Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas in Sakhalin


Elder Zamora just leaned over and laughed that I put "hola" as my greeting. :) How's the Bush family?! It was great to talk to all of you and I was really glad that Grandma Gee got to be there with you all while we talked. I'm glad Matt liked his shopka and I'm super glad it fit. :) These last few days haven't really been all that exciting. I’ve had a cold the last few days, and I've actually been kind of doing a roller coaster with my health. Hopefully, it will stay on track for an upward path from now on. Last night, I decided, "you know what? I'm sick of feeling sick. I'm just not gonna be sick anymore." And I ate some chocolate and felt better. :)

Well, I'm not really sure what I should tell you all since I just talked with you a couple days ago... umm.... I got several letters from Fallon this last week! I was super happy to hear from her!!! And I got a letter from Brother Christensen (Thank you!) and from Zach Haile! I was super surprised to hear from him! Zach, if you read this on the blog, thank you so much for your letter. I hope all is well with you! :)

Here's a wrap up for this past week for the blog's sake... I fell twice this last week on the ice. Nice job Elder Bush. After falling twice in one day, I decided it would be a very wise idea to wear my yak tracks (things you can wear on your shoes for traction). Elder Naumov kept teasing me that I had fallen three times thus far this winter and he hadn't. Guess what?... the score is now tied. Not that I'm happy or anything, but I think he had it coming. It started snowing a ton the day before Christmas Eve. So now it looks like Sakhalin should look in the winter. On Christmas Eve, we (the elders here on Sakhalin) got together at the South area's apartment and had dinner together which consisted of sandwiches and juice, and watched Joy to the World, the only Christmas DVD we had. :) Then we went caroling to several members in the branch. They all loved it! And it was lots of fun to share with them the spirit of Christmas through music! I love that no matter where you go in the world, the hymn book pretty much stays the same. Those hymns bring such comfort and peace. One woman in the branch takes care of her elderly father and when we stopped by to sing, she invited us into his room so we could sing to him as well. As we sang, I could see how the music touched him and afterward, it was super sweet to receive his heartfelt gratitude as well as from Sister Love (that's what her name translates to).

Christmas day was exciting because I got to talk with all of you!!!! :) Then we went out and visited several members to deliver a short Christmas message. Sister Love asked us for a blessing because she had fallen and hit her head and was feeling awful afterward. As I acted as voice for the blessing, I spoke very simple words. There wasn't anything grand or unusual about it. Afterward, she felt fine, and at the Branch Christmas activity, she commented that she felt wonderful and was super grateful for the blessing. I know the Priesthood is the power of God to act in His name here on the earth. I haven't always treated that responsibility and authority with the right dignity and respect. But as I've served, I've seen the power of the priesthood manifest in very tangible means. This weekend has actually been filled with three blessings and it has been a miraculous experience to take part in that.

At the branch Christmas party, I felt surrounded by love. It was there that I felt the Spirit very strongly witness to me that Jesus is the Christ and that the love all the members of the church showed to one another was a manifestation of the love of Christ. I got a little present of candy and socks from the Relief Society president. Man, was I super grateful for that simple act of kindness! It blew me away. Afterward, we went out to visit a single mom (the woman I told you about that served a mission in Yekaterinburg with Justin Ebanks) and while waiting in the stairwell as she get her sick kids in bed, I looked outside a window there and thought I'd take a picture of the outside because it looked kind of cool at night. While I was taking a couple pictures, a police man that lives above her stopped us and asked why we were so quietly waiting in the stairwell. We explained who we were and why we were there and then he asked for our documents one at a time. He didn't seem to trust us until Irina opened the door and told him we were coming to see her. He apologized after that. So that's my first run in with the police. Probably won't be the last. It just reminded me though how I need to always be ready to give the information they require so as not to cause any problems. We've heard repeated over and over again, we have nothing to hide. The church has nothing to hide. We as missionaries are not up to no good. We just have to help them understand that and not do anything that looks suspicious even though it may seem harmless to us.

Well, that's probably about it. I'll try to send some pictures that I've taken since we talked on the phone. :) I love you all so much and I hope you have a wonderful, wonderful Happy New Years!!! :)

May Heavenly Father bless each of you in this New Year!

Elder Bush

Some additional notes from our Christmas phone call:

Sarah asked how much snow he had gotten and he said that it had snowed for the last two days and they had about two feet of snow.  He said that he has only been really cold on one day a couple of weeks ago.  He was walking to church and his face started to really hurt.  Other than that, his coat and shopka (hat) have kept him warm.

He told us that Sakhalin has the strongest members in the mission.  The branch has about 50-60 members who attend church on a regular basis.  When we asked about when his next zone conference would be, he told us that they used to have zone conferences every six weeks, but they now have them every two transfers, which is every 12 weeks.  The last one was in Khabarovsk, so the upcoming one will be in Sakhalin.

He sounded happy and said that he had been blessed to not be too homesick during the holidays.  He was looking forward to the branch Christmas party that was going to be on Christmas night.  He loved hearing from his brothers and sisters and having Trevor make us all laugh.  The thing that he has missed the most about home is sitting around the dinner table or in the living room, talking and laughing.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Birthday Week and Christmas Wishes

It sounds like all is well back home! I'm glad that you all have had such a great time with Grandma and Grandpa Bush and Uncle Derek! Please pass on my love to them! :) I'm also glad you all were able to see Fallon! And that Jessica sang so beautifully! I'm sure it is wonderful to be home together with family. :) Honestly, I miss that. But you don't always get to have Christmas in Russia, right? ;)

This last week was just another wonderful week to add to all my wonderful weeks on a mission. I just happen to no longer be a teenager now. Strange. It was a week filled with exchanges (switching companions because my companion is the district leader and is supposed to work with each member of our district) and lots of good ole missionary work. I got to serve with Elder Zamora!!!! Which was such an awesome day!!! I have really come to admire and love him, and I'm so grateful I had the opportunity to serve with him in the MTC. I didn't appreciate it then nearly as much as I do now. We support each other so much because we're both at the same stage in the mission and understand the struggles that each of us are facing. I don't know what it was, but while I was serving with Elder Zamora, we both got super excited and tried talking to everyone on the streets. We were both filled with that desire that the sons of Mosiah had and that Alma had as they performed their missionary labors. We desired to share our message with every soul because it changes lives. Not just in a colloquial (Trev, I hope I used that word correctly... maybe vituperative would have been better. ;) ) "Hey our message changes lives" sort of way. No, the gospel of Jesus Christ can and will change your life if you truly apply His teachings and follow His commandments. Elder Zamora and I taught a man name Roman who has good desires and intent but rarely fulfills his promises. He smells horrible and looks just about the same as he smells. First of all, I was astonished, as we both taught, at the difference between our ability from when we started at the MTC and where we're at now. It's huge. Astronomical. And it's all because of the Lord's help and the desire we have to do His work. Secondly, after I finished praying at the end of the lesson, I looked up into his eyes and I saw past all the dirt and grime and smell and all that was less than ideal about his appearance. I saw in his eyes that he is a child of Heavenly Father. That he may have his struggles and it may be a long road as we help him come closer to Christ. But he needs this message. All of us do. The spirit hit me so strongly. And during the lesson, I was surprised at how boldly I could express my thoughts and feelings. Those who truly know me know that it's hard for me to sometimes speak my mind or be bold with others. Yet, I found myself teaching boldly along with Elder Zamora. It was unreal.

A day later, after my exchange with Elder Gmeiner, we came back to the north apartment and there, Elder Naumov surprised me with cake and Elder Zamora surprised me by fixing my iPod! (One day it just stopped working but magically, Elder Zamora brought it back to life) I had my eyes closed as I came into the apartment (upon their request) and all of a sudden, I heard the melodious voice of Josh Groban and saw cake before me. :) It was super nice of them. Then, that evening at the church, Igor and Paulina and the South Elders surprised me with a little party and gifts and it was super awesome of all of them! I was so grateful. :)

As we near the Christmas season, I want everyone at home to know how much I love you all. A mission has been the greatest experience of my life in several aspects. It has been super rewarding. And it has been super challenging. Challenging doesn't even really quite describe it. Dad, you know what I mean. I want each of you to know that I'm deeply grateful for your support. As a mom or dad, as a brother or sister, as a grandma or grandpa, as an uncle or aunt or cousin or friend, I want each of you to know you have played a vital role in shaping who I am and providing me support that has certainly helped. I've also come to learn in the recent months that there is support that is unrivaled by that which we can find here on earth. That is the support from a Father in Heaven and from our dear brother, even Christ the Lord Jesus. As a baby born in Bethlehem, he came into the world to fulfill the most sacred of all callings and missions. He came into the world as the Christ. He is our Savior and Redeemer. I hope this coming week, I can focus even more on His birth, His life, His mission, and His triumph over spiritual and physical death. He has carried me and lifted me through my times of despair and I trust He will continue to support me through my greater trials in the future.

This last week, I've also learned one important principle. The Lord doesn't fix our problems. He expects us to fix them. But he doesn't leave us helpless or stranded. As we pray to Him, we should ask for guidance on how we as His children can understand and fix our problems or overcome our obstacles. While He could just remove the obstacle before us or fix our problems, He doesn't. He is a loving parent. The most perfect of all loving parents. And He will help us as we do all that we can. I don't remember if I wrote this quote last week but I loved what President Uchtdorf said in last conference. (paraphrasing...) We may not be able to understand the deep valleys or trials of the present until we look back upon them from our future mountains of experience.

