Monday, January 31, 2011

I met the nicest man I've ever met in Russia

Всем привет (Hello)!

Ну, здесь кажется, что все хорошо (Well, it seems that all is well). How is everyone back home? This last week has been a busy one. Elder Zamora was with me and my companion in a three-some companionship because his companion was in Korea. This next week, his companion will be in Vlad for leadership training so we'll be back in a three-some again. It's a lot of fun to serve with him and to see how much we've grown and how strong he is. He's such an outstanding missionary. So, we spent this last week running all over Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, since we covered the whole city instead of just the northern part. And we did a lot of street contacting this last week, which has been really hard for me lately. My faith has been small that we would find anyone even remotely interested in our message. I don't know why this has been so hard for me lately. I just had gotten tired of walking the streets all day or between meetings and being turned down by everyone. I had a conversation with Elder Thellmann about it and shared why I felt that disappointment can be such a difficult emotion to overcome while serving a mission. I know this message is true. I know it with all my heart, and I would never say otherwise. It means so much to me. It is the reason I have such a strong love for my family. It is the reason I'm here on a mission. And it will have (not just maybe or kind of...) it WILL have the greatest incomparable impact on anyone's life that makes the decision to search for themselves to know if it's true. It's either true or it's not. It's either the most important message that could ever be shared, that the Lord has restored His church and authority again on the earth through a living prophet in our day in preparation for His Second Coming, or it's the biggest lie ever. And since this message I share is so important, it becomes really hard to accept that so many people are turning it down. I know it's their choice, and I know that's one of the most fundamental principles of the plan of our Heavenly Father: agency. But it's so hard to just be ignored when you know how awesome it would be if they just came and looked for themselves. I hope I'm making an ounce of sense. If I was here selling something like alarm systems, I wouldn't be surprised if people turned me down. But the Restoration and all that comes with it is a lot more important than some product distributed by a salesman.

So, as you can probably tell, it's just been kind of a tough week for me, but a week I certainly needed. A mission is such a neat experience because I can ponder and reflect and see how the Lord is guiding me and helping me, shaping me into the person He desires I become. I'm sorry if some weeks my letters sound so much alike, and I hope I'm giving you enough details and interesting stuff so they aren't boring.

While I was pondering one day this past week, my mind recalled a quote that I had heard from Elder Magill, one of the senior missionaries. One day, he said something along the lines of "Wherever you are, be there." Hello Elder Bush? Why do you let yourself think of the future so often? Why don't you focus more on the present, on your calling, on the opportunity you have to teach the Russian people? Because in a year, that opportunity disappears. Isn't that so crazy? A year and I'll be back. It just hit me that this mission is going so fast and I need to take advantage of every opportunity and focus on each moment and don't let the future cloud the vision of today.

We've lately been seeing little success here in Yuzhno and so we decided as a district to fast this past Sunday. It was an amazing experience, especially starting our fast. Elder Zamora called us and we prayed together by speaker phone. It was a very moving and powerful experience where the Spirit bore witness to my heart of the importance of my service here in Russia. I thought about how grateful I am for super sweet technology like cell phones that brought four of the Lord's servants together at different parts of the city to begin a simple yet important fast. We began to see fruits of our labor this past Sunday and it strengthened my testimony of the power of fasting.

By the way, what Josh said was all right! His advice was golden and it would be wise to follow his counsel. :) (See below.) I'll be sure to send home some emails with similar advice before Trevor heads out. I have always loved being the guinea pig, and I've sure learned a lot. Here's one quick tip... Don't worry about what kind of clothes you bring because you start to care less and less how "fashionable" you look. And bring the necessities only. If you stand over your suitcase and wonder to yourself, "Do I really need this?" don't take it. The less you bring, especially to the other side of the world, the less you will throw away and the happier you will be come transfer time. :)

This last week, we were walking home after a lesson we had with a member outside. (She is kind of like a nanny and we meet with her when she's outside with the little girl she watches, who is usually fast asleep in a stroller.) Anyways, you get a little cold standing outside there for about an hour so on the way back, I was dreaming of a nice warm apartment where I could warm up and do language study for the day. While we were walking back, contacting and sliding on all the ice that was everywhere, we talked with a Muslim woman and her two little girls. They invited us to come back in thirty minutes. So we returned and there, I met the absolutely nicest man I have ever met here in Russia! He was the husband of the woman we met and he simply opened up his home to us. We shared a lot about families and I learned a lot about the Muslim faith from him as we talked. I don't know that he will be all that interested in accepting our message because they plan on going back home (to somewhere in the middle east... they left because war had broken out in their homeland and their home had been destroyed) sometime and accepting Christianity would be dangerous as far as I understand. But I could see the light of Christ in that man. He had us call him Uncle Misha since we couldn't pronounce his true name. Gosh! I still can't get over how nice he was! And he had a huge family! Every few minutes I saw a different child or grandchild.

