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.