I love you all so much! I'm overwhelmed with this feeling. :) I hope you all have the most wonderful Christmas! Good luck on exams! And I can't wait to talk with you all! :)

With Christmas love,
Elder Bush

Monday, December 13, 2010

Twas the...week before my birthday

Thank you to everyone that wished me a happy birthday! It will definitely be different celebrating a birthday while serving on a mission.

So this week has been a long one. First, we had the police called on us for tracting in an apartment building around 8ish in the evening. Someone didn't like that, I guess, and called the police. We left the building just as they got there. They didn't even stop us because they were expecting someone who was actually disturbing the peace.

We had Family Home Evening last week with two awesome families! I just love the families here on Sakhalin! The members are amazing! And super generous! They are always feeding us and insisting we keep eating. Usually at FHE, we have little sandwiches or cookies and tea or hot chocolate.

On Tuesday, we went to the hospital with a member to visit a friend who was in pretty bad shape. This hospital looked a little better than the last one I was in. Hopefully, in the future, as this friend gets better, we'll be able to help him get his life on track.

Next, we have an awesome investigator named Anna that we're teaching now! It's been such an experience for me because I'm pretty sure she's the first person I have ever taught from the beginning and have taught so much. She has great desire to know if the Book of Mormon is true. I just hope and pray she receives an answer for herself and comes to know that it's true because the blessings that can follow will be enormous. Now, when I say that, I also have noticed in the lives of others after their baptism that life doesn't immediately get easier. In fact, sometimes, life gets harder. Families disagree and problems arise. Getting baptized doesn't mean that life just becomes perfect and that the Lord blesses you every second of every day in the ways you expect Him to. It means you open the door for opportunities in the future. Namely, living together with your family forever and finding the peace and joy that comes from following the commandments of the Father, from having more scripture and having a living prophet on the earth. There are so many blessings. Sometimes, they're just hard to see.

I met a guy on the bus this last week who suffers from drug addiction. I started to share some of our message with him, and as I learned more about him, I felt inside that this man needed the knowledge that I've been blessed with. I spoke to him, testified to him that I know the gospel of Jesus Christ can help him overcome his addiction and problems, that there's a prophet on the earth today (he really liked that), and he turned to me as he was twitching sitting there next to me and looked in my eyes and told me there was something different about me. He told me there was something sincere about what I was saying and that despite me being so young, he knew I had truth. I still haven't gotten a hold of him, but I sure hope I can and that I can make a difference for him in coming to know who his Savior is and that Christ can help him. As I spoke to him, the words just came. And I didn't feel as though they were anything out of the ordinary. But it touched him enough that he wanted to know more. This work is real and true. If it wasn't, 19 year old boys would have ruined it a long time ago.

This last week, I wore my badger shopka (big furry hat) for the first time! It was so warm and super awesome as it was snowing pretty good this last week. At first, I felt a little funny because she's a little big, but she's a great shopka. I took a picture outside the apartment of a member named Love (translated into English). That night, we trekked out into the north to find a less active member. I was glad I had my shopka. We walked a long ways. In the end we found her home, talked with her twin sister, and honestly, I didn't expect much from it. But the next evening, we were at the church and someone knocked on the door. It turned out to be her! She came and we had a short lesson and encouraged her to come back. And she came to church yesterday! It was such a cool experience to see her come and to see a slight change come over her.

While we were walking up into the north part of our area, I was walking ahead of Elder Naumov along the road and there was a single set of prints in front of me. The thought came to me that Christ is the one that goes before us and prepares the way for His work to move forward. It was as though He had already trekked through the snow to prepare Arina (the less active sister) to meet us and to have a desire to come back to church. I know the Lord goes before us and prepares the way for His work to go forth.

This week has had its challenges, but I'm doing alright. Keep praying, because I need the Lord's help. I'm learning more than I thought I would, about others and about myself.

Thank you all for all your love and support and prayers and just everything! Thank you again to everyone who has wished me a happy birthday! I'm super grateful!!!

Love you all so much!
Elder Bush

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Book of Mormon is True

This last week has been one of the most interesting spiritual experiences of my mission. I've spent so much time on my knees praying to the Lord for help, guidance, strength, and comfort. I realize my challenges are little and not that significant, but the work I'm a part of is the most important thing I could be doing right now, and I need His help so much to accomplish what He would have me do. In particular, I remember one morning this last week where I got ready for the day quickly and had a lot of extra time before studies started. So I knelt down and prayed. In fact, I poured my heart out to the Lord. I had just read my patriarchal blessing prior to that and the blessings that the Lord has promised me sunk deep into my mind and heart. I want so badly to fulfill all the Lord has in store for me and to qualify for the blessings He has promised me because I know in my heart that that is where true and lasting happiness can be found in this life. So amongst all my other worries, concerns, and stresses, I knelt down and poured my heart out to the Lord like I have never done before. And I testify to each of you that the Spirit I felt and the love I felt from the Lord was overwhelming and comforting. I knew in that moment that the Lord was ever so aware of me. He knows the things I'm struggling with. He knows my weaknesses and my inadequacies, and I knew in that moment how much He loves me. I felt such hope, the kind of hope President Uchtdorf talked about a few conferences ago. (By the way, we got General Conference issues of the Liahona! It has been so cool to read the talks from the prophet and apostles and see what I understood in Russian and what details I completely missed. I understood more that I realized as I compare my notes. Yet there are things I didn't even hear that have been exciting to discover.) I knew then that I could overcome all the obstacles before me with His help. I knew I could love my companion and overlook the things he does that have driven me up the wall. While this week hasn't been perfect, I can look back now and see how the Lord helped me and gave me an increase of love.

I also finished the Book of Mormon for the first time while here in Russia this past week. (Not my first time ever, just the first time while on my mission :) ) I decided to follow the prophet Moroni's words that are found in the last chapter of the Book of Mormon and pray to my Eternal Father in Heaven and ask him with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ if the Book of Mormon is true. I know I had done this before and I had already received an answer, but I wanted to put it to the test once more, so I again knelt down to ask. Before I could even begin praying, a warm feeling came over me along with that butterfly feeling you sometimes feel. :) I felt in my heart and thought in my mind, “Elder Bush, you already know the answer I will give you.” I smiled and preceded to express to Heavenly Father my desire to ask once more and to feel a witness of the Book of Mormon, the evidence that Joseph Smith didn't just make it all up or create his own church or new religion but that he in fact was a Prophet of God called to restore the Church of Jesus Christ again onto the earth. That warm assuring feeling increased and filled me with a happiness that only comes from Heavenly Father. I just knew within my heart that that Book is true. The work I'm doing is true. Hard, frustrating, discouraging, and yet rewarding, life changing, true, and worth it. The Book of Mormon is the keystone of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Without it and continuing revelation, we have nothing. It works hand in hand with the Bible to shed forth light unto all the world that Jesus is the Christ and we all have to come unto Him in order to return to live in the presence of our Father. I love that book with all my heart.

Last night, we had a lesson with an investigator named Анна (Anna) at a member's apartment. The member's name is Ирина Хай (Irina Hi) and she served a mission several years ago in the Russia Екатеринбург Mission (the same mission where Justin Ebanks and Jonathon Tharpe served). Well, I asked her if she knew Justin and she did! She pulled out a picture of him from her collection of mission photos. She served in the same district as he did when he first came to the mission. So, if there's any way to pass on a привет to Justin from Sister Ира Хай, that would be great! Such a small world.

Well, I love you all so much. I'm super grateful for your prayers. They're definitely making a difference and helping me so much. Every day has its challenges, but I've really come to learn that if I want to be the happiest, I just need to share what I know. When I share the message I have, that's when I'm truly the happiest. I forget about myself and the things that trouble me, and I realize how much more important it is to fulfill my calling and bring others unto Christ. It's funny how one could forget that when he's had so many experiences with it. It's just hard to fight the discouragement sometimes. Anyways, enough rambling. I'm super grateful for all of you and I love you all so very much! I hope you all continue to enjoy time together at this special time of year!

Elder Bush

Monday, November 29, 2010

Turkey . . . Yum ! ! !

Hey there everybody!

Well, transfers were this last weekend. And guess what?... I'm still on Sakhalin serving with Elder Naumov! I was super excited to get to stay here on Sakhalin along with Elder Zamora, my MTC companion! He's been here four transfers (24 weeks) which none of us were expecting. So it looks like I'll be here through Christmas and New Years. Should be fun and exciting!

This last week (of course as you all know) was Thanksgiving, my first on the mission, which felt a little strange. But we (all the missionaries on Sakhalin) were graciously invited by the Jones family, an American couple that live here in our branch and also work for Exxon Mobile, to their home for Thanksgiving dinner. They live a little ways out of town in a community that I think was built by Exxon Mobile for all the Americans that work for them here on Sakhalin. They’re not very big homes, but they’re definitely much more American. It was kind of weird going over there because I felt like I had somehow ended up back home, just without my family and friends of course. The Jones family had coordinated with all their neighbors to have Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday, from what I understand, but they all agreed to move it to Thursday so we could join them before transfers. It was super nice of all of them. All of their guests were very welcoming and so friendly to us! It was actually kind of strange to be surrounded by so many Americans and so much English. I met a woman that is originally from Massachusetts and I talked with her for a while during dinner. And there was a couple from Texas that had been to the Houston Temple open house and had a bunch of questions. It was crazy to talk in English about the temple! I know speaking in Russian has been such a blessing, and I do love teaching in Russian, but this last transfer has been really hard for me. Being a native Russian, my companion can be a huge help, but he's also super intimidating because he expects his companions to speak just as well as he can, if that makes sense. He corrects me constantly, which is helpful, but there are times I'm just afraid to speak because I feel he gets impatient with me as I mutter through my thoughts. It's just been frustrating, and I don't know how to overcome it. I've prayed so much and I just haven't felt the relief I've been seeking. Please pray for me that I'll be able to develop love toward him that will strengthen our ability to serve together. Anyways...) It did honestly feel great to just speak openly about the gospel with someone that had interest and questions and not be hindered by any language barrier. I know I will be able to fully overcome that barrier through time, but that experience helped me see my future for missionary work after my mission. I know that may sound silly but it made me think about the things I will do after my mission to continue to further the work of the Lord. So, Thanksgiving dinner was delicious!!! I was stuffed and we were sent home with leftovers! It was horrible because the next day, as I warmed up the food, the smell of turkey and gravy filled our apartment and I had a slight moment of homesickness. But it left quickly enough and I've actually been surprised at how much the Lord is helping me focus on my calling.

