located between the beach and the jungle.  We can walk 5 minutes from our front door and be on the beach, and today we ventured into the thickness of the jungle to see what we could find.

The church down here is very small and very new.  President Hayes sent the first missionaries down here to open up the area two changes ago.  The last time that there were missionaries here was over four years ago.  So, Puerto Jimenez is a group, and we have a group leader named Hermano Conejo "Brother Rabbit."  This man is such a great person.  He has been running the church out of his house for a long time.  When President Hayes came down to visit his family about 6 months ago, they began to cry.  They felt as though the had been abandoned.  He is so grateful that the missionaries are here and are willing to do anything to help us and to build the kingdom here in Puerto Jimenez.

Yesterday we had a great experience in church.  We had an attendance of 27 faithful members.  The church is located in the same outlet mall as our house, just one floor below.  We rent it and it is nice.  The nicest part is that it has A/C baby.  The members love it and so do I.  All of these members are converts, so really they don't know very much about the church or church culture.  We are teaching them things like how to give a talk and how to be reverent during the sacrament meeting.  This week, our group leader had a church meeting in Ciudad Neily so he could not be with us at church.  I conducted the meeting and Elder Carter presided.  We had two speakers lined up.  They both stood up for a couple of minutes and read the Ensign to everybody, hence why we are teaching everybody how to give a talk ;)  So then my companion and I were up and we filled the meeting.  I spoke about pioneers, and how each one of them are pioneers here in Puerto Jimenez.  That the Lord has called  each one of them to build and edify his kingdom here.  It was great!  I just tried to smile a lot so that the room livened up a bit haha.  For priesthood meeting, we sat in a circle of five.  The president of the quorum, my companion and I, a member, and an investigator.  We need more priesthood here; so, Elder Carter and I have our eyes peeled for any men that wishes to repent of their sins and to follow our Savior Jesus Christ.

These people here have so much faith!  You can just feel it when you are with them!  I feel so grateful with my Heavenly Father to be able to work with them.  How great is my calling!

I love you all!  Keep the faith!

Elder Nelson

Mi amigo mexicano siempre me decia "Si quiere crecer la iglesia mucho, hay que hablar con muchos."



02.06.16 "Special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world"



Hey everybody!

Good to hear that all is well at home and that you are enjoying Chick-fil-a.  A nice chicken sandwich always hits the spot.  I think that it is so awesome that Nate got in to the whole election game in Iowa.  Even cooler that he got on national television with Rubio.  Good on ya.  Karli is finishing up her schooling.. good stuff.  

This was a great week full of spiritual experiences.  Last Saturday I was able to meet and shake hands with an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Elder Cook came to Costa Rica and held a conference with both missions.  He was accompanied by Elder Christensen of the Presidency of the Seventy.  What a spiritual meeting!  I have noticed that many of the times that I have felt the Spirit the strongest on my mission, it has been as we sing.  All of the approximately 300 missionaries stood and sang praises to Jesus Christ, our captain.  I wish you all could have been there, because it was incredible.  Then we heard the words of Elder Cook.  He emphasized that our purpose as missionaries is not to baptize as many people as will comply, but to become "ward and branch builders."  He also taught us to teach that atonement to each of our investigators.  He further emphasized that we must teach them that the atonement of Jesus Christ covers all of the injustices of life.  All of the unfairness and all bad things that happen to people.  When God gave each of us our moral agency to choose right or to choose wrong, He provided a Savior to overcome not only all sin, but also all injustices and unfairness that comes as a result of the divine gift of agency.  He finished with a powerful testimony of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  The Spirit was so strong.  Christ lives, and is at the helm of this, His church in the Latter days.  I have a burning testimony of the prophet Joseph Smith and his role as a prophet, called by none other than the most high God.  I am so grateful to take this message to everyone!  

