Tuesday, March 30, 2010

This work is His work

Last week was the second time we taught the Restoration in Russian, and it was certainly a thrill. The week prior, Elder Zamora had spoken so well and conveyed most of the message while I really struggled to get through what I attempted to say. Last week, I felt the spirit guide my thoughts and the words came to me without nearly the same struggle. I feel that is in part to my preparation but also because Elder Zamora and I prayed, before entering the room, that the Lord would loosen our tongues and convey through us what he would have us teach. This work is His work. It's so much easier when we let Him guide us, even in Russian. Now, that's not to say that I said everything perfectly. I still butchered Russian. But the spirit carried the message I had to share.

The new district is interesting. I love the other two elders (Elder Hodson and Elder Winger) and my teachers (Bro. Morgan and Bro. Boyer) B. Boyer was my old teacher's (B. Savage) trainer in Vlad. So we were reading one day in class in Preach My Gospel (page 12) and the quote that struck me was President Lorenzo Snow's. "There is no mortal man that is so much interested in the success of an elder when he is preaching the gospel as the Lord that sent him to preach to the people who are the Lord's children." It showed me that God is interested in us. He is watching us and is ready to help us when we're in trouble or struggling. We just have to turn to Him and submit our will to His. He loves us so much. I'm coming to realize that more and more. I was reading several scriptures (one in John and another in Acts) that talk about the Godhead and the Father and how he is like our father in the flesh. I love praying to Him because I feel I can speak to Him in the same way I speak to you, Dad.

Lately, our teachers have been speaking almost all Russian, even when they teach us. And it's so hard to understand and follow sometimes. But it's so good to be "immersed" in it. Let me just tell you all that Russian is the hardest thing I have ever tried to tackle, and I feel so overwhelmed by it a lot of the time. But like I said earlier, I need to increase my faith and not worry about it because through the Lord, I can accomplish my task of sharing the gospel in the Russian language. Oh I love singing in Russian, by the way. In case I haven't mentioned already, Russian is the sweetest language to sing in (in my personal opinion). I'm beginning to memorize songs and even figure out the words and what they mean now since we sing so much here at the MTC.

I miss your food, Mom. I know I should be so thankful for all the food that is available to us here. But I can't help miss a good home cooked meal. Trust me, you'll hear more about this later when I get to Vlad. I've heard of some wonderful food that I'll get to eat there and some dishes that I'll be hesitant to try or like, but it will certainly be an experience. One is called (Holideeyets) that's kind of how it sounds. Anyways, it's like Fruit Jello but replace the jello with bone marrow and fat and fruit with pieces of meat. Sounds scrumptious right? Well anyways, I'm always glad to hear from you all and I'll try to write some more today and get letters in the mail asap. I love you all so much and I greatly appreciate your thoughts and prayers!


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Six Weeks - Now we're the older Elders

Last week, the older Elders learning Russian and Ukrainian left, and that makes us the older Elders now. A bunch (I think 60 from both zones) left last week and only 5 new Ukrainian speaking Elders are coming in tomorrow. And then a few native speakers will arrive the week after if my memory serves me correctly. As a result, our districts are being split up so the teachers of the former Elders will have Elders to teach. The four Vladivostok Elders in my district (me, E. Zamora, E. Winkler, and E. Johnson) are being taken from our class and put in a new one with two other Elders going to Rostov, Russia. I'm bummed mostly because I've really come to love my teachers. They both have taught me so much, and I learn well from both of them. Plus, our District is Brother Beck's last one he'll be teaching because he's moving, and Brother Savage served in Vlad. But one of my new teachers was his trainer in Vlad and is an awesome teacher as well. I know the change is for the best, but it's still a bummer. I'll still see the Kiev, Ukraine elders all the time so that doesn't bother me at all. Anyways, enough about my complaining. Ha Ha!

Last week, Elder Quentin L. Cook came to speak and it was such a powerful and awesome address. There was a different spirit there. A stronger spirit was felt because he's one of the Twelve Apostles. It was so special to see him walk in and all the missionaries stand in reverence for his calling and position as one of the Twelve. Sister Cook spoke about music which was so perfect because I've really come to love music even more, as it conveys the Spirit of the Lord so strongly. I can usually feel the spirit testify of the messages of the hymns we sing so much more than I can when a message is simply shared in words. I hope that makes sense. She caused us all to contemplate on how the attributes of Christ are all represented in the hymns we sing, and I've started studying more the words in each of the hymns. The choir directors we have on Sunday and Tuesday both impress this upon us each time we sing. (By the way, I LOVE going to choir here; partly because the choir director on Sunday reminds me so much of Brian Regan but mostly because of the Spirit I feel when we sing as a collective body of missionaries. It's so powerful!) We sang “Come Thou Fount” (one of my favorite hymns) and the director opened my eyes to the meaning behind the whole song and about all the symbolism that comes from the Old Testament. Go study it if you can because it has such an applicable message to all of us. Anyway, so then Elder Cook spoke, and he talked about how this is a unique time to be sharing our message with the world because of the difficulties many people are facing now. The economy is poor, obviously, and many people are struggling. He related this to the panic of 1837, when the economy was doing horribly and how the Lord had Joseph send missionaries to England, and as a result of the peoples' struggles, their hearts were open because they were searching for God and truth. Elder Cook spoke a lot about Doctrine and Covenants section 112 and how many of the verses apply to us as missionaries. He told us that we should strive to live in such a way so as to invite the Holy Spirit to inspire us every day, and then he shared D&C 6:22-23.