With the holidays coming around and with Thanksgiving that just happened, I thought I'd take a moment and just thank you all for all you do. My family is the best family on the planet! Despite our problems or differences or weaknesses, I'm so grateful for each of you. I'm grateful for my friends that support me, for Fallon and her Family (Happy Thanksgiving to the Frapps!), for my grandparents and uncles and aunts and cousins in Utah and California (You’re all so awesome!), for the families that support and pray for me (the Pittards, the Hansens, the Hales, the Christensens, the Bates (got your letter Br. Bates! Thanks so much!)... There are a lot of you and I don't have time to write all the names down. Sorry! I know who you are! :) I'm grateful for the opportunity to serve here in Russia. To serve my Father in Heaven and to bring His children truth that is not known to everyone, truth that can change lives. I see that in the members here in Russia. They are examples to me. I'm so grateful to my Heavenly Father for His love and support. In times that I have felt alone and that I had no one to turn to (family is far away, friends are out of contact, people on the street don't want to listen to us, and I lose the desire to share my message, what I've been blessed with) I have learned to turn even more to Him that dwelleth above. I'm so grateful for prayer. I haven't used it enough. I'm so grateful for my Savior Jesus Christ. He knows me and loves me despite my weaknesses. He will help me overcome them. I'm just so darn grateful. :) I thought a lot this week about blessings. Sometimes it's hard to see our blessings when we aren't looking for them. But when we stop and slow down and take a look around, our eyes are opened to see how abundantly we really have been blessed. Just try it if you think you haven't been blessed. Slow down. In fact, stop. And look around. Pray for the Lord's help, and he will open your eyes to see those blessings you may not have even recognized.

Saturday was the branch talent show. It was great! The elders and Igor did this cup game thing as our talent (the thing they always do in the dining hall at scout camp). It went really well and everybody liked it! Then I played the pink panther with Elder Naumov since that's about the only thing I can remember on the piano. I messed up big time. But who cares. It went alright. :) Some of the talents were hilarious! The branch president, counselor, and some branch members did a skit about the missionaries. It was great! I tried recording it but my camera ran out of space! So I quickly deleted a bunch of pictures I already sent home from the MTC (save those CD's I sent you all!) to make some room. I'll have to buy a new card soon. The youth and branch members also did a hand puppet play that was hilarious. All in all, a great activity. Yesterday was the Primary program in Sacrament meeting. It was so awesome! They sang parts of the song, "A Child’s Prayer" in English and in Russian. I felt the Spirit overwhelm me as I listened to them sing those simple words in English. Despite their accents, the spirit flooded the room testifying to me that the Father does hear us when we pray and when we are sincere and have a desire to act on the answers we hope to receive, He answers. It was such a small but tender moment.

Please continue to pray for me. :) I’m having a bit of a rough time right now, but I'm also having the time of my life. I just can't let myself forget that. :) We are planning on watching “The Best Two Years” later today as a P-day activity so that should be interesting after having served for a little while as a missionary. I love you all so much! I can't even begin to describe to you all how much your prayers are appreciated and how much I love each and every one of you. Good luck with all you have on your plates this next week! May the Spirit always abide with each of you to guide you in all your doings.

Elder Bush

Monday, November 22, 2010

Mail and a Baptism - What a great week!

Hey there everyone!

Well, this last week was filled with visits from the Zone leaders from Khabarovsk and from the Assistants and President this last weekend. It was great to get to see them all and associate and learn from each of them. Like I already said before, I just love all of the leaders in the mission! They all such great Elders. With the assistants and President and Sister Pratt coming from Vlad, they brought with them mail! Yay! I got a package from the Pittards with candy and cards from all the kids! Thank you so much! It was super delicious (Yes all the candy is almost gone :) and super nice of all of you to write. I'll try to reply soon! I also got a card from Grandma and Grandpa Bush that I loved! Thank you! You both are amazing! (I'm pretty sure you asked a question that I can't remember... I'll write soon and answer:) And the CD from the Christensens! I have been listening to it every day! It's so amazing!!! And lastly, I got my birthday package! I figured it's almost my birthday (haha) so I went ahead and opened it already. I know, that's cheating. Sorry but thank you, thank you, thank you all so much! I loved the pictures and all that you wrote to me! Trev looks so old! (I'm still more stylish ;) and I just loved everything! You all are so great! That was the best birthday gift ever! I put it all back in the package and I'll open it again in a little less than a month. That's weird. My birthday is already less than a month away.

This last week, on Thursday, we did service again for an awesome family here in the branch. They're building a home and so we helped by doing some odd but necessary jobs. We lifted all the floor boards on the second floor of the house and vacuumed everything because after that, we started putting this padding stuff up on the ceiling which was tricky. It's fun to show up and see a little more done each time. Plus, Misha, (the husband) is just hilarious and always fun to be around. He reminds me a little bit of Brother Noah Garrett. A different sense of humor but he has that feeling about him that you like to be around him because he's just so nice.

On Friday, the assistants and President flew in and sat in on our weekly planning session. Then, the assistants were with me on a lesson with Igor Kim at the church. Honestly, Elder Naumov and I didn't really plan the lesson together. I just had some thoughts that I had put together. And then I had a feeling that I should grab my study journal notes. Thankfully, I'd been taking some notes lately. During the lesson, I felt prompted to share some ideas that got us on a really awesome conversation full of testimonies and the Spirit. I love teaching when it's done by the spirit. We talked some about how there are more scriptures that we just don't have yet. But we will have them someday when the Lord recognizes we're ready. And that we learn new things from the scriptures every time we read them no matter if it's the same passage. Igor shared an awesome thought that I thought I would share with you all. It's from some philosopher but it might as well be from Igor. I'll give him the credit. :) Basically it went like this. Picture you and I both have one apple. We decide to share with one another by switching apples. That's great but we both are left still with one apple despite switching. Now picture we each have a unique thought. We both decide to share with one another. In the end, we're not just left with one thought each but two; an old one and a new one. I didn't really capture the beauty of that after typing it out. Igor said it much better. But I hope you get the idea. He shared that with us as he bore his testimony and talked about missionaries. He shared the thought that we as missionaries all teach the same doctrine and principles. But that the way we present it, the thoughts that we have and share with others, are different from one another and thus, hearing a lesson or spiritual thought based on the same topic from different people doesn't get old because you can learn something new from different people.

On Saturday, we had a baptism!! His name is Vecheslav, and it was a great service. The spirit was certainly present. While I didn't know him before this transfer, it was an awesome experience to teach him and see him change leading up to his baptism. He asked for cold water in the font (wanted to really remember it I guess) and it was actually kind of shocking to him going under because of how cold it was. He almost didn't make it to sacrament meeting because he slept in, but he made it by the end and was confirmed at the end of the meeting. As I stood in the circle and the branch president confirmed him a member of the church and gave him the gift of the Holy Ghost, I felt the spirit flood the room. It was such a powerful experience.

Thank you all so much for your prayers and your love and support. Matt, your prayers are definitely helping because my Russian gets better a little bit each day! :) I'm certainly not great at this language, but I notice the Lord's help and His fulfilling of promises He has made to me through His servants (namely my former Stake President, President Pratt). I hope you all have an awesome Thanksgiving! I’m sorry to miss the Thanksgiving celebration at the Hansen’s house. Tell them I say Hi and I love and miss them all! We might be celebrating Thanksgiving here on Sakhalin at one of the American member's homes. We'll see. I'm not really sure what's going on. I know Vlad and Usserisk are all getting together in Vlad at the church and Khabarovsk is going to the senior couples apartment for dinner. We'll see. :)

I know the Lord is helping me. He's helping me focus on the work and forget about myself. I still need to work so much more on that. Gosh sometimes I get way too hard on myself because of my silly mistakes and I get too focused on me. I know that the Lord is shaping me and helping me overcome that and become a better servant. Pray for me that I will be able to feel the Lord's love, His guidance, and that I'll have the ability to overcome weaknesses, learn from my mistakes, and forget myself and just get to work.

I love you all!

Elder SpencerMichaelBush (For some reason, I thought of that as I saw pictures from Nate's wedding and of all the cousins. Remember that they used to tease me about how I would say my name so fast.)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Zone Conference in Khabarovsk

This last week, on Tuesday, we went to Хабаровск (Khabarovsk) for zone conference. And it was absolutely amazing!!!! Probably one of the best days of my mission! Well as far as just the feelings I felt that day. The spirit was so strong and taught me so much. I have also felt the opposition of that feeling this last week and I've recognized how the adversary tried to get me down or distracted or to forget who I am and what my purpose is. He's really good at that but I've been praying that the Lord will help me be even better and overcome that. I need to remember who I am. I am a child of God, called to help the rest of His children, my brothers and sisters, know of Him and His restored gospel and ultimately do all they must in order to return to Him. I can’t forget that.