The branch had a wedding reception for two of the members here this past weekend. We were invited and it was really nice. We left once they started dancing. :) But some great missionary work came from that activity, which was part of the couple's intent. The branch here on Sakhalin is so awesome like I've already told you.

Well, I'm not sure if there's anything else interesting I could tell you. I've been eating great lately! And by great, I mean the food we've been making has been tasty. Maybe not great for me, but it's been varied and yummy. :) We made pizza this last week, yummy pasta, burritos, plov (rice dish)... I love having a companion who likes to cook because it brings some variety to the meals, and you learn some sweet recipes.

Well, I love you! Thank you all for your letters this past week. :) Keep praying for me that the Lord will direct me and that I'll stay focused and be sensitive to His directions. Stay safe!

С любовью (With love),
Старейшина Буш (Elder Bush)

Spencer’s cousin, Josh, just left the MTC for his mission in Oakland, California and he sent some tips regarding the MTC for his younger brothers and friends.

1. The Orange Juice is a lie!
2. If you want a warm shower after "gym period"!
3. Praying for safety during "gym period" doesn't make you invincible to stupidity.
4. Knowing how to tie a tie would be an advised
5. This is the best place for "ghosting" ever!!! (I’m guessing it’s some kind of game.)
6. Just because a Sister Missionary flirts with you, that doesn't mean you can flirt back! I mean really. *annoyed*
7. The laundry soap is cheaper at the Bookstore than at the laundry room.
8. If you're purchasing office utensils/journal materials, the discount here rocks!
9. If a girl faints during lunch, mass hysteria won't help things!
10. Love your district.

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Slightly Less Crazy Week

Hola everybody!

This week wasn't quite as hectic as the week before was. Zone conference in Khabarovsk was fantastic!!!! I always seem to say this, but I just love zone conference! It's always just what I needed to get refocused and realize the things I'm doing absolutely terribly, and to improve of course. Well, at least I hope so.

To start out the week, we were supposed to go to a family home evening that's about 15-20 minutes out of the main part of the city. Since it started snowing again after I wrote you last Monday (and just in general, there was a ton of snow already), I don't think all of the buses were running that should have been. So it was absolute craziness trying to get on a bus. We tried several times but couldn't fit. Finally a bus came that was not completely filled and we began to cram on. Elder Thellmann made it on but unfortunately, I was the last one and the door was an accordion style door that couldn't close with me in the way. It just liked closing on me and squishing me. I knew this door wouldn't close with me in the way and there was absolutely no more space on that bus. So, I stepped off, since that seemed to be my only option, the door abruptly shut, and I stood there looking at the bus as it pulled away not really knowing what to do, since I'm not really supposed to be separated from my companion and all. So, I immediately decided, "Well Elder Bush, you should probably try to catch that bus at the next bus stop because it's pretty close and after that will be pretty hard to do." So I walked quite quickly (probably looked kind of funny), and while I was walking, I kept my eye on the bus. Unfortunately, due to the fact that it was already busting at the seams, the bus driver made the wise decision to pass through that bus stop and keep on going. Thus, I waited at that bus stop for a bus that I could even get on for about a half hour, hoping that Elder Thellmann and Igor Kim would wait at the bus stop we wanted to get to. Thankfully, all worked out eventually and I met them there. We obviously were late, and I've never been so close to other human beings in my life. Well that's not true. Vlad was the same way sometimes. And this past week Khabarovsk proved to be about the same too. But oh well. Fun fun fun.

