Monday, November 29, 2010

Turkey . . . Yum ! ! !

Hey there everybody!

Well, transfers were this last weekend. And guess what?... I'm still on Sakhalin serving with Elder Naumov! I was super excited to get to stay here on Sakhalin along with Elder Zamora, my MTC companion! He's been here four transfers (24 weeks) which none of us were expecting. So it looks like I'll be here through Christmas and New Years. Should be fun and exciting!

This last week (of course as you all know) was Thanksgiving, my first on the mission, which felt a little strange. But we (all the missionaries on Sakhalin) were graciously invited by the Jones family, an American couple that live here in our branch and also work for Exxon Mobile, to their home for Thanksgiving dinner. They live a little ways out of town in a community that I think was built by Exxon Mobile for all the Americans that work for them here on Sakhalin. They’re not very big homes, but they’re definitely much more American. It was kind of weird going over there because I felt like I had somehow ended up back home, just without my family and friends of course. The Jones family had coordinated with all their neighbors to have Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday, from what I understand, but they all agreed to move it to Thursday so we could join them before transfers. It was super nice of all of them. All of their guests were very welcoming and so friendly to us! It was actually kind of strange to be surrounded by so many Americans and so much English. I met a woman that is originally from Massachusetts and I talked with her for a while during dinner. And there was a couple from Texas that had been to the Houston Temple open house and had a bunch of questions. It was crazy to talk in English about the temple! I know speaking in Russian has been such a blessing, and I do love teaching in Russian, but this last transfer has been really hard for me. Being a native Russian, my companion can be a huge help, but he's also super intimidating because he expects his companions to speak just as well as he can, if that makes sense. He corrects me constantly, which is helpful, but there are times I'm just afraid to speak because I feel he gets impatient with me as I mutter through my thoughts. It's just been frustrating, and I don't know how to overcome it. I've prayed so much and I just haven't felt the relief I've been seeking. Please pray for me that I'll be able to develop love toward him that will strengthen our ability to serve together. Anyways...) It did honestly feel great to just speak openly about the gospel with someone that had interest and questions and not be hindered by any language barrier. I know I will be able to fully overcome that barrier through time, but that experience helped me see my future for missionary work after my mission. I know that may sound silly but it made me think about the things I will do after my mission to continue to further the work of the Lord. So, Thanksgiving dinner was delicious!!! I was stuffed and we were sent home with leftovers! It was horrible because the next day, as I warmed up the food, the smell of turkey and gravy filled our apartment and I had a slight moment of homesickness. But it left quickly enough and I've actually been surprised at how much the Lord is helping me focus on my calling.

With the holidays coming around and with Thanksgiving that just happened, I thought I'd take a moment and just thank you all for all you do. My family is the best family on the planet! Despite our problems or differences or weaknesses, I'm so grateful for each of you. I'm grateful for my friends that support me, for Fallon and her Family (Happy Thanksgiving to the Frapps!), for my grandparents and uncles and aunts and cousins in Utah and California (You’re all so awesome!), for the families that support and pray for me (the Pittards, the Hansens, the Hales, the Christensens, the Bates (got your letter Br. Bates! Thanks so much!)... There are a lot of you and I don't have time to write all the names down. Sorry! I know who you are! :) I'm grateful for the opportunity to serve here in Russia. To serve my Father in Heaven and to bring His children truth that is not known to everyone, truth that can change lives. I see that in the members here in Russia. They are examples to me. I'm so grateful to my Heavenly Father for His love and support. In times that I have felt alone and that I had no one to turn to (family is far away, friends are out of contact, people on the street don't want to listen to us, and I lose the desire to share my message, what I've been blessed with) I have learned to turn even more to Him that dwelleth above. I'm so grateful for prayer. I haven't used it enough. I'm so grateful for my Savior Jesus Christ. He knows me and loves me despite my weaknesses. He will help me overcome them. I'm just so darn grateful. :) I thought a lot this week about blessings. Sometimes it's hard to see our blessings when we aren't looking for them. But when we stop and slow down and take a look around, our eyes are opened to see how abundantly we really have been blessed. Just try it if you think you haven't been blessed. Slow down. In fact, stop. And look around. Pray for the Lord's help, and he will open your eyes to see those blessings you may not have even recognized.

