Hello Family and Friends!
This is my last email from Brazil! It has been such a joy to serve among such a wonderful and a receptive people. Without a doubt, serving a mission is a really hard thing to do but it is also so rewarding in many ways. Through all of the rejection, sweat, tears, prayers, fasts, hard work, sickness, tough companions, and difficult areas, I have been able to experience the power of the atonement and the deep love of God for me and because of this I have drawn closer to Heavenly Father and his Son. God puts his missionaries through a process of refinement. We come into the mission field like rough stones, and if we have faith in God, then we allow ourselves to be refined by the experiences he gives us. We need these challenging experiences for our growth and our eternal progress. I strongly feel that we need to stop complaining about the challenges that we are given. I think of the brothers of Nephi who never stopped complaining and saying, “Thou has declared unto us hard things, more than we are able to bear”. I never want to say those words. I want to be able to accept my trials and have the faith to believe that I will become stronger and more like my Savior because of them.
We can never give up. We need to endure to the end no matter what happens. The very powers of hell may rage against us. Every door may be shut. We may feel alone. We may feel abandoned. We may feel that nothing is getting better in our lives. On my mission I have felt many of these things. But I testify that in these moments I have felt the hand of God reaching down to pull me up and encouraging me to move forward. He gave me comfort and helped me to feel that I was not alone and that I will never be alone and that everything will be alright in the end. I love these words from Christ to the Prophet Joseph Smith: “Know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good. The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?”
The mission field also gives us some of the most powerful experiences of love and joy. I have been given the wonderful opportunity to spend 2 years just helping people. I have been blessed to help people with their marriages, with addictions of every sort, with problems in the family or problems with friends, with service projects in the homes of people or in the community and in so many other ways. It has been a special joy of mine to watch people change their lives and decide to be baptized so that they can be cleansed from their sins and follow the example of Jesus Christ. I have created a bond and friendship with so many people who I will never forget and who I will stay in contact with for many years to come.
I have been able to gain a knowledge and love of the scriptures and of the organization of the church. This knowledge will prove vital to me throughout my life. I am so grateful for my mission. I am grateful for the testimony that I have because I chose to serve a mission.
Well these are a few of my thoughts and what I treasure in my heart as I come to the end of this experience. This time in the mission field has passed so quickly. I feel like Jacob in the Book of Mormon who said, “Wherefore I conclude this record declaring that I have written according to the best of my knowledge, by saying the time passed away with us, and also our lives passed away like as it were unto us a dream.” (Jacob 7:26)
I love you all and am extremely grateful for all of your love and support.
Elder Matthew Edward Nielsen
Hello Family and Friends!
Unfortunately, my letter will be very short because of the time. But I want to express my gratitude for all of the letters, packages and love that all of you have sent me these last 2 years. I love you all and pray for you. I pray that my letters have had some impact on you and have helped in some way. I have prayed to know what God would have me say in my weekly email so that my words could help someone in need. God loves each and every one of you. I know this from the bottom of my heart. My last email to you will be next week. I look forward to seeing all of you in the very near future!
Hello Family and Friends!
I have been thinking about the ways that I have changed in the last two years. I am so grateful for the spiritual growth that I have had and the testimony that I have received regarding the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I’m grateful for the time that I have spent here in Ceará. Yes, it has been hard, but very rewarding. Through the messages of hope and salvation that we teach, we have been able to change the lives of many. What an amazing experience to be a missionary!
I have a testimony of the importance of developing charity in ourselves. “Charity” is the pure love of Christ. It is the most important spiritual gift that we could ever hope to have. When you have charity, you serve without expectation of anything given in return. You serve because you feel a strong desire to help others.
I have gained a testimony of miracles. I know that they are real. Miracles are another evidence of God’s love for us. They have happened so many times on my mission. I know that God is a God of miracles. I started a new program in my district where missionaries are writing their experiences with miracles into a book that I bought. And at the start of our district meetings, one companionship will read about a miracle that they have experienced. What an amazing thing to hear about all the wonderful miracles that have happened to these missionaries!
I know that God lives and that he answers our prayers. It is really sad for me to see the world becoming less willing to believe in God. I feel sad that so many are missing out on the wonderful experiences of the spirit. They miss the comfort, strength, love, and hope that comes through prayer and following Christ and his teachings.
I have gained a testimony of the importance of working with our less active members. I love the parable of the Lost Sheep and how it encourages us to do whatever it takes to find and help those who have lost their way: “What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.” (Luke 15:4-6) This last Sunday, a less active family returned to church for the first time in a long while. We have been teaching them for quite some time. They are extremely happy to be at church again and living the commandments. We need to have courage to teach and help those people who have lost their way.
