Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Last Week in the MTC

I'm so excited to leave on Thursday and so nervous all at the same time. Elder Johnson and I got up this morning around 3:30 to say goodbye to the Elders leaving for Kiev. And on that note, these last few days, I don't think I have ever given so many "man" hugs in my life. I really have come to love the Elders I have served with in the MTC. I have learned so much and have grown and changed a lot in my knowledge and feelings of the gospel of my Lord Jesus Christ. I laid in bed this morning trying to fall back to sleep just after 4ish and I felt a little overwhelmed thinking about all that will transpire in the coming days. I'm going to Russia. On the other side of the world! How crazy is that?! I'm so excited because I have this burning desire in my heart to go. All that I have learned throughout my life, all the spiritual experiences that Lord has blessed me with, it all has brought me so much joy and peace and comfort and I'm so grateful to have it in my life.

Elder Pace spoke a couple weeks ago about our Father in Heaven and shared many personal spiritual experiences that strengthened my testimony so much. I have come to feel in my heart, even more here, that Jesus is the Christ and God the Father is my Heavenly Father. They love me more than I can comprehend. Wow I love this work. And I haven't even really started 'working'. I love the change that it has wrought in me. I know I will change even more into the person my Heavenly Father wants me to become. Not that my personality will change and I'll be a totally different person, but Brother Savage gave us some parting advice yesterday. He counseled us to let the atonement of Jesus Christ change each of us as we serve. That change will be a magnifying and increasing of our abilities and our personality in a way that can only be brought about by relying on the Lord. I hope that makes sense.

Anyway, if you want to know how I'm feeling right now, it's a lot of things. SO EXCITED and super scared all at the same time. Some days, my faith is stronger and I feel I have a greater love for those I will serve because, as the scriptures say (1st John 4:18) “Perfect love casteth out all fear.” Other days, my faith falls short and I feel immensely scared of what's to come. Thank goodness for prayer. And the scriptures. And music. In class, we all give spiritual thoughts in Russian, so this last week, I decided to sing because nothing has ever brought the spirit more powerfully into my heart than music (you already all know this). My teacher, Br. Boyer, asked us to focus on a name of Christ and share about why he has that name. Mine was the Good Shepherd, so I decided to sing "Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd" in Russian. I know my voice is terrible. I could never dream of being Mormon Tabernacle Choir quality or getting past the first round of American Idol. But the Spirit of the Lord entered the room when I sang. I felt it. Not because of my voice (although I feel strongly that there were angels singing with me making it sound a whole lot better) but because of the words I was singing. And I didn't even understand half of what I said. But the spirit isn't constrained by language. I know the Lord is our Good Shepherd and we all can come to know His voice if we will turn and follow Him. I know I haven't always been really good at that. Sometimes I want to say as Nephi did, “O wretched man that I am!” And since I sometimes feel inadequate and scared of what I will be doing soon, I turned to the Lord this morning in the temple and pleaded he would help me and lead me. I turned in the Book of Mormon to the index and my eyes first fell on the name of Amulek. I immediately thought of myself in his shoes. I haven't always been perfect and sometimes I do stupid things. Amulek wasn't perfect either, but he turned unto the Lord, and as a result, he taught with so much power through the Spirit. I felt this morning this peace as the thought came, "Spencer, Elder Bush, you can teach as Amulek did when in Russia." I love the temple, I love the scriptures, and I love the Lord. It was a tender mercy, about which Nephi speaks, that the Lord blessed me this morning with comfort to know that I will be made equal to this calling. Br. Savage told us yesterday, "I cannot promise it will be easy. Actually, I can promise it will most definitely not be easy. It will be the hardest thing you ever do. But the Lord qualifies all those he calls." I already have seen that come to pass and I know it will be even more apparent and more real to me in Vlad.

I have loved my MTC experience and I'm proud to have joined the group of people wearing the "black name tag". Oh by the way, Brother Seamons (one of my branch presidency members) spoke on Sunday night to the MTC. He served as a mission president in the Leads England mission, and he spoke to us about the black name tag. Every time I look at that tag, I see my name next to my brother, Jesus Christ's name, and I feel to honored to serve a mission. I love you all so much!!!!!!!!!!!! I pray for you day and night. God be with you til we meet again.

