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.