Saturday was the branch talent show. It was great! The elders and Igor did this cup game thing as our talent (the thing they always do in the dining hall at scout camp). It went really well and everybody liked it! Then I played the pink panther with Elder Naumov since that's about the only thing I can remember on the piano. I messed up big time. But who cares. It went alright. :) Some of the talents were hilarious! The branch president, counselor, and some branch members did a skit about the missionaries. It was great! I tried recording it but my camera ran out of space! So I quickly deleted a bunch of pictures I already sent home from the MTC (save those CD's I sent you all!) to make some room. I'll have to buy a new card soon. The youth and branch members also did a hand puppet play that was hilarious. All in all, a great activity. Yesterday was the Primary program in Sacrament meeting. It was so awesome! They sang parts of the song, "A Child’s Prayer" in English and in Russian. I felt the Spirit overwhelm me as I listened to them sing those simple words in English. Despite their accents, the spirit flooded the room testifying to me that the Father does hear us when we pray and when we are sincere and have a desire to act on the answers we hope to receive, He answers. It was such a small but tender moment.

Please continue to pray for me. :) I’m having a bit of a rough time right now, but I'm also having the time of my life. I just can't let myself forget that. :) We are planning on watching “The Best Two Years” later today as a P-day activity so that should be interesting after having served for a little while as a missionary. I love you all so much! I can't even begin to describe to you all how much your prayers are appreciated and how much I love each and every one of you. Good luck with all you have on your plates this next week! May the Spirit always abide with each of you to guide you in all your doings.

Elder Bush

Monday, November 22, 2010

Mail and a Baptism - What a great week!

Hey there everyone!

Well, this last week was filled with visits from the Zone leaders from Khabarovsk and from the Assistants and President this last weekend. It was great to get to see them all and associate and learn from each of them. Like I already said before, I just love all of the leaders in the mission! They all such great Elders. With the assistants and President and Sister Pratt coming from Vlad, they brought with them mail! Yay! I got a package from the Pittards with candy and cards from all the kids! Thank you so much! It was super delicious (Yes all the candy is almost gone :) and super nice of all of you to write. I'll try to reply soon! I also got a card from Grandma and Grandpa Bush that I loved! Thank you! You both are amazing! (I'm pretty sure you asked a question that I can't remember... I'll write soon and answer:) And the CD from the Christensens! I have been listening to it every day! It's so amazing!!! And lastly, I got my birthday package! I figured it's almost my birthday (haha) so I went ahead and opened it already. I know, that's cheating. Sorry but thank you, thank you, thank you all so much! I loved the pictures and all that you wrote to me! Trev looks so old! (I'm still more stylish ;) and I just loved everything! You all are so great! That was the best birthday gift ever! I put it all back in the package and I'll open it again in a little less than a month. That's weird. My birthday is already less than a month away.

This last week, on Thursday, we did service again for an awesome family here in the branch. They're building a home and so we helped by doing some odd but necessary jobs. We lifted all the floor boards on the second floor of the house and vacuumed everything because after that, we started putting this padding stuff up on the ceiling which was tricky. It's fun to show up and see a little more done each time. Plus, Misha, (the husband) is just hilarious and always fun to be around. He reminds me a little bit of Brother Noah Garrett. A different sense of humor but he has that feeling about him that you like to be around him because he's just so nice.

On Friday, the assistants and President flew in and sat in on our weekly planning session. Then, the assistants were with me on a lesson with Igor Kim at the church. Honestly, Elder Naumov and I didn't really plan the lesson together. I just had some thoughts that I had put together. And then I had a feeling that I should grab my study journal notes. Thankfully, I'd been taking some notes lately. During the lesson, I felt prompted to share some ideas that got us on a really awesome conversation full of testimonies and the Spirit. I love teaching when it's done by the spirit. We talked some about how there are more scriptures that we just don't have yet. But we will have them someday when the Lord recognizes we're ready. And that we learn new things from the scriptures every time we read them no matter if it's the same passage. Igor shared an awesome thought that I thought I would share with you all. It's from some philosopher but it might as well be from Igor. I'll give him the credit. :) Basically it went like this. Picture you and I both have one apple. We decide to share with one another by switching apples. That's great but we both are left still with one apple despite switching. Now picture we each have a unique thought. We both decide to share with one another. In the end, we're not just left with one thought each but two; an old one and a new one. I didn't really capture the beauty of that after typing it out. Igor said it much better. But I hope you get the idea. He shared that with us as he bore his testimony and talked about missionaries. He shared the thought that we as missionaries all teach the same doctrine and principles. But that the way we present it, the thoughts that we have and share with others, are different from one another and thus, hearing a lesson or spiritual thought based on the same topic from different people doesn't get old because you can learn something new from different people.

