Sunday, February 20, 2011

February 14, 2011 (Hyvää ystäväpäivää kaikille!)

Dearest Family,

I love life. The work is going forward, and miracles are happening all over this wonderful land. This past friday we held Zone leader concil, it was my first one, and it really surprises me every time to see how very inspired President Brown is. Then I had an interview with him and got to talk just one on one.... :D Something that he shared was something that it sounds like the brotheren shared in the world wide leadership conference (unfortunatelly we weren't able to watch it) He talked about the division of leadership and how really in every single level everyone has a very big, and important role. We are not to just sit and watch our mission president, but we are to take his council, learn, and prayerfully share that with our districts. We need to be in a way, he said, mission presidents of our own Zones.... It sounds like that is something that is applicable throughout the entire church. liked the thought of what is the next ordinance... Inspired men lead Heavenly Fathers kingdom here on earth.

My thoughts (the majority of them) are focused on the last chapters of Moroni as I am about to finish the Book of Mormon challenge President Brown gave a few months ago. (hopefully today or tomorrow it will be done) The importance of Love is one of the most transendental attributes of Christ because in a broad sort of way it encompasses all other. Yesterday at a dinner appointment I really enjoyed the discussion. (we were at the Hakanpää family) The father talked about unconditional love and shared how love requires 2 parts in way, knowledge (or understanding) and a feeling. Jesus Christ was able to look at the rikoksentekejä (commiter of crime) and love them because he has a perfect understanding of them, the situtation, and mercy. He is able to love every single person at a very personal level... something we as people cannot understand because we struggle to love even conditionally :) lol

I find Love is a good subject to talk about seeing as how it is valentines day :) lol the scripture in Moroni 7 is well known as well as well recited (eli käytetään useasti)

47But acharity is the pure blove of Christ, and it endureth cforever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.

48Wherefore, my beloved brethren, apray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true bfollowers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall cbe like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be dpurifiedeven as he is pure. Amen.

Love also helps us help others and helps us forget ourselves so that we can help others come closer to Christ Mormon writes to his son in moroni 8 and says"I fear not what man can do; for bperfect clove dcasteth out all fear." So bold... I love it! haha

It is wonderful to hear that the family is doing well, I love all the updates and pray that everything continues to flow well. There is a certain indescribable peace that comes from understanding that God is incharge. Something that I hope will never grown dim inside of me. My testimony of Jesus Christ burns so bright within me... I don't know how anyone could leave the mission field... So I don't intend to ;) hehe just kidding to everything there is a time... or something like that in proverbs... Luckily I am at the point of time where He wants me to be as close to Him as possible to serve others full time under His name. Zone conference is tomorrow... Ahh!

Hmm...Not much else for my weekly soap box espistle haha. I am sending a few different packages hopefully today. I don't know kyle's address or julia's... so I will be sending those to our home address... Julia's will be pretty easy to distinguish (erota.. in finnish)

I hope you all have a wonderful valentines day! I hope everyone else does too (directed at anyones else who reads my blog that I love :) haha so I guess really anyone who does.. hehe)

ok.. so funny stories.. We were on splits last week in Mikkeli with the district leader there and he is swedish, Elder Karlsson (he made delicious swedish coconut balls... I got the recipe) and I was him... and he whitewashed me... 3 times. I thought that was very swedish of him. lol it was a good time together though, I enjoyed it and learned a lot. lol I guess someday I have to tell the whole story of the whitewashes... but it was nice to feel the good young brother feeling again (I can't remember the last time I was whitewashed haha)

Thanks family. "I only want to serve Him in whatever way He requires". is a truth that is music to my ears... I know He lives and loves us too!

Tons of rakkaus! Hyvää ystäväpäivää!!