Elder Nielson and I have been looking for all of the inactive people found on the ward list.  It is kind of a fun task, because you never really know what their reaction will be when they see that you are on their front step.  You can tell that the reaction of some people is like "Darn, they found me!"  They always ask us who sent us and we always respond saying that it was the Holy Spirit that sent us.  Well, we found an inactive family on Sunday.  The woman invited us into her home and we talked a little bit.  She explained that she went to church just a few times after her baptism.  When she was baptized, she did not have a testimony of the Book of Mormon or of the prophet that translated it. Sure enough, she was "tossed to and fro, and carried about with everywind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive." (Ephesians 4:14)  She is now attending another church and said that she has no desire to return because her pastor "fills her spiritually."  So after talking with her and resolving some of her doubts, she accepted to take the lessons one more time.  We gave her a Book of Mormon and promised her that she may, too, know that it is the word of God.  I am excited to go visit her again and to teach her of the truthfulness of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Well, I have changes this week.  I will be heading out of here on Friday morning.  It will be quite the adjustment after being in the office for so long.  I hope to be able to build the church in my next area and to testify always of Jesus Christ.

I love you all so much!  Keep the faith!

Elder Nelson

Monday, February 1, 2016

01.30.16

Hey!!

I love you guys so much!  I love hearing from you each week about the adventures that you are having. I hope Nate, Kelly, and Robert feel better fromt their sickness.  Good thing Nate's in medical school haha.  Also, happy to know that Karli and Zach went and enjoyed some Panda Garden this week.  Gotta love that peking duck haha.  Conner and Claire killing it in school.. good to hear.

Elder Abel and I have been working this week on becoming better at allowing the Spirit to teach the lesson and to testify to their hearts.  We know that we really aren't the teachers, it is the Holy Spirit.  We can do nothing in this great work if we don't rely upon the power of the Holy Ghost to testify the truth of all things.  A scripture that I enjoy about this principle is found in Doctrine and Covenants section 43.  It was a revelation given to the Prophet Joseph Smith directed toward the elders of the church "Again I say, hearken ye elders of my church, whom I have appointed: Ye are not sent forth to be taught, but to teach the children of men the things which I have put into your hands by the power of my Spirit."  


We have had some experiences with this principle this past week, and I would like to share with you some of them.  Elder Abel and I were walking down the street and decided to contact a nice looking family.  The man turned out to be from the states and he let us in his house.  Inside, was his friend from Tennessee.  Let me tell you about this friend.  He is about as evangelic christian as it gets.  He comes to Costa Rica to teach all of the pastors how to be pastors, so I guess you could say that he is the "jefe."  He loved the fact that he had two young missionaries in the house and wanted to show us our errors.  The only problem was that there was some violence going on in the street so we couldn't leave.  Great, we were stuck.  He told us why we were wrong, how much he knew about our church and that he was such and expert because he had studied it for four years (strangely the four years of study did not include reading the Book of Mormon.)  So basically, the Spirit wasn't there.  We kindly listened to his outlandish statements and invited him to read the Book of Mormon and ask the fountain of all truth whether it be correct or not.  He denied a closing prayer and we went on our merry way.  (Karli, I now understand how it must have been to serve in Tennessee.)  In short, we cannot convince anybody of anything, the Spirit does the convincing.  

On the other hand, we have an investigator named Eduardo.  He is about 20 years old and is really loving the message that we have been sharing with him.  His biggest challenge is that he says that he does not want to turn himself over to God completely because he still enjoys some of the things of the world.  We have talked to him several times about how he must show his faith through his obedience to the commandments of God.  We weren't really getting anywhere because he was just stubborn.  So we left Alma chapter 34 for him to read and to pray about.  We promised him that as he did so, he would receive an answer from the Lord.  When we arrived for the next lesson we did not teach him anymore.  We asked questions that would allow him to perceive the answers of the Holy Ghost for himself.  We asked "while you read this chapter in the Book of Mormon, what did the Spirit tell you?"  He paused for a second and said, "He told me that I need to change."  It was amazing!  He is coming to church tomorrow with his mother and we are so happy for him!  I love this gospel and the guide it is for us in our lives. 

The Book of Mormon is the word of God.  The Spirit testifies that truth to me continually as I study that inpired book.  Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, called and properly ordained to carry such a mantle.  I know that he was everything that he claimed to be and that through him Jesus Christ restored His church to the earth.  The blessings of the restoration are countless.

I love you so much!  Keep on keepin on!

Elder Nelson

Mi amigo Mexicano siempre me decía "Hay que seguir el Espiritu siempre."