Khabarovsk was cold like I said. I'll try to send a couple pictures. It was -5 C. I think. It started snowing as we left. When we got off the bus on the tarmac to board the plane, I had such a cool feeling as the snow was blowing around us. (That's the big thing about Khabarovsk. The wind is pretty bad.) The city was beautiful, though, and the airport was the biggest one I've been in here in the far east. It was really nice. So anyway, we took a flight on Tuesday morning from Sakhalin (around 8) and got there around 10ish. I think. We made it to the church by 11. Coming back, we had a flight at 8:30 and we were home by 11ish. All in all, a crazy day but very worth it. While at the conference, I felt I should share my testimony about Grandpa. That I know the plan of Salvation is true. That because we've been sealed in the temple, this life is only the beginning of eternity. That our family can live together forever. It was powerful and inspiring to hear the testimonies of all the elders and sisters here in the north zone. I got to meet a sister from Moscow who is now here and Elders Kevern and Kildew and Johnson. I came to find out that Elder Kildew lived in Snow Hall (which was in my ward) at BYU the semester before Elder Stewart and me, and that Elder Johnson's dad was our bishop. Crazy huh!? What a small world! Four Elders in one mission (probably one of the smallest missions in terms of number of missionaries) that all have close ties to one place at BYU. I've been to Elder Johnson's house, and I meet his little brother and sister and I had a ward activity in his backyard (which Elder Johnson told me was his job to take care of). I'm still kind of going crazy about this. I'm really excited, though, because this means I'll probably be able to see Bishop Johnson again after my mission and thank him for all his support while I was at BYU. He was awesome.

I was informed this last week that I've been spelling something wrong... шапка (hat). Haha, silly me. Russian spelling isn't usually too hard because most words sound like they're spelled. Oh well, it happens.

I didn't realize, before coming on a mission, the friends that I would make here. Not just the elders I would serve with. They're all amazing and I'm confident that many of our friendships will continue on after we all return home. There are so many awesome examples that help me improve. I also didn't realize the examples of the members would have such an impact on me. They have gone through a lot to be members of the church. Many of them support one another, but the numbers here are so small. So few families are part of the church as a complete family. I think of my family and how awesome it is to have such support from each of them. They each have a testimony and they support me in the work I do. The members here are just awesome. They help us so much in doing missionary work because they understand the joy that comes from the gospel. It changes lives. I've had a glimpse of that. And it's such a great example to me.

I heard an interesting thought this last week. In reference to D&C 19, what would life be like if we didn't have repentance? That was an interesting thought that really made me ponder on how much I value the atonement of Christ. I make stupid mistakes all the time. I'm beginning to realize that breaking the commandments only hurts one’s own self, and that keeping the commandments (or even the little rules) helps us be safe and happy. Really happy. Not just happy for a little time, true happiness and peace, that cannot be described unless you do what the Lord asks of you and you experience it for yourself.

I've bought probably some of the last things I'll need for winter... I found boots today for a decent price! Elder Naumov is jealous and he wants them. :) I also bought another шапка (hat) this last week. It's the same as what I bought for Matt; rabbit. I figured, the one I had gotten a while back is really big and kind of unusual to wear unless it's really cold. So I've been wearing my rabbit one lately. Even it isn't quite as usual to wear right now. It's not quite cold enough apparently. But I think it is. :) And it's nice and warm and the lady gave me a discount since I'd bought one before from her for Matt.

I read a sweet quote I had written down I while ago from Elder Maxwell. " When we prove dependability, the Lord will take care of our capability." I really feel I haven't proved myself dependable yet. I've been so concerned about my capabilities (like speaking the language) that I've forgot about being dependable at all times to do the Lord's will.

I love you all and I'm super grateful for your support. I'm really glad to be hearing things are going well back home. :) Love you!

Пока пока (bye bye)!
Elder Bush

Monday, November 8, 2010

Lots of Teaching

Привет (Hello)!

Well, how's Elder Bush doing? He's doing just fine. It's getting a little colder and colder each day. But I'm doing alright. Gloves are on my list of things to buy today since my hands are tired of being cold. :) Tomorrow is Zone Conference for the North Zone (includes Sakhalin and Khabarovsk) so tomorrow morning we (Elder Naumov, Pavlov, and Zamora, and I) fly out to Хабаровск (Khabarovsk), have zone conference there, and then tomorrow night, we fly back to Сахалин (Sakhalin). It should be exciting and super cold! Хабаровск is super cold, as in superrrrr cold. I'm really excited to have zone conference. It's always a great time of instruction and realizing the things you can do better. Of course, you feel an awesome spiritual boost and desire to serve even more diligently.

Well, this last week has been a busy one. The branch here on Sakhalin does such an awesome job with missionary work that it really keeps us busy. We've been teaching several people, which has really helped me see my inadequacies in teaching as well as my strengths and that I can do it well, even in Russian. I have been struggling a lot lately with Russian and having the faith that the Lord can help me improve. I know that sounds silly but I've been making so many frustrating mistakes lately, and I realize I've just been too hard on myself. I just haven't been opening my mouth enough and sharing what I know to be true. And that which is not shared (or a skill such as Russian that is not used) is lost or taken from you. Anyway, Mom, your letter really helped me realize some things. For one, I should stop worrying about speaking perfectly and stop comparing myself to a native speaker. I just realized that I have been, and that certainly isn't realistic. I have certainly been blessed thus far. Basically, thank you, Mom. You really helped me.

Scriptures... I have really been struggling lately with remembering scriptures and being able to teach from them effectively. But I think that's going to change. I just love reading from them and applying them to myself. I've realized that I need to be using my study journal more. If I don't write my thoughts down, I forget them and can't recall them when I need them in a teaching moment. I've got so much going through my brain all the time that I feel that will help me get more organized and remember stuff. Anyway, that's probably not very interesting to you all. :)

We did a little service at the church this last week cleaning the grounds around the church and the walls and just making it look overall better. It was muddy and kind of hard to rake up the leaves since it had snowed/rained a little earlier in the week, but in the end, it looked pretty nice.

Yesterday, we had a lesson at a family’s house. The grandparents live here in South Sakhalin and the grandkids and parents live in another city. They always come into town on Sundays for church and have dinner together. They didn't have electricity in their part of town for some reason so we decided to bring them some food. We had prepared борщ (borscht) on Saturday and decided to share with them since we didn't know if they would have food. Turns out they have a gas stove and had made борщ already as well. :) Anyways, it was a fun little lesson with them, and it was great being around crazy little kids. It certainly reminded me of home. One of the kids asked us really hard questions that pulled from the Bible. I could hardly answer any of them because I either didn't understand the question or didn't know how to say the answer in Russian. But it was fun anyway. They were all so hospitable.

The branch here (just like Brother Boyer in the MTC said) is super strong and the members are just so awesome. The youth are great! They had a youth conference this last week in Vlad and it sounds like they had a great time. The members, like I said, are awesome at doing missionary work and are super helpful on lessons. Especially Игорь Ким (Igor Kim). Yes Игорь, that was a shout out to you. :) I hope you find my blog! Ты молодец (You’re doing fine!) They're also so much fun to associate with and become friends with. They're so loving, and it's great to have support from friends here in Russia as well as friends from back home. I didn't realize how awesome the friends would be that I would make on my mission.

Well, I can't think of anything else really exciting right now. I've been learning a lot about companions lately. Patience and love are the keys to success, as well as forgetting about yourself and your desires and trying to put him first. Sometimes it's really hard. Really hard. But super worth it. I never really understood why people said missions are great training for marriage. Now I get it. A mission is teaching me how to interact and be an even better future husband someday.

I love you all! I hope all of you have a great week!

С любовью (With love),

Старейшина Буш (Elder Bush)

P.S. This last week, I had a dream Trev got his mission call. I'm not going to tell you where he was called but we'll just see if my dream turns out to be right in the not so distant future. ;)

Monday, November 1, 2010

My Dearest Gramps

NOTE: Spencer's Grandpa Gee passed away this week.

Hey there everyone,

Well, this week has been a bit of a roller coaster for me. Now that I have tears running down my face sitting here in the post office, I hope I can get through all this email without anymore crying. Gosh darn it you gotta love Grandpa Gee. He certainly wasn't the average grandpa. Oh, he could sure make us all laugh. Remember how he called Bruegger’s Bagels, booger bagels. I thought of that every time I ate a bagel. Oh and sometimes before we would pray before eating, he would sing, "Bless this mess oh Lord we pray." :) On Thursday, our cell phone rang and I saw it was Pres. Pratt. I picked up the phone and he was in Kiev, Ukraine going to the temple shortly thereafter. I was pretty jealous. I've seen pictures and that temple is just gorgeous. I really want to make a trip there someday. Anyways, President then relayed to me the news about Grandpa as he had received it through the mission office from Elder Bodell. I didn't really know what to feel. As he spoke to me, I just was shocked because I hadn't expected anything to happen. I thought he was doing great and would be out of the hospital. Of course, I started crying and trying to hold back tears, I spoke with President about what I knew and who Grandpa was, etc. After I hung up, I just sat down and again, trying to hold back tears, I smiled and thought of all the wonderful things I had experienced with Grandpa. I continued working throughout the day because the Lord's work moves on. He comforted me immensely and I felt such peace and was able to focus on the day's work. That night however, was really hard for me. My companion and I talked for a little while and as I laid in bed, I couldn't hold back the tears any longer. I felt such sadness because I knew I wouldn't see him for a while. The last time I saw Gramps was as they dropped me off in the MTC and I regretted not giving him a bigger, longer hug goodbye. Not knowing it would be my last chance, I just sort of rushed because I didn't want to make it harder for them, and I later felt like I had just gone in a hurry and hadn't really even said goodbye or thanks. I love you Grandpa and I'm sorry I didn't give you a better hug goodbye. Thanks for all you did for me. "Did you hear that, grandpa?" :) I guess I had just planned on being able to sit around and tell Grandpa and Grandma stories of Russia and all the things I've learned and experienced. It was really hard to move past that feeling at first. But once again, the Lord blessed me and comforted me in my time of need. He still is comforting me.