Vanhin Thomas Neal Nielsen

February 9, 2011 ("...and I said to myself... What a wonderful world")

Dearest Family,

I do thoroughly enjoy the ward here in Espoo... Quite likely one of the greatest wards for missionary work that I have ever served in. I Wish I could tell of all the good things that the Nutin Family is doing. The mom, is a very good mom, and the dad is a very very inspired dad. They remind me a lot about our family. haha. They have 5 kids haha... they are all great. We have an investigator who just became and investigator last week and they are doing such good things for her. We are going to try and line up a family night together... Katsotaan.

Life is such a beautiful gift, and what makes me happy is to know that the giver of this gift wants us to be just as happy as He is. He really knows how to save his children. A lot of my thoughts today are focused on obedience to God, and why it is important. Obedience is something that a missionary is taught clear from before the field. I feel like just know I am beginning to understand more thoroughly the all-inclusive blessings that come through obedience. Obedience is something learned simply by being obedient. For me it is one of the greatest things we are to learn here in mortal life. It is an enabling force for good. It allows us to become like him, and with it we are promised protection from the enemy of all that is good... in whatever form his fiery darts come. If you remember a few weeks ago I shared something I learned as we taught a recent convert. Vahur Saer. He shared about building a hut. If we want it to turn out right there are certain principles or laws we have to abide (live... are those words interchangable) by. Although we have many different types of buildings, many insane architects with crazy-cool ideas... They all follow, and are obedient to, specific laws of nature. God wants us to become like he is. That doesn't come by simply making it through life uneffected, but by being his hands to bless the lives of those around us.

Preach my gospel says the following refering to obedience:

"Obedience is the first law of heaven. It is an act of faith. You may sometimes be required to do things you do not completely understand. As you obey, you increase in faith, knowledge, wisdom, testimony, protection, and freedom. Strive to be obedient to the Lord, the living prophet, and your mission president"

The simple promise her is that we will be able to grow and become more perfected
"faith, knowledge, wisdom, testimony, protection, and freedom" are all essential for that.

More promises for the scriptures include:

D&C 130:20-21
20There is a alaw, irrevocably decreed in bheaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all cblessings are predicated—

21And when we obtain any ablessing from God, it is by bobedience to that law upon which it is predicated.

And D&C 82:10

10 I, the Lord, am abound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no bpromise.

So obedience is really really really essential... and I don't really have time to share everything... but this is a good part of it.

It really has brought me such comfort to know how much you guys love God and strive to follow His will. I think that that knowledge can give us comfort and understanding regaurdless of the situations we are in, abroad or right smack-dab in the middle of mormon-ville. God loves us and knows what he is doing, and we will become better and progress as we are obedient. It is kind of like we are all investigators. Progressing investigators are the ones who make and keep commitments including reading and praying about joseph smith, the truthfulness of the book of mormon... Etc. We like progressing investigators :)

Lol... Sounds like you are all doing well, I do enjoy your emails. Thanks everyone who sent them :) may the book be published and 50 paintings painted! that is a big goal! wow! As for dad's question, I agree with you answer that we will still have the veil of forgetfulness over our eyes. To me there are three acts in the plan of salvation and the 2nd act doesn't end until judgment... part of the 2nd act is to not remember the first act... I'll look for doctrinal clearence on that :) lol

I really do love Finland, and feel bad that you guys don't get to live here year round :) the "coldest winter in 1000 years" forecast that was given is not holding true... this is actually WAY warmer than last year.. I remember -30 degree days last year! haha it was cold!

Keep going forward and I hope I can share more funny things next week... Lol because they happen every single day... and a whole lot of them... Elder sharp is teaching me to juggle in our "free" time :)

Love you family,

Vanhin Thomas Neal Nielsen

January 31, 2011 (Interviews with President are the highlight of a missionaries life!)

Dearest Family,

Life is wonderful! Investigators are showing up and opportunities are happening.. just wonderful! haha It is quite funny to me how similar this shotgunning experience is to the last one... not much to go off with, but God provides :) He always does! Dad asked a few statistics about the Zone, Our Zone is the Helsinki Zone and consists of 3 district which each have between 6-8 missionaries so like 22ish missionaries. Pretty small zone, but Finland only has 60 or so missionaries, so it can't be too too big. What were the statistics like in Germany? Korea? and France? I'll bet there were more missionaries, especially considering that Finland area wise is way bigger than all of those countries.