On Saturday, we had a baptism!! His name is Vecheslav, and it was a great service. The spirit was certainly present. While I didn't know him before this transfer, it was an awesome experience to teach him and see him change leading up to his baptism. He asked for cold water in the font (wanted to really remember it I guess) and it was actually kind of shocking to him going under because of how cold it was. He almost didn't make it to sacrament meeting because he slept in, but he made it by the end and was confirmed at the end of the meeting. As I stood in the circle and the branch president confirmed him a member of the church and gave him the gift of the Holy Ghost, I felt the spirit flood the room. It was such a powerful experience.

Thank you all so much for your prayers and your love and support. Matt, your prayers are definitely helping because my Russian gets better a little bit each day! :) I'm certainly not great at this language, but I notice the Lord's help and His fulfilling of promises He has made to me through His servants (namely my former Stake President, President Pratt). I hope you all have an awesome Thanksgiving! I’m sorry to miss the Thanksgiving celebration at the Hansen’s house. Tell them I say Hi and I love and miss them all! We might be celebrating Thanksgiving here on Sakhalin at one of the American member's homes. We'll see. I'm not really sure what's going on. I know Vlad and Usserisk are all getting together in Vlad at the church and Khabarovsk is going to the senior couples apartment for dinner. We'll see. :)

I know the Lord is helping me. He's helping me focus on the work and forget about myself. I still need to work so much more on that. Gosh sometimes I get way too hard on myself because of my silly mistakes and I get too focused on me. I know that the Lord is shaping me and helping me overcome that and become a better servant. Pray for me that I will be able to feel the Lord's love, His guidance, and that I'll have the ability to overcome weaknesses, learn from my mistakes, and forget myself and just get to work.

I love you all!

Elder SpencerMichaelBush (For some reason, I thought of that as I saw pictures from Nate's wedding and of all the cousins. Remember that they used to tease me about how I would say my name so fast.)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Zone Conference in Khabarovsk

This last week, on Tuesday, we went to Хабаровск (Khabarovsk) for zone conference. And it was absolutely amazing!!!! Probably one of the best days of my mission! Well as far as just the feelings I felt that day. The spirit was so strong and taught me so much. I have also felt the opposition of that feeling this last week and I've recognized how the adversary tried to get me down or distracted or to forget who I am and what my purpose is. He's really good at that but I've been praying that the Lord will help me be even better and overcome that. I need to remember who I am. I am a child of God, called to help the rest of His children, my brothers and sisters, know of Him and His restored gospel and ultimately do all they must in order to return to Him. I can’t forget that.

Khabarovsk was cold like I said. I'll try to send a couple pictures. It was -5 C. I think. It started snowing as we left. When we got off the bus on the tarmac to board the plane, I had such a cool feeling as the snow was blowing around us. (That's the big thing about Khabarovsk. The wind is pretty bad.) The city was beautiful, though, and the airport was the biggest one I've been in here in the far east. It was really nice. So anyway, we took a flight on Tuesday morning from Sakhalin (around 8) and got there around 10ish. I think. We made it to the church by 11. Coming back, we had a flight at 8:30 and we were home by 11ish. All in all, a crazy day but very worth it. While at the conference, I felt I should share my testimony about Grandpa. That I know the plan of Salvation is true. That because we've been sealed in the temple, this life is only the beginning of eternity. That our family can live together forever. It was powerful and inspiring to hear the testimonies of all the elders and sisters here in the north zone. I got to meet a sister from Moscow who is now here and Elders Kevern and Kildew and Johnson. I came to find out that Elder Kildew lived in Snow Hall (which was in my ward) at BYU the semester before Elder Stewart and me, and that Elder Johnson's dad was our bishop. Crazy huh!? What a small world! Four Elders in one mission (probably one of the smallest missions in terms of number of missionaries) that all have close ties to one place at BYU. I've been to Elder Johnson's house, and I meet his little brother and sister and I had a ward activity in his backyard (which Elder Johnson told me was his job to take care of). I'm still kind of going crazy about this. I'm really excited, though, because this means I'll probably be able to see Bishop Johnson again after my mission and thank him for all his support while I was at BYU. He was awesome.