I have gained a testimony that the trials that we receive in our lives are given to mold us into the people God wants us to be. God sees us very differently than we see ourselves and differently than the world sees us. He sees our potential and knows what we are capable of accomplishing. Be grateful for the tests and trials that you receive, because they are proof of God’s love, because without them we cannot be saved. Last week, for example, was very challenging for me. But I know that God helped me. And I know that I’ve become stronger because of it.
I felt very impressed to share these thoughts with you. It’s weird to think that I will write only 2 more emails to you. I hope to be able to share a few more of my experiences and the major lessons that I have learned while serving in Brazil.
I love you and am excited to see you very soon!
Elder Matthew Edward Nielsen
Hello Family and Friends!
Last week we got to know a man named Anistacio. He is 56 years old. His wife died from a heart attack last December. We felt inspired one day as we were walking to stop and speak to a group of people seated on the sidewalk. We gathered everyone together and said that we wanted to share a message with them about Christ. Anistacio didn’t want to listen to the message because he needed to shop for some things, but I was persistent so he stayed to hear the message. Well, a few days after this visit, we taught him again and to our surprise, he read the pamphlet that we left him and he prayed and felt really good about continuing to receive our lessons and going to church. He even accepted our challenge to be baptized! If everything goes well, he will be baptized this week! What a miracle, right?
The work is moving along. I’m trying my best to keep focused on the work and not on the fact that I will be returning home soon. I pray that the Lord rewards my efforts, because I’m literally giving it all that I have.
Impressions of Brazil:
I love these verses from the Book of Mormon that teach us about being careful with how we spend our time: “For behold this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors. And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.” (Alma 34:32-22) The time that we are given in this life is so short. It is so easy to get distracted from the things that have real meaning in life. And those important things that have meaning usually prepare us for eternity.
Do you remember the story I told you about the man who we brought back into activity in the church? His name was Paulo. Well he passed away suddenly about a month ago. He was preparing to go to the temple. He became less active after returning home from his mission and he stayed away from the church for 17 years. I am so happy that he returned to the church and began living the gospel again, but I am sad that he lost all those years. In the end, he was happy and on the right path. But there are many who lose their way and, unlike Paulo, never return to God. The question that I ask myself and others is, if God were to call you back home today, would you feel worthy to enter his presence? None of us are perfect, but could you stand before him and say that you gave it your all? We don’t have control over all things in our lives, but we do have some control. My challenge to you is to put aside those things that don’t have any real meaning in your life. Repent of those things that do not make you feel good about yourself. And “Come unto Christ”.
I love you and miss you!
Hello Family and Friends!
Last week was a tough week for us. It seemed like everything went wrong. But looking on the bright side, we were able to meet some really amazing people. Also, I received two wonderful messages from the missionaries serving in my two old areas (Novo Oriente and Russas) that a couple that I baptized in my first area (Daniel and Elaine) returned back to church. They were baptized then went inactive. I’ve kept contact with Daniel since the beginning of my mission and when he returned back to church, he sent me an email saying that he returned back to church with his wife and that they are really happy. The other message I received is that Marcus, who was baptized in Russas, sent his missionary paperwork in the mail and he is waiting to find out where he will go on his mission!
I cannot possibly express the depth of gratitude and joy I feel at hearing this wonderful news! These are the blessings of serving a mission. I cannot believe how someone like me, a person who had to work so hard at teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ in the Portuguese language, could have been part of such wonderful experiences. I am so grateful for the opportunity I have had to serve my mission. I am so grateful for the people I’ve met. I am so grateful for the lives that have been changed. I love the hope that Christ brings to those who are lost and in dark places. I know that Christ lives and I am so grateful to represent him here on earth. What a privilege to wear my nametag with his name on it. Taking that away from me will be one of the hardest things for me because I have loved serving as his representative and carrying his message to the people in Brazil.
I’d like to finish my email by sharing my testimony with all those who have lost someone important in their lives. You need to know that God has a plan. Know that your loved ones will live again. Know that you will see them again. Know that they are in a better place. Know that they love you and that they do not want to see you grieving for them. They want you to be happy. Know that they are busy helping you on the other side. Know that if you keep the commandments that you will be able to be with them forever in complete happiness. If you have any doubts about this, then you should pray and you will feel the truthfulness of this in your heart and in your mind. Let God take away your sorrow and replace the emptiness with comfort and peace. God bless you.
Love you all,