Love your son,
Elder Bush

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Travel Plans Received

WOOOOOO!!!! I got my flight plans last Thursday! It was the most exciting day in the MTC by far! Unfortunately, silly me forgot them in my room and so I don't have them in front of me to give you the flight #, etc., but I do remember (I think) the times for the flights. We depart on Thursday, April 29th. We leave the MTC around 4:30ish pm, probably closer to 5. There are six of us going (the four Elders in my room and two native sisters). Our flight for LA leaves at 7:40ish pm and we get in around 8:45pm LA time. Then our flight for Seoul, South Korea leaves just after midnight and we get in to South Korea around 5:20am I think on Saturday. (Since we fly over the international date line, we miss Friday basically) Then our flight leaves for Vlad around 9:45am and we should get into Vlad sometime near 2:00pm. I have been informed (by both missionaries and leaders) that we are allowed to phone home while in the airport. I haven't really figured out the times when I'll be in the airport and if that would even be convenient at all to call you all and say hi. But if it works out, I'd love to hear you all. If not, I'll talk to you in a few weeks on Mother's day. :)

Love you, Mom. Thank you so much for the letter and your insights. Man, I love the Holy Scriptures. Answers are found in every chapter. And thank you, Dad, for your letters as well. I know the Lord will bless you and the family. As we act on the faith we already have, that leads to more faith. I know that you and Mom have always put your faith in the Lord so I don't need to tell you he's going to bless you. I've really had to learn patience here in the MTC, in many different ways. I've had to realize that the Lord works on his schedule, not ours. I've said that before but now I'm experiencing it, and I know for myself a little bit more what that means.

Yesterday was Brother Beck's last day teaching at the MTC (our old district was the last district he would teach), so we reunited and he told us some stories. One was of a man that baptized his brother. As he lowered his brother back into the water, he kept him under for 1 sec, 2 sec, 3 sec, 4 sec... Brother Beck looked at his companion after 6 or 7 and thought, is he going to drown his brother while baptizing him?! I'm sure that would be the first time that had ever happened. Anyway, he finally brought him up and his brother let out this huge gasp and everyone started laughing. The man later said, "My brother was extra dirty. So I just wanted to make sure he got all clean." Haha! We all thought that was pretty funny. The more I thought about it, the more I pondered on the symbolism of baptism and how amazing it is to be washed clean of all your sins, all your mistakes, and be pure in the eyes of God.

Then Brother Beck shared with us the 6 Scriptures to successful missionary work. I'll write more about those later. But it was a wonderful experience to see this man, our teacher, testify with power of the changing power a mission can have in the lives of the people served and in the life of the missionary. One last story... one day, Brother Beck came out of his apartment and just had this awful, evil feeling hit him. He notice 5 men in their twenties outside and he had the thought, "Run. Get away now." So he started to leave but his companion didn't follow. He went up to the men so B. Beck returned and these men were pretty drunk. They began asking "Who are you? Where are you from? You're the Mormons, right?" They clearly knew who the missionaries were and didn't like them. They started to surround B. Beck's comp and B. Beck tried to grab him and leave. All of a sudden, this other guy (a skin head, no shirt on, big guy) comes running out of nowhere and swings at B. Beck. He dodges, and starts to run. They chase after the missionaries and catch them and start to mock and verbally abuse them, spit on them, slap them, etc. They keep telling them "Go back to America! We already have our church." B. Beck's fists were clenched and then the guy said, "What are Prophets? Prophecy then." Which is exactly what the Pharisees said to Christ when He announced Himself as the Son of God. I'm almost out of time but it hit me as B. Beck spoke, that missionary work will bring me closer to the Savior in a way that I couldn't experience any way else. This may sound silly but I can't wait to get there despite the struggles I will encounter. I LOVE YOU ALL!

Старейшиа Буш

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Loved the BYU Men's Chorus

Hey there my wonderful family!

How is life in the warm, beautiful sunshine state? I sure miss it. Haha! It was getting really nice here until this morning when we went to the temple and it decided to start dumping snow. I really don't understand the weather here. Anyway, I can't believe I'm down to almost two weeks left! We haven't gotten our flight plans (should this week) but my guess is I will leave on the 29th since it is a Thursday and Elder Stewart (from my BYU ward) and Elder Williamson (the Elders six weeks ahead of us) left on a Thursday. I'll let you know what my flight plans are once I get them. My guess is we will fly to LA, then to Seoul, South Korea, and then to Vlad.

This last week has been wonderful in so many ways. I think the highlight of my week was this last Sunday night. We had our usual MTC fireside but it was a special fireside. The BYU Men's Chorus came and sang a musical fireside for us, and you all already know how much I love music. I don't have to tell you again how powerful and special music is to me, especially since beginning my mission. All I can say is, "Wow!" I've listened to them before, but that night was special. Every musical number carried with it the Spirit of our Lord. They sang several hymns as well as several psalms, one song called the "Micmoc Honor Song" (it's from a Canadian Indian tribe and it honors nature; it was really interesting) and three African American gospel songs (I LOVED THOSE). It was by far one of the most memorable experiences I have had at the MTC besides my spiritual experiences through teaching. I remember thinking that night, "Wow, Spencer. You have been so blessed to get to experience feeling the Spirit so much testifying to you through music." And I know I have a horrible voice but I hope it's good enough that I might get the chance to sing with that choir when I return because I would love to sing with them. So anyway, Sunday night was wonderful.

Yesterday, we began speaking 100% Russian all day, every day until we leave, and then we'll have to speak Russian to live, basically. :) Haha! So I've pretty much said goodbye to English. While it may frustrate me a little at times because it's hard to convey all I want to, I love focusing on it all day long because I can let myself "forget" English. Dad, you may understand what I mean. It's hard to go back and forth. At least it is for me.