Yesterday was a super cool experience that I don't know that I will be able to accurately convey but I'll try. The branch President here on Sakhalin decided to make Christ and His atonement the focus of the talks given in Sacrament meeting as well as the lesson he led in the third hour. First of all, during sacrament meeting, a young woman who returned from her mission several months ago shared an awesome thought. She posed the question "What things does God speak to us when we have written accounts of someone hearing his voice?" He testifies of His Son Jesus Christ. When Christ was baptized, the people there heard the voice of the Father proclaim the divinity of His Son while the Holy Ghost descended upon Christ after his baptism by water. When Christ appeared to the people of the American continent, the voice of the Father was heard again proclaiming, This is my Beloved Son in whom I have glorified my name. Hear him. (paraphrasing that since I don't exactly remember) And then when The Father and Christ appeared to the boy Joseph Smith, the Father said, This is my Beloved Son. Hear him. The Father doesn't say, Follow my Commandments or something else important. He says the most important thing. The one thing He wants all of us to know and remember. He testifies of His Son. That he is the Savior and the Redeemer of all mankind. He is Jesus the Christ. During the third hour, while President Letagin testified of Christ and His atonement, I felt the Spirit so strongly testify to my heart that Jesus is the Christ. He is our Savior and His atonement, His sacrifice, makes it possible for us to return to the presence of the Father. I thought about the atonement differently though because it pointed my thoughts to Grandpa. The atonement is the first key in affording me the opportunity to see Grandpa Gee again. Secondly, being sealed in the temple makes that desire a very real possibility. If I live worthy of such a blessing, I can continue that relationship with Grandpa and all my loved ones, all of my family after this life since we are sealed together for time and all eternity. How awesome and comforting and just plain awesome. "Did you hear that, Gramps?" We can be together forever.

I've been praying a lot for everyone at home. Especially for Mom and for Grandma. I love you Grandma. I know you'll be with gramps again. :) I hope all goes well at the viewings and the grave side service. Of course, I want to be there, but I have felt the comfort and reassurance that all will be well. Please Mom and Dad, tell all the family hello for me and that I love them all and miss them of course.

We had a super fun Family Home Evening activity at an awesome family’s house. They made super delicious food (none of it really Russian. It was more Korean. And there was curry and yummy desserts.) They are just super nice. Earlier in the week, Elder Naumov and I had helped the Brother of this family with the house he's building. It had snowed like crazy that day (last Tuesday) and we had to carry a ton of plywood sheets through the snow into the house. My feet were FREEZINGGG!!! I only had these really cheap chinese tennis shoes I bought on the reenok. (I don't know how to change the keyboard into Russian right now. Weird.) I had my good socks on and they helped at first, but in the end, my feet were just soaked. Oh well. :) Then on Saturday evening, we had a branch Halloween activity where we played games as a group, ate food (treats=YUMMMM) and played board games. Let me tell you, that was pretty hard at first doing it in Russian. Elder Zamora and I were super lost at first. But most of the people here on Sakhalin actually speak English too, so that helped a little. I also took comfort in the fact that Elder Pavlov who’s from Moscow didn't understand what was going on either and he understood all the words being said. It was just a tricky game to start out with.

The biggest difference between Sakhalin and all the other branches in the mission is the impact of member missionary work. The branch mission leader really stresses that and it really makes a difference. I'll clue you all in later on how things are going with the work here. But basically, the Lord is blessing us with lots of opportunities to teach and share the greatest message in the world with everyone.

I miss you all but I hope you have a great time enjoying the company of family and friends and remembering all the great times we've all shared with Grandpa here on earth. Don't worry, we'll get to see him again. :) And he'll be looking down on us. I'm excited already to go back to Korea and attend the temple because I know that is the place where the veil is thin, where I can feel his presence and his love. I love you all! I hope you have a safe trip back home.


Elder Bush

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Second Trip to Korea

How are you all doing?! I'm doing great! I spent the weekend in Vlad and I fly back to Sakhalin later today. I started counting and I realized I've already been on a lot of flights in the 6 months or so that I've been in the country. Kinda crazy. So Korea was great and so much less stressful because I knew where we were going and what to do. The temple was by far the best part. I just loved being in the temple and to feel the Lord's love and His Spirit there. It's a feeling that is so hard to describe because it is greater than anything else in the world. Shopping in Korea and bargaining with the shop owners was fun and eventful. I got a medium size coat (warm enough for right now), scarves, kepka (which is a kind of hat), and a couple of ties. I also ate yummy food! On the Border (the Mexican restaurant all the missionaries like), McDonalds (a Big Mac and McFlurry; never thought I'd miss those so much :)), Pizza Hut, Duncan Donuts, and we found a grocery store and bought Captain Crunch and Korean milk which tastes much more like American than Russian milk. We also met this couple that are members of the church, (she was from Canada and he was from Australia) they live in Seoul and they took Elders Winkler and Connely to Costco. I was super jealous! But I got some Costco cookies so I was happy. :) And there is an American couple who send things home for the missionaries that met us on Thursday night, and I gave him Matt's rabbit shopka! So it should get home soonish. It only costs him around $10 to send things home for us because he works for the army and it costs the same for him as if he were sending it within the US.

On the flight from Sakhalin to Korea, there were a few Americans on the flight, and I talked to one of them before going through customs. He immediately told me he wasn't interested before I really said anything but we had a good little conversation afterwards and I came to find out that he's from Greenville, SC! His name was John and he was visiting some friends, I guess. What a small world. He was on his way home from Seoul to Atlanta and then Greenville. Then this other American, on the plane sitting next to me, was originally from Alabama but lives in Vietnam right now with his wife and daughter and works for months at a time on Sakhalin. There's actually a lot of Americans it seems on Sakhalin. Well more than the rest of Russia. A lot in the oil business. The Exxon Mobil headquarters for Russia is right down the street from our apartment and the ward mission leader is the head geologist for Exxon Mobile in all of Russia. He seems to be pretty successful.

Anyway, all of our travels worked out just fine. I have certainly felt the Lord's hand guiding me and helping me do all that is asked of me. A mission is the coolest experience of a lifetime! I got an awesome letter from Uncle Butchie and Grandma and Grandpa Gee while I was in Korea! (it got passed along to Elder Connely who brought it with him) and then while in Vlad, I got four letters from Fallon! You can let her know I got them and I'm super happy to hear from her!

Grandma and Grandpa Bush asked about food and some other stuff but all I can remember was about food... So I'll write a little about food. We prepare most of our food. Occasionally we just buy a simple dinner or lunch at a little store here and there if we're out and about, and there are actually some yummy restaurants where we eat every once in a while. I've learned how to prepare some dishes (still haven't really tried borscht myself but sometime in the future I will). People often have something they feed us if we come to visit them. They're very hospitable in that regard. They love to fill you up. They almost always drink чай (tea, usually herbal) which I don't really care for, but you drink it because it's insulting if you don't. It's also hard to refuse food or get away without having seconds. If you hesitate in answering, you pretty much have to say yes because if you say no, you might offend your hosts. As far as food we prepare, we often make pasta or rice and chicken, simple meals that you could make in America. Occasionally, Elders learn how to make things that are more Russian.

Well, family, I love you all so much and I'm super grateful for all your support. I'm at a point right now where I just feel so happy to be on a mission. It's hard and challenging and frustrating and stretching me, but I now can say, I feel content and happy and enjoy being a missionary. The Lord is blessing me so much with the language. I certainly don't understand everything but I am able to say and understand so much more. In the taxi from the airport, I was able to have a full on conversation most of the way back to Vlad with the taxi driver, and I was so amazed at all the Lord has helped me learn and retain. I must always be mindful of His help.

As far as companions, if you want me to be honest, they can drive me crazy. Absolutely crazy. But it does me no good to focus on that. It hinders my progress and my ability to work in unity and fulfill the Lord's will, which is so much more important. It's hard, but it's worth it. There are some companions, such as Elder Zamora and Elder Waltman, who will be life-long friends. They are such great examples and are strong in the Gospel of Christ. I've grown some in dealing with people and things that bug me or are offensive or just not pleasant. It's a blessing and I'm super grateful.

Well, I love you all once again. I hope you all have a super awesome week!

С любовью,
Elder Bush

Monday, October 18, 2010

Guess what .....I moved!

Well, this last week has sure been a crazy one. I found out last Tuesday, when I was at the bus station dropping off Elder Kozodoev, that the Lord had decided to transfer me. I've come to learn more this last week that it is the Lord who decides where we serve and do His work. President told me he hadn't planned on transferring me but prayed long and hard to know who to put with my companion, and in the end, felt the Lord wanted me to serve with him. So, I'm now on Sakhalin serving with Elder Naumov along with Elder Pavlov and Elder Zamora! Sakhalin is an island just north of Japan. I was super excited to be serving in the same city as Elder Zamora. He's such a stud. Elder Naumov was one of the assistants when I came into the country and is a little particular and stubborn and persistent and awesome all in his own way. It will be a great experience serving with him. I'm just super grateful to be serving with a companion that loves the work, loves the Lord, is a native and yet knows English pretty darn well. :) Flying here was interesting. And to be honest, I was super sad to leave Usserisk. I knew and felt comfort in the fact that it's what the Lord wanted. But it was super hard to leave such awesome members. Hopefully, I'll see them again. So the flight situation... I had to meet President Pratt in the airport before he left to Moscow to get discs for General Conference to take to Sakhalin. (See note at bottom.) Except, I didn't know when exactly or where I would meet him (although the domestic side of the airport is smaller than I realized; now I know that) and I had no cell phone and basically, I was a little freaked out at the possibility of not meeting up with him since I was the lifeline to Sakhalin getting conference. Thankfully, we met, exchanged stuff, and then I waited for a while to be able to check in. While checking in, I noticed my bag was almost 5 kg too heavy. The girl at the desk just looked at me and since I hadn't said a word to her, she probably assumed I didn't speak a lick of Russian so she didn't do anything about it and just let me go without paying the fee. Lucky me. In the end, I made it here safe and sound.