Tuesday we contacted a lot. That has actually been pretty hard for me lately because it's hard not to get discouraged or lose your desire to talk to people as they just ignore you or have zero desire to talk to you. But I've been thinking a lot about it, especially with zone conference, and the Lord has helped me change my negative thoughts into positive ones. I'm here to serve! I'm here to smile at people and lift up their days! I'm here to share the greatest news on the face of the planet! How could I let myself forget that! If I don't share this message with them, a message that will change their life and flood it with blessings, how else will they come to know about it? Plus, you also get to have some great stories. (This is not the main reason you talk to people. Just to get funny stories. It is simply a bonus. ;) So I stopped this guy when we were getting near our apartment and he asked me, "Are you still here?!" I told him, "Of course! We're missionaries. We're always here." I didn’t really catch his sarcasm at first but soon got that hint because he began to rip into me and tell me that what I was preaching was garbage, and that I was committing a huge sin by coming to Russia, and that their church is all they need (mixed in with some lovely colorful language that I actually understood but until that time had never heard used). He told me that I should go down the street, take a right, go to the temple down that street and repent. As he walked away, all I could think of saying was "I hope you have a good day!" (Literally more like "happiness to you" but anyways...) With all the contacting of the past week, I've immersed myself back into the work of the streets and seen more of the lives of the people I'm serving amongst. Many don't want to know more because they don't believe that there can be more; they feel they’re too old and it's too late to change; they feel that we young whipper snappers couldn't possibly know anything more that might help them in their lives; they've grown up in the Soviet Union and they've simply been raised to not believe in anything but themselves, that there is no God. Others are being prepared, and while it's rare that we see success on the streets, it is possible. We just have to work even harder and bring the Spirit with us so He can touch their hearts. Elder Bush can't do that. He can't touch their hearts. Only the Spirit can. That's why I have to do all that I can to have the Spirit of the Lord with me. That's why I have to be strictly obedient. That's why the rules of missionaries are so important, because the more obedient we are, the more we qualify for blessings. Even the little rules are important then. I now understand what it means to want to find more rules to follow so that I can get more blessings. That may sound a little weird and crazy but when we see what the Lord has said in Doctrine and Covenants 130:20-21 it makes a lot more sense. “There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated— And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” D&C 82:10 teaches this as well. “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.” What is the promise? One promise is found in D&C 112:10... “Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers.” He will lead me by the hand and guide me to do His work if I will but humble myself and be obedient in all things. Just some thoughts I've had lately.

Zone conference, like I already said, was great. It was a little cold in Khabarovsk. (-22ish). But this last week, I got the opportunity to be amongst the greatest missionaries in the world. I love serving in the Vlad mission. It's so hard, but it's so small in numbers that you get to know people so well. You get to form great lasting relationships that have a strong impact on you. I love the people with whom I'm serving! I love especially having the chance to serve in the North zone because it's an even smaller group and there was definitely a special spirit there on the seventh floor of Lenina 57 where our little branch in Khabarovsk meets. I love this mission. I've never been so stressed, pushed, and challenged in my life, but it's so worth it.

Well, not much else new with me. I love you all and I hope and pray you all have a great week. :) Remember what's most important in life. The Lord is our Shepherd. Then why should we fear?

Love to everyone!
Elder Bush

Monday, January 17, 2011

One of the craziest weeks of my mission!

Well everyone,

Get ready because I have a lot to tell you. First of all, Hello!!!! I was super happy to hear from you all! :) And to laugh at the pictures you sent. I miss you guys. Laughing with you all again will be so much fun. :)

Ok so, after writing to you all last Monday, Elder Zamora and I found out that we were supposed to have been on a plane to Vlad earlier that day, but nobody told us that that was the plan. They (people in the office in Vlad) sent tickets by fax to the south apartment but no one saw we had received them until it was too late. So, Sister Tatyana in Vlad had to probably jump through hoops trying to get us into Vlad the next day. Turns out that she got us tickets to Khabarovsk earlier in the day and then a flight to Vlad in the evening. So, on Monday night, our FHE appointment fell through, so we went searching for potential investigators. I had a few addresses nearby that we stopped by. The first door I knocked on was answered by a guy in his underwear smoking and he quickly slammed the door and yelled at us to leave. His name was Peter. From the area book, he seemed promising. Next door, nothing. Behind the third door lived a woman named Tatyana Alexandrovna. She opened and invited us in and told us not to stay long because she was watching a concert. As we got to talking, we could smell and tell that she was a little drunk and acted a little bi-polar. She would be super nice and then go crazy on us with really interesting questions. Basically, we got nowhere and finally left, but it made for an interesting evening. I'll tell you more about it when I get home. Stories will be a lot better when I can act them out for you and tell you all the details. :)