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, if you desire a further witness, cast your mind upon the night that you cried unto me in your heart, that you might know concerning the truth of these things.
Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?"

He mentioned about how inadequate he felt when called to be an Apostle. When Pres. Hinckley extended the call, he said that he had tried to tell Pres. Hinckley that he was not capable but Pres. Hinckley just waved him off and said in a way only Pres. Hinckley could, "Now I don't want to hear any of that." That made me laugh. :) He also said that Elder Packer has often commented to the other Twelve that he feels incapable at times to fulfill his calling. If Elder Packer can feel incapable, than what I'm feeling now as I'm struggling with Russian is normal. :) I know the Lord can strengthen me and stretch me and take me to new heights with my gospel knowledge and with the supercrazy-how-will-I-ever-be-able-to-speak-this language that we call Russian. I just have to have faith. And more of it. Thank you for your prayers on my behalf because I sure need them.

Tell Noah Garrett and Lucian Bates that I'm so grateful for their letters. And Grandma and Grandpa Bush for the pictures and Grandma and Grandpa Gee for the letters and cookies! THEY WERE DELICIOUS! :) I love you all so much. Continue to pray for me. I teach for the second time in Russian tomorrow night, so I'll need the help. Oh! I saw Elder Graham just a few minutes ago! He looks like he's doing so well! I forgot to mention to you last week to somehow get the word to him to take a long nap before he reported. Because once you're here, you won't take a nap for two years. :) Haha.

Love you ALL!
Elder Bush

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Beginning to love Russian more than English

Thanks for the Russian CTR ring!!! It looks so sweet! I'm beginning to love Russian more than English! ;) Here's an interesting fact... In Russia, they don't use the phrase "Choose the Right" because it was a communist term. Or so I've heard. So the ring instead says "Choose Truth" hence the letters BN (N should be backwards). I thought that was interesting.

This last week, we heard from Richard Heaton, the administrative director here at the MTC, and he asked all of the missionaries, who had joined our Church in the last few years, to stand. He then had four of those missionaries that had been baptized just over a year ago to come up and speak to us by answering some questions he gave them. It was SOOOO interesting to hear how they came in contact with the church and how they did not all want to hear from the missionaries, and didn't want to read, and didn't want to get baptized. But at some point, they received an answer to their prayers, (sometimes it took a while) but at some point, they felt so strongly in their heart that this was what the Lord wanted them to do and that He loved them, that they made the decision to join and then later to serve a mission! I can't even imagine serving a mission after only being a part of this church for a year! What strong faith they must have. I admire them so much, especially because a few of them did not have family support coming out here. Anyway, it was a great fireside.

So, tomorrow will be my first time teaching in Russian, and I can't believe I'm going to be doing it! It's only been 5 weeks and we're already teaching in Russian! Sorry I haven't sent a copy of my schedule to you all yet. I'll try to get a copy made today so I can mail it. Oh! And I'll be sending you pictures on a CD today so hopefully you'll get them soon! Here's a quick funny story... Elder Bangerter (one of the Elders in my district) was writing out some sentences a couple weeks ago, and he had intended to write in Russian, "God gives us our families." He went to the missionaries, who are native speakers, and asked them if he had done it right. They corrected him politely, although they tried not to laugh. He had accidently said, "God squishes our families" instead of gives. Hahaha! We all laughed so hard when he came back and told us! I can't wait to make funny mistakes in the language. Brother Savage assured us it would happen. Oh and one quick thing... We watched this clip on a website, called 6 Billion People, of a man from Russia named Iosef, and he answered questions about himself and life. It was so interesting! We then tried to see what we would share with him and practiced teaching by looking through his perspective! That was a sweet experience. Almost out of time. I love you all so much! Take care! Love, CTAPENWNHA BYW (Elder Bush)