This week was really exciting and eye opening. We were at a member's house with our ward mission leader and she shared a really cool story. I'll share as much of it as I remember. Her name is sister Blund and she shared here conversion story. She met the missionaries on the train from Helsinki to Turku and they talked the entire time. They gave her a pamphlet and she read it and look sensed how family centered the message was, she felt bad because she was recently divorced. She kind of just put the whole thing in the back of her mind and forgot what she felt. Then a few years later the missionaries had a feeling they had to go to this house (tuttu) and they talked and they arranged a time to meet. They meet and and she was doing very well, but still didn't feel sure about it. She read a talk by (then) Elder Monson and that is what did it. She was baptized and so was her 2 children who were 13 and 10 years old. Then, President Monson came to finland to give a talk in Haaga. She met him there and had a chance to talk and share her story about her conversion and how his talked helped her. President monson turned to one of the apostles and said "now I know why I came to Finland" He asked if she would write the story down and then the started writting eachother. Pretty cool!

This week we had splits with the assistants (elder Peterson and Horne from my MTC group) Elder Peterson shared a pretty incredible talk by Hugh B. Brown entitled "the currant bush". The main idea was that God is in charge and He knows how to help us become the celestial beings we are capable of becoming. The punch line, so to say, is "If I let you grow the way you want you will never amount to anything" That sounds pretty harsh... but in the talk it is really really good... In fact I am going to copy it into this email, because the message is so... Healing in a way. Skip the next 11 paragraphs to edit out the story!

I was living up in Canada. I had purchased a farm. It was run-down. I went out one morning and saw a currant bush. It had grown up over six feet high. It was going all to wood. There were no blossoms and no currants. I was raised on a fruit farm in Salt Lake before we went to Canada, and I knew what ought to happen to that currant bush. So I got some pruning shears and clipped it back until there was nothing left but stumps. It was just coming daylight, and I thought I saw on top of each of these little stumps what appeared to be a tear, and I thought the currant bush was crying. I was kind of simpleminded (and I haven’t entirely gotten over it), and I looked at it and smiled and said, “What are you crying about?” You know, I thought I heard that currant bush say this:

“How could you do this to me? I was making such wonderful growth. I was almost as big as the shade tree and the fruit tree that are inside the fence, and now you have cut me down. Every plant in the garden will look down on me because I didn’t make what I should have made. How could you do this to me? I thought you were the gardener here.”

That’s what I thought I heard the currant bush say, and I thought it so much that I answered. I said, “Look, little currant bush, I am the gardener here, and I know what I want you to be. I didn’t intend you to be a fruit tree or a shade tree. I want you to be a currant bush, and someday, little currant bush, when you are laden with fruit, you are going to say, ‘Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for loving me enough to cut me down. Thank you, Mr. Gardener.’”

Years passed, and I found myself in England. I was in command of a cavalry unit in the Canadian Army. I held the rank of field officer in the British Canadian Army. I was proud of my position. And there was an opportunity for me to become a general. I had taken all the examinations. I had the seniority. The one man between me and the office of general in the British Army became a casualty, and I received a telegram from London. It said: “Be in my office tomorrow morning at 10:00,” signed by General Turner.

I went up to London. I walked smartly into the office of the general, and I saluted him smartly, and he gave me the same kind of a salute a senior officer usually gives—a sort of “Get out of the way, worm!” He said, “Sit down, Brown.” Then he said, “I’m sorry I cannot make the appointment. You are entitled to it. You have passed all the examinations. You have the seniority. You’ve been a good officer, but I can’t make the appointment. You are to return to Canada and become a training officer and a transport officer.” That for which I had been hoping and praying for 10 years suddenly slipped out of my fingers.