So, the next morning, I packed and got on a bus to meet Elder Zamora and then headed to the airport to fly to Khabarovsk. The problem was, when I got to the airport, I didn't see a flight to Khabarovsk listed. The flight I did see which corresponded to our flight number and time was heading to Novisibirsk (which is the main city in the mission right next to us on the left). I thought, "Oh great, we're flying to Novisibirsk. This can't be right at all." As I went to go ask the desk, I noticed that it said Khabarovsk on that screen along with Novisibirsk. It then made complete sense. The flight goes through Khabarovsk! So, we met a less active member heading to Moscow in the airport (she was very nice) and then boarded and flew to Khabarovsk. And it was freezing there! -25C. I was so glad I wore leggings and my huge badger shopka. Now I know what -25 feels like. Yes, your body certainly feels the difference. There's no doubt about that. So, we got our bags, got in a taxi, and headed to the church in Khabarovsk. I talked to the taxi driver all the way and he was super nice. Not really interested but really nice. We met up with the missionaries at the branch in Khabarovsk, had a quick dinner, and then headed back to the airport with the zone leaders, Elders Jones and Waltman, to fly to Vlad with them. They had Zone leaders’ counsel with President in Vlad the next day so we ended up on the same flight. Once we got to Vlad, Elder Jones forgot his backpack on the plane which was a big hassle but luckily we got it back. My suitcase got really banged up but no worries. It was cheap and hopefully will last me through the next year and that's all I'll need it for. We took a taxi from the airport to President's apartment (the mission home) and that's where we stayed the night along with the assistants. It was super unexpected and so nice because the beds there are ridiculously comfortable. Plus, I didn't expect to sleep there until I go home. Honestly, it was great to be among such awesome people and to be in the home of President Pratt where there is certainly a special spirit. Elder Naumov was super surprised when he showed up at President's the next day and saw me as we were leaving. We took another taxi back to the airport to fly to Korea, (a lot of traveling) and we got into Korea with no problems and made it to the temple without any delays. I loved being in the temple. We did a couple of endowment sessions and initiatories. It was wonderful. I felt the Lord's love so strongly in His house and I loved the workers there. It always touches me how they work so hard to speak English with us so we can understand and not only feel of the Spirit there but learn from each experience.

The food in Korea was great as usual. :) I bought another scarf and beanie. No ties. Next time. I need to send you all some great Korean ties sometime soon. Korea was a little cold but not nearly as bad as back in Russia. We flew back to Vlad and stayed at President's apartment again (it was fun telling the taxi driver how to get to President's when his GPS took us the wrong way). We got really spoiled. We ate dinner there, which was delicious! And I got some packages and letters for Christmas from the Frappiers! Thank you all so so much!!!! :) That was super kind of you all to think of me, and I will definitely enjoy the hot chocolate! The cards were great (everybody has loved hearing from those crazy little guys (not sure what their names are) that talk about hot chocolate and marshmallows and then Fal's card from Buddy the elf. Everybody has loved them) THANK YOU! :) After we returned to Vlad, it had gotten a lot colder there and was down to -22C. Elder Zamora and I walked to the post office from the church and it was slightly painful to say the least. But I survived. Your face is what really takes the beating. Everything else stays warm. Anyways, we ended up in a taxi and back to the airport again. Our flight was slightly delayed but we finally got on the plane and sat down in the last row together. Then we both heard Elder Zamora's name called out on the loudspeaker. We talked to a flight attendant and she told us that Elder Zamora was supposed to be up in business class! We were both in shock. He asked if I could come with him and the lady said, "Unfortunately we can't do that." But then another flight attendant came back and grabbed me and we flew first class with a legit meal and first class cups with cold apple juice beverages all the way to Sakhalin. (A whopping 1 1/2 hour flight) Dad, I now know why you loved flying business class. It was so nice. While I was in Vlad, I received your Christmas card (thank you all for the family picture and the letter. It was pretty cool to get one from your family) :) a Christmas card from Grandma and Grandpa Bush (THANKS!) and the Bates (Thanks for thinking of me!) and Flat Stanley! So I took a bunch of pictures with Flat Stanley this last weekend. I'll try to send some today and if it doesn't work out, I'll send a bunch next week.