Saturday, March 13, 2010


March 9, 2010
I just finished my email to you guys and decided I would write some more. I didn’t get to it in the email but I have really liked the General Authority and MTC devotionals we have had so far. The General Authority devotionals are on Tuesday nights and the MTC devotionals (where MTC missionaries/leaders speak) are on Sunday nights. So far, Elder Spencer V. Jones, Elder Jay E. Jensen, and Bishop Richard C. Edgley have spoken. I’m hoping for an apostle soon! I sing in the choir on Sunday and on Tuesday night at the devotional. I’m kind of hoping I get the chance to sing in General Conference if they have an MTC choir. That would be exciting! Anyway, the General Authorities’ messages are all unique and yet all very similar. It’s interesting how certain things are repeated in all of the messages we hear. This past Saturday night our district watched a DVD of Elder Holland’s MTC message that he gave a number of years ago. It was by far the most powerful message I have probably ever witnessed and only rivals the address he gave last conference about the Book of Mormon (click here for text or click here for video). It changed my life and has profoundly altered the path of my mission. He spoke about how his mission meant everything to him and counseled us to not miss anything that we can experience. One line has been going through my mind over and over and that is to “enhance every hour that you are given because a mission is god’s greatest gift to nineteen year old boys.” He spoke about so many things, but the greatest and most sacred thing of which he spoke was Christ’s atonement and how it applies to our missions. Christ endured all pain and suffering. Our missions are supposed to be hard, but we should rely on the Lord because he knows how we feel. He also said that salvation is not a cheap expense. Thus, we should not mock the Savior’s atoning sacrifice by taking the easy way out. We should push on through our minute trials and grow from our hard experiences, and He will be there to help us. Afterward, Brother Beck (one of my teachers) shared a scripture, Matthew 11:28-30. “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” I took it to heart. He told us about one day on his mission. He and his companion had a full schedule that night, but as the night went on, all of their appointments fell through. Yet, they sang as they walked because they were doing the Lord’s work. They had come unto Him because they labored and were heavy laden, and through Christ’s atonement, they were able to find peace and rest despite the fact that they were halfway around the world, away from family, friends, and sports, and it was -20 degrees. That added to their burden, but it didn’t matter, because they applied that scripture. So anyway, that was a great night for me, and I thought I’d share it with you all.
I love each of you so much!!! Let me know how things are going at home!

Elder Spencer Bush

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

One Month

Hello Mou Cemba!

I can't really type in Russian on this computer so that's as close as it'll get. What a week this last week has been. I can hardly believe it's been a month! First of all, if I haven't already mentioned this yet, this work is so hard. My brain hurts all the time. But I do love it a lot!

Dad asked me to tell about my daily schedule. The schedule was probably by far the hardest thing to adjust to the first couple days because you're busy every minute of every day. I get up at 6:30 and get ready for the day. Breakfast is at 7 and then class starts at 7:30. I have class from 7:30-11:30 and then lunch from 11:30-12:15. After lunch, class starts again and goes until 4:30, when I have dinner, and then it starts again after dinner from 5:15-9:00. At 9, Elder Zamora (who I have really come to admire) and I plan for the next day. Then back to our room at 9:30, get ready for bed, quiet time at 10:15 (for writing in my journal which I never thought I would do but I've been doing a pretty good job) and then lights out at 10:30. No time for naps, even on Sunday. We were told that our nap time is from 10:30pm to 6:30am. Haha! So, amidst this schedule, I have gym time for 50 min and time to get ready, and that time changes from day to day. Sometimes we have it in the morning after breakfast, other times after lunch, and sometimes right before dinner. I loveeeeee gym time. It's so nice to have a small break to do something active because it's hard to sit all day. Yet, learning here is not like school. I want to learn here. I know that probably sounds funny but here, I'm learning about the gospel of Christ and Russian because I have a desire to share the love of Christ with the Russian people, not because I'm going to be tested on it. It's all up to me, which brings me to another part of my day, MDT (missionary directed time). Just like in the mission field, we have three hours set aside for studying (1 for personal study, 1 for companion study, and 1 for language study) So within the time I specified for classroom instruction, we actually sometimes have study time. It changes from day to day because it has to work around Brother Beck and Brother Savage's schedules (They're our teachers). So that's my day in a nutshell. I'm always busy and always working. But I love doing it because I want to be about my Father's work (just like Christ said he was about his Father's work in Luke 2).

I really want to share a poem with you that I read this past week. It was written by a Russian convert and is titled "Who Are You Boy?"

Who are you boy?
You journeyed to this land of ours.
This land where I have endured my days,
And felt oppression kill my soul,
And forced me into some tight hole,
And taught me that I should not hope,
Unless I care to smell the smoke,
Of dreams that the Red Army tamed.

Who are you boy?
From this land of plenty,
Teaching of God, if there is any.
You have all, we have none.
Do you know what that feels like, son?
And yet, you ask me to believe,
In something that I cannot see,
Some force you say will bring me joy,
Do you know what that feels like boy?
Where you are from, faith is free,
But it has a price for me.
When I have pain, I have a bottle,
Hurt dies quick when you down it in vodka.
That's enough to warm my soul.
I work, I sleep, the days go by,
I am waiting for the day I die,
You don't understand this place,
You say you believe, obey, have faith.
Live life well, serve and give,
Here in Russia we just live.

