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.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Work is Picking Up

To the Fam and to all those that follow the blog,

I'm sorry! Last week was insane and it just didn't work out to write home. I was bummed because I knew I wouldn't get to hear from you all, but have no fear, I am doing alright. We had Elder Kozedoev with us because his companion, who is a mini-missionary, was in Vlad for visa stuff because he leaves for his mission to Moscow soon. Anyway, since Elder Kozedoev is the branch president, our preparation day got a little screwed up, but I'm fine so no worries. The last two weeks have sure been interesting and a lot of work. I've never been so tired or done so much contacting. The work here is just going really slow, but it's starting to pick up. As we've labored and strived to talk to so many people, we've begun to have some meetings with those that have been prepared by the Lord and are interested in meeting. I don't think I've ever gotten to teach about the restoration twice in one week, but it happened this last week! That was exciting. We'll see how things go in the future.

I've loved being the junior companion to Elder Waltman and Elder Williams because they’re both awesome and they're both district leaders. Thus, I get to go on lots more exchanges and experience working with different people in different areas. While I haven't loved every minute of that, it's sure taught me a lot. I've loved being able to counsel with my senior companions about our companionship and the district since I'm kind of like the assistant to the district leader. It's certainly helped me grow as a missionary and see how I can improve and help those around me.

Here's an interesting note about Russia... it continues to fascinate me how some people can absolutely love us because we're Americans and won't stop asking us questions about it and others who just absolutely hate us and can' t stand it that were in their country. Some people take pictures of us or with us and others yell at us. I know the Lord is very mindful of His missionaries. If there's one thing the last six months of my mission has taught me, it's that the Lord knows each of us.

There was a wedding here in Usserisk! Two investigators Pavel and Natalia got married this last week and plan to get baptized soon. It was great to support them. Russian weddings are interesting. We just had a reception/party at the church for them. They really enjoyed it. Usually, weddings happen on the weekends and people decorate their cars and drive around yelling and screaming and honking like crazy. I always forget it's the weekend until I hear the honking and it reminds me, oh yeah, it's Saturday.

I was reminded of something this last week... Elder Melvin J. Ballard (I think?) said he had had a dream and in it he saw the Savior. The Savior embraced him and smiled. And Elder Ballard said something to the effect of, if I live to be a thousand years old, I could never forget that smile. I need to have that smile. As a representative of Christ, I must try to show that love to EVERYONE. And it's so hard sometimes. I came across some people this last week that I didn't want to love. But I must strive to overcome that and pray for charity, the pure love of Christ, a gift from our Heavenly Father.

My Russian is getting better. Although I feel like I'm in a rut and seem only use the same words all the time. It's hard to get new words into your 'active' vocabulary. But I'm understanding more and more with the Lord's help. He's so awesome. I don 't understand everything but I tend to understand the thought behind the words. I love this language even though it is so tough. Thank you all for your prayers and support. It's a miracle. :)

Tell Grandma and Grandpa Bush and Grandma and Grandpa Gee that I love them so much! And I'll try to email them soon. :)

Elder Bush

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

No Letter This Week

We did not receive our usual email this week. He may have had difficulty accessing a computer. If there was ever a serious problem, the mission president would notify us, so there is nothing to worry about.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Six Months! Already?

Dear Fam,

Tomorrow marks the 6 month mark of my mission. Weird right? While the days have certainly not all gone by quickly, I'm surprised at how time can fly when you put your mind to the work and try to work hard. The usual post office we go to is still closed and the other one only has one computer, so I have to be quick again this week.

This last week was full of contacting. Lots and lots of contacting. While sometimes, it's really hard to just push myself and get out there and start talking to people, when I just start doing it, I remind myself how much the Gospel of Jesus Christ has changed my life. And that's why I'm here. I want the people of Russia to feel that too. We had Zone Conference in Vlad last Wednesday and it was a great meeting. I loved the instruction. The church is actually changing the curriculum on how they train missionaries in the MTC, which will go into effect starting next May. So they're starting to show us missionaries in the field this training, so we can be running with it by the time newer missionaries get here. Preach My Gospel is still most definitely the focus but the way things are presented and taught is changing. It's all geared toward making us better teachers.

My talk yesterday was interesting. I got really nervous before going up to speak. The butterflies were going nuts in my stomach. But then as I got up, I looked to President Pratt sitting on the stand and then turned to the podium and I felt calm and I began to speak. The words, although not perfect grammatically, came to me and I was able to speak about the scriptures. I didn't share half of what I wanted to share or say, but many people thanked me afterwards, and it helped me know the Spirit guided my words. I was able to say what the Lord wanted me to share and that's what matters most.