I'm leaving for Korea on Wednesday and I come back on Friday night. Although, I don't return to Sakhalin. I go back to Vlad for the weekend because Elder Zamora has to do something there on Monday at the consulate. And then on Monday, we fly back to Sakhalin. So we'll see how emailing home and p-day in general goes next week.

So, General Conference was good. I wish I could say it was just awesome, but listening to all of it in Russian made it difficult to love it. I had expected that Elder Zamora and I would get to watch in English (and it certainly was possible) but our leaders just didn't feel like making that available. I know I should have just loved it but focusing in Russian made it difficult to get as much meaning out of the sessions. Plus, the translations play the English really faintly in the background so sometimes I could hear English and it made it hard to focus on one language. I was super surprised at how much I did get out of the sessions though. While in the MTC, I listened to some conference in Russian and was absolutely lost. I actually understood a lot of conference and could follow the translator as he spoke a million miles and hour. I prayed really hard during the first session for the Lord to help me #1 get over the disappointment of not watching in English and #2 that he would help me understand, learn, and grow. I will say that listening in Russian was a cool experience because it forced me to focus and draw out all that I could understand and listen to the spirit and apply what I was hearing. By the end though, I was fried. :) 10 hours is a lot of Russian.

I loved the story from conference that you shared, Mom, about the truck needing to follow in the tracks of the vehicle in front while traveling through a mine field. Trevor, I have not always been a good lead Hummer. I have strayed and hit a few mines in my time. But if you can do all you can to stay on the tracks of going on a mission to serve the Lord, you will never regret it.

Honestly, I can't really think of all the other stuff I loved. I really need to look at my notes. Oh! President Monson's talk on gratitude was great! And President Uchtdorf's on pride and being humble. The best way to be more humble... Think less of yourself. That's so true! I need to stop thinking about myself, and get to work thinking about others!

I love the prophet. I know he is the man the Lord has called to lead His church. Follow him. It's that simple. I know this church is true. I know without doubt that it is true and will bring happiness to all those that study the teachings of the Restored Gospel of Christ. They will understand and come to see the big picture. This life is so vital and yet so small in the grand scheme of things. That's one reason I've decided to serve this mission. I want to give this big picture to others so they can resolutely direct themselves and their families through this life and onto the next where they can live forever if sealed in the temple of our Lord. I'm super excited to go to the temple this next week. I love the House of the Lord. It is where His spirit dwells in abundance.

So Sakhalin is interesting. It looks a lot more like home than anywhere else I've been in Russia. The branch here is pretty strong and we have our own building, which is pretty nice. The members are great, although I haven't met very many of them yet. I have really been impressed at how the Lord has been working through me lately to speak His words and share His message in another language. I'm blown away at how much he has helped me learn and yet in awe of how much I don't know and need to learn. All in time.

If anyone has sent me anything, I'll probably be getting it next weekend while I'm in Vlad. (My computer froze earlier and I came back to the post office later in the day to send this. I don't have much time but I wanted to make sure I sent this and you all got it.)

I love you all so much! I hope this email makes sense since I kinda got interrupted. Hope you have a wonderful week!

Elder Bush

NOTE: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a General Conference twice a year, in April and October. Most members of the Church are able to watch this conference by satellite, but in some areas of the world they have to wait for DVDs with a translated version to be sent a couple of weeks later.

Monday, October 11, 2010

My dear Family,

October 4,

(So you all know, this first part of the email is from last week. The power went out at the internet place so I didn't get to finish. Sorry! I did however get your emails last week.)

I am so blessed and honored have you as my family. Mom and Dad, you are both wonderful. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your emails. You have no idea how awesome it felt to read of your words for me, your encouragement, and your love. Really, it's so much more than I can express. As far as General Conference, we get to watch it in 2 weeks. Disks with the Russian translation, as well as English, get sent to us so we'll meet together on the 16th and 17th of this month to watch the sessions. I'm super excited!!! I really just can't understand why I didn't love conference more before my mission. I mean, I loved it, but this is like a missionary's Super Bowl. It's what I've been waiting for the past six months. :)

This last week, probably the greatest event yet was when the CES directors for the Far Eastern Europe Area and Новосибирск Area came to visit us here in Уссурийск. Brother Kosack and Caшa something (I don't remember his last name). Bro. Kosack is from Germany but lives in Moscow (he's the branch president there of the international branch). He spoke great English and pretty good Russian. They were both just hilarious and so much fun to be around. They're CES people like Brother Nixon. I didn't want them to go because I couldn't stop laughing. They came to figure out what they could do to strengthen the youth and the seminary and institute programs here in the Far East as well as provide some training for teachers. I could just tell how much they love their work and the Lord.

This last week, I read both of Elder Bednar's talks on praying that he gave a couple years ago. I loved in the second one he gave how he compared the scripture, I believe in Moses 3:5 about all things being spiritually created and then naturally. “For I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth”. He then compared that to our prayers. I had never seemed to grasp that, and now I do. Prayer is so key to life. It's a conversation with Heavenly Father. I testify that he listens and answers. It's not just one way. It's so much more. I now understand why I need to pray in the morning. Why wouldn't I want to spiritually build my day and plead for His help?

The weather is getting colder. Right now, it's rainy. I really need to buy a kepka but I'm sort of at the mercy of my companion's desires. Oh well. I have come to love him. He may drive me a little crazy, but he is an awesome missionary, and we have had some great moments serving together. Prayer has helped me love him and see all the good in him.

I testify that the Lord …(this is where the power went out at the internet place with only a few minutes left on my time)

Oct. 11th

Hey there! So I don't know where I was going with that last statement. Probably something like, I testify to you that the Lord is mindful of each and every single one of us. We are all his children and he knows us each by name. He loves us so much.

This last week has been a good one. We had another baptism in Уссурийск! Her name is Татьяна (I think I told you about her. She’s the one who asked me to give her a blessing a few weeks ago). She's just awesome. I always love the special spirit that attends a baptism. I've been thinking lately how simple and yet profound the ordinances of the gospel are. They're so simple and do not take much time at all. However, they are binding and forever, and the feeling that occurs along with them can only be described as the Spirit of the Lord. I love that peaceful, reassuring, happy feeling. Павел, who was baptized a couple weeks ago, received the priesthood yesterday, and it was another small but awesome experience.

So this last week, I had an interesting encounter with some young girls on the street. There were three of them and they were probably 12 or 13. Maybe 14. Let's just say they were ridiculous. Trevor would have had none of their nonsense. I've never met such forward and well, stupidly acting girls in my life. It was shocking and saddening that they would act that way (trying to get us to smoke, asking if we "wanted" them, grabbing me and my companion and not letting us leave, throwing rocks at us as we walked away, and all mixed in with some lovely cursing. Don't worry, they threw rocks like girls ;) so it didn't hurt, but I was surprised they would do that. In the end, a group of people drinking near the home we were at yelled at them to leave us alone.

Afterward, we had a lesson in probably the most run down home I've been in yet with a man that is so sincere and humble and has some trouble with learning and remembering things. That lesson was an experience that taught me how each lesson must be for the individual person. I had to change my teaching to fit him and work with him on his level of understanding to help him grow closer to Christ. Although we usually have 8 principles to discuss when we teach about the plan of salvation, he needs a slower pace, so today we'll focus on one or two and review with him to help him understand. The gospel is so cool.

Here's an interesting fact I learned yesterday while doing finances in the branch president's office. I noticed a ton of bugs outside flying by the window. Turns out they were ladybugs. In Russian, ladybug is little god cows. I have absolutely no idea why.

Something interesting I heard a few days ago by Elder Eyring that I thought I'd share (I don't know if I've already shared this) but he said something to the effect of "when we pass to the other side, we will be surprised at how familiar our Heavenly Father appears to us." That's a really cool thought.

Yesterday, at church, I noticed how much I have come to love the people here. Sister Слава was having a rough day and it was apparent that she was upset and that she had been crying. I sat down beside her and asked if I could help in anyway. She smiled that Sister Слава smile, put her hand on my should and said “No, but thank you.” My heart went out to her. I had no idea why she was upset, but I felt such love for her and so many of the Russian people here that I wanted so badly to help her feel better. I guess missions do that to you.

Glad to hear you liked borscht and plov! When I told Elder K. that you had made some last week, he asked how, and I said you got recipes from the internet. He was jealous because he doesn't have internet service at home and you can find out anything basically on the internet. I actually made plov today. It was tasty.

Well, I love you all. Elder Koзoдoeв leaves for Vlad tomorrow and then flies home on Wed. So I'll be here with Elder Fife until transfers at the end of the week. I have a feeling I'll be staying in Уссурийск. Mostly because Pres. Pratt kind of already told me. He's having me put together a schedule for the patriarch coming in a couple weeks. I'll tell you more about that next time. Got to go! LOVE YOU!