Who are you boy,
Why did you come?
To save a soul who once was numb?
To teach a wretched hateful man,
Who cursed your help, refused your hand.
I thought that we were worlds apart,
So how is it you knew my heart?
A fraction my age, you calmed my rage,
Mercy paid my generous wage,
I should have been left behind,
It is hard to love my kind,
Hope in your heart, power in your hands,
Why did you come to this distant land?
I know now, it was for me.
The Red Curtain fell, but I was not free,
Until a boy from nations away,
Brought me my Lord, I bless the day.
He led me to weep at my masters feet,
The American boy I met on the street.
New and naive, still in his teens,
With a message to bring the world to its knees,
I thought that the truth would come from another,
I did not know this boy was my brother.

I love that poem. It motivates me and gets me so excited to go to Russia and share what I have with the people in Vlad. I love you all so much and I pray for you daily.

Love, CTAPENWNHA BYW (again that's the closest I can get to Russian) :)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Russian is hard!

Hello my family,
It's hard to believe I've been here for three weeks already. It feels like it's been much longer because we have done so much and yet it also feels like I was a new Elder with that lovely orange sticker on my nametag just yesterday. The last two weeks, I've been freaking out because there's a timer at the top of my screen telling me how much time I have left and if I don't finish and send my email in time, it won't get sent until next week. So much happens here that I want to make sure I get it all down.

Mom and Dad, thanks for the package. I desperately needed my sweatshirt because it's freezing when I go to get a sack breakfast in the morning or on my way to gym. Walking in the snow in a t-shirt and shorts is not so much fun, but I am having all the fun here! The language is so hard. I struggle every day, but I can tell the Lord is helping me get better each day and remember concepts that I couldn't seem to get down on previous days.

To the Hunt family, tell them thank you so much for the box of cinnamon rolls they sent me a couple weeks ago! They were DELICIOUS!!! Let them know I'm sorry I didn't write to them sooner.

So the MTC is a wonderful place. It's also a place where you are destined to gain weight. It's inevitable. Create a menu with 5 or 6 different items and tell me it's all-you-can-eat and I'm bound to gain some weight. Haha! Despite running everyday and working out during gym time, I've still managed to gain about 10 pounds. You'll probably be able to tell a little in the pictures I send home, which I can send pictures by the way. I'll try to do that today. I can load my pictures on a CD and send it home. So hopefully you'll all get some soon.

On Sunday, I said the opening prayer for sacrament meeting. Since I haven't been here six weeks yet, I don't have to do things in Russian all the time yet, but I really wanted to. So I started my prayer in Russian and eventually, I totally blanked and had to switch to English. And then I finished in Russian. It's amazing how much we've learned so far and it's also amazing how little we know. You start to feel confident and then you realize, Wow, I hardly know how to really communicate. I met a missionary the other night that is going to the Netherlands and it made me think of Dad. I've often wondered what it would have been like to be you, Dad, to be here after only having been a member of this church for a year. I'm grateful for all that you and Mom have taught me over the years and for how you raised me.

Each week, we go to the TRC and have to do a language task for 15 minutes where we only speak Russian. It's usually introducing yourself and getting to know the person. The volunteers are people that go to BYU or UVU that served in Russia. After the language task, we practice teaching them in English. During last week’s language task, Elder Zamora and I were talking to a native Russian girl, and I couldn't understand ANYTHING! She was going so stinking fast! And it's also difficult because in Russian, when you ask a question, the intonation in your voice is different than it is in English. In Russian, your voice rises and falls over the word that you are asking about. So if I asked "Do you like cheese?" and I wanted to know if they 'liked' it, my voice would rise and fall over like. They could then answer yes or 'no I hate cheese.' If I was asking about liking 'cheese' than it would rise and fall over cheese. They could then answer "yes" or "no I like apples". I hope that makes sense. So anyways, when a Russian is speaking, you have to pay attention to which word they rise and fall on cause otherwise it just sounds like a statement. They don't rise up on the end of the question like we do in English. So I couldn't understand anything she was saying or asking, and I couldn't tell if I was supposed to respond to a question or ask her one.

Anyhow, I hope this letter hasn't been lame. I'm sorry if I'm not sharing really great or important stuff. I'll try to write down more things that I want to share with you all. Feel free to ask me more questions so I can know what to tell you all. :) I love you all so much and think about and pray for each of you each day.

Love, CTAPENWNHA BYW (pronounced star-ay-she-na) Bush :) (p.s. Turn the N's around and put a dash across the top of the first one. Then it'll be Russian.)