On Sakhalin, it was really cold as I was gone and then warmed up and started dumping snow. It has snowed for the past four days straight and it's just been crazy trying to walk around. This morning, we helped shovel out snow to the garage of Brother Severyukin so he could get to work. He was walking in snow almost up to his waist! I took pictures that I'll also try to send.

Basically, it's been a crazy, crazy week filled with lots of traveling. Thankfully, I got a few moments to breathe and enjoy the Spirit of the temple and reflect and ponder on my sacred calling. I know I'm not yet to my potential, but I'm super grateful for support from all of you, from so many people back home, and from my Heavenly Father. This experience is changing me and shaping me in to the man that the Lord desires me to become. I pray He will help me fulfill His will and do all that He desires so that I can successfully touch the lives of others. As I thought about it, this work is extremely expensive. Not that that is really the most important thing to notice from this past week, but as the thought occurred to me, I realized, "Wow. The Church goes through so much to continue our missionary service here in the far east of Russia." It really struck me hard and added fuel to my desire to work even harder and be even more diligent in fulfilling the Lord's will each and every day so that not one minute of His time is wasted while I'm in His service and in the service of His children.

I love you all so much. Thank you again for your support and for all those that remember me in their prayers. Sorry if this letter was a little crazy and maybe not that exciting to read. If there's anything you all want to know, any questions about the country or the culture or stuff like that, I would love to answer them.

Oh and I'll be in Khabarovsk again this next week on Friday and Saturday for Zone Conference. I guess zone conference doesn't change places, which makes sense cause they only have to get tickets for four missionaries on Sakhalin verses 8 missionaries in Khabarovsk.

Love you all! Hope you have a fantastic week! :)

Elder Bush

P.S. I don't know if I told you all about this last week but Elder Naumov and I went tracting one night. I called one guy on the domophone (this panel thing on the door to the stairway) and introduced us and told him about our message and that we would love to share it with him and his family. He answered, "Guys, my family and I go to church each week and we talk about God there, but we do not talk about God at home." That struck me as interesting. I've seen the difference in my life as we've involved Heavenly Father in our home. He belongs in the home. That's how we can build stronger families. That's a huge part of His plan for us, the plan that brings us the greatest happiness. Plus, it reminded me of the Zoramites in the Book of Mormon.

Monday, January 10, 2011

I'm staying in Sakhalin!

Well hey there everyone!

Guess what?!... I'm staying on Sakhalin!!!! And my new companion is Elder Thellman! I absolutely love him. He called me from Vlad on Friday before he flew in on Saturday and when I answered the phone, all I heard was, "Yesssssssss!!!!" I met him a while ago and had the opportunity to serve a little with him while I was in Vlad after my previous Korea trip. (I'm completely blown away that I'm already going back to Korea. The mission just keeps getting faster and faster.)

So that's the biggest news. Secondly, Elder Thellman brought me mail. I was super happy!!!! Unfortunately, I haven't received anything from Mr. Martin. There's still a chance that a few packages may still be there for me because Elder Thellman couldn't bring everything because of weight limits. So we'll see. Keep my fingers crossed! But he was able to bring a bunch of letters from home, from Grandma and Grandpa Bush, from the Spencers and the Whitcombs, from Jared Sholk (I loved your letter Jared, I can't wait to see you again) and from Fallon!!! I got her birthday package and I was soooooo grateful!!!!! You probably already know this but she gathered a bunch of letters from so many of my friends and teachers back home and put it all in this little book!!! It even had Russian on the front that was completely legit!!! So to each of you who wrote to me, Mrs. Miller, Ariel, Mrs. Mahany, Kiersten, Kenneth Kuk, Joyce, Nonni and Baba, Emily, Duck, Alex, Brittany, Mr. Frapp, Justin, Payton, Mrs. Frapp, and especially to Fal, I want to say a huge thank you!!!!! I love reading all of your letters! Thank you for wishing me a happy birthday and remembering me in your prayers all the way over here in Russia. You’re all in my prayers and I wish you all a wonderful New Year!!! :) Fal, I'll write you more in my letter I'm finishing up later today. Thank you to everyone that has written me and keeps me in their thoughts. It is super encouraging and means a lot to me. Just the thought that you took to send me something in the first place is a huge deal and deeply appreciated. Mom and Dad, I got the family's Christmas letters from everyone yesterday as well. It was great to read from all of you, to see pictures of the girls (you are both so beautiful!!! You're getting older! That's not allowed!!!!), to see Trev's drawing of Meat Man (which Trevor described as the most soul crushingly difficult game on the face of the planet) and to read Matt's letter and story. I loved it Matt! You are awesome at writing letters and stories! I love you all so much!