Then he went into the other room to answer the telephone, and on his desk, I saw my personal history sheet. Right across the bottom of it was written, “THIS MAN IS A MORMON.” We were not very well liked in those days. When I saw that, I knew why I had not been appointed. He came back and said, “That’s all, Brown.” I saluted him again, but not quite as smartly, and went out.

I got on the train and started back to my town, 120 miles away, with a broken heart, with bitterness in my soul. And every click of the wheels on the rails seemed to say, “You are a failure.” When I got to my tent, I was so bitter that I threw my cap on the cot. I clenched my fists, and I shook them at heaven. I said, “How could you do this to me, God? I have done everything I could do to measure up. There is nothing that I could have done—that I should have done—that I haven’t done. How could you do this to me?” I was as bitter as gall.

And then I heard a voice, and I recognized the tone of this voice. It was my own voice, and the voice said, “I am the gardener here. I know what I want you to do.” The bitterness went out of my soul, and I fell on my knees by the cot to ask forgiveness for my ungratefulness and my bitterness. While kneeling there I heard a song being sung in an adjoining tent. A number of Mormon boys met regularly every Tuesday night. I usually met with them. We would sit on the floor and have Mutual. As I was kneeling there, praying for forgiveness, I heard their singing:

“But if, by a still, small voice he calls
To paths that I do not know,
I’ll answer, dear Lord, with my hand in thine:
I’ll go where you want me to go.”

(Hymns, no. 270)

I arose from my knees a humble man. And now, almost 50 years later, I look up to Him and say, “Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for cutting me down, for loving me enough to hurt me.” I see now that it was wise that I should not become a general at that time, because if I had I would have been senior officer of all western Canada, with a lifelong, handsome salary, a place to live, and a pension, but I would have raised my six daughters and two sons in army barracks. They would no doubt have married out of the Church, and I think I would not have amounted to anything. I haven’t amounted to very much as it is, but I have done better than I would have done if the Lord had let me go the way I wanted to go.

Many of you are going to have very difficult experiences: disappointment, heartbreak, bereavement, defeat. You are going to be tested and tried. I just want you to know that if you don’t get what you think you ought to get, remember, God is the gardener here. He knows what He wants you to be. Submit yourselves to His will. Be worthy of His blessings, and you will get His blessings.

Ok now this is me (like the Elder Nielsen me) talking:
This talk helps me understand a little why we go through trials. It is also wonderful to remember that there was a reason we shouted for Joy at the thought to come to this earth. It was the death, heart ache, sorrow, pains, and temptation that made us shout for joy, but it was the possiblilty to receive all that the father has! He loves us! That is why we are here, Don't forget that!

President brown shared a wonderful thing in his email this past week, I'm sure kyle might have to share what the large group meetings are so you can understand that it is " kind of a big deal" as some might say ;) This is what president said:

During district meetings this past week I received a text message from a missionary here in Finland whose cousin is currently in the MTC. The message says this, “I received a letter from my cousin who is in the MTC and who reports that in the large group meetings there, they use Finland as THE example of growth and success and turning things around with faith and hard work.” Wow! We will spend time in district meeting discussing the statistics from the new Finland Helsinki Mission Effectiveness Report that came from the Missionary Department a couple of weeks ago, but I thought you would like to hear a forerunner witness from the MTC through this text message. I think it proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that we have made great progress in “moving the work, not just tending it,”

YAY For miracles!

That is all I have to say this week, I hope all 100 of my thoughts are understandable :) Happy birthday Ryan... Remeber that God is the gardener and he knows what he is doing with everysingle soul... He wants our eternal life and salvation. Hey is natalie taking fat rocky on walks often? haha if not tell her that would be the greatest thing she could do to help someone 10,000 miles from a dog who might have brain damage from a sledge hammer... and probably has forgotten me by now :) lol

I love you all and love how you handle these "prunning moments" with such faith and unwearingness! Keep it up and we "shall see Him as he is, for we shall be like Him" :)


Vanhin Thomas Neal Nielsen

January 17, 2011 (Alright!)

