Monday, December 27, 2010
Christmas in Sakhalin
Elder Zamora just leaned over and laughed that I put "hola" as my greeting. :) How's the Bush family?! It was great to talk to all of you and I was really glad that Grandma Gee got to be there with you all while we talked. I'm glad Matt liked his shopka and I'm super glad it fit. :) These last few days haven't really been all that exciting. I’ve had a cold the last few days, and I've actually been kind of doing a roller coaster with my health. Hopefully, it will stay on track for an upward path from now on. Last night, I decided, "you know what? I'm sick of feeling sick. I'm just not gonna be sick anymore." And I ate some chocolate and felt better. :)
Well, I'm not really sure what I should tell you all since I just talked with you a couple days ago... umm.... I got several letters from Fallon this last week! I was super happy to hear from her!!! And I got a letter from Brother Christensen (Thank you!) and from Zach Haile! I was super surprised to hear from him! Zach, if you read this on the blog, thank you so much for your letter. I hope all is well with you! :)
Here's a wrap up for this past week for the blog's sake... I fell twice this last week on the ice. Nice job Elder Bush. After falling twice in one day, I decided it would be a very wise idea to wear my yak tracks (things you can wear on your shoes for traction). Elder Naumov kept teasing me that I had fallen three times thus far this winter and he hadn't. Guess what?... the score is now tied. Not that I'm happy or anything, but I think he had it coming. It started snowing a ton the day before Christmas Eve. So now it looks like Sakhalin should look in the winter. On Christmas Eve, we (the elders here on Sakhalin) got together at the South area's apartment and had dinner together which consisted of sandwiches and juice, and watched Joy to the World, the only Christmas DVD we had. :) Then we went caroling to several members in the branch. They all loved it! And it was lots of fun to share with them the spirit of Christmas through music! I love that no matter where you go in the world, the hymn book pretty much stays the same. Those hymns bring such comfort and peace. One woman in the branch takes care of her elderly father and when we stopped by to sing, she invited us into his room so we could sing to him as well. As we sang, I could see how the music touched him and afterward, it was super sweet to receive his heartfelt gratitude as well as from Sister Love (that's what her name translates to).
Christmas day was exciting because I got to talk with all of you!!!! :) Then we went out and visited several members to deliver a short Christmas message. Sister Love asked us for a blessing because she had fallen and hit her head and was feeling awful afterward. As I acted as voice for the blessing, I spoke very simple words. There wasn't anything grand or unusual about it. Afterward, she felt fine, and at the Branch Christmas activity, she commented that she felt wonderful and was super grateful for the blessing. I know the Priesthood is the power of God to act in His name here on the earth. I haven't always treated that responsibility and authority with the right dignity and respect. But as I've served, I've seen the power of the priesthood manifest in very tangible means. This weekend has actually been filled with three blessings and it has been a miraculous experience to take part in that.
At the branch Christmas party, I felt surrounded by love. It was there that I felt the Spirit very strongly witness to me that Jesus is the Christ and that the love all the members of the church showed to one another was a manifestation of the love of Christ. I got a little present of candy and socks from the Relief Society president. Man, was I super grateful for that simple act of kindness! It blew me away. Afterward, we went out to visit a single mom (the woman I told you about that served a mission in Yekaterinburg with Justin Ebanks) and while waiting in the stairwell as she get her sick kids in bed, I looked outside a window there and thought I'd take a picture of the outside because it looked kind of cool at night. While I was taking a couple pictures, a police man that lives above her stopped us and asked why we were so quietly waiting in the stairwell. We explained who we were and why we were there and then he asked for our documents one at a time. He didn't seem to trust us until Irina opened the door and told him we were coming to see her. He apologized after that. So that's my first run in with the police. Probably won't be the last. It just reminded me though how I need to always be ready to give the information they require so as not to cause any problems. We've heard repeated over and over again, we have nothing to hide. The church has nothing to hide. We as missionaries are not up to no good. We just have to help them understand that and not do anything that looks suspicious even though it may seem harmless to us.
Well, that's probably about it. I'll try to send some pictures that I've taken since we talked on the phone. :) I love you all so much and I hope you have a wonderful, wonderful Happy New Years!!! :)
May Heavenly Father bless each of you in this New Year!
Some additional notes from our Christmas phone call:
Sarah asked how much snow he had gotten and he said that it had snowed for the last two days and they had about two feet of snow. He said that he has only been really cold on one day a couple of weeks ago. He was walking to church and his face started to really hurt. Other than that, his coat and shopka (hat) have kept him warm.
He told us that Sakhalin has the strongest members in the mission. The branch has about 50-60 members who attend church on a regular basis. When we asked about when his next zone conference would be, he told us that they used to have zone conferences every six weeks, but they now have them every two transfers, which is every 12 weeks. The last one was in Khabarovsk, so the upcoming one will be in Sakhalin.
He sounded happy and said that he had been blessed to not be too homesick during the holidays. He was looking forward to the branch Christmas party that was going to be on Christmas night. He loved hearing from his brothers and sisters and having Trevor make us all laugh. The thing that he has missed the most about home is sitting around the dinner table or in the living room, talking and laughing.