So, what's new with me? Well, Sakhalin has been getting a little colder this last week. The coldest it's gotten was -14C. The day it started to get really cold, (I think it was Thursday or Friday?) anyways, it was snowing really hard and there was a ton of wind. I got bundled up really well and we headed out to find some potential investigators/formers. The night previously, we had gone to the farthest north point in our area which (with traffic) was a 1 1/2 hour bus ride. It was about half as short without traffic the next day. Anyways, we headed out and as I stepped out of our stairwell, the wind and snow hit me pretty hard. It was surprisingly cold and not pleasant to say in the least. However, I just decided, be happy, and I said to myself, “You're wearing your ginormous badger шапка (hat). You have every reason to be happy and warm.” :) So I started by saying a very happy greeting to a woman that was struggling against the cold wind and snow on the street. I guess I caught Elder Naumov by surprise because he started laughing at my unexpected excitement despite the weather. I'm learning that being happy and positive and upbeat around people just makes the day so much better. I guess I've always known that, but experience is helping engrain it in me. So we went out to meet with someone that had said to come back the next day in the afternoon up in that northern part of our area. She wasn't so interested the next day, but in the end, we stopped by some other people and I took some pictures up there. (Hopefully, I can send them today).

One day this last week, as I was in my pajamas reading before bed, I noticed my knees. Weird, huh? I looked at them, and I realized they're a little calloused right now. On my knee caps, the skin has begun to become a little more rough, and for some strange reason, I noticed that earlier in the week. As I sat there and thought about it, I realized why. I have spent a lot more time on my knees in prayer with my Father in Heaven in the last year or so than I have in all the other 20 years of my life. I have never had such a strong desire to communicate with Him before and I know it is one way in which I have been able to gain great strength from on High. Greater strength that can simply be found within myself, strength to push forward when it just gets discouraging. I do not share this to present myself as a premier example of prayer. But I share that because I know how much praying has blessed my life these last 11 months. Having a conversation with my Father above, pouring out my heart and my desires to Him has become such an important part of who I am as one of His children here on earth. I love prayer. I know He listens to me, to each of us.

With my trip to Korea coming up, I'm pretty darn excited about going to the temple and getting to spend some great time with Elder Zamora. By the way, he's still going to be on Sakhalin for another transfer. He's been here forever it seems! This will be his fifth transfer on the island. Anyways, I look forward to being as spiritually strengthened as I can be in the House of the Lord. I loved hearing about the Youth temple trip back home. Cherish the temple. It is so close to home. It is so much harder for saints here to have such blessings available to them.

I love you all so very much. I'm so deeply grateful for your prayers on my behalf. Thank you Mom for your letter about your Relief Society lesson (I'm going to study more about it today and get back to you). I'm so grateful for the blessings I see in my life each and every day. It is unreal what the Lord is helping me become and accomplish. If only I can continue to push myself and work even more diligently in the service of others, I know I can reach a greater potential. The Lord is the master sculptor. He is shaping me with each passing week. It blows my mind with how fast this experience is passing and I pray I will make every moment worth it in this coming year. Again, I love each of you so much and all those that support me from back home! :)

Elder Bush

P.S. Elder Thellman brought a pull-up bar with him. I'm going get in the best shape of my mission this next transfer. :)

Monday, January 3, 2011

С Новым годом!!! Happy New Year!!!

Hey there everybody!

Happy New Year!!!! Thanks for this week’s update! It sure sounds like you all have had a wonderful Christmas/New Year season. It has been another interesting week. As always, please pass on a huge thank you to Cynthia and Grandpa Killpack for their Christmas gift!