Dearest Family,
TIM AND AL GOT BAPTIZED!!! YAY!!!!!! What an insane week it has been! haha I will give you all the details and I will focus all the energy in the little A.D.H.D head of mine to concentrate on sharing how it all happened! So... Last saturday we get a change call (as you already know) and We got the baptismal interviews set up and all was well. so we got all the buisness taken care of pretty much before I left on wednesday. haha ok I can't share all the details, and it would be boring... but I will just share saturday's timeline because it was and eventful day.
Saturday... Elder sharp and I wake up and get our day going by doing our study and all that. We had a teach (that the other elders had set up for 12 oclock) and the baptism was at 1 oclock in marjaniemi (about a 50 minute drive from kirkkonummi, which was where the teach was) So we call the investigator a couple days earlier and asked if we could meet at 11 oclock. We got all that set up and a member and all went well.... Until we get to the teach and we realized that our 30 minutes we had planned so we could be reasonably early to the baptism was not going to work at all. Haha Tav is a wonderful man with a good heart :) he just talks.... and talks.... and talks.... So as he talked I began to have anxiety as I saw the clock nearing 12... I realized ok... We are still going to have enough time to get there, but the tension was building in my little heart. By the time we got on the road and got going the GPS (elder sharp's christmas present) said we would get to our destination right at 1 oclock... I didn't want that.. but It would have to do. We get going, just enjoying the ride and as we get closer and closer to our assumed destination we realized... This does not look like the marjaniemi we know... OHHH NOO!! So at 1 oclock we realize that we typed in Koivuniementie instead of marjaniementie... It happened because I looked at the make and I swear it said Koivuniementie.... Birch (Koivu)... berry (marja)... basically the same thing lol! We were about 15 kilometers from our intended destination... I wanted to throw up... but I didn't and I drove safely and even followed the speed limit :) (that was a personal victory for me... considering my history :D lol) We get to the church at about 1:20 and everyone was sitting in the baptismal room reverently and giving us the look as we sat down... out of breath from running... with our coats still on. I figured this was the inbetween music and timo was already baptized, I just about started to cry... then Veli kinen (The neitsytpolku Ward mission leader) comes to us in the back row. and Says "hey... You have the opening prayer... you can go put your coats on the coat hanger if you would like... timo is changing... he just barely got here" Then my heart leaped for joy and I wanted to shout for Joy! We didn't miss it! haha but we didn't get anypictures due to timo's/our lateness... Sorry mom :) I have at least an invitation
Then we had Al's Baptism at 6 oclock. We weren't late for this one and everything went according to plan! It was a really neat experience! Al is going to be a wonderful member of the church. It was pretty neat how it all timed out. Our first teach was on the very first day of the change (the 6th of december) and his confirmation was yesterday (which was the very last day of the change! 16.1.11) So... with all that said... That is the story of the double header in neitsytpolku...
President shared this in his email and I really liked the sisältämä sanoma. He quoted Elder N. Eldon Tanner who was speaking of New Year’s resolutions or resolutions of any kind for that matter. He said, “As we reflect on the value of resolving to do better, let us determine to discipline ourselves, to carefully select the resolutions we make, to consider the purpose for making them, and finally to make commitments for keeping them and not letting any obstacle stop us. Let us remind ourselves at the beginning of each day that we can keep a resolution just for that day. As we do this it gets easier and easier until it becomes a habit.” Elder Tanner was a member of the First Presidency of the Church and a very disciplined and determined man. As you make resolutions, be sure to do what Pres. Tanner said, “make commitments for keeping them and not letting any obstacle stop [you].”
Hmmm... I am loving serving with Elder Sharp! we are doing very well in espoo... Loving having a GPS except when I type in anxiety-causing addresses. The ward here is just incredible! haha it is like serving in a utah ward.. tons of youth and tons of dinner appointments :) lol
thanks family for everything you do, for your support and love. Missionary work is the greatest work known to man! (and plumbing) hehe. If it is possible to send my ipod that would be great... I will just send it right back full of talks and random church songs from the assistants computer :) and sort through all that latter.
Elder Thomas Neal Nielsen
P.P.S We had a dinner appointment with Sam hent (my mini missionary) and his family... I told them they are welcome to our house anytime in utah for root beer floats and corn on the cob... I also invited Al if he is ever in the states.... I will probably just keep inviting finns at will... unless you have any objections?