Many people compliment me on my Russian. I still feel it's horrible but I am getting better and I attribute that solely on the Lord and the prayers of every single person out there. I have so many people rooting for me and praying for me and I'm so thankful for it. I got several letters from people this last week (Fallon's package :) and later a letter, one from Mrs. Frapp, one from Grandma Gee, from Catherine Sandholtz, and from Chris Peterson, my FOL counselor. If there's any way they can read this through the Blog or if someone can find them on face book, please tell them how thankful I am for the encouragement. And tell Chris if you can find him on Face book congratulations with the marriage in a couple days. I knew he and Elise would be perfect for each other. :) Anyways, if not, don't worry about it.

Dad was wondering if I had received any packages. I'm so sorry! I totally kept forgetting to write about that! I got Grandma and Grandpa Bush's package the day before I went to Korea and tell them I was so grateful for it! The peanut butter was heavenly and the Twix... well I just plain and simple love Twix. :) They have Twix, Snickers and Kit Kats here in Russia, but they taste a little bit different.

To answer Grandpa Bush's question... What do I do on pday? Usually, we do our normal studying in the morning and then go to the post office to write home. Then we go to the grocery store and get food! Here in Usserisk, there is the biggest, awesomest grocery store I have ever seen in Russia! It's called 5+. Then we either get hair cuts (like I did last week) and do anything else we need to to prepare for the rest of the week, like buy stuff on the reenok (shopping area) like shopka's (Russian hats). :)

I love you all and I'm so grateful for all the blessings the Lord pours out on me. I'm so richly blessed. :) I love you all. :) You're in my prayers.

Elder Bush

Monday, August 2, 2010

1st Week in Usserisk

I'm sorry for last week's email being so short and lame and it appears this week may not be a whole lot better because the post office we usually go to is closed, so we only have one computer to share to write home today. I'll try to be quick and get as much in as possible...

I was on a 3 day split with Elder Stewart in my new area (that I knew/know very little about). Needless to say, I learned a lot about being a senior companion and how much responsibility it has with it. It was hard but rewarding in the fact that it taught me a lot about how to do things the right way but mostly how not to do things. I am far from perfect. But the members here in Usserisk are the best! I have come to absolutely love the members here. And I know now how much work Brother Boyer (one of my teachers in the MTC) really did while here in Usserisk. He is all over the area book and the fruits of his labor are still very obvious. The strongest members that he helped bring into the church are still strong and help anchor the church here in Usserisk. Sister Slava is amazing just like you said, Brother Boyer! I'm going to try to write Brother Boyer someday soon.

It's been interesting adjusting to the new city but I'm doing better than last week. Thank you for your prayers and words of comfort, everyone. Honestly, the best remedy has been work. Just get to work and you forget how hard it is.

I'm speaking in Church on Sunday so I wouldn't mind some prayers that I'll at least be understandable to the branch. ;) Honestly, I just want to deliver the message the Lord desires and actually help the members and investigators that will attend.

Well, the mission sure is making me grow. A lot. I never thought I'd be able to do all the things I have seen other older missionaries do, but this last week especially has shown me how the Lord works through His servants and helps them grow and do so much more than they could have without His help.

Elder Williams is great! And I'm excited for Zone Conference in Vlad this week. And the Kiev, Ukraine Temple dedication that will be in a few weeks. Should be awesome!

I love you all so much!

Oh! And there's a grocery store called +5 here in Usserisk. I've never felt so much like I was in America but still being in Russia! It's weird.

Keep doing what's right. Read your scriptures. Pray night and day. Be wise. What need I say more? Love you all!

Elder Bush

Dad asked: How many missionaries serve in each of the cities in your mission? Will you give us a breakdown of each city and how many missionaries serve in each? Also, do you know how many active members attend in each branch in your mission?

Elder Bush: In Vlad: 3 sets of elders, on average 50 members

In Usserisk: 3 sets of elders, on average 30-40ish, I think

In Nakhodka: 2 sets of elders, it's smaller than Usserisk, but I have no idea how many active members

On Sakhalin: three some of sisters, and 2 sets of missionaries, probably the same as Usserisk

Khabarovsk: 2 sets of elders, 1 set of sisters - I've heard the branch is really small.

I think these numbers are correct, but I’m not positive, and I’m just estimating the active members.