I was informed this last week that I've been spelling something wrong... шапка (hat). Haha, silly me. Russian spelling isn't usually too hard because most words sound like they're spelled. Oh well, it happens.

I didn't realize, before coming on a mission, the friends that I would make here. Not just the elders I would serve with. They're all amazing and I'm confident that many of our friendships will continue on after we all return home. There are so many awesome examples that help me improve. I also didn't realize the examples of the members would have such an impact on me. They have gone through a lot to be members of the church. Many of them support one another, but the numbers here are so small. So few families are part of the church as a complete family. I think of my family and how awesome it is to have such support from each of them. They each have a testimony and they support me in the work I do. The members here are just awesome. They help us so much in doing missionary work because they understand the joy that comes from the gospel. It changes lives. I've had a glimpse of that. And it's such a great example to me.

I heard an interesting thought this last week. In reference to D&C 19, what would life be like if we didn't have repentance? That was an interesting thought that really made me ponder on how much I value the atonement of Christ. I make stupid mistakes all the time. I'm beginning to realize that breaking the commandments only hurts one’s own self, and that keeping the commandments (or even the little rules) helps us be safe and happy. Really happy. Not just happy for a little time, true happiness and peace, that cannot be described unless you do what the Lord asks of you and you experience it for yourself.

I've bought probably some of the last things I'll need for winter... I found boots today for a decent price! Elder Naumov is jealous and he wants them. :) I also bought another шапка (hat) this last week. It's the same as what I bought for Matt; rabbit. I figured, the one I had gotten a while back is really big and kind of unusual to wear unless it's really cold. So I've been wearing my rabbit one lately. Even it isn't quite as usual to wear right now. It's not quite cold enough apparently. But I think it is. :) And it's nice and warm and the lady gave me a discount since I'd bought one before from her for Matt.

I read a sweet quote I had written down I while ago from Elder Maxwell. " When we prove dependability, the Lord will take care of our capability." I really feel I haven't proved myself dependable yet. I've been so concerned about my capabilities (like speaking the language) that I've forgot about being dependable at all times to do the Lord's will.

I love you all and I'm super grateful for your support. I'm really glad to be hearing things are going well back home. :) Love you!

Пока пока (bye bye)!
Elder Bush

Monday, November 8, 2010

Lots of Teaching

Привет (Hello)!

Well, how's Elder Bush doing? He's doing just fine. It's getting a little colder and colder each day. But I'm doing alright. Gloves are on my list of things to buy today since my hands are tired of being cold. :) Tomorrow is Zone Conference for the North Zone (includes Sakhalin and Khabarovsk) so tomorrow morning we (Elder Naumov, Pavlov, and Zamora, and I) fly out to Хабаровск (Khabarovsk), have zone conference there, and then tomorrow night, we fly back to Сахалин (Sakhalin). It should be exciting and super cold! Хабаровск is super cold, as in superrrrr cold. I'm really excited to have zone conference. It's always a great time of instruction and realizing the things you can do better. Of course, you feel an awesome spiritual boost and desire to serve even more diligently.

Well, this last week has been a busy one. The branch here on Sakhalin does such an awesome job with missionary work that it really keeps us busy. We've been teaching several people, which has really helped me see my inadequacies in teaching as well as my strengths and that I can do it well, even in Russian. I have been struggling a lot lately with Russian and having the faith that the Lord can help me improve. I know that sounds silly but I've been making so many frustrating mistakes lately, and I realize I've just been too hard on myself. I just haven't been opening my mouth enough and sharing what I know to be true. And that which is not shared (or a skill such as Russian that is not used) is lost or taken from you. Anyway, Mom, your letter really helped me realize some things. For one, I should stop worrying about speaking perfectly and stop comparing myself to a native speaker. I just realized that I have been, and that certainly isn't realistic. I have certainly been blessed thus far. Basically, thank you, Mom. You really helped me.