January 10, 2011 (Hyvät ja pahat uutiset... Kumpi te haluatte Ensiks?)

Dear Family,
Wow! Life is great! haha HAPPPPYYYYYYYYYY BBBBBBBBBBIIIIIIIIIIIRRRRRRRRRRRRRTTTTTTTTTTHHHHHHHHHDDDDDDDDDDAAAAAAAAYYYYYYY MOMMY!!!!! "one year older and wiser too" Yeah! It sounds like your talk was an absolute wonderful talk! The spirit is a wonderful thing, it truely changes people's natures! I loved the stories shared from both your emails this week! Some funny and some spiritual... Thank you. Little miracles are so neat... but it is always by small and simple things that great things (great faith) is brought to pass. That is something I feel like I have come to understand a little bit better this week. All we need to do is just the simple things, for example, live our lives according to God's commandments and we can feel great joy.
Alright... Just like my little subject heading says... Good news and bad news... The good news is actually really really good, So I will share that first. Tim and Al are going to be baptized this saturday! YAY!!! They are doing very very well... doing the small and simple things like reading and praying and coming to church, and God is blessing them with a firm faith! (Alma 58:10 esimerkiksi) I love those two. It was wonderful to be with them at church. (we taught the investigators class which went really well) we had 4 investigators and a less active at church! yay! So with that being said I am ectatic for this saturday! A double header! The bad news.... I am leaving Helsinki on wednesday... yep I was pretty shocked too... Lol but "I'll go where you want me to go dear Lord, over mountain or valley or just down the road to Espoo" hehe I'm headed to espoo... about a 15 minute drive from my apartment currently. I will have a car yay! and I will be serving with Elder Sharp... I am pretty excited about that... He was in my MTC group and he is a very very good missionary... I have a feeling I will be learning a whole lot :) I feel like the Lord has just poured out His blessings over this Helsinki area... We are absolutely swamped and there is no greater feeling than that! I know that the same will happen in Espoo as we do the small and simple things :) Read, pray, go to church, admire God's creations... whatever it may be. God knows what he is doing and His ways truely are higher than our ways... So that is way I know I am going to the right place! I will be going to these baptism fortunatelly! so I'll get some photos next week... Kinda have to be there :D
So like I said there were 4 investigators and a less active in church (techinically a couple) but the one less active hadn't been for 20 years or so. That is sisar solly and her son arni ringsti we bumped into while doing some street contacting... Divine guidance! He didn't even know his mother was a member because pretty much his entire life she hadn't attended church. Well... long story short we have been teachign them for a little over a month and they both have been doing those small things.... God's promise (like always) held it's place :) Answers came, and are yet to come! YAY!
Alright what else.... We went to the Fazer chocolate Factory today! that was exciting! We got to a special room where you can eat as much chocolate as will fit in your belly! What other worldy stuff... hehe I bought a new backpack as part of my christmas stash... (is that spelled right?) so now I am 2/3 done with that! Just a suit left and life is complete! Alright... thats all the worldy stuff... Oh yeah... Except for my broken Ipod.. Is that being used? did it get thrown away? because if it is just the screen that is broken and no one is using it I would like to get it here so I can take all the music from the assistants computer and send it home with that... what do you think?
Umm... What else... Tender mercies all over! It is going to be sad to leave Elder Pace, because we get a long great! But I am very optimistic about Espoo... Extremely excited. My Mini missionary is in the ward I am going to! Life is great... and a double header makes me ecstatic :)
Love you all!
Hope mom has a wonderful birthday today!
God loves all his children...
Vanhin Thomas Neal Nielsen