Well, I guess the biggest thing this last week was probably New Years. So New Years Eve (being on a Friday) pushed our weekly planning into the evening. That day, we went to see a member named Victor in the hospital because he's been having problems with his leg. Something with nerves I think. Anyway, I just figured he was in a regular hospital. We got there and realized it was a military hospital since he served in the military years and years ago. Thankfully, Elder Naumov and his Russian blood and passport got us through the gate and up to Victor so we could see him and wish him a Happy New Year. Looking back on it, I'm actually not really allowed to go onto military property. But thankfully, they didn't ask any questions and I didn't say much so they wouldn't hear my accent. Compared to the other hospitals I've been in, it was certainly cleaner, thanks to military discipline, yet it was very old. As we walked through the halls, it reminded me of a building made in the early 1900's, which is probably when it was built. That's the thing here in Russia. They have technology and nice things. It's just that a lot of old things have remained and sometimes you feel as though places such as a hospital just haven't progressed with the times. Compare that military hospital with the hospital Matt was in before I left (granted I know that was a very nice, new hospital) but if you compare them, there is a huge difference. Anyway, it was great to see Victor and spread some holiday cheer. :) We actually went to go see him yesterday again along with Igor, one of the members here on Sakhalin that I've told you about. After making a stop to the hospital, we traveled across the city to a retirement home where the branch met to do some service. That consisted of singing Christmas carols to many of the elderly, the invalids, and the homeless that live there. It was such an awesome experience!!! Many of the people there were so incredibly grateful for the simple little concert we put on for them. I was grateful we got to participate as missionaries and share in the singing and spreading the Spirit of Christ with all those wonderful people. Their gratitude could be seen in their faces, in their eyes. I just love serving others. It truly was the purpose of Christ coming into the world, to serve his fellow brothers and sisters. It was the example he set for us all. And it is that which I want to strive to do throughout the rest of my life.

So before last night's awesome activity, we spent New Year’s Eve just at home. We finished our weekly planning which as you all may already know finishes with companionship inventory. It was the longest and most productive companionship inventory of my mission. We spent two hours just talking with one another and I expressed a lot of my concerns with him in regards to our companionship. It felt so good! I just let out the things that were bothering me so much and it turned out to be things for the most part that he already knew. I helped him see how he could improve and work on those things so his future companions won't get to the point I was in. Our companionship was really beginning to wear on me and after that long talk, I felt wonderful. It's still not perfect every second of the day, but it's much better. I've been praying so much for the Lord's help to overlook the little things and to focus on all of the positive that surrounds me. And the Lord has been blessing me immensely! We stayed up to see fireworks that kind of just happened all around us at different parts of the city. I'm horrible at taking pictures of fireworks so I gave up trying. The next day, we got to sleep in until 7:30!!!! That was sure something. And then we just stayed home all day and read. I studied a lot from Jesus the Christ and memorized a lot of words in Russian. I studied a little grammar here and there. All in all, it was a good day. Nothing really special or out of the ordinary.

In the last couple days, as I've finished the conference talks from October, I've been super impressed with the words of the Prophet and the Twelve. Their messages really struck me. One in particular... as I read about courageous parenting yesterday, I realized how darn scared I am to be a parent in the future (haha) because I don't know how on earth I'm going to be a good parent at all! It really made me appreciate how you both raised me, Mom and Dad, and I was overcome with a sense of sadness for all the silly stupid things I did growing up that may have made it harder to raise kids. I am deeply sorry for any heartache, any unneeded stress, and any frustration I may have cause either of you, as I wasn't always the easiest person to deal with. I am grateful from the bottom of my heart for all that you have both taught me and for the examples you have set for me. You have no idea how much your examples have helped. Even out here serving a mission and understanding how to deal with people. I love you both so much. :)

Well, we should be finding out transfers tomorrow or Wednesday. So next week, I could be emailing you from some other city or I could still be here on Sakhalin. I go to Korea on the 12th and return the 14th. I'm trying not to think too much about it but I am super excited to see the temple. I don't know if I took any good pictures this last week but I'll check, and if so, I'll send you some.

I hope you all have another wonderful week out of school! Enjoy the time you have with the family!

I love you all! :)

Elder Bush