Elder Bush

Monday, October 4, 2010

No Email This Week

We didn't get an email from Elder Bush this week. ;( He and his companion may have been occupied with other tasks or couldn't get access to a computer. Check back next week.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Two Baptisms and Another to Come

We wrote to Spencer that Elder Henderson called us last week after he and his wife had returned to Utah from their mission in Russia. He told us that Elder Bush was doing well. In response, Spencer wrote:

Those good ole' Hendersons! And by ole' I mean really really young and not old. Haha! That was really nice of them to call you. They were such a sweet couple serving here and made such an impact. I'll miss them. I can't wait to go and see the McGills and Hendersons out in Utah after I get home. Missions are where lifelong friends are made. :)

This last week has been a good one. Павел and Наталья were baptized this last weekend! They’re a couple that first came into contact with the church and the Book of Mormon eight years ago. As I taught priesthood yesterday, (yes I of all people taught priesthood yesterday) I looked into Павел's eyes and I could tell how grateful he was for the peace he has found. The baptismal service was wonderful. As both Elder Waltman and Elder Козодоев began to say the words of the ordinance, the Spirit flooded the room and it was a wonderful feeling. Setting up the font the day before was a little interesting. Turns out there are these poles that are needed to hold the font up (it's a little portable font, kind of like a little pool). Unfortunately, Elder Козодоев didn't know what they were for and threw them out a few weeks ago. So we made a couple trips to the hardware store and got PVC pipes instead. Problem was they gave a little, so by the time we were able to fill the font with buckets of water and a little sucking contraption, the walls of the font were bulging just slightly. (Don't worry I took pictures but forgot my cord today as usual so I'll try to get them to you soon.) Then the next day, Павел strung a cord back and forth across the top of the font in order to hang heaters into the water so the font wasn't freezing cold. It looked a little interesting but everything worked out. Elder Waltman and Steward and I sang “Love at Home” during the service, and it turned out well. I prayed we would sing with the voices of angels. :) I don't think we were angels but Павел and Наталья were very grateful as I noticed they quietly sang along with us.

President and Sister Pratt were here in Usserisk with the assistants this last weekend. They brought my shopka which I had left in Vlad! I was super happy and glad to have it in my possession. Everyone loved it and kept trying it on. It really is ginormous. Yesterday, during sacrament meeting, Elder Waltman, Stewart, and I sang “O My Father” to the tune of “Come thou Fount” and it turned out alright. I just love music, and I love to sing even if the Lord didn't bless me with a Mormon Tabernacle Choir voice (or the voice of Joe Metro). :) He'll be happy to know I sang tenor and survived.

Brother Bates, my Elder’s Quorum President from Florida, wrote me a letter while I was in the MTC and mentioned something to me that he had seen while at the Temple. He foresaw that while I would serve in Russia, I would be before the priesthood instructing them and helping them come closer to the Lord. Yesterday was the second time I had been asked to teach and I felt it is in part a fulfillment of what Brother Bates shared with me. Let him know I have never forgotten that and I'm thankful for his support. Oh and I shared thoughts from Elder Rasband's talk in last conference. The discussion got away from me and the topic a little bit but it turned out ok. At least not horrible.

The woman I told you about last week set a baptismal date yesterday for two weeks from now! She was just so excited! Elder Fife said that she told him she wasn't even going to go to sleep last night. She just wanted to read the Book of Mormon. He told her they would talk about the Plan of Salvation next week and she said, "Give me scriptures so I can study a head of time!" She wasn't satisfied with two or three. She is a testament to me that the Lord prepares his children for his gospel. I read a talk this last week on the Book of Mormon and seriously, if anyone wants to know if what I'm doing is worthwhile, if this church is true, if the message I share with people is true, they just have to read the Book of Mormon. It's all there. I also read a talk from a few conferences ago given by Elder Holland entitled "My Words...Never Cease." I loved it. It is so logical and really helped me gain a stronger testimony of the book I already love. God still speaks in our day. He has a prophet on the earth right now, and the Book of Mormon is true. It supports the Bible so much and it is so plain and understandable it makes scripture study so much fun. That's a simple testimony and written words are not nearly as powerful as the spoken word, as Nephi says, but I hope you all know how I feel inside. I love this work even though I've never been more whipped in my life.

I also read a talk by Elder Bednar about asking in Faith. Anyone that wants their prayers to be more effective and meaningful, go find that talk and read it. It's so good and really helped me out.

Well, it's been interesting being the companion of the branch president. Missionary work is a little different when you have to fit in more interviews and branch business after church and helping a companion who has to deal with real life problems and help counsel people, etc. I've had a lot of time to reflect and well, it's just been an interesting transfer. I'm not really sure how else to say it.

I love you all so much. You're all in my prayers. Thanks for the support and advice and the prayers you all offer on my behalf.

Elder Bush

Monday, September 20, 2010

Digging Potatoes and Other Service

Hey there Fam!

How are you all? This last week was a good one. Fallon... HAPPY 20th BIRTHDAY!!! I hope it was a great one!!! :) Thanks mom for the encouragement and advice. I needed it. Real quick, I wanted to say thank you for all you have taught me mom and dad. This may be a little thing but it was a big thing to me. Yesterday, in Priesthood, Elder Козодоев was teaching and mentioned a story about President Grant. It was about him wanting to be an accountant, but he had horrible handwriting. So he worked on it and worked on it and eventually had the best handwriting of any accountant around. I remembered the story from a video we had watched, and it hit me that something as simple as watching films about the prophets on Sunday night is a teaching opportunity, and I learned those stories then and can still recall bits and pieces of them now, even in Russian. So thank you for all the opportunities you both took to teach me and raise me. I've made lots of mistakes and am most assuredly far from perfect, but I'm trying to do better each day.

So yesterday, I sat in on a lesson with an investigator in the Center area who is a friend of the Relief Society President in the branch. The investigator’s name is Tatiana, and she was just awesome! She was a testimony to me that the Lord is preparing people for His message to come closer to Him. It was just amazing! She soaked up the information and was so eager and interested in learning more. I guess sister Rumantseva (the Relief Society President) had talked with her about blessings and she asked if we could give her one. So Elder Fife explained to her what a blessing is and how we do it. He told her that she could choose who would anoint and give the blessing. She asked Elder Fife to anoint and me to bless. I knew even before she asked that I would be giving the blessing. I was so nervous starting out since it was the first blessing I had ever given. I wanted so badly to say what the Lord would have me say. It was a simple blessing, but I felt impressed to say some specific things and while my Russian was far from perfect, afterward, she said she felt something wonderful she had never felt before. It was a strong testament to me that I am doing the Lord's work and I am His instrument.

On Saturday, we did some service. We harvested Russian potatoes! And boy does my back ache! and my legs. The branch mission leader has a small plot of land where he grows potatoes, so we had an elders' quorum activity digging up potatoes and delivering them to the members. One of the investigators in the branch, Павел, has a machine plow that made the work much easier and yet was still very hard and tiring. He let me use it, and I was grateful to pass it on back to him. It certainly wasn't easy. All in all, it was a great day. The potatoes were delicious but I certainly don't want to pick up another one or dig through the dirt to find one for a while. Oh and before that, we took some chairs from the church and donated them to a school here in Usserisk. We all wore Mormon's Helping Hands shirt things, and it was fun. I forgot my camera but Elder K got some pictures so I'll get them from him and send them to you soon.

Well, all in all, I'm doing well and learning a lot. I love my area, and I'm glad to still be in Usserisk. I have been learning a lot of Russian, so much that it seems to be exploding out of my head. I'm starting to forget other things I learned earlier, so I just have to keep studying. Thank you for all your prayers on my behalf. I know the Lord is answering them because I feel His help always. The atonement is a beautiful thing that we can all take advantage of and draw closer to Christ. I love you all! Hope you have a great week. :)

Elder Bush

P.S. CONGRATS, NATE! I hope you had a wonderful wedding and I wish you and your bride all the best! :)

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Week of Change

Hey there fam!

First off, I really needed to hear some of what you all wrote to me. I needed your counsel and your love, so thank you. I got a letter from Fal, Mrs. Frapp, and Grandma Gee this last week! (in case they’re wondering when I got them) They were all super great and lifted my spirits. :) Grandma wrote me something interesting about my cousin, Joe, speaking at his homecoming. He said that he loved every day of his mission. That is certainly a gift and a blessing from the father because I have not loved every day of my mission. But I have a feeling that may change. Since reading that, I've decided I'm going to work even harder and pray even more earnestly that the Lord will bless me so I can love each day I serve here in the beautiful land. Sometimes I'm completely overwhelmed at my task and calling. Other times I'm in awe that I'm really here, right now, serving the Lord in Russia. I read a scripture yesterday that made me think of Joe. It was in Alma 30:9. Alma recounts about how it is a privilege to serve God. A privilege. I can't let myself forget that.

Well, this last week, (yesterday, actually) we saw off Elder Лантух on his way to Vlad and then on to the MTC, and then he'll be off to Moscow! Exciting. I had my first companionship inventory with Elder Kозодоев yesterday. It was interesting. (If you don't know what that is, look in Chapter 8 of Preach My Gospel at the end of the weekly planning session section – excerpt below.) I'm not here to write anything negative about my companion, because I love him. But I think I kind of offended him and I certainly didn't mean to. Anyway, I just hope that when I get to be six weeks from the end of my mission, I can take advice or counsel from a junior companion and realize I can learn from him too. I think the problem is kind of in the fact that I can't express every single thought I want to in Russian. But we'll see if that doesn't get better by the end of this transfer. I’ll just have to rely on the Lord.