Oh there's something I wanted to share with you... On Sunday, one of the branch presidency's wives shared with us a quote that I really love. We were speaking about commandments in church and she quoted Elder Scott, I believe, who said, "Righteousness will mold you so you don't fit where you don't belong." It makes sense! When we do what is right, we mold ourselves so we fit where we belong; so we stay away from spiritual or physical danger. From stories I've heard, Vlad and other cities in the mission have danger within them. There are some Russians who do not like us. At all. And they'll tell us or try to show us their feelings. But every story I've heard has had miraculous endings, and it shows me that the Lord loves his missionaries. When we are living righteously, the Lord will protect us. I'm not nervous to go to Russia because I think it could be a little scary or dangerous at times. I am nervous, super nervous actually, because I know I will butcher the language at first and I will probably go through some of the hardest days of my life. But I love this gospel too much to let that stop me. I love this message. I love the Book of Mormon. I love the Lord so much and I'm so excited to jump on that plane and be amongst the Russian people. Oh and one last thing, the scriptures are amazing. They answer all our questions. I love you all so much. I'm sorry I ran out of time to say more.

Старейшиа Буш

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Best Easter Ever!

Well, it's been snowing quite a lot lately which I can't understand because it's APRIL, and it shouldn't be doing that! Haha! But that's my opinion. One day it can be beautiful and showing signs of a warm spring and the next, it's freezing cold with snow everywhere! I've come to realize that I'll never understand Utah weather and I guess I'm ok with that.

This Easter was the best Easter I have ever experienced. It was truly a unique experience to be on my mission, to be in such a special place as the MTC, and to hear from the Lord's prophet and apostles on such a hallowed day. Unfortunately, I left my study journal in my room and so I don't have my notes in front of me but how awesome were all the addresses in Conference?! At the end of each session, I found myself not glad the session was over so I could go eat or get up and move around or do something else. Instead, I felt devastated and said to myself, "Is that all?! I don't want to have to wait 2 hours for the next session!" I loved conference so much and I feel it was probably the best one I have ever witnessed. Then again, we probably all say that each conference. The greatest message I got from all the speakers was how important the family is in our life and in God's plan. How important it truly is to teach one another in the family those things that are of lasting importance. Thank you Mom and Dad for instilling in me all that you taught me. I'll be eternally grateful for the example you both have been to me.

So about Russian... I wouldn't say it's getting any easier but I'm beginning to understand more of the grammar and the principles behind the language. It is certainly stretching me. There have been points in my stay here that I have wished I could serve here in the states or somewhere in the world where my native tongue is spoken. I could convey my thoughts and feelings so much quicker. But like I've said before, missions are not supposed to be easy. When I let myself think all this, I stop and think of the Russian people. And I think of the scripture in Doctrine and Covenants 91 I think? The one that says something to the effect that all men shall hear the fullness of the gospel in their own tongue. (D&C 90:11 "For it shall come to pass in that day, that every man shall hear the fulness of the gospel in his own tongue, and in his own language, through those who are ordained unto this power, by the administration of the Comforter, shed forth upon them for the revelation of Jesus Christ.") When I first read this, I felt this tremendous burden placed on my shoulders. I felt so inadequate. And at times, I still do. But now when I read it, I realize I may not be fully qualified to complete that responsibility now, but the Lord does qualify His servants and makes them equal to their calling IF they turn to Him and lean on Him for their support. When I humble myself and turn to Him, the language is so much easier and I can feel my tongue being loosed. I have already experienced this in simple ways when I'm studying and when I'm teaching. Yesterday, I sat in class and looked outside and there was quite a tempest blowing. The tree outside was being tossed about and I had the song recalled to my mind "Master the Tempest is Raging." It hit me that I can either choose to be the small limb at the end of a branch or I can be a large branch or the trunk of the tree. I can let myself be blown about and tossed around or I can root myself in Christ and His infinite Atonement and be as the trunk, relatively unaffected by the tempest ragging around it. Just an interesting thought I felt was guided by the Spirit. Then on Sunday night, we had our usual MTC fireside but instead of a normal fireside, we sang almost the entire time. It was the perfect ending to the best Easter I have ever had. I sang in Russian most of the night and surprisingly I understood a lot of what I sang. But more than that, even when I didn't understand the song, I felt the Spirit of the Lord so strongly, testifying to me the truth of the words in the hymns of the church. It was so powerful and such a strengthening experience to me. And then I watched the Joseph Smith movie again. This time, it hit me that I want to be like his older brother, Alvin. I want to be the big brother that sets a good example for my family. I know I haven't been perfect at it, and I haven't always shown each of you the love and kindness you deserve, but I want you to know I love you with all my heart. And I'm so grateful we are united in the gospel. I love you all! Thank you for your constant love and support and prayers.

Старейшиа Bush