Scriptures... I have really been struggling lately with remembering scriptures and being able to teach from them effectively. But I think that's going to change. I just love reading from them and applying them to myself. I've realized that I need to be using my study journal more. If I don't write my thoughts down, I forget them and can't recall them when I need them in a teaching moment. I've got so much going through my brain all the time that I feel that will help me get more organized and remember stuff. Anyway, that's probably not very interesting to you all. :)

We did a little service at the church this last week cleaning the grounds around the church and the walls and just making it look overall better. It was muddy and kind of hard to rake up the leaves since it had snowed/rained a little earlier in the week, but in the end, it looked pretty nice.

Yesterday, we had a lesson at a family’s house. The grandparents live here in South Sakhalin and the grandkids and parents live in another city. They always come into town on Sundays for church and have dinner together. They didn't have electricity in their part of town for some reason so we decided to bring them some food. We had prepared борщ (borscht) on Saturday and decided to share with them since we didn't know if they would have food. Turns out they have a gas stove and had made борщ already as well. :) Anyways, it was a fun little lesson with them, and it was great being around crazy little kids. It certainly reminded me of home. One of the kids asked us really hard questions that pulled from the Bible. I could hardly answer any of them because I either didn't understand the question or didn't know how to say the answer in Russian. But it was fun anyway. They were all so hospitable.

The branch here (just like Brother Boyer in the MTC said) is super strong and the members are just so awesome. The youth are great! They had a youth conference this last week in Vlad and it sounds like they had a great time. The members, like I said, are awesome at doing missionary work and are super helpful on lessons. Especially Игорь Ким (Igor Kim). Yes Игорь, that was a shout out to you. :) I hope you find my blog! Ты молодец (You’re doing fine!) They're also so much fun to associate with and become friends with. They're so loving, and it's great to have support from friends here in Russia as well as friends from back home. I didn't realize how awesome the friends would be that I would make on my mission.

Well, I can't think of anything else really exciting right now. I've been learning a lot about companions lately. Patience and love are the keys to success, as well as forgetting about yourself and your desires and trying to put him first. Sometimes it's really hard. Really hard. But super worth it. I never really understood why people said missions are great training for marriage. Now I get it. A mission is teaching me how to interact and be an even better future husband someday.

I love you all! I hope all of you have a great week!

С любовью (With love),

Старейшина Буш (Elder Bush)

P.S. This last week, I had a dream Trev got his mission call. I'm not going to tell you where he was called but we'll just see if my dream turns out to be right in the not so distant future. ;)

Monday, November 1, 2010

My Dearest Gramps

NOTE: Spencer's Grandpa Gee passed away this week.

Hey there everyone,

Well, this week has been a bit of a roller coaster for me. Now that I have tears running down my face sitting here in the post office, I hope I can get through all this email without anymore crying. Gosh darn it you gotta love Grandpa Gee. He certainly wasn't the average grandpa. Oh, he could sure make us all laugh. Remember how he called Bruegger’s Bagels, booger bagels. I thought of that every time I ate a bagel. Oh and sometimes before we would pray before eating, he would sing, "Bless this mess oh Lord we pray." :) On Thursday, our cell phone rang and I saw it was Pres. Pratt. I picked up the phone and he was in Kiev, Ukraine going to the temple shortly thereafter. I was pretty jealous. I've seen pictures and that temple is just gorgeous. I really want to make a trip there someday. Anyways, President then relayed to me the news about Grandpa as he had received it through the mission office from Elder Bodell. I didn't really know what to feel. As he spoke to me, I just was shocked because I hadn't expected anything to happen. I thought he was doing great and would be out of the hospital. Of course, I started crying and trying to hold back tears, I spoke with President about what I knew and who Grandpa was, etc. After I hung up, I just sat down and again, trying to hold back tears, I smiled and thought of all the wonderful things I had experienced with Grandpa. I continued working throughout the day because the Lord's work moves on. He comforted me immensely and I felt such peace and was able to focus on the day's work. That night however, was really hard for me. My companion and I talked for a little while and as I laid in bed, I couldn't hold back the tears any longer. I felt such sadness because I knew I wouldn't see him for a while. The last time I saw Gramps was as they dropped me off in the MTC and I regretted not giving him a bigger, longer hug goodbye. Not knowing it would be my last chance, I just sort of rushed because I didn't want to make it harder for them, and I later felt like I had just gone in a hurry and hadn't really even said goodbye or thanks. I love you Grandpa and I'm sorry I didn't give you a better hug goodbye. Thanks for all you did for me. "Did you hear that, grandpa?" :) I guess I had just planned on being able to sit around and tell Grandpa and Grandma stories of Russia and all the things I've learned and experienced. It was really hard to move past that feeling at first. But once again, the Lord blessed me and comforted me in my time of need. He still is comforting me.