We had a really awesome FHE (family home evening) at the Henderson's (our senior couple) last Monday. I'll quickly share a really neat experience ... We had an awesome sister over from the branch and her friend, who is investigating the church. Her friend asked for a blessing and so Elder Henderson gave the blessing and I translated. I was really nervous at first but as I walked over to stand next to them, I felt peace flood the room and a feeling of confidence filled me. As the blessing started, I just started speaking and the words came. I didn't speak perfectly and I stumbled over a few words but the words came and the grammar came and it was understandable. As I heard the words pronounced by Elder Henderson and then as I translated, I felt how much the Lord loved this woman, one of his daughters; how much he loves us. :) Aw, it was such a good experience to be, as Alma says, an instrument in the hands of the Lord.

The Henderson's time to head home arrived this last week, so we had to help them pack up some stuff, move out and close out the apartment since other missionaries won't be living there. It was really hard for them to leave. Fortunately, we had a little party with some of the members one evening, and I think it helped them handle saying goodbye. Moving and packing sort of drained a lot of our time, but it had to be done and it was good to provide some worthwhile service. We have some great investigators in the North area, so we'll see how things progress. If you can remember, please pray for them. :)

Saturday was the birthday of Уссурийск (Ussuriysk), so there was lots going on, and there were a lot of drunk people. They left a big mess all over the city come the next day, but we got to see some of the festivities. I heard there was a parade on the city square, but I didn't get to see it, which was okay from what I heard.

Basically, all is well with me. I'm working hard to grow and learn and improve each day so that I can be the servant the Lord wants me to be. Sometimes, it's really hard. Matt, thanks for the little hello! :) In answer to Matt’s question about how big my shopka is, it’s probably pretty big, because my head is ginormous. I was lucky that I even found one that fit me in the style I found. I heard that the picture of me in my shopka is my face book profile picture. Nice move dad. :) I miss all of you and I hope you're doing awesome. You're always in my prayers.

Let me know if there's anything you're wondering about or things you want to know. We had a couple colder windier days this last week. It got me excited for the cold. :)

Well, Love you all!

Elder Bush

NOTE: Conduct companionship inventory. At the end of your weekly planning session, share with your companion appropriate goals, and ask for his or her help to accomplish them. Discuss the strength of your relationship with your companion. Discuss any challenges that may be keeping your companionship from working in unity or from being obedient. Resolve conflicts. Share with your companion what you think his or her strengths are. Ask for suggestions on how you can improve. If needed, set goals that will improve your relationship. Conclude with prayer. (Preach My Gospel, p. 148)

Monday, September 6, 2010

Another Transfer Begins

And so, another transfer begins. (Missionaries measure time in transfers, which are six weeks.) Mom asked about the weather, and right now it's actually a lot like home. Always hot. And often muggy. I sweat a lot. Ew. It's starting to get a little better. The biggest difference is there aren't many places with air conditioning, so it may not always get quite as hot as home, but there isn't somewhere to just get away from the heat. Anyway, it should be getting cooler soon. By next transfer when I go to Korea, it will probably be cold. Last year, the first day of snow was Halloween.

So, this last week, I had one interesting journal worthy event. On Wednesday night I think it was, Elder Williams got a call from the security company the church pays and they said we needed to come to the church because an alarm had gone off. So we got dressed in normal clothes and made our way to the church. We don't live far from the church, but it was just weird being out at night dressed like normalish people. (Probably still looked very American). We got there and one of the security guards had an AK47 strapped to his shoulder. I think he meant business. I let him go in before us, but nothing had happened in the church. Someone probably just touched a window from outside or something, but all was fine inside. The guards were nice. It was just the weirdest thing to walk the streets at night.

I met some interesting people this last week. One guy stopped us and was trying to get us to smoke and drink with him. After talking to him about the Book of Mormon, he looked through it and made a comment about how he needed some more toilet paper and maybe he could use the Book. I quickly snatched the book from him and walked away. He said he was joking but still I was appalled. The greatest book I have ever read, a book I hold dear, which is from God, our Heavenly Father and you just said what? Maybe next time he runs into missionaries he'll be interested. The work here has been hard. I can see this next transfer will have its challenges but having a native companion makes things different. They understand everything and can speak on such a deeper level with people about the church and life. I hope to take every advantage I can to grow as a missionary and a servant of Heavenly Father.

One funny note, I made chicken nuggets this last week for lunch one day! They were delicious! It's kind of interesting figuring out what you can make here in Russia. They don't have all the things we have back in America, so some recipes are useless.

This last week, we had a few lessons with members, trying to strengthen them. I just love the members here! They’re seriously amazing. There are a few young people and two sisters that just got back from serving missions. They are dynamite! and the future of the church in Russia. If you could, pray for the members here in Russia, they need it.

I can already tell now that this next transfer will be interesting in seeing how a branch president works and helping Elder Kozodoev do all he has to do as a branch president. I'm kind of like his executive secretary as Elder Henderson put it (a senior couple missionary here in Usserisk). Weird. (If you’re wondering about what a branch president is, see note below.)

Well, that's all for now. Let me know if there's anything else you want to know about as far as Russia/Usserisk/the life of a missionary goes. I haven't really taken any good new pictures so I'll try to soon and get you some new ones.

Keep praying for me. I sure could use it. :) It seems weird to be asking for prayers. I hope that's allowed. I love and appreciate all the prayers offered in my behalf. You all are so awesome. Congrats, Trev, on earning your Eagle. You're a stud. Don't forget it. :)

Love you all! Elder Bush

P.S. Dad, I was glad to hear that you got to talk to Mr. Martin. If you can, tell him I knew he would like the shopka. :)

Abe, never thought the day would come. :) CONGRATS!!! on your engagement. :)

In response to hearing about Josh's mission call: SWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEETT!!!!!! Tell him I say congrats!!!! :)

NOTE: In the LDS Church, congregations are called wards or branches, a branch being smaller than a ward. A ward is led by a bishop, who is selected out of the ward’s membership to serve for about five years. A branch is led by a branch president, who is usually chosen in a similar manner as a bishop. In some areas of the church, where the church is new and the members don’t yet have much experience, missionaries are asked to serve in the branch leadership. Spencer’s new companion has been serving as the branch president for the branch in Usserisk.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Work with Russian Elders Helps With Language

This last week has been another great week full of experiences that are making me stretch and grow. So, to start off, there was a special training in Vlad this last week for all mission leaders, so Elder Williams was in Vlad, and I was with Elder Kozadoev and Elder Lantukh. (I spoke a lot more Russian this last week because, as you might be able to tell, those are not American names. It was actually really good for me) Because of the training, we found out about transfers a little early. President called while we were out contacting, and I'm going to.... stay in Usserisk! But I'm changing areas. I’m heading north and I'll be serving with Elder Kozadoev! I wasn’t expecting that at all. We all figured he would have a native companion because after this next transfer, he'll be going home and needs to train the next branch president seeing as he is the branch president now. President told the Usserisk Elders that we need to find someone to be the next branch president quickly. We'll see what the Lord has in mind for the future.

This last week serving with Russians was really hard and really amazing. It was super hard at first because I realized how simply I've been doing the work. I have my limited Russian and I can fairly easily communicate that, but really sitting down and having a gospel conversation is difficult because I can't understand or convey everything. I also realized things I can improve on and how I can approach people better. I don't know if this is making sense, but it was, all in all, a very good learning experience for me. I felt at first, that Russians can do this work so much better than I can. And then I realized that's silly. Maybe they can speak their native language better than I can and therefore, their conversation skills are better, but I can get there if I have faith in the Lord and work more diligently. Everyone tells me my language skills are amazing for where I'm at, and I mention that only because it is a testament to me that the Lord qualifies and shapes and builds up those he calls. I could only do this as a missionary, as a servant of the Lord.

I actually taught a lot of lessons with investigators this last week and the week before. And by lots, I mean like two each week. But after weeks of contacting, it feels good to teach. I was on one lesson this last week that was one of the best experiences ever. The man's name is Boris and we shared with him the 3rd lesson, the gospel of Jesus Christ. The spirit was certainly there and while there was probably more info than he could take in all at once, he was positive to the message and receptive, and I pray he will feel of its power and see how it can bless and change his life. He'll be in Novosibirsk this next month so we'll see how things progress.

So yesterday was AWESOME! We went to Vlad for the Kiev Ukraine Temple dedication. (See note below.) And I absolutely loved it! One of the better days of my mission for sure. It was great to be back in Vlad and see familiar faces of course. At a half hour before, they began showing pictures of the temple and immediately, I felt the Spirit flood the room. It was such a great experience. I loved the thought of how a simple room in an office building in Vlad where we meet for church can suddenly become an extension of the temple where the Lord's spirit can abide. President Monson was funny as always. :) I was surprised at how much I understood in Russian. And it was sweet to get to do the Hosanna Shout in Russian as well. We missed our bus coming back to Usserisk so the members were able to get on another one and the missionaries had to wait and stay in Vlad. We were considering staying the night in Vlad and then a man came up, told us he had a cheap taxi for us, and in the end, we passed everyone and made it back to Usserisk in record time. Gotta love Russian taxi drivers. :)

All in all, a great week. :) I love you all and you're always in my prayers. Tell Grandma and Grandpa Bush I got their letter, and I was very grateful for it. :) I love them! And I got a letter from Sister Smith and Roxy Sandholtz. Thank you all for the letters!

Love you family. Have a great week!

Elder Bush

**NOTE: After a temple is built and an open house is held, it is dedicated. After the dedication, only LDS Church members with a temple recommend can enter the temple. In order to allow more people to participate in the dedication, the services are shown via satellite transmission to churches in the general region. The chapel becomes an extension of the temple for this meeting and members 8 years and older receive a temple recommend to be able to attend.