Yesterday was a super cool experience that I don't know that I will be able to accurately convey but I'll try. The branch President here on Sakhalin decided to make Christ and His atonement the focus of the talks given in Sacrament meeting as well as the lesson he led in the third hour. First of all, during sacrament meeting, a young woman who returned from her mission several months ago shared an awesome thought. She posed the question "What things does God speak to us when we have written accounts of someone hearing his voice?" He testifies of His Son Jesus Christ. When Christ was baptized, the people there heard the voice of the Father proclaim the divinity of His Son while the Holy Ghost descended upon Christ after his baptism by water. When Christ appeared to the people of the American continent, the voice of the Father was heard again proclaiming, This is my Beloved Son in whom I have glorified my name. Hear him. (paraphrasing that since I don't exactly remember) And then when The Father and Christ appeared to the boy Joseph Smith, the Father said, This is my Beloved Son. Hear him. The Father doesn't say, Follow my Commandments or something else important. He says the most important thing. The one thing He wants all of us to know and remember. He testifies of His Son. That he is the Savior and the Redeemer of all mankind. He is Jesus the Christ. During the third hour, while President Letagin testified of Christ and His atonement, I felt the Spirit so strongly testify to my heart that Jesus is the Christ. He is our Savior and His atonement, His sacrifice, makes it possible for us to return to the presence of the Father. I thought about the atonement differently though because it pointed my thoughts to Grandpa. The atonement is the first key in affording me the opportunity to see Grandpa Gee again. Secondly, being sealed in the temple makes that desire a very real possibility. If I live worthy of such a blessing, I can continue that relationship with Grandpa and all my loved ones, all of my family after this life since we are sealed together for time and all eternity. How awesome and comforting and just plain awesome. "Did you hear that, Gramps?" We can be together forever.

I've been praying a lot for everyone at home. Especially for Mom and for Grandma. I love you Grandma. I know you'll be with gramps again. :) I hope all goes well at the viewings and the grave side service. Of course, I want to be there, but I have felt the comfort and reassurance that all will be well. Please Mom and Dad, tell all the family hello for me and that I love them all and miss them of course.

We had a super fun Family Home Evening activity at an awesome family’s house. They made super delicious food (none of it really Russian. It was more Korean. And there was curry and yummy desserts.) They are just super nice. Earlier in the week, Elder Naumov and I had helped the Brother of this family with the house he's building. It had snowed like crazy that day (last Tuesday) and we had to carry a ton of plywood sheets through the snow into the house. My feet were FREEZINGGG!!! I only had these really cheap chinese tennis shoes I bought on the reenok. (I don't know how to change the keyboard into Russian right now. Weird.) I had my good socks on and they helped at first, but in the end, my feet were just soaked. Oh well. :) Then on Saturday evening, we had a branch Halloween activity where we played games as a group, ate food (treats=YUMMMM) and played board games. Let me tell you, that was pretty hard at first doing it in Russian. Elder Zamora and I were super lost at first. But most of the people here on Sakhalin actually speak English too, so that helped a little. I also took comfort in the fact that Elder Pavlov who’s from Moscow didn't understand what was going on either and he understood all the words being said. It was just a tricky game to start out with.

The biggest difference between Sakhalin and all the other branches in the mission is the impact of member missionary work. The branch mission leader really stresses that and it really makes a difference. I'll clue you all in later on how things are going with the work here. But basically, the Lord is blessing us with lots of opportunities to teach and share the greatest message in the world with everyone.

I miss you all but I hope you have a great time enjoying the company of family and friends and remembering all the great times we've all shared with Grandpa here on earth. Don't worry, we'll get to see him again. :) And he'll be looking down on us. I'm excited already to go back to Korea and attend the temple because I know that is the place where the veil is thin, where I can feel his presence and his love. I love you all! I hope you have a safe trip back home.


Elder Bush